Released November 15, 2004
The Wisdom Fund, P. O. Box 2723, Arlington, VA 22202
Website: -- Press Contact: Zaheer Jan

Where Have the Muslims Gone?

by Zaheer Jan
"(O' Muslims) Ye are the best of people evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, (and because ye are just with all irrespective of their faith, nationality, skin color or sex) and you believe in Allah . . ."(3:110)1.
Where have the Muslims gone? Scattered to the four winds they have forgotten their glorious history. And, because they have forgotten their glorious history they do not take pride in being Muslims in the modern times. If only they knew. Scattered to the four winds they have lost all that was noble in Islam. All that is left now are people who pride themselves variously as followers of either Wahab or Maudoodi or Imam Ali or Ahmed or the Agha Khan, etc., etc. Then there are those who call themselves Bhoras and others Khojas or Memons or Deobundis. Then again there are followers of Mullah Masood or Usama Bin Laden. Why is it that no one just says: "We are Muslims, we follow what is revealed in the Quran and the acts of Mohammed (pboh)", the messenger and prophet.

Each sect vies for being called the only true Muslim. Little heed do they pay to the dictums of the Quran: "As for those who divide their religion and break up into sects, thou hast no part in them in the least: their affair is with Allah: He will in the end tell them the truth of all that they did" (6:159)1. "And verily this Brotherhood of yours is a single Brotherhood. And I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore fear Me and no other" (23:52)1. "But people have cut off their affair (of unity) among them, into sects; each party rejoices in that which is with itself" (23:53)1. "But leave them in their confused ignorance, for a time" (23:54)1. Do they think that because we have granted them abundance of wealth and sons" (23:55)1. "We would hasten them in every good? Nay they do not understand" (23:56)1.

Muslims were not and are not allowed to look down on the followers of other religions. They were not and are not allowed to call themselves a 'Master Race', as some nations have done through the annals of history. God did not make them a chosen people either. Nor did He permit them to have a caste system or a class system. No person shall be higher than another just because of the accident of birth; no high priests, kings, queens, nor princesses, was the law given to the Muslims. Only equality, freedom and justice for all, irrespective of who you were. A simple enough caveat. The Muslims of old embraced it without any reservation or equivocation and in a short span of just eighty years, after the passing away of prophet Mohammed (pboh) in 632, they had spread across most of the known world. It was the power of their ideals that gave them this phenomenal success, not the power of their arms. All humanity, from the inception of time itself, had been hankering for justice and equality and these Muslims supplied it.

"Islam's great Caliph Omar Ibn Al Khatab gave Islam's teachings a practical shape by showing justice and manifesting respect for other faiths. When Caliph Omar conquered Jerusalem from Christian Byzantines in 638, he insisted that the three faiths of Abraham coexist. He refused to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher when he was escorted around the city by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch. Had he done so, he explained, the Muslims would have wanted to build a mosque there to commemorate the first Islamic prayer in Jerusalem. The Jews found their new Muslim rulers far more congenial than the Byzantines. The Christians had never allowed the Jews to reside permanently in the city, whereas Omar invited 70 Jewish families back. The Byzantines had left the Temple Mount in ruins and had even begun to use the Temple Mount as a garbage dump. Omar, according to a variety of accounts, was horrified to see this desecration. He helped clear it with his own hands, reconstructed the platform and built a simple wooden mosque on the Southern end, site of the al-Aqsa Mosque today"2.

Search the history of mankind, from its beginning till today, one will not find a single example of the kind of justice and magnanimity of spirit that was shown by Caliph Omar. Where have the Muslims gone?

"It was the Christian Europe of those times that felt threatened by the civilizing spirit of Islam. Crusades were launched by Christian zealot priests, jealous of the loss of their influence against the tide of Islamic thought and progress. Although the crusades failed in their intended purpose of liberating the Holy Land from the "infidels" (as the Christians called the Muslims of that time) some good came of them. Contact with the highly advanced civilizations of the Muslims stimulated the Europeans and helped bring them out of their stagnation for the first time since the ancient Roman Empire. When King Richard the Lion Heart of England was ill, (in Jerusalem, 1193) the Muslim's Leader Saladin sent him fruit and snow from the mountains and his personal physician..."3. King Richard, it is chronicled, returned to England a chastened man. He said of Saladin, "You cannot fight such a chivalrous and magnanimous foe"! This is the same king at whose coronation in 1189 all Jews were massacred 4. Richard's sister stayed behind and married Saladin's brother. Search the history of mankind and you won't find another Saladin! Where have the Muslims gone?

Bernard Lewis, a prolific writer about Islamic History says, "Islam is one of the World's greatest religion. Let me be explicit about what I, as a historian of Islam who is not a Muslim, mean by that. Islam has brought comfort and peace of mind to countless millions of men and women. It has given dignity and meaning to drab and impoverished lives. It has taught people of different races to live in brotherhood and people of different creeds to live side by side in tolerance. It inspired a great civilization in which others besides Muslims lived creative and useful lives and which, by its achievements, enriched the whole world"5.

King Simeon of Bulgaria has reiterated similar sentiments in slightly different terms, "Having lived in a Muslim country in my youth, I have particularly deep attachment to the world of Islam and hence am doubly pleased when this faith, so close to Judaism and Christianity, is shown in its rightful light. Much nonsense has been spread in the past, and more so lately, about Islam supposedly being a conquering religion, a warring one. . .Those who know understand that Islam means prostration, a surrender to God's will and hence peace and serenity. . ."6. How sad for us today that people calling themselves Muslims kill innocent and unarmed men, women and children in the name of Islam.

"The love of books is one of the most characteristic traits of Islamic Culture. Manuscripts were written in large numbers (during the heyday of the Islamic Civilization). . . In the 12th century, the largest libraries in monasteries and towns of Western Europe held anything from several dozen to one hundred and fifty volumes. Only wealthy libraries like Durham had more than five hundred".

"Whereas in Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, Cordoba, Shiraz, Bukhara and other cities of the Islamic world there were a series of libraries and private collections of 10,000 volumes or more in the 10th and 11th centuries" 6. Such was the influence of Islamic culture that the great German philosopher, scientist and writer Johann Wolfgang Goethe tried out Persian attitudes and forms in his poetry, as is manifest in his West-oestlicher Divan" 7.

Right from the beginning, the role of knowledge was emphasized as one of the conditions of faith in Islamic teachings. During 'Abbasid Dynasty' (750 - 1258) in Baghdad works of Aristotle, Euclid, Galen, Hippocrates, Dioscorides, Ptolemy, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, etc., were translated. Copies of these translated works were disseminated throughout the Islamic domains from where they made their way into Europe by the way of Spain and Sicily. The European Renaissance would have been inconceivable had this plethora of Hellenistic, Persian, Indian, Chinese and other culture's knowledge not made its way into Europe.

"Listen to the accomplishment of the Muslims starting as far back as 1400 years ago: In 650 Caliph Omar introduced the first organized news service. In 711 Jews were given permission by the Muslim rulers of Spain to practice their cultural development, an activity that had been denied them before the Muslims arrived. In 720 Abu Musa Dshagger is reputed to have invented Sulphuric Acid, Nitric Acid, Aqua Regia and Nitrates of Silver. In 750 separate faculties for astronomy, mathematics, optics and chemistry were set up and Pharmacology and Medicine were established as two distinct sciences. In 774 Euclid's "Elements" were translated from Greek to Arabic. In 782 Jabir began his chemical studies, as distinct from alchemy. In 810 Mohammed Ibn Musa al Chwarazmi wrote a book on equations and coined the term 'Algebra'; the concept of 'zero' was introduced and all populations in the Muslim domains started counting in multiples of ten" 3.

The center of Islamic learning was Baghdad. Here great translation projects took place, converting the works of different cultures into Arabic. One of these great projects was started by Caliph al-Mamun in 813 AD. He employed people of all races and religions to help translate books from around the world. He also paid each translator the weight of their books in gold. Great libraries and schools thrived on the works that the translators contributed" 6,7.

Muslim traders traveled as far west as Ireland and as far east as China or even possibly Japan. From these great traveling merchants came a need for maps and details about cities. Many of these traveling merchants kept detailed records of their journeys, sharing their experiences with other merchants or caravans, and sometimes even selling their information. Of all the contributions made to the field of geography by the Muslims during the period between 800 and 1400 AD, perhaps the three most influential Muslim geographers were ibn-Batuta (1304-1368), ibn-Khaldun (1332-1406), and al-Idrisi (1100-1166) 8. Ibn Fadlan an Arab chronicler of 921 was sent by the Caliph of Baghdad, Al Muktadir, with an embassy to the King of the Bulgars of the Middle Volga. During the course of his journey, Ibn Fadlan met a people whom the Muslims called al Rus (the Vikings), a group of Swedish origin, who were visiting the Bulgar capital as traders. Ibn Fadlan traveled to modern day Sweden and Norway. He has written a fascinating account of these people describing them as very filthy, savage-like and sexually promiscuous. His account of the Vikings has been used to great advantage by Michael Crichton in the novel, "Eaters of the Dead" 9, 10.

A school of Astronomy was established in Baghdad in 813. The astronomical system of Ptolemy was translated into Arabic as "Almagest" in 828. By 850 the 'Astrolabe' had been perfected allowing navigation on the high seas. The same year Coffee was discovered by Kaldi, a Muslim sheepherder. Paper manufacturing started in Cairo in 900, and in 950 the first university in the world, Al-Azhar was founded there too. In 1150 paper manufacturing commenced in Spain. The use of alcohol for medical purposes was started in 1200. In 1450 Mocha in southwestern Arabia became the main port for coffee export3. One could go on and on talking about the contribution of the Muslims to the world civilization.

The history of Islam is replete with names as grand or grander than the scientist, philosophers, or discoverers of modern times: ibn-Khordadbeh, 820-912, Wrote a guide to regions and cities and prepared a 'Book of the Roads and Countries"; Ibn Koteiba, scholar and historian 828; Jahiz, the great scholar, died 869; Al-Farabi, philosopher 870-950; Al-Kindi, philosopher and Mathematician, 813-870; the great physician Hosnain ibn Iszhak, died 873. The famous astronomer al Battani, commenced his observations in 873, died in 929; Rhases, a great physician, defined and described infectious diseases like plague, consumption, small pox, rabies, died 923. Ibn Doreid 837-933 who prepared the "Manual of Genealogy and Etymology". Firdausi, the great Persian poet 939-1020. Abu'l Wefa, mathematician and astronomer 940-998. Ibn-Haukal (ibn-Hauqal, Mohammed Abul Kassem) geographer, 943-969 AD. Al Sufi, who mentioned the nebula and wrote the "The Book of the Fixed Stars" in 963. Alhazen, the physicist 965-1038, who did pioneering work in optics. Ibn Junis author of the "Hakimite Tables" 950-1009. Al-Biruni (Abu Rayhan Mohammed ibn Ahmad), 973-1050 AD, geomorphologist and historian. Ibn Sina (Avicenna), the physician and philosopher 980-1037. Omar Khayyam, the poet and scientist, 1027-1123. Ibn-Idrisi (Abu Abdallah Mohammed Edrisi) 1100-1166, Geographer whose work, "Geography" was published in Palermo 1154. Al Ghazali, theologian 1059 -1111. Averroes, scholar and philosopher 1126. Nisami, the poet 1141-1202. Abdallah ur-Rumi 1179-1229, who prepared "Mu'jam ul-Buldan" a geographical encyclopedia. Saadi, Persian poet 1184-1283. Ibn al-Baitar, scientist and pharmacologist, wrote a monograph on Arab pharmacology 1200-1248. Amir Khusro, Indian poet, musician, inventor of the 'tabla', sitar and originator of several 'ragas', 1253-1354 . Djelaleddin Rumi, Persian poet, died 1273. Nasir ed-Din, scholar and scientist 1201-1274. Bar-Hebraus, Syrian lexicographer, 1226-1286. Hafiz, Persian poet, 1320-1389. Ibn-Khaldun, 1332-1406. Jami, 1414-92, Great Persian poet, born in Jam, near Heart. Al-Masudi, 895-957 AD, Climatologist.11,12,13,14,15,18 .

How sad that in the world of today roles have been reversed. The civilizers of the world have become the uncivilized. The Muslims today, don't even bother to understand and follow the Quran, the revealed word of God. They prefer somebody else, a priest to chant and interpret it for them. Rather than being leaders they prefer to be led although the Quran challenges again and again, "Don't you even think"? This glorious book revealed more than 1400 years ago narrates theories that are being propounded by scientist, astronomers and physicists of today: "Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), that all universe was a cloud until it congealed, before We clove it asunder? Will they not believe"? (the Big Bang theory). "We made from water every living thing". (21:30 and 40:11)1. (the theory of Evolution). The Quran revealed about the orbiting planets and stars, "It is He who created the night and the day, and the Sun and the Moon: all (the celestial bodies) swim along, each in its rounded course". (21:33)1. This happened more than 800 years before Copernicus, (1473-1543) and 900 hundred years before Galileo, (1564-1642) dared to mention the fact. And, when they did, each in his time was threatened with excommunication from the Church for uttering such heresy.

The Quran dictated that: "There shall be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy Handhold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things" (2:256)1 . The Muslims arrived in Spain in 711 C.E. and were driven out in 1492 by Isabella and Ferdinand, with the fall of Granada. They had ruled Spain for 781 years. It is a long time. They had practiced what the Quran dictated. Had the Muslims wanted they could have forced everyone's conversion to Islam in their realm. But their religion forbade such an action. Christians, Jews, non-believers all flourished, ushering in the age of renaissance in Europe. "The friendship of Islam provided Jews with a great route for world trade. From Baghdad to Arabia, to the Red Sea, via Suez, via the ports of Egypt, Byzantium, Italy and Spain, as far as the Frankish Empire and further to Eastern Europe and Slavonic countries, the Jews had centers of influence and colonies"16. Free universities flourished with books available for anyone seeking knowledge. The free library of Cordova, in the reign of Caliph Hakam II, alone had 400,000 volumes.

The light of enlightenment brought into Spain by the Muslims and which had shone for more than seven centuries, was extinguished within a short span of fifty years after Ferdinand and Isabella took over the reigns of government. The new rulers ushered in one of the most ignominious period, of Christianity's history starting in 1481, the infamous inquisition. A curse that soon engulfed the rest of Europe. Every Muslim, Jew and Marrano (Jew who had converted to Christianity) was hunted down and given four choices: confess, convert, leave or be massacred. Spain was plunged back into the dark ages. At the urging of Spain's Grand Inquisitor Torquemada, on March 1492 Queen Isabella (of Spain) signed an edict that read: "We have resolved to banish all Jews and Marranos of both sexes beyond the borders of our realm forever. . . We therefore decree herewith that all Jews and Marranos dwelling within the confines of Our dominion - without distinction of sex or age - must leave Our royal possessions and seigniories. . .no later than the end of July of the present year and that they shall not venture to enter them again under any pretext whatsoever.."16. About four hundred thousand Jews and Marranos lost their all. Every country on the European continent shut its doors to them. Only a small number were allowed to enter Holland and Italy. It was the Muslim Sultan of Turkey who sent in his Armada to evacuate the hapless citizenry. "It was a great movement from West to East, whence the Jews had come centuries before"16. The Jewish population of Turkey to this day is considered the oldest continuously surviving Jewish community in the world and one which has never ever been the subject of persecution.

Muslims arrived in India in 712 and were displaced from sovereignty by the British in 1858 with the banishment to Rangoon, in Burma, of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar. One thousand, one hundred and forty five years is a long time of rule. Had the Muslims wanted they could have forced everyone's conversion to Islam, in this long period of time. But their religion forbade such an action. Hindus, Buddhist, Jains, Christians, Jews, non-believers all flourished. The Muslims mingled, they mixed, they even inter-married. One thing that they never did however was to carry out pogroms against other religious groups. The Muslims even to this day are a minority in India.

Scan the entire history of the Muslims anywhere in the world and one will not find a single instance of pogroms like the ones that have been visited upon various religious or ethnic groups in Europe throughout its history, until as recently as the late 1990's.

The first Muslims were advised by the Prophet (pboh) to migrate to the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia, (the modern day Ethiopia) to escape persecution by the Qureshi tribes of Arabia. They did not compromise their faith, when they arrived in the host country. They were reverent and respectful to the beliefs of their hosts. As the Quran says: "Those who believe (in the Quran), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians, Christians, Magians and Polytheists - Allah will judge between them on the Day of judgment: for Allah is witness to all things (22:17)1. So the Muslims are not to judge others for their faith. Upon arrival in Abyssinia the Muslims attended on the king and followed the country's customs with respect. How different it is today that of the hundreds of Muslim immigrants, entering host countries like the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Spain or Pakistan, some work hard to establish themselves, while some arrive with motives of not becoming a part of or of improving the mosaic of their respective country but rather that of changing its ethos. And, this minority group does so in secret, in total defiance of the injunctions of the Quran, "O ye who believe! When you hold secret counsel, do it NOT for iniquity and hostility and disobedience to the Messenger; but do it for righteousness and self restraint; and fear Allah, to whom ye shall be brought back" (58:9)1. What a stark contrast it is to the behavior of the Muslims who sought refuge in Abyssinia back in the time of the prophet.

The religious organizations of Christianity and Judaism of old had insisted that just by reading the Bible, in Hebrew or Latin, even if you didn't understand a word of it, you would become near to God. Ordinary people did not know, indeed were not even offered the opportunity to learn the language of the holy book. It was to be the provenance of the priests only. Too, the holy books of the Hindus had to be read in Sanskrit, which only the Brahmin priests could read and understand. Not so with Islam: the Quran was revealed in Arabic, a language everybody knew and understood at that time, "Verily this is a revelation from the Lord of the Worlds" (26:192)1, "In the perspicuous Arabic tongue" (26:195)1, "Had We revealed it to non-Arabs, and had they recited it, to them it would have been unintelligible" (26:198,199)1 . There was a purpose to the revelation occurring in a language intelligible and understandable to the common men and women. It was: "to get rid of priests and their stranglehold over the minds and the materials of ordinary human beings".

The Muslims of today totally ignore the fact that the Quran is a book of law, a book of science, a book of guidance; that it is not meant to be learnt by rote for chanting at weddings, festivals and events. Instead of reveling in the greatness of the revelation they have embraced the formula practiced by the other religions. Today the majority of the Muslims verbalize the Quran without comprehending a word of it; be they villagers or sophisticated dons from the most famous of universities. Most can chant its glorious words in the loveliest of melodies without comprehending, even for a moment, as to what they are saying. All insist that there is benefit to be derived in the hereafter just by chanting the Arabic. No talk whatsoever of the following admonitions from the Quran: "This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt to those who fear Allah" (2:2)1. "This is a Book, with verses basic or fundamental, of established meaning - further explained in detail, from One Who is Wise and well acquainted with all things" (11:1)1. They hang copies of the Quran from their necks, for good luck. They adorn the rooms of their homes with framed Surahs of the Quran, believing that benefits are to be derived by such actions.

Muslims have relegated all work of communicating the Quran's glorious injunctions to the mullahs, on whose words they hang and on whose commands they perpetrate the most ignoble actions, all in the name of the most noble of religions. How sad that in the world of today the civilizers of the world have become the uncivilized. Fundamentalist Muslims envy the progress made by others; they don't encourage their followers to emulate it; they don't want to better it; they only encourage their respective followers to destroy it.

The Quran gave dignity to women as no other religion had ever done before. The early Muslims followed its teachings and brought women out of darkness; gave them an identity; gave them rights to inheritance, divorce, alimony and child support. Khadija (pboh) the beloved wife of our Prophet (pboh) would not recognize the Mecca of today. Not so much because of its changed look but because she will be shocked not to see any women around and about in her beloved city. The city where she was a renowned business woman. A city where she gave employment to a young man, the most honest, whom the Qureish called 'Al Amin'. And, to whom, it was she who proposed marriage. Whom she believed when he came to her and talked to her about God's revelations to him. Khadija (pboh) would be horrified to find that the Muslim women of today are not allowed by their men, to participate in commerce or any other industry. Fundamentalist Muslims of today want to drive women back to the times and to the treatment that used to be meted them before the time of the prophet (pboh). The Fundamentalists consider women their property not their equal, despite the Quran's injunction that women shall be answerable for their own deeds and actions inasmuch as men. It is because the fundamentalist consider women their property that they discourage women from going outside of their homes or to interact with men other than their own near relatives, let alone allowing them to initiate a proposal of marriage. If a woman showed the courage to take such a step, fundamentalist Muslims of today would kill her for doing so because to them an independent women is a dishonor to the family. This perverted sense of honor, to the fundamentalist Muslims, is more important than all the injunctions of the Quran.

We say our Salaat, we fast as required, we perform many an Hajj, all rituals of the religion but when it comes to following the example of Mohammed (pboh) in leading a simple and austere life, a life of honesty, a life of kindness, a life of forgiveness, a life of giving and sharing our blessings, of honoring and respecting women, we do very little of that. We pray to God but we do not trust Him although He says, "It was We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his souls makes for him: for We are nearer to him than his jugular vein" (50:16)1. Instead of emulating the Muslims who brought civilization to the world and lifted it out of darkness, showed it examples of mercy and justice and chivalry and equality, fundamentalist Muslims of today are actively trying to plunge the world back into darkness.

Instead of trying to excel in the sciences, the arts and humanities as happened in the times of yore, the fundamentalist Muslims of today wish to destroy the sciences, arts and humanities of America, Europe, Russia and the rest of the world. The most valuable lesson the Western nations had learnt, during the heyday of Muslim civilization, and which helped them come out of their stagnation in the dark ages, was that practice of religion was not central to the Muslims in achieving of progress in this world. Rather, the Westerners noted, it was the Muslim's thirst for knowledge and their spirit of enquiry about the world and natures secrets, that had put them ahead of everyone else. Muslims gave up their thirst for knowledge and spirit of enquiry, settled on ritualizing their religion and became retrograde. Westerners on the other hand made religion non central to public life, picked up the Muslims' thirst for knowledge and spirit of enquiry and became masters of the world.

Fundamentalist Muslim leaders of today are exhorting Muslims to acts much like the barbaric Mongols or the Assassins who tried to destroy the great Islamic Civilization, but failed. Barbarity never works. It failed the Mongols, it failed the Nazis, it failed the Communists, it failed the Serbs. The Muslims, of all the people in the world, should know it more than anyone else because it was not that long ago that they defeated the barbarity of Soviet Union and exterminated and eradicated it out of Afghanistan.

So where have the Muslims gone? Nowhere! We are right here very much a part of the globe and now more than a billion in numbers. We should take heart that our best days are yet to come. To get there however, we should stop battering the West, instead we should be trying to better it in every aspect of life: in games, in art, in science, in medicine, in technology, in architecture. When was the last time that a Muslim invented a cure for a human illness? When was the last time that a Muslim made a discovery to benefit mankind? With all the trillion of petro-dollars flowing into the hands of the Muslims across the globe what do they have to show for it? Religious schools that produce ignoramus men and create hatred for people who are not Muslims or spend their efforts at obtaining technologies with which to destroy the world? Is that the end all? Is that what Islam teaches? Too, the Muslims have forgotten the most important lesson of Islam: that of sharing their blessings with those less blessed. Little wonder that we are lost! The answer does not lie in hoarding the phenomenal wealth God has bestowed on us, a practice totally proscribed by the Quran, but in spending it in the way of God; in relieving the suffering of the poor and the less fortunate of the world. If we are to survive our answer lies in education, in embracing knowledge; in embracing justice; in embracing equality for all; in embracing tolerance for every man, women and child, no matter what their beliefs. We should be emulating the progressive and enlightened practices of the Muslims of old and eschewing the horrible practices being purveyed by the fundamentalists of today. The power of truth, justice and enlightenment needs to be unleashed again in the Muslim lands, as it was unleashed 1400 hundred years ago, by Prophet Muhammad (pboh) in Arabia, which propelled Muslims to heights of greatness unknown in human history. America's founding fathers, a little over 200 years ago, unleashed a similar power through "Their Declaration of Independence". And which, in this short span of time, has made America the most powerful and rich nation on earth; has enabled it to put a man on the moon and bring him back to safety and which is now propelling it to reach planets far and further beyond.

So why are Muslims on the lowest rung of the technical and moral ladder of the world? In my opinion, it is because our religion has been hijacked. We have relegated our spiritual direction to the vagaries of priests and our temporal direction to the whims of dictators, kings, queens and princesses. This subservient psychology has permeated every aspect of our life. We do not get outraged at even the most un-Islamic of acts perpetrated by our fellow Muslims. No collective voices of outrage are raised against such barbarity as when the throats of innocent and indefensible are slit. How are these Muslims different than the barbaric Serbs? Or how are the Muslims different from the tyrants of old if they acquiesce to the Saudis having a Royal Enclosure in the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, the third most holy site of Islam?

It is time that the Muslims of the world wrested control of their religion from the self appointed guardians of the Umma, started understanding it and practicing it without direction from others. If we refuse to seize the moment and refuse to fall in step with the civilizing and progressive aspects of the rest of humanity, the world will not wait. We will find ourselves relegated to the dustbin of history, only to nurse our fundamentalist notions, much like many other nations that refused to change with time. All that will be left for us will be just a long sigh moaning about the great and glorious days of the Islamic civilization gone by. For God is not ours only, as somebody who is not a Muslim has echoed the words of the Quran in a different way:

"God is one, but His names are many
Reality is one, but its ways are many
Spirituality is one, but religions are many
Humanity is one, but human beings are many

There cannot be one religion for the whole world
Religions are like flowers of a beautiful garden
Every flower has got its own individual beauty
Adding to the total beauty of the garden!

Enjoy the beauty of the flower of your choice!
While enjoying the beauty of the garden!
Let not your choice be thrust on others
Nor be it a cause for coercion and conflict!" 17

We must never forget to remind ourselves that as Muslims we are admonished to always practice and enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong and that we must seek and practice justice for all, irrespective of their sex, religion, nationality, or skin color. Also, we must never forget that on the day of judgment, we shall all be individually answerable to God, irrespective of our sex, religion, nationality, or skin color.

[Zaheer Jan of New Jersey ran as a Democrat for the city council of Bedminister on November 2, 2004 and lost by 14 votes - in a city that is overwhelmingly Republican. He retired recently from a long career in the natural gas pipeline industry.]

Sources Used:

1. Al Quran
2. Islam, A Short History by Karen Armstrong and Time Magazine, April 16, 2001
3. Atlas of World History, National Geographic society
4. Kulturfahrplan by Werner Stein, translated by Bernard Grun, Published by Simon and Schuster
5. Lost in Translation, Two minds of Bernard Lewis, New Yorker Magazine, June 14 & 21, 2004
6. H.R.H King Simeon of Bulgaria in Pages of Perfection, An ARCH Foundation publication
7. Heaven on Earth, Art from the Islamic Lands, Courtland Institute of Art, Munich, Berlin, London and New York
8. Ibn-Batuta and Muslim Geography, Andrew J. Mogensen, Valparaiso University
9. Eaters of the Dead, A Novel by Michael Crichton published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York
10. Manuscript of Ibn Fadlan, published by the Academy of St. Petersburg, Russia and Oslo University, Norway
11. James, Preston Everett. All Possible Worlds: A History of Geography. New York: Wiley, 1981
12. Kish, George. A Source Book in Geography. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978
13. Parry, J.H. The Age of Reconnaissance. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981
14. Wright, John Kirtland. Geographical Lore of the Time of the Crusades, American Geographical Society Research Series No. 15. New York: Rumford Press, 1925
15. Faruqi, Ismail. The Cultural Atlas of Islam. New York: Macmillan Press, 1986
16. Die vertreibung De Juden aus Spanien, translated by Moray Firth
17. Dr. Shivamurthy Swamiji
18. Amir Khusro by Abdul Hamid Khan. Ferozesons Press, 1973, Lahore, Pakistan

M. Shahid Alam, "Bernard Lewis and the New Orientalism," The Wisdom Fund, June 29, 2003

[We may deplore the relative absence of liberal reformist thinkers in Islam, but that is also a problem with global Protestantism.--Olivier Roy, "Globalised Islam," The Guardian, November 13, 2004]

Ralph Peters, "Nothing Islamic about human sacrifice," The Wisdom Fund, November 16, 2004

Copyright © 2004 Zaheer Jan
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