Challenges before Muslim intellectuals
"We condemn violence in Pakistan, Libya, Tehran, Beirut, Damascus, Nigeria and Gaza. Islam is against violence. Islam promotes peace. The silent majority is peaceful. Only a handful are bent on destruction. The violence has its roots in sociopolitical alienation the Muslim masses suffer in the Muslim world. Islam is for freedom of expression. And on and on."
For Muslim American leaders these expressions have become a kind of routine drill after every act of violence involving Muslims. Through our press releases, we try to distance ourselves from the behavior of those who speak in the name of religion. But do we do anything substantial to bring about change in the behavior of those whom we criticize? The answer is not very encouraging. Muslim intellectuals and the religious scholars and leaders have generally remained aloof from the every day realities in the Muslim world as well as Muslim Americans. They have left the task of molding the younger minds upon those who themselves appear to be very myopic in their comprehension of the world as well as their religion.
There is no systematic attempt on the part of Muslims either at the global, regional or national levels to address issues facing the Muslim people seriously. In cases where they have addressed the concerns of the Muslim masses, they have remained focused on issues that relate to their relations with Europe, USA or Israel. Somehow there exists a notion among Muslim leaders and intellectuals that the root of all their problems is the Israel-Palestinian conflict or the regular intervention of the big powers in their national affairs. Most tend to believe that once, these problems are resolved to the advantage of Muslims, their societies would become prosperous, progressive and at peace.
I believe these dominant notions have prevented Muslim intellectuals from effectively addressing some of the key social, political, economic and psychological issues in societies where they live. One issue that in general has escaped the attention of most leaders during the last six decades is the role of violence in bringing about change. There are some who seem to give a tacit approval for using violent methods in bringing about social or political change as long as it serves Muslim interests. This is no different from those in the world political scene who believe that might is right and violence is a legitimate means to achieve stability in the world. Obviously, there is a difference between a faith that claims to reflect the divine grace and mercy and an ideology that believes in the survival of the fittest no matter what means one adopts to remain the fittest.
The presences of violent conflicts within the Muslim societies speak volumes of this apathy towards this issue. Shia-sunni conflict in Pakistan and now in Iraq, the Palestinian suicide bombing, killing of civilians in Kashmir and Arab or Turk-Kurdish conflicts are no longer isolated incidents carried out by a fringe. Killing individuals for their opinion often considered heretical is prevalent in several societies. These, unfortunately, are social realities and not many leaders are willing to address them seriously.
Lack of human rights and emotional and cultural torture of those who are different are also not uncommon within Muslim communities and societies. Isolating those who have different perspectives and offending those whose idioms of communication are not shared by the majority is also common. Even though, most people do not go beyond scratching the surface, yet the claim they often espouse is that they have found the truth and positive inquiry and empirical research are of no use. Often, the differences of opinions become personal involving egos and super egos where the other is seen as a combatant aggressive enemy. Thus the real issues remain in the background and trivial matters occupy the minds of many of those who claim to speak on behalf of the community. A more serious analysis on the part of Muslim intellectuals about the world in which we live is much needed.
|Certainly, one cannot ignore the existence of forces who have not accepted Islam as a genuine divine faith and who have been constantly engaged in activities to undermine Muslims and Islam.|
There are not enough Muslims speaking for the welfare and well being of humanity as a whole without dividing it in this or that religious, sectarian or racial camp. When was the last time, Muslims produced a treatise on the prevailing hunger in the world? When was the last time, we spoke about the dangers of nuclear proliferation? When was the last time, we spoke and did something about the homeless in America? And when was the last time, we participated in the debate about health insurance for those 44 million Americans who lack it. We cannot argue that we don't have resources to address these issues. There are thousands of doctors amidst us. There are thousands of millionaires amongst us and there are thousands of educationalists amongst us.
We live in a world where widening economic and social disparities have been causing millions to live below the poverty line. High illiteracy rates among men and women, majority of who happen to be Muslims, malnutrition and ever growing health problem especially among women predominantly within Muslim societies have caused millions to live in constant misery without any hope ever to get out of their plight. In general, the response of Muslim scholars and religious institutions has been very lukewarm. Neither have they been able to present an analysis of the root causes of these problems nor have they developed an organized, systematic and effective plan to address these issues in a bold manner. They spend hours and hours explaining the virtues to be educated, but they do little to actually organize something to educate those who are less fortunate to hold a book in their hands.
A lack of concern for the overall state of humanity has diluted our religious institutions. On one hand we have those who believe that if all Muslims start focusing on their ritual prayers, their problems will be solved and on the other are those who argue that if Muslims renounce this material world, they would find themselves in a better world. Neither seems to be willing to identify with those masses that are in the thick and thin of the problem.
Education that is the primary tool to effectively mold the thinking of an upcoming generation has become a tool in the hands of political or ideological groups without any relevance to the social realities prevailing in the Muslim world. For example, millions of Muslims are taught the Quran everyday, the fundamental source of their guidance, without understanding its meaning or message or relevance in life. Educational institutions cater to the interests of the power or politicized intellectual elites who are often motivated by their subjective ideological understanding of Islam. Education is rarely presented as a method to enhance one's own understanding of the universe for a better future.
In the absence of a proper education of our Religion the average Muslim is at loss about his or her true identity and role in the society he/she has been living. People are living because they are born and they have to live somehow. Obviously, a group that is not aware of its true identity and that is always at the mercy of those who claim to speak on behalf of God even though serving their own political agenda would find itself in stagnation in all its dimensions. This is what, unfortunately, has been happening with Muslims and Islam. Thus the root cause of the problem of social alienation and political restlessness lies within the intellectual confusion that is exacerbated with any slight provocation.
Certainly, one cannot ignore the existence of forces who have not accepted Islam as a genuine divine faith and who have been constantly engaged in activities to undermine Muslims and Islam. But what is new in that. Everyone pursues their own agenda often at the expense of the other. But why should Muslim intellectuals and leaders become prisoners to the agenda of others. Don't they argue that being the final message of God, Islam is for the welfare of not only Muslims but for others regardless of their relationship with Islam. It is perhaps time to introspect one's own attitudes, behavior and understandings towards the world. It is perhaps time to reflect seriously on the erosion of true Islamic identity that has always been disfigured by those who promote the divine faith as a sectarian or factional political ideology negating its universalism and concern for humanity at large. Why is it that we Muslims remained conspicuously silent on the sectarian conflicts going on in Iraq or in Pakistan? How come we didn't express our outrage at the killing of sunnis and shias?
Unfortunately, there is not much changing in the Muslim societies in the world that would give a sense of hope in challenging the status quo and working towards improving the situation. But, Muslim Americans can certainly play their part in the rediscovery of the true Islamic identity. They live in a country that is still not marred with sectarian conflicts of shia sunni, Arab-kurdish feuds or other ethnic conflicts that unfortunately have dominated the Muslim world. They live in a country where many are discovering their universalism and true Islamic character. They have among them a community that has proven to the world that it can survive the worst in every sense of the term. The example of African American community is a glaring evidence of the universality and effectiveness of Islam and its message of pristine clarity.
Muslim Americans are at a historical crossroad. However, they have to play the role according to the challenges that the world has been putting out for them. What is needed is the emergence of a group that understands the world and is willing to act on the basis of true Islamic identity of universalism rather than ethnic Factional or sectarian identities. There are organizations and leaders who are still hesitant to shed their cultural and political biases towards others including Muslims
There is out there a younger Muslim generation that is willing to challenge every icon that the community has built over the last few decades and they are eager to return to those true Islamic teachings that promote progress, growth, stability, peace and concern for humanity as a whole.
Dr. Aslam Abdullah is editor-in-Chief of the Muslim Observer and the director of the Islamic Society of Nevada as well as the director of the Muslim Electorates Council of America.
Excellent article; we need of those moderate voices...
I would also like to express my support for the Young Australian Muslims.
Islam is an old religion that has not been altered since its rise 1500 years ago and although this is a great feat, the laws and environment during which it arose have completely changed:
No longer it's a man's world and women can be treated like belongings.
There are human rights now and drastic measures cannot be taken against criminals.
Freedom of speech should not be uncastrated in the name of religion
I feel Islam needs to undergo an image uplift and young Muslims need to be given a chance to express their moderate views and influence the next generation of Muslims around the world.
Islam is a great religion; within it one can find all the deeds for humanity to live by.
But due to human interference, I suspect, it has lacked development...
You see everything in life evolves and adapts to modern times and Islam can blossom like a garden of flowers if it is allowed the chance to develop unhindered.
I am for the article. Thanks to Allah, I have had the privilage of writing two books about Islam. The first is called, The Shining Light of Islam and the second one is called, Kill The Beast. I wish, however, that some organization would review these books and get the word out about them. They do contain a lot of information about what is going on now. These books are published by Trafford Publishing. I have had feedback from some people about these books and the feedback is very good. Also, these books are under discussion about being put in our University library. The thing is that these books were written basically for a 'Western' audience and not so much for an Arab one although it doesn't hurt for the Arab Muslim to read them. If you have any suggestion on how I could go about getting these books more in the publics eye, I would be very thankful.
they shall account to God for their deeds.if moslems are enjoined to defend a church if it is being attacked.how can a moslem justify attacks f on churches.Ignorance and radicalism brings only shame to islam .
I thinks the dr's assessment of the situation in the Islamic world is bordering absurdity in the sense that as a dr I cant beleive he can afford to say that some Muslims are living just because they have to live. The Muslims are one of the most dynamic people on this earth. What is preventing them from living their Islamic freedom are the Muslim leaders, politicians and the Bush government. That is how simple the problem of that is affecting us Muslims are. We have to be left free to live our lives as true Muslims and to progress and prosper. Do we need to revolt to achieve that?
Brothers & Sisters.
I could not agree more with Dr. Aslam, and may Allah sustain his beautiful mind and give him strenght to exercise it, so that the whole of mankind can benefit from it. This is what I call "to be a MUSLIM". Mohammed was told that he was not sent just to guide his fellow Arabs, but he was(OUR BELOVED NABI,pbuh) a BLESSING TO MANKIND.
We are in trouble,for indeed we are failing the very essence of what is to be a MUSLIM. I guess the likeness of Dr Aslam, are just awarekening the very thing, we acknowledge within ourselves, and we need to do something about it. There is no need to be blaming other people for our own shortcomings.
We need to change and very fast indeed, if we want to be amongst those who will GAZE upon the MOST BEAUTIFUL FACE of our MAKER. We are running out of time. TO EVERY PROBLEM IS A SOLUTION.
For our SOLUTION, I will have to repeat Dr Aslam, for there is only ONE and ONE TRUTH, he has said that already and every TRUE MUSLIM with a profound UNDERSTANDING of the TRUE MEANING of the QUR'ANIC MESSAGE, will be saying the samething, that is the "SIRATU'LMUSTAKIIMA" it is one single straigth LINE,nothing else.
Education is paramount, it is the first key.
KNOWLEDGE is the third best gift that was given to Adam(pbuh) in order to prove to the Angelic Community, that, the FAVOUR of ALLAH(SWT) upon him was due, by AllAH(swt) own WISDOM and KINDNESS.
UNDERSTANDING, is the second best ACQUISITION. As a humanbeing/MUSLIM learning something without understanding it is what Al-qur'an refer to as "a donkey layden with books".
WISDOM, the cream of the creams of ALLAH most WISE's gitfs. It is the highest state(WISEMAN), the best of all ACQUISITIONS(WISDOM).
There is not shortage "intellectuals" but very few do understand and far worst very few are wise. However ,let's not despair, Al-Qur'an will always be the same, that is the PROMISE. To be a human is one big challenge, but to be a MUSLIM/mah is the tough
Clearly muslims worldwide will have to stand up against evil and protect Islam from being used by politicians, radicals, terrorists, murderers, liars, thiefs, nihilists, tattletales, opportunists, hypocrites and crooks who use it for their own advantage and against their people and mankind as awhole. Only then we will achieve the objectives layed out in the article and many times before. Peace be upon you
Others discuss,decide,take actions upon us. While we are being only recipient.We accept others opinons.We just passed over our rights. When we have given the term "terrorist" we accept it evenif we are killed,displaced, torched,jaile...
So, shall we continue like this or not? I think it is better to quit.It is obvious that someone may kill at most hundreds by a bomb blast or by a suicide bombing.By this personal action islam and the whole muslims face hardships.But when the westerns destroy thousands of muslims in Iraq,Chichin,Afghan,palestine,& other places they are democrats & we still terrorists.The westerns have fabricated so many falsified reasons to attack us;but we are keep silent to forward the truth.We lost confidence to raise our current issues,to discuss in public and to set the solution.We are always being defencive of their lie.We don't have to continue with such a situation.WE have to up coming in a position enabling us in preserving our rights.
I'm absorbed by the article.It specifically indicates the role of muslim scholars.And it is the exact initial which leads to the final solution.
How can Muslims help the 'homeless in the US" when US has made millions of Muslims homeless with its bombs? This also goes for silly references to "education" etc. US systematically destroyed the universities of Iraq, accusing them of being "WMD labs." As Allama Iqbal said:
ghulami main nah kaam aati hain tudbeerain nah shmasheerain;
hoe gur zoq-e-yaqeen paida to kut jaatee hain zunjeerain
(Strategies and swords don't help when you are enslaved;
But faith cuts the chains (of slavery).
As long as the Ummah cannot defend its heartland, all the eductional institutions are just one US or Israeli airstrike away from destruction.
So why we cannot see that when, he was just a messenger he did not want to kill or harm anybody and when, he was a conqueror he did not harm anybody....This is our misunderstanding that Islam has been popularized but the sword... Today there are muslims in every corner of the world it is because of behaviour which our forefathers followed and a bright example is of South Asian muslims because they became muslim when Mohammad Bin qasim came to rescue them and when they saw the good behaviour of his companions .... again at that time Mohd Bin Qasim was only 17 ... Today we are growing 17 year old suiciders but there is not a single Mohd bin Qasim... when are we going to understand the basis of ISLAM ????
I agree that this is a good article. Here are two points that I think are missing and want to add:
1) Most non-Muslims look at world events in the context of the religion of Darwinism. That is to say, the survival of the fittest, or in other words that the powerful are suppose to overcome the weak.
2) Muslims are taught that Allah Subhannahu Wa Ta'ala created everything. That we have common parents Adaam and Hawwah, alayhum as Salaam. That we should want for our brothers and sisters what we want for ourselves.
Until and unless we Muslims put that concept into practice, the Ummah will continue to be fragmented and suffer from internal conflicts. Until and unless we get ride of the acceptability that one king or prince can have multiple homes / palaces larger than most hotels in the west while the common Muslim family in that same society is struggling just to feed themselves on a daily basis. We Muslims can, on a daily basis point a finger to those responsible for the problems we are experiencing. We only have to stand in front of the mirror when we groom ourselves everyday to see the cause.
In short, Dr. Abdullah puts an introspective mirror in front of his Muslim brethren. And the resulting reflection, at least for one brother, is both spiritually inspiring and intellectually intriguing.
I honestly am at a loss as to what have you accomplished in this article. To me, it is full of rhetoric, again and again repeating the same theme but not trying to convey what is exactly that you have in mind.
The article was good in the start but it has too many repetition and has honestly little information as to how to correct things that you are trying to point out.
To me it is a circular article and you end up saying the same things you argued initially.
I hope that you can reflect back on your article and see that it is not serving any purpose at all.
May allah help us focus on our own shortcimings first before targetting others around us.
"What is needed is the emergence of a group that understands the world and is willing to act on the basis of true Islamic identity of universalism rather than ethnic Factional or sectarian identities."
What is needed,in my opinion,is an efficent mechanism for the emergence of such a group as the present conditions have not as yet produced a sufficient number of dedicated,informed and qualifed individuals who are ready to spend their time and money to struggle to convey these ideas in a manner that can influence the Muslim ummah and then the world. The emphasis on political goals, whether changing governments or fighting for national freedom at the expense of energizing and motivating the ummah to acquire and practice the Islamic personality and recognize that they have not lived up to their responsibility as the last ummah to convey this message of spiritual enlightenment to mankind.
We have been slaves not just to colonialists and dictators but to our passions. We are ready to die for Islam,to protest insults for a time but not to live every day for Islam as an example that can attract others to the religion that our Prophet( sas)and his companions sacrificed their lives for. Rashid Ghannoushi has said that if political activisim interferes with our primary mission of tabligh then we should postpone or leave it. Where is the unity and discipline that is neccessay for this struggle and where are the leaders to come from? If the masses can only be moved by slogans and only react to attacks then we will always be manipulated by those who have their own agenda. We must practice Islam in all its aspects but without a strong iman and a clear and mature mind we will spend our energies wastefully and fail in accomplishing our goals.
Every sincere effort is a cause for Allah's blessings but the effort that leads to success as defined by Allah and Rasululah is best
We need to stop applogizing by saying Islam is peaceful religion/faith and non violent. Everybody knows. That does not mean we forfeit the right to defend. We need to say we will defend if attacked. In which book of human or devine laws does it say one cannot defend when attacked. We need to stop being fearful, have faith and build a stronger Imaan. It is all due to weak Imman amd we must unite.
I do not understand they are hitting us left right and center still we are saying peace, non violent, what is wrong with us? Even if their one person is killed there is such a cry as 1,000 are killed. So wake up and stop being appologetic and if you keep talking about peace, like in Palestine for 50 years, every peace deal they took away more lives and land until today they took away everthing Masjid Aqsa, Jerusalm, so please stop.
May Alah give us greater understanding, strength with Imman, intelligence, wisdom and victory with un-believers, Ameen.
It is time to have an International Islamic Organistion / Islamic Union (as UN, NATO and EU).
headed by Imams of Masjid AQSA, KAABA/Mecca, and MADINA. Prophet Muhammad-pbuh was all in one (Imam,ruler head...)
They lay the Islamic principles,govern the agencies, issues fatwas and statements about the muslims' religious and wordly affairs.
Under those guidelines muslim countries must unite and form Islamic Banking & one currency(as eurodollar),Industries & infrastructure, Defense systems, Educatioal system( best Universities, Colleges, islamic institutions), food , modern & different technology, seolving /dealing with muslim issues a in the world and so on..
Otherwise they(MUSLIMS) would depend on other countries entirely even on food & water. Either muslim leaders are afraid/puppets/ignorant ... to do these.
The Imams of AQSA, MECCA,MADINA should be the heads /leaders of the joint commission and the muslim countries must have their own Banking system & one currency, University & educational system, Industrial and defense systems,legal systems, MEDIA(TV channels,Radio Stations).
Of-course on ISLAMIC GUIDELINES.
The present muslim leaders are either corrupted/puppets/afraid.Every muslim should look at yourself how much you are doing for yourself and others to please ALLAH & HIS Prophet.
May ALLAH make this world peaceful..
In this life, Allah gave us two eyes one is meant to see thru the meanings of the Holy Quran the other is meant to see the real world. The Muslim scholar's (Alim) job is to enact fatwas that help the overage Muslim strike a balance between the demands of the modern world and the demands of the Sharia. Thus a faqih in uloom deen (Religious scholar) must work in harmony with a faqih in uloom adunia (social/political/economist etc expert).
Excellent and eloquent article. I could not agree more.
I totally agree with your article. In order to be better able to tackle issues of humanity we first need to resolve our own issues. Amongst ourselves, there is more division rather than unity. It is unfortunate that especially when our faith preaches brotherhood, we are unable to be united. It is very frustating that even our local masjids here in the US still have very myopic vision and tend to focus in my opinion on things that are absurdly trivial rather than look at the big picture. Unfortunately immigrant communities import this myopic mind set with themselves and are unwilling to get rid of the blinders. Why do we get agitated when a Muslim is hurt by a non Muslim, but when they hurt each other it is shrugged off. Why are we hypocritical in taking offense at the cartoons but burn Danish flags that have the cross on it -the symbol of another faith. It is disgusting that the Janjaweeds in Darfur are Arabs hurting their brothers in faith. Not that we should be sitting idle till then, but maybe the younger generation will be able to remove the blinders, interpret their faith the right way, and help us out of this limbo.
Everyone is busy for personal gains. This will continue till the date of arrival of Imama Mehdi and Isa Alaihis salaam.
I hope more people would think along that line.
Rich Muslims in KSA, Qatar and Kuwait donate much higher (10 to 20 times) per capita then the Western countries.