Category Archives: Shuraa

Participatory Democracy & Group Decision Making

Respecting and Trusting the Group Intellect: Essential Foundations in Islamic and American Democracy – Part 2

This is part two of a presentation delivered in April 2004 before visiting dignitaries and leaders from Afghanistan as part of an official U.S. State Department visit. The presentation’s purpose was to compare the elements of democracy established in Islam with the compatible values of representative democracy established in modern American society.  The issues of diversity, tolerance, and pluralism are pragmatic characteristics of a more fundamental issue for all: How society values, respects and utilizes its group intellect.  The remarks include how our U.S. Constitution and other founding documents reflect Qur’anic principles of leadership and responsible government.

America was founded only about 228 years ago. Thus the leaders fashioning this new government had the benefit of global history from both civilized and uncivilized man.  We had the history of power and authority exercised by kings, tsars, and queens, shahs, sheikhs, sultans, khans and rajahs, conquistadors, popes, emperors and governors. Empires and dynasties from the Heng to the Ottoman Empire had already been established. The Renaissance and Crusades had already occurred.  Egypt, Rome and Greece had already fallen and the last of the great Abrahamic Traditions and its Prophet had already changed the world. The West already had the history of granting Women rights and including them in the group intellect and making them spiritually and intellectually equal under Islam.  Islam’s not mere tolerance, but indeed valuation of intellectual pursuit and appreciation for the faith of others became a hallmark for all societies to emulate.

We already had the history of how Muhammed (S) sounded the death knell to slavery, racism and elitism as his administration and those of the Sahaba reflected the diversity of nationalities and varying levels of socio-economics; this history was underscored by the proclamation that there is no superiority of one race over another.

Muhammed (S) gave us a spirit for studying the material world and preserving the fruits of man’s global intellect and sharing it equitably through the establishment of public education…continually expanding the capacity of the individual and group intellect in its ability to read Qur’an and decipher the material world.

The triumph of Muslim Spain 700-1492, before Spanish Catholics expelled Jews and Muslims, was part of the global historical record and the group intellect. At Cordoba, Mali and Timbuktu, the world had already witnessed interfaith cooperation and government wherein there was freedom of religion. Ironically, while the Crusades were being waged, Christian scholars were studying the vast holdings of the great Cordova libraries-translations and works that canonized Western tradition.  In the West, scientists knew of Averroes (Ibn Rushd) and Avicena (Ibn Sina) and Maimoniedes (Mus Ibn Maymun) all contemporaries who believed Reason need not be in conflict with Revelation.  The Islamic contribution to the Western Renaissance is part of the historical record.

There is strong evidence that the America’s Founding Fathers were familiar with and directly influenced by Islam, the Qur’an and Mohammed! And that they were inspired to create a great vision for the future that they themselves were at the time incapable of or unwilling to live up to. And that’s okay, because “man plans and G-d plans and G-d is the Best of Planners.” So the West and the Founding Fathers knew Islam and they also knew the oppressive church at that time that stifled individual and group intellect.

It is known also that American Muslim slaves, many of whom were literate and assigned to house as opposed to field duties, worked in the homes of the aristocracy which would have allowed Muslim slaves to have increased contact with their “masters.” Some of the Founding Fathers had meaningful contact with Muslim subjects; this is not idle speculation.

There are other connections in the history of America that has paved the way for Islam to take its rightful place as a powerful force for good in the lives of the people:

– Among the slaves that came to America’s shores were many Muslims who helped build this country with free labor and with their lives.

– Among Spain’s Christopher Columbus’ crew were Muslims. Columbus was credited with discovering America.

– As Muslims, we have a strong connection with our nation’s democratic ethos.  The first country to recognize the United States’ Independence was a Muslim  Country–Morocco.  The first  U.S. President wrote directly to Emperor Muhammad III of Morocco in the “Treaty of peace and Friendship signed in 1787.  Renewed in 1836, it remains the longest unbroken treaty in U.S. history.

– Muslims from eastern Europe and China, and other countries immigrated to this country in the 19th and 20th century and now their offspring are here and contributing as citizens. All praises are due to Allah (SWT).  Today:

– The U.S. Senate and House has opened with Al-Fatihah and other State legislatures.

– The U.S. Postal Service issued the Commemorative Eid Stamp honoring our holy days of Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha

– Muslims are acceding to political office…and it’s just the beginning.

– To be continued.

Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,

Mukhtar

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The Creator Wants Us to Be Interdependent…The Development of Government in Islam

Once we understand the natural order that God wants, we can make real progress as an individual or a group. Many developments during the last part of the twentieth century are manifestations of the natural development toward interdependence. The specialized sharing of information in cyberspace via the world-wide web, the interlinking of macro-economics among the nations, and the emergence of free-market economies and democratic reforms are not accidental.  These interdependent characteristics are an outgrowth of the natural development toward mutual cooperation, shared outcomes and the gradual elimination of virtual domination by the few. Allah (SWT) denies domination to all who seek it. Interdependence is not served by racism, extreme nationalism, ethnicism, religious intolerance and other xenophobic tendencies.

Now if the world is beginning to recognize that to win is no longer a zero-sum game, but that my success is intricately linked to your success, and if interdependency exists at every level, then what makes some of us (as individual Muslim communities) overlook the importance of being interdependent? What am I talking about? In some of our cities, we may have two, three or more masajid struggling to make progress, yet an entire year will pass without a meeting of its leaders or without an effort made to work jointly on at least one project that will benefit all of the communities. In too many instances, instead of our exploring opportunities to impact local government and influence corporate and local school board policies so that we might (for example) facilitate believers’ attendance at Salatul-Jumah or our children’s celebration of the two Eids, we are expending energy debating whether we should have a joint Eid with this masjid or that masjid.

There are some Muslims who are perfectly content to remain isolated for fear of losing their identity or some other superficial reason that is partly an expression of an acute inferiority complex. We must come out of our small thinking, reveling in decentralization and autonomy at the expense of unity and mutual cooperation. Imam Mohammed did not bring us to the proper concept of Allah (SWT), Al-Qur’an, and Muhammad’s example to now adopt a position of isolation and inferiority or superiority. The Imam wants us to be independent thinkers: but when we act (on that thinking), we should be prepared to bring something of value to complement the group effort.

Within our Association, the development from centralization to decentralization has been referred to metaphorically (and nostagically) as the ‘‘Second Resurrection.’’ The Second Resurrection represented a period (for us) in which the individual Muslim identity, as well as the respect for the worth of the individual believer was established based upon the concept of human excellence in the Qur’an. The subsequent development of the individual’s respect for economic, political, educational, and social infrastructure within a Muslim nation or community cannot be established without the undergirding of La-Illaha-illalah-Muhammad-dur-Rasullulah (nothing deserves my worship except the One Allah (SWT), The Creator of all the worlds and Mohammed (SAW) is His final Messenger). Our liberation and corresponding shift away from autocracy to democracy urgently mandate greater individual responsibility and a simultaneous movement towards interdependence (inside and outside the masjid). The new century is urging us to rethink existing administrative and management structures to eliminate internal fragmentation caused by years of reveling in decentralization. We must progress to a higher level of organizational evolution . . . “interdependence is a higher value than independence.”

If the Second Resurrection refers to the development of the individual life of the Muslim and has been characterized by the shift away from centralization to decentralization, then the development of the Muslim community life and its infrastructure is our Third (and final) Resurrection and it must be just as definitively marked by a shift away from mere decentralization to interdependence…the task is now in your and my hands. [Based on adaption from Genesis of New American Leadership: Building the Community Life].

Left open for further thought and research…Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,

Mukhtar
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Improving Your Institution Involves Asking the Right Questions

“G-d is the protector of those who have faith: From depths of darkness He leads them forth into light.”–The Noble Qur’an (2:257)

“Whenever a Muslim endeavors to do anything, he seeks to perfect it.”
–Prophet Muhammed (prayers & peace be upon him)

“…We can study the life of Prophet Muhammed…we can see his principles, what he stood for…so we can study that and we can use it to protect all of our interests including political and business interests; whatever it is. So this is not an easy task and cannot be left to Imams…This is a responsibility of all of us.”
–Imam Dr. W. Deen Mohammed (ra)

The beginning of a calendar year can be an excellent time to assess personal and organizational accomplishments and goals.

Setting benchmarks can help layout a path of excellence based on practical considerations like availability of resources and even more importantly, the will to seek institutional excellence under the discipline of faith in spite of any resource deficiencies.

From an institutional point of view, leaders must be willing and capable of asking the right questions to arrive at an accurate assessment of where your organization is and where it wants to be. Click here to download a helpful tool for assessing your institution. Blessed 2013!

As usual, left open for further thought and research…

Peace until next time.

Sincerely & respectfully,

Mukhtar
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