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Call of Time

by Mohammad Sami Ullah

The world at large, including the Muslim world, are passing through a deeply acute crisis whose menacing darkness today is rapidly enveloping human life with the ferocity of a storm, causing every conscientious person to tremble at the widespread misery and destruction which are looming large on the horizon.

The world at large has been in the grip of numerous false notions and superstitions from time immemorial. But, prior to the emergence of the modern materialistic civilization, it had always shown faith in certain basic human values. This is not, however, the case now. Having remained devoid of Divine Guidance, the progress of modern "scientific" culture in the West, and subsequently in the East, has most unfortunately resulted in a revolt against Allah and all the higher values of life. Consequently, Materialism and Atheism have been in the ascendant for more than a century, transforming human beings virtually into brutes and shattering up peace as well as piety. The Marxist philosophy of communism is, it is rightly claimed, the culmination of this materialistic culture. But capitalism and other new fangled "isms" of the West and East are no less materialistic. Which means that the materialistic menace is all pervading. All nobler sentiments have been forgotten, all higher morals have been undermined and all virtuous foundations of human thought and action have been gradually weakened until mankind faces today an unprecedented and most horrible catastrophe in the form of an atomic war.

It has always been, and it is all the more so now the obligation of the Millat e Islamiah to stand up as the "best of peoples" with the refulgent Torch of Divine guidance in its hands and to rescue humanity from the quagmire of misers and destruction. But the most unfortunate part of the present tragedy is that the Millat e Islamiah itself is in a diseased condition. It was built up by the Holy Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) as a mighty force and an invulnerable fortress of virtue and enlightened progress. It served as a beacon for the entire humanity for centuries. Today, however, there is no moral or social disease, which is not to be found in the Muslim world. We have fallen off from the standard of Islam not only as regards our spiritual existence but also in the various domains of our material well being. We are backward not only in education, administration, commerce, scientific knowledge, industry and social services, but also in our religious life. This means that the Muslim world has gradually become incapable of helping her own self. How, then, can she rescue humanity?

But a very vital question arises here-the question namely: Should this be our end and that of the world at large?

It cannot be and it should not be. It cannot be so long as Islam is alive and Islam came to abide with humanity.

Islam is with us; Islam is alive; and Islam is still capable of transforming the base metal of mankind into gold even as it did more than thirteen centuries ago. Islam stands for social justice and human values. The teachings of Islam aim at the upliftment and elevation of humanity, for Islam is the most practical religion and the one most calculated to solve the worlds many perplexing problems and to bring to disillusioned humanity much needed peace and happiness.

The responsibility for the present tragedy actually lies at our door, because we failed in benefiting ourselves from the life-giving Guidance of Islam. Ignorance of the teachings of Islam among the Muslim population of the world is appalling, the intelligentsia with modern education and the illiterate masses, both, suffering from it. Widespread want of Islamic inspiration and Islamic action is therefore only natural.

Still worse is the case of the non-Muslims of the world. They have lost faith in their old systems and have been trying different man-made "isms" in quick succession in their deep anxiety for discovering the truth and the Healing Balm which is to be found in Islam alone. They are groping in the dark and crying in distress and agony. But we Muslims, whose duty it was to carry the message of Islam to every nook and corner of the world, have practically slept over the issue, thus heaping on our heads a great sin of omission in the sight of Allah.

No guided missiles, no atom bombs can retard us in our onward march of our coveted destiny if we hold the sheet anchor of Islam aright. Muslims have a vital role to play, not only in the domains of "Religion" and "Morals" but also in the field of "Science",-as their forefathers did in the heyday of Islamic civilization. Humanity is heading towards destruction. It is groping in the dark. Let the Muslims, therefore, lift the torch of Islam high to save humanity and to save themselves.

The task is stupendous and Muslims of the present day have fallen backward in almost every domain of life's activity. But it is never too late to mend - and there is no obstacle which cannot be conquered by men of will and determination. They should rise to the height of the opportunity and show to the world the True Path of harmonious existence and fullness of life.

"It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards East or west; but it is righteousness-to believe in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Messengers; to spend your wealth out of love for Him, for the kinsfolk, the orphans, the needy, the wayfarer, those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayers and to practice organized charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient in pain (or suffering and adversity and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah fearing". (Holy Qur'an 2:177)

This is the standpoint of Islam. But the behavior of present day Muslims stands generally in contrast to it. If we become true Muslims and our lives and action reflect the beauty of the universal principles of Islam we are sure to affect the outlook of non-Muslims and attract them toward Islam. Disillusioned humanity is in desperate need of the life-giving principles of Islam for her guidance. The West is sick of materialism longing for a spiritual ideal. It is, therefore, our sacred duty that by precept and example we should spread the universal teachings of Islam in the world and to carry the message of Islam to all corners of the world to give the people the true religion of their Creator.

The definition of a true Muslim is not lip service to Islamic ideology, but a complete harmony between faith and practice. It means more than to utter the words of kalimah, to have a vague idea about the continuation of life after death and to perform a set of rites and rituals.

To be a true Muslim includes the firm conviction that the teachings of Islam as they have been revealed to mankind by Allah through the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), offer a most perfect guidance to man for all aspects of his daily life as an individual and as a part of collective whole.

To be a true Muslim means to be firmly convinced of the fact that the teachings of Islam offer an all-around solution of the problems humanity is facing, and that only the strict adherence to the principles of this religion can save man from failing in his mission of life. In short we Muslims, who are supposed to be aware of the fact that Allah created everything with a set purpose, ought to remember that man, too, just as a everything else existing in the universe, has to fulfill a certain mission: the attainment of "Falaah." Falaah has been explained as meaning "the furrowing out of the latent faculties by continuously striving for progress-a progress controlled by righteousness and illuminated by Divine Guidance" so that man may reach his final goal, the "attainment of the abiding life of perfection, peace and happiness."

The most valuable and unique service which we Muslims can and must render to humanity is to convey to all, who are groping in darkness, the message of Islam, the message of Light which is the message of Divine Guidance, Love and Mercy. Our love for Allah and Truth imposes upon us the duty to express love for His creation. And the best expression of our love for Truth is not only to be truthful ourselves, to do the right and shun the evil in respect to our own selves, but to disseminate the message of Truth, to bid the right and to forbid the wrong, as it is unmistakably made incumbent upon us by the following verse of Holy Qur'an:

"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoinying what is right, and forbidding what is wrong. They are the ones to attain felicity (3:104).

This means in plain words that it is our duty as Muslims to undertake tabligh (missionary work), to spread Islam in all the four corners of the world. It will be no exaggeration to say that tablighi activities are the barometer of our own convictions. The more we are imbued with the spirit of truth and love for Allah and His creation, the greater wil1 be the urge to bear witness of Him and His revelation, the more enthusiastic we will be to spread His teachings and thus help our ignorant or misled brothers and sisters, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

The prototype of a real Muslim are those who in bygone days as soldiers, merchants, students, and scientists traveled through the lands and who, besides fully discharging their worldly duties, never missed the opportunity to preach the principles of their faith and belief by word and deed. They have left a mark in history as the builders of an empire of Islam, the frontiers of which were not drawn by the accidents of birth, such as color, nationality, but by a living faith in Allah and by the common aim to serve Him. This aim united black and white, poor and rich, male and female, and it welded them all together into one universal brotherhood.

The decisive step towards the spread of Islam, as the history of faith shows, was taken when the Muslims came to be regarded as the model of human excellence. It was by their honest, upright conduct and not by the superior might of their arms that they were able to transform the heart and soul of the people they came in contact with. It was by their moral outlook and by their devotion and loyalty to a higher code of human conduct that Muslims succeeded in carrying aloft the banner of Islam and secured for it the support of a large section of people belonging to different faiths. But afterwards, under the spell of prosperity they ceased to practice all those very virtues that had been responsible for their ascendancy. Slowly and gradually they were dislodged from their position of power, prestige and glory. To bring about the renaissance of Islam, first and foremost, we must do somewhat of stocktaking of ourselves and to correct and improve our own conduct as Muslims and rededicate ourselves to the cause of Islam. So home missionaries' activities of Islam are as essential as foreign missionaries. It is deeds, therefore, and not mere words that will publicize Islam and secure for it the recognition which is its due.

True tabligh (missionary service) finds its fulfillment in selflessly delivering and acting upon a message which one is convinced is of greatest importance and beneficence to humanity at large. A muballigh's (missionary's) first and foremost duty is to serve Allah and his fellow beings by pointing out the path leading to the goal of life to those who are ignorant thereof as well as to those who are negligent and unmindful of their duties towards Allah, their neighbors and themselves. Prompted by his own faith, knowledge and selfless love for Allah and His creation, a true muballigh (missionary) will not rest until every one accessible to him has been acquainted with his message. Social service is one of the foremost duties of every Muslim in general and of every Muslim missionary in particular. He will preach and teach and untiring will be his practical efforts to help and support those in need. His words and deeds will serve one purpose only: the glorification of Allah and the spiritual progress of man.

There is no denying the fact that the responsibilities of a person vary with his mental attainments as well as with his station in life or society. Viewed from this angle, even in the matter of tabligh (missionary work), the duties of the Ulema (the learned) in religion are certainly heavier and more onerous. But we must not forget that tabligh is the duty of all Muslims and not merely of a group or class among them. The difference, if any, is one of degree only; while the responsibility is common by all means. Thus tabligh is the universal duty of all Muslims and aims at bringing home to all humanity, irrespective of caste or creed, her relations with the common Creator, viz. Allah.

It may be emphasized here that real tabligh does not call so much for money as for faith and conviction in one's mission and the willingness to make all necessary sacrifices to carry it out, sacrifices in terms of time, labor, money, comforts and separation from relatives. Our conduct must reflect our profession as much as possible. Once this conviction dawns on us, efforts at all levels-individual, group and organizational-will no more remain a problem for us. Success in this as in other directions depends on sacrifice and efforts alone.

Every true Muslim, who is imbibed with the spirit of Islam will, wherever he may be, preach and teach the religion of which his heart is full. Due to these individual missionary efforts Islam has been spread in a number of parts of the world, which Muslims armies have never entered as conquerors. How forceful, how convincing and thus how successful these individual missionary efforts of laymen, of traders, sailors and others are obvious from the fact that millions of non-Muslims eventually entered the fold of Islam through these private missionary initiatives.

It would be wrong to say that Islamic missionary endeavor does not exist at all in the world today. Whatever effort there is, however, is very insignificant in relation to the immensity of the problem and lacks very much in quality. Further, there is practically no co-ordination of such activity. The removal of these shortcomings is a task long overdue.

The most ideal solution would be if Muslim governments were to shoulder the responsibilities of encouraging, aiding and establishing missions abroad. Unfortunately they have apparently no inclination to do so. Instead of every Muslim diplomatic mission being a cultural mission at the same time, one can witness quite frequently that Muslim diplomatic representatives feel somewhat ashamed of their own religion and culture. Here and there it has become essential that outgoing Muslim diplomats have fully acquired western style and western manners, whereas their foremost qualification should be good Muslims, abiding by the laws of Islam, firmly rooted in their own culture so that they may serve as true representatives of their respective countries, their culture and religion. Instead of lending support to Muslim missions, embassies of Muslim countries create complex problems for Muslim missionaries by their un-Islamic living, conduct and actions which are drastically opposed to Islam.

Consider how nation-conscious those foreigners are who visit Muslim countries, how they maintain their traditions, customs and manners and how their governments actively encourage them to do so. Muslim governments have yet to learn this lesson. They have yet to overcome an inferiority complex which centuries of foreign rule has made them develop. Until and unless this complex is overcome, the Muslim public should entertain no hopes as to the solution of the missionary problem on government level. The formation of a real Muslim polity, the basis of the unfolding of Muslim character, at present remains a far off and a distant event.

The Muslim embassies, Muslim students, traders and businessmen etc. should bear this fact in mind that they are the ambassadors of Islam in these foreign lands. It is their moral obligation to reflect by best conduct and by ordering their lives in accordance with the sublime principles of Islam, to avail every opportunity to spread the sacred words of Allah far and wide. Their stay abroad provides them a unique scope to remove misunderstandings about Islam and to introduce it in its pure form.

Islam, today, is the most misunderstood religion in the world. There are a great number of misconceptions and distortions of the teachings of Islam current in the non-Muslim world, because of the anti-Islamic fanaticism of the West. A systematic endeavor was and is being made by the West to twist the teachings of Islam, besmirch its system of life and implant a bitter prejudice against the great religion in the minds of learned and unlettered alike. This bigotry has frequently found expression in Western art and literature. Poisonous literature is being poured forth and absurd propaganda being carried out to falsify all that the great religion stands for. The enemies of Islam possess vast resources in men and materials and money and are straining every nerve through their numerous missions and agents in the Muslim world to malign Islam and its influence for the good of mankind.

To root out this, it has become imperative that we should have a network of learned and devoted missionaries and Islamic Centers in non-Muslim countries to remove propaganda and misunderstanding about Islam and to introduce pristine Islam - Islam which stands for social justice and human values. The work of propagation of Islam in foreign lands is handicapped because of the acute shortage of funds, missionary workers, Islamic literature and Islamic centers. There is a great deal of interest in learning about Islam in Japan, Korea, Philippines, China, African States, Germany, America and some other Western countries. Africa at present is facing a tremendous crisis, where a heavy struggle is taking place for the conversion of the continent either to Christianity or communism or Islam. Islam is making good progress. However, there remains much to be desired. Islam has yet to challenge its rivals in the heart of Africa. The greatest drawback is scanty and disorganized Muslim missions, the lack of co-ordination, resources and the absence of young enterprising missionaries with the cause of Islam at their hearts. The urgent need, therefore, besides other things is to establish missionary colleges or training centers in which for a sufficient period an extensive missionary knowledge is imparted to the students. For all this the assistance of Muslim governments and philanthropists is indispensable. Not lip sympathies but whole-hearted support and co-operation is required to conduct the business.

It is not enough that we Muslims should ourselves believe in our religion, to be the most perfect code of life, the solutions of all the problems of humanity, the only panacea for all the ills from which mankind is suffering-it is also the duty of all Muslims to spread this message of Allah on Allah's earth. Not all of us can have the good fortune of going into foreign lands with the message of Allah in our hearts and on our lips. But all of us can help those who are engaged in the noble task of disseminating the word of Allah. All of us must help the soldiers of Islam on solitary outposts. Once we Muslims have perceived this as our duty and act upon it, a new chapter will be opened in the glorious history of Islam.

I sincerely hope that my brethren-in-Islam as well as Muslim governments will rise to the occasion and shall respond to the call of time with all the enthusiasm and energies at their command. May Allah be with us all, Ameen.