By Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani
The demands of time
“Religious scholars (Ulema) should behave according to the demands of time”. This is a catchword we hear in a new style almost every day. Most of our secular minded leaders are repeating this suggestion off and on. And now we hear the echo of this suggestion even in our high level social gatherings whenever a religious subject comes under discussion. A group of people in our country is busy in surgical maneuvers on the explicit injunctions of Islam and its established principles under the guise of modernism. They regard religious scholars as the biggest obstacle in their path. They consider that their success depends on baseless accusations and malicious propaganda against religious scholars in whichever way it is possible. For this, they have adopted the ambiguous phrase “Demands of Time” as a hypnotizer for the modern minds, and make this a basis for their repeated appeals to the people and the government that religious scholars are the biggest obstacle in the way of progress and hence no heed should be paid to them and to what they say.
We leave them at the will of Allah from whom no secrets of hearts are hidden. But there are some people who quite sincerely and seriously feel that religious scholars are unaware of the needs and demands of the modem age, and it is a result of this ignorance that they oppose every new thing. In these lines we wish to address this very group of people. But before this we humbly submit that if they are really well-wishers of Islam and Muslims they should give a cool thought to this matter and, for a little while, make free their minds from the grip of such hasty suggestions and try to understand what is meant by the “Demands of Time” and what is the best method of fulfilling it? With unbiased minds they should examine these allegations against the Ulema, the Islamic scholars.
What does it mean to meet the demands of time?
The first thing to be defined is the phrase “Meeting the Demands of Time”? We feel that those who are so forcefully preaching the importance of demands of time themselves do not have a clear conception of these demands. They are simply making the ambiguous claims that religious scholars are opposed to the Demands of Time. But they never made it clear as to what those specific demands are which are opposed by the Ulema. If by the “Demands of Time” they mean that Muslims should endeavor to equip themselves with all the means of science and technology without which it is not possible to survive as a free nation in the world of today then indeed this is the greatest need and demand of this time. For God’s sake tell us who is the single scholar who forbids this most important demand of time? Which of these scholars, and when, has issued any verdict (Fatwa) that progress in the fields of science and technology is forbidden, unlawful, meaningless or useless? Science has made amazing progress in the recent years and it is in progress. Even in our life-time we have seen that newer inventions are coming up every day. How many of them have been opposed by the religious scholars? Electricity, Telegraphy, Telephone, Teleprinter, Wireless Radio, Transistors, Tape Recorders, Cars, Heavy Motor Vehicles, Aero planes, Steamers, Trains, Tanks, Mortars, Fighter Planes, Bombers, Submarines, Warships, Rockets, Missiles, Radar, Industrial Machines, Factories, Tractors, Chemical Fertilizers, Insecticides and Pesticides, Surgical Instruments, X-ray & other Radiological Machines are in use with religious sanction of Islam. All sources of knowledge in Arts, Science, Commerce, Mathematics, Geography, Geology, Astronomy, Civics, and Politics are some examples of material progress. Which of these has ever been opposed by religious scholars or any obstacles been placed in their way?
Which scholar has said that progress in the science and technology is forbidden?
The history of the past twenty years of our developing country is a witness to the fact that by the Grace of Allah our country has advanced by leaps and bounds in material and economic progress perfectly corresponding to the wishes of our righteous religious scholars and religious circles. Many of the great economic schemes have been completed during this period, large factories have been erected, vast network of roadways constructed, numerous canals dug out for irrigation, many dams were made, the old communication system was replaced with new inventions, many colleges and universities for various sciences and arts came into existence and barren land was cultivated. Only an insane person can feel unhappy about these advancements. Once again I ask our modernists to point out just one religious scholar who ever opposed these achievements, or ever criticized production of expert scientists or educating people in engineering, or constructing roadways, factories, bridges, canals, river dams, using advanced technology in arms and ammunition for the country’s defense, or ever suggested that our army should not be trained in modern machine warfare, or that the latest telecommunication means should not be adopted, or education and training in modern arts and sciences should be stopped.
If none of the religious scholars has ever opposed it there can be no other interpretation of these baseless accusations except malice and enmity against the righteous scholars of Islam. We know, not one but countless such scholars whose hopes and trust are centered on Pakistan, and it is their greatest desire that side by side it marches on the straight path of Islam, Pakistan should progress by leaps and bounds in the material fields as well. That is why on the one hand they have been emphasizing on the Muslims that achievements of expertise of science and technology is an important component of our obligations, and if we fail to fulfill our obligations we shall be presented before Allah as an offender, and on the other hand they are praying day and night for the prosperity and integrity of Pakistan which is best known by Allah, the All-knowing, All- aware.
Those who had been reading the views of these scholars know it fully well that not only the religious scholars never opposed Science and Technology but they had always been inducing the Muslims to attain them. Despite this reality before their eyes there is a group of people who are beating their drums high and loud that the religious scholars are opposed to progress and advancement, they are allergic to Science and Technology, they give no importance to the demands of time, and discard every new thing.
The cleverest advocate of “Falsehood” was Goebbels, who spoke the Truth when he said that if “falsehood” is spread with full force the world starts taking it as the “truth”. Our modernists have also been following Goebbels’ adage so much so that even some of the very learned and balanced of mind people regard this slogan as true while it is just a false blame, cunningly produced by propaganda machines of modern time.
If, however, these people consider music and dance, nudity and obscenity, profligacy and immodesty, co-education, free inter mixing of men and women, usury in banking, and birth control as demands of time and means of progress, then indeed the religious scholars have openly opposed them, and they should have done so; they still do it and will continue doing it. We may be informed what logic and reason has ever claimed these things to be the demands of time?
The Western world itself is scared, anxious and worried
They must bring some logical argument to prove what relation material progress has with music and dances? Which is that progress that would stop without nudity and obscenity? What are the genuine obstacles in the way of promoting interest- free banking? How does co-education and free mixing of men and women help in science and technology?
The modernists may call music and dances, coeducation and mixed gatherings, etc. as the demands of time, but in view of the circumstances we sincerely believe that the greatest need and demand of the present time is that the Islamic world should totally eradicate these things with full might and power. This is because, the magnitude of the fatalities that has come to the forefront in the twentieth century was never witnessed before. The very Western intelligentsia itself is showing clear signs of extreme anxiety and restlessness on their premature but immoral and irrational social advancement. No literate person of the world can claim to be ignorant of this outcry that is echoing from the meeting chambers of Western thinkers as a result of social and moral ruin in their lives. The ‘modernist’ should, for God’s sake, decide for himself as to what really are the demands of time? Should it be that the Islamic world should march on the footsteps of the West and fall into the same abyss of moral degradation? Or should the Islamic world take lesson from the dreadful end of the West and save itself from this dangerous path forever?
The group of people who consider these curses of Western civilization as demands of time and means of progress call themselves as “Modernists” but it is strange that in the field of thoughts and deeds they are preaching the same outdated ideologies of the West which have not given anything but burnt scars all over the body. They know very well how rapidly the Western style of thinking is changing about their old views, and what the latest studies of philosophy and science are proving about these subjects? Take for example the problem of population. A very substantial number of modern economists are against limiting the family size and birth control. Having been impressed by their latest arguments such economists are constantly increasing in number, but our “Modernists” are still embracing Malthus’ outdated theory that has been thrown away by the march of time some two centuries ago. I do wish to quote here the views of Philosopher-Poet, Iqbal, who said:
قوت مغرب نہ از چنگ ورباب
نے زرقص ودختران بے حجاب
نے ز سحر ساحران لالہ روست
نے زعریاں ساق ونے از قطع موت
محکمی اورا نہ از لادینی است
نے فروغش از خط لاطینی است
قوت افرنگ از علم وفن است
از ہمیں آتش چراغش روشن است
حکمت از قطع وبرید جامہ نیست
مانع علم و ہنر عمامہ نیست
“Power of the West is not due to flutes and guitars, nor due to dances of veil less girls, nor due to the spell of their magical beauty, nor to their naked legs, nor to their trimmed hair styles. Their supremacy is not due to secularism, nor is their progress due to Latin script. Their power is due to science and technology. It is this fuel that is burning in their lamps. Wisdom does not lie in how your clothes are tailored, and the turban is no obstruction for science and technology”.
It is wrong to compare Islam to Christianity and the Islamic world to the West
The above is sufficient to show the nature of these accusations of our “Modernists” against the religious scholars of opposing the demands of time and Science and Technology? The question arises as to why the “Modernists” are so forcefully propagating this extremely unreasonable claim? As far as we can trace there is probably a psychological factor in action, if we rule out any specific motives behind it the fundamental error which misled these modernists is that they consider Islam analogous to Christianity and the Islamic world to the West. They had observed that at the time of revival of science and technology in the West the biggest obstacle was Christianity along with its scholars. As long as the supremacy of church prevailed in the West the whole region was filled with ignorance and illiteracy. The Christian scholars tried to suppress every such attempt that was made to create scientific awareness among the people. People like John Hiss and Jerome were burnt alive in the city of Constance. The renowned scientist Galileo had to suffer calamities because he wanted to open new avenues in the field of science. But gradually the awareness spread and several movements came out. These tortures could not stop them, and ultimately Martin Luther, John Calone and Zongli put up a struggle that defeated Papalism and these movements got their chance to flourish. Lately Russo, Horonic and Reman with other modernists made further changes and innovations in the religion and brought it in conformity to the scientific researches of that time.
The situation now is that Luther, Calone, Ruso and Horonic etc. have been titled as Reformers by the religious minded people of the West. They are regarded as national heroes and people of the new generation, who have not yet become totally alien to religion, regard them with a sense of honor and dignity that by making fundamental changes in Christianity they freed the nation from the grip of Papalism which was the greatest obstacle in the way of their material progress.
The great mistake of the present modernists
Now, the modernists of Islam want to make similar amendments by considering Islam equal to Christianity and scholars of Islam parallel to popes and regard themselves as Luthers and Rusos of their time. In this way they want to become the Reformers of the Muslim nation by opposing and defaming the religious scholars. They aspire that some Henry VIII will soon appear and he will grace them by accepting their ideology and then officially implementing it forever. Thus the coming generations will regard them in such high esteem as is the case of hero-worship with Luther and Ruso etc.
We may remark here that they are in great delusion and their dream is never going to come true. They are badly mistaken in considering Islam similar to Christianity and scholars of Islam to popes. The unnatural views of Christian religion which became common after the third century did not have adequate power to keep pace with time for all future days to come, and stand face to face with the latest scientific advancements. That was an era of dark ignorance and superstitions which could not stay in the light of knowledge. Hence science came as a great challenge and they were left with no other option than either to oppose science openly or by cutting and dipping their religion to bring it in conformity with the scientific knowledge. The popes initially adopted the first course and declared science as the forbidden tree. But Science was the real need of that time and they could not stop its progress merely by a hollow claim and baseless charges against it. The result was that all their efforts failed to stop scientific advancement.
At this stage the modernists adopted the second course and started manipulating the religion and distorting its teachings so that people may not mock and laugh at it. This was indeed a service to Christianity, and if they had not done this favor Christianity would have been swept away by the torrent of Rationalism and no trace of it could be found today. The workmanship of Christian modernists helped the Christian religion to survive although its fundamental concepts were totally changed. At least its name and external structure still exists. It is this favor of the modernists to Christianity that made them heroes of their nation and due to this the major part of the Christian world holds them in high esteem.
The case of Islam is very different from Christianity
But the case of Islam is totally different. It is a natural religion and it has come to exist till the Last Day. By virtue of its old and real interpretations it has the capability of marching forward with the researches of every era. Hence science has never been a danger to it nor will it ever be. Rather, we have observed that the latest inventions and researches of science generally make its beliefs and teachings more transparent. Hence it has no need to oppose science and its progress nor to change its own concepts. That is why unlike the popes the religious scholars of Islam never opposed science, because they know the realities exposed by Islam will become more and more transparent with the advancement of science. Since the Muslim Ummah believes that Islam is the religion revealed by Allah it does not have to change at any time, and that is why this nation has always condemned and disregarded any attempts towards making any changes in its teachings.
Islam is not a spiritless religion like Christianity
To sum up, Islam is neither a spiritless religion like Christianity to have any fear or danger from scientific and technological advancement, nor its religious scholars (Ulema) have ever opposed science and technology as the Popes had done, neither does it need any Martin Luther, Russo or Renan for its survival. That is why, in the history of this religion, all those who tried to amend, manipulate or modernize it, got nothing but reproach and condemnation. In the history of this religion, the advocates of modernism have not been called Luther and Kalone, but the modernists of our history are remembered by the names of Musailmah, Abdullah bin Saba, Abu Musa Mazdar, Hasan bin Sabbah, Qaramat, Abul Fazl, Faizi and Kamal Ata-Turk. Even their children would feel ashamed of their lineage with these names. The opponents of Luther and Kalone are mentioned with great disregard by the Christians. But the opponents of modernism in Islam, namely Abu Bakr Sidiq (RA), Ali bin Abi Talib (RA), Ahmad bin Hambal (RhA), Mahmoud Ghaznawi (RhA) and Mujaddid Alf Thani (RhA) are still living with their names, and as long as the human conscience is alive the names of these sacred personalities will continue to be taken with love and allegiance. It is a pity that our present day modernists have not been able to understand the great diversity between Islam and Christianity, and as a result of this grave misunderstanding they have been busy in abusing the scholars of Islam, calling them obscurantist, accusing them of ignorance for no reason. We earnestly request them with all the well-wishes and heart-felt sympathies that they revise their attitude with a cool mind and balanced thoughts, otherwise the course adopted by them is in no way beneficial for Muslims, for the country and the Ummah and even for themselves. I hope and pray that my humble submissions leave a useful impression on them.
Compiled By: Mufti Umar Anwar Badakhshani
(This article is written 53 years ago but the subject matter is still fresh and pertinent)