The true Islamic way
February 19, 2013
Dr Tankard’s new book release and my subsequent critique has heightened the debate on the current status of the Muslim community. There are a number of current realities which will impact on the direction of the Muslim society in Bermuda. We are now 36 years after the transition towards Sunni Islam began to take visible root in Bermuda and have produced a new generation of young adults with mixed influence stemming from historical legacy and ideology in the process. The immigrant population has grown by marriage and through work related residency. There are at least four established groups, none dominating the whole. Imam Warith Deen Muhammad has passed and hence the once autonomous focus on his mentorship that directed the Masjid community at Cedar Avenue now has naturally transferred self responsibility on to that significant community to determine its own direction without a parental figure.
There are perhaps several ways of looking at the future of the Muslim society which comprises of at least a couple of thousand persons out of the four groups plus the many who are unaligned. We could look at the potential of each group set separately and examine their ideology and how it exists within the local context. We could look at all the groups as a potential combined and offer a collaborative position. Either of those approaches have some merit, however there is another angle which is my preference, which is to take the philosophical route and interpret Islam as a value or a principle idea and place it in the context of being an influential force intellectually on the Bermuda experience locally and internationally. If the living generation which comprises the young adults and also the first generation of Muslim pioneers can come to terms and reconcile the reality that we are all here today and the future is not entirely dependent on our past, we would be in a great position. We don’t need to be stuck in or dismiss our past or use it as a tool that prevents progress today between persons. History is history and lets be fair open and honest about it. More importantly let’s learn from our strengths and mistakes to build a solid future. The hope that one group will triumph over another is not a Quranic aim, so it should not be the goal espoused by any community.
The fact is that Bermuda in many ways is indeed another world. We are not America not Caribbean, not West Indian and it should mean that any notion of Islam that is true, will develop in the context of the Bermudian human experience. The flavour and identity of the true Bermuda Islam, agreeably, if it is not to be borrowed from Arabia, means it should not be borrowed from anywhere in the world, but rather be uniquely a product of this Bermudian environment. Which doesn’t mean the world is cut off, no, it means, the world becomes our oyster we can choose what is or isn’t relevant. It doesn’t mean we are recipient of some new revelation, it should mean that our lives are the living manifestation of those revelations, it becomes indigenous. The axiomatic challenge will be on whether we recognise there is an innate potential within us, or inversely whether we seek foreign scholarship or even scholarship as our dependence. On that note if Bermuda has not received inspiration then it means we are still waiting for it.
How could we as Bermudians accept inspiration coming to every other place in the world be it Tibet, Jerusalem, Arabia, Persia or America and not feel cheated or blind sided by God? Actually the Koran says you will have an excuse against the lord of the worlds if the inspiration does not come directly in your vernacular. This world forces us to look at and into each other and value every human and find the exemplary life that the lord of the universe establishes in your location.
This reality of inspiration does not pertain solely to those who call themselves Muslim, it pertains to everyone within the cultural experience. Its part of the Bermuda DNA or destiny as a dialectic of collective consciousness that manifest through us just like everywhere else. We, as are all humans, are perpetuated by the same phenomenon no matter where we are. The call to stand up for justice, to fight against wrong, to establish truth through reason with patience is a universal call on all humanity. The messengers who stood for those principles are of one accord and from the same universal source. Every Bermudian should stand for truth and purify our intentions to do good and make the world a better and safer place. The prayer line should be long enough to stretch from one end to the other or circle the island. That will only happen when we as Bermudians discover our own native truth. If the Muslim community who read the Koran daily don’t find that truth and continue to look outside itself to America or proverbially Egypt, they can be of no real consequence to the island or embark on the path that is steep.
When we take the universal message of Islam and apply it properly, it alters the way we look at the world. The true Islamic way should cause one to see the world ecology, our humanity and this universe as one. It will rearrange our human struggle from simple race centeredness to conscious humans from sectarianism to universalism. It will take our politics from partisan interest to national and global, but based on human freedoms. The legacy becomes the story of the pursuit of human dignity and not the origins of party politics or religious sectarianism. The personal struggle rather than a pseudo religious label and identity, becomes one of atonement to become a vessel of good through which the divine hand works to make a better world.