United in our Identity
It seems there’s a hot topic of discussion taking place amongst Muslims today, huge amounts of thought and awareness built upon practical suggestions for change. Analysis about what’s gone wrong and clear detailed solutions on how to fix the situation. Deep enlightened thinking is being exercised here however we are talking about the decline of Manchester United.
Some say (as Gary did) Utd have lost their identity, others say that Moyes have taken a league winning side and made them into Everton (Everton ironically doing better after he left). He’s not cut out to lead teams to success, he doesn’t have the tactics, he cannot properly plan against opponents, he’s taken good players and played them out of position, he’s spent huge sums of money but on the wrong type of players etc. These are just some of the complaints raised about the dire situation of Utd.
However this raises interesting similarities to another topic of discussion that of the situation of the ummah.
Indeed the Muslims were for a number of centuries seen as the leading nation in the world even under different dynasties the successes continued just as Man Utd had continued to be successful with different iterations of their team. And just as Man Utd have now declined we too have seen a decline in the ummah after a long period of success.
Splits, claims of rifts in the utd camp is comparable to the splits and division we see in the Muslim Ummah. People love to support those who are successful and now that United are no longer seen as one of the best in the EPL new fans are moving towards other clubs, emerging football markets like china would now rather support liverpool or Chelsea than Man United. Similarly when the Muslims were the leading nation, whole regions would enter the deen to be part of the leading nation. As the decline took grip people began looking towards other leading nations like Western European countries or the US.
I don’t mean to lower the discussion of reviving the ummah with comparisons to a football club and although understanding the problem and solutions to the Muslims is a vast detailed discussion there are interesting similarities.
The problem of identity
It’s said that a football team needs an identity, a way of playing that unifies the team, that provides a framework by which the players engage within a system. Are they a pressing team, short slick passes, long ball, counter attacking side, pace with wingers? By understanding the underlying philosophy unified the players to work as a team. This is one criticism of Moyes that he’s lost United’s identity and hasn’t a unified way of playing.
Similarly what’s the identity of the Muslim ummah? What does Islam mean? Particularly when it comes to politics and state? Some push for capitalism, others for socialism and others a vague notion of an Islamic society. The lack of clarity of what it means to have an Islamic society results in people pulling the society in different directions and different calls for laws some of which are clearly contradictory resulting in a lack of a cohesive society. That instability, lack of cohesion and confusion can be taken advantage of by competing powers and opponents alike.
Clearly then the solution is to develop a clear philosophy that people believe in and from it understand what is expected of them when they engage together. Laws, policies, priorities and direction of the society would then be harmonised with the people based on an underlying philosophy. Naturally then Islam would be that harmonising philosophy, basis of the state thus providing a particular identity again to the Muslim ummah.
Thoughts are the greatest wealth of any nation
The problem for Moyes isn’t the availability of funds. Man Utd represent one of the richest clubs in the world who have acquired about £80 million worth of players since Moyes took charge, yet even then with such wealth at hand the success hasn’t been forthcoming.
The Muslim world doesn’t lack wealth either, approximately 70% of the worlds known oil reserves exist in the Muslim lands so does 49% of worlds known gas reserves. In addition the Muslim world has a wealth of precious and rare metals, in fact pretty much every resource exists within the vast Muslim world.
So wealth isn’t the problem, rather it’s how to utilise that wealth to realise a particular goal. That requires ideas and thoughts. E.g. should natural monopolies like oil, gas or coal be privatised or maintained as public resources. If they are maintained as public resources what are the prioritisation of the use of that wealth? What investment is needed in the short term to produce long term benefits?
The key problem isn’t the lack of wealth but the thoughts and crystallised planning to direct that wealth which then yields benefit for the ummah. And these thoughts are that which stems from the Quran and the sunnah.
It’s not an individual problem but a problem of leadership
I doubt anyone would say the solution to Man United is for each player to perfect themselves and that through individual improvement they’ll win as a team. Rather the need for management to develop, train and establish the tactics for the players is essential. This is exemplified by Ferguson who when he took over the club some 27 years ago realised that he had to rebuild the whole team as well as the youth team, scouts and coaching staff. He realised that to develop players and the team as a whole it required strong leadership that develops a system which would bring out the best in the individuals. The fact that the same team that won the EPL title last year are now languishing in mid table shows the importance of leadership.
The central problem of the Muslim ummah is related to leadership. The problem of the ummah won’t be solved through just individual development in isolation to the wider society. In fact the problem of individuals development is a subset problem of the system. E.g. corruption affecting Muslims in the Muslim world is sometimes seen as a problem of the individual. Some believe to solve this problem one needs to work on changing the individual. However individuals become corrupt due to a number of external factors such as mass poverty, lack of confidence in the political system, corrupt leadership that weaken confidence in the rule of law etc. Individuals are almost forced to become corrupt due to operating within an endemically corrupt system.
Ferguson faced a similar problem at the beginning of his management at Man Utd. He faced a drinking culture that had developed from the management and it was affecting the performance of the players. He implemented a strict regiment and those players who didn’t abide by his rules were removed like Paul McGrath and Gordon Strachan.
Similarly an endemic problem that affects individuals within the Unmah requires a systematic solution implemented by a sincere leadership.
As a final remark many Muslims can produce deep enlightened and critical thinking when their interests lie in particular areas. For instance how Muslim youth can talk about football in such a detail that they could be classified as having ijaza in the field? They pursue articles written on the subject watch football matches and have post match discussions.
If however this same level of thinking was utilised for the Ummah thinking on the basis of the Quran and Sunnah, pursuing the news then we’d see a generation of capable Islamic politicians who have the capacity to potentially reverse the decline of the Muslims by the permission of Allah (SWT).
By Sharif Abu Laith
Source: Sharif Abu Laith – Lessons for Muslims from David Moyes’ situation at Manchester United