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Published On: Thu, Jan 1st, 2015

Can religion be the reason for the Muslim world’s fragmentation?

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In reality, worship (‘ibadat) really does not merely mean the performance of rituals alone, but also includes all the duties and actions required in a Muslim’s life according to Islamic Law (Shari’ah), as well as values, like the promotion of what is good, avoiding evil, engaging in public struggle, and caring for others. If these qualities are not deeply rooted in the emotional fabric (wujdan) of Muslim children, then they will pass this apathy on to their own children, and perpetuate a cycle of disastrous indifference. There is, therefore, a major imbalance and flaw in the sequence of religious education that overemphasizes the performance of rituals as a goal in itself and underemphasizes inner development and public concerns. The word ‘ibadct really denotes dhikr, which means remembrance and communication with the Almighty to establish righteousness, morality, and good behavior.

Unfortunately there was a historical confrontation, polarization, and separation between Muslim scholars and thinkers on the one hand and oppressive and corrupt political leaders on the other. Muslim jurists have been isolated from public life and have focuse mainly on the personal and individual aspeci of people’s lives, ignoring the public and soc etal concerns. Thus, the practices of public affairs, good governance, political participatior consultation tshura), civic duties, seeking sc cial justice and establishing brotherhood have not been given their due importance. This he distorted the Islamic universal vision. A pasive attitude toward public issues has affecte the Ummatic team spirit and weakened grou bonds necessary to generate public concen A civilization cannot be sustained by a narrow-minded emphasis on personal salvatio alone; it has to be complemented by a stron emphasis on social and public concerns. I other words the implementation of the concept of istikhla] (the trusteeship of humar kind) requires us to perform and develoj generation after generation, the mission ( ‘imran (the creation of a civilization based the common good). Although concern personal and family laws in Islamic jurisprudence (jiqh) is a necessary requirement, it not, on its own, enough to produce builde of civilization.

Such a discourse helps to produce good ultimately passive and submissive individua and communities. People raised in a trad tional, formalistic, and legalistic culture perform their ablution, prayers, fasting, are pilgrimage rituals correctly, but they unfo tunately do not incline toward good citizei ship, public participation, and promotir service to society. Becoming dependent governments to provide them with ready made services, rather than shouldering then personal and public responsibilities, they be come unable to think for themselves, or make decisions about their future, or increase then knowledge, or take care of themselves. In othei words, apathy wins over active participation Children raised in this way do not become free, ethical, innovative thinkers, team workers, or pioneers of social progress; instead they ultimately grow up as timid and selfish egoists. Individuals who live under oppressive political and religious authorities suffer from a bad situation; where social change is needed they generate sick societies and destructive t behavior, clearly evident in the social misery s of their environment and economy. While they avoid interest-bearing bank accounts, they are happy to cheat on their Income Tax returns and the payment of zakah, even though lying and cheating contravene the Shari’ah, They feel victorious when they have managed to escape being caught for smuggling and for deceiving custom officials. Some parents emphasize self-centered behavior from the time their child is born to the time s/he reaches adulthood. More effort is put into what the children will wear than in teaching them to care for others and be kind to others, or to inculcate a sense of responsibility for people, the poor and needy in particular, and the environment in general.

Many of us may buy expensive toys that break easily for our children, yet turn away from the suffering of a poor child on the road begging for food and clothes.

This way of looking at life has hurt our societies and public life. How can we explain, for instance, that the National Day in Bangladesh refers to the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan?

Why should the celebration of a division be lauded when we see European nations uniting and cooperating to enhance their common interests, when once they were enemies of one another?

Brazil has unity despite the presence of many ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups, each with its own economic and social problems. Meanwhile, Muslim and Arab countries, despite their common language, culture, and common interests, continue to disintegrate. “Quarreling” Arab states and “poor” Muslim countries do little to help their citizens. Muslim numbers are on the increase, but not their status on the world scene.

Can religion be the reason for the Muslim world’s fragmentation, disunity, pettiness and isolation? Do such poor qualities serve its interests? Do Muslims misunderstand their religion? There exists a split in the Ummahs mentality. Everyone has learnt to think only of himself or herself, and tries to preserve his/her immediate personal and family interests, while ignoring the Ummah’s wider interests and those of other members of society, including relatives and neighbors. Muslim culture is becoming narrow-minded and distorted, void of neighborly feelings and the teamwork spirit that should be its hallmark.

Muslims need to lift their heads out of the sand. Compare this situation with the attitude of Abu Bakr, when he was willing to donate all his wealth to the community. The Prophet $ asked him: “What did you leave for your family?” He answered: “I left them Allah and Allah’s Messenger:’ Abu Bakr’s action was a sign not only of his strong faith, but also of his conviction that the Prophet $ and society would be able to take care of him and his family should they ever be in need. If AbU Bakr had felt that his family would have been forced to suffer and beg in the streets, he would have kept most of his wealth and donated a small part of it.

The current unhappy state of the Muslim world cannot be blamed on the fact that it consists of vast territories with many ethnic groups speaking many different languages, or that they are ruled by oppressive regimes or have suffered a history of colonialism etc.

Islam promotes peaceful coexistence and social harmony. Muslims today comprise one-quarter of the world’s population. Their disunity cannot be attributed to Islam because Islam teaches unity, brotherhood, solidarity, and compassion. Nor can it be attributed to political and economic factors since economic and political decline is a symptom, not a cause.

The question then remains: What is responsible? We believe that the answer lies in the Qur’anic verse:

Verily, never will Allah change the condition of a people until they themselves bring about change in their own souls. (Qur’an 13:11)

We cannot stress this point enough: the poor condition of a people lies within themselves. Therefore, only by comprehending the Qur’anic vision and changing our inner characters can we change the condition of our own lives. This can only happen through proper parenting.

Education is a lifelong process and can be acquired from the cradle to the grave. Good parenting, however, is essential for establishing public concerns like a sense of responsibility, self-sacrifice, and caring for others.

These values must be instilled during early childhood by parents nurturing the right emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of the personality. These have to be captured very early on when it is far simpler and more effective to do than during adulthood. Books of fiqh (legal rules) represent the basic religious and cultural reference manuals for Muslim personal development, and as such have great influence in building personality.

Therefore, it is necessary to revise the fiqh books by adding the missing dimensions of public concern for society and the whole of humanity. This dimension is explained clearly in the Qur’an and Hadith:

But those who, before them, had homes [in Madinah] and had adopted the Faith, show their affection to such as came to them for refuge, and entertain no desire in their hearts for things given to the [latter), but give them preference over themselves, even though poverty was their [own lot). And those saved from the covetousness of their own souls; they are the ones that achieve prosperity.

The Prophet.$ said: He who does not concern himself with the affairs of Muslims is not one of them.


Unless we care for others in society, such as the poor, the orphans, the neighbors, and those in need, we will not be able to become the best we can be. As we see from 5urah al-Ma’un in the Qur’an:

Do you see the one who denies the Judgment [to come)? Then such is the person who repulses the orphan [with harshness), And does not encourage the feeding of the indigent. 50 woe to the worshippers, who are neglectful of their prayers, those who [want only) to be seen [by other people), but refuse [to supply even) neighborly needs. (Qur’an 10Tl-7)

There is a direct and strong linkage between personal worship and the well-being of society. Religious rituals must be linked to caring for orphans, feeding the poor, and helping neighbors. The real objective of worship is to prepare the worshiper for serving his/her fellow human beings. The existence of beggars in the streets of the Muslim world proves the existence of a lack of real sense of responsibility, which has taken root amongst people today.


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