The Challenge to Muslims

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society Topics: Muslims, Quran Views: 6975

When people lose consciousness of the true spirit and values of their faith, their actions and practices no longer reflect the message of the religion they practice. The forms become an end in themselves as the greater vision that is meant to uplift and transform individuals and societies is lost. The significance of faith is reduced to a mere preservation of and adherence to the traditional outer practices that had once complemented and reflected the message. Religion becomes a museum for the preservation of the outer shell that was a container for the sustaining and life transforming core. Focus is turned towards concepts of individual piety and self righteousness disengaging people from humanity. It is lost to such followers that belief in the Oneness of God is an acknowledgement of the oneness of humanity and serving God is serving and doing justice to humanity. True followers of any religion must concern themselves with human rights which is the ultimate purpose of faith. When human rights are trampled, religion is betrayed.

Ideologues whose aim is to uncritically glorify the Muslims in history at the expense of other groups remain in control of the pulpits. Through the fog of deliberate misrepresentation these ideologues create an illusion of the unity of the Ummah: disregarding any appreciation of the responsibility and value of free community. Without any legitimate central authority to speak on behalf of the majority of Muslims who are Sunnis and with hardly any Government within the Muslim world having any credibility with its own people, there is a chronic deficiency of legitimacy allowing a "dictatorship" over the spread of knowledge. The spirit of free inquiry, a major reason for Islam's past glory is long buried and forgotten. 

The Sharia to the Muslims is God's law, yet it is human understanding and interpretations through which it has acquired the present framework. It is clear that its dynamism needs to be revived since it is frozen in time and its relevance and applicability to the present is being called into question daily. Self appointed scholars reduce Islam to a tribal doctrine defended by zealots assigned to protect the honor and integrity of a faith that is everywhere under attack. Incapable of making the case of the perceived and real injustices to Muslims by their own and others except through violence and confrontation they are helping to nurture extremism. The wrath of tribal Islam towards those it considers its enemies is mirrored in the intolerance of fundamentalist Christians who also regard the current situation as a religious war, each party claiming God on its side.

Muslims' most glaring failure lies in their inability to reconcile Islam's doctrine, with the modern world. In failing to reconcile Islam they have opted to allow it to regress into its past. This is where the insecurity of Muslims stems from and that is, since the past is undeniable and cannot be changed, they hark to the past, because it feels secure and not threatened. The past has become a sort of "security blanket" for Muslims and they wrap themselves in it, whenever they feel threatened.

The concern regarding Islam's threat to others is necessitating not only political restructuring but more interestingly ideological retooling. 

Serious and legitimate questions are being raised daily about Islam and Muslims; what do democracy and human rights mean in an Islamic society? Can democracy and human rights make any headway at all in a society deeply divided between the rich and the poor, included and excluded, educated and uneducated, enlightened and the otherwise? To these and many other such questions, which affect the peace and stability of the world order, Muslims need to furnish the answers. 

There needs to be a Quranic renaissance that will reconcile Quranic passages with the social responsibilities and accountability that the Quran demands for the upliftment of the oppressed and marginalized. This is itself the true intent of the Sharia.

It is about empowerment, choice and deliberation at individual and collective levels rather than control, dependence, obedience and passive reception. Muslims must rise to the challenge.

Dr. Nazir Khaja is Chairman, Islamic Information Service based in California. He can be contacted at [email protected]

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society
  Topics: Muslims, Quran
Views: 6975

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Older Comments:
It is indeed a challenging article. My prayer is that may the Almighty unite and direct our course aright. amen.

Dr nazir, Assalam alaikum warahmotullai wabrakatuhu,infact alhamdulillai robil alamin when i receive this expencive and veryimpotant message i was very glad this is islam it's very good and intresting .ALLAH(s.w.t)shall be your saviour and ALLAH (s.w.t)will grant you long life i will contact you throuh you mail. you can pls call 2348050559244 anytime . ma-salam


No, I am not a Muslim, but I'll take that as a compliment. I think we probably agree on more things than we realize. The splitters would like to magnify our differences but there are a number of great big lumps in which we all are a part. Muslims and Christians should have a lot in common. The truer each of us is to our own faith, the less threatened we will be by someone whose interpretation is a bit different than our own. A less threatened world is a safer world. This should be a goal of all

Bruce,are you sure you are not Muslim?On your comment my sentiment exactly.There isn't an 'original' interpretation of the Quran that would be of the prophet and prophet solely.Let's analyze the claims.Salafi or Wahabi,are they representing what the prophet practiced and believed solely?I don't think so,Salafi is the official name of Wahabism that is the philosophy of one man,Muhammad ibn Wahab,based on the Hambali school of thought and that Quranic interpretation or selection and carefully chosen hadiths,sometimes of doubtful authority to support a certain doctrine.Is this al-Islam?I would say, no,it is just the Salafi way that might serve life in Saudia but not in Morocco,let alone North America.The Shia have their own philosophy and interpretation or selection of Quranic values.In fact,all accepted 5 madhabs(the 5th being Ithna-asharah)have their own interpretation or selection of Islamic values according to the founders that have closed the door to Ijtihad.Before the schools or madhabs there was Ijtihad(independent reasoning),after there was only mimicking or aping what was practiced before and the system of beliefs did not allow any enterprise out of fear of bida'a(innovation).This is like not wanting to invent anything out of fear that only because it was not used by the Muslims of Medina in the 600's,it might be haram(unlawful).I can't reiterate it more than this.We Muslims living in North America are shackled by the norms of a very anachronic Islam.The values in Islam and the fundamental practices must survive,but the attitudes toward progess and a multicultural society as well as living in a world shared by people that are not Muslim and how to maintain an honorable and dignified prophile in a rather decadent world(including Muslim lands)is not in recipes that worked a millenium and a half ago for people that communicated via shouting off high buildings as against nowadays satellite communications network!There's no going back!The road runs up ahead!

Dr. Khaja's article summarizes quite well the view most of the west, Muslim or Non-Muslim, has of the Mid Eastern mindset. This would be that being born in the cradle of the Prophet gives them a special view of the world and the Sharia and Sunna that was written in the context of their civilization is thus the final word for all time. Assuming that the Quran was divinely inspired, I see no reason why it could not be reinterpreted in the context of Western (whatever that means) society or any other society for that matter. What ever happened to the spirit of scientific and philosophic discourses that made Golden Age of Islam famous? Yes, they were brilliant, but do they have the last word for all time? If they returned, they would be the first to re-look at the Quran in a fresh light.

The biggest danger is that the attempt at hanging on to the past interpretations and lame attempts at making them relative to the modern world becomes more important than understanding the spirit of the Quran. Maybe one can see the results of this easier by looking at the Christian Fundamentalist that these very people despise.



Interesting comments here:

"Through the fog of deliberate misrepresentation these ideologues create an illusion of the unity of the Ummah: disregarding any appreciation of the responsibility and value of free community. Without any legitimate central authority to speak on behalf of the majority of Muslims who are Sunnis and with hardly any Government within the Muslim world having any credibility with its own people, there is a chronic deficiency of legitimacy allowing a "dictatorship" of obscurantism. The spirit of free inquiry, a major reason for Islam's past glory is long buried and forgotten."

Seems the "deficiency of legitimacy" and "dictatorship of obscurantism" which this author professes to preach about may have been absent when he and his colleagues on the "American" Muslim scene endorsed Governor George W. Bush for President on "behalf of all Muslims in North America" nor any of the now infamous prior proclamations of the thoroughly discredited American Muslim Council i.e. endorsing economic sanctions on Iraq, photo-op iftars at the Pentagon, as well as "forgiving" former President Clinton on "behalf of all Muslims" for his affair with Lewinsky, even when Clinton's own baptist church officials refused to come and meet him. Legitimacy is earned not bought nor paid for by the U.S. govt.


So now you're toeing Gen. Musharraf's line!!! "Enlightened Moderation", anyone? Or will it be "SUFISM". Brothers, trade your Jihad for a fashion show. "Bana bana kay jo duniya mitayee jaati hay / Zuroor koi kami hay jo payee jaati hay !!! Hallelujah.

Alhamdullilah. May Allah preserve the integrity of this Believer. Muslims must rise to the challenge of how Allah and his Messenger has defined us in Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet mohammes saw. We need to always reflect those decriptions. Allah will protect Islam. It is our duty to live it.

As long as Islam is percieved as a threat Biblical Christianity will gain adherents.

NAJJAR said:
Respected doctor, as you have hopefully noticed, concise articles do not help much , when writing about a vaste subject like this most beautiful Religion. There is no doubt in my mind that your thoughts are noble, but unelaborated, and unfortunately most of us quickly come to conclusions that we do not really like ourselves. Bookworms like most of us here, whether in agreement or disagreement, would have had at least a better understanding of your points. Looking forward reading more of your writing Insha Allah.

Respected Doctor, you can rest assured that the self appointed scholars (Muslim Scholars) that you accuse of reducing Islam to a tribal doctrine exist only in the heads of some . Let us not come to such conclusion just by observing the shortcomings of some of us. As a brother mention in his comment here, the Ummah is very healthy. She is getting healthier every day, thanks in big part to the mistakes the Americans and their Europeans dogs are making and the extreme violence inflicted on her in the name of their god, the dollar. By millions many of us are coming out our closets and giving all kind of support to our brothers and sisters around the world. By millions we are getting to learn that our Islamic duties and responsibilities are not limited to the five Noble Pillars. By millions we are learning that the Noble Shari'a is not limited to the family court, and that the rulers and the people in our governments in the Muslims lands are not exempt, nor above it. Yes definitely there is currently a unity problem within the Ummah; most of people in the world are witnessing the end of this fragmentation, slowly bu surely Insha Allah. Her enemies are currently in a panicky state, thus the increased violence against this observable fact.

Doing Phine and the likes agree with article like it, yes that's right, we all probably need to go the same madrassat they go to, there's probably something else our scholars at home are hiding from us, mmmmmmm?

May Allah guide us all.


Quran need not be re-interpreted, but the gist of the Holy Quran need be understood more than preached.

What is said is very true. We have been so totally captured by the West that we have lost sight of our real purpose in life. We need to study the Quran and apply it in our lives. We have to recapture the dynamism of Islam as lived by our Muslims warriors. We have lost the 'spirit' of Islam and is left with the mechanics of it.
Mehrun Rahaman.

Timmely & relevant Writing.

Well, to say little but sure certain, that Dr/Mr Serajuddin (Ref: 37862) perhaps has spoken the truth in the face of our another brother, who living on the foreign soil, is surely affected by their ideologies. Quran need not be re-interpreted, but the gist of the Holy Quran need be understood more than preached. Well, to some degree, I agree with Dr Khaja that certain preachers are at fault either personally or are under stress of the Governments where they live. A good example is our Al Azhar University of Cairo where the Head of the University, being under stress from Government, speaks WRONG... You may remember the French ban of the Hijab - and the comments of the Head of Al Azhar University.

But, for Quran to be re-interpreted is something one dare not even imagine... Yes, translations can be modified from language to language, but re-interpreted is not something for the lay people of the street or those who consider themselves to be doctors when they are sick.... Thanks Mr Siraj.. May Allah Almighty enlighten your heart and put you on the right path... Ameen.. With love from Abu Saleh...

While there are many good points made by this writer, regarding some of the many challenging issues most muslim ummahs are struggling/faced with, it is a misnomer and erroneous to attempt to judge Muslims/Islam by Western standards. Apparently this writer is very much influenced by the west and the so-called Democratic propaganda in terms of freedom and rights. Human rights is a God given right, however freedom means one must act with responsibility/obligation govern by certain limitations set in motion by the Almighty Creator. Islam promotes unity while defending certain rights and the dignity of man, providing that man behaves responsibly, equitably and respectfully towards each other. The idea of divide and rule is western and was introduced by western invaders of muslim land. Therefore, it clearly appears that it is the Westerners who are creating and promoting isms and divisions throughout the entire world, under the guise of freedom and human rights. All one needs to do is to take a close look at the many divisions/curruption and extremities of the pseudo religious communities in the Christian West. To conclude, we most certainly cannot use the west as a yard stick to measure Muslims/Islam.

Sorry Doc, the purpose of faith is not to establish "human rights" on earth, but rather the purpose of faith is for the individual to attain compelete state of peace and tranquility with his/her creator Allah (SWT). And you achieve this by doing the way of the prophet Muhammad (SAW). And the prophet (SAW) has, amongst other things, admonished us not to add or delete (bidi'a) from the deen as it is. So therefore Doc, 'm sure u will agree with me that by simple implicative logic, any radical? re-interpretation of the Qur'an (and by necessity meaning islam) other than what he (SAW) approved will lead to bidi'a. So your proposal is hereby rejected. QED

This is a nice article. It may explain why moslems are fighting each other. Each of us ethnocentrically claims the superiority of its "outer practices" and blame others for their "wrong outer practices". We overlook each other's sincere intention to be faithful to Allah. This makes Islam and moslem confusing and even look "bad" to those who do not yet understand Islam. But that is what exactly expected by kafirs. They are very happy seeing Islam is confusing and moslems are weakening themselves. The kafirs may even covertly blow the fire of hatred among us.

Dont get me wrong, Islamicity has notoreity for providing platforms to people who want this ummah to toe the line of world powers. Only exception was that last week's article prompting us to think in the lines of united ummah.

Lets take stock !

Dr.Khaja wants

1. 'idealogues' out of mimbar(mosque pulpit)

2. Radical Re interpretation of quran to suit the modern times.

3.Barring us to follow the interpretation of quran by human mind which has got stale in the past.

4. To establish justice for humanity by providing them rights of freedom.

1. For ppl who doesnt understand the value of mimbar. It is position of authority in ummah. Ppl who get to speak in Mimbar are the one who respresent this ummah. So who are these idealogues, Dr.Khaja wants to be relieved of this charge ? Aalim, scholars. Who have spent their whole life learning Allah's religion the way it was revealed.
If we are going to talk abt religion from mimbar isnt the religious doctors ellegible ? Can Dr.khaja are any other enlightened christian brothers call for christian religious priests not to represent their faith, speak for their faith? Now what makes they can do the same with Islam ? With american education Dr.Khaja thinks he has credibility to speak for ISLAM. Now, that's interesting.

2&3 can be simply negated by pointing out, existing Islam's interpretation was not by ordinary human but by Muhammed(pbuh) under constant guidance of ALLAH thro' GIbreel(a.s). If Dr.Khaja doesnt believe this, then i am sorry to say, his faith is incomplete. If he does then any radical representation cant be better than what was explained by Allah and His apostle.
4.It's funny, Muslims doesnt have power to establish justice. Swallow it hard ! we are the nation who is seeking justice and how are we to establish justice in humanity ? Trying to square free rights as justice to humanity, Dr.Khaja has done poor job in manipulating islam to the likes of west. Salaam.

One of the answer to the current sistuation is education in the Muslim world. The education of the Quran and the Sunnah AND HOW TO PRATICE,THROUGH THE ISLAMIC WORLD.

Nice article except that the writer attempted to judge Islam using Western Standards and advocated for reinterpretations of Qur'an to meet the present demands of the world. No doubt, there is a need for a change in the Muslim countries but the change is not for Muslims to reinterpret the Qur'an but to follow the teachings of the Qur'an. The Muslim countries, particularly the leaders, should not adopt "Western Standards" based on "freedom of everything" that has lead to immorality and double standard that are prevalent in Western countries today. Muslims should apply the Qur'an and the Shariah accordingly.

The serious and legitimate questions that are being raised daily about Islam and Muslims are equally been raised daily about Western Standards and people. Muslims have to resist all attempts by the West and the Westernized Muslims to redefine Islam. The present problems facing the Muslims have been described by our beloved prophet, Muhammad (SAW), and the solutions also prescribed.

"It is expected that the nations will call other nations to share them against you (Muslims) as the eaters call each other to eat from the food in front of them in a large wooden plate" A person asked, "Will that happen because of our small number on that day?" The Prophet said, "No. Your number will be great, but you will be rubbish like the rubbish of flood-water. And certainly Allah will remove from the hearts of enemies the fear from you and surely Allah will throw Wahn in your hearts." A person asked, "What is Wahn, O Messenger of Allah? The Prophet said, "Wahn is to love this world and to hate death". (Abu-Dawood Hadith 4284)

The root of the problems facing Muslims nowadays is "Wahn" the love of this world. Some Muslims love wealth, power, position, etc more than any other thing hence they can do anything (injustices, oppression, murder, reinterpretation/misinterpretation of Qur'an and Shariah,

Here is another voice of defeat attacking Islam and Muslims. Writer asserts "True followers of any religion must concern themselves with human rights which is the ultimate purpose of faith." No, in fact the ultimate purpose is he worship of Allah, the application of the Qur'an and not this busy themselves with the new western empty, ambigeous slogan "human rights".
Also why should Mslims care about democracy (laws are made by the people for people) when they have Islam (laws are send from Allah to the people).
Writer also says "Ideologues whose aim is to uncritically glorify the Muslims in history at the expense of other groups remain in control of the mosque pulpits." My quesions is "what other groups are you trying todefend? The christians? the Jews? The Pagans of the India?
Stop attacking Islam and the Muslims. Muslim Umah is a thriving Ummah going thru problems but is still healthy in its view of life and its practice of this. The Ummah did not turn misguided nor it turned an Ummah killers like the Western nations.
With Love

Well said, Sir. It seems to me also, that if women were educated and offered opportunities, their children would be less prone to stray and become lost in the ideologies of terrorism. What becomes of all these victims of war, orphans with no future! Of course they are vulnerable. This is part of the long term plan to destabize one nation after another. Break up the family (in the west finances and many facets of women's liberation were problems) and look at what we have here now. In the mid east war is being used to destabilize the basic unit of Islam, the family. Education and love are the only solutions! Thank you for your wisdom and insight.

Thius article is very interesting as well as highly recommended for deliberations on its contentsand is the need of modern times, however it would be better if the author gives more time and detailed discussions on the ideas in his mind specially regarding world peace aspect which he has tried to speak in this article. I request the author to give some methods and line of action for the unity of UMMAH, AND CONSEQUENTLY UNITY OF HUMANITY.

A fine example of advice to the 'OTHERS'


What is 'Quranic renaissance'?

May Allah SWT guide us onto the right path and instil unity in the hrarts and actions of the Muslims on the whole planet! AMEEN.


We should consider calling ourselves Christian-Islamics; do U think so 2 ??

In general I found this article to a positive attempt to address important issues we have within the Islamic world. However, I think that the the author is making a grievous mistake when he states, "They must engage urgently in a radical reinterpretation of the Quran and their legacy if they wish to reverse the use of the scriptures as an ideological legitimization and justification for social injustices so prevalent within their societies."
The Quran does NOT nor will it EVER need 'reinterpretation' let alone a radical one. The fault is within the people using dubious, simple mided explanations to support their own personal points of view.
What we need is a better understanding and grasp of the core meaning through a correct & thorough understanding of the language in which it was written, (of which many even within the ME and arabic speaking world unfortnately don't have) as well as an educated and practical approach in 'translating' thses meanings and past examples into a more tangibly understandable context for todays generation. Our main problem is that we simply ignore what's inconvenient, politically, socially and even idealogically as humans to serve our ownpersonal tastes. This is a universal trait amongst humans and is part of the reason that choice and free will are so difficult and precious. After all, it is free will and choice upon which we will all be eventually judged. No matter what the worldly circumstance we may find ourselves in.
So it would seem that laziness, apathy, ignorance and cowardice are the core issues we should all be addressing, which if we continually point out to people may get a better result, simply because no one likes to be labelled as any of these things. It is only through personal responsibility and social education that we can bring about a RETURN to the very attributes and achievements we once had as an Ummah.


I do not know what dr khaja is 'doctor' of; but he is obviously not qualified to diagnose his own .. state. He is yet another of those self-appointed 'enlightened' ideologues (to use his own term),with nothing more than western liberal mantras to mouth, out to reform Islam . Islam's universal values are rooted in the Quran and the Sunna, not in its reinterpretation by 'modern' muslims of limited intellect.Its pathetic.

Excellent article. Totally agree with the author.
The challenge is wresting control of the pulpit from the ideologues and pass them to liberal minded and western educated Mulims,who sees both sides of the world, and are prepared to challenge 'tribal' interpretations of the scriptures and Quran.

How to do that? We are a long way from solutions..

I agree with it 100%. I can't state enought my full support to the article.

The author states; "Muslims must rise to the challenge and not let others define them.". I agree with this statement 110% and I wish the author the best of luck in sending his message to all his fellow Muslims.

The West doesn't desire or need to have Muslims turn into copies of the West, however to end this conflict of civilizations this reformation is needed.