Quest and Conquest

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Adnan Rashid is senior researcher for the Hittin Institute and IERA (The Islamic Education and Research Academy), historian, bibliophile and civil rights’ activist.

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The spirit that Prophet Muhammad (sa) came to instil was for one to take the flag of Islam and march forward. What is the quest of the Muslims? It is to attain salvation, gain the pleasure of Allah (swt) and follow the Messenger (sa). This quest is of the hearts and minds, thus, it is more significant than any military quest.

The Prophet (sa) enabled his companions to liberate themselves from the shackles of social pressure. Prior to Islam, the Arabs were enslaved by the Quraish. Psychological enslavement of humans always begins with the enslavement of the mind, when one carries a self-defeating attitude and suffers from inferiority complex.

Allah (swt) commanded the Prophet (sa): “O you (Muhammad (sa)) enveloped (in garments)! Arise and warn! And your Lord (Allah) magnify!” (Al-Muddathir 74:1-3)

Allah (swt) inspired the Prophet (sa) to take the people out of the enslavement of other people and connect them to the Creator. This is where freedom of body and mind lied. How did this journey begin?

When the Prophet (sa) received through Jibreel the first five verses of Surah Al-Alaq, commanding him to read in the name of his Lord, he got confused and ran to Khadijah (rtaf). Being a loving and trusting spouse, she assured the Messenger (sa) that Allah (swt) will never wrong him, as he used to stand for the truth and was considered to be the best man in the city. Khadija (rtaf) led him to Waraqa bin Nawfal, her uncle, who was a wise man and well-versed in the earlier scriptures. He perceived what was to come and informed the Prophet (sa) that he would be driven out of his home town, because he would challenge the socio-political status quo of the Quraish

A similar scene was sketched hundreds of years ago, when Allah (swt) brought Musa (as) to be nurtured in the palace of the Pharaoh. When Musa (as) was prepared for his mission, he looked at the Pharaoh in the eye and told him that he was a transgressor and doing wrong.

A common man from Banu Israel could not even have dreamed of demonstrating such courage. They were slaves. We always fear lack of experience or understanding. Musa (as) had nothing to fear, as by growing up in the palace, he knew the shortfalls of the Pharaoh’s system. He was not in awe of the Pharaoh and thus, he acted with confidence. Hence, Musa’s (as) quest began by liberating the suppressed slaves. He revealed to them that the Pharaoh was nothing compared to the power and grandeur of Allah (swt), Who had more right to their submission. Here began the quest, and the conquest followed soon after.

What was so magnificent about the Prophet’s (sa) companions and other early Muslims, which made them reach every known part of the world and enforce Islam? They conquered the Byzantines, the Persians, the Indians (through Muhammad bin Qasim), the Spaniards (through Tariq bin Ziyad) and the Chinese. The Islamic state was enormous in size – larger than what Alexander had conquered.

They were not super humans. They were simple Arabs. Rabiya bin Amir, a Bedouin clad in sheepskins, addressed Rustum, a king in silk and jewels. Allah’s (swt) soldier, commanding an army of merely 8,000, invited Rustum with a formidable army of 150,000 to embrace Islam. When asked by Rustum why he was there, Rabiya answered: To liberate your people from humans and give them into the enslavement of Allah (swt). Why didn’t the pomp and power of Rustum penetrate the heart of Rabiya?

No firm conclusions can be drawn over how Muslim conquests came so fast. In some cases, historians (Muslims and non-Muslims) believe that due to the tolerant nature of the Islamic rule, disbelievers preferred to take shelter with them. While Europe was facing the dark ages, Christians and Jews ran to Muslim lands to seek asylum.

In the final sermon, our beloved Prophet (sa) asked all 1,24,000 believers: “Have I delivered?” They all confirmed in unison. He then pointed towards the sky, addressing Allah (swt): “Bear witness, O Allah (swt), that I have delivered.” Then, he commanded the Muslims to go and deliver the message to the rest of the people. It was this spirit and sense of purpose that drove them. The Ashab-e-Rasool heard the Messenger (sa) and obeyed him until death.

Imagine the Sahabahs who had it drilled in their heads: Don’t just drink camel milk; eat dates and die; rise and take the message of Allah (swt) to the rest of the world! How come less than 10% of the companions died in Hijaz? Didn’t they know the merits awarded for prayers in Masjid-ul-Haram (1 Salah equivalent to 100,000 prayers), in Masjid-e-Nabwi (1 Salah equivalent to 1,000 prayers) and in Masjid-ul-Aqsa (1 Salah equivalent to 500 prayers)? Didn’t they have families or businesses? Then what was it that drove them out to conquer the world with limited capacity and scarce resources? Where did they all die? If you visit their graves, you will discover that Abu Ayub Ansari (rtam) is buried in Istanbul, Abu Ubaidah ibn Jarrah (rtam) is resting in Jordan, Zaid bin Harithah (rtam) is buried in Jordan, etc.

The single common thing among all companions was the Quran. This book was recited to them day and night. Umar bin Khattab (rtam) states that they were a disgraced nation; it was this Quran that bestowed honour upon them. They submitted to Allah (swt) alone and Allah (swt) freed them. No oppressor or tyrant was able to control them.

The quest of Muslim lies in liberating the minds and understanding the Quran. The Quran speaks for itself. If we, with all our iphones, ipads, TVs and jets, cannot reap results today, who can?

Today, Muslims collectively suffer from perpetual enslavement. We have the same Quran and its powerful message with us. However, we differ from the early Muslims in our understanding and application of the Quran. If the Quran could have such a deep impact on that generation, why doesn’t it work for 1.5 billion Muslims today? Simple! We think of ourselves as inferior beings. We choose to believe that we are slaves of the West -.we look up to them, we run after them and we obey them. The West is no different from the Quraish. They look down upon all and do not like to reason with anyone. However, we allow these social and cultural pressures to be imposed upon us. We do not have leaders; we have only beggars.

Learn your magnificent history! In the golden Andalusian period of the Shariah law, non-Muslims used to run to the Muslim lands for refuge. A Christian author George Maqdeesi writes that the present-day western university has been derived from the Islamic Madrassah model of Spain. In those Madrassahs, students learnt philosophy, Ahadeeth, Mantaq, Fiqh, chemistry, physics, mathematics, etc. Do our Madrassahs look like this today?

The reason the Sahabahs didn’t care for the riches of the world or fear any rulers of the time was because they were mentally liberated. For them, the quest began at home. They submerged themselves into the Kalamullah – the Quran, the finely mathematically tuned order of the universe.

The Quran is your quest, too. The command of the Prophet (sa) was as much for the companions as it is for me and you. The Quran is no joke. It is serious. Learn it. Act upon it. Intertwine Islamic and secular sciences. Gather material strength, and produce power and capacity within yourself to establish justice and peace in the world. Embark u[on the quest. By Allah (swt), everything will change – we will overcome all.

Based on the “Rise with Faith” conference organized by “LiveDeen”. Transcribed for Hiba by Rana Rais Khan.

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