Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Every Hardship, we are told by the Quran, is followed by ease (94:5-6). Our Creator has made this world in such a way that life is not just one long series of difficulties, but has its definite elements of respite. For every disadvantage, there is an advantage. While the old adage has it that “there is no rose without a thorn” we should look at the obverse proposition, that the thorniest of bushes are crowned by the most lux­uriant of blossoms. And when we run into failure, we should look to see if it does not contain the seeds of future success. However unfortunate our circumstances may be, we should never lose heart for in even the darkest hours of ruin, there is always a ray of hope, there is always some oppor­tunity to make a fresh start and to rebuild things in an even better man­ner than before.

What we do with our opportunities is a matter of how intelligently we perceive them, and with what determination we exploit them. The ostensible “hardships” which we face in life are devised by the Almighty to test us, so that we must be ready to make the best of every situation and to turn our disadvantages to good account.

Commenting on this aspect of life, the Prophet Muhammad said, “Beware of the insight of a believer, for he sees by the light of God.” This means that the true believer is possessed of foresight and is able to view matters from every angle. He is possessed, in a word, of divine vi­sion. There is no limit to the strength of one so endowed.

One who has never known what it is to have divine vision will soon give way to despair in the face of adversity, for, unless favoured by divine grace, man’s vision cannot rise above the human level; it will remain forever narrow and restricted; it will become preoccupied with whatever is superficial in life. No one with such limited vision can ever have the same staying power as one who is blessed with divine vision, who is not deceived by appearances, who forms his judgments on the basis of profound understanding. Seeing things only on the surface, and never trying to penetrate any deeper will never enable a man to rise above adverse circumstances.

The severest problem besetting the Muslims of today is the loss of their divine vision. In consequence they see nothing but the darkest side of human affairs. When everything should be bathed in a divine light, they continue to flounder and grope in obscurity. The very fact that Muslims can find nothing better to do than bear grudges and lodge an endless list of complaints is a sure indication that they have lost that precious insight which should illumine the vision of the believer.

Take, for instance, the petition filed in the Calcutta High Court in 1985 seeking an injunction banning the Quran. All orators and writers belonging to the Muslim community in India offered their opinions on this case. Without exception, none of them saw anything but the most unfavourable side of the matter. To them, this was a case of discrimina­tion and they were united in raising their voices in protest against what they saw as a cruel act of prejudice. So far as I know, not a single Muslim of note saw the bright side of the affair – i.e. that, in its judgement, the High Court formally re-emphasized the legal right of everyone in India to practise the religion of his or her choice. One did not have to look very far to see the bright side, but the Muslims were bent on seeing the affair, not as one of religious freedom, but as one of religious prejudice.

The situation in Spain offers a parallel instance. Abd ar-Rahman ad-Dakhil has been restored to his rightful place in Spanish history. Muslims are once again taking up residence in Spain. Yet when I mentioned these facts to certain educated Muslims, their reaction was: “This sounds like some new plot on the part of the Christians.” How extraordinary that the bright side of these events, which is plain for all to see, should strike them as resulting from dark, ulterior motives.

This clearly shows that the Muslims of this day and age are afflicted by a deep-rooted intellectual bankruptcy, which prevents them from making an in-depth analysis of current affairs. Before arriving at their final judgments, they should consider matters carefully, from every angle. They should have regard for those aspects which are not im­mediately apparent, and should guard against being taken in by superficial elements. Instead of allowing themselves to be blown off course by the gusty winds of life, they should set their sails in such a way that these winds carry them forward to their destination. This means being fully alert to the way the winds of change are blowing and being able to turn these winds to good advantage. It is knowledge and ability which are lacking in the Muslims of the present day.

Instead of seeing events in a positive light, today’s writers and speakers of the Muslim world have taken it upon themselves to raise their voices in protest against others. Take a look at any Muslim newspaper, visit any Muslim country, take part in any Muslim conference, and you will see examples of this negative mentality. The Muslim world is today obsessed with the idea that their religion is beset by oppression at the hands of its enemies. Whatever happens; it appears to Muslims as an example of some sinister plotting or cruel oppression on the part of other nations. They are unable to see events in any other than this negative light.

Fifty years ago, Amir Shakeeb Arsalan wrote a book entitled Limadha Ta’akhkhara al-Muslimun wa Taqaddama Ghayruhum (Why have Muslims lagged behind other nations?). During the fifty years which have elapsed since Arsalan wrote this book, Muslim leaders have been able to offer just one answer to this question. They have laid all the blame for their own problem at the door of others, and have embarked on an endless campaign of protest and complaint. Muslims of the present age have become expert at seeing the dark side of every issue; the bright side just does not appear to them at all.

However, the truth of the situation is far removed from the way Muslims see it. In fact, the woeful situation confronting Muslims today is not a result of oppression from outside, but a result of intellectual bankruptcy of the Muslim community itself. Due to their misguided, negative mentality, the Muslims have been unable to derive food for thought from the events going on around them. Though they stand on the threshold of great opportunities, it appears to them as though they are barred from advancement in all walks of life. They are conscious of their current predicament but oblivious to their possibilities. So entangl­ed are they in the sorry state in which they find themselves, that they have become blind to the areas of opportunity which are available to them for improving their situation in life.

Relating the story of Moses and Pharaoh, the Quran tells of how the latter had gathered together the magicians of Egypt in a large arena. The conjurors cast their ropes and wands into the arena, whereupon they took the form of snakes writhing upon the ground. When Moses saw this, he felt afraid. It was only natural that, as an ordinary mortal, he should feel apprehensive about competing with this vast array of snakes. But God Almighty told him not to be afraid, for he would win through. “Cast your staff; it will devour all their snakes and victory will be yours.” Moses acted according to God’s command. He threw his staff on the ground and it turned into a serpent far larger than those which the magi­cians had contrived to produce. When Moses’ serpent entered the arena, it brought all the magicians’ snakes to nothing (Surah Ta Ha, vv. 66-69).

The state of Muslims in the present age can be compared to that of Moses. They have God’s divine law on their side, they have been en­dowed with miraculous powers by God so that they need not fear the powers of magic, they have, as it were, the staff of Moses in their hands, yet still paltry human tricks scare them out of their wits.

Great Changes

In the period following the crusades, the Christian theologians of Europe were wont to present the teachings and history of Islam in a cor­rupted form. In the nineteenth century, however, science, which attaches great importance to accuracy in all fields of study, ushered in a new era. Under its influence the advanced nations of the world developed much greater precision in their thinking, as a result of which the spirit of realism was widely cultivated.

This exactitude in thinking exerted its influence on all departments of learning, including that of Islamic studies. A trend then emerged in favour of interpreting Islamic teachings and history in their true light. This led to a new age of Orientalism, in which the study and presentation of Islamic matters were carried out with much greater objectivity than would hitherto have been possible.

Following the Communist revolutions in Russia and China, there was a period in which religion underwent severe suppression. Nowadays, however, under the influence of international pressure, the authorities in these countries are becoming more moderate in their outlook to the ex­tent of granting a greater degree of freedom in matters of religion. In an­cient times, the only discussions which took place between followers of various religions were conducted in the form of debates, with each side fiercely defending the tenets of its own religion. Nowadays such discus­sions are held in a cordial atmosphere, with people of different religious denominations presenting their own point of view and listening attentively and dispassionately to what people of other religions have to say. I myself have had the opportunity to take part in several such conference. Furthermore, universities all over the world have opened large depart­ments devoted to Arabic and Islamic studies, in which a purely academic and historical approach has been adopted in the study of Islam. A great number of non-Muslim scholars in the western world, who have acquired a good knowledge of Arabic, perform such essential tasks as the transla­tion of Islamic scriptures into their own languages. They also edit classical Islamic books, after which these are published in a most im­pressive format. Besides this, they have produced books of their own in which they have presented the results of their research into Islamic history and other Islam-related topics.

In modern times, massive changes have occured in every department of life, particularly in transport and communications, and in in­dustrial and agricultural methods. But what is perhaps more important is that people’s thoughts and attitudes have also undergone a very great change. In other words, the intellectual revolution that has taken place in this day and age has produced conditions which are now highly favourable to the dissemination of Islam. Work which was previously undertaken in the face of great obstacles can now be accomplished in a comparatively relaxed and, therefore, propitious atmosphere. In ancient times, people were not ready even to acknowledge any creed which dif­fered from their own, whereas in modern times, people are ready even to give their approval to such faiths. Prejudice and bigotry were the order of the day in times gone by, in the age in which we live, such sentiments have given way to the spirit of rationalism. There is no doubting the fact that the present age is one of great new opportunities for spreading the message of Islam. Nowadays, this task can be carried out without any obstacles being placed in the way. Besides, access can now be had to all kinds of modern means of communication which make it possible to convey God’s message, in a more palatable fashion, and to a greater number of people than ever before.

Allover the world, Muslims complain of cruelty and discrimination at the hands of other nations. They have developed a persecution complex which has blinded them to the other side of the situation in which they find themselves. Were Muslims to see things from the correct angle, they would realize that conditions in the world are such that they have no cause for despair, and plenty of grounds for optimism. To take one outstanding example, there is the fact that thousands of people from non-Muslim nations are daily entering the fold of Islam. In the African country of Rwanda for instance, 25,000 people have accepted Islam over the last five years. In France, Islam has become the second largest religion, after Roman Catholicism, and a large number of people are ac­cepting Islam in America, Britain, Japan and other nations of the in­dustrial world. Imposing Islamic centres have been set up in all the major cities of the world. Notable amongst these is the Islamic centre in Rome – once a centre of anti-Islamic activity – which has been built in the very centre of the city. As for Spain, the situation there has improved to such an extent that the Muslim converts living in Granada have started bringing out a newspaper, to which they have given the name Pais Islamico.

Dr. Umar Farooq Abd Allah, a convert to Islam who lives in Spain, performed Hajj in 1984 on which occasion he gave an interview to the Karachi based journal, Yaqeen lnternational (May 22,1985). In this inter­view, he pointed out that conditions in Spain had changed considerably since the death of General Franco (1892-1975). A large Islamic centre had been opened in Granada and Muslims could be found in every town of Spain. During the period since the death of General Franco, at least five hundred Spaniards had accepted Islam. “The present Spanish authorities are open-minded and tolerant in their attitude,” he said.

This applies not only to Spain. Allover the world, Islam is a focus of continuous publicity. This means that, even today, when Muslims con­sider themselves downtrodden, theoretically they are in a position to take the initiative, for everywhere Islam is winning over people’s hearts. If only Muslim could see the positive side of the contemporary trends with regard to Islam, they would realize that the present-day conditions which they bewail in fact constitute an open invitation to them to launch a pro­gramme of action which would yield tremendous results.

While on a foreign tour, I happened to meet a Japanese convert to Islam. He remarked that there were great opportunities in Japan for the propagation of Islam. Till now, however, full use had not been made of these opportunities. What is needed, he said, is for Islam to be presented before the Japanese in a simple manner. Then most of them will accept Islam. As he put it: “The Japanese people are potentially Muslims.”

While taking part in an international seminar, I made the acquain­tance of a Muslim professor who teaches in a Canadian university. He said that in Canada there are tremendous opportunities for communicating the message of Islam. One can even avail of government funds in order to conduct this work on a grand scale. The Canadian government is ready to assist its citizens in the launching of any peaceful scheme. Furthermore, government assistance does not have any strings attached. It does not. involve unnecessary government interference. Followers of other religions, he said, are making full use of these oppor­tunities while the Muslims have as yet failed to do so, being more con­cerned with raising political slogans. It is this, unfortunately, which they have to regard as their vocation in life.

The Message of the Hudaybiyah Peace:

The Prophet Mohammad was so sorely persecuted by the people of Mecca that he was forced to leave his home town and emigrate to Medina. This move failed to placate the Meccans, who declared a war aimed at the obliteration of Islam. Battle after battle was waged between the Muslims and the idolators. A state of war existed on all sides. While such an atmosphere prevailed, it was almost impossible to communicate the message of Islam, and next to no progress was made in this field.

In the sixth year after the Prophet’s emigration, it appeared as though the Arabs would have nothing but aversion and prejudice to offer in response to the message of Islam. Constant wars had put a virtual end to the spread of Islam. The road ahead for the Prophet’s religion ap­peared bleak indeed.

With the gift of special divine grace, the Prophet realized that the state of affairs as it appeared did not represent the true reality of the situation. Outwardly, the situation appeared grim, but beneath the dark exterior there lay a number of bright opportunities which were waiting to be tapped. On the outside, Islam appeared to be faced with unending violent hostility, but beneath this front of antagonism lay great poten­tialities. With his divinely-endowed vision, the Prophet saw that if an end were put to the state of war, these hidden potentialities would be allowed to flourish. Islamic history would receive a new impetus in the very land where its development had been stunted since birth. The Prophet’s analysis of events led to the Peace of Hudaybiyah. This Peace-treaty was in fact, a ten-year truce between the Muslims and the idolators. To put an end to the state of war, the Prophet unilaterally accepted all the demands of the other side. There was no other way that peace could be achieved, for when the opposite party is obdurate, refusing to yield so much as an inch, then there is only one way to normalize the situation – by concurring with the position taken up by the other side.

Today, Islamic history has reached the same stage as prior to the Peace of Hudaybiyah. All over the world, Muslims have been beset with antagonism and violence. Since the Muslims have reacted to this violence with violence, the result has been the eruption of futile and senseless con­flicts throughout the Muslim world. In some places Muslims are left to protest verbally against their position, while in other cases they have adopted the path of armed insurrection. It seems as if other nations have nothing besides hate and aversion to offer in response to Islam.

But if one takes a searching look at the situation, one can see that the real state of affairs is quite different from that which meets the eye. Islam is in the same position today as it was in at the time of the Peace of Hudaybiyah. One clear indication of this is the great number of people who are accepting Islam. On the outside, condition appear un favourable to Islam, but, in fact, there are great opportunities for Islam in the world of today. What is needed is for the Muslims to make use of these oppor­tunities. If we can show the same practical wisdom as was displayed by the Prophet and his companions on the occasion of the Peace of Hudaybiyah, then there is not a shadow of a doubt that the results will be just as favourable now for Islam as they were on that occasion, at the outset of Islamic history.

In order to make the best use of any situation, there is always a sacrifice that has to be made. This is no less true of the situation facing Muslims today. If they are to make the same order of sacrifice as the Prophet and his companions did on the occasion of the Peace of Hudaybiyyah. They shall have to put an end to all their quarrels with other nations, bringing about a normalization of relations through unilateral action on their part.

All over the world, the Muslims have adopted the habit of meeting force with force. As a result of this retaliatory mentality, they have become embroiled in nationalistic and materialistic conflicts with nations to whom they would do better to addressing the message of Islam. It is these conflicts which pose the greatest obstacle to progress in the field of introducing or spreading Islam, for preaching-work requires a peaceful atmosphere, in which people are ready to listen to what others have to say and weigh their words in a spirit of objectivity.

On the one hand, we live in an age of immense opportunities for Islam. These have come about owing to the changes that have taken place in the modern world. On the other hand, however; there is the distrust and antagonism which mark relations between Muslims and other nations of the world. At this juncture, the Muslims should adopt the path taken by their Prophet in the sixth year after his emigration to Medina. By taking unilateral action, the Prophet put an end to the at­mosphere of confrontation which existed between Muslims and those who had not accepted the Faith. He put up with all the hardships impos­ed upon him by the enemies of Islam and refrained from violent reaction to violence on their part. This required great sacrifice on the part of the Prophet. If the Muslims can make a similar sacrifice today, then the at­mosphere of antagonism which marks the Muslims’ relations with other nations will automatically come to an end, the recent opportunities which exist for preaching the message of Islam will be allowed to flourish. Such a development will usher in a new age of Islamic history. There will then be no stopping the progress of Islam in the world, for God has decreed that His religion will prevail over all others.

A New Age

The Peace of Hudaybiyah amounted to a ten-year cessation of hostilities. By dint of this truce, the Prophet was able to put the sword aside and make use of the intellectual power of Islam. For the first time in human history, a conflict was taken out of the military arena, leaving the two sides to wage an intellectual contest. Up to that point, when any dispute had arisen between two parties, people had not known any way of settling it except on the field of battle. The Prophet Mohammad proved, that, in practice, there is another way of settling disputes, namely by the force of ideas. Furthermore, a victory of ideas carries more weight than that gained on the field of battle.

The peace-treaty of Hudaybiyah should not be seen as an isolated policy aimed at ridding the Muslims in those days of the menace of the Quraysh. It was much more than that, for it amounted to the opening of a new avenue of opportunity for mankind. On the one hand, this peace enabled the Prophet to illustrate the unassailable intellectual ascendancy of Islam, while on the other hand it ushered in a new age for mankind, an era whose virtues are becoming fully evident in present times.

In ancient times, there was thought to be nothing wrong in one ruler indulging in armed aggression against someone else’s territory and tak­ing that territory over at the cost of immense bloodshed and loss of life. Only in recent times has aggression become a crime according to inter­national law. Nowadays, the acceptable procedure is for disputes to be settled through negotiation.

The world owes this transition from exchanging blows to exchanging ideas to the Prophet of Islam. What has today become a universal norm is, in fact, the completion of a revolutionary wave, set in motion fourteen hundred years ago at the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. The Prophet Moham­mad was the first to introduce this approach. Furthermore, he showed on a practical level how disputes could be settled through negotiation. This trend developed over the centuries until finally it revolutionized people’s attitudes the world over.

This transformation which has taken place in human thought holds immense advantages for the Muslims. At the time of Hudaybiyah, the cause of Islam greatly benefited from this temporary cessation of hostilities. Now, the spirit of Hudaybiyah has become the spirit of the age in which we live. This has made it possible for us to perform on a much greater scale than ever before the task of communicating the message of Islam in a peaceful and propitious atmosphere. By making use of the in­tellectual force of Islam, we are in a position to make Islam once again the dominant religion of the world.

QURANIC VERSES94:5-620:66-69
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