THE BENEFITS OF UNITY FOR MUSLIMS
Contemporary world politics make it necessary for nations to integrate into international unions in the interest of their own national security and economy. In these international unions, which are usually based upon geographic location, such factors as natural resources, trading blocs, and even cultural values play an important role. Many neighboring countries combine their resources under the auspices of such organizations, create defensive alliances, and cooperate on a wide array of issues. The goal of such unions is to preserve peace, control the arms race, resolve disputes through diplomacy, promote socioeconomic development, and protect fundamental human rights and democracy. At the present time, NATO, the OSCE, the EU, NAFTA, OPEC, ASEAN, the G-8, the D-8, and APEC are the foremost international political, military, and economic unions.
These institutions are subject to organizational reforms because of new members or a widening of scope. All of these organizations, formed in the aftermath of the Second World War, have contributed to creating stability and order in the world and have played a major role in global socioeconomic development. Member nations protect their economic and military interests, and also acquire a stronger regional and international position. Even the developed world perceives the necessity of such partnerships. The creation of free trade zones, regional trade agreements, abolished customs controls, and even a common currency (as in the EU) safeguard the future of member states. Defensive pacts enable member states to reduce military expenditures and to divert those resources to cultural and educational fields.
A similar organization will provide considerable benefits to Muslim nations. For those that are desperate for technological as well as economic development, the foremost step toward stability is the creation of a central organization or, in other words, a unified Islamic world under the auspices of the Islamic Union.
Economic Development and Increasing Prosperity
Economic cooperation is necessary on two counts: stability and development. Muslim nations must bring stability and solidity to their economies. Developing industries and making the required investments is vital, as is the need for a comprehensive development plan and the simultaneous development of education, economy, culture, science, and technology. While various sectors are developed technologically, the labor force's educational levels and standards must be raised accordingly. Society must be motivated to become more productive, and the resulting economic cooperation will play a major role in eradicating poverty, illiteracy, the unjust distribution of wealth, and other socioeconomic problems rampant in Muslim countries. This partnership can be formed only by the creation of free trade zones, customs unions, and common economic areas.
Most Muslim countries have geostrategic importance as well as rich natural resources (e.g., natural gas and crude oil). These resources and strategic opportunities, however, are not being used effectively. In the Islamic world, 86% of the population's living standards fall below $2,000, 76% under $1,000, and 67% under $500 per year. When the Islamic world's total resources are considered,17 this is quite a paradox: Roughly half of the petrol consumed in the West is exported from the Islamic world, as is 40% of the world's agricultural production.18 Many economists and strategists freely admit that the world economy depends upon the Islamic world's oil and gas exports, in particular those of the Persian Gulf.19
The Persian Gulf holds two-thirds of the planet's discovered crude oil reserves. Data obtained from research concludes that Saudi Arabia alone holds 25.4% of the world's oil reserves, or 262 billion barrels. A further 11% is found in Iraq, 9.6 % in the UAE, 9.2 % in Kuwait, 8.6 % in Iran, 13% in other OPEC member states. The rest is distributed across the remainder of the world.20 Research commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy shows that between 2000 and 2020, oil exports from the area will increase by 125%.21 This means that the world will continue to meet most of its energy needs by imports from the Gulf region. Moreover, the Middle East has 40% of the global natural gas reserves; 35 % of these reserves are in the Gulf region.22 Algeria, Libya, and other North African countries have 3.7 % of the world's reserves.
The Caucasus and Central Asia are also rich in oil, natural gas, and other natural resources. For instance, Kazakhstan has between 10-17.6 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, and its natural gas reserves are estimated at between 53-83 trillion cubic feet. Turkmenistan has between 98-155 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, making it the fourth largest producer.23 Some other Muslim countries have valuable mineral resources. For instance, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are two of the world's leading gold producers. Turkey has one of the world's richest boron reserves, only recently discovered to be very important, and Tajikistan has the world's largest aluminum producing facilities.
These advantages will become more important in the twenty-first century, which some have already christened the "energy century." Energy is an essential element of modern society in terms of the military, industry, urbanization, and transport. Given that economic activity and manufacturing depend primarily upon energy, nations will do their best to achieve control over these energy resources. The Islamic world is not using its resources effectively, for many of its members lack the infrastructure and technology to increase the production and use their natural resources to develop themselves. Therefore, the resources' contributions to the country's economy are limited to export earnings. These countries do not have the means to process their own crude oil, use it in their industrial complexes, or to develop their industries. Worse still, some Muslim nations do not even have the necessary means to explore and research their natural resources or to discover and extract them. Explorations undertaken by foreign companies reveal that other Muslim nations have oil and gas reserves, but they cannot benefit from their resources.
Naturally, the ineffective use of natural resources is not the Islamic world's only economic problem. However, solving this problem can begin the process of solving many other problems. The economies of Muslim nations contain differences in structure and functioning. Some nations' economies depend upon mineral resources, such as the members of OPEC, while other nations' depend upon agriculture. These differences are also reflected, to some extent, in their social structures, such as the widely varying degrees of rural and urban populations. Developing complementary relationships and helping each other in their respective areas of expertise can turn these differences into a source of riches. All of this will be possible with the Islamic Union.
Joint ventures and project partnerships will be an important step in the right direction, for they will enable countries to benefit from one another's experiences and the income earned from investment projects will benefit all of the participating countries. Such mutual financial support is compatible with Islamic morality, for helping the needy and having a sense of social responsibility are important characteristics that Muslims strive to acquire. Many Qur'anic verses remind Muslims to watch over the needy.
Society's internal cohesion must be extended to international relations. As international cooperation within a partnership cannot be one-sided, employment and income levels will rise in both countries. For example, one country will produce oil and another one will process it, and agriculturally dependent countries will be able to import the food they need from agriculturally developed countries. A manpower-poor country will be able to help out a manpower-rich country that does not have enough jobs for its people. Rich countries can invest in poor countries to the benefit of both. Sharing know-how and experience will increase prosperity, and all Muslims will benefit from technological developments.
Joint ventures that realize the Islamic world's unification of opportunities and means will enable Muslims to produce hi-tech products. The Islamic common market will make it possible for Muslim-made products to be marketed in other Muslim countries without the hindrance of customs, quotas, and other cross-border obstacles. The marketplace will grow, the market share and exports of all Muslim nations will rise, industrialization will speed up, and economic development will bring progress in technology. When all of this comes to pass, Muslim nations will operate as a consortium against other investment groups and will become an important part of the global economy.
The living standards and wealth of Muslim nations will increase, and their existing inequalities will disappear. Some free trade agreements are already in place between countries in the Gulf, the Pacific Rim, and North Africa. Trade agreements signed by Turkey are already operational in the Islamic world. Bilateral cooperation exists in some regions; however, their scope must be widened. Such cooperation will safeguard the rights and interests of all Muslim nations and lead to all of them becoming developed—a result from which all of them will derive a far greater benefit than if they do not cooperate with each other.
All of these can be realized only under a central authority's leadership and coordination. Achieving this will be possible if Muslim nations adopt the Qur'an's values and the Prophet's (may God bless him and grant him peace) Sunnah, or, in other words, if they adopt Islamic culture. The Islamic Union must lead the way to this cultural awakening, as well as the resulting political and economic cooperation.
Mutual cooperation among Muslims, part of the Islamic code, must be adhered to by all Muslims, for God commands people to refrain from avarice and to guard the needy and support one another. In fact, destitute people have a due share of the believers' wealth (Qur'an, 51:19). As the Qur'an proclaims:
Those of you possessing affluence and ample wealth should not make oaths that they will not give to their relatives, the very poor, and those who have migrated in the way of God. Rather, they should pardon and overlook. Would you not love God to forgive you? God is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Qur'an, 24:22)
He who has plenty should spend from his plenty, but he whose provision is restricted should spend from what God has given him. God does not demand from anyone more than He has given it. God will appoint ease after difficulty. (Qur'an, 65:7)
Our Lord also reveals that believers are one another's guardians (Qur'an, 9:71). The word "guardian" conveys such meanings as friend, helper, mentor, and protector. It also expresses the importance of cooperation and solidarity between Muslim nations. The cooperation that will arise from this fraternal awareness between Muslim nations will bring prosperity and wealth to Muslims and eradicate poverty, an important problem of the Islamic world. Societies that follow the Qur'an's values will not experience famine, destitution, and poverty. Muslims will develop their nations by following rational and long-term policies, establishing good relations with other nations and people, valuing trade and development, and learning from other cultures' experiences. This was so in history and, God willing, under the Islamic Union's leadership it will be so once again.
Creating Peace and Security
Instability does not affect a given region alone; rather, it has a negative impact on the world as a whole. The Islamic world is one such region. Therefore, Muslim nations should not be considered as separate and independent entities. Tensions in the Middle East are felt in North Africa. Events in the Caspian region affect the future of the Middle East. What happens in the Persian Gulf has a direct bearing on Southeast Asia, which means that such apparently regional conflicts, troubles, and tensions are felt throughout the entire Islamic world. Naturally, the same is true for peace. For example, solving such long-term conflicts as the Arab-Israeli war would have a positive effect throughout the Islamic world.
Throughout the twentieth century, a major part of the Islamic world remained locked in continuous warfare, conflict, and instability. The resulting waste of resources nearly brought economic development to a stand-still, caused living standards to drop to rock-bottom, and most importantly, cost the lives of millions of Muslims. Even now, intra-Muslim disputes and conflicts continue and engender tensions from time to time. Wars and conflicts between Muslim and non-Muslim nations are a great source of instability and discontent. One significant benefit of the Islamic Union is the role that it will play in delivering peace and security to the Islamic world. The Islamic Union must resolve intra-Muslim disputes and conflicts, as well as overcome the wars, conflicts, and tensions between them and non-Muslim countries, by peaceful and reconciliatory means. For example, an Arab-Israeli peace would have the following benefits for the Islamic world:
• Peace would enable each country to reduce military expenditures and divert financial resources to wealth-creation in society. As all Muslim countries would be members of the joint defense pact, they would achieve greater security and stronger defenses with a smaller budget. Investments now being made in the arms industry and technology could be channeled into educational, scientific, and cultural development. Consider the following facts: The total arms expenditure of Middle Eastern countries in 1991, when the Gulf war broke out, was $70.7 billion. Arms spending dropped to $52.2 billion during the following years, but soon began to increase again. Military spending stood at $61 billion in 2000 and $72 billion in 2001.
• Present instability and conflicts in the Islamic world cause many of the region's doctors, engineers, academics, scientists, thinkers, and writers to migrate to the West, where they continue their work, for they do not feel secure in their home countries. Research reveals that this migration from Arab countries has cost the Islamic world $200 billion. In fact, 450,000 of these migrants are college or university graduates.24 An environment of peace will eliminate internal tensions and end this migration. As a result, the work and skills of highly educated individuals will primarily benefit Muslims.
• Peace also will enable Muslim nations to share their accumulated knowledge and expertise, combine their forces in every area, and help one another deal with their shortcomings. As a result, these nations will become far more effective in pursuing their national development plans.
• Economic development will gain momentum. At present, there are many disputes among Muslim nations, especially those involving borders, which only intensify economic problems. For instance, the source of the difficulties experienced in transporting and exporting trade goods is unsafe transport routes. This also is true for water, which is a major cause of conflict in the Middle East. Such conflicts could be resolved if Muslim countries would cooperate and resolve their disputes peacefully.
• Differences of culture and ethnicity will become a rich resource in an environment of peace, one that is characterized by tolerance and dialogue. People will be more open-minded and productive, and such a diverse cultural mix will enable the rise of a new civilization.
• Peace also will strengthen Muslims living outside of the traditional Islamic world. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in many non-Muslim countries. If these ethnically diverse groups of Muslims unite, they will further the spread of Islam and enable themselves to make a stronger cultural impression on their societies. The effectiveness of individual efforts made by small and separate Muslim communities is incomparable to the combined intellectual efforts made by a united alliance. Muslims of course will preserve their national identities; however, they will become a much stronger force if they act as one body guided by Islamic awareness and morality.
• A peaceful Islamic world will become a model for other countries, and existing conflicts will be resolved peacefully according to the example set by the Islamic world. Muslims will be living examples of finding peace and security when the Qur'an's values are practiced. In addition, they will bear witness to the fact that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. Peace in the Islamic world might even guide many people to Islamic morality.
Rebuilding a Spectacular Civilization
With the establishment of the Islamic Union, peace and security will take hold, economic problems will be resolved, and a massive cultural advancement will take place, for there will be growing budgets for education, science, and culture. In this way, Muslims will build a new civilization that will serve as a role model for the rest of the world. Practicing the unity and solidarity commanded by the Qur'an will cause its values to have a direct impact upon all Muslims' everyday life, art, decoration, fashion, medicine, science, and technology. Friendship and fraternal feelings will prosper, peace and order will rule social life, people will find more time to reflect and conduct research, and they will be more free-thinking and open-minded when they do so. Environments free of chaos, destitution, and troubles are places in which new ideas take shape, new products emerge, beneficial inventions are made, and continuing progress is achieved. The Islamic Union will create such an environment throughout the Islamic world.
In the book's first part, we examined the history of Islamic civilization. This civilization is an indicator of the environment in which future generations of Muslims will live. History shows that Muslims who practiced the Qur'an's values built a strong civilization that lasted for many centuries. In the Qur'an, God commands people to reflect, observe, and notice subtle details. Muslims are asked to ponder the beings in their surrounding environments, reflect on the order in which they live, and try to comprehend the wisdom behind it all. Our Lord says:
Have they not looked at the sky above them, how We structured it and made it beautiful, and how there are no fissures in it? And Earth, how We stretched it out, cast firmly embedded mountains onto it, and caused luxuriant plants of every kind to grow in it—an instruction and a reminder for every penitent human being. And We sent down blessed water from the sky and made gardens grow by it, and grain for harvesting and soaring date-palms with layered spathes. (Qur'an, 50:6-10)
Those who live by the Qur'an's values, who contemplate without coming under the spell of dogmas, false beliefs, or prejudices, ponder whatever they witness from all angles. As a result, they can see and consider ahead of their times. These qualities enable them to invent beneficial items for humanity and devise systems that ease the burdens of life and increase human comfort. The Islamic Union will open a new chapter in science and technology for the Islamic world, and, having acquired this vision, Muslims will build a civilization that produces science.
One area in which the Muslims' subtle thinking and deep awareness shows itself is art. At the core of art lie the abilities to reflect, notice subtleties, enjoy what is seen, and convey the resulting joy to others. The artistic awareness of someone who believes in and practices the Qur'an's values is of a superior nature, because Muslims consider art to be a godly form of beauty, and works of art as objects that reflect God's power and might and the magnificence in creation. In the Islamic world, artists are inspired by the beauty of God's creation and thus produce works of art that are both inspired by the Qur'an's values and have unequaled depth, talent and intellect. With the formation of the Islamic Union, far more works of art will be produced that reflect the Muslims' sense of art, cities will be made more beautiful, spectacular buildings will rise, and the quality of life will increase immensely.
Islamic nations will be known for their cleanliness, order, works of art, cultural achievements, and technological developments. Their inhabitants will benefit from the means and comforts provided by technology, for prosperity, wealth, and beauty will dominate every aspect of life. Muslims will always meet with beauty, for their homes, gardens, house decorations, clothing, music, entertainment, theaters, cinemas, paintings, and conversations will reflect their inner spiritual beauty.
For all of this to take place, however, a great awakening must occur. False traditions, social structures, and mentalities that hold Muslims back must be removed and replaced with a Qur'an-based vision and morality so that the union will be rational, decisive, vibrant, and open-minded—just as it was with the first generations of Muslims. Islam does not require abstinence from the world; rather, Muslims are required to comprehend the world's true nature and then light the path for all people to follow. It is the Muslims' right to enjoy the blessings of this world. Those who believe sincerely and live by God's commands will experience all of the beautiful things that God has revealed in the Qur'an, one of which is a good life on Earth, as follows:
What is with you runs out, but what is with God goes on forever. Those who were steadfast will be recompensed according to the best of what they did. Anyone who acts rightly, male or female, being a believer, We will give them a good life and will recompense them according to the best of what they did. (Qur'an, 16:96-97)
Introducing Others to Islamic Morality
"Let there be a community among you who calls to the good, enjoins the right, and forbids the wrong" (Qur'an, 3:104). One of the Muslims' important duties is to command goodness, prevent evil, and call people to Islamic morality. However, the present chaos and disorder in the Islamic world prevents Muslims from fulfilling this duty, even though many non-Muslims have an increasing interest in Islam and the Qur'an's values. God's existence and oneness, the basic tenets of Islam, our Prophet's (may God bless him and grant him peace) life, the Qur'an's commands, and how Islamic society should be structured have now become common topics in the West. As interested people naturally direct such questions toward Muslims, Muslims must be able to represent Islam in the best possible way. In the West, this means through professional audio-visual productions, conferences and meetings, and publications. Moreover, on an individual basis they must serve as role models to the people with whom they come into contact.
The Muslim Union is also necessary to resolve many problems caused by people's remoteness from religious morality. Circles that oppose religious morality work to make irreligion prevail and often coordinate their actions so that they can move forward in unison. Irrespective of how much their alliance is based on self-interest, their coordinated action makes it much easier for them to achieve their targets. Although every system of thought that opposes religious morality is destined to be defeated, Muslims must nevertheless engage these systems in a great ideological struggle to defeat them. For this reason, one of the Muslims' most urgent responsibilities is to drop their internal differences so that they can spread the Qur'an's values and invite people to the path of God. Our Lord reveals the believers' responsibility in this regard in the following verse:
Those who do not believe are the friends and protectors of one another. If you do not act in this way (protect each other), there will be turmoil in the land and great corruption. (Qur'an, 8:73)
The formation of the Islamic Union will increase the pace of all efforts made to spread the Qur'an's morality. As in many other areas, such a combined effort will be rewarded many times over, and true knowledge will reach all people far more quickly and in a much better manner. At present, Muslims are making individual as well as combined efforts to explain and spread Islam. However, the Islamic Union will make these efforts more practical and systematic. Furthermore, some people who claim to represent Islam but display aggression and crudeness, which are not part of Islam, will be defeated; true Islam will be defined; and the erroneous stereotypes created by certain people will be destroyed.
18. Islamic Countries have the resources to match the west, scientist”, Arabic News.com, 28 May 2000. Online at: www.arabicnews.com/ansub/ Daily/Day/000628/2000062848.html.
19. Anthony H. Cordesman and Arleigh A. Burke, “The Gulf and Transition: Executive Summary and Major Policy Recommendations” (October 30, 2000).
20. Anthony H. Cordesman and Arleigh A. Burke, “The US Military and the Evolving Challenges in the Middle East” (March 9, 2002), 3.
22. Ibid., 4.
23. Jim Nichol, “Central Asia’s New States: Political Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests,” CRS (Congressional Research Service) Issue Brief for Congress (June 13, 2003). Online at: www.ncseonline.org/NLE/CRS/abstract.cfm?NLEid=16833.
24. “$200 billion, Arab loses of brain-drain,” Arabic News.com, February 27, 2001. Online at: www.arabicnews.com/ansub/Daily/day/010227/2001022720.html.