Dr. Syed Habeeb Ashruf
1301, Lincoln Woods Drive
Baltimore, MD 21228
410-747-3534 (Home)
[email protected]

“These final days and hours before the deadline, is, perhaps a time to recall the long road which has brought us to this point —not the one that began last August but rather the one that leads back more than one thousand years to when Islam’s armies first invaded Europe. The road winds through the middle ages, the councils of Europe in the middle ages—not unlike Congress this week-end debating whether to commit armed forces to a crusade. They did!

Then came the counter Crusades—Suleiman the magnificent in the 16th century marching his armies to the gates of Vienna to defeat the infidel.
Then came the counter offensive, Western imperialism in the Middle East–
Then came oil, Arab nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism.

What we are seeing on our television screens has happened before:
Our fleet in the Persian Gulf was preceded, by the Battleship New Jersey off Lebanon’s coast a few years ago,
which was preceded by Napoleon’s fleet off the shores of Egypt,
which was preceded by the Crusaders’ ships off the Holy Land.

So what we remember these days is the longest—running saga of confrontation and clashes between two worlds—the Arab Muslims verses the Western Judeo-Christian. We like to think, of course, that we are masters of our destiny, so do Saddam Hussein, George Bush, and the members of Congress – but it looks as if more than one thousand years of history is about to be, for both sides, our destiny once again”. Meet the press, Garrick Utley January 13, 1991.

After the Desert Storm I was very depressed and dejected. I was very sad on the plight of Muslims. For six months I did not switch on my TV. I did not read any newspaper. Somewhere in July/August 1991, a relative and friend of mine visited us. One day, after dinner late in the evening we were talking about the condition of Muslims. I was rather pessimistic. He said, who is an optimist, do not worry leave to Almighty God. Islam is His choice for us, give time He will take care. He pointed out certain things which happened in the 20th century, and said Islam is on the rise and there is no return. I was convinced. I started to get material to prepare for this talk It took me a year or so.

For the very first time I gave this talk at the Islamic Society of Dale in Virginia under the title of “Muslim Ummah in Transition.” Subsequently I gave the above title.

In this presentation, I am venturing to cover a period of a little over 200 years. I took the starting point of 1776, when this country declared independence. This presentation also highlights the genesis of Muslim presence in the West in general, specially, in Western Europe, UK, Canada, and USA in particular. My yesterday begins in 1776 and ends in 1944. Today starts in 1945 and ends today i.e. 1994. My tomorrow will start from tomorrow and wind through the year 2025 and beyond. In the life of a nation a period of 50 years or 100 years is just like half an hour to an hour in one’s life.

My talk is Muslim Ummah, yesterday, today and tomorrow. It is not Islam, past, present, and future. Islam is the same as pure and pristine as it was in the past, as it is in the present, or will be in the future. Only, it is the Muslim Ummah which is variable.

To deal with this topic, one has to focus on four areas as below:

  1. The West, specifically North Western Europe, United Kingdom, Canada, and USA in particular
  2. Saudi Arabia
  3. Iran
  4. Elsewhere in the world particularly Turkey

Why should we consider the west? We have to consider the West from two perspectives. One is the historical perspective, and the other is the prevailing reality.

Historically in the past Muslims entered Europe, at first from the south (mainly Moors). After establishing themselves in Spain in 711, Muslims reached a place called Poiters, 40 miles south of Paris In 732.

Had the Muslims won the battle of Tours, wrote Edward Gibbon in the Decline and Fall of Roman Empire “Perhaps, the interpretation of Quran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet”. There would be no Christian Europe. Poitiers, said Gibbon, was “An encounter which would change the history of the world.” It is worthy to note that, Edward Gibbon, in spite of his disdain for Islam, had thought it necessary to devote nine of the seventy-one chapters of The Decline and fall of the Roman Empire to Islam.

I want you to note the cycle of seven hundred years. After a little over seven hundred years Muslims entered Europe from the east and conquered Constantinople in 1453.Vienna was under Muslim siege, not once but twice (1529 and 1683).

On 11th September 1683 the Ottoman’s were defeated in Vienna.

Europeans might say that the Muslims invaded Europe at first from the South then from the East. Now I argue after another 700 years we are here in the Western Europe for the first time. We did not invade, in a way we are here by invitation..

Why should we consider Saudi Arabia? We should consider Saudi Arabia, because it is the heartland of Islam. Islam originated and was completed there. Incidentally that heartland of Islam should not be called Saudi Arabia. It is not a piece of real estate of a family. The sovereignty of that land belongs to Almighty God. It should be called Dar-ul-Islam.

Why should we consider Iran? Iran represents the Shi’a world. Moreover Iranian revolution is a landmark in Islamic history. May Almighty God have mercy on Ayatullah Khumaini, who put Islam in the forefront in the modern era.

In Iran the religious scholarship went to the bright and brilliant, whereas, in the Sunni world the religious scholarship was delegated to the poor and down-trodden. In Iran the religious institutions remained the nerve centers and heartthrob of Islamic activity, whereas, in the Sunni world they became just places of rituals.

We should consider elsewhere in the world, because Muslim lands expand from Morocco to Malaysia. We should especially consider Turkey, which broke away from the Muslim world and became a hybrid.

Rafiq Zakria, (father of Fareed Zakria), a prominent Muslim Indian politician in one of his book divided the Muslim history in to nine phases as below,

The first phase: Mission of the Prophet (pbuh) (570-632)
The second phase: The rightly guided caliphs (632-661)
The third phase: The Umayyads (661-750)
The fourth phase: The Abbasids and other kingdoms (750-1055)
The fifth phase: The Seljukes (1055-1260)
The sixth phase: The Ottomans, The Safavids and the Mughals (1260-1807)
The seventh phase: The European penetration and occupation (1808-1920)
The eight Phase: The impact of the West (1920-1945)
The ninth phase: The emergence of Muslim nation states (1945-1992)

In my presentation, I will be talking about the seventh, eighth, and ninth phases. I must remind you that the historians are writing about the tenth phase. It is about you, it is about me, it is about us all.

Who are we? What is a Muslim nation?

What is the importance of history?

Mohamed Ali Jinnah, on September 14th. 1944, wrote to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi “We are a nation, with our distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of values and proportion, legal laws and moral codes, customs and calendar, history and traditions; aptitude and ambition. In short we have our own distinctive out look on life and of life”. Mohmmed Ali Jinnah died on September 11, 1948

History, Ibn Khaldun, the great historian wrote in his book Mukhadama “History is a science of the fine principles, manifold uses and noble purpose. It informs us about the people of the past—the characters of nations, the lives of the Prophets, the kingdoms and policies of kings—thus usefully providing examples for the emulation of those who desire it in religious and worldly affairs. The writer of the history requires keen judgment and careful scrutiny to lead him to the truth and away from lapses and errors. If reliance is placed on simple narrative and transmitted, without studying the roots of the custom, the foundations of politics, the nature of civilization, and the circumstances of human society and without comparing far with near and past with present—then there will often be danger of slipping and stumbling and staying from the right road.”

Before I proceed with my talk, let me ask you one question. Is our presence in the West particularly in the United States of America just a coincidence? Is it just an accident? Or a Divine Design? When I will finish my talk you will be convinced that it is a Divine Design. Let us begin our journey. My request to you all that you imagine we are in early 1990’s. When I prepared this talk. It has three segments. First two are factual. The third segment some might say it is a fantasy and some might pass a fatwa against me. In that segment I will be talking about the challenges which we face. I am solely responsible for what I say. These are my views. Please bear with me till the last because last segment is for you to ponder.




United States of America (1776 to 1944)
United States of America declared independence in 1776. This nation struggled for seven years for recognition in the world body.

One must know that the very first recognition came from the Muslim world. The king of Morocco was the first sovereign in the world to recognize the new nation in 1783.

Then what happened in USA, so for as the arrival of Muslims to this land is concerned is unprecedented in the history of Muslim people. From the heartland of Islam Muslims went to the other parts of the world as free men—sailors to the Far East, soldiers to Spain and Sindh, Sufis to various parts of the world, but as slaves to this country. The first wave of Muslims who saw this land, were brought in chains. According to Yuvoune Haddad,1/5th of all the slaves who were brought to this country were Muslims. Fareed Nauman, a Muslim researcher says that from the year 1530 to year 1860 ten million slaves were brought to North America—thirty percent of them were Muslims.

US Congress prohibited the importation of slaves in to US on January 1, 1808. Despite suppression of the slave trade during the next sixty years –slavery reached its peak between the years 1840-1860.

Most of the first wave of Muslims got melted in the melting pot. From the remnant of the first wave an indigenous component of Muslims emerged by a movement started by Noble Drew Ali, reinforced by Wallace D Fard and culminated in an organization called “The lost found Nation of Islam in the wilderness of North America”.

Later on this organization, under the leadership of Elijah Mohammed became the “The Nation of Islam”. To bolster this or supplement this, the second wave of Muslims arrived here when the Ottoman Empire broke down after the First World War. .History has passed judgment on the second wave. Miss Haddad says that, they could not have established any institutions as they were only busy putting food on the table. They were labor class, they were peddlers, did not know English .In my opinion the indigenous group was also not in any way near true Islam. It was a racial organization under the garb of Islam.

Canada (1776-1944)
The year 1854 marked the birth of the first Canadian born Muslim in Canada, he was named James Love, after his father. He was the first of eight children born to James and Agnes Love—a young couple who migrated from Scotland and settled in the province of Ontario. Their youngest child, Alexander, was born in 1868, one year after the formation of the Canadian Confederation. In 1871, this family along with another couple John and Martha Simon, who, were American by birth and European in origin, constituted almost entire Muslim community in Canada. So, the Muslim population of Canada in 1871 was 13. By 1931 there were only 645 Muslims. The very first mosque was built in Edmonton in 1934 and was inaugurated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the translator of the Holy Quran.

England and North Western Europe (1776-1944):
There were not many Muslims in UK or Western Europe. There was only one mosque named Shahjehan Mosque, which was built in 1889 in Voking, Surrey, thirty miles west of London. It was built by an orientalist, professor of Arabic and Islamic Law named Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner—born to Jewish parents in Hungry. Money was provided by Begum of Bhopal. This is the mosque where Hafiz Abdul Karim the closest confidant of Queen Victoria in her last 14 years of life from whom she learned to read and write Urdu used to go for Jumuah Prayer. Sir Mohammed Pickthal( another translator of Quran) used to give Friday sermons in 1930s after his retirement from Nizam of Hyderabad’s service.

Saudi Arabia 1776-1944:
There was no Saudi Arabia. Arabia was ruled by the Ottoman Turks. The notable thing of this period is the historical pact between Sheikh Mohammed Abdul Wahab (1703-1792) and Mohammed ibn Saud (1742-1765). The compact stipulated that they would conquer and purify Arabia and the Amir would administer the affairs of the state strictly according to Islam.

In 1901, a 21 years old Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud assembled 40 tribesmen in Kuwait (where the family was living in exile) and daringly went to Riyadh, killed Amir Rashidi, and proclaimed his kingship. It took another 24 years to conquer the Hijaz including Mecca, Medina, and Jeddah. He expelled the Sharif family and proclaimed that heartland of Islam as Saudi Arabia. He was 45 years old at that time.

Iran 1776-1994:
The following things happened in Iran

1795— Qajar dynasty is founded in Iran
1828— Fathe Ali Shah, after repeated defeats, signs treaty of Torkamanchai with Russia
1848—1896 Naser-ed-Din Shah reigns
1863— Bahaie religion is founded
1897— Jamal-al-din “Al-Afghani” dies in Turkey
1905— Sugar merchants are beaten and the agitation leading to the Constitutional Revolution begins.
1906— Mozaffar ad-Din shah grants constitution.
1907—1909 Mohammed Ali Shah reigns, supported in his hostility to the constitution by Sheikh Fazlollah Nuri.
1911— Khorasani, a leader of the mullahs favorable to the constitution, dies.
1914— There was an illiterate sentry posted at the gates of the German Embassy in Tehran. His ambition and quest for power propels him from a sentry, to a soldier, to a sergeant, to a sovereign. His name was Reza Shah, he became the Prime minister in 1923. He sent the last Qajar ruler to Europe. He declared himself as Shah and founded the Pahalvi Dynesty in 1925.
1935— Majlis (parliament was established)

Elsewhere in the world and particularly in Turkey (1776-1944)
Muslims had dominated the world scene for a thousand years. For about seven hundred years it was an absolute domination, and for three hundred years was a partial domination.

The period under question is the period of ultimate decline. Arround1700 AD there were four Muslim powers, Mamluks in Egypt, Ottomons of Turkey, Saffavi’s in Iran and Mughals in India. Moughal India became British India after the battle of Basker in 1763. The power of Tipo Sultan was broken in 1799. By the year 1818 most of India was under British control.

On 19th May 1798 Nepolian Bonaparte landed in Egypt with 55,000 troops and defeated the Mamluks.The Safavi’s disappeared by 1723.The European powers, The British, The French, The Italians, started to nibble away the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman Empire at it’s peak included modern Albania, Greece, Bulgaria,Yugoslavia, Romania, and the Islands of the eastern Mediterranean, parts of Hungry and Russia, North Africa as far as Algeria and parts of Arabia.

1830 France occupied Algeria
1839 Britain occupied Yemen
1881 Tunisia was occupied
1882 Egypt was occupied
1889 Sudan was occupied
1912 Libya and Morocco were occupied
1915 Sykes-Picot agreement divided the territories of moribund Ottoman Empire
1924 The Ottoman Empire shrunk to this size (map)

While the European Powers were nibbling away the Ottoman Empire, The Russians started to devour the Central Asian Muslim lands.

1720 Russia occupies Azerbaijan
1722 Russia enters Dagestan
1854 Kazakhstan
1864 Turkmenistan
1868 Uzbekistan
1884 Tajikistan
1895 Kyrgyzstan

In my opinion, the first 25 years of the last century were the gloomiest of Muslim history. We were beaten on the battle field. 730 years after the capture of Jerusalem by Salahuddin Al-Ayoubi, while entering Jerusalem through the golden gate on,11th December 1917 British General Allenby declared that

In his troops there was a young lieutenant Habeeb-al-Idroos, who later on became the commander-in-chief of Nizam’s army and surrendered to Indian army in September 1948.

French General Gouraud went to the tomb of Salahuddin Ayubi, kicked his grave and said

Not only we were beaten on the battle field we had intellectual invasion of the Turkish rulers who became mentally bankrupt. The last nail in our coffin was put by no other than our own Mustafa Kamal Pasha, now called Kamal Attaturk .He used Islam to gain power.

Once he gained power, he abandoned Islam. He abolished Khilaafah on 3rd March 1924.

Rafiq Zakria in his book Struggle with in Islam writes “ Kamal Attaturk rammed secularism down the throats of his people and declared that religion would no longer be allowed to interfere in the affairs of the state. He secularized the administration and education; he replaced the Shari’ah Law by European civil code and criminal code with these words “ The negative and overwhelming force that has condemned our nation to decay, that has ultimately broken and defeated the men and their initiative and drive, whom our fecund nation has in no period failed to produce, is the law that hitherto been in your hands, the law and its faithful followers — it is our purpose to create new laws and thus to tear up the very foundation of the legal system”.

Shariah Law was abolished in November 1925. Swiss legal system was imposed on Turkish people.

He banned the Fez cap with these words “Gentlemen, it was necessary to abolish the FEZ, which sat on the heads of our nation as an emblem of ignorance, negligence, fanaticism and hatred of progress and civilization; to accept in its place the hat, that the Turkish nation, in its maturity as in other respects, has accepted, in no way diverges from civilized social life “.

In a nutshell our yesterday was very dark and depressing.

Our morale was at the lowest level:

Numerically: we were only 350 million. Hardly a few Muslims in UK and Western Europe, may be a million or so Muslims in USA.

Economically: we were poorest of the poor, though we were sitting on the energy source. When, Masjid-e-Nabawi had to be electrified Nizam of Hyderabad sent the money.

Educationally: We were most backward

Geographically: We had the most temperate regions of the world and some of its most beautiful parts.

Territorially: We were and are most strategically placed (Suez Canal, Strait of Hormuz, Strait of Bosporus, Bab el-Mandab and Malacca). We did not know their strategic significance and importance.

Militarily: We had only one military power that was Turkey, which was contained.

Industrially: We did not have any industrial base

Spiritually: Most of us deviated from the real Islamic practices. All sorts of un-Islamic things crept in our society. The most notable Muslim personalities of yesterday who tried to correct our ills were, Mohammed Abdul Wahab of Arabia, Jamaluddin Afghani, Mohammed Abdoo of Egypt, Abdulkhader of Algeria, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Sir Mohammed Iqbal of India.

Politically: We were all enslaved. There were only four places where there was no physical occupation (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan).

I mentioned the above that though there was no physical occupation in Turkey, the rulers were mentally bankrupt. Saudi Arabia was in the lap of British. Iran was under the influence of Russia and Britain. The only truly free country where there was no physical occupation or mental bankruptcy was:

In 1839 British troops marched in Afghanistan from India to place a puppet on the Afghan throne. Afghans fought ferociously and when the British pulled out of Kabul In 1842 with a convoy of 16000 troops, only a single survivor reached the border town of Jalalabad alive. He was the Assistant surgeon William Brydon.

Our yesterday was black and bleak, dark and very depressing. We were all subjugated except the Muslims of. Afghanistan. Our presence, in UK and Western Europe was negligible. Islam was an unknown entity to the western masses. There were only two mosques in British Isles, the one mentioned above, and the other was Masjid –e-Abuharrirrah, which was built in Cardiff in 1860.There were about 5 or 6 mosques in USA.

To be continued ……..