UNDERSTANDING ISLAM IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
[Shamim A Siddiqi,
Introduction: The age through which we are passing is very challenging
for the Muslims throughout the world, especially in
Unfortunately, Islam in its truest form was never presented to the West and what one understands through his or her own commendable efforts needs explanation, putting the Qur'anic verses in correct perspective in which they were revealed. It is equally important to know the stages through which the Islamic Movement as launched by Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] reached to the point of climax [perfection] in the ninth/tenth year of Hijrah with what natural end-results. These are vast topics and need elaborate discussion. I, therefore, request my readers to bear with me up to the last line with patience. God, the Almighty, may open their hearts and minds for the acceptance of truth.
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE:
But before I talk about the Qur'an and what it presents and what one understands through his or her personal studies, it is desirable to regard the history of Islam and that of mankind form Adam to Muhammad (pbut) as the continuity of the process ordained by God.
1. Islam was the Deen [the way of life] of all the Prophets of Islam from Adam - Abraham to Jesus [pbut]. It was neither Judaism nor Christianity [Yahudiyat or Nasraniyat]. All the prophets were the Prophets of God [Allah] and their Deen was Islam [obedience to God] to which they all invited the mankind to follow. Their God was only one God, Allah [God is correctly translated in Arabic Bible as Allah]. It were the people, their respective followers who subsequently deviated into different channels and called or pronounced themselves “Jews” and “Christians.” In fact, all were Muslims and their Deen was Islam. Prophet Moses and Jesus (pbut)] never called themselves Jew and Christian respectively. I wish one could read my book: "The Greatest Need of Man." It is available on my website: www.dawahinamericas.com in Section A Islam as a way of life.
Similarly, the mission and the process of establishing the authority of God on
this earth [the
3. Prophet Jesus [pbuh] departed from this world at a very early stage of his life due to conspiracy hatched by the Jews. He had no time to establish a society, even in terms of the Ten Commandments of Torah. He could not lead a married life and give a socio-economic-political system to his people. [Had there been any, the Christian societies would have never failed to establish it in their countries, rather than keeping Christianity restricted within the four walls of the church only and adopting the secular system of life. Can anyone deny these facts?] It meant that this big gap was to be filled by some other Prophet after Jesus [pbuh] in order to deliver Justice and a comprehensive system of life to mankind. As planned by God, Prophet Jesus [pbuh] was elevated to heaven but before that he [pbuh] professed that another Prophet, the “Comforter” [Ahmad or Mohammad], was to come after him [Jesus]. One can read John - , and 16: 7. The word "Comforter" pinpoints directly to the coming of the next Prophet of God and he could be none but Muhammad, the son of Abdullah of Makkah. But it is the greatest human tragedy that the arrival of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), after a lapse of about 600 years after Jesus [pbuh] and the Book of Guidance that was revealed to him by God were and are being denied knowingly by the Christians and the Jews together, just to meet their political expediencies. History confirms it. The end-result is that most of humans and their societies are living a life of imbalance on earth and heading to encounter an uncertain future in the life Hereafter.
4. This world does not belong to
Bush, Blair, Putin, Saddam or anybody else. It belongs to God. He is not only
the Creator but Sustainer and controlling this universe meticulously. We are
not its masters but trustees of what we possess only during a very
temporary phase of life. He is not only our Creator and Sustainer but Lawgiver
too. He has ordained a system of life for mankind as how to live, act and
behave on this earth. That Guidance He sends through His appointed
messengers. The Job of each Prophet of God, as explained earlier, was to
deliver the Guidance, purify the character of his followers, present his life
as model to his people, explain the difficult situations that occur in this
process and establish a model society as it is envisaged in the Book of
Guidance of the time. The only Prophet of God, after David and Solomon [pbut]
who succeeded in establishing the
5. We have no choice but to study the process and the stages through
which his movement towards establishing the
In fact, every verse of the Qur'an will tell the reader when and under what condition or circumstances it was revealed: whether in Makkah or in Madinah as the situation and the conditions of the Movement at Makkah were quite different from those of Madinah. In Makkah it was just a movement but in Madinah it was gradually becoming a state with its own policy, program and a well-defined system of life both at individual and collective levels.
6. It is, therefore, essential that one who wants to understand the Qur'an and what it contains must equally labor hard to study the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in detail. The Qur'an was revealed to him [pbuh] to guide the destiny of mankind under the strict guidance of Allah, coming in bits and pieces in 23 years of time. If the life pattern of the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh]] is ignored, the reader will never reach the depth of the Qur'an and will remain just like one who recites its verses like a parrot. These people get nothing out of the Qur'an and remain "fishing" in "shallow" waters and make its understanding worse and worse for themselves and others. That is the reason the orientalists and the missionaries who claim to have “studied” the Qur'an do get nothing except some twisted facts, wrong connotations and misguided conclusions out of their “shallow knowledge” of the Qur'an that leads them to nowhere except some false "pretensions" of knowing Islam and the Qur'an as they do not corroborate the revelations through the Qur'an with the actual situation in which Muhammad [pbuh] was piloting the movement under the guidance of Allah. Thus, they do disservice to Islam, their own destiny and the destiny of mankind.
UNDERSTANDING EVOLUTIONAY PROCESS OF REVEALATION OF THE QUR’AN:
At this stage, I would like to put some fundamental questions to anti-Islam forces for understanding the situation that appears anomalous to their limited concept of Islam as a “religion” [the way they treat Judaism and Christianity] and not as a Deen, a way of life. It will make the position of Islam crystal clear for those who want to understand it with sincerity than those whose hearts are “crocked” and who are bent upon to find faults with it one way or the other.
i. Every State worth its name does have an ideology, a
declared state policy, program and objective to struggle for its existence and
survival. It prepares its citizens to be worthy of that idealism. If one
revolts, denies or works against the declared policy of the state, will any one
tolerate that individual (s) within the premises of that state? If the
ii. The verses 1 to 9 of the Qur'an from Chapter 9 [Al-Tauba - Repentance] were revealed in the ninth year of Hijrah while Prophet Muhammad (pbuh] was on his return journey from Tabuk, where the Roman emperor of the time was amassing his troops in hundreds of thousands, but retreated seeing the Messenger of Allah advancing towards him with only 30,000 Muslim army. The Christian Emperor Heraclius was well aware of Rasulullah's position as the Prophet of Allah and he could not dare to face him. The Emperor left the scene of the battlefield without giving any resistance. Those verses pertain to that stage when the Islamic State had practically been established in the entire
iii. Similarly, Verses 12 to 16 from the same Chapter 9 of the Qur’an pertain to the settlement with Jews and Christians. As stated above, the choice was left in their hands. Could there be any other just solution than what is ordained by Allah in both the cases: the idolaters and that of the Jews and Christians? It was the best solution to enable the Muslims, the Jews and the Christians to live together. The history of Muslim Caliphate subsequently showed that both the communities of Abrahamic faith always lived in peace and prospered living with Muslims side by side. But unfortunately, the Jews are proving otherwise in the country of their domination and the behavior of our Christian American brothers has become lately shrouded with "doubts and presumption" simply on unproven "flimsy" grounds. I invite the Jewish and Christian Communities to think about this anomalous situation and declare how much these priests are bigoted and far from the truth.
iv. So is the case of the Qur'anic verses form Chapter Al-Baqarah (2), Al-Nissa (4) and Al-Maidah (5) that deal with the condition of hypocrites. If I start taking each verse and deal with its historical perspective, the article will become unmanageable. Mostly, in these Verses, Allah has dealt with the condition of Hypocrites [Munafequoon] of the time who were fast becoming a menacing danger for the nascent Muslim society. So Allah has dealt with them decisively: and you know it would have never been good if they were left as an integral part of an ideological society without purification and correcting their attitude of life. In such situation, I would suggest that our Christian priests must study some Exegetical explanation or Tafseer of some prominent Islamic scholars like Maulana Maudoodi: English Translation of his “Meanings of the Qur'an”. Then they will be able to speak about Islam with some authority and knowledge from the original source.
v. From the above discussion, at least, one can gather the impression that the propaganda which is going on against Islam, the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh]) is based only on hearsay, false “allegations” and quoting them out of context. None cared to verify the so-called “allegations” from the original text and ascertained the references and the background in which each verse was revealed as one can see in the cases referred to above.
vi. Similarly, the derogatory remarks that are usually
passed against Prophet Muhammad (S) are simply made without any knowledge of
his character and the enormous contributions that he had made to human history
and civilization. At least our “knowledgeable” priests, before opening their
mouths, could go through the reading material about the life of Muhammad (S)
written by Toynbee, M Watts, Professor Hitty, Prof, T R Irving, Haykal and
latest by Y. Emerick and learn about his [pbuh] contributions in enriching
human history, whose many visible signs one can find in our American Constitution
too. The First Charter for multiethnic communities to live together in peace
and harmony was presented by Muhammad [pbuh], when he executed the Covenant of
Madinah with Jews and Arab tribes and the first Charter of Human Rights was
presented by him [pbuh] during his first and the last pilgrimage [Hajj] to
Makkah in 632 AD. Equally, the concept of equality, justice and fair play,
consultation, accountability of the rulers and the executives, respectability
of law, liberty and freedom of expression, all were introduced by Islam and
practiced by Muhammad [pbuh] and his first four Caliphs.
vii. The foregoing discussion will go a long way in confirming
the truth that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism of any sort under any
circumstances. If one studies what I have presented above, he or she will try
to raise himself or herself above the propaganda stunts going on against Islam
and Muslims. The “misguided” war of
viii. But for the brothers and sisters who are following the same God or Allah, the Lord of this cosmos, are monotheists and believe in His indivisible and inalienable Supreme authority, I would like to put before them another scenario that is reasonable and just.
Just ponder over this proposition: our God is One, our universe is one, humanity is one - its biological and moral needs are one and the same, irrespective of time, place or age. How, then, can the system of life for man [the Guidance] be more than one? It must be one and only one for the entire human race and for all times. And it is nothing but the Islamic system of life that God [Allah] has ordained for humans till eternity. In fact, there is no other system of life available to man except Islam that is perfect and comprehensive in all respects. It is the obstinacy of men and women who deny this truth and have, thus, divided the humanity in so many watertight compartments of faith, creed and “dogmatic followings.”
The Torah and the Bible were the "prescriptions" from God for human needs for their respective time. They could not be maintained intact in their original form and shape. So the Qur'an was revealed as the guidance for mankind. It is now available in its original language, completely intact in live, richest and the most comprehensive spoken Arabic language. They should think over this phenomenon. It appears to be the planning of God. Both the Guidance, the Qur'an and the life of the guide, Prophet Muhammad [pbuh], are now available in minutest detail. The rest stands either lost or innovated through human corruption.
It is for this purpose, God maintained the continuity of Prophethood and the continuity of the Message through His appointed Messengers in a chain from Adam to Muhammad [pbut]. Thus, Muhammad [pbuh] was the last Prophet of God and the Qur'an is His final and complete message to humans to show them how to live, act and behave on this earth.
only course now open before the followers of the three Abrahamic faith to
change the course of history is to struggle individually and collectively for
the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. It is a widely open game and
needs a lot of study in depth, organizational coordination, pooling of human
resources, and educating the masses - Muslims, Christians and Jews, on these
lines. Developing model human societies on this pattern and building a team of
dedicated and committed brothers and sisters with trustworthy character must be
their goal. All must be involved in the service of mankind without any
discrimination of color, cast, creed, race, language or ethnic affinity.
Working together for a few decades on a common platform, signs of hope will be
visible on the horizon. May God give us courage to think on these lines,
develop a common understanding and a feasible program for the deliverance of
x. To begin with, we will have to study Islam as the only way of life [Al-Deen], the Qur'an as the last Book of Guidance for mankind to live in peace with justice to all and emulate the life pattern of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh]), the only perfect model now available to mankind till eternity. This is the climax of Abrahamic faith and we all are committed to uphold and struggle for the establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth. Our job is just to make serious efforts. The rest rests with the Lord of this universe.
Shamim A Siddiqi,