I’ve been to Pakistan many times, and on each occasion, I have learnt something new. However, what makes this trip unique is that it’s the first time I’ve come for ‘work’. In meeting, greeting, and sharing ideas with the many movers and shakers from the da’wah and Islamic activism scene, these interactions have left me inspired since the minute we landed.
Our vision at Islam21c is to see Muslims empowered and impacting the world. So when I was invited to visit Pakistan as part of Sabeel and Sapience Institute’s retreat, Visionaries: Successful Dawah for the 21st Century, it was a no-brainer.
Turkey → Pakistan → Where next?
We had only just launched this retreat in Turkey last November, and it has since been requested in several other countries. Three months later, here we are in Pakistan.
This is an unrivalled opportunity to travel through different cities, meet many grassroots and national organisations, work towards our vision, and put our principles into practice.
Just to remind readers, what are these principles?
- Religious pride and practice
- An Ummah mindset
- Excellence of character
- Serving society
- Championing heritage
- Promoting excellence
What makes Pakistan so propitious?
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a very interesting construct.
Forged in the carnage of British colonialism, its proponents believed it necessary to protect Muslims from the brutality engineered by the empire’s ‘divide and rule’ policies.
The scourge of modern India’s Hindutva far-right ethnonationalism arguably serves as a stark vindication to the foresight with which Pakistan was created.
Regardless of one’s opinion about the history of this young nation, one thing is clear: Islam and Muslimness are integral to the country’s sense of self.
That identity, however, has always struggled with competing narratives from within and externally.
Centuries ago, the father of sociology, Ibn Khaldūn, described how defeated peoples imitate their conquerors and begin to feel that their vanquishing was due to an inherent superiority of their conquerors and/ or inferiority in their own values.
This, coupled with continued neo-imperialist policies from foreign powers, has meant that Pakistan’s soul has been a battleground between those who want to keep Islam central to it, and those who want to replace it with customs, tastes, and beliefs of the colonising ‘master race’.
As a result, the likes of atheism (or Western paganism), liberalism, white supremacy, and ‘LGBT’ ideology are a few of the common phenomena and debates that increasingly come up in places like Western-funded schools, university campuses, advertising, politics, TV dramas, and wider culture.
If Muslims are to be sufficiently confident and empowered as to imprint a positive impact on the world around them, they need to embrace their roles as stewards of Allah, as per Islam’s vision for humanity, rather than being pleasure-seeking, pain-avoiding dominators of nature, as per the competing narrative.
And that is why we are here.
Resources require a visionary mindset
This Ummah has huge potential and resources, and that includes Pakistan.
There are so many amazing projects and organisations doing amazing work, but we need to ensure that they succeed and are operating with vision and strategy.
As Shaykh Dr. Haitham al-Haddad said,
“I realised long ago that this Ummah has everything in terms of resources, but our main challenge is management.”
In the conversations I’ve had so far with organisations that have been resisting the neo-colonial onslaught from foreign powers and propagandists, I was humbled to learn that they benefited from reading and following Islam21c’s chronicling and guidance for how the Muslim community in the UK came together to respond to similar attempted coercion in the last decade or so.
Whether it was looking at responses to the ‘erudite critiques of Islam’ in crayon by Islamophobic journalists, the spreading of specious arguments, proselytising of LGBT ideology to children, or good old-fashioned white supremacy and racism, it is somewhat encouraging for our brothers and sisters to know that others have been through similar challenges.
And they are doing an amazing job, māshāAllah.
We have met youth groups that are doing incredible work in college and university campuses across the country; and we have visited unique mosques and organisations where imams, khatībs, and teachers – despite hailing from different schools of thought – are united in working on social, economic, and political change.
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The future is bright, inshāAllah, and Muslims around the world need to take note.
I will be chronicling our journey and meetings on our social media channels, sharing regular reflections and updates, inshāAllah. So stay tuned!