This article of mine was published in daily 'Dawn' some years ago. Just wanted to share it here
Islam & modern sensibility By Prof Muhammad Rafi | From the Newspaper Today
‘COMPATIBLE’ means something that is capable of existing or performing in a harmonious, agreeable and congenial combination with something else. Muslims today are confused about the compatibility of their religion with modern values and trends.
The confusion has been further aided by the intolerant and stubborn attitude and behaviour of some Muslims that has cast a shadow on the essence of their religion. The situation has encouraged anti-Islamic forces to point their guns at Islam and tell the world that it is an outdated and impractical way of life.
The state of Muslims, good, bad or indifferent, is one thing and success or failure of Islam quite another. The truths represented by Islam are as old as creation itself. These truthful values began forging their way gradually on their onward march. Different people in different periods of history owned them and reaped a happy and hefty harvest.
Islam as an ideology and way of life (deen) is an ongoing organic process that will keep on germinating with fresh fruits, but for a new crop, properly guided efforts based on modern knowledge and in line with Quranic values are necessary. This paradigm is missing in the Muslims of today.
Lack of knowledge and years of indoctrination have led to religious intolerance and bigotry, something that Islam vehemently opposes. Islam is definitely compatible with the ongoing process of time if its core values of justice, tolerance, morality, honesty and accountability are promoted and practised. Islam in the modern perspective should not be judged by institutions
that encourage fanaticism but by its insistence on the higher ideals of human dignity and equality.
If Muslims shun internecine antagonism and devote their energies to the system laid down in the Quran, no new laws are needed. According to Sarojini Naidu (address to Young Men Muslims Association, Madras, 1917), “Islam is the first religion that preached and practised democracy, for in the mosque the democracy of Islam is practised five times every day.”
The new world order which no one understands has pitched the West and non-Muslim powers against the so-called barbarian Muslims. The underdeveloped Muslim countries with a large population are confused about the new concepts of the modern age like progress, freedom, democracy, development and gender equality. They have started feeling that perhaps Islam is not compatible with these new thinking tools.
The Islamic values are definitely not aligned to support the corporate culture whose motto is maximisation of wealth at all cost. The Quran points out that its teachings are for all times and that God has created man and has set up the balance in order that we may not transgress this balance. It asks us to establish weight with justice and not fall short in balance (55:1-9).
Plundering the resources of the world and depriving others lead to an imbalance that is being perpetrated by the developed countries on the poor and underdeveloped countries of the world in the name of peace and prosperity.
The Quran is against such practices as they disturb man’s happy relationship with nature. Here too we see Islam’s prescription
for a happy world order. This problem and confusion lie in defining modern values and their utility. They may be beneficial to those who have canonised these values and trends. At the same time, they are confusing and illogical to those who have
suffered as passive recipients of western economic colonialism now reigning supreme.
Islam negates the annihilation of the weak. Even the West’s reliance on pure reason is now termed waywardness by many scholars, and has been a complete mess. Scientific knowledge has increased the quality and span of life, but to what use? There are more suicides now than ever before. It is not a matter of Islam being compatible with modern trends, but going a step further, modern trends have to prove their compatibility with their own values and only then a true realisation of Islamic values will come to the fore.
The West itself is so confused with its own new age metaphysics that many there are talking of the impending end of the world.
How can they question or blame Islam for ills of the modern times when they themselves are locked between free will and determinism and have slipped into a moral dark age?
Can Islam be modernised? This is the question that confuses people all over the world. The answer to this needs a valid re-interpretation of Islam as a potential force to harmonise society. The traditional practices of cultural Islam and the true teachings of the divine message have to be treated differently. The embargo on freedom of thought and control on violent suppression of free thinking must go.
The following dictates of the Quran are conducive to a better future for all times: Muslims will conduct their affairs through mutual consultation (42:38) and equal human dignity (17:70). They will establish justice in the land (5:8). They will stop mischief on earth because God does not like mischief (2:205). They will work for the unity of mankind (2:213). Their main objective is to work for the welfare of mankind (3:110), gender equality (4:32), superiority by character only (49:13), rule of
law and not of individuals (3:79), and freedom of religion (22:40) and expression (2:42).
The western powers are adamant in propagating every un-Islamic act of ignorant Muslims as Islamic and are not willing to let Muslim intellectuals and scholars present the true Quranic Islam lest their own followers change loyalties and follow these universal values.