By M Naseem
From the internal evidence as well as according to the consensus of opinion this chapter was revealed at Al-Madinah during the early years after the Hijrah. The precise dating requires more knowledge than the writer possesses at the time but according to the evidence available it may be taken as sometime during the first six years after the Hijrah or perhaps in the sixth year after the armistice of Hudaibiyah. The commentators have referred to certain incidents, certain discussions among Muslims about their willingness to do whatever God wanted them to do as an evidence of pre- revelation circumstances to which Divine Judgement responded in its choice of the moment of revelation. It may, however, be said that the historical background is only an instance of the timing but as the Qur’an is for all times each chapter needs to be understood in its broader and general terms and then applied to the particular situation to which it may be relevant.
In the understanding of the Qur’an two broad schools of thought have emerged during the passage of time. The majority seem to have taken the view that chapters, paragraphs, and sentences in the Book are distinct and unitary pieces of expression having their own particular message to the reader and that the beauty of the Book lies in its each part having a characteristic message and thus satisfying his needs and responding to his mood.
The second group has tried to see beyond this apparent separate entity of different revelations and seems to have found a definite wisdom in the arrangements of different chapters, in the selection of titles and a subtle link that connects sentences to sentences, paragraphs to paragraphs and chapters to chapters. To the reader in a hurry each sentence gives its concise message which he may take as a guide for his practical needs but to a consistent student of the Qur’an-which we all should be-it reveals a continuous message which aims to catch him in all flights of his imagination with a consistent direction that pervades the whole of this revelation.
The human mind, it may be submitted, has the unique quality of viewing and grasping in many dimensions. Particular situations and obvious views lead the mind to what in the physical context is quite unrelated and yet one can see- on further examination-the link that connects the mental flight to the object in the view. This is how poets and writers have found meaning and messages in what to a cursory observer might be an ordinary day to day view of nature. One does not have to be a poet, a writer or a scientist to experience this happening.
It is rather our common experience that the physical qualities of sight and hearing do not bind our mind to the physical impressions these convey; the mind is quite capable of holding the physical impression while also being moved to other dimensions through the stimulation of certain wavelengths by the same physical impression. Thus we may look at one thing and think of many things, hear one thing and think of other things all at the same time.
This is the approach that has been adopted in the present study of this chapter. Looked at from this angle the chapter seems to be most appropriately placed in a contextual sense. The subject matter seems to be a natural development of the line of thought that was taken-up in Surah Al-Mumtahinah (chapter 60).
In that Surah the subject was viewed in a relatively narrow dimensions and a guidance was conveyed about a particular set of circumstances which developed from the same basic situation that now becomes the subject of this surah and leads the way to a further discussion of the implication of this situation in the surah that follows namely Surah Al-Jumuah (chapter 62). The movement from particular to general is a characteristic of the Qur’an which, one may venture to say, has the aim of imparting to the reader the attitude of viewing a part in the con- text of the whole and the whole in its relation to different parts.
The Qur’an thus not only commands and forbids but it also moulds basic attitudes and habits of thinking. It aims to create a community which not only shares common practices, actions and behaviour but is also distinct because of its modes of under- standing and its basic assumptions.
Following the same approach it is submitted that the title of a chapter need not be regarded as a random selection of a name having no significance or bearing on its subject matter. It does not seem to be in keeping with the wisdom of the Creator of which we see so much evidence in nature. There are many phenomena which at different stages of human knowledge have appeared unrelated but on further enquiry and advancement in knowledge proved to be linked in a certain way and guided by definite laws. What is apparently unrelated may not really be so. That this should be the case is most unlikely in the work of One in Whose work of creation we see so much organisation, discretion and purpose that even in the objects like the stars in the sky which seem so haphazardly scattered, there is a definite inter-relationship that binds each to its appointed role.
Keeping this in view, if we now examine the title of this chapter, it may perhaps be agreed that it conveys an impression of organisation and arrangement which in its turn suggests an atmosphere of struggle which obviously must be for a purpose. And as it is a struggle it also follows that this purpose to which this organisational arraying pertains must be faced with an opposition that has necessitated this movement. It may thus be seen that a word may have more to convey than just its literal meaning and one may also submit that there is nothing extraordinary in being able to see so because it often happens in our everyday experience that a mere expression not only conveys the literal meaning but also betrays a person’s mood, his circumstances and even an impression of his life story. Thus by merely reflecting on the title of this chapter one may construe the circumstances and the atmosphere to which this title may pertain. And bearing in mind that this is a communication from the Creator to mankind one may also infer that organisational arraying in a situation of confrontation involving the whole human race must be about a very important issue- an issue of life and death for human society.
The chapter begins with the expression: “In the name of God, the Most Kind, the Most Beneficent”. This forms the first expression preceding practically all communications from God and seems to convey the Divine motive and spirit that is responsible for and pervades through the communication that follows. In other words we are informed that the communication that follows is not prompted by any self interest of God; He is the Most Kind, the Most Beneficent and prompted by these attributes He sends His message for the benefit of those who are in need of this kindness and mercy.
This is the operative spirit of God in all His communication and all His dealings as is further supported by His expression,
“He ordained kindness and Generosity for Himself” and
“My mercy encompasses everything”.
And so this is the spirit in which the expression Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim ought to be understood and applied. Whatever the subject, even when it is a struggle or a war it is an obligation of a Muslim to understand this expression and apply it in a spirit of kindness and beneficence; and with an objectivity that has only collective good in mind and guarding in the process against all subjective involvement.
The Messenger of God-peace be upon him-taught us to incorporate this expression (Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim) in our everyday etiquette in order to remind us at the beginning of each act the responsibility that we have to God, to see that our acts result in goodness and benefit to all concerned. Unfortunately we tend to take them as magic words that will compensate for our shortcomings and by this inert grace will do what we may fail to do. When this does not work as the magic spell we believe it to be; when our expectations are not met we become disheartened and even sceptical of God and His attributes. But this is a result of our misconstruction and misunderstanding and quite contrary to Divine purpose. In this world it is man who is the vicegerent of God and who is expected to act and work. The words of God are to inspire him and not to do things for him.
This in brief is the significance of Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim both as Divine expression when addressed to man and as a human expression when forming a part of etiquette.
Verse 1: “All that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth glorifieth Allah; and He is the Mighty, the Wise”.
In these opening remarks our attention is drawn to the abounding evidence in nature which points to the presence of a powerful and knowledgeable Creator. The nature of the statement is so definite and positive and it covers such a vast field that it would be obvious that the sort of evidence to which it is referring cannot be fully gathered by a cursory glance. it is in fact an indication to the student of the Qur’an to engage themselves in a searching inquiry of materials, forces and objects that form our environment with the Divine assurance that the more they delve into it the more it will reveal to them the knowledge, wisdom and power that controls and maintains such complicated functions. Even the study of a single cell , its system of eating and drinking, its means of communication is a marvel in itself and points to the existence of a remarkable knowledge and power that could only conceive and execute such technical excellence.
The general body of Muslims seem to pass by such statements in the Qur’an without endeavouring to grasp this significance. An average person seems to think that the chirping of the birds, the rustling of the leaves, the sound of the wind and the whispering of the willows is their way of singing praises to God. But this sort of thinking is more an indication of the subjective state of the onlooker than a representation of the objective reality. It is far from God the Knowing, the High and the Wise to base His claim., on such flimsy grounds. The evidence in nature supporting the presence of a remarkable wisdom is so abundant that the case for a creative wisdom being responsible for it is far stronger than its attribution to chance existence and is only being lost because of the defaults of its support.
Reference to Divine attributes of power and wisdom further supports this view that it is not some physical act of singing praises by different objects that we have to look for but something more tangible that is abundant in nature and is a witness to the wisdom and the power of the Creator.
Discourse of such sentences in the Qur’an, deep study of nature and the sciences ought not to be just an academic pursuit for a Muslim, but a labour of Faith undertaken in the quest for the wisdom and power of his Creator.
Finally, this verse is perhaps one of the most eighty expressions in the Qur’an and is always indicative of the importance and seriousness of the issue involved. Sovereignty of God to which all this evidence in nature is a pointer is the most important fact of our existence, so much so that its acceptance or denial is the most important issue of all time and it is on this basis that we must form our attitude and direct our life’s efforts.
The presence of God is the fact and so those who accept it are the realists and believers whereas those who reject it deny the truth and reality. It is quite obvious that if a system has to work properly and beneficially it has to be guided by facts and realities. Facts and realities have, therefore, an obligation to prevail and those who care for the health of this system have a duty to see that it does prevail and all falsehood is removed, This needs organisation, struggle and sacrifice and that is what is dealt with in the rest of this chapter.
The literary style adopted in this chapter is one which, instead of developing the theme of greatest impact in a progressive manner, aims to create a shock in the mind of the reader by mentioning it first so as to sharply awaken him to the realities of his situation and his obligation. Thus it is, that the highest requirement of this struggle namely, the laying down of one’s life is mentioned quite early in the fourth verse while its supporting and explanatory arguments are mentioned later.
Verse2,3: “O,you who believe! Why do you say what you do not do, it is most hateful in the eyes of God that you say what you do not do”
Having drawn attention to the solemnity of the subject by its title and the opening remarks the same grave tone is further used to heighten the effect. The Muslims are told that believing in God is more than just passive recognition of His presence. This in fact is the diverting point for the flow of a personality. Life may be likened to a growing plant that needs a support to gain. its natural upright position as otherwise it will fall and spread on the ground exposing itself to be trampled down and disfigured.
Recognition and acceptance of God is that support in a human context, and being so essential, merits all the devotion and support that one is capable
One cannot sit idle and look while wrong spreads like a creeper and destroys all our chances of peace and progress. That is why it is hateful in the eyes of God as it cuts across the whole purpose of creation. Man was created to take charge of his environment and progress in a peaceful atmosphere to the standard of the man of the Hereafter. Denial of God is the beginning of the end of man’s peace and also a farewell to his progress. It is, therefore, the duty of all right thinking people not to sit idle and be satisfied with mere talk; it needs much more than that.
Verse 4: “Surely God loves those who fight in His way in ranks as if they were a solid wall”.
As mentioned earlier the literary style adopted in the Divine communication is also indicative of the importance of this subject in the Divine view. It is a psychological shock- therapy aimed at achieving a sudden sharp awakening; and this is achieved by mentioning the maximum requirement of this ideological commitment. So we are told that this entails fighting in the way of God and a willingness to face the risk of losing one’s life.
At this stage one may stop and wonder how a movement of peace, motivated by kindness can also envisage involvement in war and killing. But this universe is based and maintained on a law of balance and we see that in nature any one force, howsoever likeable it may be, becomes a danger if it is allowed to preponderate and disturb the equilibrium. God has recommended to us the same law in the sphere of mental judgement. Human life is sacred, we are a movement of peace, we have no aggressive designs, we do not want to conquer by force or spread by force but when the enemies of human-welfare will not let us work in a peaceful mann6r-and being not guided by the same moral precepts as bind us they are more likely to do so-then we have a social obligation to defeat their purpose and defeat it in a decisive way. Our consideration of peace and love has to be balanced against the requirement of the safety of human- welfare.
We are, therefore, informed that a true involvement in this movement means a potential risk of war and loss of one’s life. We must, therefore, wake up to this reality and prepare ourselves accordingly. We are also told that we must conceive and wage this fight as a cohesive force of such strength as may be likened to a solid wall. We may say that this is not just an emotional exhortation; it rather carries a serious consideration for training, organisation and solidarity. To all students of human behaviour it would be evident that these qualities can not be produced at short notice.
Man, woman and nations have to train themselves for this purpose. One cannot have a soft approach to life and aspire to become a tough soldier as well. One cannot live an easy-going, time wasting, profusely talkative life and suddenly turn into a hard, meticulous, tight lipped fighter. Discipline and solidarity are matters of training and habit. These also require a mental aptitude that puts priority on unity and that sacrifices all differences for its preservation. Mental aptitude again is not a matter of sudden acquisition. It needs sustained experience and constant vigilance whereby the minds gets into the habit of opting for the main priority and sacrificing the rest.
So although concise, to those who wake up to this call and have a discerning mind this statement adds a new dimension and opens a vast field that calls for the organisation of their faculties and abilities. This is not a movement for idle-dreamers and pious-hopefuls; it is a movement for a people of vision who are serious and practical realists as well.
Verses 5 6: “And when Moses said to his people, 0 my people l why do you persecute me when you know that I am God’s messenger unto you. But when they went astray, God let their hearts go astray. God does not guide those who do wrong.”
“And when Jesus son of Mary said 0 children of Israel 1 surely I am the messenger of God to you, verifying that which is before me of the Torah and giving the good news of a messenger who will come after me and whose name is the praised one! But when he came to them with clear evidence they said: this is mere magic!”
It is a method of the Qur’an that to support its views it does not go to lengthy dialectical reasoning which can be understood only by a few and may not be convincing either, but to the factual evidence provided by the human experience and history.
In the preceding paragraph we were warned of the requirement of a struggle that was bound to ensue and as if sensing the suspicion in some minds about the Islamic movement being a blood-thirsty, trigger-happy movement we are being informed that it has been the unfortunate experience in the past that people whose minds are corrupt do not tend to accept the truth no matter how much clear evidence in its support may be before them.
This character is too degenerate to accept something that is against their vested interests; their nature is too mean to let a movement for justice and peace work for its objective in freedom. So this situation of confrontation and implied hostility is neither our choice nor our creation; it is a consequence of their intransigence and stubbornness.
The historical evidence referred here pertains to two widely separated periods of history and shows that it is not an isolated instance but a recurrent example of happenings in a given set of circumstances. From the statement of Moses, peace be upon him, it is clear that his audience was in no doubt about his identity, his office or his mission but their prejudicial interests proved to be stronger than their minds and so they persisted in following a line of action that was contrary to their inner conviction. We are informed that it is not God’s practice to force people into any particular line of action, God observes great respect for their freedom. He has granted freedom to man and He never even violates it Himself. Human-freedom is a necessary condition for human progress and development and it is far from God to break His own laws.
The same thing happened in the time of Jesus and though the Divine statement here is concise yet it reveals a great deal. So we gather that the people of his time had seen enough evidence that was clear and recurrent to convince them of the truth of Jesus’s office and ideology but again they were too degenerate to accept what their minds acknowledged to be true. In these periods of human civilisation when the physical impact still played a great role in making an impression on human thinking the messengers of God were also endowed with, some supra-natural powers to create that effect. But neither logic, nor common sense, nor physical impression seemed to sway those who were too attached to their designs and addicted to injustice. So the logical grounds they found to be unacceptable and the physical manifestation were dismissed as mere magic.
It may be noted that Jesus did not claim to bring anything new but the same eternal truth that God has always sent for man’s guidance and which has always proved useful to man- kind. It is also evident from the text that in his time, Torah the Book of God was not present in its complete and original form but only in parts, the rest presumably having been lost due to human negligence or intervention.
Verses 7, 8, 9: “Who does greater wrong than one who invents falsehood against God when he is summoned to submission to God. God does not guide those who do wrong. They desire to put out the light of God with their mouths but God will complete His light howsoever the unbelievers may detest.
It is He Who has sent His messengers with the guidance and the religion of truth so that it may overcome over all other ways of life however much the polytheist may be averse.”
These paragraphs are a further progression from the thoughts expressed in the preceding two paragraphs. There we were informed of the negative attitude of a group that was bent on refusing truth and right and now we are informed of their intention and aim. We are also informed of the nature of our movement and its purpose and destiny as desired by God. It is a great wrong to human society, we are being told, to uphold falsehood against truth. Our call is that of reason, of living with facts and in submission to God Who is The fact and The truth.
This is the road to peace and consequently to unlimited progress and it is man’s privilege to decide which side he chooses but he must remember that if he chooses wrong wilfully then he will not be saved by God from this course of action as it is against His law. So the responsibility of those who do so is very great indeed as they have been forewarned about the nature of their choice, the nature of our mission and the consequences of a wrong choice. This choice will also indicate their intention to eradicate the truth because two opposites and incompatibles cannot exist together.
The hostility is inherent in this system but judging from the nature of wrong doers and unjust people one may rightly presume that this intolerance will force them to organise action against the Islamic movement with a view to eradicate it by force. It is, however, God’s wish that this ideology must prevail no matter how distasteful it may be to the deniers of truth. Such statements in the Qur’an, how- ever, must never be allowed to create a false sense of security in the members of an Islamic movement. It is not the way of God to fight human problem. It is we who have this responsibility and it is our duty to fight and solve our problems.
Such statements are designed to raise morale as morale is important in any struggle. Such statements are also there to give us an added sense of responsibility as in the sphere of human action and freedom it is man’s duty to see that the will of God does prevail. This view is further strengthened by the verse that follows in which the nature of our movement is put in its perspective and its purpose is apprised to us.
It is a way of life, we are informed, that is based on truth and the facts of existence. Its aim is to guide people safely through their circumstances of existence and its rightful place is to be the governing way of life for the whole mankind as then only the human race can get rid of these frictions, practices, and attitudes that sap its energy, destroy its structure and bedevil its future.
This also precludes any. compromise on the part of the Islamic movement because purity can only compromise with impurity at its own cost.
We must cast aside any shadow of a second grade position or role from our thinking no matter how meagre our resources and how small our numbers. Movements progress according to the scope of their vision and re- sources fall to those who have a will to acquire them. Human history has always been made by those who sprang from nowhere and refused to be daunted by their circumstances. We have no apology for our ambitions. To be ambitious is not a matter of shame, especially, when it is for the benefit of all. The greater the role, the greater is the responsibility of those who have the privilege of playing such a role. We have a duty to learn from our past mistakes, we have a duty to cast aside dead-wood in our thoughts, we have a duty to be prepared to examine our methods at every juncture; we must always be willing to change, willing to seek the right approach. To fulfil this mission and destiny must always be our only guiding thought.
Verses 10, 11, 12: “0 you who believe! Shall I lead you to a commerce that will save you from a painful doom. “You should believe in God and His messenger and should strive for the cause of God with your wealth and your lives. This is better for you if you only know. “He will forgive you your sins and cause you to enter gardens wherein rivers flow and beautiful dwellings in gardens of eternity. That is indeed a supreme achievement. “And yet another favour that you would love, help from God and a speedy victory, so give good news to the believers.”
After having explained the situation in the context of past and present human history of stating its requirement, the same subject is now approached from another angle. The object of the discourse as is the preceding verses is to motivate members of an Islamic Movement to a course of action that is appropriate to their situation.
The Our’an, it seems, acknowledges fear and gain as the basic motivating factors of human action and repeatedly uses them as a means of promotion or prevention of an action. The verses under study are an example of this technique and we are being told that what has been said before may not be regarded just as an idealistic exhortation but in fact suggests a practical approach to the problems. Looking in a wider context it is a businesslike engagement of one’s abilities and possessions for the sake of earning profit.
Considered in the context of worldly life a movement for the benefit of all cannot but lead to the welfare of the individual and society and considered in the context of the Hereafter it would be obvious that as it is a reflection of the action here it is bound to be wholesome and everlasting. We are also told that it is not just a matter of sunshine and glory that we may leave it if we are not particularly interested. The consequence of inaction and apathy are more than a mere negative loss.
They are positively harmful, giving rise to a situation that in the text is described as painful and gloomy. We must, therefore, realise that it is not only a matter of gaining something, it is also a matter of avoiding something that is going to be terribly painful. Students of human- nature and behaviour would agree that individual and social happiness or misery stem from the cultural precepts of a society, so much so, that even when an individual pretends to be acting outside their influence his subconscious behaviour is still subjected to them. The consideration of this directing thought of human society thus acquires a sense of urgency and we are told that first of all we must have a true appreciation of the truths of our existence which means recognition of God as the All- directing Force and accepting Him as the Rightful Guide which also entails an acknowledgement of His messenger.
Having set our own thoughts right we are then required to get this concept accepted by the rest of the society for our benefit as well as theirs, with all the forces and means at our disposal. Struggle is a necessity as well as an obligation of existence and struggle for a right cause is the foremost and fundamental of all such necessities. It is not a struggle that one can afford to look at with a lukewarm attitude. It merits a most serious consideration and devotion. Its maximum requirement was mentioned in verse four and although the subject is being discussed in a general manner here but having been informed of its scope it is easy to form can idea of the nature and pattern of the organisational structure and effort that is required to meet its requirements.
We are also reminded that since it is described as working for the cause of God we must not think that we are acting for something extraneous to ourselves. It is a Divine way of speech and is a manifestation of His extreme kindness, care, and benevolence that He describes human welfare as His cause. In the last part of the eleventh verse it is made clear to us that in fact it is for our own benefit, if we only stop to think. As a corollary it may be submitted here that it is a wrong policy for Muslim movements and a mistake of presentation to make God or Islam at stake in any situation.
Even in Divine eyes it is the human interest that is always considered and it is this interest that we must concern ourselves with.
To common people their interests are more near and real than metaphysical concepts and unless these concepts are married to such interests they are not likely to be accepted by the masses.
In verses 12 and 13 we are informed of the benefits and final outcome of this struggle. The language of the first half is purposely allegorical so as to make it possible of widest interpretation and understanding. Even the idea that the sky is not the limit seems to be the imposing impression. A social order based on this ideology we are informed is going to change this world of ours into a garden where rivers flow, where every thing is green, cool and refreshing-a place where senses will be pleased and spirit will be delighted. The ideology and social order have an inherent quality of rectifying faults and mistakes that people may have or commit, which is quite unlike the other social orders where every ship drags one to the devil’s cobweb which grows on the victim and ultimately drowns the poor creature. This is how it may be said, Divine forgiveness of sins operates in a worldly context. The verse, as said earlier, is capable of the widest understanding because this concept of life in a garden is not a restricted one.
We are also promised dwelling in gardens of eternity which conforms to Islamic concept of continuation of life into the Hereafter which will be of a permanent nature. It is also in logical sequence because the results in the Hereafter are dependent on the achievements in this life and so those who are able to convert this life into a life of peace, pleasure and progress will justifiably be awarded a similar life in the Hereafter.
I It would be obvious that a movement with such a promise to offer, with such organisational structure and determination would not be far from success and it is perhaps, therefore, that God informs us that if we keep all this in mind and apply it intelligently then His help which means His natural law of cause and effect will be with us and speedy victory for our movement will be near.
We are given these glad tidings to raise our morale as well as to convey that the process of revolution if con- ducted on the right lines is not a long one and who can give a better assurance than the Creator of all the operative laws that govern and affect this universe?
Verse 14: “0 you who believe! be helpers of God, as Jesus, son of Mary, said to the disciples! who are my helpers in the cause of God? The disciples said, we are helpers of God. So a party of the children of Israel believed and another party disbelieved; then We aided those who believed against their enemy and they became predominant”.
As was mentioned earlier the Quran’ relies a great deal on historical evidence to prove its point. It also encourages travel, study of archaeology and the study of ancient civilisation as all these gives historical evidence of one sort or other that may be very useful in the presentation of one’s thesis.
Remembering that whenever in the Qur’an God mentions His cause it turns out to be a cause that is for the benefit of His people it seems that Jesus in his Islamic movement took the cause of downtrodden people and presented it as God’s cause which gave it its mass appeal and drew the poor and the young to his flock.
Movements, it may be submitted, gain this mass acceptance through catch phrases and appealing slogans and not by lengthy treatises. It is apparent from the text that those who supported Jesus because of their organisational ability, struggle and persistence eventually became predominant over those who had the power and the means and not a long time ago were their persecutors.
The law of success as seen through human history has no respect for numbers or material superiority. It is always the decadent civilisation that has relied on weight rather than mobility, show rather than reality, arrogance rather than humility and numbers and materials rather than spirit and innovation. It is also a lesson of history that these were always trampled by those who had no respect for their values and were regarded as barbarians.
Yet again the message is clear that an Islamic movement is not destined to lose; it is destined to win and win in a worldly sense as is proven by history.
It is evident from the title, opening remarks, style and subject matter of this surah that the subject of an Islamic movement, its organisation, its conduct and fate is of great significance in the eyes of God. It is also evident from this surah as well as other verses in the Qur’an 7:128, 7:137, 21:105 and 24:55 that this movement if conducted on the right lines is destined to succeed in this world. It is also evident that God always wants it to be so.
This human race was not created to live in a state of strife, tension, dissatisfaction and frustration, but as true representatives of its Creator managing the world with beauty, elegance and goodness in every way. However in the sphere of human freedom what is desirable need not happen as it is dependent on human action and hence it is essential that any people who aspire to work for the cause of God must also be prepared to examine their approach and technique as God’s promise cannot be false but our understanding can be wrong.
With these thoughts in mind the following submissions are made for consideration of those who have the privilege of being the partisans of this cause or who aspire to be so.
(a) Somewhere, sometime, it seems Muslims made the mistake of developing a care of the Hereafter that seemed to be at the expense of the life in this world. The concept of the Hereafter was given to man to broaden his outlook and not to blind him to his immediate environment. The line of argument was that you care for the needs of this world but that is not all. There is a Hereafter which is permanent and so incomparably more extensive. One, therefore, should not care for this world on the expense of the Hereafter. It was simply an exhortation for re-orientation and reorganisation and not a call for the neglect of either.
But like previous people we made the same mistake and gave the impression that religious people were not interested in the affairs of this world; they were nice and holy but had nothing in common with those who were confronted with the day-to-day problems of life. This caused separation between the masses and the religious people.
(b) The religious leaning and dependence that are inherent in man need some sort of satisfaction and it depends on the wisdom of the leaders whether they satisfy it with progressive and vibrant concepts or with those that give a false sense of security and lull them to inactivity. We made a mistake in this field again and supplied our people with concepts that made them accept their ignorance with entire satisfaction. We gave them the assurance that reading of the Qur’an was a Thawab even if they did not understand it. The result was that we have millions of Muslims who read the Qur’an and are as remote from it as they are from Hebrew. We have a Muslim society that is as indulgent in the un-Qur’anic ways as pagan society. Consequently our people live in a fool’s paradise where every term is under- stood out of context and we have fantastic hopes of our deliverance in the Hereafter without having anything to show in this world for this optimism.
(c) A death-wish seems to have infiltrated the Muslim movement. The concept of martyrdom that was meant to remove the fear of death and present it as a desirable end in the pursuit of our goal became an end in itself. The concept of martyrdom was there to relieve us of our fears but not to satisfy our best hopes.
Consequently our leaders have forgotten the basic rules of waging a successful struggle. We do not seem to realise that in the strategy of a struggle it is sometimes desirable to run away as long as we can, regroup and wage our struggle again. We seem to give more credence to people’s faith and less to human failures. We seem to take the line that at worst our omission can only cause us to lose our life which prospect anyway is very satisfactory.
This smug philosophy makes us poor revolutionaries and sitting ducks for our enemies to shoot. The art of revolution needs the eyes of a hawk, the agility of a tiger and the cunning of a fox and that is how a Muslim ought to be as his is the most revolutionary mission of all.
(d) The Qur’an refers so much to the history of early Muslim groups like those who began to call themselves Jews and Christians and yet we fail to see that the present Muslim people of whom we are a section point by point have fallen into the same category as other people of the Book. We appeal to them as Muslims and do not seem to realise that they have acquired the same characteristics that are described of the people of the Book. Our scholars are behaving in the same way, our richmen are acting in the same manner, our masses are as ignorant and complacent as theirs were and yet instead of telling this to our scholars we try to win them by being deferential to them, we are considerate of our rich whereas they deserve a bitter opposition, we condone our masses and rather make them more complacent where as they need a rude awakening. This attitude has brought us no reward but has certainly estranged that section of our community that is restless and is impatient for a change.
(e) The Qur’an provides ample evidence of the fact that the call to Islam was seldom made in a situation where the concept of a Creator as unknown or a system of religious practices and observation were extinct. But there are many Messengers of God, nay, almost all who did not present a whole system of law and ethics to the people of their time but chose a few burning issues of their time and released their detailed system of belief and practices by gradual progression with care and discretion.
We, however, judging from our own emotional response, seem to think that the whole of Islam as we know it is going to appeal to our people as well and all that we have to do is to write scholarly articles about its different aspects and let the people read it and they will run to it as to a lost treasure, feeling guilty at their neglect. Unfortunately, the situation is not so; the majority of our people have no love for Islam. They, in fact, hardly know it. They are more aware of their needs than they are of the presence of God. Today it is wrong policy to call for Islam as we understand it. Like the Messengers of God we must look for the burning issues of our time and let people know what rights God has given them that they must fight for, what security God offers them that they must look for, what promise God has for them that they must work for.
Let people first realise God in their immediate requirements and concerns and from this bound they will become more responsive to His further commands. But asking them to accept the whole set of beliefs and practices we make them run away because we do not seem to understand that that is the very picture they are afraid of. They do not know Islam and they run from the fear of the unknown.
January – February 1971