Empowerment Through the Qur'an

By Liaquat Ali

Empowerment, by definition, is a social process, since it occurs in relationship to others. Empowerment is a process that is similar to a path or journey, one that develops as we work through it. Other aspects of empowerment may vary according to the specific context and people involved, but these remain constant. In addition, one important implication of this definition of empowerment is that the individual and community are fundamentally connected (Czuba, 1999.)

To create change we must change individually to enable us to become partners in solving the complex issues facing us. In collaborations based on mutual respect, diverse perspectives, and a developing vision, people work toward creative and realistic solutions. This synthesis of individual and collective change (Wilson, 1996; Florin & Wandersman, 1990; Speer & Hughey, 1995) is our understanding of an empowerment process.

In order to understand if empowerment is possible in any human domain, we need to first understand what the power is in that particular domain. The second thing -- a pre-requisite -- is to see if the power is transferable. The third thing is that if power is expandable (Czuba, 1999.) Unless power is expandable, the result of empowerment would be linear, not exponential. That is, each individual who gets the power utilizes it in his/her own capacity.

The power in the Islamic domain is the Qur’anic wisdom. The understanding of the true meaning of the Qur’an has the power to transform individuals, communities, nations and the entire human population. The interesting thing is that as far as this life is concerned, one does not have to be a Muslim to benefit from the Qur’anic wisdom. If you look around the communities and nations that are prospering in the world, you will see the elements of the Qur’ anic wisdom that are being implemented. Since the Qur’anic wisdom reached the leaders of those societies indirectly, they may not be consciously aware of it.

How did God plan to share this knowledge with humans? The first words revealed in the Qur’an talk about reading and writing (96:1-5). He revealed the message in Arabic (26:195), a powerful language, to people who were masters of the language. He protected Prophet Muhammad for the next 23 years till he was fully able to explain the Qur’anic wisdom to his followers. Then he made sure that not only the Scripture, but also the language was preserved (15:9.)

The ideas of freedom, equality, individual struggle for the actualization of self, individual accountability, empathy, forgiveness, inner peace, outer security, and many other topics of human interest are described so elegantly that whether one is Muslim or a non-Muslim, he/she is truly empowered be the Qur’ anic wisdom.

The third aspect of the empowerment is the expansion of the power. God also provided communal commands for the believers so that they may implement the message of the Qur’an collectively, thus exponentially expanding the wisdom and hence human achievement (17:70).

Why are Muslims not empowered by the Qur’an today? There are two possible reasons. The people who are supposed to transfer the power – the Qur’anic wisdom – don’t “get” it, or that the leaders look at it as a zero-sum game. That is, if they share the wisdom, then their power would be diluted.

Both are true. Today, most Muslims follow historical, man-made "Islams". Then there are movements, sects and cults that follow their – live or dead – leaders who learned to revolve Islam around themselves instead of empowering the mankind.

If Prophet Muhammad wanted to take the second approach, he would have made sure that only his close family and friends understood the message of the Qur’an. Then Islam would have stayed limited to certain geographical areas. But since he conveyed it to anyone who wanted to learn, the Qur’anic wisdom created a unified Arab nation of self-actualized citizens. The world then saw the expansion of the Qur’anic wisdom throughout the known world.

So much so, that within 12 years after the passing away of the Exalted Prophet, inhabitants of thousands of cities and towns, who were previously ruled by regional variations of the Aristotelian philosophy of "some men are adapted by nature to be the physical instruments of others," were emancipated from the slavery (7:157) of their respective elites through the use of the Qur’anic empowerment.


Czuba, Cheryl E. (1999) Empowerment: What is it? Journal of Extension, October 1999, Volume 37, Number 5.

Florin, P., & Wandersman, A. (1990).An introduction to citizen participation, voluntary organizations, and community development: insights for empowerment through research. American Journal of Community Psychology, 18(1), 41-54.

Speer, P.W., & Hughey, J. (1995). Community organizing: An ecological route to empowerment and power. American Journal of Community Psychology, 23 (5), 729-748.

Wilson, P. (1996). Empowerment: Community economic development from the inside out. Urban Studies, 33(4-5), 617-630.


Source: The Quran Institute




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