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Letter to Islamic Scholars and Imams

Peace and blessings upon His chosen Prophet, and upon his household, his noble blessed companions, and upon all the messengers and prophets.


True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west – but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day; and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends his substance – however much he himself may cherish – it – upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, they who are conscious of God. (Qur’an 2:177)

Dear religious leaders and imams from around the world,

Asalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu!

Religious leaders have played a profound role in shaping history. From the pulpit of spirituality and moral authority, they have aroused the consciousness and inspiration to fight against wrongs. Our Prophet SAW himself serves as a paramount example for mankind, in his ability to bring about a complete social transformation as a prophet of God.

Today, the Muslim world desperately needs a visionary leadership to help to save it from unfolding disasters. One root of many evils today involves the moral decay in the Muslim world, and within this ummah there cannot be a better catalyst of change than dedicated and courageous people of faith.

Many key areas of the Muslim world share alarming resemblance to the pre-Islamic period of jahiliyya, with blind conformity to antiquated and incorrect cultural traditions that do not accurately reflect Islam as well as false indoctrination and lack of exercise of human intellect. In the jahiliyya period, unconditional tribal and ethnic loyalties often defied reason and ethics, helping to precipitate violence and hatred as well as shameful and counterproductive internecine bloodshed.

Today, symptoms of a much deeper crisis of hearts and souls penetrates many Muslim-majority societies around, including but not limited to: rampant corruption and mismanagement, disproportionate levels of violence and turmoil, lack of a balance of power to help sustain healthy social functionality, lack of legitimate and accountable governance which consequently creates volatility, alarming wealth disparities between rich and poor, and serious infrastructural deficiencies leading to unacceptable levels of illiteracy, poverty and degradation of the overall human condition. We are busy pointing our fingers at the faults of others, but we fail to mind our own failures — and we are failing ourselves in a big way.  It is long overdue that a group of faith leaders rise up to address these moral crises among Muslims of the world in a comprehensive manner, helping to move them in the right direction towards a better future.

Two especially vicious agents — extremists as well as illegitimate, corrupt, and abusive rulers with their regimes — create the biggest roadblocks against peace, justice and social welfare. These two corrosive groups appear on opposite sides of a conflict, yet they reinvigorate and reinforce each other, thus keeping conflict alive and victimizing the very people they claim to serve. They continuously raise fear and hatred against each other, attributing to each other the reasons for their own destructive behaviors. This dangerous and oppressive pattern must be changed.

Foreign powers involved in the affairs of Muslim-majority societies are not the answer, and they cannot truly deliver an effective solution. The solution lies in the hearts and minds of Muslims, and thus their institutions and rule of law.  They must change their inner selves in order to receive God’s mercy which can bring about the change they need. That is the recipe of success laid down in the Qur’an [13:11].

Although much of the world sees the benefits of integration as well as regional and global cooperation towards uplifting the human condition, much of our ummah — one-fifth of humanity, in fact — spirals towards disintegration and divisions. While much of the world is moving towards the perspective of a global society championing collective responsibility, 1.3 billion Muslims often demonstrate a propensity to cause divisions and dissent, even within themselves. This is indeed counterproductive. These are reflections of deep moral and spiritual decay among the followers of the Qur’an, the blessed scripture which commands unity and integration on fundamental ideas. We need to have the courage to ask why the Muslim world controls over 76% of the world’s oil reserves, yet fails to be an equally proportionate powerbroker and leader of human ethics today. We need to ask why more than 50 Muslim-majority societies fail to exert a collective will that can bring about a better state of affairs.

Foreign powers are just instruments. Depending on the party in control of the instrument, they can be used to serve the welfare of indigenous people or to do disservice to them. It all depends on the mindset and character of the operators, often existing powerful elites. Many nations in the world used foreign powers to further their own causes and national interests, while others failed because of their own shortcomings. Despite the skeptics, constructive engagement actually enhances one’s ability to do good on earth, while war and violence depletes that capability. The Qur’an exhorts us repeatedly to become pioneers towards peace, justice and progress. Reactionary sentiment, insecurities, egocentric behavior, false pride, and unconditional rejection are not signs of leadership.  True leadership exhibits vision, wisdom, humility, generosity, restraint, tact, balance, and a perspective which works from the moral high ground. We need this type of leadership in the Muslim world.

The Muslim world could benefit enormously through constructive engagement with the rest of humanity, including the West. To help to achieve that, a change of mindset is needed, which could only come about through deep introspection. This change of mindset could be aroused by the most visionary clerics of our day.

If we fail to recognize the rare opportunities dropped at our doorstep, and if we close the door, we will fail ourselves and do great disservice to our people. Neither Americans nor their governments are monolithic. At any given time and on any given issue, different forces are at play. We only see the outcome of these complex power interplays. We could fail to assess the abilities and characters of different forces if we only judge them by the outcome. We must go deeper to understand the complex interplay of the most versatile, advanced, influential, pluralistic, enigmatic society in the world and its extraordinary history in order to come to terms with its founding values and principles — much of which are in alignment with the equality, dignity and liberty of all people that the Qur’an prescribes for mankind. If we fail to understand this superpower, we will do a great disservice to ourselves.

The nations who succeeded at utilizing this superpower in the best possible way emerged victorious in their own causes in our time. For Muslim leaders, the agenda should be to engage ourselves with decision-makers in order to help set the direction in international diplomacy which can bring about a win-win situation. In order to tame of an elephant, we need tact, not confrontation. If wisdom prevails, the superpower could be found to be an ally, with enormous potential to make positive contributions in collaboration with Muslim-majority societies. Let imams be the vanguards of that potential.

Our leadership should invalidate extremism, and it should promote conflict resolution and constructive engagement. Arousal of hatred and confrontation is one of the most counterproductive modus operandi in our time. Humanity is moving towards broader integration, while the Muslim world is tending towards disintegration. This is counterproductive indeed.

Irrespective of their real intentions, the foreign powers who are involved with Muslim-majority societies often seek to ally with the one whom they think is the lesser of two evils. Their engagements often reinforce and provide justifications for the other group to continue violence and destruction. The real victim, however, is the welfare and future of the people. These self-defeating engagements must be changed to help bring about a win-win state in which the greatest welfare could be achieved for the greatest number of people.

Establishing peace, justice and progress in human affairs is the cardinal call of the Qur’an. Individuals of faith should be at the forefront to respond. The responsibility of Muslim clerics in our time is enormous, given the current geopolitical context as well as the current opportunities available for lasting and positive social change.

Allah has commanded us in the Qur’an to be less judgmental in working among diverse groups of humans to do good work on earth [5:48]. Today, there exists great urgency to act on that injunction. We are obsessed with negative forces, while we overlook the enormously positive forces emerging in our time. In the global community, there is ever-increasing awareness for human rights and collective responsibility, as well as an ever-increasing demand for transparent and accountable governance and justice. Using these emerging forces of our time, Muslims can fight against wrongs and backwardness through effective and peaceful means, attaining a speed of transformation that was unthinkable in the past. There must be a catalyst to help Muslims to stop living in the past, and to help move forward into the future.

Transnational citizen alliances can play a powerful role in helping to bring about a healthy chemistry of openness and accountability in governmental engagements. If done effectively, a transnational citizen alliance can help to arouse international attention towards the West-Muslim dynamic, and bring about a compelling force as citizens of different countries work together to exert simultaneous pressures from different directions on the matter.

Among these emerging forces of change, Western Muslims are one of the most vital and potential catalysts of peace in our time. They are the common denominator of two vital but confrontational camps of humanity — the Muslim world and the West.

Many reports, including the Pew report in America, have revealed the potential of this sleeping giant. American Muslims are well-educated, well-to-do, versatile, ethnically diverse, and well-exposed minorities in the Western world, with many strings still attached to the rest of the Muslim world. Being conversant with both worlds, they are some of the best bridge-builders and mediators regarding issues linking these two polarized camps of the world.  The confrontational state of these two polarized worlds fuels the fire in many places of the Muslim world. This ‘fire’ can be effectively dealt with by a transnational alliance of Western Muslims to bring about conflict resolution.

It is therefore imperative that visionary Muslim clerics transcend this divide, and work with Western Muslims as allies in order to establish peace, justice and progress between and within civilizations. However, time is running out on us. All sides are exhausted, and all desperately need a better option on the table. After many years gone, countless lives lost, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, there is no solution in sight. As the enthusiasm and commitment from the Western world dwindles down, and as the anger of the Muslim world escalates, the window of opportunity for win-win peace is shutting down fast. As the spirit and resources deplete from both sides, the gateway to success is closing on us as peace activists.

In the absence of a courageous stand, a tiny minority of extremists hijacks the future of one-fifth of humanity and destroys enormous possibilities for change existing before the Muslim world today. Extremism and violence-mongering is robbing the collective bargaining power of Muslims to get their due share of progress and prosperity. It is imperative that a new leadership emerges with a new agenda for constructive engagement.

The following pages, overseen by esteemed and visionary Islamic scholars and imams, serve as an advocacy proposal among Muslim religious leaders for constructive engagement between civilizations, in the true spirit of Islam. We propose that you engage vigorously with us to raise a dialogue for change among people on both sides of the conflict. We need to re-orient distraught and disturbed Muslims engaged in a counterproductive agenda of extremism to come and work with us in constructive ways to establish themselves as legitimate power brokers in an accountable and transparent due process of law. The best jihad in our time can be fought through nonviolent and diplomatic methods, through the moral high ground.

We are going through a critical time in history. Two civilizations — both interdependent and indispensable to each other — remain at war with one other. This stance is a most self-depleting and self-defeating state of mind. This stance is also avoidable. We need to generate a win-win situation in our time to help uplift the human condition for countless people on earth.

We also need speedy peace and reconciliation faster than ever before in human history. In this extremely interdependent global society, a conflict may not be contained, and it may conflagrate to cause misery to countless people, especially in the difficult regions of the Muslim world. As this planet is spinning fast on edge, with record numbers of human beings living in poverty, and and record numbers of citizens displaced in despair and environmental degradation, we need speed to utilize the limited resources we have in our time to face these enormous challenges before humanity today. There is no time to deplete our energy and resources in conflict and division with one another.

Today, we as a group of American Muslims are dedicated to helping to bring about conflict resolution. We are approaching you to work with us in order to bring about a voice of change desperately needed to avoid this catastrophe unfolding before our eyes.

We invite you to come to America for a meeting with Congressional leaders and prominent leaders of faith in order to help raise a dialogue for change among people on both sides of the conflict.Today’s religious clerics and imams have enormous responsibilities to help establish peace, justice, and progress in our time. These religious leaders could be at the forefront of this movement.

Jazakallah Khair,
Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress [MPJP]

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