Organized Religion

The Myth of Islamic Ummah

Historically speaking there has never been an alliance of Muslims. The concept of Muslim Ummah or “Community of Muslim Nations” has always been a popular notion among the larger Muslim population. Today Al Qaeda’s aspiration for world domination is also based on the same approach. However, unity among Muslims has been an elusive goal due to their internal feuds, treacheries and infighting.

Shias and Sunnis can never join forces because of their vast ideological differences. Shias idealize Ali (Muhammad’s son in law & the fourth caliph) claiming that it was his right to succeed after the death of Muhammad. On the contrary all four caliphs are held in very high esteem by the Sunnis.

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Graphic from an Islamic TV Channel show

The other and very significant bone of contention between Shias and Sunnis relates to “The Battle of the Camel”. This clash took place in Basra, Iraq in 656, between forces allied to Ali (Muhammad’s son in law & the fourth caliph) and Aisha (widow of Muhammad). Aisha wanted to take revenge from the assailants implicated in the assassination of the third caliph, Usman. Ten thousand men lost their lives on both sides. Two very close companions of the Prophet, Talha and Zubair who had accompanied Aisha, were also slain. Aisha remained unharmed till the end of the battle. However the seeds of discord were sown which exist till today. Shias and Sunnis even today are at each other’s throats due to this insignificant event of 7th century.

Currently there is deep hostility, suspicion and animosity between Saudi Arabia- the citadel of Islam, and Iran, a country with the huge Shia population. Both countries have been in competition for promoting their brand of Islam since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Pakistan has been at the receiving end of these games. The Salafi regime of Saudi Arabia sponsored hundreds of Madrassas (religious schools) in Pakistan which churned out religious zombies. These fanatics currently are not only fighting the Americans in Afghanistan but are also involved in hundreds of terrorist incidents within Pakistan. Similarly, Shia Iran supported the Shiite organizations in Pakistan both financially and logistically. This unhindered backing gave birth to a sectarian monster, resulting in numerous killings on both the sides.

Saudi Arabia at the moment, just like Israel, is very concerned about the Iranian nuclear program. A nuclear Iran can not only affect the hegemony of Saudi Arabia in the Muslim world but also create trouble for it in the foreseeable future. According to credible press reports, recently the Saudi authorities have approved the use of a corridor of its airspace to Israeli fighter jets for an aerial attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. This has been denied by the Saudi regime. However this is not mere conjecture and the Saudis are very likely to be silent spectators in case of an Israeli bombardment of Iranian nuclear installations.

Two million Muslims were killed by Muslims in the Iran-Iraq War. Three million Sudanese Muslims have been killed by Muslims. More than 300,000 Muslims have been killed by Muslims in the ongoing Darfur conflict. Iraq invaded Kuwait and Syria invaded Lebanon. As of June 7, a total of 29,105 Pakistani Muslims have been killed by Muslims over the past seven years (as of June 2010).

Muslims are a divided lot. The need of the hour for them is to learn from Israel. This small country is surrounded by enemies. Despite very strong opposition, it has been able to withstand the onslaught of its Arab neighbors. It has decisively crushed its numerically superior foes during all the Arab-Israel wars. The birth of Israel right after the holocaust was no less than a miracle. Jews were systematically and institutionally prosecuted and murdered during the Second World War. It was their resilience, harmony, magnanimity and far sightedness that kept them together and eventually resulted in formation of the world’s first Jewish state.

The creation of this tiny country itself carries a very strong message for the Muslim population. It is essential for Muslim countries to reform, restructure, mould and base their societies on the universal principles of human rights, ethics and morality. The medieval scriptures of Islam have become redundant in this day and age. There can be no progress and reformation in their cultures until they let go off their obsession with religion.

About the author

Aftab Zaidi

6 Comments

  • My compliments to Aftab Zaidi for providing genuine and meaningful analysis about myth of Islamin Ummah.He has been bold enough to declare that ,”it is essential for Muslim countries to reform,mould and base their societies on the universal principles of humanism rights,ethics and morality.The medieval scriptures of Islam have become redundant in this day and age.There can be no progress and reformation in their culture untill they let go off their obsession with religion.”In spite of loud rhetoric about universal unity of Ummah,Islam has failed to unite its own people.Today Muslims stand split into many sects.Besides Sunnis and the Shias, there are Ahmedias,Ismailis and their sub sect Assasins.The Druses of Palestine have also evolved their mysterious religion since long and Dervishes and Marabouts with their Turkish Shamanistic background have also formed another sect.Just like any other religion Islam too has failed to provide any united link for its gullible followers.The conflict and open war between various sects is well known today.

    • Going by the title and the starting paragraph I became slightly hopeful (in spite of experience & bitter reality teaching me otherwise) that unthinkable may be happening, somebody in “secular” web page thought to criticize Islam. Alas.

      But it must be heart warming for our Muslim brothers to see the rationalist concern for Muslim & Islamic unity. Fortunately Islam is already quite united when it comes to dealing with heathens …err….

      But it shows we rationalists can at least discuss topics other than evil of Hinduism, Brahmins, manu smriti and right wing Hindu groups. A progress to say the list.

      • Maybe once you get over your bigotry and hatred it won’t be that hard to notice that rationalists are critical of any irrational belief be it Hindu, Christian or Islamic. It’s just that India has more irrationality of one kind and you will see more criticism of that. I’ve seen Hindus go gaga over people like Christopher Hitchens because he brutally deconstructs irrational beliefs in Christianity. But when Indian rationalists apply the same standards of critical scrutiny to Hinduism, the said Hindus are likely to whine about “Why Hinduism? Why not Islam and Christianity”.

      • It speaks to your own biases that you fail to see the explicit criticism of Islam in the article and completely miss the point and interpret it as “rationalist concern for Muslim & Islamic unity”. The author’s focus is on the Muslim fundamentalist “fanatics” who are feeding the “sectarian monster”, and he ends with an appeal to these Muslim countries to give up the “medieval scriptures of Islam” and instead base their societies on humanistic principles. The sentences where the author put forth factual reasons for why Muslims are not united despite their claims would appear as “concern for Muslim & Islamic unity” to someone who is a Hindu sympathizer, despite the explicit mention of the numerous barbaric acts of violence caused by those who subscribe to Islam in the article.

        This is the problem with religious apologists who pass themselves off as rationalists- the inability to understand that coherent and thoughtful articles have a specific focus, and in order to achieve that end the article must focus on the concerned facts. This obsession with requiring religious critics to mention every criticism there is of Islam every time they criticize religion, is a particularly irritating trait among Hindu and Christian apologists who consider themselves rationalists. In such cases the most polite retort is a request to take a look in the mirror. This is your first post (under this moniker, from this IP), and in it you implicitly defend Hinduism by insinuating that rationalists attack it more than it deserves. You did not yourself present any criticism of Islam here. You did not comment on the other articles criticizing Hinduism, the ones focused on Hindu problems, most of which affect Indians living in India more than Islam does. You did not volunteer to write a cogent criticism of Islam yourself, and offer it for publication. Don’t kid yourself by putting both yourself and the author of this article in that same category as “we rationalists”.

        • Very commendable article.

          But “he ends with an appeal to these Muslim countries to give up the “medieval scriptures of Islam” and instead base their societies on humanistic principles”

          The problem is that “the medieval scriptures of Islam” are the only scriptures Muslims have.
          Are you calling on Muslims to become apostates?
          Remove Quran, Hadiths and the Sira from Islam and you there remains no Islam.

          By the way, I am not selectively targeting Islam. But I see a unique problem in reforming it.

  • My compliments to Mr.Aftab Zaidi and Nirmukta for this article which is based on facts and not merely interpretations. Well written, sir!

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