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Old Wednesday, February 08, 2006
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Default Muslim Ummah at the Threshold of 21st Century

Muslim Ummah at the Threshold of 21st Century
by Prof. Khurshid Ahmad

Twentieth Century is moving swiftly towards its end. It started when Western colonial powers had gained strength at world level. It was also the time when mechanization started and the might of steam engine had totally dominated minds of these powers. Industrial movement, French revolution, freedom of USA coupled with its economic attainments and the wide spread invincibility notion attached to Western powers, were the important events of that time. In short, the whole world and particularly the Islamic world (a world power before and after renaissance) came under total spell of European powers during the first quarter of 20th century. Britain alone controlled a quarter of the world major part of which comprised of Muslim territory. Britain had a vanity that it was controlling the sea all-over the world and that sun never set on its dominion. France had under its control a third of Africa besides a good number of Far-Eastern states. Even countries like Italy, Spain and Portugal were controlling a number of places around the world. The colonial powers were using resources of the whole world to strengthen their economic, political and cultural dominance. Similarly, Tzarist Russia had under its thumb the Central Asian States (a galaxy of republics, which once symbolized epitome of Islamic glory.

Lost Grounds

The whole Muslim Ummah was under the autocracy of Western powers with no hope and signs of improvement from anywhere. Turkish Ottoman Empire (a symbol of Islamic world power with its borders stretching from Morocco to Central Europe (had become the "Sick-Man" of Europe. Balkan wars and World War I had forced her to retreat and ultimately confined to a limited area around Anatolia. Even here the great empire had to fight for survival and was coerced to adopt secularism in guise of Kamalism. It had to compromise on elimination of Ottoman Empire and destroy its historical, religious and cultural identity to secure political and geographical entity.

For the Middle East the Western colonial powers had a horrible plan. Pan-Arab nationalism and lust for power were the destructive instruments applied to snatch political freedom from the Middle-Eastern Muslim rulers. About a dozen powerless states under the European command emerged on world map as a result of Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) and Balfour Declaration (1917). As such, the plan was to divide Middle East into pieces on one hand and on the other to create conditions facilitating creation of a Jewish state among Arabs. The machination ultimately bore fruit and Israel was established in the heart of Muslim Ummah with due understanding among USA, UK and USSR with connivance of UN. This way, all those rulers, tribes and people who once enjoyed power, pelf and freedom were eliminated from world politics forever. Muslims, who enjoyed world leadership status for more than 12 centuries, were thus deprived of this position for the first time in history. Except in a few semi-independent states (Afghanistan, Turkey, Yemen and Arab Peninsula), the Muslim might and political authority - the symbols of Muslim Ummah's dignity ? was totally eliminated from around the globe.

Future Perspective

These were the conditions under which the Muslim Ummah entered into the 20th century. Now, when we review the past 100 years' political conditions of Muslims, we find signs of hope since revival and the struggle of the Muslim Ummah has set in all spheres of life. This resurgence has no other explanation but what the Qur'an Says: "and (the unbelievers) plotted and planned, and God too planned, and the best of planners is God." (S III-54)
The colonial powers had planned to make Muslim Ummah ineffective forever. But history stands witness that if Muslims retreated at a front they demonstrated strength at another, e.g., when Baghdad was destroyed, Muslims were dominating power in Africa and Spain; the weakness of Arabs was compensated by the advancement of Central Asian Muslim states; the destruction of Haspania and surrender in Qartabah and Gharnatah was equated by bringing Constantinopal under the command of Ottoman empire which symbolized the 'Rise of Islam.' During this period Muslims captured vast areas of Asia and Africa. This important feature of Muslim history has disrupted in the recent past. But just as a day follows the night, the Muslim Ummah during the past five decades have, to a large extent, overcome the miserable conditions of the past and started reform at world level.
At present Muslim population is about 1.3 billion which makes roughly 22 per cent of world population. About 900 million Muslims live in 56 Muslim states and are part of UN and OIC. The rest 400 million Muslim are spread in different countries. There is hardly any place on earth, which is not inhabited by Muslims. A significant number of Muslims (150 million) live in India. In Europe and America, Muslim population though insignificant in the past has now increased manifold. Widespread migrations at world level have introduced Muslims to those areas, which hitherto stood untended for centuries from the teachings of Islam. Numerical strength plus the Muslim states' geographical location have given Muslim a strategic position in today's world.

Seen in the geo-strategic outlook, the politically independent Muslim states virtually command one-fourth of the world; from Morocco to Indonesia and Kazakhstan to Turkey and Bosnia. Muslim bloc can be divided into two big geographical zones; one, a large chain starting from Morocco/Senegal and through Pakistan entering Central Asia, and two; the most important zone of Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia. The two zones are of strategic importance for all sea, land and air transport routes. Dead Sea, Red Sea and Caspian are in the center of Muslim states. A number of Muslim countries have seacoasts on Indian and Atlantic Oceans. The important sea gateways like Damial, Suez, Port Said, Djibouti and Aden are under Muslim control. Muslim world is impregnate with important economic resources like agriculture, oil, electricity, coal, iron, uranium, tin, rubber, copper, etc. About 1/4th of the Muslim world is not simply in a position to achieve sustained economic growth and provide adequate education and other social infrastructure to their citizens, but can also play an important role in the economic and technological development of brother Muslim countries, e.g. Turkey has the skill to manufacture F-16 fighter planes; Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Kazakhstan have economic strength to help other Muslim countries financially; Pakistan, despite strong Western resistance, has successfully advanced with its peaceful nuclear energy agenda in a period almost half that other countries might take, and; the change in oil prices of 1972 and 1980 has tilted the balance of economic strength towards Islamic countries. In nutshell, we can safely conclude that the strength and centrality which the Muslim Ummah enjoy today has no match in its history (a fact which should never be ignored. It is another sore subject why Muslim world could not take full advantage of its present powerful position on the world checkerboard.

Materializing the Goal

Only human resource development or political and economic strength is not enough to achieve the cherished goal. Most important aspect is the brainy movement to direct and portray the religious and ideological identity of Muslim Ummah. This century can rightly be termed the century of Islamic revival; political and economic aspects being mere parts of it. The plight of Muslims climaxed at the close of 20th century and so did the revival. In fact, it was the lowliness of Muslim Ummah, which touched many Muslim thinkers? minds and souls who attended to the urgent call and engaged themselves to find cause of Muslim downfall and to identify measures for revival.
The enemies of Islam assumed that by politically dominating the Muslims; dividing them into small states, nationalities and tribes; imposing secular system through secular rulers; and by crafting Western political, economic, educational and cultural agendas, Muslim Ummah can be neutralized for ever. But the ultimate prudence of God Almighty was different. The sense of extreme deprivation played the role of activator. The modernist liberal West could not liquidate Muslim Ummah?s strong Islamic creed. After doing away with the slavery, the Muslim Ummah started struggle for revival and reverted to its roots. The great Muslim scholars of the recent times urged the Ummah to submit to the will of God Almighty and strictly follow the teachings of Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Qur?an and the Hadith (the pious traditions set by the Prophet) were dignified as the cornerstone of the movement. In order to eliminate slavery and make Shari?ah (Islamic precepts of religion) supreme, efforts were made to interpret Islamic principles so as to meet the modern day requirements. The causes of Ummah?s descent were identified while at the other end hollowness of Western Hedonistic philosophy was fully exposed. The Muslim scholars were successful in highlighting Western powers' strong points which had such a damaging impact on culture, ideology and moral values of Muslim society. Principles of Islam for self-reliance and development were reincarnated. And history proved the dictum that Islam has an in built natural flexibility which helps it to react with full force against oppression.

The current Islamic resurgence comprises of two very important aspects: First, its extensive manifestation in terms of:

Political emancipation;
Economic development;
Promotion of education;
Creation of new political and economic institutions such as Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), International Islamic Universities (IIUs);
Integration of Islamic banks (presently 105 interest free banks with assets exceeding $80 billion operate around the globe);
Rejection of Western culture;
Search for means to extend cooperation and coordination among Muslim countries;
Creation of a number of similar other institutions which are symbols of unity of Muslim Ummah and indicators of their ideological awareness


Second and an equally important aspect is the rational which is the real force behind this comprehensive revival movement. In fact, it is this force, which have played the most significant role in changing the ideological and cultural pattern of Muslims virtually on entire globe. In the Indian Sub-Continent, movements led by Syed Ahmed Shaheed, Shah Ismail Shaheed and in Bengal the movement of Haji Shariatullah and then the efforts of Iltaf Hussain Hali, Shibli Naumani, Maulana Abuul Kalam Azad, Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi and Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar reactivated Muslims on intellectual, moral, cultural and ultimately on political fronts. Revival movement of Allama Iqbal, Syed Maududi's literary and intellectual work and the leadership of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, all converged on a nation-wide political movement and ultimately resulted in creation of separate Muslim abode in 1947.

This nascent yet strong movement of the early half of 20th century gained ground in the later half and gradually spread all over the Islamic world. The Muslim nations started fighting for freedom from colonial powers with principle motive to protect and promote their Islamic identity. Some times it appeared as if nationalism was the fighting force for freedom, yet it is an acknowledged fact that even behind nationalism the one and the only force was resurgence of Islamic thought. Kentole Smith in Islam and Modern History (Princeton University Press, 1957, p.77) admits: "Muslims have never accepted any concept of nationalism under which the principles of loyalties are outside the jurisdiction of Islam." He says: "besides (as far as Muslims are concerned) in the past only and only Islam has been the driving force which has provided to Muslims the discipline, strength, and desire for freedom."

Jamalud Din Afghani, Muhammad Abdullah, Muhammad Rashid Raza and the founder of Ikhwanul-Muslimoon, Imam Hasan-al-Banna Shaheed, led and promoted the revival movement in Arabic World. In Turkey, in the depressed secular state, Saeed Noorsi, Adnan Mandrees and Najmud Din Irbakan have kept alive the Islamic movement. In North Africa, Abdul Qadi, Ahmed Badees, Ibrahim Aljazairi, Sanosi Malik bin Banni and presently Abbas Madani, Ahmed Bilhajj, and Rahid Ghanoshi have strengthened the Islamic movement. Similarly, in Sudan, Mehdi Sudani followed by Inssar and Ikhwanul-Muslimoon have given life to the movement. And now under the dynamic leadership of Dr. Hassan Tarabi, Sudan is going through a unique experiment of Islamization. In Iran, the religious and popular movement of Imam Khuminai, Ayatullah Muntaziri, Ayatullah Taliqaari and Dr. Ali Shariat has started a new era.
The Conflict Element

Essence of Islamic movement and the general revival of Islam at world level are the real forces which are shaping the future of Muslim Ummah. This is an era of conflict as a result of which a new epoch is emerging. But, certainly the Islamic movements are going to succeed in the future unlike the remains of colonialism which do not possess spark to revive. The Western nations and their friends consider Islam a danger primarily for this trait. Once Communism is dead, personalities like Richard Nixon, Ronald Regan, ex-secretary general and the present secretary general of NATO, the policy makers, scholars and Western educationists, all portray Islamic revival movement as a threat. They are making last ditch efforts to create conflict situation between the West and the Muslim Ummah. The terrorist act at Oklahoma has been, without any justification, attributed to Islam. The American culprit's death sentence subsequently bespeaks the bias which Americans reserve for Muslims. A Muslims majority Bosnian State is unacceptable to West as it holds central position in Europe. Procedures are applied to force Arabs agree to Israeli-styled peace. They are being forced to open their markets for Israel. As a result of Afghan war Eastern European nations now stand liberated; Berlin war has been erased to ground; Russia, is indebted to West and the World Bank; Central Asian Muslim States are free; and Communism at world level has totally shattered. But, the people of Afghanistan are not allowed to take benefit of their struggle. Muslim heroes of Afghan war are now branded as fundamentalists. Arabs' highly praised participation in Afghan war, is now a stigma. Democracy, propagated globally, is denied per force to Algeria because the Islamic Movement has the potential to win elections. And all this is being done under the hocus pocus imaginary threat.

Muslim Ummah has no territorial conflict with the West rather it seeks its inherent right to develop individual and social life in accordance with its own set of religious doctrine, culture and history where family is central to real target for bringing change. But, this change is presented as a threat to the West.

The reason behind this expertly crafted notion is West?s inability to guide humanity in the right direction; its lack of knowledge and bigotry towards Islam. The experiment of secular culture has failed. Despite West?s total command over the world for about 500 years it could not establish an equitable and just system. There has certainly been a tremendous industrial growth and increase in wealth in the West but it was unable to provide welfare, justice and peace to mankind. Even now 1/4th of the world population is without basic food. The West possess in itself the poverty problematic 14-15 per cent population. On average the unemployment is above 10 per cent. Despite spectacular achievements in the medical science, humanity confronts new and complex diseases. Western family structure has totally collapsed. The number of single-parent children (born without formal marriages) has exceeded above legal children. The number of single family parent has reached 40 per cent and 30 per cent in USA and Europe, respectively. The rise in crime has seized the freedom of society and the younger generation is in particular morally corrupt. Material growth cradles mental-sickness and suicide which is on the rise. The historians hypothesize with fear that a civilization born of material growth is not conducive for human beings. Famous poet Iqbal says: "In spite of significant findings about Universe and control over nature through scientific development, the West could not eradicate the evils plaguing humanity."

In fact it is the weakness of the West which is making it fearful of the potential strength of Islam, otherwise, Muslims militarily, politically or economically pose no threat to it. The real conflict lies in ideology and moral values. This is an area where West is like a spent force with no new system or message for the humanity at hand. It is here that Islam has the potential to bring the humanity light and fresh thinking. Islam has a message for humanity; a live message for their present living, a promise for attractive destiny and a glorious future. The spread of this message had neither been due to violent force in the past nor it needs such force today. In fact it is filling the gap where humanity is trapped. This is the real danger for the West, otherwise it is a total blessing for the humanity making no distinction between East and the West. Recently, The Economist (London), analyzed the past and future of mankind after the fall of Communism and dislodging of Berlin Wall. It particularly concluded that fall of Communism did not indicate any good message for the humanity. It was apprehended that fundamental Muslims and Christians believe that they have a new message for the humanity.

To portray Islam as potential danger for humanity is suicidal. The resurgent movement is a message which can save humanity and this movement has the potential to open a new era. Instead of treating it as a friend and great savior of humanity, it is being considered a danger and an enemy by the West.

The sagacious Western leadership must clearly understand that in Islam Jehad does not mean the use of brutal force. Jehad is the name given to that discipline and struggle which is applied to achieve the positive goals of life. It is a constructive force which helps to achieve high human values. This was the force that was used by an ill-equipped Afghan army to push belligerent Russia off its shoulders and thus change the history and the course of time. And now this is the force behind Intifaadah movement in Palestine which has forced Israel to a point that it has to seek cooperation of PLO for peace. The same force has neutralized huge oppressing forces in Kashmir, Tajikistan and Chechnya. Henceforth, portraying such a liberating force as a negative one shall serve nothing to mankind.

Currently, USA is the greatest military power. With 6 per cent of population it controls about 25 per cent of world economic potential. In spite of this it could not overcome the ordinary men in Vietnam and preferred to retreat after the loss of about 50,000 troops. In the Middle-East war with Iraq, USA with its 29 allies, equipped with the most modern technology, had to employ about 40 per cent of its tactical Air Force and 70 per cent of tank power to ensure a minimum loss of life on its side. It was feared that only about 2,000 American coffins would have forced America to withdraw its forces. This happened in Somalia where America pulled out its army when 23 of its troops were killed. Thus, the military force of the West is no guarantee to control the world. Things have significantly changed. A nation having firm belief, high moral values and the will to struggle and sacrifice can no more be deprived of its freedom.

Under the conditions explained above, it is quite obvious that Islam is the only constructive force for the future. Indeed much has yet to be done. It has to strengthen its moral values, gain intellectual creditability in order to motivate the masses.

It is also utmost desirable to get rid of those rulers of the Muslims countries who are under the influence of the West. Once the masses and the leadership work for the same ideology and destination and instead of confrontation the energies are used for new and positive objectives, change is sure to come. In order to achieve this objective firm belief, determination and continuos efforts are essentially required. God willing, the Ummah is going to have new and bright future in the 21st Century.
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Old Wednesday, February 22, 2006
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Salaam,

Brother, this article was really good. But after reading it, I guess it's written before the commencement of year 2000. It seems quite outdated.

However, it's a real nice job. This is going to help me.

Regards,
Adil Memon
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Old Wednesday, February 22, 2006
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Hi Pal!
You are right.This is translation of an article by Prof. Khurshid Ahmad published in Tarjumanul Qur'an,November, 97
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Last edited by Argus; Thursday, March 22, 2007 at 03:33 PM.
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