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More than disappointment !

As a Libyan with modest education, I too have been reading "letters" for a while but felt no immediate need to write until now. The use of "Catch 22" in " We are disappointed" [ Letters: 25 November, 1999 ] following the translation of an Ayah (Verse) from al-Quran al-Kareem is a cause of concern for me as a Muslim.

Before I go into details I am sorry to say that the majority of letters underscore a serious problem among Libya's most educated. They highlight a long held view of how shallow is our understanding of the most basic of our Deen.

I have no doubt that this fact is the root cause of our problems. A case in point is our current predicament ; If there were enough Libyans with true grasp of Islam, they would've realized from day one that the regime is illegitimate no matter what banners it raised. They would've felt compelled to stand up against injustice and oppression at any cost. The Prophet, salla allahu alaihi wa sallum, said: " If you (plural) see an unjust ruler/oppressor and you don't straighten him, Allah's punishment will soon engulf you all".

Ironically this wide spread ignorance of Islam among the elite is also shared by Gaddafi himself. I can somewhat understand the situation of those inside because sources of knowledge are limited. Books are banned and Scholars jailed or murdered. But those in the west have no excuse. The abundance of sources of Islamic learning is one of the great blessings we have. Unfortunately we seem to take that for granted in the same way we take Islam itself. In contrast I am amazed by the enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge by people who, unlike us, are new to Islam. I once met a young man just out of High School. He talked and behaved as if he is the one who has been a Muslim all his life. He didn’t even speak Arabic then. Shame on us!

Sometimes it is embaricing to hear a highly educated man talking about his own Deen. Confusion, mixing up authentic and weak or fabricated narration (Gaddafi’s tool for denying Sunnah), relying on imitating parents or own interpretation and opinions. Mind you, these practices are unacceptable in any other arena where specialization is the rule.

Take for example, what is called al-Moulid , a later addition, Bid'ah, supposedly out of love for the prophet. None of his companions, who loved him the most, celebrated his Birth Day because he warned them, and us, against treating him like Isa (Jesus) ,alaihi issalam, was.

The author of the letter which prompted this response seems to imply that there is an element of contradiction or helplessness. This of course is incorrect. Far from it, Islam is a proactive religion. This Ayah offers a way out at time of hardship and also a warning at time of ease. It tells us that any change in our situation for better our worse is a direct result of change in us.

Another letter alluded to the emotional underdevelopment of Libyans. I agree. Selfish like kids. We can’t take criticism, our way or else. We don’t have the courage to say yes we are wrong and will face the consequences. etc. But what is the cure?

Luckily, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We have the answer. To change our situation we need to take a serious look at ourselves and take concrete steps towards proper understanding of Islam and live accordingly. Through knowledge ('Elm) and practice ('Amal) we can attain the level of 'Aqueedah- faith / creed - that transformed the early Muslims. We have what they had. This does not mean stopping efforts on other fronts. It should all go hand in hand. Just study the lives of some of the early Muslim giants. Some were teenagers when they led armies and many accomplished so much in their twenties and thirties.

To help understand Muslim character reflect on this scene. Once Omar, Radhia Allahu 'anh, stood as the Head of State preaching . One man shouted O’ Omar we won’t listen or obey, you are wearing two garments and we only have one (each). Omer called: O’ Abdullah ibn Omer ( his son): “Didn’t you give me your garment?”. “By Allah I did ” He answered. The man then said: “ Now we listen and obey”. The man did not hesitate to voice his dismay at what he perceived as unfair no matter who was involved. Omar, a giant in more ways than one, felt compelled to explain. Never mind that one garment is too small for him to justify getting two. Where are we from that?

He is also the one who said : “ We are a nation which was given triumph, dignity and honor by Allah through Islam. To seek them in other ways will bring certain defeat and humiliation”. Does this ring a bell?

Abu Haithum

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