More Guns or Spiritual Renewal? ...

Muslims in the Modern World

Muslim Unity in the Face of Challenges and Threats, a speech given by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at Cairo's Al Azhar University Comments by ABCOG
THERE has never been a time when the Muslims are so looked down upon, so treated with disrespect and so oppressed as they are today. Probably the worst time for Muslims was their domination almost everywhere by European Colonial powers between the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918 and 1956 when the USA intervened on the side of Egypt against Britain and France in the "Suez Crisis".
Everywhere Muslims are bullied, detained, bombed and massacred with impunity. Only the Palestinian Arabs (and Palestinian Christians) are suffering this extreme fate at the hands of non-Muslims, but in many places Muslims are subject to stricter security regulations (because of 9/11/2001). Muslims would help their own cause by rejecting terrorists from their mosques and communities.
The Muslim countries are unable to do anything to defend themselves and their people and fellow Muslims anywhere. Pakistan now has nuclear weapons. Iran appears able to defend itself.
Some Muslim countries actually appear to be collaborating with the oppressors of Muslims. Is this a hidden attack on Syria for voting against Iraq in the U.N. Security Council?
Many Muslims try to explain the sad plight of the Muslims by saying that this world is not for us. For us a place in heaven has been reserved. In the next world the enemies of Islam would be punished and thrown into hell because of what they do to us in this world. So then the "enemies of Islam" have two courses of action: convert to Islam and go to "heaven" (and get our share of virgins, etc.), or resist Islam as fiercely as possible, because if hell is our destination, let's make it worthwhile!
Is this truly what Islam teaches us? Did the Prophet accept his persecution because his place in heaven has been assured? Did he relish the fact that his Quraish persecutors would end up in hell?

What would have happened to the spread of Islam if the Prophet had not struggled against his enemies, had not dispatched his early followers to safe havens, had not migrated to Medina to build up the strength of the Muslims, increasing their numbers in order to fight back? If he had retreated to await his reward after death, we would not be Muslims today.
It seems that the Prophet actually went into seclusion, and only went to Medina when his followers there convinced him it was safe to do so.
And we know in the end he defeated his enemies and was able to spread Islam throughout the world, to build the greatest Empire and civilization in history. "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
from Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Clearly the Prophet did not believe that for the Muslims this world is not important, this life is not important, this life on Earth is only for the infidels. He not only believed that Muslims have a share of Allah's bounties on Earth but that Muslims must be prepared to fight for their earthly share. Allah could have said "Kun Fayakun", "Be, and it shall be", but Allah left His messenger to struggle and fight to spread Islam and to gain for the Muslims their share in this world. An interesting contrast: Allah expects Muslims to fight for Him. Christians expect their God, "the Lord of Hosts = Armies" to fight for them. "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight," (John 18:36).
So the idea that we must suffer in silence and await our heaven in the next world is not Islamic. The Koran enjoins upon us to prepare to deter and defeat the enemy with force of arms - with war horses, bows and arrows in those days. Many think that if we have war horses then we have fulfilled our obligations. But what is important is not war horses or bows and arrows. What is important is to deter and defeat our enemies. So is the Malaysian Prime Minister calling Muslim countries to wage war against the non-Muslim world? If so, he is fulfilling the role of the "King of the South" in Daniel 11, who despite his large dominion, will not be able to stand against the "King of the North".
And to do this today we need guns and rockets, warships and warplanes, armored cars, etc. We cannot depend on others to supply us with these things forever, least of all by those who are opposed to us. We need to invent, design, produce and test our own weapons of defence.

To do this we need to have scientific and technological knowledge and skills. Those who learn science, mathematics and acquire technological skills are therefore obeying and fulfilling the injunctions of Islam.
How ironic that those who destroyed the world's greatest library at Alexandria should now seek knowledge. And what has happened to the guns that Muslim countries have acquired since 1957? Many have been used to fight other Muslim countries. Even the fight against the Russians in Afghanistan began as an Afghan civil war.
Those who prevent them from studying these subjects by saying that only learning religion will earn us merit are in fact going against the teachings of Islam for they weaken the Muslim ummah (community) and prevent them from putting fear in the hearts of the enemies of Islam and becoming able to defeat them.

These people who prevent Muslims from having their own capacity to protect themselves are actually helping the oppression of the Muslims. Our enemies will always attack us because we are weak. They will only cease to do so if we maintain a strong enough defence capability. Just as the followers of the Prophet had to develop and acquire skills to make bows and arrows and other weapons, we have to develop and acquire skills to make modern weapons.
It is clear that the conversion of others to Islam by convincing them of the merits of the religion is not an objective. "Might is right" according to this speech. "Right makes might" according to Abraham Lincoln.
During the glorious years of the Muslim civilization we were not oppressed. Muslims were respected and feared. That was because Muslim countries were strong militarily and economically, and advanced in the sciences. Europeans had to learn from Muslims new knowledge as well as those of the Greeks and others, which the Muslims had studied, translated into Arabic and enhanced. True, the Europeans (emerging from their Dark Age) learned much from the Muslims. We owe our Arabic numerals to them, as well as words such as "alkali" and "algebra". But Muslim dedication to knowledge was sporadic. At the fall of Constantinople in 1453 countless priceless volumes were destroyed and learned men killed. So why, after 1500, did Muslim civilization fall so far behind European, even though the Ottoman Empire lasted another 400 years? Could it be due to some flaw in Islam?
We all know that the Prophet brought only one Islam. The Islam that he received from Allah is only one. But today there are many Islamic religions. They are the results of differing interpretations about Islam by different scholars through the centuries.

Some of these interpretations and teachings are so different from each other that their followers actually accuse each other of not being Muslims. Indeed, they regard many who profess to be Muslims as infidels.

Because of the thousands of different interpretations of Islam and very many different sects, each claiming to be the true followers of Islam, the Muslims are thoroughly confused.

Disunited, confused about Islam, fighting each other for power, lacking in essential knowledge and skills, misapplying their God-given wealth, the Muslims of today have reached the lowest point in their development.
A remarkable glimpse of the truth! The fundamental problem is not non-Muslims, it is the Muslims themselves. Ever since the Sunni-Shia split, shortly after the Prophet's death, Muslims have been disunited. Christians are also disunited, and have also fought each other. What is the difference? At their core, all Christians know that it is wrong for Christians to fight each other. But Muslims are promised great rewards in "heaven" for fighting each other, as, for example, the children fighting in the Iran-Iraq war.
Frustrated and angry, some Muslims have resorted to terrorism. Many believe they have been successful in this. But what have the Muslims really gained by these acts of terror? All that has happened is that the enemies of Islam have found justification for putting more pressure on the Muslims, attacking and killing them, treating them and their religion with contempt. The Malaysian Prime Minister is courageous to say this. Muslim leaders have been conspicuous by their silence on the issue of terrorism. Where is the fatwah against Osama Bin Laden and other terrorist leaders?
Since we are so confused and divided because of the varied interpretations and teachings of Islam, we should really return to the fundamentals of Islam. What is the most fundamental teaching of Islam? It is that Islam means peace. We greet each other with the wish for peace [Salaam]. Is it just an empty greeting which we do not mean or is it that we wish for peace because we really want peace? If we want peace then shouldn't we strive for peace, at least among ourselves as Muslims first, and then with people of other faiths? What's happened? What about all that "deter and defeat" rhetoric? Of course, Islam does not mean "peace". This is a convenient reinterpretation of "Islam" as "I-salaam". This speech has already convinced us that the Prophet was a man of war, and that it was warfare that created the Muslim empire.
When making judgment, it is not justice that we seek to achieve, it is the process of making the judgment. If the process is followed then, even if injustice is the result, we believe we have followed what our religion enjoins upon us to do. We ignore completely the injunctions of the Koran that stresses making judgment with justice. And because we ignore this stress on justice enjoined by Islam, we create an image of Islam that is uncaring and unjust. We agree. "The means justify their outcomes" is wrong. The Palestinian bombers believe that their methods are correct, and so must be their results. So far their results have been more disastrous to their own people than to the Israelis. If they sought justice for both themselves and the Israelis, their methods would change radically.
I will not cite more cases of the misinterpretation and deliberate ignoring of the teachings of Islam. It is because of this that Muslims of today are backward, lacking in knowledge, unable to defend themselves and their religion, and forced to resort to terror in order to seek revenge.

We ignore the Koranic injunction that Allah will not change our fate unless we strive to change it ourselves. And so we will come to be oppressed, to be attacked, bombed and killed, while our religion, Islam, is condemned as false.
So will more guns and scientists solve the problems of the Muslim world? Obviously not. The fundamental problem is a spiritual one. The Prime Minister tells us that Muslims must change themselves, living in peace with themselves and their non-Muslim neighbors. In other words, the real solution is for Muslims to adopt a Christ-like attitude, and reject the militant attitude of the Prophet who blessed the murderers of his opponents in Medina.
This an edited text of the original speech, as published in The Australian newspaper, Feb. 10, 2003 Criticisms and comments on our critique of this speech are welcomed.

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