Tag Archives: Freedom of Speech

Respecting and Trusting the Group Intellect: Essential Foundations in Islamic and American Democracy – Part 1

The following comments were 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.

Dear Believers, leaders, Muslim brothers, As-Salaamu-Alaikum. With Allah’s Name, The Gracious, The Compassionate, Beneficent and Merciful Benefactor, Merciful Redeemer. We witness that He is One, The Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. That there is no partner with Him in the rule of the Heavens and Earth.  He is G-d Alone. And we witness that Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger (SAW), and what follows of that traditional salutation to the Last Prophet, The Seal of the Prophets.

I thank Allah (SWT) for granting what is a great honor to share in dialogue with you, our brothers and leaders from Afghanistan, particularly such distinguished group of leaders and scholars.  We are aware of your struggles and are witnesses to the resilience of the believers (the people) there and their desire to be free to control their destiny and contribute to the best of the global intellect.  It is our prayer that Allah (SWT) grant you the strength and wisdom to succeed under your new constitution, and with the leadership of President Karzai, his administration, the leadership of you who are visiting with us here and your fellow representatives, and finally with the constructive help of the world community.  I want to thank Habjiax and the International Resource Center for planning and supporting this wonderful opportunity.

I have prepared just a few comments to share with you and I pray that Allah (SWT) will allow me to say only what is helpful and best for us and I plan to leave as much time as possible for an exchange of questions or observations.

I have read the objectives for your visit and reviewed your national itinerary, and wish to address my comments on the recurring themes of diversity, pluralism, and tolerance and to address these elements within the larger discussion of Respect and Trust for the Group Intellect. I believe such a discussion is important to begin appreciating how important this element is in the ethos of American democracy and how it prepares the path to a great future for Islam in America.  Consequently, American Muslims are obligated as others are to contribute as citizens and leaders in promoting the best of this democratic tradition that forms a major part of the “American Dream.”

Let me preface my comments in this area with the acknowledgment that I am honored to be a student of Imam Warithudeen Mlohammed, a Muslim American leader who through his love for Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (S) has dedicated his life and has worked for many decades to help bring millions of Americans to Al-Islam. He is a leader for international interfaith cooperation, economic development and human rights.  It is through his leadership and tafsir that I and millions of others have learned Al-Islam, the Miracle of the Qur’an and the Life Example of Muhammad (S) and the practical application and wisdom of these sources in the management of our affairs and lives.  I have some gifts for you that include introductions to Imam Mohammed and his work in bringing Al-Islam into the mainstream of American religious practice.

In 2001 (prior to 9/11) I was on Hajj and while at the Prophet’s (S) Mosque in Medina, I was approached by many Muslims from several countries who once they learned I was from the U.S., eagerly asked me about being a Muslim in America.  Specifically, they were  curious as to whether I was able to practice Islam freely.  My response was perhaps as surprising to them as their question was to me.   I told them that certainly I can practice my religion, that there are perhaps as many as 8 million Muslims or more in the U.S. and that we have masajid, schools all over the country.  That Muslims were in the military, government, business, indeed all sectors of American life.. That we have Muslim lawyers, judges, a mayor at that time and now we have 2 or 3 mayors I believe now and that we not only practiced Islam, but that Islam is the fastest growing faith in America and predicted to be the 2nd largest religion early in this century.  And that because of these facts, Islam shall play a greater role in shaping the future of America.

They were astounded….they had no idea of the diverse presence of Islam in America. And it is one example of the misconceptions most Muslims probably have about America, just as many Americans have misconceptions about Islam and what its presence means here.

On the one hand, there I was performing the Hajj and seeking to dispel false notions among fellow Muslims about what it means to be American when only a few months later (post 9/11), I would be addressing fellow Americans about what it means to be Muslim.  Such a position inherently means to me that American Muslims may be in the best position to bridge divisions separating East and West. And that this bridge is perhaps the best hope for the peace that G-d wants for us all. And it may be a greater burden even upon the descendants of America’s ex-slaves who are now Muslims and who have seen two sides of America. That is my belief.

How will Muslims play a greater role in shaping the future of America?

The answer is in the same way that others have in the past based on our society’s respect and trust in its group intellect as given is such documents as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Pledge of Allegiance, and our Constitution. What is this concept of a group intellect I refer to and why is it important?

In our personal lives, we use 3 sources of authority to manage our affairs: The Qur’an, the life example of Muhammed (S), and our intellect (Fiqh, Ijmah-ul Ummah, Shuraiyat, Mushwara, Ilm ul Kalam, ijtihad). In Al-Islam, human intellect is the third source for decision-making which we use to understand and apply the first two sources. And G-d has given man this intellect as a gift according our Prophet. From Al-Hadith: G-d has not created anything better than reason, or anything more perfect or more beautiful than reason.  The benefits which G-d gives are on its account and understanding is by it; and G-d’s displeasure is caused by it. And by it are rewards and punishments. Verily a man has performed the pillars and all good deeds; but he will not be rewarded but in proportion to the sense he employs.”

And we all know G-d says to us many times to us in Sura Ar Rahman: And which of the favors of your lord will ye deny?. It is important then for leadership not to deny a gift of G-d and that is the right of the individual expression and the voice of the people. And G-d trusts Man.  He believes in man, His khalifah. Gd says in Al-Shams: “By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it and its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right; truly he succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it.”

When we make decisions as a group, we use the same 3 sources (2 remain constant). the third changes due to composition of the intellect. The affairs of the state or the community no longer rest solely upon my opinion, but rather with the consensus of the group opinion. A political structure is not given in Qur’an. Because the political structure evolves through the group intellect. G-d commands us to use the process of consultation to establish the politic.

How did America’s political structure and emphasis on Democracy develop?

Well it grew first out of their experience with an oppressive Church which stifled intellectual development and debate, reinforced class differences, and denied general education for the masses. However, dissatisfaction while serving as a motivator cannot suffice as a blueprint for changing one’s circumstances.

Some claim our country’s commitment to democracy is based exclusively on Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman models or principles, but more properly and by the evidence, the founding fathers were influenced by the global group intellect which includes the known historical group intellect influenced by Al-Islam.

Islam and Muslim countries were understood by the American population from the point of view of the “Other,” some Founding Fathers made serious efforts to educate themselves about Islam and its civilizations. Many of the Founding Fathers were not as uninformed about Islam as are the rest of us, even today. Indeed, some made a special effort to read about Islam and related ancient civilizations.[29] Thomas Jefferson’s library contained at least one copy of the Qur’an and was rich with books about ancient civilizations, including Islamic ones. [30] Jefferson appeared to consider his knowledge of these matters important for the development of the American model of political governance. In that approach, he was not alone.

Another of our early presidents, Madison, for example, read about ancient confederacies before formulating his own proposal for a federal system in the United States.

– To be continued.

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

Sincerely & respectfully,

Mukhtar
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Respecting and Trusting the Group Intellect: Essential Foundations in Islamic and American Democracy – Part 3

This is part three 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.

“And follow or take the best thereof”

The Qur’an establishes fard Kifayah in the selection of leadership and in mutual consultation in the affairs of the people or state: Democracy is essentially respect for the group opinion, by which we manage our community affairs. Regarding the conduct of group affairs, Allah (SWT) says in Sura Ash Shura: “Whatever ye are given (here) is but a convenience of this life: but that which is with Allah is better and more lasting: (it is) for those who believe and put their trust in their Lord; those who hearken to their Lord and establish regular prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation.”

The idea of integrating the group intellect into the decision making process is a hallmark of American democracy, but is by no means unique to America. Long before America, the Qur’an and the example of our Prophet laid a powerful foundation for trust in the group intellect. Once a society understands how critical respecting and trusting the group intellect are to progress, the issues of discrimination dissipate in the face of moral decency, common sense and practicality.

“Have We not made the earth (as a place to draw together)…” Al-Qur’an, 77:25

What are the implications today for integrating the group intellect in the modern society? And what are the implications for leaders seeking to solve problems, and not only solve problems, but explore and create new opportunities?  The answers lie in something the great physicist Albert Einstein said: “The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

World Historian J. M. Roberts published a work called The Twentieth Century, The History of the World 1901 – the present published in 2001 and he gives us something else and very important to consider.  He puts forth 3 major global events or mega events or trends that shaped all others for the 20th Century and hence helped define the twentieth century and the beginning of the 21st Century. These events had a wider impact affecting more human beings than any other occurrences.

A. Population growth.  In 1901, global population was an estimated 1.6 billion persons and today we are approximately 6 billion (now today 7 billion).

B. Decentralization and shifting of world power particularly from Europe. Within Europe a shift from autocracy to democracy. At the beginning of 1901, Europe had I believe 31 constitutional monarchies…today there are two.

C. The changing role of women which has far reaching implications for an altering economic, political and social power.

Women make up more than half the world’s population.  Women are half of the creative capacity and half of our problem solving capabilities and it will become exceedingly difficult to deny half the group intellect its right of participation in the governance of its affairs…

“Then which of the favors of your Lord will you deny (Al-Qur’an, 55:38)? ”

All three of these trends fundamentally alter the capacity, contribution, character, and complexity of integration for the global group intellect and mandates a corresponding respect and urgent need for participative responsibility in decision making. Such views were echoed by Secretary General Kofi Annan that the “structures, methods and processes for global decisions must be fundamentally reviewed in light of the new world order.” All governments, societies and leaders must look at the issues of respect for the group intellect.

Despite the emphasis in my comments today on respect for the group intellect, there are some particular dangers that can upset the balance of the political contract. The political contract in Islam is structured to establish a just order designed by the group intellect respecting the common human dignity of all its citizens. The contract is designed to bring the greatest good to the greatest number using the highest principles established in the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet.

Islam’s emphasis on freedom, justice and equality shares a spiritual kinship with the values found in the documents that established this democracy. For example, in the great Declaration of Independence which was a proclamation first to be free from oppression and to have among the rights of its citizens religious freedom, we read the words: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from consent of the governed.”  These words carry the same spirit as the Ayats in Sura Shams.

Among the most common dangers that upset the balance of the political contract are the governmental denial of the G-d given rights of freedom of the individual and group intellect and what for us as an American citizenry appearing as great threats are the imposition of individual rights over societal rights to the point of endangering the nation and lastly and most egregious, seeking the removal of G-d from the political contract wherein “man thinks himself self-sufficient.” The latter two threats eviscerate common sense standards in the debate, formation and adoption of healthy public policy.

– To be continued.

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

Sincerely & respectfully,

Mukhtar

P. S. May you and your family enjoy the day of commemoration
honoring the legacy of Dr. King.

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Dying to Learn: Why Malala Yousafzai’s Cause is a Fard Kifaya for the Worldwide Ummah – Part 3

“We created man from sounding clay, from mud molded into shape.”
The Noble Qur’an, Sura Al-Hijr, Ayat 26

“The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim…Whoever has a daughter, tutors her on good morals, educates her well and feeds her properly; she will be a protection for him from hell fire.”
–Prophet Muhammed (s)

“I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.”
–Malala Yousafzai on confronting the Taliban

Includes adaption from Genesis of New American Leadership – The Book

(Continued from Part 2)…The Power of the Pen in the Role of Education

“Proclaim! (or Read!) in the Name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created—Created man out of a mere clot of congealed blood.. Proclaim! and thy Lord is Most Bountiful,—He Who taught (the use of) the Pen,—taught man that which he knew not.” Al-Qur’an, Surah Al Alaq, Ayats 1-5.

The verses which introduce this section are the first five verses revealed to the Prophet. Since our Creator in the Final Revelation and the Seal of Scripture revealed these verses first, it is logical to surmise that they must be very significant on the notion that the beginning must lay the foundation for all that is to come after. The first command revealed in the Final Revelation is Iqraa! The word has dual meaning of an action taken to receive and impart the Divine Word. The historical account of this ultimately indescribable event relates that the Prophet was frightened, severely shaken, and that his reply was “I cannot read” whereupon he was pressed three times by the Angel Jibreel to read and recite, and thereafter the Prophet under the command and guidance of the Creator, began to read and recite.

In Surah Al-Alaq, Allah (SWT), the One Who created everything including man, says Read in His Name. Our Creator then relates how He grows man from a mere clot, something small, simple and insignificant to become His Crown of Creation the most complex creature to whom is given the responsibility to manage his life and his environment. Surah Al-Alaq simultaneously points to one of the gifts for man’s intellectual evolution and the blueprint for the progress of mankind—the use of the pen.

It is difficult to imagine what life would be like without the technology of writing. In fact, modem civilization, including the much talked about “information age” owes its very existence to the pen. Although today we may casually take these powerful abilities for granted, reading and writing changed the dynamics of communication and interaction, and essentially altered the human experience of cause and effect.

When man began to write and translate thought into symbols, he discovered he could impact others and alter outcomes without necessarily having to be present in the same place or even at the same time. He discovered a new and higher freedom of movement superior to just physical motion; he now had the ability to transfer his thinking independent of his physical presence. Such a monumental change in thinking ultimately changed man’s expectations and redefined the possibilities of greater communication by the powerful idea of impact without physical contact.

Today we have information conveyed by such mediums as satellite, television and radio which has lead to the phrase “real time” to describe the almost instantaneous exchange of information. I submit that these technologies could not exist were it not for the paradigm or concept of projecting oneself outside of the immediate space and time of here and now. It was the pen that changed man’s paradigm and him to arrive at more sophisticated communication concepts. And it is God Who gave the pen to man and showed him how to use it to record, design, account, research, navigate, analyze, verify, discover, calculate, legislate, map, schedule, plan, construct and perform every other aspect that reading and writing has given us.

The secret to progress is no longer a secret. It is right before us in the Qur’an. Throughout the Final Revelation, Allah (SWT) gives us similitudes of how best to manage complexity and the uncertainty of the future. We are told in Surah Al-Baqara (2:282) that there is a preference or superiority of a written agreement over a verbal agreement; while the issue is directly related to trade or commerce, the benefits of writing are universal irrespective of the discipline.

Similitudes such as The Book, The Record and The Pen occur throughout the Qur’an. There are numerous references, but a few shall suffice. Consider Surah Al-Infitar (82:10-12): “But verily over you (are appointed angels) to protect you,—kind and honorable,—writing down your deeds: they know (and understand) all that ye do.” There is Surah Ya-Sin (36:12): “Verily We shall give life to the dead, and we record that which they send before and that which they leave behind, and of all things have we taken account in a clear Book (of evidence).” Lastly, Surah Al-Ali Imran (3:145) relates, “Nor can a soul die except by God’s Leave, the term being fixed as by writing…” Our Lord is constantly calling our attention to the active process of recording or writing.

In addition to the obvious advantage of accountability of written over verbal expression, there are psychological and creative advantages associated with the processes of reading and writing that impact problem identification and resolution, goal identification and achievement, and the capability of bringing ideas into reality. Often times, we cannot begin to see solutions to a problem or that a problem even exists until the details are organized in print.

Imagine what it would be like to lose all that humanity has learned over the centuries or millennia; we would have to literally recreate the wheel. The descendants of Adam (AS) have been able to organize and advance themselves spiritually and technologically under the Guidance and Mercy of Allah through Divine Revelation and through the preservation and transfer of information from one era and civilization to another.

A Balanced Education

Leaders assuming the mantle of government do not have the right to grant legal permission to read. G-d has already given that right to every human being.

The command given to the Prophet in Surah Igraa is a command given to each of us personally and to mankind in general. To learn what Allah asks of us and to emulate the Prophet’s example we must read Revelation. To learn the practical implementation of Qur’an, we must read the history of the Prophet and the Sahaba.

The early ummah managed and advanced the material world with the same book that brought them the religious knowledge. The impetus imparted in the Qur’an by the Divine Mandate to Read allowed the ummah to also read (observe) the material world and advance the information previously discovered by Greek Civilization and others.

Our Islamic ancestors became world leaders because they sought a balanced education. Unlike the fundamental error in reasoning that separated religion and science and the spiritual from the material under the scholarship of earlier Christian savants, Al-Qur’an provided man with the correct equation for education:

REVELATION + OBSERVATION (INFORMATION) = EDUCATION

To neglect the first element of the equation is to become a secularist surreptitiously defined by a working premise that man’s creativity makes him God. To neglect the second is to be practically disoriented and hopelessly fatalistic…incapable of managing our own homes, much less the larger life of a community.

There is a reciprocal relationship between education and leadership. Balanced education promotes competent leadership; competent leadership in turn cultivates an environment for balanced education. Balanced education creates an environment wherein each believer is encouraged to seek Qur’anic knowledge and worldly knowledge without the fear of losing one’s faith. There is no inherent merit in illiteracy, religious or otherwise, any more than there is in poverty.

The failure of Pakistani (and Afghan) extremists to educate the masses regardless of gender denies basic human rights, undermines the very foundation of their society and future and denies to the rest of the world the valuable contributions that would otherwise emerge from Pakistan’s group intellect that includes Malala Yousafzai and every Muslimah and Muslim in Pakistan.

If Afghanistan is to take its seat at the table of global leadership, then its people must encourage and protect the right to balanced education and broad intellectual development structured upon the foundation of Qur’an and we must encourage them to continue the fight against those who would have them and us live in the dark ages.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”— Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

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

Sincerely & respectfully,

Mukhtar
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