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  • Writer's pictureAslam Abdullah

American Muslims, the Role of Mosques and Common Civilizational Values

By Dr. Abdullah Al- Ahsan

Building on our previous article, where we identified common civilizational values, we now delve deeper into their significance. These values, such as human dignity, individual right to education, self-determination, and respect for life, are not just abstract concepts. They have been recognized due to the attempts to create discord among us in the name of a clash of civilizations. In this article, we focus on the role and mechanism of practicing such values in early civilizations in history and their implications in America today.

The prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace be upon him), introduced these values in Madinah during the foundational period of Islamic civilization. Under the Prophet’s leadership, the mosque in Madinah was not only a place of worship but also a place for community members to organize charitable, educational, judicial, military, and political activities. History students will find similarities between the Prophet’s mosque and the role of Ziggurats in ancient Mesopotamia. One should also note that people from other civilizations conducted similar activities centering on pagodas, stupas, temples, and pyramids, not in the sense of their architectural design, but in terms of their overall role in the life of their respective civilizations. In other words, religious ideas were integral to governing cultural, economic, legal, political and social activities in all civilizations. Modernity, however, has reduced the role of religions in civic life due to the misuse and misrepresentation of religions in medieval Europe. Unfortunately, we are all subject to a misperception of religion in society today.

With this setting, imams and community leaders should contemplate on how they could translate prophetic teachings in America today. Given the protesting students on campuses, they should recognize that universal human dignity, a common civilizational value, has motivated them. Imams and community leaders should highlight that the prophetic message was not new in history; all early civilizations laid their foundation stones based on this idea of human equality and dignity, which they learned through divine guidance. This idea of the role of divine guidance in early civilizations is a question that would demand an in-depth examination of sources, and we shall undertake this discussion later. Nevertheless, imams should note that only a rational approach will enable them to reach out to non-Muslim students and communities, and we would like to emphasize that the Socratic Method of inquiry, as opposed to the Sophistic method of relativity, will guide us in the right direction.

Professor Abdullah al-Ahsan, a graduate of the University of Michigan, has dedicated nearly three and a half decades to teaching history, comparative civilization, and international relations in Pakistan, Malaysia, and Turkey. Currently residing in Chicago, he continues to contribute his expertise in academia.

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