The Space Age and the Future of Islam
I had to do it. I'm a science fiction fan and it's been a while since I've seen a good sci-fi flick. Yes, I dragged my wife to the theater and saw a recently released spaceship/action movie. When I viewed the previews of giant insects and battling space marines, I thought for sure I'd like it. But I was definitely unprepared for the visual assault. The special effects were pounding my senses and I felt uncomfortable. I don't recommend taking your children to see most movies these days, for in addition to the gratuitous violence, they almost always throw in unexpected and unnecessary nude scenes. I closed my eyes and was quite annoyed because they normally don't put such filth in science fiction movies. I was raised on Star Wars and other innocent productions. (Society's standards just keep getting more polluted, don't they?)
In my time I've read quite a lot of novels dealing with science fiction, space colonization, aliens, conquering the galaxy, etc... But it never really quite hit me, until seeing this movie, that we as Muslims had better pay attention to more than just what's here on earth.
It's funny, really, when you think about it. Islam is the most suppressed ideology on earth. There is not one single country that is based solely on standard Islamic teachings. There is no society that reflects even a hint of the Islamic ethos and no culture which promotes Islam as a viable way of life, independent of ignorant local customs.
On the contrary, in every country that happens to have a lot of people with Muslim names in it, the national government will do everything in its power to suppress any hint of Islamicity in the people or in politics, even to the point of mass executions, torture and all-out war. (Think of Turkey, Algeria, Syria, Tajikistan, China, etc...)
The only place where Islam, and I mean real Muslims- not those crazy terrorists masquerading as Muslims- can operate freely is in America, Canada and England. Everywhere else, including France and the rest of the world, they're harassed, arrested, denied rights and suppressed. It's pretty sad when you realize that the only thing real Muslims want is peace and justice and obedience to God, while everyone else in the world wants the opposite.
So what direction is the world going in now? Muslims are marginalized completely. Some Muslims get so frustrated with their lack of success in spreading the Islamic lifestyle that they become clandestine rebels in their home countries and fancy themselves an underground "liberation" movement. But they often become deluded and can't pick their agendas well, thus, based on a few short-sighted individuals, the media all over the world can shout about the world-wide "Islamic threat." The unbelievers (and the hypocrites in our ranks) join together and convince the gullible masses that Islam is bad and so the focus of the world must be containment of the "Islamic menace."
The world powers that be have succeeded pretty well. But in lumping all people with Muslim names into one bunch, the world has done a great dis- service. Most of the people with Muslim-sounding names in the world, who are involved in "terrorism," are people acting from political, not spiritual motives and they don't have the support of the Muslim masses anywhere in the world.
Based on published reports and studies, the average Palestinian or Lebanese person doesn't really care about an "Islamic" state. They want Israel out of their lands. (I have enough friends from both ethnic groups who have confirmed this.) The average Pakistani militant or Afghan warlord, likewise, cares little about the ethics of Islam, they have some political, personal or nationalistic agenda to pursue. If it's convenient to use well-known religious phrases and slogans from one's own culture, so be it. Even the Jews fly their, "Star of David" flag but most of them don't follow Prophet David's religion very well.
What the world hasn't realized is that there is a silent majority of Muslims who want an Islamic state that has nothing to do with bombs, repression, censorship, oppression, chauvinism or violence. The Islamic state we envision is actually not too much different from the modern American legal, social and political expression. Among the few differences would be that the basis of the legal code would be derived from the Qur'an, rather than from simple majority rule. After all, it was the opinion of the majority that allowed slavery and oppression of women in this country. (A good presentation of an Islamic government at work can be found in the book, "Al Ahkam as Sultaniyyah" by Abul Hasan al Mawardi. It's in English!)
There would be elected leaders, representatives, an independent judiciary, a tax agency, non-interest based banks, theaters, shopping malls, suburbs, etc... The Qur'an and example of the Prophet would be the basis of cultural and social norms and if you've ever really looked at them, they're very lenient, understanding and beneficial. In addition, laws that forbid indecency would be enforced. And what's so bad about that? In America today, the law books are filled with anti-indecency laws, they just haven't been enforced in a few decades. Look at the social devastation that that has wrought!
The Islamic government would simply enforce the laws that even American courts are supposed to. That's all we want: a government based on eternal principles as revealed by our Creator and a stable and peaceful commonwealth. Those who use Islamic symbols or names, but then do deeds of violence against civilians, are no better than calling the KKK or the Nazis good Christians. We Muslims know the difference between genuine religious seekers and hypocrites, so why is the world so unwilling to recognize that too? Well, we haven't been doing our job of spreading Islamic information very well so I guess this is the situation we deserve.
But while the world has been busy suppressing Muslims, regardless of whether they're "good" or "bad," what else has it been up to? It seems clear that the global trend is towards a more unified and closely linked world, both in political and economic terms as well as in social terms. There seems to be a mono-culture forming all over the place! Whether you're in Botswana, Brazil or Belgium, you drink soda-pop, wear jeans, listen to popular music, surf the net, eat burgers and pizza and wear shirts that say, "DKNY".
Nations are making trade links with each other, establishing free trade zones that cover whole hemispheres and even mutual defense pacts and large alliances. NATO will probably grow to encompass all of North America, all of Europe and Russia, too, within twenty years or so.
Gee, when I read that Libya and Egypt wanted to make a North African trading bloc, I thought, big deal! A bunch of dictators wanting to link their sorry backward economies. But it'll fail like the pan-Arab nation ideas failed in the Fifties and Sixties. It will fail because the leaders of Muslim nations are not interested in the improvement of the lives of their people. After all, the leaders killed and plotted their way to power in the first place and continue to work against the people to maintain their god-like power even now. The armies in Muslim countries don't defend their people from outside enemies, the armies defend themselves, and the dictator who pays them, against their own people! How can you expect benevolent and beneficial actions from them?
Now, back to the main point: A lot has been promoted in the past few years that has resulted in what recent space/action movies such as, "Starship Troopers," "Armageddon," "Deep Impact," and "Alien Resurrection" represent. The setting for the background of "Starship Troopers," for example, is that there will one day be a single world government and that earth will establish many colonies throughout the galaxy. Men and women are completely equal to the point where they even take showers together- in the same locker rooms- and there is no sexual harassment. Everyone in the world speaks English and lives a secular, American-style lifestyle.
The action part of the movie revolves around the idea that a race of giant insects from a far away planet are at war with human civilization. The earth government decides to go on the offensive and the rest of the movie is filled with scenes of tough marines landing on alien "bug" planets and doing battle with giant beetles, soldier bugs and "brain" bugs.
If you put the action and aliens aside for a moment, think about the vision of the future that is presented. The world is united in a benevolent system that is similar to a secular, Western democracy. Everyone has a similar culture based on elements of modern Western culture. Unrestricted sex is the norm and there is no talk of whether morals and values are important. Everyone drinks and everyone is just a good citizen who can live their lives as physically self-fulfilling as possible. And don't forget, people have colonized the stars and taken this way of life with them.
In this vision of the future, there is no Islam, there are no Muslims and a person's values are quite up to themselves. Religion and spirituality are as marginalized and non-existent as they are in current Western society.
Indeed, you can see the beginnings of similar forces taking shape right now. The international space station, humanity's first step to permanent space colonization is scheduled to be built starting next year. America, Japan, Russia and other secular powers are taking the first steps to permanent human colonization of the stars. Meanwhile, back here on earth, the forces arrayed to crush spirituality and allegiance to God have succeeded in destroying Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Shintoism. Those traditions have bowed their heads and become relegated to quaint ceremonies and occasional nationalist sloganeering.
The only real challenge left, Islam, is being suppressed everywhere and unIslamic cultural influences have corrupted almost all the young people in every Muslim country. The Western world has established its hegemony and control over the world's resources, finances, culture and technological direction. China and its "communism" is the only wild card left in the world and there is likely to be conformity there as well, eventually.
What kind of world are we coming into? Even though millions of people convert to Islam every year, millions more, from the Muslim world, are lulled into secularism and become opponents of things related to Islam. Sometimes I almost feel that it seems like a few Westerners are becoming Muslims while most "Muslims" are becoming kaffirs. Interesting thought. But back to the main issue.
Where are Muslims in this coming new world and new frontier of space? Oh sure, a "Muslim" Saudi Prince went up in the space shuttle. Big deal. He didn't design it, his country didn't launch it and he was just a token presence. Anyway, what is so Islamic about a "Prince" coming from a "kingdom"?
Oh, Kazakhstan has the Russian spaceport on its soil, you say? Well, as if Kazakhstan is an Islamic or even a Muslim place! Half the population or more is Russian, the Russian government controls the spaceport and almost all of the so-called Muslims who make up the rest of the country are illiterate in Islam. They live like non-Muslims in their attitudes just like most people from Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey or wherever. There is no Islamic purpose being served there.
Muslims have no space technology, we don't even have any Islamic state here on earth to begin with! Even if Malaysia sent a rocket into space tomorrow, what of it? Malaysia isn't patterned after an Islamic system either. Even the Prime Minister's own daughter goes on television defending the "right" of women to wear bikinis! (See Impact International, Oct, Nov 97.)
Within fifty years, the non-Muslims, mostly of Western heritage, will have not only permanent space stations, but also moon colonies, Martian colonies and perhaps one day, self-sustained colonies on every stable moon in our solar system.
Where will the Muslims be and what will be our position? Will we still be a suppressed movement in the world. Will frustrated people with Muslim sounding names still be planting bombs to achieve political goals in their tiny, backward countries? Will "Muslim" nations still be ruled by the same old kind of small-minded bullies and dictators that we have now, just with new names? Will the armies in "Muslim" countries still have as their primary goal to "protect" themselves against the people?
I know that there are quite a few Muslims who suffer from the same disease that afflicts fundamentalist Christians. That disease is thinking that the end of the world and the Day of Judgment is going to happen tomorrow. I know it can happen anytime and that it is "near" but the Prophet said it was "near" over a thousand years ago! It must be remembered that "near" on Allah's time- scale can mean a long time in earth years. Consequently, Muslims don't think about the future or about where we will be three hundred years from now.
Who cares about whatever "golden achievements" our ancestors made five hundred years ago! The past is dead! This is our present and future! Today, we don't live Islam, we don't make a government based on Islam, in fact, we live worse than the non-Muslims in our desire for wealth, glitter and illusions of power and glory. We don't make progress and we label "ethnic achievements" as progress when they do no service to Islam.
Who cares if Malaysia or Iran or Indonesia or Pakistan has high technology! Those countries don't do any good for the Islam of the Prophet Muhammad! The leaders are corrupt, the systems are unIslamic and the economies are riddled with Riba, corruption and inefficiency. Who cares if this or that Arab nation has a big army and powerful weapons. The government is bad, the leader is a crook and the weapons are usually turned against the people to insure the power of the corrupt elite. Do you see what I'm getting at?
The Blessed Prophet once predicted this situation when he said, "You will be ruled (one day) by men who will kill the Sunnah, violate the orders of Islam and delay the time of Prayer." A man named Ibn Mas'ud asked, "What should we do then?" The Prophet replied, "Don't you know what to do? Whoever disobeys Allah must not be obeyed." (Ibn Majah, Ahmad).
The strength of Islam is to be measured by the standard of Islam: the following of the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Who is following it? Where is it being implemented? What has been built that will promote those teachings? Where is an identifiable community living by the Islamic ethos? Since those objectives are not being achieved anywhere in the world, Muslims are making no progress and are completely unprepared for the future with all its globalization, space exploration and challenges.
To reiterate, it doesn't matter if some ethnic group or another is advanced. Who cares if the Arabs, Pakistanis, Turks or Malays have booming, technologically advanced countries? It doesn't serve Islam if those people are not molding their lives, cultures, finances and political systems according to the Qur'an and Sunnah.
There are some good steps here and there, such as the growth in Islamic banking, the rededication to Iman among many and the building of Masjids again in places where they were closed. But these things are merely band-aids on a patient that is having a massive seizure and hemorrhage!
What good even is the making of millions of converts in the West if their own, isolated children will be susceptible to the unIslamic influences of non- Muslim culture which will assault them at every turn. The children of converts most often go back to being the non-Muslims their parents were before converting! (I've taught for ten years the children of "born Muslims" and converts and can attest to this fact.) Muslims don't even make communities here in the West- where they are allowed to and no one will try to stop them!
Something has to give. Something has to be done. I know the problem seems pretty big. What can you or I do about it? Only Allah knows the future. Here's how I envision events. The "Muslim" movements in most of the "Muslim" world are being run and operated by unsophisticated, uneducated people. They may have degrees and PhD's, but they grew up in under developed nations where running water might have been a miracle. They were raised on a mixture of Islam, culturalism, superstitions and simplistic ideas.
Now before you get mad and write angry letters, hear me out. I know of Muslim leaders, who have a lot of power, and who I've met, who believe that it's okay to kill a girl if she "brings shame" on the family. I know a big Imam who believes you have to say Surahs in a new home to drive away the Jinns before you can live in it. I heard a speech by a big Sheikh in which he spoke of Islam as a tree that is fed by flying body parts, running blood and death. (His imagery was so disgusting and gruesome that I couldn't listen anymore.)
I've heard countless big Maulanas expound on the need to seclude women in the home, and even in the recent Qur'an translation being touted by the Salafees, the tafsir (translator's commentary) says that women are not allowed to go to the Masjid and that the face veil (niqab) is required of women. But the sayings of the Prophet tell a different story! So who do you believe?
I know of "Muslim" groups who oppose the formation of battered women's shelters saying that women should stay in abusive relationships no matter what. And then they throw fifty thousand "Fatwas" in your face. (But the Qur'an says that a woman can divorce and leave her husband if she fears cruelty from him! See 4:128) Again, cultural, ethnic Muslims interpret Islam by their backward, cultural standards.
The Taliban, who claim to be totally "Islamic" do the most unIslamic things: they forbid women to work or even to go to school. They beat people with sticks to reprimand them, and, oh, by the way, quite a few heroin growers operate out of their territory. Even before them, the so-called "Mujahideen" of Afghanistan were financing their war against the Soviets with drug-profits. After the Soviets left, the "Mujahideen" have killed more of each other than the Soviets ever did. So where is the example of Islamic enlightenment there?
The Jamati Islami in Pakistan is discredited from too much political game- playing, the secretive Ikhwan is known to be oriented only towards particularly Arab political concerns. (Even their front organizations in America and Canada focus completely on the Middle east and/or Arab culture and concerns.) Moreover, the usual approach to Qur'anic "studies" in most "Muslim" countries is to beat the students with a stick! Is that Islamic enlightenment?
Even worse, in the West, in most Masjids, the boards of directors are usually made up of people who compete with each other in displaying wealth. Hardly an Islamic thing to do. (By the way, according to the Qur'an: 9:107-108, even hypocrites can build a Masjid! A believer is not supposed to go there, either.)
What does it mean when a "scholar" says that having a king is Halal or when an "Islamic" organization is funded by kings and others? What about the so- called "Islamic" movements who have as their objectives merely freeing a bit of land from someone else? Those are political ideas that are not done for Allah. The Blessed Prophet once remarked that if someone associates anything with their deed besides Allah, then Allah will reject the whole thing. So a group may say "Allahu Akbar", but if they're desire is based on the boundaries of their little nation, then they may be in trouble in the next life. Rather, a true "Islamic" movement doesn't stop at the border. It moves on until there is justice, peace and obedience to Allah either over the entire world or until they die- either way they win.
All those "Islamic" movements are inward looking, locally centered and usually ethnically based. The few true believers among them can literally be caught up in the tide. But it's the true believers who must be the leaders! (See Qur'an 3:139)
So if I've made myself clear, we see that there are few movements, groups or "scholars" which operate solely by Qur'an and Sunnah and solely for the sake of Allah in the "Muslim" world. There are too many cultural ideas, too many shifting political goals and too many emotions. (Oh, did I mention, many of these movements publicly allow wife-beating to their followers with "fatwas" saying it's halal. But they're wrong of course.)
Once we realize the hard facts, we can be liberated from illusions and false ideas which will only corrupt us. After all, among Muslim activists in North America, there is also an element of the sicknesses of the wider Muslim world. For example, there is veiled racism among most of the "Islamic" movements in the West. What else can you say when there are Arab, Black, Indian or Pakistani exclusive organizations? No one prevents them from mixing and they usually have branches in most major cities where the other groups operate as well. Culturalism and ethnic exclusiveness are quite pervasive! (I've seen too much of it first hand and I'm sure you have too.)
Now what about change? What can we do that can realistically turn the tide in the favor of true Islam? Firstly, I envision Muslims going on an information offensive on the outside, while conducting a purification campaign on the inside. Outside, we will get serious about teaching Islam. After all, it's one of our main missions in life. Don't focus only on your job or kids or financial goals, because that's not why you're mainly here.
You're here to find Allah before you die and there's not much time left. After you've found Allah then you can take care of your family, job and goals in an Islamically good way. But most of us go in reverse. We try to get rich and have big families first and then we become spiritual when we're old. But by then, our money won't matter much anymore and our kids have become non- Muslims. Quite a strange paradox. I would rather take care of the spiritual part first and then all along I can be doing the other things.
I envision a da'wah headquarters in every state and urban area. A building with dozens of workers whose job it is to organize da'wah programs in the Masjids, communities and especially among the non-Muslims. It will be staffed by dedicated people who are organized into different departments, who design flyers, book speakers, follow up on contacts, design campaigns, visit churches, operate soup kitchens, offer counseling, have housing bureaus, women's shelters and coordinate the activities of Masjids.
The workers will be hired based on their qualifications for this sort of job, not because they happen to have a Muslim name and just got off the plane and need a job. They will be well paid at a living wage and will have job security and a professional, pleasant working environment. The operation will be funded by a waqf set up by all the communities which will provide a permanent income. Not through endless donation, because that dries up and becomes subject to outside pressure. Rather, a gas station or apartment building will be bought and given in trust to the Da'wah center to which all profits will go, forever. (Such an enterprise could provide job search services to needy converts or poor Muslims.)
I could write for hours about how it would be structured and operated and the types of activities it would perform, but why don't you use your imagination? Every major Christian organization has "da'wah" centers in every major and minor urban center all over the world. They are funded by trusts funded by big businesses. Shouldn't we do that? I'm convinced half the country would become Muslim in a few years if the effort was done right. Then all the colonists being sent to the moon base in fifty years would be Muslims!
I also envision internal purification of the community. Forget about the "Muslim" world. Forget about it. It's lost for the time being. There will be nothing but turmoil there for years to come. Our locally available resources are stretched so thin. We want to see Islam grow but our own house is not in order. Until we spend the money here, supporting the establishment of permanent Islam in North America, we'll never make any progress.
We also must live together. What do you think will happen if you're the only Muslim household on the block? Are you really that stupid? You will lose your descendants away from Islam if you don't live with other (believing) Muslims, period. Only then can we begin to practice the community life that we often brag about. Let's stop theorizing and start practicing. If you've had bad experiences around other "Muslims" it's because all of us have forgotten how to live as Muslims in a community. Some of us have never had that opportunity to begin with and so the theories remain big talk.
And don't form communities based on ethnic groups, because if you do, you'll fail in the long run. A Muslim community must be based on Islamic teachings. Everyone is welcome and everyone is a part of the brotherhood. If you have racist feelings, confront them by living around the (Muslim) people you looked down on. Then your racist feelings should soften and eventually disappear. I've visited and had extensive contacts with budding Islamic communities in North America and I tell you it is possible, for I've seen it happening here and there. It must happen in more places!
Muslims can gain control of local town councils, enact laws that are in line with Islam, enforce laws against pornography, etc., and set the curriculum in the local public schools. The Orthodox Jews and Catholic Italians have done this in countless places, especially in New York. Many other ethnic and religious groups are doing it too. Muslims must give up the "every man for himself" attitude and make the sacrifices.
A simple goal for every Muslim family could be to make sure that they live within walking distance of a Masjid. That's a start. If you find a Masjid that is run by hypocrites or culturally oriented people who have no spirit to promote the Islamic lifestyle, (and there are many), then either join with like-minded people and establish a real Masjid or move to a place that has a dynamic, friendly and family-oriented Masjid. Many cities and suburbs have multiple Masjids so your search shouldn't be too difficult.
What if there are few real believers around you and moving far is not an option- and even worse, what if the only Masjid in town is built on hypocrisy? Brothers and sisters! Bypass the whole thing. You can run study groups, classes, counseling, family outings, Salat and other activities right from your own homes! An entire network of good families and professional services can be united completely outside the domain of the hypocrite/backward cultural people.
People will know who is real and they will flock to your orbit. Then you may be able to establish a Masjid and school based on Taqwa. Remember, the Blessed Prophet and the believers had to go thirteen years without a proper Masjid in Mecca! You can do it too if you network like they did. Even the Jum'uah can be instituted in someone's basement or home if there is no Masjid nearby or a corrupt one.
My brothers and sisters, I want to see Islam- not "ethnic or cultural" Muslims- but Islam, survive, strengthen and prosper in the coming centuries. Not because I want "my team" to win, but because Islam is the salvation of humanity. It's the reason why we're alive and it's the only thing that our Creator will care that we picked up in this world. It's the only thing that takes an ordinary person and transforms them into the best of Allah's creation. May you live with faith and open your eyes and orient yourselves towards the task ahead. Amin.
Yahiya Emerick's articles are reproduced here electronically with permission from the author. - H.A.