In 2004 when we conceived futureislam.com as a major civilizational project and vigorously pleaded for a fresh thinking on issues of Islamic import, we were a little hesitant to use the word civilization. The writings of an American establishment intellectual about the supposed clash of civilizations had created such a furore that at times it amounted to high jacking the very meta-narrative of our time. Those were the times when talking in terms of civilizational paradigm was considered a necessity to prove one's sophistication.
Paradigmic thinking is not only deceptive, at times it may be even disastrous. We often build a paradigm; for it appears to be the only convenient way to think and philosophize. We humans who, always, or at least most of the time, employ language as a tool of thinking, for us it is natural to construct a paradigm or take a cue from the prevailing meta-narratives for clarity, cohesion and communication. Yet it should not serve as an excuse for being a prisoner to any single paradigm.
For me civilization then is not the only valid paradigm but a mere linguistic device which I have picked up to communicate more than what it does in the ordinary situations. My own readings of the Qur'an has taught me that we should not assign our thinking to words which have their own limitations despite the fact that they are constantly on the grow, nor should we be swayed by mere linguistic implications of the text.
One possible way to overcome the limitations that language imposes on us is to use 'spatial atmosphere' as an extension of the language. Paradigms once brought to the level of perspectives can also serve as possible prisms to look at things in different shades. Instead, if we look at things with a fixated gaze, as we often did in the past, we will only perceive the world on a perpetual course of a class struggle or find it engrossed in a beyond-the-repair clash of good and evil, or blame the failure of Enlightenment project on the barbarian other.
In employing the same terminologies that modern world is conversant in, yet unsubscribing to these concepts has been a great challenge to me. Writing about Islam in English, a language which became the language of the internet and came to a full bloom in the post-Christian West, has little inkling with the 'spatial atmosphere' of a divine book. No wonder then, if the terms like 'enlightenment', 'progress', 'development' or 'civilization' appear as hallowed and worn-out ideals. Authors on Islam in English often feel captivated by the very language that they put to their use.Instead of speaking on Islam in English they indulge in speaking their language. Such is the bane of language.
The call for a future Islamic civilization should not be seen as an exercise in re-establishing hegemony of the Muslim people or an attempt to turn the clock backward to the Abbasid Baghdad or the Moorish Spain. What we witnessed in Baghdad, Spain, Cairo, Istanbul or Delhi at various points of history was a rich culture no doubt in its own right, but it was not the essence of Islamic civilization, if we insist on using this term.
A true Islamic civilization is neither eastern nor western, neither Arab, nor Chinese or Indian but an authentic amalgam of all believing nations, comprising all colours and races, an international brotherhood or sisterhood of submitters. In Islam there is no male and no female, no black and no white, no easterner and no westerner but only the awakened and the spiritually dead. And it is the duty of the awakened souls to bring the dead to life.
This book is intended to serve as a trumpet to the dead and a call for united action and not essentially to lay sole claim on Islam. Islam which means submission to one God is the religion of all the prophets from Abraham to Mohammed and many others before them. We Muslims do not claim monopoly on submission although we are aware of our very unique position as upholders of the Last Revelation.
Envisioning a future Islamic civilization in which submitters of all hue or Muslims of various denominations and traditions join hands on kalimatun siwa or agree to work for common good is no easy task.
It needs repositioning on our part, from being communitarian to prophetic. In essence, it requires not only recasting ourselves in a universal prophetic mode but also demands from us to find new meanings and implications of the Qur'anic terms. For example, in a capitalist world of free-market economy establishing Qur'anic justice would demand no less than redesigning the entire system. And in a globalized and highly inter-dependent world it would amount to refashioning the planet as a whole.
Written as they were as wake-up calls to all the inhabitants of this planet, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, these articles when they initially appeared as editorial pieces at futureislam, they attracted the attention of quite a good number of leading intellectuals of our time whose inputs have been a valuable source of inspiration to me. I have learnt from them, as also from my own readings of the text, that writing in defense of Islam serves no purpose. Truth needs no defense. Instead, we need to take shelter under the truth. This book then is no defense for Islam but an open invitation to all to devise an effective defense in the face of a crumbling capitalist civilization.