Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Confederate statue on N.C. campus toppled

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — A Confederate statue in the heart of North Carolina’s flagship university was toppled Monday night during a rally by hundreds of protesters who decried the memorial known as ‘‘Silent Sam’’ as a symbol of racist heritage.
The statue erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1913 had been under constant police surveillance, costing the university hundreds of thousands of dollars, since it was vandalized last year. Protesters appeared to outwit officers by swiftly surrounding it with banners on bamboo poles before yanking it down.
The crowd had gathered across the street from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill plaza for a series of speakers at 7 p.m. before heading over to the quadrangle. Then, about two hours into the protest, a group pulled it down, according to television footage. Once it was on the ground, demonstrators kicked it and cheered.
The crowd had gathered across the street from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill plaza for a series of speakers at 7 p.m. before heading over to the quadrangle. Then, about two hours into the protest, a group pulled it down, according to television footage. Once it was on the ground, demonstrators kicked it and cheered.
Afterward, a small crowd remained around the empty pedestal, chanting ‘‘Tar Heels!’’ and ‘‘Whose Campus? Our Campus!’’ as passing cars honked in approval.
Many students, faculty and alumni have called the statue a racist image and asked officials to take it down. Others argued that it should remain as a tribute to fallen ancestors. Protesters responded to the assertion that the statue wasn’t a symbol of white power by reading its 1913 dedication speech, by tobacco magnate Julian Carr, celebrating the Ku Klux Klan’s post-war campaign to terrorize former slaves.
UNC leaders including Chancellor Carol Folt had previously said state law prevented the school from removing it. Once it was down, a dozen officers surrounded the fallen statue, which was eventually covered with a tarp.
The site of the empty pedestal ‘‘is pretty breathtaking,’’ said Ricardo, who’s African American. ‘‘I think most people here are happy. I'm ecstatic.’’
Junior Ian Goodson said he came out after he heard the statue fell because he wanted to see history.

Ice found on Moon surface in Nasa discovery

Frozen water has been discovered for the first time hiding in shadowy craters on the surface of the Moon.

Scientists found ice in the lunar north and south poles, which they say could one day provide human visitors with a source of water that would allow for longer stays on the astronomical body.
Most of the ice was found in craters that never reach temperatures higher than -250F (-157C) because sunlight cannot reach them.
The discovery was made using data from Nasa’s Moon mineralogy mapper instrument, which was on board the Indian Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft in 2008.

Previous research has revealed possible signs of surface ice in the Moon’s south pole, but scientists think those measurements could have been the result of unusually reflective soil.

“We found direct and definitive evidence for surface-exposed water ice in the lunar polar regions,” wrote the researchers in their new paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The abundance and distribution of ice on the Moon are distinct from those on other airless bodies in the inner solar system such as Mercury and Ceres, which may be associated with the unique formation and evolution process of our Moon”.
“These ice deposits might be utilised as an in situ resource in future exploration of the Moon.”

The research team, led by Dr Shuai Li from the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, used a sophisticated method called near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy to make their discovery.

This allowed them to measure light scattering through a material and confirm the presence of ice in a way that has never previously been possible.

If there is enough ice on the Moon’s surface, the scientists suggested it would be possible for future expeditions to harvest this precious resource and possibly stay there for long periods.
This would likely be easier to access than the water that has previously been detected buried beneath the lunar surface.

Understanding the distribution of ice and how it got there has been identified by Nasa as a key step in their long-term ambitions to return and explore our planet’s closest neighbour.
The Chinese and European space agencies have also proposed future Moon missions, including the potential construction of a moonbase.
Johann-Dietrich Wörner, the director general of European Space Agency, even described the idea of a “Moon Village”, which could serve as a launching pad for future missions to Mars.

Robert Fisk on Uri Avnery

It was somehow fitting that first news of Uri Avnery’s plight should reach me from one of Israel’s staunchest enemies, the Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. One legend sending sad news of another, you see, a socialist preparing to mourn a fellow socialist, sending his sympathy for the 94-year-old Israeli political philosopher. That same philosopher was once a German Jewish schoolboy, originally called Helmut Ostermann, who refused to give the Hitler salute at school, but who was, when I received Jumblatt’s message – still, just – “an indispensable mind to understand the history of fascism, a major destructive element of the 20th century”. Jumblatt’s words. Avnery, he added, also understood “the history of Zionism, another despicable apartheid theory that is an offshoot of fascism”.

Uri Avnery suffered a massive heart attack at the weekend and died on Monday morning, but he was himself a Zionist, or at least a believer in a left-wing, courageous but humble “light among the nations” Israel; the kind many of us, in our heart of hearts, would like to believe in. He was the sort of Israeli that we bleeding heart liberals go and see when we arrive in Israel because they say what we want to hear.
“Tell Jumblatt that he must break up his sentences into paragraphs,” Avnery told me when I left his Tel Aviv apartment six years ago. “He says everything in one long text and I can hardly breathe.” Lesson duly passed on to Jumblatt from a man who often wrote single sentence paragraphs, an annoying habit of tabloid journalism which does occasionally get a message across rather well.
I must admit that Uri Avnery was one of my Middle East heroes – there aren’t many – and his story is worthy of a movie, though there will be no Spielbergs to direct it: writer, journalist, leftist, veteran of the Israeli army in the country’s War of Independence – and, as he never forgot, the same war which drove 750,000 Palestinians from their home and lands. He played chess with Arafat during the 1982 siege of Beirut – be sure, this will be in the first two paragraphs of the obituaries today – and his angry but gently cynical newsletters would arrive on Friday afternoons, condemning Netanyahu for his hypocrisy and racism, Sharon for his hatred of Palestinians, missives from a book-crammed home in Tel Aviv, close to the sea but in a modest, quiet street where Avnery could ruminate and roar.
He was a wee bit deaf when I met him again – and for the last time – six years ago, but he spoke so quickly, and in perfect sentences, that my pen skidded over the pages of my notebook until it ran out of ink and I had to steal his own biro. I still have the book, and the ink changes from my black to his pale blue at a point when he is talking at high speed about Hamas, with whom he often met, furious that Gaza had turned into a storyline about rocket attacks and retaliation.
“Whenever either of the two sides want to start shooting again, they will,” he said. The ink had just changed its colour on the page. “In Gush Shalom [which Avnery founded], we put out a sticker five years ago, which said: ‘Talk to Hamas’.”
This is not an obituary of Uri Avnery, even though the institution has the great journalistic merit of a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. Because Avnery’s warnings and prescience were so contemporary – so absolutely on-the-ball for today’s news from the Middle East – that they can be repeated now, today, as if the great old leftist warrior is still alive. And there he is in my six-year old notebook, very much alive, still demanding peace with the Palestinians, peace with Hamas, and generosity and a Palestinian state on the old 1967 borders – give or take a few square miles – and he believes Israel could have peace tomorrow, next week. If Netanyahu wanted it. “The misfortune of being an incorrigible optimist,” is how he described his predicament to me. Or perhaps an illusionist?
His family fled Nazi Germany for Palestine and I went to see him again – he who had played chess with Arafat – after the 1982 massacre of up to 1,700 Palestinians in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Beirut, a war crime committed by Israel’s Christian Phalangist allies while Israeli soldiers watched but did not intervene. I had walked across the bodies in the camp. How could the survivors of the Jewish Holocaust and their children let this happen to the Palestinians, I asked Avnery? Avnery was only 63 years old at the time. His reply is worth printing, in full:
“I will tell you something about the Holocaust. It would be nice to believe that people who have undergone suffering have been purified by suffering. But it’s the opposite, it makes them worse. It corrupts. There is something in suffering that creates a kind of egoism. Herzog [the Israeli president at the time] was speaking at the site of the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen but he spoke only about the Jews. How could he not mention that others – many others – had suffered there? Sick people, when they are in pain, cannot speak about anyone but themselves. And when such monstrous things have happened to your people, you feel nothing can be compared to it. You get a moral ‘power of attorney’, a permit to do anything you want – because nothing can compare to what has happened to us. This is a moral immunity which is very clearly felt in Israel. Everyone is convinced that the IDF is more humane than any other army. ‘Purity of arms’ was the slogan of the Haganah army in ’48. But it never was true at all.”
And Avnery was a member of that army, badly wounded in the 1948 war; he even became a member of the Knesset, but was threatened by the Israeli cabinet after he met Yasser Arafat in Beirut. He should be tried for treason, Israeli ministers said. I think Avnery was rather proud of that. His curmudgeonly, irritating, courageous personality could embrace the occasional political martyrdom, something which modern socialists are almost all too frightened to contemplate.

Netanyahu – six years ago when I last saw Avnery and until the days before his death – enraged the old Israeli soldier of 1948. What was the Gaza war meant to achieve, I asked him in 2012 – for there always has “just been” a Gaza war in recent Israeli history, and the latest, in November of that year, had killed 107 civilians in Gaza and four civilians on the Israeli side of the line. And what was Netanyahu and his government – then and, I suppose, today – doing, I asked him?

Avnery’s eyes sparkled and he spat out his reply. “You are presuming you know what they [Netanyahu’s government] want and you presume they want peace – and therefore that their policy is stupid or insane. But if you assume they don’t give a damn for peace but want a Jewish state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, then what they are doing makes sense up to a point. The trouble is that what they do want is leading into a cul de sac… If they annex the West Bank as they have annexed east Jerusalem, it doesn’t make much of a difference. The trouble is that in this territory which is now dominated by Israel, there are about 49 per cent Jews and 51 per cent Arabs – and this balance will become larger every year because the natural increase on the Arab side is far greater than the natural increase on our side. So the real question is: if this policy goes on, what kind of state will it be? As it is today, it is an apartheid state, a full apartheid in the occupied territories and a growing apartheid in Israel – and if this goes on, it will be full apartheid throughout the country, incontestably.”

The Avnery argument went bleakly on. If the Arab inhabitants are granted civil rights, there will be an Arab majority in the Knesset and the first thing they will do is change the name “Israel” and name the state “Palestine”, “and the whole [Zionist] exercise of the past 130 years has come to naught”. Mass ethnic cleansing would be impossible in the 21st century, Avnery assured me. I wonder.

He often pondered the demise of the Israeli “Left” – they were “hibernating”, he said after Ehud Barack, the (Israeli) Labour leader, had come back from the Camp David talks in 2000 as self-proclaimed leader of the “peace camp”, “and told us we have no partner for peace”. This was a death blow. It was not Netanyahu who said this, but the leader of the Labour Party. This was the end of “Peace Now”.
Perhaps his next words should be written on Avnery’s grave. “When I met Arafat in 1982” – he was to meet him again many times – “the terms were all there. The Palestinian minimum and maximum terms are the same: a Palestinian state next to Israel, comprising the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem as a capital, small exchanges of land and a symbolic solution to the refugee problem. But this lies on the table like a wilted flower…”
Avnery remained convinced that Hamas would accept the same. He lectured to them in Gaza in 1993, “standing there, facing 500 black-bearded sheikhs, speaking to them in Hebrew – I was applauded and invited to lunch”. For them, Avnery, explained, Palestine is a “waqf” and cannot be handed over, but a truce can be sanctified by God. “If they offered a truce for 50 years, that is personally enough for me.” Sure, he said, the Hamas manifesto wants to destroy Israel. “But abolishing a manifesto is a very difficult thing to do – did the Russians ever abandon the communist manifesto? The PLO did theirs.”
Back then, in 2012, I ended my report on the 89-year old Avnery with the observation that “there are more than a few liberals in Israel who hope that Uri Avnery lives for another 89 years”. Now there are even fewer liberals left, and Avnery lived for less than another six years. There was to have been a 95th birthday party for him in Tel Aviv next month. If they still hold it, however, Avnery’s friends – and enemies – should proclaim that Avnery is dead. But then add: And long live Avnery.

Uri Avnery is Dead at 94

Reprinted from Haaretz
Veteran left-wing journalist, lawmaker and peace activist Uri Avnery died Monday at age 94 in Tel Aviv. A founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement, Avnery was also one of the first Israelis to actively advocate for the establishment of a Palestinian state, more than 70 years ago.
As a youth he fought with the Irgun pre-state underground militia and later in life moved to the left of the political spectrum. He was also editor-in-chief of the iconic liberal weekly, Haolam Hazeh, for 40 years.
The eternal peace activist never shirked controversy and was involved in fateful events in the country’s history, some of which he documented and others he actively took part in shaping. But while Avnery’s supporters saw his ideas as groundbreaking, detractors denounced him as an enemy of the people.

Avnery asked to be cremated, for his archives to be donated to the National Library, and his money toward peace activism. He summarized his life by noting that while his ideals “won a resounding victory” theoretically, in practice they “were defeated politically.”
Avnery was born in Germany in 1923 as Helmut Ostermann. He grew up in Hannover as one of four offspring of a comfortable, bourgeois family. The family immigrated to British Mandatory Palestine in November 1933, a few months after Hitler rose to power. After a few months at Nahalal in the north, the family moved to Tel Aviv, where he lived until his death.
Avnery started his political career on the right side of the political map. He said that as a youth he admired Zeev Jabotinsky and saw himself as a Revisionist. In 1938, when he was 15, he joined the Irgun to fight the British forces “for the right to our own state,” as he put it. “I was convinced that we deserved independence, just like everyone else,” he recalled.
In an interview with Haaretz in April 2014, Avnery said of his activities with the Irgun: “I distributed leaflets [during a period when the Irgun killed many people], and as such I bear responsibility. The Irgun planted bombs in markets in Jaffa and in Haifa, which killed dozens of women and children, and I supported that.”
Vocation in life
In his Hebrew-language memoir “Optimi” (“Optimistic”), Avnery wrote that his service with the Irgun taught him political lessons for later on his career: “We were freedom fighters,” he wrote. “In my eyes, the British authorities were a terrorist organization. Back then, I learned that the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist depends on your perspective.”
Three years later, he dropped out of the underground militia. “The Irgun’s war against the Arabs bothered me a great deal. I was very much opposed to their anti-Arab line,” he said. He later explained he believed that, just as the Jews had the right to a national life, “The Arabs in the country have the same right.”
His older brother, Werner, joined the British army at that time and committed suicide during his service. Afterward, Uri adopted the name “Avnery” as his surname for its resemblance to the name “Werner.”
From a young age, Avnery saw himself as a politician. As someone whose life had changed completely as a result of politics – Hitler’s rise to power in his homeland – he saw it as the most significant vocation in life.
Initially, Avnery favored the idea of a single state, one in which a new people would arise as a union of two peoples – the Arabs and the Hebrews. The idea was espoused by the movement he established in 1946 which was called Bama’avak (“The Struggle,” aka The Young Israel).
He believed at that time that the national Hebrew movement was a natural ally of the Arab nation, and advocated cooperation between both movements under a joint name. “This is an ideal built on a culture partnership of homeland and history,” he said.
Accordingly, Avnery was disappointed on November 29, 1947, when the United Nations ratified the UN Partition Plan. “I couldn’t accept the partition of the country. Tul Karm, Hebron and Nablus were my country,” he said, adding, “The joy over carving up the country into pieces angered me a great deal. I dreamed of a joint national movement based on a common love of the land.”
This ideal didn’t withstand the test of reality. During the War of Independence in 1948-49, he discovered that “the vision of joint life in the country had died.” He later said: “I was a peace activist before the war, but the war was existential – a matter of life and death.”
Avnery served in the “Samson Foxes” commando unit. He was seriously wounded during the final days of the war, while fighting in the Kiryat Gat region. The worldview he adhered to until his dying day was formed during the period in which he was hospitalized for his wounds. One of those beliefs was the two-state solution.
In his memoir he wrote: “The war totally convinced me there’s a Palestinian people, and that peace must be forged first and foremost with them. To achieve that goal, a Palestinian nation-state had to be established.”
In this sense, Avnery was a groundbreaker. “During that period, there weren’t even 10 people in the world who believed in that,” he declared. “But today, it’s a global consensus. Even Netanyahu – who doesn’t think of realizing it – has been forced to say he supports it,” he wrote, referring to the prime minister’s “two-state speech” at Bar-Ilan University in 2009.
Avnery published his impressions of the war in Haaretz and Haaretz’s evening paper, Yom, Yom, while the fighting raged. At the end of the war, he compiled them in his first book, “In the Fields of the Philistines, 1948,” which became a best seller and briefly made Avnery a national hero.
But he felt the book did not provide a full description of the war, so in 1950 he published a follow-up, “The Other Side of the Coin,” which described the war’s darker side. Its publication stirred outrage and turned Avnery from “a popular man to top of the list of hated people; from a beloved person to someone who smeared Israel’s name,” as he put it.
In 1949, at the young age of 25, Avnery was appointed chief editorial writer at Haaretz. He left soon after, though, citing political differences with the newspaper’s then-editor, Gershom Shoken.
In 1950, Avnery and his friends purchased the Haolam Hazeh weekly news magazine from its founder, Uri Cesari. Avnery became its editor-in-chief for the next 40 years, and under his stewardship Haolam Hazeh became antiestablishment, subversive, sensationalist and a consensus-breaker. It operated under the legendary slogan “Without Fear, Without Prejudice.”
Avnery expressed his worldview in a number of areas: Opposition to worship of the military; religious coercion; the absence of a democratic constitution; discrimination against ethnic groups; and David Ben-Gurion’s anti-Arab policy.
The weekly sought to crusade against establishment corruption. It published a list of hard-hitting investigative pieces and exposed public and political scandals. Then-Shin Bet security service head Isser Harel defined Avnery at the time as “Government Enemy No. 1.” Ben-Gurion dubbed the magazine “that certain weekly.”
Alongside its political and social agenda, Haolam Hazeh also dabbled in tabloid journalism, publishing trashy gossip stories and photographs of naked women. This combination was seen by many as a journalistic revolution, in terms of both writing style and the magazine’s approach. The weekly also proved controversial, with its editorial offices being bombed on several occasions and its archive completely destroyed following an arson attack in 1972.
Avnery received belated recognition for his journalistic endeavors in 2004 when he won the Sokolov lifetime achievement award.
Political movement
In addition to journalism, Avnery increasingly became more political. In 1965, after the Knesset passed a law against defamation – which Avnery saw as specifically targeting his news magazine – he established a radical protest movement called Haolam Hazeh – Koah Hadash (New Force).
The movement’s political platform incorporated the values of liberty, equality and peace. Avnery was elected to the Knesset on this platform in November 1969 and was reelected four years later. His parliamentary activities included tackling religious coercion, promoting civil marriage, denuclearizing the Middle East and gay rights.
In his eyes, his biggest political mistake was voting in favor of the unification of Jerusalem after the Six-Day War in 1967. He subsequently explained his vote as an attempt to prevent the restoration of East Jerusalem to Jordanian rule, based on the hope of realizing a two-state solution and turning a united Jerusalem into the capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state.
Avnery later returned to the Knesset in 1979 as a founding member of the Sheli party (aka Left Camp of Israel). In a speech that year in favor of ratifying the peace treaty with Egypt, he said: “They say we will have a small country, but there is no greater mistake than this. Peace doesn’t reduce the size of the country. It enlarges it exponentially. In another year, we’ll get in our cars and drive on the weekends to Cairo and Alexandria. Two days later, we’ll take the train to Damascus and Aleppo, we’ll fly to Algiers and Baghdad, we’ll sail to Casablanca and Sudan. When you wake up in the morning to the sight of the pyramids outside your hotel window, as happened to me, it will be like a dream. Is this a utopia? That word doesn’t frighten us.”
In his valedictory Knesset speech in 1981 (as he relinquished his seat to an Arab lawmaker), Avnery was the first lawmaker to present the Palestinian flag alongside the Israeli one. “Those who couldn’t believe yesterday that Sadat would ever speak here will not be able to believe that someday Yasser Arafat will speak here,” he said.
Avnery was one of the first Israelis to have contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization. He had his first contacts with an Arafat envoy in 1974, which led to his founding the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace in December 1975.
In July 1982, at the height of the first Lebanon war, Avnery met with PLO chief Arafat in Beirut – the first time Israelis had met with the Palestinian leader. Avnery said at that meeting: “The fact that we are sitting here together in the middle of this terrible war is a sign that in the future our two peoples will find a solution to coexist. Palestinians and Israelis. I believe there will be a Palestinian state alongside Israel and both sides will live together in peace in two countries that, little by little, will develop good neighborly relations, and even better.”
Several cabinet members called for Avnery to be put on trial for high treason, but the attorney general decided no crime had been committed. Avnery and Arafat met a dozen more times in the years that followed.
Human shield
In 1993, months after then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin expelled hundreds of Islamic activists to Lebanon, Avnery established Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) – a movement that supported the establishment of a Palestinian state, making Jerusalem the capital of both countries and dismantling the settlements in Palestinian territory.
A year later, when Arafat returned to Gaza, he invited Avnery to his reception and sat alongside him on the podium. In 2003, during the second intifada, Avnery spent time at the presidential compound in Ramallah, operating as a “human shield” for Arafat – for fear Israel might attempt to assassinate him.
Avnery had many critics who opposed his politics and ideology. Extremists labeled him a traitor and slanderer of Israel. While editor of Haolam Hazeh, he was subjected to physical attacks and once had both his arms broken after being ambushed. In 1975, he was seriously wounded after an assailant stabbed him on his own doorstep.
Avnery, and many in his circle, admitted he had some difficulties when it came to people skills. A friend once said: “Avnery is disabled like Trumpeldor was. Trumpeldor lacked an arm; Avnery lacks feeling.” The activist wrote in his memoir: “There’s something wrong with my emotional relations with people. And the worst thing about it is, I don’t really care.”
He said he only ever told his wife, Rachel, he loved her when she was on her deathbed, and that he had never cried – not even during funerals for his comrades in arms. His rivals would delight in highlighting his deficiencies as expressed in his mother’s will. She left him no inheritance “since he didn’t take care of me and instead went to visit that murderer Yasser Arafat.”
Avnery published seven books and a vast number of articles in various publications, including in the pages of Haaretz. “Optimist” was published around the time of his 90th birthday. “I feel like an imposter,” he said at an event marking his birthday. “Someone wrote by mistake that I’m 90 – I feel half that age.”
Avnery ended his life with mixed feelings. On the one hand, he was convinced he had turned his political ideas – first and foremost his support for establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel – into a “global consensus.” On the other, he admitted he had failed to realize these ideas politically. “Life goes on, the struggle continues. Tomorrow is a new day,” he wrote on the last page of his memoir.
His wife, Rachel, a teacher and ideological partner, died in 2011. They were partners for 58 years and chose not to have any children.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Following Muhammad (S) in the 21st Century

I wish I had known the name of the author, although it was cross posted from a site that seemed to at one time archive articles of Mowlana Fazlur Rahman Ansari. However, since he died in 1974, before the advent of the 21st century, I doubt if this lecture or essay is his. But it does have important advice for many of us, and as such is posted, as it appeared in the link here.
Following Muhammad (pbuh) in the 21st Century
After fourteen centuries, the world of Islam stands today exactly where the Arabs stood before the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam united them into a single nation. The political conditions of the world in those days were more similar to what we are seeing today.
In those days, there were two dominating political powers, viz.the Byzantine and the Persian. The world today is dominated by two world powers, America and Russia (to a lesser extent). China stood in those days exactly as it stands today- a power by itself.

The Arabs were then divided into many tribes, each tribe constituting a separate political unit. They were engaged in ceaseless wars against each other, killing, robbing and enslaving one another. Because of their disunity, they constituted neither a political power nor a military power, despite the fact that they were better fighters and were more daring and courageous than the cultured people of Byzantium and Persia. Whenever an Arab tribe became insolent or did anything that displeased the Super Powers of those days, they would set some of their vassal princes against it and force it into subjugation. Today, the world of Islam stands exactly where the Arab tribes stood in those days, because of their disunity, not because of a lack in manliness or courage. Today, whenever a Muslim state becomes 'insolent' and begins to form its own independent policy, paying no heed to the dictates of the "Super Powers", it is brought back to its 'right sense' through the military might of some vassal nation. This striking similarity is also found in the moral aspect. The Arabs of the pre-Islamic era were at the lowest point of moral degeneration- and so are we today. Gross selfishness, corruption and obscenity are the most outstanding features of our social life. Our personal gains always reign supreme in our mind, we are willing to sacrifice the national interest for our petty personal interest- nay, we are even willing to sell our nation into slavery in exchange for some paltry personal gain.

From the time that the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam began his mission to the moment he breathed his last, was a period of 23 years. Within this short span of time, what he did was the greatest miracle ever wrought in human history. The picture of Arabia stood completely changed. The ferocious and warring tribes were united and welded into a strong and powerful nation. This revolution did not go unnoticed by the Super Powers of those days, and the Arabs were soon engulfed in hostilities with them. It finally resulted in open warfare. What was the result of this? The very Arabs who used to be subjugated and suppressed by petty vassal princes, swept through the mighty Persian empire and set the emperor fleeing to China. Byzantium suffered many defeats and lost much of its territory.

This was only one aspect of the Holy Prophet's Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam reform. The political supremacy thus gained had resulted from the moral reform wrought by him. He created a society free from racial, linguistic and tribal prejudices, free from class strife, free from selfishness and conscious of common interests. It is certainly difficult for man to be free from selfish motives, but if the individuals are not taught and trained to forego personal interests for the sake of common interest, the nation soon falls a prey to the selfishness of its component parts.

How did the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam accomplish this moral reform? Nothing can thrive in a void, it requires a support and the support of moral values is faith - not traditional, but a living and vibrant faith in Almighty Allah. It is quite true that every act an individual performs has its effect on the society and the effect produced on the entire society also reverts to the performer of the act as a member of the society. But this complicated system of action and reaction is too much for a layman to realise. Hence he is always motivated by the immediate gains, neglectful of the consequences in the long run. He can only be restrained by a sound and living faith in Allah. Sometimes it also happens that an evil-doer escapes the consequences of evil wrought by him, leaving the entire nation to reap the bitter fruit thereof. Hence, no consideration or fear of material consequences has greater effect on the preservation of moral values than faith in Allah.

The first and foremost lesson, therefore, taught by the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam to his followers was that faith in Allah, an Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient Allah, who watches His servants and remains by their side wherever they are. An Allah who will reward them for acts of virtue and punish them for vices. To have faith in the unseen Lord is perhaps the most difficult task man can accomplish. The faith which is commonly professed is not conviction, it is the admission of authority as a convenient idea. As regards such faith, Allah says in the Holy Qur'aan:

"The villagers said 'we believe'. Say: you did not believe, but rather say: 'we have surrendered', for faith has not yet entered in your hearts." [S49:V14]

This feeble faith does not enable one to risk his all, even his life, for the cause of virtue. Faith in Allah is not a mere dogma, it has got to be obtained through observation of the creation of Allah and sound argument and judgement.

Meditation and argument lead man only half the way. The sort of faith which is obtained thus may be termed as probability, not certainty. Yet this probability is a valuable understanding as it sets man probing still further into the unknown realm of spiritual realities. This is the state where one cannot lay implicit faith on reasoning without risking the peril of being lost in the labyrinth of thought. This is the stage where Divine help should be invoked through prayer and the observance of a disciplined moral life. The Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam has said that man is never closer to Allah than the moment when he lies prostrate before Him in prayer. This is why he has termed prayer as Me'raj of the believers. Those who want to experience spiritual realities should observe a disciplined life and seek the closeness to their Lord by appearing often in His August Presence. When this stage is attained, faith is perfected. Such are the people who rise high above all considerations of sorrow and fear. They live in a state of perpetual bliss. They become impregnable.

This is what the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam did for the first thirteen years of his mission. He taught them moral values, and how to live a morally disciplined life. He infused in them a living and vibrant belief in Allah. Then began the second phase of his mission, which was unavoidable, i.e. the spread of Islam to the tribes all over Arabi, and then to the neighbouring countries. This was done more by example than in any other way. This nation continued in prosperity just as long as they were steadfast to the way of the Holy Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam.

Knowledge and the Self

I believe that the article posted below is from Mowlana Ansari. Allah knows the best!

Knowledge and the Self المعرفة والنفس

Muslims in general, those with a narrow, conservative Islamic education regard Western education; especially at a tertiary level, as a vice. They do not approach learning from the point of view of Tawhid, nor pursue knowledge for its own sake, even if it comes from a non-Muslim educational institution.  As long as Muslims are clear about their Islamic values, there is no need to fear these levels of knowledge that comes from a foreign source.  To pursue scientific or other useful knowledge as such is also an Islamic duty and should be regarded as such.

The mission of Islam is Conquest at three levels:
          1.  Conquest of the Self
          2.  Conquest of the Environment
          3.  Conquest of Nature.

I am referring here to a comprehensive conquest i.e. at the spiritual and physical levels.
The levels of conquest constitute the mission of Islam in all its practices; whether we pray five  times per day or fast during the month of Ramadan etc. The first thing is the conquest of the lower self of man or the carnal self (Nafs) by every individual.
Tazkiyah (Purification), is one of the primary objectives of Islamic teachings and one of the most important aspects of the Holy Prophet's (S.) mission. Tazkiyah is to purify the self for the sake of character (personality) development. Tazkiyah originally meant pruning the plant, to remove what is harmful for its growth. When the term is applied to the human personality, it means to beautify it and to remove from it all evil traces and spiritual diseases that are obstacles experiencing of Allah. When this purification is done, then this human personality, which consists of a lower self and higher self, will function under the command of the higher self.
 The lower self (al-nafs al-ammara) functions on the basis of instinct; that is, the instinct of hunger, sex, procreation, desire for wealth, self-assertion etc.  The higher self, however, yearns for the values of truth, beauty, holiness, harmony and finally communion with Allah.  Unless this carnal self is brought under the control of the higher self, man, in spite of being human, will behave more like an animal and less as the "vicegerent of God" or Khalifat-Allah.
This struggle over the lower self (al-nafs-al-Ammara) is the greater struggle (Jihad al-Akbar). Thus, all religious devotions, spiritual exercises and teachings are directed towards this jihad or struggle to tame the carnal self and to function under the command of the higher self. This will enable all actions to have an ethical and not an instinctive basis. The instinctive self desires wealth, power, pleasure, etc. Sometimes the instinctive self appears in the form of a raging storm; then the human being acts like a brute.  Observe any human being whose anger is out of control: such a person behaves like an animal.
These instinctive urges can direct man to the abyss. These two aspects of life are clearly mentioned in the Holy Qur'an
"Verily I have created man in the best form - given him the best constitution."
 (Q 95:4-5)          
"But I have endowed him (that if he so desires) he can sink to the lowest of the low."
Therefore this struggle is there in man (91:7-9)
The human personality has two facets (dimensions):   light and darkness, good and evil.  We are told : "He who purifies it and keeps it pure, he who cultivates [develops] it, and constantly prunes it, he has achieved success."- He has achieved his destiny and:
"He who permits his personality to become stinted or falls prey to evil, is a hopeless failure".(Q 91:10) They are those who move further from their destiny.

"What is the purpose of human life but to realise the potential of Khalifat- Allah; to follow the "straight path" and not to deviate from it. This is possible through Tawfiq (divine assistance) from Allah and through His strength and mercy. When man actualizes his function as Khalifat-Allah, he becomes the master over himself and the environment.   In order to achieve this he must conquer his lower self (nafs). So, the first level is the conquest of the Self; the starting point for mastery over all else.
The second level is the conquest of the environment. Because the human being lives in a social order, therefore, the maintenance of the purity of the individual's life is possible only if his environment is also pure. Thus every human being has to struggle individually and collectively to eradicate all types of moral and spiritual evils. In the Holy Qur’an we are told:
  "You are the best community that hath been raised for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid (eradicate) evil and you believe in Allah." (Q 3:110)
The third level is the conquest of Nature. This potential Khalifat-Allah can only be realised through the conquest of Nature as exemplified in the Mi'raj of our Beloved Prophet (S). Nothing, not even the cosmos, could stand in his way in attaining nearness to his Creator: This demonstrates the highest order of Khalifat-Allah.

  What is Khalifat-Allah?  We read in the holy Qur'an:
  "Allah has (endowed the human beings with such powers and) made the constitution of everything in the heavens and the earth in such a fashion, so as to be controlled and conquered by man. God has made this as the mission of mankind, " (Q45:13)  “sahara lakum" - "entire mankind"- not only the Muslims.

Every human being is Khalifat-Allah potentially.  According to the Hadith:    "All mankind is Allah's family."   Almighty Allah loves all and also punishes all - whether Muslim or non-Muslim.   He is not a tribal God, He is the Righteous God. He says in the Holy Qur'a
"Say: My Lord is on the straight path."(Q 11:56)

He is a Righteous God. Allah has made principles and imposed upon Himself to follow those principles - although He is their Creator. Therefore He invites us to do the same and pray to Him:
"Guide us on the straight path." (Q 1:6)

We should also walk on the straight path. The shortest line between two points is the straight line.  Therefore the goal can be seen from the starting point. The 'Aya
t continues,
"In these are the guidelines for those who use their intellectual powers"(Q 45:13) or reasoning powers, for probing deeper into the mysteries of the laws of nature.
People talk about landing on the moon, the Qur'an has mentioned about people travelling further:
"And the moon, when you discover water on there, then you will travel from one region to another."(Q 84:18-19)
The concept of duality, (diarchy) dividing life into two watertight compartments is un-Islamic. The concept of knowledge in other religions is dualistic: there is a form of knowledge which is sacred and a form of knowledge which is profane.
The Holy Qur’an, speaks of a system of values and as we know, every culture is based on a particular arrangement of values.
The human personality has five levels of consciousness:
1. Spiritual (consciousness of a Transcendental Being)
2. Aesthetical
3. Intellectual 
4. Moral 
5. Physical; therefore, the values corresponding to these levels of consciousness are also five:
1. spiritual
2. aesthetical
3. moral
4. intellectual and
5. physical
A community is sometimes aware only of some of these five values, then its value system is imperfect,  and the culture that emerges from it is also imperfect. An ideology might know the five values, but the order is incorrect.  The problem of other cultures is the problem of gradation of values; some values are given greater priority than others.  The modern culture of permissiveness is problematic as it gives priority to the physical level of consciousness over the other higher levels.  The Qur'an and Hadith are absolutely clear on values, e.g. the verse from the Holy Qur'an :
The source of exaltation by Allah (SWT) is mentioned: "Those are honoured by Allah who cultivate Iman and those who cultivate (Al cIlm) knowledge" [various branches of knowledge - All knowledge].(Q 58:11)
The Holy Prophet (S.) came with two roles in human history:
1)       He came to close the era of divine spoon-feeding, that is the era of prophetic revelation.
2)       He opened the modern scientific era.  Evidence of this can be found when we read the Qur'an and Hadith and the history of science.

In his book "The Making of Humanity", R. Briffault says: "Science before Islam was unscientific. The world did not know science before the advent of Islam." Pre - Islamic science was based on the deductive method which is a defective method of inquiry. The Holy Prophet (S.)’s was the scientific method; he encouraged the experimental or  the inductive method.
The foundation of physical science is based on three principles:
1)       Unity of mankind
2)       Unity of knowledge
3)       Unity of nature
The first one to give these principles of unity (Tawhid) was the Holy Prophet (S.).  Why is it that three-quarters of the verses of the Holy Qur'an refer to natural phenomena? And after these verses we are told:
"In these are the guidelines for those who use their reasoning powers."(Q 13:4)

The Holy Prophet (S.) said:
"The superiority of a person who cultivates knowledge over the one who does devotional exercises is like my superiority over the meanest of you!"
He was the one, amongst the founders of faith, who said that  
"the ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr".

He also taught:  
"Every portion of knowledge is the lost property of the believer", and also:
 Seek knowledge even unto China."
But in this age of degeneration, we are being taught that knowledge is only of three types:
1)       Fiqh
2)       Tafsir and
3)       Hadith

Whoever studies beyond these becomes a devil. This is proclaimed by so-called pious Muslims.  The Holy Prophet (S) laid the foundations and principles of physical science.
  Let us read the Holy Qur'an:
"These horses, mules and donkeys have been created for you, as a means of conveyance and adornment for your stables, but in the future God will cause the creation of vehicles which you cannot perceive now."(Q 16:8)

Up to the twelfth century all the scientists believed that the universe was a static universe but the Qu'ran tells us:  (Arabic)……………
"Almighty Allah continuously adds mercy to this universe as He pleases."         (Q 35:11)

This is an expanding universe, not a "block" universe as Newton and the others believed. As a famous teacher said:  "These fundamental portions of wisdom which took the philosophers and scientists centuries to find, were given by the Holy Prophet (S.) just by the way."

Today the world of science is divided on the issue whether there are living beings on other planets but the Qu'ra
n says:
"Amongst the signs of Allah is the creation of the heavenly bodies and the earth and those living beings whom He has placed in them, and Allah is going to cause them to meet one another when He wills."(Q 42:29)

In Islam there is no division of sacred and profane knowledge, and consequently, the pursuit of physical science is an act of 'Ibadah.  It is true that the highest level of knowledge is the knowledge of Din (Religion), but the process of knowledge is such that you cannot understand the highest knowledge unless you build up the lower levels of knowledge.

If we read the history of Islam on Muslim education, we will find that the courses of education were as comprehensive as it could be. Knowledge was arranged in terms of Unity (Tawhid). We think an cAlim is one who studies only fiqh, tafsir and Hadith. How wrong it is!  Do you know that Imam Abu Hanifa wrote a scientific treatise with mathematical equations and this is available at the International Library in France? Imam Ghazzali, Imam Fakhruddin Ar-Razi, Imam Shafi'i, were intellectual giants in various branches of knowledge and yet they were pious and saintly people.

Therefore, the early Muslims fulfilled the tasks of laying the foundation of modern science by classifying the different branches of knowledge and removing the false from the truth.  They gave science the shape of pure science and laid the foundation of several exact sciences e.g. Algebra (named after Sheikh Jabir ibn-Hayyan),
co-ordinate geometry, mensuration, about blood, metals, the heavens and the earth etc.

Then two unfortunate events happened in the Islamic World:
1. The expulsion of the Muslims from Spain and
2. The fall of Baghdad.

These were the seats of scientific learning and their enemies saw to it that all traces of Islamic achievements were destroyed. Thereafter the Muslim culture started to decline. It was progressing in the direction of Khalifat - Allah, that is,
1. Conquest of the Self
2. Conquest of the Environment and the
3. Conquest of Nature,  but Muslims withdrew themselves from the conquest of Nature and in the process lost the world. 

False teachings emerged and the Muslims returned from the laboratory to the Musallah.  Read 1000 Tasbih on such and such a night and get a few million Thawab!  Finally we became so weak in the field of technology that the enemy could produce better arms and attack the World of Islam. And when they attacked, it collapsed like a house of cards. When it collapsed, Muslims became their slaves. This is because we regarded Scientific Education as un-Islamic!

If we continue to lose the opportunity and do not understand the emphasis of Al-cIlm -we will be destroyed.  Why should we make Islam a joke and find ourselves weak and contemptible?  In every community we find "Muslims" - one committed murder, another rape, fraud, (drug peddling), etc.  Are they doing good to the name of Islam? I think they are the worst criminals against the name of Islam. Almost all over the world, Muslims are the most backward in education! They are the followers of him who said:
"Seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim male and female";
but they do not want to learn the Qur’
~n and Hadith and want to remain in the gutter.
Some Muslims now say: "We want to bring about an Islamic State again." How? With what? If we examine their motives we find that their approach is either a social, historical, ritualistic or political.  With what material do we want to bring about a change?

Our Prophet (S.) established the Islamic State with material like Sayyidina Abu Bakr, Sayyidina Umar Faruq, Sayyidina 'Uthman, Sayyidina 'Ali (RA) etc. How can you build an Islamic State without creating that same band or group? And who wants to bring about a change? - with what?  Slogans, fighting against one another, one organisation against the other!   We are warned in the Holy Qu'ran:
"O ye who believe! Enter into Islam completely."(2:208)
i.e., the whole of Islam comprehensively.  Allah says:
"Do you believe only a part of the message and discard the rest?" (Q 2:85);

If you mutilate the religion the punishment will be that "you will be debased in this world." You will enjoy no honour!  Are we not in this state?  Should we not rise above petty things and overcome our defects. To carry the label of Islam is not enough; we will get a beating all the time.
O Muslims, take care before Islam becomes a memory of the past. Unless and until we can organise education according to the Islamic concept, and produce God - fearing, morally integrated, spiritually elevated, intellectually enlightened Muslims in this community, we will have no future.
All praises are due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.


Westernised Muslims By Dr Muhammed Fazlur Rahman Ansari (ra)

Here below is a lecture given by Mowlana Dr. Fazlur Rahman Ansari (r). Although given nearly half a century ago, this lecture is worth reading for today's Muslims, since little has changed for them except becoming worse.
Westernised Muslims By Dr Muhammed Fazlur Rahman Ansari (ra)
Muslims all over the world are faced with the problem of readjustment to the environment. We are unable to find a solution to our present decline and degradation, whether we belong to South Africa, Pakistan or the Arab world or anywhere else. Muslims find themselves in critical conditions and are even insulted. A Muslim poet asked: "What has happened to us that today we are looked down upon by the other communities of the world? We have become like international mercenaries and outcasts." Despite the fact that we are seven hundred million in the world and the inheritors of the glorious history of Islam, we enjoy no status in the international affairs of the world.

Although we take pride in the fact that we are the muwahidun — the believers in the One God — we generally have a wrong notion of Allah. This sounds like an amazing statement for we are believers in the One True God and His Unity but unconsciously, we believe that He is capricious and not a righteous God! Let me explain further. The Holy Quran says that Allah (swt) created this universe with all the laws that govern everything in it, but He has imposed it upon Himself to follow His Law. The Qur'an says:

Say, my Lord is on the straight path. (Q 11: 5 6)

Like we have been asked to pray, Allah (swt) is saying about Himself that He is also on the straight path. He is not unjust and does not indulge in favouritism. Here, Islam negates the concept in the Bible that the children of Israel are the chosen people of God.

Allah has made the Law and sent the Guidance. Whoever follows the Guidance is dear to God, whoever does not follow the Guidance whether a Muslim or anything else has absolutely no status in the presence of God. Unfortunately, we proclaim that our God is Righteous but we unconsciously believe He is not because we believe He has chosen heaven for us, and hell for others.

This ugly theory has no basis in the Qur'an, nor the hadith and this point of view has brought calamity to the Muslims. If only they remembered that "dunya" is "dar al-amal" (house of action) — the place where a person earns heaven on the basis of faith and action. And not on the basis of superstition, ceremonialism, ritualism or petty bickering on theological issues. Salvation is not on the basis of formalism and externalism but on the basis of the transformation of the human personality, on the human social order, and on the basis of the spirit of iman billah (faith in Allah). It is also based on the spiritual orientation of life, to follow the divine law and the commandments given by the Holy Prophet(s).The Qur'an says:

It is not possible for a true believer, whether male or female, to have his or her own freedom of choice after he or she has been given a command by Allah and His Beloved Prophet. (Q 33:36)

Islam means discipline which must be followed, Islam is not merely a signboard. Imagine a shop with signboards but without commodities. Can there be any business? The Muslims — especially those who claim to be religious — seem to believe that only signboards can do the entire job!

Travel to the east or the west as I have, and observe the different communities whether they are majorities or minorities and you will notice a crisis of moral character in the Muslim world. Muslims are not what they claim to be, they tend to be hypocritical, whether conscious or unconscious.

Why do we shed crocodile tears because we have fallen so low? We are going to fall lower and Allah Almighty is not going to forgive us, because He is the Righteous God and not capricious. He has to run the entire cosmos with everything in it, and remember that He created all human beings. You and I can take pride that we are Muslims, but remember that we are Muslims by accident.

How many of us devoted ourselves to acquiring education about Aristotle, Plato and Kant, but ignored Islam? Therefore, we remain Muslims because our parents were Muslims. Bear in mind that Almighty Allah has not promised anything to this category of Muslims. Promises have only been given to the believers — the mu'minun. History bears testimony to it. During the Makkan period of the Holy Prophet’s (P.b.u.h.) life, when the handful of Muslims were being persecuted, Almighty Allah's promise came to them:

Allah promises to those who cultivate iman and who lead lives of purity, of moral integrity and the grandeur of character, He promises to them you will be the greatest dominant force in this earth. (Q 24:55)

The infidels of Makkah jeered at them and said that: "Your leader wants to boost your morale and holds out false promises." But history tells us that this small group of Muslims became the master force in the world and remained the supreme political and ideological power for centuries! This was the promise that was fulfilled, and the Holy Qur'an says:

Honour belongs to Allah and His Prophet and to the believers. (Q 63:8)

to those who possess a dynamic, loving and vibrant faith in Allah. To them belong the honour and if we do not have any honour in this world, then we are not Mu'minin. The promise came, but not to the Muslim, not to those who pay lip service, not a mere intonation, nor a spiritless proclamation of the shahadah.

Shall we remain in this state? Is it really worthy of a human being to stay in this abject condition? Do we realise that we have reached the rockbottom of our degradation? The proof of it is that the most persecuted, the most hated, the smallest ideological minority in the world, that is, the Jews, snatched away from you your qiblah al-awwal (Jerusalem), surrounded on all sides by so-called Muslims!

Those Muslims are helpless in spite of the fact that they are begging for help from the Soviet Union, China and elsewhere but still cannot do anything! What a contrast between that handful of Muslims in Makkah, to whom that promise was made and fulfilled, against the heaviest odds. What a pity for us that we are nine hundred million and we cannot do anything!

This hopeless apathy is a measure of our iman. We have no iman! And we still believe that the system of guidance, the Qur'an and sunnah, is true! That is the biggest tragedy. We have no iman but we believe; hence we cannot say on the Day of judgement that we did not know. We will be told: "You knew it, but you did not follow My guidance, you followed your hawa al-nafs, your baser or lower self! You followed the devil."
Allah has promised and proclaimed:

Whoever revolts against the devil and establishes his loyalty towards Allah, he obtains a support which will never fail him.(Q 2:256)

Why is all the support failing us? Don't we think? Don't we have minds? Have we become so foolish and ignorant not to understand and this at least?

My dear brothers and sisters, Islam is the alchemy that transforms all the base metals into gold, and it has proved itself to be the alchemy. It was sent by Allah to the most backward people in the world — the Arabs of those days. Thomas Carlyle in his On Heroes, Hero-worship and the Heroic in History said: "They were a people who made no mark in known history, those nomadic Arabs, a handful in number, filthy and barbaric in character. To them was sent Allah's greatest prophet, and within twenty years, this crowd of barbarians was transformed into a group of supermen!" And they challenged the entire world of batil (of all that was false) and they conquered the world and they established the truth! What are we doing? If my remarks sound bitter I ask pardon. But ask the doctors – a patient who suffers from malaria should not be given anything that is sweet - the remedy for malaria is bitter quinine!

Another important point raised was that the Muslims in the Republic of South Africa are living in a western-oriented country. They are a minority and living under a non-Muslim majority. This problem is not confined to South Africa only. It is to be found in every Muslim community, even in Pakistan, which is a country with an overwhelming Muslim majority. The Muslims are leaving the old culture and running after the new, to whatever country you may go. It is not a case of being a minority. They are doing the same things in Pakistan and on a stupendous scale in Turkey, Iran and in the Arab Middle East.

If you go there you will find that they are more westernised than the western people. There are people who condemn them - fortunately or unfortunately. I don't condemn them because there are certain Laws of the historical process called in the philosophy of history — the principle of historical compulsion. And this principle claims that however much a community may try to behave in a certain manner, the historical forces that are around it, compel it to do as they want it to do."

A community can make itself immune to outside influences only when it is definitely superior and more virile than those other communities that are there in the environment. But if the community is docile, if the community has no law to govern its life, if it is bankrupt in respect of its character and its ideals, then it is, as the saying goes: "The devil occupies the vacant home."

A community which has no positive idealism and is not struggling to achieve the goal of that idealism, is a passive community. And the nature of God's Law is (the Sociological Law ) that all human beings are moving ahead like a caravan. This caravan of humanity is moving all the time and whatever portion of the caravan becomes stagnant or stationary, or those who do not want to move, the law is that they will he thrown back. They will not be allowed to be stationary but will be trampled. This is the law.

What we have been doing is that we have left the mission of Islam long ago. We were not inspired by the Islamic Idealism anymore. Our plans were not what the Holy Prophet (P.b.u.h.) gave us. We were indulging in all sorts of un-Islamic activities even before these Western powers came to wrest away our sovereignty in Africa and Asia. After they came, they tried their best to de-Islamise us. It was a duty to themselves that their potential enemies should be crushed. They did just that and we cannot complain.

In the meantime, another tragedy has happened. Islam, like every other religion or system, comprises certain components. The first being the values of Islam, from which emerge the norms, and then the laws. Then follows the rules and regulations, such as etiquette — personal, religious and social.

What do we find in the Muslim world of today? The concept of values and norms have been forgotten. We stand by the Law. Our ‘ulama’ also study only the Law, the fiqh. This Law is given to the people and when that Law degenerates among the people, then only etiquette is left. How far have we gone in this?

While in New York, I had the opportunity of addressing a group of new converts to Islam. As I entered the hall, I thought that all the people present were villagers from Pakistan. I could never dream that the Afro-Americans could dress and behave like that. I inquired from the chairman and he confirmed that they were all Americans and none were "imported" from Pakistan. After the lecture, I invited all those people to me and asked them to explain why they were wearing that type of dress. They replied that it was the symbol of piety. They said that great Islamic workers came there and taught them that if they wanted to be really good Muslims in the eyes of God, they should wear a triangular pyjamas, the quadrangular kurta and the hexagonal cap!

It took me a long time to convince them that they were committing a crime by wearing that dress in America. Firstly, no dress has been prescribed by the Holy Prophet (P.b.u.h.). He only prescribed rules or decency about dress. Secondly, if you wear this strange type of dress then you are a walking propaganda against Islam among the Americans. If the condition to become a Muslim is to wear those clothes then the other Americans would refuse to become Muslim.

The problem is not unsolvable. If we go to the Qur'an and hadith, we'll find that many things we think are compulsory are in fact not compulsory. Islam is a universal religion, which has come for all ages. Students of sociology know that the cultural pattern changes with the industrial pattern. The change in the cultural pattern leads to a change in the psychological pattern. The Holy Prophet (P.b.u.h.) was aware of all that. He did not give this type of religious outlook that we have developed. It is we who are responsible for it.

Islam begins with the values and the moral life is the basis. Of course, the moral life is built on the spiritual orientation of life, in order to acquire the purity of motive, as the Holy Prophet(s) said:

The higher the morals of a person, the better is his Iman.

The measure of a person's Iman is his moral integrity and his behaviour. It is the moral life that is the foundation of the Islamic life. The moral life — as prescribed by Islam — can be followed and practised fully in every society, whether that society is South African, German, or American. This is what makes a Muslim!

The other external factors vary from community to community, The dress, for example, varies from Indonesia to Morocco and Nigeria. We cannot object to the national dress of a people. Our 'ulama' raised objections to the English suit because it was imported from another community. They are correct in that to adopt the dress of another community corrupts one's outlook and creates a sort of inferiority complex. But the English suit has now been accepted by the Upper strata of Muslim society all over the world. So, the problem of imitating foreign dress out of inferiority does not apply. Islam emphasises the spiritual and the moral culture and if we follow those moral and spiritual teachings of Islam properly then that is what matters.

In Pakistan, for example, we find certain people who regard themselves alone to be Muslims. They behave in a strange way, for example, a Muslim merchant grows a long beard, wears a kurta, a triangular pyjama and wears the haji's cap — showing himself to be a person who is dedicated to Islam and Allah (swt). He makes a survey of the market and Muslim business all over Pakistan.

Go to Karachi, which is a Muslim town, and try to buy pure butter (prescribed by a doctor). You will find different brands of butter, but you will not find pure butter. These people who adopt all these paraphernalia of piety who own all those dairy farms and factories earn their money in this manner.

In Pakistan people have been caught so many times adding impurities to their dairy products. Once, a well-known haji was caught red-handed. He installed a factory in an underground cell where he manufactured butter from grease and that butter inflicted polio on about forty children! This is the type of Islam of those so-called religious people! Which Islam is this that has to be adjusted to a particular age and area? And mind you, these people go to Makkah four times per year with haram money and when they come back they are welcomed, praised and garlanded by all their friends that so-and-so has performed the hajj seven or seventeen times.

The sores on the body of the Muslim community are so many. It seems as if we have lost completely our grip on what Islam stands for. We have coined our own Islam. Certain portions of Islam have been taken, like prayers, fasting, charity and pilgrimage and given a certain organic unity, and this is the Islam we carry.

Islam can adjust itself anywhere; in a capitalist country or a communist country. It is adjusting itself under Jamaluddin Nasir, Turkey, Pakistan, etc. Why can't it adjust itself here? Why all this hue and cry about it? But as far as the original Islam of the Qur'an and sunnah is concerned, we have been told:

You are the best ideological group which has been raised and chosen by Allah for the purpose that you will establish all that is good and eradicate all that is evil, as soldiers of Allah. (Q 3:110)

If this ideal is not there for us, we won't know to proceed. If Islam is not a way of life and challenge for all evil, then Islam is only a cult with an otherworldly orientation combined with a few ethical principles.

We treat and accept Islam as a cult and we do not go beyond these requirements. This problem requires a scientific analysis. If this problem is understood fully as to what is the pattern of life, which Islam gives; what are those things that are obligatory and what are optional, then only can we understand!

And if our ideal is to establish those ideals for which the Islam came, then this work can be done methodically, like in a scientific analysis. Priorities one value after the other. If we do that, we will get an Islam that is very dynamic, progressive and enlightened. There wilt be no difficulty in living here as good Muslims and we'll be able to live Islam in a manner that will attract the non-Muslims!

All praises belong to Allah, Lord of all the worlds.