Future of Islam by 2040s

This is the second article from the series on Future of Religion. As we discussed earlier in the previous article about what the Future looks like for Religion in general by 2040s, this time our focus is on Islam in particular.

Some of my Facebook Friends pointed out that Nigel’s claims about Religion to disappear by 2040s only looked reasonable from the Western World point of view but doesn’t sound realistic when it comes to the Islamic world. I not only agree with them but also would like to stress that the previous article was indeed about the Religion in General and not about Islamic world. The future of Islam deserves to be discussed separately as Islam is bit more unique and complicated compared to any other religion that this world has ever seen.

by 2040s

by 2040s

Quick recap of Previous Article:

  1. Nigel Barber insists that the Religion will disappear by the 2040s as the personal growth increases and the Atheism will replace Religion
  2. Kaufmann has an opposing view suggesting that the Religious Countries have an advantage of higher Birth Rate
  3. My argument was that first the Birth Rate is dropping and will continue to drop even in Under-Developed as well as Developing Countries, secondly not all countries with higher Birth Rate are Religious
  4. I also found Nigel’s claims bit too over ambitious and in my opinion while the complete death of Religion may not be possible, there are strong chances that the Religion will continue to lose is Authority of being able to act as the Last Word

Now lets apply both theories on Islamic World and see where do we stand at the moment and what could be in store for us in future.

Nigel’s argument for the Death of Religion:

This is almost no-brainer here, as I said above Islam is bit more unique and much more complicated than the Religion(s) founded in Western Societies. Major problem is the Islam’s claims of being the direct word of Allah, the God of Arabian Peninsula. But thats not the only issue here, there are several other things that makes it complicated, such as:

  1. Indoctrination: Combined with Traditional Conservatism, Islam is the best recipe for Injecting certain ideas to the Masses since their childhood and because Islam claims it to be the Literal, True and Direct word of God there isn’t much room left open for discussion and / or second thoughts. Children are Taught (not made to think) since as young as below 5 years in schools (and at homes) about the basic teachings of Islam in such a way that basically follows a certain pre-written script. Its not that the Children dont ask Questions, they do but most of times these are typical questions which can be answered easily and without having to have a deep analytical thought. At the same time while answering questions, children are also reminded NOT to think too much as thinking might lead them Astray which will eventually mean they may have to end up Burning in Hell. Having Faith is much more important then being able to seek Answers. This type of Indoctrination remains with people throughout their Adulthood life and very few (if any) are able to break this trap of “Do not Think”, let alone see the whole concept of Religion as False and unnecessary in human life.
  2. Fear of Punishment: While all Religions have had some form of laws regarding the punishment for Apostasy, Islam takes things quite seriously and to be honest this has been the major reason why Islam has not only survived for so long but also under different circumstances. Murtad or Apostate is a person that needs to be hated, reported to the Authorities and if caught should be punished to death. In most cases, this doesn’t even reach to the Authorities and is usually dealt quite sophisticated by the Mobs generated by Angry public who will be happy to either Burn the Apostate alive or will beat him to death. There has been none whatsoever case of holding those Mobs responsible for taking things into their hands and by passing the legal system, the whole society either does not see it as a crime or at least don’t bother much about it. With this kind of Fear Model, its damn hard if not virtually impossible to create Apostates in Muslim societies.
  3. Social Pressure: With the growing Globalization and Muslims migrating to various corners of the world (specially to the Western Countries with Freedom to Expression), Muslims slowly and gradually started to get exposed to the Anti-Religion ideologies and because it was easy to find material to read quite a lot of Muslims have had gone through the journey of viewing Religion (including Islam) as False and man made. However, the social pressure has successfully kept them hiding in a Closet and usually these people portray themselves as Non-Practicing (or the ones with too many confusions / questions about Islam) Muslims. Saif Rehman, the author of Allah Delusion and a social Media Activist terms them as Cultural Muslims. These people will happily maintain their link to the Muslim world while in some cases even fulfill the strict Religious Duties such as Fasting in the month of Ramadan.
  4. Political Victimization Syndrome: The more Muslim world is getting exposed to the Education, the more they are becoming interested in the world politics. Take an example of thickly populated societies like Pakistan, there are more News TV Channels than the Prime Time Entertainment Channels and these News Channels are followed almost religiously by the predominantly Male Sections of Society but also the small minority of Female section as well. General view among the Muslim world is of being the Victim of World Politics and a large majority holds American Foreign Policy responsible for the misery and poor condition of Islamic Countries. This sentiment (often successfully) creates an Anti-West ideology which then helps to create a kind of hostile environment about anything that is remotely associated with Western World. This is one of the top reasons why all of the Anti Islam material is automatically viewed as Western Funded and hence a total waste of time to read or list to it. The thought behind ignoring this material is the presumption that since the West is against Muslims, obviously they have to denounce Islam and there is no use of paying attention to any of such material. This is often counter attacked by a tit-for-tat approach and Glorifying Islam even more and also telling the Muslims that the more we go back to our Islamic roots the more chances we’ll have to defeat West.

Will Islam disappear by 2040s ? Most probably not. Will it have the same power and rights by 2040s as it has now ? Most probably not …

All these factors highlighted above are not only Real-World problems but are also major hurdles in creating awareness. However, it shouldn’t be seen as a complete darkness out there, things are changing and the Traditional Thoughts are being challenged, you might not have been able to see it happening and it may have been very slow but there are some big changes going on in the Muslim World right now, such as:

1. Social Media Revolution: As much as you would like to discredit the role that Social Media is currently playing in the Muslim world, the reality is that its making waves, some real waves of change. What started as a simple medium to connect friends together has kind of revolutionized things in the societies where speaking up or challenging Indoctrination was considered an act of crime before. One of the biggest advantage it provides to people is to completely or selectively hide their Identity while sharing their thoughts or debating with those who oppose change in society. Muslim Societies have long had this tradition of declaring Critics as Apostates and blaming them of Blasphemy to persecute them. This tool has served very well for centuries to keep the Critical Thoughts suppressed which meant a secure platform for the Traditional Ideology filled with Dogma. “Internet is where Religions come to die” they say but perhaps we never saw the role of Internet as powerful as we are witnessing currently in Muslim world.

2. Ban inst helping much: A lot of conservative countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan have had attempts to ban certain things such as Pakistan decided to ban YouTube after the incident of “Innocence of Muslims”, the low budget movie depicting Islam’s Prophet in a negative way. However, the ban hasn’t helped at all, those who do want to make use of YouTube are still using Proxy Servers and other mechanisms to get to the popular video sharing web site and most importantly there doesn’t seem to be much sympathy about the Government’s decision to ban web site because people think that putting bans on web sites isn’t the solution. Some Muslims have attempted to create counter attack web sites, videos, forums and so on but the major problem is that it still doesn’t stop the Criticism.

3. Conventional Media: Newspapers, TV Channels and other forms of conventional media is another hot spot where Secular Force seems to be concentrating right now. Specially the TV channels are making a real difference at the moment, a lot of Taboos which were impossible to be discussed openly in past are clearly being challenged almost everyday on almost ever channel. Even sensitive topics such as the issue of marrying your under-age daughters has turned into a kind of Social Abuse instead of what used to be a norm and in fact a cultural pride in past. The fundamentalists don’t find much chance to criticize this Trend because they too are using the same Media to propagate their message. Geo TV in Pakistan for example is planning to start a new Cartoon Series for kids which seems to be making use of Malala Yousufzai’s incident and then turning it into an opportunity to bash Taliban and other Fundamentalists in the name of Promoting Girls Education.

4. Cultural Shifts: There are few major cultural shifts happening at the moment, a lot of things that were considered the matter of pride in past are now becoming unaccepted practices. Take Polygamy for example, something which was not only integral part of many Muslim Societies and was never even questioned in these societies are now looked down and in some instances an attempt for a second marriage may invite a lot of backlash from family and social circle. If you are a Muslim man living in an educated urban society and want to use your religious right to have another wife, be prepared to face the backlash and don’t expect that it will be easily accepted by your first wife, children and your friends circle.

5. Young and frustrated Muslims: This is related to the Kufmann’s argument of Population Bomb that we discussed in the previous post. While its true that the Under-Developed (not necessarily Muslims only) societies have more population growth compared to the developed countries, the fact is that the speed of this growth has slowed down significantly. Mainly because of the Socio-Economic conditions, the average number of children per family has dropped down to anywhere between 2 to 5 while in past it was considered normal to have 10+ children. Secondly, the more people are getting educated the more competition for jobs is also increasing that puts a lot of pressure on the Job Market. This often results in a large group of young, educated and frustrated boys and girls who question the reasons for such poor economic conditions. So, while there are youths being attracted to fundamental activities such as becoming radicals through Religious means, there are also young people who are turning away from the cultural and religious reasons which they hold responsible for all this economic mess.

Muslim Societies have long had this tradition of declaring Critics as Apostates and blaming them of Blasphemy to persecute them but Internet proves to be a major challenge for Islam …

So what about Islam by 2040s:

It’s a million dollar question, isn’t it ? While I can see things changing and the Muslim Conservatism being unable to fight with the Technology Revolution, I also see the growing fundamentalism and the political frustration in Muslim Societies as a major problem. We may be heading for a major clash at some stage but how big that clash will be or could be depends on the third force that we discussed earlier. This third force is the Liberal Sections from within the Muslim Society that is a silent majority at the moment and its growing at a faster pace than expected. Fundamentalists are running out of support needed from this third force as the people are busy in their day-to-day activities of life while at the same time these fundamental Forces are being depicted as an Evil Force in the media. In my opinion, the case for fundamentalists is only becoming weaker with passing time but the change on the other hand is very slow and in some cases may even appear as there is no change happening at all.

Will Islam disappear by 2040s ? Most probably not. Will it have the same power and rights by 2040s as it has now ? Most probably not …

8 thoughts on “Future of Islam by 2040s

  1. Dear Raheelq, I’m a mumbai-based journalist working on a story about religion in India. Would love to follow up with you regarding your thoughts on the Nigel Barber article, and the growth/decline of religion in general in India. Can you email me with some contact information?

  2. Islam is the fastest growing religion.atheism is the second name of highly confused and distressed minded society..

  3. All indicators are pointing to something else. While other religions are facing a tough time, Islam is growing. In fact I would argue that actually Islam belongs to the future. Islam has been shaped and developed in different circumstances then lets say Christianity and with it has the capacity to withstand the changes in time. It even survived the worst Mongol storm of the 13th century and the while the European colonial powers managed to destroy the Caliphate they could not destroy the religion. Indonesia was under direct European rule for 400 years and is today the largest Muslim country. I do not know what future will bring but one thing is sure: Islam will belong to it.

  4. Let’s just hope that we can all finely understand that believe in an all mighty indestructible force we imagine and call God is a very childish and idiotic. I believe in God as much as I believe in the Easter bunny or santer. Lol

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