The mental and spiritual fragmentation of the Muslim world

Illustration by Necmettin Asma

The Muslim world has to recover from its state of impoverishment and rebuild its intellectual and moral habitat. While being firmly anchored in its own tradition and roots, it has to approach the world with the perspective of an open horizon

The Muslim world suffers from disunity, poverty and bad governance. Political fragmentation runs deep across what the classical scholars called dar al-Islam, the land of peace. Civil wars, sectarian and tribal conflicts, occupations and military interventions and failed states and weak governments squander the natural and human resources of Muslim countries. What is more alarming than political division and disunity, however, is the mental and spiritual fragmentation that engulfs the Muslim world today.

Muslim empires, states and emirates have had their share of political differences and power rivalries. But the social imagination that united Muslim communities from the Balkans and Africa to the Middle East and Southeast Asia has always remained strong. Sharing the same intellectual and spiritual outlook was the greatest strength of the ummah. What united the Muslim world mentally and spiritually transcended political, ethnic and sectarian differences. The Muslim world needs to recover this spirit today.

The intellectual outlook and social imagination of traditional Muslim societies was rooted in divine unity, justice and virtue. It was also based on divine love and love for each other because God is infinitely merciful and forgiving. Human beings have to love God, the natural world and other human beings as part of their faith. The world has been given to human beings as a ‘trust’ (amanah) and one is expected to take care of it. This worldview also advocated the contingency and transitoriness of the world. The “world” in which we live does not stand on its own; it is not a self-sufficient substance. It exists to serve a purpose and that is to allow finite human beings to establish faith, justice and virtue in this world. Only our good deeds can measure our humanity.


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