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Unity in Ummah, Options before the Muslim leaders

by Muhammad Nasir Jawed

Unity – or disunity – in the Ummah has been at the center of a never-ending debate for quite some time. Interestingly, the issue is raging more from within than from the outside.

“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.” (Qur’an, 3:103)

Unity – or disunity – in the Ummah has been at the center of a never-ending debate for quite some time. Interestingly, the issue is raging more from within than from the outside.

If coherence is integral to a community’s progress, the said lack of the same in the community is pushing it back in areas of utmost importance – education, economy, culture and identity, leadership, sectarian harmony, media empowerment, etc. The rot that set in resulted in an all-round decline of the Ummah.

Imagine Muslims in the 21st Century: They have numbers to their huge favor – 1.7 billion-strong population; and at least 57 countries form a political group in the name of Islam, arguably largest after the United Nations. Besides, they are rich: Some of them hold key to world economy on account of possessing immense natural resources.

Yet, Muslims have been globally at a low ebb in terms of political respect, educational report card, knowledge campaign, economic management, military preparedness and media empowerment.

No wonder, the Muslim world is conspicuous by its nearly no representation in decision-making international bodies like the UN Security Council and the World Bank; no Muslim university is in the global list of top 100; and the top media houses in the world do not include any one from the Muslim world. There is no MIT in the Ummah; no Harvard University so far; no NASA; no Silicon Valley; and no world class think tank.

Yet, Muslim countries are under spotlight for all the wrong reasons: they are drawn to crises like conflicts and political disorder in countries like Pakistan, Syria and Yemen on a daily basis. Sectarian division is taking a heavy toll on the Ummah and the sad role that our Islamic scholars, or Ulema, are playing today is pushing the Ummah hundreds of years back. All this, and more, shows weaknesses in the community.

This has all handed an opportunity to the critics, both within and outside, to question the idea of a coherent Ummah. It gives an impression that the Muslim community is disunited and regressive; a condemned culture, not ready to blend or bond with others. It is a fundamentalist and terrorizing culture and, hence, they do not, and should not, matter when it comes to forming world opinion, or formulating a general decision.

I am constrained here by the limited space to go in detail as how it roundly affects Islam and the Muslims.

Global rules and agendas on any issue are formulated without the need being felt to consult Muslims; an opinion, even on a sensitive matter, is formed without taking into consideration the sentiments of the Muslims; and terms and terminologies are imposed that hurt Muslims. In most matters, they are done to irritate, or marginalize the community further to the corner.

Cry for Unity

In these increasingly tumultuous times, the Muslim World League (MWL) has risen to the occasion to raise the issue of stability and peace that the world in general so desperately needs. It has clearly given a clarion call to reset things within the community that are of utmost priorities.

The recent holding of an international conference on “Islamic Unity” in the holy city of Makkah merits attention in this regard.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman delivered some great words of wisdom meant for the nearly 1,300 religious scholars and intellectuals, participating in the conference.

The King’s speech – which was read out by Prince Khalid Al-Faisal Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the governor of the Makkah Region – touched upon some of the major points, vital for the Ummah to stay united. By urging the Nation of Islam to embrace differences, “as ordained by God,” the King has provided the key to resolving community’s internal strife and confusion.

And embracing differences could be achieved by “building bridges of dialogue, understanding and cooperation, towards reconciliation, harmony and hard work. We must look to the future with a promising prospect filled with a spirit of brotherhood and solidarity,” the King suggested.
The unity among scholars and preachers is the need of the hour. Because they can bring visions closer together, streamline the culture of disagreement, and work according to the moderation of Islam and its tolerance.

The King struck the responsive chord with the spirit of the seminar when he underpinned “moderation” and “tolerance” as the driving force of a civilization that covered about two thirds of the world surface.
Inculcating such Islamic values in the Muslim community, which seems desperate and despaired, is the need of the hour. I here cite a future line of action that includes some of the ideas vital for the unity project.

I. A unified approach

Backed by King Salman, the MWL has genuinely laid the framework for developing a unified approach and an action plan, if indeed the debate is to be taken to its logically conclusion.

I don’t think the MWL, and the scholars who participated in the conference, are unaware of the enormity, complications and multiple facets of the project. It is not just a project, but a complete mission – a movement – and a huge effort on part of the organizers if we aim to achieve success in this regard. It needs a long-term planning on a sustained level.

Why I term it a herculean task, because it involves not a section of the Muslim community in one specific place, but it engulfs the entire Muslim Ummah. Rather, we need to go beyond the community level.

The MWL might need to form a separate team to embark on the work.

We indeed need a unified approach, because we are sadly divided into sects, sub-sects, different schools of thought, besides Muslims come from different nations having different cultural and social behavior and hence local cultural agents have all contributed to making their own concept of Islam.

Yet, the MWL – guided by a broad approach of the government – has time and again risen to unite the Muslims on several occasions in the past. It has the ability and the wherewithal to do again in future.

II. Research project

Taking a cue from the king’s good advice, we first need to embark on a study project – an empirical research – to study the enormity of the project and the complications involved. This will serve as the foundation of the whole idea, which will help us understand and analyze the reasons for the state of angst and anger in the Ummah. This should not be limited to a one-time assignment, but remain a continuous work.

We will soon find details of not just the internal forces but external forces as well that have been negatively influencing and affecting the youths in the community and which has been going on for quite a long time.

Based on the sustained and detailed findings, important organizations – like the MWL – can draw strategies to be forwarded to several governments for action at their end. The sustained research efforts will also take into account the nature of educational system in the Muslim world – which is key to progress and development. The crying need of the hour is to integrate education both Islamic as well as so-called modern education.

The role of Islamic scholars and imams in the community must be studied as they are at the forefront in making or breaking the community.

And lastly, we must have a comprehensive media plan, which in these times has become a vital tool to an image-building process as also to develop an understanding between Islam and the other cultures.

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