Islam appeals to unity and justice

Dossier: Tariq Ramadan – influential Muslim philosopher, theologian and writer, professor at Oxford University – Swiss of Egyptian origin. In 2009, Tariq Ramadan was included in the top 100 thinkers of the world according to the magazine “Foreign Policy”. One of the main directions of his activity is the search for a formula for the coexistence of Islam and Western values. Article “Islam appeals to unity and justice”

The best way to introduce Islam is to do it through Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) and his life. For the West, too, the best way to understand and accept the Prophet of Islam is the same as for Muslims: through his way of life. Moreover, his life path should be studied as a collection of various details that made up his personality, and not as a series of specific events. It is important to see and understand what is behind these events. For example, we know that the prophet was an orphaned teenager, that he was poor, and we can study how he behaved in these circumstances. All this can be found in the sources available to us. And this knowledge, in turn, can help in the lives of modern people, including in the West. We must extract from the material available to us information that is significant both from a spiritual point of view and from the point of view of modernity. This is what will help us better understand the life of our Prophet, his feelings, how he treated his wives, children – in contrast to the hadiths and the prophetic tradition, which focus on the precepts of religion.

In the conditions of life at the time of the Prophet, and life in the modern world, the contradiction is, for example, a person’s refusal to worship himself, which is the essence of tawhid. The formula “La illaha illallah” means returning to the essence and refusing to follow the path of desires. Surah Yusuf talks about the nafs, which calls to commit evil (al-nafs al-ammara bissa). We are constantly under the pressure of worldly desires, we are surrounded by things that have a harmful effect on us, because earthly temptations are attractive in the eyes of men. The essence of Islam is to free man from selfish thoughts. And in the modern world – both in the West and even in Muslim countries, everything is built on the culture of consumption, on fashion, on self-indulgence. This is where the contradiction lies, because fashion is built on the aesthetics of the outside, and spirituality is turned inward.

Another example of contradiction. We live in an era of individualism, and this is the Western discourse. Islam appeals to unity and justice. Often speaking about the incompatibility of Islam and Western values, the question arises about the attitude of Islam to art. In the field of culture, in my opinion, there is no fundamental contradiction between the Islamic tradition and, say, music and cinema, but within certain limits, because ethics must be present in art as well. And modern art is often precisely unethical. In this regard, it is really interesting what we could offer in the field of entertainment and art within the framework of Islamic ethics.

This is the kind of contradiction we have to deal with. And you can’t just dismiss everything Western, referring to the fact that it is haram. Because not all of it is haram, there is some good. Therefore, it is necessary to approach the solution of these problems constructively.

In the West, in many countries, the position of Muslims is already unenviable. In Switzerland, minarets are banned. There are constant conversations about the need to stop the “Islamization of Europe” and the “Islamization of the United States.” Muslims have been branded with shame, we are constantly being persecuted – and this is happening not only in Europe, but in the West as a whole, in the United States as well. Therefore, it is high time to think seriously about the strategy of our actions to break the situation.

I have recently returned from a trip to the US and I must say that I am very concerned about the mood there. For example, in Washington, in front of the hotel where our conference was held, a group of people organized marches with slogans like “Stop the Islamization of America” and “Islam will not win.” And the fact is that there are not just people who are ready to go out with banners, and there are government lobbies that work against our interests, and there are grounds for serious concern. We need to be more active, the alliance needs to be concluded not only in difficult times and days of crisis, in which we find ourselves today. After all, many Muslims are just now starting to build relations with Christians, Jews, atheists and agnostics – and it is good that they have started at all. But in the long run, it is important to be good citizens, to participate in public life, to regularly interact with other members of society, and not to raise your voice only when it comes to Islam. It is necessary to ensure that our presence in society is perceived in the order of things. The position should be: I live here, I am European, but that does not mean that I am the same as everyone else. I follow my own path to the understanding of universal values, and I bring something of my own to the life of society. With this approach, our presence will be noticeable in the general course of life, and not in some emergency situations, as a result of which Islam grows in the public consciousness with extremism and terrorism.

If we are afraid of dialogue, that’s a problem

we have Do not be afraid of dialogue. And the limit is determined by the degree of risk we are taking. If you enter into a dialogue, and in the end you give up your principles, then, of course, it is not worth it. But Muslims are trying to establish a dialogue not in order to give up their identity, but in order to stand up for what is right about our understanding of values. We are not afraid to listen to others, we take all the good and leave all the bad. We must be open-minded, as the Qur’an teaches us: “We have created you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another.” Therefore, there is no way without mutual exchange.

Yes, I also believe that this is a certain phase in a relationship. But we should not think that we will be followed by inevitable success. We must be ready for what will happen later, and remember that we ourselves make our future. Over time, passions will settle in, but we must do everything not to spoil the impression about ourselves.

(The article is prepared from an interview with Tariq Ramadan – 2013)