If one may say so, Islam is today facing a crisis globally. It desperately needs an image makeover. The community leaders must realize that Islam (in terms of number of adherents) faces challenges far removed from the days of The Holy Prophet (MPBUH).
During the days of Mohammed The Prophet, the middle east was a cauldron of strife and uncertainty. The Prophet structured Islam amidst all the tribal wars the region witnessed. The Prophet was trying to get more believers to see his vision of God. Hence there was a practical need to keep the community stronger and tighter by ensuring non-dilution of certain rituals and practices.
Islam today finds itself in a different context. It is already the most followed religion in the world. At best it (the mainstream part) needs good PR (public relations). This is best done, if its adherents and clerics are seen as open, liberal and thinkers of the larger picture.
Islam of Today Vs Hindusim of Adi Shankara’s Time
Around the time of Adi Shankara’s birth, Hinduism was stuck in the hands of the upper class who commandeered an ancient way of life to satiate their greed for power / significance. The Brahmins of the time seemed more obsessed with sacrifices and rituals rather than in spiritual upliftment. Buddhism appealed more to the masses. Jainism is far older than Buddhism but could not attract the mass following since it was seen as more difficult to comprehend and too rigourous to practice.
The Buddha’s simple message and down to earth preachings made Buddhism more approachable and palate-able. Enter Shankara, the Brahmin from Kerala. By the time he attained ‘Moksha’ in his thirties, he had rejuvenated Hinduism and ensured that Buddhism did not have the following in India that it did overseas. The latter part largely due to Emperor Ashoka’s efforts. For the record, Hinduism also venerates The Buddha as one of the Ten Avataars (incarnations) of Lord Vishnu.
Dare we say, Islam needs someone like Shankara. Someone who is a great follower of the Holy Prophet and at the same time can both explain and simplify the concepts. Both for the external world’s understanding and for the Believers to realize the essence of the Sacred Voice that is ‘The Holy Koran’.