Reading the Muslim Mind
By Dr. Hassan Hathout
About the Author
The late Dr. Hassan Hathout is a physician, scientist, teacher, speaker, thinker, writer, poet, and ethicist as well as an Islamic Scholar. He is one of those encyclopedic personalities reminiscent of older times. As an Egyptian American, he is bicultural and bilingual. Appalled by the distorted image of Islam in the West, he has made it his mission to explain Islam as it (really) is. He is the author of eight books and innumerable medical and non-medical papers and article.
People will certainly respond favorably to the sincerity and the forthrightness of the book. The book often shows the penetrating wisdom a mind is capable of…(Frank Vogel, Harvard Law School).
The book will have an important role in religious studies classrooms (including my own). (Crerar Douglas, Department of Religious Studies, California State University, Nothing).
Dr. Hathout addresses live issues which members of no religious community can ignore….He guides the reader in the path of intellectual discourse previously chartered by great Muslim scholars like Imam al-Ghazzali. (Sulayman Nyang, Howard University.)
Other books written by Dr. Hathout are:
Thus Shall I Stand Before God,
A Brief Introduction to Seerah,
Islam and Some Contemporary Issues, and
Following are section and chapters from the book, Reading the Muslim Mind selected for your reading.
The People of the Book (Jews and Christians)
From amongst humanity, Jews and Christians are the nearest to Muslims and are given the honorary title of People of the Book. They are fellow believers in the One God and the recipients of scriptures from Him. They share the belief in the line of prophethood, and many of our Jewish and Christian friends are taken by surprise when they learn that the biblical prophets are also Islamic prophets. The three religions share a common moral code. The Ouran says,
Say: ‘We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and the revelation given to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) the prophets from their Lord.- We make no distinction between one and another of them, and to Him, we are submitters.’ (2:136)
The word Islam literally means “submission to the will of God.”
Muslims are permitted by Islam to eat the food offered them by the People of the Book (unless specifically prohibited, such as alcohol or pork) and to reciprocate by offering their food to them: “The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and your food is lawful unto them” (5:5).
Further, a Muslim man is permitted to take into marriage (the most intimate relation and sacred bond) a Jewish or Christian woman: “Lawful unto you in marriage are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book revealed before your time when you give them their due dowers and desire chastity, and not lewdness, taking them as lovers” (5:5). In such a situation it is unlawful for the Muslim husband to try to exert pressure on his wife to convert to Islam, because that would contradict the Quranic injunction, “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (2:256). It would indeed be his Islamic duty to ensure her right of worship according to her own faith.
In an Islamic state, the legal dictum about the People of the Book is that “they have our rights and owe our duties.” They are equally eligible for social security and other benefits the state provides. Muslims were warned against acts of bigotry or prejudice towards the People of the Book, and Prophet Muhammad himself said, “Whoever hurts a person from the People of the Book, it will be as though he hurt me personally.
As a matter of fact, from its inception, the Islamic society was a pluralistic society. As soon as Muhammad immigrated to Madinah to establish the earliest Islamic state, a treaty was concluded between all the tribes, including the Jewish tribes who lived there, establishing religious freedom and equal rights and duties.
Islam is not an exclusive religion. It is a universal call to mankind (not an “Arab” or an “Eastern” religion as many depict it). Although it addresses all people, including the People of the Book, their failure to embrace it is no reason to categorize them as enemies or infidels. As a matter of fact, the term “infidel” is of European origin, used at the time of the Crusades to describe Muslims.
Goodness is acknowledged by Islam wherever it resides:
“Not all of them are alike: of the people of the Book are a portion that stands (for the right); they rehearse the signs of God all night long and they prostrate themselves in adoration” (3:113). No individual or group can claim monopoly of God’s mercy or deny it to others: “Those who believe (in the Quran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians, and the Sabians, any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” (2:62).
As a comprehensive religion dealing with the whole of life and not confined to matters of worship or the house of worship, Islam shares the concerns of society at large, of which Muslims are apart. Naturally, Muslims wish to share their values with others in an attempt to jointly explore solutions and common ground in the resolution of these problems.
In this chapter, we will present the Islamic view of e contemporary issues. The topics were selected as specimen cases by which to examine and demonstrate the relevance of the Islamic perspective our everyday life, moving away from the area of theory and abstract thought.
The subjects discussed in the following pages are the New World Order, (2) jihad, (3) family and the al revolution, and (4) biomedical ethics, including reproductive issues, (b) organ donation and transplantation, (c) definition of death, (d) euthanasia, and genetic engineering.
THE NEW WORLD ORDER
The declaration of a New World Order has been prompted recently by the precipitate fall of communism. While the collapse of communism had not been anticipated by much of the world, Islamic literature had, for several decades, criticized both communism and capitalism and expected neither to endure. In their comparative works, Muslim scholars have clearly demonstrated how and where each of these systems falls short in comparison with an independent system based on the teachings of Islam.
It would be rash to conclude that the collapse of communism attests to the fitness of capitalism. Both are flawed because they are materialistic ideologies unsuited for a species whose characteristics extend far beyond the material. Another fallacy of this ideologies-albeit in opposite directions-is the assumption that the individual and the society are in irreconcilable conflict. Communism sought to crush the individual in favor of society. Yet what is a society but the individual multiplied? The result was inevitably a crushed society.
Capitalism, on the other hand, extols individuality and unduly shields it from the claims of society. This has imbued the individual with a sense of justifiable selfishness, and when this sense has been projected outward, its various expressions have been classism corporatism, nationalism, racism, slavery and colonialism. The cornerstone of capitalism is that the only function and sole destiny of capital is to grow and keep growing without limits. When local markets are fully saturated, new ones are sought overseas and in the Third World. There is obvious (or, perhaps, willful) blindness to the fact that it is impossible to attain infinite growth on a finite planet.
The feverish race for dollars and more dollars is coupled with the planned and active encouragement of patterns of consumerism and planned obsolescence not to satisfy needs, but rather to satisfy the wish for comforts, pleasures, and luxuries. Natural resources, many irreplaceable, are being violated at an accelerating pace. This drive for overkill has targeted, as its sacrificial lamb, the world’s resources. It has especially exploited the Third World, a vital market and cheap source of labor and materials, which it presumes to be expendable. Not only are its peoples stripped of their natural resources and raw materials for a meager price (compared to the exorbitant prices they pay to buy the finished products of those materials), they are even prevented from carrying out such projects that might improve their lot and make them less dependent on First World imports.
To prevent the Third World from total death by exsanguination, it is regularly injected with fresh capital in the form of loans and aid in order to maintain its buying power, to the favor of Western capital.
Alas, only a tiny fraction of that aid goes to address the needs of the people. The major part goes to the home-grown elite, who form the ruling class, and their retinues, who undertake the maintenance of the status quo. They prevent the public debate of the terms and conditions of the loans and aid and block any attempt at supervising their management and establishing accountability for their mismanagement. They oppress labor rights and allow lax safety procedures, and keep a total ban on unearthing the appalling corruption that has become the hallmark of government in the Third World-including much of the Islamic World. This seems to explain two paradoxes.
The first is that in many Middle Eastern countries, the more money the West pumps in, the poorer the country becomes and the deeper it gets into debt. The second is the total betrayal by the major democracies of the democratic movements of the Middle East that seem close to gaining power through following the sound democratic process. Invariably the democracies side with the dictators against the democratic aspirations of the people, and, when necessary, support dictators even with the use of military power.
The expression stability, which is the declared aim of every Western intervention, means in real terms the reservation of the best exploitative opportunities for foreign capital, even if they are the worst possible for the foreign masses. They and future generations will inherit a rising debt that their GNP is unable to service, let alone pay. This state of affairs is both known and bitterly felt by the people of the Third World. They see its results in their homes, their families and in the extremely limited opportunities available to their children. They call it an injustice and they try to change it, but they are brutally suppressed. Western politicians participate in this suppression, and to justify it in the eyes of their people, propagandistic formulae and terminologies are promptly employed (such as declaring that their victims are eroding the stability of their nation or committing blatant aggression on our national interests). Until recently, it was convenient to call those seekers of justice “communists.” Since the collapse of communism, their new label is “Islamic fundamentalists.”
Under the influence of a gigantic media machine owned by large corporations and big capital designed to manipulate and shape public thinking, the masses in the West have so far been swift to swallow the bait and, unsuspectingly, sanction the means and ways of their policy-makers. And yet this is not the worst fault of the submissive and unsuspecting nature of the people in the West. What they have been even slower to grasp is that the various appetite of capital and its greedy practice in the Third World is not confined to those faraway places inhabited by strange and exotic people. Government and big business do not flinch from doing the same at home to their own citizens whenever prompted by the dictates of their sacred principle: growth and more growth, capital and more capital, dollars and more dollars.
What else can explain the shifting of major chunks of the industry to Southeast Asia and elsewhere, where cheap labor (financially and humanly) can produce a cheaper final product which, however, will not be sold cheaper when shipped back home to America? During the process, millions of American workers have been laid off and joined the ranks of the unemployed.
This road of unbridled capitalism cannot continue indefinitely. All evidence shows that it will hit a dead end before long, evidence that has been attacked, ignored, and even hidden, but it is there, whether its opponents like it or not. The twin golden-egged geese of the world’s resources and peoples of the Third World shall not survive for long. Unless there is radical change before it is too late, this planet will eventually cease to be sustainable.
What is called for, however, is not merely a change of rules but a change of heart. As long as the mentality of materialism reigns, there is no hope for more than symptomatic treatment that might delay the inevitable for a brief time but will not prevent it. So long as the prevailing thinking views human interaction in terms of us versus them, North versus South, exploiter versus exploited, rich versus poor, white versus people of color, and masters versus slaves (or servants), there is no hope for the future. The ship of humanity will sink, even while the passengers in deluxe and first-class cabins further amass more valuables and luxuries.
It is doubtful that the politicians and the financiers of the world possess the necessary vision, wisdom, and ability to undergo a dramatic self-change. It is pitiful to watch them staying the ominous course and leading humanity so close to the edge of the abyss. The only hope is a massive campaign to educate the public who, as voters, remain the final arbiters at the end of the day. If a demand is created for a new way, then politicians will either have to change or get out of the way of change.
What does Islam have to do with all this? Islamic scholars and thinkers (not the terrorists and extremists that the media hold as a fixed mask on the face everything Islamic) have, for several decades, been sketching the features of an Islamic system that would address world problems and is based on the Islamic Shari’ah, which is naturally not a copy of formulas that might have served well in previous times and circumstances. Nor is this system to be considered exclusively Islamic or prescribed strictly for Muslims, for the welfare of humanity is a common concern and with our ever-shrinking interactive globe, we all face the same destiny. The principal features of this system are described below:
The Authority Over Man
Man is not the supreme being of this universe, but is responsible and accountable to the Supreme Being, God! Without God, everything becomes possible, as Dostoyevsky said, and anything can be rationalized and justified. When man dethroned God he slipped into self-worship. The true role of man in this universe is to be God’s vicegerent and trustee, so equipped as to be capable of having a full mandate over nature in order to manage the planet in accordance with the Creator’s instructions, and not upon his own impulses and temptations. Neither science (a tool yet in its infancy) nor arrogance (a killer trap) should delude man into playing God … if the only man were wise enough.
The Ownership of Goods
Ultimate ownership is God’s by virtue of His being the Creator. Our ownership is a secondary ownership. We are free to own and to increase our wealth by lawful means, practically without limits, so long as we are aware that capital not only has rights but also duties. The function of capital is not merely to grow ad infiniturn, but also to fulfill obligations towards society.
The assumption (by both communism and capitalism) that there is an inevitable conflict between the individual and society does not exist in Islam, in which the premise is an equilibrium that is delicately balanced between both and does justice to all. This balance is not maintained merely by the strong arm of the law, but by a strong desire to win God’s pleasure that makes giving a continuous source of joy for the giver. God is always in the equation and is a living reality, a notion that, from a materialistic perspective, is irrelevant and absolutely meaningless.
In Islam the premise is that God has remitted the sustenance of the poor in the wealth of the rich and in a new world order, the principle may be carried over to international proportions. This new system is, of course, achievable and attainable, but not under a value-free educational system, a tidal wave of media indoctrination, or a society tolerant of injustices. Society is now so interdependent and integrated that nobody can live in isolation, either at the apex of riches or at the nadir of poverty.
Over fourteen centuries ago Omar, the second caliph of Islam, decreed that if a man died in poverty, the citizens of his town had to pay his ransom as if they had killed him. The community is “like one body .. when one organ suffers, the others rally in support, ” as the Prophet said. Every citizen has the right to live at a minimum level of comfort (not merely at subsistence level), and since living on charity is discouraged, it follows that individual rights include the right to gainful employment. Labor-saving technology is therefore allowed as an answer to a labor shortage, but never to economize on jobs and throw laborers into unemployment. The man takes priority over the machine, and the juridical rule is that the collective welfare takes priority over individual welfare. This does not mean the arrest of technological progress, but that it should go hand in hand with labor in dealing with its consequences.
Workers are encouraged and supported in buying shares in their companies in order to blur the polarization between labor and capital and to enable them to have a vested interest in the progress of their companies.
Another rule in Islam is that money as an instrument cannot breed money unless coupled to some kind of production; hence, usury is unlawful in Islam. In recent decades much has been written on usury-free banking, and indeed a number of banks, not only in Islamic countries but also in Europe and America, have successfully pioneered its application.
The Equality of Man
The oneness of humanity as a single family sharing the common grandparentage of Adam and Eve should be emphasized and taught to children from a young age, together with the concept of the inherent equality of human beings. It is unfortunate that both science and religion were, at one time, misused in Europe (and America) to concoct evidence of the natural superiority of the white (or Aryan) race over the others. The false evidence in support of this claim is now dead and buried, but its legacy continues. In most churches in the West until now, Jesus is portrayed as a blond white man with blue eyes, unlike the brunet, olive-complexioned people common in the area of Palestine.
The evidence of racism in the West practically pervades all aspects of life, and the will to change it is yet to gather sufficient momentum. An uphill battle for civil rights in America has been going on for decades, and in spite of palpable progress, one cannot say that the bitter taste of slavery has been washed away. Equality is not a set of legal specifications but is primarily a state of mind.
So far the black man in America has not heard the word “sorry” from the white man for the chapter of slavery that tarnished the history of white civilization (although the non-white Japanese Americans did receive an apology and reparations for their internment during World War 11). Racial tensions continue to erupt, and although regrettable, the participants in these incidents of violence often have some justification. The Los Angeles riots in the near past (April of 1992) are a case in point.
Every time there is a call for action to improve a lot of American blacks, the response, though often helpful for a limited time, usually misses the root cause of the problem. Neither bullets nor dollars will come up with permanent and real solutions. Only when everyone in the depths of their hearts feels and believes that every other human being is a dear and equal brother or sister will real change occur. This cannot be decreed by law but is a function of education. To transform our world, we must bring about a total educational revolution with the objective of creating a unified and compassionate society, undivided by barriers of any kind, and give new life and significance to slogans of freedom, fraternity, and equality, not only within national borders but on a global scale.
To effect change, the re-education of the neo-colonialist nations must be coupled with a real effort on their part to assist the development of the Third World. It has been estimated that the subsidy Europe pays to its farmers is enough to cause such a turnaround in the Third World as to eliminate the problem of hunger the world over. Such an idea was summarily scoffed at in a (philanthropic) meeting in Europe of former ministers and prime ministers from various countries. Neither the elimination of subsidy nor the development of the Third World were considered live options, the former for reasons of political expediency and the latter for political strategy.
The Need for Self-Restraint
Application of the uniquely human faculty of self-restraint has been rapidly eroding and needs to be restored. Although it is a principal distinction between man and animal, the mentality of modern times seems to have played havoc with it. A young man who was arrested for shooting at passing cars on a freeway and killing some people had only this to offer as an explanation: “I felt like killing someone.” This is not a lone example. Statistics on crime clearly indicate that grossly impulsive and destructive behavior has become a common social phenomenon rather than an exception, as anyone who watches the news or reads the papers can confirm. The lack of a sound value system and the consequent appalling lack of resistance in the face of impulses and temptations are underlying factors that have led to gradual societal destruction.
A key to change can be found with education and the media -but education must be informed not only by knowledge but also by a belief in what is right and an awareness that we are accountable to a higher power – only then will most people become fully responsive to the prompting of their conscience. If there is a Day of Judgment, as Muslims and others believe, then one cannot envy the media moguls who will be confronted by their role in publicizing and promoting violence, pornography and licentiousness. Speak lightly of the unthinkable and it naturally becomes thinkable. Our young then explore and experiment until debauchery and miscreancy become societal addictions.
Unfortunately, some states are subtly setting the example to their youth of recourse to naked power, especially when they are strong beyond limits and their adversaries are weak beyond limits. The fig leaf called values and principle often falls when the military giants crack down on presumed aggression with all their might and practically against no resistance; when a worse aggression follows, the same giants pull back because “the task would not be easy.” Regard for human life is abysmal, both as they attack it or refrain from protecting it. One of the powerful but revealing comments made by a military leader during the Gulf War was, “We are not in the business of counting bodies,” but he, of course, meant the bodies of the other side.
War and Peace
The rules of war in Islam are very clear and were explicitly delineated by Prophet Muhammad himself. It must either be of a defensive nature or remove oppression wherever it might be, following what is now called a just cause, and it must be fought without harm to innocent civilians or the environment. Alliance to stop aggression is expressed in the Quranic verse: “If two parties among the believers fall into a fight, make peace between them, but if one of them transgresses against the other, then fight (all) against the one that transgresses until it complies with the command of God. But if it complies, then make peace with justice and be fair, for God loves those who are fair” (49:9).
Alliance with non-Muslims for a just cause is acceptable. An example is the Prophet’s treaty with the Jews of Madinah to defend that city jointly from the disbelievers. Another example is the reference by the Prophet to a treaty made between the tribes of Makkah long before Islam, who agreed to join together in supporting the oppressed. The Prophet commented, “That was an alliance before Islam, but if, in Islam, I had been invited to it, I would have joined it.” The Prophet’s explicit instructions to his armies were strict in that they should fight only against belligerents and not against women, children, or the elderly. Non-Muslim religious people in their monasteries or houses of worship also should not be harmed, nor should enemy trees be cut or set on fire as a war measure, nor should animals be targeted or slaughtered except for food. When one reviews these stipulations, it becomes obvious that the implementation of these lofty Islamic war ethics requires a special effort in a modern war. Perhaps World War I was the last war in which it was possible for fighting to be fairly confined to military personnel. Starting with the Spanish Civil War in the thirties, the rules began to change as was evident in World War 11, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
The two atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki speak for themselves, as does the carpet bombing of the Vietnam war and its “free fire zones,” killing not only people, animals, and plants, but even the soil itself.
Some people would, therefore, take it that those Islamic war ethics are now theoretical and cannot hold in our modem age. Muslims and others, however, look at the issue from another perspective. Since modern warfare is so devastating, war itself should cease to be an option in conflict resolution. War should be obsolete just like slavery! It is a bad omen that the New World Order was announced on the occasion of an overwhelming military strike. Subsequent decisions raise suspicion that what is new in the New World Order is no more than the old order presided over by one adversary instead of two.
With humanity at the present apex of civilization – never attained before – and ready to move into the second millennium heralding and celebrating a New World Order, a world free of war, and with some alternate instruments of just peacemaking, is no longer an idle dream.
Why can’t independent courts of justice settle differences between nations? After all, war does not differentiate between right and wrong but only shows who is stronger and possesses more destructive power. The implementation of fair and just conflict resolution would be quite possible if courts of law capable and desirous of honest and impartial handling of conflict were established (this excludes the United Nations and its Security Council). The success of any such proposal revolves totally around one pivot: that the civilized countries decide to be civilized! It takes the truth, and nobody would ever say they are against the truth, but they are. Truth is a value, and regrettably, politics are blind to values, and this is the real threat that we face today.
Will the strong accede to justice as decided by law or persist in believing that might makes right? Will the military-industrial complex give up its raison d’etre, justifying itself by some war or another every now and then? Can justice be accepted in apportioning the cake of the world resources and the cost of replenishing them? Of course not; that would be blasphemous to the masters of the current order unless things change, and change will not come from above. It will come from below upwards, from the grassroots.
For the sake of making dollars to buy their food, service their debts, arm their military, protect their dictators and satisfy the insatiable appetite of their rulers and elite, the poorer side of humanity in the developing countries are condemned to deplete their natural resources. On the part of the affluent side of humanity, with the goal of making the rich richer to enhance their consumeristic patterns, increase their luxuries and indulge in their pleasantries, the industrialized world is violating, poisoning, polluting and killing the ecology. This happens at a time when science and technology are capable of influencing the biosphere in a dramatic and unprecedented way, and it happens in peacetime, apart from the devastating and permanent damage that a full-scale modern war is capable of causing.
We borrow from the future at an extravagant rate, whereas sane and reasonable estimates tell us that we are incurring a debt our future generations will not be able to pay. Remedial measures and workable suggestions have been prescribed, but the obstacle, as expected, has been those who hold the reins of power, the custodians of unbridled, greedy, selfish, gluttonous, short-sighted capitalism. As the Quran says, “There is the type of man whose speech about this world’s life may dazzle you, and he calls God to be his witness about what is in his heart, yet is he the most contentious of enemies. When he prevails, he goes about the earth spreading mischief and destroying tilth and progeny; and God loves not mischief” (2:204-205).
Notwithstanding bitter opposition from big business, the ecology movement outside the sphere of politics has steadily gained momentum. On Earth Day 1990, one hundred million people in 140 countries showed up for the largest grass-roots demonstration ever. This cannot be ignored by the politicians who would otherwise lose their votes. Perhaps it is time to establish an international ecological agency in which world governments would participate with the prior agreement to voluntarily heed its recommendations, recommendations that, of course, should not be oblivious to the question of justice.
The world population is growing at a pace which far exceeds that of available resources. Concerns about the population explosion are therefore quite legitimate. Since most of the population increase occurs in the Third World, the latter has been accused of irresponsible behavior and targeted for blame by the West. Disciplinary action has been considered, and a number of countries that provide aid, including the United States of America, have entertained the idea of linking that aid with fertility regulation and family planning achievements. Worse than that, in an article entitled “Would Machiavelli now be a better guide for doctors than Hippocrates? (World Health Forum, vol. 14,1993,105.) Dr. Jean Martin reviews some Western opinions that question the advisability of some vaccination programs and other health measures in the Third World since they allow too many children to live and utilize resources, which eventually causes the cycle of famine and death to be repeated. In other words, there is a call to set limits on the reduction of mortality in the Third World. A shift from humanitarianism to “pragmatism” sounds logical to some, hence the inclusion of Machiavelli’s name in the article.
That there is a problem, no one can deny. That there is a need to avail families who wish to use them (without coercion) of safe, reliable and accessible contraceptive methods is a fact also, and Islam has no qualms with that. Our only reservation is that putting the blame on the population problem solely and squarely on Third World countries is not telling the whole truth, for the issue is really multifaceted. Placing blame on the Third World ignores the fact that the birth of one baby in the United States “. . imposes more than a hundred times the stress on the world resources and environment as a birth in, say, Bangladesh,” wrote Paul and Anne Ehrlich of the Department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University, in National Geographic Magazine. They note that while population problems in poor nations keep them poor, population problems in rich nations are destroying the ability of the earth to support civilizations. (Quotedin Michael Henderson, Hopefora Change (Salem: Grosvenor Books, 1991), 24.)
The way to reduce population growth in the Third World has been debated (especially at the World Population Conference in Bucharest, 1974). Historical precedent (studying what happened in Europe that brought down fertility rates) and common sense indicate that development is the cause and not the outcome of reduced fertility-development is the best pill. That insecurity is a natural stimulus of fertility is also a known phenomenon. Yet the capitalist countries put a disproportionately high emphasis on fertility regulation in the Third World. Their concern goes far beyond mere philanthropic or altruistic considerations for the welfare of humanity.
In the summer 1991 issue of Foreign Affairs, a report (originally prepared for the US Army Conference on Long Range Planning) by Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute warns against the implications of the proportional increase in numbers in the Third World nations for the international political order and the balance of world power. After three generations, he notes, eight great-grandparents in the West will share only four or five descendants against over three hundred for much of Africa and the Middle East; therefore, the leading countries of today will be the smallest nations in the future.
The National Security Study Memorandum 200, a study of “Implications of Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas Interests,”(National Archives. Files of the National Security Study Memorandum 200. RG 273) is a very educative document, revealing the complex political, economic and military implications and the solid realities of the world in which we live. Population factors might be the seeds of revolutionary actions and an impetus for the expropriation or limitation of foreign economic interests. Poverty, population growth, and population youth (The common phenomenon in Third World countries in which the majority of a nation’s population is young, resulting from an accelerated birth rate, especially among the young, and a lower life expectancy than in developed nations. Ed.) would urge development, induce the review of foreign investment terms and conditions and even boost military growth if conscription to the military is seen as a viable alternative to unemployment. The document at times imparts the feeling that industrial countries are already waging a pre-emptive war against underdeveloped countries.
It would seem to us that a New World Order should be geared to the needs of the global village, for that is what our planet is becoming. It should not presuppose the inevitability of dividing the world into haves and have-nots, and hence the inevitability of a fight to the death between them. It requires of the rich to be humble, content and willing to give up for the common a good many luxuries that their current lifestyles incorporate. Their luxuries are not vital necessities, their reward would the happiness of providing the vital necessities for the major part of the human family. What else can be more conducive to happiness? God must be brought into the equation!
The word jihad has been frequently used by the Western press over the past few decades, explained directly or subtly to mean “holy war.” In point of fact, the term “holy war” was coined in Europe during the Crusades, meaning the war against Muslims. It does not have a counterpart in the Islamic glossary, and jihad is certainly not its translation.
Jihad means “striving.” In its primary sense, it is an inner struggle, within the self, to rid it from debased actions or inclinations and to exercise constancy and perseverance in achieving a higher moral standard. Since Islam is not confined to the realm of the individual but extends to the welfare of society and humanity in general, a Muslim cannot strive to improve himself or herself in isolation from what happens in his or her community or in the world at large, hence the Quranic injunction to the Islamic nation to take as a duty “to enjoin good and forbid evil” (3:104). It is a duty that is not exclusive to Muslims but applies to the human race, which is, according to the Quran, God’s vicegerent (deputy) on earth. Muslims, however, cannot shirk this responsibility even if others do. The means to fulfil it are varied, and in our modern world encompass all legal, diplomatic, arbitrative, economic, and political instruments.
Islam does not exclude the use of force by which to curb evil if there is no viable alternative. A forerunner of the collective security principle and collective intervention to stop aggression, at least in theory, as manifested in the United Nations Charter, is the Quranic reference, “…make peace between them (two fighting groups), but if one of the two persists in aggression against the other, fight the aggressors until they revert to God’s commandment” (49:9). Military action is, therefore, a subgroup of jihad and not its totality. This was what Prophet Muhammad emphasized to his companions when, returning from a military campaign, he told them, “This day we have returned from the minor jihad (war) to the major jihad (self-control and betterment).”
Jihad is not a declaration of war against other religions and is certainly not directed against Christians and Jews, as some media and political circles want it to be perceived. Islam does not fight against other religions. Christians and Jews are considered as fellow inheritors of the Abrahamic traditions by Muslims, worshipping the same God and following the tradition of Abraham.
The rigorous criteria for a “just war” in Islam have already been alluded to, as well as the moral and ethical constraints that should be abided by. Modern warfare does not lend itself to those moral standards; therefore, war should be replaced by some other alternative for conflict resolution, if all sides agree on a just formula. An enlightened and resolute world public opinion could overcome and subdue war-oriented mentalities. The key is a change of heart. Just as there is a constructive role for forgiveness in interpersonal relations, so might this be possible in international relations provided justice, and not force, is the final arbiter.
We must reiterate for the sake of honesty that historically peoples of all traditions, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish, as well as others, have had their lapses in honestly following the valued ideals of their religions or philosophies. We have all made mistakes and we will continue to do so. Muslims are no exception, and time and again religion has been exploited by ambitious tyrants or violated by ignorant mobs. This is no reflection on religion, but it shows how desperately humanity is in need of better education, more enduring concern for human dignity, rights and freedoms, and vigilant pursuit of justice, even at the price of curbing political and economic greed.
FAMILY AND THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION
Prophet Muhammad said: “Women are the other half of men.” The unit of humanity is not a man or a woman. It is a man and a woman united in marriage that makes them a family Oust like the smallest part of water is not oxygen or hydrogen, but both united). Like Judaism, Christianity, and many other religions, Islam decrees that the pairing off of a man and a woman to form a family constitutes a sacred bond that the Quran calls “a solemn pledge,” which must be documented and authenticated by the marriage contract, or wedlock.
Marriage signifies the commitment of spouses to each other and establishes their mutual rights and responsibilities as well as those vis-a-vis their children. Children have the right to legitimacy (to know the identity of and benefit from a relationship with both their parents, as well as to be born within a valid marriage); to loving care as they are raised; to both physical and spiritual nurturing; and to education, to enable them to face life and bear its responsibilities as mature and useful citizens.
As parents attain old age or become incapacitated in some way, it is then their children’s religious duty to look after them and cater to their comfort without showing their impatience in fulfilling this obligation.
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August 28, 2017
June 28, 2017