We are now living in extraordinary times, marked by a world-wide violent transformation and confusion - ethical, political, social and economic - a confusion engendered by two world wars and the subsequent breakdown of centuries - old social, ethical and economic forms. The whole world is in turmoil - and we Muslims, too, cannot, even if we wanted, continue to live as we have hitherto been living, complacently secure in the illusion that the pattern of life accepted as valid in past times must forever remain valid; for that complacency, that security of convictions or illusions has been shattered by what has happened to us in the last few centuries.
At a time like this, we must begin to take stock of our cultural holdings. It is not enough to say, "We are Muslims and have an ideology of our own": we must also be in a position to show that our ideology is vital enough to withstand the pressure of the changing times, and to decide in what way the fact of our being Muslims will affect the course of our lives: in other words, we must find out whether Islam can offer us precise directives for the formation of our society, and whether its inspiration is strong enough in us to translate these directives into practice.
In order to reach such a decision, we must begin to think anew about Islam, about what it really signifies, what its real laws are ; for we have stopped thinking about these matters for a good many centuries and have merely relied on what previous generations of Muslims thought about Islam. In consequence, our current theology (kalam) and canonical jurisprudence (fiqh) now resemble nothing so much as a vast old-clothes shop where ancient thought-garments, almost unrecognizable as to their original purport, are mechanically bought and sold, patched up and re-sold, and where the buyer's only delight consists in praising the old tailors' skill...
We cannot go on like this at a time when the Muslim world is in the throes of a crisis which may make or unmake Islam's validity as a practical proposition for many centuries to come. Never was there a more urgent need for heart-searching and brain-searching. One does not require particularly sharp eyes to see that, set as we are in the midst of a rapidly changing world, our society, too, is subject to the same inexorable law of change. Whether we like it or not, a change there will be: it is, indeed, already being enacted before our very eyes. The Muslim world is in transition - a fact that is as obvious as it is pregnant with tremendous possibilities for better or worse. For better or worse: since we must not forget that "change" is but another word for "movement": and, within a social organism, movement can be creative as well as destructive. But whereas there is no power on earth which could now keep our society from changing, we are still free to determine the direction which this change should take: it is still up to us to decide whether we shall build our future on the real values of Islam - or entirely drift away from Islam and become passive camp-followers of other civilizations.
There is no other alternative. Nothing could be more stupid than to try to persuade ourselves that, if we but wanted, we could cling to yesterday's notions and conventions in their entirety. Those who do so - and there are, unfortunately, many of them - are playing the game of the proverbial ostrich that buries its head in the sand in order to escape the necessity of making a decision. A dangerous game this, in addition to being unspeakably silly: for, like that famous bird, our friends - however well-intentioned - are depriving themselves of every opportunity to meet the oncoming challenge of the times: in this case, a challenge to the eternal validity of Islam as a culture-producing force. Their minds seem to work on the supposition that our recent past was "Islamic"; and that, therefore, everything that implies a departure from the conventions of our yesterday - both with regard to our social customs and our approach to problems of law - goes against Islam; and that, on the other hand, everything would be in perfect order if we could but preserve the social forms and the scheme of thought in which our grandfathers live. To put it differently, our ostriches assume that Islam and the conventions of Muslim society are one and the same thing (which, of course, is utter nonsense); and that the survival of Islam depends on the maintenance of the very conditions which nowadays make it impossible for Muslims to live in accordance with the true tenets of Islam (which, obviously, is vary bad logic). But however absurd these assumptions may be, they nevertheless provide the basis on which the minds of many Muslims nowadays operate; and their unwillingness to concede the necessity of any change drives countless other Muslims to a helpless imitation of the Occident, either in its Capitalist or in its Marxist manifestations, or, alternatively, to an equally blind, self defeating belief in the imminence of a quasi-Mahdist "Islamic revival".
These pages, therefore, are addressed to people who know that there is no survival value in playing the ostrich. They are addressed, in particular, to those of the Muslims who realize the desperate crisis of Islamic communal life and civilization; who, therefore, wish to think for themselves and refuse to be fed on mare catchwords and illusions; who regard self-deception as one of the most serious of sins; who have the courage to face the facts as they are, and not as they would like them to be; who, in short, desire not only to "serve" Islam but to live it.
To such people I am offering this contribution to a revival of Muslim thought. If some of my readers think that my criticism is unduly harsh and, on occasion, irreverent, let them remember that the wind that comes before dawn is often harsh, and on occasion even ill-pleasing. But it is just such a win that we need - a fresh wind that would blow away the cobwebs of our decadence, a wind that would blow us back to the Two Sources of Islam, the Quran and the Prophet's Sunnah, from which the life of our ummah started and to which it must return if it is not to disappear into thin air.
Let us be honest with ourselves and admit that we have strayed far away, indeed, from the ideology provided by the Quran and the Sunnah. Ours is the old, old story of the rich man's son who has squandered his splendid patrimony and now wallows in the gutter. Centuries of intellectual lethargy, of dumb adherence to formulas, of the meanest internecine wranglings, of laziness, superstition and social corruption have dimmed almost beyond recognition the glorious promise held out by our beginnings. Centuries ago we ceased to exercise our wits in the search for knowledge, although our religion had enjoined it upon us as a sacred duty; we talked of Al-Farabi and Ibn Sina, of Al-Battani and Ibn Hayyan - and went complacently to sleep over their achievements. we talked about the wondrous social programme of Islam, about the equity and naturalness of its tenets - and all while we flew at each others' throats, exploited one another or, alternatively, submitted in squalid contentment to every kind of exploitation at the hands of unscrupulous rulers. We always pretend to believe that the Qur'an is a sure guidance in all matters affecting man's life - and nevertheless we grew accustomed to regard it as mere edifying literature, good enough to be recited in prayers and on ceremonial occasions and, wrapped in a silken ghilaf, to embellish the uppermost shelves in our rooms, but not good enough to be followed in practice. We claimed that Islam is a religion of reason (which, in fact, it is) - and none the less we meekly agreed to, and sometimes even welcomed, suppression of reason by anyone who just happened to be in power: for most of our 'ulama' were telling us that in matters of religion independent thought is heresy, and that only he can be a true Muslim who blindly repeats the formulas evolved in olden days (and evolved by scholars who were human, and therefore liable to err), like a parrot which has learnt its lesson once and for all.
And the result of these failings - the list of which could be extended indefinitely?
There are many hundreds of millions of Muslims in the world today - but among all these millions there is not a single community that really lives according to the tenets of Islam; not a single community that could show, as an example to the world, how Islam solves the social and economic problems which nowadays worry mankind so much; not a single community that could produce, in the realms of science, arts or industry, anything better than any Western community; or that could, culturally and politically, at least compete on equal terms with any Western community of comparable size. All the blustering talk of our past glories, all our assertions as to what Islam stands for, cannot change the fact of our present humiliation.
These are facts - some of the facts - and there is no denying them.
This article is from Muhammad Asad's book "This Law of Ours" which is a collection of his essays he wrote in the 1940's and 50's
I too were suprised that the article was written years ago and fits the present needed state of mind. It is a pleasure to know we had and still have scholars who understand the practical application of Qur'an in the example of Muhammed (saw). If a may I would like to refer you to one scholar I listen to and read. Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, Chicago,ILL. (newafricaradio.com).
We need more of these types of communication about Al-Islam. The Qur'an makes the connection to previous scriptures and there true believers so that we have a complete (360 degrees sort of speak) picture. Letting us know that we have to live with the rest of the people on Earth and not be arogantly dogmatic in our concepts and follow the Prophet's example importanly understand and have the correct perception of all the scriptures including the Qur'an. Allah says in the Qur'an that this book is for those who think, use thier intelligence, contemplate or engage the creation (alamin), internalize, visionualize and actualize.
I love the article and strongly agree.
I agree with the autor. This is not a matter of being occupied by other nations. It is a matter of unescrupulous leadership, tyrants, in the muslim countries and the community not doing a thing. As a result the most intelligent ones are forced to flee, depriving the muslim countries of the knowledge necessary to build the nation. I can begin a list of countries but, I don't have enough characters. All ruled by tyrants self proclaimed muslims and in ocassion even prophets.In the other hand we have the misguided avengers.Those who have taken the name of islam and made of it an abomination. And yet the question is what are we doing to make it better? how are we making it appealing? How can we get the attention and clear the name of Islam?
Maybe we need t start at home...where the tyrant is!
"In order to reach such a decision, we must begin to think anew about Islam, about what it really signifies, what its real laws are ; for we have stopped thinking about these matters for a good many centuries and have merely relied on what previous generations of Muslims thought about Islam. In consequence, our current theology (kalam) and canonical jurisprudence (fiqh) now resemble nothing so much as a vast old-clothes shop where ancient thought-garments, almost unrecognizable as to their original purport, are mechanically bought and sold, patched up and re-sold, and where the buyer's only delight consists in praising the old tailors' skill..."
it (the article) continues in this tone up to the end, making NO DISTINCTION b/w the first three generations of Islam which the prophet (SAW) said are the best and the subsequent ones that i hope the article was refering to above. Clearly no human in his right senses will infer that the first three generations of muslims that conquered the entire world (even with their "archaic" (?) interpretation of the Quran) did not succeed 99% if not 100% in executing the tenets of islamic teachings and civilisation.
So if the article that is saying that we go back to living the islam of those that succeeded in the past as above, then 'm for it, but if it is ortherwise then the article should go down the drain like previous oppoturnists writings of wanting to change islam to conform with the changing times instead of the orther way round, had.
As for the later supposition i guess i have to read the book.
I am "for" the article. And I want to thank Islamicity for running this article again. Last time I had missed.
Reading the comments from readers; one thing comes right in front. What are we supposed to do ? More prayers, more fasting and more Hajj ?(I left zakaah) or start pulling down the enemy appointed autocratic kings who are their pawns anyway. Then learn what will make us compete & win in this world also. Once we start on this; then we bring back prayers & fasting and may be kings also.
I know, I am treading on a thin line, but some one has to say that. If it hurts a brother or sister, I apologise in advance.
I would respectfully ask the beleivers who disagreed with this article to go back and read the whole body of it. (or read it again) The brother writing the article wrote numerous times that our problem is that we have drifted away from the Quran and the Sunnah and that we must come back to these undeniable truths to become the positive force we used to and need to be again.
**our beloved Prophet (PBUH) spoke much of holding off anger and cultivating patience--read the article again
The fact that a thief or a drug dealer builds a big house so easy and so fast from the stolen wealth of others should not make us doubt our way.
Let's remember that the West you talk about has built its legacy by the skulls of innocent victims. The British sold drugs to China and punished it when it rejected such evil. This is only one example when you surely know many. The pirates of the West terrorized the seas.
The West that builds its legacy by the skulls of Natives (Americans, Australians, New Zelanders, and so on) as well as the slavery of Africans is one that should be despised rather than embraced. We, as Muslims, should rather prefer to live in a tent with righteous way of life than to live in castles which require the denial of our faith. Perhaps, the Western way of life is too flashy to many unbelievers - but it is not flashy to the true believers.
The last centuries you mentioned are centuries that the evil of the West was spreading all the way from Europe to all other continents since 1492 A.D. Until not long ago, most of the Muslim land whether in North Africa and other parts of Africa and all the way to asia were dominated by such Westerners who inflicted much pain and suffering. It took much of our resources just to get free from the demons and evil doers of the West. Many others prefered to surrender to the Westerners and perhaps they may look as flashy as the West.
If a Muslim scientist agrees to stay in his/her muslim land even for a modest salary and would not be seduced by the high salaries of the West then we may start our own Islamic science and technology boost. Otherwise, the brain drainage may continues. An advanced Islamic institutions of research and study can be a good start. Independence is the key to all these matters. If our land is occupied or dominated by others, our resources are exploited by others, and so on then there is no hope that such others would wish us well. My space is limited.
When people who call themselves Muslim, and who have some Muslim education can engage in these kinds of actions, when the Quran speaks so often and eloquently about how Allah (SWT) is merciful is the most pointed piece of evidence that what he says is true. It is especially telling when you observe that most of those who engage in such acts are advocating for the oldest interpretations of fiqh, rather than those often called innovators.
This is pethetic.
Either I am missing a few pages from the Quran which brother Asad may have in his possession or there is another book revealed and in his possession. For want of better word and to be disrespectful, I believe Brother Asad needs to examine his faith a little more before assuming that Muslims are in need of changes! The Quran is the manual which suffices for all times and for every human being! Allah sent this book for all mankind and there is nothing wrong with its ideals and values. In fact, it is proving to more effective than any so-called man-made rules and regulations which have corrupted societies time and again! We Muslims believe in Allah! And whatever He said, that is good for us.
Muslims are not indifferent to woes of the world. We Know and we help! But the Greatest helper is Allah. And to Him we ask for assistance. But in order to receive help, one must believe in Him explicitily! why should we change that which is not broken?
In Canada there is Irshad Manji, and in Syria there is an Iman trying to start a Protestant Islam, his name escapes me at the moment. So there are Muslims trying to change/modernise/improve Islam. I wish them all well.
I do agree word by word with the article but feel that the writer has not suggested any single step to honestly follow the tenets of Islam. Merely by saying that following the true preachings of Qurane Hakeem and Sunnah is going to help Muslims through out the world, I don't find convincing. What Sunnah the writer is talking about? Different sects of Muslims are following or agreeing with Sunnah which has been presented to them by so calld Ulmas, as they think right for their personal and ulterior motives. Who is going to decide which Hadith is Zayeef or Mustanad right or Ghair-mustanad. There are contradictions between themselves. Procedure and timings of Salaat are very much contradicting.
I think the first and foremost thing for a Muslim/Muslimah is to become literate so that He/She can read Quran-e-Majeed with authentic & correct translation (Tarjumah) in a language which is his/her mother tongue. One Arabic word has hundreds of meanings. Which meaning is correct for a particular word mentioned in Quraane Kareem at a particular place, must be first clarified and authenticated by the unbiased scholars of Islam. A fresh and unbiased translation of Qurane Hakeem is direly needed immediately. One more thing, the culture of modern day's Jehad must stop immediately. It is inhuman and is strictly forbidden by Quran at many places. Those who are involve in such acts must declare jehad on themselves, on their conscience first. If they do that and succeed in purifying their conscience by jehad on themselves, they will fully understand the meaning of ZAABTA-E-HAYAAT mentioned in Quraan Hakeem.
Ninety percent Muslims in India and Pakistan are totally misguided and divided in sects thinking that their sect will only be allowed to enter in JANNAT. All are busy in practicing their faith just to get into janaat without thinking of ZAABTA-E-HAYAAT.
Allah SWT! show them Siraat-e-Mustaqeem