A message for American Muslims by Hanif Salat

As-Salaam Alay-Kum

This Great Nation of yours offers you tremendous opportunities not only in terms of economic and financial gains, but in an atmosphere conducive to dawah by setting an example of being Muslims in the true sense of the word. It is my conviction that the noble and dignified behavior as defined in the Qur’an and the Sunnah would command tremendous respect in such an environment. I, therefore, exhort you to take up this challenge and in doing so ensure your success in this world and the hereafter.

I salute this nation, which is rightly obsessed with human rights but unfortunately it is confused on the aspect of human dignity. This nation, although being the most powerful nation in terms of military and economic might, may never be threatened on these counts, but, its undoing, most likely shall be from within. I cannot fail to recall the words of a thinker who said, “I do not think the threat to our civilization is from guided missiles and bombs. I think our civilization will die when the spiritual forces that make us wish to be right and noble die in the hearts of men. Arnold Toynbee has observed that nineteen out of the 21 notable civilizations have died that way. No bands were playing any flags nor were flying when these decayed. It happened slowly in the quiet and in the dark when no one was aware.” It is in this respect that Muslims can and should make exemplary contribution to the betterment of society.

In its fervor for human rights and freedom the West has failed to define the boundaries. In every stage of a human beings life, right from the birth till the grave he is dependent on not only one or two individuals but also a whole lot of people. Therefore he is duty bound, and it is only just and fair that he plays the role, which he had to look upon others at a different time. It is the breakdown of this justice, conscious or otherwise that creates inequities and consequent violence. The Creator has, in his infinite wisdom, created man to test him and therefore bound him by limitations and the disadvantage of being dependent on others. As such his conduct and behavior should necessarily be within distinct parameters. These parameters have been well defined in the Qur’an. It is the duty of every Muslim to know these and put into practice for the Qur’an says, “the Prophet shall be a witness over you and you shall be witness over others” (Al-Qur’an 2:143).

Life as I understand is a test for human beings, because Almighty Allah created mankind in the words of the Qur’an” with a marked preferment over all other creation” (17:50). He has granted man the ability to reason and a choice of action. Essentially this choice is between conducting oneself in the God-oriented way or the unnatural way. It is the license to behave in the unnatural way and the tacit acceptance of society of such behavior is what I believe to be the beginning of the “death of the spiritual forces that make us wish to be right and noble.” Knowledge (ilm) is prerequisite for progress, but to enjoy the fruits of progress a tranquil atmosphere is a precondition. This can only be assured with “Haya“, the spiritual forces that blossom the human being into a noble and dignified entity. Then only will the technological advances prove to be a boon rather than the bane which they are today to mankind.

HAYAIt is truly unfortunate with so much knowledge at their disposal the Western society has not been able to quite appreciate the design of nature. By creating the two sexes God almighty has not created competitors, but beautifully distributed the functions required to perpetuate this world. The two have a common goal and complement each other by this division of labor. It has fashioned the two to suit the different functions assigned to them. But alas this division of labor has not been properly appreciated and even misinterpreted as inequality of rights. As I have already stated that nobody can be independent in the absolute sense. Similarly I need not elaborate on the fact that in all spheres of human endeavor where more than one individual are involved an organization is inevitable.

An organization means that there is a single command, accountability and a system. Minus any one of the three and the net result is anarchy and disaster. In a nutshell authority must exist at every level. Be it the home, the school, society, community ET el. Where there is authority, it goes without saying that there must be responsibility in proportion to the authority. The greater the responsibility, the greater the authority. It is the refusal to accept this natural way of functioning that the west has succeeded in destroying the unit of society – the family. This unnatural attitude in thought has resulted in the woman being reduced to chattel where she is glorified on the basis of physical endowments – an object to satisfy the lust of men. The dignity, which is rightfully hers, of a mother and a daughter and sister and a wife, is unknowingly bartered away. No wonder in spite of so much affluence – both material as well as intellectual – this has become one of the most violent societies where apart from material opulence peace of mind is a distant mirage. Here the Muslim has an opportunity to play a constructive role in expounding the Islamic values in this respect.

AMERICAN BORN MUSLIM

The atmosphere that you live in provides another great opportunity – to reverse the course of intellectual stagnation that has brought the Ummah to the plight that it is in. This state of affairs is the result of thought imitation rather than thinking by our religious leaders. Our scholars, I am pained to say, by and large, gobble up all the pages of books that have been written centuries ago but they do not digest them. They no longer think themselves, they read and repeat, read and repeat and the students, who listen to them learn only to read and repeat generation after generation. Our great progenitors, who truly laid the foundation of modern sciences, would never have dreamed that after so many centuries, their thoughts, instead of being continued and developed, would only be repeated over and over again, as if they were ultimate and infallible truths. Alas, today, the clearness and simplicity of our faith is buried in rubble of sterile speculations and hair-splitting of our scholastics.

Under the circumstances a student of modern education faces a dilemma – a lack of complete compatibility of religion and science. No wonder, as a consequence we are left largely with intelligent turn ways and dim witted fanatics. The Islamic system is entirely nature-oriented system, which even a non-believer cannot fail to acknowledge. This is what Thomas Cleary says in the preface to his “Essential Koran” :

“ … One aspect of Islam that is unexpected and yet appealing to the post-
Christian secular mind is the harmonious interplay of faith and reason.
Islam does not demand unreasoned belief. Rather it invites intelligent
faith, growing from observation, reflection and contemplation, beginning
with nature and what is all around us. Accordingly, antagonism between
religion and science such as that familiar to Westerners is foreign to Islam.”

(The “Essential Koran” by Thomas Cleary, Harper Collins, New York, 1994)

ESSENTIAL KORAN

With resources and exposure to the strides of technological developments it is imperative that you must strive to provide fresh initiative to the intellectual development of the Ummah. Therein lies the secret of our success. Therein is a great opportunity for you to contribute to a historic necessity. It is Islam that made the Muslims great and it is to the true Islamic spirit that we must revert to, to redeem our place of dignity in this world and success in the hereafter. May Allah, the most Merciful guide us on the path of  Siratul Mustaqim. Aameen!

Hanif Salat

September 13, 1997

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