Between the Superiority of the Past and the Inferiority Complex of Today

“…The Islamic world today is experiencing one of the worst periods in its existence. It would be appropriate to refer to this period as the period of wilderness.

The Islamic world has experienced many crises before – many disasters, in fact. During these periods, the Muslims would lose their positions of power on Earth, or they would lose their sense of safety and security, or they would lose their homes and wealth. However, despite all of this, they never experienced anything as difficult or bitter in their entire history as they are experiencing today.

The crisis of apostasy, for example, was no doubt a difficult one to deal with. It was on the verge of causing the new Islamic state to collapse and become extinct in its prime. However, the one who observed the pattern of Allah would never have had any doubt that victory would be for the Islamic state and not for the apostates scattered here or there throughout the Arabian Peninsula. This is because the faith of the Muslims in the truth that they had adopted and that had deepened their relationship with their Lord and their devotion to His Religion was much stronger than the faith of the apostates in their own falsehood that they were fighting for, and this was due to the absence of any true substance to their position other than mere doubts and desires! As for the Companions’ reluctance and their consulting of Abu Bakr in regards to fighting them, this was not out of any doubt they harbored that His Religion would be given victory. Rather, their consulting of Abu Bakr was to convince him to spend enough time to gather the necessary forces to sustain such a battle. However, the solid faith of Abu Bakr, his deep confidence in the promise of Allah to establish this religion on Earth, his natural disdain at leaving those who had rebelled against the commands of Allah without inflicting the punishment that Allah had ordered him to bring upon them – all of this played its part in the hearts of the Companions. So, they stood united behind Abu Bakr, and Allah gave victory to His Religion as He had promised.

And the fitnah of ‘Uthman’s killing and all the wars between ‘Ali and Mu’awiyah that followed was a difficult crisis that afflicted the Muslims and the Islamic state while it was still in its early years and still had enemies all around it. However, the one who observed the sequence of events in those days did not have any doubt as to how the crisis would end. The dispute – regardless of how deep and dividing it was between the ranks of the Muslims – was a dispute in regards to who would take power in order to establish Islam on Earth, and it was not a dispute as to Islam itself and whether it would be the basis of the Muslims’ life instead of something that opposed it!

At the time, there was no foreign power that possessed any bit of truth or that had greater faith in the beliefs that it lived by more than the faith of the believers in the truth that they had adopted and established their lives upon. This was all based on the pattern of Allah and the necessary characteristics which determine whether victory or defeat are granted by Allah before numbers, physical preparation, or war strategies. These things do matter in the end, as they are means that Allah has ordered us to take and has made them a part of His pattern. However, material means alone are not enough and do not determine what happens in the end.

This was also the case with the crisis of the Crusades and crisis of the Tatar invasion – these were very difficult situations in the lives of the Muslims. It seemed at times that the existence of Islam would end and that the Muslims would be wiped off the face of the Earth. However, the actual outcome was otherwise, and victory came from Allah in the end. The defeat came first, victory came in the end, and both were in accordance with the pattern of Allah that nothing in existence can escape. The condition of the Muslims was bad, as they were overcome by sins, innovations, deviations, divisions, and preoccupation with all of this from aiding and establishing the Religion of Allah on Earth. As a result, the armies of the enemy overwhelmed the Muslim lands and took away their power until this very day. However, the essence of ‘aqidah was still ingrained in their hearts even if it was overtaken by laziness, inactivity, and preoccupation with worldly desires.

This was the case until those leaders came along to wake the people up by calling them to the reality of Islam, and this essence was revived and ignited once more, and victory came on its heels. This happened when Salah ad-Din stood and said to his people: “You have been defeated because you are far from the way of Allah, and you will not be victorious until you return to that path,” and when Ibn Taymiyyah called to correcting the beliefs from the corruption and misguidance of the philosophers that had affected them, and when Qutuz stood and made his famous call: “O Islam (wa Islamah)!” And when the masses of the Muslims heeded their calls and were true to Allah in their beliefs and behavior, victory came and the Muslims were able to defeat many times their number of the disbelievers and polytheists.

And the disaster of Andalusia came as a divine punishment to the Muslims for the division and warfare that was taking place between them, as well as their cooperation with their enemies from the Crusaders against their own brethren, as well as their taking these enemies as close allies instead of the believers – in opposition to the command of Allah – while they were not faithful to them. This was all in addition to the worldly desires they were drowning in, both permissible and the prohibited.

Andalusia did not return to the Muslims. But, the zeal of the Muslims as a whole did not die out. At the same time that Islam was under siege in Andalusia, there was another Islamic state being born that was on its way to being established on Earth and that would preserve the existence of the Muslims for an entire four centuries. This state had extended into the heart of the Christian world – even reaching Vienna and Petersburg – and millions of people in Europe and Asia entered Islam because of it.

However, the crisis that afflicts the Muslims today is more difficult and bitter than the crises that came before it.

I do not have any doubt that it will pass like the ones before it, and that Allah will establish His Religion once again on Earth.

However, we must understand the specific nature of this crisis in order to know why it has lasted longer than those that came before it. From another angle, so that we know how to get ourselves out of this problem when Allah makes it possible, and so that we take the proper means to success, with Allah’s permission.

When the first Crusader wars began that lasted nearly a hundred years (1096-1291 CE) – during and after which the Tatar invasions also occurred – the Muslims were preoccupied by innovations, deviations, and sins from the true Islam, and they became lazy and sat back from taking the proper means to attaining their goals. However, Islam itself was never a subject of debate between them – neither the nature of its beliefs nor the nature of its system of governance and life. Even when they were defeated by the Crusaders and the Tatars, their defeat was not because they had any doubt in Islam itself as a belief or way of life, and that they looked with admiration to the beliefs, thoughts, ideas, systems, and behavior of their enemies, or that they thought even for a second that their enemies possessed any element of the truth upon which they based their lives, or that there was anything other than Islam that could be the truth when it comes to ‘aqidah or system of life. And the issue of ruling by what Allah had revealed was not a subject of doubt or debate with them, because it was an inseparable part of their Islam. Rather, they rightly saw it was the main manifestation of their being Muslims.

This is why they never despaired even then they were defeated before their enemies for extended periods of time, and they never felt that they were less than their enemies. Rather, they were a full manifestation of the verse: {“So, do not become weak or sad, and you are superior if you are believers.”} [Al ‘Imran; 139]

They were believers!

In fact, even when they were defeated, they looked down upon their enemies because their beliefs and outlook did not conform with the true belief and outlook, and because their character and behavior did not conform with the Islamic character and behavior. In their view, the Tatars were barbarians who had no religion or civilization, and the Crusaders were polytheistic worshipers of the Cross. Above all, they were lacking in manners and had no concern for honor or chastity.

As for the Crusades of our times, the situation is quite different than it was before.

The Muslims became quite deviated from the reality of Islam and its outlook, not just in some manners or behavior here or there:

  • The understanding of ‘there is none worthy of worship but Allah’ – the basis and most significant pillar of Islam – became transformed into a mere word spoken on the tongue with no connection to reality, and having no effect on the lives of the Muslims more than that it is repeated by them several times everyday! This is in addition to the deviations that have afflicted this belief such as the worship of graves, saints, and scholars in place of the pure, sincere worship of Allah without any mediators.
  • The understanding of the concept of worship – the encompassing, vast concept – became restricted to that of mere rituals, and whoever fulfills these rituals has fulfilled all of his obligations of worship, and he has no other requirements or obligations in front of Allah! This is in addition to what has befallen these rituals themselves of complete absence from everyday life, as if it is something with no effect or influence on the life of this world.
  • The understanding of divine predestination – which is considered a motivating force in its true form – became an obsolete force that prevented people from activity, movement, and utilizing material means! This is in addition to the use of magic, etc. that accompanied this in an attempt to run behind the perceived pattern of Allah as opposed to the actual pattern of Allah that He commanded the Muslims to deal with, utilizing the material means that allow them to take advantage of it if they depend on Him as they should, as in the verse: {“…If you give victory to Allah, He will give victory to you…”} [Muhammad; 7] and the hadith: “Use medicine, O slaves of Allah, as Allah has not made a disease except that He has provided medicine for it,” etc.
  • The understanding of this life and the Hereafter that ties this life to the next, and places this life as fertile ground for the plants of the next, became one of complete separation between this life and the Hereafter. They are now completely opposing forces, as whoever seeks to excel in this life must abandon the Hereafter, and whoever seeks to succeed in the Hereafter must abandon the life of this world and seek only the minimum in it. As for having influence on Earth, this was ignored when it was decided to ignore this life for the Hereafter. So, the people became overwhelmed with poverty, ignorance, disease, backwardness in civilization, wealth, knowledge, and intelligence. To make matters worse, they saw this all as something preordained by Allah, with no way for them to influence their own fates except with agreement and submission!

In addition to all of this, people’s lives have become devoid of life. Life has simply become empty rituals inherited and preserved as nothing more than rituals, and not as part of a living system of life. Worship is nothing but rituals, manners are nothing but rituals, a woman’s hijab is nothing but a ritual, and chastity is nothing but a ritual instead of being a conscious act of worship of Allah, or part of a complete system of life.

This is the state the Muslims were in when the new Crusades began, and it was expected that they would be destroyed and wiped out!

History contains many heroic instances for the Muslims in fighting against the Crusaders who had invaded the lands of Islam between the 17th and 19th centuries, whether this was in Northern Africa, Central Africa, the Nile Valley (Egypt and Sudan), India, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, or in Central Asia that was dominated by the Russian Czarist Crusaders.

However, they were the heroic stances of the defeated one who was in his last moments, making his last moves before his surrender. The concept of ‘aqidah was thrown behind their backs, and it was therefore inevitable that the people would end up in defeat and surrender.

Much can be said about the strange European civilization that the Muslims came into contact with upon their abandonment of their own civilization. This led them to develop an inferiority complex, as well as a fascination with the West’s ideas, systems, and freedom from religion and manners. It is true that there are great differences between the civilizations. However, to say that this is the reason for the inferiority complex and the fascination with the West that afflicted the Muslims, besides the fact that it is besides the point, hides the true causes of this feeling of inferiority just as it hides the true methods of curing this problem.

In their early days, the Muslims were very simple bedouins who had none of the material or scientific advancements that were in the hands of the modernized peoples around them. If they wanted to become materially or scientifically advanced, they had to obtain this from the two great powers on their left and right, Persia and Rome.

They went ahead and did this. However, they never lowered their heads, and they were never impressed. They were always the superior ones because they were believers!

They were in dire need of the knowledge possessed by the disbelieving idolators around them. However, this dire need did not drive them to feel inferior in relation to them, or that they were less than them in any way. Rather, they felt and knew that all honor was with them because honor belongs to Allah, His Messenger, and the believers, and not a single shred of honor belonged to the disbelieving idolators even if they possessed all the knowledge and treasures in the world!

When they obtained what they needed from those around them, their behavior that was elevated by their faith was clear in terms of how to obtain these things, and it was clearest when it came to two things:

First, they could never be defeated by their enemies out of pressure that they needed something from them.

Second, they did not absorb everything they found with their enemies. Rather, they would absorb based on knowledge and insight. They would only keep what they felt they needed and did not contradict their beliefs or Islam, and they would turn away from everything that they saw to be unnecessary or in contradiction to their beliefs and outlook. The best example of this was that while they took some knowledge from the Greeks, they did not record the famous mythologies that were prevalent amongst them because they felt that they contained elements of polytheistic jahiliyyah and were drowning in misguidance, and did not deserve any attention, and instead deserved to be ignored and put aside.

As for the method of obtaining knowledge in the later period, what a difference! The difference had nothing to do with the extent of the divide between the civilizations of those obtaining the knowledge and those providing it as one might conclude was the case with the first deviation that occurred. Rather, it had to do with the position of the two parties in relation to each other in the earlier period of obtaining knowledge as opposed to that of the later period.

In the first period, the Muslims were superior even while they were the ones obtaining the knowledge, and this was because the elevation by faith was what carved out their lives and determined their positions on various issues. In the second period, their beliefs had become rusted and left under the rubble. So, there was no honor or superiority. There was only defeat, disgrace, and taking everything that the West had without any insight or distinction between what was beneficial and what was harmful, what was in agreement with Islam and what opposed it, etc. This was because Islam was no longer the main concern of the “modern Muslim”! It no longer had its unique essence derived from the true beliefs and application of the manhaj of Allah…”

[‘Waqi’una al-Mu’asir’; p. 7-12]

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