[Chapter 32] The Bible: A Panorama of Success and Failure in Early Islam

Dec 22, 2010

Chapter 32
Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology

The Bible: A Panorama of Success
and Failure in Early Islam

The Bible is an amazingly instructive record of the failures and successes of earlier humans in their dealings with God – and with his world. It is a record that the Qur’an critiques for accuracy and validates and confirms in a large number of cases and situations.

If only the world understood this one little detail about the nature of the Qur’an, and about the nature of its interrelationship with the earlier scripture, and if only the Muslims would help the world to see it, many reasonable and right-thinking people in the world will be hard pressed not to recognize the basic validity of the Qur’an itself as the revealed word of God Almighty on earth – and as the arbiter between right and wrong in this world, the Al-Furqan.

So far, the Muslims of the West – those of the Western Wing of the Muslim Ummah – have dropped the ball on this. By and large, they have failed to make this point clear to the people of the West. In general, they have been too preoccupied with their sundry pet concerns “back home” in the “Islamic” world – no doubt a most serious and deserving Muslim issue, every one of them – to focus seriously on developing a viable plan to make Islam meaningful to the people of the West.

They seem to have had a hard time realizing – even though some lone voices kept calling out to them – that the most serious Muslim issue they faced was the challenge of how to make Islam come alive to American, British, Dutch, French, Swiss and other non-Muslims in the West, especially the educated, the so-called middle-class segments of the population, including the majority white communities.

In other words, we never quite understood that the acid test of our survival in the West lay in our ability – and willingness – to mainstream Islam and to articulate its relevance to the mainstream non-Muslim Christian and Jewish communities of the West on both sides of the Atlantic. Part of building bridges to these communities would have been an effort on our part first to fully understand the amazing spirit of accommodation that the Qur’an showed to these communities and then to spell out for the benefit of these communities the Qur’anic vision of a shared future arising out of the foundation of a shared past.

We did not do that and as a result Allah’s decision – Amrullah – came true on us in the form of September 11 and its aftermath. The test now is how we react to this new challenge of suddenly having become the hunted and the hounded – and on the run – in the very same place that we had until only yesterday taken as our own permanent and unassailable hunting ground for fame and fortune and for fueling the fire of our passion for our own pet issues “back home” – in the Muslim world, in Darul Islam – and for the parading of our own special brands of Islam of different levels of purity and perfection.

The level of self-righteousness, chauvinism and closed-mindedness that reeked out of some of us was, to say the least, appalling. It did not bode well for the future. And we have all seen the future – it is here now. And we are all trapped in it. It is called Amrullah – Allah’s decision. It is September 11 and beyond.

Until last night, that is, when I caught parts of Michael Wolfe’s masterful documentary on Public Broadcasting (PBS) called Muhammad – the Legacy of a Prophet. It seemed to me that all that I had been dreaming for so long, all that I had been speaking about whenever anyone would let me speak or listen to me, and all that I had been working toward in my own humble way for the past three decades, finally and suddenly found a measure of fruition in that documentary.

My favorite people in that documentary were four, even though everyone did an excellent job. Those four people were, one, the highly civic-conscious Fire Marshall; two, the gentle giant, the calligrapher; three, the chief of staff to the congressman; and four, Michael Wolfe himself. I can’t help saying to these people, Allah bless you all. You all did such a wonderful job. You gave life to my dreams – to one of them at least. In your work in that documentary I detect a new ray of hope for the wonderful future that awaits Islam in Europe, U.K. and America.

I am now waiting to see this wonderfully done documentary hit U.K. and Europe.

This was the vision – one of them – I had always cherished for America. In the 1980s, I yearned with a passion for Hajj to be broadcast live to America – it became a reality in the 1990s. That was also my expectation from Cat Stevens turned Yusuf Islam – that he would play a major role in the mainstreaming of Islam to middle-class white and black America – and U.K. and Europe. I hope he still can and will, and I hope Mr. Wolfe’s documentary will help him to see his own role in the West a bit more clearly.

In any case, the Bible is full of stories according to which God sent a string of special messengers – prophets – to invite people to submit to God – to become Muslims that is. Some of those exalted names include Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus – may God Almighty shower his choicest blessings on them all.

They – and others like them that the Bible mentions and the Qur’an validates – were all successful leaders of humanity in their respective times and places – even if they had only a handful of followers; even if they were chased out of their towns; even if they were persecuted and murdered.

They all invited humanity to the path of glory and success, right here in this world as well as in the next world. The core of their message everywhere, every time, was: Know that lord your God is one; and you shall take no other God beside him.

They also gave people a set of laws by which to live their lives as Allah’s slaves – as those born to work for Allah. Who in this part of the world today, after thousands of years, has not heard of Ten Commandments – ten simple rules that can help people to know how to work for Allah – that Allah gave to the world through one of his messengers, Moses, may Allah bless him?

Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, (May Allah bless him), was the last of the series, and the set of laws he gave to the world were also the most up to date, the most comprehensive, the most resilient and the most accommodating of all such laws including the Ten Commandments.

They were at one and the same time both contemporary and futuristic. They also reached out to the past. Thus in one sweep they embraced the past, the present as well as the future. This was true of them in every age and in every place. That means they were designed by the maker of the world to naturally and comfortably fit the changing patterns of his dynamic creation.

Given the fact that there was going to be no other divine messenger coming into this world after him, the laws, teachings, instructions and directives that he provided could not have been otherwise.

Ever since, the challenge before Muslims in every age and place has been how to interpret and implement those laws and directives in their individual and collective lives in keeping with the realities of those times and places. This is what the various Ulama’ and Fuqaha’ did. That was a mammoth undertaking that they shouldered so ably in each age and place.

These were great scholars and experts who thoroughly understood their times and places and the place of Islam in them. They could not have done such a superb and successful job if they had failed to understand either the true nature of Islam or the true nature and requirements of the times and places in which they lived and worked.

This is the challenge that Muslims of today face everywhere – and none more so than those of us living in the West at this time, that is, those of us who are part of the Western Wing of the Muslim Ummah today.

These are all themes that I may – or may not, depending on time and resources – return to in this book – and also at some level during this educational seminar and leadership training camp that we have going, Inshallah.

Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology

© 2003 Syed Husain Pasha

Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional 
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at] 
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.

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