Modern Muslims need

Modern Muslims Need to Resurrect the Spirit of Free Inquiry
Dr. Nazir Khaja, Board member of MCA. Chairman, Islamic Information Service

When people lose consciousness of the true spirit and values of their
faith, their actions and practices no longer reflect the message of
the religion they practice. The forms become an end in themselves as
the greater vision that is meant to uplift and transform individuals
and societies is lost. The significance of faith is reduced to a mere
preservation of, and adherence to, the traditional outer practices
that had once complemented and reflected the message.

Religion becomes a museum for the preservation of the outer shell that
was a container for the sustaining and life-transforming core. Focus
is turned towards concepts of individual piety and self-righteousness
disengaging people and groups from humanity. It is lost to such
followers that belief in the Oneness of God is an acknowledgement of
the oneness of humanity and serving God is serving and doing justice
to humanity. True followers of any religion must concern themselves
with human rights which is the ultimate purpose of faith. When human
rights are trampled, religion is betrayed.

Ideologues whose aim is to uncritically glorify the Muslims in history
at the expense of other groups remain in control of the mosque
pulpits. Through the fog of deliberate misrepresentation these
ideologues create an illusion of the unity of the Ummah, disregarding
any appreciation of the responsibility and value of free community.
Without any legitimate central authority to speak on behalf of the
majority of Muslims who are Sunnis and with hardly any Government
within the Muslim world having any credibility with its own people,
there is a chronic deficiency of legitimacy allowing a “dictatorship”
of obscurantism. The spirit of free inquiry, a major reason for
Islam’s past glory, has been long buried and forgotten.

The Sharia to the Muslims is God’s law, yet it is human understanding
and interpretations through which it has acquired the present
framework. It is clear that its dynamism needs to be revived since it
is frozen in time and its relevance and applicability to the present
is being called into question daily. Self-appointed scholars reduce
Islam to a tribal doctrine defended by zealots assigned to protect the
honor and integrity of a faith that is everywhere under attack.
Incapable of making the case of the perceived and real injustices to
Muslims by their own and others except through violence and
confrontation they are helping to nurture extremism. The wrath of
tribal Islam towards those it considers its enemies is mirrored in the
intolerance of fundamentalist Christians who also regard the current
situation as a religious war, each party claiming God on its side.

Muslims’ most glaring failure lies in their inability to reconcile
Islam’s doctrine, with the modern world. In failing to reconcile Islam
they have opted to allow it to regress into its past. This is where
the insecurity of Muslims stems from and that is, since the past is
undeniable and cannot be changed, they hark to the past, because it
feels secure and not threatened. The past has become a sort of
“security blanket” for Muslims and they wrap themselves in it,
whenever they feel threatened.

The concern regarding Islam’s threat to others is necessitating not
only political restructuring but, more interestingly, ideological
retooling.

Serious and legitimate questions are being raised daily about Islam
and Muslims: what do democracy and human rights mean in an Islamic
society? Can democracy and human rights make any headway at all in a
society deeply divided between the rich and the poor, included and
excluded, educated and uneducated, enlightened and the otherwise? To
these and many other such questions, which affect the peace and
stability of the world order, Muslims need to furnish the answers.
They must engage urgently in a radical reinterpretation of the Qur’an
and their legacy if they wish to reverse the use of the scriptures as
an ideological legitimization and justification for social injustices
so prevalent within their societies.

There needs to be a Qur’anic renaissance that will reconcile Qur’anic
passages with the social responsibilities and accountability that the
Qur’an demands for the upliftment of the oppressed and the
marginalized. This is itself the true intent of the Sharia.

It is about empowerment, choice and deliberation at individual and
collective levels rather than control, dependence, obedience and
passive reception. Muslims must rise to the challenge and not let
others define them.

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