Islamising the West…

28 07 2007

The Pope’s private secretary has given warning of the Islamisation of Europe and stressed the need for the continent’s Christian roots not to be ignored, in comments released yesterday.

“Attempts to Islamise the West cannot be denied,” Monsignor Georg Gaenswein was quoted as saying in an advance copy of the weekly Sueddeutsche Magazin …

“The danger for the identity of Europe that is connected with it should not be ignored out of a wrongly understood respectfulness,” the magazine quoted him as saying.

He also defended a speech that the Pope gave last year that linked Islam and violence, saying it had been an attempt by the pontiff to “act against a certain naivety”. Source

It got me wondering what is it about Europe which Monsignor is so worried about being ‘Islamised’ ? I often use the term ‘Islamisation’ in reference to transformation of societies in the Muslim world and their laws to be Islamically influenced. I am sure, thats not what is meant by Islamisation of Europe. So what is Islamisation?

Islamization (also spelt Islamisation, see spelling differences) or Islamification means the process of a society’s conversion to the religion of Islam, or a neologism meaning an increase in observance by an already Muslim society. The English synonyms, mohammedanisation and muslimization, in use since before 1940 (e.g., Waverly Illustrated Dictionary) convey a similar meaning. Source: Wiki

First it was the Pope who used the speech of a man dead some 700 years to voice his own thinking. Now, its his private secretary worried about the growth of Islam in a secular continent where religion has no value? Perhaps, the Pontiff and his secretary are threatened by Turkey joining the EU and the recent Muslim overwhelming election victory over the secularists. Could it be that the immense hatred and ignorance of Islam from crusader days still prevails in the church? The Pontiff did quote from 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II last year, which his secretary has endorsed sharing the same level of … I wouldn’t say ignorance. I don’t think the Pontiff or his men are ignorant. There is a pattern in the use of the buzz words like ‘Islamism’ and ‘Islamisation’ and the only group of people it concerns the most is the world leaders. This in fact.. is no surprise to me since the first ever group of people who tried to malign Islam or found it threatening were the leaders.

Anyway, there was something I did find interesting though, he said: “It has to be said that there is no such thing as Islam and it does not have a voice that is obligatory and binding to all Muslims.”

Although, some Muslims may find this offensive. I certainly do not. In fact, I believe there is some level of truth in that statement. Islam doesn’t have a voice that is obligatory and binding, not since the last Caliphate. The only thing we do have is the scriptures (Quran and Sunnah) and we are encouraged to follow those to the best of our ability. But what about the Catholics?? Is the Pope really the binding voice of Catholic Christians across the world? If he is, isn’t it ironic that the voice which is binding on them is still stuck in the 14th century and making irresponsible comments which does not suit Religious leaders. I am sure if some Muslim ‘cleric’ had said the opposite he would be picked up for ‘incitement of religious hatred’!! Nonetheless, this attitude clearly explains why the people of the West are adopting secularism, atheism, or even Islam at a growing rate. They should heed the words of this rather honest thinker and scholar:

“I have studied him the wonderful man, and in my opinion far from being an anti-christ, he must be called the saviour of humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving the problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness. Europe is beginning to be enamoured of the creed of Muhammad. In the next century it may go still further in recognizing the utility of that creed in solving its problems and it is in this sense that you must understand my prediction..”
(George Bernard Shaw)

he would not bow before Oppressors…

27 07 2007

I logged into one of my email accounts which I have not checked for a while and found someone had sent me this. It reminded of the events of Karbala and the martyrdom of Imam Al-Hussain (ra). Martyred for a just cause, against an oppressor, against evil and tyranny.

As the lal Masjid re-opened today for Salatul Jumm’ah under the government appointed Imam, the congregation, after seeing human organs and parts of Qur’an pages amidst the rubble of the desecrated mosque turned against the authorities. The people of Pakistan are resorting to desperate measures seeing no way out, as the west grooms Bhutto as the future PM along with the military dictator with serious human rights abuses hanging down his neck.

May Allah rid the people of Pakistan of this Yazid.

It can be read here

Islam in the Modern World!

27 07 2007

“The Relevance of Islam in the Modern world” is what everyone is talking about. I often find myself in the middle of discussions questioning, ‘are the Islamic traditions (shariah) relevant to the problems faced by the modern world?’ The most argued point which springs up in every discussion is the dire and rather declining situation of the Muslim world in contrast with the progressive ‘Modern’ West. One may be justified in saying that the vast majority of the Muslims are not concerned with the problems of the modern world. No doubt, part of the reason for this is that, like most of the rest of world’s inhabitants, they are uninformed and short-sighted; in any case, they have the immediate worldly and spiritual concerns of everyday life to keep them occupied. But a profoundly positive attitude can also be discerned behind this ‘lack of concern.’ To the extent that Muslims are faithful to their own heritage and partially uninfluenced by recently manufactured ideologies, they are certain of Islam’s Truth and its ability to provide them with everything that is necessary for human life and hereafter.

May I also suggest that, today many people from all religions are not sure about what their own religions teach. So many compromises have been made with the ‘Modern World’, especially in the last few decades, that the boundary between the absolute and the relative, Truth and error, Goodness and evil, Beauty and ugliness has been totally obscured. Fundamental concepts such as ‘Truth” and “Goodness” have been held up to a doubting scrutiny that many ‘believers’ of these religions no longer think they have any meaning. Modernism has been used as cover to introduce the principles of secularism into the minds of people. Secularism being the separation of life’s affair from reverence. A better definition would be the changing of religion from religion to a complete sham. Perhaps, this also answers the question, the clarity and lack of ambiguity in the basic tenets of Islam may help some people to reconsider the bases of their faith.

Anyway, in spite of the negative picture I may have drawn, the above description of most Muslims shows that the Islamic traditions are far from dead despite living in a time of immense skepticism. A time where humans rely on oft repeated ‘norms’ and ‘truths’ rather than look at the reality of our situation and the divine Truth. Skeptics may ask; how can a way of life that was implemented fourteen centuries ago be applicable today? Humans have ‘progressed’ and our lives have changed dramatically since then. Our tools of production, means of trading and modes of communication would be unrecognised by the desert Arab of the 6th Century CE.

So, what of Modernism? The utterances of illusionists are no longer ‘abracadabra’ and ‘hey presto’. The magic words are now; ‘new and improved’ and ‘best ever’. This modern, plastic disposable society is obsessed with what is new and what is modern. The spin used to sell us soft drinks is also used to sell us ideas about; life, culture, society and politics. Does new really mean better? Just because this is repeated to us over and over again ad nauseam, it does not mean that it is true. The average speed of travel in Alfa Romeo t-spark on the grid-locked streets of London is no faster than horse-back in the Middle Ages. The main differences being a stereo system and one in seven children becoming asthmatics. This example may seem flippant, but we should all be quicker to question modernity than we are to question Islam.

The complexities of human existence and communal living are bewildering. If we are to take stock of who we are and how we live, we will find that certain basics remain constant. We have certain organic needs and instincts that have never changed. The first man was in need of food, water and air to breath etc. All other human beings since have all had these necessities. Islam had various laws revealed concerning the intake of food. Because we have not done away with the need to eat those laws may still be lived by today. 20th Century living has not stopped Muslims from being mindful of Islamic dietary laws. Take for example:

“O you who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the day of Jum‘ah), hasten earnestly to the Remembrance of Allah, and leave off business (bai‘a): That is best for you if you but knew! And when the Prayer is finished, then may you disperse through the land, and seek of the Bounty of Allah: and celebrate the Praises of Allah often (and without stint): that you may prosper.” [62:9]

The law that Allah (swt) has laid down in this verse is that it is forbidden for the male mature Muslim to trade at the time of Friday prayers. The word bai‘a (trading) is explicitly mentioned. However, it is not only trading that is forbidden during this period. To be more accurate, a Muslim may not busy himself during this time. ‘Busying oneself’ is still the same today and ever since the time of the Prophet (saw). ‘Busying oneself’ has never changed and never will change. To sit and watch television is still ‘busying oneself’, to read the newspaper is still ‘busying oneself’. To cook, clean or crochet is still ‘busying oneself’. All of these are far removed from trading. Nevertheless, they are all forbidden at the time of Jum‘ah.

The principle of studying the text of Islam and finding its application today is a whole science in its own right. But it is a science that Muslims should all have conviction and confidence in. These are principles which have not changed in essence since the time of the Prophet (saw). The fine details of these things have obviously changed but the essence and hence the rule is still apt, appropriate and applicable. Allah (swt) has blessed people with intelligence and knowledge to make them capable of bringing rules from the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

What sustains the strength of the Islamic Shariah is not only the authority of government. The citizens must have belief and have confidence in Islam. This confidence and belief not only helps them in this life and the hereafter as individuals, but helps to implement Islam as a whole unit. These are the political implications of believing in Islam as a complete way of life. Muslims should naturally have the strength to participate in the dialogue concerning problems of the modern world, presenting Islam as the ideological alternative to secular Capitalism.

The philosophy that ‘new is good’ is what instills in Capitalist nations an insatiable need for ‘newness’. The principles that fuel Capitalism, are the same principles that fuel consumerism. Muslims should consider consumerism, capitalism and secular philosophy inextricably linked. Moreover, we should consider them all alien to Islam, i.e. Kufr. We may be justified in asking; how is it that these ideas become so popular amongst Muslims? We must remember that these ideas were not adopted by in the Islamic lands over-night. They were slowly injected into the Ummah in a most subtle and devious way.

Age is just a number!

24 07 2007

In our house, we don’t celebrate Birthdays.  Our main celebrations are the Islamic festivals and our achievements- academic or else. We have a large and rather growing family, which means there is always someone graduating, passing their exams, getting into college, getting a new job or memorising the Qur’an, going Hajj or even getting married.. all year round.

In the past 23 years of my life, I’ve never contemplated or given thought to my Birth day going by as if it has no significance.  July has always been a very stressful month for me for the past decade… being the month of exams/courseworks/deadlines probably kept me pretty occupied.. to give my own birth day a significance!

Yesterday, I turned 24, and for the first time in my life it hit me. What does it mean? I am unable to find  a perspective on it. Is it a happy or sad day? Is it just numbers or does it have any significance? My head goes blank and can’t seem to formulate any views except thanking my Rabb for allowing me to be who I am.

alhamdulillahi Rabil Alameen. (All praise be to Allah).

The equality of sexes debate.

22 07 2007

There is a great debate going on about equality of sexes in Islam. The question being raised is whether Islam gives women an inferior position or a position which would allow them to excel equally in society?

What I find interesting though, is that the critical investigation is based around study of interpretation of law which is reality specific or certain text viewed in isolation. Furthermore, the premise of measuring this equality is the late twentieth century Western phenomenon of ‘have-it-all-woman’. This woman is the very embodiment of success, happiness and tranquillity. She has managed to excel in her career, satisfied every whim and desire of her husband whilst bringing up balanced well mannered and well educated offspring. However, behind the powerful figure of an Armani suited women with Gucci briefcase on one arm and a baby tucked under the other, often lies a tale of the oppression of another woman. Domestic servitude has only been escaped by passing it down to another group of oppressed women. Hundreds of low-paid women, in America most of them foreign, have taken up the domestic duties along with the dirty washing, discarded by professional women who have fled the home for the workplace. Liberation for female high-fliers is only possible because battalions of unseen, unheard women care for their children, clean their homes and cook their meals.

I have started reading a very interesting book, “Global Women: nannies maids and sex workers in the new economy” by Ehrenreich and Hochschild, which outlines several case studies of household workers. The Western Capitalism which they hearkin to, has exploited every last drop of blood of the poor and weak. Now even a mother’s love is subject to free market forces. A climate has been created of a long-hours culture in which women cannot compete and still be mothers. So in the post feminism period it is acceptable for some other woman to be exploited. The modern liberated ‘have-it-all’ has it all at the expense of another. ‘The Politics of Prostitution: Women’s Movements, Democratic States and the Globalisation of Sex Commerce’ by Joyce Outshoorn, is another eye opener and a good survey of the current feminists lexicon and their dilemmas.

The correct method of ‘Islam and Equality’ investigation should entail a deep study of reality of the subject (nature of men and women) followed by exertion of Islamic text to conclude whether Islam addresses these natrual tendencies.

Islam has addressed people, men and women alike, in their quality as human beings; Allah (swt) says:

“Say O you people I verily am the Messenger of Allah sent to you all.” [7:158].

Allah (swt) also says:
“Fasting has been prescribed upon you.” [2:182]

And Allah (swt) also says:
“And do establish prayer and perform Zakat.” [2:182]

These verses represent general addresses, and this indicates that the Islamic Shari’ah has been revealed to the human being, man and woman alike, this generality remains in effect as long as there are no evidences to specify it. There are however some Shari’ah rules which specifically address women such as the exemption from prayer during menstruation (Haydh) and parturition (Nifas), and not having to complete the abandoned prayers once the cycle ends; and also such as stating that the testimony of one single woman would be sufficient in matters where only women can have access to, for instance the attestation of virginity and breast feeding. Some rules have also addressed men exclusively, such as the obligation of the Friday prayer upon them, and its desirability (Mandub) for women. Allah (swt) says:

“And of everything We have created pairs. That you may receive instruction.” [51:49]

These differences in the rules and duties between the man and the woman do not necessarily mean that one party is favoured at the expense of the other, they are opposite parties, each one of them has been gifted with a mind, instincts and organic needs, each one of them has the ability to affect and be affected, to teach and to be taught, culture and to be cultured, Allah (swt) says:

“He has taught him speech (and intelligence)” [55:4]

Allah (swt) has created each one in a particular shape and with a particular organic function; the man is different from the woman in his shape, form and some organs. This difference necessitates that each one should have a different role in life from the opposite sex in certain areas. This is why Allah (swt) has decreed certain Shari’ah rules designed specifically for each one of them, placing the woman in her natural role which would mean that she is a mother, or a sister, an aunt, a daughter, or a wife, in each being an honour that should be protected. He (swt) also placed the man in his natural role which would mean that he could be a husband, a father, a brother, a son or a cousin etc..

It is worth mentioning that the way Islam views men and women is purely human i.e. it views them in their quality as human beings addressed by Shari’ah, and this is contrary to the degrading manner in which the West views them, i.e. as being a male and a female who need to satisfy their sexual desires without any system designed by the One Who created this human being in the first instance. If this Creator were not taken into consideration it would lead to the suffering of the human being.

It is also worth noting that the word Insan (meaning human) in the Arabic language is completely independent from the words man or woman, by contrast in English the word is always connected to man, so is the case with the words male and female; despite this the West arrogantly accuses Islam of denying the woman her rights, whereas in fact it violates the rights of the human beings both men and women alike.

14th Century blunder!!

19 07 2007

For the worst of beasts in the sight of Allah are the deaf and the dumb― those who understand not.(Quran 8:22)

It is significant that the desire to create an alternative world, to modify or augment the real world through the act of writing is inimical to the Islamic worldview. The Prophet of Islam (saw) is he who has completed a world-view; thus the word heresy in Arabic is synonymous with the verb ‘to innovate’ or ‘to begin’. Islam views the world as a plenum (full), capable of neither diminishment nor amplification.” Thus Edward Said rationalises the absence of the novel in Arabic literature, in his book Beginnings, intention & method. Said considered novels to be – among other things – “aesthetic objects that fill gaps in an incomplete world”. And according to him, Arabic stories like those in the Arabian nights are merely “ornamental, variations on the world, not completions of it; neither are they… designed to illustrate… ways in which the world can be viewed and changed”.

The Arabic word for ‘beginning’ is al ibitida; for ‘innovation’ is al ibtidaa or al bidaa; and for ‘heretic’ is al mubtadiaa. Many Muslim thinkers agree with Said’s etymological explanation. But can one extend Said’s argument from literature to science, and draw a similar conclusion: that the desire to create an alternative world, to modify or augment the real world through scientific innovation is against the Islamic worldview? On the contrary, the common view is that, Islam emphasises the acquisition of ilm (‘knowledge’) and there is no conflict in the acquisition of new (novel) knowledge and the practice of Islam.

Speaker at a panel discussion on ‘What is holding back science in Muslim countries’, however, has a different opinion. “You are urged to acquire knowledge. Not to create it,” he says. He reasons that Muslims are asked to discover knowledge that is already there, in the Book. They are not urged to create new knowledge outside the Book. Like Said, this speaker refers to Islam’s completed worldview, and uses it to rationalise the absence of a tradition of innovative science.

To these thinkers, though, the distinction between discovery and creation of knowledge is cosmetic. For them, one creates knowledge in that one brings it from unknowing to knowing. One discovers it in the sense that all knowledge belongs to Allah. A secular scientist of my acquaintance uses a similar explanation: knowledge lies in nature; we create models to understand nature; models are creations of the human mind, which in turn is a creation of nature. So one could argue that the mind is actually acquiring knowledge, not creating it from nothing. The two words – acquiring and creating – become mere word play, or a difference in outlook.

So if creating and discovering knowledge come to the same thing, where lies the problem with science and learning in the Muslim world? Perhaps it’s in the method and scope of enquiry that is permitted and encouraged. In an ideal Islamic polity, life is mediated by scripture – the Quran, Sunnah and Hadith, where Sunnah is the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad’s (saw) life, and the Hadith are his narrations and approvals. Muslim life is informed by these sources; no action or information can depart from their prescriptions, everything must subscribe to the perfect worldview in the Quran.

So the critical issue for Muslims is not whether the scriptures ought to be interpreted literally or metaphorically, but whether they allow other worldviews that explain the nature and functioning of the universe. In other words, do they allow exploration beyond the worldview of the Quran?

Today most Muslim countries are far from the world view of the Quran, they enforce a limiting orthodoxy, yet this was not always the case with Muslims. During the heyday of Islam, in the 7-13th centuries AD, the principles of Islamic scriptures were a subject of debate by Muslim thinkers, Ijtihad was a common practice, and the political stability allowed intellectual elevation. In this time Muslims were the main innovators of science, philosophy and medicine in the world. At such crucial time an erroneous decision was made to close the doors of Ijtihad and debate in order for the one particular orthodox view to prevail, without realising the impact. With this, much of the Arab world’s innovation in science and technology came to an end. They generated a fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) based on taqlid (imitation), suppressing the stress on ijtihad -which allowed open inquiry, and other views whether erroneous or valid . They did not reject ijtihad amongst the learned, but they discouraged its application by the public. The loss of the application of ijtihad in law indirectly led to its ebb from philosophy and science. Most historians now think that this caused Muslim societies to stagnate, of which the symbolic moment came in 1492, with the final fall of Muslim Spain.

The regression of Muslim intellectual life continues unabated. Where they lost, the West gained. From current situation, it is clear that the West stands as the dominant power. From the onset of Capitalism, the West experienced the Renaissance and Enlightenment, a period of tremendous scientific and intellectual growth, which culminated in the Industrial Revolution. Similarly, what is often overlooked is that, under the Islamic civilization when Islam was implemented as a system of life and the Shariah was the dominant system, science and technology flourished. This progress came as a result of the ability of the Muslims to understand the relationship between science and Islam. Nowadays, this relationship has been misunderstood because the the term ”science” has become synonymous with progress and advancement, whereas religion is viewed as something backward that stifles progress and is counterproductive to reasoning. In order to promote the idea of Secularism among the masses, the West is attempting to sell the idea that science and knowledge are one and the same, that intellect/knowledge and religion exist in two mutually exclusive spheres, and that scientific and technological progress is a direct result of the Western Capitalist ideology.

It was reported in a hadith that a group of people came to the Prophet (saw) asking him about the pollination of dates. He instructed them not to pollinate the date palms themselves since the wind may carry the seeds. That year there was no harvest; they informed him of this, and he told them, ‘‘You know best regarding your worldly affairs,” referring to scientific research. Also, Imam Muslim reported that the Prophet (saaw) said:

”I am a human being like you, but I receive the revelation. If I instructed you on something related to the Deen, then take it, but if I instructed you on something related to your worldly affairs, then you know best.”

Islam clearly distinguished between the scope of science and technology, which is the lab and the physical universe, and the scope of the Deen, which is the life affairs and the systems governing the relationships and issues that human beings are confronted with. In spite of this distinction, there are so many so called Islamic “Scholars” issuing fatwas on scientific issues based on their understanding of some ayahs and hadiths, such as the rotation and shape of the earth, the atom, the fetus and its development, and many other scientific issues. In addition, many Muslims are busy digging into the Qur’an and the Sunnah for a cure for cancer or diabetes rather than conducting the necessary research in the lab. The problem with such an approach is that those scientific fatwas may become part of the Deen itself, the way it happened with the Church during the European Middle Ages. Such a trend could lead either to not accepting any scientific theory or conclusion unless a fatwa exists supporting it, or a potential conflict between the Deen and science if the scientific research proves the error in any fatwa.

Hundreds of years ago Muslims opted to follow the orthodox teachings based on Taqleed over Ijtihad. Is it now time to review unproductive choices? To reinstate ijtihad over taqleed, and encourage ‘free’ intellectual transgressions over forced containment?