As a Muslim, I am outraged at the acts of violence being committed by the self-appointed guardians of our faith. They have no vision except to vent their envious hate. It is well documented that emotion of hate not only clouds one’s judgment but also saps creative energy. Quran warns against acts of violence under the influence of hate. In pursuit of their distorted view of Islam, they are killing innocent people and destroying the precious assets that many Muslim countries can ill afford to lose. They truly believe that by imposing their version of the life, as it existed in Medina during the 7th century, they will bring back the glorious era of Islam. Their way of life has brought nothing but poverty and despair. Their heinous acts violate the teachings of Quran and blatantly disregard what the Prophet preached.
A great majority of the Ullemas and the Ayatollas, tacitly or actively, are encouraging these relentless acts of violence against Muslims and non-Muslims in the name of Islam. We are constantly reminded by the clerics that Islam is under attack and we must sacrifice our lives and property to defend it. Each Friday, throughout the Muslim world, these self-appointed Imams spew hate instead of disseminating the message delivered by the Prophet during his farewell sermon at Mount Arafat where he had asked those who were present to pass his words of peace and tolerance to those who were not there and to those who would follow them. The Ulemas are failing in their mission to pass that message to their followers. It seems that Muslims have abandoned the concept of Ummah and have reverted to the pre-Islamic tribal behavior of hate-filled conflicts. As a result confusion and chaos reigns throughout the Muslim lands where economies have failed to keep pace with the growing population. They must seek handouts from those they call infidels in order to provide even the basic needs of their people. Yet the Muslim Empire of the past was the shining beacon of knowledge to the rest of the world where all the people-of-the-book, the Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in harmony for 600 years.
Allah gave Muslims the task to build a society that is just, where an individual is responsible for his/her actions. With Allah being the only judge, He freed the individual to grow without earthly constraints. The Quran repeatedly reveals that there can be no intercessor between Allah and a believer. Then how come a class of clerics has appointed themselves as judges? Not only that, they have been allowed to become as powerful as the rabbis and the priests of the past. Sura IX, verse 34 clearly shows Allah’s displeasure with the likes of them, " …Lo, the rabbis and the monks devour the wealth of mankind wantonly and debar (men) from the way of Allah." How did a people, who were the first to translate Aristotle and Plato and the first to establish formal learning centers for arts and sciences, change into a society that shuns knowledge and undermines any open discourse under the name of Islam? What caused this decline and why do we accept ignorance as a way of life? The Ulemas profess that this condition must be what Allah wishes. If this is so, we, as Muslims should be concerned because Quran warns that sufferings are in store for any nation that fails to perform His good work. Are we being punished? This and many more self-critical questions must be asked. Our presumed enemies now possess all the major learning centers in the world and use the acquired knowledge to better human conditions even of those who brand them Infidels.
The Muslim world has to catch up about a century of advancements in arts and sciences. To accomplish such a task, we must grasp every opportunity to acquire knowledge. The Prophet’s statement that, “One learned man is harder on the devil than a thousand ignorant worshippers”, demonstrates the importance he attached to learning. With the rest of the world advancing at a breakneck speed, we do not have the luxury to waste time in petty conflicts. In order to maintain their economic growth, the wealthy countries require politically stable trading partners. If our societies fail to achieve stability, the consequences can only be our subjugation by those who possess economic strength, be it the West or the budding economies of China or India.
How can a small minority of fanatics wreak such havoc? The reason has to be that a vast majority of Muslims have been rendered ignorant about their faith and beliefs. It is a known fact that colonial powers were cruel, but their actions were no different than how the Muslim rulers of today are treating their subjects. The colonial powers departed over half a century ago. Since then the west has discovered manufacturing and high technologies as a source of unending riches. Trade, not the conquest of land has become the engine of producing wealth for the modern societies. Contrary to the common belief that the expansion of the Muslims Empire was motivated to force Islam on others, the real reason was to maintain steady trade by controlling politically unstable neighbors. It was not until the 10th century that the non-Muslim inhabitants, who were the majority in the Empire, were permitted to convert to Islam. The rulers of the time did not find it necessary to force conversion of the people-of-the-book as Quran had declared them as believers. But the Ulemas have pre-empted Quran in defining a believer. They exhort their followers to extract revenge for the failure of the Muslim societies from those they brand non-believers. To the rest of the world, it appears that the Islam is nothing more than a warring cult.
There are many facts that the Muslim world needs to know about their past to understand the present dilemma. The next article will look at the accomplishments of the early Muslims and explore the reasons for their successes. Allah was benevolent to the Muslims then but it seems that He has abandoned them now. We need to understand the events that contributed to the present state of the Muslim societies. It is hoped that such an exercise will sow the seeds for a rational discussion among the learned Muslim brethrens and sisters. Such an open discourse will counter the prevailing radical militancy that is destroying so much of the Muslim nations.