There was a time when Islamic civilization was considered to be the most advanced, tolerant, highly developed and progressive civilization in the world. Muslims with the result that today occupy the lowest position on the ladder of the global world. They are educationally backward, scientifically marginal, politically insignificant and economically poor. This is the present status of the entire Ummah amongst the comity of nations. Allah says:
وَمَا تَفَرَّقَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَتْهُمُ الْبَيِّنَةُ
“And not became divided those who were given the Book, until from after what came (to) them (of) the clear evidence.” (Surah Al-Baiyinah 98:4)
Islam completes the long chain of guidance from God to humanity. Islam today is facing challenges from within and from the wider world. The critical problems are the fundamental tensions within Islam. Our image is tarnished by unfair stereotypes. In reality, these troubles have nothing to do with Islam. These are not problems that are exclusively in the domain of Muslims. The attitudes and criticisms common in the outside world can be ignored as misguided or hostile. Allah says:
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ ٱلْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِٱللَّهِ ۗ وَلَوْ ءَامَنَ أَهْلُ ٱلْكِتَبِ لَكَانَ خَيْرًۭا لَّهُم ۚ مِّنْهُمُ ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ
“You are the best nation [ever] brought forth for mankind: you bid what is right and forbid what is wrong, and have faith in Allah. And if the People of the Book had believed, it would have been better for them. Among them [some] are faithful, but most of them are transgressors”. (Surah Ali Imran 3:110)
Islam is a religion of peace, love, and unity that’s why it emphasises mutual understanding, love, and respect for each other. Muslims today are facing some of the most critical challenges to their well-being and to their place in the global order. All Muslims must know the value and importance of unity among Muslims around the world. Allah says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ تُقَاتِهِ وَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ
“O you who believe[d]! Consciously revere Allah (as is His) right (that) He (should) be revered and (do) not die except [while you] (as) those-who-submit/Muslims.” (Surah Al-Imran 3:102)
Unity is primitive to Islam so it should be to Muslims as well. Unity among all Muslims must follow two things: Quranic teachings and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). All Muslims know the value and importance of uniting Muslims around the world. Islam means complete submission to the will of Allah. Delivering long and long speeches about the Unity of Muslim Ummah does not tire our leaders, Imams and scholars.
Some of the major reasons that Islam has for the Muslim Ummah:
- Islam is referred to as the symbol of the Islamic religion itself
- Islam is nothing short of a miracle and a revolution
- Islam strikes a balance between the two extremes
- Islam is a beholder of the true colours and joys of life
- Islam does not differentiate between Muslims
- Islam is strictly against all kinds of crimes
- Islam, as a religion, graced humanity
- Islam is the complete code of life
- Islam wants followers to be fair
- Islam’s condemnation of bribery
- Muslims have ruled half of the world
- Muslim’s decline is their lack of unity
- Muslims forgot the true preaching of Islam
- Muslims are a single nation all over the world
- Muslims have to see beyond the general notion
- Muslims to be just and fair in their dealings
- Muslims started differentiating from one another
- Muslims do not consider part of a single nation today
- Muslims do not consider other Muslims as brothers
- Muslims are in such a place is they lack Islamic knowledge
- Muslims have ignored the importance of worldly education
- Muslims can follow Islam and its instructions without any doubt
Development investment in Muslim countries is slow simply because the more extremist agitations put investors off. Despite the ideals promoting an equitable and productive material life, the overwhelming majority of Muslims experience living standards that are hardly enviable by any standard. Economic frustration and unequal opportunities are fertile breeding grounds for dissent and protest. Equally important is the failure of most Muslim governments to confront the demands of general education.
The Muslim world today
- Lack of Unity: We must admit that many of these problems arise due to our weaknesses. And much of our weakness stems from the fact that our unity is so fragile and all too easily fragmented. As such, it should not be blamed for our failings, but instead, we should reproach ourselves for not successfully understanding its teachings and its messages.
- Information and Globalisation: The Muslims, by and large, are not behaving as true representatives of Islam, individually or collectively.
- Utilization of Resources: Indeed, some of us are rich and affluent. Yet poverty and other forms of deprivation are also an extensive and unfortunate part of the Muslim landscape.
- High Illiteracy Rates: Islam emphasizes the pursuit of knowledge. Even many of those who are educated suffer from unemployment and indignity.
- Weak Democracies: It is under these political and socio-economic conditions when peaceful and democratic means for redress are limited, that the Muslim youth are vulnerable to succumbing to extremist ideas. Once they start nurturing extremist ideas, they become easy recruits.
- Restoration of Muslim Image: The challenge before the Muslim World today is to confront the ugly realities of our present situation and restore the image of Muslims and Islam. We must strive for a renaissance of Islamic civilization. We must recover the hallmarks of that civilization, namely peace, prosperity and dignity.
- Lack of Peace and Stability: Our first prerequisite will have to be peace and stability. We cannot prosper or live in dignity without peace. The peace and stability we seek cannot be imposed by the barrel of a gun.
- Protection of Ethnic Minorities: The peace we seek must be built on the trust and confidence of our people.
- Poverty Eradication: For the Muslim world to truly uplift itself, we must concentrate on capacity building. The Ummah must be equipped with the tools to succeed. We should grasp every opportunity to exchange experiences amongst ourselves in areas concerning poverty eradication, development and economic growth.
- Disinterest in Scientific Knowledge: The future of Muslims and Islam however, ultimately lies in working with others for mutual enrichment, not in conflict with them.
- Lack of Mutual Cooperation: The more fortunate among us that are politically stable and economically viable must nevertheless tend to out deficits, be they political, economic or social. We need in particular to improve governance in every sphere.
مِنَ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا كُلُّ حِزْبٍ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ
“Of those who divide their religion and become sects, each party in what they have rejoiced.” (Surah Ar-Rum 30:32)
Islam is a partial view of things to be complemented by some modern ideology rather than as a complete system and perspective in itself. The only way the anti-Islam forces could weaken the unity of Muslim Ummah was to use and nourish some of the Muslims within the Muslim community who could divide the Muslims. Allah says:
إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
“Only the believers (are) brothers, so make peace between your brothers, you consciously revere (Allah) and fear Allah so that you may receive mercy.” (Surah Al-Hujurat 49:10)
Political Islam is under a challenge from its own rhetoric and message to be self-critical: to live up to its own standards; to live up to the principles it espouses and demands of others; to avoid and denounce excesses committed by governments and movements that identify themselves as Islamic; to take or share responsibility for the failures of Muslim societies, and not simply to blame the West for all the problems. Allah says:
وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى الْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ
“And let there be among you [a] people inviting to the good [and] enjoining the right and forbidding from the wrong, and those – they (are) the successful ones.” (Surah Al-Imran 3:104)
There are certain forces and parties that deliberately push a sectarian agenda in order to divide Muslims. This is done to keep Muslims busy in endless conflict among themselves while their enemies sit comfortably watching Muslims shed each other’s blood. Islam has preserved the central position of moral values as the defining characteristic of human society. Allah says:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَرَّقُوا دِينَهُمْ وَكَانُوا شِيَعًا لَّسْتَ مِنْهُمْ فِي شَيْءٍ إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُمْ إِلَى اللَّهِ ثُمَّ يُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَفْعَلُونَ
‘Indeed, those who divide their religion and become sects, you are not with them in anything. Only their affair (is) with Allah, then He will inform them of what they used to do.” (Surah Al-An`am 6:159)
The West has to understand Islam; not because Islam is the next great threat, but because Islam contains so many ideas and moral values that the West, for all its rampant secularism, still shares. The West must also recognise the diversity of Muslim experiences across the world. Muslim societies do not only suffer from ‘Islamic’ problems; they suffer the same problems long familiar in the West: political, economic, ecological, social and moral development.
Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran:
- “And say: ‘My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” (Quran 20:114)
- “Do no evil nor mischief on the (face of the) earth.” (Quran 2:60)
- “Did you see how Allah created seven heavens, one above the other, and made in them the moon a light and the sun a lamp?” (Quran, 71: 15-16)
- “Give of the good things which ye have (honourably) earned, and of the fruits of the earth which We have produced for you.” (Quran 2:267)
- “When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him.” (Quran15:29)
- “Give full measure when you measure and weigh with an even balance. That is the best (way) and best in the result.” (Quran17:35)
- “Eat of the good things that We have provided for you, and be grateful to God, if it is Him ye worship.” (Quran 2:172)
The Muslim Ummah has no option but to move towards greater cooperation, unity and collective self-reliance. Regional groupings, trade and financial arrangements, educational and technological alliances, and political co-ordinations are stepping stones to a global order that is more balanced and just, and that represents a fair state of equilibrium between different nations, socio-political systems and civilizations. Allah says:
وَقَالَت طَّائِفَةٌ مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ آمِنُوا بِالَّذِي أُنزِلَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَجْهَ النَّهَارِ وَاكْفُرُوا آخِرَهُ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ
“A faction of the People of the Book say to each other: Belief in that which was revealed to the believers at the beginning of the day and reject it at its end that perhaps they will abandon their religion.” (Surah Ali Imran 3:72)
Muslim unity could be an effective guarantee against the decimation of Muslim countries and the eclipse of their civilizational identity in the face of the onslaught of unmanaged globalization. Muslims should not be merely at the receiving end; they must plan and prepare themselves to play a positive role both to protect their identity and interests and to make the world a better place for all. Allah says:
فَتَقَطَّعُوا أَمْرَهُم بَيْنَهُمْ زُبُرًا كُلُّ حِزْبٍ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ
“But they cut off their affair (of unity) between them (into) sects, each faction in what they have rejoiced.” (Surah Al-Muminun 23:53)
Muslims must focus on education, technology, science, moral and spiritual values, and economic and political stability in Muslim countries. Muslims must realize that emotional outbursts and thoughtless confrontation are no answers to the multidimensional challenges the Ummah faces today. In fact, as an Ummah with a mission, the right course of action for Muslims is dialogue, contact, participation, and cooperation at the global level.