November 1996: Page 1, 2, 3, 4

Submitters Perspective

Page 2


Cont’d from page 1

fall of the Muslims; and the way out of this impasse.

I am convinced that the time has come for the Muslim community and their intelligentsia to critically re-evaluate the whole heritage of traditional Islamic thought, including theology and jurisprudence. This is because the traditional formulation was made by the society and intelligentsia of that time in accordance with their knowledge and level of understanding, and conforming to needs of that time. Now the situation has changed tremendously and there is no doubt that the traditional formulation must be reconsidered.

Since the emergence of the modern reformism movement of Jamaluddin al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh and Rashid Ridha at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, many studies have been made on the decline and fall of the Muslims. These include the works of thinkers like Iqbal, Malek Bennabi and Fazlur Rahman. However, the condition of the Muslim community has not changed very much and continues to be precarious. In comparison with other communities, especially those in Europe, United States, Russia and Japan, the Muslim community is the most backward, especially in socio-economic, scientific, technological and military fields.

What are the reasons for this backwardness? From the point of view of numbers, the Muslims, now more than a billion, have outnumbered the Christians, and from the point of view of natural resources, Muslim countries are among the richest in the world. Why, with such vast resources and possessing an infallible divine scripture, are the Muslims unable to compete with and surpass other nations?

This situation is exactly the opposite of the situation of their early ancestors who, within a short period of time, climbed the heights of success and created a great world empire and a great world civilization. These early successes which had astounded the world must have had their

reasons based on the laws of historical change. What are those reasons? This is the greatest challenge facing Muslim intelligentsia at the close of the twentieth century and on the threshold of the twenty-first: to seek the true causes of Muslim decline and thereby to lay the ground for a new Muslim Renaissance.

As we have said, this study and review of our traditional formulation must encompass classical theology and jurisprudence. The hadith, of course, is at the core of these traditional disciplines.

Our present knowledge points to many factors that contribute to the rise and fall of nations, factors that are ideological, political, economic, social, cultural, historical, psychological, demographic, geographical, scientific, technological and military in nature. But it is also quite certain that within this pluralism of factors, not all play equally important roles. Technology can surmount geographical limitations; military strategy can overcome numbers; political leadership can offset economic weakness, and so on. Turning to the Quran as our infallible guide, we find the following statements that can give us a clue to the understanding of the problem under discussion.

Surely, God does not change the condition of any people until they them-selves change. (13:11)

That is because God does not change the blessings He had bestowed upon any people, unless they themselves change. (8:53)

If only the previous generations had some intelligent people who enjoined them from corruption, they would have been saved. But We saved a few of them, while the rest pursued their material things and became sinners. Your Lord never destroys any community unjustly while the people are righteous. (11:116-117)

We will surely give victory to our messengers and to those who believe, both in this life and on the day the witnesses are raised. (40:51)

You shall never waver, nor shall you worry; you are guaranteed victory for as long as you are believers.(3:139)

All the above Quranic statements point to a people’s ideology as the most important component in the determination of their fate. This means that insofar as a people is imbued with a scientific, dynamic and progressive ideology, that far will it climb the ladder of success. Conversely, insofar as a people revert to a previously held anti-scientific, static and regressive ideology, that far will it degenerate. The strong unambiguous statements about victory being granted to believers in both worlds necessarily follow from the definition of believers as those possessing and practicing the true scientific ideology.

Basing ourselves on this premise, we can make the following hypothesis. The rapid rise of the Arab nation from its dark period of paganism prior to Muhammad to become the most powerful and civilized nation in the world then, within a short period of time, is due to the new, inspiring, powerful and dynamic Islamic ideology of monotheism brought by Muhammad. The Arabs, under his and his immediate successors’ leadership, discarded their erstwhile polytheism and superstitions. They united to fight and struggle under the guidance of the Quran and set up a just social order. Because this struggle was based on divine truth and justice as contained in the Quran, it was invincible. It also gave rise to a great social movement, bringing forth with it outstanding political, military and intellectual leaders who helped to create the first scientific-spiritual culture in history.
This hypothesis, in contrast to the modernist or the traditionalist theses, appears to be the most helpful in our effort to understand the history and the decline of the Muslims. The modernist thesis, in brief, states that the Muslims declined because they have remained traditional and have not modernized themselves according to Western secular values. The traditionalist thesis, on the other hand, blames the secularization of Muslim societies and the neglect of orthodox Muslim teachings as the major cause of Muslim decline.

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