In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Grande Strategy

Reviving the Ummah Chapter 3 Two Opposing Sides

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Purity, Piety and Dedication without Talibanism. Education, Technology & Industry without Secularism.
There are broadly two kinds of people that will stand in the way of an Islamic state and in Islam as not merely a religion. There will be what we can describe as Conservatives and Secularists/Progressives/Modernists. Conservatives thus labeled are those that would want to pull Muslims back to the past while Secularists would want to move Muslims to a secularized future, with Islam relegated to the mosque. They may regard each other as opponents, but they share an important idea - that Islam is a religion.
Islam is not merely a religion. As earlier stated, it is a complete way of life, centered on the belief in One God. Islam is the only belief system that does not enjoin blind faith; it combines faith with knowledge. Truth and evidence go together, as they should. Islam melds the spiritual and the natural worlds, in harmony and balance, a balance that is best known by our Creator.
The Progressive-Secularist approach, on the one hand, is an extreme reaction to the Conservative paradigm and to the dazzle of the Western civilization. Their approach is built on the ascendancy of the latter and in seeing all solutions to our problems in reflection to the West. Replication over reinvention is their motto. They see the greatness of the West and in America and see solutions in transplanting these values over a culture that to them is backward, and one that they do not understand or appreciate. They believe that the root cause of the backwardness is Islam and they seek to remedy this with the panacea of Western culture.
If that is so, how may they still label themselves Muslim? The very premise of secularism is un-Islamic; the Quran clearly states:
It was We who revealed the law (to Moses): therein was guidance and light. By its standard have been judged the Jews, by the prophets who bowed (as in Islam) to Allah’s will, by the rabbis and the doctors of law: for to them was entrusted the protection of Allah’s book, and they were witnesses thereto: therefore fear not men, but fear me, and sell not my signs for a miserable price. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) Unbelievers. (5:44)
The similitude of those who were charged with the (obligations of the) Mosaic Law, but who subsequently failed in those (obligations), is that of a donkey which carries huge tomes (but understands them not). Evil is the similitude of people who falsify the Signs of Allah. And Allah guides not people who do wrong. (62:5)
Islam is a complete way of life and the Quran has guidance for everything:
One day We shall raise from all Peoples a witness against them, from amongst themselves: and We shall bring thee as a witness against these (thy people): and We have sent down to thee the Book explaining all things, a Guide, a Mercy, and Glad Tidings to Muslims. (16:89)
And this guidance is the key to our success:
These depend on guidance from their Lord. These are the successful. (2:5)
It is clear to the discerning mind that there is little genuine basis for the Progressive-Secular approach without going outside the pale of Islam. Their secret recipe to a political voice is not in the genuineness of their ideas but to the effectiveness of their approach vis-à-vis the backward Conservatives. We concede this point, if you take your average English medium school boy and place him against your average madrasa educated lad the results are likely to be in favor of the former. However, the task of a people is not to compete within themselves but to compete with other peoples. This is where the Progressive-Secularists have failed: in the last 50 years, the newly independent and avowedly secular states of the Muslim world have failed miserably to be competitive in the global context.
It is a well-learned lesson that mimicking the West will not translate to success but rather lead to an inferior and forever backward people. We can only compare the Turkish model versus Japan –
Japan and Turkey provide two contrasting and diametric models of how to react to the rapid advancement of the Western civilization. Historically both Japan and Turkey faced the West and had to make a number of hard decisions as to how they can react, what to take and what to reject. They provide a classic case of comparison; ancient empires, facing a stark choice of change in a similar period in history, and yet made completely different choices.
Japan combined its tradition and progress in a way that reinvented its culture while Ataturk’s Turkey threw out their culture and belief system to transplant a Western imitation instead. Our discussion and dialogue concerning the Islamic state will be set within finding the Japan Route for the Muslim world rather than the Turkey Route.
Furthermore, as Bennabi notes, mimesis is a pathological disease to civilization, whose only true foundations can be built from the world of ideas and not of copying others. In the case of the latter, the ideas copied wholesale can become “deadly” ideas that do more harm than good. Bennabi notes that we cannot make history by following beaten tracks; it is only possible to do so by opening new paths; making history will happen if we return to our genuine principles and derive from them efficient solutions for today. This requires us first to get out of our Jahiliyah, whether it is mimicking the archetypes set by “ancient” scholars or those of the Colonial West and for us to return back to the world of ideas in general, and the ideas and ideals of Islam in particular.
Let us now turn to Ibn Khaldun and see if mimicking has any historical basis for success, or is it a false utopia built upon an inferiority complex. Ibn Khaldun notes that the vanquished will always seek to imitate the victorious party in his distinctive characteristics, his dress, his occupation, and all his other conditions and customs.
He gives the explanation for this as follows:
“...that the soul always sees perfection in the person who is superior to it and to whom it is subservient. It considers him perfect, either because it is impressed by the respect it has for him, or because it erroneously assumes that its own subservience to him is not due to the nature of defeat but to the perfection of the victor. If that erroneous assumption fixes itself in the soul, it becomes a firm belief. The soul, then, adopts all the manners of the victor and assimilates itself to him. This, then, is imitation.
“Or, the soul may possibly think that the superiority of the victor is not the result of his group feeling or great fortitude, but of his customs and manners. This also would be an erroneous concept of superiority, and (the consequences) would be the same as in the former case.
Therefore, the vanquished can always be observed to assimilate themselves to the victor in the use and style of dress, mounts, and weapons; indeed, in everything.
“In this connection, one may compare how children constantly imitate their fathers. They do that only because they see perfection in them. One may also compare how almost everywhere people are dominated (in fashion) by the dress of the militia and the government forces, because they are ruled by them.
“This goes so far that a nation dominated by another, neighboring nation will show a great deal of assimilation and imitation. At this time, this is the case in Spain. The Spaniards are found to assimilate themselves to the Galician nations in their dress, their emblems, and most of their customs and conditions. This goes so far that they even draw pictures on the walls and have them in buildings and houses. The intelligent observer will draw from this the conclusion that it is a sign of being dominated by others.”
Attempting to copy the supposed superior formula of the West can thus be counter-productive, and still evidence does not provide any basis that such transplantation would be successful. In fact, Ibn Khaldun notes that:
“A nation that has been defeated and has come under the rule of another nation will quickly perish.
“The reason for this may possibly lie in the apathy that comes over people when they lose control of their own affairs and, through enslavement, become the instrument of others and dependent upon them. Hope diminishes and weakens. Now, propagation and an increase in civilization (population) take place only as the result of strong hope and of the energy that hope creates in the animal powers (of man). When hope and the other things it stimulates are gone through apathy, and when group feeling has disappeared under the impact of defeat, civilization decreases and business and other activities stop. With their strength dwindling under the impact of defeat, people become unable to defend themselves. They become the victims of anyone who tries to dominate them, and a prey to anyone who has the appetite.”
These words reflect precisely the state of the Ummah today. Clearly, the Progressive-Secular approach is neither genuine nor effective as a means of saving the Ummah; rather, it is indescribably hurting the Ummah, perhaps to become the most destructive element within – Bennabi’s “Deadly Ideas”.
Turning now to the Conservative banner, we note that it is held high by a class of people, strange as it may sound, are not supposed to exist in Islam: the clergy. Mullahs, Sheikhs, etc. are not sanctioned by any verse of the Quran or by any authentic hadith nor did the Sahaba give themselves such titles. Yet, they exist today, and have convoluted Islam to define themselves as the middlemen between Muslims and Islam. On any question of Islam, Muslims are now told to get a nod from the local Imam, Sheikh, Mullah, Mufti, etc.2 They give the adhan on our ear at birth, teach those of us who go to the madrasah, lead the prayers of the community, perform the marriage ceremony, and are there at your death. They control the money of the masjid, and in fact all affairs of the masjid. They lecture the community every Friday. They are today the equivalent of the priests, monks and rabbis of other religions, despite Islam forbidding such a layered structure of society.
2. We shall come back to this point in greater detail in the chapter titled The Law of Islam.
It would seem to the rational observer that we have followed the Christians and the Jews into the same reptile’s hole as the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said we would:
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: You would tread the same path as was trodden by those before you inch by inch and step by step so much so that if they had entered into the hole of the reptile, you would follow them in this also. We said: Allah's Messenger, do you mean Jews and Christians (by your words)" those before you"? He said: Who else (than those two religious groups)? (Sahih Muslim, Kitab Al-Ilm)
These career theologians make their living out of Islam and yet stand by socially and politically silent to our disintegration. Other than empty slogans and sooth-saying, this class has shown itself to be completely incompetent at addressing any of the issues that the Muslim body-politic faces today. One of the central problems arises because the clergy – and all those who seek education from them– never develop the ability to analyze and think critically. They are taught to read, recite and memorize and the finest of them can reproduce the Quran, hadiths and even works of eminent scholars from memory, like a tape recorder or a computer program. But throughout their education, they are not taught to understand the Quran, to ponder over its meanings, to apply. They are shunned from questioning and inquiring. This leads to underdevelopment and even deterioration in their mental capacities to think, reason, classify and analyze issues. It leads to them not knowing how to argue constructively or to learn the etiquettes of argument. This is one of the central problems and why billions of Muslims today produce such few real scholars and thinkers.
Piaget, a pioneer of cognitive development studies bears testimony to the important developments taking place between the ages of 7-11. Research also shows that the mental capacities of children, whether in the jungles of Africa or in the most developed nations are similar until the age of 6. Instead of nurturing the cognitive faculties of our children during the critical stages of development, we have chosen to cause the maximum damage possible to them.
As a result, it is almost as if we have degenerated from human intellect to a near sub-human species. It is not that there is anything wrong with memorizing and recitation, it is that everything has its place and proportion. Reason, argument and critical thinking cannot be shunned, and is as important today as it was during the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) time, when people actually accepted Islam on the basis of the same.
In addition to this self-zombification, our theological class prefers to read the works of their own schools of thought without reference to others, creating a very sectarian theology that dangerously brings society to blows against different points of view. This is alien to academia worldwide where a student of a subject studies widely various perspectives, even if he or she later narrows down to one. Yet these same hypocrites like to give the analogy of a doctor being the master of his field as an analogy to them having the authority to explain religion to the masses. The hypocrisy behind this is deeper yet for they have reduced Islam to a specialized field, in direct contravention to the Quran.
Islam is not a religion of theologians and doctors of law. Islam is universal as it reaches out to all, able to do so because its concepts are easy to understand for those who seek Allah.
To each among you have We prescribed a Law and an Open Way. (5:48)
To each one of us, for Allah’s Mercy is such that he does not impose a burden greater than we can bear, and he has made Islam understandable to everyone, at least of average intelligence. A Muslim does not need to read obtuse works of scholars to understand Islam, for Islam is understandable by all and was completed long ago when the Prophet (peace be upon him) repeated the verses in his last Hajj: This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (5:3)
Yet, the “ulema” today have added so much more that the original nass ordinances are now a minority in the totality of their compiled “fiqh”. They have utilized this and their fake authority to serve their interests, often meaning separating people from the Quran3; The Egyptian ulema asked Marmaduke Pickthall to translate Tabari instead of the Quran; yet you do not need to read Tabari to know Islam, let alone memorize it.
3. This author knows Muslims who not only refuse to ponder over the Quran but believe they will go astray if they did.
We shall look more closely at the theological problem in the chapter on the legal system. For now it suffices us that neither of the above mentalities offers an adequate solution to the challenges of the Islamic world. The aim of this book is to focus on innovative approaches to the emerging challenges we face, outside of these paradigms. We seek to insh’Allah bring a third paradigm that broadly lies between these two positions, yet is not a compromise of the two, nor placed in a two dimensional plane between them, but rather a synthesis of thought and ideas built on an independent foundation.
A Note to the Reader:
I have attempted to balance my criticism of both sides. Various versions of what you have read have been put online and with a most interesting result: when I would reorder the criticism, the side that is criticized first would condemn me but the other side would stay silent! I have finally settled on criticizing the Progressive-Secularists first in this chapter but have another entire chapter exclusively on the Conservative paradigm, partly to balance the above “wrong” and mainly because, as far as I am concerned, the Secularists have been declared kafirun in the Quran, and there is hardly any further need to argue over the bankruptcy of their perspective. The lard is therefore spread for the Conservatives who continue blindly their claim of holding up the banner of Islam, when in fact they are a major cancer within us.

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Vision Without Glasses


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