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Islam: A Solution for Contemporary Problems?

Question and answer details
Shamshad Sajid
2013/07/05
Kindly give me an answer on the topic: Is Islam the solution for contemporary problems?
Amani Aboul Fadl Farag
Answer

Salam Shamshad,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Where Does It Come From?

As far as I know, "Islam is the solution" is a saying that one of the Islamic reformist groups is taking as its slogan, but I didn't realize that it has reached that far to India.

Since this motto was coined, a lot of controversy has been made around it. Some think that it is rather idealistic emotional motto that has nothing to do with reality.

Others think that it is an inapplicable principle based on an abstract spiritual idea which does not conform to the materialistic nature of the existing problems, and they wonder how a religious conception can help out with such deteriorating economic, political and social realities.

They accuse the slogan of being a sentimental maneuver designed to dupe Muslim people who are attracted to anything related to Islam.

Islam and Value System

I assume that those who can not perceive the relationship between Islam as a strong value system and the contemporary crises are not quite aware of the nature of such crises. Therefore, it becomes necessary first to identify the problems which are in need of Islam as a solution.

Almost all Islamic nations do suffer from the same syndromes of backwardness and underdevelopment which are manifested in facts like poverty, illiteracy, health problems, dictatorship, low cultural awareness, absence of national sovereignty, violation of human rights, misunderstanding and misusing religion, and so on.

In fact such crises are not of a materialistic nature, as they appear to be, but are rather of a moral one as a result of the devastation of the whole value system either on the level of the rulers or the citizens themselves.

Many values which are essential to the advancement of any nation such as the value of seriousness and perfection in work, loyalty to one's nation, justice, mutual respect among people, word of honor, compassion, sacrifice, courage, modesty, appreciation of beauty and cleanliness, and so on, have been lost leaving the Muslim nation into a terrible state of moral vacuum.

Law + Application= Success

To overcome a problem of any kind we need laws to establish civilized societies and regulate the relationship amongst citizens and between the rulers and citizens themselves to be based on respected rights and responsibilities. We need also application in order to put the laws into effect.

As for the laws and constitutions, the Muslim world is not in want of models. The models are quite many. Some Muslim countries choose the Islamic paradigm; others have the modern western paradigms either republican or monarch, and so on.

But do we really have any application of those paradigms? You can hardly see any civilized societies in the Islamic countries in the complete sense. Because the theory is not the problem which needs a solution, as the problem lies in the implementation which requires a great deal of ethics and self censorship on the part of both the ruler and the citizens.

The law is not enough if not supported by a strong value system to make it viable and you will not be able to accomplish the constitutional except through the moral.

It is easy to challenge laws, but it is impossible for the true believers who have faith in Allah and the Hereafter to wrong others. They know that Allah is watching over them and will judge them for every minute mistake they do.

They will be judged for everything either on the simple individual level like stealing, hurting neighbors, domestic violence towards spouses, neglecting elderly parents, taking salaries for no work in return, messing up public properties, cowardice, preventing the children from going to schools, or discriminating against girls in favor of boys, for example.

Likewise, they will be judged for things on the more complex communal level of rulers like coming to power, waging wars for personal glories and killing millions of innocent civilians in other countries to steal their wealth, lying to people, oppressing people, and committing atrocities against opponents.   

The Qur'an and the Sunnah prohibit Muslims from doing these ill practices and encourage them to do otherwise. 

Case Study 1: Poverty

Take the issue of poverty as an example. How many laws are formed to combat poverty either through taxation system or governmental projects to cater for the needs of the poor? But is poverty really eradicated?

Rich people know how to avoid taxes, and governments, instead of doing their jobs in releasing people's pains, steal the incomes and push the people to more poverty.

In such a dilemma I can tell you frankly that the only way out to combat poverty, illiteracy and illness is through the voluntary charities coming from either the zakah (obligatory alms-giving) or sadaqah (charity).

This solution arises only from the individuals' conscience and sense of right and wrong, which is best found in religious sources.

Case Study 2: Democracy

As for the issue of democracy, Islam warned the rulers against forcing themselves against the will of peoples. On the part of the citizens, Islam encourages them to revolt against oppressors and to get rid of cowardice.

The Prophet said when he was asked about the best type of jihad, that it is "to tell the truth in the presence of an oppressor." (An-Nasa'i)

I believe that this guidance has much more influence in regulating the relationship between rulers and citizens than laws.

Case Study 3: Ethics of War

On the issue of war, we see now the super powers competing to develop weapons of mass destruction. They do not have scruples about killing children and women despite UN conventions.

We find our compassionate Prophet forbids his soldiers from even cutting the trees in the conquered cities or hurting women, children or elderly.

Case Study 4: Family Ties

Concerning one's relationship with his family, the Qur'an stressed our duties towards elderly parents:

{And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve any but Him, and show kindness to your parents.} (Al-Isra' 23: 17)

Islam also regulated the relationship between the man and his wife. We read in the Qur'an what gives the meaning of:

{Live with them on a footing of kindness and equity.} (An-Nisaa' 4: 19)

In an issue like the status of girls in the families, the Prophet encouraged the believers to love them and not to discriminate against them. He said:

And whosoever has cared for his daughters, by Allah's grace he has earned for himself a place in the Paradise. (At-Tirmidhi)

I understand that in a country like India, despite the laws, once some people know that the sex of the fetus is a girl, the mother is forced to abort it. If it is not known till the girl is born, they kill her on the spot.

I do not think there is any better way to change people's behavior and to deter them from committing this crime than to tell them that one of the great signs of the Day of Judgment is the utterance of the newborn girls who were killed by their parents only because they were girls to complain why they were innocently killed.

{When the female infant, buried alive, is questioned for what crime she was killed.} (Al-Takwir 81: 8-9)

Case Study 5: Environmental Ethics

The following is another example which validates the role of Islamic teaching in the absence of laws.

In my country, Egypt, the first mortality factor is the spreading disease of Bilharzias which devastates the liver. This disease results from the bad habit of urinating in stagnant water channels which peasants walk in and are soaked with while irrigating their lands. 

For long decades the successive regimes failed to combat this serious health problem even with the help of international bodies (World Health Organization) either through instructions or penalties till at the end they found a hadith in which the Prophet forbids people from urinating in stagnant water.

The introduction of such a hadith to the people, who are religious by nature and who would not dare to disobey the advice of their beloved Prophet, had a great influence in changing this social and environmental behavior.  

Remedy Through Values

It might have helped to give more examples, except for the space, of how Islam has a vision and can offer an answer to every single economic, political or social problem in a miraculous methodology.

The crises are that of values then the remedy should be of the same nature to restore people's conscience, principles and sense of duty.

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.

Salam.

Useful Links:

What Is Islam?

What Is Islam About?

The Status of Women

The Relation Between Islam and the Environment

Environmental Ethics

Between Husband and Family in Islam

The "Islamic" Economic System: Common Confusions

War in Islam: A Solution to Problems?

The Prophet Muhammad's Mercy and the Ethics of War

 Justice For All, Not For a Few

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