Conferring upon Narendra Modi, the highest civil award by the UAE government nearly one year back in August 2019, amid a situation where Modi was spearheading the genocide of Muslims in Indian occupied Kashmir as well as in his own country raised many eyebrows. This reprehensible move insinuated that the very feelings of oneness based on religious uniformity among the Muslims are fading away, day in and day out. Besides, the lukewarm response of the Muslim world over the question of Kashmir further corroborates the notion that the ummatic vision of the Muslim world has gone dead. What caused this untimely and pitiable demise of Ummah entails an in-depth autopsy.
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Factors for the downfall of Muslim Ummah
A host of internal and external factors are responsible for the death of the ummatic vision of Muslim Ummah. These factors can best be described in the words of Abu Sulayman, a great Muslim thinker, who says: “internally weak, relatively backward, frustrated, conflict-ridden, suffering from internal tensions, and often controlled and abused by the foreign powers, the Muslim world is in state of crisis…In Muslim countries, it is customary to blame external powers and imperialism for all manners of ills.” Although this habit may point out many of the grievances and obstacles Muslims face; it cannot explain the internal cause of the ills.
Muslim Ummah that virtually has lost its existence warrants an immediate resurrection, re-unification, and reorganization.
These ills put in motion a process of decay that dissipated the internal powers of the Muslim world. The resultant weakness brought external powers into the picture, complicating the difficulties. Another Muslim thinker, professor Khursheed Ahmed opines that the Muslim world which has “suffered at the hands of the west in past and which remains even today weak materially and economically, technologically and militarily, is now being projected as a threat to the west. Their efforts to rediscover their identity and set their own house in order are looked upon as a challenge to the west.”
Lack of human development has lead to a backward Muslim Ummah
Needless to say that the root cause of most of the problems faced by the ummah is its state of under-development. Regrettably, this situation is not only eroding the stability and self-respect of the entire Muslim world but is also a major challenge in promoting inter-faith harmony, tolerance, and co-existence at a global level.
The human capital formation that is critical for socio-economic development is an area of marginalized priority in the Muslim world. According to the latest Human Development report, as many as 40 Muslim countries have a lower HDI than the world average. Further to say that out of top 30 HDI countries, none are Muslim. Conversely, the review of UNDP’s report reflects that a vast majority of non-Muslim countries focus far more on education, health, research, and development sectors. Therefore, public expenditure on education, health, research, and development are significantly higher in non-Muslim countries as compared to Muslim nations. Consequently, they have a far higher number of professionals to contribute to the development of their nation. Muslims, on the other hand, remain educationally backward. That is why the Muslim world comprising 1.6 billion people contributes a disproportionately smaller share to the world’s knowledge.
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The Muslim community—forming the majority population of 57 countries and spanning virtually near every single country of the world—has had only three Nobel laureates in science in the history of this prestigious prize. To add, universities of the Muslim world have also not been ranked high in various global university rankings. In the 2014-15 edition of QS world university rankings, no university of the Muslim world was in the top and only 17 ranked among the top 400. Similarly, the most recent Times Higher Education World University rankings had only 10 universities from the Muslim world in the top 400.
Divisions between the Muslim Ummah
Additionally, another internal factor that accelerated the extinction of ummatic connotation of the Muslim community is the Shia-Sunni and Arab and non-Arab divide. This very schism has severely impinged on the unity of the Muslim nation. Unfortunately, Muslims have never been able to raise themselves above this division and think in terms of being one nation. Another division contributing further to the weakness of Ummah is that the Muslim world is divided into two camps, one comprising of countries belonging to the western camp and the other to the conservative camp. And in most of the Muslim countries, a continuous struggle is being witnessed where the governments belong to the pro-west camp but people want the implementation of true principles of Islamic sharia in their countries. Thus, the government and people are at war with each other in most of the Muslim countries.
The lukewarm response of the Muslim world over the question of Kashmir further corroborates the notion that the ummatic vision of the Muslim world has gone dead.
Economic differences between Muslim Nations
Moreover, nearly all Muslim countries are ruled by non-democratic, unaccountable, corrupt, and intellectually bankrupt regimes that only pay lip service to Islamic solidarity but are pre-occupied in efforts to perpetuate their rule despite popular disillusionment, dissatisfaction, and alienation in their respective masses.
Apart from this most of the Muslim countries belong to third world countries and are engaged in developing their faltering economies. For this, they bank on foreign powers. This in turn gives the foreign powers a chance to exploit the situation and thereby compel the Muslims to capitulate to their unjust demands. Resultantly, these countries morph into satellites of the big and powerful countries.
What has happened currently over the issue of Kashmir where Muslim countries did not give any befitting response to India signifies that the Muslim world, due to their economic compulsions, dare not raise their heads before their economic masters.
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Inefficient forms of leadership within the Muslim Ummah
What is more is that different forms of government e.g. democracy, kingship, military rule is in practice in Muslim countries. Therefore, there is a lack of coherence and harmony in the thinking of the rulers. This very situation provides the opportunity to their enemies to exploit them and use them in accordance with their malevolent aspirations.
Inefficient leadership is another cause of disunity and disintegration of Muslim countries. The leadership lacks the required qualities, thus pursuing their own objectives instead of the Muslim ummah. To add, the ruling elite in most of the Muslim countries are devoid of popular support; they reach the corridors of power with the succor of their foreign masters. That is why they serve as marionettes in their hands and thus are exploited by them to their advantage.
Another internal factor that accelerated the extinction of ummatic connotation of the Muslim community is the Shia-Sunni and Arab and non-Arab divide. This very schism has severely impinged on the unity of the Muslim nation.
Another cause of the withering Muslim Ummah is the lack of unified military power at par with NATO. The formation of IMCTC (Islamic military counter-terrorism coalition) was taken as a great hope by the downtrodden and oppressed Muslim populace but unfortunately, such hope was miserably dashed in wake of the passivity of IMCTC over the issue of Kashmir. Like OIC, it also seems a toothless paper tiger, a spineless conglomerate, having no courage to take any action against those perpetrating Muslim carnage.
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Muslim Ummah far behind in fields of science and technology
In addition, the Muslim world is also far behind in the field of science and technology and for this, it is dependent on technologically advanced western countries. When a country is technically zero and cannot make even a minor part of its machine, how can it challenge a technically advanced country and face its might? Therefore, the Muslim countries cannot enter into the unity of an Ummah against the wishes of western countries.
Interestingly, Islamic countries are obsessed with angels and demons, God and Satan. In other words, if something fails on the job or in school (let’s say an employee is fired from his job for poor performance or a student is expelled because of excessive absences or disciplinary problems), then the failure is attributed to the fact that God has decided that it is not meant to be, or Satan and his devilish schemes have caused it to fail. Conversely, if it succeeds, then this is God’s plan and the result of prayer to keep Satan away. Truly speaking, we are unable to face reality and acknowledge the fact that we rely too much on intangible things and hence, remain confused.
The challenge of Islamophobia
Externally, Islam is faces surging Islamophobia. The Runnymede Trust defines this concept as “the unfounded hostility towards Islam.” It also refers to the practical consequences of such hostility in unfair discrimination against Muslim individuals and communities and the exclusion of Muslims from mainstream political and social affairs. Western media plays a leading role in presenting a negative image of Islam. In 1992, a London Times showed a Muslim wiping a bloodstained sword on a union flag, with a murdered woman behind him.
Another cartoon appeared in the September 2002 issue of Economist in which a Skelton shaped, fully covered with the traditional dress was holding a crescent-like blade, tied with a rotten stick. The person is throwing darts at the American map. Careful consideration of this cartoon reflects that Islam is an outdated, horrible, and violent religion. It further indicates that Muslims are a bad flock and the only enemy of America.
Furthermore, unfortunately, even children’s entertainment does not escape from hostility against Islam. Siddiqui, a distinguished professor of journalism and public relations in the United States argues, “Muslims were shocked and surprised to note that in one of the most popular Disney movies for children, the Lion King when the evil natured hyenas were shown, a crescent appears on the horizon. The crescent is used as an Islamic symbol in many Muslim arts and paintings. Equating darkness and evil with Islam is yet another way to dehumanize Muslims and portray them as enemies.”
To cap it all, Muslim Ummah that virtually has lost its existence warrants an immediate resurrection, re-unification, and reorganization. For this, the Muslims must think and act beyond their parochial interests and petty differences. They need to set their own house in order, forge unity and act as ummah—Kashmir, in this respect, is an immediate test case—otherwise, the predators like Modi would keep devouring them.
Abdul Rasool Syed is a Legal Practitioner & columnist based in Quetta. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.