The Muslim Ummah is diverse and broad, encompassing Muslims of many different specialisations, focuses and preferences.
The Muslim Ummah consists of Muslims who chose many vocations in life, hobbies, tastes, preferences, and specialisations. Some Muslims seek the path of Jihad, others specialise in ‘self-purification’ or ‘spiritual purification’ work (what I call ‘Islamic Psychotherapy’), others specialise in business and economics, others specialise in education and learning in non-religious matters, some in preaching (dawah), and others specialise in studying Islamic law and jurisprudence (Islamic scholarship), and others in Islamic theology (study of creed).
To an extent, all Muslims should be acquainted with all these aspects of Islam, but every society needs specialists to excel in each of these paths in order to lead or achieve more than those who didn’t have the time or resources to specialise themselves. For example, every Muslim can be a reservist in the army of a Caliphate, but not all Muslims are able to be full time professional soldiers or special forces – yet professional soldiers and special forces are vital for an effective army.
The problem is not the variety present within the Muslim world, but the parochial and narrow mindset that pervades the Muslim Ummah and the shallow level of thinking which causes Muslims to possess a very superficial level of understanding about many things. This situation within the very minds of the Muslim Ummah is the origin of the current problems of the Muslim world: the lack of independence from foreign domination, the lack of an Islamic society and environment, the lack of security and justice, the lack of unity, and the lack of resources to meet the needs of the people.
In more enlightened times, the diversity of the Ummah was a strength, and Muslims of differing specialisations worked together for the greater benefit of all – each working in their own niche under one political system, causing the society to excel and problems to be addressed. If one looks at any nation around the world, this is a self-evident observation! Some people are scientists, some people are teachers, some are artists, some are soldiers, some are entrepreneurs, some are housewives or community activists some are philosophers, some are politicians. The key to a successful society is not the exclusive domination of one vocation over another, but rather the co-ordination and organisation of people from all these vocations, into one mutually supporting whole under one unitary PURPOSE.
Over the many hundreds of years of Muslim history, Muslim thinking became narrow, which caused the collapse of the political unity of the Ummah and then, with wealth and success, Muslims rested on their past achievements and let their thinking become superficial, which ultimately led to stagnation, introversion, superstition and lack of creativity, which then resulted in a loss of strength and caused the collapse of the political system for organising the Ummah – the Caliphate.
As the Muslim Ummah started to decline, the Muslims became aware of the material and spiritual misfortunes happening to them and desperately attempted to find solutions. However, due to their narrow minded thinking, Muslims who had strong opinions or preferences for one or two aspects of Islam then divided themselves into groups (i.e. ‘revival movements’) pursuing revival ONLY through those one or two aspects of Islam. The narrow thinking of these groups cause them to view the problem only through the lens of their chosen vocations and specialisations. Due to their superficial thinking, they missed seeing the underlying problem, and only considered how to deal with the apparent symptoms. Their narrow thinking then lead them to use only the methods their vocation/specialisation offered, leading them to (mis)apply only a partial solution that in most cases made the problems worse.
These groups are known by many names, but for ease of reference they can be divided up into generic descriptive categories:
– Those who believe Jihad is the main way to revive the Ummah
– Those who believe ‘self-perfection’ is the main way to revive the Ummah
– Those who believe material wealth and success is the main way to revive the Ummah
– Those who believe learning and education in non-religious matters is the main way to revive the Ummah
– Those who believe that the study of Islamic jurisprudence is the main way to revive the Ummah
– Those who believe that preaching Islam to non-Muslims is the main way to revive the Ummah
– Those who believe that the study of all branches of Islamic Theology is the main way to revive the Ummah
– Those who believe that waiting for the Mahdi and/or Isa (a.s.) is the main way to revive the Ummah
Now to those reading through this list, it should already be apparent to many what the problem with this is, and the solution. All those methods arise from aspects of Islam, from belief in the return of Isa (a.s.) to the obligation of Jihad. However, the question is whether Muslims pursuing only one of these, or some of these will be enough to cause the revival of the Muslim Ummah.
The rational answer is that Islam contains all these aspects (Jihad, self-perfection, jurisprudence, pursuit of economic success, pursuit of learning and education in the material matters, preaching, theology, and belief in the Mahdi and Isa [a.s.]) within itself, and none can be neglected or rejected. The self-evident truth is that the Muslim Ummah’s pursuit of all these aspects will be what revival LOOKS like, but should NOT be confused with the method to achieve it. This distinction should be as obvious as the distinction between a finely crafted wooden table, and the activity used by the carpenter to make it.
Therefore the real question is not how to performs those aspects of Islam, but rather how to CAUSE and ORGANISE the Ummah to pursue these things collectively and for a unified Islamic purpose and goal. The method for revival is not something which lies in only one aspect of Islam then, but in the method by which the Ummah is transformed to excel in all these aspects, and the removal of the obstacles in the way.
However, the obstacles in the way are the current under-use of the Ummah’s capacity for applying thinking to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the world, to understand and study things correctly, and then be able to solve problems with wisdom and apply creative solutions.
The solution to this, is to cause the Muslim Ummah to expand their thinking from narrow considerations (e.g. tribe, sect, nationality or race), and to deepen their thinking to look beyond superficial analysis and understandings (e.g. how the world works, the proofs for Islam, how human beings work, science etc).
The next consideration is how to organise the Ummah to begin mutually supporting its parts to excel in all aspects of Islam. It is evident that in all successful nations and communities which are based upon a way of life, are people who are organised under a unifying idea (deen min mabda). This idea gives rise to a common system that resolves their disputes and organises their activities towards a common benefit and goal – an ideal which gives them purpose. Currently Muslims are unaware of how Islam can achieve this, and it is this ignorance that leaves Muslims confused as to how to revive the Muslim world. To give one example, many Muslims know that Islam exhorts Muslims to be ‘unified’, but few know what unity means (e.g. is it absence of disagreement? is it unanimity in all Islamic opinions?) nor do many people know how Islam can practically achieve this.
Lastly, once the solution for removing the obstacles is understood, and the solution defined for organising the Ummah, the final question is how are these solutions to be delivered to the Ummah – e.g. if we have the medicine, how do we administer it to the patient?
Following this article I will write, in parts, an address of the method of each ‘revival methodology’ and assess both the intellectual justifications, methods and the emotional causes behind their adherents. After all the different movements are addressed, a conclusion will look at this verse of Quran:
‘Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves’ [Quran 13:11]
[Next Part: A consideration of those who believe Jihad is the main way to revive the Ummah]