The Muslim Dilemma Today

by - Monday, June 13, 2011

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Something that I would like to share with my Malay friends. Saw this article when I surf IKIM website, HERE!

The Muslim Dilemma Today
by Dr. Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad (Fellow Kanan/Pengarah)

No community or nation is free from challenges, problems, dilemmas, or crises. Muslims, regardless of times and locations, have been facing a varied magnitude of challenges since the very inception of Islam. This will never cease to happen.

In Islam and Secularism (1978), Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, a contemporary Muslim thinker and the 2011 recipient of the Most Prominent Malay (Tokoh Melayu Terbilang) award, observes that these challenges may be categorized into two: internal and external.

The former pertains to challenges originating within Muslims' own territory and intellectual history, while the latter coming from the outside world, resulting from their encounter with alien cultures and civilizations.

Both categories of challenges, either intellectual or physical in nature, bring equally destructive consequences to the Muslim community (ummah). Therefore, they must be wary of this and take all necessary measures to remedy their shortcomings and protect, enhance and strengthen their positions.

Let's examine the conditions of Muslims in this country today. They are generally in a dire state of crisis almost in every respect of life-religiously, socially, economically, politically.

Far from simply unleashing sweeping statements, I am neither emotional nor judgmental here. But the above phenomenon can be discerned, among other things, from the increasing number of ignorant, secular and non-practicing Muslims.

In addition, it's painful to learn the worrisome rising statistics of Muslims' divorce rate and their involvement-if not indulgence-in criminal activities, gambling, drugs addiction, liquor drinking, prostitution, rapes, cohabitation, adultery, abortion, baby dumping and all sorts of other religious, ethical or legal misdemeanours. Prisons, rehab centres and shelter houses nationwide are full with batches of Muslim offenders!

Of course these problems do take place in other non-Muslim communities as well, possibly equally sickening or even worse. But since they are generally more liberal, many of whom consider religion as insignificant and instead embrace secularism as their primary philosophy or worldview, I believe that the whole thing is a non-issue to majority of them.

Back to Muslims, in terms of economic achievements, they are far behind other groups and still grappling doing the catching-up jobs. A similar scenario can be seen in the field of education.

In politics, Muslims basically rule the country. But their current political situation-if I were to be honest, and many will agree-is actually shaky and weakening. It appears that they are losing more grounds in controlling the nation and have been perceived as compromising too much, even on fundamental matters, at the expense of their own interests and dignity.

At the same time, there has been an apparent disunity among Muslims, as is reflected in the number of major political parties craving for power on this soil. Some other minor parties further divide the Muslims.

Al-Attas explains that the basic problems causing those internal dilemmas forcing Muslims into that predicament can be reduced to what he calls the loss of adab. Adab refers to recognition and acknowledgement of the right and proper place for beings or things.

Meaning, the loss of adab is the loss of discipline, knowledge or wisdom that assures the recognition and acknowledgement of one's proper place in relation one's self, community and the world of creation.

The materialization of such recognition and acknowledgement constitute the condition of justice. Therefore the loss of adab "implies loss of justice, which in turn betrays confusion in knowledge."

Al-Attas asserts that, internally, the current general dilemma besetting Muslims is caused by (i) confusion and error in knowledge, creating the condition for (ii) the loss of adab within the ummah.

The combination of these two situations gives rise to leaders who are actually not qualified to lead the community. They emerge and thrive but do not possess the high moral, intellectual and spiritual standards required for proper leadership.

This kind of leaders perpetuates the confusion and error in knowledge aforementioned. In this manner, they ensure that their successors are just like them, and together they dominate over the affairs of the people.

A damning remark by Al-Attas deserving serious attention by Muslims is that the above roots of crises are interdependent and operate in a vicious circle, contributing to and supplementing each other. But he stresses that the chief cause is confusion and error in knowledge.

Once ignorance spreads from top to bottom and defines the character of the ummah, the community will have no integrity and strength. They will gradually become more fragile and vulnerable to foreign influences, especially harmful ones.

Lacking religious knowledge and awareness, certain members or leaders of this community may even adopt and adapt these bad ideas, translate them into their lifestyle, and consciously or unconsciously transfer these influences to the masses.

It is this foregoing disintegration of internal qualities of the Muslim ummah that causes confusion and disunity. This allows space for other people to underestimate and subdue them. History records that this took place when Muslims were tortured and chased out from Spain in the 13th century.
Similar set of problems brought about the fall of Islam in India. The same recurred when the Portuguese conquered Malacca in 1511. Yet in modern times we still witness Muslims being oppressed in Palestine, Bosnia and various other places.

For all these to happen, Muslims themselves are to be partially blamed due to their own religious neglects and other internal differences that are actually reconcilable.

This writing is never to embarrass Muslims. It's a form of self-criticism, to wake them up from slumber, to urge them to take corrective actions. I believe Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had the same intention when he wrote The Malay Dilemma in 1970.

I am putting forth this bitter reality as a challenge for good and concerned Muslims, at all levels and within their respective capacity, to come together to play effective roles to save and rebuild the ummah. Otherwise the deterioration will continue in front of their naked eyes.

Edmund Burke, an 18th century British statesman and political theorist, once said, "The only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good man [and woman] doing nothing."

More important than that, Muslims are supposed to take heed from a prophetic caution foretelling their situation. The Prophet says that the time will come when "You shall imitate the practices of those before you, inch by inch and step by step, to the degree that if they had entered into the hole of the lizard, you would still follow them." He was asked: "O messenger of Allah, are they the Yahud and Nasara?" He replied: "Who else?"

Another prophetic tradition reminds Muslims as follows: "Other nations will soon call one another against you just as the eaters call one another to their dishes." Somebody asked: "Is this because we will be few in numbers that day?"

The Prophet replied: "Nay, that day you shall be numerous, but you will be like the scum of the torrent, and Allah will take the fear of you away from your enemies and will place weakness into your hearts." Somebody asked again: "What is this weakness?" He answered: "The love of the world and the dislike of death."

Lessons are in abundance in these hadiths but we may extract two, at least. First, Muslims will not simply tread the same path of destruction as was trodden by those before them if they understand their religion as well as other evil challenges coming from other cultures.

Second, if Muslims are not overly distracted by worldly gains, they will become powerful and nobody will ever look down on them. They will fear them. But to achieve this, they must equip themselves with all necessary knowledge.

Amid their disunity, perhaps Muslims should learn another lesson from the history of two companions of the Prophet, Mu'awiyah and Ali, who fought each other on certain administrative and political issues.

Realising the tense relationship between them, the former was offered military assistance by the Romans to crush the latter. However, despite their political disagreements, Mu'awiyyah firmly declined the offer saying that Ali and his army were still his brothers in religion.

This is the spirit all conflicting Muslims parties should emulate - give priority to religious consideration or interests and put aside all other differences in facing their common enemies.

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