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aaiil.org > Articles & Magazines > A Collection of Various Articles > The Muslim Dilemma by Mahmud S. Dean Aziz

The Muslim Dilemma:

by Mahmud S. Dean Aziz, LL.B (Hons.), Barrister at Law

Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

All praises are due to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, and greetings and salutations to our Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). I bear testimony that there is no being worthy of worship except Allah Who has no associate and I bear testimony that Muhammad (pbuh) is His Apostle and Messenger.

O believers! Reflect upon the historical references in the Holy Quran and consider the fate of the Pharaohs, and the many evil tyrants who exceeded the limits of God. Do you believe that individuals and nations are immune in this era from the same severe punishment if they transgressed and failed to do their duty to Almighty Allah as it ought to be done? The Holy Quran is quite clear about rewards and punishment. The wrath of Almighty Allah will visit every nation and individual for their misdeeds unless they sincerely repent and seek forgiveness from their Lord.

The record of human rights violations in Muslim states today is unbelievable as well as unprecedented. The abject poverty and hunger; the prevalence of disease and human suffering; the high level of ignorance and disregard for human dignity; the political oppression by rulers and governments with unjust and barbaric legal systems that permit inhumane torture of prisoners and the innocent; and the extravagant waste of the national resources by the privileged, are all alien to Islamic practice and in direct contradiction with Quranic injunctions and the authentic Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Our Lord has promised in the Holy Quran that those who anchor themselves firmly in faith in Him and do good deeds for His pleasure shall be rewarded with an abundance of good. He has enjoined upon us the promotion of truth and justice and the doing of good to our kinfolk. He has specifically forbidden the doing of evil acts and engaging in lewdness, indecency and causing strife or rebellion in the community. He has guaranteed the devotee who seeks and follows His guidance the enjoyment of His protection. He has warned those who disobey and ultimately find themselves in error that there will be no one to guide them. The Holy Quran reminds us that the Lord best knoweth those who yielded to His guidance.

We cannot, therefore, hope to deceive Allah by our overt show of piety if internally we nurture a false assessment of our true relationship with Him. He promised those who surrender themselves to Him and accept the true Faith, who are devout, sincere, patient, humble, charitable and chaste; those who fast and are ever mindful of their duties to Him — on these both, men and women — He will bestow mercy, forgiveness and a rich reward.

Islam has been universally acclaimed by its adherents to mean complete resignation to the Will of God. Some theologians and philosophers say Islam implies submission to the Divine Will. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has explained it through the observation he made of the obligations imposed upon mankind by the Creator and summed it up to be:

1. Bear witness that there is but only one God — Iman.

2. Recite the daily prayers in submission to His command — Salah.

3. Uplift the standard of life of members of the society by alms-giving and other charitable acts. The establishment of the Bait-ul Maal or Treasury for the administration of these funds — Zakah.

4. Observe the fast during the holy month of Ramadan for the pleasure of Allah and for the personal purification and spiritual development of the devotee — Saum.

5. Perform the pilgrimage to Makkah at least once to show solidarity with the Muslim Ummah and in preparation for our own inexorable end of this earthly journey and the transition to the Hereafter — Hajj.

These five pillars of Islam are the common ties that bind the Ummah of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Every person who has taken the Shahada or accepted Islam as a way of life is required to learn the rules of conformity. In obedience to the Lord he must faithfully practice these fundamental principles of the faith for the pleasure of Allah and ultimately inherit the rewards promised by the Almighty.

The devotee is not called upon to alter his physical appearance or change his identity, dress, cultural customs and language except in areas where they patently offend the basic principles on which the pillars of Islam are founded. The change must be made in the character of the individual and evidenced by his deeds and actions. The Holy Quran makes the point in the following words: O mankind, We have created you from a single pair of male and female, and established you as nations and tribes, so that you may know one another. The noblest of you before your Maker is the most dutiful of you. Surely Allah is Knowing, Aware (49:13).

It also says:Verily you have in the Prophet of Allah an excellent exemplar. In accepting the Holy Prophet (pbuh) as a role model, the believer is not expected to become a clone of the Messenger, a look-alike, and attempt to walk in his shoe. The intention is to imbibe the character of the Holy Prophet and follow his teachings; to understand his love for the Creator in order to walk in the footprints that he has left behind on the sands of time.

It is common practice in most Islamic communities today to make a convert to Islam feel as if he is changing his national identity to that of someone from a different tribe or nation — an Indian, Pakistani or Arab. A Canadian accepting Islam recently was made to dress as a Pakistani when he took the Shahada from an Imam from Pakistan. This convert struggled for several months with doubts about his national identity. He was made to believe that the change was necessary and obviously had the strange misconception that his Western dress was inappropriate for the ceremony. The intention in 49:13 of the Holy Quran is to keep the identity of the convert intact and to recognise his basic intention, sincerity and willingness to accept and practice the Islamic way of life. In 2:143, it is stated:All mankind is naught but a single nation. The principle of the brotherhood of man is laid down here on the broadest basis. The injunction here encompasses the entire human race as members of one human family.

The world today is a spectacle of human beings who are simply lost. People are confused and unsure of the direction to follow. Everywhere, faith and belief in the established world religions have become largely problematic both in individual and collective life. People in every society are stammering incoherently in borrowed symbols, searching for some new and separate identity. The growth of certain religious cults and devil-worshippers in Western societies has seriously affected the mores of the society. Institutions such as marriage and the family are seriously threatened. In the case of Islam, the political, social and economic transformation is occurring more rapidly than the spiritual and intellectual transformation and development and herein lies the Muslim dilemma. It is rooted in the fact that science and technology, with their ever-growing ideas and prowess and modern transient life by its glitter and enchantment, are considered to be threats to the Muslim psyche.

Muslims, for too long, have neglected the basic teachings of Islam and have promoted the traditional and cultural element of countries and peoples who are yet to emerge into the twenty-first century. They have added so many extra prayers and rituals to the faith that the fundamental and basic rules for the practice of obligatory salah in Islam are being subjugated.

Today Muslims are faced with a dilemma of being caught unprepared to confront the new social paradigm in the West. To escape and avoid the challenge, Muslims are encouraged to return to the practice of Islam in the seventh and eighth centuries and to reject the reality of the environment in which we now live. They are busy struggling with insignificant issues of the hijab [veil] and the right to practice polygamy. They are silent, however, on the promotion and propagation of the fundamental teachings of Islam. No serious effort is made to highlight the injunctions of the Holy Quran which give man and woman the right to life; the right to the freedoms we all cherish in seeking knowledge, earning a livelihood with dignity; the right to freedom of speech and travel; the right to own property; the right to freedom of conscience; and the right to the use of the democratic process for the election of our leaders.

It is, therefore, ironic to have so many Muslim scholars and community leaders, who should be speaking out against this retrograde step, to be engaged busily propagating and recommending the return to the early practice of Islam as the panacea for the evils that abound in the world today. Speaking to his followers, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have said: "The greatest enemy of God are those who have entered into Islam and do acts of infidelity, and who, without cause, shed the blood of men."

He also said: "Do you know what sappeth the foundations of Islam and ruin it? The errors of the learned destroy it, and the disputations of the hypocrite, and the orders of kings who have lost the road."

In one of his prophesies, the Messenger of Allah said: "The time is near in which nothing will remain of Islam but its name, and of the Quran but its mere appearance, and the mosques of Muslims will be destitute of knowledge and worship, and the learned men will be the worst people under the heavens, and contention and strife will issue from them and it will return upon themselves."

What does the Holy Quran recommend for the removal of the social ills, prejudices, injustices, discrimination and domination that have brought about the apparent decline and complete breakdown in the moral quality of life in society generally and the Muslim nations in particular? Living in the past is not what the Holy Quran recommends or intends for mankind. The Holy Prophet is reported to have said:"If one’s today is not better than his yesterday and his tomorrow is not better than his today, he is a loser." To be a winner, therefore, one has to strive for excellence or drop out from the race as the religious leaders of Muslim communities are recommending.

Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran: You are the best of peoples evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong and believing in God (3:110). In another injunction, the believers are told that Allah will not change the condition of any person or community unless there is some positive effort on the part of the individual or community towards effecting the desired change. A true Muslim is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence so that his life will be sophisticated, dignified and kept up-to-date with the developments that are constantly taking place in a changing society.

Muslims must come to realise that they have voluntarily put themselves in a time warp. When they yearn to live in the past and engage in wrestling with the present they become a liability to themselves, the Muslim community and the overall development of the nation. Muslims must wake up to the realities of the new forces that are set free by the extraordinary development of human thought in all its directions. They must be aware and come to grips with the fact that they live in a period when science and technology have put man in space and made it possible for him to sit in his home on planet Earth and view the topography on planet Mars. Muslims must know that they live in an age when genetic engineering and the use of robotics are fast changing the shape of things. They must now focus their attention on accessing the new technologies and move Islam away from the arid deserts to fertile valleys of progress and enlightenment.

History will testify that Muslims were the forerunners and torchbearers of knowledge and civilisation when Europe was still struggling through the Dark Ages. These forces that are set free in society today, technically speaking, are neither alien to Islam nor in conflict with the injunctions of the Holy Quran and the Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Muslims today have the good fortune to view both the bright and the dark sides of Islamic historical growth and development to evaluate the true status of Islam in the world community. They must move to correct the situation and align themselves with the forces of progress and become benefactors and not remain in the poor status as beneficiaries of all the new technologies.

The change must first come in the area of the Shariah Law (Muslim jurisprudence and legal system). We know from Islamic history that Shariah Law experienced a phenomenal growth and development during the first six centuries of the Hijrah (migration of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from Makkah to Madinah). The stagnation we have today has existed from that time when the door of Ijtihad (development in the law) was virtually closed. The full and proper use of Islamic legal principles such as Ijma (consensus of opinion) will certainly ensure the ongoing process of fresh thinking and influence some creative and desirable adjustments to that body of laws. Qiyas (Judgements or juristic analogy), Al-Istihsan (deviation on a certain issue from the rule of a precedent to another rule for a more relevant reason that requires such deviation), Al-Istislah (unprecedented judgement motivated by public interest to which neither the Holy Quran nor the Traditions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) explicitly refer) or Al-Urf (custom of society) are all necessary tools for Muslims to use in interpreting and expanding Islamic legal principles for the development of the legal systems in society today.

The Holy Quran is a living source of jurisprudence and as such provides for changes that will keep it relevant and alive. The old interpretation of legal theories in many areas of the Muslim life, though obsolete, are still used by some contemporary scholars to deliver edicts or fatwas that create greater hardships and quite often embarrassment to the believer and his faith. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) bequeathed a legacy to suit the needs of mankind for all times. In this background, the believer is better able to understand why his faith, Islam, is being maligned, misunderstood, misrepresented and misinterpreted in the media as well as among the traditional enemies of the faith. Muslims, too, will come to realise the injury they continue to inflict upon the faith causing a steady decline of the image that Islam once boasted for six centuries after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Muslims must therefore rethink and plan again their strategy for life in an ever-changing world. They must hasten to contribute and keep abreast with the developments in the society and not remain complacent, leaving the task to be undertaken by future generations of followers. Muslims must not remain silent and be condemned to live under rules that were established by Islamic scholars and jurists who lived in the eight and ninth century. Quranic legal principles must be critically examined with all the available knowledge at the time of the examination before deciding on the changes to be made in the relevant sections of Shariah Law.

The Holy Quran is addressed to men of reason and understanding who are commanded to ponder, to reflect, to reason, to analyse, to contemplate on the message of the Quran, and to arrive at the best solutions for the challenges of the day. Why is this injunction in the Holy Book if we are already condemned for life to follow the schools of thought of the Imams [Note by Webmaster: The author is referring to the Islamic Jurists of the early history of Islam] and their interpretation of Al-Quran? The pristine message of Holy Quran and the authentic Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) are the sources to which every generation of Muslims must turn for guidance. This is why the Holy Book is addressed to men of reason and understanding — oo lul al baab — and advocates the pursuit of knowledge.

Islam as a way of life is the most recent of the revealed religions and has the ‘mark’ and ‘royal seal’ of perfection from Allah Subhanna wa taala. Almighty Allah says in the Holy Quran: This day have I perfected for you your religion and have completed My favours upon you and have chosen for you as your way of life Al-Islam(5:3).

In modern terms, Islam is ‘state of the art’ among the established religions. It must not remain in the hands of those leaders who lack the courage, qualifications and good intentions to promote its real value and true purpose for mankind. The leadership in Muslim lands have failed to address the social and economic problems among their people and have allowed capitalism and communism to permeate their social structures and ruin the Islamic way of life. The economic questions of banking, mortgages, interest payments, insurance, investment banking, money exchange and transfers continue to pose problems for Muslims in Western states as well as in Islamic jurisdictions. This state of affairs has posed another serious dilemma for Muslims at the personal level, and many are forced to practice double standards while others suffer the financial loss resulting from non-participation.


Many communities in the West are turning to scholars from the East to promote their development in the Islamic way of life and, unfortunately, are finding themselves in yet another dilemma. They are, in fact, becoming victims of this imported leadership from depressed communities where Islamic values are being compromised and corrupted by ancient culture and traditions. Almighty Allah says: And from among you there should be a party who invite to good and enjoin the right and forbid the wrong. And these are they who are successful. And be not like those who became divided and disagreed after clear arguments had come to them. And for them is a grievous chastisement (3:103-104).

Muslims in the West must benefit from the knowledge and experience gained in recent times concerning the corruption and decay that have gripped Islamic communities in the East. They must not depend or rely solely on intellectuals from foreign cultures to help with the promotion of the faith in their domestic settings. Islam will thrive and Muslims will attain their comfort level in the faith more readily through their own home-grown role models and leadership. In the multi-racial and multi-religious states and countries in the West, Islam will thrive and be given the role to redeem some of the lost causes that have been plaguing the institutions of the family and other societal structures. This, however, would depend upon the willingness of Western Islamic communities to consider positive action in the following areas:

01. Conduct a mass educational campaign to inform Muslims as well as non-Muslims about the concept of Jihad for Arab nationalism as opposed to Jihad in defence of our community’s right to the freedom to worship Almighty Allah and to engage in Islamic activities and practices that are basic and fundamental to the faith.

02. Differentiate and distinguish among the cultures of the Far East, the Middle-East and South-East Asia that have been incorporated into the practice of Islam in those regions with a view to separate the traditional and cultural from the basic fundamental elements of the Islamic faith.

03. Be prepared and willing to strive towards the reorientation of attitude, ideas, and plans for national development which will require them to work alongside non-Muslims to improve the quality of life in the country.

04. Endeavour to establish a relationship with the political authority in each state. A relationship founded on Islamic doctrines and principles to protect the integrity and national security in each of the states in which he has enjoyed his status and civic rights.

05. Without offending or sacrificing the basic principles of Islam, promote activities that will help to strengthen the social and moral fabric of the nation. Introduce Islamic principles to demonstrate that Islam is the solution for racial barriers and the discrimination of persons by reason of colour, class, rank and sex.

06. Islamic groups should unite to evolve a basic code of practice to be used at occasions such as Islamic social functions, religious festivals, and ceremonies such as weddings and birthday celebrations. To serve as a guide in presenting Islam to the believers as well as the non-believers.

07. Recognise and appreciate that their duties and obligations to Islam do not end in their homes or the mosques but must be projected into the large and more hostile environment and community.

08. Recognise the importance of Islamic education and knowledge of the Islamic value system for both adults and children who must be equipped to present the proper Islamic way both by precepts and example.

09. Provide opportunities for non-Muslims to attend public gatherings at which Islam is promoted. The practice today is to deliver the message only to the converted.

10. Dig deep into the religious mines of the Holy Quran and the Traditions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to unearth enough relevant information and knowledge that will serve as a database for Islamic research and scholarship. This will undoubtedly enable Muslims to proceed with the amalgamation of thoughts between the essence and spirit of Islam. It will provide the platform for change as Muslims can once again enter today’s world of science and technology, industry, commerce, economics, banking, politics, culture and a whole way of life that has been avoided thus far. They can advance into the frontline of progress and be distinguished as a new Islamic civilisation.


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