Tahun 2000 – THE MEETING WITH MUSLIM INTELLECTUALS AND PROFESSIONALS
Lokasi :LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
” 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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.