Islamic Movement in Britain

By Professor Khurshid Ahmed

Situation of Muslims in Britain

So what is unique about the Muslim situation in Britain and Europe? In my view there are at least six points that need to be noted:

1. To the best of my knowledge and understanding: this is the first time, that in this part of Europe, we find such significant Muslim presence. As a datum this is important.

2. This significant Muslim presence is not a result of the process through which earlier Muslims came to Europe – through conquest or da’wah. It is for the first time that we find waves of migration motivated by different factors, but as a result, a distinct type of Muslim presence has become a reality. In other words, it is civil migration and not primarily da’wah oriented or conquest oriented.

3. Those who migrated initially did so for some short period, for temporary, transient objectives, but generally this has moved towards a permanent habitation.

4. When you look upon Europe and Britain, because of migration, which has not come from any one particular region, group or country, everywhere you find the Muslim Ummah in miniature. Different cultures, languages, backgrounds and political situations. Different contexts of migration and different expectations for the future. In a way, not only the Muslim Ummah in miniature, from an intellectual, cultural, historical or geographical viewpoint, but also from a sectarian viewpoint, Muslim thought processes, practices, whatever good or evil is there back home in the Muslim Ummah, somehow we are part of it.

5. We are living under the shadow of history. Ours is not a virgin beginning. We have come here with our complexes and the host society also has its complexes and perspectives, particularly Islamophobia, demonisation of Islam and Muslims, apprehension about Islam. But in view, every apprehension has within its bosom a set of opportunities also. This shadow of history is not totally negative, yet it is a reality.

6. This situation has produced a unique scenario, which is becoming a meeting point for the two major Islamic Movements (Jamat-e-Islami and al-Ikhwanul Muslimun) primarily, but not confined to these two. Wherever there is an Islamic Movement in the Muslim world, somehow Britain and Europe are providing a kind of meeting point. It can grow into a melting point, having the prospects of a multi-coloured matrix or rainbow, enriched by all the major Islamic Movements that have emerged in contemporary history in the world.

Characteristics of Islamic Movement

What makes us distinct within the family of Islamic groups and organisations, projects and institutions?

1. The Islamic Movement’s commitment to Islam as a complete way of life – a din.

2. Commitment to Islam as a new moral and ideological paradigm, a new civilisation, as against the dominant civilisation of our times which is secular, materialistic, god-negligent, where divine revelation is irrelevant, where you can be a bad person morally but a good president all the way. As against that, a new paradigm of civilisation based on Islam, which is God-centred, which is integrated with the spiritual and the moral going together, which is Akhirah – oriented.

3. Belonging to Movement means we regard Islam as a mission. The Ummah is not merely a community, it is a community with a mission and that mission is shahadah ‘alan-nas, da’wah, ‘amr bil ma’ruf wa nahi ‘anil-munkar, with a purpose, li yudh-hirahu ‘alad-dini kullihi. So, iqamah of din, istikhlaf, our concern for the society, state and history is the third distinction.

4. The four major characteristic of this movement orientation is that we are change oriented. It is not a defender of the status quo, even the Muslim status quo. It is change oriented, activity oriented, struggle oriented. That is why jihad, struggle, and change characterises Islamic Movement in our times.

5. Fifthly, this change is not an arbitrary change but is a change through moral re-orientation, through development of a new personality in the individual character formation. This is followed by societal change, and preparation of the Ummah to experiment and become the operational ground for that change so that this new example could come.

In this process of change it is a very important charactersitic of this movement orientation, is that we are self-criticising. Taqlid, which represents blind imitation of the past, has not been our way. We have been critical of our own past and that is why the emphasis has been on the Qur’an and Sunnah, the permanent, unchangeable, fundamental sources. Respect for fiqh, respect for history, respect for tradition, yet different between what is fundamental, what is essential, what is cardinal, what is central and what is peripheral, incidental, in the realm of details and variables. So ijtihaad and taqlid go together not one at the cost of the other and it is also non-sectarian. We are not abdicating religious groups that have emerged within the Muslim family, we are not excommunicating them, and we are providing a meeting ground to all of them so that without any prejudice and respect for the variety, we can bring them back to the core. We are not a sect, we are the meeting point for all sects.

6. Being non-sectarian in our approach has been our way via self-criticism. However, this self-criticism also has an external dimension, that is that we are also critical of the dominant civilisational paradigm. But not blindly abandoning it, nor blindly accepting it – developing a new critique of the West on the Islamic foundation, on the basis of the Qur’an and Sunnah. So what is acceptable in the field of thought, in the field of experiments, institutions, technology, we take what is beneficial and leave what is harmful. For what is in conflict with our value premise, there is no apology, no surrender, no compromise.

7. It is the message of the movement that while Islam and the community, that is the Ummah, go together, yet as the Ummah is not fulfilling its role as the standard bearer of the shahadah, of this message, there is a need not merely of individual efforts, but of organised, collective, institutional effort to perform that function and bring about change. So that is why nizam al-‘amr, sam ‘wat-ta ‘ah, shura, planning, mechanism for tarbiyah and for da’wah are integral to the Islamic Movement.

8. Finally, it is not withdrawl and isolation from the Ummah, it is Ummah orientation, belonging to the Ummah, sharing the Ummah’s problems and concerns and playing a positive role towards a solution of its problems.

These are eight major characteristics of the Islamic Movement that go to identify us as a Movement oriented person, organsation, institution or group.



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