The main topic is Current social, moral and political challenges of Muslims and their solutions in the light of Islamic teachings, while the sub topic is Islamism and how the negative image of Islam and Muslim law diminishes the spread of Islam
One definition of Islamism is “the [Islamic] ideology that guides society as a whole and that [teaches] law must be in conformity with the Islamic sharia” (1)
Islamism is the implementation of Muslim Law in a Muslim society. The term Islamism is used interchangeably with political Islam. This law is seen as too intense and extreme in the eyes of non-believers. Although it is the ultimate justice system created by God Almighty Himself. This is only one of its implications. The non-believers think of Muslims as backward and extremists. They have also made up a stereotype of Muslims as Terrorists. Even though Islam prohibits a believer from the fragrance of paradise who kills an innocent human. Another thing is that the word Islam itself means “Peace” and “to surrender yourself in front of the Supreme Lord (Allah)”. This situation has been caused by the inhumane actions done by the criminals and terrorists taking up the name of Muslims.
Thinking of Muslims as backward a disbeliever has defined Islamism as “An Islamic movement that seeks cultural differentiation from the West and reconnection with the pre-colonial symbolic universe'
Findings and Discussion
Islamism is the movement to spread Islam and implement the Islamic laws in a society. As we can see in our own country that some laws are very strictly implemented while others are neglected and become the cause of Fitnah. These include the selling of intoxicants, underground clubs and other non-Islamic activities.
Islamism or political Islam is sometimes seen negatively by the Muslims themselves. This is because they are away from religion and don’t understand the justice and fairness in the laws of Islam. These include the stoning of an individual involved in adultery, the flogging someone involved in Zina and cutting a thief’s hand (only if they steal a good money worth of items). The non-Muslims call us as extremists for the same reason. They don’t see that by taking this course of action against such people can remove Fitnah from the society and make people think 100 times before doing these sinful acts. It’s also statistically known that most of the people who go to jail for stealing, steal again when they are released. They relapse because they know they’re just going to spend a little time in jail if they get caught again. This shows that the Islamic law and justice system is not flawed and how can it be flawed when it was made by the Allah Almighty.
Then there’s the discussion of Terrorists, that Muslims are terrorists and are seen as the primary suspect behind every attack in the world. This image has been created by the media and has propagated as to get more attention and revenue. The people terrorizing the world have taken up the name of Muslims and are changing people’s opinions of Muslims. True Muslims are peaceful and blessed by Allah in this world and the next. Allah has commanded us to never kill an innocent human, if someone does then he/she can never enter paradise let alone smell its fragrance.
The main group of terrorists or said to be Islamist movement, Da’ish and Al-Qaeda are one of the main reasons as to why the Muslims are seen in a bad light in the modern world. Though there have been many other incidents in the past of extreme Islamic movements that had forgotten the message of peace and forgiveness and proceeded to force people on the religion. Another group called GIA slaughtered entire villages for “Violating Islamic Law” and for “infarctions ranging from infidelity to wearing western clothing”. By 2006, two falafel venders in Baghdad were killed because falafel did not exist in the seventh century, and was thus a Bid‘ah of Islam in the eyes of the killers. As of mid-2014, the jihadi Islamist groups Al Qaeda and Da'ish had killed 'more than 300 Sunni imams and preachers', according to one 'prominent Iraqi Sunni cleric'. Some months later Da'ish reportedly executed one of its own Sharia judges on the grounds that he had 'excessive takfiri tendencies'. These people are the not Muslims but those who have gone astray from the Straight Path. They are called the Kharijites, the ones who have been banished, removed from the fold of Islam. The Kharijites first appeared during the first fitnah, the crisis of leadership after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.W) and even at that time Muslims battled against them to bring them back to Islam. These extremist groups have been condemned by other Muslims for their excessive and unreasonable willingness to Takfir (Judging a Muslim’s faith and declare them as disbelievers) and kill self-professed Muslims. While these groups often argue that they are returning to Islam unpolluted by Western Enlightenment ideas of freedom of thought and expression, early Islam also condemned extreme strictness in the 7th century to the Kharijites. From their essentially political position, they developed extreme behaviors that set them apart from both mainstream Sunni and Shia Muslims. The Kharijites were particularly noted for their readiness to takfir (consider a Muslim as kafir) self-professed Muslims. (2)
It is said that by an ex-activist Ed Husain of one of the Islamist groups active in Britain that they sermonized the need for Muslims to come back to Islam, but many of the activists didn’t know how to pray. This happened as they were focused more on politics then the religion itself. Oliver Roy said that the people have returned to the time of Jahiliya (pre-Islamic times) and that the separation of Muslims into communities has caused Fitnah. That is the Muslims have gone astray from their religion and have relapsed to pre-Islamic times, taking part in non-Islamic activities and taking pride in their race, color and wealth (2)
A criticism of Islamism is that the Islamists or more specifically the Kharijites disallowed freedom of speech of Muslims, to express their viewpoints, even when their views were valid. An event that was caused due to this is given below:
Mahmoud Mohamed Taha, a 76-year-old 'practicing Muslim' and theologian was hanged in a public ceremony in Khartoum, January 18, 1985 (3), for among other charges 'heresy' and 'opposing application of Islamic law'. Taha had opposed Sharia law in its historical form, as it was instituted in Sudan, because he believed the Quranic verses on which it was primarily based (the Madni verses) were adapted for a specific place and purpose – namely for ruling the seventh-century Islamic state of Medina – and were abrogated by verses revealed in Mecca, which he believed represented the ideal of Islam.
The hijab is one of the things that are misunderstood by the non-believers. In Muslim culture the women must cover up themselves with scarves and abaya when they’re outside the house. Now the non-Muslims think of this as backward and as a reason for fitnah. Though the hijab is just to protect the women from bad gazes and from dolling themselves up to show in everyone in public.
Even when that’s the case people have encountered some disturbing events. Upon observing the social condition in Saudi Arabia, where the implementation of the Hijab and the separation of the genders is the strictest, Ed Husain (a disillusioned Islamist working as an English teacher) says that he heard harrowing stories of women kidnapping and downloading of extremely disturbing videos by his students which he had never seen in the UK and Syria (where he also taught). He also says that his wife was harassed and cat-called multiple times even when she wore the abaya and covered her hair with a scarf. It would take only five minutes before Saudi men would walk past and whisper obscenities and hiss at her. When this experience was shared with the local women, they said,” Welcome to Saudi Arabia”. Now this sort of thing doesn’t show the flaws of the Sharia but it actually means that in the modern world of entertainment media, people are more used to seeing women being objectified and this comes as a direct result of that, as they can’t even converse much with the opposite gender. Everywhere you would see Women being used a bait for people to buy this product. In the marketing scene, this is a strategy to get people to buy more of their product, more beautiful the women, the more sales they would get. In no way does this reflect as a wrong law in the Sharia.
Some critics argue that the religion was enforced in its true form only for some decades. Now some say that this time started from the Holy Prophet (SAWW) and end on the last right Caliph (Khalifa-e-Rashidun) Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib. While some others say that the time when Islam was worthy of imitation by everyone in the world was the time of the first two caliphs and three years between 717 and 720 AD. This is said because the revolts started to intensify in the Caliphate of Hazrat Usman (R.A) and the Kharijites also appeared at this point in time. (2)
Islam is also considered as backward in the eyes of the non-believers. This comes from their own experience of religion. In Christianity and Judaism, the church and its pope didn’t let the people research on the empirical knowledge of the world. This stopped them from progressing in science and technology and they went through the dark ages. For this reason, they consider Islam as backward and think that religion restricts us from improving in scientific fields, though this belief also comes from the fact that Islamic states are mostly developing and aren’t considered as first world countries. This is because the Muslims themselves have mostly become confused between what to follow, their religion or the modern times. For this reason, they’re following a mix of both. Although following modern times isn’t wrong as long as it doesn’t go against the Laws of Islam, which in most cases it does.
During the time of European dark ages, the Muslims were going through their golden age and progressing leaps and bounds in the scientific field. At the time Arabic was the language of knowledge and intellectual people. Europeans used to come and learn the empirical knowledge from the Muslims and take back books from the libraries to their homelands. Muslims did a lot of discoveries in those times like the invention of soap to keep themselves clean and coffee to get up and pray tahajjud. This shows that Islam doesn’t restrict discovering the workings of the world. Contrary to that, Allah and His Prophet have told us repeatedly to learn, read and investigate the world, gain new knowledge so that you can better identify the existence of One God and how beautifully he has created the world around you.
Criticisms of the interpretation of Sharia are various and not only one can be called true in all the cases. These include: The Islamist leader being ignorant of Islamic law, the understanding of Sharia in general is wrong, the enforcement of the laws is un-Islamic and that the flexible solutions to modern problems aren’t implemented. Any of these can be true in different cases, for example, in our country we see that the government leaders often fall into corruption and desire monetary rewards in this world and ignore the civilians, this can be considered as the ignorance of the leaders. This is the general trend in the case of extreme Islamist movements, many of the leaders of such movements are not well educated in the religion. They consider it as a set of rules and regulations that are set in stone, inflexible and concrete that are implemented on the Muslims and anyone who disobeys them is considered out of the fold of Islam, while this is not the case, Allah is forgiving if anyone makes a mistake but the rules themselves are usually situational and flexible depending on your condition. As mentioned before the leaders of the extreme Islamist movements weren’t very well educated in the religion, the main theoreticians of the Qutbist movement trained at Islam’s recognized centers of learning. Saeed Qutb was a literary critic, Muhammad Abd as-Salam Faraj was an electrician, Ayman al-Zawahiri was a physician and Osama bin laden trained to be a business man.
One scholar argues that the term Sharia, as used in the Quran is not a set of legal rules but it is the path of Islam consisting of three streams: worship, ethical code and social intercourse. Many modernists insist that the Sharia is very different from Fiqh and that fiqh needs to be interpreted anew by scholars in every age according to their understanding. “In Turkey, the Islamist [or post-Islamist] Justice and Development Party has many members who speak of Sharia as a metaphor for a moral society.” (4)
Suggestions and Conclusions
Islamism is the political system of Islam. In our religion there was no democracy, it came into being in the recent times (the last 200 years) and the Islamic states also established governments following the non-Muslims. In Islam there were empires not states and all the power was in one’s house, education was given by the mother, money came from the family businesses and there was no need to get out of the house to get jobs. The establishment of democracies has changed that, forcing men and women to get out of their houses to search for jobs, more specifically employment of others which has also led to the diminishing of skills. By improving the democracy system, our religion can be spread in a positive light and we can improve more in the scientific fields and become part of the developed countries and show our real potential. We can become prosperous, but because our leaders are usually running towards power and money, the opposite has taken place and we can’t show the beauty of our religion in its true form to the non-Muslims.
The simple solution to the misunderstandings about Islam in the non-Muslim world lies in researching and educating yourself in Islam and that too from its original sources that is the Quran and Sunnah. The true Islam can be best learned from the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.W) and his companions, the Sahaba and after that the Sahaba’s students (the Tabi’ Tabieen). As it is also said in the hadith of the Prophet (S.A.W.W) that the best are the people from my generation and then the generation that immediately follows. So, to understand Islam truly from its roots, the life of these people should be studied. Another solution is to study the behaviors of pious Muslims of this age and look at their dealings with other people, Muslim or non-Muslim. This is easy to do in these modern times when you can just search up anything you want to find out about. Though the Islamist movements of the modern times have become very complicated and problematic in various ways, the Islamic laws themselves are very straightforward and according to the nature of human beings. Islam is completely based on human nature. The sad part about these misunderstandings is that most people usually make up their own opinions about Muslims just by seeing the actions of the extreme Islamist movements (The Kharijites). The Kharijites as explained above are not very well-versed in the knowledge of Islam and are basically taking the name of the religion and ruining its reputation in all of the world. While the actions of the Kharijites are very inhumane, they have no relation to the actual Islamic laws. Maybe the image of Islam and political Islamic laws can be improved by increasing the awareness of the general public about the religion and that Muslims are peaceful and not harmful to them in any way.
- Wikipedia. Wikipedia. [Online] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamism.
- Wikipedia. Wikipedia. [Online] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Islamism.
- 3Pipes, Daniel. The Rushdie Affair p.76.
- Fuller. The Future of Political Islam p.57. 2003.