Monday, 17 March 2008

To be a Muslim

Part Five: Defining Islam

[Click on Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four to read teh previous post on this series.]

In the lines written as part of this series of posts, the underlined objective has been to understand what it means to be a Muslim. To be more precise, what are the elements of one beliefs, what practicalities are involved in becoming a Muslim and how does that affect our personal, familial and social existence, the relationship with others. But of course Muslim are those who believe in Islam. In other words, the followers of Islamic faith are the Muslims. So it right that we at this stage attempt to define Islam:
Literally speaking, Islam is to mean peace, submission. Islamically, it is a set of believes, values and practices which one undertake as an expression of their submission to their lord, Allah and through this they gain peace, tranquillity and success. So to define Islam we must understand three different elements of Islam:

  • The believes,
  • The Values, and
  • The practices

Of course a closer look at these three will reveal that what Islam really means is that it is a complete code of life which dictates the living of those who believe in it. In other words, Islam is a way of life that Muslims follow, or in the context of many Muslims today, suppose to follow. So to speak about Islam, its believes, values and practices, is to speak of all aspect of human life, issues that affects humanity on a daily basis. Such discussions will be long and will require huge amount knowledge, resources and thinking. In fact, it would be fair to say that such discussions in any one collection is almost impossible. For this reasons here I shall restrict defining Islam in terms of looking at its some of the most fundamental believes resulting in some of the core values and the subsequent implications in life, the most common practices.

[To be continued]

Thursday, 13 March 2008

To be a Muslim

Part four: Understanding our Faith (continued)
[Click to read Part One, Part Two and Part Three of this series]
Clearly I have asserted that the post colonial era provided with opportunities for Muslims to regain their lost confidence and educate themselves about their heritage, culture and history. This has given rise to a new generation committed in their faith and confident in their belief. They no longer accept the unnatural divide between the national, socio-political life and that of their religious one. Islam is not a religion practiced merely at the private premises of individuals hidden from the masses, rather, Islam is a faith that encompasses whole of human life, the socio-economic political, all aspects one may think of affecting humanity, the human civilisation. A new generation well versed in the arts of modern society, fully aware of their faith no longer concedes to the half-hearted and dubious arguments that seeks to leave Islam out of human society and attempts to reclaim their faith to dominate their affairs, all aspects of their life. The privileged classes in the Muslim world and indeed their allies in the ‘free world’ finds this development unacceptable as it threatens to deprive them of their grips in the societies in which Muslims are a significant force. But to understand the this struggle and to digest the facts and reasons involved, one first needs to understand the fundamental tenets of Islam and its implications in the real world. In other words, what are the core beliefs of a Muslim and what is the impact of such faith?

Sunday, 9 March 2008

To be a Muslim

Part three: Understanding our Faith

[This post follows two prior posts which can be read by clicking on Part One Part Two]

Let us, as I am speaking from the perspective of a Muslim, not be apologetic but confident in fighting the bigotry, ignorance and xenophobia so strongly embedded in the social fabric of our world. It is not faith, not Islam and most certainly not the Muslim identity responsible for the evils of our present world. We do not accept nor shall we ever accept the Islamophobic assertion made so commonly in the ‘civilised’ and ‘free world’. But for us to be confident and fight vehemently against the outrageous positions adopted by the global masters and to expose their vulnerabilities, we need to understand our faith, our identity.
At the core of our understanding of Islam lies the rejection of classification of Muslims in categories stated above. There can never be extremist, intolerant, terrorist Muslims. Muslims are of just one kind who are the ‘witness upon mankind’ made to be the nation of ‘moderation’. We are by default a nation of the middle path who rejects extremism, victimisation, intolerance etc. our faith have no room for bigots and xenophobes who are determined to diminish the human values. Our faith teaches us to be part of a global nation, caring, compassionate, participating, responsible and all other attributes that can be assigned to the ideal citizens of a nation, a global community. Our responsibility, commitment and goodwill is not just towards the fellow Muslims but to our neighbours, fellow citizens, friends, colleagues, wayfarers, all people around us regardless of their faiths, gender, race etc. Islam’s message transcends beyond humanly classifications of society and people and includes the whole of humanity, the entire mankind. Faith in our lord, believing in the message that our prophet has brought is for the entire mankind and is aimed at creating harmonious society where prosperity, peace and mutual respect will flourish.
Of course, following my assertion, the claims made of our faith will give rise to obvious questions as to why then are Muslims globally so unruly in places, irresponsible, ignorant, illiterate, intolerant etc? the answer is again very simple which requires us neither to be extremists, isolationists nor apologetic. Although the fundamentals of Islam is still preserved, the Quran and sunnah is intact to this date, the teachings of Islam has been eroding from Muslim life for centuries. The era of colonisation and the suppression that saw the decapitation of Muslims globally forced Muslim institutions, social orders and political authorities disappear over time. Consequently there remained Muslims, maimed, persecuted, deprived and demonised who neither had the opportunity nor the mean to learn about their faith. Most centres of Islamic learning we see in our local community have sprung up in the last century. Deprived of the central political and judicial authority, Islamic faith have grown to be the football which is kicked around as necessary by the various interest groups, the sections of human society. Then in the era of geographical nation state there has been a renewal of Islamic identity, a revival of Islamic spirit. These Islamic spirit is giving rise to increasingly committed and confident Muslims demanding their faith to take up central place in their life. Unfortunately this development has been seen as a threat by the prevailing global powers, including the rulers in predominantly Muslim states. The fear of loosing political power and the identification of Islamic block as threat lead to actions and reactions which causes exploitation of people’s emotion and ignorance to further political interest of various groups which leave us to the present state.
(To be continued)