Are we really the Best UMMAH?
A way forward for Muslim Activism
It has become fairly common theme among activist (western born)
Muslims to glorify themselves, below is a sample:
We have a chance to be a unique kind of Muslim: a American Muslim.
Those who are coming of age in the west, are perhaps the best generation
that the Ummah has yet produced; They are highly educated, observant
of an Islam largely unhindered by the cultural baggage that stifles
so many Muslim countries. For the first time in history, the dominant
powers in the West contain millions of Muslims, There is absolutely
nothing that can stop determined Muslims from becoming policy makers
and leaders in our government. It is a great irony that the Muslim
world's brightest hope lies not in a warlord come to deliver them
of their woes, a Salahuddin or Khairuddin Pasha, nor in a new movement,
but in highly educated and sophisticated westerners who happen to
be followers of Islam."
We have a chance to be a unique kind of Muslim: a American Muslim.
Are you implying you have fused American Culture and Islam and this
makes you superior to other Muslims?
Best generation that the Ummah has yet produced, how does
one come to this conclusion? Surely the Prophet Muhammad and his
companions should feature as the Best.
They are highly educated. So why then are we currently:
- "Importing" khatibs/"scholars" etc. from abroad
who are unaware of the social context and dynamics of this society.
- Placing people with insufficient knowledge to
head and lead our Islamic centers, because there is no one available
with sufficient knowledge.
OK then could they mean Science and Technology ? this is a fast
changing area. I have the following points to make:
- During the Golden age of Islam, Muslims lead
and nurtured Science, Mathematics and Astronomy. Are you comparing
what you have been taught with that of a Ummah who lead and discovered.
Even non-musilms have remarked on the strong contrast of the Dark
Ages in the West and the Golden Age of Islam.
- Who will remember if we were technically very
good during the latter half of the 20th century ? Future generations
may even regard current technology is primitive?
- If you equate "highly educated" for "Science
and Technology" you may get the distinction of the LAST ummah
(not BEST UMMAH).
largely unhindered by the cultural baggage that stifles so many
Muslim countries. Ok this is largely true, but you have been only
here for 30 odd years. Already a Cultural baggage is materializing
- Many are Celebrating Birthdays and sending/receiving
- Many are Celebrating Christmas and sending/receiving
- Reduced status of parents (and lack of respect).
- Lack of spirituality replaced by demands on
Remeber this is in 30 years! It may be a different cultural baggage
but it is one never the less.
There is absolutely nothing that can stop determined Muslims
from becoming policy makers and leaders in our government. Notice
the emphasis on joining the power-elite as the solution to the Muslim
highly educated and sophisticated westerners who happen to be
followers of Islam
- Educated and Sophisticated compared to whom?
- Surely a Muslim first who lives in the west.
When I first heard the above quotation it to me conjured up and
image of some hypocrite at a dinner party in a posh English accent
and manner trying to shock his guests.
Now, how come we are producing this kind of thinking?
Our minds are colonized and that is all that is necessary in this
day and age. England does not need to send in 100,000 troops anymore
to India, nor does the United States need to send in a million troops
to Pakistan to colonize us. All that they need to do is to colonize
our minds, which we are letting them do.
We cannot pretend that educating people in a certain mode of thinking
through their entire formal schooling years will not fail to produce
a certain kind of individual, whose world view will not be in accord
with the Qur'an and the sunnah.
As I said, this argument is entirely typical of the attitude of
thousands of young Muslim activists in this country - i.e., those
who see themselves as committed and truly sincere. Hence, even sincerity
is often not enough when it comes to having independence of thought
and appropriateness of action in accordance with Islamic imperatives.
It is fairly obvious how we got to this extremely dangerous point.
But a lot can still be done to take charge of the situation and
to radically change course.
The way out is to abandon the brand of activism that today passes
for Islamic commitment. If we leave this whole scenario and return
some years later, believe me, nothing will have changed. There will
still be the same problems, the same dilemmas.
We have to realize that there are no easy, immediately implementable,
one-word solutions. Do ------ (fill in the blank) and everything
will be all right. Systematically, some of us have to remove ourselves
from this mud (recognize that involvement with the community is
an absolute must, but mostly as a way of keeping in touch with the
reality of the situation and the actual needs of real Muslims, not
as a way of expecting to make some "contribution" that can, in the
immediate future, alter things in a substantial way) and begin thinking
about the future - even the distant future.
I believe that one of the biggest mistakes we have consistently
been making for many decades (and even onger) is to say, let's take
care of things now, we have to do this for the short-term. As a
result, almost all of our efforts get diverted into stop-gap measures.
It may seem brutal (but it isn't) that certain immediate "needs"
might have to be ignored (don't worry, "activists" will jump in
and fill the void if you exit this sphere) for the sake of the future.
In short, I believe that the real challenge is not fighting to
regain the lost territory of Palestine or Kashmir or whatever -
even if we regained the lost territory, what shall we teach these
Muslim children? What will be the basis of the "newly-liberated"
Our prescriptions are flawed because we see the source of enslavement
in physical occupation, when in fact this mode of occupation is
passe and only the more brute forces of certain groups of people
(in Serbia, in India, in Israel, for instance) demand the imposition
of such rule.
It is not that you can send your child to a so-called "Islamic
school" and simultaneously assault them with confusing signals from
the rest of the environment around them and expect to produce a
healthy, mature, wise, knowledgeable Muslim adult.
Is there an "Islamic biology" or "Islamic physics" to teach this
child? Has any Muslim written decently on world history over the
last 100 years from the Islamic point of view? If not, how can we
teach children history written from an unIslamic perspective and
expect them to remain "Islamic"? If the child does so, he/she will
certainly be terribly confused and the seeds for loss of faith will
already have been implanted.
We have a clear choice to make. Either we can want to hold on to
our "comfort" zone - most of us have found something to give us
comfort, something to hold on to, something to disguise the darkness
of Muslim society and of its tremendous problems. Most of us have
come to the position of saying, oh, things are not that bad, here
are many Islamic "movements" making a contribution, we are improving,
etc., etc. Either we believe in these fantasies - or, we decide
that we will not choose comfort for the sake of real work, and decide
to change our own lives first, and work on a certain vision for
Inspired by a Khutba at Harvard on "Assimilation of Muslims. Or,
Islamization of Knowledge"
Large chunks of the text are taken from the above article.