Religion is an amazing phenomenon which plays contradictory roles in the life of human beings. It destroys and revitalizes, puts to sleep and awakens, enslaves and emancipates and teaches docility and revolt. The history of the Muslims reflects these contradictory roles among various social classes. Islam as a dynamic ‘Deen’ or way of life urges Muslims to move on with the times. The Muslims on the other hand have stuck to the deviant and decadent version of their concept of Islam.
A profound scientific movement based on research oriented Ijtihad is the need of the hour. The main objective of such a movement would be to present the real truth and the original face of Islam; to raise the level of understanding and religious awareness and to familiarize the education stratum and the younger generation with the true Islamic values and culture. According to Shariati (What is to be done) the gravest tragedy in traditional societies in general and in the Muslim societies in particular is that there is a lack of communication and a difference of outlook between the masses and the educated class. In the early history of Muslims, the present day gap between the intellectuals and the masses did not exist. The great Muslim juris-consults (Fuqaha), the dialectical theologians (Mutakallimun) and the interpreters of the Quran (Muffassirun), the philosophers and the literalists – had close bonds with the general public. In modern times the new intelligentsia pursue life in an ivory tower without having any understanding of their own social values and on the other hand the uneducated masses are deprived of the wisdom and knowledge of those intellectuals who owe their position to them.
The struggle between right and wrong is a never ending process. The way of life revealed by Allah and called Al-Deen or Al-Islam provides that whatever gifts this beautiful earth of ours has in store should be available to all mankind and equally. The lack of education and the consequent failure to reassess Islamic values has led to the caste and class system in Muslim societies,. Those occupying the higher stratum of society place hindrances on the basis of might and with-hold God’s gifts from His creatures and avail them personally.. This leads to what the Quran calls the struggle between right and wrong. There is no such struggle in nature as Islam holds sway in the entire universe, but has to face stiff opposition inn the human world. It is generally observed that a large number of rich, powerful and successful people have become so used to the adoption of the wrong path and as a result tyranny, oppression, exploitation, dishonesty and fraud are rampant. This leads one to believe that the true Islamic values are weak and cannot face the onslaught of evil in society. This misunderstanding is due to the slow process of the divinely ordained system. The slowness of this system is best represented by the growth of a plant which takes time and is not a rapidly visible process. Allah says that if He were to punish the evil doers on the spur of the moment, no one would be alive in this world. It also says,’ We hurl truth against untruth and it crashes its brain and the untruth vanishes away’(21:18).. Muslims may fail, Islam does not. It is a collection of inviolable principles revealed by the Almighty for the guidance of mankind to enable him to attain his destiny in life.. The Quran also asserts that,’ Healthy concept of life has the capacity to go up to Him and healthy actions of man give him a push upward’(35:10).
The deeds of the Nabi SAW and those around him accelerated the pace of Divine Laws and achieved in a matter of days what would normally take years to materialize. This pace slowed down after awhile and the Divine Law resumed their original speed. The sublime quality of Islam is the respect, honour and dignity it gives to all humans. In an age in which the whole world believed and worshipped the rulers and the kings 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 strange. At a time when racial superiority formed the basis for social superiority, the Quranic message that all persons by birth are alike and the criterion for greatness and respectability is one’s deeds must have also looked unnatural. Islam came to the forefront in times when righteousness was associated with performing miracles. How could anyone that a Messenger of God did not perform miracles and insisted on good deeds and Divine commands as the standard for judging truth and falsehood. Those evaluating the role of Islam in contemporary times should know that the prophets emerged from among the masses and were able to communicate with them projecting a new vision and injecting new energies. They were able to cause the frozen, static and stagnant societies to change their directions, life-styles, outlooks, cultures and destinies. The Muslim societies need enlightened, educated and research oriented souls whose most important objective and responsibility is to bestow the great God-given gift of ‘self-awareness’ to the general masses. Shariati believes that wisdom (Hikmat) in the Quran conveys the same meaning we have attributed to enlightenment. .Knowledge (Ilm) means neither religious knowledge nor temporal knowledge. It is a combination of both which leads to awareness unique to a man; a Divine light and a source of consciousness of the social conscience. A tradition of the Holy Prophet SAW says,’ Knowledge is a light which God shines in the heart of whomever He desires’. The failure of a large majority of Muslims to understand and practice the true Islamic values is due to the lack of efforts that is required. Following blindly (Taqlid) requires no thought. In fact reasoning and thinking is forbidden in Taqlid. It is wrong to blame Islam for the failure of Muslims in . Islam has already provided God’s eternal principles and values in the shape of a book –The Quran, so that whosoever wishes may seek guidance from it. Islam also showed the world that its laws and principles are not mere utopia, but workable. A comparative study of the pre and post Muslim history shows the unparalleled progress made by man during the post Islamic period that helped the Muslims maintain for centuries their leadership of the world in science and art. This has been acknowledged by numerous writers of the West who were not Muslims. Briffault (Making of Humanity) has devoted a whole chapter to it in his famous book under the caption ‘Dar Al Hikmat. This progress would have appeared more comprehensively had the history fof early Islam been available in its true form.
Another important feature of Islam’s outstanding quality is its rejection of man’s slavery in any form. The human mind could only recognize families, tribes and nations, but not the universal brotherhood of man. With the passage of ti e, man will progress and will appreciate more and more the provisions of the code of life which encourages the evolving features of life. The Quran says,’ 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)
We must remember that any positive movement launched anywhere in the world during the last fourteen centuries for the liberation and advancement of humanity is a ray from the Islam’s shining sun. In America when battles were fought for the emancipation of slaves, in India when the Harijan movement was launched were manifestations of Islam’s eternal truth. The UNO decision that conflicts be resolved through mutual counsel is nothing bnut the adoption of the Islamic value system. The low state fof Muslims in every field of human endeavour carries over into the present depressing situation of the individual Muslim as compared to the individual non-Muslim in whichever country the two groups are living side by side. According to Von Grunebaum (Islam-Essays in the nature and growth of a cultural tradition) ‘The spiritual qualities of the combatants had no influence on the result of World War II. Similarly America’s superiority over the Muslim lands is clearly not due to her religious and spiritual qualities, but rather to her economic, technical and scientific qualities.’ Muhammad Abduh, the Chief Mufti of Al-Azhar and undoubtedly the greatest and most influential of Islamic reformers was conscience of the shortcomings of present day Muslims and throughout his life he laboured to remedy them. An ardent follower of Jamaludddin Afghani (1839-97), the philosopher of Pan-Islamism insisted that Islam, if correctly interpreted, will, in the words of Rashid Rida (1865-1935),’provide the only adequate solution for modern social, political and religious problems’.
Syed Amir Ali (The Spirit of Islam) believes that ‘the strength of Islam is supplemented everyday by its intellectual vigour. It does not rely on obscurantism and encourages the searching mind. Wherever Islam ewas followed in its true spirit, a civilization of unequal richness sprung up. It was only when extraneous elements attached themselves to the Divine message that Islam ceased to be the zealous ally of intellectual freedom and lagged behind in the race of progress’.
Theocratic and monastic conceptions are not only foreign to Islam but are a complete negation of it. Islam never established a church with a sacerdotal hierarchy of clergymen. It established a democratic abd social welfare state to promote man’s moral and material well being. It promises felicity and happiness not only in the hereafter, but also in this world to those who live in accordance with the guidance of Quran.This is a message the Muslims have forgotten and are paying the price and will continue to do so till they return to the original Divine guidance.
Since man is an integrated composition of permanence and change, laws governing the social order wherein his development takes place, should also be a combination of permanence and change. This point has been beautifully elaborated by Iqbal in his sixth lecture in the series on the Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. He says,’ A society based on such a conception of Reality must reconcile, in its life, the categories of perpetual change. It must possess eternal principles to regulate its collective life. But eternal principles when they are understood to exclude all possibilities of change, which, according to the Quran is one of the greatest signs (Ayats) of God, tend to immobilize what is essentially mobile in its nature’. All the matters of the world have been left at the whim of the religious oligarchy which itself has has depended on blind following and negation of reasoning. The resultant failure has always been that of the Muslims and not of Islam. That is why Islam does not encourage theocracy. In Islam the obedience is essentially due only to the laws of Allah as embodied in the Quran.’Shall I (Nabi SAW) look to a judge other than Allah. He who has revealed to you a book defining all things clearly (6:115). Obedience to these laws is not a personal matter, but has to be disciplined and ordered under an organized state system.
The present century is definitely the century of Islam. According to Akbar S. Ahmed (Islam Under Siege) The hijackers of the four American planes killed thousand of innocent people. This terrible act also created one of the greatest paradoxes of the 21st century: Islam, which sees itself as a religion of peace, is now associated with murder and mayhem. There are about 1.3 billion Muslims living in 55 states. The Muslim world population is one of the fastest growing. And Islam is the one world religion which appears to be on a collision course with the other world religions. The consequences of what happens within Muslim societies will be felt by societies everywhere. No one is immune from the debates that now rage around Islam.’ So long as Muslims follow the commands of Allah firmly, their efforts will bear fruit. Their glory and their fall are both determined by God’s laws and not by any one’s whim. It is the ways 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 The Quran says,’ Man is at loss, save those who believe in God’s way of life and by thjeir healthy deeds help the way’((103:1-3)