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
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
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
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,
Speer, P.W., & Hughey, J. (1995). Community
organizing: An ecological route to empowerment and
power. American Journal of Community Psychology, 23 (5),
Wilson, P. (1996). Empowerment: Community economic
development from the inside out. Urban Studies, 33(4-5),
Source: The Quran Institute