Ummah in Crisis: What is to be done?

This question has been asked before and under circumstances no less threatening than those which confront us today and with a similar sense of urgency, if not more. One only needs to think of the heart-wrenching state of the Companions who faced the first fitnah (656–661) during which ‘Uthman, Allah be pleased with him, was murdered in the very city where the echoes of the Prophet’s footsteps were still in the living memory of those who had seen him walking through its bazars. Or when a civil war was fought in which close Companions of the Prophet found themselves standing against each other under circumstances which threatened the very existence of the Community. Or one can think of the tragic events of the second fitnah (680–692) during which Husayn b. ‘Ali and all but one of his companions were killed with such cruelty that it still produces trembling in the initiated hearts, Makkah was besieged, the Khawarij took control of much of Arabia and Ibn al-Zubayr, Allah be pleased with him and his father, was killed in the sanctified city of Makkah where fighting had been declared unlawful by Allah Himself (Q 2: 217). Likewise, one can recall the great deluge of 1258 when Baghdad—the seat of Caliphate, the intellectual heart of the Muslim world and the city of scholars—witnessed the erection of towers of severed heads of its population by the victorious Mongol army. With a focused attention to the horrific details of these and similar events in Muslim history, one can imagine the urgency with which the sincere members of the Muslim community of those times must have reflected on the bleak state of the Ummah. Seen in this historical perspective, the challenges faced by the Muslim community today lose some of their despairingly overwhelming impact, but this does not diminish their threat to the survival of the Ummah.

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