Chapter 2: Islam A Challenge to Religion
The Function of Deen
By Allama Ghulam Ahmad Parwez
THE FUNCTION OF Deen
I. Deen and Man
We have stated that a careful study of Islam is likely to give us an insight into the nature and function of Deen. Before embarking on this study, however, it would be advisable to consider its role in human life. The primary function of Deen is the development of human personality. It determines man's outlook on life and makes life meaningful to him. It aims at the transformation of man's character by organizing his desires into a harmonious system of living. To the extent that it succeeds in this aim, it eliminates the sources of internal conflict and enables man to live at peace with himself and at peace with his environment. Success and happiness are basically the fruits of a genuine personal conviction. But Deen has its social side as well. It is concerned with man as he exists in a network of social relationship. It does not isolate man from his social setting; rather, it brings him closer to his fellow-beings. It has a meaning for man as an individual; but it has a far richer meaning for him as a member of a social group. Deen leads man to the realization that he can develop his potentialities only by co-operating with his fellow men in the attainment of common ends. In this way, it plays a vital part in the development of customs, laws and institutions. It is, therefore, the proper subject of study not only for the psychologist but also for the historian and the sociologist. All are equally bound to take it seriously and are not justified in explaining it away (as in the case of religion), as an illusion or a matter of mere personal concern. The philosopher, too, has the right to examine the validity of Deen's view of Reality and to assess its value as a cohesive force in society. Deen has nothing to fear from an impartial inquiry. It has survived the fiercest onslaughts of science and philosophy so far directed against it.
Iqbal has rightly observed: "Higher religion1..... Recognized the necessity of [concrete]* experience as its foundation long before science learnt to do so."2 He has also drawn attention to the central position of Deen, in a synthesis of all the data of human experience. 3 In this connection it should be noted that the response of Deen to Reality is not a partial one. It is not merely cognitive as it is in the case of science and philosophy, nor is it merely emotional as it is in aesthetics. It is a total response involving all the elements in the personality of the individual. Further, it is the response of a coherent harmonious personality, a personality organized on the basis of a synthetic principle. In the words of Iqbal, "Religion . . . is neither mere thought, nor mere feeling, nor mere action; it is an expression of the whole man."4 We must not lose sight of this fact if we want to understand the real nature of Deen.
Let us pause to consider the implications of this view. If Deen is the expression of the whole man, then his achievements whether in the sphere of action or of thought, must somehow be related to his Deen or, in other words, to his basic beliefs about his relation to the Ultimate Reality. These beliefs essentially relate to Deen. We see then that Deen, has given the impetus to the noblest enterprises of man. It is generally claimed that a scientific ideology can very well achieve this object. But this is not true, for the simple reason that a scientific or materialistic ideology, by its very nature, cannot satisfy the whole man. It may appeal to his reason or interest but will, certainly, remain unrelated to other elements in his personality, and will in effect lead to the fragmentation of personality itself. Science and art bring satisfaction to the rational and the emotional (aesthetic) sides of human nature respectively. But Deen sets out to build up a view of the world which will satisfy all the deepest longings of man. Can Deen really accomplish this stupendous task? Some great thinkers of the modern age who confuse Deen with religion have posed this question, and stoutly maintain that it cannot do so. They point out that in the past the fruits of religion have been not peace and harmony but strife and discord. Cassirer's criticism of religion deserves to be quoted in full:
Religion remains a riddle not only in a theoretical but also in an ethical sense. It is fraught with theoretical antinomies and with ethical contradictions. It promises us a communion with nature, with men, with supernatural powers and the gods themselves. Yet its effect is the very opposite. In its concrete appearance, it becomes the source of the most profound dissension and fanatic struggles among men. Religion claims to be in possession of an absolute truth, but its history is a history of errors and heresies. It gives us the promise and prospect of a transcendent world, far beyond the limit of our human experience—and it remains human, all too human.5
It is certainly a devastating criticism, and as it has been made by a leading thinker of the present age it deserves our serious consideration. To examine it, point by point, will take us far afield. We can only indicate the general line our defence of Deen, as distinguished from religion, should take. The difficulty with Professor Cassirer is, as is the case with most of the critics of religion, that he has not studied Deen as such but some particular religions, and those too which were either man-made or the revealed ones, though true in their origin, were subsequently vitiated by human interpolations. He would but have reached a different conclusion if he had studied Deen. A true religion, if at all Deen is styled so, is not a riddle; it rather solves so many riddles of man and the universe. There are no antinomies in a true religion. On the other hand, it reconciles contradictions in life and harmonizes the opposites in human behaviour. It is true that religion has bred strife in the past in human society and that the religious communities have been torn by dissension. But that is the result of the imperfect vision of truth entertained by each contending group. Deen, on the other hand, breeds humility and modesty, not arrogance and presumption. Men have certainly fought among themselves in the name of religion. Their motives were political or economic, masquerading as religious. But the man believing in Deen is unwilling to impose his views on others. Finally, Deen involves the belief in a transcendent world but it is wrong to say that this transcendent world is separate and remote from and unconnected with the world of human experience. The transcendent world of Deen only an aspect of the same Reality of which the world of the senses is another aspect. In fact, they interpenetrate each other and belong to the same Supreme Reality. Deen teaches us that the sensible world is an abstraction from Reality and that we should adjust ourselves to the whole concrete Reality and not to one of its aspects. We agree with Professor Cassirer that "religion" (Din, as we call it) is "human, all too human." Its function is to regulate human life in such a way that the individual develops his personality and becomes a useful member of society. In order to attain this objective, it gives what may be termed permanent values, which no other source of knowledge can provide. It exhorts man to conquer the forces of nature, since the position it assigns to him in the universe is next to God, and to utilize the power so acquired for the development of the whole of humanity. It shows him the way to rise above animal level and to live the life of Man. It is possible only if he leads his life in conformity with permanent values. There would be no permanent values if there were no Deen and if there were no permanent values mankind will be no better than a herd of beasts. This is the real value and place of Deen in human life and activity which has unfortunately escaped the notice of Professor Cassirer.
II. The Self
So far we have been concerned with the Ultimate Reality with its infinity of aspects. One of these aspects is the spatio-temporal world of our experience. Now, we can turn our attention to the human self which seeks a meaningful relationship with Reality. The Real, in relation to the human self, is God, and the self's attitude to the Real is Deen. The self is strengthened and enriched through permanent values which are the various attributes of the Real Self called God.
What is the nature of the human self and what is its place in the scheme of the universe? We will, first, state and critically examine the answers which modern science and philosophy have supplied to these questions. In ancient and mediaeval philosophy the self was synonymous with the soul, and the soul was believed to be an indestructible substance which existed before its temporary conjunction with the material body and which survives the dissolution of the body. The notion of the soul was taken over from primitive thought and was refined and elaborated by philosophers. Aristotle was the only great philosopher who rejected this view and propounded a theory more in consonance with natural science. He regarded the soul as the entelechy of the body, and as it was the form of the body, it was also inseparable from it. The soul was thus placed squarely in the system of natural phenomena. However, for centuries after Aristotle, the older view of an independent and supernatural soul was unquestionably accepted by both scientists and philosophers. It was challenged only when modern science was well under way.
In the eighteenth century, the term "self" came into vogue. It had the advantage of being closer to nature than the term "soul" which had a supernatural flavour. The self was regarded as the subject of experience. The unity of consciousness, unique in the world, became intelligible only in the light of a self which owned and held together the various sensations, feelings and ideas which compose consciousness. It was regarded as free and not subject to natural laws. Moreover, it was believed that the self remained unchanged and identical with itself throughout the life-span of the individual. However, the line of thought which began with Locke and culminated in the philosophy of Hume rendered this conception of the self wholly unacceptable to English thinkers. Locke conceived the human mind as a blank tablet which passively received impressions from the outside world. The contents of the mind were wholly derived from the external world; it did not itself produce or create anything. It merely received and stored impressions from external objects and forces. This view totally denies any activity to the mind. Locke held that any idea in the mind which could not be traced to its source in an impression was merely spurious. Berkeley applied this test to the idea of self and reached the conclusion that it was not a valid idea. Nevertheless, he believed that the flow of ideas was orderly and lawful as these existed in the mind of God and were owned by Him.
Hume delivered the coup de grace to the popular belief in an independent self. He carried out a penetrating analysis of the mind and found not a shred of evidence for its existence. He affirmed that whenever he looked into his mind he came across a sensation, an image or a feeling, but not the self to which they are, supposed to belong. The mind, According to him, is merely a succession of ideas which are related to each other externally by virtue of existing in the same or successive states of consciousness. Being a thorough going empiricist, he could not accept an idea which did not correspond to an actual fact of consciousness. He believed that orderliness and coherence in the contents of the mind could be fully explained in terms of the principles of association. Thereafter, the English empirical thinkers dispensed with the concept of self altogether.
Kant agreed that the self or ego was not a fact of experience. Nevertheless, he believed in a transcendental ego which was the ground of experience. The idealistic philosophers, therefore, continued to speculate about the transcendental self and its relation to experience.
The psychologists, with their naturalistic outlook, found the concept of a transcendental self as of no use to them. The confined themselves to the study of the facts of experience. However, as they found that the contents of the mind were not disconnected but centred round an "I" or ego, they developed the concept of the empirical self. They set themselves to solve the problems of the emergence of the empirical self and the changes it undergoes in the course of mental development. However, as psychology attained the status of a full-fledged science, even the concept of an empirical self was discarded as being associated with ideas of permanent and stability.
In modern psychology the concept of personality has supplanted the older concept of self. The psychologist now studies the origin of personality and the process of its development as well as the process of its disintegration in abnormal cases. Personality is conceived not as an entity but as the form or pattern which the raw material of the mind assumes when it is organized. The organization of the instinctive urges, tendencies and capacities which constitute the biological equipment of the individual proceeds apace during the formative years of life. According to the view which is most widely held, the ground-plan of personality is laid during the first five years of life. Two factors, the physiological and the social, determine the farther course of personality development. The physiologists hold that the hormones secreted by the endocrine glands play a decisive role in the growth and normal functioning of personality. Social psychologists, on the other hand, tend to attach greater importance to the social milieu in which the human child grows up. Personality, they believe, emerges through the process of socialization. The child internalizes the group code and the social norms which immediately begin to regulate his instinctive urges and motives. The group also assigns to him a particular role, and the child develops the capacities and gives free scope to the tendencies which he needs for playing the role successfully.
Freud has constructed a theory of the origin of personality which, though not universally accepted, is generally regarded as a valuable contribution to this field of investigation. He attached great importance to home influences for personality. His theory throws light on why man clings so tenaciously to his moral code even when it is detrimental to his interests and even when his reason does not approve of it. It is because the moral code does not enter the child's mind by way of his intellect, which is still immature, but is received by and takes root in the emotional part of his nature. The child loves both his father and mother— but in different ways. His love for the mother is of the possessive kind. He wants the mother to be always with him, to minister to his needs as soon as they arise. This love is also libidinal or has an element of sexuality in it. The mother is the individual's first love object. The child's love for the father, on the other hand, is ambivalent, or has an ingredient of hostility in it. The child feels the father to be an obstacle in the gratification of his wishes and considers him as his rival for the mother's love. He naturally takes up a hostile attitude to the father. However, he soon finds that this hatred of his father draws upon him strong social disapproval. The contradictory impulses of love and hatred directed towards the same person lead to a severe conflict in the child's mind, which he is incapable of resolving himself rationally. He resolves it by repressing his hostility the father. The repressed impulse and the ideas associated with it form the Oedipus complex. The father's image and the moral code, of which the father was the chief exponent, sink into the child's unconscious and constitute the super-ego or, in ordinary language, the conscience. As the child, actuated by fear, unquestioningly had obeyed the father, so he now has no choice but to obey the imperatives of the super-ego which, he feels, have their source outside himself. His attitude to his father is transferred to the super-ego which is based on the repressed image of the father. This, according to Freud, is the secret of the powerful influence that the conscience exerts on the mind of the individual.
Sociologists maintain that human personality takes root in a social environment and is shaped by social forces. According to this point of view, the individual plays a negligible role in his own development. He remains passive while society moulds him into the form which happens to enjoy social approval at the moment. The inadequacy of this view is obvious, for we see it happening before our eyes that two children, brought up in the same social environment, develop different types of personality. If the sociologists were right, the members of a particular social group would be indistinguishable from each other in respect of personality. As compared to the sociologists', the psychologists' view is more in agreement with observed facts. According to this view, personality develops as the result of the reactions of the individual himself. The important thing for personality is not the social influence to which the individual is exposed, but the way in which he reacts to it. Man, therefore, does not passively receive but actively acquires personality. The biological factor operating in man is of crucial importance for personality development. However, it will not do to disregard the social factor altogether. Man has, perforce, to accommodate himself to the demands of the group on which he is dependent and which provides him with security and the necessities of life. According to the psychological theory, which does justice to both factors, personality is the product of the interaction between the hereditary constitution of man and his social milieu.
Science aims not merely at knowledge but at precise knowledge. Precision is possible only when the subject-matter is susceptible of measurement and when the technique of measurement has been perfected. For a long time it was believed that quantitative methods could not be applied to so elusive and imponderable a phenomenon as personality. We cannot deny the tribute of praise to the psychologists who, with commendable patience, hard work and ingenuity, have tried to solve this difficult problem. They first analyzed personality into traits and then discovered that each trait had a certain dimension. The next step was to devise and perfect the technique of accurately measuring each trait. By combination the results of measurement we get an overall picture of personality or personality profile, as it is termed. Rohrschach, Thurstone, Likert and Goddard have achieved remarkable success in the field. The modern psychologist now has a repertoire of special techniques for measuring each of the basic traits of human personality.
However, although the application of scientific methods to the study of personality has yielded a rich harvest of results, most of these have little bearing on the questions which loom large in religion. What it is in man which impels him to embark on the perilous and seemingly desperate enterprise of coming to terms with the Ultimate Reality? Why and how does he hope to fulfil himself by establishing a close and intimate contact with God?
Let us first see how far psychology and philosophy can help us to answer these questions. When we question the psychologist on the point, he refers us to the psychological definition of personality. Unfortunately, there is no definition which is accepted by all the major psychologists of the present age. Personality has been defined as the total quality of the individual's behaviour. This definition brings out both the unity and complexity of personality. Personality is inclusive, so that no important motive, tendency or capacity remains outside it, and yet it has a unity which is not paralleled anywhere else in nature. For our present purpose it will suffice to state one more, definition. Personality is the integration of the individual's measurable characteristics and motivational undercurrents. This process begins in early childhood and proceeds, at first slowly and then at an accelerated pace, during adolescence until the emergence of the mature personality of the adult. Thereafter too, personality continues to undergo at least some changes, though slight, throughout the life of the individual. With senility, or through disease or traumatic experiences, a process in the reverse direction may set in. The process of disintegration may lead to the splitting or even fragmentation of personality. Cases of dual and multiple personality have been observed and intensively studied by psychiatrists; therapeutic techniques have also been devised for reintegrating the split personality.
We now see clearly that there is nothing substantial about personality as it is conceived by the psychologist. It is merely a structural form which mental elements may take on or discard.
Turning to the philosophers, we find that the Existentialists refuse to believe in any transcendental entity. They refuse to take a single step beyond the world of experience. For them too, the human self does not partake of Reality.
The Logical Positivists promptly reject any concept which cannot be traced back to a fact of experience. Their vision too does not extend beyond the horizon of experience. Whatever is not an experiential fact they dismiss as non-existent.
At this point, it is natural to ask whether Deen can get along with the concept of personality or of empirical self. Obviously it cannot. It can have no use for the ephemeral self of the psychologist or Logical Positivist. It needs something real which can enter into a meaningful transaction with the ultimately real. It needs self which exists in mental phenomena and is also their underlying ground. Deeni activity is the expression of the reality in man and it is directed to the Real in the universe. The concept of personality may be scientifically sound, but somehow it leaves us dissatisfied. We feel that the object we pursued has eluded us and what we have grasped is a mere shadow. We suspect that scant attention has been paid to the depth factors in human life. The psychologist works from the surface of the mind downwards, and often fails to plumb the depths of the human mind.
At a later point in our discussion we will examine the Qur'anic concept of the self. Here let us pause to consider the effect of the scientific view of the self on the life of the modern man. The modern man lives at a superficial level. He pursues petty and selfish ends. No wonder that he is discontented and unhappy. His deepest cravings are left unsatisfied. Thus he is in conflict both with himself and with his fellow beings. In this connection, Iqbal's remarks deserve to be quoted in full:
Thus, wholly overshadowed by the results of his intellectual activity, the modern man has ceased to live soulfully, i.e. from within. In the domain of thought he is living in open conflict with himself; and in the domain of economic and political life he is living in open conflict with others. He finds himself unable to control his ruthless egoism and his infinite gold hunger which is gradually killing all higher strivings in him and bringing him but life-weariness. Absorbed in the 'fact,' that is to say, the optically present source of sensation, he is entirely cut off from the unplumbed depths of his own being. 6
Modern man is certainly a prey to the two types of conflict which Iqbal has mentioned. For that matter, man may always have suffered from such a conflict. Modern civilization, however, seems to have accentuated it. Nobody can deny that conflict is an active source of misery and unhappiness. Is mental conflict due to extraneous factors or to those which are inherent in the mind? Iqbal, through long meditation on the problems of life, was admirably fitted to pronounce a balanced judgment on this issue. The passage quoted above makes it clear that he blames conflict on modern civilization which puts a premium on the selfish side of man and provides satisfaction for only a segment of the self instead of for the whole of it. This view deserves serious consideration. To judge the question in all its aspects, however, we cannot disregard the views of two psychologists who have made a solid contribution in this field.
The first psychologist who explored the depths of the human mind was Freud. On the basis of extensive clinical work, he advanced a theory which illumined many points which hitherto had remained obscure. He preferred the term Psyche, as it had no metaphysical implications. The Psyche, he believed, is the seat of a number of instinctive drives, each of which blindly strives to abolish or reduce the tension which accompanies it. Each of these drives is invested with a fund of psychical energy. This psychical energy, as it is expanded in activities directed to the attainment of relief or pleasure, is termed the libido. Consciousness originates on the surface of the Psyche, which is also the surface of the organism, as it receives the impact of the environmental forces. As consciousness is in direct contact with the environment, it assumes the role of mediator between the interior of the Psyche and the environment. The conscious personality puts a curb on the instinctive drives and compels them to defer satisfaction to a suitable time. The formation of the Oedipus complex gives rise to the super-ego, which is the third sub-system of the Psyche. The super-ego, as it embodies the group code and group ideals, pursues ends which have social approval. The Psyche has three components—the Id (the instinctual drives of Psyche which are impersonal), the ego and the super-ego.
The libido finds its typical expression in the sexual activity of the adult. It can, therefore, be regarded as sex energy. For this reason, Freud was, rather unfairly, accused of being a pan-sexualist.
The ego and super-ego possess no libidinal energy at the beginning. But libido itself is highly transferable. It can be detached from the impulse which owns it and can be transferred to another which society approves of. This process is called sublimation. The ego suppresses the libidinal urges and diverts the energy thus released into socially approved channels. Civilization is built up on the repression of the sex drive. The sexual impulses, however, cannot be extinguished. In this way arises a never-ending conflict between the demands of the libido and the demands of civilized society. Civilization, however, rests on insecure ground. The repressed sex urge may erupt any time and bring down its imposing structure of civilization. Internal conflict or conflict in the mind of man is the price we have to pay for civilization.
This conflict is accentuated with every increase in the complexity of social organization. However, this is not the whole story. Freud believes that as a living organism man has inherited a deeper and more fundamental conflict. He defines instinct as the primitive tendency to revert to the previous state of existence and the former level of functioning. A living organism is constantly in an unstable condition. With the first stirrings of life in the erstwhile inanimate mass of matter, it felt the imperative urge to revert to the previous state of stability and lifelessness. Freud believes that the death urge lies at the root of our being. Death promises the final release from tension which is inseparable from life. The longing for death is the deepest longing in the Psyche. We are reminded of Buddha's view of life and his longing for Nirvana. Freud may have been influenced by Schopenhauer's pessimistic philosophy, as, According to him, we are called upon to say Nay to life. Consciously we may be aiming at and striving for self-development, but unconsciously we are moving towards the goal of self-annihilation. Which of the three alternatives open to us should we choose—acceptance, rejection or nom-committal attitude? It may be pointed out that man naturally shrinks back from the prospect of extinction, that he passionately longs for immortality and that he tenaciously clings to beliefs which are related to the continuation of life beyond death. We may also note that eschatology forms an essential part of every religion the world over, with the solitary exception of Buddhism. The highest flights of poetic imagination have often been inspired by the hope that death is not the end of life but a transition to a higher state of life.
We may briefly comment on Freud's treatment of religion. For him religion is an illusion which man has created to obtain solace and comfort in a world which is full of misery and affliction. Man's strongest desires are frustrated and their energy is dammed up. It finds an outlet in imaginative activity which creates fantasies. Those repressed desires which are denied gratification in the real world find it on the ideal plane. The Imago, or the image of the father which lies buried deep in the unconscious, is projected on to the cosmos as God. Dr. William Brown, himself a psychoanalyst, has taken strong exception to this view. On the basis of his clinical work he affirms that a complex usually disappears when the patient is psychoanalyzed. Religion, however, does not disappear, but may even be strengthened in the mind of the patient who has been psychoanalyzed.
We may consider the views of another major psychologist, Carl Jung. Let us see what light he throws on the causes of inter-personal and intra-personal conflicts. His theory of personality is, in some ways, more profound than the psychoanalytic theory. In his view, the human personality is a complex system which comprises a number of sub-systems. Conflict may arise between any one of these and others. Jung's theory of personality is highly complex and intricate, but it is not necessary for us to consider it in detail. We will confine ourselves to that part of it which is relevant to our immediate purpose. Jung's observations on the chief source of discontent in the present age deserve careful consideration: these are that the opposing trends in the several systems are likely to clash with one another. The conscious desire may be, in opposition to the unconscious.
A man may consciously desire wealth and may, devote himself to making money. But his unconscious may harbour the wish to become an artist. Such a man, even if he becomes a millionaire, remains unhappy because the unconscious is frustrated. The remedy for conflict lies in personality itself. It possesses a transcendent function. This function is endowed with the capacity to unite the opposing trends of the several systems within and to work towards an ideal goal of perfect wholeness (selfhood).
Jung's conception of the symbol is of particular significance for religion, as religious truths are generally expressed in symbolical language. Jung affirms that a symbol has two aspects—retrospective and prospective. In its former aspect, the symbol expresses the stored-up racial wisdom. In its prospective aspect it represents a level of development that is far ahead of man’s present status. Man's destiny, the highest evolution of the Psyche, is marked out for him by symbols. We thus see that in religion symbols represent higher of development.
Another view, of Jung has a direct bearing on religion. He believes that a fundamental urge in man leads him to seek unification with the universe. He passionately desires to be at one with it. The desire to achieve unification with Reality must be satisfied if man is to win peace and happiness. But because the conditions of life today frustrate this desire, the modern man feels discontented and unhappy, although he does not know the reason for this state of his mind.
III. The Qur’anic Concept of the Self
We have now the proper background for grasping, judging and appreciating the Qur’anic concept of the self. We have deliberately chosen the older term "self" in preference to the terms "personality," "Psyche" and "empirical self" which are current in modern psychology and philosophy. The reasons for this choice may be stated here briefly. The term "self" is in closer correspondence with the Qur’anic term "nafs," than any of the terms which have come into vogue recently. Secondly, each of these terms suggests an ephemeral phenomenon which appears at a certain point of time, and after a short period vanishes into the thin air, leaving behind it no trace of its existence. Such a phenomenon cannot enjoy the status of a moral agent or a responsible being. What it is and what it achieves are of no significance either for itself or for the world. It is like the flame of a candle which shines for a moment and then is quickly swallowed up by the surrounDing darkness. Finally, being unreal itself, it cannot enter into a meaningful relationship and co-operation which we find in the Qur’an, will enable us to form an adequate idea of the self and a just estimate of its capabilities.
1. The self partakes of Reality and consequently enjoys permanence and stability. It retains its identify throughout its career. The trials which it undergoes and the influences to which it is exposed change it without transforming it into something different from itself. It starts its career in an undeveloped form but equipped with immense potentialities. It may or may not actualize these potentialities but it never ceases to be itself. It is not a passive material which is moulded by external forces; it is essentially active and dynamic. It’s typical activity is Deeni activity in the highest sense of the term, viz., the development and actualizing of its basic characteristics, and thereby "drawing closer" to the Most Perfect Self-God-whose attributes serve as an objective standard for the human self, and thus tasting the joy of proximity to Him. Death does not terminate the activity of the self; it is but an episode in its career.
2. Further, the self, as conceived in the Qur'an, is free. Freedom is an inalienable property of the self. Although it operates in the sphere of nature, its activity flows from its own nature and is not determined by natural causes. As Dr. Rhine, in his book, New World of the Mind, aptly remarks: "There is something operative in man that transcends the laws of matter."
It is because the, self is free that it functions as a moral agent. Duties and obligations have no meaning for a being which is completely determined. If the self were not free, it would be insensitive to the demands of "ought" and would respond only to the demands of "must." Its sense of responsibility springs from its sense of freedom; it is capable of leading a moral life only because it is free. This view implies that the self has a real choice of action. It can choose any one of the alternative courses of action open to it, and responsibility for its choice rests squarely on it.
Of course, the self does not enjoy absolute and unlimited freedom. Its freedom is circumscribed by the conditions under which it lives. The world of fact checks and restrains its activities in various ways and in various degrees. The self chafes under these restraints. It flourishes only in an atmosphere of regimented society its sphere of action may be subjected to increasing shrinkage. Such a society discourages all kinds of self-expression and curbs liberty of action. Under these conditions, the self begins to languish. It can regain its vitality only by regaining its freedom. The self burgeons, blossoms and fructifies in lofty thoughts and noble actions only in an atmosphere of freedom. Freedom is in the essence of the self and cannot be extinguished under external compulsion. The self, however, feels cramped and frustrated in a regimented and totalitarian society, or an "other-directed conformism," or system of religion. The State, whose power has increased enormously in recent times, poses a serious threat to the integrity of the self. It has been steadily and relentlessly encroaching on the domain of the self. The individual's freedom has been seriously curtailed by the modern State, armed as it is with scientific techniques of suggestion, propaganda and brain washing. The government can now influence the individual's mind to a degree which was undreamt of in the past. It can control not only man's overt actions but his inner thoughts as well. In these circumstances, the only citadel in which freedom can take refuge is Deen. It ensures complete freedom for self within the framework of permanent values. Deen should, therefore, be defended at any cost, as the region where man can still enjoy freedom and function as a self and not merely as a cog in a machine.
3. Again, the self as viewed by the Qur'an is not static. It possesses infinite capacity for development. With its own efforts (of course on the lines demarcated by permanent values), it rises to higher and higher planes of existence. The Qur'an says, "Verily We will raise you to higher and higher levels"
(84: 19). The self fulfils itself by developing and actualizing its potentialities. With death, man does not cease to exist but passes on to a higher plane of existence. The Qur'an has prescribed Deen, or the way of life, which fits man for the higher level. When man is elevated to the higher level, he feels as if the gate of Heaven had been thrown open to him. On the other hand, when he falls to a lower level he feels that he has been flung into Hell.
The Qur'an opens out a vast vista of development to man. No term has been set to his progress. Man's destiny is marked out for him in symbols. To understand the symbols, however, we need true insight. When we can catch a glimpse of the higher level, then only does the symbol which represents it become intelligible. It is futile to discuss a symbol when we have no inkling of the stage to which it refers. The Qur'an, when studied intelligently, provides us with the insight to understand the true meanings of these symbols.
4. The self has the capacity for value-experience. It is sensitive to the higher qualities of its experience and appreciates their value. Value-experience is nonexistent at the sub-human level. It becomes possible only when the self has emerged. Value-experience may be of a low or high order. The, higher in the scale an experience is, the more satisfying it is found to be. When the self is fit to rise to a higher plane, it craves for a value-experience higher than that with which it had been content hitherto. An experience of high value enriches and elevates the self.
5. The self develops mainly through its own efforts. It rises or falls through its moral or immoral actions. Says the Qur'an: "The self (nafs) owns only that which it earns" (74: 38) and it changes through what it assimilates, well or bad. The self is subject to the law of requital. Its a'mal-ul-hasanah enhance its worth and a`mal-us-sayyi’ah degrade it. God never does wrong to the self. The Qur’an is explicit on this point. If the self is degraded, it is its own doing. External forces cannot touch the self and God never deals with it un-justly. So the self is affected by nothing except the results of its own actions. Suffering is the fruit of a'mal-us-sayyi’ah.
6. Finally, the self partakes of Reality and mirrors the Divine attributes. "I breathed My Ruh—Divine Energy—into him (man)," says the Qur'an (15: 29). The Nabi said, "Cultivate in yourselves those qualities which reflect the Divine attributes." By cultivating those qualities, the self develops and draws, so to say, closer to God. Through a'mal-us-sayyi'ah,, it gets further away from God and Reality. A'mal-ul-hasanah, as has already been observed, strengthens the self and weakens it. The distance between God and the human self is increased by the latter and is decreased by the former which cultivate Divine qualities. This is the teaching of the Qur'an. Moreover, the self becomes more and more real as it develops into itself the attributes of God, and more and more unreal as it recedes from Him. The Divine attributes serve as an objective model after which man can strive to fashion himself.
IV. God and Man
The self can enter into meaningful relationship only with other selves, and for realizing itself it has to depend upon the help, sympathy and co-operation of other beings which have essentially the same nature as its own. The self, therefore, seeks out other selves and prospers in their company. It yearns to be in the midst of beings with whom it can communicate and in whose aspirations and activities it can participate. For this reason man nowhere leads a solitary life, but is everywhere found to be a member of a social group. Only in society can man enjoy mental health and function efficiently.
But, above all things, the self longs for co-operation, i.e., being a co-worker, with the Supreme Self or God. Such co-operation sustains and vivifies it. Without this, the self droops, languishes and loses the zest for life and activity. It is happy only when it is engaged in purposive activity, and happiest when it has the feeling of participation in the cosmic purpose. A compelling urge in the self impels it to seek the meaning of life and the world. The physical world, on the face of it, is purposeless and meaningless. Iman makes life and the world meaningful. For this reason the self clings passionately and tenaciously to the belief in the Supreme Being, the most perfect and ideal Self.
The idea of God that the Qur'an presents is both simple and sublime. God is the creative force which is at work throughout the universe. God manifests Himself in the visible world of nature. The Qur’an says, "Whithersoever you turn, you look at the countenance of God" (2:115). The Qur’an calls upon us to reflect and ponder over the grand natural phenomena—the earth and sky, wind and rain, sun, moon and stars. All nature reflects the beauty and glory of God. Special attention is drawn to God's attribute of Rububiyah, According to which He sustains and fosters every being, and thus the lowliest organism develops and attains maturity and relative perfection. Because God controls and governs the world, the world process is not purposeless and meaningless. God guides and directs the cosmic process to a grand destiny. In human history a Divine Plan is being worked out, slowly but surely, and a splendid destiny awaits man. In the Qur’an, God is presented as both Immanent and Transcendent. He works in the world as a creative urge and also exists outside it as its ground. He manifests Himself in nature and yet transcends it. He is eternal and yet in the changing world every day a new phase of His glory is presented to our view (55: 29).
The Qur'an sheds new light on the relation between man and God. It is one of partnership, although one of the partners is immeasurably higher than the other. The wide gulf that separates man from God is, however, not an insuperable obstacle to fruitful co-operation between them. Man is endowed with a self, and we have seen that a self can co-operate only with another self. By virtue of possessing a self, man can, in his humble capacity, work together with God in the carrying out of the Divine Plan. Man has a stake in the future of the world and as a free self has the capacity to determine, however slightly, what that future is to be. It gives man a new sense of dignity to feel that he is actively contributing to the success of the Divine Plan. The Qur'an earnestly appeals to man to work with God in bringing about a world in which justice and goodness are not merely ideas but realities. He can and should contribute to the sum-total of goodness in the universe. Man's acquisitive instincts make him selfish and greedy and bring him into conflict with his fellow beings. As such he cannot fit into the Divine scheme. However, by encouraging and fostering his creative instincts, which enable him to create values, he will be able to work in harmony with the moral order of the universe and will move steadily towards the goal of full self-realization and perfection. At the same time, he will be enriching the world with values and making it a fit abode for men, who are both free and good. He will be taking his modest share in accomplishing the Divine purpose. The Qur'an calls upon man to co-operate with other men in the pursuit of the good. "Help one another in bir and taqwa", says the Qur’an (5:2).
Evolution proceeded at extremely slow pace in the past ages, and, often, a million years passed before a higher quality emerged in the animal world. With the emergence of a free conscious self, the prospect is much brighter. When free men, under the Guidance of God, are participating in the world process and are deliberately furthering it, the pace of evolution is sure to be accelerated. By following the right path, which the Qur'an has shown us clearly, we can develop all our latent potentialities and march forward to the ultimate goal of perfection.
As man owns a self, he has a natural affinity with God, the Absolute Self. This affinity confers on him the right and lays on him the duty of working in harmony with the will and purpose of God. By working in this way man not only realizes himself but also gives an impetus to the progress of human society.
The way in which the Absolute Self manifests its attributes in the Universe evokes feelings of awe, reverence and admiration in man. As man naturally imitates what he admires, he strives to develop himself and be as like God as is possible for a finite being to be. God serves as a model and also as an objective standard with which man can compare himself and judge his progress in self-realization. Man needs God as a co-worker and as an ideal.
V. Religion or "Deen"
As already explained in the Introduction, the Qur'anic term for religion is "Din". Deen, however, is not merely a synonym for religion. Deen is a broader and deeper concept than religion as it is commonly understood. Religion usually means a set of dogmas, an elaborate ritual and a host of trivial practices. Ordinary activities of life are hedged in by a number of rules and taboos. Simple acts such as eating and marrying are surrounded by a complex ceremonial. Man's conduct in everyday life is regulated in the minutest detail. Deen, as presented in the Qur'an, is not a matter of ritual or ceremonial. It is concerned with the broad aim of life and the program of action by which that aim can be attained. Deen gives full scope to man's initiative and discretion. It is meant for a free and intelligent person, a person who has the courage to think, judge and act for himself. Deen offers broad principles which give guidance to man in the adventure of life and which enable him to attain the goal of self-realization and social welfare. These principles, however, are not meant to be followed blindly. They are to be applied with intelligence and forethought. Iqbal, who has grasped the essence of Deen, remarks that it enunciates "basic principles of a universal import directing the evolution of human society on a spiritual basis."7 Hard and fast rules, therefore, have no place in Deen. Deen has fully served its purpose if it has delineated the ideal of life in bold lines, has explicated the principles governing its pursuit and has inspired in man zeal and devotion for the ideal. The Deen of Islam does not lay on man a heavy burden of rules and regulations. It merely gives him guidance where he needs it and provides him with permanent values. Man should seek the aid of Deen in obtaining inspiration and vision; he should look elsewhere if he is interested only in the performance of ritual and ceremonial. Looked at from this angle, Deen is not an opiate, as the Marxian contend, but a stimulant and a spur to action. Deen does not induce in us contentment with things as they are; it spurs us on to efforts directed to the establishment of a better order of society. On the other hand, religion inculcates a passive resignation and complete submission to authority, however oppressive and unjust it may be. At best, it counsels us to have recourse to passive resistance. Deen calls upon us to fight against injustice and oppression and to actively promote the cause of justice.
Another characteristic of Deen distinguishes it from religion in its general sense. Deen is forward-looking: the ideal it embodies beckons to man from the future. Like a beacon it guides his steps towards a glorious destiny. Deen does not want man to keep gazing, awe-struck, at some golden age in the remote and dim past: man’s duty is not to retrace his steps but to advance in the direction of futurity. Deen is prospective, not retrospective. It is a vis a front not a vis a tergo. That is why Deen is a source of hope and attaches supreme importance to hope; so much so that to relinquish hope is reckoned as kufr (the Qur'an, 39:53; 12:87).
Finally, the Qur'an insists upon explicit conviction which it calls iman. A number of verses in the Qur'an make it clear that compulsion has no place in the sphere of Deen. Deen must be accepted freely and voluntarily by man. A religion which is forcibly imposed on an individual has no value for him or for the world at large. Man has the right to exercise free choice in the matter of Deen. "There is no compulsion in the matter of Deen," asserts the Qur'an (2:256). If this command is accepted and obeyed in good faith, it will certainly put an end to all fanaticism and religious disputes. Understood rightly, this injunction is the charter of freedom of thought and expression even to those who do not believe in it. Deen, therefore, leaves the power to choose and act in man's hands. It is through his personal initiative, strength of character, courage, fortitude, determination and ceaseless efforts that man can shape his destiny and can win for himself a future which must necessarily belong to him if he accepts and follows the Divine revelation in all sincerity.
The Qur'anic concept of Deen has been elucidated in the foregoing section. Obviously, Islam fulfils all the requirements of Deen. Islam, as Iqbal puts it, "is neither dogma, nor priesthood, nor ritual."8 It is much more than any of these or all of these. It is the vivid sense of God's directive force and unflinching working of His laws. It is absolute iman in God's wisdom and His purpose. It is hearty participation in the upward progressive trend and movement of life and the world viewed as the expression of God's creative force. Islam stands for life-fulfilment and rejects life-denial as unworthy of man. It commands us to face facts and not to shrink from them and take refuge in fantasy, and requires us to control and harness natural forces for achieving our ends. Asceticism, quietism and monasticism are all repugnant to Islam. Islam lays stress oil social life and on its value for man, and does not regard the body as an evil and as an impediment to "spiritual" progress. It wants man to respect the rights of the body as well as the rights of the self. For this reason, Islam does not approve of self-abnegation and self-mortification. There is nothing mysterious in it and it has no place for mysticism. It aims at the establishment of a social order based on permanent values in which all its members act as free agents striving for a higher and noble cause of making man’s abode on this earth more beautiful, and making him fit for further evolutionary stages of life.
Islam, as a living force, will continue to play a vital role in the moral uplift and social, cultural and political unification of mankind. It will continue to make valuable contributions to the knowledge and culture of mankind. Above all, it will continue to enrich the "spiritual" 9 life of man and thus strengthen and elevate his self or his personality.
1. When Iqbal uses the word "religion" with reference to Islam, it should be understood as Deen.
2. M. Iqbal, Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, p. 172.
3. Ibid., P. 2.
5. Ernest Cassirer, An Essay on Man, p. 72.
6. Iqbal, op. cit., p. 177.
7. Ibid., p. 170.
8. Ibid., p. 178.
9. The word "spirit" or "spiritual" has special significance in Christian ideology and has not been used by the Qur’an anywhere in that sense. The Qur’an speaks of man's material and moral progress or degeneration, and not "spiritual." Even about Muhammad (P) it says, "And surely thou hast sublime morals" (68:4). The word "spiritual" has been used in this book following its common usage in the English language, i.e. as against purely physical, and should be taken in that sense only wherever it occurs with reference to Islam or the Muslims.
Compiled by: Sh. Allah Ditta and Late Mohammad Omar Draz
Published by Tolu-e-Islam Trust, 25-B, Gulberg-2, Lahore-11
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 Arabia with a complete code of the laws revealed to him by Allah. Portions of the code, which happened to be beyond the mental stage of his listeners, aroused opposition. By his inimitable teaching and practice Rasoôlullah tried hard to explain to them how the code guaranteed human dignity and welfare. Some of them who shed their prejudices and cared to understand appreciated Rasoolullah’s message and cooperated with him. He gathered aroui1d him a concourse of believers and their healthy deeds greatly accelerated the normal pace of divine laws and in a short while produced most surprising results unparalleled in history. There was nothing extraordinary and supernatural about the achievement. It followed the eternal divine law that “healthy concept of life has the capacity to go up to Him and healthy action (of man) gives it a push upward’ (35110). Their deeds accelerated the pace of divine laws and achieved in the matter of days what should have normally taken thousands of years to materialize. Had the cooperation between divine laws and human activity been maintained, quicker achievements under the laws would have also maintained their pace, and who can guess what heights man would have attained by now! The cooperation ceased, however after a while and the laws resumed their original speed. The short span of time during which quicker results were achieved according to man’s counting of time, is the period during which, in the view of thinkers and historians, Islam was a success and thereafter it proved a failure. The bare fact, however, is that while moving at its normal pace of a day equal to a thousand years, Islam got extra help from man which accelerated its speed, but that later on the extra help was withdrawn leaving Islam to get along at its original normal pace. The process has been very much like the running of a stream of water, which as a result of a fall on the way, flows faster for a while and then, on the e4iaustion of the impetus provided by the fall, resumes flowing at its original speed. To say that the stream flowed only while the movement of currents was visible as a result of the fall’s impetus and then it turned into a standing pool would be very short sighted indeed.
· 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 Mecca. About them the Holy Quern says, “No! equal is he among you who spent and fought before the victory: 1/lose are mightier in rank than they who Spent and fought afterward’; although God has promised all of them the good that follows from Islam” (57/10). The ‘mightier in rank are the ‘true believers” say the Holy Quern, “and those who believed and have emigrated and struggled in the way of God, those who have given refuge (to the emigrants) and help (the establishment of the new order) those are the true believers, for them there is protection against impairment and respectful provision” (8/74). And the ones “who spent and fought afterwards” have been described as “they belong to you” (8/75). The former are pioneers who have been called as “those who are with Muhammad, the messenger of God”, (48/29), and whose astounding effort in establishing the Islamic Social Order has been praised in the verse so lavishly. The foregoing is not a negation of the great worth of the believers who, though rather late in the day, joined the pioneers all the same. The Holy Quern says about them “God will be well-pleased with them and they are well-pleased with Him.” (9/100)
· 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 Persia returned to affirm their empire almost the day after the national ruin. According to Persian theory the power belonged to the King, the son of God, invested with divine glory by his super-terrestrian origin. Owing to political revolutions Persia united on the head of Muhammad’s legitimate successor, the Arabian Ali, who had been excluded from the caliphate, all the splendor and sanctity of the old national royalty. The one she had once called in her protocols “the divine King son of heaven”, and in her sacred books the “lord and guide” -- lord in a worldly sense, guide in an intellectual -- she now called by the Arabic word imam, “the Chief’. this was the simplest title imaginable and at the same time the most august, for in it was included all the sovereignty of the world and of the mind. In regard to the Caliphs, who were raised to power by the blind clamour of the masses, by crime and intrigues, she upheld the hereditary rights of the imam Ali, the infallible and sacred of God.”
“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 Persia and Islam was sealed in the blood of Husein on the plains of Kerbela.”
“The revolution which overturned the Omayyad usurpers in favour of the Abbasides, the nephews of the Prophet, was the work of Persia. If she did not bring into power the favourite family for which she thought she was fighting, she at least caused her principle to triumph.’
(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 Persia framed in Moslem formulas.” (page 489). It was the victory of mental swords over steel swords. The process got an unfortunate impetus from the fact that during the reign of the Abbasidés, who had gained supremacy through alien (‘ajaimi) help, they could influence society all over. They were a literary people and took good care to popularise the “New Islam” through the written word. It is the books compiled during this period which today we teach in the name of religion. Islamic history. political as well as religious, is in fact the variegated story of alien (‘ajami) intrigue. The above facts explain clearly how the type of instruction and training begun by Rasoolullah and followed during the earlier days of Caliphate, not only came to a stop but gave place to the teaching of a “New Islam”.
· 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. Spain, not Italy, was the cradle of the rebirth of Europe. After steadily sinking lower and lower into barbarism, it had reached the darkest depths of ignorance and degradation when the cities of the Saracenic world, Baghdad, Cairo, Cordoba, Toledo, were growing centres of civilization and intellectual activity. It was there that the new life arose which was to grow into a new phase of human evolution. From the time when the influence of their culture made itself felt, began the stirring of a new life.” (page 188-189).
“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 Arabia owned the truths, attained greatest heights of glory, but when they turned their backs on the truths, they began going down. Their halting however, did not halt Islam from proceeding ahead unscathed and unaffected. The picture of how Islam went on and on and how different people caught up to it at different stages is painted on the back ground not of Muslim History but of the History of Mankind. A study of man’s history will show clearly how man-made social orders had a short-lived success and Islamic principles have continued to thrive.
· 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 Pakistan.
The establishment of Pakistan provides living evidence that Islam continues to forge ahead. For a thousand years, under alien influences, it was believed that Islam was a private relationship between man and God and had nothing to do with his political life. A few years before the creation of Pakistan, there grew a realisation that Islam was a social order and needed a free state to establish it. The idea was opposed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, but, it has prevailed ultimately.
The movement for Pakistan was based on the claim that according to Islam it is Ideology which shapes a nation and not geographical boundaries. The claim was opposed from all sides including the ulama, the sponsors of pseudo (‘ajami) Islam. The struggle lasted for about a decade and then the claim was admitted universally and Pakistan came into being to prove concretely that according to God’s eternal law it is common Ideology which creates a nation. Now the Western nations, who are sick of their un-Quranic standards of nation-building, watch anxiously how the experiment of Pakistan fares and the moment it succeeds they are bound to break asunder manmade shackles and to adopt Quranic fundamentals forthwith.
· Constitution and Sovereignty.
After the creation of Pakistan the country was faced with the problem of preparing a constitution. The reactionaries and the sponsors of pseudo (‘ajami) Islam demanded that there should be a provision in the constitution that in law-making the legislature shall have superimposed on it an Ulama Board whose word on all matters shall be deemed to be final. The demand amounted to assigning Sovereignty to “religious priests” and to giving Pakistan a theocratic system of government, the system which Islam came to finish. The matter was still passing through its final stages when the then Governor General ordered the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly and the constitution it drafted went by the board.
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 Pakistan adopts some man-made system, the eternal laws of Islam will then continue advancing at their own normal speed and who knows how long man will take to appreciate and assimilate them. In the meanwhile there will continue in the world more blood-shed, more torture, more misery for man, too terrible to imagine. How tremendous will then be adjudged the enormity of the crime of the Pakistani Muslims before the Court of Humanity! “There will be on our backs the load of our own crimes and some of the load of those that we lead astray. 0, evil the load that we will bear! (16/25).
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.
In this chapter, Deen is described as a set of basic principles which can be a source of guidance to us if used intelligently. This is quite different from the requirement to abide by hard and fast rules and regulations. Coercion or compulsion is not involved. Defined as such, the concept of Deen is in keeping with rational and moderate approaches to Islam.