World Community of Muslims: Shackled People Enslaved by the Koran
In the first week of January this year (2006 A.D.), the American Federation of Muslims of Indian-origin (AFMI) and the Talent Promotion Trust, a Bangalore based NGO, have jointly held a panel discussion on “Emerging India and Development of Muslims” in Bangalore. Mr. Farooque Shaikh, a renowned film star, while addressing the gathering of Muslims intellectuals on 7 th January, said, “Muslims need to introspect as to why their situation has hit the present nadir and should give up blaming others for their dismal educational standard”. He also said that after analyzing the Muslim community he has come to the conclusion that … …religious discrimination, gender bias and other issues are plaguing them”. While commenting on the economic backwardness of the community, he said, “People in the South are lucky that their social and economic conditions are somewhat better than Muslims in the North. Take a trip to the remote regions in the North and the living conditions of the Muslims there are appalling”. “The ritualistic zakat doled out by the rich towards the poor is not enough to elevate the pathetic living standards of the Muslims”, Mr. Shaikh added (Islamic Voice: February, 2006).
While speaking to the occasion on the new role the Muslims of this country have to play in the new emerging India, Mr. Sadaqath Peeran, chairman of the Al-Ameen Education Society, said, “If Muslims had to be equal partners in emerging India, they had to break the shackle of poverty and illiteracy. English should br introduced in all Urdu schools, if we want to be equipped to face the challenges of this competitive world” . Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Maqbool Ahmed Siraj, secretary of the Talent Promotion Trust, said, “The Muslim situation is very bleak all over the world. There is no encouragement and incentive for innovation and creativity in the Muslim world”. Mr. Siraj lamented over the low level of economic activity of the Muslim world and said, “The entire gross domestic product of the Muslim world is just half of what France produces every year”. (Islamic Voice, Feb 2006).
Nearly 8 years ago, in January 1998, Mr. Wasim Sajjad, President of the Islamabad based Ministerial Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (CONSTECH), while addressing a press conference, said that the countries belonging to the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), considering their share of world population, should have 4 million scientists and engineers, but in reality they had only 200,000, merely 5 per cent of the expected figure. He also pointed out that Muslims account for 1.3 billion or nearly 32 per cent of the world population, but scientific research papers they publish is negligible, below one per cent of world’s total. And at the same time, they have little contribution in the high tech-areas like computer software and information technology. Mr. Sajjad, while lamenting over the dearth of creativity and poor performance of the Muslims in modern science and technology, complained that, considering the share of world population, Islamic countries should spend $ 4.7 million a year for higher education and research, but in reality they were spending as low as $ 130,000 per Year.
The severe dearth of creativity in the Muslim world has been revealed in another study. In India and elsewhere in the world, Muslims are, as a community, most back-ward and top the list in adult illiteracy, infant mortality and poverty. Mr. Hisamul Islam Siddiqi, the president of the Indian Islamic Council, a Delhi based NGO. In February, 2000, while he was addressing a seminar on ‘Islamic Heritage: Indian Dimension’ in Delhi , said that nearly 36 per cent of Indian Muslims were urban and almost all of them were slum-dwellers, living below the poverty line. The Rahat Welfare Trust is a Mumbai based NGO and to describe the widespread darkness of ignorance and illiteracy among the Muslims, says, “This darkness makes a mockery of our freedom. … It is only the light of education that can banish this darkness created by ignorance”. Islamic Voice is a Bangalore-based monthly. Its editor Mr. Sadatulla Khan, while lamenting over the lack of creativity and intellectual stagnation in the Muslim community, in his editorial ‘Intellectual Stagnation and Its Remedy’, writes, “Both individually and collectively, Muslims are victims of intellectual stagnation for the past several centuries and are painfully lagging behind in the race of civilization.”
The picture is not different in the Arab world too, where people, though not so poor but backward in every walk of life. This Arab world literally means 22 Islamic countries those are members of the Arab League. Most of these countries are richly endowed with natural resources like natural oil and gas and hence people are not faced neither with endemic poverty nor with ethnic conflicts. Moreover, they shook off their foreign bondage, colonial or neo-colonial legacy, quite a long ago. So the question naturally arises- What went wrong? What made them so stuck behind time?
To find plausible replies to these questions, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in 2001, appointed an inquiry committee consisting of Arab intellectuals and scholars. The committee carried out investigations for a year and submitted its report, called the “Arab Human Development Report 2002” in the first week of July, 2002. Mr. Nader Fergani, the Egyptian scholar and chief author of the report, and his associates took much pain to analyze Arab world’s strength as well as its failings.
To estimate the performance of a country, the UN, for the past 10 or so years, is using an index called ‘Human Development Index’ (HDI), that includes life expectancy at birth, adult literacy rate, school enrolment as well as income per head. Another index called ‘Alternative Human Development Index’ (AHDI) is also used that drops income per head from HDI, but includes additional aspects like freedom of speech and similar fundamental rights enjoyed by the people, use of Internet, emissions of carbon dioxide and so on. The Arab countries are seen to score, on the basis of both the indices, lower than almost all other countries in the world.
On the dark side, investigators have identified three major shortcomings. One in five Arabs lives on less than $2 a day, and in past 20 years, their per capita income increased at the poor rate of 0.5 per cent, which is lower than anywhere in the world except the sub-Saharan Islamic countries. At this rate, the report laments, it would take an average Arab 140 years to double his income, while many countries set such a target to be achieved within less than a decade.
Lack of freedom, says the report, is the root cause of many evils in the Arab world, such as extremely autocratic governments, holding of bogus elections, confusion between executive and judiciary and constraints on the media and civil society. “This lack of personal freedom leads to patriarchal, intolerant, and in many cases, suffocating social environments”, the report asserts. The great wave of democratization that has opened up so much of the world over past two decades seems to have left the Arab world untouched. “Sometimes democracy is offered as a concession, not as a right. Transfer of power through ballot box is not a common phenomenon in the Arab world”, says the report. Freedom of expression and freedom of association are extremely limited and no Arab country has a genuinely free media. “Civil societies in the Arab world are shackled and the NGOs are hobbled by legal and administrative obstacles” , the report continues.
Although Arabs spend a greater share of their GDP for education than in most other developing regions, the money does not seem to be well spent. Quality of education is pitiably low and there is a severe mismatch between the labour market and the education system. Nearly 10 million children have no schooling at all and “for this poor education system, Arabs are falling further behind in scientific as well as in technological studies and research”, the report says. “Investment in research and development is less than one-seventh of the world average. Only 0.6 per cent Arabs uses the Internet and 1.2 per cent have personal computers. All these add to the severe dearth of creativity”, says the report.
One thing that every outsider knows about the Arab world is that it does not treat its womenfolk as full citizens and this suppression of women is another vital reason that makes the Arab world backward. The report rightly considers it as a awful wastage. “How can a community prosper if it stifles half of its production potential”, the report asks. Though women’s has trebled in past 30 years, more than 50 per cent of Arab women still cannot read and write. Their participation in social, economic and political fields is negligible in comparison to women of other parts of the world.
In the present context, it would be relevant to say a few words about the affairs in our country. In a message to the special edition Naree Sakti of the ‘Seva Surabhi 2002’, published from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, our Honourable former President Dr. Avul Pakir Jainalabedeen Abdul Kalam wrote, “As we all know, birds have two wings. Unless both the wings grow equally, the bird cannot fly. Similarly, the society has two wings- man and woman. Both have to be developed equally. Then the society will fly”. It is important to note here that when in mid-2003, a verdict of the Supreme Court upheld the necessity of enforcing ‘common civil code’, which could liberate Muslim women of this country from shameful gender discrimination like polygamy and oral divorce, our President indirectly supported the fanatic mullahs by keeping silence.
Mr. Clovis Maksoud, an Egyptian scholar involved in preparing the report, blamed no historical event like Western imperialism, devastation caused by the Second World War or any other outside intervention for the present backwardness of the Arab world, and the Islamic world at large. He indirectly raised his finger to the creed of Islam itself for the said backwardness of the Arab world. “The most delicate issue of all, again carefully skirted by the authors of the report, is the part Islam plays in delaying and impeding the Arab world’s advance towards every receding renaissance that its intellectuals crave”, says a British commentator. Though an article of the report praises Islam and says that the faith supports justice, peace, tolerance, equilibrium and all good things, most of the experts on Middle East and Arab world are convinced that pervasive Islamisation of the society has played havoc and is entirely responsible for stifling constructive Arab thought and progress.
“From the schooldays onwards, Arabs are instructed that they should not defy tradition (laid down by Allah through Koran and Hadith) that they should respect the authority (of Allah) and truth should be sought in the text (i.e. Koran and Hadith) and not in experience”, says the British commentator. “The role of thought (among Muslims) is to explain and transmit (what has been ordained by Allah in Koran and Hadith) and not to search or question (those religious dogmas)”, says a Syrian intellectual.
There is no doubt that such tenets are holding sway and impeding creative thought, innovation and progress in the Muslim world. Even an educated Muslim has to believe in Prophet Muhammad’s journey to heaven (meraj) and his splitting of the moon into two halves. Each and every Muslim, whether educated or not, has to believe in the Koranic version of creation that says that Allah has created this world from nothingness within six days, the human race began its journey from a single pair of man and woman, namely Adam (derived from Sanskrit adim) and Hawa and Prophet Muhammad was the 90th descendant of Adam, which leads to the conclusion that Allah created this world only 4,135 years ago ( considering 30 years to be the gap between two successive generations).
At the same time, they are not permitted to make a rational estimate of Prophet Muhammad, and his life and deeds. They are permitted to praise him for everything he did, without passing any critical remark. He should always be projected as an apostle of peace by concealing his terribly cruel deeds like massacring the Jews of Kuraiza and Nazir clan and indiscriminate killings of Arab infidels organizing 82 raids and military campaigns during his ten years’ stay at Medina . Every Muslims has to discover divinity in his marrying 12 (or more) wives in his declining years, including his marrying Ayesha at the age of 52, when Ayesha was child of 6, and his marrying Zainab, the wife of his adopted son Zeid. What a terrible insult to one’s intellect! What a colossal intellectual slavery!
All the above mentioned comments and opinions of the scholars who prepared the ‘Arab Human Report 2002’ leads one to conclude that, as a community, Muslims around the world are deprived of their right to free thinking and are intellectually enslaved by the creed of Islam. Or, more pointedly, they are a community of shackled people enslaved by the Koran. Can a community of slaves ever prosper? Only time can tell who liberates them from this slavery and how?
It would be relevant to conclude with quotation from an eminent scholar of Islam. Sir William Muir. In his celebrated work The Life of Mahomet, he writes, “The sword of Mohammad, and the Kor’an, are the most stubborn enemies of Civilization, Liberty and Truth which the world has yet known”.