by Mirza Yawar Baig
We are hemorrhaging. Big time. And our doctors are opening more veins so
that our life blood can drain out faster. It's almost like there is an
unconscious intention of the Muslim Ummah to end its existence, once and for
all. At least to end its existence effectively as a people who are worthy of
consideration and respect. If leadership is responsible for the condition of
a people, then our leadership has failed spectacularly and has succeeded in
making us the single most hated people on earth. The Americans are trying
very hard to take this pre-eminent position but as on date we are still
In my view the biggest reason for this are the huge dichotomies and
contradictions between our statements and our actions. People listen to us
speak and then they see how we behave and they are asking questions. Try as
I might, I can't seem to see how they are unjustified in asking these
questions. After all the world hates American actions today, not so much
because the Americans are either the first or the only people to behave as
barbarically as they are doing in Iraq. There have been other barbarians to
equal them in the past, as indeed there are today. The world is angry with
America because America claimed that it stood for better things. It claimed
that it stood for justice and equality and human rights. Then it created
Guantanamo Bay prison and the tortures and excesses of Abu Gharaib. It went
against its own stated values. It betrayed itself and its own faith. The
world hates betrayers.
Now let's look at the Muslims and some questions that people are asking:
1. When the Danish paper published the cartoons, there was worldwide
uproar, but when on an average 100 Muslims are dying daily at the hand of
Muslims in Iraq, there is not even so much as a single voice of protest.
2. When Western media calls Muslims 'terrorist', 'extremist',
fundamentalist', we protest. But when a Sunni so-called A'alim makes a
statement declaring that all Shias are infidels (kaafir) there is no sound
from anyone in the Muslim world. Why?
3. Muslims like to talk about how the very word 'Islam' means 'Peace'.
How every action we take from the most insignificant to the most monumental
begins with the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, Most Merciful. How our
Prophet is called Mercy unto all the Worlds. Yet we don't exercise that
mercy in our relationship with each other and have no compunction about
killing each other without mercy. Why?
4. Muslims tell the world, loudly from all rooftops, that the Qur'an
tells us that to kill a single person unjustly is equal to killing all of
mankind. So what was the crime of the 70 Shia college students who were
killed by Sunni suicide bombers in Iraq? Was that justified or is that equal
to killing all the people of the world 70 times over?
5. Muslims tell the world that the Qur'an says: Hold fast to the rope
of Allah and do not divide yourselves. Yet they have no problem with
creating new divisions every day and declaring each other kaafir on the
basis of all kinds of frivolous interpretations. Why?
6. Muslims like to talk about the rights that Islam gives women which
are unprecedented in the history of mankind. Yet Muslim men and society
don't actually give those rights to Muslim women. Why?
7. Muslims like to talk about the importance of education. And of late
even the Ulama who historically opposed scientific and Western education
have started to say that Islam never differentiated between secular and
religious education. How they can then justify their own historical
opposition is a different story, but the question being asked is; if in fact
Islam does not oppose and indeed encourages scientific education and the
Qur'an mentions many scientific facts, why is it that when you think of
scientific and technological development, not a single Muslim country or
university is even in the list?
8. Why? Why? Why?
I can go on ad infinitum with the questions that the world is asking this
Ummah. I don't have the answers. Do you??
There is a word in the Qur'an to describe the one who says one thing and
does something else. It is not a nice word. But it is there. Do you think
that describes us as the Ummah today? If so, the Qur'an also tells us what
the destination of such people is. Is that where we want to go?
I know this is hard talk. The reality is harder. And what is that reality??
We are a people who are the least self critical of all mankind. We love
fooling ourselves. We teach our own history in a way that makes us look good
and so effectively prevents us from learning anything useful that we can
apply today. We have sanctified stupidity, ignorance and redundancy. It
seems to me that perhaps our current reality is so bitter that we find it
comfortable to retreat into a world of fantasy created out of selected
incidents in our past, which we like to live in. No matter that this world
increasingly, has less and less to do with current reality. No matter also
that this makes the average Muslim a peculiar creature who has learnt to
live in a schizophrenic world of make believe compartments with no apparent
conflict between diametrically opposed positions. I can tell you how
damaging that is psychologically to an individual. But you will perhaps tell
me that it is not, to the Muslim.
We have a leadership worldwide, that barring exceptions is fraud, corrupt,
blind and redundant. Our leaders are either actual exploiters of their own
people or are so isolated from reality that they have not the foggiest
notion about where the world is going or what the operative realities of the
world are. Examples of corrupt Muslim leaders abound all over the world and
need no elaboration. And since they lead a blind following, they have no
problems retaining their seats despite not decades but generations of
exploitative politics. There is nothing more dangerous and degraded than a
guard dog that attacks and eats his own flock. Our political leaders are
Some examples of the result of the last 100 years of leadership:
1. In India, home to 300 million Muslims, the judicial commission
appointed by the Government of India to assess the situation of the Muslims,
the Justice Sachar Commission reported that the situation of the Indian
Muslims in terms of education, access to jobs in the government and industry
and political influence, is worse than that of Dalits and OBCs. To date not
a single Muslim political or religious leader has accepted responsibility
for this shameful situation and resigned his position. Even this statement
of mine will probably raise a lot of eyebrows as public accountability is
yet another Islamic concept that is prominent by its absence in actual
2. In almost every Muslim religious discourse worldwide, we hear
innumerable stories of heroic military leadership of our illustrious
predecessors (Salaf-us-saliheen) in the remote past. But I ask myself and
you, how many examples do we hear, of educators who established
universities? Of business leaders who built economies and industries? Of
scientists who gave the world new inventions and discoveries? Of rulers who
created models of administration and governance that can be emulated today?
Especially governments that involved people in decision making? How many of
our rulers were actually chosen by the people? How many examples do we hear
about Muslim leaders who were social reformers and workers who worked to
uplift oppressed people? For example how many Muslim leaders in India can
you name, religious or political, who worked against the traditional
Brahminical tyranny against the Dalits, that continues to this day? On the
contrary I can name those who colluded with the Upper castes because it
served them militarily or administratively to do so, no matter that Islam is
categorically against the caste
system. Even more astonishing, I can name those Muslim religious leaders
who created a caste system among the Muslims in India, the Ardhal (Inferior)
and the Ashraf (Superior) while simultaneously speaking from the minbar
(pulpit) about how the Prophet destroyed all caste and class divisions.
Remember, I used the phrase, 'How many?' I am not saying there are none,
though we are close to that. But I am equally sure that you, the reader
can't name, off hand without research, even one name for each of the
categories that I mentioned above. The legends of a people define and
describe them as well as shape and mould their generations. I ask you, what
are the legends you grew up with? And what is their effect on you today?
3. Almost no public address today referring to the state of the Muslim
nation is complete without speaking about the cruelty, oppression and
injustice of the Americans, Israelis and Hindus on the Muslims who live in
their lands or lands controlled by them. I have no problem with this, as I
have no problem with naming the beast, wherever it exists. My problem is
when it comes to naming the same beast when it comes to Muslim countries.
What do I say when I look at how poor Muslim immigrants are treated in all
Middle Eastern countries? What do I say about how the Shia minority are
treated in the Sunni majority countries in the Middle East? What do I say
when I see the random killing of Shias by Sunnis and of Sunnis by Shias in
Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere?
4. Final example: In the middle of all the mass exploitation,
apartheid, illiteracy, poverty, destitution, disease, war and ignorance that
the Muslims worldwide are the victims of, Muslims in the UK are planning to
build a mosque which is expected to cost 100 Million Sterling (Rs. 850
Crores). I couldn't believe my eyes when I read a mail asking Muslims
worldwide to support this plan and to donate to it and to send emails to the
Mayor of London's office asking them to approve the project. What do you
think about the sense of priority of the leadership of this Ummah? What can
illustrate the bankruptcy of moral and ethical values and the shortage of
plain common sense better than this one project? I sincerely hope the Mayor
of London will not approve this project. If they do, it will be a good
monument of shame and a fitting epilogue to this Ummah.
My brothers and sisters, in short we are on the slide. As I have said, we
are hemorrhaging and badly.
If we don't stop this bleeding and fast, it will be too late. To expect
those who are benefiting from the bleed; those blood-sucking leeches who
exist on the blood or those who don't care about the bleeding, to make the
change is unrealistic. Change has to come from those who feel the loss badly
enough to want to get out of their comfort zones and take action. So that
is my question to you.
Do you care?? How much do you care???
It seems to me, going by what is happening to us in the world and our
response to it, we are a dead nation. We are a nation of corpses. It is the
heart which is the seat of life in Islam. And our hearts are dead. They are
devoid of the dhikr of Allah and of the fikr for others; the two indicators
of life. So they are dead and we are dead. And the number of dead has no
meaning. That is our situation today.
Do you want to change that??
Here are two things that I believe we need to do if we want to change our
situation. I don't say that the change will be instantaneous. But it will
come insha'Allah in due course.
1. Stop blaming others
The first sign of a desire to change is to accept that we have a problem.
And that we are its authors. The empowering thing about owning the problem
is that you also then, own the solution. When we export blame as we are
habituated to do, we also export the solution and so the problem remains
with us and continues to trouble us. We must accept that we are the cause of
our internal differences and strife. If we want to build mutual
understanding, nothing and nobody can change that. People can try and they
will try but they will never succeed if we don't let them. The coming
together of the two Germany's and of the two Vietnams are classic examples.
We tend to blame the difference in theological concepts (aqaa'id) as the
reason for our differences between the Shia, Sunni, Salafi, Barelwi and
who-have-you. We then blame the non-Muslims for instigating strife between
You will be astonished to know that a recently published book on Christian
denominations, each with its own church, theological concept, literature,
services and priests. The author counted a total of 33,000. Yes, I have not
put too many zeros. There are actually 33,000 Christian denominations. But
have you ever seen one denomination bombing another's church? Have you seen
the followers of one denomination suicide bombing the followers of another
denomination? Have you heard any statement from the Pope calling the Church
of England infidel? Have you heard a statement from the Presbyterians or the
Lutherans or anyone else calling the Catholics, infidels? So who do you
want to blame for the fact that we Muslims do this to one another. In my
view the first thing to do is for people to get together in communities and
own the problem with ourselves. We need to define the problem as it relates
to each community that we live in and accept that we are its authors and
owners and we are the ones who are going to solve it.
2. Create 'Problem Solving Committees'
Create committees in each community that we live in, consisting of diverse
people who meet periodically to address various problems and find solutions.
These committees must have in their membership, people from all walks of
life; scholars, professionals, business people, teachers, parents and so on.
They must meet regularly and reasonably frequently and must garner support
for their ideas. They must not only address issues relating to Muslims but
also general societal issues that relate to other people who live in the
same communities. This will build support for them and ensure that they are
not isolated from others.
We need to be out there solving our own and other people's problems. We need
to be seen as useful members of the communities we live in. We need to be
seen as people who have energy, who stand for principles and who are willing
to apply those values to themselves. This means that we will and must stand
for what is right and against what is wrong, even when our own people do
either. We need to walk our talk. Or we need to stop talking.
The world is sick of listening to Muslims talking 'about' Islam. The world
wants to see this Islam that we talk about, in practice. The world is saying
to us, "Put up or shut up. Show us what you are talking about or shut up. We
don't want to listen to you about this Islam which you yourselves don't
practice. We don't want to listen to you about this utopian society that no
longer exists and can't seem to be recreated. We want you to show it to us.
If you think it is so good that you want to proselytize about it, then
practice it yourself first and show us. Then we will perhaps listen to your
lectures." That is the reality today. Are they being unreasonable? I don't
think so. The proof of the pudding after all, is in the eating.
I believe that these are the first essential steps to get started. You are
welcome to add other steps as we go along.
Mirza Yawar Baig is founder
of Yawar Baig & Associates and Leadtrain based in Hyderabad, India.
You have one sacred Kaaba, one God and one holy book, the Koran.
Was it so difficult to unite into one community every single Mussalman? . . .
With reason as your shield and the sword of love in your hand,
Servant of God! the leadership of the world is at your command.
--Muhammad Iqbal, "Shikwa & Jawab-i-Shikwa," translated from Urdu by
Enver Masud, "Our Own Worst
Enemy," The Wisdom Fund, June 20, 2001
Mahmood Mamdani, "Good
Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror,"
Pantheon Books, April 20, 2004
[The current political climate is such that the Progressive Muslim Union NA has set itself
up as the "good Muslims" . . .
In July 2004, the National Security Council created the Muslim World
Outreach Policy Coordinating Committee to replace the Strategic
Communications Policy Coordinating Committee.--"The National Security Council's Muslim Outreach
Policy," pmunadebate.blogspot.com, April 7, 2005]
David E. Kaplan, "Hearts, Minds,
and Dollars," U.S. News and World Report, April 25, 2005
Iqbal N. Siddiqui, "Reclaiming the
Islamic Movement From the Jihadists," Crescent International,
Mansoor Alam, "The Immutable
Shariah," Alternate Voice, April/May 2006
"Secular Islam Summit / Intelligence
Summit," The Wisdom Fund, February 22, 2007