The multiplying factor


An acquaintance of mine has a refrain that he utters ever so often to bolster his argument that Muslim world is doomed to its current downward spiral unless each individual Muslim sees himself or herself as part of the problem and solution.

“Take him and multiply him a few million times and you have country X,” he would say after encountering citizen X who he found to be overly didactic or constantly nostalgic.

I was reminded of his statement recently after sitting through a Friday sermon at a mosque in the city. The speech of the Imam and his arguments in support of his topic were based on two premises é the Muslim world (ummah) was great é “We gave the world medicine, algebra, astronomyé..”; and we can solve all our problems by “returning to the Qur’an and Sunnah”.

I agree with both these statements é the first is an objective truth and, as a Muslim who accepts the Qur’an and Sunnah as the sources of Islam, I cannot disagree with the second.

However, these statements which are used by many Muslim speakers perpetuate the mind set and condition we find ourselves in é one in which we live in a romanticized world of the past or dreaming of an ideal one which can be achieved by chanting the mantra, ‘back to the Qur’an and Sunnah’

The Imam’s topic this Friday was about the invasion and occupation of Iraq. He gave a history lesson of Baghdad, its achievements and cultured ways prior to the bloody Mongol invasion of 1258. Dazzling the audience with dates and historical facts he then went on to draw a parallel between the destructive habits of the invading Mongols and the current invading Anglo-American coalition of Iraq.

The audience was clearly moved by his accounts of life in 13th century Baghdad and by his vivid description of the brutality of the invaders.

But what was the point he was getting at, I asked. Apart from creating the obvious moral reprehension for an imperial invasion, he made none that I could figure. Maybe he was hoping that the invading forces of current day Iraq would eventually become Muslim, as the Mongols eventually did. But I doubt it.

He then went on to cap his speech by moralizing that unless we return to the Qur’an and Sunnah we will continue to be defeated and humiliated.

Nostalgic and didactic advice. But does it move the local community ahead.

The speech certainly created a fleeting emotional comfort zone but it did not challenge the overriding despondency and lethargy of the audience in this mosque and the community.

Wouldn’t it have been better in these times to look at ourselves and ask é Why have we descended to these depths? Why did this happen? And as a member of this Ummah, did I contribute to this?

Didn’t the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him, chide and probe themselves to find out if they were responsible for what befell them or contributed to the weakness of their community.

After the momentous events at Uhud, they did ask the question é “How did this come about?”

“It is from your own selves” (Qur’an, Surah Al ‘Imran, 3:165) , was the response from Allah.

If each of us were to do this critical self-analysis, vowing to correct ourselves, then the effect of the multiplying factor would be phenomenal.

Muneeb Nasir is the Editor of IMPRINT, a Toronto-based Muslim newspaper and editor of the Muslim Canadian web site, He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN).