To the extent that they failed to use their pulpit to bully their congregants into living by Islam’s own human rights culture, the `ulama certainly have been remiss. But beyond the confines of the mosque clerical authority was severely curtailed by forces beyond `ulama control. Perhaps the most subversive of these forces came from Europe where earlier, the Enlightenment had trumped Church authority. In time, and as a result of colonization, all traditional societies, including the Islamic, were infected by the European bug, and thus began society’s awkward oscillation between tradition and change. This was particularly onerous on the `ulama as custodians of a tradition which centered itself on revelation rather than human creativity, and whose social values hearkened unto the Medina of the Prophet rather than John Rawls’ overlapping utilitarian future.
The Gift of Historical Consciousness
I have often wondered about the way Muslims use the word “ummah.” In a technical sense, it clearly refers to the entire Community, the unqualified collective of all who espouse, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is His messenger.” And yet, it commonly manages to connote certain parts of the world to the marginalization if not mild exclusion of others. The Middle East, South Asia and South East Asia clearly make it in, while America, Canada and Jamaica are barely brought to mind. Ultimately, of course, numbers play a role here. Where Muslims are a majority or even a ‘significant minority’ (as, e.g., in India or parts of Africa), it is simply easier to see their sufferings, obsessions, preferences and even sensibilities as reflecting the pulse and interests of the “ummah.” Where they are a small, marginal minority, on the other hand, (as, e.g., in America or Canada) this is far less likely to be the case.
Clarifying the Sunnah (Actions, Sayings and Tacit Approval) of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).
This article was prompted by a visit one day by two groups of dedicated, young, practicing Muslims. There had been a heated debate on two issues. One was about whether or not our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had ever spoken or acted from his own desire, or had he always spoke by revelation. The second issue was regarding whether or not Muslims must follow the Prophet (pbuh) in everything: emulate all of his actions and follow all of his orders.
In this short video, Dr. Ali shares some of his insights about the future of Islam and Muslims in America.