The following is full speech made by newly appointed Chairperson of Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) interim committee, brother Muheeb Banda at the meeting held at Limbe Islamic Information Bureau office on Sunday, September 5, 2010. I hope for all those who didn’t go you will enjoy it inshallah!
BISM LLAH AR-RAHMAN AR-RAHEEM
The Role of Muslim Professionals in the Service of Islam
Praise be to Allah, Lord and Cherisher of mankind; May Peace and Blessing of Allah be upon the seal of prophets, Muhammad (SAW) his family members, his companions and to all Muslims till the day of Qiyyamah.
Respected participants, As-salaam alykum warahmatul Lah wabarakatuh.
A professional is a member of a vocation founded upon specialized educational training. The word professional traditionally means a person who has obtained a degree in a professional field e.g. Accountancy, Legal, Administration etc. The term professional can also be used more generally to denote a white collar working person, or a person who performs commercially in a field typically reserved for hobbyists or amateurs e.g. football and boxing.
In the western nations, such as the United States, the term commonly describes highly educated, mostly salaried workers, who enjoy considerable work autonomy, a comfortable salary, and are commonly engaged in creative and intellectually challenging work. Less technically, it may also refer to a person having impressive competence in a particular activity.
Because of the personal and confidential nature of many professional services and thus the necessity to place a great deal of trust in them, most professionals are held up to strict ethical and moral regulations.
The word “Muslim” means one who submits to the will of God and subscribes to the religion of Islam. The first principle in the religion of Islam is known as the Shahaadah (Testimony of Faith), and it is to testify that: “There is no one worthy of worship except Allah (God) and Muhammad is the Final Messenger of God.”
In a broader sense, anyone who willingly submits to the will of God is a Muslim. Thus, all the prophets preceding Prophet Muhammad (SAW) are considered Muslims.
Of caution though is that one should not judge Islam by looking at those individuals who have a Muslim name, but in their actions, they are not living or behaving as Muslims. Muslims are ordinary people like all other human beings; and among them are the good and the bad. They are not infallible creatures and, therefore, do make mistakes.
If we mention the characteristics of a Muslim, we do not assume that all Muslims have these characteristics, but only those who follow — to the best of their abilities — the teachings of Islam possess these characteristics and can genuinely be called true Muslims.
We can therefore summarize the teachings of Islam about the Muslim character concisely in the following way:
- A Muslim is truthful, not dishonest
- He is humble, not arrogant
- He is moderate, not an extremist
- He is honest, not corrupt
- He is reserved, not garrulous
- He is soft-spoken, not boastful
- He is loving and solicitous to others, not unmindful of them
- He is considerate and compassionate, not harsh
- He is polite and helpful, not insulting and disrespectful to people
- He is generous and charitable, not selfish and miserly
- He is refined and gentle in speech, not prone to swearing or cursing
- He is cheerful and generous, not bitter and resentful
- He is grateful for what he has, not ungrateful
- He is cheerful and pleasant, not irritable and gloomy
- He is chaste and pure, not lustful
- He is alert, not absent-minded
- He is dignified and decent, not graceless
- He is sincere and straightforward, not hypocritical
- He is optimistic and hopeful, not cynical or pessimistic
- He is confident and deep in faith, not doubtful and wavering
- He is spiritually oriented, not materialistic
- He always has faith in God’s mercy, not losing heart or becoming desperate
- He is diligent and vigilant, not negligent to his duties
- He is thankful to God and constantly prays to Him, not forgetful of His innumerable blessings
Muslim personality is balanced because he pays due attention to his body’s needs and his outward appearance, without letting it distract him from nurturing his inner characteristics, as befits man whom God has honored and made His angels prostrate to him, and subjugated for his benefit all that is in the heaven and on earth.
A Muslim is also concerned with that which will form sound intellectual development and ways of thinking, so that he understands the nature and essence of things. He does not forget that man is not only composed of body and mind, but he also possesses a soul and a spirit, and feels a longing for higher things that makes him rise above this materialistic life and ascend the heights of goodness, virtue and light. Therefore, he pays as much attention to his spiritual development as he does to his physical and intellectual development, in a precisely balanced fashion, which does not concentrate on one aspect to the disadvantage of others.
With his parents, he is an example of sincere filial piety, good treatment, infinite compassion, politeness and deep gratitude.
With his wife, he is an example of good and kind treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding and proper fulfillment of his responsibilities and duties.
With his children, he is a parent who understands his great responsibility towards them. Although he floods them with love and compassion, he pays attention to things that may affect their Islamic upbringing.
With his relatives, he maintains the ties of kinship and knows his duties toward them. He understands the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him remain in touch with them regardless of the circumstances.
With his neighbors, the true Muslim is an example of good treatment and consideration of others’ feelings and sensitivities. He puts up with mistreatment and turns a blind eye to his neighbor’s faults while avoiding committing any such errors himself. He always adopts the Islamic attitude, whereby treating neighbors well was made a basic principle of Islam. His relationship with his brothers and friends is the best and purest of relationships, for it is based on love for the sake of God. This pure, sincere, brotherly love derives its purity from the guidance of the Quran and Sunnah ((traditions and approved actions of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that became a unique system in the history of human relations)).
In his social relationships with all people, he is well mannered, civil and noble, characterized by the attitudes which Islam encourages. Good behavior which is taught in the Quran and Sunnah has been made a religious duty in Islam, for which man will be brought to account.
This is the clear, beautiful picture of the Muslim whose personality has been formed by Islam and whose heart, mind and soul are filled with its divine light.
The development of a society is not measured solely in terms of its scientific achievements and material inventions. There is another, more important standard by which a society is measured. That is the prevalence of human values such as love, empathy, altruism, sacrifice, uprightness and purity of thought, behavior and dealings with others.
If individuals are the basis of a society, then rightly guided societies pay attention to human development and enhance the positive, constructive aspects while seeking to eliminate evil, destructive motives, so that the individual will become a model citizen. It is from groups of such model citizens that clean, civil, strong, healthy and righteous societies are formed.
Development describes the growth of humans throughout the lifespan, from conception to death. The scientific study of human development seeks to understand and explain how and why people change throughout life. This includes all aspects of human growth, including physical, emotional, intellectual, social, perceptual, and personality development.
The scientific study of development is important not only to psychology, but also to sociology, education, and health care. Development does not just involve the biological and physical aspects of growth, but also the cognitive and social aspects associated with development throughout life.
The study of human development is important in a number of subjects, including biology, anthropology, sociology, education, history, and psychology. Most important, however, are the practical applications of studying human development. By better understanding how and why people change and grow, we can then apply this knowledge to helping people live up to their full potential
What is perhaps clear to the perceptive minds of many rational thinking Muslims is that the challenge facing Muslims currently is not merely one of reformulating democratic principles in an Islamic idiom, but also of reforming and adapting Islam’s ethical and legal percept to the practice of democracy.
About a century ago, prospects appeared fairly hopeful that Islam would find a way to devise a system between faith and modernity.
Great theologians such as Professor Muhammad Abduh argued that while certain aspects of religion would remain immutable especially those concerning ibādah (worship) and aqīdah (creed); issues of governance should be addressed through human reason since they fall under the realms of al-mutaghaiyyirat (the changing).
It was Professor Abduh’s reformist agenda and rationalism then, with its emphasis on reason (‘aql) and God’s justice (‘adl), which seemed as if it might be able to ground a dynamic Islamic theology capable of successfully meeting the challenges of modernity.
One of the most prominent Islamic scholars and intellectuals who is at the forefront in combating the literalists is non-other than Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of the founder of The Muslim Brotherhood, Hasan al-Banna.
Tariq Ramadan in his book Radical Reform asserted that the contemporary literalist approach puts into evidence three reductions or confusions, which restrict interpretation and in effect make it impossible to give adequate answers to contemporary challenges.
Immutable and mutable
The first reduction is the failure to distinguish between that which, in the Revelation, is immutable and that which is subject to change in accordance to the temporal evolution and environmental changes.
While injunctions and prohibitions may be absolute and immutable in themselves, their concrete implementation may take different or changing forms according to the environment.
At social and cultural level for example, while the principle of modesty and its rules is established in Islamic ethics, its implementation in any given society has always had to take into account local cultures and habits. By failing to distinguish sufficiently between the immutable and the changing, contemporary literalists exert a series of other confusions involving grave consequences.
Between Principles and Models
The effect of this confusion leads to a second reduction involving failure to differentiate between principles and models. While principles can be absolute and eternal, their implementations in time or in history are relative, changing and in constant mutation.
Thus, the principles of justice, equality, rights and liberty that guided the Prophet (SAW) remain the references beyond history, but the model of the city of Madinah is a historical realization linked to the realities and requirements of his time.
So, while we try to remain faithful to the principles, we cannot merely imitate or duplicate a historical model that no longer corresponds to the requirements of our own.
Tariq Ramadan asserted that the essence in being faithful to the Prophet is not in imitating their behaviour, or trying to reproduce their historically dated achievements, but it lies in recapturing their spiritual strength and intellectual energy to achieve the most cogent social model for our time, as they did for theirs. It is not to repeat its form but to grasp its substance, spirit and objectives.
Between Aqidah or Ibadah and Mu’amalah
The third reduction according to Tariq Ramadan is the failure to distinguish between legal methodology linked to the aqīdah (creed) and the ibādah (worship); to that which deals with mu’amalah (social affairs).
While in the two spheres of aqīdah and ibādah, we are confronted with teachings that are determined by Revelation; the sphere of mu’amalah is exactly the opposite, where everything is allowed except that which is explicitly forbidden by Revelation.
The basic principle, in social affairs, is permissible (al-asl fil-ashyā al-ibāha), thus opening to humankind the fields of rationality, creativity and research. As long as they remain faithful to principles, any social, economic or political productions are not bid’ah (despicable innovations from the viewpoint of religion) but instead should be viewed as achievements for the welfare of humankind.
This threefold confusion and reduction has major consequences on contemporary Islamic thought and tends to stem any reform of the reading, understanding and implementation of the texts in a new historical context. Generally, it results in oversimplifying the message of Islam and eventually contradicts its timeless eternal objectives.
The Role of Ijtihad
History has shown that, since the day when religious scholars decided to ‘close the door of Ijtihād’ (independent reasoning) around the thirteenth century, the Muslim world has been but a static civilization, confined to the slavish exposition of the ideas of their predecessors, making every small step forward a major struggle.
Islah (reform) and tajdid (renewal) have been choked out of Muslim lands and Muslim reformers and thinkers have been either vilified or persecuted, effectively blocking the reformation that would have accommodated the religion and its believers to modernity.
This is where Tariq Ramadan emphasized on the need for ijtihād in pursuing the reform agenda.
According to him, ijtihād has always consisted in promoting a critical reading of texts when they were open for interpretation, or when the texts were silent about a particular situation, or when the context imperatively needed to be taken into account in the implementation of texts, even though the texts appear to be qat’ie (explicit).
The legitimacy and necessity of such critical readings are rarely questioned, except of course by those following the narrowest literalist trends.
The dialectical relationship between text and context is an appeal to human intelligence to find a way to be faithful through the merging of two levels of knowledge, that of the eternal principles of practice and ethics and that of the ever-changing realities of human societies.
Reform: An adaptation or transformation
All reformist schools agreed that Muslim legal scholars must think through and reconsider fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) in light of the new challenges of their time. Ijtihād was considered, as Muhammad Iqbal put it, as the natural instrument, offered by the Islamic legal tradition, to achieve such renovation and renewal.
Due to globalization, fuqahā’ (legal scholars) are now beset with questions linked to the viability of Islam’s prescription in this new age.
The world is moving on and legal scholars are forever lagging behind that constantly accelerating progress seems to escape them.
Hence, Tariq Ramadan proposed a transformative approach rather than adaptive approach. Transformation reform, according to him is more exacting, in that it adds a further step, and condition, to the whole process. It aims to change the order of things in the very name of the ethics it attempts to be faithful to. In other words, to add a further step going from the texts to the context, to act on the context and improve it, without ever accepting its shortcomings as matters of fate.
A radical reform
This further step requires that a fundamental condition be fulfilled. That is acquiring deep knowledge of the context, and fully mastering all areas of knowledge including the human sciences. So a radical reform aiming to change the world, as well as providing a new reading of the texts, cannot rely on ulamā’ an-nusus (text experts) only, but requires a full and equal integration of all available human knowledge hence, the need for Muslim professionals.
In this respect, the need is urgent to widen the circle of expertise and call on ulamā’ al-waqi’ (context specialists – Muslim professionals) and no longer only text specialists or ulamā’ an-nusus (Majlis Ulama).
Radical reform is an appeal to reconsider the sources to their necessary reconciliation with the world, its evolution and human knowledge. Thus reconciling conscience with science is imperative.
There will definitely have to be debate areas, and there will be disagreements. But the contemporary Muslim conscience has to transform this turmoil of converging or contradictory ideas into an energy of debate, renewal and creativity that produces faithfulness as well as serene coherence at the heart of our modern age and its challenges.
Therefore, there is need to have in place a grouping for the advancement of Muslim Professionals as a professional networking organization dedicated to serving the needs of the Muslim community. This grouping shall strive to provide professional networking events, community outreach efforts and exciting interactive educational opportunities to foster the personal and professional growth of its members through an atmosphere of professionalism and mutual respect. With activities such as community service and Islamic education, it is hoped that there shall be improved strength and cohesiveness of our Muslim community.
The main objective of the grouping shall hence be to promote unity for the Muslim community in the country by encouraging professional networking development through educational, social and intellectual activities within an Islamic framework. This may include, among other things, working to build understanding and cooperation between the different societies, faiths and cultural groupings in the country.
The goal of this group shall hence be to become strong and collectively successful as Muslims and leaders of tomorrow; and to enrich the lives of Muslims and those of all others encountered.
The verse of the Holy Qurán, which so comprehensively covers this concept of service to humanity, reads as follows:
“You are the best people ever raised for the good of mankind because you have been raised to serve others; you enjoin what is good and forbid evil and believe in Allah.” (3:111)
So, to the Muslim professionals I say that you will remain the best as long as you are service-minded, promote good and promote the welfare of society. If you fail to do this, you no longer have a right to boast of the superiority of Islam and the Muslim Ummah. A society which is insensitive to the suffering of other human beings and is not always inclined to serve the cause of humanity cannot be described as an Islamic society, no matter how much it adhered to other aspects of Islamic teachings.
The fundamental qualities that we must all acquire to serve mankind or to develop a passion to serve mankind are: love for humanity, kindness in our hearts for others, a charitable disposition, humility, honesty, a thirst for knowledge, a desire to share knowledge with others and a constant desire to strive in the cause of Allah by doing good. We must be a people from whom goodness flows towards others. I strongly believe that most Muslim Professionals do possess these characteristics.
The teachings of the Holy Qurán and the example of the Holy Prophet (SAW) direct us on how best to serve mankind. The Holy Prophet (SAW) practiced the teachings of the Holy Qur’an to the fullest extent and is the best example of the true representation of service to mankind and to Allah. That is why Allah says in the Holy Qurán:
“And do not forget to do good to one another.” (2:238)
And about the Holy Prophet (SAW) the Holy Qurán says:
“…and we have sent thee not but as a blessing (mercy) for the entire universe (for all peoples)” (21:108)
“Verily you have in the prophet of Allah an excellent model.” (33:22)
The Holy Prophet (SAW) emphasized love, sympathy, and kindness towards all. He also emphasized that we must show each other great appreciation. He said, “One who is not grateful to mankind is not grateful to Allah.” (Tirmidhi)
How do we sum up the role of Muslim Professionals in the service of Islam
Inviting People to the Path of Allah
The most basic way of serving mankind is inviting people to the path of Allah and praying for them. While it is the duty of all Muslims to invite people to Allah, as Muslims Professionals, it is our prime responsibility and therefore need to mobilize considerable resources and manpower through various schemes to do this. We must be established throughout the country with the prime objective of inviting people to the path of Allah.
Inviting people to the path of Allah, the Holy Qurán reminds us, must be done in the best manner possible.
“Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation and argue with them in a way that is best.” (16:126)
Inviting people to the path of Allah and to live a righteous life provides results:
1) Contentment of heart as Allah says
“Aye! It is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort.” (13:29)
2) We may all become beneficiaries of Allah’s bounties. As the Holy Qurán says, with regards to people who lead a righteous life:
“He will send down rain for you in abundance and He will strengthen you with wealth and with children and He will give you gardens and He will give you rivers.” (71:12&13)
The importance of prayers in the service of humanity and in inviting people to the path of Allah cannot be over emphasized.
Besides the spiritual aspect of service to mankind or humanity, there are many diverse ways that service to mankind can be accomplished.
1) Providing help in ameliorating the sufferings of a distressed people
2) Educating and Training
3) Social Services
4) Material Services
5) Intangibles like providing guidance and serving as a role model
The Holy Qurán says:
“Be competitive in doing good” (2: 149)
Let us all as Muslim professionals rededicate ourselves to the service of the true Islam and humanity: united, determined and with prayers in our hearts. We should mold our lives and work hard and tirelessly for the attainment of the Divine mission for the renaissance of the true Islam and serve and save a suffering humanity from its maladies and ailments.
May Allah give us the strength to pursue this noble course.