The Ship and the Lifeboats
Although the pen and the sword are arrayed against it, Islam is spreading. But there are also problems within the Muslim reawakening.
Posted: 14 Zul-Hijjah 1423, 16 February 2003
We are living at a time when the daily news about the world, especially about the Muslim world is quite depressing. In Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other places Muslim life, property, and honor have been declared fair game by those who wield worldly power. It is not just armies waging this war. A whole gamut of institutions, from sophisticated research centers to slick media, is dedicated to the campaign to sow doubts, to spreads confusion, and to denigrate Islam. In hot spot after hot spot around the world, the sword is busy prosecuting a war on Islam. The pen is busy in both conducting a war on Islam and in trying to foment a war within Islam. While the unprecedented and unexpected momentum gained by the anti-war movement in the middle of February has given some hope that the mad rush to slaughter may be deflected, overall picture remains grim.
And yet these are also the times when people all over the world are coming to Islam in unprecedented numbers. At a time when Muslims have lost control of the sword and the pen, Islam is finding new followers everywhere everyday. (It is quite revealing that even as Islam continues to spread despite the sword, some people should continue to insist that it spread by the sword. As Qur'an repeatedly reminds us, the opponents of Islam are a very closed-minded lot).
Within the Muslim world also there are signs of awakening. Muslims are coming back to Islam after having toyed with one false ideology after another. Colonialism had hit them hard. It subjugated them physically, politically, economically, culturally, and mentally. An education system that they embraced as a ticket out of their miseries during that period of oppression compounded their problems by producing self-doubt and self-hate. It produced generations of perfect strangers within the house of Islam, who were then --- for this 'achievement' --- given leadership roles in all areas of Muslim societies. They hated their languages, their culture, and their religion. It is such people who rule the Muslim world today.
Yet, the scene is changing. More women are choosing hijab and are becoming more assertive about it as a symbol of their Islamic identity. There is a greater interest in Islamic knowledge. Qur'an lectures are attracting crowds that were not seen in the past. The nature of the questions people ask about Islam is also changing. There are more 'how to' and 'what to' questions than 'why' questions coming from the secular educated groups. The last Biswa Ijtima (annual gathering of Tablighi Jamaat in Bangladesh) attracted some two million attendees. What is more, they came from widely varying segments of society. A parallel growth can be seen in Islamic activism. Politics, media, relief and charity, education, and community service are all attracting new workers and new organizations. There is a new enthusiasm, new energy, and new awareness.
Our renewed interest in our religion is great but it is good to remember that Islamic revival will not take place through the blind leading the blind.
But there are also problems within this awakening. The period of colonialism was a big crash in which our ship was destroyed. In the immediate aftermath, survival was the main goal, and people came with whatever lifeboats they could. Now is the time to pick up the pieces and build the ship again. The problem is we have been living in the lifeboats for so long, we are confusing them with the ship. The schools for secular education were one such lifeboat. They imparted some skills necessary for survival in a changed world, although they impoverished Muslim education and society tremendously in so many ways. But today so many well-meaning people who get excited about spreading education in the Muslim world think of nothing more than establishing more of these same schools. Campaigns for 'democracy', whatever it means, were another such lifeboat, aimed at returning control of Muslim affairs to them thereby seeking liberation. Today, democracy or no democracy, nowhere do Muslims have any control over their affairs, but this lifeboat has become a ship and Khilafah, the Islamic system of governance, remains a strange entity. Islamic organizations were such a lifeboat, aimed at gathering like minded people so they could focus their resources and energies on some of the important things. Yet each of them is considered to be the ship by its occupants and captains, thereby creating new lines of cleavage within the Ummah.
There is another issue. Most of our new activism thrives on sincerity, concern and drive but not on knowledge or guidance. There are Islamic relief organizations providing much needed support for the destitute millions. But many do not show a sensitivity to check whether their fund raising methods are Islamic; whether they are distributing the zakat according to Shariah; whether their operation meets the Islamic guidelines. There are organizations focused on media and political activism --- certainly very important fields --- that sometime say things that the media or political establishment they are talking to would like to hear, even if they are totally wrong and un-Islamic. They seem to be doing as much damage as good through ignorance and carelessness.
The same observation can be made about our efforts at spreading Islamic knowledge. It is embarrassing how many of those giving lectures, issuing 'fatwas' (not necessarily calling them so but issuing legal opinions nonetheless), and conducting Qur'an lessons have no qualifications for the job. Yet they find a ready audience among those who confuse eloquence with scholarship.
Our renewed interest in our religion is great but it is good to remember that Islamic revival will not take place through the blind leading the blind. All Islamic work --- whether Dawah, or Jihad, or relief work or political or media activism --- requires guidance from the Shariah, which in turn requires knowledge and understanding. Recognizing the need for such guidance from true scholars is the first step in getting it. The questions we need to ask may not have ready-made answers but that does not justify not asking them or accepting answers from unqualified sources. There is a very good example in the work done in the field of Islamic finance during the last decades. It was the collaboration of religious scholars with experts in economics and finance that produced the body of knowledge today that did not exist before. A similar effort is needed in other fields. Muslim journalists working with scholars can help evolve an Islamic protocol for Journalism. Muslim activists working with scholars can help evolve Islamic protocol for media and political activism. Relief organizations can establish Shariah advisory boards to ensure their operations are within the bounds of Shariah.
Bringing our own house in order is the only response we can and must have to the threats, challenges, and fears we face today.
Muhammad (PBUH) (Blessings and Peace be upon him) was born in Makkah, Arabia, on Monday, 12 Rabi' Al-Awwal (2 August C.E). His mother, Aminah was the daughter of Wahb bin Abd Al-Manaf of the Zahrah family. His father, Abdullah, was the son of Abd Al-Muttalib. His genealogy has been traced to the noble house of Isma'il, the son of Ibrahim (Abraham) (PBUH) (May Peace be upon him) in about the fortieth descent. Muhammad's father had died before his birth and his mother died when he was about six years old making him an orphan. In accordance with the tradition of noble families of Makkah, he was taken by a foster mother, Halimah, to her village where he lived for a few years. During these years he was taken to Makkah several times to visit his mother. After the death of his mother, he was placed under the custody of his grandfather, Abd Al-Muttalib. When the grandfather died, he was under the care of his uncle, Abu Talib. By this time he used to look after sheep around Makkah and used to accompany his uncle on trade journeys to Syria.
In his youth he believed firmly in the Oneness of Allah (God)(SWT). He lived a very simple life and hated vanity and pride. He was compassionate to the poor, widows and orphans and shared their sufferings by helping them. He avoided all vices, which were commonly practiced among young people such as gambling, drinking wine, vulgarity and others. He was well-known as As-Sadiq(the truthful) and Al-Amin (the trustworthy). He was always trusted as a mediator between two conflicting parties in his homeland, Makkah.
Allah T'ala says in the Holy Quran:
وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَاكُمْ ثُمَّ صَوَّرْنَاكُمْ ثُمَّ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلآئِكَةِ اسْجُدُواْ لآدَمَ فَسَجَدُواْ إِلاَّ إِبْلِيسَ لَمْ يَكُن مِّنَ السَّاجِدِينَ
قَالَ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَلاَّ تَسْجُدَ إِذْ أَمَرْتُكَ قَالَ أَنَاْ خَيْرٌ مِّنْهُ خَلَقْتَنِي مِن نَّارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُ مِن طِينٍ
قَالَ فَاهْبِطْ مِنْهَا فَمَا يَكُونُ لَكَ أَن تَتَكَبَّرَ فِيهَا فَاخْرُجْ إِنَّكَ مِنَ الصَّاغِرِينَ
Speaking about Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w.), Allah T'ala says in the Holy Quran:
Morality is an important aspect of Islam. In the Islamic terminology it is called “khuluq” and its plural is “akhlaq”. There are two aspects of a human being: one is “khalq” that is the physical aspect and the appearance. The other is “khuluq” and that is character, behavior and inner dispositions. Islam emphasizes that we take care of our physical appearance by keeping it clean, properly covered, healthy and nourished with Halal food and drinks. In a similar way it tells us that we should take care of our character and behavior.
قَالَ ابْنُ عَبَّاسٍ كَانَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَجْوَدَ النَّاسِ وَأَجْوَدُ مَا يَكُونُ فِي رَمَضَانَ وَقَالَ أَبُو ذَرٍّ لَمَّا بَلَغَهُ مَبْعَثُ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ لِأَخِيهِ ارْكَبْ إِلَى هَذَا الْوَادِي فَاسْمَعْ مِنْ قَوْلِهِ فَرَجَعَ فَقَالَ رَأَيْتُهُ يَأْمُرُ بِمَكَارِمِ الْأَخْلَاقِ (البخاري )
Ibn ‘Abbas reports that the Prophet -peace be upon him- was the most generous person. He used to become even more generous in Ramadan. And Abu Dharr said that when he heard about the coming of the Prophet -peace be upon him- he said to his brother, ‘Go to this valley and hear his words.’ He returned and said to him, ‘I saw him commanding people about the noblest morals and manners.’ (Al-Bukhari)
The Prophet was sent by Allah to teach the humanity the noblest morals (makarim al-akhlaq). He said,
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَكْمَلُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِيمَانًا أَحْسَنُهُمْ خُلُقًا وَخِيَارُكُمْ خِيَارُكُمْ لِنِسَائِهِمْ خُلُقًا (الترمذى
“The most perfect believer in faith is the one who is best in moral character. The best of you are those who are the best to their spouses in manners.” (al-Tirmidhi 1082)
عَنْ عَائِشَةَ قَالَتْ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَقُولُ إِنَّ الْمُؤْمِنَ يُدْرِكُ بِحُسْنِ خُلُقِهِ دَرَجَاتِ قَائِمِ اللَّيْلِ صَائِمِ النَّهَارِ (مسند أحمد
‘Aishah -may Allah be pleased with her- said, “I heard the Prophet -peace be upon him- say, ‘Indeed the believer by his good morals reaches the ranks of those who spend the whole night in prayer and whole day in fasting. (Musnad Ahmad, 23219)
عَنْ أَبِي الدَّرْدَاءِ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَقُولُ مَا مِنْ شَيْءٍ يُوضَعُ فِي الْمِيزَانِ أَثْقَلُ مِنْ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ وَإِنَّ صَاحِبَ حُسْنِ الْخُلُقِ لَيَبْلُغُ بِهِ دَرَجَةَ صَاحِبِ الصَّوْمِ وَالصَّلَاةِ (الترمذي
Abu al-Darda’ reports that I heard the Prophet -peace be upon him- say, “There is nothing in the Balance heavier than the good morals. Indeed the person of good morals will reach by them the rank of the person of fasts and prayers.” (al-Tirmidhi 1926)
There are many Ahadith that indicate the high place of morals and manners in Islam. The good morals and manners should be observed in one’s personal life as well as in one’s relations with others.
Some Ahadith on Islamic manners:
عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ الْمُسْلِمُ مَنْ سَلِمَ الْمُسْلِمُونَ مِنْ لِسَانِهِ وَيَدِهِ وَالْمُهَاجِرُ مَنْ هَجَرَ مَا نَهَى اللَّهُ عَنْهُ )البخاري
“The Muslim is he/she from whose hand and tongue other Muslims are safe and Muhajir is he/she who leaves what Allah has forbidden.” (al-Bukahri 9)
حَدَّثَنَا قَتَادَةُ عَنْ أَنَسٍ عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ لَا يُؤْمِنُ أَحَدُكُمْ حَتَّى يُحِبَّ لِأَخِيهِ مَا يُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِهِ (البخاري
“None of you will be a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” (al-Bukhari 12)
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ لَا يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ مَنْ لَا يَأْمَنُ جَارُهُ بَوَائِقَهُ (مسلم
“He will not enter heaven whose neighbor is not safe from his troubles.” (Muslim 66)
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ الْإِيمَانُ بِضْعٌ وَسَبْعُونَ أَوْ بِضْعٌ وَسِتُّونَ شُعْبَةً فَأَفْضَلُهَا قَوْلُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَأَدْنَاهَا إِمَاطَةُ الْأَذَى عَنْ الطَّرِيقِ وَالْحَيَاءُ شُعْبَةٌ مِنْ الْإِيمَانِ (مسلم
Faith has more than seventy branches (or he said more than sixty branches). The supreme branch is the statement that ‘There is no god except Allah’ and the lowest branch is the removal of obstacles from the path. The modesty is a branch of faith.” (Muslim 51)
These issues are not small; they are very important. No macro change can come without the micro change. Bad manners have sometimes drastic social affects.
Some of you may have heard of some interesting research on crime, called the “broken window” effect. Two researchers did the following test. They put one car in the poorer areas of New York, with the hood open. They put another car in a really affluent suburb in California. The car in New York got pulled to pieces within 24 hours. The car in California remained untouched for two weeks. Then one of the researchers smashed one window in the car and within a day, the car ended up like the one in New York.
They concluded that by breaking the window on the car, they essentially marked the car as “neglected” and thus people thought of it as “fair game”, even though it was in a good neighbourhood. Similarly, the authors concluded, if you allow little things to get away, like the breaking of windows, unless the window gets fixed very soon, all the windows get smashed.
Three years ago, in New York, they had a new police commissioner. He decided to implement this idea, by ensuring that the police no longer just attack the big issues, the homicides, the car stealings, the breaking and entering; but also the little things, like making sure streets were clean, fixing broken windows. The net effect? Crime rates in New York, formerly one of the world's crime centres, fell by almost one third in three years. Why does this work? By taking care of the little things, you give people a sense of security.
We observe good morals and manners to obey Allah and His Messenger. This is part of our faith. Our faith leads to good morals and manners and they in their turn reinforce our faith. On the other hand, we should also keep in mind the best da’wah is to live among people with good morals and manners. Before listening to our message people see us and our behavior. Non-Muslims sometimes say when they see the bad example of Muslims, “If your religion has not made you a good person, how can it be a good religion for us.” We have a big responsibility and we must take our actions seriously.
Reference url: http://www.isna.net/services/library/khutbahs/MoralsandMannersinIslam.html
Khutbah at ISOC - 24 Shawwal 1421/ January 19, 2001 By Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi