Muslims, irrespective of whether they come from the Arab world, Africa, Asia Minor, Central Asia, China, the Soviet Union or Western societies, still feel strongly united in their shared beliefs and values. Muslims believe that they have a contribution to make in this world, either as individuals or as a community, and that their behavior and demeanor can set an example to others. In Muslim countries the problems, dilemmas, and frustrations are numerous. With the gradual disintegration of the Muslim state, beginning in the twelfth century, many of the countries fell under foreign rule for extensive periods of time, Ottoman Turkish domination for some at first, and then European colonialism. They have had to make up for many years during which their economic, social, and cultural development was blunted by both external and internal causes. To do so they have to struggle not only against problems of underdevelopment but also forces of rapid change.
The search for an Islamic way is ongoing throughout the Muslim world. It is an uneasy search seeking to link the fundamentals of a glorious past with a future that offers only hopeful promises dimmed by present difficulties. Most Muslims as individuals are undaunted, for every Muslim believes that he has to act during his lifetime as if he will live forever. He has a sense of permanence and continuity, knowing that the work begun by one person will be carried on by another. There is a constant hope for a better tomorrow; but then, what counts is the hereafter. Ours is not to insure a result but to try our best to achieve it in the right way. However, the end does not justify the means. The moral-ethical dimension of conduct and method must always predominate.
Second-grader Samiya Rahman and her classmates in Morton Grove, Illinois can choose from more study and reading resources on Islamic subjects than American-born, English-speaking Muslim children could do just a few years ago. (Aramco World Magazine, January-February 1998; photo Kathleen Burke).
The challenge of Islam is a challenge to all Muslim societies: to create the types of economic, social, and political institutions that will preserve the basic ethical and moral values of Islam together with the individual freedom of every Muslim. This involves achieving a delicate balance between the needs of the community and the right of the individual to the full attainment of freedom, equality, justice and what under the U.S. Constitution is called "the pursuit of happiness." This also is a legitimate goal in Islam, as set forth by the tenth century Muslim philosopher—the mathematician al-Farabi. A significant part of his major text on truth is devoted to the attainment of happiness.
"Everyone of you is a shepherd, and everyone of you will be questioned about those under his rule: The Amir is a shepherd and he will be questioned about his subjects, the man is a ruler in his family and he will be questioned about those under his care; and the woman is a ruler in the house of her husband and she will be questioned about those under her care."
The Prophet's Hadith
O my son! Observe your prayers, order (enjoin or command) with what is just (right and fair) and admonish (forbid) what is wrong; and bear with patience on what befalls upon you; for this is determination of purpose.