Abstract : This paper seeks to achieve the following objectives: to discuss the idea of unity from the Islamic and secular perspectives; to test empirically how the absence of certain universal values (virtues) in the pursued development strategies shattered unity and thereby led to the Ummah’s disintegration; to examine how the interrelationships between growth and democracy can promote unity by creating a civil society through higher human development; and to examine the Organization of the Islamic Conference’s (OIC) role in strengthening unity among diverse Muslim communities.
The lack of unity and trust, as manifested through the lack of consensus, was the major cause of dissension leading to the world’s social, political, cultural, and economic destabilization during the twentieth century. The many dominance-dependence relationships, as operationalized through interacting with egoism and self-aggrandizement, as well as self-proclaimed ideological, tribal, racial, and cultural superiority, also were significant contributory factors. The end result was – and remains – an ongoing clash of interests between the privileged and the underprivileged; the affluent and the deprived; and those with economic, political, and military power and those without. As such, a diversity of interests is seen among individuals, classes, groups, races, communities, and nations.
The pre- and post-cold war situations can be explained largely by the above-stated conflicts. Regardless of the causes on each level, the poor are always the worst victims in terms of degrading human life, freedom, dignity, and rights. Unfortunately, these dehumanizing conditions are more conspicuous in Muslim than non-Muslim communities, which seems to suggest that the components of unifying forces that can successfully counter the challenges to human life, freedom, dignity, rights, peace, and harmony are much weaker in the Muslim world than elsewhere.
In addition, the Muslim world’s externally dependent development strategy has made things even worse by promoting bad polices and bad governments. This calls for formulating an integrated endogenous development strategy based upon Islamic values and culture to strengthen Muslim communities’ ideological and cultural foundations.1 A strategy characterized by the resource endowments of each member state with an Islamic social order will facilitate the integration of Muslim communities.
The strength of the unifying forces that can establish Islam’s universality, which is based upon the tawhidi philosophy of freedom, equality, justice, peace, tolerance, and moderation, depends upon the level of effective adherence to virtues that seek to promote economic and political democracy, and thereby promote both material and spiritual peace and harmony through unity. These essential virtues or prerequisites encompass learning through all forms of knowledge, whether revealed or acquired, and applying reason to all aspects of life; working toward material, moral, and spiritual development; defining self-respect and honor based upon the dignity of life; promoting equality, regardless of race, belief system, and geographical boundaries; encouraging justice and fairness to ensure peace and stability; urging tolerance, irrespective of any political, ideological, moral, and ethical prejudice; and highlighting altruism as the basis for moderation, trustworthiness, cooperation, sharing, and caring.