We must wage a new form of jihad

Category: Faith & Spirituality Views: 4451

The cataclysmic wars in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq have uncovered the reality of Arab unity and plight, and the collective conscience of international society. It is abundantly clear that the Arab people must themselves build a new system for a new future. The current state, as judged by a low GDP, high level of illiteracy, and deteriorating performance in education and science, is neither in consonance with their hearts and minds nor does it provide for their political, economic, and educational aspirations. 

Yet this is the same Arab world that produced leading civilizations, world-class universities, and renowned scholars and scientists. Clearly, something has gone seriously astray.

As someone from, and directly involved with, this part of the world, I am convinced Arabs are qualified to regain their glorious past. Arabs have two-thirds of "proved oil reserves", and copious sunlight for possible alternative energy. They have their own market, the potential for an Arab Union, and many Arab countries are strategically positioned, geographically and politically. The people have a unique culture of community and family values, and their faith is inclusive and pluralistic. Above all, the Arab world has people with talent and creativity, with nearly half of the population in its youth. These are forces for progress, but without nurturing intrinsic talent and establishing a cogent system of governance the status quo will prevail.

In my view, there are four "pillars of change" that would support an imperative historic renaissance for transforming the current state of affairs. First, a new political system must be established with, at its core, a constitution defining the democratic principles of human rights, freedom of speech, and governance through contested elections. A select delegation of honorable intellectuals, respected political personalities, and thoughtful religious scholars, perhaps under the patronage of supreme-court judges, should form a council to debate and chart a new constitution for a final referendum involving the people. The co-existence of religious values in the lives of individuals and secular rules in the governance of the state should be clearly defined. There is no need to fear conflict, as reason and faith are driving forces in western democratic societies and in some Muslim countries such as Turkey and Malaysia.

Second, the rule of law must in practice be applied to every individual, independent of caste, faith, or background. Currently, some rules of law are either unenforced or selectively enforced, resulting in demoralizing practices. Besides being a prime cause of poor economic growth, poor governance breeds corruption which cripples investment, wastes resources, and diminishes confidence. If rules are applied fairly, people acquire security and faith in their system.

Third, the methods used in education, cultural practices, and scientific research must be revisited, reviewed, and revitalized. The goal should be to promote critical thinking and a value system of reasoning, discipline, and teamwork. The government should remain responsible for the primary education of all. Higher education should be based on quality not quantity, receive merit-based funding, and be free of unnecessary bureaucracy. Not the least of the benefits of educational reform is to foster the pride of achievement at national and international levels.
Fourth, an overhauling of the Arab media is necessary. Currently, there are numerous satellite TV channels and several so-called media cities generously financed, perhaps much more than research institutions. Yet people are inundated with mind-numbing and propaganda programs. The conceptually new al-Jazeera has become a very effective news media among millions of Arabs; similar media outlets concerned with cultural, social, and educational events should be established.

The primary objective is to stimulate minds and encourage critical thinking for civilized debates and dialogues. Governments should control neither the news nor appointment of editors; quality and appropriateness should be controlled by the judgment of professionals and the wisdom of society in accordance with the rule of law.

We Arabs can accomplish the transition to the world of the 21st century, but the people and leaders must embark on a new course. Incremental changes - so-called gradual reforms - are inappropriate for a system that has been ineffective for decades. We should have confidence in ourselves and in global participation, and not blame others for current calamities or use religion for political gains. The responsibility of the individual for self and societal improvement is clearly stated in The Koran: "Indeed! God will not change the good condition of the people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves."

I appeal to the Arab people to participate in this process of historic change and not to be distracted by the ideologies of the past and conspiracy theories of the future. Being passive creates a state of apathy and legitimizes the status quo. I call on intellectuals to focus on the greater good, not just for personal gain. Conscience and integrity are national responsibilities in this critical period of history. I urge the leaders of the Arab world to implement these historical changes and, in so doing, become makers of history. A genuine and peaceful transition to democracy is both legitimate and timely.

Before too long the oil will run out and human talent will migrate, but if we commit to "pillars of change", with jihad for modernity and enlightenment, we will realize our rightful place in the future.


Ahmed Zewail is presently the Linus Pauling Chair Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Physics, and the Director of the Physical Biology Center for UST and the NSF Laboratory for Molecular Sciences (LMS) at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, U.S.A. 

Professor Zewail was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering developments in the field of femtoscience.

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  16 Comments   Comment

  1. Najamuddin Mohammed from Canada

    The only thing missing in this article is the need for establishing Islamic/Shariah law; otherwise, the article clearly points out where major reforms need to be made for a safer and more just Middle East.

  2. Dr Nisar Contractor from New Zealand

    Prof Zewail again speaks in a tone of devisiveness. He should be addressing Muslims all over the World. Arab supremacy arrived from petrodollars and they became conceited and arrogant. They even apply their own laws in their country selectively and discriminate people. Muslims in other parts of the World have proved to be better Muslims, have been more educated and practised democracy .

  3. mohammad illyas sharief from india

    i do agree that arabs can regain the lost glory but i am different with the way that has been suggested by the author why dont we adopt the method and the way of ruling shown by are beloved prophet muhammad(pbuh)it is foolish to say democracy will solve the problem. it is mentioned in the quran that muslims shud be united under one banner but the author is silent on this. most of the tragedies which are happening in the middleeast is just because muslims have deviated from the path shown by prophet muhammad (pbuh)the messenger of "ALLAH". it is absolutely rubbish that any other system will ever work on this earth. the divine law will work as it is divine and muslims shud not only believe but implement quran right away....

    allah says"perform salaat and fear not anybody on this earth"

  4. noor from USA

    The disgrace the muslim world is facing is not because of lack of education or lack of research. It is because the muslims have left the deen and leading their lives according to their own wishes and fancies. Our deen when practiced Allah will elevate us again. The only aayat the author quotes from the Quran is talking abt this change. Change of heart, turning towards Allah and practicing deen to please Allah and not the materialistic change. What do u think will happen, if all the muslim world embraces democracy? Say in 100 ppl, 90 say that a horse is not a horse but a donkey, it becomes a donkey. Democracy though looks good on paper,it is failing in many parts of the world due to high corruption rate. Secularism on the other hand says that the man made law is above the law Allah sent for muslims to follow in their society. I dont know how the author feels that success, peace and prosperity will come from man made laws and by abandoning the Law sent by Allah. Only a person of weak faith can say that "Keep the law of Allah to the confines of your home and follow the law of some x outside ur home as if Allah is only at home". Education, research, wealth, trade, etc are of no use when Insaan doesnt know how to live life. Deen teaches us how to live life by creating ideal living conditions for all the humans. The one who has deen respects life and adheres to the commands of Allah, which gives every human their due position and value in the society. I urge one and all, to return and search for success in what brought success to the muslim ummah in the first place which is the deen of Allah. Please dont search for success in the things which brought us disgrace in the first place, i.e., leaving the Quran and Sunnah.

  5. Hasan from India

    It is amazing how many among the Arabs refer to the greatness of the muslim legacy as Arab legacy. If that were the case, then i would say that we built the wonderous Taj Mahal because we are Indians, and nothing to do with Islam. Also, he talks about the arabs producing great scholars and establishing universities. Let me inform him, that the when compared to what the non-arabs produced in Islamic world, what the Arabs produced is marginal. Imam Bokhari, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi, Abu Hanifa, and many others were not Arabs, and their civilizations were not Arabs. It is better we not come to this level of Asabiya. The reason anyone of us is successful is because we are muslims.

  6. Abdinasir Elmi from England

    I dont think that this soo called Arab Union that is just as coherent as EU or even as one Nation such as the USA would work. the reason for this is for numbers of different reasons, 1 even thought the majority in the middel east are muslims if u look closly u would see difference in opinions in the religoin it self. Therefor raising clashes in the model of law that is to be implemented, and a number of other policies that are to be drawn up.

    2nd the middel east it self has a problem with tolerance of religoin and tolerance of nationality. i dont think now is the time that it will go back to its best self, for the simple reason that in that time jews/muslims/christians were livin on the same street peacefully and all practicing their religoins. But for a country like Soudi Arabia that doesnt even have one church it should be shamefull, i mean what would the Prophet(SAW) say about this intolerance of other peoples religoin. and the this new concept of modernizing of the arab countries, the thing is if only more people read the history reading about the Prophet(SAW), there would not be a call for a NEW political system or any of this. the system that worked at the time when muslims were ruling the planet is the system we need to use now, but with better care. And another thing is that as long as we look to the west and think that is where the solution lies, that is where the peace lies, we will never achieve what we really want. Its time to set the agenda not follow it, its time for Islam to controle the world, not for the world to controle Islam.....



    Abdinasir Elmi

    2nd year International Relations

    London Metropolitan University

  7. Amin Kalimuddin from USA

    The author by using the word Arab World instead of Muslim world divided the people. This problem is universal in Muslim World, by fragmenting people he did a great injustice to his message.

  8. abdifatah suleiman musse from USA

    asalamu aleykum warah matulah, I agree with writer, arabs and arab muslims must listen, my great great father was quraish decent of messenger Mohamed aleyhi salam, but today I am somalian, yet My country is lawless, we are having islamic movement which just gain control over most of south of somalia, and my own family who are decent of Mohamed aleyhi salam are opposing the islamic movement they are calling for kufars and asking them to conqure the land and put them in set and asking them to dominate their lifes, allah's willing things will not be that way, those who befriend the kufars are same

    as kufar, those who rule or lead our lands are kufars so we must start with them first, we must rule our lands, we must follow the quran , we must rule our land with the sharia the law of allah then we can success, for the muslim arabs unite and work as one and have the same goals and achive them, I am sure you will shine over them, help yourself and remember allah much when you are in jihad, salam. peace and security

  9. Gulshan Afridi from UK

    A sad state of affairs when Muslims sit quietly bye whilst fellow Muslims are massacred, slaughtered and dispossessed of their lands and homes. But its sadder still when Bush cronies and apes like Musharaf, do their master's bidding in perpetuating this orgy of murder and mayhem against their own Muslim Balouch and Afghans and Pashtuns. If this Bush Ape/lap-dog Musharaf had any sense he would know that in the US scheme of things US interests are served in the elimination of Pakistan. Hence plans have being chalked by the US to ensure Pakistan is chopped up. The US Armed Forces Journal, which has published the redrawn map of the world of Islam is published by the Army Times Publishing Company, a part of Gannett Company, Inc., which is the world's largest publisher of professional military and defence periodicals, has made this fact crystal clear. Such shameles US lap-dogs & puppets as Mushraf think they are secure as the US guarantees safety for them and their families in case of a coup or if the political tide turns against them. These lap-dogs would do well to reflect on the fate of similar US pets, like Saddam Hussein or the Shah of Iran and Ferdinand Marcos or even Pinochet. These clowns thought they could easily step away from a bad situation to a comfortable existence in the US. Well besides Saddam rotting and ridiculed in US jails, all previous US pets died like homeless dogs, pining to the end for the promises and guarantees made by the US. The people of Pakistan are lulled into a false sense of US security. Have they not yet woken up to the fact that in their 70's war with India, the promised US 7th fleet never arrived? Perhaps Pakistanis are a patient lot and are still waiting. Or have they forgotten that to date the US has not returned the money they stole from the sale of the F-16s they never delivered? Pakistanis do not realise that not only is their Nuclear capability on top of the US agenda to eliminate but their country as a whole. Wake up Muslims!

  10. native from USA

    very strange article - the first thing you have to do is to get rid of American supported puppet regimes in the region - then you can have some progress. But he did not write anything about that was going to happen? These American Regimes have trained military to destroy any Islamic movement, and are interested in protecting their castles.

    First step in any "new jihad" (is this like the "new Islam" ) is to tear down the American/Israeli built castles in "Saudi" Arabia and other Arab Kingdoms. Then we'll talk about other things.

  11. Dawood Haq from USA

    Here we go again with another Arab dream.Why should the rest of us in the muslim community support you? We are not Arabs and we have peaceful communities.unlike yours.You have reverted to tribalism and Allah rewarded you for it-endless fighting and humiliation by anyone who cares to take your land.As long as you claim to be Arabs,Persians,Kurds or whatever sect and sub-sect you people dream up and Muslims as a distant second, then take your reward like men and stop whining.

  12. a muslim from USA

    Assalamo Alaykum Dear Muslims

    This writer first must read quraan and hadith as he fails to

    understand that the Ummah is not only arabs. Ummah consist of

    people of all races, language, and color. Prophet (saw) said no

    arabs has superiority over non-arabs and no non-arabs has

    superiority over arabs. We muslims are one nation we cannot

    solve problems of the ummah for arabs and non-arabs. We must

    find a solution togather for the whole ummah in the light of

    Quraan and the teachings of the Prophet (SAW) otherwise we will

    never succed.


  13. isyaka laminu badamasi from nigeria

    the only way out is for the arab world in particular and the muslim all over the world to go back to the teaching of prophet muhammad [saw]that is to wage war aginst kuffar untill when they summit that there is no deity to be worship except allah.

  14. fatima from UK

    I strongly agree with the writer and i need to add some few points without necessary attacking all Arabs- Arabs your are blessed with land and knowlege and as years pass by- the present potician have flash out all the heard work done by your fore fathers. We muslims who feel close to guys have shown that your blood is worth nothing and your politian are pupet of Americans's politcians, your prisoner's are treated inhuman and there many other factors that undermine all of you that it has created a gap that are used by other human beings who dont like you to manupilate you in whichever way they like.The fact remain is until you unite, have one voice, promote each other product, make your country pure to the according of Allah's guidiance then no chance as far as concern for the Arabs to be respected and leave in peace.

    Personally please stop being horrible to your servants and prisoners!!!!!!!!!!!pleaase.

  15. Aslam from India

    Muslims fell because of their self-indulgence and neglegient attitude towards their religion. Islam has never been against progress, unlike Christianity in Europe. Therefore, Western logic of separating the religion from state does not apply to the Muslims.