The Islamic Call


  • bookcover

  • The Islamic Call


  • CHAPTER IX
    CERTAIN OBJECTIVES OF THE CALL

    1 - Liberation From Bondage.

    A. From the Bondage of Slavery : (Manumission)
     

            The Islamic Call first dawned in a world of darkness and of crying class differentiation. It was an era marked by the dominion of man over man, the utter subordination of the weak to the strong, of the masses to the nobility, and the flourishing of slave trade. Then came the Call bearing the torch of liberty, of human liberty at large, putting an end almost to slavery in all its forms. Yes, Islam put an end to enslaving and dehumanizing man, male or female. It prohibited enslaving him except in holy war, while, before, it was legal in peace and war alike.

            When a legitimate war ceases there?is, with respect to captives, a possible choice between two alternatives either their liberation for mercy's sake, or their redemption by ransom or against Muslim captives:

            "When you meet in battle those who disbelieve smite the necks until ye rout them with carnage, then make fast of bonds: then afterward either grant grace or take ransom till the war lay down its burdens" (Surah 47,
    verse 4).

            Such a legislation is admittedly just and humane, with no feeling of malice or vengeance. Islam did not adopt a passive attitude towards those already in slavery at its advent. It made liberation of slaves a way to earning God's favour :

          "It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the Prophets; and giveth his wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask and to slaves free" (Surah II, 177).

            Further, the total funds assigned for charity are to be dispensed to eight classes, of which slaves and captives form one, the object being their liberation:?/span>

            "The Alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the necks (of slaves and captives), and to those heavily in debt, and for the cause of Allah, and for the wayfarer". (Surah IX, 60, in part).

            The liberation of a slave is in Islam a basic part of the atonement for several sins. It is a basic part of the atonement for killing a believer by mistake, the supplement being blood money to be paid to his folk unless they are enemies of the Muslims:

            "He who hath killed a believer by mistake must set free a believing slave" (Surah IV, 92, in part).

     
            It is an alternative atonement for not keeping an earnest oath:

            "Allah will not take you to task for that which is unintentional in your oaths, but He will take you to task for the oaths which ye swear in earnest. The expiation thereof is the feeding of ten of the needy with the average of that wherewith ye feed your own folk, or the clothing of them, or the liberation of a slave, and for him who findeth not (the wherewithal to do so) then a three days' fast". (Surah V. 89, in part).

     

        It is the primary alternative in the atonement for the sin involved in likening one's wife to one's mother in the matter of conjugal rights:

            "And those who put away their wives (by saying they are as their mothers) and afterward would go back on that which they have said, have first to free a slave before they touch one another" . (Surah 58, 3 in part).

     
            So is the case in the atonement for failure to keep the fast even in one day of Ramadan. Moreover, slave liberation is recognised as expiatory for sin in general, and is much recommended by the Prophet especially if the slave be a Muslim:

     

            "He who frees a Muslim slave will have for every organ of the emancipated slave, an organ of himself
    redeemed by God from hell fire" a great inducement indeed to manumission.

     

            Islam is unique in teaching that a slave has th? same chance of obtaining God's favour as a free man. In fact he is promised a double favour if he does his duty towards God and towards his- master, so much so that such a companion of the Prophet as Abu Horaira was induced to say "By him who dispenses death and life, had it not been for the struggle in the Cause of God, the pilgrimage, and my obligation to my mother, I would have preferred to die in bondage". Another unique feature is the emphasis Islam lays on the humane treatment of slaves in bondage. He who ill treats his slave by even one stroke can find atonement for it only in setting him free, as is evidenced by the Prophets' saying:

            "He who smacks or beats his slave can atone for it only by setting him free".

            In talking to or of a slave, the Prophet, upon whom be Peace and the Blessings of God, forbids masters to

    use such words as (my bondman, my bondwoman but to substitute some such words- as "my man, my woman, my boy" . He laid for their further treatment the unique everstanding regulation.
     

            "Your slaves are your brothers whom God has put under your hands. He who has his brother under his hand has to feed him from what he himself eats, and to clothe him from what he himself wears. Do not demand from them what will tax their power, and in case you do, help them ! ".

            This attitude was not a mere verbal expression to the men of Islam of old. They were true to every word of it, both as regards emancipation and treatment of slaves, as may be seen in books on Islamic biographies. In such an ideal practical manner, especially in those dark ages, did the Islamic Call legislate for slaves such a humanitarian co?e as they could not dream of or imagine, so much so that they followed the Call in such a number that the Prophet, upon whom be Peace, was not averse to call Islamic law "the law of the weak ! They did not only flock to the Prophet in great numbers, but great was their share in the early support of the Call and its later rise to power. They joined the faith voluntarily without any coercion from the Prophet. He had then no power to coerce, even if coercion were permissible.

    He had only his conviction, his faith, and its strikingly attractive principles. Those Mawali suffered much at the hands of the idolaters, yet because of their indomitable spirit and firm belief, their very weakness was a source of power to the Call, proving to spiritual grip, attracting many to it, and in the long in helping to raise its super-structure. On the other hand the Islamic Call first laid the foundation of, and finally led to, their delivery from torment and bondage. The Prophet admitted them to his favour, his company, and his council, occasionally taking their counsel in war and peace.

              A characteristic misunderstanding of the spirit and implication of the Islamic Call's attitude towards slavery has subjected it to the unfair deprecatory criticism of its enemies, especially of certain western writers. They forget that slavery was rife under Western civilisation even towards the end of the nineteenth century, that the slave trade was so thriving and so profitable that armed raids, by the connivance of Western governments, were made on the helpless African tribes, to carry the Africans by force and sell them as slaves at the Spanish and American plantations. They forget too that if it is true that the Northern States fought the Southern American States to free these slaves, it is as true that the Southern States fought the Northern to keep them, and the North might have been defeated instead of defeating the South. The colour question in America remains as a testimony to the abysmal depths to which slaves fell, and the treatment they used to receive at the hands of the civilised West.
    One may further urge the subjugation of whole nations for the material benefit of Western countries, the doings of France in Tunis, Algiers and Morocco, and the treatment of captives and defeated nations of the first and second world wars, but this is needless in the face of the above more specific facts which should suffice as an adequate answer to those hostile critics.

            When we come to the liberty and peculiar rights of woman, we and them sanctioned by Islamic law. Before Islam, woman had practically no liberty, and hardly any rights. It is recorded that she was inherited along with heritable propert, butcould not herself inherit, She could not participate in the activities of man. Islam gave her this important right, as evidenced by the holy verse :

            "Unto the men (of a family).. belongeth a share of that which parents and near kindred leave, and unto the women a share of that which parents and near kindred leave".  - (Surah IV, verse 7, in part).

            Islam recognises woman in her own right, being addressed by God, exalted be He exactly as man is, in the holy verse :

            "And their Lord hath heard their prayers (and He saith) .... : Lo ! I suffer not the work of any worker, male or female, to be lost. Ye proceed one from another ". (Surah III, 195, in part)

            She is granted full liberty to accept or refuse whom she will in. marriage, her acceptance being a condition of the legality of marriage. In courtship she is afforded an opportunity to see her would-be fiance, and mutual attraction or repulsion decides the match. The husband has no authority over his wife's property, nor on her manner of managing it. That is full liberty.

            And lastly, Islam gave the weak and the poor, slaves included, several opportunities everyday to stand on perfect equality with nobles and men of distinction, side by side, in prayers and otherwise. An annual opportunity for the abolition of all class distinction is afforded in the performance of pilgrimage where the Muslim is divested from all sewed clothes which might denote poverty or riches that none may appear overbearing through wealth, or downhearted through poverty and tattered dress. A sense of equality prevails among all pilgrims, not only in appearance, but in fact before God and man. Such a complete equality is meant to be a timely reminder of the absolute equality that shall be before God, the Lord of the Universe, in the future world, where shall rule the great principle that piety is the only criterion of merit which shall be apportioned according?to faith and good works a principle that shall turn the scales heavily in favour of the poor and the down-trodden in this life.

            Islamic cardinal duties are thus an emphatic display of the spirit of equality between men, emphasising freedom from bondage, and imbuing the Muslim with a sense of individuality and personal dignity.


    Liberation from Poverty

            Poverty is another sort of bondage challenged by the Islamic Call, a bondage which humiliates and strains man's spirit generating submissiveness and subservience. This tragic fact, in the form of its opposite, is recognized by the first surah revealed, in the divine words

           "Nay, but verily man is insolent (7) Because he seeth himself wealthy. (8) Verily, unto thy Lord is the return". (Surah 96, verses 6-8).

            This foreshadows the inevitable doom of one given to ostentation and insolence as the result of wealth. Such a man will believe that through his wealth he can dominate men, buying them off and making them do his will. But why this thanklessness, this transgression? Is he to live on for ever ? And if not, why not curb his passion, and keep his pride in bounds ? Whenever man is tempted to be over-bearing and imperious he should remember the Great Day.

            "The day when wealth and sons avail not (any man) save him who bringeth unto Allah a whole heart"
    (Surah 26. verses 88, 89). 

            It should be ever present to man that the span of life in this world is very limited, and that we shall meet God in the Hereafter. If we are not righteous here, how can we ever face Him with soul destitute of sympathy with the poor, with stony hearts indifferent to the distress of our fellowmen ? What will become of us when we are called by the Almighty to answer for every deed of our life?. The divine verse

            "Lo! Unto thy Lord is the return " carries within it impressive warning and dreadful threat to those whose accumulated wealth makes them so ungrateful and arrogant as to neglect their duty to the poor and extent not a hand to the helpless.

            What is implicit in the above verse is made explicit in other verses where God, exalted be He, promises abiding torture to the miserly rich and the grasping trustees who, far from being generous to the orphan, curtail his rights and deprive him of his due. So corrupted they become by riches that they refuse to glorify the Lord, Who gave it them, through active sympathy with His poor creatures.

            Dreadful shall be the doom of such people, and disgraceful shall be their torment:

           "Nay, but ye honour not the orphan and urge not on the feeding of the people, and ye devour heritages with devouring greed and love wealth with abounding love, Nay, but when the earth is ground to atoms, grinding, grinding; and thy Lord shall come with angels rank on rank; and hell is brought near that day; on that day man will remember, but how will the remembrance then avail him ? He will say : Ah, would that I had sent before me (some provision) for my life? None punished as He will punish on that day ! None bindeth as He then will bind" (Surah 89) verses 17-26).

            Such tragic picture as presented by t?ese verses represents the general state of the wretched rich who close in their riches, leaving their fellow brothers to shift for themselves in distress. Nor did Islam neglect to set in relief the sort of pain awaiting such people in the Hereafter, that perchance their hearts might melt, and their souls might open. Their very treasures shall be their torment, as set out in God's words

            "They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah unto them give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom. On the day when it will (all) be heated in the fire of hell, and their foreheads and their flanks and their backs will be branded there with (and it will be said unto them) : Here is that which
    ye hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what ye used to hoard". (Surah 1, 34 in part, 35).

            Nor did Islam in handling the problem of alms- giving leave it entirely to the discretion of individual conscience or caprice. It made it an obligation, a compulsory duty on the able, to give to the poor annually in determinate proportions. It is a feature of the true believer to give it, as pointed out by the verse

            "And those in whose wealth there is a known right for the beggar and the destitute. (Surah 70, verses 24! 25).

            These are only two verses of many dealing with the poor's due, the " zakat " , which comes next to the daily prayers in importance among the five essential duties imposed by Islam. It is to be forcibly collected if not voluntarily given, so much so that the first right Caliph, Abu Bakr, held it his duty to fight those apostate tribes whose apostasy consisted only in denying the Zakat due to the public treasury to be dispensed among the eight  classes enumerated on a previous occasion, five of whom are people in want. He went so far as to s?y " By God, should they deny me of it even a halter, I shall be ready to fight them for it ".

            Nor are the interests of the poor disregarded on the occasion of religious festivities. To them is due at least one third of the sacrifice offered in Bairam, the festival celebrating the end of pilgrimage days. To the is due all the Zakat to be distributed on the occasion of the festival celebrating the end of the fast, so much for every member of every family not in need, children included, if the fast of the elders is to be accepted.

            Then comes voluntary alms for charity's sake. This is held to be a sure way to God's favour. And voluntary or compulsory, for all alms is promised not only God's favour in the Hereafter, but also His blessings in this life., safeguarding the giver's interests and multiplying his funds and earthly goods. In God's words

            "Whatever ye give in charity, seeking Allah's countenance, this will increase manifold", (Surah xxx, verse 39 in part).

            There is yet a higher object, a greater benefit of alms-giving, namely spiritual regeneration. Again in God's words:

            "Take, of their wealth, alms wherewith thou purifyest them and makest them grow", (Surah IX, 103 in part). This legislation of Zakat struck the balance between the poor and the rich, and helped to make of them brothers for God's sake, rendering violence between the two unthinkable. Nor did the Muslim rich of old go to excess in enjoying their riches, then added to by their share of the spoils of war. They took the recommended course of moderation, a sense of mysticism making them rather frugal in food and dress, "with a view" , as Ibnul Taktaki says, "to comforting the poor, and keeping their own appetites in check to habituate themselves to the best moral conditions through self discipline".

     &n?sp;      By this liberation from poverty, the Islamic Call restored self-confidence and self-dignity to Muslims, Arabs and all. There is nothing more detrimental to human behaviour than poverty and want. With this liberation there was no longer any room for the natural fear for the future of family and children should a believer fall in the struggle for the establishment of the Faith. It helped him, therefore, to go to battle single hearted when war came.

            Again, this liberation helped the whole-hearted co-operation of groups and classes in the Muslim community.


    It made it very difficult for class dissension to creep in. Hence the failure of Abu Tharr il Ghafari's movement to secure any mass response. It would have led the poor to hate the rich, being in certain points akin to present day communism. But it was doomed to failure, having no chance of even being listened to, the predominance of the faith and the consequent observance of its laws leaving no room for any complaint on the part of the poor.

            The Islamic Call condemned any exploitation of the poor, as may be seen, for example, in the complete prohibition of usury. The usurer, taking a mean advantage of man's need, is compared to one stricken by the devil, and the devil, or one in compact with him, cannot be sympathetic or humanitarian. The whole problem of pre-Islamic usury is fully dealt with in the following divine verses:

    275:  "Those who swallow usury cannot rise up save as he ariseth whom the devil hath prostrated by (his) touch. That is because they say Trade is just like usury whereas Allah permitteth trading and forbiddeth usury. He unto whom an admonition from his Lord cometh, and (he) refraineth (in obedience thereto) he shall keep (the profits of) that which is past, and his affair (henceforth) is with Allah. As for him who returneth (to usury) - Such are rightful owners of the Fire. They will abide therein.

            276: "Allah hath blighted usury and made almsgiving fruitful. Allah loveth not the impious and guilty".

            277. "Lo! those who believe and do good works and establish worship and pay the poor-due, their reward is with their Lord and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve".

            278. "O ye who believe ! Observe your duty to Allah, and give up what remaineth (due to you) from usury if ye are (in truth) believer!.

            279. " And if ye do not, then be warned of war (against you) from Allah and His messenger. And if you repent, then ye have your principal (without interest). neither wronging nor being wronged". Surah ll, 275-279

            To help to put an end to usury, a debtor is to be given then opportunity and time to repay his debt when he is better off. No coercion or compulsion is here legitimate, since it would mean his further running into debt to his creditors, and consequently the better opportunity and market for usury so runs the holy text:

           (And if the debtor is in straitened circumstances, then (let there be) postponement to (the time of) ease"; (Surah II, 280 in part).

            This, in brief, is the trend of the Islamic Call in so far as it attempted to liberate the faithful from poverty and its dire implications. A more detailed treatment would carry us beyond the scope of the present work.

     


    The Bondage of Rigidity.

            By this is meant rigidity of thought and slavish conformity to forefathers ways. Such mental stagnation is undoubtedly a sort of bondage, or one of its worst forms. Many thinkers when they use the word liberation in. general mean the liberation of thought and the overthrow of what is false in old systems in this sense the Muhammadan Call was itself a splendid revolution of thought, and a far-reaching social evolution.

            It was in essence a revolution against the erroneous beliefs and innovations bequeathed by ancestors against idol worship, against slavery, against poverty, against ignorance, and against class distinctions. This sweeping revolution was reinforced by a mental revolution designed to shake individual minds out of the tendency of automatically taking the stray tracks of thought beaten out by their forefathers.

            "They indeed found their fathers astray. But they make haste (to follow) in their foot steps. (Surah :37, verses 69, 70).

            Islam preached that God is One a true creed reasonable in itself, and conclusively proved through contemplating the physical universe, its perfect design, and the beauty which pervades it. Such beautiful and imposing super-structure presupposes an omnipotent Designer exercising over it absolute unchallenged dominion.

            The interaction between body and spirit, between matter and mind, between the different universes, and between Heaven and earth, these and the interrelations between these undoubtedly derive their existence from One Supreme being operating the entire universe. Such continuity in the chain of creation, such consummate precision and uniformity of natural laws which made possible the unfolding of their secrets to the human intellect day after day, and epoch after epoch, demonstrate conclusively the oneness of God, The Creator.

            "If there were therein God beside Allah, then verily both (the heavens and the earth) had been disordered (Surah XXI, 22, in part).

            Such exhortation of mind to contemplate the universe in order to have an insight into its inner workings is meant not only to furnish the Muslim with additional proof of the truth of the Faith, but also that he might grow in strength and keep up with the natural development of the Call to its logical results. It is a perfectly logical call. There is nothing in it against Reason. Islamic prayers and worship put one in communion with God five times daily. If in between two prayers he gets forgetful of his duty towards Him, he is soon reminded of it by the next. That is why so great a stress is laid on prayers in Islam:

            "Seek help in patience and prayer ; and truly it is hard save for the humble minded ; Who know that they will have to meet their Lord, and that unto Him they are returning". (Surah II, verses 45, 46).

            Similarly Zakat, or the poor-due, stands for an adjustment between classes so that no class can enrich itself at the expense of another, and no group can enslave another because of poverty or ill-health. It removes the main cause of social strife if adequately maintained thus ensuring social cohesion and equanimity through mutual sympathy. Next to prayers, to worship, it receives the greatest emphasis.

            "And establish worship and pay the poor-due, and (so) lend unto Allah a goodly loan. Whatsoever good ye send. before you for your souls, ye will surely find it with Allah, better and greater in the recompense. And seek forgiveness of Allah. Lo ! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful". (Surah 73, ve?se 20 in part).

            Fasting is a reminder of the bitterness of hunger and want. It is a training in self-discipline teaching patience and endurance. It also brings man to communion with God keeping him off frivolity as a safeguard against his ever becoming licentious. It is at once abstinence from food and drink, and from licence in speech.

            Pilgrimage develops communal relations between Muslims all over the world, affording them with an adequate opportunity for taking yearly counsel amongst themselves for the welfare of the Muslim Common wealth, every Muslim community being well represented in pilgrimage. It regenerates the pilgrim spiritually to visit God's House and circle round it in "tawaf " as a planet round the sun, to stand on the Mount along with the vast pilgrim multitude in direct communion with God, repenting, lamenting, pleading and asking for divine forgiveness and future guidance. It renews and strengthens the bonds between the pilgrim and his Master, his Prophet, to visit the scenes of the Prophet's early struggles, where the Qur'an was first revealed, and the divine Call was first declared. This gives an idea why pilgrimage is incumbent on every able Muslim once in a life time. And believers do it even on foot if need be.

            "And proclaim unto mankind the Pilgrimage. They will come unto thee on foot and on every lean (animal of burden); they will come from every deep ravine,

            That they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the name of Allah on appointed days over the beast of cattle that He hath best owed upon them. Then eat thereof and feed therewith the poor unfortunate.

            Then let them make an end of their unkemptness and pay their vows and go around the ancient House. (Surah XXII, verses 27-29).

            So much for the reasonableness and the logic of the Islamic Call. Now for a unique feature of Islam which shows how far it has gone to safeguard the liberation of Islamic thought from bondage. What do you think of a religion which admits learned exercise of reason as one of the main sources of its legislation? This undoubtedly shows it to be alive to the needs of future developments necessitated by the progressive evolution of human society with time. See what Omar, the second right Caliph, says to Shorihe on appointing him judge at Koofa : ((Seek your verdict in God's Book (the Qur'an). If there, take it and consult no body. If not there, seek it in the Prophet's traditions, and judge the case accordingly. If not in the Prophet's Sunnah, then exercise your own discretion in judgement).

            This exercise of discretion in judging problematic cases not specifically dealt with in the Qur'an or the Sunnah, and which of course should follow their lead, is an unfailing source of vitality in Islamic jurisprudence. It accounts for its vigorous survival inspite of dire vicissitudes. It rendered it perfectly elastic, capable of meeting the needs of place and time within the bounds of right and reason, these being broadly indicated by principles and universals revealed in the Qur'an and applied by the Prophet under divine guidance. A first principle amongst these is the recognition of natural laws, governing the outer world, as divine laws to be sought and followed by man. This is repeatedly emphasised in the divine Wit, in the Qur'an, and legislation concerning them was disclaimed by the Prophet when he said

            "You are better informed concerning your worldly affairs".

            A second principle is the free exercise of sound reasoning. It was to encourage his disciples to discuss matters with him that the Prophet said to them:

            "I am only human like you. If I command you concerning something of your religion, follow and obey but if I express an opinion of mine, I am only human"

            Thus did the Prophet train his companions to the judicious application of their reasoning faculties to the problem in hand especially when not specifically dealt with by revelation. Omar was only following the Prophet's example when he gave Judge Shorihe the order mentioned above. It was in fact a repetition of the instructions given by the Prophet to Moaz Ibn Gabal when sent to Yemen. Like Omar, all the Prophet's companions did their best to follow the Prophet's example. That is why their verdict is very often held to be binding on Muslims. The principle of free but judicious application of reason in the domain of Islamic jurisdiction was applied, following the lead of the Prophet and his companions after him, by all leading jurists of Islam, especially by the earlier two Imams. Abu Hanifah and Malik and in particular by the later Imam Al-Shafiei, Malik's disciple, who first turned Islamic jurisprudence into a science which stands to this day.

            This use of initiative and judging by analogy in the light of the Qur'an and tradition came gradually to a standstill in the era of collapse, and gave way to narrow mindedness. We hope that free judicious constructive thinking will again be restored to its former state in handling matters relating to the Faith. In this will be restored one of its basic essentials.

            The above will show how far-reaching was the revolution in the sphere of thought initiated by the Islamic Call which made of the Prophet's companions true thinkers, and laid the foundation of the great schools of jurisprudence that appeared later. Right and truth became the aim of the early Muslims as a result both of their faith and of their untrammelled thinking. They obeyed Right and Truth and enforced them on all.


    2. - Spirit and Matter Reconciled

            The Islamic Call is an adequate answer to the materialists who deny resurrection and say "And naught destroys us save time". It maintains that there is a second life for which every individual and every community should work, where every one shall be judged according to what he had done in this life, be it good or be it evil.

            "And whoso doeth good an atom's weight shall see it then, And whoso doeth ill an atom's weight shall see it then" . (Surah 99, verses 7, 8.)

            This line of true belief would naturally deter wrong-doers and mischief makers as far as they would be deterred at all from their evil way. At any rate, it should deter others from following in their footsteps. In case one is tempted to do some private or public evil and he remembers the Last Day in time, the probability is that he will resist the temptation for fear of dire punishment or for hope of future bliss. It may be contended that civil criminal laws are deterrent enough, but experience shows that people generally try to evade such laws, either through lack of evidence or through latitude of interpretation, while hardened criminals who would not fear any man-made laws, however stringent, will submit without difficulty to divine laws for fear of hell fire and divine vengeance. Then there are those who toil for their living in mines and quarries or in difficult plantations under trying conditions of heat and cold. Such hard toilers, unless provided with true consolation and genuine hope, are apt to develop ungovernable hatred and rage against the privileged rich, which will lead to social strife if not to open revolt.

            For such, Islam is true healer and consoler, emphasizing to them the great truth that the future in the Hereafter will be determined by the eternal principle.

            "Truly, the most worthy of honour in the sight of God is he who feareth Him most".  (Surah 49, 13 in part).

            Paradise is not restricted to this or that class of society, but embraces all who believe and do good, irrespective of wealth or poverty, colour or race. The Islamic Call has thus laid the foundation of peace and friendship between classes in place of probable strife and anarchy. It gave the spiritual side of life the predominance over the material side, and effected social cohesion in the Islamic community, making of its members brothers in Faith co-operating for the love of God in good work and piety, not in sin and aggression.

    &n?sp;   Islam is unique amongst religions and calls in general in its full appreciation of man's nature the needs of the body being recognized as well as the needs of the spirit, a fact which has much to do with its continuous quiet ascendancy with time. The nature of life in this world disagrees with asceticism and torment of body. The Prophet Muhammad himself was required by God not to go to the extent of self-torment in his active zeal and devotion to the mission as may be seen from the divine words

            "We have not revealed unto thee the Qur'an that thou shouldst be distressed. But as a reminder unto him who feareth (God)." (Surah XX, verses 2 and 3).

            Islam in fact makes it legitimate to enjoy the good things of this world with moderation, including reasonable adornment. In God's words:

            "O Children of Adam ! Look to your adornment at every place of worship, and eat and drink but be not prodigal. Lo ! He loveth not the prodigal". (Surah VII, verse 31) And again

            "And seek the abode of the Hereafter in that which Allah hath given thee and neglect not thy portion of the world ", (Surah xxviii, ver. 77, in part). And yet again

            "Say : Who bath forbidden the adornment of Allah which he hath brought forth for his bondmen, and the good things of His providing? Say: Such, on the Day of Resurrection, will be only for those who believed during the life of the world". (Surah VII, vers 32 in part).

            The Prophet, upon whom be Peace, expresses the same truth clearly when he says :"The best of you is he who does not forego this world for the next, Or forego the next world for this. The best of you is he who takes from this and from that".

            This sound standpoint which takes both sides of man into due consideration is unlike the Christian standpoint, for instance, which misconceives the nature of the physical body, taking it to be purely evil as the result of Adam's fall, and consequently has to be purged through torment and cruel suppression. Christianity thus considers man to be evil by nature. But not so Islam. Islam pronounces human nature to be free from evil at birth. being capable of both evil and good according to environment and education. In the words of God, exalted be He:

            "And (by) a soul and Him who perfected it and inspired it (with conscience of) what is wrong for it and (what is) right for it. He is indeed successful who causes it to grow. And he is indeed a failure who stenteth it �. (Surah 91, verses 7-10).

            Also the Prophet, upon whom be Peace, says ;"Every child is born with sound nature but his parents make of him a Jew, a Christian or a magian". The soul or "self" is thus born free from evil, the evil coming to it from outside, by accretion from environment or by bad education. If both environment and education are right, the child will retain his natural soundness and be a righteous man or woman, and will continue so unless he chooses to change his course. God, exalted be He, says:

            "Did We not assign unto him (man) two eyes and a tongue and two lips, and guide him concerning the two highways? " (Surah 90, verses 8-10).[1]

            Recent psychological researches accord well with this Islamic view. The future life of the child is largely determined by his upbringing and environment influences, and not by hereditary factors. Certain modern schools of psychology, notably that of Adler, the leading individual psychologist, confirm this view. Valentine, the author of the Difficult Child, states that a child is admittedly deeply affected by his environment in respect of traits of character. As to the view of Christianity with respect to torment of body, certain Christian savants condemn it, maintaining that pain in the end will conquer, mastering us instead of our mastering it. As pointed out by Aldous Huxley in his book " Means and Ends ". some see in sickness insurmountable obstruction in the way of devotion to God and hence to be counted a sin.

            When Islam allowed private property and permitted free activity of work or trade, it did not overlook the right of the poor to a share of the world's good things, as previously pointed out. The early Muslims attained great wealth, but were not given to luxury or excess in disregard of God or the life hereafter. They could not overlook such utterances of the Prophet as:

            "Develop a certain amount of austerity, for plenty is not permanent".

            "We never eat unless we are hungry and when eating we avoid excess"

      &n?sp;     It was this deep spiritual attitude that made Omar Ibn Abdel Aziz reject the complaint of his Commissioner in Egypt that the tribute is getting smaller because the number of converts to Islam is getting bigger. His written answer to the Commissioner is quite remarkable in its trenchant rebuke and because it strikes the key note of the Islamic attitude "Exempt from tribute those who join the faith shamed be your opinion God sent Muhammad, Peace and the blessings of God be upon him, as a Guide and not as a tax collector. Would to God that no tribute be due, but Omar (meaning him self) is too unfortunate to have all people converted to Islam in his days ".


    3. Struggle for the Faith

            A new call and a new cause necessitate struggle by tongue and pen , and by sword and arm. Such is the nature of things and the logic of events. Once the Islamic Call was raised by Muhammad the Apostle, upon whom be Peace, it met with organized resistance from polytheist Quraish who embarked on a protracted struggle in defence of their worship. Their long cold war against the Apostle and his followers ended in a plan for his murder which decided, with God's permission, his emigration to a safer place where he could freely preach his mission and find staunch adherents capable of defending him.

            At Mecca, Muslims were not in a position to wage war against the polytheists, since they were only a very limited number, living without means for defence or offence, amongst a stubborn enemy keeping a watchful eye on their movements.

     
            Moreover, the Islamic Call had first to pass, as every call should, through the phase of peaceful preaching, depending on logic and persuasion according the divine orders:

            "Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and exhortation, and reason with them in the better way. Lo! thy Lord is best aware of him who strayed from His way, and He is best aware of those who go aright ". (Surah VI, verse 125).

            Then came the phase of armed resistance when the Prophet was in a better position in Yathrib, and when fighting against polytheists was divinely permitted

            "Sanction is given unto those who are fought, having been wronged; and Allah is indeed Able to give them victory. Those who have been driven from their homes unjustly only because they say : Our Lord is Allah ! (Surah XXII, verses 39, 40 in part).

            This is the very word truth for the utterance of which the Muslims were subjected to merciless war which drove them out of property and home, and which they were permitted to resist by active fighting. At first the battle was between the Muslims and their active enemies, Quraish and their allies. It was fortunate that their passive enemies, the Jews, had not then showed their hand and for a time kept their pact with the Prophet, otherwise he would have had to fight on two fronts.

     
            As the war developed, the laws of war were gradually laid down by revelation as occasion arose, as appears from many verses of the holy Qur'an, of which the following may be quoted:

          "Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you ; but begin not hostilities. Lo ! Allah loveth not aggressors. And slay them wherever you find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution is worse than slaughter. And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you then slay them. Such is the reward of disbelievers. But if they desist, then Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until persecution is no more and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against the wrong doers". (Surah II, verses 190-193).

     

            With the progress of war in this field, the Jews, of great power then in their several strongholds, began to break their pacts and be actively hostile, and were dealt with accordingly. The Prophet fought those other than the idolaters in obedience to the divine order.

         "Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the religion of truth until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low". (Surah IX, verse 29).

     

            Certain remanents of the defeated Jews sided with Quraish and other antagonistic tribes. Against them and all such, the Prophet and all the believers had to wage war in obedience to the divine order



            "And wage war on all of the idolaters as they are waging war on all of you. And know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him) ". (Surah IX, 36, in part). In explanation of this order the Prophet says:

            "I have been divinely ordered to fight the idolaters until they declare that there is no God except Allah. Once they declare it their property and blood are guaranteed except by law, the question of sincerity to be judged by Allah".

            The Islamic Call was addressed to the entire bulk of mankind in accordance with the divine texts:

         "Say (O Muhammad) O mankind! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah to you all", (Surah VII, 158 in part).

            "Glorified is He who hath revealed unto His slave the criterion (of right and wrong), that he may be a warner to all peoples". (Surah 25 verse 1).

     

            In addition to the above may be mentioned two decisive quotations from God's Book; the first

          "He it is who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the Religion of Truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religions, however. much the idolaters be averse" (Surah IX, verse 32) ; and the second

            "And We have not sent thee (O Muhammad) save as a bringer of good tidings and a warner unto all man kind; but most of mankind know not". (Surah 34, verse 28).</spa?>

            This being the position, fighting in the way of Allah had to be, and still is, a duty on every Muslim, male or female, if not for guaranteeing the freedom of preaching God's religion, it would be to defend it against all aggression. This explains the far-reaching divine exhortation to Muslim states and peoples:

            "And make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others beside them whom ye know not. Allah knoweth them, Whatsoever ye spend in the way of Allah it will be repaid to you in full, and ye will not be wronged". (Surah VII, verse 60).

     

            Had we Muslims considered the far-reaching implication of this and similar verses which emphasize the importance of readiness, union and alertness lest we should be surprised by the enemy when no lamentation will avail, then we would have been able to repel the attack when it came, meeting the challenge wholeheartedly without the successive defeats we suffered, The enemy's sinister policy of ((divide and conquer)) would then have failed, leaving us unsuppressed and our power unsapped, the opposite of what we are now.

            But Islam as it calls for strength and preparedness calls for peace and friendly relations with those who do not oppress Muslim's, though they be disbelievers, as is evident from God's words:

            "Allah forbiddeth you not those who warred not against you on account of religion and drove you not out from your homes, that you should show them kindness and deal justly with them. Lo ! Allah loveth the just dealers ! (Surah 60, verse 8).

            The classe? forbidden the friendship of Muslims, obvious from this verse by implication, are for emphasis explicitly mentioned in verse (9) of the same surah. This is obviously fair and just. Wonderfully fair and benevolent, however, is the order to give disbelievers at war peace if they ask for it:

            "And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it , and trust in Allah. Lo! He is the Hearer, the Knower and if they would deceive thee, then lo Allah is sufficient for thee". ( Surah VIII, 61, 62 in part).

     

            The implication of the last verse emphasizes the peaceful trend of Islam still more, because it means that mere fear of the enemy's deceit should not prevent Muslims giving him the peace asked for, because Allah is sufficient to disappoint and repel him If he really means deceit, and also because the pact of peace can always be thrown back to the enemy if Muslims should have sufficient reason to fear his perfidy, as is clear from the verse

            "And if thou fearest treachery from any folk, then throw back to them (their treaty) fairly. Lo ! Allah loveth not the treacherous" . (Surah VIII, verse 58).

            All this is Islamic war legislation, and it leaves no ground for the allegation that Islam is aggressive.

     

    It is not aggressive, but does not hesitate to repel aggression when attacked, as is clear from the injunction previously pointed out in this discussion, namely:

            "Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities, Lo ! Allah loveth not aggressors". (Surah II verse 190). Islam then, being a universal religion which regulates life in all its human phases, of necessity recognizes and regulates the war phase of life, severely limiting its legitimacy, and conducting it on humane lines. Judaism also recognizes war but makes it almost purely aggressive for the benefit of one sectary nation on lines far from humane, as is evident from Old Testament wars which, to Jews undoubtedly served as a religious sanction of the Jewish atrocities which characterised the Jewish Palestinian aggression. Christianity apparently does not recognise war, since it recommends turning the left cheek to him who strikes the right. But present day Christian world is far from acting on this recommendation, being steeped in war and atrocities to the eye, conniving even at the unparalleled atrocities of the Jews in Palestine, perhaps also through Old Testament influence, the Old Testament being recognised holy by Christianity and Judaism alike.

     

            In the matter of war, then, Islam strikes a natural middle course between the intensely aggressive and atrocious Jewish course, and the intensely meek and purely pacifist course of true Christianity. For war to be legitimate in Islam, it must not be aggressive, must be in the way of God not for self aggrandisement, and must be conducted on the Islamic lines ordained by God in the Qur'an and through the Prophet, and put into application by the right Caliphs, especially in the wars of Abu Bakr and Omar. On these limitations, war becomes a necessary beneficial divine institution, realising maximum good with minimum harm to humanity at large.

            As the right Caliph Abu Bakr says in his inaugural speech: "No people can ever renounce the struggle for the cause of God without suffering ignominy and humiliation dispensed to them by God in return".

     

            To the frequently raised question : "How did the predominance and dissemination of Islam come about?", we leave the answer to such a distinguished writer as H. G. Wells who says:

            (Islam prevailed because everywhere it found politically apathetic peoples, robbed, oppressed,bullied, uneducated, and unorganised, and it found selfish and unsound governments out of touch with any people at all. It was the broadest, freshest, and cleanest political ?dea that had yet come into actual activity in the world, and if offered better terms than any other to the mass of mankind. The capitalistic and slaveholding system of the Roman Empire, and the literature and culture and social tradition of Europe, had altogether decayed and broken down before Islam arose.[2] This may afford a further convincing answer to those who still argue that Islam was established by the sword.


     


    4. - Establishing a Unified Muslim Nation

            It is fair to maintain that this was a major objective of the Muhammadan Mission. Its constitution and activity aim at creating a strong integrated nation of comprehensive unity. Islam was aware of the factious spirit dividing and subdividing the Arabs into prejudiced tribes and branches of tribe!. This narrow prejudice took a new ominous direction at the beginning of the Mission of the Prophet, peace be upon him, when the disbelieving tribes of Quraish, in order to suppress the Prophet's Call, allied themselves against Bani Hashim and Banil Mottalib, the nearer relatives of the Prophet who defended him, though mostly disbelievers, for kin ship's sake. In that unholy alliance the other Quraish tribes severed all connection with the latter, refusing mutual dealings of any sort, in marriage or in trade. This social boycott remained in force for three years, during which the Prophet and his folk were confined in a defile of Mecca where they suffered severe privation which they were only able to bear through faith in God and the justice of their cause. God's relief came in time, and the boycott was abandoned through the awakening of certain Quraish leaders of the nobler sort to the enormity of their action, and their finding that the moth had eaten up every unholy word of the unholy scroll as the Prophet had foretold.

            This strong tribal primitive attachment was sublimated by the Islamic Call on the conversion of the tribes. being diverted to the cause of God, the cause of Islam itself, the tribal bond serving within the brotherhood of Islam much the same function as the family bond served within the tribe. It had to be so, giving another prominent illustration of Islam's recognition and right application of natural instincts, otherwise it would have meant the suppression now condemned by psychology.

        ?nbsp;   Even a limited knowledge of the Muhammadan Call will suffice to show that it was addressed to all mankind as may be seen from the several Quranic texts quoted in this work, and from the messages dispatched by the Prophet to contemporary rulers and kings, notably those of the East Roman Empire, Persia and Abyssinia. This universal character of Islam, is again borne out by abstract reason, as the Mission is religious, and God is for all. The Prophet whom God sends after Christ must be sent to all humanity, especially if he be the last and concluding Prophet, since his Mission has to be the final word on religion. The Prophet declared the generality of his Mission explicitly when he said

            "I have been sent to the Red and the Black". Judaism was restricted to Israel. As pointed out on a previous occasion, it admitted racial distinction, Moses himself, upon whom be peace, was not the last of prophets as the Torah admits. As regards Christianity, it was a kind of individualistic religion regulating the relation between man and God, and man and man, as far as individual conduct is concerned. Christianity did not concern itself with social systems, whether local and special as in Judaism, or universally general as in Islam. This generality is the main difference between Islam and other creeds. Islam is for this world and for the next world, for the individual and for the state, for governor and governed. It is the religion of human nature, recognizing natural laws in general, and those concerned with the nature of man in particular. It is the only religion that claims the unique distinction of identifying itself completely with the Nature of Man, as is evident from the divine verse:

            "So set thy purpose (O Muhammad) for religion as a man by nature upright - the nature (framed) of Allah, in which he has created man. There is no altering the laws of Allah's creation. That is the right religion, but most men know not ". (Surah xxx, verse 30). 

           "And remember Allah's favour unto you : how ye were enemies and He made friendship between your hearts that ye became as brothers by His grace; and (how) ye were upon the brink of an abyss of fire, and He did save you from it. Thus Allah maketh clear His revelations unto you, that haply ye may be guided". (Surah III, verse 103, in part).

           

    It healed them from the greater social ill of racial, not merely tribal, prejudice, which made the Arab of pre-Islamic days look with contempt on non-Arabs, especially the blacks. Not even in anger would the Prophet allow an Arab to reproach a black with his origin, as Abu Tharr el Ghafari did to Bilal, mentioning his black mother. Bilal complained to the Prophet, and the Prophet sharply rebuked Abu Tharr :

     

            "Did you reproach him with his mother? You savour of the Days of Ignorance". Islam admitted no criterion of merit save that of Piety, to the entire exclusion of colour or race. The Prophet declared in more than one public speech:

     

            "An Arab has no merit over a non-Arab, unless he be of greater piety". Not only is racial distinction utterly discarded, but mankind are divinely reminded that peoples and races are meant to supplement one another in a general brotherhood in God:



            " O mankind! Lo! We have created you of male and female, and have made you peoples and tribes that ye may know one another. Truly, the most worthy of honour in the sight of Allah he who feareth Him most". (Surah 49, verse 13 in part).

     

            The Islamic Call made of Muslims one united nation in the life-time of the Prophet, upon whom be Peace, who, as God's Prophet and Apostle, was the head of the Islamic State established at Madinah to guide humanity in state matters, just as he guided humanity with his personal life in individual matters. He was Judge, Statesman, and General, in a state in which all males were ready at a short notice to act as soldiers, and which had the Holy Quran for constitution, with the Prophet himself as interpreter, surrounded by a galaxy of able faithful disciples and companions from amongst whom he chose his civil counsellors, delegates, rulers, and army commanders a model Islamic Republic in fact.

     

    On the Prophet's death, his elected Caliph and successor as head of the state followed in his footsteps, preserved the unity of the Islamic community by sending his victorious armies against apostate tribes till they were reclaimed to the Faith. Further operations extending North and East were necessary to ! the faith against hostile border empires, and to guarantee the free dissemination and preaching of Islam. The Islamic wars, then, were declared in defence of the creed. Nor were the Muslim armies fighting to coerce non-Arab peoples into Islam, coercion curiously enough being legitimate only in the case of Arab idolaters. On the contrary, they were fighting coercion and tyranny in the neighbouring states to establish private and public liberty of conscience. As a final proof of this may be mentioned first the solemn Divine declaration.

           "No compulsion in religion. Right is now manifestly distinct from Wrong". (Surah II, verse 256! in part); and secondly, the tolerance characteristic of Islam in the treatment of Christians and Jews and even of magians in subjugated area.

            Complete equality lies at the bases of union in the M?slim community. Worship and other Islamic duties are equally imposed on Muslims: males or females, without exception or distinction. The females have here certain privileges due to their constitution, that is all. This applies to fasting, prayers, alms-giving and pilgrimage, the cardinal duties of Islam. Each of the first three has its characteristic manifestation of unity and equality within each Muslim community, and, being common to all, within the commonwealth of Islam, as was discussed in some detail on a previous occasion. But it is the fourth cardinal duty, the wonderful institution of pilgrimage, which displays in one great annual demonstration the unity and equality.

    Muslims throughout the Muslim world, irrespective of colour, place, status or race. This again was dealt with before in enough detail. It is sufficient to recall here the wonderful effect pilgrimage has in regenerating and fortifying the faithful pilgrim in faith and spirit, performing it as he does in pure obedience to God, regardless of expense, fatigue or danger, which enables him to be himself a regenerating nudes, if only for a time, amongst those who come in contact with him on his return home.

            But it is the meeting of many thousands, hundreds of thousands perhaps, of pilgrims from all directions of the compass under the same conditions in the holy places every year that is particularly significant in denoting and emphasizing the brotherhood in the world of Islam beyond the possibility of disruption or dissension.

     
            If such mass performance does not testify and contribute to unity, what else can do? At any rate the institution is there, living and practised, affording Muslim leaders an annual opportunity to meet and discuss how to make present day Muslims worthy of Islam, and how to knit them into one union as of old.

            And now what are the essential features of a united nation? First comes language. The Qur'an did establish the predominance of Arabic in former days, and make it the medium of expression in almost every country converted to Islam. The Qur'an is still there and shall continue to be there through God's own promise, but unfortunately Arabic has ceased to be common language in the world of Islam. Why not make of the Qur'an the means of reviving Arabic as the tongue of every Muslim, to allow mutual intercourse of Muslims wherever they meet ? It is wonderful that in countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan, where Arabic is no more the popular language, there is still great zeal for the faith, more so even than in most Arabic-speaking countries. With Arabic as the common language once more, both Arabic and non-Arabic parts of the Muslim world will surely benefit one another and confirm each other still more in the faith by mutual exchange of zeal and learning, thus putting an end to the insidious foreign influences affecting Muslims in their home.

            Again, is not religion still the major integrating force, especially when race and place are not there as common bonds between all ? In building a vast united whole, Islam has disregarded race altogether, putting in its place a far better and nobler bond, that of the Islamic creed, God's own bond on Earth. The Islamic Call preaches world wide brotherhood. The unity of mankind in ideology and mode of living according to God's laws is the aim of Islam. And it is the only system that can do it naturally and well. It recognises all heavenly religions as a first principle, Books, Prophets and all, known or unknown. It abolishes such barriers to unity as colour, place or race. It recognizes beforehand all proven truth, all natural laws, but condemns their abuse as has been done by Western civilization. It lays down the great principle that man is born free, announcing him subject only to God, his Creator. That is the first meaning of Islam - surrender to God the One, only. If the ideal of making one Nation of mankind is to be stably realized, it can be done only along these Islamic principles. It can be realized only within Islam.

     

            A word now for Muslims, in conclusion. The unprecedented progress in Science, leading to the release of undreamt of natural forces and limitless atomic energy which have been barbarously abused by this twentieth century, a giant in science and a pigmy in morals, as evidenced by wiping out whole towns, population and all by air bombardment, atomic and otherwise - this and the fear of the hydrogen atomic bomb lest it would in the end annihilate man, civilization and all, have led to the proposal of a cosmopolitan government, and the abolishment of all national and racial barriers which stand in the way of world-wide unity. But is it possible to put into effect such proposal while the spiritual degeneration which led to the failure of the less formidable League of Nations and the United Nations Organization still prevails?

     
            At any rate that is the trend of humanity under the pressure of events. The entire world seeks general unity. In one form or other as the only means of self-preservation. But the necessary spiritual guidance which Western civilization lacks, the Muslim world has. Why not then take it and be united ourselves when the world seeks peace and safety in union but cannot get it? Why does not the Islamic World awaken to itself and the tremendous opportunity it has of uniting on Islamic lines, and thus teach the world once more how to unite?

            Muslims are bound to do so in self-preservation, if not as a religious duty imposed by Islam. If they should realize Islamic brotherhood by uniting and working for the distant-future, they would regain the international prestige they have lost, recover their usurped rights, and liberate whatever Muslim land or people now in subjection.

            But when will this Islamic Call be responded to by Muslims again? When shall we again witness the Islamic unity which dawned on the world early in th? seventh Century and is still the wonder of history?

     

            Let us hope that it will be witnessed by contemporary generations, through the Muslims awakening to their Islamic duty. By doing it Muslims will turn into reality again one of the major objectives of the great divine religion to which they have the honour and fortune to belong. We hope that Islam through a general genuine Muslim revival shall again come into its own.

     

     



    [1] The two highways are the ways of good and evil.

     

    [2] Outline of History by H.G.Welles, page 13.


     
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