Disclaimer: Please note that the views expressed in this and all my blog entries are my own personal views and not representative of Ashoka, ADEW or any organisation with which I am affiliated.
The Prophet (PBUH) never rode a bicycle, or a car or an aeroplane; he never used a computer or an ipad or an iphone. Should we then ban the use of these? Should we consider them the property of Satan because they were not in his Sunnah?
If the Prophet (PBUH) was around now, today, I sincerely believe that he would not only urge us to use modern technology, he would have wanted us and pushed us, his community of followers, to co-create and build these modern tools, to be the inventors, not the frustrated users only. He would have urged us to use what God gave us, the biggest blessing of all: our minds and brain, the organs that separated us from animals, for God if He wanted could have limited our brains to see only camels and sand if he wanted. Ibn Sina, Khawarzmi and many others were Muslim scientists upon whom the Western world based their technological advancements in every field. They did not close their minds and hearts to new discoveries but opened new frontiers. Were they lesser Muslims because they opened their minds and hearts to chemistry and physics and relied on Greek knowledge at that time and built on it? At that time no one told them it was a sin, because no one believed it to be one.
According to the sayings of the Prophet (BPUH) “Who are the learned? They who practice what they know.” He also said “Ask for science even if it is in China.” Mind you, China at that time was not only at the end of the world but a country of so-called infidels and apostates. The Prophet (BPUH) did not tell us to reject them or their science, or undermine or kill them because they were not believers, yet they were not even from the people of the book.
Based on all this evidence, I truly believe that Islam is a progressive religion and wants its followers to be progressive. The Qur’án has employed a parable to persuade Muslims to keep marching forward, under the light of Islam. It says that the followers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are like a seed which is sown in the soil. First, it shoots out in the form of a tender seed leaf, then it grows stronger and stronger till it stands on its own stalk. It grows so rapidly that it causes great surprise to the farmers.
It is an analogy of the society which the Qur’ánic verse here cited aims at. What the Qur’án desires is growth, to lay the foundation of a society which should always be growing, developing and expanding. Will Durant says that no religion has called upon its followers to gain strength as Islam has done. The history of early Islam shows how powerful a force our religion is to rebuild a society and to push it forward.
Islam is opposed to both rigidity and ignorance, and regards both as dangerous. The intellectual sterility of the rigid and their clinging to the old customs having no connection with Islam have provided a pretext to the misinformed to consider Islam to be really opposed to modernity. On the other hand, the following and patronizing of the latest fashions and modes of the West by the misinformed, their belief that the prosperity of the people of the East depends on their complete westernization, both physically and spiritually, their acceptance of the habits, manners and traditions of the West, and the blind adaptation of their own civil and social laws to those of Western nations, have provided a pretext to the rigid to look at everything new with suspicion and to regard it as a threat to their religion, to their independence and to the social personality of their community.
What happened all over the Muslim world after the last incident of the tasteless and ignorant film insulting the Prophet (PBUH) is not the reaction of true Muslims. It was a reaction of downtrodden, ignorant, poor and misled angry mobs. If these people were educated, had proper jobs, were treated humanely by their governments and the world at large, shown respect and given dignity, they would not have stormed embassies and killed other human beings in the most barbarian of ways.
42 years of the despotic rule of Gaddafi who murdered, tortured, enslaved and raped his people mentally, morally and physically produced these barbarians who killed and tortured another fellow human being. The argument that the Americans have also killed and tortured children, women and Muslims in Iraq and Palestine is not valid because to an enlightened and humane society, nothing excuses this behavior.
But it does prove my point. Only downtrodden people with low self esteem, who believe in their hearts that they and not their religion have been treated as dehumanized slaves, could react in this way against those whom they believe have oppressed and enslaved them. The debate should not be whether Islam is a religion of terrorists and terrorism. It should be how can we treat everyone with enough dignity and respect so that they do not turn into hooligans and barbarians. How can we teach all the true meaning of being a Muslim and how can we make Muslims really believe in the true nature of Islam? How we can educate our Muslim brothers and sisters and the world at large that they do not need to prove that Islam is good if they sincerely believe it in their hearts? How can we educate them that only if they embrace education and science and start to produce their own food, machines and technology will they get the respect of the world so that no one will dare ridicule them or their religion?
Only then will others respect and admire them and their faith. But more importantly, only then will they be true Muslims.