- Dr Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri presented this research paper in an international conference organized by Iran in April 2013.
إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُواْ مَا بِأَنْفُسِهِمْ وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللّهُ بِقَوْمٍ سُوءًا فَلاَ مَرَدَّ لَهُ وَمَا لَهُم مِّن دُونِهِ مِن وَالٍ.
Verily, Allah does not change the state of a people until they bring about a change in themselves. And when Allah intends to torment a people (due to their own evil works), then none can avert it. Nor is there any helper for them apart from Allah. [Q.13:11]
Looking at the Islamic world from East to West across continents, it emerges as a house divided against itself. The Islamic landscape is dreary, dull and drab. The bouts of spring have been replaced by long and never ending spell of autumn. The world of Islam is engulfed by deep-rooted crises. As if grappling with the issues of identity, sectarian fissures, pro-elitist power structures and internal violence was not enough, the catastrophic events of 9/11 only served to expand the Muslims’ ‘area of concern’ by enhancing their insecurity, accentuating divides and injecting ‘external’ threat to their culture, religious values, pluralistic traditions and even political sovereignty. The more the Muslims were exposed to challenges at foreign policy level in particular geo-strategic world after 9/11, the more cracks appeared in their internal body politic igniting feelings of revenge, defeatism, extremism and at times self-destruction. The Muslim world is devoid of peace both from within and without.
“The contemporary Islamic conscience is in deep crisis. Everywhere, Muslim individuals and societies ask themselves the burning questions. The crisis drags on; no answer seems in sight. How to be faithful to one’s principles while remaining open to the world? How can Muslims deal with their diversity and overcome their multiple divisions? How can Muslim societies create new models of development, education, and social justice? Can the 1,000-year-old Islamic civilization make an original contribution to the concept of cultures and civilizations? The light at the end of the tunnel seems nothing but an illusion.”
Couple this with increasing instances of Islamophobia being witnessed in West and elsewhere as the Muslims are being increasingly subjected to racial and religious profiling and tarred with the brush of terrorism. At the same time, holy personages and symbols of the Muslims, including the blessed person of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), have periodically been attacked provoking them into violent reactions. Interestingly, this dark period in the Islamic history is also characterized by the fact that Islam remains the fastest growing religion on the planet. According to one assessment, the Muslims have outnumbered Catholics as the world’s biggest community. [Aijaz Zaka Syed, Op-ed titled Muslims need a new roadmap, published in The News, Pakistan,]
2. What ails the Muslim world?
At societal and individual levels, the Muslim societies appear confused and rudderless. Their intense feeling for their faith and desire to preserve its traditions, values and teachings are matched by an increasing number of cultural attacks from outside. The deepening and widening divide between the modernists or reformists and fundamentalist or conservative sections of Muslim opinion has bewildered the Muslim youth. The situation assumes the dangerous proportions when the Muslim youth living in the western, liberal and democratic societies are confronted with questions on Islam’s relevance to the present-day world, its resistance to integration into the western societies and its penchant for dictatorship and unrepresentative modes of governance. These and many similar questions are indeed perplexing for those whose understanding of Islam remains limited arising out of their dependence on their parents’ and elders’ opinions.
2.1 Extremism and Terrorism
Extremism and terrorism over the last decades has torn apart communities, stoked enmities, put up barriers between people and split humanity apart. How many families, men, women and children have been decimated by these mass killings? How many women have been widowed? How many children have been orphaned? How many children have become destitute and homeless without hope and living without means? To these people, I mean the extremists, terrorists and killers of mankind, human life is expendable and of no value. They see it as their God-given right to kill and exterminate people.
The human life, which was the most sacred entity, has become the least valued. Terrorism has removed smiles from the faces of millions of innocent people of the world. Where once we used to see happiness, there is now only pain and sorrow and nothing else. Hearts have become full of hatred and bodies are burning under the fire of hatred. The hyenas of cruelty have slaughtered the doves of peace. Terrorism has driven human beings apart from each other in order to create an atmosphere of suspicion, distrust and confusion and to create hatred among them so that they can never get united.” [Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, keynote speech interfaith moot titled ‘Peace for Humanity Conference’ held at Wembley Arena, London, September 2011]
2.2 Lack of Modern Knowledge
The above nicely sums up the Muslims’ response to the contemporary challenges. A look at the Muslim landscape makes one believe that they have run short of innovative and creative ideas to deal with the malaise. The developments happening in a couple of decades in particular have deepened the crises within the Muslim societies. A minority of fringe elements has taken up the banner of rebellion against their own governments as well as others whom they believe to be responsible for what the Muslims are going through. By all accounts and purposes, the Muslims response to the challenges is revenge-driven. It can at best be described as violent and reactive born out of despondency, frustration and hopelessness. The small minority that misinterprets the religious teachings to justify their points of view has in fact tried to hijack the mainstream Muslim narrative. They somehow regard the values of tolerance, moderation, inclusion, pluralism, interfaith dialogue and harmony and peaceful coexistence as mainly the western concepts and alien to their version of Islam.
One defining characteristic of internal violence within the Muslim societies is their total hatred for the Muslim ruling elites whose bad governance, dynastic mode of politics, corruption, loot and plunder have further rendered their societies hollow. The phenomenon commonly known as ‘Arab Spring’ can be interpreted as a strong reaction against the despotism, authoritarianism and bad governance demonstrated by the majority of the Muslim governments. It can be described as ‘change of weather’ and not spring as some western analysts would like to name it.
The question arises here: Is militancy and employment of violence an effective way to inspire Islamic awakening? Can revenge-driven response be sufficient to cater to ever-increasing challenges in political, intellectual, cultural, social, economic and civilizational domains?
“At the heart of Muslims’ decay and decline is the limited nature of their vision and inability to adapt themselves to the demands of a fast evolving world. There was a time, for a thousand years, when Arabs and Muslims led the global march of progress and ideas. Who can ignore the west’s immense intellectual debt to Muslim philosophers and scholars in every sphere of knowledge? If Muslims had restricted themselves to a narrow vision of their faith and what it expects of them, they would not have conquered the distant frontiers of the known world. There was a time when seekers of knowledge from around the world came to the Muslim lands, to universities and springs of wisdom like Dar Al-Haikma in Baghdad. Where are such centers of knowledge today? How many universities from across the Muslim world figure in the world’s 50 or 100 best?” [Aijaz Zaka Syed, Op-ed titled Muslims need a new roadmap, published in The News, Pakistan,]
2.3 Dearth of Capable Leadership
As the Muslims look towards their leaders and scholars for answers to contemporary questions, unluckily there are no easy and readily available responses. That leaves them more baffled, as they grow further unable to comprehend the place of modernity in Islam and make sense of a world, which is undergoing dynamic changes dictated by globalization and western concepts of liberalism, democracy, and socio-economic empowerment. For a common Muslim, the problem does not merely relate to his or her personal beliefs or creed; it is more systematic as Islam’s capacity to offer solution to economic and political challenges is questioned in a world where capitalism remains unrivalled as an integrating economic order and forces of free market economy get stronger in free democracies.
2.4 Rigidity towards Religion
At the heart of the Muslims’ growing predicaments is their narrow, conservative and literalist interpretation of religion. The preoccupation with the form has often ended up destroying the essence of the message. Larger and overriding goal of what Islam stands for has been lost due to sectarian constructions of religious teachings and injunctions. A scholar Dr Tariq Ramadan has rightly noted:
“The most visible and most serious signs of the crisis of the contemporary Islamic conscience can be found in the inversion of means and ends. The obsession with norms transforms them into an ultimate goal; they are no longer a means to an end, but the end itself. The essence is forgotten.” [Tariq Ramadan, opinion-editorial published in Gulf News]
2.5 The Menace of Sectarianism
The accentuation of sectarian tendencies in the Islamic world can be explained by their internal turf wars to extend their areas of influence as well as inability to restructure religious education along modern lines. For example, in the Pakistani context, sectarian violence has been directly or indirectly linked to seminaries and sectarian ideology they have been built along.
In order to settle the issue two points need to be kept in mind:
- A difference of opinion should not penetrate into the fundamental and definitive issues of religion.
- If a difference of opinion finds its way to the secondary and speculative matters of religion, there is no harm. It is also because, in the history of the Muslim community, a difference of opinion never resulted in hostility, antagonism and ill will. Today, unfortunately, the state of affairs among the Muslims is too pitiable to be mentioned. [Dr Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri,Pakistani Youth’s role in Preventing Dissemination of Pro-Violence Ideology based on Religion, UIS, Jakarta, Indonesia, April, 2013]
The bifurcation of education into religious and worldly education has served to deepen divide in Islamic societies as those having secular education have little understanding of religion and those equipped with religious sciences are not able to adapt themselves to demands of modern-day life. It explains why interpretation of religious injunctions has been narrow-minded without recourse to broader issues of life dealing merely with rituals.
3. Minhaj-ul-Quran International and Islamic Awakening
Minhaj-ul-Quran International, one of the largest NGOs in the world, has been engaged in efforts to promote peace, interfaith dialogue, tolerance and moderation in the world for more than three decades under the leadership of Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri. The organization was founded by Dr Qadri to spread enlightenment and revive real Islamic teachings in society. It has so far established hundreds of schools, colleges and a university in Pakistan that are engaged in imparting both religious and secular education, something our mainstream education system has been devoid of. These institutions focus on character building of their students instilling in them the sense of critical inquiry.
Shaykh-ul-Islam has authored hundreds of books and delivered thousands of lectures on various aspects of Islam including modern-day issues. Dr Qadri has produced ground-breaking works of lofty intellectual standards that awaken among the Muslims a consciousness to reconnect to original teachings of Islam. They seek to bring about the paradigm shift in them changing their view on and of life and its issues. Some of his key works are: Fatwa on terrorism and Suicide Bombings, Islam on Mercy and Compassion, Muhammad (PBUH): The Merciful, Muhammad (PBUH): The Peacemaker, Peace, Integration and Human Rights, Islam & the People of the Book, Jihad and World Abodes and Human Rights in Islam.
Besides the published works, MQI has organized hundreds of workshops, seminars and de-radicalization programs aimed at sensitizing the Muslims including women and youth to the real teachings of Islam. ‘Peace for Humanity Conference’ and a series of Al-Hydaya Camps held under the banner of MQI in UK and other parts of the world, the addressed by Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, have been termed as effective contributions to peace and interfaith dialogue. These events attracted thousands of Muslim youths living in Europe and elsewhere.
A grand Peace Education Program being run by the MQI is aimed at production of peace activists, peace preachers, peace leaders, peace makers and ultimately peace ambassadors who advocate the Islamic teachings of integration, pluralism, harmony, and tranquility in a world being driven apart by inter-societal and intra-societal rifts. Conflict resolution is a special area of work done by Minhaj Reconciliation Council, a subsidiary of MQI working in Europe and other parts of the world.
4. What is Needed for True Awakening?
The Muslim world is in a serious crisis. It lacks both the vision and the leadership to steer it out of unchartered waters on to safe shores. The challenges cannot be and should not be approached from a defeatist mindset. This is not going to work. The tendency of attributing blames to others for your own faults should end now. There has to be dispassionate analysis of the Muslims’ strength and weaknesses. A SWOT analysis can come in handy here.
“The crisis is acute. To resolve it, there must be an awakening, a renewal and a revolution in our way of thinking.” [Tariq Ramadan, opinion-editorial published in Gulf News]
Revenge driven response, which has been on offer here, only reflects the Muslims’ inability to adjust with the reality and have a long hard look at what ails the Ummah. Militancy, terrorism and extremism are bound to work against them.
Ten Years’ Programme of Action devised by the OIC’s Commission of Eminent Persons to meet the challenges facing the Muslim Ummah has rightly identified the problems facing the Muslim world:
“The Muslim World is faced with grave political, socio-economic, cultural and scientific challenges with implications for its unity, peace, security and development. OIC Member States would need to cooperate decisively in order to face these challenges and to take necessary initiatives to overcome them. It has therefore become imperative for them to take joint actions within the framework of the OIC, based on common values and ideals so as to revive the Muslim Ummah's pioneering role as a fine example of tolerance and enlightened moderation, and a force for international peace and harmony.” [www.oic-oci.org]
In the history of European civilization immediately following the Middle Ages, the Renaissance played a vital role in uplifting the masses. The Renaissance, according to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, is “the period in Europe during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries when people became interested in the ideas and culture of ancient Greece and Rome and used these influences in their own art, literature, etc”.
The Renaissance phenomenon occupies a lofty station in the progress of Europe. It witnessed the discovery of new continents, the fall of the feudal system and the growth of commerce, and the invention or application of such potentially powerful innovations as paper, printing and gunpowder. The early humanists, such as writer Francesco Petrarch, dwelt on the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans for inspiration, mixing the philosophies of Plato and other bygone thinkers with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Unlike the European civilization, to seek the revival of the Islamic world, the Muslims need to turn to our role model, the Prophet of Islam. Some Muslims, impressed by the modernism of the West, look to the Western ideals for inspiration, which is their fallacy. We have with us: “Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah, you have the best role model.” [Q.33:21]
5. Concept of Islamic Gradualism—A Way out of Multiple Challenges
The best way to deal with the current crises is to invoke the original teachings of Islam and apply them to real life situations. That is how the Islamic world can deal with the scourge of sectarianism, extremism, terrorism and all other serious issues which have been infecting it for quite some time.
Islam is a Din (religion) of ease and moderation. Imam Bukhari has narrated the following hadith under the chapter, ‘Religion is ease’:
الدِّينُ يُسْرٌ وَقَوْلُ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم: أَحَبُّ الدِّينِ إِلَي اﷲِ الْحَنِيفِيَّةُ السَّمْحَةُ.
Din is ease and the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said: The most beloved religion to Allah is the true and tolerant (religion of Islam).
The Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) said:
إِنَّ الدِّينَ يُسْرٌ، وَلَنْ يُشَادَّ الدِّينَ أَحَدٌ إِلَّا غَلَبَه، فَسَدِّدُوا وَقَارِبُوا، وَأَبْشِرُوا.
Surely this Din is ease; no one makes it difficult except that it will overwhelm him. So be balanced, be together, and bear glad-tidings.
This is the message of moderation (wasatiyya) given to us by the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him). So being the religion of nature, Islam does not negate the philosophy of human beings. That is why Islam enforces commandments and injunctions gradually because one cannot get the required results without mind making process and training of human beings. This process of gradualism is well established by a Hadith reported by Sayyida Aisha:
إِنَّمَا نَزَلَ أَوَّلَ مَا نَزَلَ مِنْهُ سُورَةٌ مِنْ الْمُفَصَّلِ فِيهَا ذِكْرُ الْجَنَّةِ وَالنَّارِ حَتَّى إِذَا ثَابَ النَّاسُ إِلَى الْإِسْلَامِ نَزَلَ الْحَلَالُ وَالْحَرَامُ. وَلَوْ نَزَلَ أَوَّلَ شَيْءٍ لَا تَشْرَبُوا الْخَمْرَ لَقَالُوا لَا نَدَعُ الْخَمْرَ أَبَدًا، وَلَوْ نَزَلَ لَا تَزْنُوا لَقَالُوا لَا نَدَعُ الزِّنَا أَبَدًا. لَقَدْ نَزَلَ بِمَكَّةَ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ وَإِنِّي لَجَارِيَةٌ أَلْعَبُ: ﴿بَلْ السَّاعَةُ مَوْعِدُهُمْ وَالسَّاعَةُ أَدْهَى وَأَمَرُّ﴾. وَمَا نَزَلَتْ سُورَةُ الْبَقَرَةِ وَالنِّسَاءِ إِلَّا وَأَنَا عِنْدَهُ.
The first thing that was revealed thereof was a Sura from al-Mufassal, and in it was mentioned Paradise and the Fire. When the people embraced Islam, the Verses regarding legal and illegal things were revealed. If the first thing to be revealed was: 'Do not drink alcoholic drinks.' people would have said, 'We will never leave alcoholic drinks,' and if there had been revealed, 'Do not commit illegal sexual intercourse, 'they would have said, 'We will never give up illegal sexual intercourse.' While I was a young girl of playing age, the following Verse was revealed in Mecca to Muhammad: 'Nay! But the Hour is their appointed time (for their full recompense), and the Hour will be more grievous and more bitter.' [Q.54:46] Sura Al-Baqara (The Cow) and Sura al-Nisa (The Women) were revealed while I was with him."
Gradualism is one of the laws of nature that Almighty Allah has created. It is also needed in applying the rulings of the Sharia to make a change in people’s life. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stayed in Mecca for thirteen years struggling to shake the false beliefs the Meccan people had adopted. Then, for other ten years, Almighty Allah revealed to him (peace and blessings be upon him) the laws that the Muslims would live by. Gradualism played an effective role in that regard. That was shown, for example, in prohibiting alcohol, riba (interest), and other vices.
Here we give some examples to establish the Islamic principle of gradualism.
5.1 Economic Aspect of Gradualism:
The Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) did not impose the penal system or other injunctions after migration to Medina. He preferred to fulfil the economic needs of those people who had left their wholesome in Mecca and empty-handedly migrated to Medina. So he established mukhawat and every Meccan Emigrant for half share in his Medinan Helper. This was a matchless example of religious brotherhood that Islam presented.
5.2 Political Aspect of Gradualism:
Similarly, the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) focused on the political stability after migration to Medina. After resolving the economic issues of the Emigrants, he then concentrated on political situation of Medina. There were different tribes in Medina but they were in a situation of confrontation with each other. So the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) very wisely combined all of them in the Pact of Medina, which also became the first written constitution of the history of mankind. All Medinan tribes became allies and abandoned war and confrontation. Peace is the first requirement of any state to become a welfare state. Medina became peaceful after this pact amongst different tribes.
Second example of political gradualism is the Pact of Hudaybiyya. The Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) felt that Islam could not reach other tribes and countries unless Meccans became peaceful with Islam. So he signed the Pact of Hudaybiyya with them and the Meccans entered in a peace treaty with the Muslims of Medina. Then the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) spread the message of Islam towards other cities and countries.
5.3 Religious Aspect of Gradualism
5.3.1 Forbiddance of Alcohol
Gradualism in applying the Sharia is a wise requirement to follow. Thus we follow Allah’s Laws with regard to physical nature and teachings of Islam. Gradualism was observed in enjoining the obligations of Islam such as prayer, fasting, etc., and in forbidding the prohibitions as well.
An important example in that regard is the prohibition of alcohol; the stages taken in that respect are well known by anyone studying the Sharia. Islam did not prohibit alcohol unless the followers of Islam were introduced with a high intoxication, i.e., spirituality and love of Allah and devotion to Islam. First of all, the Companions were mentally prepared about the injurious aspect of alcohol. Almighty Allah said:
يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ قُلْ فِيهِمَا إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثْمُهُمَآ أَكْبَرُ مِن نَّفْعِهِمَا.
They ask you about alcohol (i.e., intoxicants) and gambling. Say: ‘Major sin lies in both of them and also some (worldly) profit for the people, but their sin is greater than their profit.’ [Q.2:219]
Thus Islam introduced the Companions with the sin of intoxicants. Then Almighty Allah said:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تَقْرَبُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَأَنتُمْ سُكَارَى.
O believers! Do not go near Prayer in a drunken state until you are able to understand what you say. [Q.4:43]
It was very difficult for addicted drunken to avoid alcohol, but the intoxication of prayer was so much powerful that they abandoned all worldly intoxicants. At third stage, alcohol was declared forbidden. Almighty Allah said:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالأَنصَابُ وَالأَزْلاَمُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ.
O believers! Wine and gambling and idols mounted (for worship) and divining arrows (for seeking luck—all) are filthy works of Satan. So turn away from them (completely) so that you may prosper. [Q.5:90]
5.3.2 Abolishment of Slavery:
Islam also took into account the effectiveness of gradualism when it did not suddenly abolish slavery, which was prevalent in the whole world on the advent of Islam.
First of all, Islam abolished the mental slavery and gave the people open-mindedness. Then Islam established the relationships with slaves and negated the difference between lord and slave. After migration to Medina, the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) made brotherhood amongst slaves and other famous personages.
Islam gave many rights to slaves like free human beings. And above all, Islam suggested freeing one’s slaves as the atonement in many sins and crimes. So this was also an important step to abolish the slavery from the society.
5.3.3 Forbiddance of Riba:
Riba was an essential part of Arab society. Islam did not forbid it all of a sudden. Almighty Allah revealed many verses to condemn riba. For example,
الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ الرِّبَا لاَ يَقُومُونَ إِلاَّ كَمَا يَقُومُ الَّذِي يَتَخَبَّطُهُ الشَّيْطَانُ مِنَ الْمَسِّ ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَالُواْ إِنَّمَا الْبَيْعُ مِثْلُ الرِّبَا وَأَحَلَّ اللّهُ الْبَيْعَ وَحَرَّمَ الرِّبَا فَمَن جَاءهُ مَوْعِظَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِ فَانتَهَىَ فَلَهُ مَا سَلَفَ وَأَمْرُهُ إِلَى اللّهِ وَمَنْ عَادَ فَأُوْلَئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ. يَمْحَقُ اللّهُ الْرِّبَا وَيُرْبِي الصَّدَقَاتِ وَاللّهُ لاَ يُحِبُّ كُلَّ كَفَّارٍ أَثِيمٍ.
Those who live on usury will not be able to stand (on the Day of Judgment), but like the one whom Satan has made insane with his touch (i.e., damnation). This is because they used to say that trade (i.e., buying and selling) is similar to usury, whereas Allah has declared trade (i.e., buying and selling) lawful and usury unlawful. So, if someone refrains (from usury) on receiving admonition from his Lord, then he can keep whatever he took in the past and his case is with Allah. But those who continued with usury (despite the admonition) would be the inmates of Hell. They will abide there permanently. Allah eliminates usury (i.e., deprives usurious profits of prosperous growth) and multiplies alms gifts (i.e., increases blessings of clean wealth manifold through charity donations). And Allah does not like anyone who is ungrateful and disobedient. [Q.2:275–276]
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اتَّقُواْ اللّهَ وَذَرُواْ مَا بَقِيَ مِنَ الرِّبَا إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ.
O believers! Fear Allah and write off whatever balance remains of usury if you are believers (true to the core of your hearts). [Q.2:278]
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تَأْكُلُواْ الرِّبَا أَضْعَافًا مُّضَاعَفَةً وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ.
O believers! Do not live on usury doubled and redoubled, and keep fearing Allah so that you may prosper. [Q.3:130]
وَأَخْذِهِمُ الرِّبَا وَقَدْ نُهُواْ عَنْهُ وَأَكْلِهِمْ أَمْوَالَ النَّاسِ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَأَعْتَدْنَا لِلْكَافِرِينَ مِنْهُمْ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا.
And (also) because of their taking usury, despite that they were forbidden to do it, and because of their usurping others’ wealth wrongfully (they were punished). And We have prepared a torturous torment for those of them who disbelieve. [Q.4:161]
Thus Islam gradually forbade riba and eliminated it from Arab society. The Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) himself declared in his Last Sermon:
وَرِبَا الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ مَوْضُوْعٌ، وَاَوَّلُ رِبًا اَضَعُ رِبَانَا رِبَا عَبَّاسِ بْنِ عَبْدِ الْمُطَّلِبِ، فَاِنَّهُ مَوْضُوْعٌ کُلَّهُ.
And the riba of the age of ignorance is null and void. And the first riba which is null and void is the riba of Abbas b. Abd al-Muttalib. It is all null and void and forbidden.
6. How Renaissance is Possible?
6.1 Participatory Model of Governance
The Muslim states need to focus on improving their internal governance. The old methods of running the states have become obsolete. As the Arab Spring showed, people have come to the end of tether and cannot put up with exclusivist governance. The information revolution that swept across the world landscape and transformed the world into a global village has served to increase people’s awareness. It calls for drastic reforms in the governance structures aimed at including people in the decision-making processes. Unless participatory democracies take root, internal stability of the Muslim world will remain prone to threats.
The Muslim states must renew their commitment to establishing the values of moderation and tolerance, combating extremism, violence and terrorism, countering Islamophobia, and achieving solidarity and cooperation among themselves.
6.2 Economic Cooperation
Economic development is the second most important area that needs to be taken care of both at intra-state and inter-state level. There has to be an unwavering resolve to eliminate illiteracy, backwardness, economic disparity and poverty and disease. Economic integration within the Muslim world is not a matter of choice but of compulsion now to accelerate the process of socio-economic growth for collective benefit. As I argued in one of my articles:
“The pace of economic globalization has reportedly been particularly rapid during the past half century. There are three fundamental factors that currently affecting the process of economic globalization and are predicted to continue driving it in the future.
“First, improvements in the technology of transportation and communication have reduced the costs of transporting goods, services, and factors of production and of communicating economically useful knowledge and technology. Second, the tastes of individuals and societies have generally, but not universally, favored taking advantage of the opportunities provided by declining costs of transportation and communication through increasing economic integration.
“Third, public policies have significantly influenced the character and pace of economic integration, although not always in the direction of increasing economic integration. The previous three fundamental factors, which influenced the pattern and pace of economic integration in important dimensions, include the three significant dimensions of economic integration: human migration, trade in goods and services, and movements of capital and integration of financial markets.
“The term economic integration may be interpreted in two senses. The more usual sense is that economic integration constitutes the process by which member states gradually eliminate economic frontiers between themselves, eg, abolishing national discrimination between integration partners, with the previously disconnected national economic entities progressively merging into a larger whole. ‘In a static sense, it is the situation, in which national components of a larger economic zone function together as one entity.’”
“The economic frontiers between independent states result in the economies of these states ultimately functioning as one entity, albeit economic integration does not serve as an objective by itself. Instead, it aims to serve higher objective both economically and politically.” [Dr Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri, Article titled Understanding Economic Integration, published in Business Recorder on July 17, 2010.]
An economic union of the Muslim countries is the dire need of the hour. Given the structure of world’s economic relations, the member countries will stand to benefit from such a union. It would also serve as the basis to further concretize the political relations. They will be in a better position to address the issues related to globalization and economic liberalization. The Muslim world sits on one of the vast natural resources in the world. They can optimally use these resources to achieve higher level of development and prosperity. Economic independence so achieved will enable them to withstand political pressures from external sources.
When United States suffered financial crisis after the second World War, Japan helped out US and invested heavy amount in US car industry. When Japan was asked about that help because US had bombed atomic weapons on Japan in the WWII, Japan replied that “it had invested a lot of money in the US market so that its technology could promote and later on it could get financial benefits from US. Violence and rigidity against US could not get any benefit for its people.”
Muslim states should learn from such examples and must forget minor differences and help out each other in the large interest of the Umma.
It is reported that during Caliph Umar’s time the traders complained to the Caliph that the Muslim traders had to pay the toll of the tenth of their saleable commodities according to the pre-Islamic customs while selling their merchandise in the non-Muslim territories. In reciprocity Caliph Umar ordered the cancellation of the same rate from traders from outside the Muslim state coming to trade in the Muslim land. However, he also ordered not to impose any customs duty upon a Muslim or on a dhimmi, if the former had paid zakat and the latter jiziya in accordance with the pact made with them.
6.3 Focus on Education
“Effectively improve and reform educational institutions and curricula in all levels, link postgraduate studies to the comprehensive development plans of the Islamic World. At the same time, priority should be given to science and technology and facilitating academic interaction and exchange of knowledge among the academic institutions of Member States, and urge the Member States to strive for quality education that promotes creativity, innovation, and research and development.
“Assimilate highly-qualified Muslims within the Muslim World, develop a comprehensive strategy in order to utilize their expertise and prevent brain migration phenomenon ” [http://www.oic-oci.org/home.asp]
Knowledge has become a factor of production and an engine of socio-economic growth. The world is increasingly establishing knowledge societies. The Muslim states need to focus on promotion of education as a way out of their predicaments. They need to increase their GDP allocations for education.
6.4 Elimination of Sectarianism
Sectarianism has torn apart the fabric of Umma. It is a cancerous disease, which has afflicted the body politic and posed a severe challenge to international image of Umma and religious tolerance. We can only allow this scourge to run amok at our own peril.
Islam is a religion of moderation. This is manifest from literal translation of word ‘Islam’, which means peace, security and submission. Peace and tranquility are the defining characteristics of a civilized society and oppression represents barbarism.
There is no denying the fact that Islam, being a torch-bearer of moderation, advocates justice, fair play, moderation and tolerance in every walk of life. Extremism has a downside to it and produces negative, fatal and destructive results. Whatever is the field of life such as politics, religion, fulfillment of rights or preaching, Islam enjoins upon its followers to demonstrate justness, balance, propriety, and moderation.
We need to begin from ourselves. While we do talk of loftiness and universality of Islamic teachings, we get into reactive mode once the criticism is hurled at us. Considering ourselves self-righteous, we remain ever eager to reform others. Self-accountability is the basis of collective accountability. Allah Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an:
وَلاَ تَسُبُّواْ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ فَيَسُبُّواْ اللّهَ عَدْوًا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ كَذَلِكَ زَيَّنَّا لِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ عَمَلَهُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَى رَبِّهِم مَّرْجِعُهُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُواْ يَعْمَلُونَ.
And, (O Muslims,) do not abuse these (false gods) that these (polytheists) worship besides Allah, lest these people should (also, in retaliation,) revile against Allah’s Glory wrongfully due to ignorance. Thus have We made the conduct of every sect (and faction) seem attractive to (their own eyes and they regard only that as truth). Then all have to return to their Lord, and He will inform them of (the results of) their deeds which they used to do. [Q.6:108]
As long as we will shield ourselves in this psychological weakness, we will not have the realization and urgency of correcting ourselves.
Allah Almighty enjoins His servants in the Holy Qur’an:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اتَّقُواْ اللّهَ حَقَّ تُقَاتِهِ وَلاَ تَمُوتُنَّ إِلاَّ وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ. وَاعْتَصِمُواْ بِحَبْلِ اللّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلاَ تَفَرَّقُواْ وَاذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَةَ اللّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاء فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا.
O believers! Fear Allah as it is due to fear Him. And death should approach you only in a state when you are Muslims. And hold fast to the rope of Allah, all of you together, and do not generate dissension and factions. But call to mind the blessing of Allah upon you when you were enemies (one to another). Then He created the bond of love amongst your hearts, and by His blessing you became brothers. [Q.3:102–103]
If the Muslims belonging to various ethnicities, races and geographical backgrounds wish to forge unity in their ranks, the basis of their unity will be unconditional loyalty towards and the love for the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), sincere compliance with his commands and obedience. The unity among the Muslims is not possible on the basis of Concept of Oneness of God or Monotheism, for worshipers of God also belong to other Divine Religions too. What distinguishes us, the Muslims from others, is our association with the Holy Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) and this is practical representation of real concept of Oneness of God. The Prophetic saying makes the same point:
مَنْ أَطَاعَ مُحَمَّدًا فَقَدْ أَطَاعَ اﷲَ، وَمَنْ عَصَى مُحَمَّدًا فَقَدْ عَصَى اﷲَ، وَمُحَمَّدٌ فَرَّقَ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ.
He who obeyed Muhammad (pbuh) obeyed Allah Almighty and he who disobeyed Muhammad (pbuh) disobeyed Allah Almighty and Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) is the cause of distinction between the people (the Muslims and non-Muslims).
It should be kept in mind here that no sect has been granted the exclusive right to issue passport for entry into Paradise. It is fallacious to think that due to association with a particular sect or group one would go to Paradise. Nothing can be as self-deluding as this.
Democracy and consultation are operative principles of Islam. It addresses the people as equals and does not discriminate among them. It advocates respect for dissent. It enjoins upon its followers to listen to opposing viewpoints patiently and generously. It is against imposing your will on others. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) never forced anyone to enter the fold of Islam. We need to take a leaf from the blessed life of our beloved Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him). If this was the Prophetic conduct, how can preachers of the day can snatch right to dissent from others? How can they condemn others under different titles? Everyone has a right to hold his/her opinions and we should respect it.
6.4.1 MESSAGE FOR PEOPLE
People should turn a deaf ear to those who promote violence and extremism. They should not listen to those so-called scholars who play blame game and try to create conflicts between different sects and groups. People should focus the real message of Islam and follow the true peaceful teachings of Islam which were disseminated by the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), the Family of the Prophet, the rightly-guided Caliphs, the Companions, the Successors, the Followers and the Imams of early times. Thus though our collective efforts, we can defeat extremism and radicalism from Muslim societies and the rest of the world.
6.4.2 MODERATE COURSE OF ACTION FOR MUSLIM SCHOLARS
If we want to generate unity within the Muslim communities, we should allow and acknowledge a difference of opinion on secondary and speculative matters open-heartedly. And these matters must never become very hot issues. Should a difference of opinion exist among scholars, without turning into quarrels and enmities, it leads to sympathy. Even the Companions, the Successors, the Followers and great imams too held differences of opinion on various issues, but their differences did not turn into opposition and discord.
Today the Muslim world is badly in need of awakening. To translate our dream into reality, we need to tread the path of moderation in every walk of life—religious, political and educational. We cannot achieve our aims and objectives if we slash the throats of each other over internal differences, which benefits none but the ill-wishers of the Muslim world. What is most important is in the words of the Almighty: “Verily, Allah does not change the state of a people until they bring about a change in themselves. And when Allah intends to torment a people (due to their own evil works), then none can avert it. [Q.13:11]
We need to adopt this character at individual and collective level.