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Books Section > Peace Programme of Muhammad by Maulana Aftab-ud-Din Ahmad
Peace Programme of
by Maulana Aftab-ud-Din Ahmad
Text of a lecture delivered at the Sheffield University
Nations have their turns in the history of humanity. Chinese, Indians, Jews, Babylonians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks, the Romans and the Muslims have had, each, in turn, their days of glory. Modern research has shown that there have been yet other nations before them, that cannot now be traced, who were in no way less civilised than ourselves.
At the present moment, however, the leadership of word civilisation and world culture has fallen to the lot of the West, which professes Christianity. The East has had its day; but now it looks towards the West for guidance in everything that concerns the welfare and progress of humanity; and for this there are reasons. The achievements of the West have undoubtedly been very great in the subjugation of material nature to the physical comforts of man. But side by side with those achievements in the ordering of physical nature, it is every day becoming more and more patent that we people of the modern civilisation have hopelessly failed to regulate and order our own affairs. Our mutual behaviour and our mutual feelings are far worse today than was the case before the modern era of science had dawned upon us. Let us not forget that the happiness of man consists more in the ordering of his own mind than in the ordering of physical nature. Let us realise the supreme fact that if w e must look to our scientists in the matter of harnessing physical nature to our comforts, we should also look to our religious leaders for the ordering of our moral and social nature. Just a little thinking will enable us to understand that human life is composed of numerous emotions and mutually opposed feelings, and that our consciousness flows along all these various channels in its expression and realisation. The sensations of life have a wonderful variety. From the purely personal to the broad humanitarian outer look embracing the whole of humanity and even other animals, down to the lowest manifestations of life, there is an endless variety of feelings and sensations. Then there are extra-terrestrial emotions, like those aroused by music, poetry, art and lastly, of religion. In our heart of hearts we all long for peace, but seldom realise that in a living organism peace is attainable only through the harmonious development of all its component parts; and, as we are the most living of all organisms, our peace-programme must be so carefully drawn up as not to miss any of the numerous potentialities lying in us.
If the emotions are the various channels of self-expression, it is not for us to say that such-and-such a feeling is the right feeling, and that such-and-such a one is wrong. All of them are equally facts of life, since we are equally moved by them. To say, therefore, that we have outgrown, for example, the emotion of religion is, to say the least, the outcome of a wrong judgement. We could as well say that in this age of science and logic we have outgrown the emotions of love and poetry. Such arbitrary opinions are not helpful to the cause of peace and harmony. It is this want of balance in the recognition of the facts of life that has been keeping this world of ours at the mercy of revolutions and counterrevolutions. The sane judgement is that which recognises every emotion of human life, and allots to it its right place, neither denying its existence nor allowing it to overlap other emotions. A right reading of history will show that even such a mystical and apparently unscientific emotion as that which religion has proved itself to be in the course of history is yet of more material value than Any of the secular movements by which mankind has been agitated from time to time. The rise of Islam is one of the outstanding facts of history. It was essentially a religious movement, but it brought in its train the mightiest social, political and economic revolution that the world has ever seen.
Unfortunately, a wrong conception of religion, as fostered by the Church, has always prevented our friends of the West from viewing Muhammad in his right bearings. That Muhammad did not ordain water-tight compartments in human life, making religion just a sort of a mystical cult, having no bearing on our worldly existence, is, to an average Christian of the West, as disqualification for him as a leader in religion. A religious leader, according to such, should not interfere with our physical existence, and should always speak of the other world as if it had nothing to do with this. So when he finds Muhammad creating an amalgamation between the earthly and the religious emotions of man, he suspects him of falsehood and pretension. On the other hand, when a Russian Socialist is asked to examine the character and teachings of Muhammad in the light of his own requirements, lie is afraid to do so because he thinks that the Prophet's religious claims render him unfit for his purpose. That is the misfortune of Muhammad. While the one forgets that the otherworldliness generated in the minds of his followers by Muhammad has no parallel in history, the other ignores the great historical fact that Muhammad's movement resulted in the establishment of the first and the greatest socialistic commonwealth in the world. In the commonwealth of Muhammad everyone was happy to share with others whatever he had. Everyone honestly exercised all his faculties for the benefit of others. The rulers felt themselves the humblest servants of the ruled, passing anxious and sleepless nights, worrying over the discomforts of the less fortunate amongst the ruled. Self-inflicted poverty was the pride of those who would have otherwise been rolling in wealth and luxury. Alas! Modern Socialists do not care to read that brightest period of human history.
Again, politically, the Arabs were the most disunited of all races, being scattered and without any sense of community. But, at the hands of Muhammad, in the course of a brief period of 22 years, they formed themselves into a nation, solid as a concrete wall against which the most organised and powerful states of the time collapsed and fell like houses of cards. The rise of the Arabs as a nation was the greatest miracle of history. It baffles all physical explanation. And equally surprising was the display of their intellectual parts. A race never influenced by the civilisations that surrounded them, and given to gross sensual pleasures throughout the ages, became the saviours of the sinking civilisations of Greece and Rome, of Egypt and Persia, of China and India, and founders of brilliant seats of learning in both the East and West, when the dark clouds of the Middle Ages were overhanging the intellectual firmament of Europe. These Muslim universities were not only the sanctuaries of all branches of Art and Literature, Philosophy and Medicine, but they also became the nurseries of the infant sciences of Physics and Chemistry, the cornerstones of our modern civilisation. Muslim scientific-mindedness was responsible for the birth of these two marvellous sciences, and also for the development of history as a science apart. Their thirst for Art led them to erect buildings like the Taj and the Alhambra that are still queens in their own domains. Unfortunately for Europe, malice and vested interests have conspired to keep these glories of human achievements manifesting themselves, so late in history, and so immediately and inextricably connected with our own period, completely hidden from public knowledge.
Had this not been the case, modern leaders of thought would not have made the foolish proposal of banishing religious emotion from the field of human culture since all the secular movements of our own age pale into insignificance before the mighty achievements of Islam pre-eminently a religious movement. But apart from this strong and unimpeachable evidence, as furnished by the history of Islam, even our modern age is not altogether lacking in proof of the fact that religious emotion, in spite of many glaring cases of abuse and misuse, can be the nursemaid of such secular emotions as eventually bring political and economic emancipation to different nations. The founders of many a movement towards Freedom in our times have been found to be actuated by religious motives. Tolstoy, Mazzini, Saeed Halim Pasha, and Gandhi, are all persons of deep religious convictions; although a Lenin, a Mussolini, a Mustafa Kamal and a Jawahar Lal, who step into the shoes of these great persons under brighter circumstances, are but too ready to dismiss these real fathers of their respective movements as superstitious fellows. Thus the verdict of facts is that the religious emotion is as real and vital in the midst of our worldly affairs as any other emotion that supplies the basis of our economic action. That religion has, as often as not, fostered the forces of reaction I am the last person to deny; but what emotion, I may ask in turn, is there in man that has not, and does not every now and then, run riot and, cause harm to humanity? Devise, therefore, as many controls as you like to keep it within its limits, but be careful not to attempt its suppression. You must not forget that the suppression of a real emotion is bound to create a complex in the mind of humanity resulting in discord and disharmony within its ownself. To be real, therefore, any programme of peace, rather than denying this religious emotion in man, should start with its ordering, the lack of which has been the fruitful source of so much bad blood and dissension and strife. Religious fanaticism arid narrow-mindedness do, in fact; so shamelessly express themselves at times that it has made all sensible leaders of religious thought hang their heads in shame. But it is no fault of the emotion itself, I should point out again, but the lack of proper guidance given to it. Muhammad, therefore, very rightly gives this emotion first place in his Peace Programme. He riot only gives it the needed, encouragement; but considers it as the true basis of human culture. Nay, he proclaims himself to be a religious leader. But he knows that this religious emotion in man, like any other emotion that makes for social life, has an endless variety of expressions. He is aware that uniformity here, as in many other matters of vital importance, is an impossibility. He also knows that there had been many a religious movement before his own. Accordingly, although he desires his followers to be firm in their own convictions, yet he wants them to make for harmony and peace in their religious outlook. He chalks out a very clear path for them on this point:
Firstly, a believer in his religion should believe in the Divine origin of all religions and religious scriptures, besides his own.
Secondly, he should regard the founders of these other religions as much Divinely inspired as his own Prophet.
Thirdly, he should not extol any one of these heroes at the cost of the other.
Fourthly, he should regard all places of worship as equally sacred and should maintain their sanctity with as much sacrifice as he would make in the ease of his own House of Worship.
Fifthly, he should encourage inter-religious marriages. It is remarkable that of all religions, it is Islam alone that countenances marriages with peoples of other religions.
It is only in Islam that a non-believer can be married to a believer, according to its religious rites, and can be given the full religio-legal status which a believer is entitled to by its own laws of marriage.
It is not too much to assert, therefore, that if the religious emotion is to be allowed to remain and thrive, and if differences in religious understanding cannot be done away with altogether, no better programme for peace and harmony can be thought of than this one.
Besides religion, there is the problem of racial arrogance in man, and the consequent inter-racial feelings. Racial differences are as manifold as religious differences. No religious law has ever approached this problem, and I doubt if any secular law has dealt with it quite satisfactorily.
The law of Muhammad has, however, laid down principles and framed rules in this matter that deserve careful study by all those who desire peace in the world. Like the religious feeling, race feeling is also a real emotion that acts as a bond of union between individuals. Try as you will, you cannot replace it with anything better. We can lead the human consciousness from one stage to a higher stage, but we shall be overrating our own powers if we think that we can crush consciousness at one stage and then revive it at another. It is a vital point, and sooner we understand it the better for us and for those whom we are supposed to lead. Muhammad's law, therefore, does not propose to crush or destroy this emotion, but guides and regulates it in a wise and practical way, and elevates it to a higher feeling that will harmonise its conflicting parts. The Quran says: "O you men! Surely We have created you of a male and a female, and made you tribes and families that you may know each other ; surely the most honourable with God among you, is the one among you the most careful (of his duty); surely God is knowing, aware..." (49:13).
In other words, the racial feeling is the outcome of the family life, and, originally, an extension of the natural emotions of family love. It is good as a bond of unity between individuals, and for purposes of identification, but worse than useless as a symbol of greatness. Honour and greatness consist, not in belonging to this race or to that, but in cultivating a higher and yet higher sense of dutifulness. Excellence in man cannot be hereditary or accidental; it has to be acquired through service. Thus at one stroke Muhammad destroyed all those false structures of greatness and nobility that have been the fruitful sources of every sort of iniquity.
The divisions of humanity into races are further subdivided on the grounds of complexion and language. Thus, although the upper-class Hindu, the Persian and the Anglo-Saxon all belong to the one Aryan stock, the fact that the shades of their colour differ, evidently owing to the difference in their climatic conditions, makes them, for all practical purposes, appear like different races.
And language further subdivides these fractions of the same race. Thus, although the Germans and the English belong to the same racial unit, difference in language has made them two mutually opposed nations, each being aggressively proud of its language.
The Quran, the Law Book of Muhammad, recognises these divisions also, and teaches its followers to cultivate a sense of respect for this divergence in language and complexion, declaring it to be a sign of God. This means that the spiritual achievement of man consists in recognising the Unity of God in the variety of His creation. If we are moral beings, we have to discover the throbbing, universal human heart beneath the divergence of colours and languages. Here this evening, for example, I am addressing an assembly composed of various nationalities, most of whom cannot speak my language, but all of them are responding to my feelings in the same way as they would do to the feelings of a man of their own colour and language. Surely this is a sign of God, and we must respect it as such The Prophet declared it to be the fundamental principle of the Islamic brotherhood that the white man should have no superiority over the black man, nor should the Arab have any superiority over the non-Arab, as, according to him, all the sections of humanity now existing had one and the same origin. He not only preached this doctrine, but enforced it in the practical affairs of his followers. Bilal, the Abyssinian, ranked among his most distinguished companions, and was held in great respect among the believers. In an Arab community, and to the exclusion of the Quraish, who were so proud of the excellence of their dialect, it was this Abyssinian who was privileged to call the faithful to prayers in Arabic, love between the Prophet and this black Abyssinian has become so proverbial in Islamic lore as to verge on a romance. The word "Bilal" conjures up in the Muslim's mind a very high order of spiritual whiteness to which the black races of the world are capable of attaining.
The Prophet has prescribed another sound rule of conduct, which, strictly enforced, is sure to do away with all feelings of arrogance arising out of group-consciousness based on race, colour or language. As we all know, it is a natural weakness of the human mind to feel amused at the sight of a person of a different nationality and culture. A foreigner always strikes the popular mind as a queer sort of animal. It may be regarded as indecent to express this feeling about the foreigner in his presence, but it is customary, everywhere, to give vent to it when we talk among ourselves. Muhammad would purge society of this unhealthy custom. The Quran lays it down: "O you who believe! Let not one people laugh at another people, perchance they may be better than they" (49:11).
The more we analyse the weakness of human nature in this matter, the more we are struck by the immense wisdom of this simple rifling. Scrupulously observed, it will remove, in due course, all those anti-social feelings which have been rendering futile all efforts at international understanding.
The Quran goes further and announces the fundamental unity of the human race in spite of its superficial differences. It says that God has been taking an equal amount of interest in the affairs of the, different sections of humanity.
The Quranic God is Rubbul-Alamin, that is, the Creator, the Maintainer and the Evolver of the destiny of all humanity.
All races and nations are equally His chosen peoples. Does His sun not shine equally upon all? Is His air not breathed equally by all? Does His earth not supply all equally with provisions for physical existence? Does history not show that even those who are regarded as most backward in our times, like the Chinese, were at one time in the vanguard of wisdom and civilisation? Does all this not show that humanity is but one family, having the same heritage in things that matter? As the Quran puts it: "'The whole humanity is naught but a single nation" (10:19).
So deeply impressed were the Muslims with this idea of the unity of the human race, that one of their greatest poets sang to the effect that the different sections of humanity were related to one another like the limbs of the same body, in so much that, if one of them suffers any injury, the others feel the pain of it. I wish this sublime truth, expressed by that great Persian poet, were taken to heart by our present-day politicians in whose hands we have entrusted our national destinies. The fact is that, with all our tall talk of mental progress, and our abhorrence of Jewish communalism, even our most advanced leaders are possessed of the racial arrogance characteristic of the Jews. Every one of the modern nations, consciously or subconsciously, feels that its culture is the only culture in the world, and that the salvation of the world lies in following its ways. None of them can make themselves believe that its position in relation to humanity is that of a limb to a body. Can there be any affection among nations, or any harmony between them, so long gas this mentality prevails? When we reflect on all this, the achievement of Muhammad, in the matter of international peace, appears as more than a miracle. The Muslims are notorious (if the word be permissible) for their international feeling of brotherhood. So glaring is this mentality in the Muslim community, that we have appeared to our compatriots in India as unpatriotic, and the major portion of the wrath of the sister community has its origin in this. We, however, plead guilty to the charge, but add that, at the most, our fault consists of a negligence in the matter .of a feeling or a spirit, an emphasis on which is nothing but an anachronism in the present age; whereas we are upholding, even at our own cost, a spirit which belongs to the time, but has not been grasped by other sections of humanity so far. Yes, the Muslim sense of extra-territorial patriotism and brotherhood stands in sharp contrast to the petty and exclusive nationalistic emotions of other communities. Humanity, in its arrogance, may think of us whatever it likes, but it will have to fall back on the Muslim spirit sooner or later if it does not want to destroy itself.
It is worth while to pause here a little and mark one of the chief features of Islam in creating the international feeling in the minds of its followers. It is remarkable that all who have come into its fold have imperceptibly, through various methods adopted by it, fallen off from their own national traditions, and adopted; instead, the traditions of Islam, the religion of their adoption. Thus, when a Hindu or a Parsi becomes a Muslim, he no longer cares for Arjuna or Rustum as heroic figures, but looks upon the heroes of Islam, like Umar or Ali, as his own heroes. In this way does Islam effectively crush the feelings of exclusiveness from the minds of its different peoples. Here is a big hint for the Christian nations of the West. They should realise that, so long as the English sing the praise of Nelson, the French those of Napoleon, and the Germans those of Bismarck, there cannot be that cordial feeling between these nations which alone can bring about peace in Europe. Sectional traditions should merge into one common tradition to make real international goodwill possible. It is indeed, unfortunate that Christianity has not revolutionised the social outlook of its followers in the same way as Islam has done in that of its own people.
It will also not be irrelevant here to examine the causes of the failure of the League of Nations, as we Muslims see them.
(1) The first cause of the failure of the League of Nations is, to our minds, the want of a well-defined Code of Laws to guide its deliberations. The Constitution of the League of Nations is the outcome of the wranglings between certain selfish and jealous nations, and drafted by persons who had their own petty interests to safeguard. Naturally it has all the ambiguities and inconsistencies of selfish stipulations, and is full of annulments and amendments that defeat the very principles with which it starts. One can twist its words to any sense, as has been seen in the case of the Italo-Abyssinian tangle. One who knows the circumstances under which these Laws have been made is not surprised. The legislators had their own interests involved. Naturally enough, it could not be a Law in the sense of a Code, starting with defined principles answering to the universal moral needs of humanity, and ending in detailed rules and regulations for the materialisation of the vision embodied in these principles in the manner of branches and twigs coming out of the trunk of a tree. Apart from the helplessness of the human intellect when it is confronted with social problems, the League of Nations' Laws lacked the frankness and the selflessness that prompt the codification of the usual Civil Laws of different countries. Hence the ridiculous anomalies discovered in it.
(2) The second defect, which follows as a matter of fact from the first, is the want of sanctity in these Laws. The members of the League, individually and collectively, are incapable of regarding these Laws as sacred. Each member knows full well that it is nothing more than a decent show, and feels quite justified in leaving it and doing whatever it likes if its own interests are in any way prejudiced. So it lacks moral sanction behind it without which no constitution is workable.
(3) The third defect in the League of Nations is that those who compose it have in their minds, not the predominance of international feeling, but one of exclusive nationalism. All the European diplomats, that are sent there as delegates from year to year, go there not so, much for promoting an international feeling; because they lack it themselves, as to be the mouthpieces of jealous and exclusive nationalism. Thus, when there is not a shred of international feeling in the individual members, we cannot expect the collective body to exhibit it at any time in any real sense.
With this much of criticism of the League of Nations [Footnote: Since these words were spoken The League of Nations has been replaced by a new Union of powers with no better foundation and credentials and hence no better prospects of the success - Author.], let me point out to you the corresponding privileges of Muhammad's Laws. First of all, as I have shown before, the Quran, the Law Book of Muhammad contains all the principles of international relationships, and has then given detailed rules for their working out in the manner of a codified Law. It did not emerge as a sort of stipulation arising out of the material interests of contending factions. Its principles, therefore, are prompted by the broad sense of human morality, and its smaller regulations have come out of them as logical corollaries. As for the smaller rules of conduct; some of them have already been enumerated and can be cited in large numbers, but this is not the time for it.
Nevertheless, it will be interesting, I think, to refer to some of its general principles in the matter of international questions. The first and the most important principle in this connection is the following: "Let not the hatred of a people incite you to exceed the limits; and help one another in goodness and piety, and do not help one another in sin and aggression" (5:2).
Germany would not have seen the recrudescence of reactionary forces if the allied Powers had acted on this principle at the conclusion of the First World War.
A further principle is laid down in the following words: "Be maintainer of justice, bearers of Witness for God's sake, though it be against yourselves, or your parents or near relations, if they be rich or poor. God is most competent to deal with them both; therefore do not follow your low desires, lest you deviate, and if you swerve or turn aside then surely God is aware of what you do" (4:135).
The Quran here hits the nail on the head; it knows the crucial point where man's sense of justice fails; it also knows what considerations turn him from the path of rectitude. It is, after all, considerations of gain and loss for their own peoples that prevent our diplomats from speaking the word of justice at the right time. Much scepticism is shown on the utility of religion, but, if we give it dispassionate consideration, it is not difficult to see how religion succeeds where all other forces fail. If at critical times in the moral sense of man, when the life and safety of a whole nation depends on its proper and timely exhibition, the belief in and reliance on God enables him to assert it with an independence which otherwise he would fail to do, certainly religion has justified its existence, and the name of God has not been invoked in vain. There is still another principle laid down in the Quran which is applicable to the international affairs of our own day: "And if two parties of the Believers quarrel, make peace between them; but if one of them acts wrongfully towards the other, fight that which acts wrongfully towards the other, until it returns. Make peace between them with justice and act equitably: Surely God loves those who act equitably."
According to this verse, to stand aloof when the community is being wronged by another out of arrogance is a sin of an unpardonable nature. International affairs of our own times could surely have stood on a different footing had this principle been observed by the members of the League of Nations, I do not want to tire your patience by enumerating to you all these principles of the Quran, which we think ought to be adopted by the League of Nations, if it is to fulfil its obligations to the nations of the world. What I have said above will give you a fair idea of what we think of it.
Now I come to the second characteristic of Muhammad's Laws. The person who promulgated these Laws was himself a scrupulous observer of them. No political leader has ever been as strict in the observance of the rules of justice and fidelity as Muhammad. Let me mention just one incident in Muhammad's life to show you what treaties and international stipulations meant to him. It was just after the Truce of Hudaibiya. The Prophet was extremely anxious to buy peace at all costs. Of the many terms, one was that should any of the Makkan followers of the Prophet go over to Madina, the Prophet's city of refuge, the Muslims should hand him over to the Makkans but the latter should not be bound to return a deserter from the Muslim ramp. just after the peace was concluded, one Abu Jandal, who had embraced Islam at Makka, and was tortured by the Makkans on that account, managed to escape front the hands of his persecutors and came into the Muslim camp expecting, of course, to find a warm welcome there. He showed the scars of his torture to the Muslims. The whole community was moved at the sight, and was ready to throw all the obligations of the Peace Treaty to the winds. Nevertheless the Prophet was inexorable. The pledged word must be kept. Thus Abu Jandal, the faithful believer, was refused a shelter in the Muslim camp. Such a conduct on the part of the Prophet gave the Laws promulgated by him the sanctity which such important Laws require.
Coming to the third characteristic of the Muslim attitude towards international questions, we find that the Muslim mind, except in the Westernised quarters of our modern times, has never been a victim to the exclusive jealous nationalism that has been preventing the nations of Europe from rising to the height of an international outlook. The Muslim criterion of international justice is not based on considerations of national glory and prosperity, but on the principles laid down in the Quran and supported by the broad moral sense of humanity. Small wonder, therefore, that throughout their whole history the Muslims have never seen the horrible international jealousy and hatred we find among nations composing the League of Nations. But I do not want to dilate any more on this unpleasant subject, and pass on to another problem of our times - the problem of economic peace.
It is my unpleasant task to remark here that our Western leaders of thought have the morbid tendency of running after catch-words without comprehending the sense behind them. We know how at one time "democracy" was a catch-word of the West, and we were asked to believe that when the concept of "democracy" was materialised the world would see the millennium. A huge commotion was created on its basis; earth and heaven were moved. But what happened at last? The movement culminated in the helplessness of the public and the State at the hands of gangsters in some countries, and in its reaction in other, leading to the ruthless suppression of private rights of citizenship. The movement for individual freedom in Europe, some time ago, had the same senseless impetuosity in it. The sponsors of the movement did not quite understand what they wanted, and whether what they wanted was a desirable thing. The cry for individual freedom was raised to such a pitch that all other considerations were thrown to the winds. It was wrongly supposed that emotions left to themselves would work out their own salvation. The evil effects of this false philosophy eventually manifested themselves in all the different aspects of Western social life, but our leaders have since noticed them in only one aspect, namely, the economic aspect, and even here, as is characteristic of them, they are proposing a remedy as bad as the disease itself. As we all know, their prescription is Communism, that is, total abolition of all private ownership.
Frankly speaking, we Muslims have come to regard all Western movements as a sort of child's play - they are all the outcome of momentary impulses, one-sided in their nature, and not based on any deep thinking or sound judgement. As I have remarked above, you can sublimate a natural emotion to a still higher emotion, but you cannot suppress one and replace it by another.
Since the beginning of history, we find man exhibiting two very clear emotions that come next to his instinct for self-preservation and form the basis of his economic struggle. One is the pleasure of possession and the other the love of children. I am not aware what facts and figures have led our present-day leaders in the West to believe that man has outgrown these feelings, and has begun instead all on a sudden to be moved by absolutely altruistic feelings. It may be said that given proper education and suitable surroundings man's motives for action may change. But we must remember that by education and environment we can do away with feelings that are false and accidental, but not those that are real and original. The question, therefore, is whether the pleasure of possession is or is not a natural emotion. If you deny this, you deny the existence of human consciousness. After all, we feel our existence only by the sense of our possessions, both physical and mental. We may change our notion of possession or enlarge our views on it, but we cannot get away from the fact of possession if we are to feel our existence and work for its maintenance and expression. Similarly, it is inevitable that we should feel for our children more than we feel for other members of humanity, because their bodies are directly connected with ours. The emotion of filial or parental love is, therefore, as real as that of possession. Moreover, rightly judged, these are the seedlings of what we call our humanitarian and altruistic feelings. To try to suppress these emotions with the object of creating an altruistic feeling in man is as mistaken a step as to try to prevent a child from toddling in the beginning and expect it to be able to run later on when it is allowed to walk. The Law of Muhammad therefore, instead of crushing these natural emotions, has tried to sublimate them. Earning and ownership are encouraged, but spending for others is encouraged still more. It is the ambition of a Muslim to earn in order to spend in charity. . There is no exhortation in the Quran that is more frequent than the exhortation to spend. The Prophet says: "The hand that gives is always better than the hand that receives." This sums up the Muslim attitude towards earning. And the Quran so wisely guides this instinct of earning that it never proves harmful to society. It starts with the very concept of possession. It does not attempt to destroy this sense in Man, but gives it a new vision and a sublime outlooks It lays down that all the possessions of a mans, whether in the shape of material wealth or of mental faculties, are a trust with him. He is not their master, but a trustee. He has no original or absolute rights over these things, as they are, at bottom, the gifts of God. The actual words of the Quran are: "O you who believe! Spend out of what We have given you." The phrase "out of what We have given you" takes away from the sense of possession what may tend to create a sense of cruel miserliness. There is another principle laid down in the Quran in this connection which is a sort of corollary to it. It is that a Muslim should religiously acknowledge the claims of his less fortunate brethren on his earnings and wealth. Thus charity in the English sense is unknown in the Muslim vocabulary. When we are giving help to our less fortunate brethren; we are not placing them under an obligation to us but fulfilling our own obligations to thorn: This conception of social duty is given a material shape in the Muslim institution of Zakat, or poor-rate, which is a token of the moral recognition by a believer of this right of the poor to the wealth of the rich.
Coming to the details of this principle, in commercial affairs, the Prophet declares interest and usury on loans to be unlawful, and so also monopoly in business. He further declares that everything underneath the earth's surface belongs to the public or the state, and not to the individual who happens to be the owner of the surface. There are many other details of the question, and we cannot enumerate them all here.
Coming to the question of inheritance, Muhammad's Law recognises the feeling of Man's concern for his children; and makes the Necessary concession for it, so much so that it forbids a man's willing away his whole property even to a charitable cause, to the exclusion of his natural heirs: But; on the other hand, its laws of inheritance embraces such a wide circle that no room is left for any permanent division of society between the "haves" and the "have-nots." At the death of a rich man his poorer relations of a very distant connection have a chance to take a share of the wealth to give them a start in life. Nay, the Quran lays it down that if at the time of the distribution of a dead man's wealth some unconnected neighbours happen to be present there, even these should be given something out of it. This happy balance struck by Islam between the desire of the individual for giving his children the benefit of his acquisition and the danger of this desire creating a permanent economic slope, has saved Islamic society from falling a victim to the economic plague known as class war in the West.
Last but not the least is the problem of sex. As a matter of fact, in the order of importance sex comes next only to economics. It is one of the most powerful emotions of the human mind and, like all other emotions, has been the fruitful cause of much iniquity in the world. As has been rightly observed, woman is the embodiment of emotion and sacrifice, and yet it is she who has to bear the brunt of all sexual consummations. Man, on the other hand, happens to be selfish in the matter of sex, and ingenious and resourceful in the achievement of his selfish ends. An impartial student will therefore find that the history of humanity is nothing but the history of the exploitation of womanhood by man. This applies with a greater force to the history of Europe. There was a time in Europe when sex was regarded as sin, and contact with a woman a pollution of the moral life, although it is difficult to say whether this attitude towards woman in any way affected man's running after woman. For a long time they could not decide whether she could enter the spiritual life after death. She could not, in any case, own property. Nay, she had no separate identity. Then a reaction set in. It was felt that a Woman was a human being, and as such should be the equal of Man in every respect. A cry was raised for the so-called "emancipation of woman." But, apart from the usual vagueness of a European movement, it was prompted, subconsciously, as ever, by a desire for the exploitation of womanhood. The method was new and refined, but the object was, all the same, exploitation. It was proposed, as a first step towards the emancipation of womanhood, that she should shake off her mock modesty, and come in closer physical touch with man. It was hoped that this would enable her both to demand and assert her own rights as against those of man. After a not very long experiment, however, it was discovered by keen observers that the procedure was making the case of woman worse. She is more cruelly exploited now that she is left to herself than she was before when the family and social opinion and safeguards were at her back. If she was then exploited occasionally and individually, she is now exploited on a wholesale scale and incessantly through false philosophy, fiction, the drama, the cinema, the theatre, art and music, and is hypnotised to live in a fool's paradise. It will not be an exaggeration to say that womanhood and feminine charms have come to be regarded as important commodities of the Western market.
But, although the physical emotions of woman are thus exploited, the soul of woman does certainly feel disgusted at the state of affairs, and so does the soul of man at its own atrocities. The result is that the inter-sexual relationship is extremely unhappy in the West.
I have lived long enough in Europe to perceive that there is no love lost between the sexes. We may say that the sexes are as much at war against one another as are the classes.
Some modern thinkers have perceived this danger and have suggested that woman cannot have the requisite freedom so long as she is not economically free. This, as a matter of fact, is the crux of the whole situation. After all, our friends here have diagnosed the disease. But, here again, as is not unusual with them, their remedy may prove more fatal than the disease. The question now is, how are you going to give them the economic freedom and equality with man? Is it by sending half the women to the mines, to the factories, to the battlefields, to the construction works, to ground-tilling and transhipment affairs, and on the other hand by making half the men look after the babies, nurse the patients, do the house-keeping and other kinds of soft work at home? I am afraid such a programme of social reconstruction is bound to meet with failure, and even if it partially succeeds it would surely make for a worse humanity and a less happy world. Instead, we should realise the all-important fact that the emancipation of everything in the world, including womanhood, lies not in mixing it up with other things, but by giving it opportunities for developing on its own lines. Womanhood is a distinct creation of nature. Nature has allotted to it certain objects and functions in life. She must also have been given the requisite faculties to fulfil these objects. Although she has many interests in common with man, she has many others which are entirely her own. For one thing she forms the cradle of human life. This is as true biologically as it is from a moral point of view. The character of a man is largely determined by the nature of love he receives from his mother in his infancy. Nay, his whole outlook on life is staked on that. Let us, therefore, not divert the mother's attention from the principal duty of her life, and compel her to lose the soft motherly virtues which is the chief moral asset of humanity in the midst of its grim struggle for existence.
The Quran, accordingly declares: "The men are the maintainers of women."
In other words, woman has a right to be maintained by the hard physical labours of man. Her economic emancipation must be based on this principle, and on no other. She should not be asked to share the physical toils of man on equal terms, as is suggested by some and practised; by others, in order to share the economic benefits. This will bring no good either to man or woman. It is, indeed, a perverted society where women seek to ape men, and men women. It is a false society, again, where all rights are judged on the standard of physical labour and material produce. Muhammad's way of giving woman economic emancipation is different. He gives woman the right to own and possess wealth without requiring her to tread the dangerous spots of the struggle for existence. That would be unchivalrous. He wants man, instead, to work at the sources of production, and then promulgates some such laws for inter-sexual relations as to make the wealth gradually shift into the hands of woman. The first of these laws is the one pertaining to dowry. A follower of Muhammad cannot marry a woman unless he has made a gift of an appreciable part of his possessions to the bride, apart from the gifts which he is recommended to make in the course of his life. Then, at the death of the man, she is entitled to a share of his property. The Islamic Law is inexorable on this point; it leaves no loophole for a husband to deprive a wife of her legal share. Then woman is entitled to a share in the property of her own relations. Although she will not do any manual work, she can own, sell and mortgage property through her agents, and conduct business in order to augment her wealth - all this independently of her husband or any other relation. On the other hand, according to the recommendations of the Quran, the sons are morally bound to support and help her in her old age to the best of their abilities. A Muslim mother can never be left alone to look after herself.
Thus woman is given by the Quran a stable right to the national wealth, without being required to share the original difficulties of production. It is because of this that in Islam women, as a class, have never been exploited or oppressed by men, as is the case in the West, and hence there has never been any inter-sexual hatred and ill-feeling in Islamic society.
I think I have spoken enough on the Peace Programme of Muhammad to make you realise that Muhammad's Law is not a back number, as is generally believed here, but can be followed with great advantage by the West confronted as it is at present with so many conflicting emotions and interests.
This page was printed from the 'Official Website of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha'at-e-Islam Lahore (Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement for the Propagation of Islam)'
located at http://aaiil.org or http://www.aaiil.org