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.
An Ideal Personality
by Hadhrat Imam Ghazali (RA)
Prophet's Moral Teachings
Islam had come to illuminate the lives of the people with the light of virtue and good manners, to create in them brightness of character, and to fill their laps with the pearls of good conduct. It made the stages that came in the process of achieving this great objective as an important part of the prophet hood. Similarly it declared all attempts to create disruption in these stages as an expulsion from the religion and equivalent tothrowing away the yoke of faith from one's neck.
The position of morality is not like that of the means of pleasures and luxuries, from which indifference may be possible. But morality is the name of the principles of life which the religion must adopt and must care for the respect of its standard-bearers.
Islam has enumerated all these virtues and principles and has encouraged its followers to make them parts of their lives, one after another.
If we collect all the sayings of the holy Prophet about the importance of good moral character, then a voluminous book will be prepared, about which many of the great reformers will be ignorant.
Before we enumerate these virtues and state their details, it will be proper if we quote some examples of how strongly and emphatically Islam has called upon the people to adopt good moral character.
Usama bin Shareek says: "We were sitting in the presence of the Messenger of Allah so quietly as if birds were perched on our heads. Nobody had the courage to open his mouth. In the meanwhile some people came and asked: "Amongst the slaves of God who is the dearest to Him." The Prophet replied: "One who has the best moral character." (Ibn Haban)
Another tradition has it: "They asked what is the best thing given to man ?" He replied: "Best moral character." (Tirmizi)
The Prophet was asked: "Which Muslim has the perfect faith ?" He answered: "He who has the best moral character." (Tibrani)
Abdullah bin' Amar has reported: "I have heard the Prophet as saying: 'Should I not tell you who amongst you is the most likeable person to me 1 And who will be the nearest to me on the Day of the Judgment 1' He repeated this question twice or thrice. The people requested him to tell them about such a person. He said 'He who amongst you has the best moral character.'"(Ahmed)
In another hadith, he has said: "On the Day of the Judgement there will be nothing weightier in the balance of a momin than the goodness of character.
Allah dislikes an obscene and a rude talker and the bearer of a good moral character reaches to the level of the observer of the prayer and fasting, on account of his character." (Imam Ahmed)
There would be nothing surprising if such teachings were to come from a philosopher who was busy in his campaign of moral-reform. But the great surprise is that these teachings come from a man who strived for establishing a great new faith, when all other religions turn their attention first only towards the performance of worship and such other religious rites.
The last Prophet gave a call for the performance of various Corms of worship and for the establishment of such a government that was involved in a long-drawn war with its large number of enemies. Inspite of the expansion of his religion and the immense increase in the various tasks of his followers, the Prophet informs them of the fact that on the Day of the Judgment there will be nothing weightier in their balance than their good moral character, then definitely this reality is not hidden from him that in Islam the value of morality is very high.
The fact is that if the religion is the name of good conduct between man and man, then on the other hand in its spiritual sense it is also the name of the best relationship between man and his God, and in both these aspects there is the same reality.
There are many religions which give this glad tiding that you may embrace any belief, your sins will be washed away and offering fixed prayers of any religion will cancel your mistakes.
But Islam does not believe in this. According to it, these benefits will be available only when the axis and centre of belief is a conscious step towards virtue and payment of the compulsory dues, and when the proposed worship can become the real source of washing away the sins and generating the real perfection. In other words evil can be removed by those virtues which man makes his own and by which he is able to reach high and lofty standards.
The holy Prophet has very forcefully emphasised these valuable principles so that the Ummah may understand it very clearly that the value of morality may not go down in its eyes and the importance of mere forms and shapes may not increase.
Hazrat Anas has reported: "Allah's Messenger has said: 'A slave achieves, by means of the goodness of his character, great position and high honour in the Hereafter, though he may be weak in matters of worship; but on account of his wickedness of character he is thrown in the lowest recesses of the Hell." (Tibrani).
Hazrat Ayesha narrates: "I have heard the Prophet as saying: 'Momin, by goodness of his character, achieves the high position of the one who observes fast and offers prayers." ( Abu Dawood).
Ibn Umar is reported to have narrated: "I have heard the Prophet as saying: 'A Muslim who observes moderation in matter of worship, on account of the goodness of his character and decency achieves the position of that man who observes fast and recites Allah's verses during prayers in the night." (Ahmed)
Abu Huraira has quoted the Prophet as saying: "A Momin's nobility is his religiousness, his tolerance is his intelligence, and his lineage is his goodness of character." (Hakim)
Abu Zar has narrated: "Successful is the man who had purified his heart for faith, kept his heart on the right lines, his tongue was truthful, his self was content, and his nature was on the right path."(Ibn Haban)
The Prophet's Excellent Example
Mere teachings and commands of Do's and Don'ts do not form the foundation of good moral character in a society, because only these things are not sufficient for developing these good qualities in the human nature; a teacher may merely order to do such and such things and not to do such and such things, and the society becomes a moralist society. The teachings of good conduct which is fruitful requires long training and constant watchfulness.
The training cannot be on the right lines if the example before the society is not such that commands full confidence, because a person having a bad moral character cannot leave a good impression on his surroundings.
The best training can be expected only from such a man whose personality, by the force of its morality, would create a scene of admiration in the beholders. They would sing praises of his nobility and feel the irresistible urge to benefit from the example of his life. The world would spontaneously feell the urge to follow his footsteps.
For nourishing and developing more and more excellent good character among his followers it is necessary that the leader must possess higher and nobler character and attributes than his followers.
The holy Prophet himself was the best example of the good moral character, to emulate which he was giving a call to his followers. Before advising them to adopt a moral life by giving sermons and counsels, he was sowing the seeds of morality among his followers by actually living that kind of life.
Abdullah Ibn Amar says: "The Messenger of Allah (p. b. u. h.) was neither ill-mannered nor rude. He used to say that the better people among you are those who are best in their moral character." (Bukhari)
Anas says: "I served the holy Prophet for ten years. He never said 'Uf (expressing dissatisfaction), nor did he ever ask me why I did this or did not do that(Muslim)
It is also reported by him: "My mother used to hold the Prophet's hand and used to take him wherever she wanted. If any person used to come before him and shake his hand, the Prophet never used to draw away his hand from the other person's hands till the latter drew away his hands, and he never used to turn away his face from that person till the latter himself turned away his face. And in the meetings he was never seen squatting in such a way that his knees were protruding further than his fellow-squatters." (Tirmizi)
Hazrat Ayesha says: " If there were two alternatives, the holy Prophet used to adopt the easiest alternative, provided there was no sin in it. If that work were sinful, then he used to run away farthest from it. The prophet did not take any personal revenge from any body. Yes, if Allah's command were to be disobeyed, then his wrath was to be stirred. Allah's Messenger did not beat anybody with his own hands, neither his wife nor a servant. Yes, he used to fight in the wars in the cause of Allah." (Muslim)
Anas has narrated: "I was walking with the Prophet. He had wrapped a thick chadar round his body. One Arab pulled the chadar so forcefully that a part of his shoulder could be seen by me, and I was perturbed by this forceful pulling of the chadar. The Arab then said: '0 Muhammed! Give me some of my share from the property which Allah has given you.' The Prophet turned towards him and laughed, and gave orders for a donation being given to him." (Bukhari)
Hazrat Ayesha has reported that Allah's Messenger has said: "Allah is soft-hearted. He likes soft heartedness. And the reward which He gives for soft-heartedness does not give for hardness, nay, such a reward He does not give for any thing." (Muslim)
In another tradition it is stated: "Softness in whichever thing it may be, will make that thing beautiful. And from whichever thing softness is taken out, it will become ugly." Jarir narrates that the Prophet has said: "The reward which Allah gives for soft-heartedness He does not give it for folly; and when Allah makes any slave His favourite, He gives him softness. Those families that are devoid of softness become deprived of every virtue." (Tibrani)
Abdullah bin Harith has reported that he did not see anybody smiling more than the Messenger of Allah. (Tirmizi)
Hazrat Ayesha was asked what did Prophet do at home? She replied:" He used to be in the service of his home people; and when the time of prayer came he used to perform ablutions and go out for prayer." (Muslim)
Anas has narrated: "Allah's Messenger had the best manners of all the persons. I had an adopted brother, whose name was Abu Umair. He had a sick sparrow, who was called 'Nagheer'. Allah's Messenger used to be playful with him and ask him : '0 Abu Umair! what has happened to your Nagheer'. " (Bukhari)
Of the habits and traits of the Prophet one trait was very well known that he was extremely philanthropic. He was never miserly in anything. He was very brave and courageous. He never turned away from Truth. He was justice, loving. In his own decision he never committed any excesses or injustice. In his whole life he was truthful and an honest trustee.
The same Quran, the same Criterion, the same Yasin, the same Taha
Allah has commanded all the Muslims to follow the excellent habits and the best traits of the Prophet and to take guidance from the holy life of the holy Messenger.
"Surely there is in the person of Allah's .messenger an excellent example for you-for every person who has hope in Allah and the Hereafter and remember, Allah, reciting His name many times." (Ahzab: 21) Qazi A'yaz says that the Prophet was the most excellent-mannered, most philanthropic and the bravest of all. One night cause). They saw that the Prophet was coming from that direction. He had rushed before all others to find out what was the trouble. He was riding the horse of Abu Talha, without a saddle, and a sword was hanging from his neck, and he was comforting the people not to be afraid saying there was nothing to worry.
Hazrat Ali says that in the battles when fighting started, we used to worry much about the Prophet, because nobody was nearer to the enemy in the fighting than the Prophet.
Jabir bin Abdullah says that whenever anything was requested of him, he never said: No.
Hazrat Khadija had told him when he was first blessed with the Divine Revelation: "You carry the loads of the weak people, you earn for the poor, and help a person if any trouble comes to him in following the Truth."
Once he received seventy thousand dirhams. They were placed before him on the mat. He distributed them standing. He did not refuse a single beggar till he finished the entire amount.
A man approached him and requested for something. He said: "At present I do not have anything, buy something in my name, and when we will get some money we will pay for it."
Hazrat Umar stated: "Allah has not made it compulsory for you to do a thing on which you have no power or control." This saddened the Prophet.
One Ansari said: "O Messenger of Allah! Spend and be not afraid of the straitened circumstances imposed by Allah."
The Prophet smiled and his face shone resplendently. He said: "I have been commanded to do this only."
The holy Prophet used to love his companions. He did not hate them. He respected every respectable man from any other nation, and he used to appoint him as a responsible officer over them. He used to be in search of his companions and gave them their shares. No companion thought that any other person was more respectable in the Prophet's eye than the companion himself.
Any person who adopted his companionship or anybody who came to him for his need, he used to advise him to be patient, till he was satisfied. If anybody asked anything from him, he gave it to him or else talked to him so lovingly that he came back satisfied. The river of his kindness was flowing for every body. For his companions he was a guardian, and in matters of Truth all were equal in his eyes.
He was good-looking, decent, humble and soft hearted. He was not a narrow-minded and a hard person. Quarrelling was not his habit. He never spoke obscene words. To condemn others or to praise some one excessively was beyond the pale of his character. He expressed indifference towards unnecessary things, but he was never given to pessimism.
Hazrat Ayesha says that there was none who possessed a better moral character than the Prophet. Whenever his friends or his home people called him, he readily responded.
Jarir bin Abdullah says: "Since the time I became a Muslim, the Prophet did not prevent me from entering (the house); whenever he looked at me, he smiled."
He used to exchange repartees with his companions, mix up with them freely, and tried to be nearer to them. He played with their children and took them in his lap.
Invitation from free men, male or female slaves, or poor persons were acceptable to him. He visited the ailing and invalid persons in the far-flung areas of Medina. He accepted the excuses of the really helpless people.
Anas says that if any person who whispered anything into his ears, he never removed his ear from his mouth unless the whisperer himself withdrew his mouth. Whenever anybody held his hand, he never tried to withdraw his hand unless the other man withdrew his. He always used to be the first to salute anyone who met him or to be first to shake hands with his companions. He never stretched his legs in the midst of his companions so that they may not be inconvenienced.
Whoever came to him was duly respected by him. Many times he used to spread his cloth for the visitor, and used to place the cushion which was in his use behind the visitor's back. If the visitor were reluctant to lit on the cloth, he used to insist.
He gave new family names to his companions. In their honour, he used to call them by beautiful names. He never used to interrupt anybody's talk till the speaker either stopped or stood up.
Anas narrates that if anybody brought a present to the Prophet he used to ask him to take it to a particular house Hazrat Ayesha says: "I was not jealous of any woman, nor did I feel any ill will towards Khadija, as I used to hear of her repeatedly from the Prophet. If any goat were slaughtered, he used to send it to her friends' house as a present. Once her sister asked for permission to come in. He was very pleased to see her.
A woman came to him and spoke endearingly of Khadija and asked questions about her lovingly. When she went away, he said: "This woman used to come during Khadija's time. Good relationship is a sign of faith".
He treated his relatives kindly, but he did not give them preference over better persons.
Abu Qatawa has reported that when a delegation of Najashi came to the Prophet, he rose for serving them. His companions told him that they were sufficient to serve them. He replied:
"They had honoured our companions, therefore I personally want to serve them."
Abu Usama has narrated that once the Messenger of Allah went among his companions leaning on a cane and his companions stood up. The Prophet said: "Do not stand up. Do not adopt the system of these Non Arabs who stand up to pay respect to one another."
He said:"I am a slave of Allah; I eat as other people eat, and I sit as other people sit." When he rode a mule, he allowed some one else to ride behind him. He used to visit poor invalids. He allowed the beggars to sit in his meetings. He mixed up freely with his companions. Where the meeting was over, he used to sit there.
The Prophet once performed Hajj on a cheap Kajawa on the back of a camel on which an old, torn chadar was spread, whose cost could be at the most four dirhams. He said: "O Allah I This is my Hajj in which there is neither hypocrisy nor show."
When Makkah was conquered and the Muslim soldiers entered the city, the Prophet was riding a camel and his head was bowed down in humility, so much 80 that it appeared that his head was touching a part of the kajawa.
He was of a quiet nature. He never talked without necessity. And if anybody talked with a wry face, he used to be indifferent to him and ignored him.
His smile was his laughter. His talk was straight and direct, in which there was no excess. His companions, in his honour and in following him, considered it sufficient to smile in his presence.
His meetings manifested a spirit of tolerance, trusteeship, honesty, virtue and righteousness. Voices were not raised there and no back-biting was allowed therein.
Whenever he opened his mouth to speak, his companions used to keep silent, as if birds were perched on their heads.
When he walked, it was with a balanced gait. There was neither fright nor haste in his gait, nor was there laziness.
Ibn Abi Hala says: "His silence was on account of tolerance, far-sightedness, estimation and thinking and contemplating."
Hazrat Ayesha says that he talked in such a way that if anybody wanted to count the words, he could do so.
The Messenger of Allah liked fragrance and used perfumes many times.
The world was presented to him with all her allurements and amusements. Victories were won by his armies, but he was indifferent to luxuries and pleasures. He died in such a condition that his armour was pledged to a Jew.http://archive.islamkashmir.org/radiant-reality/nov-2006.htm#10.%20An%20Ideal%20Personality
Analysis: More than Bad Rulers and Corrupt Societies
Posted: 18 Safar 1424, 20 April 2003
In the past centuries the Muslim world was much more integrated than we realize. It was one social, cultural, religious and economic domain. Its language, system of education, currency, and laws were the same.
When British journalist Robert Fisk said that in the face of disaster Arabs act like mice, he was being polite. He could have said that the Muslims act like mice. The question is why?
It is easy and customary to blame the current Muslim rulers for this sorry situation. No doubt the Iraq invasion would not have been possible without their acquiescence and support. If they refused to open their lands, waterways, and airspace to the invasion, it could not have taken place. Neither would the slaughters in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosova, Kashmir, Chechnya, and Palestine have been possible if the Muslim rulers had their act together. But was it only because the Muslim rulers happened to be immoral, coward, and unscrupulous characters? Is the 1.2 billion strong Ummah suffering only because there are fifty-four corrupt persons who are ruling it?
These rulers do not carry out all their plans personally. They have armies of compliant soldiers, bureaucrats, and other staffers at every level of government that do the dirty work. Further the societies at large produce, nurture, and sustain the corrupt machinery of the corrupt governments. As we continue our investigation, we find that our problem is corruption; not only of the rulers but also of the ruled. Today we have strayed from the Shariah in our personal lives; we lie, cheat, steal at a higher rate than ever before; we exploit and oppress in our small spheres. In short, our problems are caused by our moral corruption.
But there is something more. And it is getting scant attention in the Muslim discourse.
Islam teaches us the correctness of belief is even more important than correctness of deeds. There is an implied message here: The corruption of ideas is far more devastating than the corruption of actions. This may be happening here. We complain about the particular tribal leaders that happen to be there today but forget about the tribalism that sits at the root of all this. This tribalism of the nation-states has been enshrined into the constitutions, legal structures, bureaucracies, and the entire apparatus of government in every Muslim country. Its language and thinking, though anathema to Islam, has gained widespread acceptance. While we condemn its outcome, we do not sufficiently examine or challenge the system itself.
We complain about the particular tribal leaders that happen to be there today but forget about the tribalism that sits at the root of all this
We constantly talk about the Muslim brotherhood and the need for Muslim unity. We assert that Muslims are one Ummah. Simultaneously --- and without much thought --- we embrace the symbols, ideas, and dictates of its exact opposite. We have lived under our nation-states, celebrated our national days, and sang our national anthems all our lives. As a result the realization that the gap between the idea of the nation-state and that of one Ummah is wider than can be patched with good leaders of individual nation-states does not occur easily. We do not realize that we may be trying to simultaneously ride two different boats going in opposite directions.
So let us consider some real life situations. In Pakistan, the provinces of Sind and Punjab share the Indus River. Available water is less than their combined needs and Punjab is situated upstream while Sind is downstream. Quite naturally, there is constant bickering over the distribution of water. The conflict is resolved by the presence of a central government and by the realization that both provinces belong to the same country. Now imagine that the two provinces had been transformed into two separate countries. We can be certain that the small issue that no body in the world knows about or cares about today would become a big international conflict. And it may matter little whether they were called Islamic Republic of Punjab and the Islamic Republic of Sind! The logic of a sovereign country is very different and once you embrace that there are consequences that good intentions and good people alone cannot overcome.
When completed Turkey's Southeast Anatolia Project, (GAP in Turkey) will reduce water supply to Syria by 50% and to Iraq by 90%, selling it instead to Israel through the so-called Peace Pipeline. A comparable situation would be Punjab denying water to Sind and then selling it to India.
To understand that let us move from the Indus basin to the Furat-Dijla (Euphrates-Tigris) basin. What is presented as a hypothetical situation in the former has been turned into an unfortunate reality in the latter. Both Dijla and Furat originate in Turkey, pass through Syria, and end up in Iraq where they join to form the Shat-al Arab that then discharges into the Persian Gulf. Mesopotamia means the land between the two rivers, the two rivers having been the source of civilization since the ancient times. Add the artificial international borders between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, and the same life giving water turns into an explosive that could rock the area. In 1974 there was a near war between Syria and Iraq as Syria began to fill the reservoir that has become Lake Asad, decreasing the flow of the river to Iraq to as little as 25 percent of the normal rate. Armies were moved and threats were exchanged, though finally diplomatic activity by the Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia defused the situation. In 1990 tensions ran high as Turkey stopped all flow in Furat for one complete month as it started to fill the Ataturk Dam.
Today Turkey's Southeast Anatolia Project, (GAP in Turkey) is promising a much more serious conflict in the days to come. The multi-billion dollar GAP includes more than 20 dams and 17 electric power plants, which will reduce water supply to Syria by 50% and to Iraq by 90% when it is completed in another twenty years. Even more bizarre is the plan Turkey has for part of the water that it denies to Syria and Iraq seriously endangering their agriculture and economies; it will sell it to Israel through the so-called Peace Pipeline that will run through the Mediterranean. The agreement with Israel was signed in 2001. "We have declared that we can sell water to whichever country needs water, regardless of its language or flag," said Cumhur Ersumer, Turkey's energy minister at that time. "It looks like Israel will be the first country to buy Turkey's water." That is the logic of the nation-state as articulated by Suleyman Demirel: "Neither Syria or Iraq can lay claim to Turkey's rivers any more than Ankara could claim their oil. This is a matter of sovereignty."
We can be sure that accountants in Turkey can show that Turkey will benefit economically by doing what it plans to do. And even a so-called Islamist party in Turkey will be driven by those calculations pledging, as it does, allegiance to "Turkish national interests." A comparable situation would be Punjab denying water to Sind and then selling it to India. No matter how corrupt leaders in Pakistan become (if they have not already reached the limit) it is just impossible to imagine that outcome. And yet the same situation is not only possible, it is there in the other case. Such are the wonders of the corrupt ideology of nation-state!
Conflicts of interest between any two entities are normal and natural. What is crucial is the mechanism and structure for resolving them. Islamic laws of inheritance highlight this fact. Conflicts could develop even among close relatives over distribution of inheritance. Since Islam values very smooth relations and does not like even the slightest bickering there, the Shariah has provided the detailed rules for this distribution. Neither the people involved, nor the government can override this distribution. Thus a solid mechanism has been provided for resolution of these conflicts.
In case of two provinces of the same country, the mechanism for the resolution of their conflicts remains in the form of the central government as well as firm realization on the part of everyone that they are riding the same boat. However when they turn into independent countries, both of these are lost.
How the definition of the self-interest can change with a change in the frame of reference can be seen through another example. When the US gave the Pakistani ruler the choice of either joining the invader or joining the target he did not hesitate for a minute to choose the first option. It can be criticized as much as one wants, but the fact remains that under the frame of reference under which Pakistan and all Muslim countries operate today, that was an option. But can we imagine the US demanding, or Pakistan conceding the support for attacking Baluchistan? This would clearly be seen as preposterous by everyone. As far as the Shariah is concerned, the two situations are exactly alike. But in the system of nation-states they are not.
The gap between the idea of the nation-state and that of one Ummah is wider than can be patched with good leaders of individual nation-states
That the opposition to what the Pakistani president did was manageable is also a reflection of the fact that Muslims the world over have generally and unwittingly bought into the philosophy of this nationalism.
The imposition of embargo on Afghanistan and Iraq is another example of the clash between Islam and the nation-state. Islam teaches that it is not a believer who eats while his neighbor goes to bed hungry. The system of the UN on the other hand, ordered its member-states not to supply any food or medicine to those dying of hunger and disease in Iraq. Again, the fact that Muslim countries have complied with the latter without any consternation or serious opposition is a reminder of our subconscious acceptance of the nationalist ideology.
We can see why world Muslims acted like mice in the face of disaster. The Qur'an warned us not to engage in disputes and infighting or we would become weak and powerless. But we have not only done the exact opposite, we have given a permanent structure and legal cover to the arrangement for that infighting in the current political organization of the Muslim domain.
This exposition of the ideology of nation-state invariably faces a mental block; namely that all this is impossible. This argument runs like this. We had a Khilafah centuries ago. Since then we have had a checkered history of nominal Khalifah, Sultans, and Nawabs running their own kingdoms and fiefdoms. Today we have fifty-four states and there is no way we can change that in our life times. Yes and no. While we had more then one centers of political power for centuries, the Muslim world was much more integrated then than we realize. It was one social, cultural, religious and economic domain. Its language, system of education, currency, and laws were the same. There were no restrictions on travel, or movement of capital or goods. A Muslim could take up residence and start a business or get a job anywhere. Ibn Batuta traveled from Tunisia to Hijaz, East Africa, India, Malaya, and China, covering 75000 miles without traveling the same road twice. During the twenty-five year journey he took up residence where he wanted to; got even government assignments as Qadi and even as ambassador in China for the Sultan in India. If that was possible then, it should be easier now because of the huge advances in the communication and transportation technologies alone.
The corruption of ideas is far more devastating than the corruption of actions.
No one is suggesting that we can dismantle the fifty-four Muslim governments overnight and replace them with a Khilafah. But we can gradually breakdown the barriers between the Muslim states in travel, trade, and all exchanges at personal levels. With free flow of people, goods, capital, and ideas throughout the Muslim domain, a quite revolution can begin. We could realize that this domain is much more self-sufficient and strong then we have ever realized. That its various parts complement each other's needs and strengthen each other. That it is the artificial borders between Muslim lands drawn by colonial powers that have terribly weakened it!
While we recognize that the barriers to that vision are real and very serious, we must also realize that the most serious barriers are mental and psychological. We must break through the mental straitjacket and realize that another world is possible. Only then we will begin to see how to get there. It may take a generation or many generations. But we will never get there if we do not know that is where we want to go. Today sometimes Muslims say out of frustration that Muslim governments should form their own United Nations. The suggestion does capture our deep desire for unity as well as our deep running confusion about it. For it has one s too many. The Islamic discourse should be about a United Nation of theirs and not United Nations.
“In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
From Muhammad, the Messenger of Allâh to Chosroes, king of Persia.
Peace be upon him who follows true guidance, believes in Allâh and His Messenger and testifies that there is no god but Allâh Alone with no associate, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. I invite you to accept the religion of Allâh. I am the Messenger of Allâh sent to all people in order that I may infuse fear of Allâh in every living person, and that the charge may be proved against those who reject the Truth. Accept Islam as your religion so that you may live in security, otherwise, you will be responsible for all the sins of the Magians.”
‘Abdullah bin Hudhafa As-Sahmi was chosen to carry the letter. Abdullah got his camel ready and bade farewell to his wife and son. He set out, alone, and traversed mountains and valleys until he reached the land of the Persians.
He sought permission to enter into the king's presence informing the guards of the letter he was carrying. Khusraw Parvez thereupon ordered his audience chamber to be made ready and summoned his prominent aides. When they had assembled he gave permission for Abdullah to enter.
Abdullah entered and saw the Persian potentate dressed in delicate, flowing robes and wearing a great, neatly arranged turban. On Abdullah was the plain, coarse clothes of the bedouin. His head though was held high and his feet were firm. The honor of Islam burned fiercely in his breast and the power of faith pulsated in his heart.
As soon as Khusraw Parvez saw him approaching he signalled to one of his men to take the letter from his hand.
"No," said Abdullah. 'The Prophet commanded me to hand over this letter to you directly and I shall not go against a command of the Messenger of God."
"Let him come near to me," Khusraw said to his guards and Abdullah went forward and handed over the letter. Khusraw then called an Arab clerk who originally came from Hira and ordered him to open the letter in his presence and read its contents. He began reading:
"In the name of Allah, the Beneficent the Merciful. From Muhammad, the Messenger of God, to Khusraw the ruler of Persia. Peace on whoever follows the guidance . . ."
Khusraw only heard this much of the letter when the fire of anger burst within him. His face became red and he began to perspire around the neck. He snatched the letter from the clerk's hand and began tearing it to pieces without knowing what else it contained and shouted, "Does he dare to write to me like this, he who is my slave". He was angry that the Prophet had not given him precedence in his letter. He then commanded Abdullah to be expelled from his assembly.
Abdullah was taken away, not knowing what would happen to him. Would he be killed or would he be set free? But he did not want to wait to find out. He said, "By God, I don't care what happens to me after the letter of the Prophet has been so badly treated." He managed to get to his camel and rode off.
When Khusraw's anger had subsided he commanded that Abdullah be brought before him. But Abdullah was nowhere to be found. They searched for him all the way to the Arabian peninsula but found that he had gone ahead.
Back in Madinah, Abdullah told the Prophet how Khusraw had torn his letter to pieces and the Prophet's only reply was, "May God tear up his kingdom".
Meanwhile, Khusraw wrote to Badhan, his deputy in the Yemen, to send two strong men to "that man who has appeared in the Hijaz" with orders to bring him to Persia.
Badhan dispatched two of his strongest men to the Prophet and gave them a letter to him in which he was ordered to go with the two men to meet Khusraw without delay. Badhan also asked the two men to get whatever information they could on the Prophet and to study his message closely.
The men set out, moving very quickly. At Taif they met some Quraysh traders and asked them about Muhammad. "He is in Yathrib," they said and they went on to Makkah feeling extremely happy. This was good news for them and they went around telling other Quraysh, "You will be pleased. Khusraw is out to get Muhammad and you will be rid of his evil."
The two men meanwhile made straight for Madinah where they met the Prophet, handed him the letter of Badhan and said to him, "The king of kings, Khusraw, has written to our ruler Badhan to send his men to get you. We have come to take you with us. If you come willingly, Khusraw has said that it will be good for you and he will spare you any punishment. If you refuse, you will know the power of his punishment. He has power to destroy you and your people."
The Prophet smiled and said to them, "Go back to your mounts today and return tomorrow."
On the following day, they came to the Prophet and said to him, "Are you prepared to go with us to meet Khusraw?"
"You shall not meet Khusraw after today," replied the Prophet. "God has killed him and his son Shirwaih has taken his place on such a night and on such a month."
The two men stared in the face of the Prophet. They were completely dumbfounded.
"Do you know what you are saying?" they asked. "Shall we write about this to Badhan?"
"Yes," replied the Prophet, "and say to him that my religion has informed me about what has happened to the Kingdom of Khusraw and that if he should become Muslim, I would appoint him ruler over what he now controls".
The two men returned to the Yemen and told Badhan what had happened. Badhan said, "If what Muhammad has said is true, then he is a Prophet. If not then we shall see what happens to him."
Not long afterwards a letter from Shirwaih came to Badhan in which he said, "I killed Khusraw because of his tyranny against our people. He regarded as lawful the killing of leaders, the capturing of their women and the expropriating of their wealth. When this my letter reaches you, take the allegiance of whoever is with you on my behalf."
As soon as Badhan had read Shirwaih's letter, he threw it aside and announced his entry into Islam. The Persians with him in the Yemen also became Muslim.
That's the story of Abdullah ibn Hudhafah's meeting with the Persian king. His meeting with the Byzantine emperor took place during the caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khattab. It too is an astonishing story.
In the nineteenth year after the Hijrah, Umar dispatched an army to fight against the Byzantine. In it was Abdullah ibn Hudhafah. News of the Muslim force reached the Byzantine emperor. He had heard of their sincerity of faith, and their willingness to sacrifice their lives in the way of God and His Prophet. He gave orders to his men to bring to him any Muslim captive they might take alive.
God willed that Abdullah ibn Hudhafah should fall captive to the Byzantines and he was brought before the Emperor. The Emperor looked at Abdullah for a long time. Suddenly he said, "I shall make a proposal to you."
"What is it?" asked Abdullah. "I suggest that you become a Christian. If you do this, you will be set free and I shall grant you a safe refuge." The prisoner's reaction was furious: "Death is preferable to me a thousand times to what you ask me to do."
"I see that you are a bold man. However, if you respond positively to what I propose to you, I will give you a share in my authority and swear you in as my aide."
The prisoner, shackled in his chains, smiled and said, "By God, if you give me all that you possess and all that the Arabs have in exchange for giving up the religion of Muhammad, I shall not do so."
"Then I shall kill you."
"Do what you want," answered Abdullah.
The emperor then had him put on a cross and ordered his soldiers to throw spears at him, first near his hands and then near his feet, all the while telling him to accept Christianity or at least give up his religion. This he refused over and over again to do.
The emperor then had him taken down from the wooden cross. He called for a great pot to be brought. This was filled with oil which was then heated under a fierce fire. He then had two other Muslim prisoners brought and had one of them thrown into the boiling oil. The prisoner's flesh sizzled and soon his bones could be seen. The emperor turned to Abdullah and invited him to Christianity.
This was the most terrible test that Abdullah had to face up till now. But he remained firm and the emperor gave up trying. He then ordered that Abdullah too be thrown into the pot. As he was being taken away he began to shed tears. The emperor thought that he had at last been broken and had him brought back to him. He once more suggested that Abdullah become a Christian but to his astonishment, Abdullah refused.
"Damn you! Why did you weep then?" shouted the emperor.
"I cried," said Abdullah, "because I said to myself 'You will now be thrown into this pot and your soul will depart'. What I really desired then was to have as many souls as the number of hairs on my body and to have all of them thrown into this pot for the sake of God."
The tyrant then said, "Will you kiss my head? I will then set you free?"
"And all the Muslim prisoners also?" asked Abdullah.
This the emperor agreed to do and Abdullah said to himself, "One of the enemies of God! I shall kiss his head and he shall set me and all other Muslim prisoners free. There can be no blame on me for doing this." He then went up to the emperor and kissed his forehead. All the Muslim prisoners were released and handed over to Abdullah.
Abdullah ibn Hudhafah eventually came to Umar ibn al-Khattab and told him what had happened. Umar was greatly pleased and when he looked at the prisoners he said, "Every Muslim has a duty to kiss the head of Abdullah ibn Khudhafah and I shall start." Umar then got up and kissed the head of Abdullah ibn Hudhafah .