Islam, The Misunderstood Religion


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  • Islam, The Misunderstood Religion


  • PREFACE TO THE SIXTH EDITION

     

    As I wrote this book over the years I did not entertain the hope that it would elicit such a warm reception and appreciation, And when it went to the press over and over again I thanked God and felt grateful to the readers who took so much interest in the contents of this book.

     I was, however, beginning to feel that in the future this book need not be republished, For, in my view, we had better no way some­ thing positive about Islam itself in the context of the various fields of life it embraces, and the positivity and the supervisory character that its law enjoys with regard to practical life, as I have attempted in the books appearing after the present one, instead of limiting our efforts to defending it against the various doubts given currency to by its enemies in order to confuse and throw us on the defensive.

    But when I read the orientalist Mr. Wilfred Cantwell smith’s book "Islam in Modern History", and found that the author had in three places referred to this book of mine in words so angry and disparaging that came very near to openly calling names. I decided  that the book that had roused the anger of a rancorous crusader to such an extent must remain in circulation and be published over and over again.

        All my thanks are due to Allah; His Grace alone brings succor.

                                                    MUHAMMAD QUTB

     

    PREFACE

     

    The majority of the modern "educated" people are today faced with a religious crisis. Is religion really a fact of life? It might have been one in the past, but does it still remain so in the world of today when science has changed the whole course of life, and when there is no place in it for anything save science and what scientific facts approve of? Does religion represent a genuine need of humanity? Or is it something wholly dependent upon the temperamental constitution of an individual so that one may not believe in it as there is no difference between the two states of belief and unbelief '?

    Talking about Islam they betray a similar state of intellectual crisis when the missionaries of Islam tell them that Islam is not a mere creed, nor does it represent simply an edification of souls, or a refinement and training of human virtues but is rather a harmonious whole that also includes a just economic system, a well-balanced social organization, codes of civil, criminal as well as international law, & philosophical outlook upon life along with a system of physical instruction, all of these flowing from the same fundamental creed of Islam and its moral and spiritual temperament. When they hear all this, these "educated" people are greatly perplexed, for they supposed that Islam had since long ceased to exist as it has become outmoded and had exhausted all its usefulness. That is why they are surprised when they hear devout Muslims saying that Islam does not belong to a remote past, it is not obsolete or antiquated but is a living and flourishing system of life even at the present moment, as it holds within itself such elements of life as no other system known to humanity does including socialism as well as communism or any other system.

    At this their surprise exceeds limits, they can no more contain themselves, so they scream at these preachers of Gods words: Do you tell us all this about the religion that approves of slavery, feudalism and capitalism-the system which holds that woman is only a half-man and imprisons her within her household; which prescribes such punishments as stoning to death, mutilation and whipping; which lets its people live on charity; which splits them up into different classes, some exploiting the other; a system which provides no security of decent living to the toiling people; and a system which is such and such, how is it possible that such a system should even hold its own today, let alone its survival in the future? Not to speak of its triumph and contending successfully, how can such a system even hold out in the ruthless ideological struggle going on at present among different modern socio-economic systems?

    Before proceeding further let us, however, pause awhile and see as to who these "educated" skeptics are? Whence does their skepticism originate? Is this attitude of mind a result of their own free thinking or are they merely parroting the words of other, with­out even so much as understanding them?

    The fact is that the skepticism exhibited by these gentlemen is not at all a result of their own independent thinking, nor did it originate in their own minds as such. For its true source we win have to go back a little over the history of modern times.

    The Middle Ages witnessed crusades between Europe and the world of Islam. Furious battles were fought between the two after which followed a period that saw a suspension of hostilities between the two camps but their hostility towards each other never ended as is well borne out by what Lord Allenby said in clear terms on the occasion of the British occupation of Jerusalem in World War I: "Now have the crusades come to an end!'

    We must also keep in mind that during the last two centuries European imperialism remained in conflict with the Islamic Orient.

    The British stepped into Egypt in 1882 following Taufiq's treachery. They hatched a plot with him for the military occupation of Egypt in order to thwart the popular revolution under the leadership of Orabi. Thereafter the British policy of necessity revolved around one basic aim: strengthening their hold more and more on the Islamic world and safeguarding their interests from being swept away by the true Islamic spirit of the Orient. We would in this respect like to refer to what the British Prime Minister of the Victorian age, Mr. Gladstone said in the House of Commons. Holding up the Holy Qur'an in his hands he told the members of the House: "So long as the Egyptians have got this book with them, we will never be able to enjoy quiet or peace in that land".

    Naturally the policy pursued by the British was one of deriding Islamic laws and principles, of exiling the sense of their sanctity from Muslims' hearts, and of painting Islam in the blackest of colors so as to make them look down upon it and in due course of time to discard it totally. They did all this in order to tighten up their im­perialistic grip on this country.

    The educational policy they adopted in Egypt was such as left the students quite ignorant about the reality of Islam, except that it was a religion embracing worships, prayers, praising and glorifying God, and pursuing mystic practices; that the Qur'an was a book read in order to invoke God's blessings and that Islam was a theoretical invitation to pursue the noblest and most generous of moral precepts. Students were never told anything about Islam as a socio-economic system of government or as a constitution, or as a basis of internal and external policy, or as a system of education, or as a way of life and a watcher over life. What they were taught instead was the doubts cast against Islam by the orientalists and other European crusaders in order to make the Muslims forsake their religion and succumb easily to the evil machinations of imperialism.

    They were taught; that the only genuine social system in existence was that which Europe possessed, the only true economic system was one that was conceived by the European philosophers, the right and most appropriate form of constitutional government was what the Europeans, thanks to their various experiments, evolved. They were taught that the rights of man were first taken cognizance of by the French Revolution, that democracy was fostered and made popular by the English people, and that it was the Roman Empire that provided any basis of civilization. In short, the British depicted Europe as a rebellious but mighty giant with none to stand in its way or check its progress whereas they presented the East as a dwarfish underling with no standing of its own save that of subordination to Europe and complete dependence upon it for its social and cultural outlook.

    This political policy at last took effect. Among the Egyptians there sprang up generations who were shorn of any thought of their individuality or independent cultural existence. They were com­pletely enthralled by Europe; they worshipped it most devotedly; they could neither see with their own eyes nor were they any more left capable of thinking for themselves; they would see just what the Europeans wanted them to see; and they thought what they wished them to think.

    The "educated" intelligentsia of today represents as such the culminating point of what the imperialists with their political maneuvers achieved in-this country.

    These poor people know nothing about Islam but doubt. About Islam they have no information save what they received through their European masters. That is why they are seen shouting like them advocating the separation of religion from the state and of science from Islam.

    But in their ignorance they pass by the fact that the religion that Europe shook off was one quite different from what the advo­cates of Islamic ideology call upon people to adopt; and that the particular circumstances that prevailed in Europe at the time and made it turn its back upon religion were confined to that region of the world only. Nothing of the sort ever happened in the Islamic orient; nor is there any likelihood of its ever happening there. Thus when they call upon their countrymen to discard Islam or declare that Islam should have no say in the management of social, political and economic affairs of community and life, they are merely express­ing and parroting the imported thoughts of their masters.

    Europe was the scene of a conflict between religion and science, because the church there had arbitrarily embraced certain theories and dogmas (inheriting them from Greece) and insisted that they were sacred and a gospel truth. So when the theoretical and the empirical science demonstrated the error and fallacy of these theories, the people there had no other course but to believe in science and disbelieve in the church as well as in the religion these churchmen stood for. The war between religion and science gained in intensity and the enthusiasm to get free from the dominance of these religious men increased as the church in Europe conferred upon itself divine power and proceeded to enforce it in a most tyrannical manner. Thus for the people there religion came to signify an abominable ghoul that harassed them in their working no less than in their sleep­ing hours. It exacted from men costly extortion and reduced them to an abject state of subordination to the churchmen, besides calling upon them to swallow nonsense and superstitions in the name of God. The torturing of scientists and burning them alive because they said, for instance, that the earth was round, was the ugliest of crimes that made it a sacred duty of every sensible, free-thinking and conscientious individual there to come forward and help the forces that sought to destroy this abominable ghoul or at least put it in chains so as not to let it ever again harass and oppress the people besides harming the cause of religion by misrepresenting it and making others feel as if religion contained nothing but falsehood and untruth.

    But what about us, we who live in the Islamic East? Why should we separate science from religion or hold that the two are at variance and war with each other? Is there even a single scientific fact which has been found to contradict Islam and its basic creed? Were scientists ever subjected to persecution in the domain of Islam? The whole history of Islam is before us. It testifies that there have been great doctors, astronomers, mathematicians, physicists as well as chemists but never were they persecuted for their views. There is no trace of any conflict between science and their religious beliefs to be found in the minds of these great Muslim scientists. Nor did there exist any hostilities between them and the ruling authorities such as might have led to their suffering or burning alive.

    What is it then that makes these "educated" people plead for separation of religion from science, for attacking Islam and finding faults with it without any understanding or knowledge of it? Their feverish crying is nothing but a symptom of the poison that had been administered to them by the imperialists, of course, without their knowing it.

    This class of the "educated" elite was not at all in my mind when I wrote this book. They would never return to what is right until their masters in the West also do turn towards it after despairing of their Godless materialistic civilization and recognize that it can bring them no salvation, and so return to a system of life that is at once spiritual as well as practical-a system embracing belief no less than life at once and at the same time.

    I had rather another class before me in writing this book-the sincere and enlightened youth, who earnestly wish to find out the reality, the truth, but the doubts and lies spread about Islam by the deceitful imperialistic powers leave them helpless to see the light, or the answer to these lies, and so they are left groping about in darkness, for the slaves of imperialism and the devils of com­munism would not let them march out to the right path-the path to freedom, honor and sublimity. It is to this enlightened and sincere group of young men that I present this book and hope that it may please God to help me dispel doubts about Islam from their minds.

     

     

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