When we invite people to Islam, whether they are Believers or non-believers, we should keep in mind one fact, a fact which is a characteristic of Islam itself and which can be seen in its history. Islam is a comprehensive concept of life and the universe with its own unique characteristics. The concept of human life in all its aspects and relationships which are derived from it is also a complete system which has its particular characteristics. This concept is basically against all the new or old jahili concepts. Although there might be some details in which there are similarities between Islam and the jahili concepts, in relation to the principles from which these particulars are derived, the Islamic concept is different from all other theories with which man has been familiar.
The first function of Islam is that it molds human life according to this concept and gives it a practical form, and establishes a system in the world which has been prescribed by God; and for this very purpose God has raised this Muslim nation to be a practical example for mankind. God Most High says:
"You are the best community raised for the good of mankind. You enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil, and you believe in God". (3:110)
and He characterizes this community as follows:
"Those who, if We give them authority in the land, establish regular prayers, pay Zakat, enjoin good, and forbid evil." (22:41)
It is not the function of Islam to compromise with the concepts of Jahiliyyah which are current in the world or to coexist in the same land together with a jahili system. This was not the case when it first appeared in the world, nor will it be today or in the future. Jahiliyyah, to whatever period it belongs, is Jahiliyyah; that is, deviation from the worship of One God and the way of life prescribed by God. It derives its system and laws and regulations and habits and standards and values from a source other than God. On the other hand, Islam is submission to God, and its function is to invite people away from Jahiliyyah toward Islam.
Jahiliyyah is the worship of some people by others; that is to say, some people become dominant and make laws for others, regardless of whether these laws are against God's injunctions and without caring for the use or misuse of their authority.
Islam, on the other hand, is people's worshipping God alone, and deriving concepts and beliefs, laws and regulations and values from the authority of God, and freeing themselves from servitude to God's servants. This is the very nature of Islam and the nature of its role on the earth. This point should be emphasized to anyone whomsoever we invite to Islam, whether they be Muslims or non-Muslims.
Islam cannot accept any mixing with Jahiliyyah, either in its concept or in the modes of living which are derived from this concept. Either Islam will remain, or Jahiliyyah: Islam cannot accept or agree to a situation which is half-Islam and half-Jahiliyyah. In this respect Islam's stand is very clear. It says that the truth is one and cannot be divided; if it is not the truth, then it must be falsehood. The mixing and co-existence of the truth and falsehood is impossible. Command belongs to God, or otherwise to Jahiliyyah; God's Shari'ah will prevail, or else people's desires.
"And judge between them according to what God has revealed, and do not follow their opinions, and beware of them lest they confuse you in matters which God has revealed to you." (5:49)
"Then invite them to this, and remain firmly committed to what you have been commanded, and do not follow their desires." (42:15)
"And if they do not respond to you, then know that they are following their own opinions; and who can be more misguided than one who follows his own opinion against the guidance from God? Indeed, God does not guide the wicked people". (28:50)
"We have set you on a way ordained (by God); then follow it, and do not follow the desires of those who have no knowledge. They will not avail thee anything before God. Surely the evil-doers are friends of one another, and God is the Friend of the Godfearing." (45:18)
"Do they want a judgment from the Days of Ignorance? Yet who is better in judgment than God, for a people having sure faith? (5:50)
These verses make it clear that there are only two ways, and no third possibility exists: either to submit to God and His Messenger - peace be on him - or else to follow Jahiliyyah. If the law given by God is not made the arbiter, then naturally one will deviate from it. After this clear and decisive injunction from God Most High there is no room for any controversy or excuse-making.
The foremost duty of Islam in this world is to depose Jahiliyyah from the leadership of man, and to take the leadership into its own hands and enforce the particular way of life which is its permanent feature. The purpose of this rightly guided leadership is the good and success of mankind, the good which proceeds from returning to the Creator and the success which comes from being in harmony with the rest of the universe. The intention is to raise human beings to that high position which God has chosen for them and to free them from the slavery of desires. This purpose is explained by Raba'i bin 'Amer, when he replied to the commander-in- chief of the Persian army, Rustum. Rustum asked, "For what purpose have you come?" Raba'i answered, "God has sent us to bring anyone who wishes from servitude to men into the service of God alone, from the narrowness of this world into the vastness of this world and the Hereafter, from the tyranny of religions into the justice of Islam."
Islam did not come to support people's desires, which are expressed in their concepts, institutions, modes of living, and habits and traditions, whether they were prevalent at the advent of Islam or are prevalent now, both in the East and in the West. Islam does not sanction the rule of selfish desires. It has come to abolish all such concepts, laws, customs and traditions, and to replace them with a new concept of human life, to create a new world on the foundation of submission to the Creator. Sometimes it appears that some parts of Islam resemble some aspects of the life of people in Jahiliyyah; but these aspects are not jahili nor are they from Jahiliyyah. This apparent resemblance in some minor aspects is a mere coincidence; the roots of the two trees are entirely different. The tree of Islam has been sown and nurtured by the wisdom of God, while the tree of Jahiliyyah is the product of the soil of human desires.
"The fertile piece of land grows good vegetation with the permission of its Lord, while the bad land brings forth but little." (7:58)
Jahiliyyah is evil and corrupt, whether it be of the ancient or modern variety. Its outward manifestations may be different during different epochs, yet its roots are the same. Its roots are human desires, which do not let people come out of their ignorance and self-importance, desires which are used in the interests of some persons or some classes or some nations or some races, which interests prevail over the demand for justice, truth and goodness. But the pure law of God cuts through these roots and provides a system of laws which has no human interference, and it is not influenced by human ignorance or human desire or for the interests of a particular group of people.
This is the basic difference between the concept of life taught by God and man made theories, and hence it is impossible to gather them together under one system. It is fruitless to try to construct a system of life which is half-Islam and half-Jahiliyyah. God does not forgive any association with His person, and He does not accept any association with His revealed way of life. Both are equally Shirk in the sight of God, as both are the product of the same mentality.
This truth ought to be firmly and clearly impressed on our minds, and when we present Islam to people our tongues should not hesitate to pronounce it, nor should we be ashamed, nor should we leave any doubt in people's minds, nor leave them until they are assured that if they follow Islam their lives will be completely changed. Islam will change their concepts of life as well as their modes of behavior completely. As it changes them, it bestows on them blessings beyond imagination by uplifting their concepts, improving their modes of behavior, and bringing them closer to the position of dignity worthy of human life. Nothing will remain of the modes of Jahiliyyah in which they were steeped, except some minor aspects which by accident appear similar to some aspects of Islam. Even these will not remain exactly the same as they become joined to the great root of Islam, which is clearly different from the root to which they had been joined so far, the fruitless and evil root of Jahiliyyah. During this process it will not deprive them of any of the knowledge based on scientific observation; indeed, it gives a great impetus in this direction.
When we call people to Islam, it is our duty to make them understand that it is not one of the man-made religions or ideologies, nor is it a man-made system-with various names, banners and paraphernalia-but it is Islam, and nothing else. Islam has its own permanent personality and permanent concept and permanent modes. Islam guarantees for mankind a blessing greater than all these man-made systems. Islam is noble, pure, just, beautiful, springing from the source of the Most High, the Most Great God.
When we understand the essence of Islam in this manner, this understanding in itself creates in us confidence and power compassion and sympathy, while presenting Islam to the people: the confidence of a man who knows that he is with the truth, while what the people have is falsehood; and the compassion of a person who sees the suffering of mankind and knows how to bring them to ease; and the sympathy of a person who sees the error of the people and knows what supreme guidance is.
We need not rationalize Islam to them, need not appease their desires and distorted concepts. We will be extremely outspoken with them: "The ignorance in which you are living makes you impure, and God wants to purify you; the customs which you follow are defiling, and God wants to cleanse you; the life you are living is low, and God wants to uplift you; the condition which you are in is troublesome, depressing and base, and God wants to give you ease, mercy and goodness. Islam will change your concepts, your modes of living and your values; will raise you to another life so that you will look upon the life you are now living with disgust; will show you modes of living such that you will look upon all other modes, whether Eastern or Western, with contempt; and will introduce you to values such that you will look upon all current values in the world with disdain. And if, because of the sorry state you are in, you cannot see the true picture of the Islamic life, since your enemies-the enemies of this religion -are all united against the establishment of this way of life, against its taking a practical form, then let us show it to you; and, thank God, its picture is in our hearts, seen through the windows of our Qur'an, of our Shari'ah, of our history, of our concept of the future, whose coming we do not doubt!"
This is the way in which we ought to address people while presenting Islam. This is the truth, and this was the form in which Islam addressed people for the first time; this was the form, whether it was in the Arabian peninsula, in Persia or in the Roman provinces, or in whatever other places it went.
Islam looked at them from a height, as this is its true position, and addressed them with extreme love and kindness, as this is its true temperament, and explained everything to them with complete clarity, without any ambiguity, as this is its method. It never said to them that it would not touch their way of living, their modes, their concepts and their values except perhaps slightly; it did not propose similarities with their system or manners to please them, as some do today when they present Islam to the people under the names of 'Islamic Democracy' or 'Islamic Socialism', or sometimes by saying that the current economic or political or legal systems in the world need not be changed except a little to be acceptable Islamically. The purpose of all this rationalization is to appease people's desires!
Indeed, the matter is entirely different! The change from this Jahiliyyah, which has encompassed the earth, to Islam is vast and far-reaching; and the Islamic life is the opposite of all modes of jahili life, whether ancient or modern. The miserable state of mankind is not alleviated by a few minor changes in current systems and modes. Mankind will never come out of it without this vast and far-reaching change-the change from the ways of the created to the way of the Creator, from the systems of men to the system of the Lord of men, and from the commands of servants to the command of the Lord of servants.
This is a fact - a fact which we proclaim, and proclaim loudly, without leaving any doubt or ambiguity in the minds of people.
In the beginning, people may dislike this method of giving the message, may run away from it, and may be afraid of it. But the people disliked it, ran away from it, and were afraid of it when Islam was presented to them for the first time. They hated it and were hurt when Muhammad - peace be on him-criticized their concepts, derided their deities, rejected their ways of behavior, turned away from their habits and customs, and adopted for himself and for the few believers who were with him modes of behavior, values and customs other than the modes, values and customs of Jahiliyyah.
Then what happened? They loved the same truth which at first seemed so strange to them, from which they ran away "as if they were startled donkeys fleeing before a lion ..." (74:50-51), against which they fought with all their power and strategy, grievously torturing its adherents when they were weak in Mecca and fighting with them incessantly when they were strong in Medina.
The conditions which the Islamic Call had to face in its first period were not more favorable or better than the conditions of today. It was an unknown thing, rejected by Jahiliyyah; it was confined to the valley of Mecca, hounded by the people in power and authority; and, at that time, it was a complete stranger to the whole world. It was surrounded by mighty and proud empires which were against its basic teachings and purposes. In spite of all this it was a powerful Call, as it is powerful today and will remain powerful tomorrow. The source of its real power is hidden in the very nature of this belief; that is why it can operate under the worst conditions and in the face of the most severe opposition. It derives its power from the simple and clear truth on which it stands. Its balanced teachings are according to human nature-that nature which cannot tolerate any resistance for very long - and it is in its power to lead mankind over toward progress, no matter in what stage of economic, social, scientific or intellectual backwardness or development it may be. Another secret of its power is that it challenges Jahiliyyah and its physical power, without agreeing to change even a single letter of its principles. It does not compromise with jahili inclinations nor does it use rationalizations. It proclaims the truth boldly so that people may understand that it is good, that it is a mercy and a blessing.
It is God Who created men and Who knows their nature and the passages to their hearts. He knows how they accept the truth when it is proclaimed boldly, clearly, forcefully, and without hesitation and doubt!
Indeed, the capacity exists in human nature to change completely from one way of life to another; and this is much easier for it than many partial changes. And if the complete change were to be from one system of life to another which is higher, more perfect and purer than the former, this complete change is agreeable to human psychology. But who would be agreeable to changing from a system of Jahiliyyah to the system of Islam if the Islamic system were no more than a little change here and a little variation there? To continue with the former system is more logical. At least it is an established order, amenable to reform and change; then what is the need to abandon it for an order not yet established or applied, while it continues to resemble the old order in all its major characteristics?
We also find some people who, when talking about Islam, present it to the people as if it were something which is being accused and they want to defend it against the accusation. Among their defenses, one goes like this: "It is said that modern systems have done such and such, while Islam did not do anything comparable. But listen! It did all this some fourteen hundred years before modern civilization!"
Woe to such a defense! Shame on such a defense!
Indeed, Islam does not take its justifications from the jahili system and its evil derivatives. And these 'civilizations', which have dazzled many and have defeated their spirits, are nothing but a jahili system at heart, and this system is erroneous, hollow and worthless in comparison with Islam. The argument that the people living under it are in a better condition than the people of a so-called Islamic country or "the Islamic world' has no weight. The people in these countries have reached this wretched state by abandoning Islam, and not because they are Muslims. The argument which Islam presents to people is this: Most certainly Islam is better beyond imagination. It has come to change Jahiliyyah, not to continue it; to elevate mankind from its depravity, and not to bless its manifestations which have taken the garb of 'civilization'.
We ought not to be defeated to such an extent that we start looking for similarities with Islam in the current systems or in some current religions or in some current ideas; we reject these systems in the East as well as in the West. We reject them all, as indeed they are retrogressive and in opposition to the direction toward which Islam intends to take mankind.
When we address people in this fashion and present to them the basic message of the comprehensive concept of Islam, the justification for changing from one concept to another, from one mode of living to another, will come from the very depths of their being. But we will not address them with this ineffective argument, saying: "Come from a system which is currently established to a system not yet applied; it will make only a little change in the established order. You should have no objection; you can continue to do what you have been doing. It will not bother you except to ask for a few changes in your habits, manners and inclinations, and will preserve for you whatever pleases you and will not touch it except very slightly."
On the surface this method seems easy, but there is no attraction in it; moreover, it is not based on the truth. The truth is that Islam not only changes concepts and attitudes, but also the system and modes, laws and customs, since this change is so fundamental that no relationship can remain with the jahili way of life, the life which mankind is living. It is sufficient to say that it brings them both in general and in particular from servitude to men into the service of God, Who is One:
"Believe if one wishes or reject if one wishes."
"And if one rejects, then God is independent of His creation,"
I he question in essence is that of unbelief and belief, of associating others with God and the Oneness of God, and of Jahiliyyah and Islam. This ought to be made clear. Indeed, people are not Muslims, as they proclaim to be, as long as they live the life of Jahiliyyah. If someone wishes to deceive himself or to deceive others by believing that Islam can be brought in line with this Jahiliyyah, it is up to him. But whether this deception is for others, it cannot change anything of the actual reality. This is not Islam, and they are not Muslims. Today the task of the Call is to return these ignorant people to Islam and make them into Muslims all over again.
We are not inviting people to Islam to obtain some reward from them; we do not desire anything at all for ourselves, nor is our accounting and reward with the people. Indeed, we invite people to Islam because we love them and we wish them well, although they may torture us; and this is the characteristic of the caller to Islam and this is his motivation. The people are entitled to learn from us the nature of Islam and the nature of the obligations it imposes on them, as well as the great blessing which it bestows on them. They are also entitled to know that the nature of what they are doing is nothing but Jahiliyyah; it is indeed Jahiliyyah, with nothing in it from Islam. It is mere desire as long as it is not the Shari'ah; and it is falsehood as long as it is not the truth - and what is beyond the truth but falsehood!
There is nothing in our Islam of which we are ashamed or anxious about defending; there is nothing in it to be smuggled to the people with deception, nor do we muffle the loud truth which it proclaims. This is the defeated mentality, defeated before the West and before the East and before this and that mode of Jahiliyyah, which is found in some people - 'Muslims' - who search for resemblances to Islam in man-made systems, or who find justification for the actions of Islam and its decision concerning certain matters by means of the actions of jahili civilization.
A person who feels the need of defense, justification and apology is not capable of presenting Islam to people. Indeed, he is a person who lives the life of Jahiliyyah, hollow and full of contradictions, defects and evils, and intends to provide justification for the Jahiliyyah he is in. These are the offenders against Islam and they distract some sincere persons. They confuse Islam's true nature by their defense, as if Islam were something accused standing at trial, anxious for its own defense.
During my stay in the United States, there were some people of this kind who used to argue with us-with us few who were considered to be on the side of Islam. Some of them took the position of defense and justification. I, on the other hand, took the position of attacking the Western Jahiliyyah, its shaky religious beliefs, its social and economic modes, and its immoralities: "Look at these concepts of the Trinity, Original Sin, Sacrifice and Redemption, which are agreeable neither to reason nor to conscience. Look at this capitalism with its monopolies, its usury and whatever else is unjust in it; at this individual freedom, devoid of human sympathy and responsibility for relatives except under the force of law; at this materialistic attitude which deadens the spirit; at this behavior, like animals, which you call 'Free mixing of the sexes; at this vulgarity which you call 'emancipation of women,' at these unfair and cumbersome laws of marriage and divorce, which are contrary to the demands of practical life; and at Islam, with its logic, beauty, humanity and happiness, which reaches the horizons to which man strives but does not reach. It is a practical way of life and its solutions are based on the foundation of the wholesome nature of man."
These were the realities of Western life which we encountered. These facts, when seen in the light of Islam, made the American people blush. Yet there are people-exponents of Islam-who are defeated before this filth in which Jahiliyyah is steeped, even to the extent that they search for resemblances to Islam among this rubbish heap of the West, and also among the evil and dirty materialism of the East.
After this, there is no need for me to say: Certainly we who present Islam to the people are not the ones to go along with any of the concepts, modes and traditions of Jahiliyyah however great its pressure on us may be.
Our first task is to replace this Jahiliyyah with Islamic ideas and traditions. This cannot be brought about by agreeing with Jahiliyyah and going along a few steps with it from the very beginning, as some of us think we ought to do, for this will simply mean that from the very beginning we have accepted defeat.
Of course the current ideas of the society and its prevalent traditions apply great pressure - back-breaking pressure, especially in the case of women; the Muslim woman is really under extreme and oppressive pressure - but this is the situation and we have to face it. First we must be steadfast; next we must prevail upon it; then we must show Jahiliyyah the low state it is really in compared to the lofty and bright horizons of Islamic life which we wish to attain.
This cannot come about by going along a few steps with Jahiliyyah, nor by now severing relations with it and removing ourselves to a separate corner; never. The correct procedure is to mix with discretion, give and take with dignity, speak the truth with love, and show the superiority of the Faith with humility. After all this, we must realize the fact that we live in the midst of Jahiliyyah, that our way of life is straighter than that of Jahiliyyah, and that the change from Jahiliyyah to Islam is vast and far-reaching. The chasm between Islam and Jahiliyyah is great, and a bridge is not to be built across it so that the people on the two sides may mix with each other, but only so that the people of Jahiliyyah may come over to Islam, whether they reside in a so-called Islamic country and consider themselves Muslims or they are outside the 'Islamic' country, in order that they may come out of darkness into light and may get rid of their miserable condition, and enjoy those blessings which we have tasted-we who have understood Islam and live in its atmosphere. If not, then we shall say to them what God commanded His Messenger -peace be on him-to say:
"For you your way, for me mine." (109:6)