The New Muslim Challenge

by Imam Ghayth Nur Kashif

Ghayth Nur Kashif is Resident Imam for Masjidush-Shura in Washington, D.C

With the collapse of Communism and the much-proclaimed rush toward an undefined "New World Order" by Western powers, the challenge for Muslims has heightened dramatically. The basic challenge for Muslim countries lies in their ability to balance the advantages of an enforced "peace" (with U.S Intervention) between themselves and the effects of such occupation and political control over their warring governments.

The humiliation suffered by Muslims on both sides of the Gulf conflict, the Afghan victory (and renewed conflict), coupled with the crushing losses of Muslims in Bosnia, India, Somalia, Kashmir, etc., all represent a devastating indictment against continued autocratic rule and human rights abuses among these states. This highlights the failure of the Muslim Diaspora in the Americas and elsewhere to shed the moribund concepts and cultural precepts derived (unperceived) from the post-sahabah Khalifat and subsequent colonial subjugation.

The challenge therefore, is to take advantage of this enforced period of reflection to develop a "Qur'anic World Order" among all Muslim States. Such an order would disallow tribalistic and nationalistic leadership, but would rather unify the regions, whereby each state would be committed to the social and economic unit of the whole. It would challenge those communities and governments that boast of their Islamic legacy to explain their negligence in the face of the moral crisis in the world.

It would challenge them to take off their "Robes" and British sounding titles that are truly demeaning imitations of the Western culture of elitism and classism. The same should apply to some of the "Islamic scholarship" and culture now being developed in North America that threatens to descend into the pompous academic morass of Western academic arrogance and elitism.This is something that could plunge the Muslims in this country into something akin to the "moderate vs. fundamentalist" quagmire now facing so many Middle Eastern countries. Allah commands us: "And hold to the rope of Allah all together and do not be divided..." [Surah Aal 'Imran/3:103]

It can be said that the way Muslims in America meet this new challenge may determine the fate of Muslim Ummah as a whole. Allah (s.w.t) has said that He can bring fire from a green tree. Certainly we can, by His help, overcome the opposition to Islam in America. We note that while the media attention often focuses on the negative, Muslims are often given an opportunity to air their case and explain the religion of Allah (s.w.t) to the American people.

The combination of the Gulf, Bosnian and Somali crises, and the media's preoccupation with "terrorist Muslims," has actually accelerated the rate of acceptance of Islam by Americans. Many Americans have obviously been "turned off" by the obvious media distortions. A number of Christian organizations have also been inspired to initiate serious dialogue with Muslim Americans. At the government level, the executive and legislative branches have signaled a grudging willingness to acknowledge the validity of Islam publicly, and to enter dialogues with Muslims at varied levels. The Armed Forces, for instance, are actively assisting Muslim organizations in gaining religious parity within their ranks. We can be sure, however, that this openness is not without an underlying agenda on the part of the entrenched opponents of Islam, within military and government circles.

All said, this is a recognition of the inevitability of the rise of Islam. It will be accompanied, nonetheless, by efforts to prepare a strategy of "containment" that will cut at the core of the basic Iman of the Muslims. Every possible "ploy" will be used. We should not forget the scheme of "divide and rule," that was used for centuries (with great success) against the Muslim world (particularly in the Middle East where Muslims have killed more Muslims than the Western opponents themselves, and Allah forbid, claiming to do so, in "His Name ").

These Western overtures ironically, present the greatest challenge for Muslims, and exposed much of the Ummah to its weakness and lack of preparation for what may be the extended prophecy of Surah Al Nasr (110:2): "And you will see men enter the Deen of Allah in crowds."

How the Muslims meet this challenge in America is critical. Are the Muslim organizations, communities and Masajid prepared to receive the destitute, the homeless and struggling masses? Are the Muslim intellectuals prepared to provide quality education and appropriate facilities for the diverse and growing Muslim population? Are the academicians prepared to translate their scholarship into useful and relevant social and economic development for the Muslim community? These new challenges will test the Muslims' commitment to the Qur'anic injunction: "Be ye not divided, and the warning against splitting up into sects." Will Muslims adhere to the Prophet's warning against elitism and racism?

The Muslim response is certain to highlight the fundamental principles of Islam, particularly that of Charity, where the rich shall be tested as to the distribution of their surplus, and where appreciation and tolerance of cultural differences will become the litmus test for unity and justice. The Muslim professional, engaged in his special discipline, shall now be asked: "How much time will you spend freely to help the Muslim poor? How much time will the educated or wealthy volunteer to help the struggling Muslim children and their under funded schools? How much will the wealthy invest in the Muslim community, without the "strings;" as those of whom it was said, "... they feed for the love of Allah, the indigent, the orphan and the captive, (Saying) We feed you for the sake of Allah alone: No reward do we desire from you nor thanks."[Surah Al Insan/76:8-9]

Here is the litmus test:

This is the challenge, and more. As the Muslim community grows in America, the challenge of personal family unity, even for the resolution of disputes, must be addressed by the community, Muslims must also meet the serious challenge of economic survival for all. It is a mandate from Allah (s.w.t). Can a Muslim sleep well at night when one single Muslim goes hungry or is homeless?

Many of the new adherents to Islam, as well as long standing Muslim families are faced with economic and social difficulties that make havoc of family life. Muslims must seek to establish appropriate forums and re-establish the honorable tradition of craft and trade so often mentioned in their legacy. Muslims must also meet the challenge of housing the women and the elderly who are without the traditional support of male guardians.

These challenges appear the most obvious, and builds upon the basic and fundamental responsibility to establish worship. Much more, of course, is to be addressed. May Allah (s.w.t) grant us the insight, the willingness to acknowledge our responsibility and the wisdom to meet the challenge successfully.

Posted September 18, 1998. This article was printed in the March 1994 issue of the Voice of Islam newsletter. (This newsletter is published by the Islamic Society of the Washington Area).