Personal Shahadah: A Muslim ‘Reverts’ to Islam (Part-4)
In Islam man has no right of his own. Rights are given to him by Allah in exchange for his acceptance of the Mithaq (the covenant) with Allah for the following duties: duty towards Allah; towards humanity; towards family; towards neighborhood; towards the Ummah; responsibility of man to the whole of humanity and finally, duty towards the whole of the created order, writes DR. QAZI ASHFAQ AHMED, in this concluding part of his inspiring autobiography, and quest for the truth. The first three parts in this series were published in the January-February-March 2009 issues of YOUNG MUSLIM DIGEST.
Conflict between the West and Islam
The present lifestyle reflects a particular philosophy developed in the West and propagated by the Euro-American civilization. This lifestyle manifests complete individualistic freedom from traditions and principles. The so-called pop music – rock, heavy metal or other forms – and the current modes dress, as for example, blue jeans reflect the idea of freedom from all constraints and individual declarations of independence from social norms. The West rebels against the customs and habits and all that has been transmitted to it from older generations. Many children are brought up in single–parent homes creating the problem of providing a structure for them.
Further there has been a radical revolution in sexual relations. Traditional sexual ethics have become more questioned by those who still claim to accept religion. The overemphasis upon physical training and sports have become a form of religion in the West. Commercialism has magnified this very noble activity out of proportion, making it almost a substitute for certain types of religious activities. One strain in the Western lifestyle is the indifference to one’s history and the past. It also involves loss of faith in the earlier ethical norms of Western society.
Another influential characteristic of the modern lifestyle is the impact of the mass media. The presentation of change to viewer and listeners is a very functional role of the media in the Euro–American civilization. The rapidity of that change can be seen in fashions of dress, and outward manner of living. Fashions influence even modes of thought in order to push aside concepts of the permanent and the abiding.
Islam is the concrete embodiment of the Will of Allah for human society. This Will of Allah has been made known to mankind, in principle, through the Qur’an – the word of Allah that has been manifested into practices through Hadith – the Sayings – and the Sunnah – that is, the Practice – of the Prophet Muhammad (saws). Morality in Islam is defined in a more concrete and definite sense in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Islam propounds the central doctrine of unity. Allah is one and His Oneness is of such a nature that ultimately only He fully understands and becomes testimony to it. We, as human beings, and as His vicegerents n earth, must also seek to understand this Oneness, this Tawhid.
The Islamic doctrine of unity asserts unity in human life, unity in the relationship between man and the world of nature, unity in human thought, unity in art and architecture. All of these forms of unity reflect the Wisdom and Will of Allah in our world, the Will which is embodied most correctly in the Divine Law.
Social entity of the Islamic system is a two–pronged reality, the first being the vast Ummah – the Islamic community, and secondly the Silatul-Arham the near family members. In Islam, family does not mean the atomized modern family composed of the husband, wife and immediate children but the extended family which normally includes the grand–parents and often aunts, uncles and the children extending a kind of network around the individual, giving the satisfaction of his/ her identification. Thus, family in Islam performs the integration function in Islamic society.
In Islam, man has no right of his own. Rights are given to him by Allah in exchange for his acceptance of the Mithaq (the Covenant) with Allah for the following duties: duty towards Allah; towards humanity; towards family; towards neighborhood; towards the Ummah; responsibility of man to the whole of humanity and finally, duty towards the whole of the created order.
Western Powers and Muslims
Rapid changes are taking place in the world. The period of crusades and colonialism are over but backlogs from these periods are still there. Realization of the truth that both Islam and the West (Western civilization) are very important for ushering in the era of global peace is not yet paramount in society. The events and politico–economic circumstances, keep Islam and the West, as well Muslims and the West, continuously separate. Following are the apparent conflicts between the West and Islam, impregnated into the minds of Westerners and advocates of Islam.
A. For a Westerner
(i) Islam is a religion 1400 years old. The outdatedness and the religiosity of Islam cannot cope with the modern concepts of society and social interaction.
(ii) Islam does not lead towards peace. It leads towards coercion and highhandedness. It does not teach to live as a subject. Conceptually, Islam leads towards terrorism.
(iii) Islam is against modernism and secularism. The Islamic ideology directs against progress and material advancement.
B. For an advocate of Islam
(i) West is amoral, materialist and opportunistic. It has no ethical values.
(ii) It does not believe in God. It does not believe in the Hereafter, thus not having any concept of the accounting for one’s deeds after this worldly life.
(iii) Any indecent, non–humanistic atrocity may be performed by the West as long as it helps an individual, a nation or a community to obtain some material gain.
Conflict between Western powers and Muslims
After the collapse of communism, the Western powers have somehow or other; knowingly or unknowingly, as a political strategy or in reality, acting for global peace, committed many atrocities against Muslims and Muslim countries, which have annoyed the majority of Muslims. On the one hand, the Muslims have reacted and this has been termed as terrorism by the West. Hence, an atmosphere of mistrust and a sense of hatred towards each other have been created.
1. Thinking of Western powers
(i) Muslims are uncivilized and rowdy people that can neither be controlled nor can their actions be predicted.
(ii) Islam may not be so bad, but Muslims, because of their ignorance and lack of practice of Islam, do not follow the good points of Islam.
(iii) Muslims don’t know how to live under the dominance of Non–Muslims and thus create disruption and turmoil.
(iv) Muslims in the Muslim world exploit religion and create nuisance and problems for their governments. They are the stooges of religious leaders who are against the times and do not want any progress.
2. Thinking of the Muslims
(i) The superpowers especially the USA and Britain are afraid of the Muslim world and want to destroy Muslims so that they don’t become a challenge to Western powers.
(ii) The West – both the leaders and the people – have double standards: one for themselves and one for their opponents. Hence, they are always prejudiced in their dealings. There is no justice prevailing in the present West.
(iii) There are no moral, ethical, social or sexual values to adhere to. The characters of the individuals, as well as the nations, of the Western people, are fast deteriorating to the extent that no true Muslim can negotiate with them.
My Future Hopes
Change in attitude: At the present time, science and technology have dominated the world order, and religion is underrated as something personal, not to be talked about in the field of administration or other systems. Hidden indications are there that science and technology are very near the zenith. Once reaching the highest point, science and technology will descend. There are further apparent indicators that the ridicule and perverse attitude against religion are rapidly minimizing. A genuine search for values has been started. Already tolerance and inter–faith dialogue among different religions have been demonstrated. The public is taking an interest in the study and erudition of different religions.
Most of the world education centers have a curriculum and books on ‘study of different religions’. It has almost become incumbent that every true follower of a particular religion and its preacher should have a particular religion and its preacher should have the knowledge of other religions as a pre-requisite.
Science and technology have realized fully their scope and limitations. Experts fully understand their domain and sphere of working. The scientist and technologists have agreed to share religious values and contributions for the betterment of humanity. Psychology, sociology and such sciences have recognized the necessity, as well as the application, of the religious experiences in worldly affairs.
All of the above comments point to the hope of a salient change in the attitude of the public. There is a positive indication of the paradigm shift from the materialistic valueless system of thinking to the values and findings of religion. Following are the main indicators of this attitude:
(a) More searching of values
(b) A more responsible mode of life
(c) Affection and brotherhood of the whole of humanity
(d) More communication among people of different ethnic communities
(e) Advancement of multi–religious multiculturalism.
Interaction among different communities of different ideologies
The search for values shall trigger many types of activities among human beings. The most important manifestation will be the relationship between man and man. The present indifference, even among neighbors, is going to vanish. Just as we are willing nowadays to study any book in order to gain knowledge, a time will come in the very near future that the exchange of words the visits at the house of each other in the neighborhood, the desire for knowing each others’ customs, traits, values, and opinions about healthy living shall increase.
The nature of meetings, seminars and conferences will change. At the moment humanity is engrossed in its own specific activities and is working in isolated and specialized spheres. This mode of controlled communication must be liberated for the sake of mutual understanding and closeness among different sections of humanity. Religions will play a dominant role in mobilizing these communities. Every religion shall take keen interest in organizing inter–faith and multicultural gatherings for exchange of ideas, exposure to various socio–religious and ethnic aspects of living.
All these interactions are going to have the following outcomes:
1. The proper bifurcation of the domains of science and religion would take place. Science will deal with the methodology and technique of the betterment of material living, while religion will frame the values and satisfy spiritual craving of human beings. Science will respect the values that will be given by religions and accepted by the public. A new era will exist with harmonious sharing between science and religion for the establishment and maintenance of a new order.
2. Real belief and a sense of brotherhood as the basic value will emerge. No one shall be inferior or superior, and no domination of a particular nation or country would prevail. No political or economic exploitation will continue. All will love and respect each other. All efforts shall be made to adjust each other’s needs and requirements.
3. The whole world will realize the existence of the one supreme Deity, though having different names and different details according to their religious and social frames. This will trigger the concept and action of servitude to that supreme Deity as well as to His creation, including human beings. Manifestations of servitude might be different, but the phenomenon of servitude will be manifested in all of the activities of human beings.
Adjustment between Islam and the West
This is my certain belief that in the coming future, the two very precious assets of human civilization, Islam and the West have to live together for the betterment of humanity. Let us first be clear in what we mean here by these two connotations. Islam represents the vehicle of spiritual uplift through the basis values of universal brotherhood and servitude to one Supreme Deity, while the West is the agency for the scientific and technological advancement. The former deals with the spiritual and value aspect and latter fulfils the material requirements of human civilization. Thus both are essential and supplementary to each other for bringing peace and comfort in the world.
The most important contribution of Islam is the simple, unambiguous, and distinct concept of the Oneness of God. Out of all of the religions and philosophies, the one hundred virtues of God, received from the Qur’an, the word of God, clearly indicate the position of One God. The position of man in relation to that one God, and to the lifestyle of human beings, are the best descriptions about God, which are simple to understand and inculcate belief.
All the confusion about the purpose of living in the world, and the goal of life can be cleared by understanding accepting the philosophy of life presented in the Qur’an. The world can accept this philosophy even without using the word of Islam, and the followers of this Weltanschauung can continue under their own denominations and groups without being named as Muslims. It is just the universal acceptance of the law of living just as the world has accepted the Laws of Gravitation, Motion, Thermodynamics etc.
The West should continue its scientific and technological endeavors for the comfort of humanity but its philosophy, strategy and methodology should be governed now by the basic values of universal brotherhood and the servitude to the One Supreme Deity. The West needs Islam for orientation and to further march in the right direction; and Islam needs the West for the material development of the whole world, and to keep people satisfied about mundane affairs.
A peculiar characteristic of modern lifestyle is the earnest search for the meaning of life. The loss of the meaning of life leads most of the Western youth negatively towards sensual gratification through sexuality or the use of drugs, and in some cases to violence and crime, partially towards the quest for new philosophies, cultures and religions. The positive aspect of this phenomenon of the search for the rediscovery of the meaning of life may lead the spiritually–sensitive and intellectually–alert youth towards balanced doctrines and the lifestyle of Islam.
An impartial and unbiased finding can conclude that for global peace, harmony and tranquility, both West and Islam need each other. The material comforts and the high standard of living brought by material development, resulting from modern science and technology, is a great asset for mankind provided it is oriented properly with the guidance of Islam and redirected towards the goal of balanced spiritual and material development. Thus, Islam is complementary to the West. Islam is the religion that can best supply clear metaphysical under loading, with detailed eschatological realities.
The three doctrines of Islam – the Oneness of God, Life–after–Death and the Guidance of God to mankind, as elucidated in the Qur’an and practiced by the Prophet (saws) and his companions (ra), if properly understood and practiced by the West shall solve the problems of humanity and evolve a lifestyle and viewpoint that would lead all Muslims and non–Muslims around the world towards global peace and tranquility.
The New World Order
Every thinker has a vision abut the future pertaining to himself, his people, his country and the world. Having a total doctrinal concept of Oneness – oneness of Allah; oneness of human kind, oneness of one world–view, my mind frames and wishes for a new world order. It is very difficult to predict the time of its accomplishment, but I am sure it will be established, perhaps sooner, towards the end of the next century, or later at the end of the next millennium. Following are the salient characteristics of the world–order for which I aspire and dream:
1. The communication and the advancement of technology is very rapidly setting the mind of the whole of humanity towards globalism. Globalism is not only a spatial region but it points to the oneness of humanity. Humanity has covered a great distance by traveling from feudalism, colonialism, nationalism, to regionalism. The nations are merging into one group mostly comprising of one region – USA, Europe, Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia Pacific. Further when we talk about a wider and more far – reaching outlook, we divide the globe into North – South, East – West. It as quite obvious now that the political divisions are losing the significance, which was paramount in the last century. Primary and secondary capital markets, stock prices and economic well–being have taken more importance than political manoeuvring. Thus, globalism is the most salient phenomenon of the new World Order.
2. The present system of passports, visa, citizenship, restrictions of immigration, uneven human density in different countries may not last long. So much advancement in management, information and communication shall take place that the present countries will form a global confederation established as the United Countries of America. Europe, Middle East, South Asia and South East Asia.
3. There will be no restriction in selecting a particular place for settlement for any human being. Any Asian will be free to live and settle in any European country, there will be no distinction between a person of East or West. There will be no supremacy of any culture or any civilization. The whole globe will have one civilization – the model civilization for the whole of humanity.
4. The world will be controlled by a Global Organization being represented by different sections of humanity on an equal basis without having domination and control of one power. In other words, the concept of superpower in political affairs will be abandoned.
5. General human well–being and socio–economic justice will be achieved by implementing the universal ideology developed by the Global Organization having consensus of all the representatives of Mankind. All forms of inequality, injustice, exploitation, oppression and wrongdoings will be eliminated by educating and asserting the righteous will of the Global Organization.
6. Interest–free monetary and banking systems will be established for a greater resort to equity financing and a more efficient organization of both primary and secondary capital markets. ‘Present stock markets with erratic movements in stock values, low rates of dividend and risk of substantial capital loss tends to make the investor lose confidence in stocks and shares. Destabilizing speculation, having forward purchase or sale of stocks on a margin without the intention of taking or making actual delivery, shall not be permitted in the New World Order.
7. The present negligence of the family institution will be removed, hence basic and extended families will be established as one of the most important components of social institution. Sexual urges will be properly channeled through marriages. Rape, divorce and pre-marriage or after–marriage sexual relations other than one’s spouse of the opposite sex shall be strictly forbidden.
8. Whatever ethical values and norms agreed upon, and declared by the Global Organization, shall be strictly implemented. Any breach shall be dealt with severely. Capital punishments will be implemented for crimes of a severe nature after use of correct preventative measures.
The present situation of taking religion non–seriously, being associated with a religion by chance of birth, shall be completely ignored. Each person shall be given the opportunity of being educated in one or more religious disciplines to choose the best that one can believe in, irrespective of the values most essential for healthy and constructive living.
Following are my most important and salient involvements in community work that were initiated by me, and are still continuing:
1. Establishment and running of Australian Islamic Mission (Jammat Daawah Islamiah): Study circle, teaching children and helping families since 1972.
2. Establishment and running of the National Organization – Australian federation of Islamic Councils – since 1976.
3. Establishment of Islamic Centers under various organizations in Sydney since 1976.
4. Propagation of Islam in Papua New Guinea since 1977.
5. Establishment and running of Islamic foundation.
6. Publication of a quarterly journal – INSIGHT – since 1986.
7. Yearly Multicultural Eid Festival and Fair since 1986.
8. Building a family home – Darul Islam – for serving as center for community work as well.
9. Publication of weekly and bimonthly newspaper – Australian Muslim Times – from 1991 to 1994. Afterward AFIC took it over and is now publishing a monthly newspaper, Islamic News.
10. Establishment of Federation of Australian Muslim Professionals (FAMP) in 1993.
Dr. Qazi Ashfaq Ahmed can be contacted at the E-mail address: email@example.com