Tahun 2000 – THE MEETING WITH MUSLIM INTELLECTUALS AND PROFESSIONALS

Lokasi :LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM

Tarikh :03/10/2000

” THE FUTURE OF MUSLIMS IN THE NEW CENTURY  ”

I  am particularly honoured to be given the opportunity
to address this august gathering of Muslim intellectuals and
professionals  in London here today on the  subject  of  the
future of the Muslims.

2.   The new century is essentially a point in time based on
the Christian Gregorian calendar. But it should not stop  us
from  using  it as a milestone to evaluate the situation  of
the Muslims, and to look into their future. The beginning of
the  21st  century  in fact should give  us  cause  for  re-
examining  ourselves and the direction that we  are  taking.
Looking  back at history, when the world entered the  second
millennium, the Christians were expecting doomsday while the
Muslims were on top of the world. They were the super-power,
their  armies considered as the best that there were,  their
rulers doubled up as leaders of the global community,  their
cities the proud centres of commerce and learning, and their
scientists  and scholars respected as true men of knowledge,
ranking  with  the greatest minds of the West.  The  Islamic
world   was  the  hub  of  political,  economic  and  social
activities then.

3.     Ibn   Sina  or  Avicenna  was  the  world’s  foremost
physician.   Ibn  al-Haitham or Alhazen was a  great  Muslim
physicist and physician who was a pioneer in the science  of
optics  that  went on to become the basis of space  science.
The  second  millennium  was also  the  time  of  Al-Biruni,
perhaps  the  best  astronomer  that  ever  lived.  In   the
meantime,  the surgeon al-Zahrawi was performing wonders  in
the field of surgery.  And I can go on and on.

4.    But  where are the Muslim greats of our age?  We  seem
incapable  of producing them.  Yes, we have a few  political
leaders  but they have not built great nations,  much  less,
great   civilisations.   They  are  known  mainly  for   the
controversies they attract and it is unlikely that they will
be  remembered as the great Muslim scholars of the past  are
remembered and revered by.

5.    If  we  look at the decline and fall of the two  great
Muslim  empires  we  cannot help but see  not  so  much  the
crushing  forces outside but the rot inside.  From the  time
of  the  Khawarij  insurrections  against  Saidina  Ali  and
Muawiyah  to  our  times the so-called 100 per  cent  Muslim
purists  have  never ceased to harangue and to  condemn  the
mainstream  majority  for not being  Muslim  enough  or  not
Muslim at all.  Even Saidina Ali was described as an infidel
by these fanatics and violence was mounted against him.

6.   In the later part of the history of Islam, as soon as a
Muslim  community or state tried to develop and  to  acquire
the  knowledge and skill with which to strengthen itself and
to  protect  the Muslim `ummah’, religious controversy  over
what  was being done would rage within it and the minds  and
energies  of  the  community  would  be  deflected   towards
defending  so-called  Muslim progressives  against  the  so-
called Muslim purists.  Even if the enemies of Islam are  at
the  gates,  the Muslims must first attend to the  conflicts
within  their  community, conflicts which they  could  never
resolve.

7.    The polemics never end.  Both sides and sometimes many
others  would  join in and quote numerous authorities,  from
the  Quran  and  Hadith and the writings and interpretations
and the sayings of numerous learned `ulamas’ of the past and
present.   But no matter what authority is quoted, not  even
when  the  Quran  is quoted, there will be no  unanimity  in
acknowledging the correctness of anyone’s interpretation and
practice of Islam.

8.   As the polemics rage on in formal and informal debates,
in speeches and articles in the newspapers and magazines and
now  in  the electronic media and the Internet, the defences
of  the Muslims and their states, the defence of the `ummah’
against their real detractors and enemies are neglected.  In
fact  in  their obsession with their differences the Muslims
often seek the help of their avowed infidel enemies in order
to   overcome  their  Muslim  opponents  or  enemies.    And
invariably they put themselves under obligation to their non-
Muslim allies.

9.    1400  years  after the Hijrah we  are  still  debating
whether we should lop off the heads of the apostates.  Never
mind the fact that in practical terms we will not be able to
execute  the apostates.  But the debate must go  on  and  we
must  take sides and glare at each other, accusing the other
as  being infidels, not true Muslims, while we ourselves are
accused of being the same, all infidels.  If both sides  are
right  as they claim they are, then there are no Muslims  in
this world.  If one side is right then the Muslim population
will be reduced by half.

10.   And because we are busy with our endless debates,  our
countries  regress,  are unable to  cope  with  the  changes
around  us,  and  are dominated by others.   All  the  while
everyone of us will blame the Orientalists who are  bent  on
misleading  us  about our religion.  It  never  occurred  to
anyone to just ignore the Orientalists.  But I suspect  that
even if there are no Orientalists we would still be debating
and  disagreeing  with each other over the minutiae  of  our
religion.

11.  When the industrial age came we hardly noticed it, much
less  adjust  and take advantage of it in order to  maintain
the  strength  and the development level of  our  countries.
Where before Muslims were the inventors and the producers of
industrial  goods, we were barely able to  understand  large
scale  manufacturing in order to cater to mass  demand.   We
depended entirely on the products of the non-Muslims for our
defence needs even at the time when we were fighting them.

12.   We  are still breathless as we try from far behind  to
catch  up with the industrialised nations.  But now we  find
that  they  have  moved  from the Industrial  Age  into  the
Information  Age.   Now we find we cannot  hide  behind  our
borders any more.  We cannot stop the cross-border flows  of
capital,  of  business and of information.  Our  faith,  our
beliefs  are  now  being corrupted by the filth  that  spews
forth from the Internet and the electronic media.

13.   And still the debate on what is truly Islamic and  who
is a true Muslim goes on.  In Malaysia a fanatical group who
managed  to  convince  themselves that by  reciting  certain
verses  of  the  Quran  they could become  invulnerable  and
invisible  decided  to launch an armed insurrection  against
what they declared is an infidel Government.  At first sight
it  looked silly but it is actually a symptom of the  malady
which inflicts the Muslim `ummah’ for centuries.

14.   Malaysia had been independent for 43 years  —  not  a
very  long  time  for a country.  During that  time  we  had
managed  to keep the country peaceful despite the  explosive
mix   of   Malays,  Chinese  and  Indians  each   professing
incompatible religions.  The Malays who formed the  majority
are  Muslims, the Chinese are Buddhists, while  the  Indians
are  Hindus.   Strictly speaking they cannot live  together.
The  Muslim Malays abhor pork which the Chinese love,  while
the  Indians do not eat the beef which the Malays love.  But
somehow  we  manage to sit at the same table  to  eat,  each
sensitive  to  the  sensitivities  of  the  others.   Muslim
leadership achieved this.

15.   The  same predominantly Muslim Government was able  to
develop  the country at a rapid rate.  From a country  which
depended entirely on rubber and tin, Malaysia has become the
biggest  producer and exporter of microchips,  refrigerators
and air conditioners. Eighty-two per cent of its exports are
now  made  up of manufactured goods.  And it has become  the
17th biggest trading nation in the world.

16.   We  are  a democracy and we hold elections every  five
years, elections in which opposition candidates can win  and
even capture the Government of some of the states.  But  the
Muslim dominated National Front coalition of 14 parties  has
been  returned as the National Government every  time  since
independence.

17.   The  most  aggressive  opposition  party  is  the  Pan
Malaysian Islamic Party or PAS.  We thought no one would  be
taken  in by their claim that voting for their party ensures
heaven in the afterlife; that they and Islam are one and the
same  thing, that we the other Muslims, the majority in  the
country  are  all  infidels (kafirs).  But  they  persisted.
They   carried  out  a  hate  campaign  beginning   in   the
kindergarten right through to the universities  and  managed
to  instil so much hate against the coalition that they made
a  lot  of headway in the last election.  Two of the  states
fell to them and already signs of regression are being seen.

18.   Malaysia’s  detractors abroad are happily  encouraging
the  disruptive activities of this so-called Islamic  Party,
obviously  for  reasons which have nothing to  do  with  the
proclaimed Islamic struggle of this party.

19.   We would like to ignore them except that an increasing
number  now  believe  that the Malaysian  Government  is  an
infidel  Government.  The extremist Al-Ma’unah  Group  which
recently   mounted  an  armed  attempt  to   overthrow   the
Government  is a direct off-shoot of the Islamic  Party  and
believe the infidel Government must be overthrown by  force.
We  are  prepared  to  contest in fair elections  but  armed
insurrection  is another thing altogether.   It  would  seem
that  the  generally peaceful Malays are not immune  to  the
kind  of  religious hatred that had bedevilled  most  Muslim
countries and prevented them from making progress.

20.  Muslims are forever looking for an excuse to fight holy
wars  or  jihad.   They  are and they never  have  been  too
particular  about the religious legitimacy of their  `jihad’
and the weakening of Muslim countries.  The main thing is to
fight  and  to  be willing to die, to become a  `syahid’,  a
martyr who had sacrificed his life for Islam and will gain a
place  for  himself in heaven.  That his self-sacrifice  has
contributed nothing to the struggle of the Muslims does  not
matter.   That their actions have set back the  struggle  of
the  Muslim `ummah’ by decades and centuries even, does  not
matter.  It is the quest for martyrdom that is important.

21.   The  Muslims  have many enemies from  among  the  non-
Muslims but these are not often the target of these would-be
martyrs.   Their principal targets are usually  the  Muslims
themselves.   Allah  forbids  Muslims  from  killing   other
Muslims.    But  this  injunction  is  easily  overcome   by
declaring that their Muslim targets have become infidels  or
`kafir’  for one reason or another.  Never mind  that  these
people  have faithfully followed the injunctions  of  Islam,
have  performed all the religious rituals and lived the life
of  Muslims;  they would still be labelled  `kafir’  because
they  are not 100 per cent true Muslim in the eyes of  these
fanatics.

22.   The Muslim Governments are invariably accused  of  not
being  Islamic and the hatred of the people aroused  against
the  Government.   No  matter what the  Government  does  to
comply  with  the  tenets of Islam, it would  still  be  not
Islamic  enough.  It would still be a heathen Government  by
apostates.  Since the Government is made up of heathens then
killing  them and their supporters would not be against  the
teachings of Islam.  Shades of the Khawarij fanaticism is to
be  found  in  their arguments, the Khawarij  who  had  even
labelled Saidina Ali the fourth Caliph of Islam, the  nephew
of  the Prophet (s.a.w.) who had fought alongside Rasulullah
in the wars against the pagans, as an infidel.

23.   These  self-styled  holy  warriors  have  killed  more
Muslims  than  the non-Muslim enemies of Islam.   They  have
disrupted  Muslim Governments, preventing them  from  making
any   progress  towards  fully  developed  states,   towards
rebuilding the Muslim civilisation and regaining  the  glory
that was Islam before.

24.   They  have mounted attacks against non-Muslim  targets
sometimes but the effect of their attacks is minimal.  A few
innocent people are killed, some physical damage is done  to
some  buildings  or aircrafts and that is about  all.   Have
they  gained anything?  Have they frightened their so-called
enemies into submission?

25.   No,  not at all.  All they have done is to  make  life
more  miserable for more Muslims, to create more hatred  and
condemnation  of  the  Muslims,  actually  to  prevent   the
progress and advancement of the Muslims and their countries.
Their little successes have only retarded the rehabilitation
of the Muslim `ummah’.  The sad thing is that they are going
to  carry  out their vengeance, their feud into  the  future
too.  There will always be recruits for their ranks drawn by
the  preachings  of  religious leaders  who  are  unable  to
appreciate  the reality of the situation, to appreciate  the
worthlessness  of  their  puny attacks,  to  understand  the
damage that they do to the Muslim cause.

26.   And so what will be the future of the Muslims  in  the
New  Century?  Frankly I am not too optimistic.  We  are  in
the  15th  Century of the Hijrah.  We know that  during  the
15th  Century of the Christian era they were busily  burning
witches  and  assorted religious delinquents at  the  stake.
All and sundry were being accused of not being Christians or
Christian enough and were summarily executed.  There  was  a
massive  flight  to  the new world,  to  seek  freedom  from
religious persecution.

27.   Today  we  are  seeing  a  Muslim  diaspora.   In  the
Americas,  there are Muslims who have fled their  homelands.
Many are persona non-grata in their own countries.

28.   As  with the Christian refugees, the Muslims who  left
their  countries are talented people.  They are  still  good
Muslims.   They practise the teachings of Islam.   But  they
can  never hope to make the land of their adoption a  Muslim
land.   They  will always feel alienated from the  majority,
who would be against them in many ways.

29.  Many of them have done well in their adopted land.  And
they  have, whether they want to or not, contributed to  the
wealth  and skills of the land they had settled in.  And  by
the  same token they have deprived their own homeland, their
Muslim homeland of their talents and their skills.

30.   It  is  a pity.  It is a pity because their  homelands
need  them  more than their land of adoption.  But  if  they
stay back they will not have the opportunity to make use  of
the talents and the skills that they have.

31.   Their  own  countries are poor.   The  facilities  for
working,  for research and development are not  there.   The
money  is  not  there.  But most of all their  work  is  not
appreciated.   They  might  even be  accused  of  not  being
Islamic,  even  if their foreheads speak of their  religious
piety.

32.  I know that many who have left their homeland to seek a
more  hospitable life care a lot about their homeland.  They
would  like to help, to go back and help.  But for a variety
of  reasons  they  cannot.  And so, very few  would  return.
Some,  sad to say, may even forsake their religion in  order
to become fully accepted in their new society.

33.   This  is a sad scenario of the future of the  Muslims.
But it need not be.

34.   If  I  may  I  would like to touch  on  the  Malaysian
Muslims’ approach towards ensuring the recovery and progress
of  the  Muslims.   Firstly we believe it  will  take  time,
decades  or centuries even.  But we are quite patient.   And
so  we try to ensure peace and stability in our country.  We
try  to  set  up  a good effective administration,  able  to
implement  policies and development carefully planned  by  a
popularly elected Government.

35.  We want Muslims to be well educated in all the arts and
the  sciences and the technologies, without forgetting their
knowledge  and the practice of their religion — Islam.   We
want  them  to  be  able to compete and  to  acquire  wealth
legitimately.

36.   We  want  them  to be spiritually ready  to  face  the
challenges in a hostile world.  We want them not to  succumb
to  emotion  but  to  plan and strategise  when  faced  with
challenges.   We  want them to be brave  when  facing  their
enemies,  to know their strength and the weaknesses  of  the
enemies and to plan to overcome the dangers in order to gain
victory.   We  do not want them to throw themselves  blindly
against the enemy because they want to become martyrs to the
cause of Islam.

37.   We  believe that if we can build up a rational  Muslim
nation,  skilled  in  administration, in  the  sciences  and
technologies,  in trade and industry, politically,  socially
and religiously stable, learned in all fields — then we can
advance the true cause of Islam.  This is our `jihad’.

38.   This  is  what  the Muslims which lead  the  Malaysian
Government today believe in.  Our non-Muslim colleagues  are
not  opposed  to  this because we have demonstrated  that  a
Muslim  Government  can  be just  and  fair  to  non-Muslims
without in any way disobeying the injunctions of Islam.

39.   We  had hoped that we would be able in a small way  to
show  Muslims  and  Muslim countries the path  to  a  Muslim
renaissance, a Muslim resurrection.  We had hoped  that  our
little success would be acknowledged and recognised and used
as a model.

40.   We  still think we can do this.  But we are seeing  in
Malaysia  the  advance of the kind of intra-Muslim  conflict
which  is likely to derail us.  We are seeing young educated
professionals  becoming  obsessed by  blind  hatred  of  the
people  who had brought about their own upliftment, throwing
in  their  lot  with  the fanatics, thinking  more  about  a
martyr’s  death and heaven for themselves, rather  than  the
peace  and  recovery of the Muslim `ummah’  and  the  Muslim
civilisation.

41.   I try very hard to be optimistic about the Muslims  in
the  21st  Century of the third millennium of the  Christian
Era.   But I must admit that it is very difficult for me  to
be optimistic.  I find few Muslims understand reality.  They
live  in a make-believe world where weakness is regarded  as
strength,  where failures are regarded as successes.   After
1400  years  they  clearly have failed to  understand  their
really very simple religion, the religion that is not to  be
a burden to them.  And so they will continue to argue and to
debate  and to disagree on the teachings of their  religion,
and  in  disagreeing they will fight and  kill  each  other,
unconsciously perhaps doing the work of their detractors and
enemies.

42.   I am sorry that I am unable to see the renaissance  of
the  Muslim Civilisation in the 21st Century.  We  have  not
yet  awakened to the realities of the Industrial  Age,  much
less  the Information Age.  A few of us have but we are  too
few and we are not in a position to do much.  These few will
effectively live in exile.  More will be joining  them  with
the passage of time.

43.   I  hope there are others who can show positively  that
the 21st Century will see the beginning of the return of the
great Muslim Civilisation.  I would like to be convinced  by
them, so I and the other Muslims may contribute whatever  we
can to the revival.

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