Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Decline of Islamic Civilization

Decline of Islamic Civilizations

Time to Recapture the Spirit that made the Islamic Civilizations Great

Mirza A. Beg

July 1, 2006

Civilizations rise and decay, empires rise and fall. They may at times be coeval but have different dynamics. Empire building entails hegemony of a people over others, expressed in the person of the ruler, often with manipulated religious trappings. Civilization is the flourishing of excellence of a civic idea, supported by peaceful flowering of arts and pursuit of knowledge in which many ethnicities and religions may participate.

Empires may raise and fall precipitously but civilizations take generations to rise and recede. The reasons for rise and fall of empires are less complex than the rise and decay of civilizations. One clear difference is that Empires require the power of arms, while the civilizations require the power of ideas nurtured by people who work towards betterment of the society in comparative ease with considerable freedom of thought and action. When ideas have to be forced on the people, the system of justice suffers. Unless a majority of the people realizes some redeeming feature in it, the civilization decays.

The glory days of the Islamic civilization spanned more than a thousand years. The Islamic civilization was an evolving continuum while many Muslim empires preyed on each other, they rose and fell. Muslim intellectuals have been searching for the reasons of decline of the Islamic civilizations for at least the last three centuries.

Popular reasons:

Most prevalent diagnoses and remedies fall in two categories. The most popular view seems to be that the Muslims have veered away from the teachings of Islam. The remedy offered is, “If only we became good Muslims we would regain the momentum and revive the grandeur of the past.”

The second conventional view is that our travails started with the ascendance of the West. It led to eventual Western colonialism of Muslim lands and its materialistic hegemony stifled the Islamic civilizations. The popular remedy suggested is that we should get away from materialism, support education with the spiritualism of Islam to be the leaders again.

Both observations are partly correct but confuse causes and effects. Not that the West has not been hegemonic and should not be blamed. Yielding to this mindset absolve us of centuries of sloth and is a complete intellectual surrender to the hegemony of the West. They pull at our heartstrings and have the attraction of innocence of idealism, but the understanding of the early Islamic history and human nature does not substantiate such simplistic explanations.

The first observation that we have veered away is true in many ways, but it is not a recent phenomenon. From very early times Islamic polity started splitting into many sects and sub-sects. Efforts towards contrived unity often spawned another sub-sect. A more analytical question is which sects have veered away, and to what extent? Or are all sects equally to blame? Is it really a new phenomenon, and who can judge it objectively? The answers tend to be inherently self-serving, therefore elusive.

A brief historical survey:

On closer survey of history, it appears that the veering away started immediately after the death of the Prophet in 632 CE. Many tribes had rebelled. It was the deft handling of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, who was elected by a consensus after some initial dissentions by the leading companions of the Prophet. The rebellious tribes were brought back to the fold after arduous persuasion. The second Caliph, Omar was assassinated, probably by a disgruntled prisoner. The third Caliph Uthman was assassinated because of political machinations. The caliphate of the fourth caliph Ali’s was contested resulting in Islam’s first civil war, with people dear to the prophet on opposite sides. Ali was assassinated by a purist intolerant group known as “Kharijites”. They considered him to be flouting the teachings of Islam because he accepted a compromise. In spite of all these dissentions, Islam grew by leaps and bounds and had spread to Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Persia within thirty years after the Prophet.

In 661 CE, Muawiya the governor of Syria who had contested Ali’s Caliphate became the fifth Caliph. Arabs had no experience in the governance of an empire. Muawiya learned and adapted the methods of Byzantines and Persians to consolidate the Islamic empire further. In the process,
he subverted the nascent Islamic democratic norms by maneuvering the succession of his inept son Yazid to the caliphate, making it a hereditary office and founded the Umayyad dynasty.

Yazid’s caliphate was challenged by Ali’s second son Husain, resulting in Islam’s second civil war. Yazid’s forces mercilessly killed Husain and his entire family to maintain Umayyad grip on power spawning the largest schism in Islam, the Shia-Sunni divide.

In 750 CE, Abul Abbas with Shia support destroyed ninety years of expanding and at times turbulent Umayyad Caliphate, to establish the Abbasid dynasty. Abbasids killed almost the entire ruling Umayyads and soon ditched their Shia supporters, fortifying a trend towards absolute monarchy, “the shadow of God on earth”. The robust impetus towards egalitarianism gave way to diluted platitudes. The sole surviving Umayyad founded a rival dynasty in Spain seceding from the Abbasids in 756 CE.

Reason for the spread of Islam:

So why did Islam spread so fast with all these deficiencies and dissensions among its leaders? The simple religious answer could be that it was God’s will. But then every thing is governed by the will of God, so why fret or worry.

One of the most important temporal reasons is that Islam is and was interpreted by the conquered people to be an egalitarian religion of tolerance and liberation. The defeated people of Byzantine and Persian empires, and later the people of Indian subcontinent were quite used to being oppressed by the rulers, particularly those who belonged to other sects or casts were suppressed even more. In a sudden contrast, they found much more liberty under Islamic egalitarian system.

The lives, properties and beliefs of the defeated people were protected and they were allowed unhindered commerce bringing prosperity to the ruled and therefore the rulers. Muslims had to pay Zakat (tax to help the poor) and were enjoined to fight in the defense of the state. The non-Muslims called Dhimmis in Arabic were neither asked to nor were they inclined to fight for an alien religious state. They were levied Jazia (a protection Tax), which was regulated and was usually less than the arbitrary taxes they paid to their former rulers. Zakat was distributed among the poor but Jazia was a source of Income to the state.

In essence, the new subjects found their lives and future safe and their religious institutions protected. At first Muawiya even discouraged conversion to Islam, but gradually the rulers and the ruled mingled. With the passage of time Christians, Jews, Persians and Hindus even occupied high positions in the civil administration. Over the centuries many chose to become Muslims, adapting the mores and the religion of the rulers while maintaining their customs creating cultural syntheses, giving regional flavor to the composite cultures. After hundreds of years of Muslim rule, the surviving and flourishing Christian and Jewish communities in the heartlands of Islam and a majority of Indians remaining in the loosely defined Hindu fold is a testament to the tolerance of the times.

Muslims found enough reasons to fight against each other for many real and imagined deviances, fracturing into dozens of sects. The wars were some times couched in religious and sectarian terms, but mostly they were for the supremacy of the dynasties supported by a small coterie in military and civil administration. By mid 10th century with a succession of weak caliphs the Abbasid Caliphate had lost most of the temporal power. The Caliph remained a figurehead in Baghdad. The provinces had become independent Sultanate, ruled by changing Arab, Persians and Turkic dynasties, keeping a pretense of Caliph’s supremacy.

First half of Abbasid period saw tremendous flowering in the fields of arts, sciences and medicine. Shariah laws were codified primarily based on Quran and practices of the Prophet by the great jurists in 8th century. Some as Abu Hanifa (699-765) stressed the value of interpretation (Ijtehad), others advocated strict adherence to the recorded deeds of the prophet. The codified Shariah laws were to regulate the lives of the population, but were only loosely observed by the courts and the powerful. The breakup of the unitary Islamic state liberated the Ulema (Scholars and jurists) from centralized authority of the degenerated Caliphate, ushering a new era of contemporary interpretation of Islamic laws (Ijtehad) ranging a wide spectrum from liberal to conservative. The Sufi movements of personalized mystic spiritualism were considered to be on the fringes, some times even heresy by the establishment. By the dawn of 12th century, Al Ghazali (1058-1111) by his powerful writings brought about a synthesis of Sufism with the orthodox Islam, gaining much wider acceptance and eventually great popularity.

Sufis, by their humane service oriented practices became the main evangelists of Islam, particularly in India, Southeast and Central Asia. They usually shunned association with the courts and power, and established many hospices in remote areas.

It is important to note that though the marginalization of the caliphate could be considered un-Islamic, if the practices of the Prophet and the first four Caliphs are used as a standard, but Islamic jurists attached to the power of the Sultans could not, therefore did not oppose these fissiparous developments and the consensus based Shariah (Islamic code of laws) avoided the subject.

Islamic civilization kept on flourishing in spite of all the vices that accrue to the elite from the misuse of power, particularly where women and accumulation of wealth were concerned. The primary reasons were that the populace remained mostly untouched by the dynastic machinations confined to the elites at the centers of power and because of slow communications the hinterlands remained insulated from the changes in regimes. The Sultanates that lost vigor fell, replaced by more vigorous powers generally without affecting the rhythm of life.

Freedom of intellectual pursuits continued to be celebrated by many Sultans. Great centers of learning sprang up in Damascus followed by Baghdad, Cordova and Cairo. By the time these centers declined the central Asian and Indian states took up the slack. The regime changes occasionally brought intolerant rulers prone to suppression of freedom of thought, especially when it restricted or challenged the unbridled authority of the ruler in the fields of Islamic law. But it was not a death of freedom, just an inconvenience. Scholars found ready invitations to newer more welcoming centers of enlightened power. There was no challenge yet from the West which was mired in what is now condescendingly called medievalism.

Decline of Islamic civilization:

Contrary to the popular belief that Islamic civilizations declined because of the rise of the west, a case can be made that it was partly the decline of the Islamic civilization that gave impetus to the unchallenged rise of the West. The golden age of Islam, particularly the scientific pursuits that required greater stability in the Arab heartland declined by the 12th century and came to end in 1258 CE after the brutal Mongol invasion. Though the Mongol conquers adopted Islam within fifty years, their ruling methods were tribal. With the vast destruction of manuscripts and libraries, gradually a majority of Ulema (religious jurists and scholars) came to the view that the Islamic civilization had reached its apogee and all the interpretations (Ijtehad) needed have been accomplished.

It was widely believed that the destruction at the hands of Mongols was retribution from God for the deviances. In effect the “gates of Ijtehad were closed” by an emerging consensus. Ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1326) condemned many of the interpretations that accrued after the caliphate of the first four caliphs, but he advocated fresh interpretation for the current times. He was imprisoned for such deviance and died heartbroken. By the time of Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), the Muslim empire of Spain was in headlong decline and was finally obliterated in 1492 CE.

The advent of the wider use of gun powder gave impetus to the expansion of the new Muslim powers especially the Safvids in Iran, Mughals in India and the Ottoman Turks in Asia Minor, Balkans and North Africa. They had quite liberal and tolerant rulers ushering an era of conquest, expansion and great civilizations. After reaching their zenith in 16th and 17th centuries, by the beginning of 18th century these great empires were spent and in decline. The European colonization of the Muslim lands started in mid 18th century.

The great Muslim tradition of scholarship in philosophy and sciences were in decline by the dawn of the 13th century. About this time the Europeans had started translations of the knowledge accrued and built upon by the Muslim scholars. Though in 15th and 16th century Europe was still in religious straight jacket it had started a gradual pushing back against the stranglehold of the unitary Catholic Church. The freedom of thought gradually gained ground in 18th century with what has come to be known as the age of reason. With this came unleashing of sciences, leading to better technology and start of colonial expansion. By mid 19th century the Industrial revolution had taken hold, particularly the war technology and exploration leading to world dominance and colonialism. The colonialism and the ascendance of the west were in part caused by the weakness in Islamic societies.

Very early in Islamic history the doctrine of “Kafaa also written as Kufu ’ the desirability of marriage within ones own consanguine strata was introduced becoming a part of Shariah for some. Though legally and ideally the justice system guarantied equality, the egalitarian ethos of Islam was greatly damaged. The conquering Arabs were accorded higher status leading to class system. By the time Islam reached India the lower casts converts were shunned in social intercourse, in effect creating racism. They could have accepted Islam in droves, but they found that the egalitarianism was preached however practiced with limitations. After fourteen centuries of Islam, tribalism continues in many middle-eastern countries to this day.

Rise of the West:

Civilizations take generations to rise and recede. Roman Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in early 4th century was a momentous event in Christianization of Europe and shifted the heart land of Christianity to the heart of Roman Empire. Gradually the Bishop of Rome became the supreme pontiff of Europe. The Roman power suppressed the rival Christian churches in Middle East, the cradle of Christianity. That was one of the reasons the Christians readily accepted the domination of Islam in Palestine, Syria and North Africa.

The fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE brought regional ethnic kingdoms to power vying for Papacy’s support against each other and centuries of ethnic warfare as well as unethical exploitation of Christian ethos. The Crusades starting in 1095 CE were in part aimed at getting the European powers to direct their energies and blood lust in killing the Infidel Saracens (Muslims) and restoring the Papal hegemony. After early successes, by the end of 13th century the successive crusades petered out in failure and came to an end. In 1453 CE the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople bringing the Byzantine Empire to a close, and gradually expanded their empire in the Balkans. .

The 15th century saw intellectual awakening in Europe now known as ‘renaissance’. The writings of Arab scientists and philosophers were translated in European languages. The mass publication of thousands of copies of Bible by movable metal type setting by Gutenberg in 1450s made possible a wider spread of education. The trans-Atlantic voyage of Columbus in 1492 resulting in discovery and start of the colonization of the Americas followed by Vasco De Gamma to East Indies in 1498 opened up a tremendous naval competition among European powers opening up the age of exploration in the service of the crown and pursuit of riches, acquiring new skills as a byproduct.

Despite the suppression of Galileo by the Church Europe was stirring, and by 16th century it was in full grip of reformation. Though the Islamic Heartland became a hinterland to the Ottoman civilization that rose from 15th to mid 18th centuries and Islamic Indian civilizations that flourished from 13th to early 18th centuries there was no large-scale conflict with the Christendom. Except in Balkans where the Ottomans reached the gates of Vienna in 1683. This was an Imperial struggle. With the rise of Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottomans retreated to southern Balkans. Turks acted as the overlords in the empire, where the punishment for rebellion was harsh, but subject peoples of different religion and ethnicities were allowed full recognition and autonomy in religion and personal laws as a community (Millet).

The maritime supremacy and race towards colonization of Americas took place from the 15th to 19th centuries. The colonization of the Islamic lands, North Africa, India and Indonesia by Christian Europeans started in the 18th century and reached its zenith in the late 19th century.

Understanding of religion:

No one would disagree with the idea that Muslims should become better Muslims. The question is who is a better Muslim, and how to become one? The Quran, in its pristine form is available for all to read, understand and follow. Muslims are inheritors of a rich and vibrant history. The ebb and flow, strengths and weaknesses need to be analyzed in context and with candor.

Religion affects us at three intertwined levels that can not be completely separated. They are- personal, social and political.

On the personal level- the mechanics of every day practice of the enjoined tenets of Islam is of paramount importance. On the spiritual level, religion answers to our most in-expressible sublime yearnings. It gives us hope, moorings and a strong sense of morality.

On the social level - it can and should be but at times is not a force for the good of the community. Islam is an egalitarian religion of justice, compassion and service. The greatest evangelists of Islam were Sufis. They were instrumental in the spread of Islam by example of devotion, kindness and service to all irrespective of race, color or wealth. The greatest injury to Islam was inflicted by Muslims who in the pursuit of power caused intra and inter religious wars. Sectarianism that adopts exclusivity, and denies others what we demand for ourselves is contrary to what the Prophet practiced and taught.

The doctrine of “Kafaa”, the marriage hairarchy, adherence to class, cast and tribe is inimical to Islam and has injured the egalitarian ethos of Islam. The Shariah needs constant re-evaluation and re-examination as all forward looking robust civilizations do, and the great Islamic scholars did.

Religion as a political tool – the quest for power was the customary way to for a people to assert. It was historically a zero sum preposition. Some had to loose power for others to gain. Starting from tribalism the societies evolved to imperialism of supra tribes. The 18th century saw the post Napoleonic construct of nation states leading to nationalistic imperialism.

Religion was easy to use in national conflicts, each side claiming the mandate from God. The mixture of religion political supremacy has brought untold suffering throughout the history. Early 20th Century saw the rise of irreligious and eventually anti religious communism. It brought even more suffering than the religions could have, proving that it is the exploitative human nature that is the culprit.

The rise of the industrialized West created an imbalance of power, leading to colonialism by the industrialized countries. The societies rebelling against the yoke of colonialism considered that socialism would raise them to modernity, without the infrastructure of democracy, it deteriorated to draconian dictatorship. After the disillusionment and suppression by the dictatorships masked as socialism, the religions have come back to dominate the world political debate at the dawn of 21st century. It is also becoming clearer even more so than the past, religion is invariably misused in the service of the State. With greater sophistication in propaganda, politics becomes sectarian in the service of religion and religion in debased in the service of power hungry politicians.

Institutionalized re-evaluation of Shariah (Islamic Law):

The most important ingredient for the long term success of a civilization is the idea of justice and faith in the institutions that render service for the protection of life, liberty property.

Narrow sectarian and selfish designing and implementation of rules engender rebellion. The wider and all inclusive systems always fare better. A religious state could aspire to be better than others, as the medieval Islamic states often were, but those who feel they are a second class citizen of a state would always want to be equal and if they get an opportunity to change the system they would.

In human affairs there is no perfection. Quran is a guide towards spiritual salvation and gives general guidance towards temporal laws. No religious book is a tome on laws. Laws are derivative from the religious ideals.

None of the laws ever have been perfect in implementation. Better laws are those, where by and large the polity feels that all are being treated fairly. Some inevitably fall through the cracks, exposing the inadequacies. In a dynamic system, the grievances lead to the fine tuning or amendments in laws that would unavoidably incorporate some other flaws to be improved later.

If every one was honest, spiritual, kind, gentle and ready to give all unselfishly, there would not be a need for laws. Laws are necessary simply because they are not. History proves that those with power would eventually almost always misuse it and the greater the mal-distribution of power the worse the misuse.

Shariah (Islamic law) was a much needed, well thought out system that was codified by many very thoughtful jurists into at least five schools about two hundred years after the death of the Prophet. The need for the methodology of evolution of Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) became more and more apparent to guide the ijtehad (interpretation) by the time of Imam Shafiin in 8th century. He codified the Methodology of development of laws (Usul-ul-fiqh). These were great minds. Their works were seminal. The methodology and interpretation of laws evolved for another two hundred years. Gradually between the 11th and 13th century the Islamic spirit of confident exploration declined, and the idea that the doors of interpretation (ijtehad) are closed took hold.

There developed a tremendous disconnect between the ‘Laws of the State’ (Quanoon) and Shariah (the personal laws from Islam). There was almost no intellectual trafficking among the two, except for political reasons. State in medieval times was based on military power and collection of taxes, from the hinterland. The legal systems were ill understood. Collaboration between the powerful and shariah as interpreted by the ill-educated straight laced Muftis (interpreters of laws). The more thoughtful and courageous Muftis were weeded out by the powerful in self interest.

The modern times with near universal education and communication has exposed the fissures of almost five hundred years of relative, and about three hundred years of complete stagnation. Now except for Saudi Arabia and perhaps Iran no Islamic state even pretends follows Shariah, because they do not fit the times. In the stagnating Muslim states where democracy is either not practiced at all or very imperfectly practiced the slogan of bringing Shariah back is a handy political tool for the politicians. Thus the political tussle is substituting for the theological and judicial debate and evolution, giving black eye to both sides of the political divide.

Those with love of Islam and memories of the grandeur of gone by civilization try to show the superiority of the Sahriah not by cogent arguments in favor of Shariah but by castigating the obvious moral-sexual decadence of the West and many other flaws that the Western civilization has spawned. Those that see the freedom of thought and exploration that the West inherited from Islam and are largely the cause of the ascendancy of the west want to have a new system in hurry without a mechanism of carrying the populace with them. The dialogue among the two sides is full of recriminations and shouting, generating much heat but very little light.

Obviously the western civilization is not the pinnacle of all that is desired and should be aspired for, but it is on an upward trajectory because it bears and at times encourages, spirited and even cantankerous debate, therefore it has developed a slow and tortuous ill defined self-correcting mechanism.

Islamic polity should not ape the west, but it should regain the spirit of search and research that made it great long centuries ago and the west adopted from it. It should rise above the ill-placed fear that intellectual dissension creates weakness. The simplistic idea that we should unite is appealing, but without the definition of unity it remains an impossible dream. Unite for what and how is a relevant question.

The unity should be for the adherence to the idea that freedom of though and speech should be guaranteed. So that better ideas would emerge by vigorous, even at times cantankerous debates. The fear of decadent forces is legitimate but it pulls too much weight in Muslim countries. Given human nature, with freedom to think lofty thoughts the freedom to think baser thoughts inevitably creeps in as well. The draconian societies only quell the excellence, the baser attitudes persist in the shadows, even help in the suppression of freedom to know.

Our collective Ulema, barring a few, have failed us because we did not demand any better from them, and did not pay the brighter and courageous minds enough to take up the arduous task. The discussions about the Shariah and evolution of personal laws among Muslims are becoming more open and spirited in many democratic societies in many forums is indicative of the stirring and indicative of an awakened spirit. It needs to be nurtured and encouraged.

Islam and Democracy

Some may say that the Prophets system was perfect. By the Islamic definition we know that there is not going to be another Prophet. Muslims consider it very important to follow his example (Sunnah). Therefore it can not be considered an oversight that the Prophet did not designate a successor. In effect he willed us to think and choose according to our best lights.

A suddenly rudderless nascent Islamic community immediately after his death rallied to elect the first Caliph, with civilized democratic dissentions, followed by three more classed as the rightly guided Caliphs. It was a form of an emerging representative democracy, not a perfect democracy but an initial step towards it. That aborted effort after only 28 years needs to be revived. It is patently Islamic to work towards a more representative and a better system.

It took more than a thousand years hiatus for the self governing democratic systems to emerge again in 1776 giving birth to the United States of America. It was not a sudden development. The idea of democratic polity is rooted in many cultures and traditions since dawn of civilizations. The idea of a modern democratic state with a constitution and inherent check on unbridled power with balance of power took a long time to take shape.

Modern democracies are far from perfect. The idea of check and balance of power with time limitation on the person exercising the delegated power provides a self correcting mechanism. Those at the helm for a prescribed time may and have, misused power, but in time by design they have to relinquish power for the system to recover. All efforts towards a better system are imbedded with many concomitant inherent flaws. The effort needs to be directed at being better than what is. With each new step that makes things better, some associated drawback creep in, to be improved upon with corrective laws in search of a better system.

A New Paradigm

The challenge for our times is to emerge out of narrow nationalism to a truly world wide acceptance of laws based on freedom, equality and Justice. The establishment of the United Nations was and still is a bold and promising effort. It is under siege by states, particularly the powerful states who seek supremacy or the religious interpretations that seek hegemony of a religion. The principles of the UN are largely derived from the wisdom of human experience and are very close to the principles of Islam.

With hardly any exception, the civilizations that allow more freedom tend to do better than those with less. With freedom comes responsibility to exercise that freedom with care. The predicament for all societies is how to balance personal freedom and restrictive societal obligations. With freedom, inevitably vices also flourish. The great challenge is to improve the system in such a way to keep the vices down and virtues of freedom would work to the betterment of the society. That is where the moral religious moorings help. This is a process of trial and error. It does not happen suddenly. Those who shun freedom for fear of immorality, manage only to destroy the growth and excellence that comes with freedom while the vices continue without being exposed.

An over-whelming majority well known Muslim scholars from the golden age of Islamic civilizations were liberal leaning in their interpretations of the Islamic laws and recommendations in their writings. Islam is a religion of peace recognizing the paramount importance of justice. Quran teaches tolerance and respect for others in all of the verses that are of general nature. Verses for specific occasion in time enjoin to fight in the name of justice and defense that are often quoted with out reference to the context.

It pits the demands of religion as one interprets it, against the freedom of others to interpret it slightly or drastically differently. For a civil society to function effectively, we accept restrictive rules and regulations for the common good. Yet, with time, many seemingly good laws designed to benefit the status quo prove to be bad and restrictive, even retrogressive and draconian. Often good laws degenerate into a bad caricature of the intended purpose. A confident, pluralistic, democratic system regularly reevaluates and better interprets such laws, not because of external pressures but because of its experiences as a corrective mechanism.

The idea of self governing democracies as large nation states is rather new and has taken hold in the last two hundred years. West colonized and exploited not only Muslims but the whole world for more than three hundred years. Last sixty years have seen tremendous changes and readjustments in the West as well as other parts of the world. The Iraq war and the global overreach by the United States is the last gasp of that posture.

Unfortunately instead of lifting themselves up, Muslims have been mired in this colonial stance for more than three centuries. It is time to break free from mental self imprisonment and function with courage and conviction as we should to the best of our Islamic light. Islam, neither was nor is in danger, it has been expanding through the bad times in the past and even now. It is the Muslim power and self image that has been endangered and can be rescued if we recapture the spirit of enquiry, introspection and freedom that our ancestors practiced and Europe adapted them to wake up from its dark ages.

Civilizations can not go back in time to some imagined golden age. Successful systems draw sustenance from the old glories but accept the challenge of the times to adjust and innovate. When sciences and knowledge is fettered in fear of going wrong the civilization declines and dies. Knowledge should be allowed to flower with confidence in the ability of the system to absorb it and use it wisely and with care

God has given each of us some unique gifts and freedom to use them for good, evil or not use at all. We know the parameters according to which we will be judged. This is a quest for the hereafter. In this world it behooves us not go for the illusive perfect, but aspire for better than what is.

Muslim societies have felt besieged for a long time. It is easy to take emotional refuge in the past glories, a backward glance where all sins are washed off in the pool of selective memory and selective reading of history with rose colored glasses. It does work as a feel good survival mechanism for individuals, but as a community this indulgence is a recipe for continued downward spiral.

Some times we justify or keep quiet in what we would condemn in others. Introspection and self criticism leads to reforming ourselves and helps us to advance boldly with the principles we hold dear. Simply reacting to events leaves us at the mercy of those pulling the strings

It is time to learn and adapt from our own celebrated past as well as the developments in other civilizations. The pioneers and the great scholars instrumental for the golden age of Islam did not shun the ideas and lessons from the great civilizations that preceded them. They thoughtfully considered new, even seemingly alien ideas, not with timidity but with confidence and courage. They debated and opposed those they did not agree with, in vibrant and as robust a dialogue as possible, considering the limitations in communications for the age. This is a great legacy worth emulation.

All new or foreign ideas are not necessarily good or bad. It is important to consider them thoughtfully; avoiding the pit falls such as the egregious wars and colonialism of 19th and 20th centuries. Adoption or rejection without thoughtful evaluation, simply because they are from outside, Eastern or Western, is indicative of prejudices, anemic to knowledge.

It is time for a civil, thoughtful and fearless debate within the Islamic polity. None of the Muslim countries have true freedoms to do it. In ‘devoutly proclaimed’ religious countries, the religion is misused to suppress all freedoms and in ‘devoutly secular’ countries the religion is suppressed at the altar of secularism. Muslims in democracies have the freedom and opportunity to take this challenge. History and our children will be justified in judging us very harshly if we fail to take the lead.


  1. Dear Sir,

    The following issue can destroy ISLAM or ISRAEL; study it thoroughly to see if there is any truth to it.

    READ THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES FROM THE BIBLE AS IT HAS IMPLICATIONS ON THE WAR AGAINST TERROR/ISLAM and the claim of Israel that god gave them the land. If the child is an infant than the Judeo-Christian version becomes null and void and we are wasting our time and resources i.e. we could save trillions of dollars and create a more peaceful world rather than fighting against Islam the religion of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

    The COVENANT with Abraham and his DESCENDANTS is central to JUDAISM/CHRISTIANITY/ISLAM.

    Please note this is not a competition between faiths but an attempt to decipher fact from fiction.

    Genesis 21:14 Contemporary English version se below link


    Early the next morning Abraham gave Hagar an animal skin full of water and some bread. Then he put the boy on her shoulder and sent them away.

    GENESIS 16:16
    And Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ish’mael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ish’mael to Abram.
    GENESIS 21:5
    Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

    At Genesis 22 Abraham had only 2 sons others came later. The Quran mentions that it was Ishmael that was sacrificed hence the reference in genesis 22:2 your only son can only mean someone has substituted Ishmael names for Isaac!!

    NOT ROMAN NUMERALS (I, II, III,IV,V,VI,VII,VIII,IX,X) NB no concept of zero in roman numerals.

    100 years old – 86 years old = 14 ADD 3 YEARS FOR ISSAC’S WEANING


    Carefully read several times the above passage and then tell me the mental picture you get between the mother child interactions what is the age of the child. If the mental picture is that of a 17 year old child being carried on the shoulder of his mother, being physically placed in the bush, crying like a baby, mother having to give him water to drink, than the Islamic viewpoint is null and void. Why is there no verbal communications between mother and (17 YEAR OLD) child?

    GENESIS: 21:14 - 21
    So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the (17 YEAR OLD) child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-Sheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the (17 YEAR OLD) child under one of the bushes. Then she went, and sat down over against him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Let me not look upon the death of the (17 YEAR OLD) child.” And as she sat over against him, the (17 YEAR OLD) child lifted up his voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the (17 YEAR OLD) lad where he is. Arise, lift up the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and hold him fast with your hand; for I will make him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the (17 YEAR OLD) lad a drink. And God was with the (17 YEAR OLD) lad, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

    The age of Ishmael at this stage is crucial to the Abrahamic faiths. If he is 17 than the JUDEO/CHRISTIAN point of view about the Abrahamic covenant is correct. This has devastating theological consequences of unimaginable proportions.

    This makes the conflict between Ishmael and Isaac and there descendants a work of fiction. I would strongly suggest it is clear cut case of racial discrimination and nothing to do with god almighty. The scribes have deliberately tried to make Isaac the only son and legitimate heir to the throne of Abraham??

    Please can you rationally explain this anomaly?

    I have asked many persons including my nephews and nieces - unbiased minds with no religious backgrounds but with reasonable command of the English language about this passage and they all agree that the child in the passage is an infant.

    For background info on the future religion of mankind see the following websites:

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/ ANTI-WAR

    HOLY QURAN CHAPTER 37 verses 101 - 122

    101. So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear.

    102. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: "O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!" (The son) said: "O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practising Patience and Constancy!"

    103. So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah., and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),

    104. We called out to him "O Abraham!

    105. "Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!" - thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

    106. For this was obviously a trial-

    107. And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:

    108. And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times:

    109. "Peace and salutation to Abraham!"

    110. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

    111. For he was one of our believing Servants.

    112. And We gave him the good news of Isaac - a prophet,- one of the Righteous.

    113. We blessed him and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.

    114. Again (of old) We bestowed Our favour on Moses and Aaron,

    115. And We delivered them and their people from (their) Great Calamity;

    116. And We helped them, so they overcame (their troubles);

    117. And We gave them the Book which helps to make things clear;

    118. And We guided them to the Straight Way.

    119. And We left (this blessing) for them among generations (to come) in later times:

    120. "Peace and salutation to Moses and Aaron!"

    121. Thus indeed do We reward those who do right.

    122. For they were two of our believing Servants.


    Therefore the claim that god gave the land to Israel is destroyed without the need of any WMD’s.


    Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583:
    Narrated Ibn Abbas:
    The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Ishmael. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah. Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka'ba under a tree on the spot of Zam-zam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. Ishmael's mother followed him saying, "O Abraham! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?" She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her Then she asked him, "Has Allah ordered you to do so?" He said, "Yes." She said, "Then He will not neglect us," and returned while Abraham proceeded onwards, and on reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka'ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers:
    'O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House (Kaba at Mecca) in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayer perfectly. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.' (14.37) Ishmael's mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking from the water (she had).
    When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ishmael) tossing in agony; She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times."
    The Prophet said, "This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them (i.e. Safa and Marwa). When she reached the Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, 'O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?" And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zam-zam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it."
    The Prophet added, "May Allah bestow Mercy on Ishmael's mother! Had she let the Zam-zam (flow without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill her water-skin), Zam-zam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth." The Prophet further added, "Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel said to her, 'Don't be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.' The House (i.e. Kaba) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left. She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada'. They landed in the lower part of Mecca where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, 'This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.' They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water, and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water)." The Prophet added, "Ishmael's mother was sitting near the water. They asked her, 'Do you allow us to stay with you?" She replied, 'Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.' They agreed to that." The Prophet further said, "Ishmael's mother was pleased with the whole situation as she used to love to enjoy the company of the people. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there. The child (i.e. Ishmael) grew up and learnt Arabic from them and (his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up, and when he reached the age of puberty they made him marry a woman from amongst them.

  2. "it led to the Western colonization of Muslim lands'...

    Which lands would those be?
    North Africa?

    Lest you forget those lands were previously Jewish/Persian/Babylonian/Christian/Western/African lands colonized BY Muslims.

  3. Genesis 16 (King James Version)

    Genesis 16

    1Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.

    2And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.

    3And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.

    4And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.

    5And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.

    6But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thine hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.

    7And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.

    8And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.

    9And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.

    10And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.

    11And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.

    12And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.

    13And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?

    14Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

    15And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.

    16And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.

  4. Genesis 21 (King James Version)

    Genesis 21

    1And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken.

    2For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

    3And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.

    4And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him.

    5And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.

    6And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.

    7And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age.

    8And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.

    9And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.

    10Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.

    11And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son.

    12And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

    13And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.

  5. Genesis 22 (King James Version)

    Genesis 22

    1And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

    2And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

    3And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

    4Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

    5And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

    6And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.

    7And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

    8And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

    9And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

    10And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

    11And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

    12And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

    13And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

    14And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.

    15And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,

    16And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:

    17That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

    18And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

    19So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.

    20And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold, Milcah, she hath also born children unto thy brother Nahor;

    21Huz his firstborn, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram,

    22And Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel.

    23And Bethuel begat Rebekah: these eight Milcah did bear to Nahor, Abraham's brother.

    24And his concubine, whose name was Reumah, she bare also Tebah, and Gaham, and Thahash, and Maachah.

  6. 14And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.

    15And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.

    16And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bow shot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.

    17And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.

    18Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.

    19And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.

    20And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.

    21And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.

    22And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest:

    23Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son: but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.

    24And Abraham said, I will swear.

    25And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech's servants had violently taken away.

    26And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing; neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it, but to day.

    27And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant.

    28And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.

    29And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves?

    30And he said, For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.

    31Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them.

    32Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba: then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol the chief captain of his host, and they returned into the land of the Philistines.

    33And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.

    34And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines' land many days.



Email to: SpeakerMikeGhouse@gmail.com

Voice of Moderate Muslims

Voice of Moderate Muslims
Voice of Moderate Muslims

Moderate Islam Speaker

Moderate Islam Speaker
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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797



We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.

URL- http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2013/08/planned-muslim-response-to-quran_18.html

Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.