Healing the Wounds of September 11
|The Islamic Vision of the Millennium|
|Written by Dr. Shahid Athar|
The Islamic calendar does not start with the birth or the death of a person, but with an event, i.e. the migration of believers from oppression to freedom, freedom to practice “submission to the will of God” in order to attain peace from within an around. Though we follow the Islamic calendar for all religious activities, for practical purposes we have come to accept the Gregorian calendar in our day to day dealings with the rest of the world. Thus, Millennium is important to us. We consider Jesus as one of our Prophets.
The future, though we do not see it, is very dear to us. Even if it has not arrived today, but in our thoughts we have arrived in the future. We like to know about the future and talk about the future because we are going to be in the future; at least we hope to be. On the other hand, past is nothing but a collection of good and bad memories and its only use is shaping the present and the future. The experiences of the past and the present help us to plan and shape for the future though sometimes no matter how we plan the future is not in our control. Thus, it appears that the future like anything else is controlled by another force of power and we are just the players who are drawn into the future.
The religion of Islam did not start with Muhammad , but with the first man created, Adam, who was sent to Earth not because of a sin that he committed but to continue and establish the rule of his Creator on this planet. He brought with him a message for his future generation which was common to all prophets from Abraham to Muhammad, which is to believe in one God and to do good.
This emphasis on doing good is not based on man’s desire for feeling good by doing good but because that is the right thing to do. His stay on this planet is supposed to be a temporary stay, only a part of the journey of his whole life with a permanent abode in the “life thereafter.” Therefore, in order for God to be just there has to be a system of accountability and reward and punishment.
Islam is a futuristic religion in the sense that Muhammad’s task defined in Quran is to be “a giver of the glad tiding as well as a warner.” In the Quran there are stories of nations who were destroyed because of their mischief on Earth and rebellion and disobedience and there are stories of the life hereafter of people who lived a righteous life. Thus, the past, present and the future become all in one continuum.
Islam, when it re-established itself with the life of Muhammad (pbuh), 1400 years ago changed the future of the people it came on. The nomadic tribes of Arabia were known for their evils in the society when they buried young female infants for the fear of shame, when they fought with each other over small things, when they inherited the mother after the father’s death and made them their own wives, when they kicked the women out of their homes when they did not need them, without a formal divorce, when they molested women and terrorized their neighbors when no crime was too small for them. In that society that we call “jahillaya” or society of ignorance, Islam came as a bright light to show them the way to the future. In a course of a few hundred years, Muslims became the dominant civilization of that time, mastering in science, technology, medicine, literature, education, health care and many other disciplines. It offered to other civilizations from India to Europe, new insights which helped them flourish. It was the educational exchange in Muslim Spain and the Crusades that brought Europe out of the Dark Ages. It was the colonization of Muslim countries for several hundred years later on by the greedy, colonial, oppressive powers which subjugated and destroyed the Muslim civilizations. From this colonial slavery, Muslims are waking up in the last several decades and gradually one by one.
So, what does Islam and the Muslims have to offer for the next millennium? On the surface it appears that they have very little to offer because the Western Civilization appears to be at its peak right now in terms of technology, wealth and political power while the Muslims are living under political and cultural slavery throughout the Muslim world. They are being labeled and defamed as terrorists, hijackers, oppressors of women and fanatics as if none of this is being committed by people of other faiths. Muslims who understand Islam and their role in the future will never succumb to such media crusades against them and their religion and will continue to have good self-esteem.
Education, not the wealth, is the backbone to the future. As Muslims will get more and more educated not only in worldly knowledge but also their own religion, they will be able to influence not only their own lives, but also the lives around them. They will do so because whatever happens to people around them will eventually also affect them. They cannot remain aloof from the ills of the society that they lie in because one way or another, all the ills will affect them as well. Therefore, they must develop and offer plans for dealing with hunger, poverty, homelessness, lack of health care, fighting drugs, perverted sexual lifestyles, teenage pregnancies, as well as desires of so-called superpowers to dominate the world by force. The question comes does the world need them or not. The leaders of western civilization also feel that they are the superior civilization and therefore they are not in need of someone else telling them what to do. If that were the case then we would not have all the problems in the West as well as in the world, which we have now. So, Islam and its moral system based on the oneness of God and rule of God, has definitely something unique to offer for themselves as well as others. We are told in Quran, “Let among you arise a nation which will invite people to goodness and forbid the wrong.” This we can do to others only by first appreciating ourselves. Thus, as Muslims become more and more “Muslim” by imbibitions and not by preaching, they will be able to influence others around them.
They must do so by joining, not isolating themselves, with other believers who share the same values. In this world, at this moment, the struggle is not among the religions as such, but between religion and no religion and between those who are for peace and those who oppose it. With the vast natural resources and man-power that Muslims have to offer and with a pure ideology and moral system, they should be able to create a better society in the next millennium for them selves and the rest of the world. A society based on love, respect, mutual justice and which is free of violence, homelessness, poverty, discrimination, racism, oppression, child abuse, spouse abuse, drug addiction and disbelief.
The last millennium has seen many wars, bloodshed, use of atom bombs, concentration camps, gas chambers, holocaust, ethnic cleansing and genocide. In the last millennium, now only the sword, gun powder and nuclear power were used as weapons but also food, oil, water and even race and religion were used as weapons of war. Let the religions work together now in welcoming the new millennium and turn it into 1000 years of peace, prosperity, mutual love, respect and guidance for all. Let this be a period of healing.
Prophet Muhammad in an authentic tradition has known to have said “after many years of bad times, an era will come when humanity will re-commit itself to God and there will be peace and prosperity in the whole world.”
At this threshold of millennium moment, what gifts can Muslims give to the Earth and to fellow humans, irrespective of their religious affiliation? They can work with others in making this Earth a more peaceful, a more comfortable and enjoyable place to live in they journey through this portion of their lives. They can work toward cleaner air, purer water, re-irrigation and re-planting, planting trees with seeds of love, mutual respect and acceptance. Talks of peace should be followed by peaceful actions such as human rights for all, gender quality, right to earn a living and basic needs, i.e. food, shelter and clothing for all, end of hostility based on religion, race, language and ethnicity, all for the pleasure of one God and joy of all fellow humans.
Let us work together to achieve this goal.