In his inaugural address at a two-day international conference on “Crisis in the Muslim Mind and the Contemporary World” at A. N. Sinha Institute Mr. Konwar explained that the malaise affected not the Muslim mind alone, but “mind, the human mind as such”.
The crisis was not confined to a particular religious denomination, he emphasized, again asserting that the human civilisational heritage was largely a “sum total of religious teachings of Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Jain, Sikh and other prophets, avtars, sufis and sants.”
He pointed out the process called in Western philosophy “thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis” was a continuous one that affected all thought, including religious thought. Quoting Rabindra Nath Tagore’s dialogue with Mahatma Gandhi in which the former told the mahatma that “once we evolve beyond nationalism, we will reach the stage of humanism”, Mr. Konwar appealed to religious leaders to make that giant leap to humanism.
The conference theme is based on ideas conveyed in Dr. Abdul Hamid Ahmad Abu Sulayman’s book of the same title, which has been translated into several languages. Dr. Sulayman, a thinker of Arab origin who is a former rector of International Islamic University of Malaysia, presented the key-note address.
In his address he said the current beliefs and practices of Muslims had veered away from the core values of pristine Islam. Today, Muslims were no longer able to relate their thoughts and actions to the standards set in the Quran. He briefly touched upon the history of this progressive affliction that began from the days of fourth rightly guided caliph of Islam, that is, from the very first generation of Muslims.
The crux of the issue was that instead of relying primarily on the Quran the Muslim world was relying on the myriad interpretations of the holy book.
He said “the Quranic principles were applicable in the past and are applicable today”. One of the reasons behind he malaise was that ulema (Islamic religious scholars) had failed to cope with advances in social sciences and their ever-newer methodologies.
A View of Audience
Muslims had been trying to look at today’s issues in the framework provided by yesterday’s religious scholars. He emphasised the point that religious texts had to be understood in today’s context. The spirit of the age had to be taken as a major determinant of religious stance.
The conference was jointly organised by the Institute of Objective Studies in clooaboration with the Forum for Literacy, Awareness and Muslim Education (FLAME). The forum president Dr. Ahamd Abdul Hai said in his welcome address that Islam (which, in Arabic means peace) had today become synonymous with “bomb explosion” was originally meant to be a message of peace.
“Wama arsalakum illa rahmatul lil alameen”, Dr. Hai quoted the Quran, which means that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) came to earth as God’s Kindness for the entire creation. He said Muslims must overcome the drift and return to this primary message of the religion.
Prof. Z.M. Khan, introducing the subject, observed that Patna was selected as the place where to hold the conference because of the intellectual vibrancy and the long tradition of learning associated with it.
“No seat is ever left vacant in auditoriums here, and students invariably come to us for asking questions and clarifying points”. Sometimes they came even to the hotels where the speakers were staying, he explained.
He said the essential responsibility for finding solutions to the problems of Muslims lay with Muslims themselves. “Patna should have some of its abundant human resource reoriented, trained and even some new talent created”, he pointed out.
Earlier an introduction of IOS was given by Dr. S.F. Rab from Patna chapter of IOS.
Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam, Chairman of IOS, said that whether it was ancient Patliputra, medieval Azimabad or modern Patna, this city had always been a seat of learning, which encouraged them to organise this important conference here.
The Quran does not address address Muslims alone, nor does it concern itself with a particular age or location. This has to be grasped clearly, Dr. Alam asserted.
He said it was the mind that drove the matter and the concept that underpinned the material reality. Hence things must be clear at the level of mind and of concept.
The programme began with a recitation from the Quran by Dr. Shoukat Ali, and a vote of thanks was proposed by Shafi Mashhadi, secretary of FLAME.
March 15, 2010
Islamic scholars diagnosed the “Crisis in the Muslim Mind” here on the second day of a two-day conference on the issue, finding its etiology in reversal to “Arab tribalism, influence of antiquated Greek philosophy, and Muslim religious scholars’ loss of touch with developments in human knowledge”.
Prof. Abdul Hamid Ahmad Abu Sulayman, an Islamic scholar and author of the book Crisis in Muslim Mind, articulated factors that led to “a distortion of the Islamic world view”.
Prof. Z.M. Khan, Secretary General IOS, Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam, Chairman, IOS, Dr. Abdul Hamid Ahmad Abu Sulayman, Former Rector of International Islamic University of Malaysia, Prof. Ziauddin Ahmad, Former V-C of Magadh University
Today, in the Muslim world people “with a religious appearance in cohort with some intellectuals have joined rulers in a power dispensation to the detriment of common Muslims”, Prof. Abu Sulayman said.
“If you oppose the autocratic system, the ulema (clerics) will send you to hell and the rulers will consign you to prison”. This had brought the quality of life of Muslims to the level of animals.
To rise above this sub-human existence Muslims should seek guidance from the Quran rather than through the medium of clerics.
In his paper Dr. Shakeel A. Khan of the economics department of Oriental College Patna observed that the Islamic economic model offered protection from periodic upheavals witnessed in the modern western economic model.
This session on “Principles of Methodology in Islamic Thought” ended with a summing up of the ideas by the session chair Prof. A.R. Momin, former head department of sociology, University of Bombay.
In the next session “Muslim Mind and the Future of Humanity” Prof. Momin put the issue of “Muslim intellectual crisis” in the context of the larger humanity’s condition.
The challenges that beset the humankind in the 21st century were of two kinds: one type being social, cultural and existential, while the other one ideational and epistemological, he elaborated.
“The social, cultural and existential challenges of our era include globalisation, especially the worldwide diffusion of global lifestyles, individualism and consumerism, conspicuous inequalities of income, power and resources and widespread poverty and the exclusion and marginalisation of large number of people in Asia and Africa.”
Racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and flagrant violations of human rights posed a serious threat to societal stability and cohesion in many countries across the world, Prof. Momin said. He argued for a morally ordered universe that was based on religious teachings.
In his paper Prof. Abuzar Usmani, former head of Urdu department at Ranchi University, explained “the role of youth in shaping a better future for humanity”. He was critical of the freewheeling, non-committal, non-absolutist ideas of post-modernism that, in his view, had the potential to lead the youth astray and cut loose from their cultural moorings.
Prof. Shamshad Hussain, former V-C of Nalanda University summed up the ideas of the session in his presidential remarks.
The conference adopted a number of resolutions one of them being the establishment of a college of social and human sciences to run courses for award of degrees/diplomas at Patna.
In his valedictory address, Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam, Chairman, Institute of Objective Studies called for a paradigm shift in the study, interpretation and practice of Islam.