The Islamic Empire: decline and response â€” II Common Muslims, not fully aligned with either school of thought, are living their lives in confusion as they see no viable answer to the question of what practices a Muslim should follow in modern times The First World War (1914-1918) sounded the death knell for Muslim dominance in the world and the process of a complete European domination of whatever was left of the great Muslim empire was completed. The empire was reduced to a series of colonies ruled by the Europeans. The Muslim worldâ€™s response to their rapid economic, educational and military decline has been divided, weak and ineffective. The efforts of Muslim intellectuals and leaders in establishing a strategy for revival can be divided into two categories: Islamic modernism and a return to orthodoxy. In the 19th and 20th centuries Muslim scholars in the Arab world attempted to â€˜moderniseâ€™ Islam by revisiting Islamic theology and bringing it in line with the demands of the 20th century. Some of the key proponents of this school were Jamaluddin Afghani (1838-1897), Mohammad Abdu (1849-1905), Rashid Rida (1865-1935) and Hassan Al-Banna (1906-1949), the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. A similar reformist movement was initiated in India in the middle of the 18th century when it had become clear that the great Mughal Empire had come undone following the death of Emperor Aurungzeb in 1707. The modernist reform school believed that the use of reason was central to rejuvenate Islam. This school also supported the use of ijtehad (consultation and inquiry) and the establishment of an elected shura (consultative body) similar to a parliament. One of the more radical offshoots of the modernist movement was the attempt to adopt western education, develop political institutions similar to those followed in Europe and confine Islam to the private realm only. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938) successfully implemented this approach in Turkey in the aftermath of the First World War to turn Turkey into a prosperous and stable country. In India, this path was propagated by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, who established a university (Aligarh) for imparting modern scientific education to the Muslims of India. In this effort, the orthodox Muslim scholars, who saw Islamic teachings sufficient for this world and the hereafter, roundly condemned him. The response to the Islamic debacle that probably holds the greatest influence today is the Salafi movement (also loosely called Wahabi), which is inspired by the teachings of the orthodox scholar Ibn Taymiyyah of the 14th century (mentioned earlier in the article). The objective of this movement is to return Islam to its purest form, i.e. using Quran and Hadith as the only authentic source for jurisprudence. Today, this is the state ideology of Saudi Arabia and militant fundamentalist movements like the Taliban of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and al Shabab of Somalia. The key element of orthodoxy is the concept of jihad. Most of the Muslim lands were colonised by western powers in the early 2oth century. A distrust of the coloniser was conducive for the radical reformist school of thought to declare armed struggle against the colonisers as a holy war and the participation in it as a religious duty of all Muslims. Thus the concept of jihad, as a military war only, was born and, to this day, it is the dominant form of resistance to western powers and their surrogate Muslim ruling classes in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Events in the 20th century and beyond have shown that both the modernist and the orthodox responses have failed. The modernist Muslim reformers have been unable to re-tool Islam to deal with the modern realities, the most significant of these being proper education in the sciences, participation of women in education and in the workforce, creating a secular environment free of conflict with the non-Muslims, and the separation of state and religion. Another important reason for the failure of the modernist is that a very limited political space is provided to them. Attempts by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to come to power through the democratic process have failed since they are not acceptable to the western-backed army and their supporters who want to protect their investments and privileges. Similarly, in Algeria, the Muslim parties were not allowed to rule after winning the elections as the army accused them of wanting to bring an Islamic dictatorship that would halt any further democratic elections. The failure of the modernists has fueled the rise of militant orthodoxy. In the aftermath of the coup in Egypt, al Shabab, the Islamist militant movement of Somalia, issued a statement saying the case of Egypt proves that Islam can never be implemented through democratic means. While militant Islam has created a lot of difficulties for both the western powers and moderate Muslims, it cannot be deemed successful. If anything, it has spawned a cycle of violence in which not just the direct participants but also the population at large is suffering. With continued militancy and response, the hope for a peaceful world is receding farther than ever before. Common Muslims, not fully aligned with either school of thought, are living their lives in confusion as they see no viable answer to the question of what practices a Muslim should follow in modern times. However, the general trend has been towards increased religious conservatism, as evidenced in the covering up of women in the hijab, building of madrassas (seminaries) to impart religious education to the young, lower tolerance for religious minorities and incorporation of conservative Islamic laws in the constitution. The hard question today is: is there a third line of inquiry that can bring about a positive change for the beleaguered Muslims? Maybe the right answer is that, in modern times, religion cannot be brought into statehood at all and must remain strictly in the private realm of the individual. The problem with this solution is that Islam is considered by its followers as a â€˜complete code of lifeâ€™ encompassing spiritual, social, economic and political dimensions. Thus politics and religion are inextricably tied like Siamese twins and the separation of the two is not easy. That is why any modern interpretation and practice of Islam that separates the two may not be palatable to the Muslims for whom both culture and politics is intimately tied to Islam. What does the near future hold for Muslims? Muslims are finding themselves increasingly marginalised due to the suspicion with which the non-Muslim world looks at them. Unless the war on terror ends and Muslims are able to raise their heads again, and find the time needed to achieve the right balance between religion and statehood, there is a very difficult road ahead for them, no matter which part of the world they belong to. The Islamic Empire: decline and response â€” II ********************************************************************* This is from Daily Times, Pakistan. This article indicates the state of turmoil that Muslims the world over seem to have over being in march with modernity and contemporary requirements and yet at the same time be a good Muslim by believing and incorporating Islam as a â€˜complete code of lifeâ€™ encompassing spiritual, social, economic and political dimensions. It is thus a moral schizophrenia.