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M.A.Z. Badawi: Internal and External Challenges

The 20th century was probably the most disastrous century for Islam. It began with the defeat of the Caliphate in the First World War, with Islam losing in the process its territory and its control of the three holy places: Jerusalem to the Europeans or to the English, and the two holy places to the Wahhabis, who were supposed to be enemies of the Caliph. The cancellation of the Caliphate left the Muslim world without reference, without a direction at all. The entire Muslim world became colonized, became part directly controlled from the West or indirectly so controlled.

The struggle for independence took place. By the end of the first part of the 20th century, movements for liberation began to take shape, and Muslims were liberated from the yoke of European imperialism. The hope for Islam to move forward and go and participate in the adventure of the modern world has not been achieved. The word state does not sit very comfortably in our concept of the universal community; therefore, Muslim states tried very hard to try to justify themselves, to have a legitimacy, and to this day they find it very difficult in terms of Islam. One superpower now controls the destiny of most of the world, and in particular the Muslim world.

We need a presentation of Islam as it is, a religion that looks upon the entire human race as one nation without distinction of color, of race, of blood, of class, of wealth or poverty, or gender. But when we present that, we have to present it honestly, and honesty means that we should admit and accept our shortcomings.

One of our difficulties is that some people are trying to reduce Islam to mere appearances, to deprive it of its spiritual value, to make it a religion of just show and not a religion of real sincerity and commitment.

We need to go back to the teachings of our prophet Muhammad, not as interpreted by the ignorant or the limited but by those who really look into the very teachings and see the depths of these teachings. The message of the Prophet Muhammad was not for a particular group or a particular nation. It was for the world. But to be relevant to the world, it has to bring the true meaning of Islam, that is, a religion of harmony and a religion of equity. Harmony and equity are the basis for peace.

Now, let me say here that Islam was used as an excuse by many people to persecute others or to acquire political power. When a religion be comes a means to an end, it loses its value. In our society, we have a section of our people who are against the development of science. There are some people in our community who are racially prejudiced. Let’s admit it and let’s face it. Once we set ourselves as an ideal community, as a community of justice, as a community of harmony, we win the battle for the world.

Europe and America are in the grip of rising racism and nationalism. Intolerance has become very common in some countries, particularly against Muslims. We cannot combat this by going around and sending people who say that Islam is a religion of peace. Injustice has to be borne by us to prove that we are peaceful. I am confident that Islam will go out to the world in the 21st century with a message that will bring peace and harmony to the world.

Islam suffered a disaster in the 13th century when the Caliph of Baghdad was slain by the Tartars. But within 50 years the Tartars themselves became Muslims and carried Islam back to their own country.

Let me say that if we truly become Muslims, we may see the day when those who are persecuting us and treating us so unjustly will be our allies, the standard-bearers of the message of Islam, the message of harmony and peace.

[Source: Islamic Perspectives on Peace. Tarrytown, NY: Universal Peace Federation, 2006.]