New Age Islam
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Debating Islam ( 18 May 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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CRISIS IN MUSLIM MIND: Was it induced by the Other?

In the article presented below Mr. Manzurul Haque blames the “intransigence of the Western imperial forces” for the failure of “the project of Islam to bring peace and tranquillity in human life”. This is not a proposition New Age Islam agrees with. But the fact that he at least admits a failure is in itself valuable in the process of introspection that we promote. We don’t think cursing enemies or external circumstances, in short, the Other, serves any purpose either in our individual lives or as a community. If we have to improve our situation, we will have to look within and correct our own conduct and beliefs first.

The process of the failure of the Islamic project – the nature of this project too needs to be debated -- itself started early on, with the demise of the Prophet itself, to be precise. We don’t think any imperialist, Zionist or Hindutva conspiracy was involved in preventing Muslims from giving their prophet a decent and timely burial. His dead body lay in the heat of the Arabian Desert – without any air-conditioning, of course, - for seven to eight hours as his closest companions we hold in such high esteem kept squabbling over who should succeed him as the spiritual and political heir. Then within half a century Muslims allowed the inveterate enemies of Islam to kill almost the entire family of the Prophet and embark on their pre-Islamic hereditary “monarchical” system in the name of Islamic Khilafat. These sworn enemies of Islam had joined Islam only after having failed to destroy the religion from outside and with a clear intention to beat it from within. Having succeeded in doing that, they embarked on an imperialist expansion with the help of new scriptures promoted as sayings of the prophet and a new institution of priesthood which had no place in Islam. Even those who opposed the Yazidi Islam embarked on their own misguided project of declaring the Prophet himself as a monarch who wanted his family members and their descendants to rule for ever.

From then till today we have committed horrendous mistakes. Even now Arab Islam is dominated by despots and monarchs. Hardly any Muslim society reminds us of the Islamic vision. Indeed, if there are any societies that appear somewhat close to Islamic ideals of human rights, these are invariably non-Muslim majority societies. However, Mr. Manzurul Haque presents here a viewpoint that is widely prevalent among Muslims the world over and thus needs to be discussed and debated. His plea for ijtehad to bring about ideological reform in Islam also needs to be seriously engaged with. He considers defending the ideology of Islam as his prime duty, but perhaps there needs to be more clarity on what this ideology actually is that need to be defended and from whom. Does the danger to Islamic ideology come more from within or without?

-- Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam



By Manzurul Haque

Muslim world community today faces a multifaceted crisis. Two kinds of stalemates have aggravated the situation - historical stalemate, and ideological stalemate.

Historical stalemate started with the downfall of the Turkish Empire on the one hand and slipping away of the Indian empire to the British on the other. Though these two historical scenarios were quite distinct - these were tied genetically with another parallel phenomenon of ideological stagnation which ran in the lives of Muslims, throughout the Muslim world. The ideological stagnation had preceded the historical stagnation by at least a couple of centuries. Intensive research is required to bring out the true origins and progression of the ideological stagnation.

Pre-disposition of Muslims

Strange though it may sound Muslims were at ease with both these kinds of stagnations. The religion of Islam which of late has been seen as an extremely militant ideology (this can be explained separately), can also assume sometimes the most pacifist shape and put men and women to a straight path of living a plain life within the regimen of an uneventful family life (little romance, littler adultery, no drunken brawl, etc.) engaging relentlessly in five-times-a-day namaz, and annual roza for a month, and hajj, and zakat etc. In fact in every rakat of every namaz, a Muslim prays for this kind of life – the straight path. The concern of a Muslim society, in the normal circumstances, is to goad individuals to endlessly explore ways and means of adding up more and more sawab (blessing) to their kitties. A non-Muslim can never possibly understand the true essence of what I have just described, because it is a matter of sheer practice which only the practitioner can experience. But this can explain some of the bizarre pursuits of men and women (more women) of Islam and their preoccupations with questions which would appear to be silly to a non-Muslim –just see the question-answer series of QTV (in the present age) and the entire body of fatwas which grew from these small questions of Muslim men and women throughout the ages.

Stagnation of history:

The seed of the destruction (stagnation) in Islam is contained in its ideology which seeks to introduce peace and tranquillity in human life by means of a process described above. And at some level the Islamic ideology can be justified for bringing this stagnation in Islamic history. If we examine the life of humans on this earth, it is not difficult to see that the progress of the modern world under Western aegis has not been an unmixed blessing.  True, the use of mobile telephone is an unparalleled bliss, and the use of antibiotics gives us a new lease of life. But just think of the effect of modern war machines, not excluding the nuclear weapons and the biological weapons.  The environmental degradation must however top the list of the negative achievements, if we can ever call it an achievement. At least nobody can blame Islam for bringing in this kind of technological ‘progress.’

‘Islam by sword’

Unfortunately, its conflict with the Europeans did not permit Islam the space it had come to occupy in a natural course as a result of social dynamics [Contrary to ‘Islam by sword’  theorists and the starry-eyed Tablighis, (For any sociologist, ‘tabligh’ is a very noble pastime of little consequence), Islam had spread in quantum jumps when the whole nations converted to Islam because they had a contending non-Islamic  race or kingly power breathing down their necks,  which in the end got annihilated by the superior social system and ideology of Islam (I am terribly sorry to state this to those who caution us against Islam-supremacy because this is what exactly happened)].

A visceral hatred

Gradually the West developed a visceral hatred for the ideology of Muslims, because while on the one hand Islam taught Muslims to live a plain life, it also ideologically opposed racism and imperialism. For the white nations of the West, these ideas were not acceptable. Hence, while the Muslims slept for centuries after the Crusade, the West kept preparing for war with the Muslims. If we study the entire long process of Crusades we can discern that the Muslims were the reluctant fighters. So post-Crusade, and after centuries of preparation when the Western onslaught came from the rear Eastern side of Muslim world - India, to be precise, Muslims had no chance to stand before the West.  The imperial hunger of the West (which might be a reflection of their racism) should not be underestimated. It is common knowledge that both the World Wars were results of Western greed for sharing imperialism or in other words for the loot of the rest of the earth (preceding the World Wars was the destruction of the Turkish Empire and the loot of the Balkans). The baton of imperialism was picked up from the spoils of World War II by the USA, and while doing so, USA dropped two atomic bombs needlessly on the hapless populations of the two cities of Japan – just to terrorize and lay down the foundation of an imperialism of a different kind – economic imperialism.

Economic imperialism of USA

The economic imperialism of USA supported by other countries of the West is a reality. The creation of Israel is a Western project to serve that imperialism vis-à-vis the Muslim-Arab world in which the Jews have been used merely as pawns.  At the same time a false story has been spread amongst Muslims that Jews control USA and the entire West. In truth the Arab-Israel conflict is an outright Western project, which was protected and closely guarded from prying eyes even during the days when the USSR had become a parallel Superpower in the world. The Arab-Israel conflict is a handle with the West to operate some of the strings attached to the edifices of its economic imperial power. If the geopolitical reality of the world permitted, USA (no doubt in  concurrence with the  other Western powers like UK, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Italy, Spain and a whole host of other European countries) would have allowed Israel by now to bomb the nuclear installations of Iran, and you might never know, it might still do that. Israel is too weak to resist such a command which indeed will be issued in secret as all such commands are.

The Failure of the Islamic Project

Thus, in a sense the project of Islam to bring peace and tranquillity in human life has failed historically, because of intransigence of the Western imperial forces. This creates a crisis in Muslim mind, with its complex ramifications which would need to be addressed in bits and pieces. All the various geographical conflicts in which Muslims are involved need to be addressed under this head. It calls for wars, cool diplomacy and collateral advancements such as building-up of alliances and military strength (clearly an un-Islamic project but nevertheless needed to help the cause of peace), and innovation of new political structures in concert with the opposing forces. For example Israel-Arab conflict can go away without the shrill cry of the destruction of Israel, if American influence on the deal can somehow be lessened. The problem of J& K can be settled, if the overall relationship of Hindus and Muslims in the sub-continent can be improved, and as and when the corrupt rulers of both the countries are taken care of by their respective citizenry. There can be similar situation-specific solutions elsewhere, though in most cases it will take time because of some condition precedent attached to each of these local problems. Another example I can cite is of Uyghur. It is imperative for sensible Muslim NGOs (Do we have one? Since China would not allow a foreign government agency to step-in.  How about converting Organization of Islamic Conference into an NGO, registered, say in Dubai, with the best possible infrastructure available there, which will add to its dexterity) to engage with the Muslims of Uyghur on one hand and China on other hand,  to  completely diffuse the situation, before it comes to a boil. One can be sure that as long as Chinese suzerainty is not questioned, they will have no problems in giving a fair deal to the Muslim subjects. I think the same could be true of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.

 Stagnation of ideology

We must however reserve our most poignant analysis (which I will not do here in full measure) for the ideological stagnation that has gripped the Muslims through centuries although there is no justification for such ideological stagnation in human affairs. An overview of the current efforts in this direction itself would be enough to convince us of the enormous complexity of the problem. Unfortunately, this is an issue that cannot be swept under the carpet because even the historical movements forward, suggested in the preceding paragraph, would not lurk anywhere without shaking this ideological pyramid. These two opposing and tearing requirements create yet another crisis in the Muslim mind today. The stagnation is too heavy to waver, but the need to shake up was never this high before.

The difficulty in solving a problem is hidden in the inability to find a solution that works. In Muslim community, nearly every Muslim (because of his eagerness no doubt to attend to this urgent problem of the community) has something by way of solving the problem but the fact is that solution that works eludes. From this itself, we can however draw some tentative conclusion. This job cannot be done in a hurry.

A survey of the efforts made in this regard sometimes brings us face to face with suggestions which are plainly ridiculous – coming even from otherwise well-educated persons. But are we supposed to ridicule them? No way. This will only create bad blood. So the second tentative conclusion is that while working in the direction of seeking to remove ideological stagnation we cannot adopt a ridiculing attitude, much less a marauding attitude and this is true for all sides participating in this great process.   

Need for Ijtehad

Ijtehad is a word in our dictionary which has not been used since ages. The enormous volume of work needed to research for any meaningful and acceptable ijtehad, is no single man’s job. Departments of Islamic Studies of the Muslim Universities of the world can organize the work on ijtehad and I have to repeat an adage that they must not only bring out the truth, but be seen to be bringing out the truth. That is, their work should speak for itself.

Acceptance of a finding of ijtehad by the general masses is a colossal task and vested interests are almost bound to oppose it (which might unfortunately include some of our traditional maulanas), as also the enemies of Islam who are waiting to curse upon any step that has the potential to do good to Muslims. A very resilient approach would be needed for the acceptance of the changes brought about by ijtehad.  The biggest guarantee of its success will come from two elements of social life - quality education which imparts ability to think independently, and the use of mass communication – even if it is nothing more than the use of internet.

Defending the Ideology of Islam

In their wishful pursuits some friends of mine object to my use of the word defence, when I say, that one prime area of my work is to defend the ideology of Islam in the field of communication with the help of the resources, including arguments, that are present and available (I am not going to even wait for the results of ijtehad to attend to this urgent business). I am sorry to continue to use the word defence which I consider to be the birth right of every human being. It would be puerile and woolly-headed if we forsake the right to defend – in any area of activity.  This is my last tentative conclusion.  

I have not touched upon any specific area of reform of the Islamic ideology, because my analysis is at the macro level and because I do think this to be the work of ‘ijtehadists’. Of course each one of us may contribute towards the inputs for future ijtehad to supplement the hands of ijtehadists, but I hope to do that on some other occasion, Insha Allah.

Based in Patna, India, Manzurul Haque is a regular commentator on (