The following series of questions and answers are based on the work of Mufti Taqi Usmani and taken from his book ‘اسلام اور دور ا حاضر کے شبھات و مغالطے’ – Islam and doubts and misconceptions of the modern age. These have not been translated exactly and have been stated in my own words. The target audience are the Muslims but non-Muslims may also benefit from these.
Why are Islamic movements in failure?
There is no doubt that there have been numerous sacrifices in this area in the Muslim world. Many Muslims have sacrificed their lives, property, wealth, family and a lot more for the implementation of Islam and all Muslims should love and adore them. However, in spite of all these efforts and sacrifices, we do not see any movement that reached the conclusion successfully. The question arises as to what the reason is for the failure! Below, we shall see the reasons.
1. Non-Muslim conspiracies are not the only reason.
What everyone knows is that the enemies of Islam have been fully backing the forces trying to crush Muslim movements. These are very clear and evident and therefore, won’t be discussed in detail. Conspiracies of the enemies of Islam cannot and can never succeed unless some flaw or weakness enters the Muslims. The outside forces succeed only because there are weaknesses inside. There has not been any time since Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) till our times when the enemies of Islam have not been at war with Islam but the attacks of the enemies only worked when the Muslims developed weaknesses. When Adam (عليه السلام) was created, Iblees was created before. Therefore, to expect that the conspiracies will end is a naïve expectation far away from reality.
2. First reason for failure of movements: Not giving due importance to rectification of self and development and polishing of the character.
The first reason for failure is not focusing on the development of character. Every educated Muslim knows that Islamic teachings pertain to every aspect of life of which some are societal while others are individual. In Islam, there is a balance between societal and individual matters and focusing on one more to the detriment of the other causes imbalance and results in weakness for the Muslims. We have replaced our priorities between the two where we focus more on societal matters while not giving due importance to individual matters.
3. Rejection of secularism and impact on Islam’s political stance.
The Muslim thought process came under the attack of propaganda of secularism which had tried to put away Islam out of public life. This philosophy of secularism encouraged the separation of religion from society and considered religion to be an individual matter of each. As a result of this propaganda attack, a group from the Muslims emerged which resisted this propaganda of secularism and argued that religion of Islam is a complete way of life and societal matters are a part of it. The position of religion in societal matters was defended so vigorously that eventually we started to give it precedence and the matters of the religion pertaining to individual selves went down in the priority and importance. Eventually, it occurred that there emerged ideas where it appeared that the most important aspect of Islam was politics and the implementation of Islam on a society level. What eventually happened is that Muslims, in general, made Islam political instead of making politics Islamic.
4. Training and development of the Sahaba (companions of the Prophet).
The example of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) is a great example in front of us and which every Muslim must strive to follow. His prophetic mission of 23 years is divided into two parts; Makkan period and Medinan period of around a decade each. If we look at the life of the Prophet in Makkan period, we find that it did not have politics, governance, Jihad, so much so that even replying to a slap with slap was not allowed.
واصبر و ما صبرك إلا بالله ولا تحزن عليهم
And be patient, and your patience is not but through Allah.
No matter how weak the Muslims were, they were not so weak, poor or afraid that they could not strike one back if the other was striking plenty. However, the order from Almighty Allah was to have patience and not fight back so that such people are trained who would go on to take the responsibility of the Islamic governance on their shoulders. The believers endured physical, mental, and emotional and all kinds of torture and oppression at the hands of the disbelievers and at the same time they were being taught religion, ethics and morals, God consciousness, bravery, strength and patience, endurance and perseverance which resulted in the believers developing the highest moral values and knowledge and understanding of the religion of Allah Almighty.
After thirteen years of such a training, the Medinan period started where the Islamic state comes into being along with all the pillars required for a state. Even with the availability of the state and all the resources that come with it, none of the companions thought that their real purpose was the attainment of an Islamic state. They took the state as a means and not the goal. Even with a state with them, they did not lose their relation with Allah so much so that a non-Muslim told his commander in the battle of Yarmuk:
رهبان بالليل و ركبان بالنهار
They are great secluded worshippers at night and great riders during the day.
From the Sahaba we learn that they took both the matters of individual connection with Allah and collective matters together and if one is separated from the other, then the religion is not followed upon correctly.
5. Should we forsake calling to the truth and prohibiting the evil to the detriment of rectification of self?
The Sahaba never thought that since they have reached such a high status, that they are fully involved in Jihad and have spread all over the world, they can forsake the voluntary prayers and fasts. They never thought that they no longer need to be as fearful of Allah as before or that they do not need to seek forgiveness of Allah continuously. However, we today, have forsaken individual rectification either conceptually or in implementation. Our acts have made the rectification of the self into a trivial matter and political Islamic stance is seen as a greater cause over which individual faults, mistakes and weaknesses are considered worthy of being ignored. Allah Almighty has said in the Qur’an:
إن تنصروا الله ينصر كم و يثبت أقدامكم
O ye who believe! If ye will aid (the cause of) God, He will aid you, and plant your feet firmly.
In this Ayah, Allah Almighty has linked the criteria of the success of Muslims with the part (إن تنصروا الله). In other words, the help of Allah comes when the relation with Allah is strong and if the relation stays weak, then the person is not worthy of the help of Allah.
The teachings of Islam pertaining to the individual self, strengthen the individual in all aspects. Personal greed and arrogance is eliminated and the person’s efforts become solely for Allah. Fasting is an individual obligation and Allah mentions that it helps in becoming muttaqi (God conscious). It also helps a person to develop self-restraint and enables one to overcome desires. These individual qualities are the base that contribute towards the society as well and when a pious person who strives with self-rectification lands up in a position that involves other people, he performs the task much better than a person lacking these qualities. If a person calls to the truth but does not have the qualities needed for the truth, then his words would not carry weight but if a person who implements Islam within himself and then spreads the message to others, then he carries more weight and his word reaches the hearts of others.
Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an:
ياايها الذين امنوا عليكم انفسكم لايضركم من ضل اذا اهتديتم الى الله مرجعكم جميعا فينبئكم بما كنتم تعملون
O you who have believed, upon you is [responsibility for] yourselves. Those who have gone astray will not harm you when you have been guided. To Allah is your return all together; then He will inform you of what you used to do.
It is mentioned in a narration that when this verse was revealed, a Sahabi (companion) asked the Prophet (ﷺ) whether he should only focus on himself and not spread the message of Islam to which the Prophet (ﷺ) did not approve of and encouraged to continue to spread the message of Islam. He then said:
إذا رايت شحا مطاعا، وهوى متبعا، ودنيا مؤثرة، وإعجاب كل ذى رأي برأيه فعليك بخاصة نفسك ودع عنك أمر العامة
If you see overwhelming stinginess, desires being followed, this world being preferred (to the Hereafter), every person with an opinion feeling proud of it, and you realize that you have no power to deal with it, then you have to mind your own business and leave the common folk to their own devices.
6. What should be the behavior in a corrupt society?
Some have interpreted the Hadith to mean that a time would come when the advice of one would not affect the other and hence the duty of enjoining good and forbidding evil would no longer be required. At such a time, the people should stay alone by themselves and worship Allah alone and not get involved in the affairs of the people. Other scholars have interpreted this Hadith to mean that the Hadith speaks of a time when the society becomes so corrupt that the people busy themselves with their concerns only and refuse to listen to anyone else, then one should leave the affairs of the people and busy himself with his own rectification. This does not mean that enjoining the good and forbidding the evil should be forsaken altogether but means that during such a time, one should concentrate more on the rectification of the individual than the society. This is so because the society is a collection of individuals and if individuals are corrected, then the society itself becomes corrected. Therefore, this Hadith does not speak of rejection of Da’wah and Tableegh but shows a way to do it in a difficult situation which we find ourselves in today. When individuals are corrected of their weaknesses and faults, gradually the society also becomes pure.
Imam Malik said:
لن يصلح آخر هذه الأمه بما صلح به أولها
The last of this Ummah will be rectified the way the first of this Ummah was done so.
There is no requirement for a new formula and neither can a new formula solve the ills of the Muslim Ummah. The way the Sahaba were rectified individually is the way the Ummah today will get rectified. When the correct approach is not followed, the movements are either crushed by enemy forces, or they simply slow and die down or they are crushed by in-fighting of the Muslims.
7. ‘New interpretation of Islam’ is a wrong concept.
Muslims today must bear in mind that a strategy is required for the implementation of Islam. Simply having fatwa books from the past and claiming to have all answers is not a wise strategy. The Islamic teachings and rules are valid for all times, however, circumstances change with time. For example, the idea of building Masajid exists today but the way it is done is different from how it was done previously. Today they are made from marble, cement, iron etc. while in the time of the Prophet (ﷺ), they were made from dust and date palm trees etc. The basic idea is still there but the procedure varies. Muslims today do not have a fully devised plan for the implementation of Islam and if some of the movements are even able to take control over the affairs of the Muslims, they are sure to encounter immense difficulties and challenges.
As a result of the lack of strategy, propaganda voices state to reform Islam for the current times. In their words, since implementing Islam in current times is virtually impossible, Islam must be changed and such voices argue to make alcohol halal, to make immodesty and lack of hijab halal, to make interest and banking system halal and so on. The need of the hour is not to change Islam to make it compatible with Western thought but to devise ways and strategies for the proper implementation of Islam. We find books of fiqh from all eras filled with rules, regulations and guidance pertaining to trade and commerce. However, these books, obviously, do not have answers to the issues, difficulties and technicalities we face today. We, as Muslims, must devise solutions and procedures from the Qur’an, the Sunnah and the books of fiqh for the issues we encounter today. As long as solutions to the problems today are not devised with detailed and careful planning, the Islamic movements are bound to fail. Similarly, we also have rules and guidance pertaining to politics but if they are implemented in our times today, what will be the practical look of it? Lack of work on solutions to modern problems is also another reason why we, as Muslims, have not succeeded in implementing Islam.
In my view, these two reasons are the cause of the lack of success of Muslims to implement Islam and both pertain to intellectual reasons:
- Not focusing enough on the rectification of individuals and without doing so, focusing more on the rectification of the society,
- Not working accordingly to devise solutions to modern day problems.
If these two issues are tackled properly, then in-sha’ALLAH (God willing), all the Islamic movements would achieve success. May Allah, by His Mercy, show us the day when the struggle to implement Islam succeed in true sense.
Indeed, Allah knows the best.
 Qur’an 16:127
 Qur’an 47:7
 Qur’an 5:105
 Sunan Ibn Majah, vol. 5, book 36, Hadith 4014