In the 5th and 6th century, the then civilised world stood on the verge of chaos. The great civilisation, which had evolved through a period of 4000 years, was on the brink of disintegration and mankind was likely to return to the condition of barbarism; where every tribe and sect was against the next. Law and order was absent but oppression, injustice and immorality prevailed. It seemed that all had abandoned the principles of their religion to indulge in never-ending wrangling upon dogmas of secondary importance. We could see that they have lost sight of the most essential point of the religious doctrines—the pure and true worship (servitude) to God. Historians called this age in history of the human civilisation as –THE DARK AGES.
But Allah, the Most Compassionate and Most Merciful, has never left Man to be without guidance and light. By His Grace and Mercy, He has always repeatedly sent prophets and messengers to ensure that the path of TRUTH is shown for mankind. It was during this period that somewhere in Arabia, He sent our Blessed Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. — the last of the line of messengers of Allah for mankind, the messenger for the whole universe.
From the revelations that Prophet Muhammad s.a.w received, he came to subvert superstitions which had been interposed between Man and his Creator, to purify the understanding of mankind with regard to god and purged them of all falsehood; to restore the rational and sacred ideal of divinity amidst the chaos of the material and disfigured gods of idolatry then existing. To remove oppression and establish justice, to save mankind and its civilisation form the brink of disintegration, to remove the veil of darkness of ignorance and to bring the light. For he was sent to establish the Religion of Truth, the way to peace—the original way of life that was meant to be for mankind since his existence; the natural same way of life of submission and obedience to the Creator, as revealed to the earlier prophets. He was the final Messenger that came to confirm the earlier message and to bring this way of life into perfection and completion, and establish it over all other ways. To remove the yoke that Man has put upon them and to forever provide the ever-shining light of Truth that is clearly distinct from falsehood.
هُوَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَرۡسَلَ رَسُولَهُ ۥ بِٱلۡهُدَىٰ وَدِينِ ٱلۡحَقِّ لِيُظۡهِرَهُ ۥ عَلَى ٱلدِّينِ كُلِّهِۦ وَلَوۡ كَرِهَ ٱلۡمُشۡرِكُونَ
“It is He (Allah) who has sent His Apostle (Muhammad s.a.w.) With Guidance, the religion of Truth—that he may proclaim (establish) it all over religions. Even though the pagans may detest it”. —
(Qur'an: As- Saff: 9)
Within a period of 23 years of his mission, with Guidance and the Revelation from Allah, he indeed has established this Way of Life; based on Tauhid—the Faith and true attestation to the Oneness of Allah, the way of life of submission and obedience to Allah (Islam) over Arabia. Indeed the Truth which this religion represents came to be established over all falsehood; and within his lifetime was fulfilled the completion and perfection of this Deen—as confirmed by Allah in one of the last verse revealed to the Prophet s.a.w. in Arafah.
ٱلۡيَوۡمَ أَكۡمَلۡتُ لَكُمۡ دِينَكُمۡ وَأَتۡمَمۡتُ عَلَيۡكُمۡ نِعۡمَتِى وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ ٱلۡإِسۡلَـٰمَ دِينً۬اۚ
“This day I have perfected your way of life (DEEN) for you, completed My favours upon you and have chosen (and accepted) AL-Islam as your way of life (DEEN)” –
From its very inception, Islam was a missionary religion meant for all mankind, for Muhammad s.a.w. was not just a messenger to the Arabs but he was the Universal Blessing. Amongst the characteristics in Allah’s messenger Muhammad s.a.w. was that of TABLIGH (conveying) and that every message he received was disseminated to all around him—and that he charged his companions to convey them to others. This legacy was carried out and within a few decades, the Light of Islam soon spread far and wide. From India to Spain, the brilliant civilisation of Islam flourished. Springing from a land and people previously negligible, Islam spread within a century over half of the earth, shattering great empires, overthrowing long established systems, removing all man-made discriminations and directing and uniting them toward the servitude to only God, remoulding the souls of races and building up a truly universal and cosmopolitan civilisation, a whole new world – the world of Islam.
Thus it was that Western historians themselves have to concede that during the Dark Ages, the Light was kindled and kept ablaze in Arabia. The Muslims were the torchbearers of Knowledge and civilisation and it is admitted that the present ‘modern era’ owes an incalculable debt to the Legacy of Allah’s Last Messenger Muhammad ibn Abdullah s.a.w., after whom there will be no other prophet.
Some people have the mistaken idea that the spread of Islam was due to the use of force. Even western historians have now exposed this fallacy as false and it was admitted that this myth stemmed from biased attitude towards this young religion, aggravated by years of Crusading.
In the words of De Lacy O’Leary in his book “Islam at the Crossroad”—“… History makes it clear, however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races—is the most fanatically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated!”
The real strength of Islam is TRUTH itself that it came to establish. The Qur’anic injunction clearly forbids the use of force, in no uncertain terms in an explicit verse:
لَآ إِكۡرَاهَ فِى ٱلدِّينِۖ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ ٱلرُّشۡدُ مِنَ ٱلۡغَىِّۚ
“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands
clear from Error.”—(Qur'an: Al-Baqarah: 256)
TRUTH that Islam represents was very much manifested in the early Muslims’ life and people were drawn to Islam because of it. They were attracted to the wisdom and knowledge that the Muslims brought and they could see the justice and order in the society it established. And the truth and simplicity of the Message of Islam presented to them was probably the main factor for many conversions, as it offered them the alternative to free themselves from the darkness and to accept the Light—for that was the comparison.
ISLAM SPREAD TO SOUTHEAST ASIA
The rapidity in which Islam spread to this region, the Malay Archipelago, was phenomenal. The task performed by the early Muslims was so effective that today, practically all Malays are considered Muslims. It was not through conquest or crusading expedition, nor was there a systematic programme of missionary organisations but rather it was through dedication and the zealousness of the early Muslims. They were the traders, settlers, the ordinary people who sincerely believed the Truth of Islam and their strong desire and realisation of their duty to convey and share this Truth with all mankind, as enjoined by Islam. They were the “da’is” in whatever capacity that they were capable of. Even if they could not talk about Islam, their lifestyle itself was a portrayal of Islamic teachings, which drew respect and admiration—thereby attracting the local natives to Islam. A sense of duty in them to be witnessed over all overwhelmed this region, as commanded by Allah:
وَكَذَٲلِكَ جَعَلۡنَـٰكُمۡ أُمَّةً۬ وَسَطً۬ا لِّتَڪُونُواْ شُہَدَآءَ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ ٱلرَّسُولُ عَلَيۡكُمۡ شَهِيدً۬اۗ
“Thus have We made of you an Ummah justly balanced, that ye might be witnesses over nations, and the Apostle a witness over yourselves”—
(Qur'an: Al-Baqarah: 143)
وَمَآ أَرۡسَلۡنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا بِلِسَانِ قَوۡمِهِۦ لِيُبَيِّنَ لَهُمۡۖ
“And We did not send any Apostle but with the language of his people, so that he might clearly explain to them clearly.”-
(Qur'an: Ibrahim: 4)
Mastery in the language of the people was another factor in their success. The ‘lingua franca’ (a language by which people of different dialect communicate) of commerce in this region was the Riau Malay. The early Muslims lost no time in learning it and the use of this language proved advantageous, as all the different Malay tribal and dialect groups in this Archipelago commonly understood it. (In our present context, we must learn from this experience and recognise the importance of language proficiency.)
DOLDRUM AND POLARISATION
FURTHER CHALLENGES…(Amongst many others)
- Muslim community became insular, worsened by internal bickering on petty issues, and their vision of Islam tends to be narrow and limited—tendency towards regarding Islam as a mere heritage, sometimes even lulled into complacency.
- Secularism began to infiltrate the minds of many Muslims, which gradually eroded their understanding of Islam as a total way of life.
- The impact of modernism, materialism and western culture left many Muslims in a dilemma: not able to withstand the cultural shock, many are losing their Islamic identity.
- From every corner they are bombarded by destructive values that pulled them away from Islam through the mass media, i.e. TV, radio, papers, magazines, publications, pop culture, advertisements, etc.
- Due to urban development, the social fabric of the Muslim community which has infused a strong sense of identity were broken up thereby they are now more vulnerable to further erosion of their Islamic values.
- Further, they are now exposed to the concerted effort of Christian Evangelism, which make no secret of their bold plan of christening this region.
- The system of imparting Islamic knowledge through the Madrasah had suffered a great deal, mostly from neglect as well as from ‘pragmatic’ considerations. Generally Islamic studies amongst the masses, (although recognised as important by the Muslims), were in practice not studied with the same seriousness as other subjects taught in formal school. Its wide and all encompassing nature were reduced to only a few topics, thereby limiting the understanding of the Muslims towards Islam itself.
- Misconceptions about Islam amongst Muslims now are quite common especially due to ignorance. This is further aggravated by the inability of some religious teachers to provide convincing and relevant explanations to questions from the younger generations of Muslims who have a wider exposure through their formal (western) education.
- Spirit of Jihad (striving with the utmost in Allah’s way) was absent or has been misunderstood even by the Muslims. Some equated it only as war and considers it unmentionable, whereas Christians are proud to use terms like ‘Crusade’ etc.
AT THE CROSSROAD— QUO VADIS?
يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلۡمُدَّثِّرُ قُمۡ فَأَنذِرۡ وَرَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرۡ وَثِيَابَكَ فَطَهِّرۡ وَٱلرُّجۡزَ فَٱهۡجُرۡ وَلَا تَمۡنُن تَسۡتَكۡثِرُ وَلِرَبِّكَ فَٱصۡبِرۡ
“O Thou wrapped up in a mantle arise and deliver thy warning and Thy Lord do thou magnify and keep thy garments free from stain and all abomination shun nor expect, in giving, any increase for thyself but for thy lord’s Cause, be patient and consistent”—
(Qur'an: Al-Muddathir: 1-7)
Historically, the early Muslims were heading towards great achievements and success when they were charged with the spirit of Jihad, da’wah, and Tabligh in their life but due to circumstances mentioned, we became insulated and lost the zest and zeal. Many became complacent and ignorant of Islam itself. Religion, which in Islam means a total commitment, became secularised. Whatever zeal remaining was limited to speeches on “mimbars” or during ‘ceramahs”. The task of conveying the message of Islam, which is the duty of every Muslims—in whatever capacity and whenever possible—now was discarded by the majority of Muslims and left to the “Assaatizah” and the “Ulama”(teachers and scholars). This attitude became indifferent towards this task and thus the ‘ummah” suffers.
Whereas people of the other religion i.e. Christians are fully committed to evangelise the whole of this region—as compared to them, Muslims today are still sleeping or just re-awakening. Looking back at our glorious past may be quite consoling. But let it not console us to complacency—for there is a great task ahead to be performed. Let us awaken ourselves and our fellow Muslims from this slumber, which is long overdue. Do we still want to carry on sleeping? Do we still want to be complacent and regard our religion just merely as a sentimental heirloom without utilising its potential? Do we not feel that we are duty bound as members of the Ummah to strive towards what Allah wants us to do? Have we not seen the weaknesses of our community and not felt the urge to do something to correct them? We should each ask ourselves as to what we have done. Do we want to let ourselves ruined? If we look at their history, we would be proud of them, but would they be proud of us? Where have we placed the slogan “AL-AMRU BIL MA’-RUF WA YAN HAU- ’ANIL MUNKAR!”? and do not simply be concerned only with improving our lot but we must also strive to invite all towards Islam.
The time is now for us to act. We have to re-discover the beauty and truth of Islam. The way is to do da’wah and we should heed the warning as summed up in Surah Al-Asr and not end up as losers;
وَٱلۡعَصۡرِ إِنَّ ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ لَفِى خُسۡرٍ إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ وَتَوَاصَوۡاْ بِٱلۡحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوۡاْ بِٱلصَّبۡرِ
“by (the token of time) through the Ages verily man is in loss except such as have faith and do righteous deeds and join together in mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.”
(Qur'an: al-'Asr: 1-4)
We must heed the warnings of Allah and his Messenger:
وَٱتَّقُواْ فِتۡنَةً۬ لَّا تُصِيبَنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُواْ مِنكُمۡ خَآصَّةً۬ۖ وَٱعۡلَمُوٓاْ أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ شَدِيدُ ٱلۡعِقَابِ
"And fear ye tumult and oppression which affects not in particular only those of you who do wrong; and know that Allah is strict in punishment.”—
(Qur'an: Al-Anfal: 25)
Abu Bakr Siddiq r.a. reported that the Prophet said: “ when other people see anything abominable and then do not change it, it is near that Allah will overtake them all with His punishment.”—(Hadith narrated by Ibnu majah and Tirmizi)
Perhaps, some of the things that have befallen us could be due to this complacent attitudes towards the task of Da’wah. Yet, Praise to be to Allah Who has made us realise this and therefore let those who are present here convey this message to those who are absent.
Let us carry on this Amanah (Trust) of Da’wah and in doing so InsyaAllah, we will be ensuring the betterment for the Ummah. We have to begin with ourselves, our kith and kins and whomsoever we know. And do not have the mistaken notion of waiting until all the Muslims are perfect to start conveying the message to the non-Muslims. Remember there are many sincere seekers of truth amongst them and that history has shown that those who are sincere will accept the Truth of Islam. It is our duty to convey it to them as best as we can, to seriously carry out the Prophet’s injunction: “Convey from me even if it be one ayah(sign)”
The task is long and arduous, but the important thing is that every one of us must realise and be involved in doing this. In doing so itself is one accomplishment, for no matter what if the journey takes us thousands of kilometres, it is always begins with the first step. This is the way of success as commanded by Allah:
وَلۡتَكُن مِّنكُمۡ أُمَّةٌ۬ يَدۡعُونَ إِلَى ٱلۡخَيۡرِ وَيَأۡمُرُونَ بِٱلۡمَعۡرُوفِ وَيَنۡهَوۡنَ عَنِ ٱلۡمُنكَرِۚ وَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡمُفۡلِحُونَ
“let there arise out of you a band of people, inviting to all that is good. Enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong. They are the ones to attain felicity (success).”
(Qur'an: Aal-Imran: 104)
وَمَنۡ أَحۡسَنُ قَوۡلاً۬ مِّمَّن دَعَآ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ وَعَمِلَ صَـٰلِحً۬ا وَقَالَ إِنَّنِى مِنَ ٱلۡمُسۡلِمِينَ
“Who is better in speech than one who calls (man) to Allah, works righteousness and say ‘I am of those who bow in Islam.”—
We have to strengthen our resolve and put our efforts towards it. Not forgetting that in this work there sure many trials and tribulations and therefore we must always put our hopes and trust in Allah through prayers and patience (and constancy).
وَلَنَبۡلُوَنَّكُمۡ حَتَّىٰ نَعۡلَمَ ٱلۡمُجَـٰهِدِينَ مِنكُمۡ وَٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ وَنَبۡلُوَاْ أَخۡبَارَكُمۡ
“And We shall try you until We test those amongst you who strive with their utmost, and persevere in patience and We shall try your reported (mettle).”—
(Qur'an: Muhammad: 31)
أَحَسِبَ ٱلنَّاسُ أَن يُتۡرَكُوٓاْ أَن يَقُولُوٓاْ ءَامَنَّا وَهُمۡ لَا يُفۡتَنُونَ وَلَقَدۡ فَتَنَّا ٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبۡلِهِمۡۖ فَلَيَعۡلَمَنَّ ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِينَ صَدَقُواْ وَلَيَعۡلَمَنَّ ٱلۡكَـٰذِبِينَ
“Do men think that they will be left alone on saying ‘We believe’, and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true and those who are false.”—
(Qur'an: Ankabut: 2-3)