Foundation, NJ U. S. A
the Message Continues ...
Article 1 -
Article 2 -
Article 3 -
Article 4 -
Article 5 -
Article 6 -
Article 7 -
Article 8 -
Article 9 -
Article 10 -
Article 11 -
Shaping a Future for Muslims in America:
Planting the Tree of Life
Dr. Robert D. Crane
I. What is the
Major Problem for Muslims Today?
The future of Muslims,
which all Muslims are especially interested in today, can be
addressed by asking seven questions.
First, what is the major problem for Muslims in the
As a professional
long-range global forecaster, my experience is that one can
shape the future only when one can first understand the
problems, challenges, and opportunities available to those who
want to shape it.
If we are to shape the future of Muslims in
America, rather than merely
waiting passively for history to unfold, we must first
understand the problems and challenges that confront us.
The principal problem and
challenge for every group of people, including entire
civilizations, is always ideative.
We live in a world that is shaped by ideas and by those
who can manipulate them to their own ends.
This is the mission of think-tanks.
Whoever can best influence the underlying premises of
policy will control the political agenda.
And whoever controls the agenda will control policy.
The principal problem for
Muslims in America and
around the world is the perception that they pose a global
threat to civilization.
This is the conclusion of increasingly influential global
Therefore we must understand the role of such forecasters in the
Forecasting the future
became a profession only forty years ago, when both government
and industry began to appreciate that threats to their future
were global in nature.
The Cuban missile crisis in 1962 reinforced the
perception that the major threat to America was Communism.
In September, 1962, I became one of the four founders of
the the first foreign policy think-tank in Washington, the Center for Strategic Studies,
now the leading such think-tank renamed The Center for Strategic
and International Studies.
Our job was to create what the British called a grand
strategy or framework for all strategic thought.
The task at hand was to develop a grand strategy to
combat Communism all over the world and to forecast the types
and levels of threats that must be countered in this war against
evil. During the
next three decades, this task overwhelmed all decision-making in
The Cuban missile crisis
threatened the very survival of
My forty-page strategic analysis of the intelligence and
forecasting failures that led to this crisis, published in the
January 1963 issue of Orbis: A Quarterly Journal of World
Affairs, prompted Richard Nixon this same month to hire me
as his principal foreign policy adviser.
I prepared a monthly digest for him of the principal
articles and books on the key foreign policy issues.
Six years later, on January 20, 1969, the day he
was sworn in as President, he appointed me Deputy Director for
Planning in the National Security Council.
The Director, Henry Kissinger, almost immediately fired
me because our grand strategies were diametrically opposed to
each other. He
sought global stability by using American military might to
orchestrate and impose a balance of power.
My grand strategy called for addressing the causes of
instability by pursuing justice, because injustice was the fuel
that fed Communism.
Almost forty years after
the Cuban missile crisis, on
September 11, 2001, an equivalent thunderbolt
presented a new mortal threat.
A new global enemy had emerged that must be not merely
contained but decisively destroyed.
This enemy was Islam.
Immediately after the
collapse of Communism and of the grand strategy that had been
developed to combat it, Samuel Huntington had set the framework
for a new grand strategy with his thesis that we were entering
an era dominated by a clash not of states with political agendas
but of entire civilizations.
Even before 9/11, in March 2001, a former Israeli
military officer, Robert D. Kaplan, spent an hour with President
Bush briefing him on his new book, The Coming Anarchy.
Kaplan forecast that the world was entering a moral
meltdown like in the novel, The Lord of the Flies, and
that "the most important moral commitment for America is to
preserve its power."
The impact of 9/11 finally
brought to power the neo-conservative movement, which started
with Robert Strausz-Hupe's seminal position paper half a century
earlier in 1957 calling for a global American empire to save
civilization from destruction.
Strausz-Hupe dismissed Communism as an ideology that
would implode long before the end of the century.
The subsequent threats would be greater and would require
February 19th, 2002,
at the Richard Nixon Library and think-tank in Yorba Linda, California,
Vice President Cheney called for a new policy of global offense
in what he called "the defining struggle of the 21st century."
That very same week, five
months after 9/11, a new book became the hottest item in town
and reportedly took official Washington by storm.
This book, garlanded with effusive praise by Henry
Kissinger and a bevy of the most influential American elder
statesmen, presented a brilliant apologia for scrapping morality
and ideals and anything that might interfere with the imposition
of American imperial power.
This book, which was required reading in the highest
policy circles, was entitled Warrior Politics: Why Leadership
Demands a Pagan Ethos.
In the prologue to this
book, Kaplan quotes Thomas Hobbes: "Before the names of Just and
Unjust can have any place, there must be some coercive power."
He adds, "Physical aggression is part of being human."
The new element in the world after 9/11, according to
Kaplan, is that barbarians have exploited a global ideology -
Islam - to give tham a bottomless pit of recruits and allies in
a global war that has now struck at the heart of the empire.
The fiasco in Iraq during the
past year has prompted some professional forecasters to update
the neo-con strategy of unilateral preemption.
In his new book, published this past spring, entitled
Collosus: the Cost of American Empire, Neal Furguson urges
American policy makers to learn from the mistakes of past
empires. Their two
greatest mistakes were, first, their failure to increase the
level of force when they encountered opposition, and, second,
their failure to plan for occupation of foreign peoples in terms
not merely of years but of decades.
What is the Most Difficult Challenge for
in the World Today
The challenge to Muslims in
the world today is not how to resist American material power,
but how to influence the premises that have led to an imperial
presidency both at home and abroad.
The major challenge in the
world today is not terrorism.
And we know that it certainly is not Islam as a religion,
any more than it is Christianity or Judaism.
The major problem is not even the growing gap between the
absurdly rich and the desperately poor both within and among
countries, which is one of the long-range causes of terrorism.
It is not even the "evil forces" that allegedly inhabit
the Third World and have
prompted some extremists to revive the old Serbian call in Bosnia: "Death
to all Muslims."
The major challenge in the
world is the gap in understanding between the neo-cons in the
White House, who call for freedom and democracy, and the Muslims
and most of the other peoples in the world, who call for
justice. We operate
from different premises of thought.
America and the
rest of the world are like two ships passing in the night.
They see each other at a distance, but the captain of the
American ship has no idea what is in the other ship, where it
came from, and where it is going.
In his speech at the Army War College last Tuesday, on May 24th, 2004, President
Bush repeated his conviction that he is leading the fight of
good against evil and that the war in
has become the defining struggle against terrorism.
By staying the course in Iraq to victory,
President Bush told the American people: "This would be a
decisive blow to terrorism at the heart of its power, and a
victory for the security of
and the civilized world. ... We will persevere and defeat the
enemy and hold this hard-won ground for the realm of liberty."
In response to comments on
the Arab street that identify the Americans in Iraq and the White House as "foreign
jihadists," President Bush proudly announced:
"I sent American troops to Iraq to make its
people free, not to make them American."
President Bush's premises
are showing. Notice
that not once in this speech, and not once in his entire
presidency, has President Bush or anyone else at a senior level
in his administration talked about justice.
For most of the people in the world, Bush might just as
well have been talking in Swahili.
And for the neo-cons and Armageddonites in the current
Administration, the peoples of the world might just as well be
speaking in an unintelligible Chinese.
The major challenge in the
world today is not evil intentions.
I am a life-long Republican and I personally believe that
President Bush is a good and sincere man.
But he is totally out of touch with the world.
His problem in both domestic and foreign policy is lack
of communication, caused in part by his reliance on advisers who
want to keep him isolated in order to pursue their own agendas.
Three weeks ago, Cardinal
Jean-Louis Tauran, the former Vatican Secretary for Relations
with States, stated on Vatican Radio that the crisis in Iraq, and specifically the system
that produced the abuse of Iraqis in American prisons, is only
an inevitable result of deeper problems.
He concluded: "The lack of a solution to the conflict
between Israelis and Palestinians is the mother of all crises."
Cardinal Tauran did not
need to reiterate the position of all the world's spiritual
leaders that the major problem and challenge in the world today
is failure to respect the dignity of the human person and the
resulting failure to translate the wisdom of universal truth
into the morality of universal justice.
The major challenge for all
Americans is that their president has lost touch with the
The first aim in the preamble of the American Consitution -
after the motivating purpose at hand of forming "a more perfect
union" - is "the establishment of justice."
Justice is mentioned before peace ("domestic
tranquility"), security ("the common defense"), prosperity ("the
general welfare"), and freedom ("the blessings of liberty").
Until America recovers the concept and
content of justice as its paradigm or grand strategy for dealing
with the world, as it was of
America's founders, the
quixotic search for stability by maintaining the status quo with
all of its injustices will fail.
And we Muslims will be the principal victims.
III. What is the
Paradigm of Justice?
The third of the six
questions posed in my talk today is: "Where does justice come
from, and what is it?"
If Muslims are to help change the paradigm of American
foreign policy by networking with like-minded people in the
halls of academia and by making alliances with like-minded
Washington, we must understand the
answer to these questions.
I earned a J.D. or Doctor
of Laws degree at
to find an answer, but not once in my three years there did I
ever even hear the word "justice." The reason is simple.
Harvard, as a bastion of secularism, has focused on
training the elite in America ever since the Civil War, when the
natural law school of Supreme Court Justice Story went out of
style, to accept the positivist school of law, which denies the
very possibility of justice.
It also denies everything for which
My conclusions are two:
First, the teachings of classical Islam and the teachings
America, best typified by the
traditionalist mentor of America's founders, the Englishman
Edmund Burke, and by Thomas Jefferson, must be renewed in order
to build a new global civilization.
Second, the purpose of Muslims in
is to help Americans build this new global civilization on the
spiritual foundations of all world religions, because failure to
do so would end all civilization and bring on the end times.
All the spiritual leaders
of the world agree that the signs of the end times are
religious leaders in all three of the Abrahamic religions follow
a polytheistic theology of self-worship and hatred of "the
other." Some are willing
to risk mutual destruction of the world, while others are
seeking deliberately to accelerate its end.
In contrast, the enlightened spiritual leaders support
the opposite teaching of the Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu 'alayhi
wa salam, who said, "Even if you would know that the world
will end tomorrow, you should go out and plant a tree."
Our responsibility is to
plant the tree of life.
The tap-root of this tree is true worship of the ultimate
Being, because worship of anything else brings the death of
civilizations and the eternal separation of individual persons
from Allah, which is hell.
Without such worship, even the concept of justice is
inconceivable, because justice is the right ordering of the
What is this worship?
Symbolically this is shown by the physical performance of
The vertical position in prayer points upward to each person's
relationship with God.
Among animals, only humans stand erect.
The horizontal rows of believers point to the social
relationships among persons and to the justice that should
govern their life in community.
Christianity emphasizes the vertical relationship of
love, whereas Judaism emphasizes a horozontal submission to law.
Islam emphasizes neither, or perhaps one should say that
Islam emphasizes both equally, because the emphasis on one over
the other can lead to extremism.
The personal and the social
are the two forms of worship.
Each has three levels/
What are the three levels of personal worship?
The first is fear, whereby persons worship God because
they fear him. As
the hadith attest, this is the worship of slaves.
The second is self-centered egoism, whereby persons
worship God to seek rewards.
This is the worship of hirelings.
The third is the level of love, whereby persons worship
God because He alone deserves worship and inspires love.
This is the worship taught in the first part of the
hajj within the Masjid al Haram in Makkah.
The second or social form
of worship is symbolized in the hajj by the mass movement
of millions of persons to the Plain of Arafat and back,
suggesting not only their gathering on the Last Day but their
responsibilities to each other during their lives on earth.
These responsibilities and corresponding human rights are
the substance of justice.
The principles of justice, known as the maqasid al
shari'ah, were developed over the centuries by some of the
most brilliant minds in history.
They constitute a sophisticated code of human rights
never since equaled or even approached in any other
These principles of justice
constitute a hierarchy of three levels, ranging from the most
general or seminal, known variously as maqasid or
purposes, kulliyat or universals, and dururiyat or
essentials, to the more specific hajjiyat, and down to
the most specific in their application, the tahsiniyat.
Before we describe the
content of this hierarchy of human rights, we should ask, "Where
do these principles of justice come from?"
They come from the use of human reason as the third
source of truth, known as 'ilm al yaqin.
This is based on the other two sources, which are haqq
al yaqin or divine revelation, and 'ain al yaqin,
which is the study of the signs in the universe, otherwise known
as natural law or the Sunnatu Allahi.
The use of the human
intellect to seek truth and apply it in the practice of justice
is the third jihad, the only onde mentioned in the Qur'an.
This is the jihad al kabir or "great jihad,"
introduced in Surah al Furqan 25:52, wa jahidhum bihi jihadan
make an effort to apply it [divine revelation] in a great
jihad." This both
follows and precedes the other two forms of jihad, which are
mentioned in the hadith, namely, the jihad al akbar or
"greatest jihad," which is the spiritual jihad of
self-purification, and the jihad al saghrir or "lesser
jihad," which calls, when necessary, for the use of force
subject to the laws of just war to defend human rights.
Muslims have been split for
more than a thousand years over which comes first in the search
to understand the meaning and application of justice.
The Mutakalimun say that revelation trumps reason,
whereas some philosophers, especially the Mutazillites,
say that reason must displace revelation whenever they perceive
a conflict between the two.
This mindless debate has weakened the Muslim umma.
Since, by definition, there
can never be two realities, the Jafari school of law established
a reinforcing balance of both by including justice as the second
of their five articles of faith, namely, tawheed, 'adl
(justice), nubuwwat, imamat, and ma'ad.
These 'usul al din or "roots of the faith"
were first systematized by Shaykh Muhammad ibne Babawaih, known
as Shaykh Saduq, who died in 381 A.H.
His 300 books consolidated the doctrine of uninterrupted
ijtihad or intellectual creativity in the Jafari school
of law. His most
important work, the I'teqadia, was translated and edited
twenty years ago into English by Nasir Shamsi.
These 'usul al din
might be considered as the root structure of the tree of life,
and the principles of justice as the tree's trunk and branches.
All Muslims emphasize
justice as a governing principle, even though many Muslim
tyrants throughout history have not applied it in practice and,
in fact, have emphasized obedience to themselves as the highest
duty of their subjects.
During the last six hundred years, the scholars of the
madhdhahib arba'a or four Sunni schools of thought have
largely ignored justice even as a concept, much less as a
governing framework for political, economic, and social life.
In contrast, the Jafari fiqh lists justice as a
basic paradigm of all thought and action, preceded only by
tawheed, which is recognition of the existence of God and of
the universe as a conherent manifestation of God's Being.
Justice comes even before recognition of prophet hood,
the third governing principle, which teaches that divine love,
mercy, and justice are manifested through human exemplars.
What are the Principles of Justice?
The fourth of the seven
questions we must ask is what is the substance of justice?
What are the principles that make up the Islamic
architectonics of human rights?
Justice can have meaning
only if it derives from truth, and truth has meaning only if it
comes from an absolute source.
The only such source is ultimate reality.
And the only ultimate reality is God.
Allah has taught this in
the Qur'an in several places.
Wa tamaat kalimatu Rabika sidqan wa 'adlan: "And
the Word of your Lord is fulfilled and perfected in truth and
justice." Wa min
ma khalaqna ummatun yahduna bil haqqi wa bihi ya'adilun:
"And We have created a community that is guided by truth and
applies it in the form of justice."
And, Shahidah Allahu anahu la illala ila huwa ...
qa'iman bil qisti: "Allah [himself] witnesses that there is
no god but him and that He stands for justice."
Justice is merely a word
without meaning unless it is developed in the form of
was a basic teaching of the Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu 'alayhi
wa salam. He
used to gather the sahaba around him and pose either real
or hypothetical cases for judgement.
Each sahib would give his conclusion.
Then the Prophet told them, in effect, "I do not care
what your conclusions are.
I want to know from what principles you derived them."
His beloved 'Ali, 'alayhi
salam, reportedly always excelled in tracing every decision
back to an informing principle or principles based on ijtihad
or intellectual effort.
Important in this process
was Allah's warning in Surah Ya Sin 30:60-62:
"Did I not enjoin on you ... to worship Me alone?
This would have been a straight way.
[Satin] has already led astray a great many of you: Could
you not then use your reason?"
The governing verb here is ta'aqilun from 'aql
or human reason.
The product of Muslim
thought is known as 'usul al fiqh, which means "the roots
of legal reasoning."
In fact, these are principles of justice, based on
istislah or the good of both the person and the community,
and are really more like the branches of the tree of life
stemming from the 'usul al din or roots of faith.
Failure to derive
principles from the Qur'an for the development of fiqh
leaves jurists without adequate guidance and makes them
vulnerable to human prejudice and error.
It makes it difficult, if not impossible, reliably to
translate truth into justice.
What are these basic
principles of justice?
I have expanded upon them in a 250-page book, as yet
unpublished, under the title Shaping a Common Vision for
America: Challenge and
plan to develop them in detail, in sha'a Allah, in the
final volumes of a 2,500 page comparison of classical American
and classical Islamic thought.
According to some classical scholars, there are seven
universal principles of law, known variously as kulliyat
or universals, maqasid or purposes, and dururiyat
or essentials, that best reflect the architectonics of human
rights and constitutional law in Islamic thought.
This format was used by the last of the great legal
theorists of 'usul al fiqh in Sunni Islam, Abu Ishaq
Ibrahim ibn Musa al Shatibi, who died six hundred years ago in
1388 A.C / 790 A.H.).
The first universal
principle is haqq al din, which provides the framework
for the next six in the form of respect for a transcendent
source of truth to guide human thought and action.
Recognition of this absolute source of truth and of the
responsibility to apply it in practice are needed to counter the
temptations toward relativism and the resulting chaos,
injustice, and tyranny that may result from the de-sacralization
of public life.
The next six can be viewed
as pairs. The first
pair deals with human sovereignty.
The first of this pair is haqq al nafs, which is
the duty to respect the human person as the source of all
sovereignty, subject only to the higher sovereignty of God.
This is the opposite of Western thinking, which locates
sovereignty exclusively in the state.
The second maqsud of
this pair is haqq al nasl, which is the duty to respect
the nuclear family and the community at every level all the way
to the community of humankind as important expressions of the
person. This is the
opposite of Western international law, which does not recognize
the right of groups to legal existence, such as the
Palestinians, Kurds, Chechens, Kashmiris, and the Uighur in
The next pair deals with
the means to maintain the sovereignty of the person and of
first maqsud of this pair is haqq al mal.
This is the duty to respect the right of private property
in the means of production.
This requires respect for institutions that broaden
access to capital ownership as a universal human right and as an
essential means, particularly in a capital intensive economy, to
avoid wage slavery and unemployment.
My law degree in international investment
has helped me make reform of the global financial system,
especially for improved access to credit, as one of my life-long
The second maqsud of
this econd pair of maqasid is haqq al hurriyah,
which requires respect for self-determination of both persons
and communities through political freedom, including the concept
that economic democracy is a precondition for the political
democracy of representative government.
All the great Islamic scholars were imprisoned, often for
many years, for teaching this principle of political freedom and
its four subsidiary principles or hajjiyat of khilafa,
shura, ijma, and an independent judiciary.
The third set of universal
principles of justice deals with the means to promote human
dignity. The first
of this set is haqq al karama or respect for human
dignity, especially through the two hajjiyat or subsets
of legal guidance: religious freedom and gender equity.
The last of this third pair is haqq al 'ilm or
respect for knowledge.
The second-order principles of this universal principle
of justice require freedom of thought, press, and assembly, so
that all persons can fulfill their purpose to seek knowledge
wherever they can find it.
The standard exposition of
these universal principles, preferred by Abu Hamid al Ghazali in
the fourth Islamic century, contained only five maqasid,
namely, faith (din), life (haya or nafs),
property (mal), honor (karama), and mind ('ilm).
Later jurists, including Al Shatibi, added community (nasl)
to the first of the three sets and political freedom (hurriyah)
to the second set.
Al Shatibi emphasized that both the number and organization of
these universal principles of Islamic law are flexible, because
they derive from the application of human reason to the basic
sources in the Qur'an and sunna.
This framwork of justice is
at the core of Islam as a religion.
Fortunatelhy, this paradigm of human responsibilities and
rights is now being revived by courageous Muslims who are
determined to fill the intellectual gap that has weakened the
Muslim umma for more than six hundred years, so that a
spiritual renaissance in all faiths can transform the world.
Fruits of the Tree of Life:
Justice in Modern Iraq
What do the 'Usul al
Fiqh and the 'Usul al Din mean in practice?
The traditionalist wisdom of Islamic law or shari'ah,
which is best expressed in the above architectonics of the 'usul
al fiqh and its roots in the 'usul al din, exists in
lesser degrees in all the world religions.
In contrast, Western and Westernized scholars start from
the material universe as the ultimate reality and therefore
start from human reason as the only source of truth.
This is why the elimination of Islam as the basic source
of authority in an Iraqi constitution has been an absolute
requirement by the American occupation rulers since long before
the invasion in March 2003.
From human history we can
see that unaided human reason has led to the principle of might
makes right. This
leads to such totalitarian concepts as stability through
unilateral preemption in total disregard of any governing
principles of morality and justice, such as those in the
doctrine of just war spelled out in classical Islamic law at the
tertiary level of the secondary principle, haqq al haya,
under the primary principle known as haqq al nafs, the
duty to respect the sovereignty of the human person.
In secular thought, even
such concepts as freedom and democracy can divorce rights from
responsibilities and thereby produce injustices worse than those
that the neo-con utopians say they want to eliminate.
The ancestors of the neo-cons were the revolutionaries in
two centuries ago who wanted to impose their utopia on the
world. In order to
prevent such polytheistic worship of man as the ultimate reality
and source of truth, America's founders condemned
absolutist or majoritarian democracy as the worst form of
Instead, they sought to create a republic, which by definition
is governed by leaders who are governed by God.
Thomas Jefferson, the
author of the Declaration of Independence, taught that no people
can remain free unless they are properly educated, that
education consists first of all in learning virtue, and that an
entire people can be virtuous only if both private and public
life are imbued with and guided by truth and justice within a
The specifics of an Iraqi
constitution reflecting the self-determination required by
haqq al hurriya would require a confederal government
permitting the autonomy of its component peoples, perhaps as a
geostrategic compromise with those who want total independence.
The application of haqq
al mal or respect for private property similarly would favor
the devolution of economic power from centralized control by the
state as broadly as possible to individual persons.
The first phase of this economic devolution of power
would involve denationalization of the Iraqi oil fields by
converting the Iraqi National Oil Company into a professionally
managed limited liability corporation.
Initial shares would be issued at no cost to every oil
worker and Iraqi citizen guaranteeing them first-class
shareholder rights to the profits and voting control of the
government revenues would then come from increased citizen
incomes, reducing non-accountable political control by a
military or political elite or by foreign oil interests.
Both of these powerful
means to avoid concentration of power in order to increase
individual sovereignty, dignity, and freedom would conflict with
powerful special interests, especially those in
But, the benefits to the Iraqi and American people would
be enormous. First,
the promotion of justice as perceived by the people of Iraq would undercut the appeal of
exclusivist and radical elements and thereby promote internal
second, an American policy that boldly promoted justice, rather
than what is considered to be a hypocritical call for freedom
and democracy, would powerfully restore the image of America as a
revolutionary force for justice in an age of globalization and
as a moral leader of the world.
Fruits of the Tree of Life: Transcendent Identity
More important for a global
grand strategy would be not merely the application of justice in
the coming decade or two in Iraq, but the transformation of
human consciences at the spiritual level in all religions
everywhere in the world over a period of centuries.
Such a vision, based on recognition of the basics of
human nature, may be the proper answer to the doomsayers who
forecast the end of the world not as a period of transition to a
new era but as the end of the final era in human history or of
the universe itself.
The question for such truly
long-range forecasting and planning concerns the deeper meanings
of the 'usul al din or roots of faith, not merely of
Islam but of all world religions in their access to the
The ultimate question
concerns one's identity.
Everyone has multiple identities.
For example, both Muslims and non-Muslims question
whether Muslims can be both Muslim and American.
This was the highest ranking of six key current questions
posed and answered in their first publication by members of the
Center for Understanding Islam, of which I was the chairman
during its first two years after 9/11.
The short answer, followed by analysis and Qur'anic
quotations, was: "Our country is America and our
faith is Islam.
There is no need to choose between them. ... The first
responsibility of every loyal American, both Muslim and
non-Muslim, is to support the government when it governs
according to its founding principles and loyal opposition when
it does not."
The seventh chapter of
volume two of my projected seven-volume work on Shaping a
Common Vision for America is entitled Transcendent
is the third chapter in Part Two, entitled "Roots of a Common
Vision: the Moral and Spiritual Dimension."
This chapter was inspired by the Englishman, Dr. Jeremy
Henzell-Thomas, who presented a seminal paper on the subject in
September, 2003, at the annual convention of the Association of
Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS) in Bloomington,
Indiana, and published it in the online
Dr. Henzell-Thomas's thesis
is that the key to advancement from parochial clash to common
vision is the natural human quest for a transcendent identity.
In his tour de force, he warned that "mutual
hostility and suspicion have been fuelled by the rhetoric of
self-righteousness and rage, the psychological exploitation of
fear, insecurity, and patriotic fervor, and even full-scale
retreat into defensive isolation and identity crisis."
The only cure for what he calls "this war of barbarisms"
is to work through both intra-faith and inter-faith dialogue
toward an "expanded sense of identity [ by appealing to] that
compassionate wisdom which does not delimit, negate, or
abrogate, but which expands, affirms, and illumines."
He urges us to "reach beyond differences and develop our
outlook beyond mere tolerance in engaging with people of all
faiths and cultures in such a way that we discover our sacred
identity at its deepest and finest level in accordance with the
injunction in the Qur'an: "And discourse with them [followers of
earlier revelations] only in what is finest" (Surah al 'ankabut
The Qur'an informs us that
Allah has created the world and everything in it as a system of
polarities, ranging from physics to gender, so that we may pass
beyond these opposites to the essential Unity that is both our
original identity and our ultimate goal as human beings.
Every person, however,
is free to derive from the duality and polarity underlying the
fabric of the universe the exact opposite lesson.
We see this in the tendency of people to see reality in
black and white, a propensity to see the world in terms of
mutually hostile and competing civilizations, an us-versus-them
ideology that self-righteously attributes rightness and goodness
only to its own perspective.
Every person is created,
says Dr. Henzell-Thomas, with both a rational intellect of the
brain and a higher intellect of the heart, which together form
what in Islamic philosophy is known as the 'aql.
This goes beyond the normal, exoteric definition of 'aql
to equate it with the nous in Orthodox Christianity and
modern Catholic theology, which, if purified, knows God and the
inner essence or principles of created things by means of a
direct apprehension or spiritual perception.
He quotes Titus Burckhardt, the historian of perennial
art, who defines this 'aql as the "universal principle of
all intelligence, a principle which transcends the limiting
conditions of the mind," a principle that is known, with some
modern empirical justification, as the "heart."
He compares this level of knowledge disparagingly with
much of the modern writing that purports to be profound by
citing the catchword, "the medium is the message," and the
proverb: "Empty barrels make the most sound."
Much of Dr. Henzell-Thomas's
essay as a professional linguist explores the origin of words in
various languages in order to show that modern derivations have
lost the wisdom of their cognates and thereby reflected or led
to a divided world.
For example, there is no exact equivalent for "sin" in Qur'anic
Arabic, because Muslims focus on cause not on effect, a practice
that more Americans would do well to learn.
In Islamic thought the actions that Christians call "sin"
are not caused ultimately by original sin or by ill-will but by
forgetting God. The
very word for human, al insan, comes from the root "to
forget." Our need
consciously to be aware of God is precisely why all religions
call for frequent prayer and in Eastern Orthodox mysticicm for
Although Dr. Henzell-Thomas
does not explain that there is no word for "sin" in Arabic, he
shows that the modern meaning of evil as the root of sin does
not exist in the Greek word hamartia, which is normally
translated as "sin" in English versions of the New Testament.
The Greek original means "missing the mark" by being
unbalanced on the side of excess and by losing focus on right
direction. This is
basic to the Islamic term mizan, which attributes
problems to lack of balance, as well as to the popular term for
problem, namely, mushkila, which comes from the root
sh-ka-la, meaning internal disorder.
This contrasts with the modern English concept of problem
as an external obstacle that must be overcome or destroyed, like
the sixty countries that President Bush right after 9/11 said
must be eliminated.
A principal problem with
many advocates of "liberalism," perhaps especially of Muslim
advocates of "liberal Islam," is that they are adopting language
that makes it impossible any longer to understand traditionalist
thought of any religion or even to think.
How do we deal with a secular world, in which
"individuality" as the essence of human dignity becomes
"individualism" with no meaning other than revolt against
acknowledgement of the "absolute" becomes "absolutism";
when the "authoritative" becomes "authoritarian"; when
"science," which is the open-ended search for all knowledge,
becomes "scientism" or the rejection of whatever cannot be
proven in a test tube; when "forms" as the creation of God
become "formalisms" created by man; when "unity" becomes
"uniformity"; "usefulness" becomes "utilitarianism"; "liberty"
becomes "libertinism"; "modernity" becomes "modernism";
"religion" becomes "religiosity"; and all these perversions of
thought are employed to reject the validity of any and every
Similarly, how can we
transcend the minds of religious zealots who seek to create God
in their own image, as Voltaire once put it, by limiting God
within the formalisms of their own dogmas?
The Qur'an informs us: "Glorified is He and exalted above
what they describe" (Surah al An'am 6:100)?
How can we thereby forget our innate awareness of God?
Such self-inflicted amnesia, according to the Qur'an, is
the ultimate source of all evil.
How can we come to worship instead the false god of
secular materialism, the god of Mammon, with its gargantuan and
insatiable appetite, or as Dr. Henzell-Thomas puts it, how can
we worship "the pillar of salt offered to us by religious bigots
who have no water to slake our thirst"?
The fruits of planting the
tree of life include recognition that the way out of the desert
in which we are lost is not meaningless inter-cultural education
or "crossing frontiers" that focus on respecting parochial
identity rather than expanding beyond it into the larger space
of our common identity as spiritual beings with a common origin
and a common purpose.
Multi-culturalism in American education does not address
the common search for higher understanding but teaches that
there is no absolute truth, that everything is relative, and
that no culture, including the traditionalist paradigm of America's
founders, can have any objective value or meaning.
reason quite simply is that religion is taught, if at all, as an
anthropological or sociological exercise but not as a key to
what it means to be human.
The identity of human nature is off-limits as a subject
of study, because this would involve teaching religion, without
which human nature can have no value or meaning or even
When public education is
forbidden to address the essentials of religion, the only
purpose of such education is to produce competent automatons
with proven skills designed only efficiently to quantify and
manage the material world in order to compete internationally in
producing more bucks and better bombs.
We need people of vision, not managers; we need
spiritually enlightened human beings, not hard-wired cyborgs,
not even "culturally competent global citizens."
Dr. Henzell-Thomas warns
that the dominant current of secular fundamentalism is producing
a new totalitarianism.
As noted by the renowned student of the modern
totalitarian phenomenon, Hannah Arendt, in her book
Totalitarianism: "The aim of totalitarian education has
never been to instill convictions, but to destory the capacity
to form any."
Modern man has entered a
global crisis, of which global terrorism is only the most
obvious symptom, because he has succeeded in shaping the world
to match his governing world-view, which is a man-made
environment that is increasingly mechanistic, atomized,
soulless, and self-destructive.
In his book, The Passion of the Western Mind,
Richard Tarnas calls this an epochal shift into absolute
isolation from reality.
This is precisely why even the word "justice" has gone
out of style. The
pervasive de-sacralization of all life may be leading to the end
stage of a progressive destruction of holistic life.
The moral chaos sown by secular relativism is becoming
the cultural soil in which religious totalitarianism springs
forth and flourishes, choking off liberty and life itself.
Fortunately, God always
leaves open the way to alternative futures and will lead us if
we rely on His help.
In this vein, Dr. Henzell-Thomas optimistically notes
evidence that, "We are moving into a new paradigm, in which
there is a hunger and a thirt for the re-ensouling of society,
education, and culture, for a holistic [as distinct from a
deconstructive] way of looking at the world, which seeks
connectivity, wholeness, and meaningfulness, and which, in the
crucial domain of education, awakens and nurtures the deepest
layer of spiritual identity in young people."
This spiritual identity
that young people increasingly are seeking, not only outside the
mainline denominations of every religion but also within them,
has always been the subject and object of the traditional
wisdom, or sophia perennis.
This is the timeless "primordial religion" underlying its
various expressions in the form of different religions at
different times and places to meet the specific needs of
Like the Hindu Sanatana Dharma, Islam teaches this
spiritual essence of all religions and states that God has
provided prophets for every people in every time and place.
The Qur'an explicitly confirms that God makes no
distinction between any of His apostles or messengers (Surah
al Baqara 2:285).
The common identity of all
persons consists in the idea common to all religions, and
especially prominent in the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, that
the human being is created "in the image of God."
As Dr. Henzell-Thomas notes, "This potential to embody
the totality of divine attributes is an article of faith, which
is not of course soley Islamic, but is enshrined in the common
Abrahamic tradition represented by the 'People of the Book"
(Jews, Christians, and Muslims), in the identity of Atman
(the Self) and Brahman (the Absolute Reality) in the
Vedanta tradition, [and] in the doctrine of the unity of the
microcosm and the macrocosm in various esoteric traditions."
How does one grow the
fruits of the Tree of Life?
How does one actualize this vision of our common
question of praxiology is the great challenge to humanity in an
era when the lack of such a vision can result in universal
The first requirement for
every person in moving humankind away from clashing
civilizations and toward a common vision is to commit oneself to
one's own spiritual path in the knowledge that God has called
each person to a path unique to him or her.
In hundreds of individual
revelations the Qur'an emphasizes that diversity in the universe
is a sign of the Oneness of its Creator, because otherwise there
would be only uniformity with no meaning at all.
This is part of the holistic ontology of the shari'ah
or Islamic law, which serves as the overarching framework of
everything Islamic, both the spiritual and the mundane.
Allah is One.
Therefore the entire created order exists in the harmony
of diversity in order to point to the Creator.
This diversity also is part
of the esthetic of Islamic law, which teaches that the nature of
transcendent reality, and of all being, is Beauty, which
precedes and is independent of cognition.
Beauty consists of unity, symmetry, harmony, depth of
meaning, and breadth of applicability.
The greatest beauty is the unitive principle of tawhid
or the coherence of the universe deriving from the Oneness of
the Creator, because otherwise there could be no science and no
human thought at all.
As discussed in my latest
book, this diversity is also basic to the epistemology of
Islamic law. All
Creation worships Allah because He is one.
The Qur'an states that even the stars and the trees bow
down to Allah in ways that you do not understand.
All knowledge is merely a derivitive and an affirmation
of the unitary harmony in everything that comes from Allah.
Everything in creation is a sign, an ayah, of God
designed to manifest the beauty and perfection of His will for
For example, the constant movement of the clouds shows the
nature of the universe as a flux or state of change, so that we
will seek the stability of peace only in God and in the
permanent elements of existence that inform the spiritual life.
Similarly, the variety of sunsets we see shows the
freedom for diversity inherent in Allah's design for the
universe, which in turn shows the uniqueness ordained for every
individual person and the importance of human rights.
Both the clouds and the
sunsets, as well as every tree, have powerful lessons for every
branch of knowledge, ranging from what Shaheed Isma'il al-Faruqi
called the fitric or microcentric disciplines of physics
and psychology, to the ummatic or macro-oriented
disciplines of chemistry and sociology and politics, as well as
for the study of transcendent religion, which is the master
guide to both and gives rise to the discipline of axiology or
normative law, also known as transcendent law.
From our primordial nature
originating from the divine singularity, God, our identity is in
essence the same as everyone else's, even though the diversity
of forms is infinite.
Some Sufis speak of the oneness of being, wahdat al
wujjud, in which the subjective impression of union with
God, known as wahhad al shuhud, is objectified as
reality, even though even the experience is partly symbolic.
One might compare it with a drop of water that falls into
the ocean. The
ocean is enlarged, but the drop never ceases to exist, even
though its form has changed.
And Allah knows best.
Dr. Henzell-Thomas writes:
"It is only our forgetfulness of our essential nature and its
divine origin, and our heedlessness in failing to fulfill the
burden of trust placed upon us that causes us to stray from our
fully inclusive human identity."
For more depth of understanding on this basic Islamic
teaching, Dr. Henzell-Thomas brings our attention to the
forthcoming book by Reza Shah-Kazemi, originally entitled The
Spirit of Justice and the Remembrance of God: An Introduction fo
the Spiritual Ethos of Imam 'Ali, to be published in London
by I. B. Tauris.
This helps us remain aware of the Christian and basic Abrahamic
teaching that "all things are rooted in mystery, and mystery
dwells in me."
And here we come to perhaps
the most important fruit of the tree of life.
From this metaphysical awareness of tawhid as the
governing principle of all Creation, and of unity in diversity
as its expression, comes the understanding that precisely the
commitment to a particular path gives us the means to encompass
understanding is the opposite of self-styled "universalists" who
believe that adherence to a specific path and its formal
requirements limits our ability to grasp universals.
The traditionalist understanding in all faiths, which is
rejected by the syncretists, who purport to take the best from
all faiths and turn this into a new religion, and by many of the
self-styled liberals, is that only through the mediation of
forms, but not their elevation into formalisms, can the human
being have access to what Muslims call the haqq or the
Essential Truth, God.
The adherence to forms,
without adequate understanding of what they represent, in other
words as meaningless formalism, can lead to the same
totalitarian mentality now so evident in the syncretistic
liberals. As Karen
Armstrong says, "The militant brand of piety, often somewhat
misleadingly called 'fundamentalism,' which has been developing
in all the major world religions for decades and has latterly
become more extreme, ... is rooted in fear.... Almost every day
in our newspapers we see the perils of hatred and bigotry, when
they are given 'divine sanction' by people who distort the very
tradition they are trying to defend."
Commitment to forms, which
includes rituals as well as individual spiritual guides in any
particular religion, according to Dr. Henzell-Thomas, can and
should be "a liberating process that enables one to engage one's
whole being with the particularities of a chosen way in order to
find, through the orientation provided by that way, the
universal and essential realities of which that way is an
expression. ... Following a path exclusively is totally
reconcilable with the search for a universal identity, and,
indeed, is the means to its attainment for countless spiritual
seekers and spiritually developed beings from all religious
traditions, but the exclusivism promoted by a defensive,
backs-to-the-wall religiosity, which misappropriates God for a
narrow community and denies that other paths are also
expressions of the Self-disclosure of God, is necessarily a
constriction of the heart, and is therefore incapable of
This openness to diversity
as part of the plan of God and to the legitimacy of faiths other
than one's own enables one to go beyond the call for mere
"tolerance" of the other.
Tolerance, as used even in interfaith circles, is the
attitude that I will not kill you now, but I will as soon as I
get a good chance.
This is similar to the Soviet use of the term "peaceful
coexistence," which was clearly spelled out in the Communist
legal journals as a stage prior to the worldwide victory of
Communism over all its enemies.
If we are to reach a common
vision as the path to avoid civilizational clash, we must
advance beyond mere tolerance.
We must go beyond the arrogance of triumphalism, so
common among fearful and reactionary people of all faiths, and
beyond the static concept of "peaceful coexistence" to a higher
calling of "peaceful cooperation."
We must advance from tolerance to diversity, in the sense
of recognition and acceptance that the world is diverse, even
though we might not like this fact.
And we must advance beyond this concept of diversity to
the welcoming of a true pluralism, in the sense that we welcome
what people of other faiths have to offer us, since we know what
we can offer them.
Only through mutual
self-understanding in interfaith dialogue can we undergo the
mutual transformation that expands our own identity.
And only through such transformation can we successfully
promote mutual cooperation as catalysts of justice.
Commitment to spiritually informed and spiritually based
justice, which has essentially disappeared from both foreign and
domestic policy in America, is the only path that can
lead to a common vision and to worldwide civilizational renewal.
How Can We Shape the Future of Muslims in America?
The title of this talk,
"Shaping the Future of Muslims in
America," poses the seventh and
final question, to which the first six questions provided an
When forecasters try to
influence policy, they often use hypothetical scenarios.
Muslims have three potential futures in America.
First, they can assimilate into American culture.
This is suicide.
Second, they can retreat into a ghetto mentality of
rejection and confrontation in order to deny reality.
This is also suicide.
Third, Muslims can integrate into America by
bringing the best of the Islamic heritage to reinforce the best
of America's heritage so that together all Americans can help
fulfill the dream of the Founders to establish a model of order,
justice, and liberty based on the spiritual nature of every
There are four methods for
The first is to work at the local level to help Muslims
understand their own religion so that they can explain it to
others, and so that those in other religions can better counter
the extremists who are trying to hijack all religions.
Muslims are already doing this, and experienced great
success in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
As the environment of the police state became more
hostile to Muslims a year or so later both at home and abroad,
the need increased for more such interfaith outreach.
The second method of
integration is to found think-tanks in order to network with
like-minded think-tanks in Washington.
Several attempts have been made over the past decade, but
all have failed due to lack of funding and to a resulting
failure to recruit top professional staff.
The top twenty think-tanks in
in the field of foreign policy all have annual budgets in the
millions of dollars, many of them in the tens of millions.
In order to participate and compete in the think-tank
community, any Muslim think-tank should start with a first-year
budget of $1,000,000, with plans for expansion by $1,000,000 a
year up to about $5,000,000 in Year Five.
Planning for anything less would amount to
under-capitalization, which is the cause of 90% of the
bankruptcies in the
The third method is to
lobby the government on specific policies, as well as to run for
public office so that one can participate in policy-making from
the inside. The
Ikhwan or Muslim Brotherhood has worked through various
national-level Muslim organizations to do such lobbying, but
unfortunately the emphasis has been on reactive confrontation
against policies that are already set in concrete and cannot be
changed. There has
been little effort to lobby proactively in a professional manner
to shape the policy agenda in order to develop enlightened
The issue, according to the former Chairman of the House Foreign
Relations Committee, Lee Hamilton, should always be not what is
good for Muslims but what is best for
The fourth method of
integration is to work within academia, because here is where
ideas are developed and passed on to the think-tanks, which in
turn influence the political agenda and control actual policy.
The best strategy in this fourth method would be to found
a university modeled on Oxford and Cambridge and informed by the enlightened
thought of Islam and all other religious traditions.
The faculty and students would have to be at least a
third non-Muslim in order to attract the best talent.
And an actual quota system might be advisable to assure
that something like half of the administrators, faculty, and
students are women.
The requirements of this fourth method of integration are
spelled out in three articles of mine written as Chairman of the
Crescent University Foundation and published during 2002 in
The greatest challenge for
this strategy is financial.
Starting the first undergraduate class after four years
of preparation would cost $100,000,000, and start-up of the
first graduate school six years later would cost ten times that
much. Anything less
than this might be a waste of money.
The reasons for failure
thus far in establishing thinktanks and universities are not
lack of potential money and talent.
The money is now available, as are the professionals for
both think-tanks and universities.
In only thirty years or so of immigration and conversion
we have reached the critical levels needed, which is an
absolutely remarkable feat.
The main reasons for our
failure are two.
First, the hostile climate for Muslims after 9/11 has
discouraged Muslims from thinking big.
And those who do not think big in America usually
Secondly, the intellectual
basis for such integration, as I have developed it in my talk
today, needs much further development.
My own contributions to this development are my two
books, Shaping the Future: Challenge and Response,
published in 1997, and Shaping a Common Vision for America:
Challenge and Response, which is ready for publication now
in 2004. These are
only the first two volumes of a multi-volume set of books laying
the groundwork for enriching the interaction between classical
American and classical Islamic thought.
Each of the five volumes, in sha'a Allah, will
require at least 500 pages of scholarship with many thousands of
footnotes, because scholarship by definition means that one has
consulted the entire secondary literature and much of the
primary sources on the subject at hand.
This was the level of scholarship by the great thinkers
in classical Islam, but few Muslims have risen to this level in
Part of the problem is that
those who could fund such work no longer appreciate the need for
it. The institution
of the waqf or Islamic endowment died long ago.
We need to revive it.
The challenges to shaping a
prosperous and blessed future for Muslims in America are enormous, and so are the
time frame for success must be measured in decades, but this is
precisely why we must begin now.
The urgent need in America,
including and perhaps especially the Muslims in America, is spiritual renewal, not
merely moral reform.
In the Qur'an we read, Ina Allaha ya yughairu ma bi
qaumin khata yughairuu ma bi anfusihim.
"Allah does not change
the condition of a people until they change the condition of
their own selves."
In all of this we must remember that the best planner is Allah.
And, we should rely on Allah, who says simply kun fa
yakun, "be, and it is."
NEWSLETTERS - BOOKS
- CONTACT - FEEDBACK
material published by Al-Huda.com / And the Message Continues is
the sole responsibility of its author's).
opinions and/or assertions contained therein do not necessarily
reflect the editorial views of this site,
of Al-Huda and its officers.