Reflections

Tribute: We Know Who We Are, We Know Where We Are Headed To

Today, we will reflect on an editorial written by Crescent International, the Newsmagazine of the Global Islamic Movement as a tribute to Dr Kalim Siddiqui: visionary of the Islamic movement

Editor

Dr Kalim Siddiqui: visionary of the Islamic movement

The global Islamic movement is so clearly a major force in the world today — the only challenge to the crumbling civilization of the West — that it is easy to forget that less than 25 years ago Muslims barely showed on the geo-political map. In most Muslim countries, ‘Islamic political parties’ played second fiddle to secularist groups (nationalist, democratic or leftist), and in international terms, few Muslims could see past the bipolar framework of the Cold War. The great debate among Muslims in the 1970s was whether “capitalism minus interest” or “socialism plus God” would be more Islamic. The West was confident that Islam was no ideological challenge, and most Muslims secretly agreed.

Our task is to dream and work for the future — for a time when a new Muslim civilization will emerge — a dynamic, thriving, growing, healthy and happy civilization; a civilization in which man will be at peace with himself, with the physical environment and, above all, with his Creator. In the meantime, we must plan and produce the prerequisites for such a civilization.

It was in this context that the late Dr Kalim Siddiqui (r.a.), who died five years ago this month, hypothesised the existence of a global Islamic movement with the potential to challenge the Western civilization. Dr Siddiqui’s confidence and vision were based on a broad historical perspective that enabled him to understand that, however powerful the West may seem, in terms of human history it is ephemeral, with none of the requisites for survival and prosperity for any length of time. They were also based on a broad and inclusive view of Islam as more than merely a religion, a set of personal moral values, or a code of law, but as a spirit and ethos intended to guide all humankind in all spheres for all time. Discussing the Islamic movement in July 1977, he wrote:

Our task is to dream and work for the future — for a time when a new Muslim civilization will emerge — a dynamic, thriving, growing, healthy and happy civilization; a civilization in which man will be at peace with himself, with the physical environment and, above all, with his Creator. In the meantime, we must plan and produce the prerequisites for such a civilization.

Less than two years after these words were written, the Islamic Revolution in Iran burst onto the world stage, and the world was radically changed. At about the same time the Russians invaded Afghanistan, only to be confronted by the mujahideen. The examples of the Islamic Revolution, in rejecting Western structures and attempting to establish a prototypical Islamic society in their place, and of the Afghan mujahideen in refusing to accept foreign domination at all, inspired Islamic movements everywhere. At the same time the West realised that Islam is in fact a challenge, and the inter-civilizational struggle between the West and Islam soon replaced the intra-civilizational struggle of the Cold War as the dominant feature of contemporary history.

Like desert plants coming to life when the rains come, the global Islamic movement that only Dr Siddiqui could see in the 1970s blossomed in the 1980s and 1990s. The framework that he hypothesised has become the worldview of the Islamic movement, and the ideas he voiced in the wilderness have become the currency of contemporary Muslim political thought. And yet clarity of thought and understanding remains elusive. Where there was once silence there is now a cacophony of voices, with numerous and contradictory understandings of the nature of the movement, the form of the Islamic states to be established, and the principles and methodology to be followed.

During his lifetime Dr Siddiqui calmly formulated and articulated the movement’s position on key issues: the nature of the West; the nature of the nation-state system imposed on the Muslim world by the West; the processes by which Islamic states could be established; the centrality of ijtihad; the need for an intellectual revolution in Muslim political thought; the processes by which Muslims had erred in their political understanding and by which these errors could be reversed; the social, intellectual and other impacts of the years of Western dominance on Muslims and Muslim societies; and the role of Muslims in the West.

It is perhaps ironic that, in the years before 1979, few listened to his lone voice, while in later years many failed to hear it in the sudden din. Dr Siddiqui, whose understanding of historical processes underpinned all his work, understood that some intellectual confusion was inevitable at a time of such social and political turbulence, particularly when it was stirred by powerful and dangerous enemies. Five years after his death, when much of the confusion he sought to resolve remains, the movement would do well to refer back to the simple truths he articulated, and to the broad perspectives and calm reflection that he applied to his thought.

Editor

This was first published in Crescent International of Muharram 22, 1422 (16th April, 2001).

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