Since there is indeed a region called the “Muslim world,” we should contemplate how to perceive this world, as the lack of an appropriate approach leads to results that are far from positive.
The Muslim or Islamic world should be viewed:
• With love
We must always approach our region with a sense of love. It is impossible to understand the lay of this land, unless we love it unconditionally. One must start with complete and sincere affinity, rather than orientalist curiosity and cliches. If this pivotal point is neglected, regardless of the efforts that follow, our view of the Muslim world will remain deficient and defective.
• With a sense of belonging
In two different hadith (traditions) of Prophet Muhammad, he explains the relationship between Muslims by drawing an analogy between the body’s organs and the bricks of a building. When a bodily organ falls ill, the remaining organs suffer the consequences, too. Similarly, the relationships between Muslims will suffer or prosper in a similar fate. The sturdiness of a building is dependent on the firm connection of the bricks, and their combined strength to keep that building standing. Muslims are required to form a strong sense of solidarity to keep the Ummah standing. A “sense of belonging” is critical in viewing the Islamic region. This will add an element of reason to interpretations and evaluations, and one will be aware that when talking about the Muslim world, they are talking about themselves as well.
• Without prejudice
Prejudices (whether negative or positive) are perhaps the greatest obstacles that prevent us from correctly perceiving anything. When the Islamic world is in question, besides the easily identifiable negative prejudices, one must avoid positive prejudices as well. Behavior patterns such as seeing every development through rose-tinted glasses, idealizing certain operations in various countries assuming they are completely innocent, and thinking that the best forms of Islam are always practiced in faraway lands are primary examples of positive prejudices.
Humans cannot live and hold onto this life sans dreams. However, when one goes overboard with dreaming, they will experience difficulty focusing on their everyday duties and achievable goals. Therefore, dreaming is fine, but viewing the Islamic region through the imagination alone is not. We might not like the reality, yet we are still required to adopt a realistic view. Otherwise, our perceptions and opinions of the region will be limited to presumptions and desires alone.
• Based on knowledge
As citizens of Turkey, we are perhaps the nation that possesses the most intense feelings regarding the view of the Muslim world. Therefore, when discussing matters, we do not lack emotion. However, any emotion that lacks knowledge will only drive people to petty arguments and animosity. This emotional potential must be strengthened with knowledge, and we must thus be able to view our region realistically, based on knowledge with a deep sense of love and belonging. This requires lifelong persistence and discipline.
• With consideration for diversity
As the Islamic region occupies a location where the world’s major historical narratives and turning points took place, it boasts incredible diversity. Hence, the region must be viewed through a lens void of stereotypes and narrow-mindedness. The Muslim region should be approached holistically, with all its different colors and shapes, affording each individual their due diligence as a part of this magnificent region.
In relation to the above item, another handicap we must eliminate is the development of an “Ottoman-centric” approach to the region. The memories of the six-century-long Ottoman reign, which is at the center of the Muslim world today, are filled with exhilarating examples. However, Islamic history does not consist of the glories of the Ottoman Empire alone. Eyes blinded by the Ottoman Empire’s magnificence that completely ignore the other elements of Islamic civilization would be true misfortune. This is due to the fact that Ottoman history can only be correctly interpreted by placing it in the context of Islamic history. Those who are focused on the Ottoman Empire alone will not only fail to see the whole picture, but also fail to grasp Ottoman history.