Fo­cus on what Mus­lims share rather than the dif­fer­ences, and fol­low the mid­dle path of ‘wasatiyyah’

New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer is an As­sis­tant Re­search Fel­low at the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Ad­vanced Is­lamic Stud­ies (IAIS) Malaysia

THERE are wars hap­pen­ing in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Ye­men. A mil­lion Mus­lims died in Afghanistan. Another mil­lion Mus­lims are re­ported to have died in Iraq. More peo­ple are dy­ing and be­ing dis­placed in Syria, Iraq, and Ye­men.

Af­ter the demise of the caliphate in 1924, it ap­pears that polarisation be­tween Mus­lims and non-Mus­lims is get­ting worse. The clash of civil­i­sa­tions is fast be­com­ing a grim re­al­ity. Even the polarisation be­tween Mus­lims is not de­creas­ing.

The Qu­ran states: “In­vite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wis­dom and beau­ti­ful preach­ing; and ar­gue with them in ways that are best and most gra­cious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who re­ceive guid­ance.” (16:125)

Rad­i­cal fac­tions have been wreak­ing havoc. They have ar­ro­gated to them­selves the right to “in­ter­pret” Is­lam for all. Yet, what presents it­self as an “in­ter­pre­ta­tion” is, more of­ten than not, a mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

Rad­i­cal fringes dis­play ha­tred for peo­ple whose main fault is be­ing dif­fer­ent. It is im­por­tant to re­strain ex­trem­ists be­fore they per­pe­trate greater dam­age and in­jury.

Prob­lem­atic pre­con­cep­tions, for ex­am­ple the bi­nary divi­sion of the world into a realm of peace (Is­lam) and an abode of war (every­where else) are used.

The Arab Spring promised change for the bet­ter. In­stead, it brought mis­ery and destruction. In Egypt, the Morsi gov­ern­ment alien­ated sig­nif­i­cant parts of the Egyp­tians by its er­ratic be­hav­iour. When it tried to pur­sue ret­ri­bu­tion against the mil­i­tary, its neme­sis took over.

By con­trast, the at­tempted up­ris­ing against au­thor­i­ties in Turkey failed. Both na­tions now find them­selves at dif­fer­ent ends of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum. Hope­fully, they will get nearer rather than drift fur­ther apart.

In Europe, the po­lit­i­cal tem­per­a­ture is ris­ing. Xeno­pho­bic, na­tion­al­is­tic par­ties are reg­is­ter­ing grow­ing sup­port. The ill-wish­ers and en­e­mies of Is­lam are pleased to see this hap­pen, as it serves their in­ter­ests.

It ap­pears that the Is­lamic State (IS) re­ceived back­ing in hope that they would turn against the Syr­ian regime. When IS in­stead be­gan be­head­ing Western pris­on­ers and its en­e­mies in Syria and Iraq, it be­came dif­fi­cult to sup­port IS.

Another rea­son for mis­un­der­stand­ings is that dif­fer­ent peo­ple see Is­lam dif­fer­ently. The dis­course of fal­si­fies Is­lam. There is a need for a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing.

The way to re­duce polarisation is to fo­cus on what Mus­lims share (the Qu­ran) rather than where dif­fer­ences arise (di­ver­gent ex­pla­na­tions of what tran­spired in the past). In this way, the ummah should be able to re­cap­ture the uni­ver­sal un­der­stand­ing of Is­lam and ad­dress the deep prob­lems it is fac­ing. What is re­quired is to fol­low the mid­dle path of

FRI­DAY, MAY 5, 2017

or mod­er­a­tion. Po­lit­i­cal Is­lam has brought greater harm than ben­e­fit. It needs to be re­called that there is no ex­hor­ta­tion in the Qu­ran to es­tab­lish an “Is­lamic state”.

The pri­mary task of Prophet Muham­mad was to spread the mes­sage of peace. Is­lam and Is­lamism are two dif­fer­ent things. Is­lam is a way of life, not a po­lit­i­cal teach­ing.

There is ex­ces­sive fo­cus on ex­ter­nal­i­ties and in­suf­fi­cient em­pha­sis on sub­stance. Peo­ple are too con­cerned with the way peo­ple dress rather than with how to al­le­vi­ate poverty, re­duce ig­no­rance and en­hance good gov­er­nance and peo­ple’s wel­fare.

In the United States, there is a risk that for­eign pol­icy will end up serv­ing spe­cial in­ter­est groups rather than the Amer­i­can peo­ple. Po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tees (PACs) on Capi­tol Hill have grown pow­er­ful to the point that peo­ple have be­gun re­fer­ring to them as the “fourth branch” of the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment. This “pri­vati­sa­tion” of gov­ern­ment is prob­lem­atic.

It is im­por­tant for Mus­lim in­sti­tu­tions of learn­ing to em­pha­sise think­ing. Af­ter all, the pro­tec­tion of the in­tel­lect ) is among the chief pur­poses of the syariah. There can be little progress with­out a thoughtful ap­proach.

Ex­changes of views can help in reach­ing com­mon ground on im­por­tant is­sues.

There is a need for a ra­tio­nal ap­proach. Ex­trem­ists den­i­grate rea­son as it helps them to main­tain their sway upon fa­nat­i­cal fol­low­ers.

The Qu­ran states: “Surely, the worst of beasts in God’s sight are those that are deaf and dumb and do not rea­son.” (8:22).

Else­where, it states: “And, it is not for a soul to be­lieve ex­cept by per­mis­sion of Al­lah, and He will place de­file­ment upon those who will not use rea­son.” (10:100).

In the fi­nal anal­y­sis, it needs to be re­called that the “pen is might­ier than the sword”.

The Qu­ran states, “Al­lah does not change the con­di­tion of a peo­ple un­til they change their own con­di­tion…” (13:11) The right way to de­fend Is­lam is by ex­plain­ing it prop­erly, in­clud­ing its higher pur­poses. At the same time, it is im­por­tant to fol­low up with ex­cel­lent be­hav­iour.

A Syr­ian man cry­ing on the shoul­der of a com­rade next to a body at the site of a re­ported car bomb ex­plo­sion in the rebel-held town of Azaz in north­ern Syria. A mil­lion Mus­lims died in Afghanistan. Another mil­lion Mus­lims are re­ported to have died in Iraq. More peo­ple are dy­ing and be­ing dis­placed in Syria, Iraq, and Ye­men.

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