How to achieve the status of the developed Ummah? What are the milestones of the development? Do we know the milestones of the development? We being Muslims have to understand everything authentically for which we need knowledge. So, as the first step towards development, knowledge is required. The only way to know anything authentically, deeply and profoundly is through knowledge. It is knowledge through which we achieve unshakeable understanding and this stage of understanding is called iman. In this way iman becomes the second milestones of development. What is the real meaning of iman and how it is strengthened? Iman is a cognitive term which refers to understanding based on knowledge that it is Allah swt Who created us and we have to return to Him after completing our life in this world. The understanding of the Quran and Sunnah is integral to iman. Thus iman is the source that creates the sense of realization, commitment and determination. Are we Muslims determined to achieve the status of the developed Ummah? The conscious realization, commitment and determination are necessary foot steps to achieve something. If we lack realization, commitment and determination then we need to cultivate them because in the absence of realization and determination we cannot fulfil our responsibilities and achieve objectives. So, the third milestone after iman and knowledge is the cultivation of a sense of realization, commitment and determination. These features constitute the moral dimension of human beings. This is the reason after iman, the importance of righteousness is emphasized time and again in the Quran. Through the cultivation of the qualities of good morals Muslims may overcome their deficiencies.
Muslims have to take, at the very outset, conscious and well articulated initiatives to launch a movement of education of the members of the Ummah. It is through the development of the proper, formal and informal, education, through which Muslims can develop the qualities of iman, righteousness, realization, commitment and determination. The current educational system in the Muslim world seems to have failed to inculcate the qualities of self realization, commitment and determination. Muslims themselves, individually and in groups, will have to plan their own education. This can be done by informal educational activities conducted by some conscious individuals and groups of Muslims.
First thing for the change of Muslim mind is to stop negativity. Every Muslim should always think for the development of the Ummah. Muslims by their own efforts must be prepared positively i.e., they have to always think how to achieve development. Muslims should assign themselves the responsibility of development. They should not depend on governments. No one can think for their development. The Qur’an unequivocally states: “Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves [13:11].” They have to always think about the factors which can be useful for their development? There may be several factors, more significant than the others, which may contribute positively to the development of the Ummah. They can be considered as the dynamics of development. Here I will elaborate only a few of those which are more relevant for our present discussion, namely: Consciousness of the Mission of Islam; Clear Understanding of the Vision of Islamic life; Qualities of Ijtihadic and Dynamic Leadership; Application of Empirical and Rational Method; Quality of Creativity and Innovative Thinking.
Consciousness of the Mission of Islam
In the life of Muslim community the message and mission of Islam had played a dynamic role in the past. Now Muslims need to remind themselves about that message and mission. Hence, it is imperative for them to look first into the message and mission of Islam. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was not the first Messenger of Islam towards mankind, rather he was the last of all the Messengers, peace be upon them, who were sent by Allah swt. for the guidance of people of the world. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, did not introduce any new message or guidance. He came with the same message and was entrusted with the same mission and duty as were given to all the Messengers, peace be upon them, who preceded him. In the Qur’an, it is mentioned that the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, are the bearers of the same message and mission of the truth and reality of life and the world disseminated by the earlier Messengers, peace be upon them. So, Islam is the message of universal truth of life and the world.
This message of truth and reality of life is the only True message for humanity granted by the Creator, Allah swt for the guidance of humanity so that humanity can lead a peaceful, prosperous and successful life on earth. All other isms and ideologies represent schisms and dissensions caused by people who have strayed from the true message of Allah swt.
People’s success in this world and in the Hereafter lies only in following the message of Islam, the way of life expounded by the last Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Those who follow it will be successful in all walks of life and they will inherit the earth. Those who reject the way of life expounded by all the Prophets, peace be upon them, will face the most tragic consequences of that rejection here in this world. It was all the Prophets, peace be upon them, who warned and cautioned people and enabled them to gain knowledge of the truth and reality of life. To help people to distinguish truth from falsehood as being the last Prophet, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, explained this truth in clear terms. He informed them about the way of life which leads them towards good achievements and success. Today, the Ummah of Muslims is entrusted with this mission. The Muslim Ummah needs to review this spirit of truth through the informal educational process.
Islam is the same original and universal message of truth of life and the world. It is now the mission and duty of Muslims, first to practice it, and then to call people towards this original message of truth that Allah swt alone is the Creator, the Master and the Sovereign of this world. People should realize this, and submit to Him and obey Him and seek His guidance to develop their life, individually and collectively, on the path of peace, prosperity, and success in this world and in the Hereafter. The Ummah as a whole is under obligation to fulfil this mission.
Qualities of Ijtihadic and Dynamic Leadership
Muslims should realize that the rise and development of the Ummah and Islamic civilization mainly depend on the role of leaders and scholars. The history of Islam since the time of the Prophet Adam to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon them, is a witness to this fact of life. According to the laws of development of society, it is confirmed that leadership, both intellectual and political, is responsible for the development of the Ummah. This contention is fully supported by the empirical evidence of both the modern Western and the Muslim worlds. So-called development in the modern West is rightly attributed to the dynamic role of intellectuals and leaders, whereas the decline of the Muslim world was always associated with the traditional and imitative role of the Muslim intellectuals and leaders.
The attention of the Ummah must be directed towards the dynamic role of leadership as Muslims are now determined to bring development to the Ummah. The leadership, both political and intellectual, has to be ijtihadic and dynamic. Muslims have to understand the affairs of the Muslim world need to be run with ijtihadic qualities. A leader is one who protects the Ummah from internal and external attacks and takes the Ummah towards the path of development on the basis of Ijtihad. The only way out for Muslims is to guarantee the emergence of correct and competent leadership with the qualities of Ijtihad and dynamism. Muslim Ummah needs a leadership which refuse to imitate and ready to think afresh so that ijtihad based strategies and plans are applied. The leadership of Muslims must be capable of taking its own decisions courageously on the basis of the Islamic worldview.
Application of Empirical and Rational Approach
The Muslims will have to go back to the Qur’an and the Sunnah, to improve their iman and commitment in the performance of their duties, including enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong. For this purpose the Qur’an basically teaches the empirical and rational approach that should be applied to address each and every issue of our time.
The Qur’an is replete with ayahs encouraging people to observe experience and reflect in order to become wise and understand life through an empirical and rational approach. Muslims have been admonished to travel, to observe, and to ponder over the stories of the past nations, and communities, and the fate of those who disobeyed Allah swt and His Messengers, peace be upon them.
The faculties of hearing, sight and heart bestowed on people by Allah, thereby making them responsible for understanding deeply issues through the process of hearing, seeing, thinking, doing good and avoiding evil. All these faculties must be fully applied. Everyone should make use of these faculties for solving the problems by way of developing all branches of knowledge: the social sciences, the human sciences, the technological sciences, and the applied sciences. Muslims should give more attention in their studies to the practical aspects of life and focus on solutions. Concrete realities must be studied and understood. The empirical approach which was developed by Muslims after the revelation of the Quran should be vigorously applied. Their thinking should remain always empirical and rational.
Quality of Creativity and Innovative Thinking
For Muslims it is necessary to develop the habit of thinking critically and comparatively. They should ultimately be creative and innovative. The spirit of creative thinking must be revived. There must be an urge for change from worse to better. The Muslims must struggle against the status quo and create their own destinations. The Ummah as a whole must fight against the tendencies of fatalism, superstitions, rigidity, and extremism. When there is no creativity, there is no possibility of change and development. New thinking, the Ijtihad, creative discourse, innovative ideas all are the only workable instruments through which Muslims can guarantee the development of the Ummah. Muslims must demonstrate energy, dynamism, forward looking habits and the urge to serve humanity. They must give up all imitative, repetitive, stagnant, and assimilative ways of thinking. Their role as taught by Allah swt is to take people out of all sorts of darkness and bring them into the light. Allah swt will help Muslims to always think in the right way.