Posted by: ourvoicestogether | November 21, 2007

Where is Islam going wrong?

At the very outset let me clarify that I am neither a religious scholar nor do I have disciplined knowledge about the Muslim faith. The views expressed in this article are purely based on the perspective that one has developed over the course of past many years. This is by no means a critique of a faith that millions of folks all over the world follow. I have nothing against any individual nor do I intend to annoy, offend or hurt the feelings of anyone from any particular sect/religion.

To begin with, paradoxical and contradictory it may sound, amidst all this opulent irreverence, the Muslims claim that there is a ‘back-to-religion’ movement the world over, even in Scandinavia and the USA – perhaps ‘as a reaction to the unlimited and incessant indulgence in the pleasures of the flesh or maybe as a refuge from the feeling of emptiness it leaves within’.

The followers of Islam also believe that the religion is attracting more adherents compared to other faiths. Interestingly many of the new converts and the ‘not so happy Muslims’ are keen to find out for themselves how the ‘old faithful’ are handling their religious commitments.

What is attracting them to Islam is its claim that ‘it abhors rituals like the ones elaborated by the Catholic Church or the ceremonials adopted by the Brahmin to elevate himself into a superior caste’.

Also, the religion is based on ‘a complete code of life combining the spiritual with the temporal’. But what is offering the greatest attraction to the common folk? To the Afro-Americans in particular is Islam’s stern repudiation and rejection of any distinction of race, color, caste or social standing.

The outsider’s quest for true Islam should induce the followers of the faith to re-examine for themselves and to see if they shall be repelling and driving away the new converts or helping them consolidate their faith. Some tough questions, therefore, need to be answered and a minute soul-searching is called for.

The first point we have to bear in mind is that more mosques do not necessarily mean more Islam, that is to say greater compliance with the Islamic code of life. If that were true, the estimated five-fold increase in the number of mosques across the land since the establishment of a country like Pakistan should have resulted in evidence of more devotion, piety and piousness. But that unfortunately has not happened. If anything, there has been a terrible deterioration in the overall national character, which amongst others includes the curse of religious intolerance, hatred amongst various sects of Muslims, and a virtual nullification of the good and the virtuous.

It is indeed shameful, and the Muslims will have to admit, that today they have more of dishonesty and debauchery, and more of normal failings than ever before. The worst of it is the insensitivity toward other religions and disrespect for those who do not ‘qualify’ to be regarded as Muslims. What we witness, therefore, is an absolute brutal decline/downfall in the fortunes of the Muslims the world over.

The Muslims need to look into the phenomenon more closely without inventing excuses or shifting blame. There undoubtedly are economic forces that are grinding the followers of Islam down to desperation and there also is the communication revolution that provides a vision of a more colorful life in the hereafter, all have contributed to the quandary, to the situation in which the Muslims find themselves today.

Worst of all, the Muslim religious divines, instead of rebuilding/reconstructing the overall Islamic character are busy brainwashing the young for waging Jihad on the Jews and the Christians. My question is: what has Islam done to save the Muslims from this disastrous fate?

The answer is to be found in separating the spiritual from the temporal in flagrant renunciation of one of the basic principles of the Muslim faith, namely that Islam is a complete, ‘indivisible’ code of conduct. The Muslims seem to have split between Christ and Caesar.

It may be heartbreaking to confess but it is nevertheless true that the same man who kneels abjectly before his God in the mosque, pledging himself eternally in truth and honesty, walks over to his business place and violates all those commitments. His adulterates life-giving foodstuffs and life-saving drugs; he cheats on his weights and measures; he mixes inferior qualities of merchandize with superior; doctors his accounts; cooks his bills and so on and so forth.

Furthermore, this state of affairs points to the inadequacy of the sort of religious teaching that induces compliance with its tenets. Learning the Holy Quran by heart or reciting it with fervor is hugely commendable. But the real benefit accrues only from a comprehension of the crux of God’s message. Most khateebs (Muslim religious scholars) in their sermons tend to dwell on the supernatural and the far-fetched, and try to regulate the lives of their followers with stories they think will excite and hold their interest, while others seek to enhance their popularity by arousing sentiments on parochial sectarian/religious issues.

It is difficult to figure out how much of it is prompted by ulterior, materialistic motives. The first fault can possibly be easily remedied by convincing the khateebs that what the Muslim society needs most today is convincing the followers that observance of Haqood-al-Abad (rights of the people) is at least as important as Haqooq-Allah (rights of God), if not more; that is to say, while God might condone missing a prayer or two (out of the five mandatory ones during the course of the day), He will not forgive any wrongs to our fellow human beings, irrespective of their race, creed or religion.

For instance, there is no forgiveness for a shopkeeper who short-changes his customers, for the chemist who sells fake life-saving drugs or the sweetmeat seller whose use of cheap quality oil paralyses half a dozen people for life, or for a contractor who builds a bridge that collapses under a busload of passengers, or a judge who sells justice, or a police official who tortures the innocent, or a farmer who runs his water supply on stolen power supply or tempers with his gas meter.

On a larger scale, suicide bombings are not allowed; taking away innocent lives in the name of God is absolutely a no-go area; crashing planes into buildings and playing havoc with other nation’s integrity in order to ‘teach them a lesson’ is perhaps the most disgusting and intrusive form of recklessness that characterizes modern-day Islam.

The khateebs will be doing a greater service to the society and Islam by driving home these points related to everyday life and, in the meantime, refrain from entertaining their listeners/followers with fascinating stories/tales of ‘another world’.

More than that, their sermons will carry conviction only if people see them practice what they preach. Ironically, they do sermonize equality and brotherhood during the annual Haj (Muslim congregation) sermon, yet, the Saudi royal family has an exclusive enclosure in the Kaaba! Is it hypocrisy or is there something inherently wrong with Islam?

The religious divines who take upon themselves the onus of determining which sect is right and which is wrong or who is a good Muslim and who is a kafir (infidel) are being too presumptuous, rather audacious. The Lord has not entrusted them with any such mission. Frequently their own party is in question; and by defying God’s directive against sitting judgment over faith of fellow Muslims or those from other faiths, to the extent of killing them, they render themselves liable to be treated as any other murderer – a common criminal who deserves no mercy. In fact, they merit divine wrath of dividing the Muslim world.

One does notice that a lot many Muslim countries indulge in sectarian strife at the state level. We would have been sparred of the wrath of the Taliban had the Saudis been not so keen on spreading Wahabism in every nook and corner of the Muslim world. They are a classic example of inciting intra-Muslim dissension and using their oil money to fight their ‘war’ for political and sectarian primacy.

Worst still is the racial bias that, despite the religion’s strict prohibition of any distinction between Muslims (save on the basis of piety), still shows up consistently. The way almost all Arab states lined up with Iraq back in the decade of 1980s in its aggression against Iran profoundly compromised the religion’s claim to be a unifying force that makes no distinction among its followers on the basis of race, color or culture.

There is also a feeling that the Arabs do not take the same measure of interest in overall Islamic causes the Muslim world collectively does on issues that are a primary concern to the Arabs.

Finally, it is flagrant failures of the opulent members of the Muslim world to comply with the basics of the Islamic moral code that is causing deep distress and disillusionment amongst those who can be regarded as the silent minority, who would like. What angers them even more is the pretence of being ‘superior’ Muslims by virtue of the fact that they follow the Islamic practices habitually even though they violate the fundamental tenets of the faith. But for this blatant hypocrisy, a lot more people the world over might have been swarming into the Islamic world.

Despite the change of times, Muslims enjoy unprecedented freedom in the United States to worship and preach their faith. Young Muslims who come here for education worship together as Muslims and not as Shittes or Sunnis, bow, pray, plead and implore forgiveness from their Lord, mix-up with each other without prejudice or discrimination. The fact that most of them are educated and enlightened and act the same way enables them to rise above parochial, sectarian and ethnic interests and work for the betterment of the community as a whole.

As for ‘the politicized Muslims’, things will not improve unless the teachings of the ‘real Islam’ are followed; an Islam without sloganeering against Jews, Hindus, Christians, Shites or Sunnis, an Islam without moral and spiritual corruption, an Islam without guns and grenades, suicide bombings and the ‘grand plans’ to destroy the West; an Islam which grants due respect to any one and every human being; an Islam which provides rights to all individuals irrespective of their color, caste, creed, sect or religion; an Islam that leads by example.

The Muslims need to stop pointing fingers at other religions and take stock of their own situation. They need to learn from other faiths. Respect the ideals for which the followers of those faiths stand for. Preach peace instead of prejudice that ends up in abstract hatred that conveys no sense whatsoever.

The Muslims need to loosen up! Confining the religion to orthodoxy hasn’t got the Muslims anywhere. In fact, so far, it appears that it’s been a campaign, a mad rush for the dark ages!

For some odd reason, the Muslim countries seem to follow their ‘Arab brethren’ and look for a leadership role from the sheikhs. It’s a faulty arrangement. Can there be a separate and distinct leadership that can be created? Can the moderate Muslim countries come forward, take the lead and enlighten the Muslims? May be one day or may be never.

What, however, Islam really needs now is a self-sustaining movement within the enlightened spheres. For starters, taking the route of ijma and ijtehad (religious consultation to keep pace with the changing times) may not be a bad idea. This process of consultation does not necessarily have to be conducted by the bearded and the turbaned but people who wear suits and ties, jeans and khakis can probably take the initiative and thereby end up doing a much better job.

Islam, if it has to survive, needs better leadership. The followers, the sincere ones and not the wretched Al-Qaeda or the Wahabi crowd, have to make hard choices. This is the time to put the house in order. This is the historical opportunity to make amends and seek forgiveness from those who have been hurt, bruised and battered by militant Islam and make a decision, once and for all times to come, that the faith itself is all about universal peace and harmony and free from those draconian hollowness of violence and aggression.

–Ahson Saeed Hasan



  1. That was a well written, well thought out and well constructed article. I agree with the points that you’ve made, however I would like to comment on some of the points.

    You asked that what has Islam done to save the Muslims from this disastrous fate. I think a more appropriate question would be how have the so-called Muslims used the tool provided to them by their Allah i.e. Islam to shape a better world around them? The fault is not in Islam. Islam is a force, but it’s not a living entity that will burrow its way down into a non-believers heart and make him or her a believer. That is do-able btw, if Allah wills it. It’s called hadaya or taufeek. It can come from anywhere, but that is Allah’s prerogative. We have to do OUR part, we have to strive and make an effort before we can expect any results. Before expecting anything to happen, we must work for it, ask for help from our Lord and only thing the expectations we have are justified and logical. Otherwise that’s just wishful thinking.

    A thought revolution is required. A revolution of the nafs, of the within. Well written article, well done! I enjoyed it. With your permission, can I post it on my blog as well ?

  2. I agree with most of the comments that you have made, only one objection.. the title is misleading as it is not Islam which is going wrong … It is the people who follow it…
    Another point I would like to make is that we as Muslims are very quick at blaming our khateebs and scholars for leading us in teh wrong direction… I am not defending anyone here as I believe there are quite a number of such people there… All I am trying to say is that understanding and following teh teachings of Islam is one’s own responsibility.. Islam is different from other religions in that it does not have any concept of priests. Any Muslim can act as an imam in a mosque and it is our individual responsibility to think and act according to teh teachings of Islam. The excuse that so and so Imam or scholar told me so is not acceptable to God. God has given us brain to research and think and we should use that…

    Another point … A lot of people talk about Islam being politicised … and condemn this.. I would say that Politics is a very important part of our life and Islam being the complete code of life is bound to cover that area. Of course using the name of Islam for wrong political gains is unacceptable but if we remove politics out of Islam then we will move towards the path where we will end up confining Islam within the boundaries of the seminaries and mosques like a number of other religions.

  3. an excellent article,pointing out thecause of the fears some have for the religion of islam.i feel and think that if every individual were to take apeek inside himself or herself,they would find true islam there,because islam is a logical ,simple,and practical code of conduct,for our every day lives.

  4. I am a very secular person. Raised a Christian I now say that I am more spirtual than religious. Recently I have appreciated the universiality of Hindu Wisdom!! (like the universe is god himself ect)
    I just wish for us all to be better at co existance. I tell my Christian friends that other faiths are not just groping in the darkness!
    Hey ! More than ever now it’s becoming more and more clear that we all live in the same house ie planet earth and it’s time we all started acting like it !! Best, berry

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