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The Critical Role of Ideas and Values – Part 2

Part 1

We repeatedly hear about fears that sections of the Muslim youth may become influenced by the Christian ideology and values, or may even apostatize.

Thus, appropriate measures are recommended to be put in place. Some of those “appropriate” measures include such drastic – sometimes even preposterous — steps as banning the Bible altogether, banning the translation of the Bible, translating the Bible but under stipulated conditions, denying access to the Bible or any other Christian materials, shutting or blocking access to Christian websites, banning movies and books which were inspired by the contents of the Bible, etc.

Certainly, most of the mentioned preventive steps might make some sense and might have some positive impact in certain milieus, in some countries more, in others less. However, little do we realize that Christianity and its clandestine missionary activities are of the smaller problems Muslims should worry about.

While a very few Muslims will abandon Islam in favor of Christianity – no Muslim who is either partly or completely constant will ever do so, such is the nature of Islam and the nature of Christianity; only those who were never Muslims in the first place and who, all of a sudden, got some vested interests in becoming Christians, will be tempted to embark on such an adventure – a great many Muslims, young and old, on a daily basis abandon scores of Islamic teachings and values, embracing elements of materialism, modernity, liberalism and consumerism instead.

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Waves after waves of the Muslim youth are lost to the jaws of the latter. Excessively worrying that their coming into contact with Christianity and the Bible may endanger their faith is both simplistic and exaggerated a course of action. The real danger lies somewhere else.

Parenthetically, even Europe, the bastion of Christianity, is becoming less and less Christian. Christianity is simply imploding there amid steady rise of atheism and various secular and agnostic worldviews and ideologies. So worrying is the scenario that some observers wonder if Europe still has the right to call itself a Christian continent.

In Britain, for one, a landmark in national life has recently been passed. There for the first time in recorded history, those declaring themselves to have no religion have exceeded the number of Christians.

It goes without saying that the main problem with Muslims today is the lack of ideas and values, whence faith and authentic knowledge could originate, and whereon civilization could be built.

Since Islam itself is a philosophy and a total system of thought and values, it gives preference to and supports most good and creative ideas and values. By the same token, it abhors most bad and harmful ideas and values.

That is so because bad ideas and values beget falsehood and counterfeit knowledge, which, in turn, breed and perpetuate nothing but the truest forms of primitiveness and backwardness. Bad, harmful and unproductive ideas and values, regardless of their origins and plane of operation, are Islam’s enemy No. 1.

In passing, Islam intrinsically has nothing against anybody or anything. It only goes whole hog and opposes all forms and degrees of falsehood, deceit and transgression, whoever and wherever they may come from.

Many wise and enlightened individuals have long tried to bring this verity home to other Muslims. For example, Malik Bennabi (d. 1973 CE) wrote a book “The Problem of Ideas in the Muslim World”; Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938 CE) delivered a series of lectures, which were later compiled in a book called “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam”; Isma’il al-Faruqi (d. 1986 CE) also wrote a book titled “Al Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life”, while one of his colleagues, Abdul-Hamid Abu Sulayman, wrote a book “Crisis in the Muslim Mind”; Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas’ seminal work “The Concept of Education in Islam” deserves mention and compliment, too.

It follows that the only way forward for Muslims is restoring authentic Islamic beliefs, ways of thinking and values through appropriate means and channels. Such is the case owing to the fact that knowledge and virtue are the substance and lifeblood of the Islamic message. They constitute the soul of everything that is preceded by the adjective “Islamic”.

The Prophet spent more than 10 years preaching mainly beliefs, concepts and values (in short, faith or iman) to the first Muslims. Needless to recall that the whole process commenced with the divine imperative “Read”, for the first revelation revealed to the Prophet was:

Read in the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists); has created man from a clot. Read and your Lord is the Most Generous, Who has taught (the writing) by the pen; has taught man what he did not know. (Al-‘Alaq, 1-4).

No sooner had the conceptual (iman or faith-oriented) stage been accomplished, and the raison d’être of Islamic civilization established, than it became appropriate for the practical dimension of Islam to be gradually introduced.

Hijrah, or the migration, from Makkah to Madinah was also performed around that time. The timing of the latter was no coincidence, however, in that Madinah was more conducive for the realization of the new phase(s) of the Islamic mission.

Madinah was more suitable for the creation and expansion of the nascent Islamic civilization, unlike Makkah where Muslims had long been denied their basic human rights, such as justice, freedom, equality and human dignity, without which civilization-building enterprise can never take off.

Moreover, Muslims should busy themselves today with the prospect of reviving genuine Islamic education, more than anything else. That will inevitably make them better Muslims. They will respect themselves more and, in turn, will command more respect from others. As a proverb goes:

“If you want to be respected by others, respect yourself first.”

It is a slow but assured process. Only with that will the components of an authentic Islamic civilization be initiated. Without a doubt, there are no shortcuts to success and civilization. In equal measure, no civilization can be bought or copied, partly or entirely. Civilization is an effect, its causes are a community’s belief system, values, dedication and hard-work imbued with the highest level of originality and creativity.

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About Dr. Spahic Omer
Dr. Spahic Omer, an award-winning author, is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. In the year 2000, he obtained his PhD from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in the field of Islamic history and civilization. His research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and theory of Islamic built environment. He can be reached at: [email protected].