By Dr Qari Muhammad Asim
Senior Imam – Makkah Masjid, Leeds
As 2014 departs from us, we remember all those magical moments when we achieved something; we cherish the memories of our accomplishments, or those of our loved ones. We also remember moments when our burdens were too heavy to bear; when we neglected our duties and how at times it seemed that our humanity was slipping away from us.
End of a year also provides an opportunity to reflect upon the events of the past year. Unfortunately for Muslims, the year 2014 has been regularly punctuated by tragic deaths and brutal violence that has been committed in the name of a religion. Below are some examples of such brutal and horrific events:
- Boko Haram’s abduction of school girls in Nigeria and violence against communities
- Continued violence in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Myanmar and displacement of people
- The rise of ISIS /ISIL/ Daesh and the capturing, kidnapping, and killing of thousands of people, including public executions
- Taliban massacring school children in Peshawar, Pakistan.
We pray for peace, security, justice and reconciliation for the people of Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Kashmir, Nigeria and in all those countries where people are caught in conflicts. However, praying must give way to reflection, as the Qur’an asserts, ‘woe to those who pray but are heedless of prayer’ [Quran 107: 4-5]. There is no magic wand that can be waived to solve all the problems of the Muslim communities in 2015. What is desperately needed is a creative, inclusive and robust action plan to revive the Muslim Ummah.
Suggestions to revive the Muslim community
Start of a new year is usually a time when people make a resolution(s) to improve themselves, to re-gain control of their health and wealth etc, to get things back on track. We recommend that Muslims join in making a collective resolution in 2015 to revive the dignity, liberty and spirit of the Muslim community, Ummah. It goes without saying that in order to revive the Muslim Ummah, Muslims need to re-connect themselves with Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) and to re-forge the link between the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Glorious Qur’an. Nevertheless, the following are some practical suggestions that can lead us towards the right direction in reviving and sustaining our communities:
Only unity and solidarity can bring about sustainable peace in Muslim communities. Unity refers to agreement in beliefs; harmony in behaviour, and union in manners. Unity will only be achieved if there is creative cooperation.
2. Embracing Diversity
Muslims must learn to manage differences and embrace diversity in religious and political ideology; co-existence between different communities and schools of thought is part of the Divine plan. Muslim leadership must realise its responsibility to build castles of peace in people’s hearts and minds, and not caves of hate and detestation.
3. Eliminating Injustice
Muslim governments must address economic, political and social injustices and inequities that exist in their countries. This will also require re-thinking the extent of foreign influence in their internal policies. Poverty, lack of job opportunities, corruption, nepotism, loss of dignity, liberty, justice and equality are all contributing to violence and revenge in the world.
Injustice occurs in this world but taking up arms for what is right, does not make right the wrongs committed. Without a conciliatory mindset our world will forever remain full of pain and suffering, full of heartache and sorrow, because as one enemy is defeated another will sprout back in its place.
Muslim leaders must invest resources and re-affirm their community’s belief in education and its sacredness. The religious narrative indoctrinating generations of young Muslims with hatred must change. There is a need for one religious education system, which is based on orthodox teachings as interpreted by traditional scholarship, and is equipped with the ability to deal with modern challenges. Such reform needs to be led by Muslim scholars; it requires a consultative and inclusive process conducted with sensitivity and respect for diverse interests. This proposed reform is not about creating ‘moderate’ Muslims, as opposed to fundamentalists or extremists; rather Islam is the moderate way and extremism, hatred and intolerance has no place in our faith or madrasa curriculum.
We hope that in 2015 C.E and 1436 A.H dynamic and pragmatic steps are taken to unite the Muslims, embrace diversity, eliminate injustice and reform religious education system. Despite the inclination to blame the ‘other’ for our challenges, we must bear in mind that change will need to come from within. The Glorious Qur’an asserts, ‘Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves.’ [Qur’an 13:11].
We hope and pray that 2015 is a year where violence and abuse, or news of such tragedies, is not part of the daily life of a Muslim, where universal peace and humanitarianism is at the forefront of people’s minds. We pray it is a year of harmonious coexistence of humanity, transcending various stereotypes that keep raising their heads. We hope it is a year where discrimination against particular religious and ethnic groups is brought to an end.
We take this opportunity to wish everyone a very blessed, peaceful, happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.