New Directions for UMMA: Why, Whither, and When
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
The focus of the eleventh annual convention of the Universal Muslim Association of America in Dearborn, Michigan, during Memorial Day Weekend 2013 was a rousing epic of self-congratulation. Certainly it was far above the level of religious tribalism, but, unfortunately, it directed the attention of its many thousands of participants inwardly to serve the parochial benefit of Muslims, not outwardly to bring out the best of America for the good of the world.
The home page of http://www.UMAA-Advocay.net states that “The purpose of UMAA-Advocacy is the social, religious, economic, and political advancement of Muslims in the United States”.
Perhaps leaders among the younger generation of Muslims can unite Sunni and Shi’a in serving the interests of America by rehabilitating the role of religion in the world through the traditionalist vision of America’s Founders to provide a model of peace, prosperity, and freedom through the interfaith harmony of transcendent and compassionate justice.
Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the American Declaration of Independence, best represented this vision, even though several decades were required and an unnecessary war to de-legalize what in his first draft he called the “abomination of human slavery”. He was attacked as an atheist when he ran for office in 1800 for the first of his two terms as President of the United States, because, like the great majority of the Signers of the Declaration, he did not believe in the orthodox doctrine of the trinity.
Despite such accusations, Jefferson was perhaps America’s most profoundly religious president, other than George Washington, who rose at dawn every day all his life to pray and read the Bible and who prayed at regular intervals throughout the day, even if he had to interrupt a cabinet meeting. Of course, nowadays, he might be branded as a fanatic and potential terrorist.
Thomas Jefferson wrote, “A people can be free only if they are properly educated. Proper education means teaching and learning virtue. And no people can remain virtuous unless both the personal and public life of the individual person is infused with awareness and love of Divine Providence”, by which he meant God. Freedom for religion, rather than freedom from religion, was why he insisted that organized religion and organized political power must forever remain separated from each other. As an expert on Islam, he taught, in effect, that the Shi’i aberration of the wilayat al faqih or clerical rule is both un-Christian and un-Islamic.
Building a prospective model of Jefferson’s Abrahamic vision is the ultimate goal of the enlightened leaders in Qatar, where Muhammad Ali Chaudry and I are preparing to use our three-volume, one-thousand-page encyclopedic textbook, Islam and Muslims, to help provide a paradigmatic framework for Shaykha Moza’s Qatar Foundation and her twenty-year project for enlightened education.
Her vision is to bring the best of all civilizations and religions to Qatar in order to return the interfaith harmony of their wisdom to the world the way the Islamic civilization did a thousand years ago. If the various ummat can do this in Qatar, which has always been a khaliji blend of Western culture from Arabia and Eastern culture from Persia, why can’t Muslims do this in America? Why are they missing this once-in-a-millenium opportunity?
This was my message as a plenary speaker at UMMA’s first few conventions in the aftermath of 9/11 in pursuit of the vision of Nasir Shamsi and other early founders. The time has come, in sha’a Allah, for Muslims to rehabilitate the universal mission of both classical Islamic and classical American thought and action at a time of unique opportunities for axial transformation at every level from the individual person to the community of humankind.
Always remember Allah’s message in Surah Ali Imran 3:54, and also in Surah al Anfal 8:30 and Surah al Ra’d 13:42, “And [the unbelievers] plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah”. Further, Allah, subhana wa ta’ala, tells us in Surah al An’am 6:125, “Those whom Allah in His plan wants to guide, He opens their breast to Islam”, meaning, as clearly stated in the Qur’an, those who believe in God and in divine justice as a continuum of this life and the next and who practice good works.
We are encouraged in Surah Ali Imran 3:26 as follows: “Say: O Allah! Lord of Power. You give power to whom You please, and You strip off power from whom You please. You endow with honor whom You please, and You bring low whom You please. In Your hand is all Good. Verily, over all things You have power”.
In my book, Shaping the Future: Challenge and Response, 159 pages, published in 1997 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, by my Center for Civilizational Renewal, I remind all colleagues in my profession of long-range global forecasting that God creates what He wills. In surahs Ali Imran 3:47, Al Nahl 16:40, and Miryam 19:35, He reminds us that when He has decreed a plan, He but says, “be”, and it is. “Kun fa yakun”.