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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Muslims In The Era of Globalization 3/5


Muslims In The Era Of Globalization

M. Bakri Musa (www.bakrimusa.blogspot.com)

Presented At The Muslim Students Association, Stanford University, February 14, 2003


Third of Five Parts


Aga Khan Versus Osama Bin Ladin:  Contrasts In Muslim Leadership

The dilemma facing Muslims today can be captured by comparing and contrasting two leading personalities in Islam. Both are (or was with one of them) fabulously wealthy, been exposed to the ways of the West, and inspired masses of dedicated followers. What they do or did with their wealth and talent reveal as much about themselves and their followers as well as the state of our faith. I refer to the Aga Khan and Osama Bin Ladin.

The Aga Khan is the spiritual leader of the 15 million Ismaili Muslims worldwide. He uses his vast wealth to build schools (especially for girls), universities, and hospitals, as well as bridging the gulf with the West. Osama Bin Ladin was equally wealthy and with an even larger number of ardent followers. His use of his considerable wealth and talent could not be more different. Who is the better or truer reflection of our Islamic faith? Of even more importance, who would lead us to a better world?

The Aga Khan legacy includes the thousands of doctors and nurses his institutions had trained, and the hospitals and schools he had built. Osama Bin Ladin’s corpse on the other hand was dumped somewhere in the Indian Ocean, his final “charity” towards the sharks in those waters. On land, the destructions his blind followers had wrecked are still evident to this day. Muslims should have no difficulty in determining which trajectory is closer to the Quranic “straight path” or who is the better or truer reflection of our Islamic faith.

The great Malay philosopher and alim, Hamka, once said that Allah has given us two books of revelations. One is open, the same Book of Revelations He had given to all His great prophets beginning with Adam and ending with Muhammad (may Allah bless their souls). For Muslims, that is the Quran as we know it today.  The other book is closed – this grand and wonderful expanding universe. We have the same obligation to learn this second Quran as the first. Scientists exploring the universe beyond and within elucidating the secrets of nature are doing this.

Today’s Muslims ignore this second Quran; we leave that to the West. Early Muslims did not, and they brought the faith and fellow believers to great heights. They knew the importance of both Qurans. They did not have the arrogance to presume one Quran is superior to the other, nor were they consumed with the current Muslim scholars’ puerile obsession with the “Islamization of knowledge.”

While early Muslims were blessed in that the first Quran was revealed in their native language, they did not hesitate in learning from the advanced civilizations of the time – the Greeks and Romans – to better understand the second Quran. Today’s Muslims should do likewise; emulate our earlier brethren by also learning from the advanced civilization of our time – the West.

When we Muslims master both Qurans, only then would we regain our rightful place in Allah’s universe.

Creatively managed, Malaysia’s plurality is an asset, not a liability; carelessly handled and it could be the nation’s undoing. A significant non-Muslim presence would insure that Islam in Malaysia remains the tolerant variety, true to its original version. An extremist breed of the Taliban brand could never gain a foothold in Malaysia, at least not through the legitimate political process.

The pressing issue for the ummah today is how to make Muslims competitive to meet global challenges and thus make our rightful contributions to benefit our fellow human beings. Today the wealth of a nation resides not with its natural resources, geographic attributes, or strategic location, rather with its people. As the UNDP Report puts it, “People are the real wealth of nations.” Likewise, the strength of an ummah depends on its people. The twin pillars of enhancing and strengthening human capital are education and health. Yet in the Muslim world today the military budgets dwarf the total combined spending on education and health.

We should maximize and enhance the use of all our human resources. We must not arbitrarily deny – based on sex, ethnicity, or traditional roles – anyone from developing to the maximum his or her God-given talent. Yet in many parts of the ummah today, girls are denied their right to education, and women their basic rights.

Ibn Khaldun in his Muqaddimmah (An Introduction [to the Study of History]) referred to asibayah (group consciousness) as an important element for societal development. Today’s social scientist has a comparable concept:  social capital. This is a particular challenge for plural societies as the traditional “radius of trust” rarely extends beyond the family and clan members. Muslims must extend their radius of trust beyond to the greater community of Muslims and of the world.

If Muslims would emulate and not hate the West, learn from the lessons of our own rich traditions, tolerate if not celebrate the differences amongst us, and develop our greatest asset – our people – then we would be on our way to become a developed society.

Next: Part Four of Five:  Readers’ Responses I/II




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