Early Muslim History needs fresh appraisal – XV
M Aamer Sarfraz
JANUARY 7, 2019
The Muslim fall from grace is a surprise and a tragedy because they are recipient of a living book, which guarantees success and splendour. The Quran promises them safety (6:82), reverence (63:8), sovereignty (30:47; 3:139), triumph over adversaries (4:141), and leadership (48:28; 14:27). But their fortunes have been in decline for centuries, and they are caught in a vicious trap of disintegration with no sign of escape. Not only are the other nations ahead, the majority of Muslim countries are also suffering from economic, armed-conflict or governance related crises.
We believe, with evidence, that the Quran is never mistaken, and His promises are always fulfilled. Therefore, flaws in our character (and their causes) need accepting and addressing, which could reverse our fortunes. Muslim decline has inherent internal and external causes. External causes are mostly related to martial setbacks followed by subjugation; and internal causes encompass schisms related to early Muslim history. I have examined the latter along with reasons in detail earlier; they essentially give rise to external causes of decline as well.
The Quran mentions that everything in this Universe follows the laws of nature (16:49) and this system developed by Him is faultless (67:3). He has given a similar system (Deen) to the human beings through revelation; following which leads to success and progress, while its defiance spells decline and disaster. The most recent version of that system is the Quran, which guarantees influence and glory for those who follow it (35:10). However, the progress is communal, and the scheme often unfolds slowly (30:4-5; 32:5) by human standards. Lofty ideals (revelation) combined with righteous character (revolution) can certainly increase the speed of this progress; and this is what was achieved in the State of Medina.
A ‘fatalistic Islam’was subsequently invented, which manufactured innovations that have nothing to do with the Quran. These include: bizarre concepts (regarding Hijab, Halal, polygamy, Satan, Jinns, Angels, Houres), Shab-e-Barat, distinction between Huququllah (the rights of Allah) and Huququl’Ibad (the rights of humans), Child marriage, Imam Zaamin, excluding non-Muslims from core Islamic values and places (Salaam, Hajj, Holy cities, sometimes mosques), Munnats and sacrificesto seduce God or Saints, limiting Heaven and Hell to life after death, prayers for rain and the dead, Istakhara, Jiziah, prohibiting art and music, and terrorism in the name of Jihad, etc
Prophet Muhammad said that he was a human being like others (but receives revelation); and people are not supposed to revert if he passed away (3:143). It means that Islam was always here to stay through those who follow (12:108) by “Doing good, and preventing evil” (7:156) individually and as a community (7:156; 3:107-8). However, Muslim conquests spread much faster than anticipated; and by the time of Hazrat Umar, two hundred thousand squares miles were being administered. Conversions to Islam also took place at an exponential rate, and mostly without the relevant education and guidance. Hazrat Umar was sensitive to these gaps, and planned remedial action, including sending over hundred thousand copies of the Quran to the newly occupied lands. This plan could not be followed through due to his sudden death; and multi-pronged conspiracies (already discussed) assumed a stranglehold with the passage of time.
A ‘fatalistic Islam’ was subsequently invented, which manufactured innovations that have nothing to do with the Quran. These include: bizarre concepts (regarding Hijab, Halal, polygamy, Satan, Jinns, Angels, Houres), Shab-e-Barat, distinction between Huququllah (the rights of Allah) and Huquq ul Ibad (the rights of humans), Child marriage, Imam Zaamin, excluding non-Muslims from core Islamic values and places (Salaam, Hajj, Holy cities, sometimes mosques), Mannats and sacrifices to seduce God or Saints, limiting Heaven and Hell to life after death, prayers for rain and the dead, Istikhara, Jizya, prohibiting art and music, and terrorism in the name of Jihad, etc.
One could argue that even if education/training as part of conversion to Islam was not available, why did the human mind not accept a splendid programme on its own? I have already explained how human progress is usually slow because we evolve through ‘trial and error’ unless it is combined with a cognitive revolution facilitated through revelation in a conducive environment. The Quran had brought a message much sophisticated than the abstract, academic, cognitive and social conditions of its time which normally takes centuries to absorb and implement. This begs another question as to why expose human mind to an urgent revolution requiring a colossal ideological change? The answer lies in the accomplishments which created a model (signs) for the human race to follow when they are prepared (41:53). The epitomes established include: universal brotherhood, unconditional justice, fair distribution of wealth, equality of race and gender, abolition of slavery, a consultative council to support government affairs, etc. in a primitive society within a short period of time.
As verified by Robert Briffault (1919), Islam in Muslim Spain (though the Quran) paved the way for the Renaissance (1300–1600 CE), the French Revolution (1779-1789 CE), and the American Constitution (1787 CE), etc. Our fundamental fault is the assumption that Islam and Muslims are the same entities! We also presume from the Muslim decline that Islam has run out of steam. Islam actually arrived in the world with the first human being, and whosoever adopted its permanent values(irrespective of time, place, race and ‘religion’), has progressed. These values when adopted by the Arabs over fourteen centuries ago under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad, achieved remarkable success. For the former As long as the Muslims followed those values (Quran), they prospered (14:27), but they have deteriorated since abandoning them. Islam, therefore, has never declined;it marches on, and evolves around belief system or hit-and-trial, through those who follow (Momineen) knowingly or unknowingly. (to be continued).