21st Century: an era of Islamic renaissance by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

Around 225 B.C. a military commander from North Africa in alliance with King Syphax, current day Algeria, crossed the Mediterranean Sea to enter Iberia (current day Spain). His quest was to end the dominance of Roman Empire by crossing the Western Europe for a surprise attack. The name of that person was Hannibal. It was first time a serious threat would emerge from Northern Africa to almost wipeout Roman Empire. Hannibal was ultimately defeated and the Empire was saved. For almost 800 years no one could challenge their supremacy. Rome eventually converted to Christianity during the time of Constantine the great (306-337 C.E).

Around 614 C.E. Persian Emperor Kosros II (Khusro) handed a crushing defeat to Romans to gain control of North Africa but they did not cross the Mediterranean to attack the mainland. This event was recorded in Verse 2 of Sura Ar-Room (Sura 30). The verse also suggests that Rome will be eventually victorious which is what precisely happened within a decade. That was the last time Rome will have a primacy as in a span of 100 years Muslims controlled all of North Africa, Arabian Peninsula. Muslims crossed the Mediterranean from current day Morocco to conquer Spain and lay foundation of Andalusia. It was the second time in recorded history that military conquest will originate from North Africa to enter current day Europe. Muslims conquest of Europe continued as Ottomon’s gained control of much of Eastern Europe and unsuccessfully attacked Vienna twice.

Ottoman reign of North Africa, Middle East and parts of Eastern Europe continued until First World War. At the end of WWI allied powers Britain and France carved out the Middle East, to divide the realm among themselves, terms of which were recorded in Sykes-Picot Agreement. Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and Bahrain were all product of this European enterprise. This arrangement continued for around 100 years until 911 when a new initiative was launched to redesign Middle East yet again. This time the plan includes carving out a Kurdistan consisting of portions of Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Demographically Jordan is a Palestinian country. Her conversion into a Palestinian republic could solve the problem of finding a homeland for them and accommodation of Israel as a Jewish state. Elimination of monarchies in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait is a social project in the making as well. This redesign plan seems to also include Balkanization of Pakistan (check my earlier article Af-Pak Taliban on this subject). It is interesting that West consider Pakistan as part of Middle East rather than South Asia where it geographically belongs.

This is not the first time West would try to remake Middle East and Africa into smaller countries to be able to control their resources and populations. But this time there are some other dynamics that are working against them. First and foremost is the immigration crisis. We recently saw capsizing of two boats near the shores of Italy in which almost 400 people lost their lives. This onslaught of waves of refugees from mostly impoverished Muslim countries of Africa will continue unabated. This has the potential to change the demographic landscape of Europe in favor of Muslims. Excluding new immigrants the Muslims populations of Germany (7%), France (10%) and Great Britain (5%) have been rising because of higher birth rates and conversions. These European Muslims maintain their unique cultural identity rather than assimilate fully in the larger host communities. This dynamic coupled with infusion of new migrants is empowering their political influence in Europe. It is for this reason that most EU members are against initiating the membership process for Turkey. Inclusion of Turkey could decidedly change the power balance in favor of Muslims.

The other dynamic is conversion of poor segments of Western society to Islam. In USA there are high rate of conversions from among African-American and Spanish communities. These converts are now aspiring to change the social make up of Muslim majority countries. In my conversation with them they feel that combining their social organization with evolution of political thought is a win-win situation. Most of these converts feel that movement of Islamic renaissance will emerge from South Asia especially Pakistan. This is a little surprising as Pakistan is gripped by forces of extremism, intolerance and sectarianism. But on the other hand war and extreme violence are catalysts that give rise to new thought. Just like dirt allows new plants to sprout to become fully grown trees with its own unique reality.

Western liberal democracy has failed to deliver its promise as it has pushed the concept of individualism to the extreme left. The natural consequence of this has been the undermining of family as a basic building block of a society. This individualism came under duress when West was hit by an economic crisis. The break down of social order in Greece, Ireland and Ice Land was just a tip of the iceberg of what could happen if larger countries like USA, UK, Italy, Germany or France have to deal with hunger and poverty. It is evident that absence of a family bond exacerbates the crisis. The basic social unit of a Muslim community is family which has more depth to withstand traumas of life whether it’s financial or physical.

At the moment Islamic communities are dealing with its own extreme right where definition of a Muslim is narrow and suffocating. This extreme right distorts the concept of a citizen especially in dealing with non-Muslims or minority sect. But luckily this extreme right is only a small fraction that was used by the West in its propaganda campaign to malign Islam as a universal faith. This Western media machine is now successfully countered by moderate Muslims who are waking up to their potential and defining the agenda of the debate. These moderates are now engaged in an extensive intellectual discourse to define the social, political and economic values promoted by Quran and exemplified in the life of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

Arab Spring was bound to fail as it was not preceded by an ideological revival and was supported by Western desire to remake Middle East for its own vested interest. If the outcome of this Western plan is liberation of people from the yoke of monarchies and dictatorships than it is not a bad bargain at all. This could allow emergence of a Muslim Spring led by new ideas in political and social organization. There are substantial number of Muslim scientists and researchers working in the West. These scholars can reignite innovation to reduce the technological superiority of the West and allow building of stronger economies that are important glue in nation building.

For the renaissance of Islam it is important to resolve the political differences between Shia and Sunni sects. Interestingly there is no doctrinal difference between these two sects. Iran as center of Shai community has to work in partnership with Sunni majority Pakistan and Turkey to resolve this political difference that is dividing the Muslim Ummah.

The intense debate going on in the Muslim world is a precursor to the social, economic, political, scientific and cultural renaissance. Muslim Ummah has been in waiting for this moment for almost 1000 years. The wait is finally over and bright star of Islam as a rational universal religion is going to shine again to lead the world to a new era of peace and prosperity.

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