To have the power to affect a positive change in a given society one must be just. It is not justice when one gains at the wrongful expense of others. Many a Muslims have lost the gut in their voice because they have failed to stand up for others.
Reciprocity, a bedrock fundamental underlying the principle of justice, requires that what is good for Muslims has got to be good for others (and vice versa) to bring about sustainable peace and security for everyone in the world, and that this principle of justice should not be predicated on what others do in this regard. We need to insist on it until a genuine understanding is developed sans coercion.
"O you who believe, you shall be equitable, and observe GOD, when you serve as witnesses. Do not be provoked by your conflicts with some people into committing injustice. You shall be equitable, for it is more righteous. You shall observe GOD. GOD is fully Cognizant of everything you do" (Quran 5:8).
The following six principles are important to understand the power of justice:
First, we need to seriously consider the Islamic concept of shirk -- i.e., conceptually, it is a violation of or at least dilution of God's dominion by our acts or tendencies that are tantamount to elevating ourselves or others to God.
On matters of faith, the merciful God gives room to people and holds out judgment till the Day of Judgment. That does not mean a thing to the dictators and a few religious leaders among Muslims who have raided God's dominion and appointed themselves as His substitutes/deputies. This is as if God should sit out in silence while they decide in this who is a Muslim and who is not. This is like treating Islam as a private club and they are the owners. If this trend continues unchecked, very few will be left to be called Muslims.
Secondly, we cannot validate and propagate a false idea that the majority has a right to dictate the minorities to accept their status as subjects. Should the majority of Americans believe in the rhetoric that Muslims are terrorists and must be kicked out of the planes and prevent them from building a place of worship?
Of course, American Muslims cannot do much about what the "Muslim majority" nations do with their minorities. But we can choose to be "just" and gather the courage to protest it with the same vigor for the rights of Christians, Baha'is, Sikhs, Hindus in Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Kashmir, Bangladesh and Malaysia as we passionately talk about the political rights of Palestinians. The Sunnis need to speak up against the oppression of Shiite Muslims in Bahrain and the "other" Muslims in Shiite-majority states.
I would rather be an American who speaks out for justice even if a whole lot of Americans appear to oppose it. Shouldn't American Muslims do the same if a whole lot of Muslims appear to disrespect any one of our groups?
Thirdly, we have fallen into a deep ditch led by the pied pipers to declare fellow Muslims as non-Muslims or less than Muslims. The Sunnis have declared Shiites to be non- Muslims, and Shiites have done the same. Each one of the groups is eager to denigrate the other: the Wahhabi, Ahle Sunnat, Nadwatul Ulema, Deobandi and so on. Who is qualified to cast the first stone?
Fortunately, not all Muslims have done that. But do we have a significant record of speaking up against such epithets? We need to do our part. Didn't the Prophet advise us to speak up against injustice? That is the least we can do.
You are right. Not all Muslims have done that but do we have a significant record of speaking up against such castings? Have you done your part? Didn't the Prophet advise you and me to speak up against injustice?
Fourth, many Muslims have been brainwashed like most others to believe in things fed by the politicians. Whatever their government says is embraced by them as unadulterated truth. President Reagan called Russia an evil empire; so many a Americans embraced that Russians were evil people. Bush said "they hate us" and the flock believed him. Pakistan's dictators played the sectarian game and officially declared Ahmadiyya Muslims as non-Muslims, and many Muslims bought this to the extent that anything befalling these Ahmadies was OK. What a shame! Are we so gullible to believe the usual government-fed propaganda? When are we going to wake up and put our own minds to use and question the veracity of the propaganda?
The dictators may have owned Pakistan and have done what pleased them, but they do not own God. They cannot supersede God in judging what is in one's hearts. I urge that we all free ourselves from the shackles put on by our governments and jettison what was uploaded in the 70s.
As Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq, who maintains the Apostasy and Islam Blog, observes:
"As Muslims we do not have to agree with particular sects or segments. If we believe that something is unacceptably wrong, we have the right to expose the follies of others, but we must do so within the Islamic norms and parameters, and without getting the governments and politicians involved, who generally are more interested in their own power plays rather than bringing their societies together for common positive causes."
Fifth, we have no right to deny the Ahmadiyya their right to be Muslims, and Ahmadiyya simply should not propagate the myth that non-Ahmadies are not Muslims either. I request each denomination to make a sincere effort to present their own merits without denigrating the other, such benefits are temporary and deleterious to lasting peace.
Do we own Islam? If we cannot stand up for anyone wronged, why should anyone stand up for us? Prophet Muhammad asked to find how many Muslims were in Medina, and the only criterion was if they called themselves Muslims. Let's respect the wisdom and norm of our Prophet, Amen.
Lastly, Islam has pulled us out of ignorance, and we should not fall into that hole again. Justice means justice. I hope we consider deferring the judgmental role to God in the matters of faith. There is no compulsion in religion.
"VERILY, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians -- all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds -- shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve" (Quran 2:62).
Three things are required to earn the grace of God: belief in God, belief in the Day of Judgment and righteous action in life. Any one who submits to this doctrine is broadly defined as Muslim.
Finally, if we really want the best for the Muslim community in particular and the humanity in general, we can do it only by adhering to justice. Let's start cleaning our hearts from prejudice and judgment against others. If the professional owners of Islam cannot unite us to do good for humanity, let them not divide us either. Let there be no politics in religion.
Dr. Tariq Cheema, founder and chair of the World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists adds, "Our effort therefore should be to help people come out of their boxes and find friends in opposite camps who believe in equality and justice." If the professional clerics cannot unite us to do good to humanity, let them not divide us either. Let there be no politicking about matters of justice.
Islam is large enough to absorb all the strands. Indeed, we can see the wisdom in the Prophet's predictions that we will divide ourselves into 73 tribes. He understood the human fitra (nature) and prepared us to accept it instead of making arrogant claim to be the best, the best among us is the one who is pious and who serves humanity.
Each one of the strands is serving the humanity. As a Sunni, I can value the respect former Prime Minister Blair's sister in law has generated for the Shiite branch of Islam. As a Sunni, I can appreciate the work Ahmadiyya Muslims are doing in serving the humanity, feeding the hungry and being neighborly. As a Sunni, I admire the selfless work done by the Ismaili Muslim Community to uplift humanity. As a Sunni, I love the bridge building work being done by the Warith Deen Muhammad Muslims. And as a Muslim, I salute the major funding of education in India by Bohra Muslim Azim Premji. The list is endless. There is indeed a net gain for Islam collectively, and we must appreciate them all. Islam is universal; it absorbs all of us in its embrace.
If Muslims can stand up for everyone on a principled basis, then our voices will carry the moral weight necessary to bring a positive change for the entire humanity including us. Prophet Muhammad has given us a model to emulate: The Amin, the just, the truthful and the trustworthy to build just societies for humanity.
Input from Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq, Dr. Mirza A. Beg, Dr. Tariq Cheema and Dr. Akbar Ahmed is appreciated.
Mike Ghouse is nurturing the concept of "Aalameen (Universalism)" embedded in Islam. From Rabbul Aalameen (Creator of the Universe) to Rahmatul Aalameen (Mercy to mankind) we have to become Mukhlooqul Aalameen (Universal beings).