Renewal of Muslim Communities – A Program
This discourse was delivered at the Pretoria Conference in South Africa on 13 April, 2002
[Updated on January 2003]
Map Explaining the Renewal of Muslim Communities
Please click on the following thumbnail to view the larger map
My topic for this gathering is to articulate a program for the Renewal of Muslim communities, which was encouraged by Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri and Sister Aliya Haeri and inspired by the overall theme which is ‘Living Islam’ and a motivation for a better life for mankind.
My task is to take you through a panoramic view, which will firstly, explain the cancerous problems of Muslim communities and secondly a possible cure so that we can experience the ‘living Islam’ through the renewal and the revival of the message of Islam.
The symptomatic view of the cancerous problems are summarised to four points though many other problems can be discussed, however the main task of this talk is to formulate a solution for a renewal of Muslim communities.
Firstly, before the advent of Islam in the 7th century A.D. the people of Mecca and surrounding region were engulfed in a state of ignorance similar to what mankind finds itself in the 21st century. In the so-called modern era, oppressive politicians and capitalist warlords have created chaos and disorder, ignorance, sectarianism, despotic leadership and the fragmentation of the family. Societies are confused, materially motivated and unable to protect themselves from the onslaught of consumerism, multinational corporations, globalisation and the techno-usurious economic systems.
Secondly, during the height of the Islamic civilization in Baghdad and Cordoba during the 10th to the 12th centuries A.D. there 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. Further in 1924, the systematic destruction and dismantling of the institution of the central leadership of the Muslims, ‘the Caliphate’ was complete and the Ottoman Empire was subjugated through the hands of its secular leader Kemal Atartuk. Muslim decline sets in, due to their apathy, lack of freshness and creativeness to understand the message of Islam.
Thirdly, there was the period of colonization of the world by European countries of which the symptom’s of occupation and control still lingers with us. The colonized formation of the modern nation states has established the ideas of nationalism and despotic rule. This period of colonization effectively eroded the ideas of a vibrant family culture and the transformative social behaviour within Muslim societies. The period of colonization makes us understand critically the modern tragedy of Palestine, Algeria, Kashmir, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Indonesia, Tunisia, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, etc. It places in perspective the modern dilemma of poverty, ignorance, disease and repressive autocratic leaders. When we probe deeper into the surface of colonization, the question arises: Did it succeeded in reorganizing 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 colonised period?
Fourthly, my foremost concern arises about the interpretation of the message of Islam and Muslim educational methodology. Most Muslims scholars and Ulema are primarily dealing with the principle of the law, i.e. the Fiqh (Jurisprudence) and not with the transcendental love of Allah and His Messenger (S), which are the principles of Islam. Whilst Muslims need the “law” to adhere to the tenets of Islam, it is presently used to subjugate and suppress ordinary Muslims. The Ulema (The scholars of law) are claiming a hierarchy and monopoly of Islam. The Shariah (the divine law and guidance of Allah) has become the law of man using God’s name.
The disunity of the Muslims can be analyzed by the fact that many reformers and scholars that came to revive or teach the message of Islam, after their demise became the object of blind following. The followers of the various schools of Mazhabs (Muslim schools of Jurisprudence) and organizations did not understand the development and dynamics within the history of ideas that clarifies the message Islam. Instead these developments became the greatest schism for Muslims which do not reflect the love of Allah and his Rasul(s). Muslims worldwide adhere to the law, follow organizations or individuals but the love and obedience to Allah is secondary.
In pondering the educational methodology "the foremost culprit is perhaps the relegation of women to an inferior position in society." It has the result of "depriving the Islamic world of the talents and energies of half its people, and entrusting the crucial early years of the upbringing of the other half to downtrodden mothers.
Through these observations of the cancerous symptoms, Muslims have become like the blind following the one legged blind. The blind man is representative of the religious political, cultural hierarchy and its bankrupt, narrow and egotistical standards of power. The followers are unable to find the correct prescription for their revival due to selfish and linear interpretation of the message of Islam. How can honey act as a cure for an ailing man when his diet is unhealthy?
ESSENTIAL FOR THE RENEWAL OF MUSLIM COMMUNITIES
The second part of this talk is to elucidate the potential cure and the Adab (moral and intellectual behaviour) for Muslim communities and to understand our purpose in this world, which is to instill the love and obedience of Allah and to establish the Prophetic Model. The formulation of a new strategy for discussion and to present a holistic model/program to inculcate the love and obedience to the will of Allah are the beginning of change for Muslim communities.
When a group formalizes itself, and its central leadership is in place, establishes an institution, e.g. a Masjid that acts, as a pivot for implementing the message of Islam and its vision, then this is the beginning of a developing community. The central Muttaqi (a person who is conscious of Allah) leadership develops the concepts for renewal, and nourishes the programs and projects, which are the central structure for a community. When these concepts, programs and projects are in synergy and in action with the individual and collective process of the community through the total surrender and obedience to the will of Allah, that community will be in renewal.
CONCEPTS AND PROGRAMS IN SYNERGY AND ACTION
For our discussion I would like to present seven key concepts/programs/projects to achieve this synergy and action for a ‘Living Islam’ and the renewal of Muslim communities are tabulated as follows:
3. The Qur’anic Prescription/The Qur’anic Concepts,
4. Tarbiyah/Tahdib/Adab in action/Amal,
5. Tazkiyyah-purification of the self
An explanation and a methodology to clarify these concepts, programs and projects in theory and practice and to achieve the renewal of Muslim communities through the total submission to the will of Allah is my task.
MUSLIMS AND ISLAM
In the beginning the dichotomy/division that exists between Islam and Muslims needs to be healed and reconciled. The starting point for the global or local strategy for the renewal of Muslim communities is a comprehensive understanding of the Arabic word and the first concept, ‘ISLAM’.
The root word of Islam is from ‘aslama’, which means submission i.e. submission to the will of the Almighty in Whom one finds Peace. He then finds peace within himself and is in peace with the Almighty’s creation. The renewal of Muslim communities is directed from the foundation of submission, which acts as a self-correcting mechanism for change, success and achieving dynamic peace.
INTERNALIZING THE SHAHADA AND COMPANIONSHIP
Second, it is essential to explore the early years of the Prophet’s emphasis on the Shahada (an oath to testify that there is no ilah (God) accept Allah and to further testify that Muhammad (s) is the Last messenger of Allah). It was the vibrant and innate message of the Shahada the second concept, which shook and toppled the Meccans worldview of the 6th century.
Further, the Prophet of Islam nourished his Ashaab (companions), by simply breaking all the shackles of human inclinations by INTERNALIZING THE MESSAGE OF THE SHAHADA, moulding and compassionately developing a bond of ukhuwa (total brotherhood). True companions became united, fortified, inwardly and outwardly through firm and sincere belief in the unity of Allah and the unity of the Last Messenger – the Tauheedi worldview.
The example of Bilal’s (R) (a companion of the Prophet (S)) sacrifices under torturous conditions by his slave master who was trying to force him to give up this new way of life. He did not relent and his patience and resilience was purely for the submission to Allah, the Ahad (the One) and the living Shahada. His sacrifice is an example in the early period of the birth of Islam as a worldview with a divine message and ethos for the entire human race.
Another example is of the Muhajirin (the people of Mecca who immigrated to Medina for the sake of Allah) and Ansar’s (the people of Medina who acted as host), broad understanding to establish a Shahada society in Medina. The Medina period emphasized understanding and focused on primary community issues e.g. education, rights of woman, and rights of orphans, spiritual training, political and military campaigns and capability (Badr, Uhud and others), brother-hood and the unity of purpose. This society practicalises the Islamic ethos and way of life.
After the death of the prophet of Islam (S) and the successive period of the Khulafa-e-Rashidun (the righteous Caliphs) experienced severe upheavals including the assassination of three of the four Caliphs. The message of Islam survived this phase and subsequent turbulent periods due to the sacrifice of the Prophet (S), great companions and the members of his family to keep the message of Islam alive.
This clearly illustrates that during the 23 years of Prophethood; the Prophet (S) had adequately developed, nourished and equipped his family and a community of great companions (R). They creatively and vibrantly upheld the message of Islam, although challenged by the frailties of the world and through their sacrifice; Muslim societies mostly experienced harmony, intellectual, moral and spiritual growth and prosperity for the next 600 years.
The initial formative process to establish healthy Muslim communities was firstly, to establish companionship (Ashaab) without any agenda/scheme other then the love for Allah and the love of the Rasul (S), to understand the Islamic principles of Ukhuwa (total brotherhood) and the Qur`anic principle of ‘Shura’ (mutual consultation), which are the stepping-stone to institute and discipline the global leadership ‘emirate’ for the Muslim world community.
The understanding of the concept and meaning of Islam and the internalising of the Shahada which must be in harmony, are the action and the foundation for the community’s unity, behaviour and its renewal.
THE QUR`ANIC WORLDVIEW
The Third, fourth and fifth concepts/programs are ideas developed as the three pillars that arise out of the foundation which is the process and the clarification for the renewal of Muslim communities.
The three pillars are described as follows:
- The Qur`anic prescription and the Qur`anic concepts.
- Tarbiyyah (training, upbringing), Tahdib (the Islamic process of education) and Adab (the moral, intellectual behaviour and training)
- Tazkiyyah (purification of the self)
Third, the first of the three pillars THE QUR`ANIC PRESCRIPTION AND THE QUR`ANIC CONCEPTS are the divine tools for this renewal and the guidance for the development of Muslim communities. The groundwork of establishing a successful character is described as ‘a walking Qur`an who was the Prophet of Islam.
The Qur`an is the essential divine guidance for all mankind, which forms the basis of all rationality and disciplines of the body, mind and soul. The cardinal actions are expounded in the Noble Qur`an of ‘enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil’ and ‘to believe in Allah, to enjoin good and to enjoin the truth and to be patient’. The concept of Taffakhur (to reflect and to analyse) and Tadabhur (to think and to contemplate) teaches us through the signs and message of Allah to initiate an Islamic social and intellectual revival for change and harmony.
In our reorganization and reconstruction it is essential that Muslims understand the ‘living’ concepts as expounded in the Noble Qur`an, e.g.
Tauheed (Unity-Oneness of Allah), Shirk (Associating a partner with Allah),
Taqwa (Allah consciousness, fear of Allah, cautious awareness of Allah),
Tazkiyyah (self purification),
The Beautiful Names of Allah (Allah’s attributes),
& Jihad (lower and greater endurance and struggle) etc.
There are about 360 key concepts in the Noble Qur`an, which need to be studied, understood and practised. These concepts convey the nature of the divine message and are pivotal/crucial for the balance, vibrancy and revival for Muslim individuals and communities.
To explain one of the concepts as Taqwa (Allah consciousness, fear of Allah, cautious awareness of Allah), briefly for clarification through a teaching and saying of Ubay bin Kaab who was a companion of the Prophet (S) (ashaab) and an interpreter of the Noble Qur`an (mufasarin):-
He said that, Umar (Rah) approached him to explain the meaning of Taqwa. Kaab (Rah) asked Umar (Rah) whether he had traversed through a thorny bush/forest with his thin cloak. Umar (Rah) replied that he had. Kaab (Rah) then asked Umar (Rah) how he had treaded through this bush/forest. Umar answered that he treaded cautiously. Kaab (Rah) said, that was the meaning of Taqwa.
A person who practises Taqwa is an Allah conscious person (Muttaqee).
The term muttaqee is derived from the Arabic root word “waqa” or “waqaya” which means guard or shield. Hence a muttaqee is one who threads cautiously, guards or shields him/herself from the evil and error in the world and submits to the will of Allah.
Sheikh Fadhlalla Haeri, in his book ‘The Journey of the Self’ tabulates the tree of virtue, which elucidates the principles and describes the model Taqwa character.
TARBIYYAH AND ADAB IN ACTION
Fourth, the second of the three pillars is TARBIYYAH (training, upbringing), TAHDIB (the Islamic process of education), and ADAB (the moral and intellectual behaviour) are the tools of learning, training and excelling to achieve the closeness to Allah and the Prophetic way.
The first 5 verses revealed to the Prophet (S) in the cave of Hira,
“Read in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher Who created-
Created man out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood
Read! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful, -
He Who taught (The use of) the Pen, -
Taught man that which he knew not.”
The Noble Qur`an – Surah 96 Al Alaq - The Clot - Verse 1-5
set the support for the Tarbiyah programs of reading and research in the name of Allah, the concept and the origin of the pen, writing and the message of Islam and guidance by Allah.
Rationality and knowledge is established in the ‘Living Islam’ and ‘Tarbiyyah’ (training, upbringing) is the essential ingredients for reading, learning, research, and writing that inculcate progressive disciplines through the worship of Allah (SWT). This knowledge and the quest for ‘truths’ from the cradle to the grave is the journey of life. The circles and gatherings of learning for Man, women and youth must endure, struggle, worship and disseminate new information and knowledge for the benefit of individuals and developing and renewing communities in the name of Allah.
The Tarbiyyah programs further allows us to learn about the Din – so as to establish our practice and behaviour that pleases Allah. This foundation is founded on the belief of ‘Iman’, i.e. belief in the Oneness of Allah (S), The Angels, The Prophets, The Books, The Unseen, Predestination, and the Last Day.
The Pillars on the foundation of ‘Islam’ are enshrined in the Shahada, Salaah, Zakaah, Fasting, and Haj.
The character of the Muslim community is lived according to ‘Ihsaan’ that is to worship Allah (S) as though one sees Him and if one does not see Him, know that He sees you. The concept of “Ihsaan” expounds the idea of beauty and higher Iman in the perfection of submission and obedience as a bondsman, Abdullah (The slave of Allah). This perfection of the self is the basis of establishing a divine connection with Allah (S). The worship of Allah (S) opens the yearning to learn, excel and perfect the blessings given to mankind, always appreciating and enhancing the balance for ourselves and for Allah (S) creation on the Earth and the Heavens.
THE PURIFICATION OF THE SELF
Fifth, the third pillar the Qur`anic concept of TAZKIYYAH (purification of the self) is the measure to purify and perfect the Nafs to establish closeness to Allah (S) and be worthy of His love. This is a very important aspect of a Muslim's life. Allah tells us in the Noble Qur`an in:
The Noble Qur`an declares in Surah 91- Ash-Shams, Verse 9
"Indeed he succeeds who purifies his own self …”
Vigils, fasting and the circles of Zikr are the disciplines that create awareness, which, nourishes the heart and bring us closer to Allah. The Prophet of Islam said that there is an organ in the body if it is sick then the entire body becomes sick – that organ is the heart. The innate characteristics for the perfection of behavior and transformation of the self are divinely spelt out and qualities as:
‘Sabr (perseverance), Shukr (thanking Allah), which are the two halves of Iman.
Zikr (invoking the remembrance of Allah),
Istighfaar (repentance) and Dua (supplication) is the antidote for human tribulations and weakness.
The sixth and seventh key points are program/project and are developed as the canopy, which lead from the foundation and pillars for the renewal of Muslim communities.
THE DYNAMICS OF DAWAH
Sixth, the first part of the canopy of the community is THE CHARACTER OF DA’WAH and the creative process of its projects, programs, and behaviour, to give mankind the message of Islam and to find like-minded people for the success of the community. The personality, which describes the behaviour to give this message, is the character of the prophet of Islam is described in the Qur`an:
‘We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all the Worlds.
The Nobel Qur`an – Surah 21 Ambiyaa – The Prophets, Verse 107.
The universal standard of Gods compassion and mercy was to send a messenger and representative for all mankind, creatures and all the ‘worlds’. Allah always begins His response in the Noble Qur’an as, “In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful”(accept in Surah Taubah where it is within the Surah).
Muslims and Muslim communities will have to relate to the understanding of the character of love and compassion, which is the basis of ‘UNIVERSAL COMPASSION’. Universal Compassion is the behaviour of 3rd millennium and a better future for the human family, all creatures and the Worlds. Muslims behaviour and communication must be reorganised, re-educated, to endeavour and persevere to perfect our selves. This firm compassion is the manner of our Da'wah programs, which is to give the message of Islam and the Shahada in a creative and vibrant manner.
PROJECTS AND PROGRAM IN SYNERGY, SURRENDER AND OBEDIENCE
Seventh, The concepts of …..
· Islam – Shahada/Companionship – the foundation
· The Qur’anic prescription and key Qur’anic concepts – first pillar
Tarbiyyah/Tahdib/Adab/Amal – second pillar
Tazkiyah – third pillar
· The character of Da’wah – first part of the canopy
under discussion must implode in a process of synergy and harmony to establish vibrant individuals who interact collectively to make the community successful through its PROGRAMS AND PROJECTS (the second part of the canopy). That society must make an impact when its programs through correct prescription have benefited the community and humanity for the pleasure of Allah.
Programs and projects in the arena of action, includes Masjids, holistic health clinics, publishing, socio- economic business ventures, self help welfare projects, Qur`an study, learning and teaching circles, Zikr circles, Da’wah initiatives and governance, etc. Developing educational institution, which encompasses the broad principles as, explained in the attached map which is A MAP OF RENEWAL OF MUSLIM COMMUNITIES
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
The process of renewal is primarily the love of Allah and the love of our Rasul (s) and is summarised as follows:
Islam – submission to the will of Allah, to attain dynamic Peace, and the concept of internalising the message of the Shahada forms the foundation of a Muslim community.
Secondly, the learning and transformative circles of the Qur`an, Tarbiyah (training) and Tazkiyah (purification of the self), are the pillars that arise out of the foundation.
Lastly, leading from the pillars the Da’wah (invite to the message of Islam) and socio-economic, welfare and educational projects informing and enlightening is the canopy of the renewed Muslim community.
This process of renewal establishes individual characters of Mu’min (The believer), Muhsin (Rightly Guided), Salihun (The Righteous), Siddiqun (The Truthful) and ultimately Muttaqun (an Allah conscious person). It develops an infrastructure of central leadership and establishes a vibrant community harmony and renewal, through the total surrender to the will of Allah and following the Prophetic model. Ultimately. The harmony of action is to share the ‘four togethers’ with the companions (Ashaab): eating, living, working and remembering Allah.
A man came up to the Rasul (S) and told him that he wanted a simple answer to the understanding of Islam. The Rasul (S) told him that Islam is to worship Allah (S) and the best was he who served mankind.
Allah (s) has placed within us the cosmology of change; it is from within ourselves that our problems emanate and within ourselves that our problems are solved. We have an internal compass to direct us to our Lord and we use our inner and outer senses to combine with our rationality to live Islam.
Serving mankind and the cosmology of the self is within us. The ideal closeness to Allah (s) is to reach a station, as Allah describes in a Hadith Qudsi that my servant draws closer to me with Nawafal (voluntary) acts, so that I become the eyes with which he sees and hands with which he touches and the feet with which he walks. When he takes one step towards Me I take ten steps towards him. When he walks I run to him.
This discipline and the unconditional submission to the will of Allah is the beginning of change, to attain inner certainty to deal with the outer uncertainty. To believe in Allah, to do good deeds to enjoin the truth and be patient. The perfect Medina community is within us and it awaits the correct behaviour, prescription and transformation.
Allah is in charge; He is The Ever-living, The Ever-Subsisting, The first, The Last, The Inwardly Hidden and the Outwardly Manifest. May he guide us on the straight path. Amen
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