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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Quantum Note: Muslims circa 2012

By Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal,

Syria is bleeding; Afghanistan is in convulsions; Pakistan is facing internal collapse through mismanagement, corruption, random violence, and insurgency in Balochistan. Most of the Arab world is under tight control of dictators. Turkey is being chipped away, bit by bit, through sale of its air and water, natural resources and bandwidths-even land is now available for grab. The Muslim West (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia) is in perpetual state of oppression. Iran has been isolated by the Western powers, possibly as the next locale of aggression, and its economy is deteriorating, though not collapsing, despite sanctions. Bangladesh, the land of corruption and internal strife, remains perpetually on the brink of collapse. Indonesia and Malaysia have a glimmer of hope but underneath the smooth surface, there are huge tensions. This is the state of the Muslim world fourteen hundred and thirty- three years after the Hijra of the noble Messenger from his native Makka to Madina where he established the first Islamic state.

Terrible as it is, the current state of the Muslim world needs to be placed within a context. That context is the year 2012, which corresponds to the year 1433 after the Hijra, the year of formation of the first Muslim state. As opposed to the unsubstantiated popular belief, idealism, and nostalgia, that first Islamic state in Madina was not without its own problems, internal strife, deep divisions and moral issues. No human state has ever been. There were hypocrites who plotted against the state. They even constructed a masjid in the ninth year of Hijra, that is, almost a year before the demise of the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, which is mentioned in the Qur’an as a mosque constructed for dividing the believers. In the same year, there was even a plan to kill the Prophet Muhammad, blessed is his name forever, on his way back from the Tabuk expedition. It was in that same—sometimes idealized state—that except for twelve persons, the entire congregation left the Prophet standing by himself while he was delivering the Friday sermon because of the arrival of a trading caravan—an event mentioned in Q 62:11.
This shows that at no point in their history, Muslims have lived in any ideal society, for it is impossible to have a society free of strife; such is the human condition. We are not angels and there are all kinds of disruptive forces in action against us, both from within us and externally. The question of context, therefore, has to be established in real time, against the background of Muslim history in a real sense.

Viewed in context, the most important aspect of the present state of the Muslim world is its general direction: is it going upward or downward? The immediate knee-jerk reaction would be to say: it is going downward and all the bloodshed and violence will apparently justify it. But when seen in a broader context, the situation is the inverse. But before we investigate that, let us make a brief note of the current situation of the West in the same general way in which the question has been initially framed.

The system which has produced the contemporary Western world is no better than the contemporary state of the Muslim world: the so-called liberal democracy is collapsing from within. The dirty tricks of the ruling party during the last general elections have just emerged; the American politics has reached a level where the coming elections are already being dubbed as the most expensive elections in American history; the Eurozone is in deep crisis stemming from mismanagement and corruption, and the recent manhandling of the Occupy Wall Street rage has once again drowned the voices of the downtrodden. In short, the moral, financial, and political corruption in the West is systematic, institutionalized and beyond any repair.

This neither justifies the state of the Muslim world nor is this context provided for that purpose; it is simply to state some basic facts for the sake of those who idealized the state of the Western world in order to vilify that of the Muslim world.

To return to the main question: is the Muslim world disintegrating through internal strife, violence, corruption, mismanagement and depravity of its rulers or is the present state an indication of a great awakening which will produce better societies in many Muslim countries? Taking the case of the Arab awakening, one can hope that it marks the end of a certain era of the post-colonial phase of improvement of these societies. There are no quick fixes to the ingrained fault lines, but the awakening of Arabs masses is a hopeful sign of the first major change since the nineteenth century. This awakening is still partial and is geographically limited, but it has potential which did not exist before.

The case of Pakistan is also potentially that of emergence of a new era through a massive reordering of its political map in the next decade. Afghanistan, likewise, is poised to emerge from three decades of war and destruction after the Americans depart, which they will sooner than later. Likewise, Iranian leadership is tactfully and actively engaged with a situation emerging from the post-Revolution internal strife and discord that is partially the result of failure of the leadership and partly that of external plots against it.

Iran stands at the crossroads and whatever happens there during the next two years may very well have a critical role in shaping the entire region bordering it. In this response, the results of Parliamentary elections to be held today (March 2, 2012) will be of great importance. The next milestone is the Presidential election scheduled for June 2013. Today’s elections would have a direct effect on the Presidential elections and both will together shape the new political map of Iran.

Hence, the answer to the critical question noted above is a clear yes: there are great changes on the horizon and the present strife is not death pangs of a dying polity but the growing pains of a new political order.

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