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ISLAM IN SOCIETY

The Islamic teachings are applied to the collective aspects of human life. It is not our intention here to either discuss any existing societies or to set up a model for an Islamic society, but simply to convey some idea of how Islam regulates various aspects of human interaction and to make some observations as to how this may be implemented in practice.

Islam possesses its own social, political, legal and economic concepts and systems, all of which have their base in the Qur'an and the Prophet's Sunnah. While these may have some points of similarity to the concepts and Systems of other societies or ideologies, they are in fact unique and distinctive to Islam and cannot be forced into the mold of this or that man-made system or philosophy. It is important to bear in mind that by the time the revelation of the Qur'an had been completed in the year 632 After Christ, the principles governing these concepts and systems had been laid down in complete form. Hence the Islamic concepts and systems-whether they relate to political, economic, legal or social aspects pre-date the development of modern systems in any part of the world by several hundred years. Any apparent similarities between Islam and other systems cannot, therefore, possibly be due to Islam's "borrowing" from them but rather to the "borrowing" of other systems from Islam, or, more logically, to the fact that Islam's principles and laws are so obviously correct and workable that they would ultimately have been discovered by thinkers in other systems with or without any borrowing having taken place. In actual fact, the similarities between the Islamic Principles and other systems are more apparent than real, for unless a System `is firmly rooted in acknowledgment of the Creator, acceptance of man's accountability to Him, and simultaneous recognition of His sole right to legislate for His creatures and their obligation to obey Him the resemblance of any concept or system to Islam is obviously a superficial one.

The point to be borne in mind is that the principles on which the Islamic systems are based are constant, unalterable and universal ones originating in Divine revelation. However, the details of their application may certainly be adjusted as necessary within the Islamic framework to fit existing needs and circumstances. Hence, while Muslims are unquestionably permitted to adopt useful and beneficial knowledge and technology from any source, they are not to do this Blindly. In concrete terms, if they make use of a technology from a non-Islamic source, they are permitted to accept only the technology itself, not the concepts, values or behavior of the society from which it originates, nor anything related to its application which is contrary to Islamic values and laws. The technology, which is a practical ,concrete thing, is then assimilated into the total Islamic framework of the society, acquiring its own Islamic emphasis and perspective so that it can be a source of benefit, not of harm or disruption of values and societal patterns. For the mission of the Islamic society is not to imitate others' concepts, life-styles or habits but rather to be the leader and example to other societies, particularly in the area of spiritual and moral values.

In discussing the collective aspects of human interaction in any society, it is only logical to start at the beginning-that is, with the family. The Islamic teachings are designed to strengthen and protect this precious nurturing ground of future-generations with the utmost care and concern. However, in Islam "family" does not denote merely the nuclear family of Western society but includes, in addition to husband, wife and children, other close relatives as well. This of course does not mean that all the relatives must live together under one roof or even near each other but that, even if they are scattered and geographically distant, they recognize their membership in a unit whose numbers are bound together by ties of blood and mutual responsibility.

In Islam marriage, which is the cornerstone of the family, is very strongly encouraged; in fact, it is mentioned in a Hadith of the Prophet (peace be on him) as being the second half or completion of one's faith. The purpose of marriage in Islam is that a man and woman build a home, live together in love, kindness, mutual sympathy, support and companionship, meet one another's sexual needs, and rear children together. By their marriage they form a new family unit which also supports and strengthens the existing families of the pair. Marriage is seen as a working partnership, with each partner assuming responsibility for their common life together.

Islam recognizes that men and women have different natures, strengths and weaknesses, and hence it assigns different but complementary roles within the society to each, dividing the total work which must be done for the process of living between them in a way which best suits their innate capacities and natures. Within the family group, Islam assigns the leadership role to men, together with financial responsibility for its members; the support and maintenance of the women and children are their concern. Women in turn are responsible for looking after their husbands' comfort and well-being, guarding their honor and administering their properties providing for the physical and emotional well-being of their children. and, with their husbands' help rearing them in the best possible way as sound Muslims. Although as a matter of convenience most women do the work of their households, this is not required by Islam, and a woman is perfectly free to turn over all or part of the domestic work to others, as circumstances permit, and to pursue her own work or interests, provided the family-particularly in the area of the training of children is not neglected.

Islam lays great stress on the importance and desirability of having children and makes raising them properly a matter of vital concern. At the same time, young people are required to develop a sense of responsibility for their own conduct quite early in life. A young Muslim is considered by Islam as accountable for his or her own actions by the age of puberty (that is, by the age of eleven to sixteen years), by which time an individual is considered to be capable of possessing an adequate understanding of the Islamic teachings and of what is permissible and prohibited, as well as a sound practice of its various aspects. Children are reared with the understanding that the values and behaviors they are taught are not simply their parents' but God's, and that they apply as much to their parents and all other members of society as to themselves, while the parents for their part are expected to provide a sound example for them to follow. Consequently there is a continuity of values from generation to generation, and rebellion against them is not merely a rebellion against parental standards but against God. As a result, while the drive for independence naturally exists among maturing Muslim youth, rather than being a time of crisis, rebellion or deviation from accepted norms, adolescence is rather a time for serious preparation and adjustment to the assumption of adult responsibility.

Islam also requires that Muslims take responsibility for their parents when they become elderly, or for other aged relatives who may need their care or support. In an Islamic society, the phenomenon of a single woman or old person living alone is virtually unknown; such people are to be part of someone's household where their material wants and need for love, care and companionship can be met in a humane manner. Women's right to maintenance by the men of their families (their husbands, or if they are single, widowed or divorced, their fathers, brothers, adult sons or some other male relative) protects them from having to go out and struggle to earn a living the best they can, although they may lack marketable skills and work opportunities compatible with the dignity of women, in addition to the problem of the care and rearing of their children. Muslim women may own property, engage in business or work, but even in this case they are not required to provide for the family's maintenance because Islam has made this the responsibility of men.

Partly in order to provide a home and maintenance for every woman in the society and partly in order to make provision for other special situations, Islam permits Muslim men to marry more than one wife. This provision for limited polygamy is not, as some imagine, a recommendation or encouragement to plural marriage, or a blanket permission to marry more than one woman and then treat the wives any way one likes. Rather the permission to contract marriage with more than one woman is contingent upon the observance of scrupulous fairness among the wives. In the words of the Qur'an:

"And if you fear that you will not deal justly by orphans, marry of the women who seem good to you two or three or four. And if you fear that you cannot do justice, then (only) one . . . (4:3)

"You will not be able to deal equally between wives however much you desire (to do so). But (if you have more than one wife) do not turn altogether away (from one), leaving her as in suspense (4:129)

This does not of course mean that a man must love his wives equally-an obvious impossibility since no one can order his emotions-but that he should provide them with equal facilities and main tenance, spend an equal amount of time with each, and not give them the feeling that he prefers one over the other. This is clearly no easy task for the average man. Yet because Islam recognizes the nature and needs of women, and does not want them to live alone to bear all the economic and other burdens of life on their shoulders, or to spend their lives without the love and care of a husband or the blessing of children ; because it takes into cognizance that there are unusual situations such as barrenness or chronic illness in women which might make marrying more than one wife desirable, the permission for plural marriages has been given. For example, after a war the number of women is often much greater than that of men and many women are helpless and destitute. The Islamic solution-the humane,dignified and natural solution-is that a man should, under such conditions, shoulder the responsibility for more than one wife and provide for these homeless ones rather than their being forced to struggle alone in order to survive, often being reduced to prostitution because they can find no other means of livelihood. While it is unfortunately true that in practice the Islamic provision for polygamy has sometimes been misused, this does not change the wisdom of this provision, the result of which in past times was to stabilize Muslim societies by making it possible for every single individual to marry and have a home in one way or another. Moreover, with such a provision there is no excuse for anyone- man or women-to resort to illicit relationships to satisfy his/her sexual needs. However, no matter how fair a husband may try to be with his wives, there are obvious problems of rivalry and jealousy in plural marriages, and thus, while the provision for polygamy makes the social system flexible enough to deal with all kinds of conditions, it is not necessarily recommended or preferred by Islam. 1

While divorce is allowed, the Prophet (peace be on him) said that of all the things which God has permitted, divorce is the most hated by Him. This in itself points to the grave undesirability of divorce except as a last resort when all means of reconciliation between husband and wife fail. Such means include the attempts of relatives and friends to mediate between the two to help them resolve their differences. Effective safeguards are also built into the divorce procedure so that at any stage short of the final pronouncement reconciliation between the two parties can take place. When divorce does occur, however, it is not hedged about by difficulties or by long-drawn-out court procedures with mutual recriminations or fights over the custody of children, nor is a man penalized by having to support his former wife for the remainder of his life even though he may not have been at fault in any way. In any case, divorce is in fact an infrequent occurrence among Muslims. Although the two partners as a rule do not know each other before marriage since Islam totally prohibits such things as dating or pre-marital intimacy, the fact that, Muslim Marriages are based on common beliefs, values, ways of life and submission to God's commands rather than on romantic attachment before marriage provides them with a strong and sound foundation for building a life together.

As we have seen, absolute chastity before marriage and absolute fidelity to one's mate is required of both men and women. Islam considers the honor of women sacred and insists that they be treated with appropriate dignity and respect and for their part they are required to guard their modesty and purity with utmost care. An Islamic society is to be free of the degradation of women and the exploitation of their sexuality, whether by men or by commercial interests and of any influences which weaken marriage, the family or peoples' morals. Thus Islam establishes certain limits to govern the relations between men and women so that the interaction of Muslims may be characterized by absolute integrity, openness purity - and honesty.

Muslims traditionally address one another as "brother" and "sister" and attempt to behave as befits such a relationship. Responsibility may be said to be the keynote of all relationships and interaction among them and the rights of others and one's obligations toward them are universally acknowledged. Cooperation is the rule rather than competition; in fact, competition should consist of trying to excel in being and doing good rather than in outdoing others in acquiring possessions, status or other such aspects of life. Unity of purpose and action, mutual helpfulness and working together are very strongly stressed.

In Islam helpfulness and concern for others preclude such practices as dealing in interest which takes advantage of others' needs and permits an increase in the wealth of the lender of money without his working for it, whether it is done by an individual or a financial institution such as a bank, and Muslims are expected to develop and implement a sound, workable alternative interest-free economic system. Neither are any sorts of commercial interests permitted to exploit the people, whether it be by exciting greed and materialism through advertising, by the manufacture of goods which are harmful or undesirable, or by ecologically unsound practices which want only destroy irreplaceable natural resources for easily dispensed-with consumer goods. Wastage, whether or wealth or of natural resources is prohibited; instead, the resources given by God are to be treated with respect and utilized in the best way possible for the welfare of all, with an eye to the future as well as the present.

The material development of the society, whether by industrialization, utilization of resources, the application of science and technology, or other means is considered a religious obligation in Islam However, the aim of all such efforts must be the welfare of the people and the society, keeping in mind the needs of future generations as well, never the enrichment of individuals or interest groups. Hence new developments under consideration in an Islamic society might be studied by panels of experts in various fields, including Islamic sociologists and psychologists, to determine their probable long-range effects on the society, and they would be undertaken or dropped on the basis of their recommendations. Random and too rapid development, which destroys religious and societal values and stable living patterns, would not be permitted, and moderation in production and consumption patterns would be stressed.

The charitableness which is so central to the feeling of love and brotherhood among Muslims is intended to equalize the wealth in the society so that some people are not excessively rich while others are destitute. Every Muslim is expected to feel and to accept responsibility for those who are near to him, and even for others who are outside his immediate circle. Thus orphans are as a rule brought up by relatives, not adopted by strangers or put into institutions, and as we have mentioned, a similar responsibility is assumed for the aged and for single, widowed or divorced women, either by their relatives or through plural marriages. To put it another way, in the Islamic society, kindness, charitableness and help to the needy and unfortunate are personalized rather than institutionalized; that is, such help is not merely the duty of the government but is the responsibility of every Muslim toward whomever is within his reach as far as his means allow, although the government is required to do its part by collecting and distributing zakat and by any additional means, such as the levying of taxes and duties, it may consider necessary.

In any group of three or more Muslims, one is selected by them as the leader; this applies not only to a group which has gathered for salat and to the family but to any collection of individuals, including the Islamic society and state. Since the people have deputed authority to the leader, they have the obligation to follow his leadership and instructions even if they disagree with him, 2 provided he does not ask them to do anything, which involves disobedience to God. However, if he does not fulfill his responsibilities, does not follow the teachings of Islam either in his personal life or in the conduct of the affairs of state, or asks the people to disobey God's laws, he must be replaced by a more responsible person. In Islam the leader or head of state has no special prerogatives or privileges but rather only graver responsibilities for which he will be held accountable to God; he is in office not for his own aggrandizement but to serve the people. He is therefore required to consult with the people and to consider their needs and well being in all matters. 3 An Islamic government therefore embodies the dual principles of obedience to the leader and the leader's obligation to consult with the people concerning the conduct of affairs. 4 Moreover, no legislation is to be enacted which is contrary to the Qur'an or the Prophet's Sunnah, and all legislation which is enacted is to be in conformity with these two sources of Islamic legislation. In matters concerning which Islam is silent, the government is of course free to enact whatever legislation it deems necessary within the general framework of the laws and values of Islam.

An Islamic government is responsible for providing an environment which will make it easy for Muslims to practice Islam and difficult for them to deviate from it. Any establishments which thrive on immoral or prohibited activities such as those related to prostitution and other forms of sexual license, gambling, drinking, etc., would not be permitted; manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, drug traffic and pornographic literature would be illegal; and the public media would not be allowed to portray or describe anything leading toward sexual immorality, vice and crime. In principle, any whole- some and permissible outlets and recreations which do not conflict with Islamic goals and values would be encouraged and proper facilities for them provided. The modesty and dignity of women would be safeguarded by encouraging modest dress, providing separate facilities wherever necessary (secondary schools and colleges, medical and recreational facilities, etc.), and taking stern measures against those who in any way annoy or molest women.

Seeking knowledge is considered a religious obligation in Islam, and education for both children and adults would be strongly stressed. Schools would combine secular and Islamic studies into one curriculum through secondary level in order to provide a comprehensive and integrated approach. A very broad-based religious education would be included which would not only offer Islamic studies but the study of other religions, systems, ideologies and cultures. A sense of pride in one's Islamic identity and heritage would be stressed. Young people would be given assistance in marrying early, if they desired, so that their sexual needs could be met without resort to illicit relation preparation and training for parenthood would be made available to them, and parents would be given every support and assistance in rearing their children properly. Women would be encouraged to obtain higher educations to prepare them both to be effective homemakers and mothers and for other essential work, particularly in the educational, medical, nursing and social work fields, and accommodations in schedule and leave would be made for working women to enable them to take care of the needs of their families and for such situations as pregnancy, childbirth, illness in the family, etc.

Justice before the law would be strictly impartial without regard to religion ,race, position, Wealth or any other criteria; the head of state, officials and members of the most influential families would be just as subject to its provisions as the most humble members of society. In this context it may be remarked that every individual in a society has a certain basic responsibility to that society not to transgress against its established limits, which relate to the sanctity of life, person, property and sexual inviolability. In turn each society has its own system of penalties for violating such limits which stem from its basic understanding of human responsibility and interaction. In a society in which the majority of people are Muslims, that is, accepting the limits laid down by Almighty God, crimes would be dealt with by the punishments prescribed by Islam. 5 Islam maintains that the violation of these limits, which are known to all, calls for such exemplary punishment that others will be effectively deterred from committing similar acts.

Freedom of religion and conscience for non-Muslims living in the Islamic state is a fundamental principle of Islam, including the freedom to practice the rites of their respective faiths. The Qur'an commands explicitly,

"Let there be no compulsion in religion" (2:256)

for one's religious beliefs are obviously a matter of inner conviction and cannot be imposed from outside, nor does anyone have the right to impose them since God gives each human individual freedom to choose them for himself. 6 Islam also guarantees all other basic freedoms to all persons in an Islamic state without any distinction or discrimination on the basis of religion, race, national origin, etc. In such a state every citizen would be guaranteed such rights as protection of person, property and honor, justice before the law on an equal basis with all other citizens, ownership of private property, the right to engage in business or investment beneficial to society, to select his/her own marriage partner to acquire an education, to travel, and to do any lawful work of his own choice. Although the head of the Islamic state would be definition be a Muslim, non-Muslims would be guaranteed adequate representation and would be able to hold positions of importance in the society. Non-Muslims, like Muslims themselves, would obviously not be permitted to carry on activities which are prohibited or undermining to morals and social stability, and no one would be permitted to propagate atheism or godless, violent ideologies such as communism or to engage in political activities related to them.

As has already been mentioned, jihad is an obligation on the individual Muslim, and it is an obligation on the Islamic society as well unfortunately the word jihad has been represented so often in the Western media (and by some well-meaning but ignorant Muslims as well) as meaning "holy war" that this is now accepted as its real meaning. This is totally incorrect, for jihad simply means striving,as any native speaker of Arabic can verify. The first and most essential jihad which the Muslim must carry on is within himself in a never ceasing effort at self-improvement and self-purification. This is known as jihad bil nafs (striving within the self), which the Prophet, peace be on him, called "the greatest jihad. " This unremitting struggle is to begin within the Muslim's soul from the time he or she attains a consciousness of right and wrong, and it does not end until the end of life itself.

In addition to this, Islam makes it a duty on Muslims to reach out into society and carry on the struggle, by any means in their power both on an individual and collective level, against all forms of evil and corruption; they are also required to wage an unremitting war on injustice, tyranny and oppression. Such jihad fi sabeel Allah (striving in the path of God) is to be carried on by the tongue, by the pen, and, if these fail, by the hand as a last resort. Islam absolutely prohibits Muslims to perpetrate injustice, aggression or harm on others; it also enjoins forgiveness and forbearance in the case of personal wrongs done to themselves. At the same time, they are not permitted to allow themselves or others to become the passive victims of others' injustice or aggression which, if they are not checked, will become more and more menacing to human dignity and freedom, The Qur'an says:

"Permission is given to those who fight because they have been wronged and indeed God is able to give them victory: those who have been driven from their homes unjustly only because they said,Our Lord is God.' For had it not been for God's repelling some men by means of others, cloisters and churches and oratories and mosques, in which the name of God is often mentioned, would assuredly have been pulled down. And lo! God helps one who helps Him. For verily, God is Strong, Powerful." (22:39-40)

A Hadith of the Prophet (peace be on him) further clarifies this point. He instructed some of his companions, "Help your brother, whether he is the oppressor or the oppressed." When they asked him how they could help one who was an oppressor he said, "Restrain him from it." Thus the Muslim is not only required to give assistance to one who is the victim of tyranny, injustice and wrong-doing, whether is a Muslim or a non-Muslim, a single individual or a whole people, but also to try to stop the one who is committing it and to strive with all his energies to bring about the rule of righteousness freedom and justice for all People.

A society such as the one' we have just finished scribing would be one which, if it existed, would be as nearly ideal in moral and human as it is possible for society to be. It would long ago have won the admiration of all sincere and concerned people and would have attained the moral leadership of the world. The question may now rightly be asked, "Where is such a society? If Islam is all you say it is, why don't we see societies like this throughout the Muslim world? Doesn't this prove that Islam cannot be all you say? Besides this, we know some Muslims. Perhaps a very few of them may be something like what you have described but the rest are just regular people - not especially good in any way or even really different from other people and some of them are even worse. In the face of all the claims and counter-claims we are hearing today about Islam, how can we know whether what you are saying is correct or what the critics and opponents of Islam say?"

These are very relevant questions; questions which any person who wants to understand Islam and Muslims is entitled to have answered in an honest and straight-forward manner. It is readily apparent that Islam-or any other religion-can be effective in peoples lives only to the extent that they practice it. And there are as many kinds of Muslims in the world today as there are followers of any other religion. As there are Jews and Christians and Hindus and Buddhists Who are totally committed to their faiths and others who are nominal followers - the "Sunday-" or "Christmas- and-Easter Christians," or less than that-so there are Muslims of varying degrees of conviction and practice of Islam. On forms and applications, in the space where one is asked to state his religion, all of these alike write the name of the faith into which they were born, but this is merely a cold and mean- ingless statistic which says nothing at all about their degree of under- standing, conviction and commitment to their faith.

The answers to these questions are inextricably connected with the present situation of the Muslim world.The point to be borne in mind is that the Muslims who come from it to America or other countries the West are the Muslim world in miniature; one can find representatives of its types in every shade and degree. If all, or even most, Muslims were true in word and deed to the religion which they profess, there would be no need to write these lines. Everyone is aware of the extreme greed, materialism and decadence of some of the newly-rich Arabs, if the total lack of Islamic values and behavior of many other "Muslims " from various parts of the East, and some people find revolting. If these are Muslims, one may ask, what kind of religion is Islam?

Yes, it is undoubtedly true that all these people call themselves Muslims, or at least that is what they say when asked what faith they profess. But if the reader has ever met a true Muslim, whether he or she is an Arab or a Pakistani or Turk or African or Indonesian or European or American or whatever it may be, he will certainly be aware of the difference between a Muslim by name and a Muslim by conviction, commitment and life. Yet even such sincere and committed Muslims sometimes do wrong or act out of character. And then that is also not Islam.

For Islam is a complete and perfect system of life revealed by Almighty God and exemplified in the life of His messenger, Muhammad (peace be on him), the totality of all the concepts, attitudes, values, moral guidelines, behaviors, worships and living patterns we have been talking about in these pages and much, much more. It remains so just as much today as when it was first proclaimed on earth, its validity and truth totally independent of whether Muslims practice it faithfully or fail to practice it, now or in the past or in the future. It is therefore essential to maintain a clear distinction in our minds between what Islam is and what Muslims are, between the religion itself and the people who profess it, and if the behavior which we observe among Muslims does not correctly reflect Islam, to draw our conclusions concerning the individual Muslims themselves rather than concerning the religion which they profess but do not necessarily practice a faithful and conscientious manner.

ISLAM AND THE MUSLIM WORLD

In order to understand what is happening to Muslims, it is necessary to have a look at what is happening to the Muslim world. During the past century-and-a-half, the entire world has gone through tremendous upheavals, particularly in the realm of religion and values. While Europe and America were experiencing a profound loss of belief in religion, due in part to the irreconcilable conflict between science and what was supposed to be the "revealed Word" and in part to changes in people's values and outlooks as a result of massive changes in technology and patterns of living, the Muslim world too experiencing a great crisis in the realm of religion and values.

Durning this period ,due to complex interplay of forces ,while the hold of Christianity was weakened in the west ,the influence of Islam was also becoming attenuated in the East .As a result ,many Muslims so far lost sight of the true reality of their faith that masses of them took the traditions of their socities , some of which were from Islam and others from sources other than Islam, to be Islam itself. Their understanding of Islam as a dynamic, revolutionary system of life shrank until all that remained to them of it was a set of confused, quasi-Islamic traditions, some faded remnants of Islamic values and behavior, and perhaps (but often not even that) praying and fasting in Ramadan, reading the Qur'an when someone died, and celebrating the `Eids. Others went to the opposite extreme, placing great emphasis on the worship aspects of Islam while ignoring all the rest of its teachings, especially in the area of striving, seeking knowledge, developing resources, political responsibility, cleanliness, etc. Muslim children living in areas outside the Arab world learned from pious but often ignorant teachers to pronounce the words of the Qur'an without understanding anything of their meaning, much less living by them, while in other places, youngsters grew up still more ignorant of Islam, believing it to be something related to the older generation which one is supposed to respect but which has no relevance or place in contemporary life.

At the same time, the Western influence emerged in the Muslim world and little by little grew stronger and stronger. In the past this trend was fueled by Western imperialism and the presence of Western officials , as well as by Christian missionaries and westernized, often Western educated, natives who had returned home from a sojourn in Europe or America. Later industrial and commercial interests, finding a ready market for Western goods and expertise in Muslim countries, enthusiastically accelerated the process. Muslims became uneasily conscious of their own material backwardness and lack of modernity in comparison with the West, assisted by contact with Western goods and the lure of its life-styles, conveyed to every part of the globe by Western movies, media and propaganda. The West was seen as a glamorous utopia, and adoption of some of the trappings of its culture was looked upon as the instant way to modernization and progress. Unfortunately, what was adopted were not the outstanding and excellent aspects of Western culture but only the most superficial and harmful ones, which were simultaneously applauded by many onlookers in the West as obvious signs that the Muslim world was now beginning to wake up and come of age: the old equation of bars, boogie and bikinis with progress and modernity. Under the impact of all this, many Muslims accepted Western society's dictum that religion,moral values and the pursuit of meaning be given no serious emphasis or importance in society. Its criteria of being civilized material advancement and the discarding of traditional values were accepted by them as the true measure of the greatness of a society without their grasping the essential fact that genuine civilization must rest on a firm base of sound spiritual and moral principles, lacking which material progress simply becomes de-civilizing, de-humanizing and destructive.

Consequently the present era has seen the emergence of three basic types of Muslims, who have their counterparts in other faiths as well. One is the individual for whom Islam is merely a vague tradition which more often than not he prefers to have nothing to do with, who inscribes himself "Muslim" on his passport simply because he is not a Christian or a Buddhist or anything else. He may either profess some outward tokens of respect for Islam or may reject it totally, but in any case it does not occur to him to guide his life by it or to try to practice it faithfully, and he regards those who do so as backward and stupid. This is understandable enough in view of the fact that almost invariably such individuals lack knowledge and understanding of Islam as a total world-view and system of life; moreover, they may never have been close to or even known anyone who could provide an example of real understanding and commitment to Islam. Such a "Muslim" may never have prayed in his life and may not even know how since he was not taught. For him Islam is simply a relic of ancient history. He may feel on occasional twinge of pride in his Islamic heritage when it is mentioned and may even come to the "defense" of Islam when it is attacked. Or he may think about it once in a while when someone dies ("Where am I going to go when this happens to me? Oh, well, God is merciful"), but he is too preoccupied with his daily activities and with his family and possessions and pleasures to follow up this train of thought. Many social problems and vices have by now crept into the lives of such Muslims, including an increasing incidence of divorce, sexual license, alcoholism, and total loss of values and direction. Basically they are Muslims-by-name, no different either in their concepts or behavior from people who have no religion and no values, for in fact they have neither, and they are often very hostile to Islam and to Muslims who adhere to it faithfully.

The second group are the traditional Muslims. They may understand the basic concepts of Islam, may have some degree of Islamic knowledge they do and may follow the Islamic teachings to some extent but not understand it as a complete and dynamic system for all aspects of man's life nor do they adhere to its requirements in all aspects of their lives consistently and as a matter of principle and obligation, In their minds Islam is often intermixed with many pseudo Islamic practices common to their societies, many of which are completely contrary to the Islamic teachings although they have acquired some sort of an "Islamic" sanction or flavor, and with many westernized ways of thought and behavior as well. They definitely believe in God and Islam, but in a theoretical sort of way which does not carry enough conviction to move them steadily and consistently toward a totally Islamic orientation and way of life. Because they do not conceive of Islam as a complete system for all aspects of life, they are often critical of or look down on those who do as having "gone too far" in the matter of religion.

The third group consists of those Muslims who understand the religion they profess as a total system and who have consciously decided to pattern their lives according to it. Their world-view and frame of reference is that of Islam; their obedience, loyalty and devotion are for God alone; their goal is the Hereafter; and their community is the community of believers. Many among this group are highly educated individuals who have arrived at such a position as a result of reflection on what is happening in the world around them. They are a unique group a part of the small yet strong company of true believers in God who have been living in submission to Him since the first prophet Adam (peace be on him), walked on earth, in obedience to His guidance.

Without question, to reach such a level of Islamic commitment requires an understanding which due to very faulty and inadequate approaches to Islamic education even in "Muslim" countries, few are able to attain. Moreover, the appeal of westernization and "modernity" is so strong that few people in the Muslim world have yet grasped the fact that material advancement is not necessarily the road to either;true self-respect or satisfaction, and that it has not brought real happiness and well-being to the peoples of the West but instead a staggering array of societal and environmental problems because it has been divorced from the spiritual and moral dimensions which are as integral and essential a part of man's nature as is his material aspect.

When we survey the Muslim world today we see a confused and troubled picture in which political instability plays a major role. In spite of the Islamic requirement of a leader elected from among the people who consults with them in the conduct of affairs, in very few countries of the Muslim world today are there governments elected by the people and responsive to their needs, or capable of providing leadership and stability to their countries; rather there are, by and large, the rulers and the ruled. And although in most cases they professed Islam and often made a public show of piety, among the, rulers of the Muslim world in recent years have been many who were dictators and oppressors of the most vicious sort. They stifled all criticism and dissent in their societies, whether by individuals, groups or the press, by sadistically oppressive means, making ruthless use of highly- trained secret police and intelligence services to suppress anyone they considered a threat to their unbridled power ; they filled the prisons of their "Muslim" countries to overflowing with tens of thousands of sincere and committed Muslims, many belonging to the intelligentsia, who were trying to call for a revival of Islam in their societies or to question the policies or actions of the ruler. Hair-raising Nazi-style tortures were applied to countless numbers of them under which many died, and some of the best among them were executed for fabricated "crimes" in order to silence the voice of truth so the ruler might continue unimpeded in his relentless drive for absolute power.

Country after country in the Muslim world has seen rulers of this kind during the past half century or more, men who, although often "Muslims" themselves, hated and feared the very name of Islam because it constituted the only real challenge to their unchecked power and ambition, and who threw all their energies into trying to suppress it by oppressing Muslims. The Islamic requirement and demand of the people themselves for basic human freedoms, social justice and good rule were systematically and ruthlessly stifled. Any incident occurring under such conditions was blamed on Islam and "Muslim fanaticism," as if one had to be either a Muslim or a fanatic to want freedom and justice; indeed, incidents expressly manufactured by the government for the purpose of discrediting Muslims have not been unknown. But since Islam, which is deep within the life- blood of Muslims even though they may be indifferent to its requirements, could not be so easily dismissed, such rulers attempted to reduce it to mere piety and acts of worship lest it emerge as a strong, dynamic movement in which each individual feels a keen sense of responsibility for how the country is governed, what happens to its resources which belong to all the people, the morals and behavior of Its officials, and the entire host of matters over which governments have jurisdiction, which Almighty God has made the concern of every Muslim individual as a member of his society as well.

And what of the people in the face of all this? While Muslims of the first type are busy living the life of the world, preoccupied with their possessions, enjoyments, relationships and the increase of their material advantages, the second type of Muslims live in some half-way house between total loss of Islamic values and adherence to them, with various excuses and apologies for their lack of commitment. The Muslims in the third category stand firm on the Islamic principles and values, serving as a counterbalancing force against random "progress" and indiscriminate adoption of values and behaviors which are not appropriate for Muslims and can do great harm to their societies of their certain and unwavering conviction of the truth of such individuals cannot be swayed in the direction of ideologies.

SECTION FOUR

The Islamic Way of Life

In a broader context than that of conditions in the Middle East today, we may remark that communism, materialism and all other ideologies which deny or give insignificant value to man's spiritual nature or concentrate on one aspect of his nature at the expense of the others must ultimately be viewed as the human being's futile attempts, by means of his very limited human perspective,to understand himself and find the right direction. Since early in man's career on this planet, various religions, philosophies, and systems of life and thought, including those which are dominant today, have crossed the stage of history and played their role. A look at the legacy of history and at current trends in the world makes it clear that none of these has succeeded in resolving the essential conflicts and dilemmas within the human personality, for all of them have, in one form or another, either ignored vital aspects of man's relationship with Reality or given prominence to one aspect of life or of man's nature at the expense of others, creating frightening disharmonies and imbalances within human individuals and their societies which have, in the present era, Come close to destroying humanity altogether.

In the midst of all this, Islam remains the one system the world has known which views man in a correct perspective within the context of total Reality and with a correct understanding of his true nature, providing a just balance between his material and spiritual aspects, between the human being's worldly aspirations and needs and his eternal Goal. It is the only system which submits man and his life in its entirety to the One Who gives him that life and Who alone can be Worthy of his submission, liberating him from the darkness of enslavement to man-made values, systems and desires into the light of `ubudiyat to God, his true Master, alone. The truth of this is being realized with compelling certainty by more and more people in the` East-those who were born into "Muslim" families but who have now become conscious, steadfast Muslims by conviction and commitment and by many in the West as well. The grandeur and nobility of Islam is no longer an unknown, hidden thing, kept from the knowledge of the peoples of the West by lack of contact, prejudice or cultural differences difficult to surmount. More and more are joining the fold of Islam each day, realizing that it offers them that truth and that of life for which they had been searching fruitlessly, perhaps for years in other and often totally contradictory directions. To many Islam is increasingly thought to be the wave of the future, the long-misplaced legacy of the whole of humanity, not merely of people in where Islam has long been established, from its Lord, the God of the, heavens and the earth, which holds out the promise to mankind, if applied with dedication and sincerity, of setting its feet upon the path of stability and balance, and bringing about such a total transformation in man's individual and collective existence as no man-made system, no obedience to gods of man's own invention, can ever succeed in doing.

 
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