By Ahmad Fathan Aniq

The future of Islam is an interesting issue to be discussed. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and moreover after the attack of 11 September on the twin World Trade Center buildings, Islam has been considered as a threat to the peaceful world and at the same time some people have regarded it as a new rebirth. Shortly after the terrible tragedy, many people wanted to know more about Islam and its teachings which legalize, if true, such kinds of inhuman action. Many books have been written and published regarding the tragedy either by those who blamed Islamic teachings as the main cause or by those who tried to explain that Islam is a tolerant religion.

Meanwhile, many universities in Western countries have opened studies of Islam and Muslim communities. In these universities, scientists try to understand the sociological aspects of Muslim communities and try to predict the future of Islam. In this short article, I also want to give my opinion on what the future of Islam over the next decade is.

When we talk about the golden era of a certain community, usually we refer to the time when the community became the most civilized community in the world. In this respect, each community will compete with other communities. It has long before the WTC attack, when Samuel P. Huntington proposed his thesis about the clash of civilization. In his book, he says that people’s cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world. According to this view, the world must be understood as distinct cultures and civilizations which have a very different way of looking at reality. Furthermore, Huntington regarded Islam as the foundation of a unique civilization. This is not surprising since Islam rules everything which is conducted by Muslims. Everything from political aspects to the manner of entering toilets has been determined by Islam. Of course, Islam tends to be a huge civilization and will be a main competitor of the United States of America, in which Huntington bestowed his thesis, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

To some extent, Huntington’s thesis is true. Most communities usually have their own motto which says that the community will triumph. This includes Islam. Muslims have mottos such as “Al-Islamu ya’lu wa la yu’la ‘alaih” which means Islam will be the winner and no one will be its superior. However, I think what Huntington proposed only shows the inclusive aspects of communities. It will create a sharper clash of civilization. Why do we not promote the supportive competition of civilization, instead of the clash of civilization, which is more humanistic?

Islam has existed since the sixth century. Throughout this time, Islam has proven itself that it is a flexible religion as can be seen in the saying: “Al-Islamu sholihun likulli zamanin wa makanin” which means Islam is fine in every time and place. That people convert to Islam is one of the interesting phenomena of this religion. While in modern societies religious adherents tend to leave their religions, on the contrary, many people convert to Islam.  

Muhammad Imarah states that this phenomenon happens because of the moderate aspect of Islam, not because of its strict understanding which is usually shown by fundamentalist (scripturalist) Muslims. The moderate Islamic understanding promotes social justice, tolerance, egalitarianism, a prosperous society, respecting religious pluralism and diversity of cultures. Although these aspects are mostly found in Western countries, they are also the goals of Islam. Moreover, many Muslims are now living in the West. They will study these positive aspects and will apply them in other Muslim communities. Therefore, I believe that in the next ten years, if Muslims keep in performing these moderate understandings of Islam, many people will be interested in Islam and Islam will find its high-lost civilization.

Leiden, 16 November 2007