Tag Archives: Islam

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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Remaking Our World Calendar 2014…A Reminder of a Great Responsibility

“Every man created is entitled to what G-d has created. No man is to be discriminated against. Entitlement is not to be based upon anything but justice. Go on and build a great life for yourself, as much as any man in the United States of America.” (Imam W. Deen Mohammed, front cover 2014 Remaking Our World Islamic Calendar)

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I’m very happy to announce the release of the 2014 Remaking Our World Calendar. As the project’s editor-in-chief, I’m proud of the writers, editors, and reviewers who made the project possible. We believe we’ve produced one of the most concise, yet comprehensive publications on Islam in America; it’s written to inform every American about what Islam is and is not and what its presence means.

All my life, people have asked me questions about my faith, my name and where I was born, under the assumption I must not have been born here because of my name. But I believe we’re in a time now as a citizenry where we realize more than ever that “American” is not a single cloth where one size fits all. It never has been.

We are rather a quilt of ethnicities, cultures, and religions and each of us as citizens bear the duty to create the best environment for the human spirit such that we become a standard of excellence for the whole world. Every nation should be seeking to cultivate their best. The President, Congress, nor the Military can take on the burden alone…it’s all of our collective responsibility as the late President Kennedy exhorted, “…Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”

Now I want to relate that in early 2001, I was honored to be on Hajj pilgrimage to the sacred precincts of Mecca. While in Madinah, a city about 250 miles from Mecca, I was asked by groups of Muslims from several countries what it was like to be Muslim in America. Specifically, they were curious about whether I was able to practice my faith freely.

My response was perhaps as surprising to them as their question was to me. I said, “yes I can live my religion freely…that there are perhaps as many as 8 million Muslims or more in the U.S., and that there are mosques and schools all over the country; that Muslims were basically in all sectors of American life…that Islam is the fastest growing faith in America and predicted to be the second largest religion early in this century.”

My fellow hajjis were astounded and it’s one example of the misconceptions most Muslims probably have about America, just as many Americans have misconceptions about Islam.

On the one hand, there I was performing Hajj and dispelling false notions among fellow Muslims about what it means to be American, while only a few months later following the tragedy of 9-11, I was addressing fellow Americans about what it means to be Muslim; such a position I believe means that American Muslims may be in the best position to bridge divisions separating East and West.

It’s important to me as an American citizen, as an African American, as a Muslim American and as one who has taken the oath to protect the Constitution of our land as a veteran of our Armed Forces, to fight for the best our Country offers to all its citizens regardless of religion.

Our best includes not allowing extremists to tear us asunder as they sought to do on that fateful September 11. I pray Remaking Our World helps us to know one another better and that it will be a powerful tool in the arsenal against both Islamophobia and extremism. After all, it’s ultimately in the realm of ideas and not on the battlefield that the real victory will be won.

My publisher is distributing the 2014 limited collector’s edition of the Calendar and I invite you to purchase your copy as part of an effort to share 25,000 calendars with our fellow citizens. Your purchase also supports the Words Make People Literary Excellence & Scholarship Award open to students of all faiths…“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools…”—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I wish each of you a Safe, Happy & Blessed Thanksgiving!
Left open for further thought and research.

Peace until next time…Mukhtar

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