The aim of the Islamic movement is to bring about somewhere in the world a new society wholeheartedly committed to the teachings of Islam in their totality and striving to abide by those teachings in its government, political, economic and social organizations, its relation with other states, its educational system and moral values and all other aspects of its way of life.
Our organized and gradual effort which shall culminate in the realization of that society is the process of Islamization.
This naturally leads to the question: Is there an Islamic process of Islamization? In other words, does Islam only specify the aim to be reached and leave the method of achieving that aim to the intelligence of individuals or does it also specify the means by which that aim is to be reached?
The answer will become clear once we begin to see some of the major issues that are involved in this question.
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How does certain social order come to be? The answer to this question has to depend, in the last analysis, one’s view of the nature of reality. This is so because the achievement of certain social results depends on the correct performance of certain actions which, in turn, are based on the belief that there is a causal connection between these actions and the desired result. The choice of these causal actions will depend on your conception of reality as a whole. A materialist who believes that there is ultimately nothing in the world except matter and its movement will not include in such actions anything like prayer, intentions or moral values. These are for him mere names which do not designate any reality and thus cannot in any way be effectual.
If the means of achieving an aim are thus connected with one’s view of the world the process of Islamization must be related to the Islamic view of life. This is confirmed by the fact that Islam is both a message and a method. It is a body of facts which a believer should translate into reality, and it is a method by which this translation is to be affected. The principles of this method are outlined in the Qur’an, but they cannot be rightfully understood without the perspective of the sira (biography) of the Prophet which was a successful translation of these principles into action.
In what follows I shall give a brief but, I hope, comprehensive account of that method, starting from the basic conceptual issues and coming down to some practical details.
Determinist Theory of History
Our method of Islamization has to be based on our concept of social causation and historical explanation, i.e., on our view of the process whereby nations and civilizations rise and fall. To identify the Islamic explanation of this important type of social change, it might help to contrast it with a contemporary philosophy of history which, though influential, is misguided. According to this philosophy, history is a movement which follows a single and definite path that leads progressively and inevitably from one stage to a more developed one. Men can influence this movement by either increasing or decreasing its tempo but they do not have the power to arrest it or change its direction. Those who try to stop it or change its direction and thus slow it down are the reactionaries; those who give it a push and accelerate it are the progressives. If one’s efforts are to materialize one has to find out this historical movement, see to what future state it is leading and identify his aims and ideals with that stage and direct all his efforts to the goal to which that historical movement is inevitably leading; otherwise, his days will be lost in futile reactionary efforts.
We know that the Communists subscribe to such a view, but it is not they alone who do so. Many staunch enemies of Communism unwittingly assume the truth of such a view. Among them are Western and Westernized men and women who believe that the stage which the West, and especially the United States, has now reached is, in its entirety, a more developed stage both materially and culturally. More over if it is the stage towards which all nations that aspire to be both industrialized and civilized must inevitably move. This position, which has many adherents in the Muslim world both in its Communistic form and Western cloak, takes the endeavor to Islamize society to be a futile one because it goes against the historical trend. For the Communists the historical trend leads toward the Soviet Union and to the ideal Communist state; and for the agents of Westernization, it moves toward the United States and thence to what will become of the United States.
Islamic Theory of Social Change
Perhaps the best way to introduce the Islamic philosophy of social change, in light of which we should make our program of Islamization, is by way of a commentary on that famous Qur’anic verse.
“Allah will not change the condition of a people unless they change what is in themselves.” (Q, 13:11)
The main points we find in this verse are:
- A God who has absolute freedom of action.
- Human beings whose freedom of action is limited.
- A change which man brings about inside himself.
- A change in man’s condition which God brings about as a result of that human change.
These four points constitute the Islamic explanation or philosophy of social change. Let us therefore examine their implication briefly.
The first point distinguishes our conception of social change from the materialistic and naturalistic theories which assume the non-existence of God and therefore adopt the principle of the self-sufficiency of this world i.e. the principle that phenomena of this world, whether they be social or otherwise, can be sufficiently explained with the help of laws pertaining to it. This atheistic assumption has unfortunately been identified with scientific method as such, so much so that any reference to God in the explanation of phenomena is immediately ruled out as unscientific and not merely un-atheistic. We must beware of this unjustified confusion and insist on the justifiability, necessity and desirability of seeing the role of the Divine in the explanation of the natural and social phenomena of our world.
This point also distinguishes our conception from those atheistic viewpoints according to which the Creator is a mere prime mover whose only role was merely to start creation and then leave it to take care of itself.
The second point shows the advantage of our conception of social change over the deterministic theories which assume that man has no real efficacy or freedom of choice and that everything he does is imposed on him by a divine power or by natural or social causes. Man cannot indeed do anything against the will of God, but God has willed to give him the freedom to choose and the power to realize some of his intentions even if they go against the guidance given by God. One of the very important areas on which God gave man the freedom to act is his internal state. But since much of what happens to man depends on what kind of internal state he has, man can be said to be largely responsible for his destiny.
The third point tells us about a change that man brings about inside himself. What kind of change is this? Is it a change from good to bad or vice versa or could it be any of them? This last one is now the popular interpretation of the verse. Almost everyone now understands by this verse that when people change from good to bad, God punishes them by changing their condition from good to bad and vice versa. But this is not the interpretation that we find in the older commentaries. The older commentators seem to be agreed that the change referred to in the verse is a change from good to evil. This seems to me to be the correct interpretation because it is the only one that is comparable with a basic Islamic principle and because it is supported by many other verses.
The fourth point tells us that when a people so change, God punishes them by withdrawing from them some of the spiritual and material bounties which He had bestowed upon them and thus causes them to face hardship.