The writer is a media studies student with experience in journalism.
There is a guiding principle in global politics that nations do not have allies, they only have interests. This is being observed by the normalization of bilateral relations between Israel and UAE and soon other Arab countries. Both countries share no geographical, cultural or religious ties but have been united by narrow interests and a common adversary in Iran.
The concept of the Ummah is an essential principle that Muslims are united as a single community. In modern times, we were given the concept of a ‘Muslim world’ which was an essentialist but misleading viewpoint. There are more than 50 Muslim-majority countries in the world today but centuries of disagreements have led to sectarian differences and numerous political and economic models.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia became an absolute monarchy in 1932 whereas Shia-majority Iran introduced the concept of ‘Vilayat-e-Faqih’ after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Others like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Malaysia have parliamentary democracies while some are still secular societies. There is still no common ground or agreement on what constitutes an Islamic form of governance.
These agreements are not new but span centuries of conflict and bloodshed. Just a few years after the Holy Prophet (PBUH), there was strife and conflict which shattered the unity of the Muslim Ummah. During the era of Hazrat Ali, the Battle of Camel took place which was the first civil war in Islam and subsequently the Caliphate was tuned into vast transnational empires.
In the 20 Century, there has been a wide range of political development which shows that the Muslim Ummah remains disorganized, disenfranchised and disunited.
Most Muslim countries do not tolerate dissent or grant even basic human rights to its citizens. The OIC which was set up as a platform to raise voice for Muslims remains effectively dead. This makes one wonder whether the Muslim world is indeed a fallacy.
If the Muslim world was united, we would not be seeing the decades-long hostilities between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Saddam Hussain would not have invaded Kuwait, and the Iran-Iraq war would not have taken place. Neither would have Pakistan launched an operation leading to the liberation of Bangladesh, nor would there be the numerous proxy wars that have set the entire Middle East in flames.
Saudi Arabia and its allies imposed a blockade with another Arab country Qatar and have launched a war in impoverished Yemen. Libya is on the verge of becoming a failed state due to ongoing conflict in which some countries such as Turkey are backing the government and Arab states are supporting the warlord Haftar. In Syria, Bashar Al-Asad remains in power despite years of strife despite efforts to topple him, while Turkey has bombed Kurds due to long-standing conflict.
Muslim countries today are seeking ties based on their interests. This explains why Arab states are increasing ties with India and establishing relations with Israel, Pakistan has tied its future with China, and Syria is being backed by Russia. Pan-Islamic notions have been triumphed by nationalism as we cannot remain basking in the glory of an Islamic golden age which declined centuries ago.
Many Muslim leaders starting cultivating a theory on reformation based on a holistic history and culture but this led to discontent in the contemporary world. These bitter divisions are hampering the progress of Muslim countries. We need to overcome injustices and problems by relying on our connections and shared values, rather than narrow interests.