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.

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15 responses

29 07 2007
Bubbles

Well articulated. I want to kiss your brain! hehe… MashaAllah. 🙂

Modernism is the newest religion. Everything and everyone seems to be gravitating towards it and if you’re not giddy about it then there’s something seriously wrong, as perceived by the world.

Muslims are loosing faith in their religion. Many of them are compromising thinking there must be something wrong with Islam and the Muslim world at large. I must confess, I once thought so too. Back when I was ignorant and impresionable and wondered, like everyone else why Muslims are backward despite the multifacedness of their reliigon. Then I realized most of the problems faced today were solved by Islam centuries ago. That was when I stopped asking if Islam is compatible with the moderm world rather what the modern world has to offer Islam. Internert for one.. now Muslims can have sites/blogs that educate, bring the ummah together and shed more light on the religion itself.

28 05 2012
Kabir Abdullah

Thank GOD for your wonderful undertanding about islam and the modern world.

30 07 2007
Tia

Dear Bubble, Thanks for reading and your kind comments.

People are too quick to Question Islam but not as quick to question modernity.

i agree with your comments, furthermore I believe one of the main causes of our decline is the lack of Arabic language (classical/Fusha), its rules, grammer etc. Most Muslims today do not understand Arabic, therefore they cannot see the applicability of Islam as they are unable to deduce laws directly from Quran and Sunnah rather than having to rely on secondary sources, interpretations and imitation.

Your example of Internet is a very good one, but it also made me realise the level of confusion that exist within Muslims regarding the question of Islam and modernity because it has effected not just ordinary Muslims but also some scholars. Some scholars today give erroneous and misleading fatwas classifying technology such as tv to be haraam.

9 07 2008
Talha

Assalam-o-Alaikum.

Article is a good one and quite factitious.

Islam is no doubt the most complete and the most natural religion. The reason that people think wrong of ISLAM as that they are too fond of artificiality.
The problems we are facing are because we are away from the teachings of ISLAM and are not fulfiling our duties. We are an entirely different nation and our way of prosperity is also an entirely different way i.e. following the teachings of ISLAM as they are without any hesitation and with firm belief and for this we’ll have to keep on refreshing our belief by speaking and spreading and sharing the “Words of Belief” among each other.

As far as deducing laws from Quran and sunnah by ourselves can be dangerous. There are 14 – 15 different courses you have to specialize in before you are authorized to do that. Still learning Arabic is a good option and we should learn Arabic besides other languages as well so that while reading Quran we are able to understand it. But keep in mind understanding and deducing laws are entirely different. I admire Tia’s wish but there’s a lot in Quran that cannot be understood without specializing those 15 subjects. Otherwise everyone would start giving FATWAs.

6 09 2010
hamza sulaiman

Salam,
I was searching for the connection of Islam and the modern world to educate my fellow non-muslim friends. I wanted so much to allow them see how the relevancy of Islam in today and future world. This article would be of great help.
Muslim today has lost its path of the Islamic fundamental.

19 12 2010
Dr. MIH Farooqi

For favour of valued comments pl
Iqtedar Farooqi, Lucknow, +919839901066

Growth of Muslim Population –
No case of Rejoicing

Dr. M.I.H. Farooqi
(Dr. M. Iqtedar Husain Farooqi)
Retd. Scientist, NBRI, & Secretary, Sir Syed Scientific Society, Lucknow
C / 3-2 Shahid Apartments, Golaganj, Lucknow – 18
Tel.: +91522-2610683, Mobile: +919839901066
Email: mihfarooqi@gmail.com

(Published in Chronicle, Milli Gazette, Radiance, Yemen Times, Crescent Times (Australia), Sabrang, CounterCurrents, BNET, MyNews.com, JUST, ISLAMOPEDIA, Patna Daily , Pakistan Voice, New World News, OURBEACON, Morocco News, IndiaVision, Indian Muslim Observer, Ebookee etc )

According to a recent report from US-based Pew Research Center, there are 1 billion 570 million Muslims living in the world today, and thus every fourth person on this earth is a Muslim. Is this report a good reason for rejoicing? I do not think so. On the contrary Muslim should do some exercise for self appraisal after this report. Why with 25 percent (1.5 Billion) in this world they are scientifically and technologically backward, politically marginalized and economically poor. Why their share of World GDP (60 trillion dollars) is hardly 3 trillion dollars which is less than the GDP of France (Population 70 Millions), about half of the GDP of Japan (Population 120 Millions) and one fifth of GDP of U.S. (Population 300 Millions). It is important to know that Christians constitute about 35% of the world population but control nearly 70% of the World’s wealth.
In case of Human Development Index too, ranking of Muslim countries, with the exception of some Oil producing Arab countries, is very low. In scientific field record of Muslim nations is dismal. Hardly five hundred Science Ph.D’s.are produced every year. This number is three thousand in U.K. alone. Out of the five hundred and odd Nobel Prizes in Science from 1901 to 2008, Jews, who are 0.2 per cent of the World population, got around 140 Prizes (25%) as against only one to a Muslim (the other one being declared non-Muslim by Pakistan), which is about 0.2% of the total Awards. What a sad commentary for Muslims as far as scientific achievements are concerned. Another disheartening report has appeared recently from Shanghai University which has listed top four hundred World Universities with high standard of teaching and research. None from the Islamic World finds a place in the list. This is really painful situation, particularly when compared with period of shining Islamic Civilization of middle Ages (7th to 16th Century.) when all the standard universities were situated in the Islamic cities of Cordoba, Baghdad, Cairo etc.
Well known Science Historian Gillespie has recorded around 130 names of scientists and technologists who made great impact during middle ages. Out of this number 120 scientists belonged to Islamic world and only four from Europe. Is this not enough reason for Muslims to know their past critically, asses the present honestly and determine the future rationally.

I can add little more information (based on reports from several Agencies),not a happy one, about the so-called numerical strength of Muslims in coming years. With the present birth rate, Muslim population will be doubled in next 50 years. i.e. it would be around 3 millions. In that scenario Muslims will surpass the Christian population which stands today at about 2.3 billion but will only be doubled in 500 years. Once again that situation will not be good either for Muslims because with the present economic conditions prevailing in the Muslim World and the backwardness they are experiencing today, their growth in terms of population may still aggravates the economic problems instead of solving it. Doubling the population in next fifty years may still increase the economic gap between Muslims and Christians nations. Who will dominate the World thus in this century or the next century? Muslims with 5% of global wealth or Christians with 70% of world economic power. Muslims must understand that numerical strength of any nation or a country does not guarantee respect and dominance in the present day scientifically advanced world. It is only scientific knowledge which matters and which brings respect, power and wealth. There are many examples which prove the futility of higher population with lower economic and military power. For instance, powerful (economically, militarily, scientifically) small Jew community of Israel is considered a perpetual threat to a very large population (technologically backward) of Arab countries who feel rightly defeated and cheated. Another glaring example is of those small numbers of Muslims who are living in the West and but are happy with their economic prosperity whereas in many Muslim majority countries with large population, they are experiencing hardship of various kinds. Gross Domestic product of about 20 million Muslims living in Europe is higher than the entire Muslim population of Indian subcontinent which is around 500 million
Nissim Hasan, an Islamic Scholar of repute, has observed that “Diminishing Muslim vision of knowledge is singularly responsible for the decline of economic and political power of the Islamic civilization. We have failed now for centuries to become leaders of humanity. We have surrendered our vision, our faith and our reason to deadwoods”. Mahathir Mohammad (Former P.M., Malaysia) has rightly advised Muslims “to give up their illogical beliefs and regressing thoughts and be prepared to face the challenges of the fast changing social order (OIC Conference, Kuala Lumpur).
It is important to note that during their Rule of Spain (8th century Ad to 14th century A.D.), Muslim dominated the entire Europe as the Muslim Spain was hub of scientific activity and its earnings were higher than the earning of entire Europe. Today situation has changed topsy turvy. Today DGP of Christian Spain is higher than that of combined 12 Oil Producing Muslim Countries. It was not Spain alone that was a highly developed country in the Islamic World during Middle Ages, but all the regions and cities under Islamic Rule such as Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, Tripoli etc were humming with scientific activities. Islamic Society all over the world was considered to be highly developed scientifically, intellectually, culturally and economically. In contrast, as described by Donald Cambell- (Surgeon- France) “When Science flourished in the Islamic World, Europe was on dark ages and evils of pedantry, bigotry, cruelty, charms, amulets and relics were common there”(Muslim Medicine). It is important to note that during the Rise of Islam, world population of Muslims was hardly ten percent.
According to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the great Visionary of India, this situation “started changing after sixteenth century when Muslim Society stagnated and followed the lifestyle of Europeans of Dark Ages. On the other hand Europeans (Christians) turned towards progressive thinking and scientific pursuits of Muslims” (Letters of Azad). Result was obvious. Muslim Society which dominated the World for about eight hundred years in all respect of human activity, started declining in their intellectual vitality, and were ultimately dominated by the Emerging Power of Europe. In this connection, observations of Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi, great Thinker of Islam, are very relevant and valid when he explains “After sixteenth century Muslims lost the interest in Enquiry and Physical Sciences and engaged themselves more in Metaphysical Sciences with the result they could not produce great men of knowledge (genius). Muslims forgot their own scientific thinking and followed only traditional knowledge. They, therefore, lagged behind in Science and Technology and thus became slaves of the West”. (Islam & the West).
Sometime back political scientist Samuel P. Huntington
expressed his view that the recent conflict between the West and the Muslim World is actually a Clash of Civilization. This is an absolute nonsense. In fact it is a clash between the rich and poor. Rich nations are dictating their terms and poor nations are subjected to exploitation and humiliations.
Poor nations, Muslims or non-Muslims, should understand that their survival depends entirely on global peace and their unnecessary conflict with the rich nations, particularly in the name of religion, will only land them into greater trouble and distress. Muslims can only regain their past glory, if they adopt scientific renaissance similar to European renaissance, more vigorously and faster than done by Europe. But before this is done, Muslims have to condemn and reject forces of extremism and promote true Islamic values of tolerance and moderation. Hatred of the West will do no good to Muslims. This will only lead to their greater miseries. Hating the West but taking pride in getting Visas or Green Cards for living in the West is nothing short of hypocrisy and duplicity.

Some Distinguished Rulers of Arab world in general and Saudi Arab King Abdullah in particular must be congratulated and supported for their recent initiative of interfaith dialogues and understanding between all the Faiths of the World. In a recently held Interfaith Conference, King Abdullah rightly observed that” Islam must do away with the dangers of extremism to present the religion’s “good message”. We must tell the whole world that we are a voice of justice and values and humanity, and we are a voice of coexistence. Islamic world faces difficult challenges from the extremism of some Muslims, whose aggressions target the magnanimity, fairness and lofty aims of Islam”. Establishment of Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue (DCID) at Qatar Capital to foster better understanding among followers of the different faiths for the cause of World Peace and Peaceful Coexistence, is a highly laudable step by Arab Rulers.

Muslims do not need empty slogans and misplaced religious fervour. It is time to interact with the West as responsible nations. They must welcome Barrack Obama’s Cairo Speech which invites Muslims to join hands with the West for Global Peace and Prosperity. Obama’s initiatives should be supported, his hands strengthened so that he succeeds in his stupendous task of unity of all faiths for the cause of better Understanding and Peace on highly charged and disturbed Earth. President Hosni Mubarak has rightly observed that “Islamic civilization respects all the mankind and this must be made clear to the whole world, not by words, but rather by deeds and conduct.”

It is high time that close contact and cooperation is established between Nobel Peace Prize Winner Obama and Muslim Nations in general and Arab Countries in particular. This will greatly help in weakening the Anti-Islamic Forces of the West, which have, no doubt, existed there, in some form and strength, since the period of Crusades.

Published in several Newspapers of India and abroad. Some of the comments received by Email are as follows:

1. Dear Dr Farooqi
..thought provoking article.. right that the increase in global population could add to our misery unless remedial measures are taken..
Saiyid Hamid,

Chancellor, Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi

2. Soul searching article . To get respect from others we must respect ourselves first . How to do that ? Simply follow the set theory
Syed Ali Khizir Imam
2009.11.09 POBOX – 35, Al – Wajh , Saudi Arabia

3. Dear Dr. Farooqi,
You lament the loss of the scientific influence of the Iberian Muslim state, being a repository of the scientific knowledge in the Dark Ages.
My understanding that the abysmal state of European science at the time was the result of the aggressive and domineering Catholic Church policy of inquisition and total absence of the civic society in Europe – no civil rights, no independence of courts, no separation of the state and a religion. Isn’t it true that the same conditions are prevailing in the Arab/Muslim world today? Otherwise, I enjoyed reading your insightful article and hope to see more like it in the future.
Dr. Michael Galak, , U.S. Oct 29, 200
4. Yes sir — we must concentrate on education and research, not on increasing the numbers of poor and uneducated to get respect in todays world
Khalid Ashraf, U.S.

5. Thank you, for bringing these dismal facts to our attention. In my humble opinion, the only solution is that Islamic countries should make it a priority to EDUCATE, EDUCATE, EDUCATE, their people. And, of course, this is what our beloved Prophet SAW had advised.

Dr. Hamid Abdul Hai
President, WCMIR
(World Council of Muslims for Inter-religious Relations)U.S.A.,
6. Dear Dr. Farooqi
First, I would like to thanks for sharing such a complete and true observation in the Daily. I read your thirteen paragraph long article without distraction. Love, Harmony, Respect, Science, Tolerance, Politics, Discipline, Defense, Punctuality are just few of the thing that Islam teaches us.
We have enough of good minds but what they are doing for better tomorrow. How I can contribute to make our society a better place to live. Where to start. –
Shahid Raza
– Nov. 24, 2009, Patna

(The Article is one of the Chapters of recently published Book entitled “ MUSLIM SOCIETIES – RISE and FALL authored by Dr. MIH Farooqi & PREFACE by Saiyid Hamid, Chancellor, Hamdard University, New Delhi) For Favour of publication
(Issued by Sir Syed Scientific Society, Lucknow.. Dr. M.I.H. Farooqi (mihfarooqi@gmail.com), Secretary of the Society, is the author of PLANTS OF QURAN (7th Ed 2008) & MEDICINAL PLANTS IN PROPHETIC TRADITIONS (3rd Ed 2010)

Pl see attached leaflet of MUSLIM SOCIETIES – RISE & FALL —- PLANTS OF QURAN

3 02 2011
Faizi Adil

True indeed that the growth of Muslim Population is not a case of rejoicing.

18 04 2011
Aamir

The fact that these questions have come up is evidence that faith has been lost. The game is capitalism. It’s rigged, unfair and silly. Stand by your faith and refuse to play. If that means being poor because of our value system, so be it. Spend all our time with the Quran, and stop being concerned with the “modern” world which is no more than mirrors and lies.

20 06 2011
Iman

Islam is ofcourse the truest religion. I think there is many misinterpritations of Islam now a days therefore this leads into the western countries taking over the minds of people. A lot of Muslims are moving to westernised countries because of work etc and sometimes this can confuse the minds of a person and make their thinking go slightly out of the right path. I know this as i live in the UK and many times lost track and been misguided but alhamdullilah for the Quran. The problems we face today is the lack of enthusiasm and commitment to both the religion and the faith.

20 10 2011
tabetha

it is not always like that. Maybe you could try studying another religion just researching it. i have to do that right now. it is kind of interesting to learn about another persons religion.

20 10 2011
tabetha

how do you know Islam is the truest religion?

19 02 2012
Hanan

@ tabetha:
i m here to ive u an ansr… its simple… we have our holy book… QURAN.. its simple and obvious …. all the aspects about which QURAN told us 1500 years ago.. todays science is proving it now after 1500 years.. amazing !! SUBHANALLAH …. we always say that our science is very advanced.. but why modern science is taking help from our HOLY bOOK… bcz its a complete religion … i can give u a simple and shortest example … ISLAM in our holy BOOK told us to always drink water while siiting .. dont drink it while standing… do u know y ?? todays science is proving it now after 1500 years ago.. that if we drink water while standing … it weaknz our bones… so… its obvious that islam is the truest religion in thz whole world… n like thz there are thousands of examples quoted in our holy book…

14 12 2012
rutaba minhaj

HMMM…

31 05 2013
jafar

there is no saying in Qra’n regarding drinking water in standing position. its Hadith Dealing with this matter..

12 11 2015
Syed Kashif Shah

Ma Sha Allah

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