Making Necessary Commitment to our Ummah

There is a great deal of despondency among Muslims. This, despite the fact that we have tremendous human potential of some 1.3 billion, and we lead the world in growth — especially in productive youngsters.

We are also blessed with an abundance of natural resources such as petroleum and natural gas, and we inhabit the most strategic areas of the globe. Place these factors into the context of Islam’s uniquely transcendental message, alongside the testimonials of a glorious historic past, and you have all the ingredients for a respectable place in the comity of nations.

Given all this, and especially during the post-colonial era, we should have taken off on sound footing — building a grand society on our traditional Islamic principles of justice, freedom, peace and prosperity; yet, we did not.

Add to this the fact that our masses are among the world’s poor, hungry, and illiterate. With an over 60% illiteracy rate, our people are being held backwards with few avenues of gainful productivity. As a result, nearly 40% live below the poverty line (on less than $2.00 a day). And while they continue to suffer, corrupt autocratic dictators plunder the resources and loot the public treasury. When they finally leave their thrones of power, they take billions with them to stash in foreign banks.

These dictators have perfected the tools of corruption through deceit and nepotism; silencing and terrorizing the masses through coercion, detention and murder; maintaining their status quo by subservience to foreign masters; and attending to their interests rather than the interests of their own people.

The current havoc being wrought on Muslim lands amply demonstrates that it is past time for our masses and genuine leadership to take affairs into their own hands. We can no longer afford to leave them to autocratic rulers or their cliques and protégés, and the circumstances that necessarily result. Each and every one of us has to be earnestly committed and involved in all our Ummah’s affairs.

First and foremost, we must acquire knowledge. Indeed, the era of inquiry, inquisition and application started with the first word, Iqra, that was revealed to the Prophet (pbuh). He made it incumbent on every Muslim, male or female, to acquire it from the cradle to the grave; thereby, creating a great civilization unparalleled in the history of humankind. Unfortunately, this enlightened culture was weakened because this noble tradition of scholarship was neglected by the rulers of the day; subsequently, colonialists subjugated these Muslim states.

Since there is no dearth of talent among Muslims within or without Muslim countries, public education and accessibility to knowledge must now constitute our primary concern. One less barrier to this has been breached with the free flow of information via the Internet. Essential also is the establishment of educational programs by dedicated individuals at the local level, and each one of us should be involved in one form or another — either through study or its promotion. Those with financial means should open wide their purse strings in order to uplift our people; they will ensure rewards with the Creator in the Hereafter by doing so.

It is important, however, that the knowledge and information being imparted be relevant to our crucial understanding of Islam — offering Islamic solutions to the exigencies of our times while adopting modern means for their application. Public education should make our Ummah conscious of where to go from here.

Muslims must also establish institutions that guarantee that the gains achieved at grassroots levels are sustained and nourished at the collective level. These must include institutions that serve as watchdogs for our rights and civil liberties; that preserve and protect public funds against misappropriation and corruption; that maximize public scrutiny and debate; and work for the unity and solidarity of the Ummah. We must also revive the institutions from our historic past that were considered essential for Islamic development and growth, such as nasiha (advice), shura (consultation), ikhtilaf (airing and resolving disagreements), al-amr bil maruf (commanding right and virtue), al-nahi an al-munkar (forbidding wrong and vice) and hisbah (public accountability).

In addition, we must stop wasting time by focusing on peripheral issues, as our collective existence is currently very much at stake. While it is healthy for us to have different viewpoints, they should not be allowed to develop to the extent that they are detrimental to our community. Thus, while encouraging diversity for the greater good, we must shun sectarianism, discord and conflict, and seek to resolve all of our issues through amicable discussion. Islam places utmost emphasis (second only to submission to Allah) on the unity of our Ummah, and condemns in the strongest terms any willful attempt to split the Ummah. Entrenched rulers often exploit our sectarian differences, and the West utilizes them for its purposes to “create wars with Islam.”

In pursuing the above, Muslims must be committed to the sublimation of human values that is ascribed by Islam, which seeks the good for humanity, in toto. As Muslims, we should embrace goodness wherever it is — irrespective of whence it emanates. This is in accordance with the Qur’anic message: “You are the best Ummah evolved for humankind; you enjoin what is good, and check what is wrong and evil for humankind while having faith in Allah” (Al Imran, 3:110).

Another Islamic characteristic is Ummatan Wastan, a median or balanced community that has been given the responsibility of exemplifying as “witnesses (to the truth) before humankind” (Al Baqarah, 2:143). The greatness of our Ummah is contingent upon its carrying out this great role for humankind.

As Muslims — committed to Allah, our Lord and Creator — we must put our trust in Him and know that success will come if we are true believers and if we do our best to implement the above. We must be conscious of our accountability to Him for all our actions and in conformity with the maxim, “seeking the good of this world and the good of the Hereafter.” This commitment necessarily entails that we root out any and all selfishness, and work hard for the collective good of the community, the Ummah, and humanity at large.

Most noteworthy is a remarkable 21st century phenomenon: during these sad times for Muslims, coupled with an Islamic resurgence, Providence has enlisted a worldwide movement to promote justice and peace. Strangely, its birth took place at the exact time that the design for re-colonizing Muslim lands was taking hold, starting with Iraq. The informal movement’s slogan is, “People power versus Superpower,” (the U.S.), and they are convinced that People Power shall ultimately win out, because it is on the side of humanity and represents truth.

Muslims cannot remain on the sidelines of this movement; rather, they must get earnestly involved — with a holistic, transcendental vision of taking the lead and guiding role in it. This is because Islam — literally and purposely — is peace; it represents an unreserved stand for justice for humankind as a whole. The Qur’anic injunctions are clear; for example, “Allah commands you to render back your trusts to those to whom they are due. And when you judge between humankind, that you judge with justice: Verily how excellent is the teaching, which He gives you! For Allah is He who hears and sees all things” (Al Nisa, 4:58). Further on in the same chapter, the Qur’an instructs, “O You who believe! Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it is (against) rich or poor; for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your heart), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do” (4:135).