Bilal Naeem and Umm Zahra – Hiba’s team writers
(The article is based on excerpts of a talk by Dr. Rehan Ahmed Yousufi – The decline of Muslims and Allama Iqbal)
Allama Muhammad Iqbal: the name conjures up the image of a man resting his head on a balled up fist, eyes closed, dreaming about Pakistan. The power in his poetry was enough to rouse an entire people from impassivity, resulting in the formation of the fifth largest country and the largest Islamic state the world had seen till then.
However, what was his message to Muslims? How is his ideology equally, if not more, relevant for Muslims today?
Let us first paint the picture of the state of the Muslims of the sub-continent at the time of his birth.
In 1877, the Muslims lived almost as slaves. We had no say in anything, no input in the decisions or the law of the land. We merely earned and paid taxes. The weak Caliphate dismantled in front of Iqbal- the same Caliphate that had once ruled all over North Africa, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Western Asia and brought prosperity and justice to its people.
The Muslims were a civilization that had been ruling for over a thousand years because of this delicate balance between character and competence. Compare this with the superpowers of today- USA has really only been a world superpower following the fall of Russia in the early 1990’s. Russia had been a superpower formerly for 50 years or so, and the British had preceded Russia for almost 100 years or so. But how are they remembered for their colonization and take overs?
How did this downfall happen?
Muslims used to lead in science, education (spiritual and worldly both) and culture. However, if you now take a look at the conveniences and inventions in our lives today such as your telephone or the Internet, do you find a Muslim behind any of these? A nation approximating 1.6 billion individuals with no discernible recent contribution! But muslims produced the greatest minds and technological advances when they firstly had a high character in the light of the Quran and the Sunnah. This granted them such a burning purpose that they developed competence at all levels bringing peace to the world.
Today the world may have developed at an unprecedented speed under the disbeliever’s leadership. We are in the age of automation and artificial intelligence and it seems that muslims are doomed to become ‘technological slaves’, but in absence of Divine guidance the world has also become a very unjust and merciless place. Muslims downfall has greatly impacted the world at large not just muslims themselves.
What is the solution to our bleak future?
We might choose to settle abroad but we risk of loosing our future generations to a Godless culture, exposing them to ideas such as hedonism, individualism and gender fluidity.
It is time to turn to the enduring wisdom of our elders, like Allama Iqbal, who also faced a similar fork in his life. He could have settled back in Europe after receiving his prestigious education in England or returned to put out the wild fire burning down the directionless muslims of the sub-continent. What did Iqbal try to teach us?
The message in his poem “Talib-e-Ilm” (Student) is particularly relevant for all of us today.
Khuda Tujhe Kisi Toofan Se Ashna Kar De
Ke Tere Behar Ki Moujon Mein Iztarab Nahin,
Tujhe Kitab Se Mumkin Nahin Faragh Ke Tu
Kitab Khawah Hai Magar Sahib-e-Kitab Nahin!
Iqbal likens us to the dead calm of the sea, wherein no boat or ship can make headway because of the lack of winds to push it. All our focus is on how to make our life easy and calm.
However, what does this ease do to us? It kills our sensibilities and our capabilities, making us selfish. This selfish person is the worse due be punished on the Day of Judgment because he did not work for the greater good of his Ummah.
However, once a storm hits, the mountains of waves rocks your boat. Iqbal hopes this happens to us so that it propels us to action to save ourselves. He hopes this will shake us out of our indifference to others’ pain. Once you think and worry about others, only then are you motivated to do something about it.
What is the right direction of this motivation?
Iqbal insists we must read the Quran and understand the purpose of life. We must accept the challenge of living life beyond our own needs and wants, helping others instead.
Is it enough to just read the Quran? Should just the Arabic suffice or is it necessary to read the translation? The Quran demands time and understanding. We need to study it deeply and understand how it should impact our life and hereafter. All that peace and happiness you are looking for in this life is not permanent, life is full of both good and bad times. Even though you might survive all the trials of life successfully, we are mortal and will die one day. This is the scariest part of this exam that is life.
However, if we are forever conscious of Allah (swt) and treading Sirat-e-mustaqueem, we will be rewarded manifold in the Hereafter. We will have all our desires fulfilled and will never be ill, nor sad, lonely or worried.
How do we demonstrate our mindfulness of Allah (swt)?
- Akhlaq and Adaab – Behave with the best manners, with excellence and justice with everyone you know or don’t know. This is the core of Islam. We respect the creation of Allah (swt) and dare not violate the Meezan He has set for the universe, even if others do.
- Silah Rahmi – Spend on the people in your life and those around you. Your parents topping the list, then your spouse and children, next your blood relatives. It eliminates your love for material and money, the God of today, we are worshipping unknowingly.
- Rehm – Ensure that you hurt no one. Allah (swt) Who can seize us, destroy us and eliminate us in a split second, has ingrained on His throne – “My mercy overcomes my anger”. This compassion upholds our relationships, enables us to love and forgive others.
- Tazkiyah and Taubah – Avoid sinning , repent as soon as you do and tell others to do good as well. The Quran should be your mirror. Internalize the Ayat that speak of the Kuffar, Munafiqueen, Momineen and find yourself among these characters to improve.
- Rah-e-Haqq – Struggle in the way of good and righteousness even in the face of personal loss. Ethics and principles globally have taken a nose-dive not just in Pakistan. But make right choices for Allah’s (swt) sake and your salvation in the Akhirah.
- Jihad bin Nafs – Struggle against your base desires for they lead us away from Allah (swt). Ask Allah’s (swt) help to enable you to overcome your weaker side and adopt the company of mission oriented, active Momins who live with a purpose.
Didn’t Iqbal have the opportunity we all run after today? He could have emigrated, practiced law and lived successfully. Why did he write poetry and give speeches? He tolerated people who labeled Iqbal a ‘Kaafir’, when they misunderstood him, because Iqbal strongly believed that life was beyond self, family, ease and happiness. He knew Allah’s (swt) Pleasure lay in helping others. He understood that the actual goal is Jannah, not the temporal world. He also understood the power of one good man with positive actions have a ripple effect, creating more selfless people and greater good in society.
One good person can move mountains. Allama Iqbal is the proof of this claim. It is time that you did too, In sha Allah.