[Chapter 40] Darul What, Muslims?

Chapter 40
Still Working for Allah in the West: Theory and Methodology

Darul What, Muslims?

INFUSING A BIT OF THEORY IN WORKING FOR ALLAH: ESPECIALLY IN THE WEST

If you are serious about working for Allah, you need to base your knowledge on some solid theoretical foundations. Right here is one solid theoretical question for you: What is the nature of the place where you want to work for Allah?

The role of theory here is so powerful that everything that you do from now on will depend on the theoretical answers you provide to that fundamental question.

Unless you have this sorted out fairly clearly in your mind, you are likely to make a mess of things – somewhat along the lines that we have done in the West over the past four decades, would you say? I wish I had the time to document in some detail some of our more serious follies in this respect.

But I will try to explain here one small part of that question. For a long time Muslims had divided the world into Darul Islam and Darul Harb – basically meaning friends and foes; good guys and bad guys.

This was then. But many Muslims stuck to this outdated concept like a leech. The good news is that some of them have started to revisit and rethink this typology.

I have myself given this matter some serious thought over the past at least 20 years and I have several things to say on the subject, even though I may not be able to explain any of them in any great depth at this time.

First, what most people don’t understand is the fact that this typology is more a political one than a strictly Islamic one. That means, by definition, it is subject to change with changing political realities. At one level, it is as simple as that.

Second, what makes a place Darul Islam? And what makes some other place Darul Harb? I wish I had time to get into a more detailed discussion here. Is it the existence of Islamic institutions, infrastructure or large numbers of Muslims that makes a place Darul Islam? Do you see, in some ways, to raise these questions is also to answer them?

If it is infrastructure, which part of it makes a society part of Darul Islam? If it is institutions, which ones give that society right to call itself Darul Islam? Are some Islamic institutions – and practices – more important in Islam than some others? Which ones as compared to which other ones?

And if it is the number of Muslims in a society that makes it part of Darul Islam, then are we talking about absolute numbers or ratios and percentages? Furthermore, when is a critical mass reached in a society that allows that society to be called Darul Islam based on the sheer weight of numbers?

Third, some people have advanced the notion of Darul Da’wah or Darul Shahadah to describe the West, which is an advance over the Darul Harb notion. But still it is an escape from reality and as a result it is not entirely helpful. And what Muslims need right now – and always – is to make a clean break from their escapist mentality. They need to move out of their traditional comfort zones and face hard facts.

First of all, how many Muslim are here for Shahadah or Da’wah purposes? How many of them live with that consciousness or carry out its mandates?

Next, it is an interesting argument to say or imply that the Christians in the West are in need of our Shahadah and Da’wah but not the deviant and degenerate Muslims of the Muslim world. This makes the present Muslim world the ideal or the model for the rest of the world to follow, which to say the least is troublesome?

What we are saying in effect is make the whole world look like Cairo, Karachi, Bombay or Baghdad, and I have a problem with that. We are missing the point that the greatest and the wildest dream of Cairo, Karachi, Bombay and Baghdad is to look like Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle and Toronto. And we, while happily ensconced in New York or London are throwing away the opportunity to make New York and London better by making them more Islamic in the true sense of that term.

Does any of this make sense to you?

I am not against Shahadah. How can I be? After all I am running this seminar on working for Allah, which is what Shahadah is all about. What I am against is our unwillingness to subject ourselves to a hard and tough-minded reality check and let facts take us where they will.

Several years ago, I offered a very different approach to this question. To me it is home – pure and simple. So, Muslims must do here whatever it is that they are supposed to do in their home turf – including Shahadah and Da’wah and everything else.

But to understand this concept you must have Islam as your home and humanity as your family – not your respective tribes back home, wherever that back home is.

But unfortunately that is where many of us seem to have our anchor – back home. Too many of us are prisoners of Egyptian, Pakistani, Sudanese, Bengali, Indian, Arab and other forms of racial, ethnic and cultural nationalism. It is these various geography, culture and language – tribe – based national identities that we pass off as our Islamic identity.

One way to prove to ourselves, and to proclaim to the rest of the world, that we Muslims in the East are better than the Christians in Britain and America and Europe is to call ourselves Darul Islam – the place to be – and call everyone else Darul whatever.

Over the past decade and a half I have been attacked and insulted and called names for saying that America to me was home. And as home it was my Darul 'Amal – just like the rest of the world. That means wherever you are on this earth, you do what you are supposed to do – wa Quli’malu.

So, Darul 'Amal – among a few other things – is what U.K. is; that is also what all of Europe and the U.S. is and Canada is; and that is also what Trinidad and the rest of the West Indies is – in my Golden Triangle of Islam concept. It is, most plainly put, home to those who have made it their home. You should go a step further and develop the courage, the imagination and the resourcefulness to make the West – your present and permanent home – also your Darul Islam and Darul Khilafah.

I wish all or most of us had, from the very outset of our immigration into the West, looked at the West with an open mind and asked ourselves, if we are making a Hijrah to this new part of Allah’s world, where our persons, properties and practices are safer, should we not be calling it our Darul Hijrah? I did. I never had a doubt in my mind that the West – the United States in particular – was to be my refuge from persecution of Islam and Muslims in many other parts of the world. I understand and share your reverence for Madinah as the Darul Hijrah for this Ummah. Which Muslim would not? But Hijrah is an ongoing concept; it is part of human life; and it is inherent to the human situation – read the Qur’an. Or read what people call history. And the continuity of the practice of Hijrah automatically implies the existence of Darul Hijrahs in different places at different times.

It is only natural that Hijrah should be declared unnecessary after Allah opened up Makkah for Islam and Muslims – after Islam’s final triumph in Arabia. Can you imagine what would have happened if everyone in Arabia had decided to migrate to Madinah after Fath Makkah? Madinah would have become an out of control urban sprawl. So that Hijrah – “theHijrah – is over and done with, but other mini and local Hijrahs will continue so long as there is persecution of Muslims in their native lands.

Those things, properly conceived and articulated, would have given us ownership of the West and made us leaders of the Muslim world. But I am afraid we were too closely tied to the apron strings of land, culture, tribe, tradition, money, influence and political interests in the Muslim world to dream those dreams or work to make them a reality. Our hidden and sometimes not so hidden racist and nationalist tendencies – Pakistani nationalism, Egyptian nationalism, other land-and-people-based nationalism, even something I call Muslim nationalism in general – kept us from turning those dreams into a reality in our new life in the West. We were driving through the highways of life in the West with our eyes glued to our rearview mirrors. Given that wind of our Egyptian, Pakistani and other forms of Muslim nationalism that we sowed not so long ago, now we are reaping the whirlwind in our new Darul Hijrahs throughout the West.

I even have reservations about the expression 'Muslim world’ being used today indiscriminately. Which part of the world is it? Is India a part of it – with its tens of millions of Muslims? Is Nigeria a part of it? If India is, and if Nigeria is, then what is wrong with America, U.K., Europe and Trinidad? Why aren’t these places, with millions of Muslims, a part of the Muslim world? If those other places are the old Muslim world, why aren’t these places in the West the new Muslim world?

Do you see what I mean? Our thinking has not kept pace with the changes that have occurred in the world in the recent past. These are problems of thinking and ideas and ultimately of leadership. And leadership has been the Muslim world’s Achilles heel for a long time.

In any case, how should Muslims act in all these places in the West, if these places are home to them? They should act like any good, decent, conscientious, caring, responsible and proud – proud in an Islamic sense, humble if you want – homeowner would. Do we need to resurrect Socrates from his grave to tell us this? Islam begins where Socrates ends.

Some of these ideas were first expressed in organized form in several hours of lectures in Guyana in South America in 1990 or so – the date escapes me. It was one of the early, main and landmark camps – the organizers called it their convention taking their cue from North American Muslim organizations – that I ran on this ever-lasting, never-ending theme of working for Allah. At least that was the theme in my mind – working for Allah right here in the West, or, stated simply: being a Muslim in the West. To me they both mean the same thing.

That is how the concept of the Western Wing of the Muslim Ummah came about.

But all my attempts to date to secure my tapes from the organizers of those lectures in Guyana have failed. May Allah grant those people guidance and reunite me with my taped lectures, Ameen, which are really my property and a trust – Amanah – in my hands of the Ummah. Maybe if anyone of them reads this book, that person will find the compassion in his heart to return my tapes to me – or at least explain to me what happened to those tapes. Lives of Muslims are full of greater miracles – even the lives of sinners and flawed people like us.

It was then, in Guyana in the West Indies, that I argued quite forcefully that the Muslims in the West were an extension of the Muslim Ummah – they were in fact the Western Wing of the Muslim Ummah.

That means, to my way of thinking, Muslims in the West were not mere birds of passage. They certainly were not a fifth column secretly working for a distant land where everyone looked like them, spoke their language and participated in their cultural practices. Nor were they an alienated fringe group conspiring to take over the place at the first opportunity they get.

To me these Muslims in the West were plain and simple owners – proud and proper, all in the proper Islamic sense – of the West who shared this fantastic blessing of ownership with every other Jewish, Hindu, Christian, atheist or other fellow-owner of the West. For, it is indeed a blessing to be placed by Allah on a certain part of his earth – remember the plantation concept? – and told to be his Khalifah or vicegerent. What greater privilege or blessing can you think of?

What lends this tragedy a touch of comedy is the fact that these Muslims have been living in Guyana and Trinidad for close to 150 years – ever since slavery was abolished in different parts of the Western Hemisphere and the British needed warm bodies to take the place of Africans on sugar plantations.

These simple Muslims had built hundreds of mosques and held on valiantly to their own special version of Islam – much of it beautiful. It is to their children’s children’s children that I was now – in 1990 or so – trying so desperately to explain that, Muslim or not, that place was their home. Do you see the irony and the tragic-comedy of this?

My views were not allowed to go unchallenged. One young man, who had as a young lad escaped to an Islamic society and had returned with several years of “Islamic” education under his belt, told me I was wrong in wanting to work hand in hand with the non-Muslims around me, within the system they had built.

Allah bless him, I pointed out to him the case of Hazrat Yusuf Alaihissalam, how he had asked a non-Muslim king to put him in charge of the place. He said, the earlier Shari’ahs were cancelled and overridden by the new Shari’ah of Sayyidina Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.

Another funny aspect of this story is that the system that I referred to earlier as having been built by non-Muslims was also the system for the building of which the Muslim ancestors of this young man – and the ancestors of other young men and women in Guyana and Trinidad – had broken their backs for well over a century.

Do you see now why Allah made common sense and a certain minimum level of intelligence a requirement for the understanding of Islam and for coming to Islam? Wa Ma Yadhakkaru Illah Ulul Albab Qur’an (3:7)

So, in my case it is not a quick conversion to these ideas in the wake of the pressure and the Qiyamat Sughra – a mini Dooms Day – generated by the events of September 11. It is a long-standing and carefully thought-out commitment to them for a very simple reason: Because it is the Islamic imperative, because it is the right thing to do.

It is this vision – now greatly complicated after September 11, 2001 – of Islam in the West that I want to share with you in this camp or seminar or convention in Manchester. It is part of a long-standing and ongoing effort.

It is the mercy of Allah that I had absolutely no difficulty in seeing this picture of Islam in the West – going as far back as the early 1970s. Ever since it has been a struggle – mostly a lonely and at times a heartbreaking one – to convince my colleagues and fellow-Muslims of the same. For, it is often hard to break through the barriers that our collective and individual Nafs of organizational fidelity and Jama’ah filialness as well as the pursuit of personal goals and agendas created between Muslims.

Some of these ideas are also laid out in my Golden Triangle of Islam writings part of which came out of another camp on the same theme of working for Allah that I ran in Miami, United States in the early part of 2001 – before September 11. Those who want to see a more thorough and a more scholarly approach to some of these questions, however, may access my article on Muslim cultural theory in the Sage publication Media, Culture & Society, Summer, 1993.

These are parts of the theory of working for Allah that you must clearly understand. For, if you are unclear on this basic theoretical question, chances are you would end up being a loose cannon. In that event, you would be dangerous – most of all to your own well-being as well as to the well-being of the world around you.

This should give you a flavor of what I mean by the role of theory in Islam in general and in the matter of working for Allah in particular.

While we are on that topic, and for whatever it is worth, let me leave this thought with you: At one level, Islam is the upper limit of theory.

This last statement itself is a theoretical model – quite a significant one if we fully understand it.

VALIDITY OF MY VIEWS AND ARGUMENTS

Events of the past decade lend my arguments some empirical validity. The fact that many others have clambered on this bandwagon lately – some of them after furiously attacking me for being guilty of it in earlier times – is further proof that those ideas have merit. There will be plenty of blessings for all concerned – including for the work itself – if latecomers recognized the contributions of those thinkers who were among the first off the starting line.

In Islam this is called Sabiqah – the pioneering role of those who did it before you decided to get on the bandwagon. Recognizing Sabiqah brings a lot of blessings in its wake. Muslims need to train themselves to do it. This is something I myself don’t do to the extent I need to do. I mean I don’t search out everything everyone else has said or done before me before I formulate my opinions or make my statements. It is largely a matter of resources and time – and not at all a sign of disrespect to others.

In part this is due to the fact that I have been driven over the past several decades into taking my marching orders – my ideas and views – directly from the Qur’an and the most authentic among the Hadith such as Bukhari Sharif. When I say “driven” I mean, having looked at a lot of what other sources had to offer, I was left with no other alternative but to turn to the Qur’an and the Hadith for more complete and superior answers to my questions.

As a result, when I make my statements, I may not be aware what some other Muslims may be saying on the subjects that I address at a particular time. If my views match theirs it is a matter of joy for me. If the views of all of us fit the Qur’an, who can ask for anything more? If, on the other hand, what I say is not in agreement with what some other Muslims may be saying, then I put myself to two tests:

One, is what I say directly or indirectly derivable from the Qur’an and the Sunnah?

Two, does what I say make sense, and is it therefore sustainable – based on the canons of science, logic, common sense, research, evidence, human experience and history – such as it is?

Sometimes some non-Muslims do a better job of this than we Muslims do. That is because they have created a professional culture that both requires and allows them to do it. For example, some years ago, one non-Muslim scholar in a university stopped one Muslim Ph.D. student from going ahead with his thesis on freedom in a certain Muslim country till he had gone and reviewed my work first.

What I consider outrageous – and what is also personally hurtful – is that I have encountered Muslims over the past 32 years who listen to my ideas, either stay quiet or oppose them at the time, and then after several years, and after doing a bit of growing up in the West, start talking about them or practicing them with an air as if these were their own original discoveries. That is not how things are supposed to work. It is sad and it is unfortunate. Also, we burn out all Barakah that way.

What lies behind attitude and conduct of this kind? A number of things, among them the following:

  1. Personal ambition and lack of scruples.
  2. Ignorance and a general lack of culture.
  3. Lack of understanding and knowledge.
  4. Lack of professionalism and ethics.
  5. Lack of integrity and standards.
  6. Blind subservience to individuals and organizations.
  7. Racial, ethnic and cultural filters and commitments.
  8. Our failure to address these issues in our education.

But over and beyond everything, no matter how you cut it, such attitudes and conduct reflect a basic lack of connection with Allah. May Allah forgive us and have mercy on us.

Suffice it to say that some of what some of the Muslims are saying now – in the past few years and after September 11, 2001 – is what I have been trying to articulate for the past at least two decades. It is also some of what some of them have been opposed to when it came from me when it did so many years ago. Just as some of them are opposed to some of the things I say now – things, I have a feeling, they will make their own with the passage of time and with the mounting of pressure.

A META-METHODOLOGICAL NOTE

How do you know all this is true? That is a methodological question.

How do you put any of this in practice? That is another methodological question.

Methodology is what comes after theory. Often it is a child of theory. Meta-methodology is discussion on the subject of methodology, which is what we are doing here.

At one level, it is the stage of practice or application or action or operations. These are questions that say: Show me how to do Wudu. Or show me how I should make Sajdah.

Islam is a perfect combination of both aspects of life – theory as well as practice. This is quite an earthshaking thing to say or believe. For, nothing in life is quite like that. Things are either theory or methodology. Both aspects are not generally tied together in one neat bundle except in scholarly research that appears in the form of journal articles, books or technical reports.

But to think that a global ideology of this wide a spread comes complete with theory and methodology all rolled into one is to call it either an impossibility, and therefore a false claim, or simply speaking to call it a miracle.

And anyone with any understanding of history or of the contemporary world, or of psychology or sociology, or of politics or economics, and anyone with any ability to discern reality either past or present, can easily see that Islam is anything but a false claim.

END OF CHAPTER 40
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.