Impact International, March 1996, London, U.K.
MILLENNIUM- An Islamic Perspective by Dr. Shahid Athar
Presented Nov 20, 1995 at the Millennium & Religions Conference in Chicago by Parliament of Worlds Religion.
'By the token of time (through the Ages),
man is in a state of loss, except those who truly believe, act correctly and act together in mutual counsel of Truth and patience'
(Al- Asr 103).
The Islamic calendar does not start
with the birth or the death of a
person, but with an event, the
migration of believers from oppression
to freedom, freedom to practice
'submission to the will of God' in order
to attain peace within and around. The
advent of Prophet Jesus (Alaih Salaam-peace be upon him)
was similarly an epochal event in the
history of humankind. The Qur'an
calls him a 'sign', a 'mercy', a 'witness'
and an 'example'. He is Messiah,
Messenger, Prophet, Servant, Word
and Spirit of God. The calendar may
not be exactly precise but the
millennium can serve as an important
point of reference in the Divine
scheme of message and revelation.
And take us into the future.
The future is very dear to us. Even if it
has not arrived yet, the future is
already in our thoughts. On the other
hand, the past is a collection of good
and bad experience, its use is in
shaping the present and shaping the
Islam did not start with Prophet
Muhammad, (SAWS- Allah's Mercy & Peace be upon him), but with the first man created -
Prophet Adam, (Alaih Salaam-peace be upon him), who was
sent to Earth not as a sinner but as a
vicegerent so as to tell and teach his
children about God. About right and
wrong. About the meaning and
purpose of life. What pleases Him?
What does not? And what is the
consequence in either case. His
message was eternal, as true in the
present as in the future. All those
countless prophets and messengers,
from Noah to Abraham, to Moses, to
Jesus and to Muhammad (may God's
blessings and mercies be upon them
all) who followed him brought the
same message: to believe in God and to
obey God; to do good and not to
indulge in wrongdoing.
Muhammad, (SAWS- Allah's Mercy & Peace be upon him), task, defined in the Qur'an, is
to be 'a giver of the glad tidings as well
as a warner'. The Our'an reminds us of
nations who were destroyed - because
they had rebelled and disobeyed - and
gives us a glimpse of the life in
hereafter of people who do good and
who love and obey God. In the scheme
of divine revelation, the past, present
and the future are one continuum.
Before Islam, the tribes of Arabia
were notorious for their corruption
and depravity: they buried female
infants for the fear of false shame; they
fought with each other over small
things; after the death of their fathers,
they took their mothers as their
property and made them their own
wives; they kicked the women out of
their homes, when they did not need
them, without even a formal divorce;
they dishonored and oppressed
women; and no crime was too small for
In that society that we call Jahiliya, or
society of ignorance, Islam came as a
beacon to lead them out of the
darkness to a new future. In the course
of a few decades, these very people
became the harbingers of knowledge
and civilization to many other people
in the world. Islamic civilization helped
to revive, rejuvenate and enrich other
civilization s. Internal decline and
colonial intervention greatly impaired
this civilization. It was a culture of
civilized co-existence and not a culture
of clash or coercion. Muslims are now
trying to recover their civilization.
Many in the media seem to enjoy
inventing and orchestrating a dark and
dreadful image of Islam and Muslims.
However, Muslims who know Islam and
their duty towards humanity will
neither be provoked by nor succumb
to such campaign of distortion and
defamation against their faith and their
personality. They will keep their dignity
Education, not the wealth, is the
foundation of the future. As Muslims
acquire more knowledge, they will be
able to reform not only their own lives
but also interact more positively with
their neighbors. They cannot remain
in isolation from the rest of society.
Therefore Muslims must plan for
dealing with hunger, poverty,
homelessness, declining welfare, drugs
addiction, perversion and promiscuity,
as well as the oppressive and illegal
hegemony of the human gods in our
modern secular pantheon.
In Islam service to humanity is a
function of their duty towards God.
The Qur'an says: 'And from among
you there must be a society, community
or party that should invite people to all
that is good and enjoin the doing of all
that is right and forbid the doing of all
that is wrong.' (Al-i-'Imran, 3:104)
In inviting people to goodness and
forbidding from the wrong, Muslims
will need to join hands with other
believers who share a great deal of
these values about good and bad and
about right and wrong. The conflicts
that we witness today are not conflicts
between religions, they are conflicts of
irreligion. Therefore, those who
believe in God and know the right
from the wrong - Jews, Christians and
Muslims, especially - can join together
to build a not a perfect, but an
incomparably better world than we live
in today: a society of neighbors who
are just and fair to each other.
The second half of the millennium
has seen two world and several local
wars. It saw nuclear incineration of
entire populations. It invented a savage
new crime against humanity: ethnic
cleansing. The new millennium ought
to be different. Let the people of faith
and goodwill work together to turn it
into a thousand years of peace and
prosperity, love and mutuality.
Prophet Muhammad, (SAWS- Allah's Mercy & Peace be upon him), has foretold that 'after
many years of bad times, an era will
come when humanity will re-commit
itself to God and there will be peace
and prosperity in the whole world'.
On the threshold of the next
millennium, Muslims have a duty
towards the world and towards the
fellow humans. It is their unilateral
obligation to invite others, and to work
together in building a better and a
peaceful world: a world which is free
from oppression and exploitation,
where rights are a reality and where
justice prevails over hypocrisy.
Dr Shahid Athar is a member of the Karachi-
based World Muslim Congress and the
Interfaith Alliance, Indianapolis, USA.