By Dr. Aslam Abdullah
The discussions, the lectures, the arguments and the topics that Muslims and Muslim scholars have been discussing, debating and giving priorities for centuries in their institutions and seminaries are not the issues that were initially raised by the Quran, a divine scripture that Muslims describe as a book intended for them and practiced and lived by the Messenger whom the Muslim own as theirs. The Quran never described itself a book for Muslims only. Rather it defined itself as a guidance to humanity, “It was the month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was [first] bestowed from on high as a guidance unto man and a self-evident proof of that guidance, and as the standard by which to discern the true from the false….” (2:185) Similarly, the final messenger, Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him never identified himself as a messenger to Muslims only. The Quran testifies to this belief when it says, “And [thus, O Prophet,] We have sent thee as [an evidence of Our] grace towards all the worlds.21:107
However the issues that Muslim scholars have raised over centuries and still debate were the ones the Quran initially asked its accepters to focus on. Over the centuries, the Muslims have been discussing issues that are relevant to Muslims only in their ritual matters such as Wudu (ablution) and Ghusl (bath), rules for fasting, amount of zamkat (charitable contributions spent on Muslims only, Hajj or pilgrimage obligator on those Muslims who can afford, prayers in a particular form for Muslims only etc. Or in recent times, they have raised issues of Hijab, beard and its length, or the length of trousers or the consumption of only zabeeha meat by Muslims.
Rarely, you hear Muslims focusing on issues that concern humanity in general and focuses on its interests. Rarely, one finds Muslims offering ideas and practical programs to counter issues that a great majority of human beings face on the face of earth.
By the standards of the Quran, the Muslim scholars and intellectuals, by and large have turned the Quran into a book not to be listend, not to be followed and not to be practices and lived but to be recited melodiously and referred to constantly. This is precisely what the Quran had anticipated when it said “AND [on that Day] the Apostle will say: “O my Sustainer! Behold, [some of] my people have come to regard this Quran as something [that ought to be] discarded!.” 25:30
The original message of the Quran was simple and very clear. It challenged people’s existing concept of monotheism and explained that oneness of God can be lived only when the humanity is perceived as one organic whole and when those who believe in this idea dedicate the to ensure that human beings are liberated from the bondage they have been placed in and the hunger is eliminated from our world. The Quran exhorted its believers their primary task as follows
[It is] the freeing of one’s neck 90:13
and the feeding, upon a day of [one’s own] hunger, 90:14
(whether) of an orphan near of kin, 90:15
or of a needy [stranger] lying in the dust 90:16
In the analysis of the Quran, a human cannot reach his or her true potential unless he/she is free and not hungry. Thus, it asked the followers to identify with the issues of people and ensure that their dignity is restored. How have our scholars and activists throughout the centuries worked on these two issues. It deserves to be analyzed.
A worldwide survey was conducted in 2017 comprising 31,000 18-35 years old across 186 countries. The participants were identified the ten most serious issues the world face today. The survey was the World Economic Forum’s Global Survey. These issues were:
- Climate change / destruction of nature (48.8%)
- Large scale conflict / wars (38.9%)
- Inequality (income, discrimination) (30.8%)
- Poverty (29.2%)
- Religious conflicts (23.9%)
- Government accountability and transparency / corruption (22.7%)
- Food and water security (18.2%)
- Lack of education (15.9%)
- Safety / security / wellbeing (14.1%)
- Lack of economic opportunity and employment (12.1%)
Muslims have thousands of organizations and institutions all over world. Can we identify a few that have offered some analysis or position papers on any of the above identified issues in a global or regional context.
It is not that Muslims lack resources, intellectual or material. It is because Muslim scholarship has rarely focused on the message of the Quran in a universal context. When the scholars and intellectuals focus on peripheral issues, how can our younger generation be inspired to focus on the message of the Quran for humanity and how can they dedicate to an activism that brings about qualitative change in the living conditions of the people.
Obviously, the agenda of the Quran has been changed by none other than the scholars who claim to glorify the Quran, Unless, the community returns to the original guidance of the Quran, it would not be able to live its purpose and objective in this world.
The author is US based Islamic thinker.