Updated: Monday August 11, 2014/AlEthnien Shawwal 15, 1435/Somavara Sravana 20, 1936, at 09:17:19 AM
Is Islam a Failure?
by G.A. Parwez
This question should worry every student of the rise and fall of the Muslim people. At their dawn they rose high and reached the far ends of the then known world with a speed unknown in history. Equally steep has been their fall, too steep for a recovery. Hard facts of history lead a group of students to the conclusion that while Islam undoubtedly infused a new spirit among the Arabs, enabling them to over-throw the Persian and the Roman empires and become master of the world, it did not have the capacity to keep pace with the times, Islam lagged behind and the steep rise of the Muslims took a precipitous downward trend for good. The experiment has failed and it would, according to M. Abul Kalam Azad, be stupid to give it another trial, see his book India Wins Freedom (page 227). There is another group of students, which though not so out-spoken, finds it hard to reconcile that if Islam sponsors eternal truth and is capable of keeping abreast of the times, why it should have, only a while, come to a dead stop. Skepticism born out of the irreconcilable, shakes the very foundation of their faith in the eternal truth of Islam. The question is important and deserves to be seriously considered and satisfactorily answered.
· What is Islam.
Everything in this wonderful universe is, on the face of it, bound firmly by God’s permanent and inviolable laws. Says the Holy Quran “Nature’ Islam”. Laws on Nature have never failed, nor have they ever ceased to operate. They work non-stop without let or hindrance, “you will see no imperfection in God’s creation”, (67/3). On the same pattern there are inviolable principles and permanent values for mankind, made known to man through Revelation, which enable him, individually as well as collectively, to grow and develop in life and taste all the good it can afford here and in the hereafter. Unlike things in nature, however, which must observe God’s laws, man is free to adopt or reject them and to follow whatever his desires might dictate. But whereas observance of God’s laws assures a rich and fruitful life, adoption of manmade laws offers no such guarantee and might, on the other hand, lead life to decay and destruction.
· Struggle Between Right and Wrong.
The way of life revealed by God and called Al Deen or Al-Islam, provides that whatever gifts this beautiful earth of Ours has in store or can produce, should be available to all mankind in an equal manner. There is a section of people, however, who dislike it and would, on the basis of might, control the sources of production, so that they might with-hold God’s gifts from His creatures and avail of them personally according to their sweet will. The group, opposed as it is to God’s way of life (Al Islam), places all sorts of hindrances in its establishment among mankind, bringing about, what the Holy Quran describes as a struggle between Right and Wrong. Whereas Islam has unquestioned sway in nature, it has to contend with stiff opposition in human society. Consider the example of a seed sown in the earth. Given the requisite means of growth a healthy and vigorous seed will sprout, the shoot will rise high slowly and a day will come for the tiny little seed to swing as a full fledged and robust tree. The seed has the capacity to grow and attain its destiny. Likewise the eternal laws and the permanent values which, as already referred to, make up Al-Islam, have the capacity to overcome impediments in the way of their materialization and to attain their goal. In the words of the Holy Quran the “healthy concept of life, Kalema-e-Tavvib, has the capacity to go up to Him” (3 5/10), that is, to attain the heights which God has destined for it. In other words Right has the capacity and power to grapple with and overcome Wrong and pursue its own course. Happenings in human society, past and present, seem, however, to belie the conclusion. There is untruth everywhere, having full sway and giving no quarter to truth. Tyranny, exploitation, dishonesty, fraud are rampant. Appearances may, however, be deceptive. Let us clear the misunderstanding underlying the confusion.
· Slow Speed.
According to the Holy Quran the concepts of life revealed by God have the capacity and inherent strength to clear impediments and prevail but they do so at a slow speed, that is when judged by man’s counting. “He directs the affair from heaven to earth” (32/5), that is, at His will, He formulates a plan in the high heavens, but initiates it practically at the lowest level, even as the live seed is buried under the earth to become a hung tree later on, “then it goes up to Him in a day whose measure is a thousand years of your counting”, (32/5). God’s plans, based always on truth, must materialize. Impediments cannot hold them up. But they progress at a speed too slow to be visible. Abstract truths apart, even in the case of material things the pace of evolution remains imperceptible. Scientists say that in organic evolution the smallest change in a species takes thousands of years to take effect. During this long period the change goes on taking shape gradually but unnoticed and becomes visible only at the end of a millennium. This should give art idea of the speed at which God’s plans materialize, whose one day measures a thousand or even fifty thousand years (70/4) of our counting. One might sit by a plant day and night, for weeks or months or even years, but although it will be growing all the time, he will not perceive the change as it is coming on slowly, very slowly. In a watch if the minute hand drops and the hour hand moves on from one hour mark to the next, the movement’ remains invisible to the naked eye.
· Truth Prevails.
In its struggle with untruth, truth must prevail ultimately although it may take long to do so. Says the Holy Quern, ‘We hurl truth against untruth and it crushes its brain and untruth vanishes away” (21/18), leaving the way clear for truth to pursue its normal course. It would be incorrect to expect a result of the struggle within decades; it needs centuries to determine the outcome of the struggle. The fact, however, is that a conflict between a divine principle and a man-made system has always ended in the victory of the former and a rout of the latter. Examples will be given a little later.
The ground covered so far might be reiterated briefly:-
(1) Islam is a collection of inviolable principles revealed by God for the guidance of man to enable him to attain his destiny in life.
(2) Those who would exploit fellow men, oppose the divine code and give rise to the struggle between Right and Wrong.
(3) Right has an inherent capacity to overcome Wrong and pursue its own course.
(4) The process is a slow one, so slow that its one day equals a thousand years of man’s counting.
· Pace can be Accelerated.
The Process can, however, be quickened. The verse (35/10) already quoted “healthy concept of life, Kalema-eTayyib, has the capacity to go up to Him” goes on to say, “and healthy action (of man) gives it a push upward”. That is, divine laws left to themselves, operate at their normal slow speed, but if at times a people adopt them in giving shape to their social structure, the speed gets accelerated and the results which would have normally taken thousands of years to produce, are achieved within a few days. Normally divine laws operate by evolution; man’s cooperation makes them work by revolution or, to use the scientific term, by Emergent Evolution. The process of normal evolution allows human mind time to develop gradually and appreciate divine laws. The onset of emergent evolution brought on by man’s cooperation is, however, too fast for human mind to keep pace with. The cooperating community itself is undoubtedly equipped to appreciate divine laws and assimilate their spirit, but those outside it lack the mental development needed for the purpose, and in consequence experience difficulty in owning them. A student brought up and educated normally to the final stage of his study, will tackle difficult problems with ease; but they will baffle one who is still in the middle of the course. To enable the latter to grapple with them, his education must be improved and special arrangements made for quicker mental development.
· How Human Intellect Works.
The modus operandi of human intellect consists in the method of trial and error. It formulates a theory, puts it into practice and takes decades or even centuries to discover its weaknesses. Then it devises another theory and repeats the process. It might take hundreds of years to arrive at the right solution. The solution thus reached is then welcome, since during the intervening centuries the requisite mental development has already taken place.
· What Revelation Does.
Divine Revelation does away with the method of trial and
error. It gives outright solutions without waiting for the normal mental
development of mankind taking place. Special effort bas consequently to be made
to familiarize man’s mind with the principles revealed much in advance of the
times. The introduction among mankind of eternal divine laws (Al-Islam)
proceeded at the normal pace apropos man’s mental development, who accepted
what was within his ken and remained a stranger to the rest. All of a sudden
Rasoolullah appeared on the scene in
· Four Questions.
The foregoing gives rise to four questions, namely:-
(1) What was it which created in that particular period a body of people whose healthy deeds gave such a momentum to the operation of divine laws?
(2) Why did that thing not prove lasting?
(3) If the thing disappeared, why did the divine truth escape man’s mind as it had developed at the time?
(4) What proof is there that the divine’ laws resumed their normal speed and Continue to operate at that speed? That is, does the stream of divine laws continue to flow and has not turned into a standing pool deprived of all chances of resuming its flow?
· Rasoolullah’s Training.
As regards the first question, the programme which. in the words of the Holy Quern, Rasoolullah followed, was “To recite His verses to them, to help their development and to teach them the Book and the why thereof’, (62/2). the programme was threefold. Firstly, Rasoolullah presented to his listeners the Holy Quern, pure and simple, without allowing any mingling with it of man’s own thoughts, concepts, theories or beliefs. He offered them pure what he received by Revelation. His appeal was based on reason. “1 call to God with sure knowledge. I and whoever follows me”, (12/108). The presentation of the Quranic message was rational and based on true knowledge; there was no compulsion there, neither mental through miracles, nor physical by the, sword. Secondly, those who accepted the message after due thought and conviction and without mental reservation, were initiated into mastering it as best as they could. Rasoolullah explained to them the provisions of divine laws together with the purpose underlying them. lie taught them how they should, in the light of the inviolable principles of Al-Islam, think out a solution of the problems which might confront them. Thirdly, all atmosphere of true freedom was created in which personality could grow and man’s inborn capacities of head and heart could develop. The shackles of man-made restrictions and conventions gripping them broke one by one and they felt that they were neither another man’s dependent nor his slave. True freedom prevailing n the Quranic Social Order provides the base for the development of human Personality.
This was the simple and straight-forward programme which enabled Rasoolullah to create a community of people whose healthy deeds gave a miraculous acceleration to the pace of divine laws and established a social order in no time to bear witness to, the glorious achievements of Islam.
· Difference in Training.
The people who embraced Islam in the lifetime of
Rasoolullah, technically called companions, did not all of them have equal
opportunity of benefiting from his training. There were the Bedouins who became
converts towards the end of Rasoolullah’s life, after seeing the Rising power
and prowess of the Islamic State. About them the Holy Quern says, “The Bedouins say, we believe’, Say you do not believe, rather say, ‘we
surrender (to the Islamic State); for belief has not yet entered your hearts.” (4911 4). Then there were the Qureish
who joined the Islamic fold after the armistice of Hodaibiyya or the fill of
· Real Conversion.
The foregoing would show clearly that among the later adherents of Islam there were people whose conversion differed from that of the first pioneers and who had lesser opportunity of receiving training from Rasoolullah. His first converts joined Rasoolullah after long and serious thought and after appreciating his message fully’, at a time when conversion meant planting oneself against the concerted opposition of whole society and offering one to their unlimited torture and tyranny. Later on when the Islamic state got well established and extended its control far and wide, conversion became an easy affair and meant, to use the Quranic expression. just surrendering to the state. Besides this difference in the urge for conversion the later adherents were also handicapped in the matter of receiving training directly from Rasoolullah.
· Rasoolullah’ s Personality.
The second question is why was the programme adopted by Rasoolullah not pursued? An oft-repeated explanation is that it was the unique personality of Rasoolullah who brought about with his great “Spiritual” power the tremendous revolution and it was not within the competence of ordinary mortals to carry on the great work he had initiated.
The explanation is based on a misunderstanding which it is very necessary to remove. While it might provide an answer to the question, its logical and inescapable conclusion is that howsoever we might wish it we cannot revive Islamic way of life. The answer leads to complete and continuous frustration leaving little hope for regeneration. The idea of a mujaddid coming after every century or of a mehdi appearing in the end of so many nabees cropping up one after another, is the direct product of the frustration. The conception that a revival is impossible without the guidance of a nabee is unwarranted and must be removed. There is no mention in the Holy Quern of any promised one coming after Rasoolullah.
· What Rasoolullah did could be repeated.
Rasoolullah was the recipient of Revelation from God and in this respect he was unique among men. Revelation gave him a supernatural position. On the foundation of revealed guidance he raised the super-structure of Islamic Social Order, not with the help of any supernatural power but as a man. The Holy Quran makes no secret of the fact that apart from the Book he was not given any miracle. After his passing away the process of Revelation stopped, but what he did as a mortal to give practical shape to the revealed message, was carried on as before through the institution of Khilafat or succession, the sole purpose of which was to prepetuate his programme of advancing and extending the Islamic Social Order. Says the Quran, “Muhammad is naught but a messenger:
messengers have passed away before him. Why, if he should die or is slain, will you turn about on your heels (thinking that the message was for his life-time only)? (3/143). The programme did not end with his demise; it had to continue inspite of his demise and could be carried on without him. When he said (1 2/108) “1 call to God with sure knowledge” he added “1 do so and so also those who follow .me”. The Holy Quran says. “He (Rasoolullah) enforces the recognized (lawful), and forbids the unrecognized (unlawful)’ - and the same duty has been assigned to his followers where it says “you are a dynamic society brought forth for the good of humanity. You enforce the recognized (lawful) and forbid the unrecognized (unlawful)”, (3/109). Hence it is wrong to assume that the three fold programme of Rasoolullah of “rcciling God’s verses to the people, helping their development and teaching them the Book and the why thereof” was confined to him and was not to be pursued after him. It was, as a matter fact pursued and the fruits which the Islamic social Order had begun to bear in the life-time of Rasoolullah, continued to be harvested. Then after a time the programme halted due to various reasons.
· Why the Programme halted.
Rasoolullah began propagating his message among the Meccans and those round about them and subsequently among the people of Madina and its surroundings. Due to direct contact with Rasoolullah, his immediate listeners understood and appreciated the divine message and Islamic conceptions gripped them and went deep into their heart and soul. Later on, when the whole of Arabia became Muslim the fresh converts, to quote the Holy Quern, merely ‘surrendered’ to the Islamic State, without being subjected to any mental or moral change. The earlier Muslims were real converts, the later ones merely in name. The latter had little share of Rasoolullah’s personal contact and training, because they were scattered far and wide, their number was very large, and Rasoolullah’s early demise had cut short the opportunity. After his passing away, ‘during the time of Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Umar, the Islamic State extended far and wide and covered an area of almost two and a half million square miles, embracing practically the whole of the Persian Empire and the greater part of the Roman Empire. The people inhabiting these vast areas could stick to their religion by making treaties with the Islamic State, but they preferred to become Muslims. As converts to a new social order they were even in a less fortunate position than the Arabian converts just referred to. The Arabian converts had the advantage of seeing Muslims round about them and of hearing about Islamic concepts and principles. The new converts had none of this facility. Their number was legion, the area which they inhabited was immense, and means of communication were extremely limited. All these factors made it well-nigh impossible that their education and training in the new dispensation could be on lines approaching those on which the earliest adherents of Islam were brought up. The problem greatly worried Hazrat Umar and he gave continued and very serious thought to it throughout. The situation answered very well the description in the Holy Quran, “When the help of God and victory come and you see men joining His social order in throngs”, let not complacency overcome you that your purpose has been achieved and your programme is over, but instead you should get determined to prosecute the programme with greater vigor and “then proclaim the praises of your Nourisher (by executing His programme more vigorously) and seek His protection for He turns to men (and brings them means of development,)” (110/1-3). It was this feeling which, according to Ibn-e-Hazm, made Hazrat Umar distribute a hundred thousand copies of the Holy Quran throughout the length and breadth of the State. He had thought out further plans for the training of the new converts, but before he could execute them he was assassinated unexpectedly, leaving the ummat as well as mankind at large so much poorer and the new converts a heap of uncouth mass of humanity. A mass conversion of the type that had occurred could be no more than political surrender to the new State, without any mental change affecting old beliefs and conceptions. Education an training alone can bring about real change. Social influence might change their outside, but superficial change alone is a dangerous thing. The surrender of the masses was calm and quiet but it cut to the quick the wielders of authority and the intelligentsia. They were sore at a defeat by the Arabs, whom they never took for more than wild brutes, which broke to pieces their extensive empire and destroyed their ancient culture and civilization. The defeat made them surrender no doubt to the Islamic State, but they were never reconciled to it and feelings of revenge against the conquering Arabs raged furiously in their hearts. They took revenge not on the battle-field but through political intrigue and religious disruption. They realised that the secret of the over-whelming power of the Arabs lay in their adoption of the Islamic principles. When the Persian governor and military commander, Harmuzan was brought in chains before Hazrat Umar he asked him how is it that the Arabs who until recently dare not come near the Persian frontiers were now inflicting heavy defeat on them on all fronts? The answer Harmuzan gave was “Before it was force pitched against force, of which we had more. Then God was neither with you nor with us. Now in our encounters there is God with you and no God with us”. The answer repeats in other words what the 1-loly Quran has said, “That is because God is the protector of the believers and that the unbelievers have no protector” (47/11). The thinkers among the conquered knew full well that it is the eternal principles of God whose adoption has brought such a tremendous change among the Arabs and therefore they based their scheme of revenge on a plan designed to wean them from those principles. The plan consisted in introducing gradually in the body politic of Islam of un-Islamic beliefs and concepts under an Islamic covering so that in the end the eternal divine principles lost place to manmade laws and concepts. What we have now of Islam is composed mostly of the replacing stuff introduced by the Ajami (alien) scheme of revenge. The Egyptian historian Muhammad Husain Haikal has described the situation aptly in his book “The Great Umar”. He has first quoted from the Historians’ History of the World and then made his own comments. The quotation is:-
“The reaction went still further, and the principles of
political theology which had ruled ancient
“At his death she gathered about his two sons, Hassan and
Husein, and afterwards about their descendants. Husein had married a daughter
of the last sassanid king, so that the imamate was fixed in his blood by a
doubly divine right; and the union of ancient
“The revolution which overturned the Omayyad usurpers in
favour of the Abbasides, the nephews of the Prophet, was the work of
(Pages 489-90, Vol. 24, 1907 edition).
Haikal then comments on the quotation as follows: “The events recorded by the Historians’ History of the world, which are corroborated by all other historians, occurred after Hazrat Umar. We have referred to them with a view to draw the attention of the reader to the fact that the Iranians never reconciled themselves to Arab domination and in fact resisted it from the very beginning. At first they revolted openly: but failure in the attempt turned their efforts to arrest power by other means. They succeeded here and obtained considerable power in the various spheres of life’s activities. They were so sore against Muslim domination that they decided to kill Hazrat Umar. It has been said that the assassination of Hazart Umar coming soon after the conquest of Khorasan was the result of Iranian conspiracy.” (page-420)
I hold no brief for Shias or Sunnis and am, therefore,
unconcerned with sectarian beliefs. The criterion with me is that beliefs and
conceptions opposed to the Holy Quern can never be right and am averse to
looking at the point in issue from the sectarian angle. What I wish to stress
is that the inhabitants of the conquered territories after becoming Muslim
stuck to their old beliefs and giving them an Islamic packing spread them in
the Islamic society, thereby weaning it gradually
from God (His Book) who helped Muslims in overcoming non-Muslims. Or, in the
words of the Historians History of the world, already quoted, “The Islam of
Persia is not at all Islam: it is the old religion of
· Doubtful Strategy.
Some say that had Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Umar not fought these wars, Islam would have been saved the disfigurement which it had to suffer at the hands of the new converts. The opinion overlooks an important aspect of the situation, namely that the wars were fought not for grabbing land but in circumstances which might be summarised briefly as follows:
(1) Islam is a way of life which can take practical shape only in a free Islamic State. This was the foundation on which Rasoolullah built a state, the preservation of which became the sole object of the Caliphate.
(2) The Persian and the Roman Empires did not, could not, like the new Islamic State since it was a rival and a danger and had better been removed from the scene. It became incumbent that the Caliphate should take note of their evil designs and forestall them by advancing its armies for self preservation. Their conquests would have produced no untoward results had the conquered territories entered into treaties with the conquerors and not become converts to Islam overnight. The situation was worsened by the untimely assassination of Hazrat Umar who would have undoubtedly taken steps for initiating the new converts into the Islamic social order on a sound and firm basis.
(3) It is important to note that in addition to following a defensive strategy, an Islamic State has at times to adopt an offensive strategy also. If the subjects of a State are helpless against the tyranny and torture of their rulers it is the duty of an Islamic State to take whatever steps are feasible to succour them, even though they may be non-Muslims. At times armed intervention might become unaviodable in situations to meet which the U.N.O. is now being urged to have a force of its own which could move into territories where there is no other way for preserving law and order. Armed intervention by the Caliphate was in some cases resorted to with this motive.
The foregoing would show that the view that the Caliphate should not have engaged in wars, is very much ill-informed.
· Why did human mind fail to assimilate Islamic truths.
Now we come to the third question, namely that if the process of instruction and training introduced by Rasoolullah fell into disuse, why did human mind of its own, fail to adopt the Islamic truths which had been exposed before it lucidly, and why did it prefer man-made laws to those truths? We have already seen that when eternal truths unfold themselves with their normal speed, human mind accepts them gradually, but their ex-normal and sudden appearance leaves the human mind wondering unless by special training it is enabled to appreciate them. In other words all revolutionary messages have to be before-time. A “Revolutionary voice” is an appeal to mankind to give practical shape to some eternal law of God; it is ‘before-time” in the sense that in its present stage of development human mind is still not prepared to receive it. If it were so prepared the ‘voice” would not be revolutionary but would be a product of the prevailing environment. A revolutionary voice seems always out of tune since its listeners have not yet developed an ear which could appreciate it. They find it hard to harmonise with it. To them the voice is strange and they oppose it. Leaving aside the appeal of a messenger’ of God which is always centuries ahead of the time, the appeal of any genius falls on deaf ears and he passes away full of regret over the indifference of his audience. Ghalib had to say “the world will appreciate my verse after me’. Iqbal said “After me they will recite my verse, appreciate it and say a self-knowing soul gave a new shape to the world”. Ghalib and Iqbal are not solitary instances. All the world over in history the luminaries suffered the same fate at the hands of their respective people. They had nothing to support them in life and most of them had to spend their days behind the bars and in misery. They lived unknown and died unwept and unsung. But when they were no more, later generations unearthed the remnants and rags in which they had passed a miserable existence, adored with them museums and galleries, wrote every word of theirs in gold and weighed it against jewels.
· High Level of Quranic Revolution.
A casual assessment of the plane of thought and the social, economic and cultural level attained in the age in which the revolutionising message of the Holy Quran came, would show that the message was much beyond and ahead of the times.
(1) Man and God. In an age in which the people from the thoughtful down to the common man, were overwhelmed with superstition surrounding the places of worship, sacrificial forums and monasteries and their minds were helpless captives in the hands of hermits, priests and soothsayers, who were believed to be the sole and accredited agents for enforcing the driving purpose, the Quranic voice proclaiming that between man and his God no third power intervened, must have been a cry in the wilderness!
(2) Cooperation not Subjugation. In an age in which the whole world believed and worshipped Raja as an incarnation of God, Caesar as the possessor of Divine Rights and king as God’s shadow on earth, the Quranic call that no one has the right to thrust his will on another and that human affairs should be settled by mutual consultation, must have sounded very odd indeed!
(3) Relative Superiority. In an age in which racial superiority determined respectability, family and tribal connections formed the basis for greatness, heredity was accepted as the standard for leadership and political ascendancy and in which every individual, every tribe and every country felt the greatest pride in preserving the distinctions even though the process might involve wide-spread destruction, the Quranic message that by birth all persons are alike and the criterion for respectability and greatness is one’s personal attainments and not hereditary connections, must have looked very unnatural.
(4) Ideology. In an age in which geographical boundaries and racial characteristics assessed distinction and in which laying down of one’s life for country and nation was considered to be a sacred duty, for Quran to say that nationality should be based not on country, colour, race, language, etc., but on common ideology, must have been altogether un-understandable!
(5) Cause and Effect. In an age in which man had a separate god for every natural phenomenon, whose pleasure or displeasure determined whether coming events would bring happiness or sorrow, how could one believe that things in nature are controlled by a fixed law, that there is a chain of cause and effect in all happenings and that there is an unchanging procedure governing them which admits of no exception? The Quranic conception must have been an extremely strange one and an altogether unacceptable proposition.
(6) All Men Are Equal. In an age marked with paucity of knowledge in which a villager who could count beyond ten was believed to be superhuman, how could human mind concede that a messenger of God, who was the repository of the highest knowledge, could be a man like any other man!
(7) Miracles. In an age in which piety was associated with doing astonishing things how could anyone accept that a messenger of God did not perform miracles and that the yardstick for judging truth or untruth was the verdict of knowledge and its concrete results! The proposition could hardly appeal to the prevailing intellect, which would spurn at the idea that a prophet could perform no miracle, that religion was based on reason and that religious actions should be judged by their results.
(8) Serfdom. In an age in which capitalism, and even serfdom, were accepted as normal features of society, the clarion call of the Holy Quran that no man has the right to usurp another s earnings, must have been sheer lunacy.
(9) Private Ownership. Finally, in an age in which a Karon’s wealth was appreciated as god’s bounty, landlordism as nature s gift and in which the placing of any limits on personal belongings was viewed as anti-religious, the Quranic proclamation must have sounded very strange indeed, that hoarding of wealth is a serious crime, that sources of production cannot belong to any individual, that the means of sustenance should remain open to all in an equitable manner and that it is the basic duty of the State to see that every one is provided with the necessities of life and whatever is required for the development of one’s latent potentialities.
· Sixth Century Thought.
The level of human thought in the “sixth century of the Christian era, had not yet attained the height required to assimilate the conceptions underlying the new dispensation and the way of life it advocated. The conceptions being of a revolutionary character were far ahead of the times and the world was still unprepared for receiving them. The, sixth century belonged to what are called the “dark ages”: even the twentieth century, the age of science and reason and civilization and culture, finds it difficult to catch up to Quranic conceptions. Their great height makes it impossible to hazard a guess about the time when human thought would approach them. Therefore, there should be nothing astonishing if the Quranic Social Order did not continue long; the real surprise is how some people were got together who could assimilate conceptions far ahead of their time and give them a practical shape.
· Rasoolullah’s Personality.
It sends my soul into ecstasy when I think of the wonderful training which the great personality of Rasoolulah imparted to produce in that age a people who could bring about the establishment of the Quranic Social Order. Rasoolullah’s greatest miracle, in my view, is that in circumstances in which any genius would pass away regretting an indifferent environment and calling himself the man of the future, he (Rasoolullah) should proclaim his environment to be “the best of all” since it gave practical shape to a social order far above the mental level of the times. Rasoolullah occupies a unique position among the revolutionary leaders of the world standing far ahead of and much higher than any one else. His miraculous achievement consists in placing before and bringing home to his people, ideas which are not fully appreciated even after the lapse of thirteen centuries. A teacher possessing his breadth of vision and sympathy could alone give a rational exposition of Allah’s book and achieve an unimaginable development of man’s potentialities. It was this marvelous performance of Rasoolullah which made God and His constructive forces (angels) acclaim him with cheers and applause, (33 756). They acclaimed his associates also (33/47), who cut themselves off from the rest of the world and rising poles high above their contemporaries, helped the establishment Madina of a social order, far beyond the imagination of the times, in which;
(a) the big sardars of the Qoreish, a plebeian from Persia (Salman), a labourer from Rome (Shoaib) and a slave from Abyssinia (Bilal) not only ate from the same table but had matrimonial relations also;
(b) even when a big personality like Rasoolullah asked a slave boy or a slave girl to do something, he or she had the courage to question him (Rasoolullah) whether his suggestion was based on Revelation or on his personal opinion and if it was the latter, to ask his pardon and to be allowed to do as he or she thought fit;
(c) affairs of State were determined by mutual counsel and the view of the head of the State (Rasoolullah) himself was at times ruled out by the view of some one else;
(d) at Rasoolullah’s demise Hazrat Abu Bakr proclaimed before a huge crowd that he who worshipped Muhammad (May we glorify and obey his call) should know that his god is dead, but one who served God should know that his God is Living and Everlasting, that Muhammad was His messenger who lived his time and then passed away making little difference to the order he had established;
(e) after Rasoolullah’s demise people collected and chose their head on merit, discarding completely tribal or ancestral considerations;
(f) at his death bed Rasoolullah declared that he had not a pie at home and that whatever odds and ends he was leaving would pass on to the people and not to any individual relation;
(g) Hazrat Abu Bakr, as head of the State, fixed his remuneration at an equivalent of the daily wages of a labourer and returned to the Exchequer even that pittance, fearing he might not have done full work for the sum;
(h) Hazrat Umar told his wife that the precious stones which Caesar’s wife sent her in return for presents of scents, were sent to her in her capacity as the wife of the head of the State and not in her personal capacity and that therefore the stones should be made over to the Central Exchequer;
(i) Hazrat Umar decided that the conquered lands shall not be divided among the fighting forces but shall remain under the joint control of ummat, so that the present as well as the future generations should be able to avail of them;
(j) an old hag could tell the head of the State that if he could not evolve a machinery for keeping himself informed of what was happening to the individual citizens, he should abdicate on grounds of inefficiency, and
(k) Hazrat Umar would eat wheat bread only if he was assured that it was available to every citizen of the state, otherwise would continue eating oats.
The creation of a society in which decisions of the nature indicated above could be taken normally and without special effort, was, on the face of it, an event far in advance of the age. Even after the lapse of thirteen centuries human mind still finds it difficult to assimilate the principles propounded by the Holy Quran.
· Human Mind can Develop.
When I say that revolutionary messages are ahead of times, it does not mean that the messages are beyond the reach of human mind. It can follow and appreciate them but with effort. But effort is what human mind shirks. Following blindly (taqleed) requires no thought (thought is in fact forbidden in tqqleed), is automatic and hence easy of adoption. The early history of Islam gives, however, an idea of the great extent to which man’s effort can develop human mind.
· Why Emergent Evolution.
What is the good of sudden revolutionary changes? What does mankind gain by accelerating the working of eternal laws for a time and securing their extraordinary results if after a while human mind and those results are to revert to their old level? In a concrete form the question might be “what contribution did early Islam make to the betterment of mankind?” The answer is “immense” Firstly, Islam gave the world God’s eternal laws in the form of a book (the Holy Quran) so that who so wishes might give them practical shape and obtain their happy results. Secondly, Islam showed the world that the laws are workable, that they are not mere utopia but a practicable code of life which was given a trial in a particular period of history and produced positive results. Emergent evaluations help mankind go ahead. As already explained human intellect works by experimentation. 1t evolves a plan, executes it and then finds after centuries that the plan was defective and hence a failure. Then it begins experimenting with some other plan. If, however, it can have the benefit of seeing the results achieved by a revolution, the precedent will help it assess much better the results of its own planning. A comparative study of pre and post Islamic history will show at once that the progress man has made during post Islamic period is unparalleled. The progress would appear much more marked had the history of early Islam been available in its unalloyed form. A revolution gives the ever-moving vehicle of time a push which accelerates its speed and enables it to cover a lot of distance with the momentum gained. It was the momentum generated by the short-lived Islamic Social Order, which helped Muslims maintain for centuries their leadership of the world in science and art. Western thinkers and historians admit the truth of the statement. In his book “The Making of Humanity”, Briffault has devoted a whole chapter to the theme under the caption “Dar Al-Hikmat” and says,
“It was under the influence of the Arabian and
Moorish revival of culture, and not in the fifteenth century, that the real
Renaissance took place.
“It is highly probable that but for the Arabs modern European civilization would never have arisen at all; it is absolutely certain that but for them, it would not have assumed that character which has enabled it to transcend all previous phases of evolution.” (page- 190)
The extract sums up nicely the benefits which accrued to humanity from the push given by the Islamic revolution.
· Islam has been Advancing.
We may now take up the fourth and the last question namely how do we know that the eternal principles of Islam have been functioning at their normal speed and have not come to a dead stop. It is a question of history, the history of the times when the Holy Quran was revealed and the history of mankind during the, subsequent thirteen centuries. The study will settle the point whether in these thirteen centuries man has, after due experimentation, been adopting Quranic concepts or reverting to pre-Quranic concepts.
(a) In the pre-Quranic period the institution of king-ship was believed to be an institution most suited to human “nature”; the Holy Quran rejected it and advanced the method of mutual counseling for settling affairs because no one had the right to thrust his will on another. The new concept had little appeal at the time, but since then, the trend has been in which direction, towards imperialism or towards Islam”?
(b) Slavery was then believed to be an essential feature of society and perfectly in accord, with the “natural” division of mankind into strata. The Holy Quran declared that by birth all men are equally deserving of respect and that therefore no one has the right to enslave another. The Quranic concept was then unacceptable, but since then, which has prevailed, the old slavish concept or the new Islamic concept of human freedom?
(c) Human mind then thought that personalities help nations to glory and believed in hero-worship as something very natural. The Holy Quran said that the idea was archaic and primitive and that henceforth common ideology would cement nations, which would progress on the strength and efficiency of their social order. No one would agree with it then; but do not present trends favour entirely the Quranic principle?
(e) Against the then prevailing belief that ownership of land, feudalism and capitalism were natural institutions, the Holy Quran proclaimed that it is the duty of every individual to help the development of all, that, therefore, means and sources of production must not belong to individuals and that individual control over land produce and hoarding of gold and silver were the most heinous crimes before the Supreme Court of Humanity. The Quranic idea was spurned at initially but what about now? Is not world restlessly yearning to assimilate and own the idea originally rejected with contempt?
(f) Human mind then recognised families, tribes and nations, but could not conceive a universal brotherhood of man. The Holy Quran said humanity is one and the oneness can be brought about by having one law for the whole lot. The idea of oneness of humanity was not appreciated then, but since then what has been the position? Has appreciation grown for a compact mankind or for its divisions into smaller groups? That the world has grown sick of nationalism is the theme of a chapter on Politics in my book “insan ne kiya socha” (What man has thought).
Western thinkers then passed on the internationalism, but felt very soon that it could not achieve human destiny. They are now for universalism and wish to establish one-world government, without knowing exactly the base on which to raise the superstructure. They will thank their stars when they realise ultimately that the true base for one world government is provided by the Permanent Values of the Holy Quran!
· Islam Continues to Advance.
I have cited the foregoing instances by way of illustration, otherwise there is no walk of life in which man has not after unsuccessful experimentation, followed the path indicated by the Holy Quran for the achievement of man s destiny or is still busy discovering it. Of the truths revealed by the Holy Quran the world has adopted some is impatiently anxious to adopt some more, and the rest appear to be beyond the reach of man with his present mental development. The Holy Quran is the final and complete code of life for mankind. As man advances he will appreciate more and more the provisions of the code which just fit in with the freshly evolving features of life. Says the Holy Quran. We shall show them our signs in the (‘changing,) horizons and in themselves till it is clear to them that it is the truth” (41/53). The world witnesses the signs in the changing horizons, appreciates the Quranic eternal truths and is thus gradually becoming a ‘convert’ to Islam.
The ground already covered might be recapitulated: -
(1) Islam is a collection of eternal truths inviolable laws and Permanent Values revealed from time to time for the guidance of man and finally preserved in the Holy Quran.
(2) ‘Islam’ forged its way into human society at its own. evolutionary slow speed, very slow indeed by our counting, until Rasoolullah appeared on the scene.
(3) By persistent effort over years Rasoolullah brought together a body of men whose practical programme helped Islam’s normal speed accelerate and produce, results quickly, that is, by our own counting. This is the period in history which is recognised as the epoch of Islam’s glory.
(4) After a time the modus operandi of Rasoolullah -- calling people to Allah rationally and instructing them in the revealed book -- fell into disuse, resulting in the withdrawal of the acceleration induced by him and his associates and leaving Islam proceed at its normal slow speed.
· Islam and Muslims.
Superficial vision sees in the phenomenon short-lived success and subsequent failure of Islam, confusing Islam with Muslims, although the two are quite distinct from each other. The state of Muslims, good, bad or indifferent, is one thing and success or failure of Islam quite another. But to avoid the mental confusion the position should be perfectly clear.
· Islamic Truths.
The truths represented by the term Islam are as old as
creation itself. They began forging their way ahead gradually and on their
onward march different people at different periods of history owned them and
reaped a happy and hefty harvest. When they gave up the truths the gains
disappeared and they became subject to sundry hardships. Fourteen hundred years
ago a people in
· Evidence of Man’s History.
In the streets of France when cremated kingship gave birth to democracy, it was a link in Islam’s history; in America when battles were fought and blood was shed to get rid of slavery, it was a glorious chapter in Islam’s history; in India when the movement to call “untouchables”, by the name of Harijan (one bestowed with God’s energy), was launched, it was a manifestation of Islam s eternal truth; and now in America the struggle to do away with the discrimination between the white and the black is just a step towards Islam. When the United Nations Organisation decided that conflicts between nations should be resolved by mutual counsel, it was nothing but adopting an Islamic precept. The current turmoil in man’s mind somehow to banish armament from society, follows strictly the provision in Islamic programme framed fourteen centuries ago that wars might be allowed only so long as they (wars) do not “lay down their arms”. In short any movement launched anywhere during the past fourteen centuries for the liberation and advancement of humanity, was no more than a ray from Islam’s shining sun; and conversely whenever and wherever man-made schemes have failed the situation has provided fresh proof of the truth of Islamic fundamentals. The history of mankind coupled with its struggle and search for knowledge, proclaim aloud, to quote Iqbal,
“Wherever you come across a region full of colour and perfume,
Out of whose soil spring urges of “desire” It owes its worth to the teaching of Muhammad,
Or it is still seeking after his guidance.”
· Only Islam advances.
A study of human history from this angle will convince that Islam did not fail at any stage, that systems unIslamic, without exception, did fail at one stage or another, and that after their failure Islam always took their place. It was bare truth when the Holy Quran said, “He will make the Islamic way of life prevail over all other ways” (48/28). The Book tells us that Man’s future is bright. In connection with the creation of man, angels (forces of nature) are said to have told God, “What, will you set therein one who will upset things and shed blood” (2/30) and got the answer Assuredly, I know what you know not” (2/31). It means that the ultimate destiny of man will be achieved when the stage of disruption and spilling of blood is over and when “there shall be no fear on them, neither shall they sorrow” (2/38). Islam is leading man to his destiny and will not rest until his destination is reached. It is a programme designed by One who is the Nourisher of all Being, and a Nouisher (Rabb) is one who takes care of a thing from the initial to its final stage of development. If a programme fails it could not have been designed by the Nourisher of All being”.
· Partial adoption of Islam.
The world has been adopting the Islamic system bit by bit but partial adoption cannot produce the promised result. A system is an indivisible unit and produces results only when adopted as a whole. It is very much like a medical prescription which will restore health only if it is carefully prepared with all its components. The people who adopt the Islamic System as a whole are called Momins. They are the people who have “no fear on them, neither shall they sorrow’. Man has to reach that goal in any case.’ He may do so by the method of trial and error or by following revealed guidance. That guidance will help him traverse in seconds what experimentation might take centuries to cover.
· Decline of Muslims.
A question arises as to why Muslims as a class should lag behind other nations? A detailed answer to the question has been furnished in my book “Asbaab-e-Zawale-Urnmat”. Briefly the reason for their lagging behind is that while the other nations have been adopting Quranic truths after due consideration of “signnsin the changing horizons and in themselves”, the Muslims are hugging an alien (ajami) or pseudo Islam which forbids thought and understanding outright. The day Muslims revive the programme of ‘reading understanding and adopting in life Quranic truth is, they are bound to regain the leadership of the world. Goethe, the German poet, has likened Islam to a clear and transparent stream flowing smoothly to wards its goal. Nations which avail of its water for irrigating their fields will have bumper crop. In an epoch of history Arabs did it and “gathered a hundred grains for every one sowed”. But when they gave up drawing water from the stream their crops dried up. Did the stream dry up? No. It flows on and on and those who so wish may still avail of its water. “Each we succour, these and those, from your Lord’s gift and your Lord’s gift is not confined (17/20). The standing crop of the Muslims dried up because they would not water it from the everflowing heavenly stream. God’s Broadcasting Station is busy and will remain so “till it is the rising of dawn”. If one’s radio set has become silent, the fault lies with the set itself.
· Islamic way illustrated.
The Holy Quran has made use of an illustration for explaining the Islamic way of life. “Have you not seen how God has struck a similitude? A good word (healthy concept of life) is as a good tree, whose roots are firm and whose branches are spread high all over”, (14/24). The tree is full capable of withstanding the worst storm and has its branches spread far and wide in all the four direction without being confined to any one country, “neither of the East nor of the West”, (24/3). “It gives its produce every season according to the laws of its Nourisher” (14/25). The Islamic way of life is confined neither by Space nor by Time. The same thing has been illustrated elsewhere by another example. “The likeness of paradise that is promised to those who guard against breaches of law, is that of a garden beneath which flow streams of water, whose produce is eternal and so is its shade” (13/35).
When God says that the tree of Islam will bear fruit for ever and ever, it would be wrong to suggest that the tree bore fruit at a particular period of history and then dried up. What actually happened at the time was that by their healthy tending, the believers helped it blossom quicker. This effort of Muhammad, (May we glorify and obey his call), the messenger of God, assisted by his companions, has been described by the Holy Quran again in terms of the young sapling rowing in a grain field, “as a. seed that puts forth its shoot and strengthens it and it grows stout and rises straight upon its stalk, pleasing the sowers, that through them, He may enrage the unbelievers’ (48/29). In other words a tree which should have taken long to bear fruit, was helped by this particular people to blossom earlier, but when their cooperation was withdrawn, they lost the fruit, but the tree continues to this day to grow, blossom and bear fruit in its normal sustained way.
· Islamic Way and Gains Inter-linked.
The cooperating people gathered a rich harvest because of their attachment to the particular system. The moment they detached themselves from the system the gains also disappeared simultaneously. In continuation of the verse (l4/25) already quoted, the Holy Quran goes on to say, God confirms those who believe with the firm word, that is with the firm way of life. So long as they follow it they remain firm; the moment they separate from it, they scatter and are reduced to non-entity. Their glory and their fall both are determined by God’s law and not by any one’s whim. It is the way a people adopt which determines their fate. When they give it up, it is not the way (Islam) which fails; it is the people who fail. History shows, however, that ways other than Islam have ultimately proved a failure. Chapter 103 verses 1 to 3 the Holy Quran declare that the history of Time shows that by following ways of his own making, “man has surely been in the way of loss, save those who believe in God’s way of life and by their healthy deeds help the way” to produce its healthy results quicker. But it is not an ad hoc programme that you follow it and ensure happiness and success for all time to come, even though the programme might have been deserted on the way. The programme requires that the process of “counseling each other unto its truth and to be steadfast” should continue ceaselessly.
So long as Muslims followed the programme they received all the good that accrues from following God’s laws; when they gave up the programme they deprived themselves of the fruit of those caws. The laws, however, continue operating as ever before.
· Evidence of
The movement for
· Constitution and Sovereignty.
After the creation of
A fresh Constituent Assembly then came into being. The constitution it drafted was a slight improvement over its predecessor but it was also replete with un-Islamic factors and it was their incorporation which was responsible for all the jubilation of priesthood over its adoption. But the Revolution and the coming of the Martial Law killed it young and gave it an indifferent burial.
· Towards Destiny.
A politician may have some other explanation to offer for these changes, but I can see clearly that everything is coming on in due sequence in keeping with the natural laws, moving on and on towards the goal of man’s destiny, at their own slow but majestic speed. If the constitution. of Pakistan is ultimately based on Quranic fundamentals and the Quranic social order is established in the country, the laws will begin to produce results according to man’s own counting and the world will, so to say, stampede into joining it in their millions.
But, God forbid; if
Here ends my broadly stated answer to the question “Is Islam a failure’ After going through it the reader will, I hope, agree that Islam has never been a failure but that it has succeeded and will continue to succeed, ever green in its pristine glory and ready to shower its blessing without discrimination, on mankind, badly torn and tortured at its own hands.
Posted on August 11, 2014