The Muslim Citizen in a Global Village
Why are Muslims presently being afflicted with trials, tribulations and disunity and how should the Muslim see him or herself in the Modern Global Village?
Muslims vs The West?
Although we still hear much talk about a conflict between the Muslims and the West, is it really a problem of Geographical polarisation? Considering millions of Muslims live in the West and millions of non-Muslims live in Muslim lands, the Global village has brought people much closer together, and so East and West are not so far apart anymore.
Perhaps that’s the problem, some have suggested that we are experiencing a Clash of Civilizations – is it really? Perhaps it’s simply a clash of political and economic interests – but that’s nothing new.
However, in a ‘Village’, any clash or disturbance affects everybody and we cannot just stand back and watch as people bomb each other into oblivion, because we all get hurt.
To solve modern day problems, Muslim intellectuals and leaders need to analyze the realities of this time and derive strategies and solutions to suit the place and age we live in. The interdependence of nations and societies make it vital that we adopt aglobal view to the challenges facing humanity.
Global Village is limited
The word ‘globalization’ is understood as the process by which business or social institutions spread and become effective on a global scale. However, in reality, considering much of the world still lives in abject poverty, the global village is moreapplicable to fairly advanced nations; it is not good enough just having a MacDonald’s or a Coca Cola sign or HSBC on the main street. In fact, many people who propound the theory of this ‘village’ concept should wake up and realize many of their neighbors belong to a part of town where the male of the family has to beg or chop wood to feed his family, and where a sewage system is non existent.
On a political level, Democracy is also a characteristic of what most people imagine when we talk about a Global Village; it wouldn’t work to have one part of a village dominated and run by an Army War Lord, while the other end of the village was voting for a local ministers. We’d get something like what we have in Iraq today, chaos, anarchy and the ingredients for civil war. The fact is that in most countries, democracy is still quite a distant dream.
Would it be good or not?
If one vision of a Global Village came true – the whole world would be a single community served by the electronic media and information technology and run by a single political system – at that point we would have to ask a serious question: whether it would be good or bad; whether it would create world peace or actually threaten freedom of expression? Would it allow self-determination of humankind’s destiny? What about religion? Where would it fit in?
The Muslim as a global citizen
In fact, no community is perhaps more prepared and equipped to live in a Global Village than the Muslim Ummah and Nation.
The guidance Muslims have to live amongst people of other faiths and Tribal systems is a perfect model for this time, and for any time to come, even if the world one day became united by a single global order.
The problem is that Muslims have become too used to watching global changes take place without contributing anything much to solve the challenges. The trouble is that we have become too insulated and inward looking, forgetting the global responsibility we all have as servants of the One God of everybody (Rabbil-‘Alameen) and followers of the great line of Prophets, the last of whom was Muhammad (pbuh). The Prophet said, ‘Everyone of you is a shepherd of those things under your care’.
Unfortunately, most of our organizations and institutions are designed only to serve our own domestic and consumer needs. But being ethno-centric and colloquial in our attitude and behavior inhibits our potential contribution to world-civility as a whole, and does not conform to the universal requirements of our precious faith:
And thus have We made you a Middle Nation that you may be witnesses over mankind. (The Qur’an, 2:143)
The Prophet, peace be upon him, was the last messenger sent to all mankind and he helped everyone, he did not restrict charity and words of guidance only to Muslims. The name of the religion itself does not refer to a person, place or tribe, it is a state of being open to everyone, it literally means the process by which a person ‘enters into peace and security’.
We are living in a time where perhaps our main task is not to compete in consuming more goods and building concrete tower blocks, but to do as the first guided community did, to invite others to the knowledge we have. We should be more intelligent, strong in faith and of good morality, looking to improve the condition of humanity first and foremost with the greatest gift we have been given. Education therefore is probably the most powerful single instrument of change that we own and need to employ.
Sending our children off to good American or English schools unprepared as Muslims is not the solution, as they will only come back realizing that something is wrong with our end of the village. We are certainly not living in Madinah.
Makkah; not Madinah
Although mankind appears to have progressed, some say that in order to cope with the challenges of life in the Modern Era (or what Marshall MacLuhan termed the Global Village) we must understand that Muslims are living in a time which resembles the old Makkan, early period of Islam, rather than Madinah and post Madinah.
During the Makkan period, the dominant cultural environment was confused; it displayed many confused customs and was dominated by ignorance about spiritual realities – what you otherwise call simply – ‘the Truth’.
The name given to that period was ‘jahiliyyah’, and Islam, of course, was seen as strange – another strong reason why it resembles today’s picture in most of the world’s media where Islam is portrayed as something strange.
The main role of Muslims at that time was not to build shopping malls, but to call humanity to enter the state of inner-peace (Islam) and accept the existence of the One God and believe in His messenger, Muhammad, peace be upon him. And thereby create a just and balance social order; charity was a hallmark of that new era.
Therefore, today, even though it seems simple, I believe, identifying yourself as a believer in the One Omnipresent Lord and Master of all Creation, and doing good deeds, giving charity and spreading salam (the message of peace), becomes the priority. It is the first steps in living Islam; next we should smile a bit more.
Happiness, a universal goal
The basic motivation for humanity is to achieve happiness…and to make that happiness last as long as possible. That tells us a lot. Firstly, it shows that all human beings are basically the same with similar aims in life, what separates us is the way we go about getting what we want.
Meaning of life
To achieve happiness it is important to know the meaning of life clearly. If we were simply created for the dust heap of temporary galactical existence, then human life and endeavor would appear futile. Sadly, the purpose of existence still remains largely a secret, undiscovered by many fellow human beings. Yet this secret is explained in the Qur’an and other Divine scriptures before it, but how many have noted it or understood?
And We did not create Jinn or Mankind except to serve and worship Me. (The Qur’an, 51:56)
The Creator of this universe, therefore, cannot be ignored. Happiness is connected to fulfillment of one’s noble destiny. That is why people who set their life’s goals on satisfying their own desires, chasing false gods and material dreams before they get old or die, ultimately miss the great highway to happiness. And for every highway there is a map, and warning signs on the road.
Advice in times of evil
If we translate the term Paradise into that state or place where a soul may enjoy permanent, unending happiness, where all wishes are fulfilled, then the teachings of Prophetic wisdom becomes extremely relevant and very clear. Once the Prophet told his companions about people who refused Paradise. They were confused, how could people refuse Paradise? He told them, “Those who follow me enter Paradise, those who refuse, refuse Paradise.”
But getting to that place is not an easy ride. In the collection of the saying of the Last Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, by Imam Al-Bukhari, it is reported on the authority of Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud: ‘The people used to ask God’s Messenger about good, but I used to ask him about evil for fear that it might overtake me….. I said, “Will there be any evil after that good?” He said, “Yes, there will be some people who will invite others to the doors of Hell, and whoever accepts their invitation to it will be thrown in it (by them).” I said, “O God’s Messenger! Describe those people to us.” He said, “They will belong to us and speak our language.” I asked, “What do you order me to do if such a thing should take place in my life?” He said, “Adhere to the group of Muslims and their Imam.” I asked, “If there is neither a group (of Muslims) nor an Imam (what shall I do)?” He said, “Keep away from all those different sects, even if you had to bite (or literally, eat) the root of a tree, till you meet God while you are still in that state.” ‘
Islam is a state of ‘can do’
So, whether we are standing alone as individuals eating the bark of trees or as collective communities logging on to the Internet, there is something we can and must do. Our task is to reflect what we believe and know in our lives and actions.
That is why EDUCATION and its contemporary offspring the WORLD-MEDIA which has created the illusion of a Global Village, must reflect the spiritual dimension of life otherwise – like we see today – mankind becomes starved of purpose and direction, and all we see are wars and disasters – and more luxuries, sports and hedonistic entertainment to divert us.
Islam is hidden by Muslims
Today in this so-called ‘Global Village’ there are millions of people who are still grossly ignorant of the teachings of Islam; surely we could use some of our time to help them (as well as ourselves) re-enter this perfect palace of knowledge and peace, rather than making them run away from it? And we know that in the USA, UK and in many other countries, people are looking for answers, looking for justice, looking for happiness. But as someone else once observed: Islam has been hidden by Muslims.
My story and discovering Muslims
The Prophet said, ‘Give good news and do not make people run away.’ My particular story, that of an international star or ‘Icon’ discovering Islam, is a microcosm of what can happen when the teachings of Islam are conveyed truly and without distortion or hindrance. However, nothing had prepared me for what I was about to discover in regards to the present state of Muslims globally. I did not realise the structure of Muslim life had been dismantled, I just thought, ‘How great to see so many colorful Muslim Flags and hear so many different national anthems!’
A wise education
As fortunate as I have been to be allowed to discover Islam, I cannot express my gratitude enough to Allah Almighty for having guided me through the reading of the Glorious Qur’an first, the sayings of the Prophet second, and the wisdom of Muslim mujtahids and scholars, third. A Wise Education is what everybody deserves. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is reported to have said, ‘Whenever Allah wishes good for a person he makes him understand the Religion.’
Unfortunately, most Muslims today are born Muslims; looking back to the Glorious past of Muslim civilisation and trying to reclaim it by short cuts and quick fixes. They see global injustice and then add their own blood-curdling version to it.
Every attempt to establish a model Islamic State within the last hundred years has failed. Maybe the solution is that we all need to act like new Muslims, starting at the beginning.
Makkah was difficult: Muslims were unjustly persecuted and sometimes even tortured or killed, but patience was the response from the Prophet and the community of believers. Never did they give up their call inviting people to the way to Paradise (Jannah).
Even in the early days when a small group of weak Muslims were given permission to live in a Christian country so as to be free from persecution, they displayed exemplary moral behavior, and gave the message of Islam with wisdom and courage.
In the Qur’an, God Almighty says, “And let there arise from among you a community enjoining what is reputable (Ma’ruf) and preventing what is immoral (Munkar)…” How many Muslims practice this today? Ma’ruf is universal; it stands for any humane and noble moral virtue, whether practiced by Muslims or non Muslims. Also Munkar is equally universal; and it is not only practiced by non-Muslims. We must also be able to criticize our own selves if we are to be amongst the guided.
9/11 and 7/7
The gross injustices of 9/11 and 7/7 exposed the distorted ideas and misdeeds of those who have turned from the path of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his work in guiding humanity to peace and happiness. Victory in Islam is not to cause destruction; but to see people enter the religion in crowds, not running away from it!
The means of change
The first place to start reformation is with ourselves. “Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change what is with themselves.” The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “By Him in Whose hand my soul is, you must enjoin what is reputable (Ma’ruf) and forbid what is immoral (Munkar), or God will certainly soon send punishment from Himself to you. Then you will make supplication and not receive an answer.”
Islam is modern
The Qur’an is for all times. These days we need to understand it according to the time and circumstances we live in. Actually, the word ‘modern’ is a Latin word which means ‘now’. So, in fact, Islam is the most Modern Religion for Mankind, because it is the last revealed way of life God has showed mankind to follow. It confirms the permanent principles of all Divine Revelations sent to previous Prophets such as Jesus, Moses, David, Abraham, and also provides an intellectual basis for the development of laws and customs suitable for any time and circumstance that people may find themselves.
Times of tribulation
Who knows, this maybe the time which was foretold by the Messenger of God, when he prophesied about the trials in times to come and said, ‘Be like the good son of Adam’  meaning, there would come a time when it is better to be killed than to be condemned to hell for killing.
This is the age of Islam. We should look to our responsibility in giving this universal message to the people who are ignorant of it, that includes Muslims as well as non-Muslims – Mankind all together. Allah will unite and bless good people with success – providing we fulfill our role and do not rush His Decree or become impatient.
And, frankly, wherever we are, if we can see the signs of a global village taking shape, there will be room for spreading the spirit of peace, kindness and prosperity for all. Where people unite for goodness. In the words of the All Wise Qur’an:
And strive all of you together in the race to good deeds, wherever you may be God will bring you together. Verily God has power over everything. 
A talk given by Yusuf Islam in Abu Dhabi, UAE on the 21st of October 2005.
 Al Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud
 The Qur’an, Al-Baqarah (The Cow) 2:148.