Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Muslim dilemma today

Tuesday May 31, 2011

The Muslim dilemma today

By Dr Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad, Senior Fellow/Director Centre for the Study of Syariah, Law and Politics

There is an apparent disunity among Muslims as reflected in the number of major political parties, and they are generally in a state of crisis in almost every respect of life. 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 award, observes that these challenges may be categorised into two: internal and external.
The former pertains to challenges originating within Muslims’ own territory and intellectual history, and the latter from the outside world, resulting from their encounter with alien cultures and civilisations.
Both categories of challenges, either intellectual or physical in nature, bring equally destructive consequences to the Muslim community (ummah).
Let’s examine the conditions of Muslims in this country today. They are generally in a state of crisis almost in every respect of life – religiously, socially, economically and 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-practising Muslims.

It’s painful to learn the worrisome rising statistics of Muslims’ divorce rate and their involvement – if not indulgence – in criminal activities, gambling, drugs, liquor, prostitution, rapes, cohabitation, adultery, abortion, baby dumping and all sorts of other religious, ethical or legal misdemeanours.
In terms of economic achievements, they are far behind other groups and still grappling with catching-up. A similar scenario can be seen in education.
In terms of politics, Muslims basically rule the country, but 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 is an apparent disunity among Muslims, as reflected in the number of major political parties. Some other minor parties further divide the Muslims.
Al-Attas explains that the basic problems causing those internal dilemmas can be reduced to what he calls the loss of adab, recognition and acknowledgement of the right and proper place for beings or things.
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 to one’s self, community and the world of creation.
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 confusion and error in knowledge. In this manner, they ensure that their successors are just like them, and together they dominate the affairs of the people.
A damning remark by Al-Attas deserving serious attention by Muslims is that the roots of crises are interdependent and operate in a vicious circle, contributing to and supplementing each other. But he stresses that the chief causes are 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 the community may even adopt 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 article is not to embarrass Muslims. It’s a form of self-criticism, to wake them up from slumber, to urge them to take corrective action.
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, said: “The only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men [and women] to do 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 a 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, Mu’awiyyah firmly declined the offer saying that Ali and his army were still his brothers in religion.
This is the spirit all conflicting Muslim parties should emulate – give priority to religious consideration or interests and put aside differences in facing their common enemies.

Source: The Star online.

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