by Iman Badawi | Summarized from the last chapter of Islam the Future Civilization, by Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradaawi, el-Fatah Foundation for Translation and Distribution, Cairo, Egypt, 1998 1
Perhaps the most blatantly apparent quality of the 21st century world is that the success of nations is based upon their material advancement with complete disregard for the moral status of its civilization. However, Allah subahanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) has given us many examples in the Qur’an that illustrate His dealings with those nations that met their respective prophets with an attitude of stubborn rebelliousness. The Qur’an clearly indicates that the material strength of these nations did not avail them in front of Allah’s punishment.
Allah (swt) says: “Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with `Aad—[with] Iram— who had lofty pillars, the likes of whom had never been created in the land? And [with] Thamud, who carved out the rocks in the valley? And [with] Pharaoh, owner of the stakes?—[All of[ whom oppressed within the lands and increased therein the corruption. So your Lord poured upon them a scourge of punishment. Indeed, your Lord is in observation,” (Qur’an 89:6-14).
Each of the nations were given some sort of material power. The people of `Aad were able to construct huge, lofty buildings much like those today in the Middle East. The people of Thamud dexterously carved their dwellings out of mountains. It may be that the “lord of stakes,” Pharaoh, was named this way in reference to the pyramids that still remain intact today as witnesses to the architectural genius of the people of his time. Yet, all of these achievements could not save them from the punishment that was inflicted upon them due to their rejection of God’s revelation.
Based upon a detailed examination of these people and related verses that describe the destruction of previous nations, the scholars have mentioned the following as causes for their deterioration:
- Denial of the revelations of the Lord and disobedience towards the prophets
- Following the bidding of the insolent tyrants and transgressors who made mischief in the land and did not reform themselves (such as the people of `Aad and Thamud)
- Rejoicing over scientific knowledge and turning away from the revelations of God
- Insufferable intellectual and material arrogance intermingled with heedlessness of Allah’s severe punishment (the error of Pharaoh and Qaaroon)
- Oppression, defrauding people of their possessions, and injustice particularly against the poor and weak (this was the error of the people of the Prophet Shu`ayb `alayhi assalaam, peace be upon him)
- Committing abominable offenses, and indulgence in lust (for example the sins which ruined the people of Lut)
- Widespread corruption, committing evil in public without the least attempt to forbid each other from these wrong-doings (characteristic of the Children of Israel)
- Use of Allah’s blessings in disobedience, denial of many of those blessings altogether, and refusal to do good deeds
- Indulging in luxurious living and ingratitude to Allah (swt) for His blessings
Each of these transgressions accelerates Allah’s wrath. Hence, the horrors that await a nation or society plagued by a number of these violations are beyond human imagination.2
Upon examination of the civilizations of our own time, it is apparent that each of them is dominated by one or more of these transgressions. Consequently, Allah’s wrath and retribution is inevitable so long as the people of these civilizations persist in following in the footsteps of the doomed. In this regard, Allah (swt) says:
“And you lived among the dwellings of those who wronged themselves, and it had become clear to you how We dealt with them. And We presented for you [many] examples. And they had planned their plan, but with Allah is [recorded] their plan, even if their plan had been [sufficient] to do away with the mountains,” (Qur’an 14:45-46).
So the very important question arises: What is the solution to the predicament faced by present-day societies? Al-Mawdoodi writes, in comment to a speech given by Lord Luthen at Olaykara University in which he states that the only way to salvation is to swear allegiance to a religion:
“One gets the impression that he resembles a thirsty man who is not even aware of the existence of water, still he can feel all the symptoms of his thirst. He lists the properties of the thing which can put an end to his thirst but he is not able to name it. If we put a glass of water in front of him, he will say on instinct that this is the thing he felt thirsty for and will jump and drink it. Others who suffered the devastating consequences of the Western civilization and urbanism in Europe, America and the rest of the world, share Lord Luthen’s condition. […] Undoubtedly they heard the word ‘water’ before but they are terrified whenever it is mentioned because they were not given a chance to know the real meaning of it. Their ignorant and fanatic ancestors told them that water refers to a poisonous thing which no one should approach. Ironically, if that thing was put in front of them and was not named, they would have instantly cried out saying that this is the thing which they felt thirsty for…”
Islam is the only system which offers humanity a completely balanced and integrated system; this is the straight way (siraat-ul mustaqeem) that Muslims ask for guidance to in prayer.
By balance, what is meant is that Islam is a middle way that doesn’t veer off into extremes. What is meant by integration is that Islam integrates sciences and faith, truth and power, creed and activity, religion with the state, instruction and legislation, religious scruples and the duties of rulers, material creativity and moral loftiness, and military power and morale. This integration is based upon the principle that belief in God is essential to the life of humanity.
The mission of religion and belief is represented in the following:
- First, Belief builds and develops the relationship between the believer and Allah (swt) into an ethereal intimacy which fills that person with love, trust, and certainty.
- Second, It elevates man from the level of a “developing animal”, as some people describe human beings, to an honorable, rational creature who has to fulfill certain duties and who was fashioned according to the best organizational plan. Man is Allah’s vicegerent on earth. Hence man shouldn’t give in to the petty vanities of life which drag him on the downward path. He should always aspire to higher values.
- Third, Religion broadens the scope of man’s relationship with the vast universe. Man is not an intruder in this enormous cosmos. This universe is created for man’s service and it is one of the Signs of Allah’s existence. All people are brothers and sisters.
- Fourth, It makes man realize the meaning and wisdom of morality.
All these values aim to make us realize the secrets and truth of our existence and our mission in life. They stem out of belief in Allah (swt) and the hereafter which are the pillars on which religions are built. Hence, it is essential to restore the constructive influence of belief upon humanity and life.
When belief infiltrates the society and enlightens the hearts of its individuals, people will exhibit the characteristics of a true Islamic society and will build its foundation upon the following pillars:
- Brotherhood and Love: It is a natural result of faith to unite those upon the firm creed.
- Sympathy and Mercifulness: These characteristics are especially obligatory regarding the weak, the orphans, the needy, and the wayfarers.
- Support and Cooperation: It is a must for the believers to cooperate upon righteousness and piety and not to work together for vice and hostility.
- Solidarity and Mutuality: It must be a society in which the rich support the poor, and the strong come to the aid of the oppressed.
- Mutual Consultation and Advice: No one in this society is above the law or above being corrected if they do not adhere to God’s commands
- Purification and Advancement: The Muslim society is a hygienic one that educates its individuals in purification, decency, chastity, and prohibits every kind of abomination whether hidden or open.
- Justice: It includes economic and social justice as well as just treatment by the law.
- Progressiveness: This is perhaps the most important characteristic of Muslim society—it is progressive and not underdeveloped! However the definition of this progress is based upon the collective goal of humanity which is to perfect the worship of God, to fulfill the vicegerency on earth, and to accomplish preservation of the earth.
Such a society can learn from identifying the positive aspects of Western civilization and incorporating them into its fabric. These include:
- Scientific and technological application
- Excellence of administration and management of life’s affairs
- Giving due consideration to human rights and freedom (although Islam already guarantees these principles, it is not wrong to learn from these methods)
However, an Islamic nation will not be able to introduce an alternative to contemporary civilization if it imitates it and follows its every step. Indeed, the only way an Islamic nation could fulfill this goal is to stick firmly to its “balanced and integrated civilized project” and struggle until death to fulfill its identity and mission.