The Splintering Ummah


Growth of knowledge, which is such an essential feature for any society to progress, is so lacking in Muslim society today that, as a whole, it has stopped making a meaningful contribution to society at large. Far from being a people created for the benefit of mankind, the Muslim society has become entirely dependent on others to take care of its needs, writes SYED ADIL.

The bane of the Muslim Nation/ Ummah has been its resistance towards any sort of debate, discussion and research in the recent times. Even while there appears to be greater inclination amongst the younger Muslims today to learn more about their faith and correct their creed/ aqaid, they are quite literally swept away by a deluge of information that is available to them from the Internet. There are any number of websites and now a growing number of Islamic TV Channels that are dishing out contradictory information.

There are those that are defined as the Wahhabis, who they say have taken away the human element from the faith and propagate the strictest form of Islam that espouses death for apostasy and apparently renders the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (saws)’s as secondary when compared to the Qur’an. There are others such as Dr. Zakir Naik of Islamic Research Foundation/ Peace TV and his complete mastery over comparative religious scriptures of virtually all faiths that has created a groundswell of followers who subscribe to his teaching.

Yet again there is Dr. Tahir ul Qadri, who presents an extremely soft version of Islam and propagates its Soofi /spiritual aspect, which not only appeals to already existing followers of this School of thought right from the time of the highly revered Soofi Saint Hazrath Khaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer and any number of others throughout the Indian sub-continent comprising of Pakistan and Bangladesh together with India. The recent visit of Dr. Qadri to India exemplified the hold he has over the masses by the manner in which people turned up to listen to him. In Bangalore on the 11th March, I was myself a witness to more than two lakh people turning up to his public talk at the Palace grounds. Clearly, he seems to touch a chord somewhere and has become a kind of rallying point to the people who have always revered the Aulia/ Saints and have thronged to their Mausoleums/ Dargahs out of reverence and need to supplicate before them to act as an intercessor before Allah on their behalf to get their needs fulfilled. These people have always held that unlike the ordinary mortals, the Aulia/ Saints are friends of Allah (swt) and are not dead. Dr. Qadri, it appears, has invigorated all such people by appealing to their senses through his vast knowledge and redoubtable authority over the Hadeeth and Prophet (saws)’s Sunnah.

The purpose of this article is not about who is correct and, indeed, what is the right Aqeeda; rather, it is about finding fault with all such Scholars and Ulema for not coming together and despite their differences, keeping the doors open for debate, discussion and research. There is nothing wrong in having a difference of opinion, but there is everything wrong in sticking to one’s opinion and building a parallel School of thought catering only to adherents of that school. This is positively dangerous and a sure-fire recipe to divide the Ummah into various sects.

In the backdrop of the above, it is important that regardless of our inadequacy and lack of knowledge, we the common folk, people like you and I, have no alternative but to address this situation on our own and, indeed, leverage the sheer power of numbers to bring our Ulema and Scholars to open their hearts and minds to sit together, discuss and work to bring unity of thought and mind.

As far as the fundamental belief of all Muslims is concerned, there is absolutely no ambiguity and all of us agree that Allah (swt) is the Creator of this entire Universe as we know and even beyond that Science is yet to discover. We agree that Allah (swt) has revealed His word in the form of the Qur’an and through the Prophets who are specifically mentioned therein. We also agree that we will all die and will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment. Furthermore, Allah (swt) has addressed a good Muslim as one who is wise and of assured faith, as one who reflects, contemplates and never stops from researching, who celebrates the praises of Allah and is grateful for all His mercies and is ever-willing to persevere (do Jihad) in His way.

Growth of knowledge, which is such an essential feature for any society to progress is so lacking in Muslim society today that, as a whole, it has stopped making a meaningful contribution to society at large. Far from being a people created for the benefit of mankind (Quran 3:110), the Muslim society has become entirely dependent on others to take care of their needs. Be it in the field of education, medicine, healthcare or Industry, we don’t figure anywhere. This is in such a stark contrast to the wonderful work Muslim scientists, thinkers and scholars have done in the field of Literature, Science and Technology at a time when Europe was in darkness. The work done by the Muslims became a catalyst for the Christian world to pursue knowledge and further build upon the work of the Muslims in virtually all fields of knowledge and, in course of time, come to dominate the World.

Coming back to our modern day Ulema and Scholars, there is no doubt they know all this and more, yet the lack of humility and the all-knowing attitude of most prevent them from having a dialogue. Clearly, this doesn’t make any sense when we know the direction given to growth of knowledge in Islamic society are governed by Islamic Shariah and fiqh, which, I believe, all have to understand and apply in real terms.

Shariah incorporates the Qur’an and the legal bindings of Sunnah, which, in effect, binds the entire Muslim society to being faithful to its meaning and ethico-legal compliance. However, one has to be careful to distinguish between piety, where one tends to go beyond the realms of what is strictly specified and end up transgressing God’s law and the Sunnah. Of course, there is an issue of reliability in as far as recorded Sunnah is concerned, which, it appears, has created divisions within the Ummah, but for the sake of unity of thought and action, I can’t see any reason why we cannot agree to the authentic Sunnah having timeless import of legal bearing.

Fiqh means the derived or substantive legal rulings and have an entirely man-made aspect to it. In this regard, what does the Qur’an say? According to the collective opinion of the Muslim thinkers, there are three mandatory legal rules that go into the making of a healthy Islamic society.

a) Fard: Obligatory acts, where there is no room for discussion and have to be followed implicitly.

b) Haram: Completely impermissible and can take one out of the fold of Islam, if committed knowingly.

c) Mubah: The acts of commission, or omission, that does not make a man sinner and this is further classified into three kinds:

i. Mandub: There is merit in doing them, but no sin omitting them.

ii. Makruh: Undesirable acts – There is merit in not doing them, but no sin in committing them.

iii. Mutlaq: Unspecified acts – They are neither meritorious nor sinful whether committed or omitted.

From what we have read above, we can surmise that the adoption of knowledge already available and making creative and innovative contribution to its growth are usually parts in the process of interaction and this is how knowledge is expected to grow and for civilization to prosper. Accordingly, the way forward should be:

• By inventing and innovating, making new departures on the basis of what had been revealed in the Qur’an, nature and history.

• By reforming, improving and adopting, synthesizing and assimilating into Islamic civilization what was found in the accumulating heritage of mankind, Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

• By assimilating through enlightening imitation (taqlid) with little or no change in whatever of value was found in the accumulating heritage of mankind, Muslim or non-Muslim alike.

In conclusion, it is clearly understood by all Muslims that the concept of Tawheed (the oneness and totality) of Allah (swt) stands apart as an absolute cornerstone of Islamic faith, where there is no luxury of going wrong in our understanding of the same. Tawheed means that man’s rational knowledge must conform with, and be subservient to, Allah’s Laws and, as I understand, should not be in conflict with what is clearly enjoined on the Ummah as His Word in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (saws).

The article in question is designed to elicit response from people of reason and understanding and for the Muslim society as a whole to reflect upon. It would also like to bring a fusion of thought in respect to several controversial issues that generate hatred and division in the Ummah. The rampant use of talisman/ ta’weez, the practice of revering the Aulia (Saints) to the extent of creating an aura of the dead being alive in their graves and are actually able to help by being a devotee’s intercessor in front of Allah (swt) to fulfill the devotee’s needs. Numerology, palmistry, the ritualistic practice of celebrating Milad-un-Nabi, the practice of celebrating Gyarhween Shareef and a whole lot of other such issues together with the soulless strictly puritanical practices of the so called Wahhabis that makes Islam appear so cut-and-dried should be discussed and, indeed, presented to the rest of the world in its purest form.

May Allah (swt) guide us to do, and practice, only what is pleasing to Him.