Muslims live in all countries of the contemporary world either as a majority, in the Arab and Islamic countries or as a minority, in other countries, so the relationship between Muslims and the» others» is inevitable, whether inside these countries on the ground of citizenship and coexistence or outside them due to the development of transportation and communications means and overlapping trade and media and cultural activities, that extend beyond the geographical boundaries. No longer can any community live isolated from the others in this contemporary world.
Coexistence and cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslims are inevitable as Millions of Muslims are now citizens in non-Islamic countries and millions of non-Muslims are citizens in many Islamic countries.
In non-Islamic and Islamic countries, Islam and other religions are no longer the religions of strangers, but the religions of next-door neighbors.
Muslims share with their brothers in nationality the Neighborhood, school, workplace, hospital and university…etc .and they also share with them all the moral, social, economical and environmental pollution problems.
Muslims in the Islamic world also share with other world countries the economic, political and cultural activities and share with them the common concerns of lack of peace and stability, contamination of the environment, the economic and fnancial crisis and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction: nuclear, chemical and biological , which threaten the future of all mankind.
So the common religious moral and spiritual heritage can help Muslim and their fellow human beings to cooperate together to face the problems of the contemporary world for the common interest of humanity.
The basis of cooperation and co-existence in Islam
Cooperation and co-existence with «the other» in the Islamic concept are based on three main pillars:
1-The «Other» is the human being who has his own humanity and dignity; there are many Quranic verses which dignify man and describe him as the chosen creature of Allah. Allah says: ((We have honored the children of Adam and guided them by land and sea .We have provided them with good things and exalted them above many of our creatures). It is important to note, that the verses which dignify man and elevate his rank over all the creatures do that for himself as a human being regardless of his religion (Muslim ,Christian ,Jewish or Buddhist)- or his color(white , black or yellow) or his nationality (Arab, Russian or American)
2- Religious diversity is Allah’s will and plan, which Muslims have to obey believing that Allah the Exalted, the Wise wants good and blessings for us. Allah says (If your lord had so willed, he could have made mankind one nation, but they will not cease to vary) and He says: (Had your lord pleased all the people of the earth would have believed in him. would you then force faith upon them?).These verses assert that Allah wants us to be different, but our differences should not lead us to fght each other, but to compete and cooperate with one another for good works and deeds.
3-The Islamic texts of Quran and Prophetic tradition (Hadith) urge Muslims to build bridges of communication, dialogue and mutual understanding between them and others in order to create a life full of compassion, mercy, cooperation and acquaintance regardless of race, color
and religion. Allah says :( (We have created you from a male and a female and divided you into nations and tribes that you might get to know one another. the noblest of you in Allah sight is who fears him most ). The prophet (Pbuh) said –in the sermon of the farewell pilgrimage (hajj)«All of you are descendants of Adam and Adam was created from dust. There is no superiority for an Arab man over a non-Arab neither for a non-Arab over an Arab except by righteousness.»
The Islamic world, consisting of 56 countries where more than one billion Muslims live, it occupies a unique important position in the world, linking the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe through the maritime and air transportation and it represents the crossroads of world trade. So the Islamic world has a paramount importance in terms of location and transportation and the abundance of raw materials and has also a paramount importance in terms of cooperation and communicating with all the countries of the contemporary world.
Relation between Muslims and contemporary Western civilization
many may raise objection to the term (Islam and the West), as Islam is an ideological intellectual civilizational system, while the West is a geographic term, the truth, when we talk in this context about the West, we do not talk about the geographic term, but about groups of peoples similar in culture, concepts, values, behavior and lifestyle. We can look at the relation between Muslims and Western civilization through several concepts, which contribute in defning this relationship:
1- Modernization- which can be defned as obtaining from the West its advanced scientifc, technical, and industrial and technological achievements and its political, fnancial and administrative systems.
Historically, the Muslim world in its ‘Golden age’ had had a pivotal role in this form of modernism, where the Islamic civilization was driven by scientifc momentum. Its architects designed and built marvelous buildings. Its mathematicians created algebra. Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for diseases. Its astronomers looked into the heavens and observed the stars, Its philosophers deliberated about bold subjects at the time other nations were afraid of thinking about them, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others.
2-Westernization- which can be defned as obtaining from the west in addition to its advanced scientifc, technical, and industrial and technological achievements and its political, fnancial and administrative systems, all its values and attitudes, customs, behavior and life style even if these values contradict with the principles and values of Islam and confict with the customs and traditions of the Islamic societies.
Muslims are divided in terms of their relationship with Western civilization to three groups:
The frst group – secularists and Westernizers, who are striving to imitate the secular Western civilization and isolate Islam from public life and separate it from governing authority and confned it in the mosques without intervention of the religious scholars or religion itself in public affairs, and to keep religion as a personal matter between the individual and his Creator.
At the forefront of these secularists and Westernizers were the followers of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who took the leadership in Turkey in 1924, he effectively planted in the masses the idea that Islam had no longer any role in the authority of State and public life, and he changed everything to keep pace with the West, even he replaced the Arabic alphabet of the Turkish language with Latin letters.
This trend had succeeded and gained a sizeable response from Muslims in other regions as well for a while. However today, this trend declines. The current political attitudes in the Islamic world, clearly indicate, that the Muslims are generally of the view that Islam has an important role to play in public life and state and can offer solutions for the problems of the contemporary world. The rise of Islamic political parties to power in a number of Muslim countries is an evidence of this. And even in Turkey itself, where the notion of separation of religion and state was once most dominant, one can fnd Political parties that use Islam in their campaign gained the public support, and succeeded in winning the elections and in forming the government and in achieving their programs
The second group – represents the majority of Muslim societies, who have positively accepted the modernization. They adopt scientifc and technological development, and acquire knowledge of political, fnancial and administrative systems, which are not incompatible with Islamic principles, values and provisions. At the same time, they are keen to preserve their Islamic identity, values and principles, and they reject, what they consider as negative aspects of Western civilization.
This is an old Islamic approach, as Muslims in the Abbasid era were open-minded to cultural heritage of Greeks, they acquired knowledge of various felds of science and added to them, but they rejected knowledge which was inconsistent with Islamic principles and teachings.
Muslims in the contemporary world have not just only rejected incompatible western systems as usury-based Banking system, but they have tried hard to create the alternative compatible ones, and they succeeded in establishing and spreading the Islamic Banking institutes, which prove their capability and competence during the recent global fnancial crisis.
Samuel Huntington acknowledged in his book (The Clash of Civilizations) that» Islam and modernization are not incompatible, but devout Muslim scholars urge Muslims to acquire science and work in factories and to know how to use sophisticated weapons» and said «modernization promotes military and political power of the society as a whole and encourages the people of that community to be confdent in their culture, and become more inclined to asserted it) and said » the response to modernization from Muslims, has by large coupled with a consciousness of the Islamic identity and he gave an example of Iran as an evidence. This means that the capability and progress resulting from modernization will promote and support self-esteem and assert religious and cultural identity of the nation, while weakness and backwardness leads to alienation, Westernization, dependency and lack of self-esteem.
The third group – some Muslims who do not mind obtaining from the West its advanced scientifc, technical, and industrial and technological achievements and some of its fnancial, administrative systems, but they absolutely reject the quotation of political and cultural systems However, there are tiny group within the Muslim world who rejected some types of modernized technological achievements , as Taliban, who had banned during their rule in Afghanistan Televisions, Cameras, cell phones etc. but when such cases occurred, the underlying reason as they claimed, had been the ‘ethical misuse’ of such technological items, and not the technology itself.»
3- Muslims and Democracy.
The relationship between Islam and democracy in the contemporary world is one of the controversial aspects in the Islamic world. It presents broad different perspectives:
1- Muslims who deny any relationship between Islam and democracy, they believe that «democracy» is a western concept that has been imposed by Westernizers and secular reformers upon Muslim societies. They often argue that the concept of popular sovereignty denies the fundamental Islamic affrmation of the sovereignty of Allah. People holding these views consider participating in elections democratic process as unlawful action. In the front
of these people is Hizb Al-Tahrir, which opposes election and democratic process and attacks Islamic parties who participate in them.
2- Muslims who believe that Islam and democracy are compatible. There are a number of specifc concepts that Muslims referred to when they explain the relationship between Islam and democracy. In the holy Koran, the righteous are described as those people who, among other things, manage their affairs through shura «mutual consultation». This is expanded through traditions, sayings and actions of the Prophet and the righteous Caliphs in the Muslim community, which asserted that it is obligatory for Muslims in managing their affairs to engage in shura «mutual consultation».
Tunisian Islamist leader, Rashid Ghanoushi said «If by democracy is meant the liberal model of government prevailing in the West, a system under which the people freely choose their representatives and leaders, in which there is an alternation of power, as well as all freedoms and human rights for the public, then Muslims will fnd nothing in their religion to oppose democracy, and it is not in their interests to do so.
Many Muslim scholars who support democracy advise that it is important for Muslims not simply to copy what westerners have done in creating democratic systems. Iran’s ex- President Mohammad Khatami, noted that «the existing democracies do not necessarily follow one formula or aspect. It is possible that a democracy may lead to a liberal system. It is possible that democracy may lead to a socialist system. Or it may be a democracy with the inclusion of religious norms in the government. We have accepted the third option.»
Many Islamic parties such as: Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and other Arab and Islamic countries are participating in legislative elections within systems that are secular in structure. Similarly, Islamically oriented political parties have operated successfully in the secular electoral politics of Turkey.
The Turkish experience refects the fact that majority of Muslims, whether living in formally secular or formally Islamic states, see democracy as their main hope and a vehicle of effective political participation.
Majority of Muslims believe that democracy must come from within the community through its political and popular institutions and through gradual progressive development, and in accordance with its ideology, principles, traditions and ethics.
They realize that the American calls and appeals to Muslims for democratization are not honest but aim to install their followers and agents rulers and leaders to serve their interests and objectives and strengthen their control and domination on Islamic countries as we see now in Iraq and Afghanistan and some other Arab and Islamic countries. The evidence of that, they rush to abort the elections’ results if it came contrary to their interests, as happened in many Islamic countries
Muslims were not deceived by U.S. and British claims and allegations that the invasion of Iraq by Americans and their allies was to establish democracy and to eliminate dictatorship and the evidence of falseness of these allegations, that the Americans have been supporting their allied dictatorial regimes in the Arab and Islamic countries including Sadam fallen regime itself before their dispute with it. And they are sure that the true motive for the invasion of Iraq is to dominate and monopolize the oil resources in Iraq and the Arabian Gulf region in order to control the global economy.
The conclusion :
The present realities and the future expectations indicate that Muslims in the contemporary world are going to:
- Enhance their cooperation and interaction with non-Muslim peoples and countries,
-Consolidate their efforts towards further scientifc and technological modernization.
-Reinforce their aspirations towards further democratization.
- Strengthen their relations with countries that seek to cooperate with them on the basis of equality, fellowship and mutual respect, such as: Russia, China and other friendly countries, and resist the domination and hegemony of neo-colonialism on Islamic countries - Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries are going to seek more cohesion, harmony, integration and mutual understanding with the communities in which they live, in order to be active contributors to the stability, prosperity and social reform of these communities.