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The Straight Path

The Straight Path Normal 0 21 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Normal Tablo"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; :10.0pt; "Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} What is the straight path?

 

According to the Qur’an, God has laid down a set path for the entire universe - ever for so small creature as the bee (16:68-69) — a path which every part of the universe must strictly follow: “Then turned He to the heaven when it was smoke, and said unto it and unto the earth! "Come both of you, willingly or perforcce, they said: We come obedient.” (41:11).           

 

Just as it is imperative that all things of the universe move on the path appointed by God, so that they may be perfect in their functioning, so also must man — if he aspires to success — submissively follow the divinely appointed path (16:69) But, as man is “on trial” in this world, he has not just been told the path he must follow, but has also been given the license to hold to it, or to reject it as he sees fits, “Lo, we have shown him the way, whether he be grateful or disbelieving.” (76:3). Even so, once God has shown man the straight path, he ought to follow it in the belief that it is the only way that leads to success: “How should we not put our trust in God when He hath shown us our ways? In God let the trusting put their trust,” (14:12). If man influenced by some fleeting temptation, strays in some other direction, he will lose his foothold on God’s path; and when he loses that, he will meet with nothing but failure in this life. (6:154).           

 

A man remains a human being in the eyes of God only so long as he remains on the straight path. One, who deviates from it, descends to the level of an animal.           

 

Who is more rightly guided? He that goes groveling on his face, or he that walks upright along a straight path?           

 

‘Say: “It is He who has created you and given you ears and eyes and hearts. Yet you are seldom thankful.” (67: 22-23).           

 

Thus we learn from the Qur’an that following the straight path means living the kind of life in which we make use of the powers of the intellect and the heart. Now, what is special about these powers? Their specialty lies in their expressing the superiority of man over other creatures; it is these powers that raise him from the level of mere existence to that of the moral human being. The animals, on the contrary — though they too are living beings — are only minimally possessed of the powers of feeling and reasoning with which man has been so plentifully endowed. Humans who misuse these God-given capabilities degrade themselves, willingly or unwillingly, to the level of animals. Such men have, therefore, been likened to dogs (7:176). donkeys (62:5) and cattle (25:44). The most degraded among them are referred to as monkeys, pigs (5:60) and even worse.           

 

This is something that is quite easily understood; yet there are many who treat this subject as if it were beyond the powers of the human intellect. Such people in the eyes of God are blind and deaf.           

 

According to the 95th verse of the Qur’an, man was created in the highest form, and then cast down to the lowest. The former, the ‘highest form,’ meant ‘human’, while the latter, the ‘lowest form,’ meant ‘animal’. That is to say that God created men with the status of humans, but left them in the animal state. This is the trial that man must go through; he must raise himself from the lowly state of an animal to the heights of humanity.            

 

“Had it been our will, we would have exalted him through (our signs), but he clung to this earthy life and succumbed to his fancies.” (7:176).           

 

Such verses as apply the terms blindness, deafness and sottishness to men, do not use them in the literal, biological sense. Nor were those so described lying in some abysmal state of drunkenness. The adjectives ‘blind’ ‘deaf’ and ‘sottish’ were actually applied to men of great learning and wisdom, who were, in fact, great leaders of their times. To their credit, they built great houses and forts, and were experts in business, agriculture and the cultivation of orchards. They are leaders not only of peoples but also of whole countries. In connection with the above quoted verse, one heard the name of Arabia’s Umayya ibn Abi As Salt, who was famous not only for his leadership and generosity, but also for his poetry and wisdom. Similarly, a man of the later days of Moses, Balaam, son of Beor, is described in such terms, although he was one of the most distinguished men of Iraq in learning and piety. According to Ubada ibn-as-Saamit, this verse was also applied to the leaders of the Quraysh who were, in effect, leaders of the whole of Arabia, being custodians of the Kabah.           

 

That being so, why were they called ‘blind’ and ‘deaf’? To understand this, one should study the difference between man and animal. Apparently, animal has all that a man has and can do all that a man does. He moves about, eats and drinks, sees and hears, and feels pain or happiness. Wherein lies the difference? Biologists tell us that what differentiates man from the animals is his capacity for conceptual thought. That is to say that he is able to think about something, which is not necessarily present, in such a way as to form a clear idea of it. Animals do not possess this capability. This explains the difference between the human and the animal state. In the latter state, one is unmoved except by material reality, material utility and the avoidance of harm, in the human state, facts and states of affairs become of importance once the mind has grasped their truth. Thus, what distinguishes humans from animals is the capacity of the former for ratiocination and their ability to plan their lives on the basis of mental acceptance of truths. The Qur’an says: “This books is not to be doubted. It is a guide for the righteous who have faith in the unseen.” (2:2).           

 

That is, the Qur’an cannot be guide for those who are never moved by anything other than material reality, material utility and the avoidance of harm. The Divine Book will guide only those who are ready to accept such truths as have no force of external reality to back them, their importance being wholly in the mind. In other words, the state of animality is characterized by belief in the seen while the state of humanity is characterized by belief in the unseen.           

 

According to one tradition, the Prophet said of Abu Bakr’s acceptance of Islam: “whenever I invited someone to Islam, he would show some doubt or hesitation. The only one who did not do so was Abu Bakr, who accepted the faith without hesitation or second thoughts as soon as I talked to him of Islam, “Al-Bidayah Wal-Nihayah” Vol III, p.27).           

 

In his evaluation of Islam purely on its merits, Abu Bakr attained to the highest point of humanity. There were some who accepted Islam because of the Prophet’s charisma, or the miracles, or the ineffable style of the Qur’an, or the conquest of Mecca, or the material gains brought by Islam; but Abu Bakr Siddique had reached such heights of e same time enjoin conceptual thoughts he could accept or reject a thing purely for its beauty or its ugliness.           

 

When, at the time of this death, Abu Bakr nominated Umar Faruq to the Caliphate, there was a general feeling of unrest. Talha ibn Ubaidullah came to him and said: “The people have sent me to you as their messenger. They say that you have seen all along how strict Umar has been with us. When you pass on your work to him, what then will become of us? And then, if God questions you about this choice, what answer will you give Him? But there were others who had attained to such a high state of humanity that they could see beyond appearances: they knew that Umar’s strictness was not a personal failing but a matter of faith. They knew that fearing heart was the greatest surety of his remaining Staunch on matters of faith. Othman ibn Affan pointed out that they should not look only at what was on the surface, but should also consider what lay beneath, for what was inside him far surpassed his exterior.           

 

The man on the straight path develops the highest capacity for discernment. When the Quraysh heard the Prophet recite the Qur’an, they exclaimed: “This is the work of a poet!”  They did not of course, use the word poet in any derogatory sense; yet, even so, to God this conveyed only partial, not total faith. (69:41). If they called it the work of a poet, it was merely to indicate their assessment of it as a literary achievement in which the teachings of the ancient Abrahamites were presented in a novel way. Interpreted as such, the Qur’an well deserves to be acknowledged as a literary masterpiece. The fact remains, however, that it ought rather to be regarded as the repository of Higher Truth and that it should be grasped in full faith.           

 

Just one day before the entry into Mecca, when the Prophet asked Abu Sufyan to testify to the Islamic faith, the latter said, “By my parents, you are undoubtedly very forbearing, very tolerant, nobler and of higher derivation than others, yet I still have some qualms about your Prophethood.” Later, the Prophet’s uncle Abbas apprised Abu Sufyan of the delicacy of the occasion, whereupon he recited the article of faith and became a Muslim. It had been easier for Abu Sufyan to acknowledge the Prophet’s nobility and perseverance than to concede that he was a genuine Prophet; even after his conversion, he had the psychological satisfaction that the difference between him and the Prophet was one of personal worth, and onto that his ideas had been incorrect vis-à-vis the Prophet’s. No doubt the avowal of moral inferiority is easier than the recognition of a new ideology.

 

The Straight Path of the Individual

 

The Qur’an has very explicitly indicated the straight path of God, both for the individual and for society, considering the diversity of conflicting paths which human beings are faced with at all times.           

 

A Section of the sixth chapter of the Qur’an reads: say: ‘Come, I will tell you what your Lord has made binding on you: that you shall serve no other gods besides Him; that you shall show kindness to your parents; that you shall not kill your children because you cannot support them; We provide for you and for them; that you shall not commit foul sins, whether openly or in secret; and that you shall not fill - for that is forbidden by Allah - except for a just cause. Thus Allah exhorts you that you may discern.           

 

‘Do not touch the property of orphans, but strive to improve their lot until they reach maturity. Give just weight and full measure; we never charge a soul with more than it can bear. Speak for justice, even if it affects your own kinsmen. Be true to the covenant of Allah. Thus He exhorts you, so that you may take heed.           

 

‘This path of Mine is straight. Follow it and do not follow othe rpaths, for the will lead you away from Him. Thus Allah commands you, so that you may guard yourselves against evil.’ (6:152-53).           

 

This is the one straight path for the individual’s life. It can be summed up in these words: belief in the ONENESS of God, good behavior towards  others, reliance on God, avoidance of evil, respect for life, avoidance of oppression, honesty in social dealings, being just towards all, regardless of circumstances, fulfilling as God’s creatures the pledge of obedience to Him, being pious in all matters.           

 

Those on the straight path are the people blessed by God (Chapter 1) and brought from darkness, into light (14:1). They have a special share in the mercy and bounty of God (4:175), (48:2). Obviously, people with such divine endowments cannot lead the lives of ordinary men. It is vital that these blessings be made manifest in various forms in their lives.           

 

First of all, they are in an elevated state of realization. It is said that Abdullah ibn Rawaha once suggested to his hearers that they should ‘believe for a while?’ At this they became indignant and said, ‘Arent we the faithful?’ Ibn Rawaha replied that they were, no doubt, the faithful, but that every time they talked of God, their faith increased. Then one of them went to the Prophet and complained against Ibn Rawaha, saying, “Ibn Rawah is a strange person: he is inclined to momentary faith as opposed to the faith received from you”. The Prophet replied, “God bless Ibn Rawah! He likes sittings of which even angels are proud !” In fact, what Ibn Rawaha has suggested was the attainment of a higher state of faith. But those who were Muslims by the letter alone could not understand this.

 

Faith to such as Ibn Rawaha means total surrender to God. The apprehension of life away from the path of god is agony to them. On the revelation of the verse, ‘.... They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of God, unto them give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom,’ (9:34). The Prophet said, “Woe to gold! Woe to silver!” This made the companions indignant and they said among themselves, “What then should we keep?” Then Omar went to the Prophet and laid the whole matter before him. The Prophet then said, ‘Let each one of you take a tongue that remembers, a heart that thanks and a wife who helps one to faith!” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Vol. 2, p. 351).

 

Such people are perfectly capable of acknowledge that others may be right. The following incident illustrates this virtue. A companion of the Prophet, by the name of Jabir Ibn Azraq Ghaziri, once came on his she-camel to join the Prophet on one of his journeys. On the way, the Prophet halted at a certain point and went inside his leather tent. A crowd gathered at the tent door. A man tried to ppush Jabir aside, but the latter said: “If you push me now, I shall beat you.” At this, the other said, “O worst of men!” Jabir replied, “By God, you are worse than I!” The man said, “How can you say such a thing? I have come from Yemen to hear the words of the Prophet and to convey them to my followers on my return, and you are barring my way!” At this Jabir’s anger cooled, and he exclaimed, “Yes, you are right. By God, I am worse than you!”

 

They are more interested in their duties than in their rights. Imam Ahmed quotes the Prophet’s wife. Umme Salma’s story of how two men once brought a suit regarding some inherited property before the Prophet. Both claimed it as their rightful property, but neither had any concrete proof. The Prophet said, ‘You bring your suits to me; but I am only a human being and may give my verdict in favour of the one who impresses me with his greater eloquence. Just remember that if I ever give anyone his brother’s share, that share will prove to be a flame of fire on the day of judgement. Hearing this, they both wept and said, “Give my share to my brother! Give my share to my brother.”

 

Following the straight path creates such breadth of vision in an individual that he even looks upon his juniors as if they were his seniors. During his reign as the first Ummayyad Caliph of a vast empire, Amir Mu’awiya once sent five hundred Dinars to an Ansari (Medinan Convert). The latter, taking this to be a trifling amount, asked his son to take the money, throw it at Mu’awiya and say, “O leader of the believers, my father has thus commanded me, and I dare not disobey him.” When the young man told Mu’awiya said “Do as your father has commanded you, but be lenient to your uncle.” The boy felt ashamed and, throwing the Dinars away, he took his leave. (A-Fakhri).

 

True faith develops such a sense of realism in an individual that even an ordinary man may surprise those in high places with high confidence. During the war in Iran under the Caliphate of Umar, there was an exchange of messengers between Saad Ibn Abi Waqqas, the Muslim commander, and Rustam, the Persian commander. when the Arab messenger, with his very plain, ordinary accoutrements, reached the splendid court of Rutam, he appeared quite insignificant to the Persian Commander. Pointing to the messenger’s spear, Rustam said, “What is thisp spindle-like thing in your hand”. The messenger replied with confidence, “A flame in a flame, howsoever small it imay be.” (Al-Fakhri).

 

Treading the path of God creates such a foresight as can see thorugh the cleverest strategem of the enemy. One of the emigrants who accompanied Umar Faruq was Ayyash Ibn Rabiya. The Quraysh came to know of this and two of his relations, Abu Jahal Ibn Hisham and Haritha Bin Hisham, followed him to Medina to ask him to return with them. They told him that his mother was very sad at his departure and that she had sworn not to comb her hair or sit in the shade till she saw him. Umar Faruq saw through this, and told Ayyash Ibn Rabiya that it was all just a conspiracy to take him back and that he should not be worried. “By God, when the lice start biting your mother, she will comb her hair. And when the heat of Mecca troubles her, she will go into the shade.” But Ayyash Ibn Rabiya did not understand what Umar Faruq was trying to tell him. He returned to Mecca where, under pressure, he renounced his faith.

It is people who follow the straight path who are promised the ‘greatest reward’ (65:5) and for whom evil will be turned into good (25:70). The fact is that all believers and non-believers alike — are liable to err. But the man who is a true creature of God, who lives in a true state of obedience to God, will turn with a redoubled intensity of feeling towards God if ever he strays from God’s path. Thus his misdemeanor becomes the means of his attaining to a state of greater faith. By contrast, those who do not tread God’s path at all, remain engulfed in the darkness of their own misconduct. And, instead of their wrong doing providing them with fresh food for faith, it simply renders them even more hard-hearted.

 

It those that guard themselves against evil are touched by a temptation from the devil, they have but to recall Allah’s precepts and they shall see the light. As for the brothers (of the devils), they shall be kept long in error, nor shall they ever desist.

 

The Straight Path of Society

 

Just as the Prophet taught us the way of worship and fasting so also did he teach us how to launch a campaign, how to face the forces of adversity, and how to make Islam victorious throughout the world. In other words, just as there is a straight path for the individual, so also is there a straight path for society. This is indicated in the reference made in the 48th chapter of the Qur’an to the Treaty of Hudaibiya (628 ad) — the most important happening in the collective Islamic struggle: “ So that He may make it a sign to true believers and guide you along a straight path.” (48:20).

 

The revelation of the above verse in the context of the Treaty of Hudaibiya makes it clear that just as there is a straight path in worship and morals, so is there a straight path in matters of peace and confrontation.

 

One who is in the straight path (i.e. who has attained to a state of humanity in which decisions are made according to the powers of their, the eye and the heart, uninfluenced by obstinacy, opposition or reaction) acquires great depth of vision, which takes him beyond all emotional disturbance, past all matters of secondary importance, and straight to the essence of Reality of Truth. With this sense of Realism, his planning is far-reaching and definitive. He becomes invincible, his aim never being off the mark. There is a saying of the Prophet: “Beware of the wisdom of the believer, for he sees by the light of God.”

 

Where the Qur’an ways that the believers will overcome enemies ten times their own number, it also says that the defeat of the enemy, despite their majority, will be owing to their ‘ignorance’ “If there are twenty steadfast men among you, shall vanquish two hundred; and if there are a hundred, they shall rout a thousand unbelievers, for they are devoid of understanding” (8:65).

 

The signing of the Treaty of Hudaibiyah is one such important instance. Clearly this treaty was accepted under duress: one of the ‘animal’ level however, would never agree that in spite of the presence of fifteen hundred valiant companions of the Prophet, a treaty could be signed which accepted all the demands of the enemy. But one at the ‘human’ level, capable of seeing reality in its unadulterated form, would see that it was truly a ‘signal victory: (48:1).

 

Thus a straight path (or God’s way) has been shown for all the problems of the Here and the Hereafter, right across the human spectrum. Just as the universe continues on its way without the slightest deviation from its course, so also does man’s progress towards success and salvation provided he remains on God’s straight path. The only difference is that while the universe is bound to follow God’s path, man must of his own volition make this momentous choice.

 

Just as the Qur’an has marked out the course for the individual to follow, so also it has laid down a straight path for society. To provide examples it has cited actual happenings, e.g. the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, which is placed in the correct context with the words: “And He shows you the straight path.” (48:2). Certain basic principles, which encompass most practical matters, have also been described. Man has only to rise from the state of animality to that of humanity, and he can never err in taking the right path in social matters — the path destined to lead him to success through Gods help.

 

1.                  The first basic principle in this regard is never to act in a negative frame of mind. Social planning should always be positive and one should never lose sight of the real targets: “O believers, be dutiful to God and bearer of just witness. Do not allow your hatred for other men to turn away from justice. Deal justly! Justice is nearer to true piety. (5:9).

 

History shows us that most failures were due to reactionary steps goaded on obstinacy, jealousy, irritation and opposition. Whenever individuals or groups allow their actions to be colored by such emotions, they will surely drift on to the wrong path. If, however, God’s fundamental guidance were kept in view, so that man succeeded in raising his thinking form the ‘animal’ to the ‘human’ level, it would not be possible for such negative emotions to gain the upper hand: men would then surely base their planning on positive foundations — a sure formula for success.     

 

The above basic principle of the straight path is social matters is underlined thus in connection with the Treaty of Hudaibiyah: “And while bigotry — the bigotry of ignorance (Jahiliyya) reigned in the heart of the unbelievers, God sent down His tranquility on His Apostle and the faithful and made the word of piety binding on them, for they were most worthy and deserving of it. God has knowledge of all things. (48:26).     

 

That is to say that the way to keep Islam’s social activity on the straight path is to hold to piety in spite of the expression of bigotry on the part of the opponents. In other words, no step ought to be taken as a result of, or in reaction to the behavior of the opponents. Instead, our social program should be based on positive psychology and carried out in the light of specific principles with permanent aims in view. It is not just to the present that we must look, but more importantly, to the future.           

 

2.                  Another vital principle of social guidance is to follow the path of God. (16:69). In this regard the Qur’an gives us the example of the tree. The tree first establishes its roots deep below the surface of the soil. Then it slowly raises its head towards the skies. Similarly, in the making of a people, their inner strengthening must be given first preference. No tangential step should be taken before the work of consolidation has been completed. The Qur’an advises us to build our nations as nature builds its trees:  

 

“Do you not see how Allah sets forth a parable that the good work is like a good tree whose root is firm and its branches are in the sky, yielding its fruit every season by Allah’s leave? Allah gives parables to men so that they become mindful. And the parable of an evil word is like an evil tree torn out of the earth and has no stability. Allah will strengthen the faithful with (His) steadfast word, both in this life and the Hereafter. He leaves the wrongdoers in error. Allah accomplishes what He pleases:” 

 

On mature reflection, it becomes obvious that where one holds another responsible for one’s failures. One is missing the truth of the matter, that it is a case of the evil tree, having been cultivated. If social life were patterned on the ‘good tree’, there would be no need for recriminations. 

 

3.                  In the third year of the Hijra, the Battle of Bade took place. The Muslims had two targets. One was the merchant caravan of the Quraysh led by Abu Sufyan, returning to the Mecca from Syria. The caravan consisted of a thousand camels, and had merchandise worth fifty thousand diners. The other was the army of the Quraysh, consisting of a thousand soldiers marching towards Medina. This army was led by Abu Jahal and other great leaders of the Quraysh. The Prophet consulted his people and found that some of them wished to march on the trade caravan. Their recent history provided the to this wish: since the Hijrah, the line of action for 1-1/2 years had been that of weakening the economic strength of the enemy and improving going to Syria. The skirmishes of Abawah, Bawaat, Oshaira etc., mentioned in the books of Hadith and the Prophet’s biographics, took place for this very reason. But now the opinion of the Prophet and the senior companions was that they should face the Quraysh army: 

 

“Remember when Allah promised to grant you one of the two bands, and you wished that the one unarmed should be yours. But Allah willed to establish the truth accordingly to His words and to cut off the roots of the unbelievers, so that Truth should triumph and falsehood be discomfited. (8:7)” 

 

A mind of the ‘animal’ plane can never understand why the people of Medina — economically handicapped and wretched as they were — should leave untouched a defenseless caravan in order to challenge an army ten times their number. Only, one who had raised himself to the ‘human’ plane could understand how important it was to break the armed strength of the Quraysh. In the long run, of course, the Medinans stood to gain economically, but it was not clear to them at the time that they should leave the caravan and attack the army. This incident teaches us not to act in the hopes of immediate gains, but to keep in view that, in the long run, will be best in all respects. In this, the basic guiding principle should be the establishment of Truth and the disproving of untruth, rather than the pursuit of worldly gains, Worldly gains will accrue on their own. Why should they be made the target of our action? 

 

4.                  Another principle to keep the social struggle on the straight path is to grasp any available opportunities, while at the same time being careful not to overstep oneself in the fulfillment of ambition. This is illustrated by the Declaration of Medina in the year 1 A.H. when the Prophet migrated from Mecca and came to Medina, he found there, in addition to the believers, a large number of polytheists and Jews. One day there would be no more, Jews or polytheists in Medina, but the Prophet did not make this has immediate aim. He contented himself with something less than the ideal, issuing a charter acknowledging their present status and declaring that Muslims and Jews would follow their respective religions. This was short of the mark in terms of the actual aims and objectives of Islamic ambition. But the Prophet felt that this was taking matters for enough in the preliminary stages. Subsequent events verified the historical principle that he who initially accepts the second best ultimately achieves the best. On the contrary, one who is determined to have at the very first instance gets neither the best, nor even the second best. 

 

5.                  Another principle is to avoid retaliatory measures to the greatest possible extent. Muslims’ basic program should be to grasp whatever opportunities life affords them in such a manner as to continually narrow any scope for their opponents to succeed. The fourth Caliph, Ali is reported to have said, “compel them to walk along the narrow path” (Tirmizi). This principle is thus illustrated in the Qur’an: “Can they not see that we gradually reduce the land from its outlying borders? Is it then they who will win?” (21:44). 

 

The above verse points to the ever-increasing spread of Islam thanks to this form of ‘silent’ preaching; the very fact that the territory occupied by the opponents of Islam went on shrinking, while the sphere of Islam expanded, put pressure on the unbelievers to enter the Islamic fold. Many were converted in this way - important denizens of Mecca, the tribes around Mecca (Gheffar, Mazaina and Juhaina) and the Aus and the Khazraj, both tribes of Medina, which, being situated on the caravan route was open to Islamic influence. The time was almost at hand when the people of Mecca would have no alternative but to embrace Islam under pressure of the prevailing circumstances. 

 

The Qur’an has commanded Muslims to make themselves strong. This acquisition of strength is not, however, for their personal benefit, but for the over-awing of the opponents of Islam (8:60). That is why the Prophet said, “Over the space for a month, I have been helped by awe.” That is to say that he had learnt that it is more often an awe-inspiring display of strength than the actual use of it, which leads to victory. There were, all together, eighty campaigns (Ghazwah), all of which were won, but thanks to this policy of demonstrating superior strength in order to over-awe the enemy only nine of them developed into battles in which actual fighting and killing had to take place. 

 

In modern times, the expansion of knowledge and the advance of industry and technology have provided unlimited opportunities for this course of action. Japan adopted this method against America after the Second World War, with the result that the field of life so narrowed for Americans that they had to leave Japan, although Japan did not use any military or political force against America. 

 

6.                  The last but most important principle in this regard is the Realistic approach — a very difficult matter for ordinary human nature. Realism forms the most integrated part of the course of action appointed by God the Prophet in the field of social endeavor.

 

What is Realism? It is to act by intellectual decision and not as the result of emotional reaction; it is to keep the deeper causes and agents in view instead of apparent interests. It is to plan action in the light of far-reaching opportunities instead of trying for immediate gains; it is to aim not at instant success, but at whatever will blunt the edge of the enemy’s sword on every front.            

 

If the style of the Prophet’s invitation to Islam could be described in a single word, there would be no more suitable an expression than ‘realism’. In the sacred House of God in Mecca no less than 360 idols had been set up; but he did not launch any agitation to have them cast out of the Kabah. He knew the intentions of the “Colonial Powers” around Arabia, but he did not even issue a statement against them. The people of Mecca planned to assassinate him, but he did not, like many an enthusiastic leader, offer himself up fro martyrdom, but quietly left Mecca. When a delegation of the Ansaar came to him in Mecca to swear their allegiance to him, they said, after performing Bayah (the formal pledge of allegiance), “O Prophet of God, by the Being who has sent you with the Truth, if you so desire, we can swoop down with our swords on the people of Mina!” (Sirah Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, p. 100). The Prophet replied that God had not so ordained and that they should return to their homes. Khaybar was a permanent center f conspiracy against him, but the Prophet did not take any counter-action until he had an agreement from the people of Mecca that they would not join forces with his enemies.           

 

On the occasion of the signing of the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, all the companions, with the exception of Abu Bakr, were filled with great emotion and anger at the severe provocation on the part of the Quraysh leaders. But the Prophet never lost his patience or his sense of tolerance while he signed the Treaty.           

 

The Qur’an attaches great importance to this patient and realistic mode of action. The last section of Chapter 11, entitled Hud, reads:           

 

“Have no doubt as to what they worship. They serve only that which their fathers served before them. We shall pay them in full their undiminished measure.”          

 

Your Lord will reward all men according to their deeds. He has knowledge of all their actions. Follow then the right path as you are bidden, together with those who have repented with you, and do not transgress. He is aware of what you do.           

 

And put no trust in the wrongdoers, lest you get touched by the Fire. You have no protectors besides Allah. Then you will not be helped. (11: 109-113).

 

The Principle of Divine Help   

 

The man who is on the right path has been promised divine help: “That He may guide you to the right path and bestow on you His mighty help.” (48:3).           

 

Just as divine help is certain, it is also certain that God’s help doesn"t come to one who does not deserve it. It is the way of God and the way of God does not change (Fatir: 35:43).           

 

If a man is in a condition of great restlessness, a call to God is enough to draw divine help:           

 

Who answers the oppressed when they cry to Him and relieves affliction. (27:62).           

 

Thus a man in a state of utter helplessness becomes entitled to divine help: he need only repeat the words of the appropriate prayer and he receives it. But for individuals or groups who are not similarly afflicted, there are two further pre-conditions. One is that their actions should be consistent with their prayers: “To Him ascend good words, and He exalts righteous deeds.” (35:10). The content of the prayer for divine help will determine the form that the supplicant’s action must take. If a man prays that the secrets and wisdom of the Qur’an be made known to him, it will befit him to ponder upon the Book of God (38:29). If a man asks for help in earning his living, he shall have to make every effort himself to do so. If we wish God to inspire awe in others, we must develop unity among ourselves  (8:46). If the prayer for divine help is for victory over the enemies of Islam, the proper course of action will be to call them to Islam and to persevere in this. So that matters may be brought to a conclusion, for it is not the way of God to destroy any group without its first having been given full warning (6:131).           

 

The other pre-condition for deserving divine help is patience, even in the face of torture inflicted by those against whom divine aid is sought (14:12). Patience is a positive reaction to negative acts such as cruelty and oppression. This means that no impatient step should be taken against the opponent. There should be no retaliation against his attacks. They should simply be borne; instead of making complaints about the suffering inflicted, the latter should be met with silent self-restraint and endurance.           

 

If divine help is sought on fulfillment of the above conditions, God promises that twenty believers can emerge victorious over two hundred non-believers (8:65). This proportion can even be further altered in favor of the believers, as has been proved by various happenings in Islamic history. But it is essential that the difference be quantitative and not qualitative. That is, the believers should be ‘twenty’ in the same thing in which the non-believers are ‘two hundred’. For instance, if the non-believers are armed with two hundred guns, the believer should also have at least twenty guns. But if, on the contrary, one side has two hundred guns as compared to the twenty swords of the other side, the promise will not hold, for, in that case, the difference is qualitative, not quantitative. Similarly if Muslims have traditional knowledge as opposed to the non-believers scientific knowledge; if Muslims are armed solely with enthusiasm, while the non-believers are armed with consciousness; if Muslims are behind the times, while the non-believers are fully abreast of them, if Muslims are racked with disunity, while the non-believers are united, if the Muslims affairs are in a state of discover, while the non-believers are highly organized; if Muslims possess resources which are now outmoded, while the non-believers have modern forces at their disposal — then Muslims should never expect to be entitled to God’s help. For in all the above cases the difference between the two groups is qualitative, in which case, regardless of the number of Muslims concerned, none can receive divine help. Whenever it so happens that the difference becomes qualitative in nature, the Muslims’ first task should be to convert the difference to one of quality. Only then will they deserve the help of the Almighty.

 

“He who follows the straight path succeeds with the help of God.” This does not, however, mean that such people will never have to bear any losses. In the course of their endeavors, they must doubtless face losses and temporary defeats, just like any of their rivals. Yet the final victory belongs to the group that holds unswervingly to God’s path, never losing one iota of its faith.           

 

Muslims have often had to bear losses during the history of Islam. At the Battle of Uhud (Shawwal, 8 ah) the Muslims suffered great losses because they unwittingly acted against military advice. At the Battle of Hunain (Shawwal, 8 ah) the position was the same because in this instance the Muslims’ system of intelligence was imperfect. When the Islamic army marched into the valley, it was straight into an ambush. The enemy hidden in the mountains on either side so showered them with arrows that it was impossible for the Muslims to escape. Other such instances were the siege of Taif (8 ah), which had to be lifted after three weeks; the losses incurred having been so heavy, and the Battle of Muta (8 ah) in which 700 of an army of three thousand Muslims were killed. The rest, led by their commander, made a strategic retreat to the safety of Medina. In both cases, it had not been possible to make any estimate of the enemy’s preparations prior to the battle.           

 

The people, however, had faith in the Qur"an"s promises that these were only temporary reversals, which regularly took place in the realm of human endeavor. The psychology of the Muslims, in fact, predisposed them to believe that the death of certain of their numbers was immaterial, as one who died reached paradise, his sacrifice entitling those who remained alive to find new gateways to success.           

 

During Umar’s Caliphate, Rabi Ibn Amir went to the court of Rustm to offer him Islam, saying that Muslims would fight till they attained the promise of God. Rustam asked him to explain what he meant by God’s promise. Rabi Ibn Amir replied: “Paradise for those who die fighting the unbelievers, and success for the survivors.”           

 

No doubt the kind of determination and loyalty evinced by the companions of the Prophet would ensure God’s help to any group who possessed these qualities to the same degree. Devine help, in fact, is just another name for success.           

 

When the companions pledged their allegiance to the Prophet, they knew that pursuit of this goal might cost them their lives. They considered Bayah (the oath of allegiance) synonymous with death.           

 

According to Bukhari, Salma said that he gave his hand in Bayah to the Prophet, and then went to sit under the tree. When the crowd thinned the Prophet said, ‘O Ibn Akwa, why don’t you give your hand in Bayah!’ He replied that he had done so. “Do it again”, said the Prophet. So he did it again — The narrator says that he asked Salma by what they pledged their allegiance in those days. “By death”, said Salma. They were so loyal that they immediately agreed to do whatever they were ordered to.           

 

Abu Thaalaba Khushani narrates: “When the companions of the Prophet stopped anywhere during the journey, they used so spread out in the passes and the valleys. The Prophet said that their spreading out in the passes and valleys was due to Satan’s influence. Thereafter, whenever they stopped, they remained so close that it seemed that if a cloth were spread overhead, they would all be under it.”           

 

After they became Muslims they did not keep back anything of their own from Islam. When the Prophet asked the people for their opinion before the Battle of Badr, Saad Bin Muadh, representing the Ansaar, said, “O Prophet of God, take from our goods whatever you will, and also give us only whatever you will. Whatever you take away from us will be dearer to us than what you leave us!”           

 

Such are the people who enter into the religion of God, free of any kind of reservation or psychological complex. If three hundred such people gathered together, they could give such a thrust to human history that it would slacken in momentum only when the epoch thus affected came to an end. 





Maulana Wahiduddin Khan


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