Q. Often observe that Muslims hide behind their inefficiency by saying ‘Qadar Allah (swt)’. We know that trust in Allah (swt) demands time; however, people do not use their full potential and when they fail, they simply say that it was fate. What is the correct stand on this?
Well, no doubt their failure is Qadar Allah (swt) but it does not mean that Allah (swt) made them fail. They failed, because they did not do what was necessary to succeed. For Allah (swt) to have given them success despite their inefficiency or lack of efforts, then that would encourage us in that way. Hence, Allah (swt) may give to some people, who do very little, the success and those, who do a lot – failure. However, generally those, who are successful, have made considerable efforts, and those, who have failed, did not make the necessary efforts. It is a simple cause and effect principle.
Our efforts do have a role to play, and we are told to make the necessary efforts. In fact, the Prophet (sa) has said that Allah (swt) loves it that whenever we do anything, we do it to the best to our ability. Perfection or the best practice is a part of Islamic teachings.
Q. It seems that the believers come under Allah’s (swt) wrath more prominently than the disbelievers in ethnic disputes, earthquakes, floods, etc., even though apparently both are indulging in disobedience. Should we deduce that Allah (swt) has higher expectations of the believers? Also, does He deal with both believers and disbelievers in the same manner?
Muslims do face a lot of trials nowadays, be it a crane accident in Makkah (2015 Hajj) or a natural disaster. Prophet Mohammad (sa) said that the prophets received more difficult trials in life than others. Hence, the stronger ones face the most difficult trials, because the purpose of the trials is to purify them, to strengthen them and to raise their status. However, the reality is of course is that trial hits everybody, believers and disbelievers. Although I mentioned the crane accident in Makkah, we can find similar accidents happening also in the non-Muslim world: earthquakes and storms, as a result of which people are losing their lives and homes are destroyed.
If we were to have a life, in which believers would not be affected by any calamities, then everyone would become a believer. Because we are similar to everybody else and are affected by the same problems, belief in God becomes an effort. We have to make an effort to believe, and that is what Allah (swt) wants from us – this effort is what makes us grow spiritually. Believers will be patient in the times of difficulty, and ultimately our lives will be better than the lives of those, who do not have that consciousness of Allah (swt) and get impatient, frustrated and depressed in times of trials.
Q. What are the factors that inspire you to keep focused?
The inspirational factor for me is the success that the Muslim Ummah has achieved in the past thirty years in the awakening process, which is going on across the Muslim world. It inspires me, it encourages me and drives me to be a part of that awakening to help the Ummah reach its proper role in terms of contributing to modern civilization in our times and in the times to come.
Allah (swt) has blessed the efforts that I have made in the field of education. The moto of my university (the Islamic Online University) is changing the nation through education, and, Alhumdulillah, we have been able to provide an access to Islamic knowledge, which normally would not have been available to the masses of people. Over the past seven years, we have managed to register more than 250,000 students in our online courses. Knowledge is being disseminated on a scale, which was unimaginable some decades ago. So this success of the Islamic Online University further inspires me to reach greater heights and to see, as people say, that sky is the limit. We do not know, how far and how wide this effort can reach, and we do not need to know it. We are utilizing whatever avenues are available to make this knowledge more and more accessible, in order to provide all of the possible disciplines, which could be taught online. The Islamization of education existed in the past – I am inspired by our great scientists and thinkers of the past, who contributed to the future, and, as a result, the Muslim Ummah was recognized as a source of development, progress and benefit to the world.
Q. Is it possible to deliver Islamic knowledge online, without the standard parameters and decorum of a proper Islamic setting?
I believe it is quite possible: Islamic knowledge is transferrable through books, TV, radio, online videos and face to face tutoring. Now one may say that a face to face conveyance of Islamic knowledge may have a great impact on people, because they see their teacher, they see their behavior, and what they learn from their character is more that can be gained through distance learning online, you could say that they are efficient to that degree. However, that does not mean that Islamic knowledge cannot be delivered through these electronic and other means. Similarly, you can take the example of books. Before books were written, the same question could have been asked: is it possible to deliver Islamic knowledge through books, without the standard parameters in decorum of Islamic setting? Books simply were a technological development by way of which knowledge was stored and passed on, without the teacher actually having to be there to deliver it. And we have not suffered from writing down of the knowledge that Prophet Muhammad (sa) encouraged the Sahabahs to write.
Q. What challenges do Muslims face today in the imparting and implementation of Islamic education?
Well, this is a big topic, and in this brief interview I do not think I could possibly really do it justice. However, among the main challenges in my view is that we still have not managed to create an Islamic process for education. What we call Islamic education tends to refer only to the Quranic Arabic and Islamic studies, whereas the rest of education (the modern education) is viewed as a separate entity. However, in reality, these two need to be integrated. All of our subjects need to be taught from an Islamic perspective, and until we achieve this, we will not have a truly Islamic education. We are on the way, and a lot of new developments have taken place, but we still have a long way to go for establishing this truly Islamic all-encompassing education.
One of the big challenges that we need to tackle in a systematic manner is bringing morality back into the classroom. In every class, a moral message should be given, which is appropriate to the age level of the students.
Another major challenge is dealing with the traditional approach for teaching Islamic education. It tends to be a norm across the Muslim world that the teaching of the Quran is conveyed with a stick, where Molvi, Moulana, Mulla, Sheikh or Ustad feel that the only way the children will learn the Quran is if you beat them. This is not from the Prophetic way, it is not from that generation of the Sahabah or the Tabaeen.
This practice began many years after their time and has become a standard practice today. So there is a lot of physical abuse going on in the Madrassa systems and Islamic schools that needs to be cleaned up. As I said, this is a huge topic, and I have only mentioned the surface.
Q. Where does the Islamic Online University stand in comparison to Madrassas? What makes it different?
The Islamic Online University combines the traditional areas of study in our Shariah. The courses are taught in English as opposed to Arabic. We also include in the curriculum a number of modern subjects (taught from an Islamic perspective) that a graduate of an Islamic institution needs to have a command of, in order to effectively convey and utilize the gained knowledge. These additional subjects distinguish Islamic Online University. Moreover, we offers these additional subjects as actual degree subjects in psychology, education, Islamic banking and finance, information technology, business administration as well as Arabic.