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Re-Open The Muslim Mind: A Plea – OpEd


There was a time in its history when Islam encouraged not only critical inquiry but also thinking, so that philosophy can become the guide to Islamic spirituality and fuel scientific discoveries leading to inventions and ideas that are precursors to the technologies of the mind and bodies we have now.

Such a time was the ‘golden age of Islam’ during the reign of Khalifah Harun AlRashid, in Baghdad. Today, Islam is dominated not only by those who chose to close the Muslim mind but also those who spend time dreaming of an ‘Islamic state ruled by an Al Mahdi/ the saviour’. Today’s Islam has been reduced to ritual, political bickering, and of course the devastation brought by the wealthiest terror group in history – IS or the Islamic State.

Muslims need to ask fundamental questions on the kind of Islam they wish to see and feel evolving. These are some:

Is not Islam first and foremost a religion of high cognition? 

Of thinking and feeling? 

Of questioning and philosophising? 

Of not bowing down to any human authority be it the sultan of your country or the grand imam or mufti of your the Holy City who at times speak nonsense and preys on human gullibility?

Is not Islam more a spiritual and critical world of inner sensibility than a doctrine of religious totalitarian belief system preying upon human weakness in order to impose perpetual sense of authority to strengthen the power of the state as a capitalist or even communist entity?

Is not Islam a private belief system of the self and not a public and policing system of theocracy?

‘Ritualistic and tantric Islam’

The emergence of ‘Islamic denominations’ in the forms of tariqats/pathways and the unique prayers and chanting rituals designed are a way to see Islam as a cognitively-shackling religion.

Bound by any cult or tariqat should Muslims not be, else their minds will be controlled by this or that sheikh and ayatollah and celebrity ulama and televangelists/TV-personality Muslims that will be idolised and next, religion becomes capitalised and commodified.

While the followers chant and zikir and dance the tantra aimlessly, these global and globe-trotting idolised religious leaders gets first class spiritual treatment while the followers think that they have seen a speck of the glimpse of the Divine.

Muslims living in this age of high cognition, new inventions, progressive individualism and the primacy of the idea that everything must fit in the scheme of the ‘Internet of Things’ must not allow religion to become the new ganja of the masses.

Religious preachers must come together to present this message in their weekly sermon/khutbah: Muslims, Think for yourself; your mind is the authority of things, you are the khalifah of your own kingdom. Forgive yourself through your own effort of self-evolution and not let others take over the job of helping you forgive yourself with the ultimate aim of controlling you.

‘Seeing the depth of Islam’

Muslims must be taught to see the depth of things and not to allow their minds to be controlled by those with damaging ideas of totalitarianism disguised as ‘true Islam’, Muslims of today seem to be attracted by the idea of an ‘Islamic state’ as a fulfillment of a ‘prophecy’ of peace on earth. This is how IS develops and how the cult of the ‘Imam Mahdi’ and the ‘waiting for the arrival of the Khaliah’ develops.

Little did the followers, including in Malaysia, knows that the Daesh/IS is an indirect ‘creation’ of the American Empire. The leaders of IS were once prisoners of the Bush family-led American Empire – this held captive in Iraq and cooked up a plan to organise themselves to establish the rulership of the ‘khalifah’ by appointing Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi as it first Imam Mahdi who will establish the ‘Islamic State’ of the post-Saddam Hussein era.

And in Malaysia, can the Malays trust any of the ‘Islamic’ parties any more? The endless in-fighting within the parties branding themselves as ‘Islamic’ and demanding the establishment of the ‘Islamic state’ has shown Malaysians how much these groups cannot be relied upon to work for a common goal of ethical change.

Supporters of the parties trusted to see a ‘pure Islamic state’ emerging are disillusioned by the announcements made by PAS to collaborate with its political enemy Umno, to mend the ‘split amongst the Malays’ and to form a unity government to ‘save the Muslims’ from their enemies who are out to seize power and deny the Malays their traditional control.

‘Tawhidic logic’

There is a spiritual logic long-forgotten, perhaps conceived as early as the invention of religious beliefs from the time of the civilisations of the Indus Valley and Mahenjo-Daro and Harappa. It is this – as many as there are living souls on this planet, that’s how many ways one can arrive at the knowledge of oneself, and if you may, of knowing ‘god’… there is therefore no one true way.

Each mind, inhabiting each soul, located in this universe is living, breathing, and believing Universe of microscopic sensibility itself. This is, for lack of a better Islamic term, the meaning of the principle of Tawhid or One-ness of the self, or the idea of Singularity amidst Multiplicity.

All religions with names existing today are merely universalist-spiritualist way of branding a worldview that is not brand-able. All religions of today are institutions that attempt to control the impossible – the mind and the ‘highly-personal-tawhidic-singularistic-unique’ universe of each living soul. An impossible force to be made possible – in the name of indoctrination.

Today’s religion continue to be an instrument of the domination of the state and its rulers – a crude exercise in mind control. Worse, it has become a profitable enterprise to capitalise on human gullibility and the art and science of ‘saving souls’ using cutting-edge guerrilla marketing strategies that ambush human souls and take human suffering as hostage.

Today is the ‘Age of the Closing of the Muslim mind’, Muslims themselves must engineer a paradigm shift to leave this age and to see through the ‘tawhidic-singularity of things’ a cognitive state of beingness that can bring back Islam out of its present Dark Age.

Dr. Azly Rahman

Dr. Azly Rahman is an academician, educator, international columnist, and author of nine books He holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in international education development and Master's degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies, communication, fiction, and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Columbia University chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here. His latest book, a memoir, is published by Penguin Books is available here.

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