Breaking from the past [Archives:2002/44/Focus]

October 28 2002

By Hassan Al-Haifi
“How can we ever hope to progress? Look at the Muslim World today. Most Muslim countries in general, and Arab countries in particular are lagging behind in development and are suffering from all the social ills that the modern age can bring upon societies in leaps and bounds. I am not sure if there is anyway we can claim any pride in being Muslims, if we are unable to solve the most minute of problems, let alone the of complications that Muslims are suffering from these days”, said ‘Antar to his wife as she sat to watch the news bulletin with her husband, after she finished putting their youngsters to sleep. She wanted to tell her husband the real cause of the calamities that most Muslim states face: Look ‘Antar, the West and the international Zionist establishment are systematically causing all the demise we see in the Muslem World! The challenges they are creating for Muslims of the world are insurmountable!”

Wanting solutions
‘Antar was not looking for excuses, he wanted to find solutions to the setbacks that Moslems are enduring almost continuously: “I am not going to console myself or justify the pathetic state of the Muslem World by getting bogged down in any conspiracy theories. That is really escaping from the truth. The real cause of our sad predicament lies much closer at home. With the all the wisdom, prudence and down to earth logic and reason that Islam entails, Muslims seem to be the farthest people on Earth from finding sensible solutions to any problem. Furthermore, even if we can assume that our enemies are partly responsible for our sorry state, do you think that if we were acting as Islam would want us to act and behave, our “enemies” could do any of all that the conspiracy theorists and “strategic experts” seem to have pleasure in alluding?
“Then, what do you see as the cause of our predicament?”, asked Manal.
“I am not going to get bogged down in history, but the real truth is that Muslims gradually slipped away from comprehending and applying Islam, as the Prophet Mohammed and his early righteous followers (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon them all) conceptually saw Islam and applied it, without having any misunderstandings or conflict, and they had an unbreakable sense of affinity”, explained ‘Antar.
“So, you want us to go back to the way of life of our predecessors, is that it?” Asked Manal.

The past?
Antar had the answer, quickly: “Manal, Islam came as a dynamic force that brought change to all forms of stagnant or reactionary intellectual misconceptions. On the contrary, I see most Muslims, misguided by the notion that the only way to be good Muslims is to live immersed in the past. These skeptics do not realize that time is a dimension that demands change, if we were to survive as an effective dynamic element in the progress of human civilization.
I have come to believe very strongly that those Muslims, who continue to cling on to the past are gradually pushing themselves, and dragging most Muslims with them, out of a world that is rapidly changing at an accelerated pace. The past, is just that – the past. It is over and done with. Unless we begin to break away from such incongruent reactionary thought, we will all be no more than an element of the past in due time. You see, our great Muslim forefathers were only able to reach such great feats of glory for the nation, in a relatively short time, because they broke away from the past. They insisted that they must take the initiative to bring the world to the height of human development and cultural achievement.
In the meantime most of the rest of the world at that time was clinging to archaic, repressive and stagnant political, cultural, religious and social orders, that were no match for the dynamic, open minded and progressive social order that Islam very clearly laid out. Moreover, Muslims at the grassroots level fully understood what Islam meant for them, as human beings. To them, Islam was foremost the guarantor of their human rights, and dignity. They upheld its social dictates, with the understanding of justice, equity and religious pride that Islam truly entails. History is full of evidence that shows Moslems, acting with the highest sense of mercy and tolerance, even when dealing with their enemies, let alone among themselves.
Moreover, there was the respect Muslims had for knowledge and intellectual curiosity. It was this that helped mankind shed off a lot of the archaic superstitious religious and social orders that prevailed in most of the world. When non-Moslems caught on to some of the key fundamentals of progressive Islamic thought, they refined themselves accordingly. The result was that they took away everything from us, including our dignity. In the meantime, we Moslems slowly sunk into the abyss of stagnation of intellectual capacity. Our Muslim leaders and self made religious patriarchal orders (“which they started”, as the Quran aptly pointed out) saw the love affair with the past as the gateway to keeping their tight hold on their brethren. By maintaining menacing archaic social orders, they took away all the freedom, liberty and rights that Islam truly upheld for the believers (and ` all of mankind) – the number one antithesis of Islam”.