AT THE TABLE:
Quadir Husain Khan,
For this issue we will share with you excerpts of a round table discussion with Sh. Bassam Obeid. A baccalaureate in Islamic Law from Islamic University in Medina, Saudi Arabia, he is presently Imam and member of the Board of Directors at Islamic Center of Charlotte. He also supervises Arabic and Islamic studies at Charlotte Islamic Academy, a K-12 private Islamic School.
The purpose of the meeting arranged by some interested members of the community was to have an interactive frank discussion with him on various topics in a very informal setting. Hopefully such meetings will be held periodically in future and we will be able to share with you the thought provoking excerpts of the discussions as they occur. We are confident such discourses will have immense educational value.
1. Why Arabic was not encouraged and actively learned by Muslims in non-Arab countries?
The above question was the result of a very intriguing question that was asked by a member of the group as to why Islam has to be followed only through Arabic language if it is a universal religion?
The basic notion that Islam cannot be properly understood without proficiency in Arabic that some people subscribe to, was strongly debated specially when there is such a longstanding history of high level literature and research in Islamic sciences in the non-Arab countries in languages other than Arabic. Yet since the divine message was revealed in Arabic and Muslims all over the world have held Qur’an in highest reverence to seek guidance the need to understand Arabic could not be overemphasized.
The discussion then drifted as to what might have been the causes of Arabic not being actively learned in nonArab countries whereas English though not a native language was freely and eagerly pursued and mastered. It is an interesting topic to investigate and think. Sh.Bassam Obeid pointed out three major causes. We are sure there are many other reasons that you could think of, add, or critique the reasons he gave.
A. Role of colonialism and its adverse influence in the Muslim world.
B. Damaging results of the “exclusively religious schools” among Muslim communities whereby their uselessness in meeting the challenges for a successful life in the modern world gave a bad reputation to Arabic language.
C. Domination of English as the language of the powerful and progressive nation – the Great Britain.
From the group one more reason was added and that was: During and after Renaissance in Europe major scientific discoveries took place in the western world and were available predominantly in English language. So Muslims’ lack of contribution to science and technology also played a role
2. The mind, the motivational forces and the role of sword in the exponential expansion of Muslims’ dominance within 50 years of the departure of the Prophet.
Prophet departed from this world 632 AD. Immediately in the following 12 years Muslim armies conquered Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and Iran. Khilafathe-Rashidah ended 661 AD. Abu Bakr 632-634, Umar 634-644, Uthman 644-656, Ali 656-661. In 8th century, that is within 80 years, having defeated two super powers of their time Roman Empire and Persian Empire Muslims in 711 AD joined by Berber converts invaded Europe and conquered Spain.
These conquests and occupation of vast land and countries were of course accomplished through active invasion and violent confrontation with opposing forces. The question was brought for discuss as to what were the reasons for Muslims resorting to sword to spread the message. There are people who will deny the role of sword in bringing people under the fold of Islam but their opinion does not stand the force of evidence. So the discussion started with the premise that Muslims did resort to sword to deliver the message. This was a very interesting discussion and it led to the following conclusions:
A. With a strong conviction and belief that Islam was revealed for all mankind, Quran was addressed to all mankind and the Prophet was sent to all mankind, Muslims who received the message felt a passionate obligation to deliver the message to all mankind especially when the Prophet in his last Sermon advised them to take it to those who were not present at his sermon
B. Muslims saw around them powers which were oppressive and unjust. They were also in majority of cases obstructing the message from reaching to the people. Muslims had a choice either to ignore and not do anything or take the sword in their hands and fight with the oppressive systems. They decided the latter.
The question then came up as to why Muslims did not take the third channel which probably was available to them early on. The channel of migrating into those oppressive countries settling down there and spreading the message by their character and example, what might be termed as passive delivery of message, a method adopted by Buddhism in India. Even though there are examples of such passive delivery later in the history especially after Muslims had established an empire and become a major force in the world, there was no clear answer why it did not happen in the early period. We invite you to think and draw your own conclusions on this matter.