21 March 2010

The Ideological Foundation of Our Activism

The Ideological Foundation of Our Activism

Suhail K.K

The most important peculiarity of our movement is that it does not perceive Islam as a ‘mere religion’. Socially engaging philosophy is one of the most important features of Islam. An ideology which lays the foundations for all domains of civilisation. A theology which could be best defined as a complete code of life. An ideology which keeps the balance between individual and society; here and hereafter.

Even worships in Islam includes engaging with society.

Even the worships in Islam instead of being mere ‘individual spiritual satisfaction’ have got social dimensions. Besides sawab, salat is meant to create changes in individual and society. “Salat stops you from fawahish (indecent deeds) and munkar (evil).”

Salat is ‘individual conversation with God Almighty’. This can better be observed with the feeling of maximum spirituality if offered standing alone in a dark room. But Islam teaches us to observe all the five times Salat in congregation embedded with society.

Even while the chanting and duas in salat are silently whispered such that it could be heard only by ourselves, it crosses all boundaries of selfishness and are for the brothers across the world and for the whole mankind.

Nowhere in the entire Qur’an can we find a single verse which mentions the number of raqa’ats of obligatory Salats. But at the contrary, 3 ayats of the precise and compact Qur’an are of the mannerisms of walking on earth (25:63, 31:18, 31:19).

Prophetic tradition

Islam has actually reconstructed religion on new grounds. ‘Religion’ was and is meant only for spiritual appraisal and personal satisfaction. A religious person was meant to be always on worships and religious rituals, totally cut from social realities. We could see that the unbelievers were astonished to see a person who claims to be the Prophet of God walking through the streets (25:7). The verses revealed at the very beginning of Prophet Muhammad’s mission were to come out of loneliness (Ch: 73, 74). He never went to the loneliness of caves again.

Once Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) while in a conversation with a group who came back from hajj were asked about their leader (ameer). The said he is a good leader who always have been in Tahleel and Takbeer. Prophet asked who prepared food for him and fed his camel. They replied they did it. Prophet said: “You all are better than him”.

History of 25 prophets was also the history of social engagement of Islam in 25 different circumstances. All the societies addressed by these prophets had developed their own concept of life and in accordance, their own ways of living all based on ‘Shirk’. The prophets addressed not only their misguided believes but also the unfair trends in the society which is obviously based on their misguided believes. Prophet Shuaib addressed unfair trade practices (11:87), Prophet Swalih against luxurious living and construction of royal housing complexes (26:128-130,149-152), Prophet Ibrahim (2:258) and Prophet Moosa (28:1-6) against anti-human and imperial governance based on oppression and injustice, Prophet Looth (7:80-82) against immoral sexual practices and Prophet Muhammad (88:12-16, 83:1-3, 89:15-20, 102:1-3, 96:6-7, Imasa 1-3, 107:1-7) are only some of the examples from the prophetic history. Though the religious clergies and priests supported and strengthened the authorities, the Prophets of Almighty stood against them for justice and liberation. It was the oppressed who became the first followers in all times.

As an Islamic movement, our struggles are guided and powered by these legendary prophetic and Qur’anic traditions. Our creed ‘La ilaha illallah’ has been exemplified in the glorious Qur’an as a fruit giving tree.

Quran says: Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky? It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded. (14:24-25).

The shade and fruits of a tree are not for any specific section of a society. It is benefited by everyone irrespective of caste, religion, creed, colour and sex. It is not even limited to the human beings. It is part and parcel of the universe as an entity. It gave its fruits in the form of science, art, culture and politics.

Islam throughout the history especially in its golden periods has been manifested in this form. But it was in the colonial periods when Muslims started to perceive Islam as a mere religion, which has got nothing to do with society, culture, arts, politics and other spectrums of civilisation. This was the result of indoctrination of western secularism which separated church and state, upon the Muslim world by the colonial powers. If we start to manifest only the spiritual aspect of Islam, then we are actually representing secularism, not Islam.

Representation of Islam in Society:-

Representation of the values of Islam was Dawah in the prophetic periods. When Hazrat Aisha (Prophet’s wife) was asked of Prophet’s manners, she said: “His manners were the Qur’an. He was a Qur’an walking on earth”. A hadith which says of the mission of prophet teaches us: “I have been sent to perfect good manners”.

Never in the prophetic history has dissecting other religious scriptures been a significant part of dawat. It can be adopted as one of the very minute tools of dawa. But a mind-set being nurtured in the Muslim ummat is that propagation of Islam is by quoting scriptural texts of the ‘opponent’. In reality prophetic Dawa was ‘organic’. Prophet and the Swahabas ‘lived Islam’ and stood for the noble values of Qur’an. This was Dawah. Who ever witnessed it and touched it with their minds and souls, they accepted it. Therefore major part of Dawah must be to represent Islam by our deeds and acts and secondly present Islam in the most appropriate, attractive and beautiful way.

Prophet Muhammad was going somewhere through the desert at noon. He saw an old woman carrying luggage on her head. Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) helped her and took the luggage from the woman and carried it for her. Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) asked the woman that where she was going and why? She said that I am leaving this town as I have heard that a magician named Muhammad (S.A.W) is in town. As Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) was very patient and kind, he (S.A.W) didn't say a word and kept listening. When they reached the destination, Muhammad (S.A.W) put down the bag and was about to leave when the old woman said, "O, kind person! Atleast tell me your name!". Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) replied, "I am the person because of whom you left the town." The old lady was amazed to listen that and said that such a kind, helping and true person can never be wrong and therefore she also accepted Islam.

Bilal was an Ethiopian slave who had never been looked upon by any one as a human. He was not only the victim of slavery system but also of racial oppression. Prophet Muhammad turned towards him and walked closer and closer and touched his chest with right hand. That was the moment he experienced the warmth of love, affection and mercy for the first time in his life. He accepted Islam and was freed from slavery. In Islam he experienced equity and justice. He was given the grand honour of being the muezzin of Masjid-al-Haram.

Umayr Ibn Wahab goes to Madinah to assassinate Prophet Muhammad. On seeing the prophet’s and Swahaba’s behaviour and etiquettes, embraces Islam and returns to Makkah as a Muslim missionary.

The advent of Islam into India was at the very beginning of the Islamic age; in the 7th century when Cheraman Perumal a king of south India accepted Islam and met to Arabia and met Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W). It was in the 8th century that Malik Ibn Dinar and his swahabas came to India for the propagation of Islam. The ‘missionaries’ addressed the issue of inequality in the society – the issue of caste system. The people around were impressed about Islam’s concept of quality and justice. The mass reverts in the initial ages were mainly from the lower castes because of the liberation aspect of Islam.

Struggle for the values of Islam - Inevitable part of Islamic representation.

Justice, equality, loyalty, truthfulness and forgiveness etc. are great values of Islam which the modern world desperately thirsts for. The warmth of Islam must be felt by the society around us. It is not what we say which is important but what the propagate (Mad’u) feels regarding us by our acts which is more important. Actions speak louder than words. This is the form of Dawah which need to be spread in the present world. If so, each one in the Muslim ummah will become a Da’ee.

Injustice is the most vital feature of the modern times. Unlimited concentration of wealth and resources to a very few number of people is the identity of capitalism at all times. Qur’anic concept of wealth flow is that it must circulate in the society. Qur’an says: “...Inorder that it may not circulate between the wealthy among you” (59:7) Karun is an iconic representation of capitalism in Qur’an (28:76-83). Firaon and Namrood are the icons of imperialism in Quran. Even life and death of people were in their hands (28:3-5, 2:258). Concentration of wealth, luxurious living, destructive (fasad) activities backed by power, thanklessness to the real Owner of wealth, arrogance and believing that the life here is the ultimate were some of their characteristic features. Injustice and oppression was what the weaker amongst them had to face. All these are literally applicable to the imperial power centres and society of this era. The features of a society where wealth is erected in place of God is discussed in Qur’an which completely suits the present world (11:87, 89:20, 104:2-3, 41:6-7, 70:25, 51:19, 107:1-7, 90:11-20, 74:44 etc)

The prophets of that time were not ‘depoliticised’ or adopt a ‘dispassionate attitude’ to the social and political state of affairs. The mission of prophets in the above mentioned socio-political realities is mentioned in Qur’an:

Regarding Prophet Moosa’s mission: “And We desired to show favour unto those who were oppressed in the earth, and to make them examples and to make them the inheritors” (28:5)

Prophet Muhammad’s mission: “He (Muhammad) will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong. He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul; and he will relieve them of their burden and the fetters that they used to wear”. (7:157)

Standing for Justice, raising voice against the unjust social practices, uplifting of the oppressed and empowering them to be part of the society were all part of the prophetic mission.

It is a fact that it is because of this nature of Islam of not tolerating oppression and injustice that both, anti-colonial struggle against the Portuguese in 16th Century (Shaykh Zainuddin Makhdum’s (RA) “Tuhfat al-Mujahidin” which gave qur’anic inspiration to struggle against Portuguese is very popular) and the anti-British colonial struggle in 1921 were started by the Muslims.

Non-Muslim brothers who wish to witness the positive social changes of Iqamatuddin were at many a times part of prophet’s and follower’s efforts. The Quranic teaching (5:2, 60:8) was the guidance. At the same time the nature and extent of co-operation differs according to circumstances.

· Under the leadership of Abu Twalib the non-Muslims of Banu Hashim except Abu Lahab helped prophet to a great extent. They even had experienced all the hardships that the Muslims had to face at the time of sanctions by Quraish. The year of the death of Abu Twalib who was not a Muslim was observed as the year of sorrow by Prophet Muhammad.

· Prophet Muhammad sent Abbas as his representative for Akaba agreement. Abbas was not amongst the people who embraced Islam at that time.

· Halful Fulool is another example of non-Muslim participation in prophet’s mission to establish justice. Since this group was formed in Makkah before the prophecy, Prophet Muhammad later said: “When I was invited to the residence of Abdullah Ibn Ja’dan (for the agreement) I received satisfaction and happiness to such an extent that I will not receive even by getting a red camel. I will accept the invitation even if I get invited after the prophecy”.

· In an Islamic state it is not obligatory for non-Muslims to be part of the defence force. But as per Islamic law, if any one voluntarily wishes to be part of it he must be welcomed and his Jizya must be exempted.

· Amr Ibn Umayyatidamri was a non-Muslim who was appointed as prophet’s ambassador to Abyssinia. (For more, refer my article: ‘Representation of Islam in Plural Society’)

Many examples can be sited from the Islamic history where Non-Muslim brothers were too joined with the Muslim society for the cause of establishing Islamic Values. Suitable work culture must be formulated when we work in a country with predominant non-Muslim population. The breaking of communal compartmentalisation must be part of our efforts. This is only possible if communities come closer to each other on at least common issues.


Islam is against using muscle power for social change (4:171, 5:77). Therefore it is never part of our activities. In the present situation, the method of social change is by democratic means. Social change by democratic means is only possible by making the public opinion in favour of Islam. The general mind-set of mass will change only by a change in perception of Islam and Muslims. Therefore Dawah, Tazkiyya, public awareness, social activism, struggle and service are the means adopted by us.

For an efficient worker in Islamic movement the concept of Islam as an ideology, the realities of society and time, our mission, strategy and its priorities must be clear. The asset with us in this struggle is Iman (Belief), Ilm (knowledge) and Dua. Above all what we need is a truthful and ideal personal life. The four things that must be strictly observed in our personal life in this path are Ikhlas (purity of mind), Ihsan, Ihtisab and Tawakkul. Let us work hard for a better tomorrow. Surely Allah will help us.

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