Volume 15-07 No:175
Former German diplomat Murad Hoffman’s Islam 2000 must be read by all those who had felt incensed after reading Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilization. Having served as Germany’s ambassador in Algeria and Morocco, the author has come up with this book in response to dual challenges of averting conflict between the West and Islam on one hand, and presenting Islam to a West that has grown sterile of any ideology, on the other.
The Western civilization has lost its ideological moorings. Current concept of Jesus Christ being ‘son of God’ prevents the regeneration of Europe as the Christian world has grown convinced during the last 200 years that divinity of Jesus is untenable. This largely explains the agnosticism and atheism.
Sense of victory in the West in the wake of the collapse of Communism and the Soviet Union proved short-lived. Wars and ethnic cleansing in the heart of Europe, exploitation of environment by trans-nationals and excessive consumerism made the objective of the West-propelled Liberalization obvious. Faith in God has been replaced by faith in ‘progress’. So an average Westerner expects all the people to wear jeans, drink colas, smoke Marlboros, eat hamburgers, watch CNN and be proforma members of some Christian church. But Muslim worldview is that people should live as believers, not merely citizens, technology to be devoid of its dehumanizing aspects, and subservience to one God not to beauty, power, sex, technology and NASDAQ.
The West is not bothered as long as the individuals in the West adopt faiths of folkloristic value such as Buddhism or Shintoism, anything other than Islam. In fact, Islam is the only religion that cannot count on benign neglect or sincere toleration. Some of the reasons why Islam has been associated with intolerance, are the creation of the Muslims alone. Events in Libya or Iran or invasion of Kuwait are a few among them. Moreover, Islam is nowhere seen fully in practice and the Islamic economy model is nowhere in operation. And thirdly because the West largely remains unaware of the contributions of Islam to science and arts in as much as, “To be ignorant about Islam and its culture, in Europe or the United States, is not yet considered a lack of education.
In order to defuse the explosive situation between two sides of the Mediterranean, Hoffman urges Muslims to initiate reforms aimed at removing illiteracy and fear of technology, (technopobia to be precise) from among Muslims. Some of the observations are significant. Memorizing the holy Quran during the early years of Islam was beneficial because this was the only means for Islam to survive intact in the age of brutal suppression. But this has its drawbacks. Invariably everywhere, Muslim pupils try to learn their lessons by-heart. This smothers capacity to analyse. It was Muslim Spain that gave to the world its first windmills. But today if the water toilets do not function, one has to understand that he is in a Muslim country. The author dismisses the so-called efforts of Islamization of Knowledge as misguided. He instead urges effort to create scientists who are true Muslims.
Western perception of women in Islam being suppressed is often reinforced by how Muslim interpreters chose to interpret the Quranic verse Ar-Raijalu Qawwamuna Alan Nisa (generally translated as ‘Men are placed above women’ in the Muslim world, while German diplomat Leopold Muhammad Asad renders it as ‘Men shall take full care of women’).
The Quran and the Sunnah do not prescribe once and for all, any specific form of state or method of election. A Muslim parliamentary democracy will neither be theocratic nor secular, but rather an ideological, state, with the Quran as its supreme law. Pleading for riba to be treated as ‘usury’ and not ‘interest’, he says, the verses regarding the abolition of riba are flaunted as magic wand for Islamizing the economy. The abolition of riba can happen only in an economy that is already Islamized. At any rate, all non-Muslim states also honour some supreme statute which at least in part, is not subject to possible revision. So on the question of state and government, the Muslims should not hide or fumble, but when challenged on the question of democracy, republicanism or separation of power, they should assure their challengers that none of these concepts is, by nature, foreign or inimical to Islam.
He also advises that Muslims should squarely admit that the Islamic economy will not be, cannot be and does not want to be as profitable, or as competitive as the Western economy, because Islam does not treat man as an economic animal and is not merely for maximization of profits, optimization of production and minimization of costs, the capitalist mantras.
The Muslim world suffers from monumental public relations deficit. Undeniably, quite a lot of Islamic literature is shipped to the Western countries from Muslim sources. Alas, most of this material is ineffective because of low quality of paper, faulty English and incredible amounts of printing mistakes. This kind of dawah effort suffers even more by its approach: Usually it preaches to the converted.
But in order to carry out all these prescriptions, the Muslim world is called upon to avoid confusing religion and the civilization of Islam, fundamental and marginal aspects, tradition and taqlid, sound and fabricated hadiths, shariah and fiqh and the Quran and the sunnah.
Steeped in the Western rationalism, Murad Hoffman’s prescriptions need to be read with utmost attention by all in the Muslim world and appreciated for its candour, depth of insight and sympathy that this neo-Muslim has developed for Islam.
Murad Wilfried Hoffman was Germany’s ambassador to Algeria and Morocco between 1987-94 and was earlier Director of Information for NATO at Brussels. He embraced Islam in 1980. He received his education at Union College in New York and did his Masters degree in German Law in Munich and took his doctorate from Harvard. His first book on Islam was Diary of a German Muslim (1990). Second book Islam: The Alternative raised protests in Germany and he was dubbed a fundamentalist by Leftists. He currently lives with his Turkish wife in Istanbul. His son from his late first wife is also a diplomat.
Trapped between the two worlds of ‘A for Apple, B for Bat and C for Cat’ in school and jarring lyrics from Channel V like ‘Girls just want to have Fun’, kids today are drowned in a music mania. While ‘Jack & Jill’ or ‘Baa, Baa, Black Sheep’ have their own place as the good old traditional rhymes to listen to, even these have lost their charm in an age where desi singers have compiled ‘duplicate’ copies of these old rhymes.
Amidst this depressing scenario, not just kids, even the grown-ups have something to look forward, to bring the joy of rhymes back into their lives. Milky Way is a collection of Islamic rhymes in English which lends a refreshing outlook to the way spiritual and Islamic values can be infused into children. With ten compilations in praise of the Almighty, the rhymes are presented in the voice of popular singer Syed Haamid Hussain with his own tunes and very sober music.
Way back in 1976, Siddique Jaferi established Al-Siddique Islamic English School in Dubai to teach the modern sciences in Islamic perspectives. During the same time, he wrote his first rhyme for his students - ‘A for Allah’, which gained immense popularity the worldover. Prof. Rasheed Kausar Farooqui and Ms. Safia Iqbal later joined him in this venture and together they produced Children’s rhymes on different subjects. The result of their efforts materialized in a book Milky Way which was published and subsequently recorded on audio cassettes by Jafferi. Syed Haamid Hussain has also included two new rhymes of his own - ‘I am a Muslim Girl’ and ‘I love you O Allah’.
While Hussain is all set to reach out with the Islamic rhymes across the world, Milky Way is something that ought to be picked up by all those who care to listen to some meaningful lyrics that touch the soul. The text compilations with simple lyrics will be an all-out hit not just with kids, but even the older generation hooked to the latest Bollywood chartbusters. But of the ten, it’s the ‘Chirping Birds’ that one will rewind to again and again - a clear winner all the way.