Islam – A Rethink

By: AbuBakr Karolia

September 4, 2001

Before the advent of Islam in the 7th century A.D the people of Mecca and surrounding country were engulfed in a state of ignorance that mankind finds itself in the 21st century A.D. In the 6th century A.D. Meccans were involved in tribal conflict and oppressive tyrannical warlords who created chaos and disorder. The burial of infant girls and immoral behaviour similar to animals in the desserts of Arabia was the order of the day. The arrival of Islam through the Prophet of Islam changed the landscape, transformed and affected the known world, which enjoyed a period of enlightenment, peace and happiness for a thousand years. 

When a person looks at past history in comparison to the present then one has to question what has happened to the present generation of Muslims? An examination of some facts and events in history as well as to make clear who the Muslims are in the present global picture is hopefully my task. 

Modern challenges of industrialization, science, technology, global markets and management systems for social transformation have left many ideologies in the dustbins of the world. The demise of the Soviet Union and globalisation has brought new challenges for the Muslims and the world. The question is whether Muslims, if the past is to go by, able to developed the higher man, assist and create a harmonious society and establish a just order for humanity.



In the modern era, mankind is redefining positions within the scope of identity, culture, religion and ideology. Today, through rapid advancement in technology, communication and the potential to be heard, people are more sensitive to oppression, prejudice and intolerances. The violent behaviour of people against woman, children or entire communities through the narrow usage of modern language of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Bosnia/Herzegovina or the dividing arguments of indigenous people and neighbours in Rwanda and Burundi and the genocide of the Hutu’s by Tutsi people are some of the ethical predicament and problematic for humanity. 

Issues as the occupation of Palestine in 1948 by Zionist Jews are not resolved through UN resolutions or peace initiatives as Oslo. The partition of India and Pakistan in 1948 by Britain had created a new problem for neighbouring Kashmir, which remains a state without self-determination through the annexation and occupation by India. These conflicts are illegal and unnatural in the behaviouristic appreciation of the human family. 

The dismantling of Apartheid in South Africa has not eradicated the disease of racism or solved the issue of the landless and the atmosphere of the social environment is static in mistrust and rampant crime. The dominant flavour from whiteness to blackness has not transcended the barriers of prejudice and attitudes. The station of transformation and change is being passed for the position of power and mismanagement of the countries resources. Globalisation has become the new dogma for change and the economy is in control through hegemonic designs of GEAR, a macro-economic model.



Reflecting on the period of colonization of the world by European countries of which the effects of a ‘Migraine’ and the symptom of occupation and control is still with us. The colonized designs of change through formation of the nation states have established the ideas of nationalism and despotic rulers. Globalisation the birth child of colonization owns and occupies the nation states more subtly and effectively through economic models and economic institutions. The period of colonization effectively eroded the ideas of a vibrant family culture and transformative social behaviour. This past period of colonized oppression makes us understand critically, what is happening in the modern tragedy of Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and the Sudan. Reading the history of European colonization, quickly places in perspective the modern dilemma of poverty, ignorance, disease and the oppression of mankind. 

When we look deeper into the surface of colonization, the question arises, whether it reorganized community forums, religious and local leaders to continue the kind of oppression and fanatically impose the concept of violence inherited from the conflicts of the past period. This is illustrated by the experiences of Taliban in Afghanistan when Muslim kills Muslim.  The reaction by the Taliban to destroy the archaeological Buddha’s as a slap in the face of western civilization who refuses to act with impunity to help the human condition in that part of the world. The onslaught of colonisation on Afghanistan by the British, The Russian and American interference has left the country raged, raped and oppressed. 

Anthropologist and Historian Mehmood Mamdani from Uganda clarifies that race problems existed before colonization but it became a racist problem after colonization. He argues that African traditional chiefs who originally had the law in their hand through customary laws and were not absolute. These chiefs were reorganized as despotic rulers through civil law formulated by the colonial masters. Post- colonial Africa began nationalism and the liberal economy and the movement of wealth to the rich and the multinationals.



Let us look at a refugee who has left his land for another because of repression, poverty or a better life. The movement and travel for us today is very swift and easy and are able to establish ourselves in different parts of the world further then previous generations. The dream of most migrants is to pass unnoticed in their newfound opportunity.  Most often they fail. They haven’t got the right accent. Their names are different or are too dark. 

Indigenous people look at the movements of refugees or migrants fearfully as to what they are doing in their land. This process has invented a new word that frightfully describes the unsettling process of ‘cleansing’ called  ‘Xenophobia’. Millions of people worldwide are left feeling marginalized and people are not willing to accept diversity and shouts of hatred, victimization and even murder have become the distortions and character of the colonized message and legacy. Many of us think about what will happen to them and many of us will be part of the tyranny over them.



Muslim see Christians in the panorama of history during the meeting with a delegation of the prophet of Islam from Mecca and King Negus of Abyssinia in the 7th century A. D. Muslims were welcomed in Ethiopia in the 7th century A.D. and in the 20th century we re-look at the upheaval in Somalia and Ethiopia and wonder in amazement and shame of the arrogance and hypocrisy of good neighbours and tolerance. 

The intolerance of the European fascism during the World wars in the 20th century and genocide against humanity and the holocaust of Jews is the pretence of civilization and modernism. The direct implication of this holocaust has cast a doubt about its authenticity by the Zionist Jews own holocaust against the people of Palestine. 

Considering whether Muslims have themselves become part of this stereo typed model of the European colonizer. The Muslims are unable solve their own identity ‘crises’ or understand the ‘real’ message of Islam. Many Muslim have not understood that Islam brings reform and social transformation of societies but have rather been embroiled in hate politics and revenge. 

The religious rhetoric and the lack of stratagem and have left many Muslim communities, bewildered and leaderless. Unable to in the vibrancy and vitality of genuine consultation and creative opinions have insulated ideas and methods have been co-opted to derail the message of Islam. Muslims unable to develop and challenge colonization or westernisation have retracted into radical fanaticism and conservatism. 

The conservative and fundamentalist type of movement within the framework of colonization has eroded the creativeness and the Universality of the message of Islam. Fiefdoms, monarchies, corrupt and despotic political, religious and community leaders have been behind the decline of the Muslim communities worldwide. We are forced to conclude in the 20th century, Muslims have not been a liberating force but rather a reactive kind of extreme conservative behaviour who ban open discussion, intolerant to the difference of opinions, avoid consultation or even a smile. 

Of many of the stateless people of the world, from the Palestinians, the Crimean Tartars and the largest who are the Kurds? In the Kurdish struggle for a homeland they had to fight powerful, secular, Muslim and religious nationalism of the 20th century. Kemal Atartuk’s Turkey, Imam Khomeini’s Iran, Saddam Hussain’s Iraq and Hafez Assad’s Syria. What would Salahudeen Ayubi the liberator of Jerusalem, himself a Kurd have to say about the national struggle of the Kurds and the oppression and atrocities against them? 

In Cuba the change from “Junta” politics to liberation, left the country fighting for survival as sanctions by America and isolation by the world began to bite into its side. The exchange of words during the ‘cold war’ period between the USA and Soviet Union left the country crying for justice and compassion. The resilience of Fidel Castro and the countries leadership developed and reorganized the ethics and logos of the country to transform and reorganize societies through personal sacrifice and care for humanity. Cuba is an example we take with us in the new millennium as a fortress of hope, support and an improvement of human dignity, tolerance and compassion. Fidel Castro and his people have been an example for the human race.



During the height of Islamic civilization in Baghdad and Cordoba during the 10th to the 12th century A.D. was a delightful exchange and example of a dazzling life. By the beginning of the 13th century A.D. its defenders were no longer able to tolerate dissenting voices. It was a bastion of fanaticism and ignorance, which was about to be taken over by the Catholics. 

Amin Maalouf, journalist and former editor of the an-Nahar of Beirut, who writes ‘On identities’, contends that, identities that kill - and he challenges the notion that reduces identity to one single affiliation who encourages people to adopt an attitude that is partial, sectarian, intolerant, domineering.  Those who belong to the same community as we do are ‘ours’ e. g. say the Muslims, we like to think ourselves concerned about what happens to them: if they are thought to be ‘lukewarm’ we denounce them, intimidate them, punish them as traitors and renegades. As for the others, those on the opposite side, we never try to put ourselves in their place, we take good care not to ask ourselves whether on some point or other they might not be in the entirely wrong and we won’t let our hearts be softened by their complaints, their suffering or the injustices that have been afflicted on them. The only thing that counts is the point of view of “our” side, a point of view that is often that of the most prejudiced and the most fanatical members of the community and the most militant.



In the paradigm for change, the reconstruction of the Muslim ethos and culture we must understand the responsibility to the human race, which is the universal message of Islam. Who is to redefine Islamic culture, identity and communication tools for Muslims in relation to mankind?  Culture is necessary for a healthy society. People of culture are recognized through the acquisition of enlightenment and sophistication through education and exposure to the arts. The arts collectively are literature, arts, science, music and related intellectual activities. 

The culture and practice is related to essential philosophy, religion and laws by which the society conducts itself. People with shared beliefs and practices are a group of people who’s practices are identified at a particular place, class time to which they belong.



The development of tools and language is the symbols of advancement of a society. Language is a strong tool of when it is sophisticated and developed and able to best enhance communicative skills. These advance skills allows for individual and collective transformation. The Arabic language has intrinsic building characteristics of morality and ethics within root meanings, which, develops conceptual clarity. E.g. the word ‘Rahman’ – (merciful) and its root word  ‘raham’ which means the womb. The profound meaning is that the womb gives life and from it emanates the ‘Mercy from God’ for life. The life principles of Muslims are that their worship must reflect a people of mercy and compassion.



What is a Muslim dress code and how should an African or European look like? Should he look like a person from the Indo-Pak continent or from Arabia?  My interpretation of Islamic dress code tells us about modesty and cleanliness. A Muslims rethink on the dress code must consider the universal understanding of the human condition, this include man and woman within their respected rights, beauty and protection. I am not suggesting a view away from what is the Qur’anic prescription but I am saying that the present example is tribal and not universal.  A universal choice of covering would be accepted by Alaskans as well the Europeans, Indians or Africans. Is it possible that Muslim have lost the idea of the message of Islam and are now convinced that the dress code is more relevant then to be truthful or to assist the orphan or to be kind to the beggar or to be vibrant and creative within the algorithms of the Islamic message which is dynamic in its worship. The rethinking or relearning, questions ones affirmation of the Shahada, which then redirects the person on the straight path of success. Islam is to believe in Allah (swt) and love of His creations and render selfless assistance for mankind.      



This paradigm for Muslims who have to deliver prototype for the human family, which must be significant to help reconstruct the future and incorporate creative and profound changes in the broad issues confronting mankind. Islam is the divine religion for all time thus Muslim must rethink and relearn through the passage of time what is the measure of happiness for the entire human race. The universal message of Islam as George Bernard Shaw said is the solution for Europe and the World. When Muslims redefine the message of Islam then possibly in the future they can look back and say that they have not failed humanity.   

The root word Islam is ‘aslama’ which means to surrender i.e. to surrender to the will of the Almighty in Whom he finds Peace. He then finds peace within himself and is in peace with the Almighty’s creation. The universal behaviour is characterized of the Prophet of Islam as a ‘mercy for the worlds’. The basic proposal of human rights that their exist inherent rights to human dignity that is universal and reflects the struggle that people do not want to be tolerated, they want to be accepted. The legacy of mankind is that we are all from the human family, so the question remains and challenges are there and whether we are relevant in the equation or not?