Making Sure One's Way is Right
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Believers! If you pay heed to some of those who have been given revelation, they will cause you to renounce the truth after you have accepted the faith. But how can you sink into disbelief when Allah’s revelations are being recited to you and His messenger is in your midst? He who holds fast to Allah has already been guided along a straight path. (The house of Imran, “Aal Imran” : 3;100-101)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb
Translation: A.A Salahi & S.A.Shamsi
The Prophet (Pbuh) used to adopt a very strict attitude toward his companions (may Allah be pleased with them all) in matters of faith and with regard to their way of his life. He, at the same time, allowed them to use their discretion in matters of practical life which rely on human experience and knowledge. Examples of these are: methods of fighting in war, agricultural methods and all purely scientific matters which have nothing to do with faith, or with a social system or the relationship which regulates man’s life. These are two totally different fields. The way of life adopted by an individual or a certain society has nothing to do with pure or applied science.
The religion of Islam which has been revealed to conduct human life according to a certain divine method makes its directive clear to man to seek knowledge and to benefit by every material discovery or scientific advance, provided that this is made within the context of implementing its own method of life.
Imam Ahmad relates on the authority of Abdullah ibn Thabit that Umar came to the Prophet one day and said: “Messenger of Allah! I have asked a Jewish friend of mine from the tribe of Quraithah to write me the basic teachings of the Torah. Shall I read them to you? The Prophet’s face changed colour when Umar said that. “Abdullah ibn Thabit turned to Umar and said: “Do you not see the expression on Allah’s messenger’s face?” Umar said immediately: “I believe in Allah as my only Lord, accept Islam as my faith and Muhammad as Allah’s messenger.” The Prophet’s face regained its normal colour and he said: “By Him who holds my soul in His hands, if Moses comes back to you tomorrow and you follow him and leave me you will go astray. You are my share of nations and I am your share of prophets.”
A Hadith reported by Jabir quotes the Prophet as saying: “Do not ask the people of the Book about anything, for they will not guide you aright when they have gone astray. You will have one of the two alternatives: either you will accept a falsehood or you will reject a truth. Had Moses been living among you, the only course lawful to him is to follow me.” The Prophet is also quoted as saying: “Had Moses and Jesus been alive, they would have had to follow me.”
This is the position of the people of earlier revelation. The Prophet makes our position abundantly clear when it comes to following their guidance in matters in faith, ideological concepts, law or method of life, Islam imposes no restriction whatsoever on its followers when it comes to benefiting by the advances of any group of people in any branch of science. We have only to relate these advances to our own approach to everything in the universe, knowing that Allah has enabled to man to make use of everything on earth and to benefit by them in order to achieve a higher and more secure standard of living. We should also be grateful to Allah for enabling us to make such discoveries and make use of the resources and potentials he has placed in the universe. We express our gratitude to Him by worshipping Him alone and by making the right use of our advances.
When it comes to asking the followers of the other religions about concepts of faith, the definition of the purpose of human life, its method, laws and regulations, moral values and codes, we find the Prophet’s face changing colour for the slightest indication of it. Allah gives the Muslim community a stern warning against the ultimate result of all that, namely, the total rejection of faith. In the light of this directive by Allah and the guidance of His messenger, where do we, who claims to be Muslims, stand today? I see us taking Orientalists and their disciples as our teachers when we study the Qur’an and the Hadith of our Prophet (Pbuh). I see us also formulating our concepts of life and existence on the basis of what we learn from those Orientalists and their disciples, as well as Greek, Roman, European and American philosophers. We borrow our regulations and laws from these suspect sources. I also find us borrowing our manners, code of conduct and moral values from the stinking immorality into which has fallen the modern material civilisation which is totally devoid of the spirit of any religion. In spite of all that, we still claim to be Muslims. Such a claim is worse than open disbelief. For when we make such a claim, when our states of affairs is such, we testify to the failure of Islam when those who do not claim to be Muslims would not make such a testimony.
Islam is a method with unique, distinctive characteristics in relation to its ideological philosophy, its laws regulating all spheres of life, its moral values which govern all political, economic and social relations. It is a method designed to lead humanity as a whole. Hence, it is necessary that a certain community should implement this method in order to assume the leadership of mankind. As we have mentioned earlier, it is contrary to the very nature of leadership that this community should receive the directives from any source other than its own method of life.
It is for the good of mankind that this method was revealed by Allah. It is also for the good of mankind that the advocates of Islam call for the implementation of this method now and in the future. Indeed, the urgency for its implementation today is much greater, considering the suffering of mankind under all the systems and methods implemented by man. There is a simply no saviour except this divine method which must retain all its distinctive characteristics in order to play its role and save mankind anew.
Man had made great advances in utilising the resources and the potentials of the universe. His achievements in medicine and industry are miracles when compared man’s past. Fresh discoveries and triumphs still await man. What is the effect of all these on man’s life? Has it given man happiness, security and peace? The answer is in the negative. What humanity has found instead are misery, worry, fear, a host neurological and psychiatric diseases, in addition to perversion and crime on a large scale indeed. Moreover, it has made no progress what so ever in the formulation of a sound concept of the purpose of human existence. When this purpose and the goals of human life as conceived by modern civilised men are compared to Islamic concepts, this civilisation appears to shrink into insignificance. It seems no more than a curse which belittles man’s own concept of himself and his position in the universe. It degrades him and limits his aspirations. The result is that humanity feels its heart being consumed by void and its soul writhes under the burden of confusion. The simple reason is that humanity cannot find Allah since its course has deviated away from Him as a result of a collection of miserable circumstances. Had scientific research followed the divine method, it would have made every achievement accomplished by man a step which draws humanity nearer to Allah. Instead, it causes humanity to go further away from Him. Man is, therefore, deprived of the light which would have revealed to him to the true purpose of his existence and enabled him to work for that purpose equipped with the scientific progress Allah has enabled him to achieve. Nor does man find the method which would have established harmony between him and the universe, in their respective actions, movements, natures and laws. Nor does man find the system which establishes a perfect equilibrium between his potentials and resources, this world and the life to come, the individual and the community, his rights and his duties, in a natural and comprehensive way.
Certain groups of human beings endeavour to deprive man of Allah’s method and guidance. It is they who described man’s aspirations to implement these methods as “reaction”. They dismisses it as mere nostalgia for the historical past. Whether this is the result of their ignorance or their ill will, they actually deprived humanity of the right to aspire to the only method which can lead it to perfect peace and happiness, as well as progress and development. We, who believe in this method, know perfectly well what we call for. We see the misery of mankind and we see as well, over the horizon, the real possibility of salvation looming large for the suffering humanity. We are also aware that unless the leadership of mankind is given to this method, then man will sink into a much lower depth.
The first step to salvation is that this method must remain pure. Its advocates must not listen to any directive given to them by the ignorance which has spread all around them. This ensures the purity of the system until Allah wills it to resume the leadership of mankind. Allah is too kind to man to let him fall prey to his enemies who advocate ignorant ways. This is the lesson Allah wanted to give to the first Muslim community in his revelation and the Prophet was keen on driving home to his followers.