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      October 31, 2013


The Contemporary Muslim World
By: Sher Alam Khan

This paper comprises the urgent needs for the development of Muslim Ummah in regaining its right place in today’s world civilization. I will discuss that how Muslim could reclaim the inherent strengths which at the height of their civilization equipped their societies to excel in diverse areas of human endeavor.

The Muslim World, as its stands today, is characterized by paradoxes and contradictions. We have Muslim nations that are resource rich but economically poor and weak. Despite the bounty of Allah, the majority of the Muslim masses live in poverty, amidst plenty for a selected few. During the last few centuries, we saw the Muslim Ummah tumble from the heights of the Ottoman Empire to, at one stage, becoming colonial servants of other masters. Towards the end of the last century, we did witness the liberation of Muslim countries, one by one, from the shackles of colonialism, culminating in the independence of the Central Asian Muslim Nations. And yet, despite our independence, democracy and despite our divinely blessed resources and natural abundance, we continue to be a disparate assortment of third world countries. Some of the following comparative figures will indicate how really weak the Muslims are in their thoughts of diversity, pluralism having fundamentalist approach of religions.

Economic prosperity and philosophical development go hand-in-hand with a certain amount of individual freedom. It is about creating an environment where people can participate in deciding their economic, theological and social futures. It is about creating opportunities for everyone to pursue their hopes and dreams. Unfortunately, in much of the Muslim World, the people generally do not have a voice in the development process that touches their lives. This is true particularly for women due to local taboos and culturally gender biasness.

Moreover, apart from particular religious and secular books, a large section of the people does not read any knowledge-based books or articles of other sects of religions and school of thoughts. That is why much of the Muslim world is suffering a crisis of identity, as the crumbling of the Islamic Civilization in the modern age has left Muslims with a profound sense of alienation and injury. Challenges confronting many Muslim nations - failures of development projects and the inability to respond effectively to the Israeli violence have induced deep-seated frustration.

The present dire states of the Ummah, undoubtedly a tragedy, could, however, also turn out to be a strategy for the Ummah, if it can renew, once again, our search for a new order based on Islam. The renewed quest for our destiny should make us more conscious of our ideological and historical identity, and should bring us back to the original source of our success Islamic beliefs and values. Deriving spiritual and intellectual strength from our rich Islamic traditions, we have the potential to climb out of the dark abyss that we now find ourselves in.

We have seen in history that periods of crises often blossom into periods of creative thinking. Today, world order appears to be crumbling; we could be again in such a period of crisis and creativity. To move forward in unity towards a period of peace and prosperity, as well as physical and spiritual well-being, particularly in the vastly complicated world of today, with its inherently anti-Islamic bias, we need to think outside the box and initiate changes, some of which would be more in the nature of revolutionary rather than evolutionary. The task at hand is, undoubtedly, difficulty, but if we set our minds and hearts to it, and display a new freshness in our thinking, we should be able to meet the challenges.

We have only to look back into our own past, where a small group of people in Medina who, despite being surrounded to the North, West, and East, by mighty superpowers, were able to courageously spread Islamic influence across three continents. Surely, our task is much easier compared to challenges, which the early Muslims in Medina faced. But I meant not by the source of sword and terrorism. We still have with us today the same source of inspiration and wisdom that launched the Muslim Empire. While we are materially and physically poor, our moral principles and spiritual strength are fairly intact. What we need now is the will to unite and act decisively to regain our dignity.

It is clear that we the Muslim Ummah must once again rely on ourselves. Many attempts in the past have been made to unite the Muslims religiously and politically. For instance the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) was formed as a forum and platform to have a common voice. Indeed, the OIC has not been able to move beyond being a talking-shop because the Muslim Ummah is not united and does not appear to have the political will or the mechanism to strengthen it and their religious traditions and agreed heritage.

Secondly, the balanced and creative approach of Islamic education was killed off. The spirit of Islamic learning was replaced by a sanitized approach. Gone was the inquisitiveness to learn of God's creation and sciences; gone was the boldness to create and innovate for the betterment of mankind. Since the soul of Islam itself had been extracted out the equation, the study of the physical sciences was soon equated with materialism by colonized Muslims, resulting in a general aversion to the sciences.

Through systematic propaganda and disinformation, the Muslim's respect for his own religion and brotherhood was destroyed. All references to Islam's glorious and rich historical and cultural heritage were replaced with the objective of creating a sense of inferiority among the colonized Muslims. To confuse and distort the true unity of the Ummah, multiple exaggerations and names were created among Muslim communities and different schools of thoughts in Islam.

Due to that by the turn of the 21st century, Muslims had been secularly and spiritually weakened, cut from each other both economically, religiously and militarily. Muslims were powerless to help each other.

Having identified the method in which the Ummah was systematically divided and weakened, it is quite possible that we can reverse the process and once again regain and strengthen the Ummah through a rebuilding process. This process would include re-establishing liberal Islamic thoughts, financial and economic systems; restructuring the current education system by infusing it with Islamic and modern pedagogical, andragogical education and learning methods that encourage creativity and curiosity; rebuilding morale among the Ummah and reconstructuring a real Muslim view of the peaceful world. We need to keep reminding ourselves self-sufficiency and efficiency is not impossible.

Shortly, we must need to build up our strength in every field of life, not just in armed might. Our countries must be stable and well-administered, must be economically strong and technologically advanced. This will take time, but it can be done and it will be time well spent. We are enjoined by our religion to be patient. Even today, we have sufficient assets, human intellectuals, scholars. It remains for us to identify them and to work out how to make use of them in a proper way in order to regain the real meaning of Islam which was introduced by the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) the messenger of God. This is entirely possible if we start to think, to plan, to strategies and to take the first few critical steps. Even these few steps can yield positive results.
The writer is an Educationist



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