Intellectual Crisis in Muslim Ummah

Recently I participated in a conference in Aligarh Muslim University on the subject of “Intellectual Crisis of Muslim Ummah: Rethinking Traditional Solutions”. I spoke in a session which had Dr. Rashid Shaz (the organiser of the conference) in chair and Mr. Zameeruddin Shah, V-C, Maulana Kalb-e Sadiq, Mr. Mujtaba Farooq, Prof. Ali Naqvi and Prof. Irfan Habib on the dais.

A majority of the speakers before me focused on divisions within the community, and several raised issues which could have created a storm had it been a public meeting. There were some speakers who looked hugely pessimistic about the possibility of any unity. Just before my turn to speak, Prof. Irfan Habib severely criticised Islamic scholars for trying to invoke Islamic principles in matters of science, and suggested that instead of focusing much on religion, a moderate path was what mankind should strive to find.

I began with a verse of the Qur’an, “kiatab-al-ladee anzalnaahu ilaika litukhrijan naasi minazzulumaati ilannoor”, which means, “This is the book which has been dispatched to you (O Muhammad) so that it can bring mankind out of layers of gloom, towards light.”

“Gloom” is a strange thing. The truth is that darkness is nothing in itself, as it has no entity of its own. Darkness only means absence of light, and this prevails only when light is either put off or is blocked. Unfortunately, the Ummah cannot see that the whole world today is enveloped in gloom and unless they recognise and understand the nature of this gloom, they would not be able to remove the gloom through the Light which they possess, but are not able to uncover it.

If anyone has the misconception that we are living in a world of science, he is wrong. If anyone thinks ethics have any role, he too is wrong, Religion, of course, has little role to play in the current world order. It is solely a world of economics with economic fundamentalism virtually ruling it.  

We have been advised by a speaker that instead of religion we should adopt a middle course. I want to stress here that Islam is the middle course – al-wastiya – all other systems are tilted towards extremism. Commercialising evil is the hallmark of the modern systems.

There has been a lot of talk here about Muslim role in violent extremism. We discuss only the Muslim role and do not have the guts to discuss the Western role. For example, I want to ask a simple question: The persons who rammed planes into the Twin Towers on 9/11 perished in the act. The man who was accused as the mastermind was killed in an isolated operation about 12 years later in Pakistan. Do Muslims, Muslim organisations and intellectuals and analysts have the courage to ask American government and its people: What for they killed two million people between the day of the blast and the death of the mastermind? How America should be made to pay the price of these two million Muslim innocent deaths? Still, it teaches the Muslims the lessons of peace. In almost all the violent conflicts, the role of the West and its weaponry can be seen.

The international players have learnt the art of categorising violence in a way that suits their designs. Any violence that is linked or can be made to appear linked to a religion, particularly Islam, is highlighted, and any violence which is related to their ideologies or their games is suppressed. Deaths in American war against terror involving much greater violence than terrorism itself are ignored. Killing of 50 million foetuses every year is ignored because it suits their economic and political strategies. What can be a bigger blot on human rights than that unborn human beings are slaughtered on that massive scale? But nobody can dare challenge them. In India, on the occasion of a TV debate a BJP spokesman said to me that “though it is unfortunate, the truth is that all terrorists in India are Muslims.” I told him: “Mr Sonkar Shastri, exactly the opposite is true. Terrorism in India is almost a Hindu monopoly. Out of around 41,000 terrorist-related deaths in India during the last 25 years, Muslim outfits are accused only in attacks killing around 1400. Rest 39,000 have all been caused by people recognised as Hindus in Census, including Naxalites, Ulfa terrorists, Bodos, Sikhs. Even at the world level, Tamil terrorists killed more than 15,0000 in Sri Lanka.

What is unfortunate is that Muslim intellectuals have lost the ability to analyse the world situation and have become apologetic and defensive. We always defend the attacks by other analysts, and we do not question them about their own acts and the basis of their judgments. We cannot challenge the concepts, programmes, policies and indices created by the global forces of hegemony, almost all of which, including the parameters of Human Development Index, can be challenged. For example, they count life expectancy after birth and not after conception just because they want to hide the scale of the deaths of innocent unborn babies caused by their Sexual Revolution.

If the unity of Ummah is to be achieved, it can be achieved only when we recognise the larger aim of Islam, which is meant for true peace of the whole mankind. The need of the time is to apply Islamic principles in all the fields, including law, health, economics and sociology. The day it is done, cameras will no longer be used to make pornographic films and nuclear energy will no longer be used to make bombs. Science and technology will then signal a truly peaceful world, and this is what we all should work for.