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The Meaning of Engagement

Taking as the starting point the Islamic world of reference presented in part I, I am going to try to present here some perspectives on the future of Muslims in the West. My concern, as I have said, is to try to stay within the “Path to faithfulness” while taking into account all the dimensions and criteria related to our life in modern societies. The Islamic message, with its double nature, both comprehensive and universal, requires that our minds find solutions that allow us both to remain consistent with the essential axis of our being (which is the sense of tawhid) and to live in step with our times and our societies.

This search for solutions and the multidimensional engagement of Muslims with the aim of applying concretely the teachings of the “Path to faithfulness” requires a constant and balanced effort, for which Arabic uses the term jihad. The Way, al-Sharia, which as we have defined it, is the path toward justice, demands individual and collective efforts, jihads, to be made at various levels and in various areas. On the intimate level, it is working on one’s self, mastering one’s egoisms and one’s own violence; on the social level, it is the struggle for greater justice and against various kinds of discrimination, unemployment, and racism; on the political level, it is the defense of civil responsibilities and rights and the promotion of pluralism, freedom of expression, and the democratic processes; on the economic level, it is action against speculation, monopolies, and neocolonialism; on the cultural level, it is the promotion of the arts and forms of expression that respect the dignity of conscience and human values. These are the jihads to be carried out in the name of active and responsible citizenship—jihads that are spiritual as well as social, economic, political, and ecological, that reconcile Muslim participants in Western societies with the deep meaning of Islamic terminology. The global understanding of the meaning of sharia as a Way toward justice opens up the new and demanding horizon of civil jihad.

The first area of our engagement takes place inwardly: there can be no harmony with the environment without a search for inner peace, though this is not restricted to the aloneness of being. It should, as we shall see in chapter 5, radiate out to all the areas of life. The Islamic teaching on spirituality is, in this sense, very demanding, for it requires the individual to maintain a spirituality that is responsible, active, and, above all, intelligent. We shall come back to this. Western ways of life make it particularly necessary to begin with this interior dimension. To build our vision of the future and to try to establish its essential aims and priorities also requires that we give thought to some key areas such as education, social and political participation, interreligious dialogue, and alternative cultural and economic models. We shall try to sketch the broad principles of a coherent plan of action in each of these areas so that, by the end of the study, we shall be able to outline a project, a vision for Western Muslims. Obviously we shall draw only the general framework of an approach for the Western environment, which presents certain general characteristics; the concrete plan of action must take into account the specifics of each country, and do so at several levels. Each country’s history, institutions, memory, psychology, culture, language, social fabric, and political system are all data that must be considered if the establishment process is to succeed. We certainly cannot, in this study, refer in detail to each country, and we shall restrict ourselves to suggesting, on the basis of the characteristics that Western societies have in common, a way forward that will then require thought given the objective realities of the respective countries.

To begin with, let us summarize some of the fundamental teachings considered in part I that we shall need to draw on constantly when our discussion of the various subjects we shall deal with. The Muslim consciousness, with its faith in God, is linked to tawhid by the shahada (the declaration of faith that testifies to the fact of being Muslim) and refers for its authority to the two “books”—one created (the universe) and the other revealed (the Revelation)—as well as the Prophetic tradition (the Sunna), order better to proceed on “the path to the source,” “the Way of faithfulness,” al-Sharia, which makes it possible to find out how to become and remain Muslim. The activity of reason, which extrapolates from the sources universal principles and primary and secondary regulations, enables us to differentiate between the various fields and methodologies: if the area of religious rite and practice and the area of creed (al-aqida), with a certain number of related injunctions, are fixed and essentially unchangeable, there is still a vast area open to human reasoning and creativity. Knowledge of the context and the ability to analyze and to innovate are the key words here. And, in this second part, we shall go to the heart of this area. The scriptural sources, as well as scholarly works, teach us that we have tools at our disposal to help us take up the challenges we inevitably face in the course of history: the evaluation of maslaha, the practice of ijtihad, and the formulation of detailed fatawa. This understanding of fundamental principles and the use of tools for contextualization must be firmly grasped, for they are an essential part of a comprehensive approach that draws on the “principle of integration”: all that is not in opposition to an Islamic principle (or a recognised prohibition) on the level of human and social affairs is to be considered Islamic. We have seen that on the social, cultural, and scientific levels, this approach is in direct contradiction with all the binary formulations: the spirit (which is good) against the body (which is bad); one society or culture (where all is good) against another (where all is bad); some sciences (the Islamic ones) against others (the non-Islamic ones), and so on. Using the model of the pilgrimage during which women and men circumambulate the “House of God” (the Kaba), which is the center (the axis mundi), everything in Islam seems to take the shape of this paradigmatic image: Muslim identity and the order of the world, as well as the representation of the various sciences of knowledge, are all reflections of this image. If life leads us unmistakably outward, our responsibility is at all times to keep the connection of faith, witness, and ethics with the center, the source. This path, which leads out from the source, leads us on a long journey and then back to the source; this “path toward the source” is the way of spirituality and mysticism: it is the heart of that awareness of the finiteness of life that, if we keep the recollection of it alive in us, brings us back to the meaning of our birth. But, if we forget it, death will always lead us back to the state in which we were before we existed: wherever we go, we shall return, and Muslim tradition calls us to live this experience daily.

3 commentaires - “The Meaning of Engagement”

  1. Dear Dr. Ramadan,

    Thank you Sir for the excellent article. I have been trying to find out about speculation in financial markets. What is your view on trading in markets in particular in futures markets? Please note that there is a contract in futures markets and it involves no interest.

    Kind Regards,

    Mohammed

  2. Absolutely agree with the principle of understanding oneself and the environmental interfaces before actively engaging with respective stakeholders to achieve successful outcome(s). Effective engagement is a function of understanding all the influencing factors and their likely impact on the pursued goal you wish to achieve.

  3. thanku sir,,we r very thankful to u sir becuze u r clearing our confusions..regarding sharia and jihad this is some thing new before west,according to them jihad is killing and sharia is human rights violation such as stoning..torturing women.but u have explained it s not mere these things..at last we need clear understanding about islam.we shold b knowledageble.we should understand things in clear way .we suould go through deep dioulage to our non muslimbrothers.

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