January 26, 2007
The Wisdom Fund

The Ummah (Muslim Community) is Hemorrhaging

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 ahead.

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. Why?

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 such dogs.

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 practice.

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 us.

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 Khushwant Singh

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,", 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, December 2005

Mansoor Alam, "The Immutable Shariah," Alternate Voice, April/May 2006

"Secular Islam Summit / Intelligence Summit," The Wisdom Fund, February 22, 2007

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