CHAPTER 2: THE NATURE OF THE QUR’ANIC METHOD
The Meccan portion of the holy Qur’an, revealed to the Prophet – peace be on him – over a period of thirteen years, dealt with only one question. The nature of this question did not change, although the manner of its presentation varied according to the style of the Qur’an, which refers to this question in new ways, always as though it had been raised for the first time.
This was the primary question, the greatest question, the fundamental question of this new religion – a question of faith with two main aspects, the Divine and the human, and the relationship between them.
This question is addressed to ‘the human being’ as a human being, and in this respect the Arab of one era or any other, and the non-Arab, are equal, whether he belongs to that time or to later times.
This is that human problem which does not change; this is the question of man’s existence in the universe, his ultimate goal, and his position and relationship to the universe; and the question of the relationship between him and the Creator of the universe. This aspect of man’s life cannot change, as it relates to his very being.
During the Meccan period, the Qur’an explained to man the secret of his existence and the secret of the universe surrounding him. It told him who he is, where he has come from, for what purpose and where he will go in the end, Who brought him from nonexistence into being, to Whom he will return, and what his final disposition will be. It also informed him concerning the nature of the things which he can touch and see and the things which he can sense and conceive but which he cannot see, Who created and administers this marvellous universe, Who alternates night and day, and Who
renovates and varies things. It also told him how to relate to the Creator, to the physical world, and to other human beings.
This is that great question upon which man’s existence depends and will continue to depend until the end of time.
And thus the full thirteen years of the Meccan period were spent in explaining and expounding this fundamental question, that question from which all other questions and details pertaining to human life are derived.
The Qur’an made this question the only subject of its message during the Meccan period and never discussed other subsidiary and derived matters. These subsidiary topics were not mentioned until the All-Knowing God decided that matters pertaining to faith had been explained fully and had entered into the hearts of that select group of people who were to establish His religion and were to give it a practical form.
Those who call toward God’s Religion and want to establish the way of life prescribed by this Religion should ponder at length over this significant fact, that for thirteen years the Qur’an exclusively expounded this faith and did not deviate from this issue to describe the details of that system which was to be established on this faith or any laws for the organization of the Muslim society.
It was God’s wisdom that this fundamental question of faith and belief should be made the central theme of the initial call of the Prophet to his people. The first message which the Messenger of God-peace be on him-brought to these people was that they bear witness that “there is no deity except God” and he devoted his efforts to making known to people Who their true Sustainer is and that they should worship Him alone.
From the viewpoint of the limited understanding of man, it does not seem as though this would be the easiest way to reach the hearts of the Arabs. They knew their language well and knew the meaning of ‘llah’ (god), and they also knew the meaning of ‘La ilaha illa Allah’ (There is no deity except God). They knew that ‘Uluhiyah’ means ‘sovereignty,’ and they also realized that ascribing sovereignty only to God meant that the authority would be taken away from the priests, the leaders of tribes, the wealthy and the rulers, and would revert to God. It meant that only God’s authority would prevail in the heart and conscience, in matters pertaining to religious observances and in the affairs of life such as business, the distribution of wealth and the dispensation of justice – in short, in the souls and bodies of men. They knew very well that the proclamation, “there is no deity except ‘Allah,’ was a challenge to that worldly authority which had usurped the greatest attribute of God, namely, sovereignty. It was a rebellion against all modes of behavior which have been devised under this usurpation and was a declaration of war against that authority which legislates laws not permitted by God. It was no secret to the Arabs-who knew their language very well and knew the real meaning of the message, “La ilaha illa Allah”-what its significance was in relation to their traditions, their rule and their power. Hence they greeted this call -this revolutionary message – with anger, and fought against it with that vigour which is known to everyone.
Why did this call begin in this manner? And why did the Divine wisdom decide that this call be confronted in its initial stages with trials?
At the time of the Prophet’s call to Messengership, the land and the wealth of the Arabs was not in the hands of the Arabs but was in the hands of other people.
In the north, Syria was under the Romans, who appointed local Arab rulers. Similarly, in the south, Yemen was under the tutelage of the Persian Empire and was ruled by Arabs under its domination. Arabs were masters only of Hijaz, Tihama and Najd, which were waterless deserts with a few oases here and there.
It is also well-known that Muhammed-peace be on him- was called ‘al-Amin as-Sadiq’ (The Trustworthy and Truthful’) by his people. Fifteen years before his Messengership began the leaders of the Quraish had made him their arbiter in the incident of the placing of the Black Stone and had been pleased with his decision. His lineage was from the Banu Hashim, which was the noblest branch of the Quraish. It can therefore be said that Muhammad-peace be on him-was capable of kindling among his compatriots the fire of Arab nationalism and would thus have united them. They would have responded gladly to this call, for they were weary of continual tribal warfare and blood feuds. He would then have been able to free the Arab lands from the domination of Roman and Persian imperialism and would have been able to establish a united Arab state. It can be said that if the Prophet- peace be on him – had called people in this way, instead of bearing tortures for thirteen years due to the opposition of the people in authority in the peninsula, the whole of Arabia would have accepted it.
It can be said that if Arabia had thus been united under his leadership and the authority had once devolved into his hands, he could have used all this to make them accept the belief in the Oneness of God, for which purpose he was sent, and to bring people to submit to their Sustainer after they had submitted to his own human authority.
But the All-Knowing and All-Wise God did not lead His Prophet- peace be on him -on this course. He led him to declare openly that there is no deity but God, and to bear patiently, with his few Companions, whatever trials came to them.
Why this? Obviously it was not for the sake of subjecting His Prophet – peace be on him – and the Believers to oppression. Indeed, He knows that there is no other way. The way is not to free the earth from Roman and Persian tyranny in order to replace it with Arab tyranny. All tyranny is wicked! The earth belongs to God and should be purified for God, and it cannot be purified for Him unless the banner, “No deity except God”, is unfurled across the earth. Man is servant to God alone, and he can remain so only if he unfurls the banner, “No deity except God,-“La ilaha illa Allah” -as an Arab with the knowledge of his language understood it: no sovereignty except God’s, no law except from God, and no authority of one man over another, as the authority in all respects belong to God. The ‘grouping’ of men which Islam proclaims is based on this faith alone, the faith in which all peoples of any race or color-Arabs, Romans or Persians -are equal under the banner of God.
And this is the way.
At the time of the Prophet’s call to Messengership, Arab society was devoid of proper distribution of wealth and devoid of justice. A small group monopolized all wealth and commerce, which increased through usury. The great majority of the people were poor and hungry. The wealthy were also regarded as noble and distinguished, and the common people were not only deprived of wealth but also of dignity and honor.
It can be said that Muhammad – peace be on him – was capable of starting a social movement, declaring war against the class of nobles and the wealthy, taking away their wealth and distributing it among the poor.
It can be said that had the Prophet-peace be on him- started such a movement, Arab society would have been divided into two classes, the great majority supporting the new movement because they were sick of the tyranny of wealth, nobility and power and a small minority’s possessing these things, instead of the Prophet’s having to confront the society with the Message of the Oneness of God, which remained beyond the reach of all except a few noble souls.
It can be said that after the majority had joined his movement and had given him the leadership, and after he had gained control of the minority of the rich, Muhammad – peace be on him -could then have used his position and power to impose the belief in the Oneness of God, for which task God had appointed him as His Prophet. Thus, first making human beings bow before his authority, he could have made them bow before the True God.
But the All-Knowing, the All-Wise God did not lead him to this course.
God knew that this was not the way. He knew that true social justice can come to a society only after all affairs have been submitted to the laws of God and the society as a whole is willing to accept the just division of wealth prescribed by Him, and every individual of the society, whether he be a giver or a taker, firmly believes that this system has been legislated by God Almighty, by obeying which he will not only prosper in this world but will be rewarded in the next. The society should not be in such a condition that some are driven by greed while others are burning with envy, that all the affairs of the society are decided by the sword and the gun, fear and threats, that the hearts of the population are desolate and their spirits are broken, as is the case under systems which are based on any authority other than God’s.
At the time of the Prophet’s call to Messengership, the moral level of Arabia was extremely low from every point of view. Only a few primitive tribal customs prevailed.
Oppression was the rule of the day, as the famous poet Zuhair Selma has described:
“One who does not defend himself with weapons will perish,
And one who does not oppress will be oppressed’.
Another famous saying of the Days of Ignorance points to this:
“Help your brother, whether he is the oppressor or being oppressed” .
Drinking and gambling were traditions of the society and people were proud of these habits. All the poetry of the Days of Ignorance revolves around the theme of wine and gaming. Turfah Abed says:
“If there had not been three things for a young man’s enjoyment,
Then I would not have cared for anything except some food.
One of them is my excelling others in the drinking of wine which is so potent that if you add water to it, it bubbles.
Drinking and entertainment and spending
Have been my life, and still are.
At last the time has come when the whole tribe has abandoned me,
As if I were a camel with a terrible itch”.
Fornication was rampant in various forms and was considered something to be proud of, as is the case among all jahili societies, old or new. ‘Aisha-may God be pleased with her -describes the condition of society of the Days of Ignorance in the following words:
“There were four kinds of marriages during Jahiliyyah. One was as we have it today; that is, a man would ask a person for the hand of his daughter or his ward in marriage, would pay the marriage-gift, and would marry her. The second type was that a man would tell his wife, in between her menstrual periods, to call such and such man and become pregnant by him. He would stay away from her and would not touch her until the signs of pregnancy appeared. If he then wished, he would have intercourse with her. He adopted this method to obtain a son of high lineage. A third form of marriage was polyandry. A group of men, less than ten, would come to a woman and have sexual intercourse with her. If she became pregnant and then gave birth to a child, and a few nights passed after childbirth, she would call them. No one could refuse this call. When they would all gather, she would tell them, ‘You know the result. I have given birth to a child.’ Then she would point to one of them and would say, ‘This is his child.’ The child would then be named after that person and would be considered his, and he could not deny this. A fourth form of marriage was that many men would go to a woman, and she was willing to accept any. Actually, these were prostitutes and would place a flag in front of their doors as a sign. Anyone who wished would go to them. If such a woman became pregnant, after the delivery many people would gather by her and would call an expert in recognizing resemblances. To whomever he would ascribe the child’s paternity, the child would be considered his and he could not refuse it.” [7 Bukhari, in the Book of Marriage.]
It can be said that Muhammad-peace be on him-was capable of starting a movement of moral reform for the establishment of moral standards, for the purification of the society, and for self-evaluation. As is the case with every reformer, he would have found some upright and straight people who were also unhappy about the moral degeneration of their society. These people would certainly have come to him to join his reformist movement.
Thus, one can say that if the Prophet-peace be on him- had chosen this course, he would have easily gathered a sizeable group. Because of their moral purity and spiritual fortitude, this group of people, more than others, would have accepted the belief in the Oneness of God would have carried the responsibilities pertaining to it. Thus the Prophet’s call, “There is no deity except God,” would have been spared the vigourous opposition which it encountered.
But God Most High knew that this way is not the way. He knew that morality can only be built on faith, a faith which provides criteria, creates values, defines the authority from which these criteria and values are to be derived, and prescribes the reward of the one who accepts this authority and the punishment of those who deviate or oppose. Without this kind of belief or the concept of a higher authority, all valued remain unstable, and similarly morals based on them remain unstable – without accounting, without authority, without reward!
When, after hard work, belief became firm and the authority to which this belief refers was acknowledged, when people recognized their Sustainer and worshipped Him alone, when they became independent not only of other human beings but also of their own desires, and when “La ilaha illa Allah” became imprinted on their hearts-then God, through this faith and through the Believers, provided everything which was needed. God’s earth became free of ‘Romans and Persians,’ not so that the authority of ‘Arabs’ might prevail, but only so that God’s authority might be established and that the earth might be cleared of all the rebels against Him, whether they were Roman, Persian or Arab.
The society was freed from all oppression, and the Islamic system was established in which justice was God’s justice and in which weighing was by God’s balance. The banner of social justice was raised in the name of One God, and the name of the banner was Islam. No other name was added to it, and “La ilaha illa Allah” was written on it.
Morals were elevated, hear.s and souls were purified, and with the exception of a very few cases, there was no occasion even to enforce the limits and punishments which God has prescribed; for now conscience was the law-enforcer, and the pleasure of God, the hope of Divine reward, and the fear of God’s anger took the place of police and punishments.
Mankind was uplifted in its social order, in its morals, in all of its life, to a zenith of perfection which had never been attained before and which cannot be attained afterwards except through Islam.
All this was possible because those who established this religion in the form of a state, a system and laws and regulations had first established it in their hearts and lives in the form of faith, character, worship and human relationships. They had been promised only one thing for the establishment of this religion – not victory or power, not even that this religion would be established by their hands, not related to anything of this world:-one promise, that of the Garden. That was the only promise given to them for all their striving, for all the trials which they had endured, for their steadfastness in the face of the opposition of the forces of Jahiliyyah to that call, “There is no deity except God,” which is abhorrent to those who are in power in any age and place.
When God tried them and they proved steadfast, relinquishing their own personal desires, and when God Most High knew that they were not waiting for any reward in this world, now were they desirous to see the victory of this message and the establishment of this Religion on earth by their hands, when their hearts became free of pride of lineage, of nationality, of country, of tribe, of household-in short, when God Most High saw them to be morally pure-then He granted them the great trust, the conscious assumption of being God’s representative on earth. Since they were pure in faith, the requirement for which is that God’s sovereignty alone extend over hearts and consciences in human relationships and morals, in lives and possessions, in modes and manners, God Most High knew that they would be true guardians of the political authority, which would be entrusted to them so that they would establish the Divine law and the Divine justice. He knew they would not use it to benefit their own selves or their families or tribe or nation, but would dedicate this authority purely to the service of God’s religion and laws, as they knew that the true source of authority is God alone and that they were only trustees.
If the call of Islam had not started in this manner, discarding all banners other than “There is no deity except God,” and if it had not taken that path which apparently was difficult and trying but which in reality was easy and blessed, then it would not have been possible to establish this blessed system with this high standard.
Had this call come in its initial stages as a national call or a social movement or a reformist attempt, or had it attached other labels to the call of “La ilaha illa Allah,” then this blessed system would never have been for the sake of God alone.
The Meccan period of the Qur’an has this glorious attribute that it imprints 2’There is no deity except God” on hearts and minds, and teaches Muslims to adopt this method and no other-in spite of the fact that it appears difficult-and to persist in this method.
The Qur’an concentrated all its teaching on the question of faith alone, not mentioning the details of the system which is to be based on it or the laws which are to regulate its affairs. The people who invite others to this Religion ought to ponder over this.
Indeed, it is the nature of this Religion which requires this particular method, as this Religion stands entirely on belief in the Oneness of God, and all its institutions and laws are derived from this great principle. A simile for this Religion is a strong, tall tree whose shade spreads far and wide and whose branches reach toward the sky. Such a tree would naturally put its roots deep down into the earth and spread them over a wide area, in proportion to its size. The case of this Religion is similar. Its system extends into all aspects of life; it discusses all minor or major affairs of mankind; it orders man’s life- not only in this world but also in the world to come; it gives information about the Unseen as well as about the visible world; it not only deals with material things but also purifies intentions and ideas. It is thus like a tall, strong, wide-spreading tree; clearly its roots must go down deep and be in proportion to its size.
This aspect of the nature of Islam defines the way it is to be founded and organized: by implanting belief and strengthening it so that it seeps into the depths of the human soul. This is essential for its correct development, for only through this method can a relationship be secured between that part of the tree of religion which reaches upward and the roots which are in the depths of the earth.
When belief in “La ilaha illa Allah” penetrates into the deep recesses of the heart, it also penetrates through the whole system of life, which is a practical interpretation of this faith. By this means, those who believe are already pleased with the system which this faith uniquely determines and submit in principle to all the laws and injunctions and details even before they are declared. Indeed, the spirit of submission is the first requirement of the faith. Through this spirit of submission the believers learn the Islamic regulations and laws with eagerness and pleasure. As soon as a command is given, the heads 32
are bowed, and nothing more is required for its implementation except to hear it. In this manner, drinking was forbidden, usury was prohibited, and gambling was proscribed, and all the habits of the Days of Ignorance were abolished-abolished by a few verses of the Qur’an or by a few words from the lips of the Prophet- peace be on him. Compare this with the efforts of secular governments. At every stage they have to rely on legislation, administrative institutions, police and military power, propaganda and the press, and yet they can at most control what is done publicly, and society remains full of illegal and forbidden things. [ Refer to Fi Thilal al-Qur’an (In the Shade of the Qur’an), Vol. 5, pp. 78-85, to see how God forbade the drinking of alcohol. Then refer to Sayed Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi’s book, The Loss to the World Due to the Decline of Muslims, quoting Abul ‘Ala Maududi’s Tanqihat to see how the United States failed in its efforts to prohibit alcohol.]
Another aspect of this religion ought to be considered. This is a practical religion; it has come to order the practical affairs of life. Thus it faces the question of practical conditions and determines whether to keep them, modify them or change them completely. Its legislation is therefore concerned only with those conditions which actually exist in that particular society which has already accepted the sovereignty of God.
Islam is not a ‘theory’ based on ‘assumptions;’ rather it is a way of life’ working with ‘actuality,’ Thus it is first necessary that a Muslim community come into existence which believes that “There is no deity except God,” which commits itself to obey none but God, denying all other authority, and which challenges the legality of any law which is not based on this belief.
Only when such a society comes into being, faces various practical problems, and needs a system of law, then Islam initiates the constitution of law and injunctions, rules and regulations. It addresses only those people who in principle have already submitted themselves to its authority and have repudiated all other rules and regulations.
It is necessary that the believers in this faith be autonomous and have power in their own society, so that they may be able to implement this system and give currency to all its laws. Moreover, power is also needed to legislate laws according to the needs of the group as these present themselves in its day-to-day affairs.
In Mecca the Muslims were not autonomous, nor did they have any influence in the society. Their practical life had not taken a permanent form so that they could have organized themselves according to the Divine Law (al-Sharitah); hence no regulations and laws were revealed to them by God. They were taught only belief and those moral principles which follow from this belief after it penetrates the mind. Later, when an autonomous state came into existence in Medina, general laws were revealed and that system came into existence which satisfies the needs of a Muslim community, and the power of the state was behind its enforcement.
God Most High did not desire that all laws and regulations be revealed during the Meccan period so that Muslims would have a ready-made system to be applied as soon as they reached Medina; this is out of character for this religion. Islam is more practical than this and has more foresight; it does not find solution to hypothetical problems. It first looks at the prevailing conditions, and if it finds a viable society which, according to its form, conditions or temperament, is a Muslim society, which has submitted itself to the law of God and is weary of laws emanating from other sources, then indeed this religion provides a method for the legislation of laws according to the needs of such a society.
People who demand from Islam that it provide theories, and that it provide a completed constitution for its system, and that it provide laws, while they observe that there is not a single society on earth which has rejected man-made systems and agreed to enforce the Shari’ah, in addition to having political power for such enforcement, show that they are ignorant of the character of this religion and the way it operates in life. They are also ignorant of the purpose for which God revealed His religion.
What these people want is that Islam change its character, its method and its history and be reduced to the level of ordinary human theories and laws. They want a short-cut solution to satisfy their immediate desires, which are simply a product of the defeatist mentality in their spirits in the face of valueless, man-made laws. They want Islam to become a mere collection of abstractions and theories, the subject of whose application is non-existent conditions. But the course prescribed by God for this religion is the same as it was earlier. First, belief ought to be imprinted on hearts and rule over consciences – that belief which demands that people should not bow before anyone except God or derive laws from any other source. Then, when such a group of people is ready and also gains practical control of society, various laws will be legislated according to the practical needs of that society.
This is what God has intended for this religion. It cannot be other than what God intends, no matter what people desire.
The callers to Islam should understand that when they invite people toward the revival of religion, they should invite them to accept Islam’s fundamental belief- even though these people call themselves Muslims or their birth certificates register them as Muslims. The people ought to know that Islam means to accept the creed “La ilaha illa Allah” in its deepest sense, which is this: that every aspect of life should be under the sovereignty of God, and those who rebel against God’s sovereignty and usurp it for themselves should be opposed; that this belief should be accepted by their hearts and minds and should be applied in their ways of living and in their practices.
When the revival of this religion starts among a people, this aspect of it must have first priority. The first Islamic call was based on it; thirteen complete years of the Meccan period of the Qur’an were devoted to this Message. When a group of people enters this religion in the true sense, only then can it be considered a ‘Muslim group.’ Only such a group has the capability of giving a concrete form to the Islamic system in its social life, because such a group has agreed to base its entire life on Islam and to obey God in all aspects of life.
Thus, when such a society actually comes into being and the basic teachings of Islam are its guide, it will proceed to formulate laws and regulations for the existing practical needs according to the general teachings of Islam. This is the correct order for bringing about a practical, realistic and wise Islamic system.
Some sincere people who do not understand the real character of our religion are in a hurry. They have not understood that this is the way prescribed by the All-Knowing and All-Wise God. They say that if people are taught Islam’s fundamentals and the Islamic laws, then the way for inviting them to Islam will become easy and people will automatically become sympathetic to Islam.
This is their wishful thinking, due to their impatience. This is akin to the idea which could have been presented to the Prophet himself- peace be on him -and which we have described in earlier pages; that is, that if the Prophet-peace be on him – had started his call with nationalism, or economic revolution, or a reformist movement, his way would have become easier.
It is essential that hearts be exclusively devoted to God alone, accepting His law with full submission and rejecting all other laws – from the very beginning, even before the details are shown to attract them.
The love of the Divine Law al-Shari’ah should be a consequence of pure submission to God and of freedom from servitude to anyone else, and not because it is superior to other systems in such and such details.
No doubt the Shari’ah is best since it comes from God; the laws of His creatures can hardly be compared to the laws given by the Creator. But this point is not the basis of the Islamic call. The basis of the message is that one should accept the Shari’ah without any question and reject all other laws in any shape or form. This is Islam. There is no other meaning of Islam. One who is attracted to this basic Islam has already resolved this problem; he will not require any persuasion through showing its beauty and superiority. This is one of the realities of the faith.
Next, we ought to discuss how the Qur’an solved the problem of belief and faith during the thirteen years of Meccan life. The Qur’an did not present this in the form of a theory or a theology, nor did it present it in the style which is common to our scholastic writings on the subject of the Oneness of God.
None of this; The Qur’an always appeals to human nature and draws our attention to the signs of God which are within man’s soul itself and are all around him. It liberates human nature from superstitions, polishes man’s native intelligence to the utmost degree, and opens up windows to the world and makes man appreciate the intricate processes of God’s nature.
This is a general aspect. A particular aspect is that the Qur’an, on the basis of this belief, started a struggle in actual life against false ideas and traditions under which human nature had become helpless. To confront these special circumstances, it would not have been desirable to present Islam in the form of a theory. It took the form of a direct confrontation, with a determination to rend the curtains which had fallen on the hearts and minds of people and to break into pieces all those walls which were standing between man and the truth. Similarly, intellectual argumentation, based on verbal logic which was the hallmark of the scholastic theology of later times, was not a proper style for it. The Qur’an was struggling against the entire human environment as it existed. It was addressing itself to the whole of humanity which was drowned under the vast ocean of corruption. The style of theology would have been useless for it because, although Islamic belief is a belief, its main program is in the practical sphere of life; it does not remain circumscribed in theoretical discussions and the speculations of theology.
The Qur’an on the one hand constructs faith in the hearts of the Muslim community and on the other attacks the surrounding Jahiliyyah through this community, while struggling to remove all the jahili influences which are found in the ideas, practices and morals of the Muslim community. The construction of Islamic belief occurred under these stormy conditions, and not in the form of a theology or theory or scholastic argument. It was rather as an active, organic and vital movement, the concrete representation of which was the Muslim community. The growth of the Muslim community, including its ideas, morals, education and training, was due to its belief. The evolution of this movement was wholly the practical manifestation of the evolution of its beliefs, and this is the true method of Islam which reflects its nature and its spirit.
The bearers of the Islamic message should keep in mind this dynamic method of Islam which we have described above. They ought to know that the stage of the construction of belief, which spread over the long period of Meccan life in this fashion, was not separate from the stage of practical organization, under which an Islamic community came into existence. It was not a stage of teaching and learning ‘the theory’! It was a single stage in which, at the same time, the seed of faith was implanted and a community was organized, giving a practical structure to the Islamic teachings. Hence in the future, whenever there are attempts at the revival of Islam, this comprehensive method should be adopted.
Thus the stage of constructing the faith should be long, and it should be gradual. Every step should be taken with firmness. This stage should not be spent in teaching the theory of beliefs but in translating the belief into a living reality. First it should be implanted in the hearts of men; it should materialize in a dynamic social system whose internal and external growth reflects the evolution of the belief. It ought to be a dynamic movement which challenges Jahiliyyah both in theory and in practice, so that it becomes a living faith which grows while struggling against the surrounding forces.
It is an error and what an error! – to think that Islam can evolve in the form of an abstract theory limited to intellectual learning and cultural knowledge. Beware of this danger, beware!
The Qur’an did not come down at once but took thirteen years to construct and strengthen the structure of faith. Had God wanted, He would have revealed the entire Qur’an at once and then left the Companions to learn it for a period of approximately thirteen years so that the Believers would master the ‘Islamic theory’
But God Most High did not choose this method; He wanted something else. He wanted to lay the foundations of a community, a movement and a belief simultaneously. He wanted the community and the movement to be founded on belief, while with the dynamic progress of the community the faith also grew. He wanted faith to grow with the progress of the community, while the practical life of the community was at the same time a mirror of the faith. God Most High knew that men and societies are not founded overnight, but that it takes as much time to construct and develop a faith as it takes to organize a community, so that as the faith is completed, simultaneously a strong community also comes into existence which is the true representation and practical interpretation of the faith.
This is the character of our religion, and the Meccan period of the Qur’an testifies to it. We should be aware of this character and should not try to change it by being impatient or falling under the influence of a defeatist mentality in the presence of valueless, man-made theories. Through this particular quality of Islam, the first Muslim community came into existence, and in the future, whenever a Muslim community is to be created in the world, it can be created only by this method and in relation to this character.
We should be aware that any attempt to change the living faith of Islam, which is intended to penetrate into the veins And arteries of a vital society and to be a concrete organized movement, into purely theoretical teachings and academic discussions, is an attempt to show the superiority of the ‘Islamic theory’ over the valueless and useless theories formulated by man, and is not only erroneous but also dangerous.
The requirement of Islamic belief is that it take shape in living souls, in an active organization, and in a viable community. It should take the form of a movement struggling against the jahili environment while also trying to remove the influences of jahili society in its followers, because they were people of Jahiliyyah before the faith entered their souls, and he influence of Jahiliyyah might have remained in their hearts and minds as well as in their lives. Islamic belief has a much wider range of action than simply academic discussions, as it not only addresses itself to hearts and minds but also includes practices and morals.
The Divine attributes, the universe, life, man, are all included in the Islamic concept, which is not only very comprehensive and perfect but also realistic and constructive. Islam, because of its very nature, abhors being reduced to pure thought-this being against its nature and also against its ultimate aim-and loves to appear personified in human beings, in a living organization and in a practical movement. Its method is to grow through the agency of living persons and through a dynamic movement and an active organization in such a way that its theory comes to fruition at the same time as its practical applications. It never remains an abstract theory but develops side-by-side with practice.
As for the idea that we should first perfect Islam as a theory, bringing it about later in the world of action, this is an error and is dangerous, being against the nature of Islam, its purpose and its structural elements.
God Most High Says:
“We have revealed this Qur’an little by little so that you may recite it to people at intervals, and We have revealed it gradually” (17:106)
Gradualness and teaching at intervals is desired, so that a ‘living community’ based on its beliefs may come into existence, and not merely a ‘theory.’
The message-bearers of Islam should fully understand that this is a Divine religion and that its method, which is harmonious with its nature, is also based on Divine guidance. It is not possible to establish this religion without following its particular method.
One should also understand that this religion has come to change not only the beliefs and practices of people but also the method of bringing about these changes in beliefs and practices. This religion constructs beliefs together with forming a community; it also develops its system of thought while it spends its energy in enforcing its practical aspects. Thus the establishment of its particular system of thought, its particular beliefs and its particular way of living does not require different methods but is fulfilled simultaneously.
From the above explanation we know that this religion has a particular method of action. Now we ought to know that this method is eternal. It is not related to any particular stage or to any special conditions and environment peculiar to the first Muslim community. Indeed, this religion cannot be established-at any time-except through this method.
Islam’s function is to change people’s beliefs and actions as well as their outlook and way of thinking. Its method is Divinely-ordained and is entirely different from all the valueless methods of short-sighted human beings.
We cannot receive the Divine guidance or live according to it unless we adopt the Divinely-ordained method, the method which God intended for reforming human thought and practice.
When we try to make Islam into a ‘theory’ to be studied, We remove the Divine method and Divine outlook from its character, and we reduce it to the level of a man-made system bf thought, as if the Divine method were inferior to man’s methods, and as if we wanted to elevate the system of thought and action ordained by God to the level of the systems of His creatures!
This point of view is extremely dangerous, and this defeatism is ruinous.
The function of this Divine system which is given to us-we, who are the callers to Islam – is to provide a certain style of thinking, purified from all those jahili styles and ways of thinking which are current in the world and which have poisoned our culture by depriving us of our own mind. If we try to change this religion in a way which is alien to its nature and which is borrowed from the ways of the predominant Jahiliyyah, we will deprive it of the function it has come to perform for humanity. We will deprive ourselves of the opportunity of getting rid of the yoke of the jahili ways current in our time, which dominate our minds.
This aspect of the situation is full of danger, and the resulting loss will be disastrous.
The ways of thought and action for the founding of the Islamic system are not less important or less necessary than this Islamic belief and way of life, nor are they separate from each other. Although it may seem very attractive to us to keep expounding on the beauties of the Islamic beliefs and system, we should not forget this fact: that Islam can never become a practical way of life or a dynamic movement through these means. We should also realize that this way of presenting Islam does not benefit anyone except those who are working for the Islamic movement, and even this group can benefit from it only to such an extent as corresponds with its stage of development.
I therefore repeat that Islamic belief should at once materialize into a practical movement, and from the very instant this comes into being, the movement should become a real representation and an accurate mirror of its belief.
I will also repeat that this is the method which is natural to the Divinely revealed religion of Islam, and that this method is the most superior and lasting and is extremely effective. It is closer to human nature that all those methods which present Islam to people in the form of a complete and fixed theory, before these people have engaged in a practical movement and before this has become a living reality in their hearts, growing step by step in translating this theory into actuality.
If this is the correct method for the fundamentals of Islamic belief, it is even more correct with respect to the particulars of the organizational structure and its legal details.
The Jahiliyyah which has surrounded us, and which weighs heavily on the minds of some sincere workers for Islam who become impatient and want to see all the stages of the Islamic system come into existence very rapidly, has raised a very delicate question indeed. It asks them: What are the details of the system to which you are calling? How much research have you done? How many articles have you prepared and how many subjects have you written about? Have you constituted its jurisprudence on new principles?-as if nothing were lacking for the enforcement of the Islamic Law except research in jurisprudence (Fiqh) and its details, as if everyone had agreed upon the sovereignty of God and were willing to submit to His laws, as if the only factor remaining were the non-existence of Mujtahidin [ Those Muslims whose knowledge of Islamic sources of law is so deep that they can with validity exercise independent judgment in matters pertaining to legal details.] who would supply a modernised version of Islamic jurisprudence. This is a vulgar joke on Islam, and every person who has any respect for this religion should raise himself above it.
By these tactics, Jahiliyyah wants to find an excuse to reject the Divine system and to perpetuate the slavery of one man over another. It desires to turn away the power of Muslims from the work of establishing the Divinely-ordained way of life in order that they may not go beyond the stage of belief to the stage of a dynamic movement. It wants to distort the very nature of this method – the method in which Islamic belief matures through the struggle of its movement, in which the details of the Islamic system develop through practical striving, and in which laws are disseminated to solve practical problems and actual difficulties.
It is the duty of Muslims to expose these tactics and reduce them to dust, to reject this ridiculous proposal of the “reconstruction of Islamic law’ for a society which is neither willing to submit to the law of God nor expresses any weariness with laws emanating from sources other than God. Such talk is a way of diverting attention from real and earnest work, and is a method through which the workers for Islam can be made to waste their time in building castles in the air. Thus it is their duty to expose these treacherous tactics.
It is their duty to adopt the method of the Islamic movement which is harmonious with this religion. This method is the source of power for this religion, as well as a source of power for them.
Islam and the method of revival of Islam are both equally important; there is no difference between them. Any other method, however attractive it may be, cannot bring about the establishment of Islam. Other methods can work for the establishment of man-made systems, but are incapable of establishing our system. Thus it is as necessary to follow this particular method for the establishment of Islam as it is to obey the way of life it outlines and to believe in its articles of faith.
“Indeed, this Qur’an leads to a way which is straight.” (17:9)