1st and foremost, all praises be to Him who gave me the strength and will to complete both my books and a part of my studies for the coming exams, all the while keeping me busy with issues of both the Islamic world and the world without it.
The book that I have just finished is entitled: Muhammad, Biography of a Prophet by Karen Armstrong, and it is quite interesting to see the link of that particular book with what is happening to the Muslims ummah today, especially that of the small sect in Malaysia.. Anyways, I find Malaysia a funny and quite intriguing country; it has a large (more than half) Muslim majority, ruled by Muslim leaders with a Muslim parliamentary monarchy system, has a minority non-Muslim population and also has some of its roots embedded in Western colonialism and secularismwhen discussing matters regarding, say, secularism and imperialism, one cannot run from the fact that these ideas evolved in an era in which Muslims were dominant and in a socio-political scene that is of the total reverse from that of Muslims. Yet it is interesting to note that most Muslims can’t seem to find the link between secularism, Christianity and Islam, and seem to think that anything from the West, or the 1st World, at least, is bad because it has non-Islamic ideals attached to it.
Before i start, i would like to say that if there are any errors or discrepancies in the things that I say here, especially historically, then I am more than happy to change it, if readers would be so kind as to point it out and why it is wrong.
Now, let us take a brief tour of the 2 religions that has until recently seem to be bitter enemies, and can’t seem to reconcile their differences, until the advent of the modern age (even then, there is a sort of uneasy truce between people of both religions), namely, Islam and Christianity. Islam’s message is inevitably linked with the idea of social justice. The prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H preached his message in a society which has abandoned the old tribal system of communalism and seem to have adopted a more individualistic and capitalistic mentality because of the recent settling down in Mecca after generations of nomadic life (of course, we are talking about the Quraysh here, which settled in Mecca relatively recently and has become more and more accustomed to city life, which disregards a lot of the tribal morality and ethics that has been the time-honoured traditions of the Arabs). The society in Mecca was a mess; infanticide, adultery, murder are only a few vices in which Arabs at that time thought as being the norm. In such a situation, it is only natural that the Prophet preaches a message of social justice, in which the poor and the rich is given equal right, and society abide by an egalitarian code in which everyone gets what is due for him, and no one is treated in an unjust manner. The culmination of this ideal is the rise of Medina after the hijra, which later became the 2nd most important city in Islam after Mecca, and subsequently saw the expansion of the Islamic message to the rest of the world, ushering a period of, as been put by Karen very nicely, pax islamica, in which the ideals of Islam were seen to have ruled the world.
( sekadar gambar hiasan )
In contrast, Christianity developed in what is known as pax romana, a situation where there is already a very strong governing body. Jesus had not had the need for a kingdom down on earth. even in the Bible it is said that Jesus claimed that his kingdom is not here on earth, but that of the other world. The early Christians did not have to wrestle with the ideas and ideals of governance, and concern themselves more with the battle for the soul, the purification of the soul, if you like. And to make matters worse, Christians are persecuted by the Roman rulers, which made life difficult for them, making some of them running to remote places such as deserts so that they are able to practice their religion without fear of their pagan rulers. Christianity only came to the forefront of civilization, if you like, when Constantine (sometimes called ‘the Great’) “adopted” Christianity. The exact historical sequence of this is still a bit vague to me, but i think it could be suffice for me to point out that after this, Christianity began to prosper in Rome, who was the precursor to the Byzantine Empire. To be honest, I am not that well read in Christianity’s development, and therefore, i shall not indulge too much time in trying to explain everything regarding the Christian faith; it will be an injustice on my part if I were to do that, but i will try to give an overview of the different situation between both faiths, and how it affects the development of thoughts in both religions.the rest of this is history, but interestingly, after the Western Roman empire collapsed, we saw the Church’s increasing influence in society (perhaps due to the insecurity that people feel by the fragmentation of power during that time), and that the Church began to develop a unique system of law and control over their medieval believers. They started to intrude upon people’s lives, and started an effort to try to control people’s way of thinking.
In such a climate the modern stream of thought was conceived, and it is quite understandable that they should separate religion from the state because of what they see as the failure of the Church and that religion, as they understand it, may not have been sufficient to include all this new developments in science and logic that has been made. (this is truly very crude, i apologize for the lack of refinement). The result of this, in a nutshell, is the style of thinking that we see today; that of secularism and atheism, which, to be honest, is very much understandable if we look at it in the historical context.however, there was never such a tradition in the Islamic world; politics, religion, science and logic has always come hand in hand and there should never be a separation of the state and religion, lest the rulings of God is not enforced. The Islamic tradition has always been an egalitarian one, that everyone is equal in the eyes of God, and that the rulers are merely entrusted with the heavy burden of administrating the earth. This mentality explains the various dynasties in the Islamic world and also the culture of knowledge that evolved in the Muslim world. This is not to say that there wasn’t any such culture in medieval Europe, just that most of the knowledge at that time, as far as i can tell, is in the hands of the monks, and that education is limited to a very few privileged few. When the Western “onslaught” came, it is interesting to note that Muslims, at first, reacted very creatively and was very welcoming of the new innovations of the West. But because of circumstances, and due to some extent to the weakness of Muslims, their empire disintegrated and Western powers started to crave up Muslim lands at their whim. Such a behaviour may be seen as evil to the Muslims, but it is quite normal for any power to do this, and such a thing has always been the wont of men. Reading through histories of other civilizations will convince you of this.
The reaction by Muslims to this could not have been more pronounced. many of them see the Western advances, with their technological superiority and radically different and alien ideologies must have seemed to them to be an affront to what the whole of Islam, and many of the relics of such thinking is present to even this day; the inherent hatred an suspicion to the West, rejecting everything Western, the longing for the Caliphate system of the past, etc. I am not saying that we should accept everything that is presented before us, nor should we disregard the ideas of bringing the Caliphate back (that is another topic for debate), but what I am trying to put forth here is that the mentality and ideologies of the West has evolved in such circumstances that is understandable, and that Muslims should not have this “siege mentality” that is so very obvious in society. Rather, Muslims should be like the Muslims of old; confident and accommodating to all cultures, taking the good and compatible aspects of other religions and culture to be assimilated into the Muslim Islamic culture, and not shunning other people’s ideas without having first understood whence it comes from and what is the effect of such ideologies to the society of that culture, and what could be the good and bad implications of such ideologies have to the Muslims in general.
Therefore, think before you act.