GUEST ARTICLE FROM SOUTH AFRICA
It’s time to be Muslim
By: Quraysha Ismail Sooliman
Freelance Journalist/ Political Science Honour’s Student
These last two months have raised many challenges for the Muslims in South Africa (SA) and the world over, but challenges are a Muslim’s fortitude.
If anything, now is the time to celebrate being Muslim.
And in this celebration we need to embrace change and establish integrity. Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with 1.5 billion followers. It’s time to reclaim the greatness that Islam brought.
How? Know the truth.
The fall of Granada and the loss of Baghdad cannot be considered as the main causes for Muslim decline. Muslim civilization has been moving backwards because of an internal and conceptual force.
Towards the end of the 14th century, the Ulema changed the course of Islamic history and progress. This was done on three levels.
Firstly, they reduced the concept of ‘ilm’ from meaning ‘all knowledge’ to mean only ‘religious knowledge’. Next, they transformed the concept of ‘ijma’ from referring to consensus gained from all the members of the community, to mean the ‘consensus of the learned’. This privilege was therefore limited to the Ulema themselves. Finally, they closed the gates of ‘ijtihad’ and started a cult of blind imitation.
With these changes, Muslim thought, reflection and understanding became stinted. Muslim culture stagnated and degenerated and Muslims became a closed society brainwashed into believing that the ‘others’ were all bad. You had to look the same, dress the same, to be considered as ‘the rightly guided Muslim’.
For nearly three centuries the Ulema resisted the introduction of the printing presses in Muslim countries. As a result, Muslim development ossified.
SA Muslims have to a large extent also been paralysed by these injustices. Muslims are still being told not to attend universities or gain secular education. Muslim women are still marginalised and oppressed- especially by the scholars. Due to the hypocritical and blind commands of the Ulema, Muslims have become totally dependant on non-Muslims to satisfy almost all their needs and necessities. And the Indian scholars are the worst.
The claims to greatness and absolute ‘correctness’ of their madrassahs and ulooms in India and Pakistan have been nothing but contradictory. The reality is far from the Islamic ideal or the Islamic state.
Muslim women in these countries are denied basic human rights- the right to education, the right to free expression and the right to justice. If in fact these scholars and their methods were so in line with the Prophetic model, don’t you think that after six centuries these countries and their populations would be power-houses? The Prophet achieved a dynamic Islamic state and an invigorated and liberated following in less than twenty years. The rightly guided Caliphs extended this success in less than half a century. The scholars of today have been controlling and managing the affairs of the Muslims for more than six centuries- and they have succeeded only in obliterating the greatness of our heritage and past. Why?
Should I dare say that the Ulema need to admit that the methods and tactics they have adopted have actually gone against the grain of true Islamic scholarship? As SA Muslims united in defence of the Prophet against Zapiro, activists from all over the world were gathering to break the blockade on Gaza. These ships carried non-Muslims as well – decent, honest humans seeking justice.
Another non-Muslim, George Galloway has started to mobilise in an attempt to break the siege on Gaza in September. And whilst these brave and moral individuals put their lives and comfort on hold, sacrificing of themselves in every aspect – be it time, money, health, luxury and security, our Ulema remain silent as SANHA certifies products made in Israel.
And SANHA is not the only body guilty of collusion with Israel.
So when we have scholars and religious bodies that are not only spineless but without integrity, can we expect anything but a following of sheep from the larger Muslim community?
It’s time to be Muslim. And this means holding the scholars and the religious bodies who claim to speak and act on our behalf, accountable.
The prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessing be on him) said: ‘Mankind will not go astray after having found the right road, unless from disputation’ and ‘The exercise of religious duty will not atone for the fault of an abusive tongue.’
I say this because whenever we have challenged the scholars on dubious points, they usually revert with the rhetoric:
‘Seeking to please the west, hypocrites, ignorants/ jaahil, trouble-makers leaving the fold of Islam…’
With the formation of the United Muslim’s Forum a question now looms- Does the forum have the integrity to raise moral issues and injustices perpetrated from within?