Muslims stand at a crossroads unable to make their mark as a peaceful, tolerant and successful civilisation. Whether the blame is shifted to dictatorships or the incident of 11 September 2001, Muslims struggle with their identity particularly in the West. Golden ages of Islam left in the annals of history but not in the hearts of many a Muslim.
Dr. Munawwar Anees, Nobel Prize nominee in 2002 writes “Though it would be erroneous to characterize the Muslim world as a monolith, it is fair to argue that not a single Muslim country today meets the criteria for modern political and social governance, religious liberty, economic evolution, gender equality, cultural prosperity, and human dignity. Muslims continue to live under dictators, autocrats, kings, and authoritarian rulers—in grossly oppressive conditions. Having lost the ability to face the outer world, which is motivated by concern for human rights, multiculturalism, and tolerance, the Muslim social fabric has seen little beyond sectarian strife, tribal wars, and suppression of women and minorities”.
How have the Muslims degenerated to such a degree? What have we forgotten from the golden ages of the Prophet of Allah, Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) and his Companions (RadiyAllahu ‘anhum)? How do we develop our Muslim Identity?
Shaykh Anwar al-Awlaki mentions two ways in which we can develop Muslim Identity.
By having a strong study of Islamic history which is made up of the lives of Prophets of Allah, the life of Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam), the life of the Sahaabah or Companions (RadiyAllahu ‘anhum) and then learning the Muslim history in general after that. You develop an identity, by having an attachment with history. Because our history is our umbilical cord. This is our life line. We are an extension of an Ummah. We are not separated. We are not severed from our roots. We are a part of a glorious Ummah that we need to study about.
By being part of the world wide Muslim Ummah. Our local identity should not over-ride our Muslim identity. So my identification with Britain or America or Pakistan or Kuwait or any other country should not over-ride my Islamic identity. See this “nation/state” concept is something that Islam came to abolish. We have our loyalty to Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala and to our religion. And we are part of a world wide Ummah. Therefore we need to study. We need to learn about our Muslim brothers all over the world. What happens in Palestine should concern every British Muslim. What happens in Kashmir should concern every American Muslim. What happens in every part of the Muslim world should concern me as if it is happening within my own house.
Unity is very important.
So these are the two important elements in building an identity.
And again the saying of Alexander Solzhenitsyn “To destroy a people, you must first sever their roots”.
We don’t want our roots to be severed. We want our roots to be deep. Studying the life of Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) is the most important thing we can read in our history.
We need to love each other, study the life of Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) and the Sahaabah (RadiyAllahu ‘anhum) and those devoted servants of Allah after them. We then need to implement what we have studied which means being tolerant, loving, giving, honourable, humble, intelligent, sincere human beings.
How can we invite others to Islam when we don’t even know who we are?