Dr. Hassan Hathout
The late Dr. Hassan Hathout is a physician, scientist, teacher,
speaker, thinker, writer, poet and ethicist as well as an Islamic
Scholar. He is one of those encyclopedic personalities reminiscent
of older times. As an Egyptian American, he is bicultural and
bilingual. Appalled by the distorted image of Islam in the West,
he he has made it his mission to explain Islam as it (really)
is. He is the author of eight books and innumerable medical
and non-medical papers and article.
will certainly respond favorably to the sincerity and the forthrightness
of the book. The book often shows the penetrating wisdom a mind
is capable of…(Frank Vogel, Harvard Law School).
The book will have an important role in religious studies classrooms
(including my own). (Crerar Douglas, Department of Religious
Studies, California State University, Nothing).
Dr. Hathout addresses live issues which members of no religious
community can ignore….He guides the reader in the path
of intellectual discourse previously chartered by great Muslim
scholars like Imam al-Ghazzali. (Sulayman Nyang, Howard University.)
Other books written by Dr. Hathout are:
Shall I Stand Before God,
A Brief Introduction to Seerah,
Islam and Some Contemporary Issues, and
you desire the "Reading
The Muslim Mind" book, please click on the title to
email us the request. Include the name of the book, your name
and address. Note:
For orders outside the United States of America, a cashier's
check for $20.00 US dollars is required for mailing and packaging
are section and chapters from the book, Reading the Muslim Mind
selected for your reading.
The People of the Book (Jews and Christians)
From amongst humanity, Jews and Christians are the nearest to
Muslims and are given the honorary title of People of the Book.
They are fellow believers in the One God and the recipients
of scriptures from Him. They share the belief in the line of
prophethood, and many of our Jewish and Christian friends are
taken by surprise when they learn that the biblical prophets
are also Islamic prophets. The three religions share a common
moral code. The Ouran says,
Say: 'We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and
the revelation given to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the
Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to
(all) the prophets from their Lord.- We make no distinction
between one and another of them, and to Him we are submitters.'
The word Islam literally means "submission to the will
Muslims are permitted by Islam to eat the food offered them
by the People of the Book (unless specifically prohibited, such
as alcohol or pork) and to reciprocate by offering their food
to them: "The food of the People of the Book is lawful
unto you and your food is lawful unto them" (5:5). Further,
a Muslim man is permitted to take in marriage (the most intimate
relation and sacred bond) a Jewish or Christian woman: "Lawful
unto you in marriage are (not only) chaste women who are believers,
but chaste women among the People of the Book revealed before
your time when you give them their due dowers and desire chastity,
and not lewdness, taking them as lovers" (5:5). In such
a situation it is unlawful for the Muslim husband to try to
exert pressure on his wife to convert to Islam, because that
would contradict the Quranic injunction, "Let there be
no compulsion in religion" (2:256). It would indeed be
his Islamic duty to ensure her right of worship according to
her own faith.
In an Islamic state the legal dictum about the People of the
Book is that "they have our rights and owe our duties."
They are equally eligible for social security and other benefits
the state provides. Muslims were warned against acts of bigotry
or prejudice towards the People of the Book, and Prophet Muhammad
himself said, "Whoever hurts a person from the People of
the Book, it will be as though he hurt me personally.
As a matter of fact, from its inception the Islamic society
was a pluralistic society. As soon as Muhammad immigrated to
Madinah to establish the earliest Islamic state, a treaty was
concluded between all the tribes, including the Jewish tribes
who lived there, establishing religious freedom and equal rights
Islam is not an exclusive religion. It is a universal call to
mankind (not an "Arab" or an "Eastern" religion
as many depict it). Although it addresses all people, including
the People of the Book, their failure to embrace it is no reason
to categorize them as enemies or infidels. As a matter of fact
the term "infidel" is of European origin, used at
the time of the Crusades to describe Muslims.
Goodness is acknowledged by Islam wherever it resides:
"Not all of them are alike: of the people of the Book are
a portion that stand (for the right); they rehearse the signs
of God all night long and they prostrate themselves in adoration"
(3:113). No individual or group can claim monopoly of God's
mercy or deny it to others: "Those who believe (in the
Quran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the
Christians, and the Sabians, any who believe in God and the
Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with
their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve"
As a comprehensive religion dealing with the whole of life and
not confined to matters of worship or the house of worship,
Islam shares the concerns of society at large, of which Muslims
are a part. Naturally, Muslims wish to share their values with
others in an attempt to jointly explore solutions and common
ground in the resolution of these problems.
In this chapter we will present the Islamic view of e contemporary
issues. The topics were selected as specimen cases by which
to examine and demonstrate the relevance of the Islamic perspective
our everyday life, moving away from the area of theory and abstract
The subjects discussed in the following pages are the New World
Order, (2) jihad, (3) family and the al revolution, and (4)
biomedical ethics, including reproductive issues, (b) organ
donation and transplantaion, (c) definition of death, (d) euthanasia,
and genetic engineering.
NEW WORLD ORDER
The declaration of a New World Order has been prompted recently
by the precipitate fall of communism. While the collapse of
communism had not been anticipated by much of the world, Islamic
literature had, for several decades, criticized both communism
and capitalism and expected neither to endure. In their comparative
works Muslim scholars have clearly demonstrated how and where
each of these systems fall short in comparison with an independent
system based on the teachings of Islam.
It would be rash to conclude that the collapse of communism
attests to the fitness of capitalism. Both are flawed because
they are materialistic ideologies unsuited for a species whose
characteristics extend far beyond the material. Another fallacy
of these ideologies-albeit in opposite directions-is the assumption
that the individual and the society are in irreconcilable conflict.
Communism sought to crush the individual in favor of society.
Yet what is society but the individual multiplied? The result
was inevitably a crushed society.
Capitalism, on the other hand, extols individuality and unduly
shields it from the claims of society. This has imbued the individual
with a sense of justifiable selfishness, and when this sense
has been projected outward, its various expressions have been
classism corporatism, nationalism, racism, slavery and colonialism.
The cornerstone of capitalism is that the only function and
sole destiny of capital is to grow and keep growing without
limits. When local markets are fully saturated, new ones are
sought overseas and in the Third World. There is obvious (or,
perhaps, willful) blindness to the fact that it is impossible
to attain infinite growth on a finite planet.
The feverish race for dollars and more dollars is coupled with
the planned and active encouragement of patterns of consumerism
and planned obsolescence not to satisfy needs, but rather to
satisfy the wish for comforts, pleasures, and luxuries. Natural
resources, many irreplaceable, are being violated at an accelerating
pace. This drive for overkill has targeted, as its sacrificial
lamb, the world's resources. It has especially exploited the
Third World, a vital market and cheap source of labor and materials,
which it presumes to be expendable. Not only are its peoples
stripped of their natural resources and raw materials for a
meager price (compared to the exorbitant prices they pay to
buy the finished products of those materials), they are even
prevented from carrying out such projects that might improve
their lot and make them less dependent on First World imports.
To prevent the Third World from total death by exsanguination,
it is regularly injected with fresh capital in the form of loans
and aid in order to maintain its buying power, to the favor
of Western capital.
Alas, only a tiny fraction of that aid goes to address the needs
of the people. The major part goes to the home-grown elite,
who form the ruling class, and their retinues, who undertake
the maintenance of the status quo. They prevent the public debate
of the terms and conditions of the loans and aid, and block
any attempt at supervising their management and establishing
accountability for their mismanagement. They oppress labor rights
and allow lax safety procedures, and keep a total ban on unearthing
the appalling corruption that has become the hallmark of government
in the Third World-including much of the Islamic World. This
seems to explain two paradoxes. The first is that in many Middle
Eastern countries, the more money the West pumps in, the poorer
the country becomes and the deeper it gets into debt. The second
is the total betrayal by the major democracies of the democratic
movements of the Middle East that seem close to gaining power
through following sound democratic process. Invariably the democracies
side with the dictators against the democratic aspirations of
the people, and, when necessary, support dictators even with
the use of military power.
The expression stability, which is the declared aim of every
Western intervention, means in real terms the reservation of
the best exploitative opportunities for foreign capital, even
if they are the worst possible for the foreign masses. They
and future generations will inherit a rising debt that their
GNP is unable to service, let alone pay. This state of affairs
is both known and bitterly felt by the people of the Third World.
They see its results in their homes, their families and in the
extremely limited opportunities available to their children.
They call it injustice and they try to change it, but they are
brutally suppressed. Western politicians participate in this
suppression, and to justify it in the eyes of their people,
propagandistic formulae and terminologies are promptly employed
(such as declaring that their victims are eroding the stability
of their nation or committing blatant aggression on our national
interests). Until recently, it was convenient to call those
seekers of justice "communists." Since the collapse
of communism, their new label is "Islamic fundamentalists."
Under the influence of a gigantic media machine owned by large
corporations and big capital designed to manipulate and shape
public thinking, the masses in the West have so far been swift
to swallow the bait and, unsuspectingly, sanction the means
and ways of their policy-makers. And yet this is not the worst
fault of the submissive and unsuspecting nature of the people
in the West. What they have been even slower to grasp is that
the vocarious appetite of capital and its greedy practice in
the Third World is not confined to those faraway places inhabited
by strange and exotic people. Government and big business do
not flinch from doing the same at home to their own citizens
whenever prompted by the dictates of their sacred principle:
growth and more growth, capital and more capital, dollars and
What else can explain the shifting of major chunks of industry
to Southeast Asia and elsewhere, where cheap labor (financially
and humanly) can produce a cheaper final product which, however,
will not be sold cheaper when shipped back home to America?
During the process, millions of American workers have been laid
off and joined the ranks of the unemployed.
This road of unbridled capitalism cannot continue indefinitely.
All evidence shows that it will hit a dead end before long,
evidence that has been attacked, ignored, and even hidden, but
it is there, whether its opponents like it or not. The twin
golden-egged geese of the world's resources and peoples of the
Third World shall not survive for long. Unless there is radical
change before it is too late, this planet will eventually cease
to be sustainable.
What is called for, however, is not merely a change of rules
but a change of heart. As long as the mentality of materialism
reigns, there is no hope for more than symptomatic treatment
that might delay the inevitable for a brief time but will not
prevent it. So long as the prevailing thinking views human interaction
in terms of us versus them, North versus South, exploiter versus
exploited, rich versus poor, white versus people of color, and
masters versus slaves (or servants), there is no hope for the
future. The ship of humanity will sink,
even while the passengers in deluxe and first class cabins further
amass more valuables and luxuries.
It is doubtful that the politicians and the financiers of the
world possess the necessary vision, wisdom, and ability to undergo
a dramatic self-change. It is pitiful to watch them staying
the ominous course and leading humanity so close to the edge
of the abyss. The only hope is a massive campaign to educate
the public who, as voters, remain the final arbiters at the
end of the day. If a demand is created for a new way, then politicians
will either have to change or get out of the way of change.
What does Islam have to do with all this? Islamic scholars and
thinkers (not the terrorists and extremists that the media hold
as a fixed mask on the face everything Islamic) have, for several
decades, been sketching the features of an Islamic system that
would address world problems and is based on the Islamic Shari'ah,
which is naturally not a copy of formulas that might have served
well in previous times and circumstances. Nor is this system
to be considered exclusively Islamic or prescribed strictly
for Muslims, for the welfare of humanity is a common concern
and with our ever-shrinking interactive globe, we all face the
same destiny. The principal features of this system are described
The Authority Over Man
Man is not the supreme being of this universe, but is responsible
and accountable to the Supreme Being, God! Without God everything
becomes possible, as Dostoyevsky said, and anything can be rationalized
and justified. When man dethroned God he slipped into self-worship.
The true role of man in this universe is to be God's vicegerent
and trustee, so equipped as to be capable of having full mandate
over nature in order to manage the planet in accordance with
the Creator's instructions, and not upon his own impulses and
temptations. Neither science (a tool yet in its infancy) nor
arrogance (a killer trap) should delude man into playing God
... if only man were wise enough.
The Ownership of Goods
Ultimate ownership is God's by virtue of His being the Creator.
Our ownership is a secondary ownership. We are free to own and
to increase our wealth by lawful means, practically without
limits, so long as we are aware that capital not only has rights
but also duties. The function of capital is not merely to grow
ad infiniturn, but also to fulfil obligations towards society.
The assumption (by both communism and capitalism) that there
is an inevitable conflict between the individual and society
does not exist in Islam, in which the premise is an equilibrium
that is delicately balanced between both and does justice to
all. This balance is not maintained merely by the strong arm
of the, law, but by a strong desire to win God's pleasure that
makes giving a continuous source of joy for the giver. God is
always in the equation and is a living reality, a notion that,
from a materialistic perspective, is irrelevant and absolutely
In Islam the premise is that God has remitted the sustenance
of the poor in the wealth of the rich-and in a new world order,
the principle may be carried over to international proportions.
This new system is of course achievable and attainable, but
not under a value-free educational system, a tidal wave of media
indoctrination, or a society tolerant of injustices. Society
is now so interdependent and integrated that nobody can live
in isolation, either at the apex of riches or at the nadir of
Over fourteen centuries ago Omar, the second caliph of Islam,
decreed that if a man died in poverty, the citizens of his town
had to pay his ransom as if they had killed him. The community
is "like one body .. when one organ suffers, the others
rally in support, " as the Prophet said. Every citizen
has the right to live at a minimum level of comfort (not merely
at subsistence level), and since living on charity is discouraged,
it follows that individual rights include the right to gainful
employment. Labor-saving technology is therefore allowed as
an answer to a labor shortage, but never to economize on jobs
and throw laborers into unemployment. Man takes priority over
machine, and the juridical rule is that the collective welfare
takes priority over individual welfare. This does not mean the
arrest of technological progress, but that it should go hand
in hand with labor in dealing with its consequences.
Workers are encouraged and supported in buying shares in their
companies in order to blur the polarization between labor and
capital and to enable them to have a vested interest in the
progress of their companies.
Another rule in Islam is that money as an instrument cannot
breed money unless coupled to some kind of production; hence,
usury is unlawful in Islam. In recent decades much has been
written on usury-free banking, and indeed a number of banks,
not only in Islamic countries but also in Europe and America,
have successfully pioneered its application.
The Equality of Man
Theoneness of humanity as a single family sharing the common
grandparentage of Adam and Eve should be emphasized and taught
to children from a young age, together with the concept of the
inherent equality of human beings. It is unfortunate that both
science and religion were, at one time, misused in Europe (and
America) to concoct evidence of the natural superiority of the
white (or Aryan) race over the others. The false evidence in
support of this claim is now dead and buried, but its legacy
continues. In most churches in the West until now, Jesus is
portrayed as a blond white man with blue eyes, unlike the brunet,
olive-complexioned people common in the area of Palestine.
The evidence of racism in the West practically pervades all
aspects of life, and the will to change it is yet to gather
sufficient momentum. An uphill battle for civil rights in America
has been going on for decades, and in spite of palpable progress,
one cannot say that the bitter taste of slavery has been washed
away. Equality is not a set of legal specifications but is primarily
a state of mind.
So far the black man in America has not heard the word "sorry"
from the white man for the chapter of slavery that tarnished
the history of white civilization (although the non-white Japanese
Americans did receive an apology and reparations for their internment
during World War 11). Racial tensions continue to erupt, and
although regrettable, the participants in these incidents of
violence often have some justification. The Los Angeles riots
in the near past (April of 1992) are a case in point.
Every time there is a call for action to improve the lot of
American blacks, the response, though often helpful for a limited
time, usually misses the root cause of the problem. Neither
bullets nor dollars will come up with permanent and real solutions.
Only when everyone in the depths of their hearts feels and believes
that every other human being is a dear and equal brother or
sister will real change occur. This cannot be decreed by law,
but is a function of education. To transform our world, we must
bring about a total educational revolution with the objective
of creating a unified and compassionate society, undivided by
barriers of any kind, and giving new life and significance to
slogans of freedom, fraternity, and equality, not only within
national borders, but on a global scale.
To effect change, the re-education of the neo-colonialist nations
must be coupled with a real effort on their part to assist the
development of the Third World. It has been estimated that the
subsidy Europe pays to its farmers is enough to cause such a
turnaround in the Third World as to eliminate the problem of
hunger the world over. Such an idea was summarily scoffed at
in a (philanthropic) meeting in Europe of former ministers and
prime ministers from various countries. Neither the elimination
of subsidy nor the development of the Third World were considered
live options, the former for reasons of political expediency
and the latter for political strategy.
The Need for Self-Restraint
Application of the uniquely human faculty of self restraint
has been rapidly eroding and needs to be restored. Although
it is a principal distinction between man and animal, the mentality
of modern times seems to have played havoc with it. A young
man who was arrested for shooting at passing cars on a freeway
and killing some people had only this to offer as explanation:
"I felt like killing someone." This is not a lone
example. Statistics on crime clearly indicate that grossly impulsive
and destructive behavior has become a common social phenomenon
rather than an exception, as anyone who watches the news or
reads the papers can confirm. The lack of a sound value system
and the consequent appalling lack of resistance in the face
of impulses and temptations are underlying factors that have
led to gradual societal destruction.
A key to change can be found with education and the media -but
education must be informed not only by knowledge but also by
a belief in what is right and an awareness that we are accountable
to a higher power - only then will most people become fully
responsive to the prompting of their conscience. If there is
a Day of Judgment, as Muslims and others believe, then one cannot
envy the media moguls who will be confronted by their role in
publicizing and promoting violence, pornography and licentiousness.
Speak lightly of the unthinkable and it naturally becomes thinkable.
Our young then explore and experiment until debauchery and miscreancy
become societal addictions.
Unfortunately, some states are subtly setting the example to
their youth of recourse to naked power, especially when they
are strong beyond limits and their adversaries are weak beyond
limits. The fig leaf called values and principle often falls
when the military giants crack down on presumed aggression with
all their might and practically against no resistance; when
a worse aggression follows, the same giants pull back because
"the task would not be easy." Regard for human life
is abysmal, both as they attack it or refrain from protecting
it. One of the powerful but revealing comments made by a military
leader during the Gulf War was, "We are not in the business
of counting bodies," but he, of course, meant the bodies
of the other side.
War and Peace
The rules of war in Islam are very clear and were explicitly
delineated by Prophet Muhammad himself. It must either be of
a defensive nature or to remove oppression wherever it might
be, following what is now called a just cause, and it must be
fought without harm to innocent civilians or the environment.
Alliance to stop aggression is expressed in the Quranic verse:
"If two parties among the believers fall into a fight,
make peace between them, but if one of them transgresses against
the other, then fight (all) against the one that transgresses
until it complies with the command of God. But if it complies,
then make peace with justice and be fair, for God loves those
who are fair" (49:9).
Alliance with non-Muslims for a just cause is acceptable. An
example is the Prophet's treaty with the Jews of Madinah to
defend that city jointly from the disbelievers. Another example
is the reference by the Prophet to a treaty made between the
tribes of Makkah long before Islam, who agreed to join together
in supporting the oppressed. The Prophet commented, "That
was an alliance before Islam, but if, in Islam, I had been invited
to it, I would have joined it." The Prophet's explicit
instructions to his armies were strict in that they should fight
only against belligerents and not against women, children, or
the elderly. Non-Muslim religious people in their monasteries
or houses of worship also should not be harmed, nor should enemy
trees be cut or set on fire as a war measure, nor should animals
be targeted or slaughtered except for food. When one reviews
these stipulations, it becomes obvious that the implementation
of these lofty Islamic war ethics requires a special effort
in a modern war. Perhaps World War I was the last war in which
it was possible for fighting to be fairly confined to military
personnel. Starting with the Spanish Civil War in the thirties,
the rules began to change as was evident in World War 11, the
Korean War and the Vietnam War. The two atomic bombs over Hiroshima
and Nagasaki speak for themselves, as does the carpet bombing
of the Vietnam war and its "free fire zones," killing
not only people, animals and plants, but even the soil itself.
Some people would therefore take it that those Islamic war ethics
are now theoretical and cannot hold in our modem age. Muslims
and others, however, look at the issue from another perspective.
Since modern warfare is so devastating, war itself should cease
to be an option in conflict resolution. War should be obsolete
just like slavery! It is a bad omen that the New World Order
was announced on the occasion of an overwhelming military strike.
Subsequent decisions raise suspicion that what is new in the
New World Order is no more than the old order presided over
by one adversary instead of two.
With humanity at the present apex of civilization - never attained
before - and ready to move into the second millennium heralding
and celebrating a New World Order, a world free of war, and
with some alternate instruments of just peacemaking, is no longer
an idle dream.
Why can't independent courts of justice settle differences between
nations? After all, war does not differentiate between right
and wrong but only shows who is stronger and possesses more
destructive power. The implementation of fair and just conflict
resolution would be quite possible if courts of law capable
and desirous of honest and impartial handling of conflict were
established (this excludes the United Nations and its Security
Council). The success of any such proposal revolves totally
around one pivot: that the civilized countries decide to be
civilized! It takes truth, and nobody would ever say they are
against truth, but they are. Truth is a value, and regrettably
politics are blind to values, and this is the real threat that
we face today.
Will the strong accede to justice as decided by law or persist
in believing that might makes right? Will the military-industrial
complex give up its raison d'etre, justifying itself by some
war or another every now and then? Can justice be accepted in
apportioning the cake of the world resources and the cost of
replenishing them? Of course not; that would be blasphemous
to the masters of the current order, unless things change, and
change will not come from above. It will come from below upwards,
from the grass roots.
For the sake of making dollars to buy their food, service their
debts, arm their military, protect their dictators and satisfy
the insatiable appetite of their rulers and elite, the poorer
side of humanity in the developing countries are condemned to
deplete their natural resources. On the part of the affluent
side of humanity, with the goal of making the rich richer to
enhance their consumeristic patterns, increase their luxuries
and indulge in their pleasantries, the industrialized world
is violating, poisoning, polluting and killing the ecology.
This happens at a time when science and technology are capable
of influencing the biosphere in a dramatic and unprecedented
way, and it happens in peace time, apart from the devastating
and permanent damage that a full scale modern war is capable
We borrow from the future at an extravagant rate, whereas sane
and reasonable estimates tell us that we are incurring a debt
our future generations will not be able to pay. Remedial measures
and workable suggestions have been prescribed, but the obstacle,
as expected, has been those who hold the reins of power, the
custodians of unbridled, greedy, selfish, gluttonous, short-sighted
capitalism. As the Quran says, "There is the type of man
whose speech about this world's life may dazzle you, and he
calls God to be his witness about what is in his heart, yet
is he the most contentious of enemies. When he prevails, he
goes about the earth spreading mischief and destroying tilth
and progeny; and God loves not mischief" (2:204-205).
Notwithstanding bitter opposition from big business, the ecology
movement outside the sphere of politics has steadily gained
momentum. On Earth Day 1990 , one hundred million people in
140 countries showed up for the largest grass-roots demonstration
ever. This cannot be ignored by the politicians who would otherwise
lose their votes. Perhaps it is time to establish an international
ecological agency in which world governments would participate
with the prior agreement to voluntarily heed its recommendations,
recommendations that, of course, should not be oblivious to
the question of justice.
The world population is growing at a pace which far exceeds
that of available resources. Concerns about the population explosion
are therefore quite legitimate. Since most of the population
increase occurs in the Third World, the latter has been accused
of irresponsible behavior and targeted for blame by the West.
Disciplinary action has been considered, and a number of countries
that provide aid, including the United States of America, have
entertained the idea of linking that aid with fertility regulation
and family planning achievements. Worse than that, in an article
entitled "Would Machiavelli now be a better guide for doctors
than Hippocrates? (World Health Forum, vol. 14,1993,105.) Dr.
Jean Martin reviews some Western opinions that question the
advisability of some vaccination programs and other health measures
in the Third World, since they allow too many children to live
and utilize resources, which eventually causes the cycle of
famine and death to be repeated. In other words, there is a
call to setting limits on the reduction of mortality in the
Third World. A shift from humanitarianism to "pragmatism"
sounds logical to some, hence the inclusion of Machiavelli's
name in the article.
That there is a problem, no one can deny. That there is need
to avail families who wish to use them (without coercion) of
safe, reliable and accessible contraceptive methods is a fact
also, and Islam has no qualms with that. Our only reservation
is that putting the blame of the population problem solely and
squarely on Third World countries is not telling the whole truth,
for the issue is really multifaceted. Placing blame on the Third
World ignores the fact that the birth of one baby in the United
States ". . imposes more than a hundred times the stress
on the world resources and environment as a birth in, say, Bangladesh,"
wrote Paul and Anne Ehrlich of the Department of Biological
Sciences at Stanford University, in National Geographic Magazine.
They note that while population problems in poor nations keep
them poor, population problems in rich nations are destroying
the ability of the earth to support civilizations. (Quotedin
Michael Henderson, Hopefora Change (Salem: Grosvenor Books,
The way to reduce population growth in the Third World has been
debated (especially at the World Population Conference in Bucharest,
1974). Historical precedent (studying what happened in Europe
that brought down fertility rates) and common sense indicate
that development is the cause and not the outcome of reduced
fertility-development is the best pill. That insecurity is a
natural stimulus of fertility is also a known phenomenon. Yet
the capitalist countries put a disproportionately high emphasis
on fertility regulation in the Third World. Their concern goes
far beyond mere philanthropic or altruistic considerations for
the welfare of humanity.
In the summer 1991 issue of Foreign Affairs, a report (originally
prepared for the US Army Conference on Long Range Planning)
by Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute
warns against the implications of the proportional increase
in numbers in the Third World nations for the international
political order and the balance of world power. After three
generations, he notes, eight great-grandparents in the West
will share only four or five descendants against over three
hundred for much of Africa and the Middle East; therefore, the
leading countries of today will be the smallest nations in the
The National Security Study Memorandum 200, a study of "Implications
of Worldwide Population Growth for US Security and Overseas
Interests,"(National Archives. Files of the National Security
Study Memorandum 200. RG 273) is a very educative document,
revealing the complex political, economic and military implications
and the solid realities of the world in which we live. Population
factors might be the seeds of revolutionary actions and an impetus
for the expropriation or limitation of foreign economic interests.
Poverty, population growth, and population youth (The common
phenomenon in Third World countries in which the majority of
a nation's population is young, resulting from an accelerated
birth rate, especially among the young, and a lower life expectancy
than in developed nations. Ed.) would urge development, induce
the review of foreign investment terms and conditions and even
boost military growth if conscription to the military is seen
as a viable alternative to unemployment. The document at times
imparts the feeling that industrial countries are already waging
a pre-emptive war against underdeveloped countries.
It would seem to us that a New World Order should be geared
to the needs of the global village, for that is what our planet
is becoming. It should not presuppose the inevitability of dividing
the world into haves and have-nots, and hence the inevitability
of a fight to the death between them. It requires of the rich
to be humble, content and willing to give up for the common
good many luxuries that their current lifestyles incorporate.
Their luxuries are not vital necessities, their reward would
the happiness of providing the vital necessities for the major
part of the human family. What else can be more conducive to
happiness? God must be brought to the equation!
The word jihad has been frequently used by the Western press
over the past few decades, explained directly or subtly to mean
"holy war." In point of fact, the term "holy
war" was coined in Europe during the Crusades, meaning
the war against Muslims. It does not have a counterpart in the
Islamic glossary, and jihad is certainly not its translation.
Jihad means "striving." In its primary sense it is
an inner struggle, within the self, to rid it from debased actions
or inclinations and to exercise constancy and perseverance in
achieving a higher moral standard. Since Islam is not confined
to the realm of the individual but extends to the welfare of
society and humanity in general, a Muslim cannot strive to improve
himself or herself in isolation from what happens in his or
her community or in the world at large, hence the Quranic injunction
to the Islamic nation to take as a duty "to enjoin good
and forbid evil" (3:104). It is a duty that is not exclusive
to Muslims but applies to the human race, which is, according
to the Quran, God's vicegerent (deputy) on earth. Muslims, however,
cannot shirk this responsibility even if others do. The means
to fulfil it are varied, and in our modern world encompass all
legal, diplomatic, arbitrative, economic, and political instruments.
Islam does not exclude the use of force by which to curb evil,
if there is no viable alternative. A forerunner of the collective
security principle and collective intervention to stop aggression,
at least in theory, as manifested in the United Nations Charter,
is the Quranic reference, "...make peace between them (two
fighting groups), but if one of the two persists in aggression
against the other, fight the aggressors until they revert to
God's commandment" (49:9). Military action is therefore
a subgroup of jihad and not its totality. This was what Prophet
Muhammad emphasized to his companions when, returning from a
military campaign, he told them, "This day we have returned
from the minor jihad (war) to the major jihad (self-control
Jihad is not a declaration of war against other religions and
is certainly not directed against Christians and Jews, as some
media and political circles want it to be perceived. Islam does
not fight against other religions. Christians and Jews are considered
as fellow inheritors of the Abrahamic traditions by Muslims,
worshipping the same God and following the tradition of Abraham.
The rigorous criteria for a "just war" in Islam have
already been alluded to, as well as the moral and ethical constraints
that should be abided by. Modern warfare does not lend itself
to those moral standards; therefore, war should be replaced
by some other alternative for conflict resolution, if all sides
agree on a just formula. An enlightened and resolute world public
opinion could overcome and subdue war-oriented mentalities.
The key is a change of heart. Just as there is a constructive
role for forgiveness in interpersonal relations, so might this
be possible in international relations provided justice, and
not force, is the final arbiter.
We must reiterate for the sake of honesty that historically
peoples of all traditions, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish, as
well as others, have had their lapses in honestly following
the valued ideals of their religions or philosophies. We have
all made mistakes and we will continue to do so. Muslims are
no exception, and time and again religion has been exploited
by ambitious tyrants or violated by ignorant mobs. This is no
reflection on religion, but it shows how desperately humanity
is in need of better education, more enduring concern for human
dignity, rights and freedoms, and vigilant pursuit of justice,
even at the price of curbing political and economic greed.
FAMILY AND THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION
Prophet Muhammad said: "Women are the other half of men. " The unit of humanity is not a man or a woman. It is a man and a woman united in marriage that makes them a family Oust like the smallest part of water is not oxygen or hydrogen, but both united). Like Judaism, Christianity, and many other religions, Islam decrees that the pairing off of a man and a woman to form a family constitutes a sacred bond that the Quran calls "a solemn pledge," which must be documented and authenticated by the marriage contract, or wedlock.
Marriage signifies the commitment of spouses to each other and establishes their mutual rights and responsibilities as well as those vis-a-vis their children. Children have the right to legitimacy (to know the identity of and benefit from a relationship with both their parents, as well as to be born within a valid marriage); to loving care as they are raised; to both physical and spiritual nurturing; and to education, to enable them to face life and bear its responsibilities as mature and useful citizens.
As parents attain old age or become incapacitated in some way, it is then their children's religious duty to look after them and cater to their comfort without showing their impatience in fulfilling this obligation.