Application of the Theory
In what way can this theoretical explanation of the rise and fall of nations help us in finding our way to the Islamization of society?
Firstly, since Islamization has to be planned and planning is based on prediction of future happenings, this Qur’anic explanation of social change helps us to look behind the facade of the physical strength of any nation to the real factors that hold it together or cause it to disintegrate. We know that the only way to ensure the continuity of God’s bounties is to follow the path which He has chosen for His creatures. Any nation that deviates from that path is sure to be weakened if not utterly destroyed. No wealth, worldly knowledge, or physical power of any kind can save it from this inevitable end.
“Have they not travelled on the land and seen the outcome of those before them? They were greater than them in strength, they tilled the earth and populated it in greater numbers than they have, and their Messengers came to them with clear proofs. Allah would not wrong them, but they used to wrong themselves. Evil was the end of those who did evil, because they denied the signs of Allah and mocked them.” (Q, 30:9-10)
Our duty is not to sit back and rejoice in the expectation of this inevitable downfall of deviant communities. No, this is not the attitude of responsible people. Our duty is to warn such communities in a sincere, compassionate and convincing manner, helping them to see the similarities between their ways and the ways that led to the downfall of other communities, and by expounding in some detail the mechanism whereby deviation from the path of God causes unhappiness, results in hardship and leads ultimately to the downfall or even utter destruction of a community.
This attitude of sincere and convincing warning should be our attitude towards all communities and nations whether they belong to Islam or not. Our aim and duty is not to destroy Western civilization and build on its debris but to attempt to save and guide it to the correct path. If it refuses to heed our warning, or listen to our advice, its downfall is inevitable and we shall not be responsible for it.
Secondly, and more importantly, with the knowledge that nearness of God is the secret of success we should resolve to do everything that helps us to achieve that goal and firmly refuse to be distracted from it by tactics and stratagems which to the blinked and shortsighted may seem the short cut to success. If by success we mean the mere seizure of power by any group of people, something that we see happening around us every other day, then we do not need to seek guidance from Islam on how to do it. But if we intend that power to be held by people who shall use it to create and maintain a community which shall enjoy the favors promised by God to virtuous communities, then there is only one way of doing it. Before any group of people becomes worthy of favors which would mark it out as the best of nations, it has to prove that it is on the side of God. The essence of being with God is something that resides in the heart, and as such is not accessible to direct observation by other people. But it is known to God and God looks at our hearts to see whether we deserve His help and support. Every element of shirk and insincerity is a potential hindrance in our path and a potential cause of setbacks. Thus, whenever the Muslims at the time of Prophet suffered any temporary defeat or setback in their battles against the unbelievers, God directed them to look for its cause in their hearts. For example, the cause of their temporary defeat at Uhud was traced to the fact that some of them desired this world and at Hunayn to the fact that they were proud of their vast numbers.
We should therefore be on our guards lest such impurities creep into our hearts, and when they find their way to them, do our best to cleanse ourselves of them by istighfar (seeking forgiveness), repentance, performing acts of generosity, and other acts of worship. Our sins are our real enemies and sincerity is our real indestructible weapon.
Emphasis on this point can lead to apprehension that this might be an invitation to a kind of passive sufism, a negation of all public and especially, political activities. An erroneous conclusion might be drawn from it that the desire by any group of Muslims to hold the reins of power is a sinful desire.
Hence, I hasten to say that such is not my purpose. I should also add that this kind of fear is itself the result of an incorrect conception of the relationship between our mental state and our actions and activities. Our effort to purify our hearts should not be conceived of as a diversionary act which hinders or slows down our public activities; nor should the latter be shunned as secular enterprises unworthy of a pious person. A purified and God-conscious heart is a driving force and directing wheel of good external actions. The nature of our public activities is the external expression of the kind of a faith that resides in our hearts.
I have said before that a person’s method of achieving a desired aim depends on what he considers to be its effective causes and on his concept of the relation that exits between those causes.
The atheists confine themselves to a natural causes and human effort, thinking that these alone are real efficient causes of any change in the world. We add to these our belief that since everything in the world is created by God, He alone is the Ultimate cause of everything that happens in the world. It would be natural for us therefore to include prayer, istighfar, repentance, doing what God enjoins and avoiding what He forbids, in our system of efficient causes. It is through such acts of worship that one attains the status of awliya (allies) of Allah. And when the favor and love of the Being who governs this world has been won, nothing can stand in our way.
Our approach will sound strange when compared to the ideas and philosophies now prevailing in our world. In the words of the prophet Islam seemed strange when it first appeared and shall seem so again.
If we wish to be on the side of God and win His favor, it is necessary but not enough to be sincere and pure of heart. To the right actions and ways that please Him and which He judges to be the best means to achieve the ends we have set before us. This applies to our desire for a model Muslim state. Since it was one of the aims of the Prophet, while at Makkah, to create such a state, his authentic sira (biography) and sayings should be studied in addition to the Qur’an.