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.
by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Biographies of the Prophet usually treat their subject as if he were a person endowed with great magical powers, one who by mysterious means brought the whole of Arabia under his wing. These books read like fairy tales; even events, which have no miraculous content, have been given a fanciful, miraculous interpretation. Take the case of Suhaib Ibn Senan’s migration from Mecca to Medina. When some Quraysh youths blocked his path, Suhaib pleaded with them: “If I let you have all my property, will you let me go?” They said that they would. Suhaib had a few ounces of silver with him. He gave it all to them and carried on to Medina. According to a tradition in Baihaqi, Suhaib said that when the Prophet saw him in Medina he told Suhaib that his trading, that is, his handing over of his property to the Quraysh, had been very profitable. Suhaib, according to the tradition, was astounded, for no one had arrived in Medina before him who could have brought the news. “It must have been Gabriel who told you,” he said to the Prophet.Read more...
Allah T'ala says in the Holy Quran:
قُل لاَّ يَسْتَوِي الْخَبِيثُ وَالطَّيِّبُ وَلَوْ أَعْجَبَكَ كَثْرَةُ الْخَبِيثِ فَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ يَا أُوْلِي الأَلْبَابِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
(5:100) (O Messenger!) Say to them: "The bad things and the good things are not equal, even though the abundance of the bad things might make you pleased with them. Men of understanding, beware of disobeying Allah; then maybe you will attain true success.'
في مبدأ حياة النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم بعد البعثة
A khutbah by late Muhammad Saalih Al `Uthaimeen
1) The early Muslims.
2) The Prophet calls his tribe and family to Islam.
3) Quraish harasses the Prophet.
4) The death of Khadijah and Abu Taalib.
5) The harassment of the people of Ta’if.
6) The Ansaar (residence of Madinah) embrace Islam, and the message of Islam spreads.
|Calling unto Islam beyond Makkah|
In Shawwal (in the last of May or in the beginning of June 619 A.D.), ten years after receiving his mission from his Lord, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) set out towards At-Ta’if, about 60 kilometres from Makkah, in the company of his freed slave Zaid bin Haritha inviting people to Islam. But contrary to his expectations, the general atmosphere was terribly hostile. He approached the family of ‘Umair, who were reckoned amongst the nobility of the town. But, to his disappointment, all of them turned deaf ear to his message and used abusive language as regards the noble cause he had been striving for. Three brothers from the chieftains of Thaqeef —‘Abd Yaleel, Mas‘ud and Habeeb — sons of ‘Amr bin ‘Umair Ath-Thaqafy met the Prophet (Peace be upon him) , who invited them to embrace Islam and worship Allâh, but they impudently jeered at him and refused his invitation. “He is tearing the cloths of Al-Ka‘bah; is it true that Allâh has sent you as a Messenger?” said one of them. “Has not Allâh found someone else to entrust him with His Message?” said the second. “I swear by Allâh that I will never have any contact with you. If you are really the Messenger of Allâh, then you are too serious to retort back; and if you are belying Allâh, then I feel it is imperative not to speak to.” said the third. The Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) , finding that they were hopeless cases, stood up and left them saying: “Should you indulge in these practices of yours, never divulge them to me.”
For ten days he stayed there delivering his message to several people, one after another, but all to no purpose. Stirred up to hasten the departure of the unwelcome visitor, the people hooted him through the alley-ways, pelted him with stones and obliged him to flee from the city pursued by a relentless rabble. Blood flowed down both his legs; and Zaid, endeavouring to shield him, was wounded in the head. The mob did not desist until they had chased him two or three miles across the sandy plains to the foot of the surrounding hills. There, wearied and exhausted, he took refuge in one of the numerous orchards, and rested against the wall of a vineyard. At a time when the whole world seemed to have turned against him, Muhammad (Peace be upon him) turned to his Lord and betook himself to prayer and the following touching words are still preserved as those through which his oppressed soul gave vent to its distress. He was weary and wounded but confident of the help of his Lord:
“O Allâh! To You alone I make complaint of my helplessness, the paucity of my resources and my insignificance before mankind. You are the most Merciful of the mercifuls. You are the Lord of the helpless and the weak, O Lord of mine! Into whose hands would You abandon me: into the hands of an unsympathetic distant relative who would sullenly frown at me, or to the enemy who has been given control over my affairs? But if Your wrath does not fall on me, there is nothing for me to worry about.”
“I seek protection in the light of Your Countenance, which illuminates the heavens and dispels darkness, and which controls all affairs in this world as well as in the Hereafter. May it never be that I should incur Your wrath, or that You should be wrathful to me. And there is no power nor resource, but Yours alone.”
Seeing him in this helpless situation, Rabi‘a’s two sons, wealthy Makkans, were moved on grounds of kinship and compassion, and sent to him one of their Christian servants with a tray of grapes. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) accepted the fruit with pious invocation: “In the Name of the Allâh.” The Christian servant ‘Addas was greatly impressed by these words and said: “These are words which people in this land do not generally use.” The Prophet (Peace be upon him) inquired of him whence he came and what religion he professed. ‘Addas replied: “I am a Christian by faith and come from Nineveh.” The Prophet (Peace be upon him) then said: “You belong to the city of the righteous Jonah, son of Matta.” ‘Addas asked him anxiously if he knew anything about Jonah. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) significantly remarked: “He is my brother. He was a Prophet and so am I.” Thereupon ‘Addas paid homage to Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and kissed his hands. His masters admonished him at this act but he replied: “None on the earth is better than he is. He has revealed to me a truth which only a Prophet can do.” They again reprimanded him and said: “We forewarn you against the consequences of abandoning the faith of your forefathers. The religion which you profess is far better than the one you feel inclined to.”
Heart-broken and depressed, Muhammad (Peace be upon him) set out on the way back to Makkah. When he reached Qarn Al-Manazil, Allâh, the Almighty sent him Gabriel together with the angel of mountains. The latter asked the Prophet (Peace be upon him) for permission to bury Makkah between Al–Akhshabain —Abu Qubais and Qu‘ayqa‘an mountains. Full narration of this event was given by ‘Aishah (May be pleased with her) (the Prophet’s spouse). She said: “I asked the Prophet (Peace be upon him) if he had ever experienced a worse day than Uhud. He answered that he had suffered a lot from those people (the idolaters) but the most painful was on the day of ‘Aqabah. I went seeking support from Ibn ‘Abd Yalil bin ‘Abd Kalal, but he spurned me. I set out wearied and grieved heedless of anything around me until I suddenly realized I was in Qarn Ath-Tha‘alib, called Qarn Al-Manazil. There, I looked up and saw a cloud casting its shade on me, and Gabriel addressing me: Allâh has heard your people’s words and sent you the angel of mountains to your aid. The latter called and gave me his greetings and asked for my permission to bury Makkah between Al-Akhshabain, the two mountains flanking Makkah. I said in reply that I would rather have someone from their loins who will worship Allâh, the All–Mighty with no associate.” A concise meaningful answer fully indicative of the Prophet’s matchless character and the fathomless magnanimous manners.
The Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) then came back to wakefulness and his heart was set at rest in the light of that invisible Divinely provided aid. He proceeded to Wadi Nakhlah where he stayed for a few days.
During his stay there, Allâh sent him a company of jinns who listened to him reciting the Noble Qur’ân:
“And (remember) when We sent towards you [Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ] Nafran (three to ten persons) of the jinns, (quietly) listening to the Qur’ân, when they stood in the presence thereof, they said: ‘Listen in silence!’ And when it was finished, they returned to their people, as warners. They said: ‘O our people! Verily! We have heard a Book (this Qur’ân) sent down after Moses, confirming what came before it, it guides to the Truth and to a Straight Path (i.e. Islam). O our people! Respond (with obedience) to Allâh’s Caller [i.e. Allâh’s Messenger Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ], and believe in him (i.e. believe in that which Muhammad (Peace be upon him) has brought from Allâh and follow him). He (Allâh) will forgive you of your sins, and will save you from a painful torment (i.e. Hell-fire).’” [46:29-31]
The same incident is referred to in Sûrah Al-Jinn:
“Say [O Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ]: “It has been revealed to me that a group (from three to ten in number) of jinns listened (to this Qur’ân). They said: ‘Verily! We have heard a wonderful Recital (this Qur’ân)! It guides to the Right Path, and we have believed therein, and we shall never join (in worship) anything with our Lord (Allâh).’” [72:1,2] … Till the end of the 15th verse.
From the context of these verses and their relevant interpretation, we can safely establish it that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was not aware of the presence of that group of jinns. It was only when Allâh revealed those verses that he came to know of it. The verses also confirm that it was the first time they came. However, the context of the different versions suggests that the jinns repeated their visits later on. The presence of that company of jinns comes in the context of the Divine support givto His Messenger, and constitutes a propitious sign of ultimate victory and success for the Call of Islam. It provides an unshakable proof that no power however mighty could alter what is wrought by Allâh:
“And whosoever does not respond to Allâh’s Caller, he cannot escape on earth, and there will be no Auliyâ (protectors) from him besides Allâh (from Allâh’s punishment). Those are in manifest error.” [46:32]
“And we think that we cannot escape (from the punishment of) Allâ h in the earth, nor can we escape (from the punishment) by flight.” [72:12]
Given this support and auspicious start, depression, dismay and sadness that used to beset him since he was driven out of At-Ta’if, he turned his face towards Makkah with fresh determination to resume his earlier plan to expose people to Islam and communicate his Message in a great spirit of zeal and matchless enthusiasm.
Zaid bin Harithah, his companion, addressing the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, “How dare you step into Makkah after they (Quraish) have expatriated you?” The Prophet (Peace be upon him) answered: “Hearken Zaid, Allâh will surely provide relief and He will verily support His religion and Prophet.”
When he was a short distance from Makkah, he retired to Hira’ Cave. Whence he despatched a man from Khuza‘ah tribe to Al-Akhnas bin Shuraiq seeking his protection. The latter answered that he was Quraish’s ally and in no position to offer protection. He despatched the messenger to Suhail bin ‘Amr, but to no avail, either. Al-Mut‘im bin ‘Adi, a notable in Makkah, however, volunteered to respond to the Prophet’s appeal for shelter. He asked his people to prepare themselves fully armed and then asked Muhammad (Peace be upon him) to enter into the town and directly into the Holy Sanctuary. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) observed a two-Rak‘a prayer and left for his house guarded by the heavily-armed vigilant ‘Adi’s.
It has been reported that later Abu Jahl, the archenemy of Islam, asked Mut‘im if his behaviour suggested protection or conversion, the latter replied it was merely protection. Abu Jahl was relieved and said that he would give Muhammad protection for his sake.
The Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) never forgot Mut‘im’s favour. At the conclusion of the battle of Badr, he declared publicly that if Mut‘im had been still alive and asked for the release of the Quraishite captives, he would not deny him his request.