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Dr Kalim Siddiqui
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The Draft Prospectus of the Muslim Institute
The Foundation Document of the Muslim Institute, London
First published London, 1974.
NB: The Draft Prospectus is a single document, designed to be read as a whole. However, its core is the essay 'A Strategy for Change' which lays out the basic understanding and consensus on which Dr Kalim Siddiqui and the Preparatory Committee of the Muslim Institute set out. This document was written by Dr Kalim but authored by the Preparatory Committee as a whole. -- Editor.
The Draft Prospectus of the Muslim Institute
- Muslims have for about 200 years suffered a period of continuous and rapid decline in all fields of human endeavour -- economic, social, political and intellectual -- and have been surpassed by a rival and mostly hostile civilization, the West.
- After over 100 years of acquiring Western education, adjusting and adapting to Western political, cultural and intellectual domination, undergoing the transition to nationalist/secular identities and capitalist/democratic philosophies, and the headlong pursuit of European-style modernization, there is as yet no end in sight to the Muslims' relative and absolute decline.
- Conversely, after about 200 years of sustained growth, development and world domination, the Western civilization (including the communist experiment) has predictably failed to provide mankind with a viable framework for social harmony, moral and spiritual fulfilment and satisfaction, or international peace; Western civilization has in fact created more problems of greater complexity for mankind than those it may have solved.
- The Western civilisation's greatest achievement -- the production of goods and services on an unprecedented scale -- has, because of the nature of social relationships in both capitalism and communism, destroyed the moral fabric of the human personality and society, and has led to moral conflicts at social, political, economic and international levels.
- The social relationships of Islam, on the other hand, would allow for even greater material well-being in a harmonious social order, which is also free from conflict between men, groups of men, factors of production or nations.
- The Muslims' quest for 'modernization' and 'progress' through the Westernization of Muslim individuals and Muslim societies was, therefore, bound to fail and has done so at great cost to Muslim culture and the economic, social and political fabric of Muslim societies.
- The damage to Muslim societies is so extensive that it may not be possible, or even desirable, to REPAIR and RESTORE their existing social orders; the only viable alternative is to CONCEIVE and CREATE social, economic and political systems which are fundamentally different from those now prevailing in Muslim societies throughout the world.
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The scheme for the MUSLIM INSTITUTE is based on the following general ASSUMPTIONS.
- That there is an urgent need to revive a tradition of Muslim scholarship to produce a philosophical framework which is at least as articulate and rationally satisfying as all the other traditions of knowledge that are current today.
- That no purposeful programme to reorder Muslim societies is possible without the prior emergence of a new framework of knowledge which motivates and brings together a substantial proportion of Muslims.
- That a prior commitment to the epistemology of Islam (i.e. the Islamic framework of knowledge) is a necessary starting point in the search for alternative social, economic and political systems for Muslim societies.
- That the theoretical and conceptual framework of social, economic and political relationships which are embodied in the systems and structures of the contemporary 'advanced' civilizations are alien to the Muslim intellectual tradition and irrelevant to our needs.
- That the Muslim intelligentsia has the potential to commit itself to the historical role of recreating fully operational social, economic and political systems of Islam in all Muslim societies.
- That the Muslim intelligentsia recognises the need to produce a new set of conceptual frameworks and operational blueprints, and to investigate ways and means of implementing them.
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The MUSLIM INSTITUTE shall pursue the following OBJECTIVES:
- The primary task of the MUSLIM INSTITUTE shall be to draw up detailed conceptual maps and operational plans for a Muslim civilization of the future...
- The MUSLIM INSTITUTE shall integrate and bring together the considerable storehouse of knowledge developed by the great Muslim civilizations of the past and by contemporary Muslim scholars in all fields of human endeavour...
- The MUSLIM INSTITUTE shall develop, within the epistemology of Islam, the academic disciplines of economics, politics and sociology, and alternative operational models of economic, political and social systems...
- The MUSLIM INSTITUTE shall seek to place before the Muslim UMMAH a rationally convincing programme to reshape and rebuild the entire socio-economic and political structures of Muslim societies...
- The MUSLIM INSTITUTE shall mobilize the human, material and intellectual resources and the scientific and technological expertise of Muslims and channel them towards the creation, establishment and development of the Muslim civilization of the future...
- The MUSLIM INSTITUTE shall develop concrete policy alternatives in the fields of economic development and social/political organisation, and offer them for adoption and implementation in Muslim societies...
- The MUSLIM INSTITUTE may accept commissions to undertake specific research for Muslim societies, governments and minority groups, to help them solve their local or immediate problems.
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The MUSLIM INSTITUTE is, and must be, part of a strategy of social action which should ultimately lead to the restructuring of the entire socio-economic and political systems in Muslim societies throughout the world. The MUSLIM INSTITUTE, therefore, cannot be more than a necessary first step towards that goal. Indeed, progress towards the goal is certain to be uneven in time and space. It may well be that a model society will have to be created and developed in one geographical area before the pace of change can be accelerated in other areas. Besides, the objective conditions to be overcome will differ greatly from place to place and any strategy would have to take these into account. It is, therefore, impossible to produce a 'grand strategy' at this early stage. However, part of the work of the MUSLIM INSTITUTE shall be to work towards such a strategy, and also perhaps a number of 'area strategies', and to keep them under constant review.
Nevertheless, we need to decide on certain priorities to be pursued in the early stages. The most important question to ask and answer concerns the 'leading sector' or the agent of change. Once we have identified the catalyst, then we must concentrate attention and resources on shaping and preparing the 'leading sector' to play its historic role.
In our view there is no single segment of Muslim society that can on its own take on the role of 'leading sector'. There are, however, two distinct groups, identified by their educational and social backgrounds, that have in recent history tried to play the leading roles on their own and failed. They have often been in conflict, denouncing each other and claiming exclusivity of rectitude and leadership. These two groups of Muslims -- often referred to as 'modern' and 'traditional' -- must now move closer together and combine into a single 'leading sector', for otherwise their antagonisms, if continued, will further fragment the UMMAH.
Each of these two groups has great qualities and strengths and also monumental weaknesses.
The Muslims with modern education have also acquired a degree of intellectual excellence and scientific and technological expertise. They were put in leadership roles by the departing, or not so departing, colonial powers.
Being products of the colonial era they have, perhaps unwittingly, contributed to the decline and decay of Muslim societies. It is perhaps only fair to add that the processes of decay had set in long before some Muslims turned to Western education. Therefore, to include the 'modern' Westernized Muslim in the new 'leading sector' is not as paradoxical as it may appear, because the fact also is that Western influence has never quite succeeded in turning more than a handful of Muslims away from Islam altogether. The vast majority of the 'modern' Muslims have, despite their obvious alienation, remained committed to Islam. If 'modern' Muslims have pursued political goals under the flag of nationalism, or economic goals under the influence of capitalism (and now increasingly under the slogan of 'socialism'), it is perhaps because of the corresponding stagnation, even regression, in the once powerful Muslim tradition of intellectual excellence and economic, social and political innovation. If the Muslim societies as a whole failed to develop the major problem-solving disciplines of knowledge, particularly in the fields of political and economic organisation and social engineering, the 'modern' Muslim can hardly be blamed for having drunk deep at the fountain of Western intellectual traditions. Indeed, the presence of Muslim scientists and technologists at least ensures that the UMMAH, when it turns to solving its own problems in its own ways, would have a considerable amount of scientific and technological expertise at its command.
The Westernized Muslim has also retained one essential quality first displayed by the early pioneers of Islam -- an intense commitment to hard work in pursuit of desired goals. But the parallel ends here. The pioneers of Islam worked hard in pursuit of the collective good of the UMMAH which was and remains the only way to secure the pleasure of Allah. The contemporary hard-working Westernized Muslim, however, works hard in pursuit of personal advancement. He works day and night, year after year, to acquire degrees and professional qualifications and he goes on working hard all his life to advance his career, personal and family security and to attain higher and higher levels of income. He even emigrates (to the West, of course!) in pursuit of these parochial and mundane goals.
The essential point is that the 'modern' sector Muslim has the achievement orientation, the skills and the required intellectual excellence without which no change for the better -- let alone the ideal -- can be brought about. All this would be of little avail were it not for another and perhaps the most significant fact -- that 'modern' Muslims in large numbers are becoming progressively more disillusioned with the Western civilization and their own flirtations with it. They are now becoming increasingly motivated to commit their own human, material and intellectual resources to the pursuit of the collective goals of the UMMAH.
The 'traditional' sector Muslims, on the other hand, are following in the footsteps of those who somehow went to the other extreme in their response to the political and economic domination of the West. They shunned Westernism and modernism and dedicated themselves to the not inconsiderable task of keeping at least the core of beliefs and practices of Islam uncontaminated and free from alien influences. It can be argued that in their zeal to protect the religiosity of the Muslims they went too far. Perhaps they should not have reduced Islam to a set of rituals to the extent that they did; perhaps they should have tried to understand the 'modern' Muslim more than they did; perhaps they should not have confined themselves to the mosque and the MADRASSAH as much as they did; perhaps they should not have withdrawn from the mainstream of social action to the extent that they did; perhaps the education they acquired and passed on should have been broader in content and social relevance; perhaps... perhaps...
But the fact also remains -- and the 'modern' Muslim would do well to recognise it -- that had it not been for the almost fanatical zeal and selfless dedication of the 'traditional' Muslim, perhaps the crisis of identity of the Westernized Muslim today would have been even more acute than it is. The 'traditional' Muslim at least has kept the candle burning through the truly dark ages of Muslim history. That we can still see a glitter of light at the seemingly endless tunnel of our dark ages is only and perhaps solely because the candle in the mosque has never been allowed to go out altogether.
Enough has been said to assert that perhaps both the 'modern' and the 'traditional' sectors have in their own ways contributed to the decline and decay of Muslim societies. Both are also alienated from the dynamic and determined social action demanded by the Qur'an and practised by the Prophet and the early Caliphs.
The 'leading sector', or the catalyst of change, therefore, must arise from the qualities inherent in both the 'modern' and 'traditional' Muslims. Both must lose the contempt in which they have held each other and recognise that each is a peculiar product of the era of decline. Their combined intellectual, moral, spiritual, scientific and technological resources must now be mobilised in the pursuit of the collective goals of the UMMAH.
An essential prerequisite for the mobilisation of the 'leading sector' and its resources is the emergence of a common intellectual framework across all barriers -- national, linguistic, ethnic and cultural -- that now divide the UMMAH. Some of the requisite knowledge already exists. But what exists can be described as isolated islands of knowledge is a sea of ignorance and prejudice. The MUSLIM INSTITUTE will have to undertake a massive programme of bridge-building to bring these islands of knowledge into direct contact with one another. Ultimately these islands of knowledge will have to be assembled to form a single landmass of knowledge capable of banishing the oceans of ignorance that now surround it. This assembled landmass of knowledge, developed on the secure foundations of the epistemology of Islam, will then be capable of creating and supporting a totally restructured, dynamic and growing Muslim civilisation of the future.
There is strong evidence that all Muslims -- irrespective of national, linguistic or cultural differences -- are recognising the overriding need for a consensus (IJMA) on the major social, economic and political issues of the day, and on what their responses to these issues ought to be. The MUSLIM INSTITUTE must consolidate this common ground or area of agreement and expand it to the point where common concerted programmes to reshape Muslim societies becomes possible, indeed unavoidable.
In the 'leading sector' there is a special role for Muslims who have migrated to and are now 'settled' in the countries of Western Europe and North America. The West has allowed them to come in to supply their labour-short economies with much-needed skills and manpower. This brain-drain to the West also has the effect of retarding the development of the underdeveloped countries by depriving them of most of their qualified, articulate and motivated people. The Muslim migrants have of course come in quest of personal advancement and perhaps also to escape from the 'mess' at home.
Having taken the soft option of migration and escape, the migrants must now use their greatly improved economic conditions to initiate and support the work that needs to be done in their countries of origin.
The MUSLIM INSTITUTE is a small but necessary first step in the long road to recovery that lies ahead. The MUSLIM INSTITUTE, while working on the 'grand strategy', the conceptual maps and the operational blueprints of such a civilisation, must pursue the following priorities:
- The definition and detailed articulation of the collective socio-economic and political goals of the UMMAH;
- The definition and detailed articulation of the role of the individual within the larger scheme;
- The mobilisation of the intellectual and technological resources of the Muslims; and
- The mobilisation of the economic resources of the 'leading sector' in the service of the UMMAH.
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.The MUSLIM INSTITUTE must arise from the hopes and aspirations, and perhaps also the frustrations, of a large number of Muslims in all walks of life and in many parts of the world. This would be made possible by the awareness which already exists among Muslims that they belong to an UMMAH - a concept which lifts them above racial, geographical, political and other parochial considerations and unites their loyalties at the highest possible level. The consciousness of belonging to the UMMAH is universal among Muslims; but the awareness of the corresponding duty to pursue personal goals and the pleasure of Allah within a higher ideal of service to the UMMAH has receded into the subconscious of most Muslims. This is because no intellectual or institutional framework to articulate and pursue the goals and objectives of the UMMAH has survived the onslaught of colonialism and nationalism and the consequent orientation of Muslims towards Western-style self-interest and pure materialism.
The MUSLIM INSTITUTE shall attempt once again to reformulate the intellectual and institutional framework at the level of the UMMAH. Therefore, the MUSLIM INSTITUTE cannot come into being - let alone service, function and pursue its objectives - unless it succeeds in motivating and persuading a sufficient number of Muslims to become its FOUNDERS. This is all the more important because the MUSLIM INSTITUTE does not originate from any of the existing vested interests, such as big business or government. Its origin lies in the revulsion felt by an increasing number of Muslims against those influences which promote low level loyalties in contemporary Muslim societies.
The FOUNDERS of the MUSLIM INSTITUTE will come forward from among those who feel a compelling urge to support a project which ultimately aims at the emergence of the desired social order of Islam in all Muslim societies.
The FOUNDERS shall be the backbone of the MUSLIM INSTITUTE. Through them the roots of the INSTITUTE shall spread out to the far corners of the world. The MUSLIM INSTITUTE shall function on the basis of continuous consultation through personal contacts, correspondence, committees and FOUNDERS' conferences.
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As a matter of principle and policy, position and influence in the MUSLIM INSTITUTE will not be related to the wealth or lack of it among brother Muslims who support it. All Muslims, rich and poor, are equal in the eyes of Allah and so they must be in the MUSLIM INSTITUTE. Position and influence in the MUSLIM INSTITUTE shall depend entirely on ability, service and dedication and will ultimately go to those who do not seek them.
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Copyright: the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, London, 2000.
Website edited by Iqbal Siddiqui.
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This page published: April 17, 2000. Last updated: April 17, 2000.