I came to New York City in late 80s and lived there for about ten years. I was really impressed by the excellent system and advancement of practical aspect of science and technology.
One did not think about religion in those days, especially when one is not raised as a Muslim in worldly practices. However, off and on, religion came into discussion among professional colleagues:
It was the time when educated Muslims were impressed by Ahmed Dedaat’s debates. Christians were making fun of so many gods in Hinduism and criticizing Jews for having misunderstood the meaning of Messiah as well as bombarding Church-alleged mistakes in the Quran. And Secularists and Atheists were boasting of their Modern Ideology, Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Evolution.
In the US, one comes across many cultures and religious orientations, and thinks that his/her religious orientation is the best. At that stage, it is not easy to analyze religions and cultures because it requires a length of time to get to know the viewpoints of one another. I was provided with small pamphlets of Ahmed Dedat, and thought that they were great. But during extemporaneous discussions with people of another understandings, such pamphlets do not work.
I realized that I did not have sufficient knowledge to show the superiority of Islam even though in my mind there was no doubt that today’s Christianity and Judaism are not the true religions. I started pondering over the issue, and ultimately thought: how can one know whether Islam is a correct religion or not? We asked many Alims ((ah-lim is common Arabic word for “scholar”)) in the US and discussed with them and several close friends who could guide us to any Alim for the answer of that question.
You would be surprised that we did not find a single Alim in the US who could talk at intellectual levels on the above as well as other issues of our time. Make no mistake that current issues are way different from those of the past in the sense that their answers or solutions are not given in the old books of Exegesis, Hadeeth or Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) … which are the only sources for looking up the answers to our Alims. Rather those require reflecting afresh on the Quran and Muhammad’s guidance which today’s Alims are not capable of.
Alongside the huge advancements in Science and Technology in the US, we witnessed (me and friends) few things that really surprised us. As well as led us to hold on to our Islamic Values instead:
While working in Hospitals, we saw many elderly patients with no family members to help them or visit them. This was shocking to us. The most powerful nation, founded on Modern Ideology, talks about helping the unfortunates, such as AID victims in other nations, sees nothing wrong in ignoring their own parents who critically require family support in their old age. This is against common sense that social beings (humans) do not require family contact and support when they become lonely, weak, ill, or financially compromised.
Despite ideological as well as legal equality between men and women, there are too many occurrences of domestic violence in the U.S. In 1990’s when I was at New York City, there were signs posted in Subway Train Cars with hotline number to call, stating that so many cases ((I can’t exactly recall the incidence number now)) of domestic violence happen every minute.
Most observers can easily notice that the family system has broken under Modern Ideology over time.
Health Care is on expensive insurance plans which is non-affordable for a great many. This means the most powerful nation’s founding ideology teaches to neglect their own “unfortunate citizens with health problems.”
When I was at NY, mugging was too common there. To date, shop lifting is very common, especially at small stores in cities. Even gun-violence for money is not uncommon. Modern Ideology has failed to sharpen conscience in its adherents against such uncivilized as well as “inalienable right infringing” pursuits which is easily effected by any religion on Earth.
At the turn of the century, there came out the cases of severe malpractice with share-holders’ money at Enron, WorldCom, and other giant corporates in America … with no punishments for the orchestrators. This raises the question whether Modern Ideology truly safeguards “individuals’ right to property” or proclaims to guarantee it in its theory while, in practice, gives corporates a free hand to rob it, even rob all the savings of people for their old age.
Coming to Muslim Immigrants:
My observations and experiences have been the same as that of Dr Zia Rehman. Nevertheless, I would like to add or paraphrase a couple of points:
After 9/11, the non-handling [by many scholars] and substandard handling [by many scholars] of the criticisms that came on Islam and Muslims have really shown the severe lack of intellectual capability in our Alims. It is sad that the holders of God’s true Guide Book (the Quran) have fallen to such low level of understanding. Even worse, many of them are altering Islamic Values either to appease the West or to show-off that Islam is modernizing (progressive) in nature.
On the other hand, the majority of common Muslims are in fantasy. They neither realize the highly vulnerable position of Muslims in the world today nor the adverse consequences of changing Islamic Values.To them, the best activities are fund-raisers where they find free meals, and listening to charismatic speeches by Muslim leaders/scholars. Then they feel happy that they are doing marvelous works for Islam.
We also encounter Muslims every now and then who claim that our Alims are great. But the truth is that those naive people don’t know that delivering charming speeches to the biased believers is one thing while fielding the objections of the critics is quite another. On top of it, answering criticisms in a written form and then defending it against the incoming “counter arguments” require much greater understanding of the subject. Only those who have written something in Question Answer Format, and then defended it afterwards, know the difference.
In comparison to the people migrated at an older age, it is quite different for those who are raised here. People who have migrated as adults have already formed a mindset out of the Muslim cultures at their homelands but those who are raised here can’t hold their heads high when criticized. Therefore this is crucial to reply the criticisms on Islam. Otherwise we will loose our generation as strong Muslims (in terms of unshakable trust in Islamic values).
Finally, we realized that a common gentleman has better character than an Alim ((Islamic scholar)) of today, at least those Alims whom we have encountered. They are corrupting Islam for money or fame or position in the community. Our Alims also lack the intellect to answer the questions of intelligent people of other faiths, even of careful Muslims, let those of atheists and agnostics.
Our Alims can only deliver charismatic speeches that they have pirated and parroted to impress the Biased Believers. Most Muslims are biased as is the case in other Faiths. Our Alims are in no position to talk about Islam in competing ways. This inability of Muslim scholarship is being translated by the Western Critics as the falsehood of Islam. They become more confident that the Quran and Islam belong to Muhammad and not to God. To them, this also indicates that the Quran and Muhammad’s teachings are wild and wrong. In the wake of 9/11, many critics have been asserting that the Quran gives conflicting directives, especially in regard to violence or non-violence, and Muslim leaderships are cherry-picking to portray Islam as tolerant and peaceful.
Dr Zia and I eventually realized after many years that we don’t have the caliber to effect Islamic reasoning at an intellectual level on the issues of our time and can’t answer the criticisms on Islam. I then introduced Dr Zia to Dr Nawab. We both realized that Dr Nawab has the intellectual caliber and thought process that we lack. Under his guidance, we questioned Alims of ISNA, FCNA, numerous Muslim scholars and Imams including Nouman Ali Khan, Khalid Shaukat, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, and some of their proponents. However because of their complete avoidance or soon walking away from the discussions, our efforts did not produce results practically. In time we thought that we have to do some other sort of work that may lead to showing at an intellectual level:
“Islam is the true religion. It is the final form of the religion of God of Abraham. Being the final form as well as its Book (the Quran) having been fully preserved, it does not change its stance with the advancement of Science or Civilizations. And can answer all criticisms successfully. As well as is in a position to help Muslim scholars resolve their conflicts on various issues provided they come to an “open discussion” on each of those issues, giving a second thought to the guidance in the Quran and the Authentic Practices of Muhammad (PBUH).
This is the only way we can bring forth the uprightness of Islam before the Modern World. And expose that Islam is “across the board” enlightening religion and not of violence. It does not teach to force its values over non-Islamic world either.
Unfortunately Dr Zia and I can’t do the work as we don’t have the caliber. It is only possible as Dr Nawab has agreed to volunteer.
As we start this project, we invite all sincere and reflective Muslims ((scholars and commoners)) to get up and work together to keep Islam unadulterated. This is not a one-person job, or the job of a small group of people. It is on all of us to voice against those ((extremists, scholars, other leaders including local Masjid Imams/Boards and their advocates)) who are altering Islamic Values. as well as show the world that Islam is the right religion.
Dec 3, 2016