Looking at Islam globally today vis-a-vis the multifarious problems being faced by its adherents, there is tendency that some ignorant and parochial people will think vaingloriously that the end has come the religion. This tendency is particularly manifest in Nigeria where religion is a big business and, like a vulture waiting to descend on the carcass of a prey, its merchants will do anything, no matter how devilish, to profit from it.
Because of their untame-able avarice based on ignorance and parochialism, such merchants cannot understand that when a gargantuan institution like Islam is about to take an unprecedented leap to further a progressive civilization, it must undergo a trying moment. Such a moment is an indication that an arrogant power somewhere is about to fall.
Those who are lettered enough to be familiar with world history will recall that a similar scenario occurred to the old Roman Empire as it occurred to the ancient Greek Empire. At least, if the once so-called Great British Empire was not eclipsed at a stage, America would not have emerged as a foremost modern day world power. More will said about this, in this column, in the near future.
Instinct is the main cursor of vision. It is the indicator of where today’s ship will anchor tomorrow. A man without instinct can be likened to a blind bull struggling to pass through the hole of a needle. An example is now being exhibited in the United States. Without instinct there can be neither projection nor premonition. All visionary prophecies are based on instinct.
It was only by divine instinct that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was able to prophesy the signs of the last days when he said: “One of the signs of the last days is for the sun to rise in the West and set in the East….” This prophecy is pregnant with meanings. Which sun was the Prophet talking about? Was it the physical or the hypothetical? Only a few people of other religions in history were able to comprehend that prophecy as much as the celebrated (Christian) Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950).
George Bernard Shaw’s prediction
Based on his understanding of the contents of that Prophecy, Bernard Shaw decided to study Islam through deep researches. And consequently, he concluded as follows:
“The Medieval Ecclesiastics, either through ignorance or bigotry, painted Mohammedanism (Islam) in the darkest colours. In fact, they were trained both to hate the man (Muhammad) and his religion. To them he was anti-Christ… I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing face of existence which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him, the wonderful man, and in my opinion, far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the saviour of humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness”.
“I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today…”
America was just emerging as a champion of the modern world when Bernard Shaw made his famous prediction quoted above. Western civilization was then restricted to Europe and Shaw had taken any emerging civilization from America as an extension of that of Europe. He had thought that whatever would be acceptable to Europe ought to be automatically acceptable to the emerging power of the New World, the former being an offshoot of the latter. He was right.
Although, Islam had reached America long before Christopher Columbus arrived in what was then perceived as a New World, very little was known about the Muslims in that country until 1886 when one Moorish immigrant, Noble Drew Ali, of North Carolina started to propagate Islamic faith to the black masses in the New World. However, that Noble D. Ali’s jihad became prominent with the growth of media influence in the United States did not necessarily make him the first American Muslim preacher.
A valid question
Today, with a Muslim population of almost 10 million and over 3186 Mosques, who says Bernard Shaw’s prediction of the early 20th century has not become a reality? If there is still any country in the world where Islam is not growing that country must be very backward. Today, the geometric growth of Muslim population in the US has confirmed Islam as an official religion in America. Today, there are about 2000 Muslim associations and over 400,000 businesses as well as about 310 regular publications under the firm control of American Muslims. These are not only providing jobs for the residents, they are also enhancing America’s social security.
The real root of Islam in America
However, the real practical root of Islam in the US is actually traceable to 1790 when the South Carolina legislative body granted special social status to a community of Moroccans, which gave that community the freedom to practise its religion. And in 1797, President John Adams signed a policy declaring that United States had no “character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musulmen (Muslims)”.
President Benjamin Franklin’s position
Then, in his autobiography, published in 1791, President Benjamin Franklin stated that he “did not disapprove” of a meeting place in Pennsylvania designed to accommodate preachers of all religions and concluded that: “even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach ‘Mohammedanism’ (Islam) to us, he would find a pulpit at his service”.
President Thomas Jefferson’s stand
Thomas Jefferson on his own defended religious freedom in America including those of Muslims and he explicitly mentioned Muslims when writing about the movement for religious freedom in Virginia. And in his autobiography also, Jefferson wrote: “When the Virginia bill for establishing religious freedom which was finally passed,… a singular proposition proved that its protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word ‘Jesus Christ,’ so that it should read ‘a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion.’ The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend within the mantle of its protection the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometans (Muhammadans), the Hindus and the infidels of every denomination.” Thus, as a confirmation of that policy, President Jefferson also joined the Tunisian Ambassador for an Iftar (Ramadan fast breaking) in 1809.
Despite over 60,000 publications by the Western Orientalists between 1800 and 1950 disparaging that divine religion and denigrating the personality of prophet Muhammad (SAW), Islam continued to wax stronger even as it displays dynamic tendencies on a regular basis. Today, with a global population of about 1.7 billion adherents in the world and with certain mundane ideologies and philosophies crumbling like a pack of cards, Islam has remained an unstoppable religion, the implacable hostility of the West to it notwithstanding.
African American Islam
The African American involvement in the propagation of a religion of immigrants though began in 1960s/70s in the American society, Islam had actually made its way into America in the sixteenth century when Muslims were brought as slaves from Africa but were forced to convert to Christianity. These Muslims were followed by a new wave of immigrants who came in the late nineteenth century as labourers from the Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.
In the second half of the twentieth century, a large number of Muslims came from virtually every country of the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia who were more sophisticated than their predecessors in Islamic understanding. As those immigrants settled in large cities and small towns, they built mosques, Islamic cultural centres, and schools. Today, indigenous American Muslims, who have grown in number to well over a million, have succeeded in transforming Islam into an American religion.
A Track Master
In 1888, the American Ambassador in Philippines, Alexander Russell Webb, surprisingly became a track master by embracing Islam and becoming the first prominent Anglo-American Muslim in history. Thus, given his stats, he became the only person that represented Islam from the US at the first Parliament for the World’s Religions in 1893.
New York Times
In an article once published in the New York Times and entitled: ‘Muslim Schools in the U.S.: A Voice for Identity’, one Susan Sachs wrote on the rising demands for Islamic schools in the U.S. saying that “across the country, Islamic schools…that offer religion and Arabic classes…are expanding and flourishing, with many becoming oversubscribed so quickly that principals are scrambling for money to build more. Thus, the surge in the number of Islamic schools may be attributed to the success and determination of a Muslim community that strives “to define itself as a cohesive religious minority in the secular American society”.
The World Street Journal
Before then, an article had appeared in ‘The World Street Journal’ on August 7, 1987, which reported thus: “At a time when Marxism is so debilitated and is being shored up by capitalism; when Christianity lacks much of the missionary fire that once drove it; when Maoism is all but entombed with its founder and when democracy sounds only a muted appeal to much of the world, Islamic fundamentalism stands out as the movement on the march”.
By and large today, not only is Islam formally recognized as the second religion after Christianity in the US, it has also become a tradition for the President and his cabinet to host Muslim leaders in that country to Iftar during the month of Ramadan.
Today, with technology virtually reaching its climax, and backed up by over 60% of the world’s oil reserve in the Islamic world, the rising of the sun from the West as prophesied by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is becoming undeniably vivid.
Were George Bernard Shaw alive today he would have nodded delightedly to that fact.
Given the above historical account, it is unimaginable that a 21st century American President like Donald Trump, who also has personal businesses in many other countries of the world, will want to rubbish his ancestors by destroying the solid foundation which those ancestors had laid for America’s greatness. But, if, on the other hand, if he goes ahead to play a bull in the china shop it will still not be strange. Not every child who bears a father’s name can be truly legitimate.
Through an erratic policy signed into law or a sadistic ‘Executive Order’, anything can be done to the lives of the Muslims in America but nothing can be negatively done to Islam as a religion. For the benefit of doubt, Islam is like the sun in its full regalia, any blind person who claims not to recognise its presence is only playing a fool. With or without recognition, the sun will always dwell majestically in the orbit. Today is today. Tomorrow is tomorrow. None can take the place of the other. That is a food for thought.