By Dr. Israr Ahmad
The purpose of the advent of Prophet Muhammad(SAW) is described in Surah Al-Saff as follows:
He it is Who has sent forth His messenger with the Guidance (Al-Huda) and the True way of life (Deen al-Haq), to the end that he make it prevail over all aspects of living… (Al-Saff 61:9)
In order to achieve this goal, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) required a large number of devoted and committed followers. How did he manage to find and train those followers? This has been described in the very next Surah, as follows:
He it is Who raised among the unlettered people a messenger from amongst themselves, who recites His revelations to them (Tilawat al-Aayat), and purifies them (Tazkiyah), and teaches them the law (Ta`leem al-Kitab) and the wisdom (Ta`leem al-Hikmah)… (Al-Jum`ah 62:2)
Thus, it was nothing but the highly inspiring and moving verses of the Holy Qur´an which were effectively used by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) to remove the false beliefs from the minds of his audience, to inculcate the knowledge of reality as revealed by Almighty Allah (SWT), to purify their hearts and to reform their characters, to teach them the injunctions of their Lord and the wisdom contained therein. The Qur´an repeatedly mentions the fact that the center and axis of the Prophet´s activities vis-à-vis the training and purification of his Companions was the Holy Book itself, for instance:
So keep on reminding through the Qur´an whoever fears My warning. (Qaaf 50:45)
(Say…) that this Qur´an has been revealed to me that I may warn you with it, and those whom it reaches. (Al-An`aam 6:19)
So we have made this (Qur´an) easy in your tongue, that you may give good tidings with it to those who take heed and warn with it the froward folk. (Maryam 19:97)
The process of the revolution brought about by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) can be understood as having two phases: The primary or elementary phase was the generation of man-power, the making of a disciplined group of dedicated volunteers who were willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of attaining the pleasure of Almighty Allah (SWT) and the salvation in the Hereafter. The approach of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) during this phase can be understood with reference to the verse of Surah Al-Jum`ah, as quoted above. The second phase was the actual revolutionary struggle, consisting of three stages: Passive Resistance, Active Resistance, and Actual Conflict.
The point we wish to emphasize here is the central and pivotal importance of the Holy Qur´an vis-à-vis the primary or elementary phase of an Islamic Revolution. There are a number of groups and parties active throughout the Muslim World who have adopted the target of establishing the system of Khilafah, or the bringing about of an Islamic Revolution, as their goal. Most of these groups and parties are oblivious of the fact that the establishment of the Islamic System of Social Justice is not possible without the revitalization of Iman in a significant portion of the Muslim Ummah. This revitalization of Iman, in turn, is possible only by the propagation of the knowledge and wisdom of the Holy Qur´an, both at the highest level of scholarship in order to attract and influence the educated classes, as well as on a mass scale for the benefit of the general public.
The war between Islam and kufr is being fought primarily on an ideological level, and it is mere wishful thinking that the Islamic politico-socioeconomic system can be established without first achieving a convincing victory over false ideas and philosophies. In this respect, the weapon that has been provided to us by Almighty Allah (SWT) is the Holy Qur´an. We must use this weapon at all of the different fronts in this war of ideas, because it is only the triumph of Islam as an intellectual and ideological reality that can pave the way for the domination of Islam as a political force.
Five Fronts in the War of Ideas
We believe that there are five major fronts in the ideological war, and that we must use the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Qur´an to defeat the various false doctrines at each of these different fronts, as described below:
1. Folk Religion: Unfortunately, a large proportion of the Muslim Ummah today has a severely distorted view of Islam. They have adopted a number of beliefs and custom directly from the non-Muslim, like the Hindus. Thus, we find that many shades and varieties of shirk (assigning partners to Allah) have invaded the Muslim mind and life-style. There are a large number of Muslims who regularly visit the shrines of saints and offer their prayers, asking for succor from these long deceased holy men. Similarly, a widespread belief is that these saints will have the prerogative, on the Day of Judgment, to intercede on behalf of their devotees. It is obvious that these and many related beliefs and practices that are prevalent today among the Muslims are in sharp conflict with the Islamic doctrine of Tauheed.
It was precisely the type of shirk prevalent in Arabia during the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that has again found its way in the Muslim society. The Holy Qur´an is full of refutations and arguments against these beliefs and practices, especially the Surahs that were revealed in Makkah. In order to reform and rectify the religious beliefs and practices of the common Muslims, all we need to do is to start a movement of Turjuma-e-Qur´an (Translation of the Qur´an). For most Muslims, Arabic remains a foreign and alien language. What is needed, therefore, is to have brief sessions in the mosques after the Fajir and/or Asr prayers every day, in which a small portion of the Qur´an is recited and its translation explained to the audience. We believe that no deep scholarship is required here, as the mere translation of the Qur´an is enough to remove the false beliefs and to promote genuine Islamic faith and practice.
2. Materialism: The dominant ideology of our times is materialism, not in the sense of a specific academic viewpoint but as the general mindset of the modern man. Although there are a number of philosophical systems popular in the world today, the underlying idea that is common in most of these systems is either a categorical or an implicit denial of all spirituality, metaphysics, and transcendence.
The history of the present materialistic atheism goes back to the beginning of Christian religion. The innovations introduced by St. Paul in the original teachings of Prophet Jesus Christ had led to the genesis of a completely new and different religion. The highly irrational dogma of Trinity ultimately resulted in the divorce between two natural allies, religion and reason. The conversion of Caesar Constantine in 313 C.E., and of the entire Roman Empire during the next hundred years or so, was the starting point for the establishment of Christian theocracy in Europe. The huge vacuum created by the Pauline idea of abolition of the Mosaic law was then filled by the virtually unlimited authority of the Church, represented by the infallible Pope. During the Middle Ages, the Church and the clergy ruled the masses with an iron hand, oppressing and exploiting them in the name of religion, while discouraging any inclination towards science or rationalism.
The Aristotelian system of cosmos, as adopted by Ptolemy, was incorporated into the Christian theology. As a result, when Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo opposed the Geocentric doctrine and proposed Heliocentric views based on their scientific observations, the Church condemned and vehemently opposed them as heretics, starting the unfortunate rivalry between Science and Religion. The scientific and rationalistic movement in Europe, therefore, cam face to face with the powerful religious establishment of the Church. The latter used all its resources to halt this new wave of progress towards knowledge and learning, but succeeded only in producing among the masses a deep mistrust of all thing connected with religion. The ruthlessly unfavorable attitude of the clergy caused a reactionary feeling of hatred against the Church, and then against the very idea of religion itself.
The development of science and modern philosophy in Europe, therefore, was forced to take place in an environment which was hostile to religion, and this hostility has since then permeated deep down into the very roots of Western thought. The world-view and civilization that grew out of this materialistic frame of mind is characterized by a profound shift of emphasis — from God the Almighty to the material universe and laws of nature, from spiritual pursuits to sensual gratification, and from salvation in the life Hereafter to success and prosperity in this world. Scientism has largely been accepted as epistemology by the modern man, resulting in a profound weakening of the faith in God, in the soul of man, and in the life Hereafter. The influence of the prevalent atheistic philosophies is not restricted to the academicians, but it has permeated deep into the minds and life-styles of ordinary citizens.
The revival of Islamic faith in the present materialistic milieu is possible only by means of a powerful intellectual movement. The weapon to fight against the modern atheistic ideologies is nothing but the Holy Qur´an itself. However, the battle at this front cannot be won by merely explaining the translation of the Qur´anic verses. Instead, much more arduous efforts are needed in this regard. The envisioned intellectual movement should aim at effectively refuting the false claims of the scientific and empirical method as the only reliable source of knowledge. It should point out the logical flaws in the materialistic philosophies and disprove the un-Islamic features in the dominant Western paradigm. Such an intellectual movement can be started, and its momentum maintained, only by a team of dedicated and capable Muslim scholars, and will require a deep and in-depth study of the Qur´an along with a first-hand knowledge of modern philosophy and social sciences. It is only through the presentation of Qur´anic teachings in contemporary idiom and at the highest intellectual level of our times that the prevalent materialism can be defeated.
3. Uncertainty and Lack of Faith: Today, a big segment of the Muslim Ummah is suffering from a serious lack of faith in the guidance and teachings of Islam. What do we mean by lack of faith? Note that the world Iman has been used in the Qur´an in two different connotations, representing the dual aspects of the concept of “faith” itself. Thus, from a purely legal standpoint, Iman simply implies a public testimony which may or may not manifest in a person´s behavior and actions. However, true Iman is much more than mere verbal attestation. True and genuine Iman implies a strong inner conviction and deeply felt certitude, which is invariably manifested in a person´s whole being and his entire life, affecting all his actions and behavior, his values and ambitions. Thus, anyone who testifies to the unity of Allah (SWT) and the prophethood Muhammad (SAW), and who doesn´t deny or reject any of the basic and essential teachings of Islam, will be considered a Muslim for all legal purposes and will be accepted as a member of the Muslim society. This definition of a Muslim, however, is limited strictly to legal matters; in reality, it is quite possible for those who are legally Muslims to be devoid of true faith, in the sight of the Almighty Allah (SWT).
Generally speaking, although there are more than a billion Muslims in the world today, the level of real and genuine Iman among them is seriously low. Instead of a firm conviction in the teachings of the Qur´an and the guidance of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), there is a lot of doubt and uncertainty. It seems that the articles of faith are lying in some neglected corner of our minds as ineffective pieces of dogma, and these have little or nothing to do with our practical lives. The cure for this lack of faith is, again, the Holy Qur´an itself.
He it is who sends clear revelations to His slave, that He may bring you out of darkness into light; for Allah is surely gracious and kind to you. (Al-Hadeed 57:9)
If the Qur´an is studied and its ayaat are pondered upon in an authentic quest for truth, all the veils of darkness shall be lifted from one´s heart; it is this process of enlightenment which ultimately leads one to the attainment of faith and certitude.
4. Permissiveness and Westernization: The kind of cultural and social values that are gaining more and more acceptance among the Muslim in the name of modernization are, in general, diametrically opposed to the teachings of Islam. The mass communication media throughout the Muslim World are actively engaged in promoting a mindset and a life-style which is predominantly Western, liberal, and permissive. Especially in recent years, there seem to be a growing trend towards the easy availability of obscene novels and magazines, and the transmission of vulgar television shows, cultural programs, and feature films. The electronic media is becoming more and more preoccupied with music, dancing, and modeling, and all this is being enthusiastically patronized by those in power.
The effects of such liberal and permissive media policies are both far-reaching and destructive, as they are effectively uprooting the remaining traces of Islamic morality. At this front too, the battle has to be fought with the weapon of the Qur´an. Our scholars and Ulama need to pool their energies and start a movement of Qur´anic lectures and discourses, especially through the mosques. As the teachings of the Qur´an would start to permeate and penetrate the society, the level of general dissatisfaction with the liberal attitude of the media will also increase, forcing the media masters to either change their policies in accordance with the Islamic spirit or cede to the true followers of Islam.
5. Sectarianism: A very serious threat to the unity and cohesion of the Muslim Ummah is represented by the menace of sectarianism. Unfortunately for us, the Ummah — as established by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) — has been dissolved over the centuries into a large number of sub-division along sectarian lines. Many of the religious seminaries and Ulama of various sects are spending most of their time and energies in defending and propagating their particular brands of dogma and ritual, often insisting that any variation in such matters is nothing short of apostasy. Such narrow-mindedness has resulted in prejudice and intolerance among the masses, leading to a dangerous trend towards sectarian militancy.
The central axis and pivot of the Muslim Ummah is the Holy Qur´an. It is the Divine Revelation that provides the Muslims with a unifying source of guidance, consolidating them in the form of a singular force despite all their secondary differences and minor disagreements. The evil of sectarianism, therefore, can only be done away with the sword of the Qur´an. This is because human beings who have a common goal tend to unite and associate with each other. People with similar interests, ambitions, and priorities are automatically attracted towards each other. No artificial effort or external coercion is needed to unite them. Since the Holy Qur´an is common to all of the various sects, it has a tremendous potential for uniting them together. If we succeed in making the Holy Qur´an the center and nucleus of our lives, then all strife, disharmony, and sectarianism will disappear from the ranks of the Ummah. Insha Allah