Posted in history, islam, lessons, reflections, religion

What Muslims need today?

Muslims at the height of their civilization were one of the major contributors of arts and sciences. People like Al-Kindi and Al-Farabi were first to recover and translate the Greek philosophy and introduced this wisdom in Spain and Europe. Avicenna and other Muslim intellectual’s treatises on philosophy, medicine and other sciences were part of western curricula. There was no fragmentation of disciplines and nor was a distinction between worldly and spiritual. Science flourished with and in light of religion. [for reference, see comments below]

In contrast, when there were internal conflicts among Muslim dynasties, where they fall into prey of politics and orthodoxy, the decline was inevitable. There wasn’t any more the pluralistic mindset of Fatimids and no intellectual honesty like the one which was nurtured in Al-Azhar mosque which later flourished into university. Such dogma had roots in misinterpretation of Islamic ethics. Ethics which should have served as a bridge between faith and society1 but forsaking the use of intellect for ethical considerations, its roots became so feeble that it lost practically. Therefore, there was no desire left to improve upon (to imagine, discover and enlighten); there was only a quest to cling upon the past.

The historical accounts of our heritage can serve for us as windows of interpretation to regain the rightful place of Umma on world map. The major inspirations can be: healthy civil society partnerships, intellectual honesty, pluralism and compassion for service, to list a few.


It is known fact that intelligentsia is only developed when there is security and economic development. Democracies in developing countries have not been successful in past; therefore it is civil society initiatives which might create difference. One such web of institutions is Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). AKDN’s mandate with the ethics of inclusiveness, poverty alleviation, and self-reliance are those benchmarks which NGOs can adopt for bridging the gap between wealthy and marginalized, giving them ample opportunity to progress. Muslim nations also need to administer their wealth for the common good.

Civil society will need leadership which will be capable of taking up the challenges and solving them with their knowledge grounded well in ethics. For this we not only need to have a vision of years ahead but invest time, wealth and energy for developing a knowledge society. During the days of Fatimids, there was an intellectual honesty among Muslims under the leadership of Imam. They were not hesitant for exchange of knowledge about different disciplines with Christians and Jews and were well equipped for addressing the needs of their time.

Today students need the same understanding of the fields of knowledge most required in their regions; moreover a deep understanding of diverse cultures and values is essential. Moreover, we need both encouragement and material support. Muslim individuals who are at respectable positions can give their expertise towards educating the institutions.2

These tasks cannot be complete without respect for pluralism. The diversity that Muslim cultures entail have strength of assorted skills and the synergy it can provide both intellectually and spiritually can be awe-inspiring. Being Muslim should not mean to impose your belief on others nor can you demand the rest of the world to follow your rules. The axiom holds true for intra-Muslim community in regards to sectarianism.3 We should resort back to our tradition of leading by action, where world got inspired from our dealings and knowledge.

Thus today when Muslims are being termed as terrorists, we need to reflect urgently about the image we want to project towards the world and preparing ourselves to be the best role-models. Prophet Muhammad’s life, compassion of Islamic ethics and creative expressions can be stepping stone for such change. Moreover, dilemmas concerning past should be seen as inspiration for future but in no sense a literal and blind imitation.


1- Keynote Address by Aga Khan IV at the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference on ‘Leadership & Diversity’ on May 19, 2004 (p. 3) Source: IIS

2- An address by Aga Khan IV at Le Meridien Grosvenor House Hotel, London, United Kingdom, October 19, 2003. (p. 3) Source:

3- There is no evil in sects, if they live and let live; each to it’s own and pure intentions for and by all.



a coffee addict/ optimist sun flower/ can't-live-without-50mm photographer/ writing enthusiast/ [an almost inexistent] paper cookie smasher/ orange things collector/ wishes he had two antennas on the head; ps: philosophy-pistachio & educational technologist. to sound little proper: A self-taught, internationally published, photographer who loves to write/blog and read while breathing philosophy in between. Graduate of M.Ed. in Teacher Education with High Honors from Aga Khan University and currently works at the same university as Education Designer for Blended Learning. Candidate for Social Innovation in Digital Context (SIDC) at Lunds Universitet funded by Swedish Institute. Action Partner for Oxfam International Youth Partnership 2010-2013 led by Oxfam Australia. To cut the conversation short, an optimistic realist who believe in designing his life to fulfill dreams while sipping countless cups of coffee! I hope this makes some sense.

4 thoughts on “What Muslims need today?

  1. A very pertinent question was asked on twitter from @sohialabid about the reference for the last two lines for the opening paragraph.

    My response would be that this inference is based upon my reading on commentaries about works and biographies of these Muslim scientists who wrote/worked on variety of topics.

    For instance, Imam Jafar al-Sadiq was a physicist and alchemist, at the same time a theologian. Avicenna has contributed so much to both medicine and metaphysics which might be considered as two different aspects of study – worldly and spiritual. Body and soul, man and nature are in unity in Islam that is why a lot of such scientific findings has been linked to revelation and the open book of nature.

    If there is one reference that is needed to be quoted then I would suggest Hossein Nasr’s ‘Science and Civilization in Islam’ [] where he talks about Islamic science. He calls its Islamic because the outcomes of such endeavors were based on spiritual fulfillment. During the course such attempts, we also got the fruits of what we generally know and consider as scientific discoveries today.


  2. Nur Momad commented on Facebook:

    “Hayaa allal-Fallah 🙂

    Your Azan, call, towards seeking knowledge in this sea of information, is more powerful and important than the noise coming out of the thousands of minarets :-)”


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