Futures for the Islamic Ummah
paper examines the futures of the Islamic Ummah. It does this by
reviewing approaches to thinking about the future as well as various
global forecasting models. It argues that even as they claim they
are value-neutral, in fact, particular value positions are put
forth. What is required is for the Islamic world to develop its own
long range simulation model using Islamic concepts.
Such a project would help qualitatively envision and
quantitatively forecast the future ahead. The paper concludes with
three scenarios for the futures of the Islamic Ummah: (1) the Ummah
as an Interpretive Community, (2) The Future Without a Name, and (3)
Islam as the difference in creating the next century.
paper is both a critique of ways of approaching the future as well
as a presentation of scenarios of the Islamic world a generation
ahead. The critique
covers various global models, including The Club of Rome's classic
Limits to Growth (LTG),
Mankind at the Turning Point (MTP),
as well as World 2000
and other approaches to the understanding the future.
Drawing from poststructural theory, we ask: what is missing,
who does the analysis privilege, and what epistemological frames or
ways of knowing are accentuated, are made primary, by the models
used. We also ask what can the Islamic world learn from these
models? We attempt to go a step further than merely asking the
Marxist-class question who financially benefits. For us, the issue
is deeper. We are concerned with what knowledge frames, and more
appropriately, from an Islamic perspective, what civilizational
frames are privileged, are considered more important.
global models are only one way of understanding the future. There
are other ways of approaching the study of the future from which can
be derived specific statements about issues, trends and scenarios as
to what the future will look and can look like.
We also inquire into the utility of these models for better
understanding the future of the Islamic Ummah. We conclude with
visions of the future of the Ummah a generation ahead and beyond.
IMAGINATION AND IMAGINING VISION
the purpose of this discussion is not a summary of global modelling
or futures studies,
this has been done elsewhere in much more detail. Rather our purpose
is to use such a discussion to discuss alternative futures for the
Ummah, to help create an interpretive community focused on the
futures of the Islamic Ummah. We
are concerned with vision, asking not only what might the futures
ahead look like given historical trends and events but also what we
want the future to look like. The
challenge becomes how to imagine futures that are different than the
present; that take us into the unknown, that force us out of the
categories and patterns of the present. A vision then is a break
with the present, it is a rupture, and thus, not accessible to
modelling. A vision is more than who we are.
In this sense, a vision cannot be rationally planned for. A
vision about the future is fundamentally about myth, about the
deeper meaning structures that makes people who they are.
Myth is essentially about suffering and transcendence, of a
community created through shared journey.
this mean that efforts to imagine the future of the Ummah are a
waste of time? Not at
all. But it means that our visioning efforts should not be confined
to intellectual analysis. Other ways of knowing and being are
equally important; whether poetry, art, architecture, ritual, or
community action, all are equally important.
What intellectuals can do is create the contexts for dreams
and visions. They can do this by giving them legitimacy, by making
visions more real to those who exist in bottom-line economistic
worlds. But more than
different ways of knowing, visioning is a process that must be
embarked upon by both leadership and mass, dialectically and
Conferences then become part of the myth creating journey,
part of the caravan that creates the desired future.
as related to myth does not mean fantasy, however. While fantasy is
important in breaking out of current frames of reference it does not
touch upon the historical worldview that constitutes Islam. In this
sense, the Islamic paradigm as articulated by various Muslims
is crucial in being a springboard for visioning:
are ten such concepts, four standing alone and three opposing pairs.
Tawheed (unity), Khalifah (trusteeship), ibadah (worship), ilm
(knowledge), halal (praiseworthy) and haram (blameworthy), adl
(social justice) and zulm (tyranny) and istislah (public interest)
and dhiya (waste).
articulates the larger Islamic unity of thought, action and value
across humanity, persons, nature and God. Khalifah asserts that it
is God who has ownership of the Earth. Humans function in a
stewardship, trustee capacity, taking care of the Earth, not
damaging it. The goal of the Islamic worldview is adl, social
justice, based on the larger needs of the people, istislah.
To reach these goals, ibadha, worship or contemplation is a
beginning and necessary step. From deep reflection, inner and outer
observation, ilm or knowledge of self, other and nature will result.
One's action then are halal, praiseworthy and not haram,
blameworthy. Moreover with this framework, dhiya (waste) of
individual and collective potentials is avoided as is tyranny, the
power of a few, or one over many or the power of a narrow ideology
over the unity within plurality that the Islamic paradigm advocates.
paradigm becomes the context for the vision, for framing the image
of the future within general ideals. It thus contours the vision not
so much within specific historical events--revenge against a person,
nation or civilization--but within the larger meaning system of the
civilization in question, in this case, the Islamic Ummah (meaning
more then a geographical community but an interpretive community).
A vision within this context is powerful because it touches
upon the core of the Muslim experience and, insofar as it is
future-oriented, aids in transcending the categories of the present,
particularly the nation-state framework of modernity Muslims are
visions are often framed in personal language or considered to be
the realm of the superconscious or unconscious, we use it in the
larger collective sense, of a group vision, a group myth of the
future. But a vision is
also about action. Futurist/activist
Robert Jungk talks about attending a visioning the year 2000
workshop where a participant said "Let's do something about now
and not worry so much about the year 2000."
After a sleepless night thinking about this intervention, Jungk
responded that he would rather turn around the sentence and say,
"Because we worry about the year 2000, let us do something
The future becomes a force for motivation.
It is because we care for future generations, we must ensure
that we do not destroy our environmental and cultural heritage.
becomes the key. Humans must think about the future so as to
transform the present and past.
Without thinking about the future, history remains dominant
and the present remains oppressive.
The future becomes a place that allows for transformation. To
do so requires imagination. But not all imagination is imagination.
Robert Jungk posits three types. The first is logical
is extrapolation of current trends to show their absurdity, thus
allowing new ideas to emerge. For
examples, if the growth rate of GNP of China continues at the
current rate, it will be at an unbelievable amount in 2050 (that is
exponential growth versus linear trends).
second is critical
imagination. Critical examinations asks us to probe deeper,
searching for structural weaknesses in existing state of affairs and
thus creating alternative futures.
This is deeper then traditional critique which only shows
what is wrong. Critical imagination shows what is wrong and points
to desirable futures. The third approach is creative
imagination is not content with extending, combining or negating
already existing trends. It attempts, by breaking out of the
existing systems or countersystems, to strike out on a completely
new cause, breaking radically with prevalent concepts. Creative
imagination gives birth to a new era whenever and wherever it
emerges. And very often it locates a new state of mind beyond the
controversies which are characteristic of and apparently an
inextricable part of the times it left behind.
imagination is a jump of consciousness, almost a Kierkegaardian leap
of faith. The challenge for the imagination of the future, for the
vision of Ummah in generations ahead, is thus not only to create
such a jump but find ways to communicate this possible future, this
desirable future to others. This is problematic for many reasons. First,
within contemporary economistic thinking imagination is considered
amathematical and astrategic. Irrespective
of one's religious beliefs, most of us live in segmented,
fragmented, and isolated intellectuals spaces. Imagination is fine
for children and for religion but not for adults. The real action is
either accumulating capital or power. Vision is for daydreamers, it
is often argued.
related to economistic thinking is zero-sum international relations
thinking. In this model, reality is about hidden motives, about
security, about the enemy. Indeed, the self and nation are not
defined by race, language, or territory but by not being the enemy.
We are who we hate. Strategic thinking borrows from neo-classical
economics and argues that we are but self-interested egoistic
individuals. Methodological individualism becomes the guiding
Hobbes, Nations are seen as individuals, living in anarchy. Within
this view, visions or imaginations of say an Islamic world community
which gives passports, defining a
post national identity that does away with the sovereignty of
capital and labor, seems unthinkable. Or, when thought, they are
placed in the historical context of empire, of strong vertical
relations between a dynastic centre and a colonized periphery. An
alternative global Ummah that is horizontally related through
trading, direct mutual investment, cultural and genetic interchange,
tourism, and a context of deep dialogue appears as fantasy. It
is fantasy not because it is impossible but because the modern world
view undoes, does not give legitimacy to alternative explorations of
Nations are real. Nations give passports, regulate labor, and until
recently regulated capital, pollution and identity (of course, all
three with globalism have made the nation-state if not an endangered
species, certainly, a problematic species). The guiding model then
is conflict and dominance.
placed such, leads to enormous tensions between the State and the
individual (with individuals who opt for non-statist versions of
Islam seen as threatening) and between States (with each State
claiming the mantle of Islam as defined by power, and to some extent
fidelity to the Islamic paradigm). The result is a nationalistic,
non-universal Islam that is defensive towards the West, that is
fragmented and offensive towards its own people.
The deepest cost, of course, is the category of global
community, of Ummah, itself as well as the category of future.
The imagination of a universal Islam not bounded by nation, leader
or strengthened by enemy, by the fear of the other, is the first
task for visioning the Islamic Ummah is about reversing this
process, creating a vision that pulls a civilization forward not
draws a people into the glue of greed and fear. As Fred Polak
has argued in his The Image
of the Future
civilizations that have a compelling image of the future (that is
about the nature of humans and positive
about what can be created) rise. Those that have no image (who are
about the nature of humans and negative
about the possibility of change over time decline. If we add the
vision of the future with the Khaldunian concept of power, we have a
rich macrohistory and macrofuture.
Khaldun, those outside of power have a more difficult life.
Through struggle they gain unity. They have a vision of
community and a desire for power. But once achieved, over four
generations the vision disappears, unity is lost and as power
declines, new forces with a stronger vision/unity take the mantle of
are thus faced with a historic but not an easy task.
Imaging Ummah decades ahead is problematic because of the
predominance of (1) economistic thinking, (2) international
relations neo-realist paradigm of self and nation, (3) our rigid
training in history and conventional disciplines, and (4) our fear
of being ridiculous or controversial.
it is possible! To do
so we need to meet the following criteria.
A vision (1) must have legitimacy amongst its interpretive
community, that is a vision cannot be merely one individual's
fantasy, it must have agreement from its members. (2) A vision must
touch upon the physical layer of reality (the material world of
goods and services). (3) It must have some bearing on conventional
views of rationality, even as it contests them. (4) A vision inspire
and ennoble a people. (5) To
be realizable, a vision must be neither too far into the future (and
thus appear utopian, unreachable) nor too near term (and thus be
fraught with emotional ego-politics, with cynicism towards
transformative change). Finally, (6) a vision must redefine the role
of leadership, the vanguard, and it must be mythical. As mentioned
earlier, it must touch some deep unconscious often metaphorical
level of what it means to be human and our role as humans--and
Muslims--in history and future. Ultimately to succeed, a vision must
enable each on of us to transform self and society.
Computer models can aid visionary thinking in being more
rigourous, in exploring unanticipated consequences, and in testing
assumptions. Efforts to imagine the futures of the Ummah should
include strategic planning dimensions as well as longer visionary
futures orientations. Quantitative (inviting rigour) and qualitative
(inviting vision) methods must be used.
the framework for Islamic futures studies, visioning, is already in
place. As we have learned from Zia Sardar (and others such as
Munawar Anees and Syd Hossein Nasr) in his numerous books on Islamic
Futures, Islam is a future-oriented worldview. It is so partly
because we know from the Prophet's life that a vision, a calling,
became a series of strategic plans to realize this vision.
The human capacity to reason, to learn from the past, and to
rationally search for alternatives and choose a best course of
action was illustrated perfectly by the Prophet's life.
It is also future-oriented in that properly understood it
offers and alternative to state-oriented socialism and
greed-climaxing capitalism. While
some might argue that Islam is not future-oriented in a temporal
sense since the primary relationship of a Muslim is one of
submission to Allah (as many say, why be concerned about the future,
just trust in Allah), however, Islam should be understood not merely
as a religion explicating the relationship between self and God, but
Islam also advises how to treat each other, nature, as well as how
we should deal with issues of polity and economy, that is, issues of
societal design, of the good.
Islam's commitment to an alternative future, a vision of a good
society, does not discount history. Indeed, the ideal Medina polity
and other Muslim historical successes can be built upon, can be
recovered from the overarching paradigm of modernism. History can be
used to create the future; history should be seen as part of
interpretive space, indeed, as future space. We should thus not
commit to particular linear images of the future, specifically, that
the future of the non-West will follow that of the West.
There can be alternatives ways out of feudalism, monarchy,
and closed-door traditionalism. Indeed, many argue that as the West
is in its final fatigue, in a deep crisis of vision, alternatives
can only come from those outside the imperium, those who are not
beholden to the images and myths of centralized power and
the same time, history, while often a resource, can be a curse.
Futures studies can help remove the desperate politics of
revenge and "blaming the Other" to a hope-generating
discourse of the possible.
OF THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE
then are ways of
thinking of the future. While human have always had a historical
interest in the future (as per astrology) it is only recently that
futures studies has become more precise and palatable. Forecasting
has become the technique par excellence of planners, economists and
social scientists. Since
the 1950s futures studies has grown rapidly in the USA and Europe,
primarily as a tool to gain strategic military advantage.
This has ranged from Herman Kahn's Thinking
(post-nuclear war scenarios) to Harold Linstone's efforts to predict
who will attack first (deterrence scenarios).
Futures studies then quickly became common place in
governmental agencies as well as corporations. In
the former the hidden goal was to appear modern, to rationalize
decisionmaking, to increase budgets. In the latter, strategic
business advantage was of concern.
type of futures studies gained global fame during the 1970's era of
global models, such as LTG, where the range of trends creating the
future (population, arable land, industrial output, pollution) were
interactively related to each other. The solution as you might
expect from a politics of fear was that civilization as
"we" know it, meaning the West, would collapse unless
dramatic changes were made. But the goal was not strategic advantage
but system change or so it seemed. Critics argue however the deeper
politics of the system, its class, civilizational, gender,
imperialistic history were not touched upon.
Fundamentally this was technocratic predictive oriented
futures studies, quite different from the imagination based futures
studies called for by Jungk.
TYPES OF FUTURES STUDIES
my model of futures studies, I divide epistemological approaches of
the future into three areas. The first is predictive, the second is
cultural/interpretive and the third critical.
We will use this framework to further explore various world
the predictive, language
is assumed to be neutral, that is, it does not participate in
constituting the real. Language merely describes reality serving as
an invisible link between theory and data.
Prediction assumes that the universe is deterministic, that
is, the future can be known. By
and large this view privileges experts (planners, policy analysts
and futurists), economists and astrologers.
The future becomes a site of expertise and a place to
forecasting is the technique used most.
Scenarios are used more as minor deviations from the norm
instead of alternative worldviews. Most global models, whether
Limits to Growth, Mankind at the Turning Point or other models use
this approach. They
take a Western civilizational view of reality even as these models
argue that they are universal.
They are civilizational poor not asking what are the
categories other civilizations use to construct their futures.
Indeed, population is always seen as a fundamental negative. To
Muslims and others this is absurd, more important are children,
humans as a resource. Overpopulation
is a symptom of deeper inefficiencies and inequities at world,
regional and national levels.
what can be useful in predictive models is that a long-range time
horizon is often used, a hundred years for LTG and MTP. Most current
models, in the 1990's have shied away from the future (out of fear
of critique and also having understood that the future is open not a
closed space). Still
LTG and other models served an important purpose by expanding our
time horizon, by making time long.
In this sense for the Muslim world computer simulation models
which can stretch time would be welcome. The would force Muslim
technocrats out of the present and into projected futures.
However, these, as mentioned earlier, should be articulated
with categories that come from the Muslim paradigm and framed as
one might imagine, the strict predictive approach is lacking. It is
technocratic, civilizationally impoverished, and avoids issues of
values. From an Islamic worldview where holism, an integration of
values in science are paramount, it is entirely inappropriate.
are other approaches to futures studies though. In the
cultural, the goal is not prediction but insight.
Truth is considered relative with language and culture both
intimately involved in creating the real.
Through comparison, through examining different national or
gender or ethnic images of the future, we gain insight into the
human condition. This
type of futures studies is less technical with mythology as
important as mathematics. Learning
from each model--in the context of the search for universal
narratives that can ensure basic human values--is the central
mission for this epistemological approach.
the critical, futures
studies aims not at prediction or at comparison but seeks to make
the units of analysis problematic, to undefine the future.
We are concerned not with population forecasts but with how
the category of population has become valorised in discourse, for
example, why population instead of community or people, we might
ask? How would Islamic
notions of community fit in? Why are growth rates more important
then the level of asibya
or unity to reconjure Ibn Khaldun? The role of the State and other
forms of power in creating authoritative discourses is central to
understanding how a particular future has become hegemonic.
future studies asserts that the present is fragile, merely the
victory of one particular discourse, way of knowing, over the other.
The goal of critical research is to disturb present power
relations through making problematic our categories and evoking
other places, scenarios of the future.
Through this distance, the present becomes less rigid,
indeed, remarkable. The
spaces of reality loosen making the new possible.
to cultural and critical is the notion of civilizational futures
research. Civilizational research makes problematic current
categories since they are often based on the dominant civilization
(the West in this case) and it informs us that behind the level of
empirical reality is cultural reality and behind that is worldview.
Global models to be of use to more than elite think tanks must be
able to bridge these civilizational barriers. They often do not
because they construct science as value free, as neutral, seeing it
as a universal product not a civilizational one. In this the
Islamization of knowledge project is crucial in rescuing knowledge
from one particular worldview.
Science, and models in particular, can thus be
the Latin American Bariloche model was that. Far more concerned with
social justice, with equality, than with issues of growth, the model
showed that satisfying basic needs was the key to development. It
was however rejected by the Club of Rome.
one should try and interactively use all three types of futures
studies. If one makes a
population forecast, for example, one should then ask how different
civilisations approach the issue of population. Finally one should
deconstruct the idea of population itself, defining it, for example,
not only as an ecological problem in the third world but relating it
to first world consumption patterns as well.
then must be contextualized within the civilisation's science from
which it emerges and then historically deconstructed to show what a
particular approach is missing and silencing.
models are a particular type of futures studies based on systems
analysis. They emerged during a particular time: during the rise of
the environmental movement, the beginnings of globalism, the concern
for growth, for the negative impacts of technology. They should also
as be seen as part of technocracy. The solutions posited by
modellers are often those that are State and government focused.
Civil society is rarely seen as an independent variable worthy of
It is the silent variable. They
are also largely Western oriented with only Latin America creating a
non-Western based model.
will now briefly review various models and then move on to various
scenarios of the future.
REVIEW OF THE MODELS
the most significant model in recent history is the Limits to Growth
model of the Club of Rome. LTG
was a crude aggregate systems model of world population,
industrialization, pollution, food production and resource
uniqueness was that these variables were quantitative, something
quite novel then. Also
unique was the critique of growth. It was the call to limits that
both inspired environmentalists, and others who felt modernity had
gone too far, and caused fear to industrialists. However the model
did not disaggregate regions. The overly global nature of LTG was
resolved by the much more sensitive Mankind at the Turning Point,
where regional models and over 100,000 equations were used to model
the human condition, or the global problematique. The main
conclusions were that current trends will lead a sudden and
uncontrollable decline in population and industrial capacity, most
likely after 2015. However, these declines will not impact the
entire globe at the same time, they will hit region by region.
at the level of systems the LTG model was dynamic at the level of
assumptions it was static. The
LTG study "assumes no
major change in the physical, economic and social relationship that
have historically governed the world system."
What this means is that historical situations of inequity are
reinscribed--the rise of Islam, the women's movement, and new
technologies are factored out.
their alternative scenarios are equally committed to the same
variables. For example, in another run, world resources are doubled
but this just leads to more industrial output and thus more
pollution, leading to a decline in food production, and the eventual
decline in resources, and thus to megadeath. Even if population is
controlled this just forestalls food production by a decade or two.
The result is the same. However, one runs the model, the results are
always the same. Thus,
instead of choosing alternative scenarios based on different
modelled assumptions, the same politics are re-represented
throughout. Industrialism unabated will lead to a global collapse is
recent Beyond the Limits uses
the same computer model and concludes with the same results: "The
world has already overshot some of its limits and, if present trends
continue, we face the virtually certain prospect of a global
collapse, perhaps within the lifetimes of children today."
is in contrast to current models such as Scanning the Future (STF)
which believe that prosperity will continue into the next
Like 1970's Herman Kahn and his The
Next Two Hundred Years recent reports believe that growth will
and can continue. It is
only minor institutional and organizational arrangements that must
be dealt with to allow growth. It is a loss of confidence that is
the problem, for Kahn and others, not any systems relationship
between population, pollution and industrial capacity.
calls the current crisis merely part of the great transition began
two hundred years ago with the oncome of the industrial revolution.
He believes that the plausible future is that by 2126 the
gross world per capital will be 20,000 US$ in 1975 dollars, that the
population will be 15 billion people, thus making the gross world
product 300 trillion.
Of course there will be setbacks but by and large the trend is up.
Population should be solved by creating wealth not be family
planning and other measures. New technologies will find new sources
of energy. By leaving
behind their corrupt and traditional ways and by adopting the East
Asian growth miracle, poor Third World nations will join the onward
march of capitalism. The future is bright.
for LTG and MTP the future can be bright but only if population
pressures are reduced, if pollution is reduced, if recycling is
increased, and if there is more global equity. MTP, however, as a
more holistic edge and in addition offers these following
conclusions: (1) a world consciousness must be developed through
which every individual realizes his role as a member of the world
community, (2) a new ethic of material resources is needed to deal
with the oncoming age of scarcity, (3) an attitude of harmony toward
nature must be developed, and (4) humans must develop a sense of
identification with future generations.
LTG the alternative is a condition of steadystate economics, of
ecological and economic stability.
However, the solutions posited often merely reinforce
technocracy (such as developing more anti-pollution technologies).
This partly explains why LTG sold so well: its solution and critique
was what liberal policy makers could handle. After all, the problem
is too much population (a third world problem); pollution (again
ship it south), bad industrial growth (develop a post-industrial
technocratic growth society), and diminishing resources (find new
resources). Issues of equity and justice were not part of the
problem. Moreover, that study and many others have done well because
they are fundamentally compatible with Christian cosmology.
From Puritanism, we get the idea of moral restraint; the sinners are
the producers of population, pollution and depletion. The sinner can
be converted if he repents and is converted (have less children,
don't pollute and avoid non-renewable resources). And of course,
"each converted sinner saves the system from a much deeper
Finally is the idea of the apocalypse, that a catastrophe is ahead.
And the catastrophe is near but too near where it can be empirically
tested and far but not too far where it would not mattered.
a Third World Muslim perspective, issues of imperialism,
colonialism, unequal distribution of resources (within and between
nations) were utterly ignored. Instead of worrying about crisis a
hundred years from now, the catastrophe the authors describe already
exists in many cities. The fear expressed by LTG is that this crisis
might now become a middle class First world problematique.
Ultimately, LTG as well Kahn's model and STF are apolitical
models that assume a "conflict free world in a world beset by
conflict and turmoil."
way to deal with this within the doxa of futures studies is to
capture deep differences through a range of scenarios. There could
be a growth scenario like Kahn's, then a collapse scenarios like LTG,
an achievable steadystate scenario like MTP or the Global 2000
project submitted to President Carter by Gerald Barney. And finally,
and this is critical, a range of transformative scenarios, where the
entire system changes. This
in fact is the real contribution of the more visionary futures
studies led by Galtung, Dator, Harmon, Junkg, Boulding and many
others. The assumption
behind transformation is that either for (1) technological, (2)
civilizational (3) spiritual or other through collective rational
means there is a chaotic jump wherein bifurcation results and thus
problems are solved. One cannot solve a problem within the framework
it is posited. The assumption is that while change is often
difficult in most periods of history, during dramatic, plastic
times, change is possible, even easy.
The fault with various models is that although they claim
globalism, complexity, and interrelatedness, they are unable to
understand how transformation from the periphery is possible, how
civilizations such as Islam can renew themselves and become, instead
of recipients of global trends, creators of global forces.
and this becomes the point of entry into our next section, the
trends examined are often the most obvious trends, not only are they
entirely apolitical but all too common. Hidden trends or emerging
issues, that are provocative, indeed ridiculous,
are not explored. Issues
such as the end of capitalism, the establishment of a world
government (with interlocking houses of nations, movements,
corporations and individuals, for example), robotics, and space
travel all context linear extrapolation, conventional future
scenarios. As dramatic
drivers of new futures they allow us to explore alternative
are used for many purposes. For some they help predict the future.
For others, the clarify alternatives. For us, scenarios are useful
in that they give us distance from the present, allowing the present
to become peculiar. By opening up the present, they allow the
creation of alternative futures as well as alternative histories.
The present, especially in the Islamic case, is believed to
be difficult to change: Muslims are either too fixated on the West
or have chosen particular histories which they believe are eternal.
Islamic metaphysics often takes a Platonic position where the real
is considered universal and frozen instead of historically and
socially constructed. Scenarios
thus should not only create alternative futures but different
histories, to show histories that did not come about, that could
have come about if a certain factor had been altered.
also have an important visionary task, allowing us to gain insight
into what people want the future to be like--the desired future.
These are important in that instead of merely forecasting the
future, individuals become eligible
to create the future.
most develop models of the future with very little difference
between each run. For example, in the recent European Scanning the
Future model, Global shift has a 3.4% growth rate; Global Crisis
2.4% and European Renaissance 2.9%.
more useful way is to design scenarios is to change the assumptions
by which they are built. For example, we can create scenarios of
world politics based on alternative structures of power. The first
would be a unipolar world, a continuation of the present.
The second would be a collapse of the inter-state system,
leading to anarchy within states and between states. The third would
be the creation of a multi-polar system, with numerous hegemons,
such as the United States, the European Community, Japan, China,
India, and Turkey for the Islamic region, each with their own
spheres of influence. A
corollary would be a return to a bio-polar world but with different
actors. A fourth would
be a world government structure.
Policies would be created at the global level while
implementation would be local.
A fifth possibility would be a fragmented Western
civilization in positive interaction with an Islamic Ummah. That is
a situation with regional civilizational blocks: an Islamic Ummah, a
Buddhist-Confucian Southeast Asia, a Vedic/Tantric India, etc.
Finally, while constructing scenarios it is important to
remember that one is not designing perfect places but good places:
contradictions within scenarios should not be left out.
AND CIVILIZATIONAL DIALOGUES
we have found fault with earlier models for being unaware of their
own politics and for not including the possibility of systems
transformation, there are models that in fact do allow for debate
for transformation. One is World 2000.
This model seeks to define the emerging global system and
shape its future. But its framework is an international planning
dialogue from a diversity of views. They posit the following
(1) a stable population of 10-14 billion people by the 21st century;
(2) industrial output increasing by a factor of 5-10 over the next
few decades (throughput will increase far less as more efficient
means of production are found); (3) a globe linked by
telecommunications and other emerging technologies, however, there
will remain information rich and poor; (4) a high tech revolution of
genetics, robotics and green technologies; (5) global integration in
the form of a shared international culture and some form of world
governance; (6) more diversity and complexity (in the from of layers
of identity and governance); (7) limited crime, terrorism and war;
(8) transcendent values; and (9) a universal standard of freedom and
is important here is that the increasing population is accepted, the
need for more wealth in poverty areas is also accepted, as is the
process of globalism.
they identify critical issues blocking this leap: (1) lack of
sustainable development that values future generations; (2) the
North-South gap, and (3) managing complexity.
The strategies are all idealistic focusing on green
technologies, systems of collaboration, decentralizing institutions,
and a focus on human centred enterprises.
This is a model that is in fact a dialogue that attempts to
bring in other civilizational perspectives. However, clearly it fails
asking for dialogue but remaining within a technocratic model.
Still it is an important beginning and at least a commitment
to dialogue that notices albeit not uses non-Western perspectives.
the deeper problem and this is central to the issue of imagining
alternative futures is that the work is still present based.
As mentioned earlier, we need to discern emerging issues.
believes that we are in a historic transition that will make us all
strangers in a strange land. He identifies five tsunamis or tidal
waves that promise to change the world.
While the trends are such that they cannot be changed, one
can surf the tsunamis. For Dator these trends include changes in
world population with Caucasians eventually becoming 5% of the world
population by 2050; the
move to outer space, and dramatic new molecular and electronic
these issues will dramatically confront the Islamic world. How will
the Islamic Ummah deal with having such a great share of the world's
population? Will Islam still be under threat then? Will Islam play a
role in globalization beyond merely exporting workers and oil? Will
Islamic models of environmental ethics become widespread? Will
Muslims create new technologies or will they continue to be
recipient of these dramatic new technologies? Will Islamic models of
governance remain authoritarian or will they become democratic or
will some models be found such as the Singapore Paternal
"father knows best" model? How can faith in the univocal
ideal of Islam be reconciled with the eclecticism that are Muslims
perhaps these are even more significant emerging issues. Genetics,
robotics, the rise of the feminist movement, postmodern relativism
all contest conventional ideas of what is natural, truth, and real.
Emerging gene therapy, for example, contests a view that only God
can create humans.
creates a world culture and economy and at the same time it creates
conditions for its own porousness. New information technologies such
as the www and cd-rom create possibilities for new words and worlds.
Sovereignty is becoming problematic not only at the economic
level but also at the level of self (we are becoming many peoples
with many selves) and at the level of text (text cease to belong to
one author but are more epistemic in their ownership). Protecting
culture, self and history will become increasingly difficult but
necessary to ensure a world of pluralism.
But part of a
decentred world is that Islamic science, the Islamic Ummah, can
finally find space for itself, since ideological hegemony will
decrease, the world becoming more of a true marketplace. The space
of sovereignty will thus continue its historical decline from God as
sovereign, to king as sovereign, to the people as sovereign, and now
even to the idea that the self is sovereign. The challenge for a
future oriented Islamic Ummah is
to bring legitimacy to a nested model of God, community, family and
self in postmodern conditions where even the primacy of the egoist
self will be contested.
emerging issues and trends certainly threaten any idea of
philosophical fundamentalism since reality, the nature, sovereignty,
and truth are made porous. They create a postmodern world. While
postmodernity destroys the basis for the real, it also opens up the
world for new real. A
reconstructed Islam worthy of its original intent can provide that
new paradigm. It
would be an Islamic Ummah that allows open discussion, freedom from
reprisal, a search for multiple levels of the real; and an
understanding of the subjective nature of the objective. We
would finally live in a world of civilisations with many ways of
knowing, many forms of knowledge, and constantly new arenas of what
is known (new epistemologies will create new discoveries).
It might be a world that is dramatically new but, unlike the
present, it will not be an unfamiliar world.
can we say anything about this unfamiliar world.
While there has been a great deal of thinking in the Western
world, save for the work of Zia Sardar and others writing in
journals of futures studies and similar places, there is very little
in the Islamic world. Based
on the available literature, we examine three scenarios of the
as Interpretive Community
plausible future is derived from an outstanding essay by Anwar
in a special issue of Futures
on Islam and the Future. Ibrahim argues that we need to go beyond
the three world thinking of first, second and third worlds and begin
to think of the future in terms of an Islamic Ummah.
He spells out what this means. (1) The Ummah is a dynamic
concept, reinterpreting the past, meeting new challenges and (2) the
Ummah must meet global problems such as the environmental problem.
"The Ummah as a community is required to acknowledge moral and
practical responsibility for the Earth as a Trust and its members
are trustees answerable for the condition of the Earth. This makes
ecological concerns a vital element in our thinking and action, a
prime arena where we must actively engage in changing things." 
(3) The Ummah should be seen a critical tool, as a process of
reasoning itself and (4) Equity and justice are prerequisites and
imperatives of the Ummah. This means a commitment to eradicating
poverty. It means going beyond the development debate since that
merely framed the issue in apolitical, amoral, acritical language.
To begin this means rethinking trade, developing south-south trade
as well as "new instruments of financial accounting and
transacting ...and the financing of new routes and transportation
(6) But perhaps most significant is a commitment to literacy for
all. As Ibrahim writes:
"Only with access to appropriate education can Ummah
consciousness take room and make possible the Ummah of tomorrow as a
personification of the pristine morality of Islam endowed with
creative, constructive, critical thought." 
what is called for is not modernism but a critical and open
traditionalism that uses the historic past to create a bright
future. But Ummah should not becomes an imperialistic concept rather
it requires that Muslims work with other civilizations in dialogue
to find agreed upon principles (and be ready to collectively defend
those principles as did not occur in Bosnia). We need to recover
that historically the Ummah meant models of multi-racial,
multi-cultural, multi-religious, and pluralist societies.
A true Ummah respects the rights of non-Muslims as with the
original Medina state.
Future Without a Name
the same special issue, Gulzar Haider takes us to an Islamic future
with no name.
In his effort to imagine such an Ummah, he cannot. He says after
falling asleep and waking in 2020. "I have seen a landscape of
Muslim Futures and it looks fragmented, bounded, a controlled city
of discrete tends. There are some who are alive and awake but are
cast out of the city. They continue their search for the Madinah,
and till then they keep reading, writing and speaking without fear
except of their God and His Prophet. But none of them has a
given current geo-political trends, unfortunately, a possible future
is the cannibalisation
of Islam internally and externally. Internally largely due to
external pressures but still nonetheless from sectarian infighting,
from deep Sunni/Shia divisions and from irreconcilable models of
what it means to be Muslim. Many of these battles are issues of
revenge and history instead of the imagination of desired futures.
External forces are such that changes in technology,
globalism, and world politics question whether Muslims can meet the
challenges faced by a world undergoing dramatic transformation.
Islam, of course,
will continue but will there be worthy Muslims?
as the Difference
through human action, Islam could become the difference in world
science and politics. In this scenario, Zia Sardar writes that while
we are uncertain about the nature of the next century, we know that
Islam cannot be ignored. "Wether
it is seen as a force for liberation or as an authoritarian step
back to the middle ages, Islam cannot be ignored."
For Sardar Islam is the difference, the force of order and disorder,
the attractors that will create the next century. Galtung, for
example, has argued that Islam and the West are in a
expansion/contraction relationship with each other, as one
contracts, the other expands.
As the West loses its ability to maintain hyper expansion,
exploitation of nature and other, Islam will come in and either
continue the project as the Japanese have done, or transform the
project. As Sardar writes: "At
the beginning the 20th century, Islam--colonized, defeated,
stagnant--could have easily been written off from history and the
future. At the dawn of the 21st century, Islam--resurgent,
confident, 'militant', 'fundamentalist', is very much alive."
which Islam will it be? This then becomes the task of activists and
intellectuals engaged in Islamic science, in Islamic futures, to
imagine and create an Islam that creates the future; that is not
burdened by advances in genetics, information technologies, and
globalism. Such an Islam must engage in the global science and
technology revolution but within the values and terms of Islamic
these times of civilization transformation when chaos is ever present,
there is one thing that leads to something else: a sense of
direction, of inner purpose, of deep morality. If Islam can provide
that, the Ummah of the future will be alive and vibrant.