The Nature of the Problem

I propose to share with you some of my own reflections on `Islam today'. Before proceeding to deal with the subject under discussion I should like to touch upon its significance and scope, define the matters that properly relate to it and indicate those which lie beyond its purview.

In its English connotation, that is in the sense in which the phrase is understood in the West, 'Islam Today' would mean practically the same thing as the Muslims of today. Most people in the West generally treat Islam and Muslims as synonymous and mutually interchangeable terms, often saying 'Islam' where they ought to say `Muslims', and vice versa. We must, therefore, be clear in our minds at the very outset that `Islam today' does not signify the present condition of the Muslims. Nor, indeed, could it mean Islam of the present age, for Islam is an eternal reality that does not change with the passage of time, and cannot therefore, be different in any age from what it was or will be at any other period of time. The fundamental truths upon which Islam is based are timeless and eternal. For instance, the fact that this Universe has Ore Creator and Master, with no one to share His Authority, was as true a billion years ago as it is today, and it will remain equally true a billion years hence. Similarly, it is an eternal and immutable truth that the only duty of every creature of God in this Universe is to worship and obey Him. Passage of time can have no effect on this cardinal truth. Reality is not relative to time or space : it is eternal and unalterable. As such, past and present and future, yesterday and today and tomorrow, are irrelevant concepts in relation to Islam-the embodiment of Divine truth.

We are, therefore, left with two possible meanings of the topic for the present discussion.

One : How are the Muslims behaving vis--vis Islam today ? What is the attitude of the present-day Muslims towards Islam ? To what extent are their lives determined or influenced by Islam ?

Two : Is it possible for the present-day world to adopt and practice Islam ? If so, how ? Or, perhaps, a more radical interpretation of the subject for discussion would be : Is Islam practicable today?

It is in terms of these two questions respectively that I shall discuss the subject.

In dealing with the former question-that is, the attitude of the present-day Muslims towards Islam, their treatment of the Faith, and its influence on their lives-we must first glance at the past history of Islam. Our present condition has resulted from our state in the past, and our future will similarly emerge from our present and be influenced by it. Therefore, in order to study and analyze the present attitude of the Muslims towards Islam, we must know their attitude towards it in the past. We can thus trace the historical reasons for our present attitude and behavior, and also determine our possible attitude towards it in the future.

A historical survey from this point of view would show that the Muslims have passed through three major historical phases and that they are now living in the fourth phase.