Schisms are as inevitable for belief systems as cracks are for tall edifices. Both can, however, be endured and repaired and integrity of the structure retained. But there have been times when it was seriously threatened.
It happened when one group of the faithful started calling another heretics and two factions of the same religion committed fratricide. Fanatics got hold of believers of their own faith, accused them of witchcraft, blasphemy and apostasy and deprived them of their lives and property by acting as judges, jury and executioners. Even kingdoms professing the same faith have attacked each other, or watched passively when one of them was destroyed by an alien power. That period is known as the Dark Ages of Europe, which came after Christianity had suffered the fatigue of a millennium.
The conditions sound familiar. Could the Muslim society be currently passing through a similar age after its first millennium? Jury is still out on Spengler, when it comes to the doctrine of history repeating itself, but no one can afford to ignore the warnings of history. There may not be a timetable of the rise and fall of great societies but an observable pattern is suggestive. It was about five centuries after Christ that the Christian Roman Empire lost its vitality and fell to the barbarians, thus starting the process that was later to become the Dark Ages. Ironically the emergence of Muslims on the scene, with the vigor of a young faith and strength of knowledge changed that tide. They came practicing compassionate values and displayed chivalry in war, which proved to be a challenge that generated a positive response. Western historians of repute do not hesitate in giving Muslims the credit of contributing to European Renaissance.
Coincidentally or not, about six centuries after Hijra, Baghdad, the pinnacle of the Muslim excellence met the same fate at the hands of another hoard of barbarians, which possibly signaled the beginning of decline of the Muslim power that has possibly sunken to its lowest by now.
Now we see Muslim states bloodletting each other in Iraq - Iran and Iraq - Kuwait conflicts in a loose-loose situation. We watch helplessly as the Palestinians are deprived of their hearths and homes, robbed of their dignity and killed at will. We witness free-for-all blitzkrieg on unarmed and disarmed Muslim countries and cannot do a thing about it. We see hapless Muslim pockets on the outer periphery of the erstwhile empire being annihilated and cannot reach out to them to offer help. We allow the Arab-Iran regional rivalry, stoked by the oil- consuming powers, to corrupt into Shia-Sunni poison that spills over into Iraqi politics and into Pakistan, where Muslims kill Muslims while in state of prayers in mosques.
Outraged at our helplessness, we seem to compensate for our loss of face by being fanatically zealous in our faith. Finding no other targets we use concocted heresy charges as an excuse to fall on each other's throats. We feel pride in taking law in our hands as defenders of faith, accusing some of blasphemy and others of apostasy before executing them in the manner of Spanish inquisitions that was perpetrated against Muslims. We are ready to kill and get killed in foreign lands, ostensibly on our way to paradise, the way the Christian crusaders did in Muslim countries during their Dark Ages.
We may not own it, but our future generations are going to look back at our times and call them the Dark Ages of the Muslim history, the same way as the Europeans look at theirs. Taking advantages of the hindsight they can now see how the clergy transformed the simple message of love and peace given by Jesus Christ into hundreds of conflicting interpretations to suit the rulers they served. They also analyze how the commandments for the right action were neglected and rituals promoted to tie people down to the Church.
It should not be difficult for the Muslim intelligentsia to introspect, communicate with each other using modern technology, and correct their ways. For one thing Islam enjoins a direct Man - God relationship without the need of an intermediary. Therefore it is easier for a Muslim individual to fall back on the undisputed purity of the message of Holy Quran and use his own intellect to interpret it. It would come to be the original pre-sectarian faith that Mohammad preached. Muslim can then make his way straight to the challenges of the modern times, without depending on any anachronistic school of thought.
As for adopting the qualities of enlightenment and modernity, if Muslims could bestow these to a backward Europe, they are certainly capable of embracing them on their own. They must acquire knowledge from the developed world without foregoing their own ethos. After all, the West borrowed the seeds from the East and nurtured them, and borrowing them back is no robbery. Beside, knowledge is the most favored acquisition in Islam.
What befell Baghdad again and again is symptomatic of the state of Muslims. When it capitulated in 1258 a religious autocracy was ruling with their minds closed. When it invited destruction in 2003 a secular despot was in charge with his eyes closed. Is it not sufficient to open the minds and the eyes of Ummah?
The author is an independent commentator based in Karachi, Pakistan
Since when was humanity hijacked to this level. Islam is a universal religion that belongs to every human person on this planet that is the true spirit. The minute you hijack it from humanity it becomes a different issue. Islam flourished because muslims worked side by side with their follow non mulsims. Since when did knowledge ever belong to one nation. It is like saying the beauty of art belongs to one nation.
Islam is a religion of beauty, progress, peace and also a religion of logic. If one reflects deeply and thinks from the heart s/he will connect to this deep connectedness. Allah/God tells time and time again that wherever you turn you His Face. If one reflects on this you will find God everywhere. Hence our connected in solving world problems
I guess it is time we start thinking in terms of how can we work side by side to advance humanity for mankind. Remember, our differences will be resloved before this earth is wrapped up. The main barrier of us advancing forward is we spend too much time on our self(ego) which as God told us blocks us from seeing beyond.
It is time we become partners with those who are advancing humanity e.g anti-war,poverty and human rights campaigners to make this world a better place for all. The true spirit of Islam also belongs to universities places of knowledge where most of us draw our practical knowledge from. Applying that knowledge for humanity is that harderst challenge.
Our mosques need some changes and should reflect 21st century development. Combining spiritual knowledge with academic knowledge is the greatest asset one can offer humanity i.e(muslimheritage.com)
The attitude pervasive in almost every nook and corner of masjids, associations, groups and individual Muslims is that if an individual does not agree with a "traditional" point of view then they are an enemy who must be silenced forthwith as enemy of Islam. What it has done is create an undemocratic and despotic climate which leaves no room for honest and productive discussion or change.
Muslims by and large are indulging in racist and biased behavior and attitudes globally. We need to make a distinction between critical intellectual discussion from personal attacks. To claim that any mention by name of a group is an attack is one obvious example of this diabolical, undemocratic, and self-destructive attitude. It has created a situation where we claim we want unity and solidarity when the end result of our actions is divisiveness and disunity in the Ummah.
Ironically, Islam is the only truly democratic entity in the world today and was so from its earliest days. It is in our interpretation of it that we have ended up with despotic rulers and scandalous behavior amongst us as Muslims. We need to take a good, honest look at ourselves and accept the fact that our accountability as Muslims before Allah SWT will be as individuals not as Sunni, Shia, Wahabbi or Salafi.
However, to compare the Dark Ages of Europe with what is currently happening in Muslim countries iss misleading. The world was a totally different arena in the Middle Ages in terms of knowledge and how it could be used by the people, life-style, etc. And, it was the fact that the Catholic Church and priests had taken control over the lives of people, even claiming that only they could read and interpret the Bible. Whereas we do see similar attempts among some Muslim groups, such as the Tabliqi Jamaat who claim that only some "awliyas" may read and interpret the Qur'an, the Qur'an is not quite like the Bible and it is not that easy to forbid Muslims from reading the Qur'an for themselves if they choose to do so. All they need to do is to learn the Arabic language, and read translated meanings of the Qur'an and use their own intellect to understand what the Message of the Almighty. For the Islamic world does not have a single religious hierachy or organized church.
It is the political despots, the self-proclaimed kings, rulers, and "religious leaders" in Muslim lands who have destroyed the ummah with their control of natural resources, wealth, who, to maintain their political powers, turn to Western countries for military hardware, secret police, Israeli agents to show them how to torture and control, and how to destroy budding leaders who may be threat to those in power.
The western world today, at least some nations and goverments, have chosen to take over Muslim wealth and natural resources by creating social conditions that breed discontent, instability, loss of young Muslim lives and leaders. These are strong methods to gain total control of Mus
YES, WHAT YOU INFERED IS SUFFICIENT TO OPEN THE EYES AND THE MINDS OF THE UMMAH!
And if I may add, time is not on our side so lets get moving. I equally appreciate your suggestion of using the media of communication we have now to begin exchanges b/w intellectuals and all good muslims of conscience..
The parallel situation in the Muslim world was the conquest of the empire by the Mongols and Turks. They totally conquered it, but then civilized after some time. But their main "passion" was always warfare, and their main interest was in the military-political complex which they headed. The Dark Ages of Islam were the past 5 centuries I think, during which *nothing* was done in any sphere of life--except the military. This is purely the result of the elites of the Muslim world--who were usually Turkish, and their values --which were as unscientific, one-sided and militarily oriented as the German barbarians who conquered Rome.
Note that Pakistan is an example par excellence of this sort of thing, with the military dominating it (70% of the budget) and the mass of peasants living as feudal serfs in the villages. The elites have nothing to do with Islam except in name, and they have never promoted science or education or knowledge or arts or anything the people actually *want.* Just as Germany was the last European country to escape the bonds of medieval dark age feudalism, so too is Pakistan the last to escape the military industrial domination of its Turkish rulers (so many of them have Turkish names, like "Mirza" and "Beg", you wonder if this is really just the old Mogul ruling class dominating the country--for one more season.)
think majority of the Muslim community lack
awarenes of unity. Today like the past,
Muslims in various parts of the world are not
unified regardless whether they profess
amonotheistic faith. The basis of this
assertion is based on the dividing classes of
We say "we shouldn't make parallels with
Christianity and European history because it's
not the ame" well guess what? It is in a
sense. Like many other religions of the past
there has been a unifying doctrine that has
bonded many people under one belief.
It is proven in history that mankind's
communities tend to divide over time. Some
are based on the developement of political
motivation, some based on personal reasons
and some are based on interpretations
through subjective innovation.
We as Muslims cannot say that the past is
irrelevant to the future and cannot look at
future generations to guide us out of our own
"Dark Ages." I believe now, its possible to
change at least a fraction of our own
I agree with one person who made the remark
" it is Muslims who have caused this and it is
Muslims who must fix it." In that I say Ameen..
the author has not given any thought about how the Christianity came out of dark ages. What did they do? Most Christians totally abandoned religion.
So what is the Conclusion???
Please note I believe the writer was refering to
a Lose-Lose situation (not "a loose-loose situation")
We may not know it, but our future generations... (instead of "We may not own it",)
schismes dans l'islam' by the French orientalist Henri Laoust.
Contrary to the author's claim, the current schisms among Muslims are of much less importance than it was in the past centuries. Despite the annoyance of the current sects, I see Muslims all over the world today more conscious in terms of their attitude towards Muslim unity.
Be optimistic and a bit patient and remember that Allah's ultimate scheme is keeping on functioning.
First of all we need absolutely and totally turn to Holy Quran for answers because that is our one incorruptible fountain of knowledge. Second, we need to recognise that Islamic knowledge, philosophy and jurisprudence did not end with the passing away of scholars of a by-gone era. We must not assume that Bukhari, Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafai and the rest had a corner on human intellect and all Muslims born after them are somehow mentally retarded and incapable of rational religious thought. Past scholars were all humans and not prophets and were therefore open to human failings. They cannot be presented as all sacrosanct and beyond question. We cannot afford to have our feet permanently chained in the past. World is constantly changing and evolving and we need to be religiously dynamic with it. We will be on absolute solid ground if we keep Quran and only Quran as our only Divine guide and consider the possibility of everything else open to human failure and shortcomings.
This doesn't mean the destruction of the schools of thought, but instead to understand that they are the product of human work, and should not be considered almost divine, free of errors. I'm sure the main classic scholars would be ashamed by the way muslims today repeat previous opinions, giving to interpretation the same weigh as the primary texts.
To fear change, wishing to maintain the same anachronistic interpretations of the middle ages, and therefore the status quo, is the main threat to islam. We need to be brave enough to realize how injust the muslim world has become, and refute religious justifications for such abuses.
InshaAllah we will open our eyes, get inspired by the beautiful exemple of Prophet Muhammad (saws), and help build a muslim community based on the respect for individual freedom.
103:1 By (the Token of) time (through the Ages)
2 Verily Man is in loss
3 Except such as have Faith and do righteous deeds and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth and of Patience and Constancy.
3:200 O ye who believe! persevere in patience and constancy: vie in such perseverance; strengthen each other; and fear Allah; that ye may prosper.
93:5 And soon will thy Guardian-Lord give thee (that wherewith) thou shalt be well-pleased.
But he falls short of what could be done to mend it?
Is there more suffering to come before we are going to open our minds and eyes? before we disown the fanaticism and extremism and adopt the middle path.
As writer said muslims are queing to die in foreign lands ostensiblily but where are muslims ready to give education to their kids,to enrope true values and modesty of Islam in them?