by Abdul Halim Abdul Karim
We readily admit that we live in a secular world. But are we really aware of the nature of secularism and the secularizing process? Do we know how these adversely affect our beliefs and the way we view life as Muslims? In fact, secularisation has caused Muslims to be more confused than ever before. For instance, extolling the perceived virtue of the separation between “Church and State”, some ill-informed Muslims think that secularism is to be sought after and defended. They are not aware that their very use of the term “Church and State” belies their lack of understanding of both the worldviews of Islam and of the modern West on top of their ignorance about the nature of secularism itself. For indeed, Islam neither has “church” no matter how metaphorically used the word is, nor is there a separation between Religion and Politics in Islam as envisioned in Secularism. The oft cited Biblical phrase, “Render unto Caesar things which are Caesar’s, and unto God things which are God’s” was unfortunately misinterpreted by some early Western intellectuals to lend credence to their secularisation project. Apparently, some Muslims have become agents of secularisation too.
While the secularisation of the Western world is all but complete, the secularisation of the Muslim World facilitated by colonialisation and the decapitation of true Muslim leadership has come to a critical juncture. In the context of the so-called war on terror coupled with the widespread use and reach of the new media, we now see the emergence of those who proclaim themselves as Secularised Muslims. These Secularised Muslims unashamedly collaborate with liberals of all kinds, ultra-feminists, secular modernists, secular humanists, ex-Muslims and atheists to assert and propagate secular values among Muslims taking aim at undermining everything that Islam stands for. It is hardly surprising that we find so-called Muslims proudly revealing their decadent lifestyle and even homosexuality. While they exult in their immorality they lament what they perceive to be the backwardness of the ummah being shackled, so they think, by the precepts of Islam. But they reserve their most vile attacks towards the ulama and the traditional scholars of Islam – degrading these scholars to mere dictators and shamans. They might call themselves Muslims though in reality they are anything but Muslims.
Indeed, even without these so-called secularised Muslims, centuries of colonial rule, exposure to Western worldview, education and thinking has confused many Muslims enough to be taken in by secular values or at best be unable to respond adequately to the secular perspective.
Of course, these secularised Muslims remain in the fringes but given the pervasiveness of internet technology, their influence should not be under-estimated. While for many of us, their insolence and anti-Islam stance is clearly untenable, there are young and inexperienced Muslims who are becoming more and more apologetic towards the secular cause. They are convinced, or instance, that the secular system is fair and neutral; that no one religion including Islam is equipped to offer an alternative to the secular way of life; that since Islam espouses justice, universal human rights and equality, Islam also endorses secular values which they think espouses the same things. Unfortunately, these Muslims who may not explicitly expound the misplaced virtues of secularism unwittingly imbibe and espouse secular values and thinking. These Muslims also believe that the separation of Islam, and politics is to be upheld thereby suggesting that Islam can offer nothing to resolve the political quagmire of the day. They also believe that societal progress is to be measured solely by achievements in the material scientific and technological spheres. They believe that there is nothing sacred in the objects of science that they manipulate in spruced up bio-labs. They also believe that issues of God and religion are to be kept only within our personal capacities. These are secularised Muslims who do not know that they are secularised!
Even more unfortunately, some of these Muslims hold influential posts and are thus given more coverage to express their secular ideas with the added danger that these ideas are couched in language appealing to the Muslim public. It is not surprising that in his elaboration of the effects of secularism, Prof. S.M. Naquib Al-Attas asserts that because of their influential positions in Muslim society, they become “conscious or unconscious disseminators of unnecessary confusion”. Thus these false leaders who chart the direction for the people in actual fact emphasise Secular values in their policy formulations. The push for progress, economic well-being and higher educational achievements while seem Islamic and may even be couched in Islamic terms are in fact void of the Islamic spirit. Thus instead of asking the substantive question, “What constitutes progress in the Islamic Worldview?”, we are swept by the daily exhortation to pursue progress oblivious to the fact that what we are working towards is progress only as conceived in the Western Secular Worldview. Imagine working so hard to achieve something and yet what you have “achieved” is of no benefit to you as a Muslim.
Clearly, there is a need to see through the cobwebs of confusion and corruption of knowledge caused by the intrusion of the values of secularism upon the psyche of the Muslim. Now, more urgent than before, Muslims need to understand secularism and how its underlying philosophy is really fundamentally incongruent and in opposition to Islam. But Muslims would be hard placed to understand such concepts and issues pertaining to secularism without, as Prof. Al-Attas puts it, a “full grasp of both the worldviews of Islam and of the modern West and the essential beliefs and modes of thought that project them”. It is thus imperative for Muslims to seek to understand and so, adopt the Islamic Worldview not just as another contending perspective among others but as a comprehensive vision that enables Muslims to see reality as it really is.
InsyaAllah, I am starting another run of a course on the Islamic Worldview to clarify the idea of Secularism mentioned above as well as other concerns needed by the thinking Muslim today.
You can download more details here