The Technique of Islamic Movement
I shall now explain to you in a brief historical survey the way in which the foundation of social life have to be changed and reconstructed in order to bring about an Islamic Revolution and the special technique by which this goal can be reached.
In reality Islam is a movement which seeks to build up the structure of human society on the conception of Divine sovereignty. The movement has followed the same familiar pattern from the dawn of history. Its leaders were persons who ate called the prophets of rod. If we desire to start this movement it is inevitable to follow the practice and methods adopted by those leaders, for there is no other technique suitable to the nature of this movement nor can one be devised. But when we attempt to trace the footsteps of these messengers of Clod we are faced with a great difficulty. We have the most meager information about the work done and methods followed by the prophets of God in the early period of history. The Qur'an, no doubt, contains brief hints about their work but they do not give us a full picture. We also come across in the New Testament some sayings of Jesus Christ which, though lacking authority, do throw same light an how the Islamic movement is conducted in its initial stages and what are the problems that it has to face. But Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) did not himself pass through the later stages of the movement so that we cannot find any guidance from his life about the later and final stages of the Islamic movement. In this matter we get clear and perfect guidance only in the life of Muhammad (peace be upon him). In seeking guidance from this source we are not influenced by mere sentimental attachment but surely because there is no other source available to us for a knowledge of the different phases through which the Islamic movement has to pass. In the whole history of leaders of the Islamic movement, it is Mohammed (peace be upon him) alone whose life furnishes us all the details of the. various phases and aspects of the movement, from its early beginnings as an apostolic message of truth, down to its visible embodiment in an external state system with a definite constitution, a dear-cut internal and external policy and a precise social organization. Hence I shall place before you from this source a brief description of the technique of this movement.
You are well aware that when Mohammed, the Messenger of God (peace be open him) was called upon to deliver the message of Islam, a great many moral, cultural, economic, and political problems were awaiting solution. There were already in existence two rival imperialisms, the Roman and the Persian. The social life of Arabia and the surrounding countries rested on a basis of class distinctions, and class conflicts were by no means infrequent. Economic exploitation was widespread, and moral evils existed in full measure. In his own country there were intricate problems awaiting solution by a leader. The whole nation was steeped in ignorance, moral degradation, economic chaos, and internecine quarrels. The coastal parts of Arabia, right up to Yemen, and including the fertile provinces of Iraq, wire in the grip of Persian imperialism. In the north, Roman domination had extended itself up to the frontiers of Hejaz. In Hejaz itself Jewish capitalists had established great centers of trade and had enmeshed the Arabs in the net of their usurious transactions. Facing the easternmost coast was the Christian Abyssinian government which had invaded Mecca only a few years before. In Nijran, lying between Hejaz and Yemen, there was firmly entrenched a group of Christians who derived support from the Christian government and had economic and political relations with it. In spite of all these multifarious problems which needed urgent solution, the Prophet of God paid no attention to these problems of the world outside or to those which were more intimately related to his own people. On the other hand, he merely called upon his countrymen to give up all gods except one God and to render full obedience to Him only.
This was not because the Prophet of Islam held those problems to be unimportant or regarded them as unworthy of serious attention. You are well aware of the fact that at a later stage he did give attention to ail these problems and solved them one by one. But the reason why he turned away his attention from these pressing questions of the day and concentrated all his energy on preaching obedience to God was that, from the standpoint of the Islamic movement, all evils which arise in the social life of mankind owe their existence to this basic misconception that man regards himself as an independent and irresponsible being ; in other words, he sets himself up as his own god or again, because he falls into the error of taking someone else besides his Creator as his guide and law-giver, whether this may be a human being or some inanimate object of nature. So long as this evil persists at the root, no amount of Islamic theory can succeed in eradicating social diseases. Unless this basic misconception is corrected and man becomes conscious of his responsibility to his Creator, an evil suppressed at one point will reappear at another point in some other form. Hence if man is to be reformed and human society is to be purged of evils, the mind of man should first of all be disabused of the idea of independence and mankind should realize that the universe in which we live is not in reality a kingdom without a sovereign. On the other hand, it is governed by an All-Powerful Sovereign, whose sovereignty neither stands in need of man's acceptance, nor can it be extinguished by his efforts, nor again can human beings step out of the limits of this kingdom and find refuge elsewhere. In view of this hard fact and stark reality, the notion that man is an independent being, free to follow his own desires and dictates of his reason, is a foolish presumption not supported by facts and of which the evil consequences will but recoil on his own head. Both wisdom and realism demand that man should bow down his head before his Maker straightforwardly and without any reservation, and admit in all humility that his position is that of an obedient servant in relation to his Maker, Who is his Master, Guide and Law-Giver. It should also be brought home to man that in the whole of this universe there is only one Sovereign, Master and Ruler. No one else is entitled here to issue his own commands nor do's, in paint of fact, any one else's writ run here. Therefore, one should not agree to become the instrument of any one's will other than His Will, nor accept the command of any other nor bow down before any one else. There is no one worthy to be styled in this world as His Majesty, because all majesty resides .in Him. Them is no one here who can be called His Holiness, because all holiness is vested in Him. There is no being to be styled as His Highness because highness is the sole attribute of God. There is no one here ht to be called His Lordship fox lordship belongs to God wholly and solely. There is no legislator here and no law-giver, for the only law deserving obedience is the Law of God. There 'is no one here besides Him, who can rightfully claim to control and regulate the affairs of humanity, none who can administer justice in his own right, none who can answer the prayers of man and from whom man can expect help or succor in distress; there is none besides Him, Who possesses the keys of authority and there is nobody else who can claim absolute and unconditional allegiance of human beings. All men are but servants and there is only one Master. Hence it behooves us to deny obedience to all authority which does not itself owe allegiance to Him and to refuse to serve any person or group of persons who act independently of the Will and Purpose of the Creator. This is the bedrock basis of all reformation. On this foundation alone the whole superstructure of individual character and social organization can be planned anew after pulling down the old structure, and all the problems of human life that have arisen in the past or will arise in future can be solved in a new manner.
Without any previous preparation or anything by way of preliminary action, the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him) directly presented this fundamental conception to his people. He did not follow any round-about method in preaching his message. For instance, he felt no need to prepare the ground by trying to win the popularity and gain the affection of his people through useful social and humanitarian work. Nor did he seek political power in order to push forward his mission through the back door of Government authority. He did nothing of the kind. What we see, on the other hand, is that there came forward a man who. directly announced that "There is no god but One God". He did not fix his eyes on anything else. It would be wrong to conclude that mere prophetic boldness or missionary zeal was responsible for this direct and straightforward mode of preaching. In reality this is the necessary technique of the Islamic movement. The influence and prestige gained by any other means is of no use whatever for the moral reform which Islam undertakes. .People who co-operate with you on any basis other than that of "no god except One God" can give you no help in the task of social reconstruction on Islamic lines. In this great work only those persons can be for real use who respond to you on hearing the cry of "no god. except One Gad", who are attracted solely by this truth and who desire to make it the foundation-stone of their lives and prepare themselves for work on this basis. Therefore, the particular type of wisdom and practical understanding which is necessary for conducting the Islamic movement requires that, without any introductory work, a start should be made directly with this call to the unity of God.
This conception of the unity of God is not a mere religious creed. As I have explained just now, the whole system of social life which is based on the conception that man is an independent being or that sovereignty belongs to any other animate being, is uprooted from its foundation and a new superstructure rises on a different basis with belief in the Oneness and Sovereignty of God. Today the whole world hears your Mu'adhdhin (caller to prayers) proclaiming loudly, "I bear witness that there is no god except One God" and hardly takes any notice of it because neither the caller knows what he is calling for, nor do the hearers find any real meaning or purpose in it. But were it to become known that the proclamation is intended to mean-and the caller is fully conscious of this meaning-that one should recognize no sovereign nor accept any government, nor yet obey any law, or that one should refuse to accept the jurisdiction of any court, to carry out the command of any one or bind himself to any established usage or rite and that one should repudiate the privileges, sovereignty, sanctity and authority of everyone else besides God, and declare himself to be a rebel against un-Godly rulers, you can very well understand that this daily proclamation will not be tolerated even for a moment. Whether you wish to pick up a quarrel with any one or not, the whole world will come and quarrel with you. As soon as you raise the cry 'you feel as if all of a sudden the earth and the heavens had turned into enemies and on all sides you will find yourselves encircled by hostile elements.
This very state of affairs confronted Muhammad (peace be upon him) when he raised this cry. The Announcer had raised the cry in full consciousness of its import and the audience knew very well what he was really driving at.- Hence everyone who was adversely affected in any respect by this cry stood up to suppress it. The priests scented danger in this cry to their papal domination, the rich saw a .menace to their hoarded wealth and luxurious living, the capitalist realized the danger to his economic overlordship; the worshippers of race and tribe were not slow to feel the challenge it implied to their superiority ; the nationalists at once shrugged their shoulders at this new unifying force which meant the destruction of the artificial unity built on the idea of nationality, and the ancestor worshippers rose in indignation at this looming bit of a cloud whose showers were to wash away their ancestral ways of living. In short, everyone who had set up an idol for his worship felt the ground slipping from under his feet and all these people hastily patched up a unity among themselves, in spite of their deep-seated differences to fight this new and formidable menace to their established way of living. Under these circumstances only those persons came forward to join Muhammad (peace be upon him) whose minds were clear, who were capable of the understanding and accepting the truth and who had at least such love for it left in them that when they realized that his call was a call to truth, they girded up their loins to face death and destruction for its sake. The movement needed people of this very type. They came one by one and in twos and fours. Their numbers increased gradually as the struggle developed. Some of them had to lose their employment; some were driven out of their homes by their own kith and kin: some had to leave their friends, relatives and acquaintances; a large number of them were dragged on hot sand; while others were stoned and abused in the market-place. Someone had his eyes taken out and another his head broken. Attempts were made to buy off people by offering them women, wealth, office, authority and everything else that could be offered. All these things came, and it was necessary that they should. come, for without them the Islamic movement could. neither gain strength nor grow to wide proportions.
The first advantage of all this was that people of weak character and irresolute determination could not join this select band. Whoever came was the cream of the society then existing and was really needed. There was no method of selection more effective than this; that whoever came to this movement should pass through these trials. The morally unfit were automatically weeded out.
Then again, those who came were undergo these hardships not for any selfish motives, not the interest of their family, tribe or nation 'but the salve-of what they felt to be a great truth and order to seek the pleasure of their Lord. For this alone they were beaten, starved to death, and became victims of an unparalleled oppression; with the result that they developed the true Islamic attitude which was needed. The struggle molded their character and gave added sincerity to their beliefs and actions. It was natural that in this automatic process of training they should become permeated with the true spirit of Islam. When a person comes forward with. a high ideal and undergoes sufferings, tortures, exile, poverty and other hardships for its sake, the spirit of that ideal penetrates his heart and fills his mind, arid his whole individuality is transformed into the likeness of his ideal and purpose. In order to complete and hasten this transformation, prayers were prescribed for the followers of the new movement so that their minds may become concentrated on this one aim, the sole object of their life. By repeatedly proclaiming the sovereignty of Him Whom they regarded as Sovereign, their convictions would gain in depth and intensity and they should fully believe in the omniscience of God, in His mastery of the Day of Judgment and His complete supremacy aver all His creatures, because henceforth they were to work under His commands. This was also necessary so that the idea of obedience to any one except Him should never again be allowed to influence their minds even in the slightest degree.
While on the one side, those who joined the Islamic movement were going through this process of training, on the other this struggle itself gave a fillip to the movement. When people witnessed with their eyes that hell had been let loose on the devoted followers of the Prophet, they were beaten, imprisoned and turned out of their homes, they naturally desired to know what all this anguish was about. And when they learnt that these people were being tortured not for "women, wealth, or property", but only because they had come into possession of a new Truth to which they held fast sincerely and that their lives and habits bone no trace of any selfish motive, they were naturally led to seek that for which those people were cheerfully facing all this tribulations and calamities. And when they came to know about this was nothing else except belief in on God, that this belief had effected such a revolution in their lives that they were ready to throw away all the advantages which society offered them and willingly gave away all prospects of worldly success for the sake of truth and righteousness, and that in the cause which they had taken up they were not slow to sacrifice their lives, property and even their family, a new light dawned upon them sweepingly away before it shadows of doubt and mis-understanding. In this background of righteous suffering they were irresistibly drawn to the bosom of truth. This was the reason why, barring those persons who were blinded by religious prejudice or vested interests, the rest were all drawn towards this movement. Some attracted almost instantaneously while others resisted the attraction for a while. But sooner or later every truth-loving and selfless man joined the movement.
Meanwhile the leader of the movement, by his personal example, fully demonstrated the principle of his movement and everything that the movement stood for. Every act, speech and movement of the leader breathed the true spirit of the Islamic faith and fully brought out its implications in practical life. This is a question requiring detailed discussion for which there is no space here but I will briefly mention a few important things.
His wife Khadijah was the wealthiest woman in Hejaz and he was carrying on trade with her capital. When the Prophet became active in his new mission, his commercial business came on a standstill, for by devoting himself completely to his mission and incurring the enmity of his people, the business suffered until it collapsed, Whatever the couple had laid by was invested and exhausted in a few years' time in propagating the new Faith. Ultimately matters came to such a pass that when the Messenger of God went to Ta'if on his mission of preaching religion, he who had once been the prince of merchants had hardly means enough to buy a donkey to carry him to his destination.
The Quraishites offered him the throne of Hejaz and said that they would accept him as their king. They offered to give him in marriage the prettiest woman of Arabia and to place at his disposal as much wealth as he liked on condition that he gave up his mission. But the man who had stood up for the salvation of mankind, rejected all. these offers and remained content with the abuses, vilifications, and cruelties of his countrymen. The leaders of the Quraish and other Arabs said, 'O Muhammad! how can we come and sit with you and hear your talk when in your company there are always to be found slaves, poverty-stricken and mean persons? You have collected around you all those who are regarded in our society as low class people. Remove them and we shall seek your company". But the man who had come to level up the high and the low, refused to remove the poor for the sake of the rich.
During the whole course of the movement, the Prophet of God never cared for the interests of his own country, tribe, nation or family. It was this disinterestedness which convinced the world that the Prophet was working for the betterment of all human beings irrespective of race or nationality and it was this which attracted people of all nations towards his movement. If he had cared for his own family, then non-Hashimites would have had no interest at all in his movement. Had he been anxious to preserve, somehow or other, the authority of the Quraishites, the non-Quraishites would have had no incentive to take part in this work. Had he stood for the superiority of the Arab race, then Bilal of Abyssinia, Suhaib of Italy and Salman of Persia would have had no reason to support him in his task. What really attracted everyone was his pure and sincere Godliness and his absolute selflessness free from all personal, family, tribal, and nationalistic motives.
When he was compelled to leave Mecca, all the money and valuables which his enemies had deposited with him for safe custody were handed over by him to all with instructions that after he had gone, they should be returned to their rightful owners. A worldly man would have every motive on such an occasion to run away with whatever he could lay his hand on, but the servant of God returned the property belonging to his blood-thirsty enemies and this at a time when they had already decided to murder him. This unexampled moral behavior must have caused no lithe astonishment to the people of Mecca, and I am sure that, when two years later, they came out to fight against the Messenger of God on the battlefield of Badr, they must have felt in their heart of hearts that they were fighting a man who had not betrayed their trust and who was mindful of their rights even when he knew - that they had plotted against his life and were intent on his destruction. While they drew out their swords against him in blind hatred and obduracy, their hearts must have been feeling the pangs of conscience. It is quite possible that this may have been one of the moral cause that led to the defeat of the non-believers in the Battle of Badr.
After a long and bitter struggle extending over thirteen years, when the time came for a small Islamic state he set up in Medina, -there were already available 200 workers every one of whom had received full training in Islam and was thereby enabled to perform any task he was called upon to undertake in the capacity of a Muslim. These people were all now ready to conduct the Islamic state which was then set up. For full ten years the Messenger of Clod himself guided the affairs of this state, and in this short space of time trained thousands of men to perfection in running every department of government in the Islamic manner. This was the period in which Islamic ideology developed from an abstract idea into a perfect socio-political system and every aspect of the administrative, educational, judicial, economic, cultural, financial, military, and international policy of Islam was fully clarified. For every sphere of life, principles were laid down and applied to practical conditions of life. Workers on these lines were prepared by education, training, and practical experience, and these people presented such an example of Islamic. government that within a brief span of eight years the small state of the town of Medina expanded into an Islamic state covering the whole of Arabia. As people saw Islam . in its practical form and witnessed its concrete results, they were convinced that this was humanity at its best and that the true salvation of mankind lay in this form of society only. The worst enemies had ultimately to come over to the cause against which they had fought for years together. Khalid, son of Waleed, accepted it; `Ikrima, son of Abu Jahl bowed to it as well as Abu Sufyan, Wahshee (the barbarian), the murderer of Hamza also embraced the new faith and even Hindah who had swallowed the liver of 'the Prophet's uncle walked into the camp of the Prophet whom she had at one time hated so fiercely.
The historians have given as much prominence to the religious wars of the Prophet that people were misled into believing that this revolution in Arabia was brought about by violence and bloodshed,, whereas not more than a thousand or twelve hundred men were killed on both sides in the course of all the wars fought during the five years in which the warlike Arab nation was subdued. If you recall to mind the history of revolutions in the world, you shall have to admit that this revolution is fit to be called a "bloodless revolution". And this revolution changed not merely the administration of the country but also the mental and moral outlook of the people. The whole of Arabia was transformed as if by a magic touch, in its mode of living, in its moral habits and spiritual values, in short, in all aspects of its life. It was not a mere political and social reform that had taken place. The whole basis of material and moral life had undergone a revolution. Adulterers whose life had been one . of insensate self-indulgence were now protectors of female chastity and erstwhile drunkards became leaders of the prohibition movement. Men who had lived as thieves and vagabonds came to have such a keen sense of honesty that they hesitated even to accept food from their friends, because it smacked of taking hold of another's property, so much so that mod Himself had to assure them in the Qur'an that there was no harm in taking such food. Those who had been robbers and dacoits became so religious that when an ordinary soldier among them, at the time of the conquest of the Persian capital, came upon the royal Persian crown worth crones of rupees, he concealed it in his tattered blanket and in the dark hours of the night handed it over to his general so that his honesty may not become an object of public admiration and hypocrisy may not taint his sincerity. Those who had no respect for human life at all and with whom it was quite common to bury their daughters alive with their own hands, came to have such regard for the sanctity of life that they could not see even a fowl being killed mercilessly. Those who had no idea whatever of truthfulness and justice became so truthful and just that on the occasion of the peace of Khyber, when their revenue collector went to collect the government tax from the Jews and the latter offered him a large sum of money in order to persuade him to reduce the government demand, he refused to accept the bribe and distributed one-half of the produce between the government and the Jews by laying two separate stacks side by side and asking the Jews freely to choose one of them. At this strange behavior of the revenue collector, the Jews were taken aback completely and voluntarily cried : "This is the justice on which the earth and heavens stand". Among them arose governors who did not live in "Government Houses" but among their subjects in houses like theirs, who freely went about the streets on foot ; who had no guards at their doors and were accessible to everyone at any time of day and night. Among them were to be found judges one of whom dismissed the suit of the Caliph himself against a Jew on the ground that the Caliph could not produce any other witness except his son and slave. Among them appeared military generals one of whom, on being forced to evacuate, a city during a battle, returned the whole of the Jizya (protective tax) to the non-believers on the ground that he was not in a position to afford protection to the conquered and, therefore, had no right to retain the tax which had been collected in lieu of such protection. Among them were born ambassadors one of whom in a court full of the Persian generals gave such practical demonstration of the principle of human equality in Islam, and directed such relevant criticism against the class distinctions in Persia, that God alone knows hose many Persian soldiers must have been overwhelmed by a feeling of respect for this religion of humanity. Citizens arose among them who had such a strong sense of moral responsibility that they usually came forward of their own accord to confess the crimes which were punishable by amputation and demanded that they should be purged of the evil effects of their primes by punishment in this world, so that they may not have to appear before God in the position of a thief or an adulterer. Soldiers were to be found among them who did not fight out of mercenary motives but for the sake of the faith in which they believed. They marched to battlefields at their own expense and whatever booty came into their hands they placed whole of it before their general. Could such complete transformation in the moral and mental attitude of a whole people be brought about merely by wars or physical force ? The broad canvas of history lies before you. Can you bring up any instance where the sword has revolutionized human morality so completely?
It seems strange that while during the space of thirteen years only three hundred persons embraced Islam, in the latter ten years the whole country of Arabia adopted this religion wholesale. As some people cannot solve this enigma, they give all sorts of strange reasons for it. But the matter is quite plain. So long as life had not been actually planned and organized on the basis of this new ideology, people could not understand what this novel type of leader wanted to do. All sorts of doubts arose in their minds. Some said that he was indulging in poetic fantasies ; others that he had lost his wits. Still others thought that he was a visionary, and each one thus gave his own view of the matter. Only men of unusually keen understanding and intelligence could believe in Muhammad (peace be upon him) at that stage -men whose realistic vision could see clearly that the salvation of mankind lay in this new creed. But when a complete system of life was built up on this ideology and people had actual experience of it, when they saw before them its concrete result, it was that they understood what it was for which this virtuous servant of God had faced all the perils and toils of life. After this no room was left for doubt, obstinacy or prejudice. For any one who had eyes in his head and light in those eyes it became impossible to deny this clear reality.
Gentlemen! this is the method by which Islam seeks to bring about a social revolution. And this is, its way of doing the job. It begins with a simple call to the obedience of God and an invitation to people to abandon the life of self-indulgence and accept the restraints of morality. Then it gradually moves forward. People think that this is a kind of miracle and say that this cannot appear again. Only a messenger of God should come and perform it. Put the study of history convinces us that it is a perfectly natural occurrence. There is to be found in it the logical and scientific relationship of cause and effect. If we work in this manner today the same results will appear. It is, of course, true that for this work, qualities of faith, a true understanding of Islam, single-mindedness of purpose, strong power of judgment and complete sacrifice of personal feelings and selfish desires are necessary, person of strong will are needed for this purpose who on accepting truth, can concentrate on it and will not look towards anything else. Whatever may happen in the world they would not budge an inch from the path chalked out for them by the Qur’an. They would be prepared to sacrifice all prospects of personal advancement in worldly life. They should not hesitate to disappoint their own and their parents' hopes and expectations. They should not feel aggrieved over the separation of friends and relatives. Society, government, law, nation, country, whatever obstructs the achievement of their object, they should be prepared to struggle against it. This type of men upheld and exalted the Word of God in an age bygone and it is only such persons that can repeat and accomplish the task again.
I now close this subject with a few concluding remarks. Providence has made Aligarh the nerve-centre of Indian Muslims. It is on this account that four or five years back I had selected Aligarh for an address and placed before it a new plan of educational system which, in my opinion, was essential for the revival and regeneration of Islam. With similar feelings 1: am again addressing the students of Aligarh and piecing before them the plan of that movement which is the only possible means of bringing about a social revolution of an Islamic character. I have done my duty and communicated to you whatever I had in my mind. The responsibility of changing your hearts does not lie with me.