At present, Muslims are facing numerous challenges that have caused a serious damage to their overall development. Unless, these major issues are solved, the Ummah would continue to move towards darkness. There was a time when the prominent scientists were Muslim. The literacy rate among Muslims was higher and they had world’s largest library and universities. They were economically rich and involved in the enormous economic and business activities. However, now, it seems that they have diverted from their old traditions of inventions, writing, research, trade and getting education. Today they are not only disintegrated but also lag behind in education and research.
The following are the major contemporary challenges faced by Muslim Ummah
- Disunity among Muslim:
The immediate and most serious challenge faced by Muslim Ummah is disunity among them. It is contrary to the teaching of Islam. Islam, in order to unite Muslims, has established a bond of brotherhood and equality. Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran, “And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.” (Al-Imran 3:103).
Abdullah ibn Umar reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The Muslim is a brother to another Muslim…”In his last sermon, our last prophet (PBUH) said, “An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black has any superiority over a white- except by piety and good action…” The above saying of our last prophet (PBUH) clarifies that how much emphasis does Islam lay for the unity of Muslims
If Muslim countries are united and start to help one another, they would not require any sort of assistance from their Western clients. There are around 50 Muslim majority countries having Muslim population more than 50 per cent. 1 Approximately 2 billion and about 25 per cent of the world’s population are Muslims.  Nowhere around the globe, a group of countries speak a common language except Arab world. Close to 25 Muslim majority countries located in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East, known as the Arab world, speak a common Arabic language. Language remains source of unity. Unfortunately, this is not a case with the Arab world.
Besides, Muslim controls main gateways of the world’s trade and commerce like Straits of Gibraltar Malacca, Suez canals among others. They produce more than two third of the world’s oil.4 They are also inter-dependent. For instances, Some Muslims countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran are rich in energy resources. Others like Malaysia and Turkey are advance in technology. Pakistan possesses a nuclear weapons and well professional army. Hence, through unity, they could help one another in development by transferring technology, exporting energy and getting military training. However, instead of extending the hand of support, Muslim countries are not only divided but fight with one another to create their own influence as evident in the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran and weak status of Organization for Islamic Conference (OIC).
Internally, Muslims are also divided on the basis of sects. It is irony of fate that sectarian violence in Muslim countries has caused more deaths of Muslims than US military interventions without U.N. approval.6 Hatred among Muslims has increased to such a level that some Muslims proudly declare another Muslim brother as infidel causing further disintegration of the Ummah. Thus, Muslim can rule the world if they are banded together. But, they are poor, backward, illiterate, face atrocities and so on because they are not united as per Islamic teachings.
- Rapid rise of extremism and terrorism:
Another major challenge, confronting by the Ummah, of course, is the rapid rise of extremism and terrorism in some Muslims. Is the evil of extremism caused by poor status of education in Muslims? No. Osama-bin-Laden, a person who formed the Al-Qaeda, was a university graduate. He studied economics and Business administration at king Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. Ayman al- Zawahiri, who became chief Lieutenant of Osama, was a general surgeon. Syed Qutb, an 20th century activist from Egypt, who justified the violence against non-believers and urged radical action to seize political power, was also sent to Northern Colorado Teachers College in Greeley, the United States, but he left without completing the degree.7 It is also not because of poverty. Osama-Bin- Laden was very rich and could afford to purchase even a small plane.
The poor governance of Muslim countries and their failure to prevent the spread of radical material in their educational institutions caused the rise in extremism in Muslims. For instance, the radical teaching of Syed Qutb was taught from Morocco to Indonesia including in some major universities of Muslims like King Abdul Aziz of Jeddah and Al-Azhar. According to Qutb, Muslims leaders who govern through un-Islamic systems such as capitalism or communism should be declared unbelievers and become the targets of revolutionary jihad. He also justified violence against non-believers. Owing to poor governance of Muslims countries, it completely failed to stop the spread of hatred in its campuses. Consequently, it led to an increase in extremism in some Muslims.
Besides, the rapid rise of extremism was seen during Soviet’s invasion of Afghanistan. To prepare local people to fight with the army of Soviet Union, around 1000 Madrassas were established along Pakistan and Afghanistan’s borders. The students were taught radical material to encourage them to fight with Moscow. The war was won, but the radical thinking was left behind and Pakistan completely failed to limit it. As a result, it faced resistance from the local people in the form of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in 2007, that pointed their weapons at the government and desired to replaced the un-Islamic government run by capitalism with their so called Islamic rule by acting on Qutb’s ideology.
Terrorism is directly linked to the extremism. It is caused when some extremists try to give practical shape to their radical thoughts like Al-Qaeda started to target American people after its formation. The extremism and terrorism also gave birth to a serious issue of Islam phobia. Afterwards, the Western people started to see Muslims with suspicious. Thus, the poor governance of Muslim countries causes the rise of extremism. It is, now, controlled to the larger extent.
For detailed study on the extremism, please read the article from the link:
- Lagging behind in education:
The daunting problem encountered by the Ummah, today, among others, is their lagging behind in education. Benazir Bhutto has written in her book, Reconciliation: Islam Democracy and the West,” “Islam’s first generations produced knowledge and wealth that empowered Muslims to rule much of the world. But now almost half the world’s Muslims are illiterate……….. More books are translated annually from other languages into Spanish than have been translated into Arabic over the past one hundred years. The 15 million citizens of tiny Greece buy more books annually than do all Arabs put together.”
She further writes, “It is notable that fifty seven member countries of OIC have approximately 500 universities, compared to 5,000 universities in the United States and 8,000 universities in India. In a compilation of the academic ranking of world universities conducted in 2004 by Shanghai’s Jig Tong University, not a single university from the Muslim world was included in the top 500 universities on the earth. In addition, the Muslim world spends 0.2 percent of its GDP on research and development, while the Western nations spend more than 5 percent on their GDPs.”
It is irony of fate that Dubai spent money in the constructing of the world’s tallest building. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has decided to build world’s largest shopping mall. Neither of the countries has ever tried to establish world’s largest university or research Centre as per Islamic traditions. When Mughals were busy in constructing magnificent buildings like Taj Mahal, the Europe was erecting Cambridge and Oxford Universities. Still time is not gone; the leaders of oil rich Muslim countries should spend more money to uplift the status of education of Muslims.
- Weak economic status of Muslim countries:
Most of the Muslim countries are economically weak. For instance, the total world’s trade of OIC countries is less than a single country, China. Besides, the average per capita income of the US is approximately $ 62,000, while the average per capita income of Muslim world, a part from their oil revenue, is below the world’s average. In addition, the combine GDP of OIC countries is less than the total GDP of the United Sates.
Some Arab countries like Saudi Arabia are rich because of their oil revenue. For example, Saudi’s five-year budget from 1969 to 1974 was $9.2 billion. During the next five years it became $142 billion.8 It was because of the rise in oil price after 1973 oil crisis. Instead of spending the oil revenue on industrialization, it spent in Afghanistan during Soviet war to reduce the influence of Iran in Kabul. Unless Muslim countries work together and help one another, they could not improve their economic status.
Un-Islamic authoritarian rule:
Almost all the Arab countries are run by authoritarian rule that is condemned by Islam. Owing to one man or family ruling system, there is seen avowedly misused of government’s authority and power. In some countries, it has led to the growing human rights abuses and suppression of minorities. Middle class people are pushed back and are not given opportunity to run the state. Policies are framed without consultations. As a result, crisis of governance is often witnessed. Intellectual people, having capacity to turn the country into economic hub by exploiting its potential, are often sidelined by the one-man rule. Thus, the one-family rule has caused much damage to the overall better development of the Arab countries.
Thus, among others, the major contemporary challenges faced by Muslim Ummah are disunity among Muslims, rapid rise of extremism and terrorism, lagging behind of Muslims in education, weak economic status of Muslim countries and un-Islamic authoritarian rule. The OIC should be made an effective body to solve the issues of Muslims. It is imperative for Saudi Arabia and Iran to work together for the better future of Muslim world.
List of references:
- Muslim population by country 2020 by world population review.
- Countries in the world by population (2020) by world meter.
- Ghulam Sarwar (2003), Islam – Belief and Teachings, London: Muslim Educational Trust.
- Benazir Bhutto, Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West, p.3
- Steve Coll, Ghost wars, p. 112.
- Ibid, p.79.