My dear Muhammad Ali: This is the third and last part of the essay entitled The Future of the Muslims that your grandfather, Mr Altaf Gauhar, wrote 36 years ago when he was in prison for his editorials. "The consciousness of the existence of life after death and the reality of the Day of Judgement, when everyone will be called upon to render a complete account of his life, fundamentally influenced man's conduct and created a new cultural environment in which individual and social behaviour acquired a new context and purpose. The fact that some of the Muslim rulers failed to act according to the revealed code is no reflection on the code. I am not unconscious of the argument, which is often advanced, that if the Islamic code was not put to actual practice, except for a very brief period, does it not show that there is something defective or lacking in the code itself. This is essentially a secular way of judging human effort in terms of material results. The Islamic code must be judged on its own merits and not on the basis of the conduct of those who profess to subscribe to that code. No one has identified any defect in the code or in the scheme of values that the code prescribes. The defects have all been traced to human failings. The code recognises the weaknesses and temptations that afflict man and it also provides that those who do not live by the code will not be saved from the consequences of their behaviour merely because they profess to be Muslims. The Quran grants no particular privilege to believers whose profession is not supported by their performance. Divorced from conduct, profession has little value. The Quran points out instances of nations and civilisations that came to grief because they did not act in the right way. 'There has been many a civilisation before your time. Travel around and see the end of those who defied'. (3:137) 'Have they not seen how those nations which achieved great eminence in their day were destroyed?' (6:6) Those who adopt unjust ways come to an unhappy end. The decline begins when a people adopt oppressive ways, and if they persist in their unjust conduct their eventual extinction becomes inevitable. 'How many gardens and springs and fields and exquisite palaces did they leave behind? When the end came neither the heavens nor the earth shed any tears, nor did they get a reprieve to reform themselves'. (44:99) "The Muslims are no exception to this rule. When they adopted hypocritical ways and identified themselves with material pursuits they could not escape the consequences of their conduct. "Ideology is always the first victim of power. Those who pursue power enter a charmed circle, and with every step that they take towards the centre of power, a ribbon of gauze is wrapped around their eyes, until they become blind to everything except their own survival and supremacy. The reverse is also true. With every step that they take away from the centre of power the gauze ribbon is unwrapped. Once out of the circle they begin to see the truth again. The Muslim empire could not exist regardless of the conduct of the rulers and if their conduct was divorced from the code they could not be saved from the disastrous consequences of their actions. "When Western political thinkers and historians comment on the stagnation of Muslim culture and the torpor of the Muslim mind they fail to take into account the fact that the present situation of the Muslims is the inevitable result of prolonged colonial exploitation. The Muslims must be held primarily responsible for their downfall, but the imperial powers set about the task of de-culturising them in a scientific manner to ensure that they should not be able to recover and reorganise themselves into a vital force. A liberal elite was created who treated their own faith and history with indifference, which gradually developed into unconcealed contempt. A sense of inferiority was injected into the masses that were looked down upon for their primitive ways. A native was an outcast whose proper place was the jungle. The Westernised few among them, with their talk of progress and the requirements of science, stood out as a symbol of success for the rest to emulate. In the course of time the Muslims were alienated from their moral values and norms of conduct. The colonial masters did not destroy the Muslim culture. They caused it to stultify so that it should become a source of embarrassment and shame. Frantz Fanon uses the word 'mummified' to describe such a cultural condition. In his essay, Racism and Culture, he explains that, 'the setting-up of the colonial system does not of itself bring about the death of the native culture. Historic observation reveals, on the contrary, that the aim sought is rather a continued agony than a total disappearance of the pre-existing culture. This culture once living and open to the future becomes closed, fixed in the colonial status, caught in the yoke of oppression. Both present and mummified it testifies against its members'. Once the Muslims were subjugated the conquerors closed the door to the future on their culture. A selected few were admitted to the educational institutions of the West and turned into the power elite to exercise authority over their people on behalf of their masters. This class consisted of Westernised politicians, bureaucrats, teachers, lawyers, judges, journalists and merchants, and their views became the representative expression of 'the hopes and aspirations of the people'. The Orientalists found in these views a complete endorsement of their own theories, but they conveniently forgot that they were really quoting themselves, because the liberals among the Muslims did not say anything original. They dutifully reproduced whatever they were taught. "The point about the failure of the Muslims to evolve suitable institutions to ensure the continuity of their culture requires detailed examination which is not possible here. The secularists talk of institutions as if they represent the final solution to all human problems. Institutions are man-made arrangements. It is the willingness of a people to submit to an arrangement that gives it the status of an institution. Tribes are as much an institution as a Parliament. Islam introduced a new idea, which radically altered the complexion of all existing institutions, when it insisted that no arrangement should be recognised unless it was based on equality, justice and accountability on the Day of Judgement. "Islam gave to the world the institutions of equality, freedom and the indivisibility of the human race. These institutions are now recognised as fundamental human rights. The Muslims established the institution of selection of the leader through consensus (Ijma). In one magnificent stride the Prophet of Islam [PBUH] left behind all the inequitable and oppressive customs inherent in hereditary succession, monarchy and racial distinction. As a faith, Islam introduced the concept of tolerance and moderation. The equality of rights and obligations of every individual was given institutional recognition in all spheres of life. The administration of laws, without discrimination on grounds of race, colour and language, was not known as an institution before the advent of Islam. These are the institutions that, even today, inspire the Muslims throughout the world and bind them in a vision of unity. They command the voluntary allegiance of every Muslim to whichever nation he may belong. But institutions survive and glow in the light of freedom. They are obfuscated by clouds of domination. The secular institutions under which the Muslims are forced to live today are a gross imposition, a legacy of imperial exploitation. These institutions were introduced as instruments of oppression and were devoid of equity in their operation. They do not inspire any respect or confidence. The Muslims created the finest institutions in human history and failed to live by them. The secular institutions have exhausted their possibilities. Man is looking for faith again. History has offered the Muslims yet another opportunity to prove the effectiveness of their institutions. They can do so through pursuit of knowledge and creative activities in the light of the Islamic principles of freedom, equality, tolerance and personal responsibility. I return to the point that I made in the beginning: the need for each one of us to study the Quran independently and conscientiously. This is the only way to avoid imitative conformism and to contribute to the creative resurgence of the Muslim community." So there you have it, my dear Muhammad Ali. Others, like the late great Sufi Charles Le Gai Eaton have said much the same thing. In later letters, I will tell you about him also. But let me leave you with this, from Islam and the Destiny of Man. "There has been one constant factor in human history over the past thirteen centuries. This is the confrontation between Islam and what was once Christendom and is now the secular Western World - [emphasis added]." He talks about how Islam could be ignored by Christendom/the Secular West during European colonisation and the Cold War. "It has now resurfaced, as it was bound to do sooner or later since Islam claims a universal mission as does Western civilisation." Eaton too talks of the decline of the Muslims. "The Muslim Ummah (the Community of Believers) is, today, weak, confused and divided. It will not always be so..." The writer is a senior political analyst E-mail: