Manhattan madness and Muslims

Category: World Affairs Topics: New York Views: 5065

The recent New York City terrorist episode is yet another grim wake up call for the Muslims. It should not be ignored or dismissed by the Muslims as a random act of a confused individual who happens to be a Muslim or a Pakistani and that majority of the Muslims have nothing to do with such acts of terrorism. While the statement itself is accurate, yet more and more due to such acts by individuals who happen to be Muslims the perception of Islam by others is becoming for them a seeming reality. What seems more alarming is that in the more recent acts of terror, Muslims with higher levels of education and social interaction are implicated. This group includes those who are born in the West of emigre parents and also converts to Islam. The British last year arrested a group of young physicians who were planning terrorist action and the arrest of some of the converts who became radicalized and involved in the planning and carrying out such action serves to highlight the seriousness of the problem.

A January 2010 Gallup poll found that almost half of Americans hold an unfavorable view of Islam. About the same number of Americans harbor personal prejudice toward Muslims, according to the poll. These numbers become especially troubling when we consider that two-thirds of the Americans polled admit to knowing little to nothing about Islam. The image of American Muslims is in serious disrepair. And so is the image of Muslims and Islam all over the globe.

Introspection on the part of us Muslims and Muslim governments is largely missing and necessary in the continuing debate about Islam and Muslims that has become the focus of the global media and community.

Why are others distrustful of a religion and people they know very little about and what can Muslims do about the rising tide of Islamophobia? The call to make the world a better place is inherent in the core message of the Quran which is the foundation of Islamic belief and practice. But why have efforts to change the world by Muslims so often recently been failing or have gone tragically awry? And how might Muslims in the 21st century live in ways that have integrity with their traditions and are more truly transformative? What kind of history - or, perhaps better put, story or narrative - of Islam are we offering? Can we properly define Islam in isolation from explicit consideration of its encounters and intertwining with non-Muslim cultures?

Christian and Jewish cultures are highly successful because they have transitioned from the state of being "God-fearing" religions to being "God-loving" religions. Fear dominates the culture of most Muslim societies. Manipulative use of Quranic verses - teaching of Quran mainly from the perspective of fearing God - thus psychologically establishing a paradigm of negative authority, disallowing the more important aspects of God leading to positive involvement in humanity. Mullahs and Imams are tapping into fear in hopes of creating obedience and morality. Too often their sermons or khutbahs tell us, "Repent, repent, repent! The Day of Judgment can happen any moment! Allah is always watching!" Apart from these notions that prevent the Muslim masses from progressing an even worse message that is being pounded into the consciousness of the masses from the pulpit is that there is a global conspiracy against Islam and Muslims.

All too often political theologies worsen the very problems they are designed to solve. For the past two centuries the trend in the Muslim world has been that of a politics fueled by resentment and a sense of victimization, actuated by a strong will to power, and a propensity to demonize its opponents. Our historical experience to this day remains strongly authoritarian, patriarchal and pre-modern, legitimized by "exclusivist" rhetoric and thinking. That Muslim societies in general have radicalized over the last decades cannot be denied. Completing the confusion and disarray within Muslims is the issue of competing narratives and visions of Islam among Muslims which has created deep fractures and polarizations that have through out Islam's history provided fertile ground for various forms of ideological extremism and violence against each other besides making them vulnerable to exploitation and attack from others.

Our religious institutions are in irreversible decline. The obsession with personal piety and "How-is-it-with-me?" spirituality that permeates most congregations is undiluted narcissism that creates for us a sense of feeling good and yet doing nothing. Our willingness to question our belief systems and personal self-image is hardly apparent as culture. Rather than giving the entire blame for our decay to outside factors which have so dominated the Muslims during the last two centuries an honest analysis of our culture and our capacity to influence it is needed. By remaining as silent spectators we are allowing the attacks from outside and confusion and turmoil from within to devastate our societies, create permanent fissures in our relations with other communities and with each other. The unsustainable ideological path that we are treading presently is leading us nowhere and causing grave injury to the true spirit of the Quran's message. The Quran's most important feature is not only what it actually says but what Muslims say about it. The great truth which Christians have acknowledged since the Reformation - that a revelation can come from God and still be misunderstood by the one who receives it is apt for consideration by Muslims. Educated Muslims increasingly are recognizing that their faith needs to adapt. The challenge is to revitalize the Muslim masses by strengthening their confidence in their own ability to engage the Quran constructively.

What is really needed is a different paradigm of engagement within us and also with the rest of the world. A structural or social change within our societies must be achieved by internal discourse and negotiation which will allow the necessary change to take place in accordance with the history and culture Education not indoctrination is crucial. A total overhaul of the educational system and institutions is badly needed. In many Muslim countries because of failure of economic growth, education has suffered. This allows for easy exploitation of the youth in Muslim countries. It is through proper education of our endangered future generations that we can eradicate the menace of "mullarchy" that inculcates in the minds of our youth to blow themselves up in suicide missions and advocates violence in the name of our faith. Building a strong educational framework and institutions which incorporate the shared values with others and which upholds human dignity and mutual respect is the critical task. This challenge to the Muslims is as old as the message of the Quran - if only they would recognize.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900) was a German philosopher of the late 19th century who challenged the foundations of Christianity and traditional morality. "The Last Man," Nietzsche feared, would engage in the worst kinds of provincialism, believing he had nothing to learn from history. "The Last Man" would wallow and revel in his ignorance and quest for personal fulfillment. He would be satisfied with everything that he had done and become, and would seek to become nothing more. He would be intellectually and morally stagnant, incapable of growth, and become part of an easily manipulated herd. "The Last Man" would mistake cynicism for knowledge - though he did not have the Muslims in mind, we should think about this.

The author is chairman of Islamic Information Service, US. He can be contacted at [email protected]

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: New York
Views: 5065

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Older Comments:
I suggest to those against to concentrate a bit and review the thoughtful conversation at the following address. We Muslims must stop burying our heads in the sand and wake up.


Fear of Allah, Lord Almighty, is as far removed from negativity as heaven from hell!

My fear of Allah, Lord Almighty,is what instills in me absence of fear for all living creatures and dangerous issues and situations that I encounter on a daily basis in this world. This, in turn, causes me to "do the right thing" by using my Conscience to guide my actions and thought.

This is what is the essence of Islam, submission to the Almighty. An argument against Fear of Lord Almighty is, in fact, an argument against Islam and the Qur'an. This is a blatant -- covert for those who have not read, misread or are violently opposed to the Sublime Message of Allah Almighty -- attack on Islam.

It is very easy and simple to disclaim this article. My respond to "Manhattan madness" is dont go into another country and drop bombs and drones on people,but if you do, what do you expect Nazir Khaja?

Mr Nazir, if you dont want terrorism, tell invaders to drop thier arms and vacate the muslim land, isnt that simple?

Mr Nazir, only America is attacked by "terrorists" on 9/11 but we have over 40 countries in Iraq and Afganistan, how do u respond to that? do you even understand Quran at all?

Mr Nazir, Palestinians had nothing to do with holocoust but they are paying for it, as a muslim, whats your reaction?

Mr Nazir, do you know what is called Dajjah?
Mr Nazir, is Islamic institution truly declining?
Mr Nazir, do you want Muslims to adopt western values where they work around like donkeys and monkeys?
Mr Nazir, dont you think many of your opinions, perspectives are becoming more and more like the people of the Book whom Allah later cursed?
Mr Nazir, have you ever heard of hadith:
" You will indeed follow the way of those before you, hand span by hand span, cubit by cubit. Even if they enter lizard hole you will follow them. We asked is it Jews and the Christians? He (saw) replied: 'who else" Bukhari Book 9 Volume 92 Hadith 422. May Allah guide you. I dont see anything wrong with those muslims who are upset about the invasions and situations of our brothers and sisters in Palestine and every other muslim cities. They are the real brothers that Allah talks about. They show their brotherhood. All you can do is to appease them not telling them that they are wrong. That adds insult to injury. May Allah bless Mujahideen

Mr. Khaja, although eloquently put, I disagree with your perception that Christian and Jewish culture have been sucessful because they have transferred from god fearing to god loving. I don't believe that is true. The beauty of Islam is that it puts limits on things so we don't go beyond are means and over indulge. We should focus on the hereafter not this worldly duniya. I also think in order to back your statements you should quote from the Quran.
Another thing I disagree on your perspective of our religious institutions declining. Mashallah in other places around the world there is tremedous dawaa work being done, but people dont boast about it. We don't need to show off to anyone. We know the one Allah that we need to show already knows

Frustration is growing within the global Muslim community for leadership and a return to the justice and piety which prevailed during the golden era of Islam. Without resorting to the real Islamic principles practiced during that time, we as an Ummah will slide into the abyss of ignorance which the apologetic author is proposing as a solution. I understand where he's coming from. It's a natural result of the melting pot environment he has come to accept as being the ultimate panacea for the woes of the Ummah. The 'with us or against us' mentality. Please pray for the correct understanding of Quran to prevail throughout the world, and Allah forbid the day arrives where even a single Muslim casts aspersions on the interpretation of the Quran as related by the Holy Prophet (PBUH)

Why don't the Muslims sit back and reflect on," What went wrong"?. In the early days Muslims Khalifs encouraged learning knowledge from all societies, be it Greeks, Persians or Indians. Now they have adopted mindset that there is nothing else beyond Quran and learning by rote-memory. Muslim world is expanding in population day by day and Allah will not provide for all these hungry mouths. and abysmal ignorance.

It is best Muslims wean away from this religious addiction for a bit of clear thinking for a better world. You know one great philosopher said ,"Religion is the opium of masses" There is the truth in it.


1. I completely disagree with the author of this article. It seems to me that the author is trying to persuade Muslims to become more western by adapting western philosophy, worldview, models and thoughts. Muslims should only adapt western models if these are compatible with Shariah or other criteria in an Islamic system. Some of the western ideas are acceptable and even encouraged, such as ideas about technology but others are not, such as ideas about interest based banking systems, western model of tax system, etc. For example, in Islamic countries, a Zakat based tax system should be implemented and if a rich person does not pay the Zakat, he/she should be punished according to the law.
2. Do not confuse the word "narcissism" with Islamic self identity. The former means self-love or an exceptional interest in and admiration to oneself. Islamic self Identity is under attack from both within Dar-ul-Islam and from outside. Muslims are in great trouble because they oppress themselves. As for external attack, just look at Jerusalem, Iraq and Afghanistan. Dar-ul-Islam will never be at peace as long as Islamic lands are being invaded and occupied and oppression of Muslims by the Muslims themselves continues. Deeply religious Muslims are right to be upset however, some people are committing un-Islamic and forbidden acts out of anger, which will not solve any of these problems or address any of these complex issues of our time.

While I agree with the spirit of what the author is trying to say, I disagree with some of his details.
First, fear of Allah is a good thing. Yes.. Allah is watching over us. Every breath is accountable. Even in the Quran (the limited that I know), Allah always says 'fear Allah to earn piety' (paraphrasing). So we, Muslims, should not do away with this just because Christians/Jews have become worldly successful by removing this practice.
Second, the problem of Muslims lies not with mullahs (or even our rulers). Mullah serve as a convenient scape-goat. In Ind/Pak, the most illiterate ones amongst us are mullahs... so what do we expect. Whereas if you look at the priests/rabbis a lot of them have college degrees. We chose to imitate the bad aspects (not fearing of Allah) of West but not their good aspects (sending intelligent Muslims to be imams) of West. And as another post said... it is these mullahs that have perseved the teachings of tauhid/Quran/Hadith over the centuries. So they can't all be that bad.

Reform is most definitely needed but within the strict parameters of Islam and by qualified people. Not by people who have fancy college degrees, who like pontificating, and who cannot speak a lick of Arabic.

The problem is us Muslims - I don't know we get out of this mess. But going away from the fundamentals of our deen is certainly not the right way.

I don't understand why Nazir Khaja (like many Pakistani writer) ignored emphasis for fear (in love) prescribed by Allah in the Quran on several places.
Judaism and Christianity removed fear and put only love in the Bible, because of that they do everything profihibited in the Bible. They take Alcohol, eat pork (prohibited in the Bible) don't practice hijab (prescribed in the Bible.
In my opinion muslims writers must encourage muslims not discourage by their writings.

Fear of God is not understood or misinterpreted by the author. Taqwa of Allah may mean: be conscious of Him, aware of Him, and the Sharia meaning is to follow the commands of Allah and stay away from that whihc is displeasing to Him. also, to fear Allah is out of awe and not out of fear because He is bad which is the understanding of a child!!! Treu, due to many reasons, Muslims todays have more negativity in their hearts than love, compassion, and good. Very, very few Muslims pay attention to matters of the heart: purification of the heart. "If the heart is healthy, the whole body is healthy, if it is diseased, the whole body is" said The prophet PBUH. Many Muslims are far away from the Quran!! If only, they read it, study it, understand it!! They don't have time for it. But they have time for movies, cheap talk, bickering, impressing you with their CAR, their diploma, or their cell phone, and if it's a woman, with her jewelry and Sari outfit even inside the mosque!!

Excellent article. i enjoyed reading and makes good sense.

Mr. Khaja, your analysis is totallty wrong. When muslims fails to respond the calls of ALLAH, they balme the Mullahs and the paradime of Islam. Are you suggesting the Muslims to become christian or else. The God fearing Muslims does not do harms to even an ant. The Modern system of greed created corruptions and selfishness among the humanity and this is the reason the whole world became corrupt and selfish. Islam teaches piece, honesty and brotherhood not only among muslims but among non muslims. Look at the so called Islamic countries i.e. middle east, south east asia, africa corruption is destroying the people and frustration and anger has created the extrimism not the Islam or god fearing Muslims. The so called Muslims have created the terrorism and destruction of the muslim society. the west or east has nothing to do the destruction of the Muslims.

Jesus is too a Muslim (uncompromising, obedient, loyal etc..... servant of Allah) so are all the prophets, Allah called them Muslim. Educate people the true meaning of this word and Islam from our creator perspective. Do give people the liberty to force the meaning they like. The word terrorisism has been manupulated, has lost it genuine definition. Muslim is from the creator of all, men do not have the right to give meaning to it. Islam and muslim is one unit, have to do Islam to earn the title Muslim.

I would like to thank the author for his opinion because discussion is badly needed but it seems his perspective is one of a non muslim looking out from within Islam. His description of "The Last Man" by Nietzsche applies to non muslim western man rather than muslims. There is a lot wrong with muslims at present but fearing God is not one of them. Fear of God is good because a person realizes that there is going to be accountability for your actions. Without fear there is no need for morality. In fact there is no need for religion without fear of accountability. The conservatism of "Mullarchy" although anchored in history has held together the basics of Islam and prevented people from reforming Islam away like Christianity has been reformed away. Mullarchy is not to blame. It is we reformists who are to blame because we talk volumes and do nothing. Our system of education in Islam is fixed in Medina of 1400 years ago and we have not come up with a modern, engaging, enthusing alternative. Our belief system is sound but our practice is not. We shouldn't try to throw the baby out with the bath water. We need to rediscover the methodology of the illustrious muslims who furthered the frontiers of science, technology, medicine and every other field of human endeavour without losing faith. Today we are being offered two choices, Islam or modernity. Why are these choices mutually exclusive for us whereas they were not for the great muslim thinkers and scientists? Through out the world we muslims have two distinct systems of education, the secular schools and the Madrassa. In the west we muslims send our children to secular state schools and then to after school mosque classes. This separates Islam from the modern world in a conscious way and the fruits of this strategy are all around us. We have stagnated. I am still searching for the answer as to how to bring together the two paths of learning for muslims through out the world.

Br. Khaja, I am deeply disturbed when we as Muslims take crimnalized cases of media stunt to define what that society thinks about Islam or Muslim. The NY case you are referring to is an example of how the media in this country exploits to defame Islam and Muslims. This is deliberate attempt to continue fanning the misconception about Islam by specific group of people. We as Muslim sould not worry about who think what about Islam and Muslims. What Islam is and who Muslims are, not dependent on what people think and approve of. Islam and Muslim have already been defined by Allah (SWT)and does not need any one's faverable attitudes towards it. Islam is the heavenly revealed "way of life" who ever wants to believe in it, good for them, and those who try to be smart about it, can go on their separate ways.