An Unavoidable World Reality*
An Unavoidable World Reality*
Imam Shamsi Ali
I wanted to share with you the summary of my khutbah (Friday Sermon) delivered at the UN Headquarters’ building in New York, today October 27, 2019.
As usual every year the UN in New York organizes its annual prime gathering known as the United Nations General Assembly Meeting. Also known as the annual UN General Debates. This event brings nations’ leaders from around the world, including many heads of states.
Therefore, my presence today at the UN happens through a special arrangement by the UN security team, many of those happen to be Muslims, especially from African nations.
People know from my previous speeches and khutbahs that I normally chose the topics for my speeches, not without current context. I don’t normally talk about issues which are irrelevant to our current situation.
As we know, GA Debates at the UN happening and as I watched and listened to the speeches of many leaders, many talked about globalization, both in acceptance and rejection.
So today I was focusing on how Islam views the globalized world. Is it new or something foreign to Islam? Does Islam accept or reject globalization? What does the Quran really say about the globalized world?
Our world is in constant change
I began my sermon by reminding all that the world we are living in today is a new world. The change is so fast and powerful that no one can oppose or deny it. And in front of us there are only two alternatives. We anticipate the change and take the good of it, or we pretend that nothing happens and we will be victimized by the changes.
Islam is not a stranger to that reality. In fact, the Holy Quran constantly remind the ummah (Muslim nation) to anticipate and be willing to change for the better.
Many verses of the Quran indicate that changes or movements are in fact a fundamental part of this universe. The Quran describes how the sun, the moon, and others stars in the galaxies circulate around their respective orbits (Surah Yaaseen).
The Holy in fact specifically mentions how nations of the world will rotate. The powerful can be the weak, and the weak can be the powerful tomorrow. The rich can be poor, and the poor can turn rich tomorrow.
Nothing is static in life. Movements and changes constantly happen. Therefore this ummah (nation) should be prepared for it. Allah reminds us in the Holy Quran: “Allah will not change the situation of a nation unless they themselves.
Among the changes that have become a reality is that the world we live in is far different than the world we lived in ten or twenty years ago.
The world we live in today is known as a globalized world. The process is known as globalization. The people who confirm it are known as globalists. And the idea behind this reality is known as globalism.
And with pride, I can say that Islam is the most ready religion to accept globalization. That is becaus Islam itself is the most globalized religion in nature.
Allah is the God of all people. Not even only for Muslims or Lord of Muslims. He is the Lord of Mankind or the entire universe (alamin).
Muhammad (peace be upon him) is not only sent to a particular nation or group of people. He was sent to all humanity as a form of mercy (rahmatan lil-alamin). Sent to all mankind of all backgrounds (kaaffatan linnaas).
The Holy Quran is guidance to all mankind (hudan linnaas).
In addition Islam is the faith tradition with the most global followers. In this family of Islam, the Muslim Ummah, you will find people of all backgrounds: Asian, African, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, European, and others.
And so Islam is so ready to enter and accept the global world. In fact it is not a new concept in Islam. It is inherently the nature of Islam itself.
There are three main characteristics of the global world:
First, our global world has become deeply competitive. And that competition includes every thing in humans’ ives. From economic to politics, from military to technology, from social, cultural to religious, ompetition happens in all aspects of human lives.
Is Islam a stranger to this fact? Not at all. Islam is ready to compete at every level of human lives.
“Fastabiqul khaeraat” (compete in goodness).
“Wa fii dzalika fal yatanaafasil mutanaafisuun” (and for that should the competitors compete).
Both verses of the Holy Quran emphasize the importance of establishing a competitive mentality.
So Islam is ready to compete. But the competition that Islam is involved with is a competition of morality; it is a competition which is built on a moral ground.
That morality is what our world is lacking today. The powerful are manipulating the poor, and so the rich are becoming richer and the poor are becoming poorer.
Competition in Islam is a competition for all. In other words, all those involved in the competition are given equal opportunities to race. At the end of the day, there is a winner and a loser. Not by manipulation or oppression. But by healthy competition.
Second, our world today has become smaller. Humans are living in the same small home under the same roof.
The advancement of technology, particularly in the field of open media and information, makes our world smaller. There is almost no barrier between people or nations.
The nations of the world have become borderless, even in a time when some are trying to build physical walls between them. Through open media and speedy information our world has become deeply connected.
Hence our world has become more and more interconnected and interdependent. No single nation, no matter how powerful it is, can live without the other nations. And what happens in a nation can effect the other far away nations.
Is Islam new to this phenomenon? Not at all.
Islam has, from the very beginning of its journey, emphasized the importance of human “connection”, human partnership over conflict and division. In fact, Islam acknowledges the unifying concept of the human family.
Allah says: “O mankind, verily we created you from a male and a female. And made you into many nations and tribes so that you get to know one another...”.
The verse while acknowledging human diversity, confirms and affirms the universal human family.
Therefore our bonds to partner with all people is not based on temporary interests; instead it is based on a divine foundation. The foundation of the universal human family.
For this reason, human interconnectedness, interdependence, partnership and cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and interest must be strengthened. And Islam is in the front line to do so.
Finally I also want to remind Muslims that interconnectedness, partnership and cooperation must begin at home. We must connect ourselves to one another and build a stronger partnership as an ummah.
This ummah must realize that if our Islam commands us to partner with all people of other faith backgrounds, why then has this ummah failed to establish partnerships within themselves?
Only by strong connection (unity) and partnership will this ummah be able to help our marginalized Brothers and Sisters in many parts of the world. From Kashmir, Rohinhya, Xingjian to Palestine, our Brothers and Sisters are waiting for our voices and help.
In Kashmir, over 8 million are under siege. For many days there has often been no electricity; water to their home has been cut off. Thousands of their women were raped, and many thousands of their children including those under age have been arrested and jailed.
Rohingya Muslims still have no where to go. They don’t have any nationality. Their homes and properties in their own land have been taken over by the military regime. The trauma of their women being raped, men being killed still remain and there remains no way out till today.
Millions of Muslims in Xingjian China are kept in concentration camps by the Chinese regime, almost like what Hitler did to the Jewish people in Europe. They are forced to renounce their faith, forced to eat pork, and their women are forced to marry the non Muslim Chinese.
Certainly our Muslim Brothers and Sisters in the Middle East are still facing tremendous challenges, including the historic suffering of Palestinians. Seemingly their future has become darker and uncertain.
For all of this, I urge all Muslims, with all the diversity and differences they have, to build partnerships (ta’aawun) to be able to help those who are in need.
Without true unity the ummah can achieve nothing truly significant and will not thrive as it should. May Allah help us!
* Delivered at the UN Friday prayer on September 27, 2019.