It is known that Islam first appeared among the Arabs and thereafter spread to other nations such as the Iranians, the Indians, the Copts, the Berbers etc. All these people had their own national, racial and historic characteristics. It is to be seen whether these people or some of them influenced Islam through their characteristics and diverted it from its original course in such a way that if it had gone to some other nations, for example the Europeans, the destiny of Islamism and the Muslims would have been different today. Or is it that the Muslim masses had no role in this respect and whatever damage has been done to Islam and the Muslims, was wrought by the two influential classes, namely, the rulers and the divines.
In the section of foreign factors there are many events which must attract attention. From the very beginning Islam has always faced the hostility of its internal and external enemies. The Jews, the Christians, the Zoroastrians, the Manicheans and the heretics among the Muslims themselves, were not idle. They stabbed Islam in the back whenever they got an opportunity. Many of them played an active role in distorting the Islamic facts by fabricating hadiths (traditions) or by creating new sects and sowing the seeds of dissention. If they could do nothing else, they fanned the differences among the Muslims.
In Islamic history we come across many political or religious movements started by the non-Muslims with a view to weakening or obliterating Islam.
Occasionally the Muslim world was subjected to a large scale invasion also. The crusades and the Mongol invasion are the outstanding examples.
The western imperialism did even more harm during the past few centuries. It sucked the blood of the Muslims and sapped their energy under the pressure of its oppressive policies.
Imam Khumayni, the leader of the oppressed nations of the world has said:
“The Muslims of the world should make a united effort to regain the lost glory of Islam.
It should be clearly remembered by one and all that those who spur up disunity among the ranks of the Muslims are neither Sunnis nor Shi’ahs; they are lackeys of the imperialists whose only aim is to destroy Islam.”
In view of what has been stated above, the subjects which should be considered are the following:
(1) Spectacular progress of the Muslims and their decline. (This subject is preliminary to the rest of the study)
(2) Islam and the requirements of time. (This subject has two parts: the first is related to the philosophy of history and the second deals with the application of the Islamic rules in the changing circumstances. This study also has a preliminary aspect)
(3) Fate and destiny
(4) Belief in the hereafter and its effect on the progress and decline
(7) Expectation of solace
(8) Moral system of Islam
(9) Islamic view about the government
(10) Islamic economy
(11) Penal laws of Islam
(12) Rights of woman in Islam
(13) International law of Islam
(14) Points of deviation
(15) Forgery and fabrication of hadiths
(16) Shi’ah-Sunni differences and their contribution to the decline of the Muslims
(17) Ash’arism and Mu’tazilism
(18) Stagnation and ijtihad
(19) Philosophy and mysticism (irfan)
(20) Rulers of the Muslim world
(21) Leadership of ulema
(22) Subversive activities of the minorities in the Muslim world
(24) Fall of Andalus
(25) Mongol invasion
These are the subjects which in my view should be included in this study. I do not claim to be exhaustive or to have been able to arrange them in an ideal order. There may possibly be some other subjects which should have been included in this list but have been missed by me. I know that I have neither capacity nor time to deal with all these subjects alone, but in some of them, including No. 1 and 2, I have prepared notes and hope to be able to publish them as early as possible.
I shall be highly obliged if some other writers and eminent scholars could choose a subject of their liking, carry out necessary investigations.
Some twenty years back when I first noticed that the Europeans regard the belief in fate and destiny as a cause or even the main cause of the decadence of the Muslims, I was still a student at the Islamic Educational Centre at Qum.
I was reading the second volume of the “Life of Muhammad” by Muhammad Hasnain Heikal. The final portion of the book consisted of two articles.
(i) Islamic culture as explained by the Qur’an
(ii) Orientalists and Islamic culture.
In the course of the second article he has reproduced what the well-known American writer, Washington Irving has said in his book about the Holy Prophet (s). According to Heikal, towards the end of his book after explaining the Islamic tenets about faith in Allah, the Angels, the Scriptures, the Prophets and the Day of Resurrection, Washington Irving said:
“The last and the sixth fundamental principle of Islam is that of predestination. Muhammad used it for the advancement of his warfare, for according to his rule every event which occurs in the world is already predetermined in the knowledge of God and is recorded in the ‘protected tablet’. The destiny of everybody and the time of his death are predetermined and unalterable. Nothing can advance or delay an event. The Muslims who believed in these points and regarded them as indisputable, attacked the enemy fearlessly during a battle. They looked upon death during a fighting to be equal to martyrdom, which ensured Paradise. That is why they were sure of victory in either case, whether they were killed or overpowered the enemy. Of course, there are some Muslims who consider the theory of predestination, which says that man is not free to avoid sins, to be contrary to the justice and mercy of God. Certain sects have emerged which have tried and are still trying to explain and modify the doctrine of predestination, but their number is small and they are not considered to be the followers of the practice of the Prophet……….. There could be no doctrine better than that which could drive the uninformed and self-conceited soldiers to the battlefield, and assure them of spoils if they survived and of Paradise if they were killed. This belief made the Muslim soldiers so bold and mighty that no other soldiers could rival them. But still this belief was a poison which annihilated the influence of Islam in the long run. When the successors of the Prophet gave up the policy of fighting wars and making conquests, and sheathed their swords, the doctrine of predestination revealed its devastating characteristics. Peace and tranquillity weakened the nerves of the Muslims.
The material comforts allowed by Islam, which distinguish this religion from Christianity, a religion of purity and self-negation, also had their effect. The Muslims ascribed all their sufferings and hardships to fate and regarded it as their duty to bear them patiently. According to them and any human effort and knowledge was of no avail in getting rid of them. The followers of Muhammad gave no importance to the golden rule: ‘God helps those who help themselves’. That is why the Cross replaced the Crescent. If the Crescent still has some influence in Europe, that is because the big Christian powers want that to be so. In other words the influence of the Crescent is due to the mutual of its influence is a fresh proof of the maxim that anything gained by the power of sword, is taken away by the power of sword only.”
Heikal in reply to this American has given a detailed explanation according to his own thinking and taste. His explanation, though it contains many good points, is not methodical, and hence it is controversial and can be refuted.
In this book we propose to prove the baselessness of the statement of Washington Irving and other Europeans and show that the doctrine of fate and destiny is miles apart from the theory of predestination. We will show that the same soldiers of early Islam whom Mr. Washington Irving arrogantly describes as uninformed and self-conceited, were fully aware of the difference which he is unable to comprehend.
Secondly, the Qur’an itself has supported human liberty in a number of its verses. Those who advocated the doctrine of free will and described the theory of predestination as opposed to the justice and mercy of Allah (viz. The Shi’ah and the Mu`tazilites), contrary to the assertion of the orientalists, did not go against the teachings of the Qur’an, nor did they modify what the Qur’an had said. Actually they derived their view from the Qur’an itself.
Thirdly, this great writer who, according to Heikal is a biased Christian and who calls Christianity a religion of purity and self-negation because unlike Islam it has given no heed to the problems of life, refers to the eternal Divine knowledge sarcastically.
Is it possible that a person believing in God may deny His eternal knowledge of everything? Is it a fault of the Qur’an that it describes Allah as All-Knowing?
Fourthly, he says that the followers of Muhammad did not give importance to the rule that ‘God helps those who help themselves’.
This writer did not take the trouble of reading a translation of the Holy Qur’an even once, otherwise he would not have made such a frivolous assertion. The Qur’an expressly says: “As for him who desires the hereafter, strives for it as he should, and is a true believer, it is such people whose efforts shall be appreciated by Allah. We help both these and those with the favour of your Lord and more is deprived of it (in this world)”. (Surah Isra’, 17:19-20)
The followers of Muhammad attained even a higher stage of self-reliance, when they believed in the teaching of the Qur’an saying: “If you help Allah, He will help you and will make your foothold firm”. (Surah Muhammad, 47:7) The Qur’an did not say: “If you help yourselves. . .” because that expression would have smacked of cupidity and personal profit. Instead it has used the expression: “If you help Allah”, which has a general and human aspect and implies service to humanity.
As for the ascendancy of the Cross over the Crescent, which is regarded by Washington Irving as final and everlasting, we will discuss this point later at a suitable place in this book.
These views are not peculiar to Mr. Washington Irving. Similar views have been expressed by almost all other European writers, including those who appear to be unbiased to a certain extent. They all agree that Islam is a predestinarian creed. The only difference is that some of them do not regard this as a factor responsible for the decadence of the Muslims, whereas some others maintain that it is. Some European authors have even declared it to be main cause of the decline of the Muslims.
Will Durant in his “History of Civilization” after referring to the Qur’anic verses regarding the omnipotence and knowledge of Allah says: Predestinarianism is an essential part of Islamic thinking. In consequence of this belief the faithful endured the severest hardships of life with equanimity. But during the last few centuries it has blocked the progress of the Arabs and numbered their thinking power.
In contrast, Gustave Le Bon maintains that the belief in predestination was not a cause of the decline of the Muslims, and that the causes of their decline should be looked for somewhere else.
At first I intended to mention all the points connected with the progress and the decline of the Muslims in the introduction prefixed to this book. But later I gave up the idea, for if the necessary details of all the points were given, the introduction would have become lengthier than the main book and if brevity was observed that would not have served the purpose. Hence I preferred to be contented with what has been mentioned as an illustration. The details may be given in a separate treatise.
In this book, not all the points and the questions related to fate and destiny have been mentioned, because the aim is only to study whether this doctrine has actually been a cause of the decline of the Muslims. Hence certain aspects of this question which appeared to be irrelevant for our present purpose, have been omitted.
The question of fate has a long history among the Muslims. The expounders of the Qur’an, the scholastic theologians, the philosophers, the mystics, and even the poets and the literary figures have all discussed this question. An account of the views expressed by them requires an independent book. Besides, this question is covered by a large number of the Qur’anic verses and the hadiths (traditions) which are a model of the depth of Islamic knowledge. These very verses and hadiths have guided the Muslim philosophers and have enriched the Islamic philosophy to the extent pre-Islamic Greek philosophy paled in comparison to it.
Furthermore, there exist some other connected questions in the Islamic teachings that are not easy to explain by means of logical reasoning. One such point is Laylah al-Qadr (The Night of Destiny) which has been expressly mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, and about which there is no difference of opinion between the Shi’ah and the Sunnis. Another point is that of Bada’ (Divine exposition), which is an indisputable Shi’ah doctrine based on the Qur’anic text. (See: The Beliefs of the Shi’ite School, the forthcoming Seminary Publication).
Predestination, free will and human liberty are the questions which if considered from various psychological, moral, philosophical and social angles, will require too lengthy a discussion.
It is hoped this book will prove useful and interesting to the inquisitive reader, and it would also remove his doubts in regard to the subject discussed, and would enlighten him to an appreciable degree.