The Muslim world is currently in an age of jahillya.
I have heard this phrase echoed by Salafis, modernists, Shiites, street preachers, the clergy, as well as ordinary lay-Muslims.
The solutions proposed have been equally diverse and contradictory: “We need to return to the ethics and guidelines of the Quran and Sunnah” “We need to embrace the morals of secular liberalism” “We need to start a revolution and reestablish the Caliphate” “Revolting is haraam, let us supplicate closer to Allah” “We need to establish stronger ties with the West” “We need to cut ourselves off from any kuffaar influence”. And yet all these propositions share a common goal: For lack of a better phrase, we need to Make Islam Great Again.
Now, of course, the inevitable question must be asked, when was the Islamic world great? Islamist groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Muslim Brotherhood would answer that it was with the Caliphate, abolished in 1924. Indeed, the reestablishment of the Caliphate is a noble goal, but such things simply cannot happen without a detailed political, economic, and social system which these groups have yet to provide. Yet even this remains idealistic when one of the objectives of an Islamic state appears absurdly utopian today: worldwide Muslim unity. We live in an age of sectarianism, factions splitting off from factions. But unity is no longer a peripheral goal, it is an absolute necessity. This includes not only the mending of Sunni/Shia relations, but also of Hanafi/Maliki and Sufi/Wahabi communications, among others. The days when one man can stand and arrogantly call his brother in faith a kuffaar for following a different madhab are no longer. In this vein, we must become self-sufficient and independent from the non-Muslim world at large. This means organized resistance to Western occupation, a belligerent response to foreign-backed secular dictators in the Arab world, and an active opposition against Muslim-oppressing regimes such as Israel and Myanmar.
We also require an intellectual, as well as political revolution, this time to adapt the governing principles of Islam to a 21st century world without changing a single principle.
This means developing Islamic economics in the age of Wall Street, as well as implementing associated concepts such as zakat and sadaqat. Or transitioning concepts like shura, jihad, and hijrah to a modern era, as well as implementing laws about qisas, nikaah, and wasiyah. It also means resisting foreign voices that call for an overhaul of Islamic notions in favor of secular ones. Thanks to movements such as Pakistani independence and the Iranian Revolution, much valuable material was published in the 20th century abut governance, the state, and law in Islam by both the conservative orthodoxy (Sayyid Qutb, Abul Ala Maududi, Ayatollah Khomeini) as well as from modernist voices (Muhammad Asad, Rashad Rida, Muhammad Abduh). Sadly, this once promising ‘revivalist’ theology has all but dissipated in the modern era. This is what we need– a revival, a restoration from the ground up.
It will not be easy, so do not for a second think that it may be. It will be a long fight, for decades, centuries even. We will die ages before it is accomplished, and our children will be left to continue the struggle. And they too shall pass and their children must rise up to the challenge. But one thing is for certain– the current ‘political quietism’ approach currently favored by the vast majority of the orthodoxy simply cannot continue. There is a reason our prayers seemingly receive no answer and that is because we are merely performing the motions without following through on their associated behaviors. Rituals are gravely important, but they are intrinsically hollow without actions backing them. So when you see injustice and oppression in the world, do not ask, “Where is God in these desperate times?”, instead ask, “Where am I?”
And where are we?
“That is because Allah would not change a favor which He had bestowed upon a people until they change what is within themselves. And indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing.” (Quran 8:53)
“And hold firmly, all together, by the rope which God [stretches out for you], and be not divided among yourselves; and remember with gratitude God’s favour on you; for you were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Grace, you became brothers; and you were on the brink of the pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does God make His verses clear to you so that you may be guided” (Quran 3:103)
“Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous.” (Quran 2:177)