THE SUPERIORITY OF SUBMISSION TO GOD
One of my main axioms in this book is the superiority of ‘submission to God’, of Islam, over all other beliefs. But the kind reader may oppose my thesis by looking at how primitive current ‘Islamic’ societies are. He or she may ask, if Islam is the religion of around 1.8 billion people around the world, is the world in such a dire state. Surely if Islam were so great, we would not have the chaos we are living in.
My response to this is that ‘Islam’ has come to mean, to the vast majority of people, including most Muslims, as simply a meaningless name. What it actually stands for is simple and not difficult to deduce – its in its very name for goodness sake; it simply means ‘submission to God’. The Islam we have practiced nowadays is merely a name – devoid in the majority of cases from any submission to God. It is more a submission to tradition, to what ‘the scholars of old said’, to what the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have said, than what he actually said, to what is ‘thought to be Islam’ than to God Himself.
The so called Islamic world today lives in a deep myth and illusion that they have referred to as Islam. The vast majority of Muslims hold very strange beliefs, which I do not wish to delve into in this introduction. These beliefs have led to some extraordinary practices that have led to the nightmare we currently live in – most importantly, the relegation of reason and rational thought, as if submission to God means we have to abandon reason. In the Islamic world, Bertrand Russell’s fantastic statement, “Most people would rather die than think: many do” is most descriptive and truthful.
It is as if God, to paraphrase the great Italian scientist Galileo, “who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use”. It is as if He never mentioned the words ‘think’, ‘reflect’, ‘ponder’ in the Quran, words used many hundreds of times, as evidenced by the following verses:
“Do you not see that Allah has subjected to you everything in the heavens and earth and has showered His blessings upon you, both outwardly and inwardly? Yet there are people who argue about Allah without knowledge or guidance or any illuminating Book. (31:20)
Do you not see that Allah propels the clouds then makes them coalesce then heaps them up, and then you see the rain come pouring out of the middle of them? Do they not see how We drive water to barren land and bring forth crops by it which their livestock and they themselves both eat? So will they not see? (32:27)
Do you not see that Allah sends down water from the sky and threads it through the earth to emerge as springs and then by it brings forth crops of varying colours, which then wither and you see them turning yellow and then He makes them into broken stubble? There is a reminder in that
And do not follow (blindly) any information of which you have no (direct) knowledge. (Using your faculties of perception and conception, you must verify it for yourself. (In the Court of your Lord,) you will be held accountable for your hearing, sight, and the faculty of reasoning."[17:36]
They will ask you about alcoholic drinks and gambling. Say, ‘There is great wrong in both of them and also certain benefits for mankind. But the wrong in them is greater than the benefit.’ They will ask you what they should give away. Say, ‘Whatever is surplus to your needs.’ In this way Allah makes the Signs clear to you, so that hopefully you will reflect. (2:219)
Would any of you like to have a garden of dates and grapes, with rivers flowing underneath and containing all kinds of fruits, then to be stricken with old age and have children who are weak, and then for a fierce whirlwind containing fire to come and strike it so that it goes up in flames? In this way Allah makes His Signs clear to you, so that hopefully you will reflect. (2:266)
(People with intelligence are) those who remember Allah, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: ‘Our Lord, You have not created this for nothing. Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire.’ (3:191)
Say: ‘I do not say to you that I possess the treasuries of Allah, nor do I know the Unseen, nor do I say to you that I am an angel. I only follow what has been revealed to me.’ Say: ‘Are the blind the same as those who can see? So will you not reflect?’ (6:50)
If We had wanted to, We would have raised him up by them. But he gravitated towards the earth and pursued his whims and base desires. His metaphor is that of a dog: if you chase it away, it lolls out its tongue and pants, and if you leave it alone, it lolls out its tongue and pants. That is the metaphor of those who deny Our Signs. So tell the story so that hopefully they will reflect (7:176)
Have they not reflected? Their companion is not mad. He is only a clear warner. (7:184)
The metaphor of the life of this world is that of water which We send down from the sky, and which then mingles with the plants of the earth to provide food for both people and animals. Then, when the earth is at its loveliest and takes on its fairest guise and its people think they have it under their control, Our command comes upon others back for a specified term. There are certainly Signs in that for people who reflect. (39:42)
And He has made everything in the heavens and everything on the earth subservient to you. It is all from Him. There are certainly Signs in that for people who reflect. (45:13)
If We Had sent down this Qur’an onto a mountain, you would have seen it humbled, crushed to pieces out of fear of Allah. We make such examples for people so that hopefully they will reflect (59:21)”
Where is the submission to God in the presence of these verses? Why is it that:
“The Muslim world lags far behind in scientific achievement and research; Muslim countries contribute less than 2 percent of the world's scientific literature. Spain alone produces almost as many scientific papers. In countries with substantial Muslim populations, the average number of scientists, engineers and technicians per 1,000 people is 8.5. The world average is 40. Muslim countries get so few patents that they don't even register on a bar graph comparison with other countries. Of the more than 3-million foreign inventions patented in the United States between 1977 and 2004, only 1,500 were developed in Muslim nations. In a survey by the Times of London, just two Muslim universities -- both in cosmopolitan Malaysia -- ranked among the top 200 universities worldwide… No major invention or discovery has emerged from the Muslim world for well over seven centuries now.”
It is simplistic to say, as Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani Muslim physicist does, that, “only when reason bowed to faith, science in the Islamic world essentially collapsed”. Or as one NASA researcher recently put it, "Science has now been replaced by religious thinking…Logic unfortunately is a smaller and smaller part of society." Faith and scientific thought are complementary, and one cannot replace the other. It is only in the complete submission to God that such a harmony is achieved.
The problem lies, therefore in blind adherence to this thing called ‘Islam’, rather than submission to God, which is what it stands for. We have become a people of clichés and labels, rather than people of the essence and what our religion actually stands for. We have become more interested in the scarf and the beard, rather than beauty, justice and rational thought. And, what is even worse, is that those who stand for these things are regarded as ‘deviators’, as ‘corruptors of the religion’. It is the sad state of the world. Those who encourage this view, and advocate the spread of scientific thought and reason, are either rejected, or their life is made difficult, so they leave the ‘Islamic world’ and practice their mental faculties abroad, as one journalist explains, “Today, many of the brightest scientific minds leave their countries to study in Western universities like Virginia Tech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both of which have sizeable Muslim student associations. By some estimates, more than half of the science students from Arab countries never return home to work.”
Among those Islamic thinkers who had to leave the Islamic world because they simply encouraged ‘submission to God’ (as opposed to other authorities), is Muhammad Asad. His story is extremely fascinating, and well worth knowing. One of his biographies reveals this gulf between him and the ‘Muslim world’:
“Unlike so many other Western converts to Islam, Asad chose also to live in Muslim societies, and worked to give Islam direction. But by advocating this reform, Asad remained a foreign body in contemporary Islam, a transplant rejected time and again by his hosts. Saudi Arabia declined to keep him as a journalist; Pakistan, which he served as an official and diplomat, also broke with him; and the self-appointed guardians of Muslim orthodoxy shunned him as a Qur'an translator and commentator. Paradoxically, Asad won genuine acclaim in the West. There he found minds open to his ideas, and opportunities to publish and lecture. And there he ultimately found refuge from the late twentieth-century reality of Islam.”
It is a very sad state of affairs. Personally, I feel like in a manner analogous to Martin Gardner, the American mathematician and philosopher that one can drop out of ‘traditional Islam’, the Islam of the beard and the jilbab, and the abandonment of submission to God, and the superiority of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) over all men. I also believe that “such a faith, unburdened by strange dogmas”, is truer to the heart of what the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and all the great prophets taught, than what the traditional books and most of the current ‘scholars of Islam’ state. Like Gardner believes that “if Jesus were to return to earth today he would not call himself a Christian”, I believe that if the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were to return to earth today he would dissociate himself from much that is regarded as ‘Islamic’ today. I would like to regard myself as a follower of the quintessence of Islam, with the aim of becoming a quintessential Muslim, with the utmost respect for reason and science, and the utmost freedom from myth, blind indoctrination and superstition; one who is happy to acquire knowledge and wisdom from everywhere and anywhere, in accordance with the prophetic statement, "Wisdom is like a precious commodity that is lost. A believer must always be in search of it. Wherever he finds it, he must act upon what it dictates"; one who has nothing to fear from any truth, science or wisdom, because all such things emanate from His Beautiful Names in all their glory.
Until ‘submission to God’ and His honest and truthful worship are instigated, ‘Islam’ will remain merely be a label, a vacuous concept not worthy of our attentions. It is my firm belief that the Taliban, which stands for everything that ‘traditional Islam’ teaches (those who believe otherwise are mistaken), are but a natural outcome of its blind philosophy. Until we submit ourselves to God, we will remain the defeated, humiliated, irrational, and blind people we are now. Muslims have abandoned God – both the seemingly ‘religious ones’ and the non-religious ones.
The religious ones, as I say, have forgotten the essence of true religion, of submission to God. For them what matters are the rituals and ‘religious laws’, what is permitted and what is forbidden. The principles that the Quran came to advocate are not interesting to them. Even when science is encouraged, it is only encouraged if put under the guise of ‘Islamic science’. One journalist notes, “Muslim scientists who do work in their native countries often find themselves embracing -- publicly at least -- so-called "Islamic science." Popularized in the '80s as an alternative to Western science and its perceived lack of moral values, the Islamic version tries to mesh religion and science with curious results. "Some scholars calculated the temperature of Hell, others the chemical composition of heavenly djinnis spirits," Hoodbhoy writes. "None produced a new machine or instrument, conducted an experiment or even formulated a single testable hypothesis." Instead, fundamentalists typically view science only of value in giving more proof of God or showing the truth of the Koran. One oft-visited Internet site reveals this "astounding scientific fact" -- the Koran anticipated black holes and genes.”
Foremost among these men is Zaghlool Al-Najjar, a wonderful man, I think, who would spend his time better if he were to use his world wide expertise on geology, on glorifying God, and singing His praises through what He has revealed to him of knowledge in the earth, its mountains, its seas, rivers and other aspects of its architecture, rather than trying to correlate all that he has learnt with the ‘Quran’ and ‘Sunnah’, as if God or God’s religion is confined to those two things. I find it immensely contradictory to say that, "The Islamic nation is currently living in a state of backwardness because Muslim intellectuals and figures have been abandoned and their services are being disregarded”, when he is equally as guilt of this backwardness with his advocacy of some rather silly beliefs, some of which I will cast an eye upon in another chapter.
In short, submission to God is not to blame for the demise of the Islamic world and its moral and intellectual decay. Rather, paradoxically, it is the lack of ‘Islam’ or ‘submission to God’. Contrary to common opinion, this demise began not long after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH); I believe it began soon after the death of the second leader of the Muslims after him, Omar Ibn Al-Khattab. With his death, the Islamic world lost a most powerful and charismatic leader, possibly the greatest political leader of all time.
His successor, our beloved Othman was a great leader too, but, as explained by his biographer, Mohammad Alias Aadil:
“Unlike his predecessor, Umar, who maintained discipline with a stern hand, Uthman was less rigorous upon his people; he focused more on economic prosperity. Under Uthman, the people became economically more prosperous and on the political plane they came to enjoy a larger degree of freedom. No institutions were devised to channel political activity, and, in the absence of such institutions, the pre-Islamic tribal jealousies and rivalries, which had been suppressed under earlier caliphs, erupted once again. In view of the democratic and liberal policies adopted by Uthman, the people took advantage of the liberties allowed them, and as such became a headache for the State, which culminated in the assassination of Uthman.”
Othman was the first Muslim leader to be killed by a Muslim (Omar was assassinated by a Persian non-Muslim), and with his death began a series of political and social disasters that have continued to this day. The golden age of Islam was very brief; what is currently regarded as the golden age of Islam is actually the golden age of pseudo-Islam, contaminated by political feuds, persecutions and submission to authority rather than God; the Islam that came to free man from the chains of human authority and slavery to other men, was no more. Islam was to be turned into a political tool that can be used to exploit others. And what better way to exploit a people than by stripping them off their minds, of their ability to think independently, and force them to follow ‘religious authority’, disguised under the name of ‘hadith’ or ‘the works of the scholars’.
In a review of Sayyid Qutb’s book, ‘Milestones’, David Zeidan remarked that:
“Qutb's view of Islamic history is that of a short golden age under the Prophet and the Rashidun Caliphs. Islam then decayed as it got buried under the rubbish of man-made traditions, interpretations, and superstitions. No true Islamic society has existed for the last several centuries…All accretions must be discarded, and Muslims must return to the model of the first Muslim generation as the paradigm for today's revival…Islam must be incarnated in a dynamic political society, totally obedient to God's sovereignty as expressed in shari`a. Any society or government that does not fully implement shari`a as the sole source of its legislation is jahili. Jahiliyya is not a pre-Islamic historical era of paganism - it is an ever present condition of denying God's rule, usurping His authority, and living by man-made laws that enslave men to their rulers and engender oppression and tyranny”.
This I believe is absolutely spot on; it is only when Muslims started submitting themselves to other authorities that they started to degenerate. The view that the Golden Age of Islam, which was “inaugurated by the middle of the 8th century by the ascension of the Abbasid Caliphate and the transfer of the capital from Damascus to the Persian city of Baghdad”, and which stretched from “the 8th century to the 13th century, though some have extended it to the 15th or 16th centuries”, a period during which “engineers, scholars and traders in the Islamic world contributed to the arts, agriculture, economics, industry, law, literature, navigation, philosophy, sciences, and technology, both by preserving and building upon earlier traditions and by adding inventions and innovations of their own. Howard R. Turner writes: "Muslim artists and scientists, princes and labourers together created a unique culture that has directly and indirectly influenced societies on every continent”” is completely fallacious. There has not really been an Islamic state after the Prophet (PBUH) and the rightly guided caliphs. I am pleased to say that this is not a solitary opinion; many years after deducing this, I found that it was the same opinion given by many of our prominent thinkers, such as Muhammad Asad, who stated the following in the preface to his book, ‘The Principles of State and Government in Islam’:
“For, let us be clear in our minds on one point at least: there has never existed a truly Islamic state after the time of the Prophet and of the Medina Caliphate headed by the Prophet's immediate successors, the four Right-Guided Caliphs, Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman and 'Ali. That Medina Caliphate was truly Islamic in the sense that it fully reflected the pristine teachings of both the Quran and the Prophet's Sunnah, and was as yet unburdened by later-day theological accretions and speculations. Whatever forms of state and government came into being in Muslim countries after that first, earliest period were vitiated, in a lesser or higher degree, by ideological deviations from the erstwhile simplicity and clarity of Islamic Law, or even by outright, deliberate attempts on the part of the rulers concerned to deform and obscure that Law in their own interest”.
The reasons for the great praise that has been heaped onto the Islamic civilizations of these times can be deduced from the above quote – it is based on the entirely material aspect of the civilization. It was a civilization akin to modern Western civilization – great in terms of material progress, science and technology, but a lack of or even absence of the human being in it. The leaders of those Islamic civilizations were extravagant, and far more interested in power and wealth than in the welfare of humanity, which is what Islam stood for in the times of the Prophet and the first ‘rightly guided Caliphs’. As put eloquently by the great H G Wells in his ‘Outline of History’, “The splendid opening of the story of Islam collapses suddenly into this squalid dispute and bickering of heirs and widows…For a moment we stand amazed at the greatness of the Abbasid dominion; then suddenly we realize that it is but as a fair husk enclosing the dust and ashes of dead civilizations”
██ Expansion under the Prophet Mohammad, 612-632
██ Expansion during the Rightly Guided Caliphate, 635-661
██ Expansion during the Umayyad Caliphate, 661-750
A brief glance at the above map, looking at the extent of Islamisation of the world during the times of the prophet (PBUH), the rightly guided caliphs, and the Umayyad era, will show that, the no further Islamisation took place afterward – it is as if the universal message of Islam, of submission to God came to a complete stand still. With their demise, as Wells says, “The first tremendous impulse of Islam was now spent. There was no further expansion and a manifest decline in religious zeal”. This is not because Islam’s message, the very simple, down-to-earth monotheism and idea of life being about ‘worship’ of God (and we are not talking here about ritualistic worship, but the dedication of one’s entire life to God) suddenly became inapplicable to the times, but rather because of something else. H G Wells put it well:
“And if the reader entertains any delusions about a fine civilization, either Persian, Roman, Hellenic, or Egyptian, being submerged by this flood, the sooner he dismisses such ideas the better. Islam prevailed because it was the best social and political order the times could offer. It prevailed because everywhere it found politically apathetic peoples, robbed, oppressed, bullied, uneducated, and unorganized, and it found selfish and unsound governments out of touch with any people at all. It was the broadest, freshest, and cleanest political idea that had yet come into actual activity in the world, and it offered better terms than any other to the mass of mankind. The capitalistic and slave holding system of the Roman Empire and the literature and culture and social tradition of Europe had altogether decayed and broken down before Islam arose, it was only when man kind lost faith in the sincerity of its -representatives that Islam, too, began to decay.”
It is because the Abbasid leaders were corrupt, and were not interested in spreading the message – they were more interested in plundering more wealth and property. H G Wells explains this very well and thoroughly in his ‘Outline of History’, in a passage I quote here in full:
“Abul Abbas was the first of the Abbasid Caliphs, and he began his reign by collecting into one prison every living male of the Omayyad line upon whom he could lay hands and causing them all to be massacred. Their bodies, it is said, were heaped together, a leathern carpet was spread over them, and, on this gruesome table Abul Abbas and his councilors feasted. Moreover, the tombs of the Omayyad Caliphs were rifled, and their bones burnt and scattered to the four winds of heaven. So the grievances of Ali were avenged at last, and the Omayyad line passed out of history.
The Abassids were adventurers and rulers of an older school than Islam. Now that the tradition of Ali had served its purpose, the next proceeding of the new Caliph was to hunt down and slaughter the surviving members of his, family, the descendants of Ali and Fatima…. Mansur, the successor of Abul Abbas, built himself a new capital at Bagdad near the ruins of Ctesiphon, the former Sassanid capital. Turks and Persians as well as Arabs became Emirs, and the army was reorganized upon Sassanid lines. Medina and Mecca were now only of importance as pilgrimage centres, to which the faithful turned to pray. But because it was a fine language, and because it was the language of the Koran, Arabic continued to spread until presently it had replaced Greek and become the language of educated men throughout the whole Moslem world.
Of the Abbasid monarchs after Abul Abbas we need tell little here. A bickering war went on year by year in Asia Minor in which neither Byzantium nor Bagdad made any permanent gains, though once or twice the Moslems raided as far as the Bosphorus. A false prophet Mokanna, who said he was God, had a brief but troublesome career. There were plots, there were insurrections; they lie flat and colourless now in the histories like dead flowers in an old book. One other Abbasid Caliph only need be named, and that quite as much for his legendary as for his real importance, Haroun-al-Raschid (786-809). He was not only the Caliph of an outwardly prosperous empire in the world of reality, but he was also the Caliph of an undying empire in the deathless world of fiction, he was the Haroun-al-Raschid of the Arabian Nights.
Sir Mark Sykes gives an account of the reality of his empire from which we will quote certain passages. He says, “The Imperial Court was polished, luxurious, and unlimitedly wealthy; the capital, Bagdad, a gigantic mercantile city surrounding a huge administrative fortress, wherein every department of state had a, properly regulated and well-ordered public office; where schools and colleges abounded; whither philosophers, students, doctors, poets, and theologians flocked from all parts of the civilized globe . . . The provincial capitals were embellished with vast public buildings, and linked together by an effective and rapid service of posts and caravans; the frontiers were secure and well garrisoned, the army loyal, efficient, and brave; the governors and ministers honest and forbearing. The empire stretched with equal strength and unimpaired control from the Cilician Gates to Aden, and -from Egypt to Central Asia. Christians, Pagans, Jews, as well as Moslems, were employed in the government service. Usurpers, rebellious generals, and false prophets seemed to have vanished from the Moslem dominions. Traffic and wealth had taken the place of revolution and famine . . . Pestilence and disease were met by Imperial hospitals and government physicians . . . In government business the rough-and-ready methods of Arabian administration had given place to a complicated system of Divans, initiated partly from the Roman, but chiefly taken from the Persian system of government. Posts, Finance, Privy Seal, Crown Lands, Justice, and Military affairs were each administered by separate bureaux in the hands of ministers and officials; an army of clerks, scribes, writers, and accountants swarmed into these, offices and gradually swept the whole power of the government into their own hands by separating the Commander of the Faithful from any direct intercourse with his subjects. The Imperial Palace and the entourage were equally based on Roman and Persian precedents. Eunuchs, closely veiled 'harems' of women, guards, spies, go betweens, jesters, poets, and dwarfs clustered around the person of the Commander of the Faithful, each, in his degree, endeavoring to gain the royal favour and indirectly distracting the royal mind from affairs of business and state.
Meanwhile the mercantile trade of the East poured gold into Bagdad, and supplemented the other enormous stream of money derived from the contributions of plunder and loot dispatched to the capital by the commanders of the victorious raiding forces which harried Asia Minor, India, and Turkestan. The seemingly unending supply of Turkish slaves and Byzantine spice added to the richness of the revenues of Irak, and, combined with the vast commercial traffic of which Bagdad was the centre, produced a large and powerful moneyed class, composed of the sons of generals, officials, landed proprietors, royal favorites, merchants, and the like, who encouraged the arts, literature, philosophy, and poetry as the mood took them, building palaces for themselves, vying with each other in the luxury of their entertainments, suborning poets to sound their praises, dabbling in philosophy, supporting various schools of thought, endowing charities, and, in fact, behaving as the wealthy have always behaved in all ages.”
I have said that the Abbasid Empire in the days of Haroun-al-Raschid was weak and feeble to a degree, and perhaps the reader will consider this a foolish proposition when he takes into consideration that I have described the Empire as orderly, the administration definite and settled, the army efficient, and wealth abundant. The reason I make the suggestion is that the Abbasid Empire had lost touch with everything original and vital in Islam, and was constructed entirely by the reunion of the fragments of the empires Islam had destroyed. There was nothing in the empire which appealed to the higher instincts of the leaders of the people; the holy war had degenerated into a systematic acquisition of plunder. The Caliph had become a luxurious Emperor or King of Kings; the administration had changed from a patriarchal system to a bureaucracy. The wealthier classes were rapidly losing all faith in the religion of the state; speculative philosophy and high living were taking the place of Koranic orthodoxy and Arabian simplicity. The solitary bond which could have held the empire together, the sternness and plainness of the Moslem faith, was completely neglected by both the Caliph and his advisers . . . Haroun-al-Raschid himself was a winebibber, and his palace was decorated with graven images of birds and beasts and men . . .
Haroun-al-Raschid died in 809. At his death his great empire fell immediately into civil war and confusion, and the next great event of unusual importance in this region of the world comes two hundred years later when the Turks, under the chiefs of the great family of the Seljuks, poured southward out of Turkestan, and not only conquered the empire of Bagdad, but Asia Minor also. Coming from the northeast as they did, they were able to outflank the great barrier of the Taurus Mountains, which had hitherto held back the Moslems. They were still much the same people as those of whom Yuan Chwang gave us a glimpse four hundred years earlier, but now they were Moslems, and Moslems of the primitive type, men whom Abu Bekr would have welcomed to Islam. They caused a great revival of vigour in Islam, and they turned the minds of the Moslem world once more in the direction of a religious war against Christendom. For there had been a sort of truce between these two great religions after the cessation of the Moslem advance and the decline of the Omayyads. Such warfare as had gone on between Christianity and Islam had been rather border - bickering than sustained war. It became only a bitter fanatical struggle again in the eleventh century.”
Compare this excessiveness and spend thriftiness (which of course, we nowadays see on a regular basis in the Gulf Arabs who come to London and Las Vegas to spend their petrodollars, or who have three or four palaces each, if not more) with the simplicity of the great Prophet, who history books tell us, “He was the greatest charitable man. He did not pass a single night hoarding any dirham or dinar. Whenever any excess money came to him and if he did not then get anyone to accept it as charity, he did not return home till he gave it to the poor and the needy. He did not store up for more than a year the provision of his family members which Allah was pleased to give him. He used to take one fifth of what easily came to him out of dates and wheat. What remained in excess, he used to give in charity. He used to give away in charity to one who begged anything of him, even out of his stored up provision”.
Or the great caliph Abu Bakr, who, “When he became a Muslim he had an amount of 40,000 dirhams. The entire amount was spent by him in the cause of Islam. He paid for the liberation of slaves. He financed the journey of the Holy Prophet from Makkah to Madina on the occasion of emigration. He paid for the land acquired for the construction of the Prophet's mosque at Madina. When the Holy Prophet invited contributions for financing the Tabuk expedition, Abu Bakr contributed all his assets for the purpose, and when the Holy Prophet inquired as to what he had kept for himself and his dependents he said that for himself and his dependents he had left Allah and His Prophet. He was an embodiment of selflessness. When he became the Caliph he was paid a meager allowance from the treasury. On his deathbed he sold a plot of his land and repaid the entire amount to the treasury. He lived a simple unostentatious life. One of his wives once expressed the wish to have a sweet dish. Abu Bakr deposited the amount in the public treasury and had his allowance reduced to the extent of the saving made by his wife, on the ground that such amount was surplus to his genuine needs”.
Or the great Omar, whose “abstinence and humility… were not inferior to the virtues of Abu Bakr: his food consisted of barley bread or dates; his drink was water; he preached in a gown that was torn or tattered in twelve places; and a Persian satrap, who paid his homage as to the conqueror, found him asleep among the beggars on the steps of the mosque of Muslims. Economy is the source of liberality, and the increases of the revenue enabled Umar to establish a just and perpetual reward for the past and present services of the faithful.” Or Othman or Ali, both of whom were known for their generosity and humanity.
I don’t agree with the famous Belgian historian George Sarton, when he writes in, ‘The Incubation of Western Culture in the Middle East':
“The decadence of Islam and of Arabic is almost as puzzling in its speed and completeness as their phenomenal rise. Scholars will forever try to explain it as they try to explain the decadence and fall of Rome. Such questions are exceedingly complex and it is impossible to answer them in a simple way."
The reason for the decadence of Islam is actually quite simple. There is one difference between the Muslims during the era of the Prophet and the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and those coming afterward. Muslims neglected God and His word. Sayyid Qutb brilliantly explained this in the introduction to his aforementioned work:
“The callers to Islam in every country and in every period should give thought to one particular aspect of the history of Islam, and they should ponder over it deeply. This is related to the method of inviting people to Islam and its ways of training.
At one time this Message created a generation - the generation of the Companions of the Prophet, may God be pleased with them - without comparison in the history of Islam, even in the entire history of man. After this, no other generation of this caliber was ever again to be found. It is true that we do find some individuals of this caliber here and there in history, but never again did a great number of such people exist in one region as was the case during the first period of Islam.
This is an obvious and open truth of history, and we ought to ponder over it deeply so that we may reach its secrets.
The Qur'an of this Message is still in our hands…The only difference is the person of the Messenger of God - peace be on him; but is this the secret?
Had the person of the Prophet - peace be on him - been absolutely essential for the establishment and fruition of this message, God would not have made Islam a universal message, ordained it as the religion for the whole of mankind, given it the status of the last Divine Message for humanity, and made it to be a guide for all the inhabitants of this planet in all their affairs until the end of time.
God has taken the responsibility for preserving the Holy Qur'an on Himself because He knows that Islam can be established and can benefit mankind even after the time of the Prophet - peace be on him. Hence He called His Prophet - peace be on him - back to His mercy after twenty three years of messengership and declared this religion to be valid until the end of time. Therefore the absence of the Messenger of God - peace be on him - is not the real cause for, nor does it explain, this phenomenon.
We look, therefore, for some other reasons, and for this purpose we look at that clear spring from which the first generation of Muslims quenched their thirst. Perhaps something has been mixed with that clear spring. We should look at the manner in which they received their training. Perhaps some changes have found their way into it.
The spring from which the Companions of the Prophet - peace be on him-drank was the Qur'an; only the Qur'an as the Hadith of the Prophet and his teachings were offspring of this fountainhead. When someone asked the Mother of the Faithful, Aisha-may God be please- with her,-about the character of the Prophet-peace be on him,-she answered, "His character was the Qur'an".
The Holy Qur'an was the only source from which they quenched their thirst, and this was the only mold in which they formed their lives. This was the only guidance for them, not because there was no civilization or culture or science or books or schools. Indeed, there was Roman culture, its civilization, its books and its laws, which even today are considered to be the foundation of European culture. There was the heritage of Greek culture- its logic, its philosophy and its arts, which are still a source of inspiration for Western thought. There was the Persian civilization, its art, its poetry and its legends, and its religion and system of government. There were many other civilizations, near or far, such as the Indian and Chinese cultures, and so on. The Roman and Persian cultures were established to the north and to the south of the Arabian peninsula, while the Jews and Christians were settled in the heart of Arabia. Thus we believe that this generation did not place sole reliance on the Book of God for the understanding of their religion because of any ignorance of civilization and culture, but it was all according to a well thought out plan and method. An example of this purpose is found in the displeasure expressed by the Messenger of God - peace be on him -when 'Umar-may God be pleased with him-brought some pages from the Torah. The Messenger of God-peace be on him-said, "By God, if even Moses had been alive among you today, he would have no recourse except to follow me" [Reported by al-Hafidh Abu Yala from Himad, from al-Shubi, from Jabir.]
It is clear from this incident that the Messenger of God - peace be on him - deliberately limited the first generation of Muslims, which was undergoing the initial stages of training, to only one source of guidance, and that was the Book of God. His intention was that this group should dedicate itself purely to the Book of God and arrange its lives solely according to its teachings. That is why the Messenger of God -peace be on him-was displeased when 'Umar-may God be pleased with him-turned to a source different from the Qur'an
In fact, the Messenger of God-peace be on him-intended to prepare a generation pure in heart, pure in mind, pure in understanding. Their training was to be based on the method prescribed by God Who gave the Qur'an, purified from the influence of all other sources.
This generation, then, drank solely from this spring and thus attained a unique distinction in history. In later times it happened that other sources mingled with it. Other sources used by later generations included Greek philosophy and logic, ancient Persian legends and their ideas, Jewish scriptures and traditions, Christian theology, and, in addition to these, fragments of other religions and civilizations. These mingled with the commentaries on the Qur'an and with scholastic theology, as they were mingled with jurisprudence and its principles. Later generations after this generation obtained their training from this mixed source, and hence the like of this generation never arose again.
Thus we can say without any reservations that the main reason for the difference between the first unique and distinguished group of Muslims and later Muslims is that the purity of the first source of Islamic guidance was mixed with various other sources, as we have indicated.”
Once again, Qutb is speaking the truth. It is only when we developed an adherence to the irrational and sometimes downright bizarre teachings of the ‘hadith’, and ‘words of scholars’ that we collapsed. It is my personal belief that blind adherence to ‘hadith’, and the belief that what certain people wrote hundred of years after the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) lived or is said to have said it can be the foundation of a nation, is one of the most corrupt influences on modern Islam, or submission to God.
The criticism of ‘hadith’ is invaluable – this is because, Islam, as we have it now, is based, to a great deal on it. That is a fact we cannot deny. It has, in many cases (for instance, in the case of apostasy, in the case of punishment of the adulterer, and other things) come to have greater importance than the Qur’an itself. And Islam as we have it now, and I have already made clear, is not submission to God. Muslim nations are the nations of darkness, of foolishness, of utter absurdity. Spirituality is ridiculed, and humanity abhorred. By criticising it, and picking out what is good from it, using the six golden principles originated by Omar Ibn Al-Khattab (RAA), we will benefit a great deal from it:
“Umar was alive to the danger that whatever was ascribed to the Holy Prophet, right or wrong would obtain currency and venerable acceptance. Umar evolved principles on the basis of which the traditions were to be accepted. The basic principles were:
§ The report should be literally faithful;
§ Every Hadith narrated should carry with it the name of the narrator and the chain of narrators;
§ The narrators must be men of proven faith and integrity;
§ In judging the veracity of a report the occasion and circumstances involved should be taken into consideration;
§ The report should not be repugnant to the Holy Quran;
§ The report should be rational.”
This is the opinion of some of our greatest current thinkers, and it is only aiming for the progress of mankind. For instance, this is how Abdul Hamid Abu Sulayman put it:
“It is imperative that the texts of the authentic Sunnah be collected, classified, and placed within easy reach of scholars, researchers, and specialists in all fields of knowledge. These texts must be indexed, ordered by subject content, and purged of all accretions. Such a classification of the Sunnah may be completed in the following manner:
§ Those hadiths which, owing to the authenticity of their narration (sanad) and the soundness of their meaning, may be accepted as authoritative evidence.
§ Those hadiths which, owing to the soundness of their meaning, may be accepted as evidence, even if their narration is open to debate.
§ Those hadiths which, regardless of what may be said about the authenticity or otherwise of their narration, are questionable in terms of meaning (i.e., their meanings seem to be in some way contradictory to the principles or purposes of the Shari'ah).
§ Those hadiths which, owing to the dubious authenticity of their narration and the contradictory nature of their meaning, may not be considered acceptable as evidence.
The importance of this methodological issue is not limited to the mishandling of the Sunnah, for in many cases the Muslim mind is overawed by what is clearly unsound, with the result that when it accepts something unsound as sound, it loses its ability to discriminate and perceive things as they truly are. Finally, the Muslim mind, thought, and methodology lose all value and utility when they become accustomed to accepting principles other than the divinely revealed principles and approaches contained in the Qur'an and the Sunnah”.
All that I find inhumane and abhorrent about Islam as currently practised, can be found in the thousands of ‘ahadith’ that the great Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said, which I am pretty sure he didn’t, for most of them do not fulfil the above six criteria. We will see evidence of this in the next chapter. I will bring this discussion to a close by drawing the reader’s attention to some interesting historical facts:
“Out of the entire collection of Hadith running into thousands of items, only 142 items are attributed to the authority of Abu Bakr. Of all the companions of the Holy Prophet, Abu Bakr was the closest to him, and one would expect Abu Bakr to be a repository of a larger number of traditions. The comparatively smaller number of traditions owing their authority to the reporting of Abu Bakr is attributed to the extraordinary care and caution exercised by Abu Bakr in sifting the tradition.
According to Ayesha, Abu Bakr had originally a collection of over five hundred traditions, and he deposited the compilation with her for custody. Ayesha relates that one night she noticed that Abu Bakr felt very restless. He tossed about in the bed, and could not sleep. Ayesha got worried whether he was suffering or was worried. He made no reply, but remained restless throughout the night. The following morning he asked Ayesha to bring him the collections that he had deposited with her. She brought the compilation and he set fire to it. On the enquiry of Ayesha, Abu Bakr explained his conduct thus: "The collection contained many traditions that I had heard from other people. I thought that if I died and left behind traditions accepted by me as authentic, but really not so, then I would have to answer for that."
Another fascinating fact, “Lest the people should make mistakes in reporting Hadith direct from the Holy Prophet, Umar forbade the Companions to report direct from the Holy Prophet. Umar also enjoined that Hadith should not be mixed with the Quran. Lest there might be mistake in reporting. Umar enjoined, "Report sparingly from the Holy Prophet". When Umar was asked to quote traditions he would usually say "Had I not feared that I might make a mistake in reporting Hadith I would have quoted one." Umar emphasized that extra care should be taken to ensure that there was no mistake in reporting. The checks and restraints imposed by Umar on the reporting of traditions and the high standard of accuracy required by him paid dividends and all the traditions that were accepted and publicized were free from flaw.” Compare this with the way ‘Islamic scholars’ these days say on an hourly basis, “The prophet said” and “The prophet did”, without any mention of the ‘sanad’, as if they were there to witness the event.
Finally, “Omar Ibn Al-Khattab, the second guided Khalifa threatened Abu Hurayra to send him to exile if he does not stop telling hadiths about Muhammed, he did stop until Omar's assassination then started again. He kept telling hadiths to please the Khalifa of the Muslims then, all the time, including the time he lived in the royal palace of Muawaya in Syria. Abu Hurayra told his audience that he is telling them hadiths that if he ever mentioned when Omar was alive, he would be given several lashes”. Abu Huraya is the most frequent man to give ahadith about the prophet (PBUH), even though he spent only three years with the prophet. The message is clear.
I conclude this section with a quote from a wonderful book I recently picked up, ‘Crisis in the Muslim Mind’ by Abdul Hamid A. Abu Sulayman which I think is essential reading for all who care about our fate:
“The methodology of Islam in its earliest ages was a natural and automatic sort of methodology that relied on the wisdom of revelation and the soundness of human reason and ijtihad that sprang from the untainted human fitrah. Thus the prophetic and the caliphal ages were the best examples of the human spirit for all the generations that followed.”
 Martin Gardner stated in the final chapter of his brilliant, ‘The Whys of a Philosophical Scriviner’ (p.347), “I also believe…that one can drop out of a traditional religion such as Christianity without at the same time abandoning faith in a personal God or in life after death. Indeed, I believe that such a faith, unburdened by strange dogmas, is truer to the heart of what Jesus probably taught than the New Testament records indicate. Many of the doctrines of Paul would have astonished Jesus, just as Paul would have been amazed by some myths that became part of the gospels. And Jesus and Paul alike would surely have been bewildered – in my opinion, shocked – by most of the doctrines fabricated later by the Holy Roman Church” .
 As He (SWT) describes Himself, “Allah! There is no deity save Him, the Alive, the Eternal. Neither slumber nor sleep overtaketh Him. Unto Him belongeth whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that intercedeth with Him save by His leave? He knoweth that which is in front of them and that which is behind them, while they encompass nothing of His knowledge save what He will. His throne includeth the heavens and the earth, and He is never weary of preserving them. He is the Sublime, the Tremendous (2:255)” and “He is Allah, than Whom there is no other Allah, the Knower of the Invisible and the Visible. He is the Beneficent, Merciful. He is Allah, than Whom there is no other Allah, the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One, Peace, the Keeper of Faith, the Guardian, the Majestic, the Compeller, the Superb. Glorified be Allah from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him).He is Allah, the Creator, the Shaper out of naught, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifieth Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise” (59:22-24).