August 11, 2012
Re-orienting the Muslim Mind
Lack of religious understanding makes it easier for weak Muslims to be influenced by world views and way of life that run counter to Islam.
IN conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim), the institute organised an international conference on “Re-orienting the Muslim Mind: Charting the Future” on July 10–11. Its objectives included identifying the real problems besetting the Muslim community today, how to deal with them, and to offer explanations or find answers to get out of them.
Four international speakers were invited to deliberate on the subject. All basically agree that the root of the Muslims’ dilemma today boils down to the problem of knowledge.
This primarily entails ignorance, misunderstanding, misgivings and confusions about religion.
In his welcoming speech, Ikim’s Director-General Datuk Nik Mustapha Nik Hasan said: “Islam is perhaps the world’s most misunderstood religion. Islam and Muslims have been associated with extremism, terrorism, backwardness and all sorts of negativities one can imagine.”
He continued that from the overwhelming prejudices, biases and ill treatment from the primarily Western culture and media, it is extremely difficult for the Muslims to restore, let alone command, the honour and respect they once enjoyed in history.
He explained further that the current predicaments suffered by Muslims worldwide “are due to their own doings and attitudes of not actually living up to the standards prescribed by Islam. They seem to have failed to appreciate the real issues or principles of truth and wisdom in religion, lose interest in knowledge and give priority to petty things.”
“Ignorance thus takes place, confusions arise to new heights, resulting in disunity, corruption, economic downfall, military incapacitation, increasing criminal rate, ethical crisis – almost everything negative about a decent civilisation. Consequently, Muslims now lag far behind other cultures.”
I cannot but agree with the foregoing statements. Generally, a considerable number of Muslims do not sufficiently understand their religion.
As a result, they internally fail to practise Islam properly, and externally, become exposed to the ways of thinking, ideologies, philosophies and lifestyles coming from alien cultures and civilisations.
The lack of religious understanding makes it easier for weak Muslims to be influenced by those foreign world views and way of life.
Not knowing that they run counter to Islam, they adopt those ideas and behaviours and spread them to fellow Muslims consciously or unconsciously, among others, through their decisions and policy-making.
Therefore, the problems of the Muslims are two-fold: Internal and external. Both are equally destructive, and need to be handled with wisdom, i.e. knowledge.
To improve the aforementioned Muslims’ situation, their educational systems need to be reviewed and revamped to inculcate right values to produce a more prepared Muslim generations intellectually and spiritually.
This bodes well with the very raison d’etre of Ikim itself. It was again reiterated by its Director-General that “the 20th anniversary of Ikim in general, and the international conference in particular, will mark a new chapter in Ikim’s endeavours to reinstate the importance of knowledge and education, and to disseminate a better understanding of Islam to both Muslims and non-Muslims, and in the process, build bridges between the two target groups.”
With the introduction of the new Ikim tagline “Understand Islam Build Civilization”, Datuk Nik Mustapha states that the institute aspires to stress to Muslims that it is extremely important for them to first and foremost understand their own religion if they are really serious about coming out from the current plights and dilemmas.
This has to happen across the board in every discipline of knowledge and at every level of the ummah.
Muslims are to come back and adhere genuinely to their two most important references, the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet, with proper understanding guided by the wisdom of reliable and authoritative ulama’.