Shahabuddin Yaqub, Business Head, Business N Shoppers.com interviewed Abdul Rashid Agwan the author of “Islam in 21st Century: The Dynamics of Change and Future-making”, and finds out that how Muslim world is facing lots of problem.
What has led you to write your recent book?
When the world was reflecting on human future around the advent of the 21st century and the 3rd millennium more than a decade back, a curious question surfaced in my mind whether Islam and Muslims have any role in shaping human future and the answer to my long thinking and research on the issue has come out in the form of this book. I gradually became more and more convinced that Muslims shall play their role during the present millennium as good as they played it during the past two millennia. In my analysis, I relied upon data, studies and developments of the last three decades and now I strongly feel that the situation is steadily changing in a way that Muslims can take up their future responsibilities in a better way.
Which issues and problems have been discussed in this book?
The discourse of the book spins around the issue of future-making in a fast changing world. In other worlds, the book explores ways and avenues for Muslims who are facing an untold standoff and desperation due to the obtained situation. Through deep analysis of certain problems like wars, terrorism, Islamphobia, knowledge lag, etc it has been discussed how and why Muslims have partly failed to respond to the domineering situation. Yet, I gathered a view in the wake of compiled information that in spite of all the turmoil of the last three decades Muslims have generally emerged stronger and the two erstwhile super powers of the world were generally on the receiving ends of the recent history.
How do you say so as people generally think that it is the Muslims who are on the receiving end of the recent history?
I have built my views not on the basis of some orchestrated events of our time and a disjointed analysis of their impact but on the basis of constant improvement of the Muslim world in political, economic, social, educational, scientific and technological fields during the last fifty years. In these areas, the gap between the Muslim world and the so-called developed world is steadily shrinking.
Can you elaborate on what you are saying, especially as regards economic developments?
Sure. During the last fifteen years, the average literacy rate of the Muslim countries has gone up from 45% to 72%. Literacy of 19 Muslim countries is above the world average. The number of universities there has increased four times, from 500 institutions to around 2150 during the same time. The Graduation Enrollment Rate in the Muslim world is fast improving. Science research production in the Muslim world is catching up with the world average with Iran as the fasted growing country in the world in terms of scientific publications. At least three Muslim countries are proving themselves better in scientific advancement as compared to Russia and Israel. Indonesia, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria are among the top-20 GDP countries by this time. From 1980 to 2011, the GDP of Indonesia, Turkey and Iran has increased respectively by 1306%, 1122% and 898% whereas the US-economy has grown only by 563%. The average growth rate of the Muslim countries remained to be 6%, during the last three decades, just behind China and India. The gap between the average per capita income of the Muslim countries and the world has reduced from 44% to 26% during the first decade of the century. These and other indicators illustrate some unthought-of silent progress happening in the Muslim world in spite of many crises which it recently faced.
In your view, what problems are affecting progress of the Muslim world and how can be they solved?
Presently, the Muslim world is facing many problems including desperation, sectarian divide, Western conspiracies, injudicious use of natural resources, political instability and the like. Most problems in the Muslim world exist due to lack of vision and constancy of planned action. Muslims’ response to situations is generally ad hoc and casual. They want to live in history rather than in future. In order to get rid of these problems, Muslims need to develop future vision at every level of their activity in the light of present trends and projected future. Secondly, they are required to rediscover their self-confidence as the change leaders of the world through creative reflection on the Quran and Sunnah and by considering the fact that if they could lead the world in the past two millennia they can do so even during the current one. Vision and confidence are the two values which they should develop as future assets. Thirdly, they must set their house in order by emphasizing that their internal differences are generally not basic but just interpretative and they can conveniently resolve them by adopting a universal outlook. Lastly, their future vision should be inclusive and not an exclusivist one that isolate them from the rest of mankind.
How do you envision human future?
The world is moving towards its transformation into a global society with a more democratic geopolitical system. There is a constant shift of power from the Western world to other parts of the world. China, India, Russia, Germany, Brazil, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, etc will emerge as major players of the future world as compared to USA, UK and Israel. Sovereignty of the nations will submit to the global imperatives and it will become difficult for any one section of humanity to claim absolute power anywhere in the world. However, the anticipated global society will come only after much turmoil on the instance of Western countries which will gradually lose strength in consequence rather than regaining their lost clout as they wish.
Do you think that Islam will be relevant even in future?
I have no doubt in this regard. Islamic principles of universal mankind, human freedom, stateless governance, accountability, moral order, family, etc will become more and more relevant in the world marred with racism, security-state, capitalist greed, wars, disparities and the like. What is required is to revisit these valuable principles with a futuristic viewpoint and to express derivations in a universal language.
How can Muslim youths get benefitted from your book?
Actually, this book has been written while keeping educated Muslim youths in view. This book inculcates confidence among them and it also removes their desperation instilled by some recent events. The book answers their queries which have emerged due to the media-built images of Islam and the Muslim community. It takes them to an objective journey of the world and of its trends and developments and prompts them to see the world with hope and vision. The book is certainly not an emotional rhetoric but an analysis of available data and information that may likely convince them about the better future which they can reconstruct according to their own dream and vision.
After writing this book, what kind of views have you drawn? In which direction the Muslim world is moving?
After publication of this book and discussion on its subject matter at Lucknow, Aligarh, New Delhi and Jaipur I have developed three impressions. Firstly, those global changes are constantly taking place about which the book plainly speaks of. For instance, the geopolitics is steadily tilting in favor of the East as compared to the West. The current century is moving towards becoming an Asian century rather than American. During 2014, the world has seen many international conventions in Brazil, China and Australia wherein many Asian countries have received much sway. My second impression is that Muslim leadership is not prepared to give up its failed strategies emanating from desperation and lack of vision. It is just drifting with the course of history rather than changing the course. They are in the grip of fear psychosis created by their own exclusivist approach. My last impression is that those who thoroughly read the book appreciated its assumptions, analyses and derivations. Nevertheless, the book may generally give a notion of wishful thinking since it sails in an unfamiliar ocean and touches on some unconventional issues. However, I am hopeful that the issues raised in the book will soon match with future fancies of many dreamers like me.
(Interviewer: Shahabuddin Yaqub, Business Head,Business N Shoppers.com.)