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Failure of Muslim Societies


It is necessary that we Muslims face up to the reality that the Islam that we profess, practise and preach today is not working. And has not worked for a long time. This is true both for our communal life as societies, and our personal lives as individuals. In Muslim countries and communities around the world there is no shortage of mosques and preachers; prayer and fasting are common, millions perform the Hajj every year. Yet most of these societies are rife with corruption and injustice; poverty and illiteracy prevail; sickness and malnutrition are common. It is not just a question of resources; those Muslim countries that are lucky enough to have oil or other natural resources may have avoided some of these problems but face other serious ones (which are also common throughout the Muslim world) : lack of individual freedom and human rights; deep economic and social class divisions; materialism and consumerism; the lower status of women; the alienation of youth, etc.

This failure of Muslim societies to solve internal problems has been matched by their failures to deal with external challenges. In the 19th and early 20th centuries they were unable to withstand the European colonial and imperial tide that swept over them. Today, they are not able to effectively resist the external political, economic and cultural pressures to which they are subject, nor have they been able to keep up and cope with the rapid technological changes occurring in the modern world. No Muslim society today, whatever its geography or history, can be pointed out as one where humanity has progressed, or as a model of how human beings should live. There has not been such a one for centuries.

Islam Then and Now

For its early adherents Islam was a set of simple ideas and beliefs relating to Allah Almighty, and the relationship of human beings to Allah. This overpowering vision transformed them, and led them to transform their world. The essence of the vision was awareness and belief in Allah, the creator and sustainer of the universe and the role that Allah ordered human beings to play in their world. This original Islam had no dogma no ritual no elaborate code of laws no special class of persons learned in the religion that guided and judged other believers; in short none of the elaborate structure that now passes for Islam. This superstructure did not exist in the early centuries of Islam. The problem we face is that Islam today is a complex and rigid structure, frozen in time, which overlays and obscures the original and essential message that Islam brought to humanity. Further complicating the issue is the emergence of a class of self-styled religious authorities and “guardians”, so that there is now a virtual priestly class in Islam where there was no place for one in its original version. What has happened to Islam is not unique; in fact this has been the trajectory followed by all the major religions. Each of them started off as a simple message of such power and relevance that it attracted significant numbers of adherents, whose lives were deeply affected and changed by their belief in this new vision. Over time these numbers grew greatly but also gradually the simple and original message was overlaid by dogma, ritual and hierarchical structures, directed and controlled by a priestly class (which usually allied itself to the secular authority in power in a mutually beneficial arrangement). Thus the revolutionary vision that gave birth to this transforming movement became a static & institutionalized religion. That is what has happened with Islam and it has become twisted shape of another religion.

Nawaz is an author of this article. Article Source:


Tags: muslim societies, belief in allah, muslim society, Societies, Failure, rapid technological changes, Muslim


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