My dear Muhammad Ali: I'm sure you thought that I was going to write about the coming of Obama, but what is there to say when everyone and their aunt are holding forth with great verbiage and hyperbole? A leader is judged only and only by his results, not his rhetoric. Not even by his actions and deeds but to the results they lead to. If his actions result in improving the human condition, then he is a success; if not, he is a failure regardless of the beauty of his rhetoric, his panoply and fanfare or the megatonage of his bombs. It's too early. So lets get back to Part II of your grandfather Mr Altaf Gauhar's 36-year old article on the future of the Muslims. Next week will be the last, Part III. Then I might think of holding forth on Obama myself. "The future of Muslims in the modern world cannot be considered in isolation. We have first to consider the future of man. The future of Muslims can be considered only as part of the general problem of the future of mankind on this planet. The secular civilisation of the West is facing a grave crisis and its entire institutional framework is in a state of collapse. It is against this perspective that one should consider the problem of Muslims in the world today. "There are two ideas about Islam that have been widely propagated by some of the Orientalists and Western political thinkers. The first of these is that the history of the Muslims over the last 1,300 years presents a dismal spectacle of forceful subjugation of people, suppression of all freedoms, and an inherent inability to assimilate other cultures into a broad Islamic culture. The second is that Islam has no future in the modern world because it has failed to evolve any institution that could ensure its continuity. Even a system of succession for the smooth and peaceful transfer of power was never developed and the central authority always found it difficult to establish a fair and workable relationship with outlying territories. Islamic rule has been dictatorial and centralised. Most of the Islamic rulers succumbed to visions of personal glory and the restraints of shariah were used, with the help of obliging scholars, to maintain autocratic control. Some of the Muslim rulers openly flouted the shariah and subservient ulema were always available to justify their conduct in the name of the unity of the ummah. The case of Alauddin (1296-1316) is quoted [by M Mujeeb in Indian Muslims p 73] to show how Muslim rulers issued commands according to their own whims that were not always in conformity with the requirements of the shariah. "I do not know whether such commands are permitted or not by the shariah. I command what I consider to be of benefit to my country and what appears to me opportune under the circumstances. I do not know what God will do with me on the Day of Judgement." Mujeeb, to whom I owe this quotation, makes an important point when he says that some of the ulema identified the right of a Muslim ruler with his power, and obedience to a ruler was turned into almost a religious duty for the Muslims while the ruler was under no obligation to the people and could be deprived of authority only if he apostatised. 'This plunged orthodox Muslim thought into gross inconsistencies, wrecked its moral position and proved, both in India and elsewhere, disastrous to the Muslim community'. The failure of the Muslims to maintain the unity of the ummah, except for a brief period, is a favourite theme with Western historians. Not very long after the death of the Prophet [PBUH], 'was seen a curious spectacle of four different standards planted near Mecca, belonging respectively to four chiefs, each of whom was a pretender to the empire: the standard of Abdullah Bin Zubair, Caliph of Mecca; that of the Caliph of Damascus, Abdul Malik; that of Ali's son, Mohammed Bin-AI-Hanafaya, Mehdi of the Shiites; and that of the Kharajites, who were at that time under the command of Najda Bin Amir' - [Encyclopedia Britannica]. "Not all that is said by Western scholars about Islamic history and the conduct of Muslim rulers is untrue. There is no doubt that the ummah was disrupted not as a result of conflicting interpretations of the Islamic doctrine but mainly as a result of the struggle for power. There were Muslim scholars who played a dubious and not infrequently subservient role, in their eagerness to interpret Islam to suit the wishes of the rulers. There is no denying that Islamic history contains several depressing instances of ruthlessness and suppression. Force was used by many rulers to promote their own cause rather than the cause of Islam. As the earlier commitment to Islam weakened, pursuit of power became an end in itself and the Muslims, while continuing to profess that they belonged to a religion which represented the ultimate ideal for mankind, alienated themselves from the essentials of their faith. Muslim rulers, with few exceptions, played power politics, while the people were made to endure humiliation and exploitation in the name of Islam. "This is one side of the picture. The other side is that Islam brought to mankind, in the seventh century AD, a message of hope and freedom and this message spread from one end of the world to the other in an incredibly short time. The Muslims displayed unique dedication to a cause and established profound identification with a common faith and community. 'Islam acquired its characteristic ethos as a religion, uniting in itself both the spiritual and temporal aspects of life, in seeking to regulate not only the individual's relationships to God (through his conscience) but human relationships in a social setting as well. Thus there is not only an Islamic religious institution but also an Islamic law, state and other institutions governing society'. "Western sociologists have tried to explain the spread of Islam due to causes such as lack of protein in the diet of the people in certain areas, facilities for widow marriages and certain other socio-economic inequities that Islam helped to remove. The facts, however, show that the achievements of Islam during the first few centuries were unparalleled in the history of man. Not just in terms of the areas which came under the influence of Islam, but in the liberation of the human mind and the development of human personality under the impact of Islamic ideology and the life of the Prophet [PBUH]. Granted that the Muslims have been in a state of stagnation for the last five centuries. How does one infer from this that Islam is the cause of this stagnation or that Islam has nothing more to offer to mankind? The laws of the rise and fall of nations and the growth and decline of societies cannot be limited in their application to a few centuries. "Islam continues to be the only ideology available to man for his fulfilment. Capitalism, socialism, and communism are not ideologies; they are at best strategies of economic growth. None of them profess to deal with the problems of creation, life after death, the existence of the soul, and contentment of the mind. To them all these aspects of life are irrelevant. They concentrate on theories of development and on programmes for the material advancement of man in the context of the present. Even future generations have only a marginal relevance to these material strategies. Western scholars assume that the Muslims, being economically backward, must be facing a great dilemma: how to reconcile a lagging faith with the march of science. They evaluate Muslim history in purely material terms. So long as the Muslims were in power, which is, from the Western point of view, the hallmark of superiority and progress, they were regarded as dynamic. The moment they lost political power, and were subjugated by more forceful adversaries, they were condemned as a stagnant people. Once Muslim power declined the Western historians rejected the Muslim faith and culture as of no consequence. Our own thinkers today look for Islamic culture not in the essentials of their faith, but in clay, pigments, arches, rhythm and movement. "Islamic culture exists within the framework of its belief and can be seen only in relation to the code of life propagated by the Prophet. Tauheed is the root of Islamic culture, and it is this idea more than any other, which had the effect of releasing man from the bondage of man. The human mind found its final emancipation in the completion of divine revelation. Thereafter, man was free to exercise all his creative faculties without having to accept the status of subservience in relationship to any other man. The finality of the Prophet [PBUH] signified a fundamental cultural advance in human history. The other essential elements in Islamic culture are: i). balance and moderation and ii). personal accountability in a framework of complete justice. Material pursuits as an end in themselves have no place in Islamic culture. 'This craze for competing with others to acquire as much of the world as you can has plunged you in a stupor, and there you remain till you are lowered in your grave'. (102:2)." The writer is a senior political analyst E-mail: