Being the Friday sermon delivered on June 3, 1977 in the assembly room of the United Nations where the employees of the Muslim and Arab countries meet for the Friday service, a large number of Arabs participated in the congregation among whom responsible members of the staffs of Rabita-i-Aalam-i-Islami and the United Nations were prominent.
You are the hunter of the Phoenix; it is only the beginning,
The world of fish and fowl has not been created in vain.
The Quran says:
So lose not heart, nor fall into despair, for ye must gain mastery if ye are true in Faith. (III: 139)
This verse was revealed at a time when Islam was in its infancy, and the Islamic State had not been founded. The light of Faith had, till then, not spread beyond the Peninsula of Arabia, and Arabs were leading a life of intense poverty and indigence. They, generally, ate dates, the flesh of a camel and barley-bread, wore rough and coarse clothes and lived in mud- huts or ordinary tents. The state of misery and helplessness in which the Arabs passed their days has been described in these words by the Quran than which there can be no better and more trustworthy testimony :
And remember, when you were few and reckoned feeble in the land and were in fear lest men should extirpate you. (-VIII : 26)
Such was the condition of the Arabs. As against it, the Romans and the Iranians enjoyed the monopoly of leadership in the world. They had built up magnificent civilisations and their writ ran over a vast segment of humanity. The two Powers had divided the Eastern and Western parts of the civilised world between themselves : the Iranians ruled over the Eastern part while tire Western part was under the domination of the Romans. They wallowed in wealth and all the good things of life were available to them in plenty.
It was in these circumstances that the Quran challenged the power-drunk nations of Rome and Iran and instilled the spirit of dignity and self-confidence into the weak and helpless Arab Muslims. It declared
So lose not heart, nor fall into despair; for ye must gain mastery if ye are true in Faith. (-III: 139)
The Quran challenged the Quraish of Mecca and the Romans and Persians, and, then, for the comfort and solace of the leader and guide of the handful of Muslims, the Prophet Mohammad (Peace and Blessings of the Lord be on him), Sura-i-Yzisuf was revealed. The Quran proclaimed:
For those who question, for them are signs (of Allah’s sovereignty) in the life-story of Yusuf (Joseph) and his brothers. (XII : 7)
The Sura was brought to an end with these words:
Till, when the Messengers despaired and thought that they were denied, then came unto them Our help, and whom We would was saved. And Our wrath cannot be warded from the guilty.
In their history, verily, there is a lesson for men of understanding. It is no invented story but (the Quran is) a confirmation of the existing (Scripture) and a detailed explanation of everything and a guidance and a mercy for those who believe. (XII : 110- 111)
Similarly, the voice of Sura-i-Qasas thundered in the world. The Lord revealed the Sura in an atmosphere of oppression and fear.
Ta. Sin. Mim. These are revelations of the Scripture that maketh plain. We narrate unto thee (somewhat) of the story of Moses and Pharaoh with truth, for folk who believe.
Lo ! Pharaoh exalted himself in the earth and made its people castes. A tribe among them he oppressed, killing their Sons and sparing their women. Lo ! he was of those who work corruption.
And We deemed to show favour unto those who were oppressed in the earth and to make them examples and to make them the inheritors. And to establish them in the earth, and to show Pharaoh and Haman and their hosts that which they feared from them. (XXVIII: 1-6)
Who could have dreamt of the good in those dreadful conditions ? Who could prophesise that the destitute and empty- handed, oppressed and down-trodden Muslims would shine on the firmament of history ? No wise or sensible person, gifted with any amount of foresight could say to those handful of men : So lose not heart, nor fall into despair ; for ye must gain mastery if ye are true in Faith.
But this announcement had filled the hearts of Muslims with such courage and enthusiasm that the mighty Romans and Persians appeared to them to be no more than pygmies. To quote the Quran once again :
And when thou seest them their figures please thee; and if they speak thou givest car unto their speech. (But in fact, they are) as though they were propped up blocks of wood. (-LXIII : 4)
When the helpless Arabs came out of their desert land, endued with the wealth of Faith, they cared nothing for the strength and vastness of Roman and Persian Empires and swept over them like an irresistible -tidal-wave. In the words of Iqbal :
Desert and oceans fold up at their kick,
And mountains shrink into mustard-seeds.
Indifferent to the riches of the world it makes, What a curious thing is the joy of love ?
Judged by the law of cause and effect, the Arabs, or rather, the whole of mankind were caught between the two jaws of a lion. When the Arabs ventured forth, they were a new power, a supernatural power. They were now a unique people fired with a singular passion. They were, of course, weak and poor. No part of the earth was under their rule. But when they stepped out of Arabia, intoxicated with the wine of Monotheism, they began to understand the difference between man and man, Faith and Infidelity, and form and reality, and the contrast between the Fountain of Immortality’ and the ‘Mirage of the Desert’ become clear to them. God had endowed them with the light of Faith, and, in the twinkling of an eye, they gained a full mental and spiritual grasp of the nature and significance of man’s destiny. To eat, drink and be merry was not the high aim and purpose of his creation. His destiny lay in : Surely We created man of the best stature. When the Muslims had comprehended this fundamental truth, and the reality of the world and what lay beyond it had become clear to them, false manifestations of worldly power and glory failed to impress them and the ass dressed in the tiger’s skin began to look to them the ass that it was. Caesar and Chosroes were, now, no more to them then the birds chattering in a cage: the cage, was marvellous-it was made of gold, but a cage, after all, even if it was studded with diamonds and was very extensive and there were ponds and orchards and stately buildings in it. The Arabs saw those who wore crowns on their heads or were known by the dignified denominations of ministers, army generals, princes and philosophers with an eye with which the performers in a play are seen and they refused to be over-awed by them. They knew that their hearts were frozen, their souls were dead and their minds had become sterile, and they strove to hide their inner insolvency in vulgar ostentation and in the sycophancy of servile flatterers. The Arabs realised that they were mere human figures, devoid of the force of will and the strength of purpose, and their thoughts and activities were directed solely towards the appeasement of the senses. They had no higher aim or ideal in life. There was no place for human sympathy in their calculations. Men were only the tools for the realisation of their desires and ambitions.
There were crowns on their heads, but the heads were empty, and costly dresses on their bodies, but the bodies were strengthiess.
When the Arabs set out as the redeemers of humanity and with the object of rescuing it from savagery and barbarism that had been going on for centuries, the reality I have indicated dawned upon them. When they set out to deliver men from the bondage of fellow-men to the bondage of One God, from the narrowness of the world to its extensiveness, and from the injustice of their faiths and creeds to the fairness of Islam, the soul-less pomp and splendour seemed worthless to them and than powerful empires no more than a toy-house. To lower the flags of the Romans and Persians was a child’s play to them.
The Quran had filled the illiterate and backward Arabs with ardour and strength. It had infused their cold and vacant hearts with pride, self-confidence and magnanimity. It had taught them the properties of things, their essential qualities and effects. They came out armed and enriched with these truths and subjugated the world, but not to rule over it as other races had done. They had set out to make the mankind that had gone astray to bow its head before One God and to bring it under the shadow of Islamic justice and equity.
Gentlemen, We are meeting, today. at the headquarters of the United Nations. Now that we are representing numerous states and governments, we are more worthy of the dignity and self-reliance that was enjoyed by the early Arab Muslims. We deserve more to be addressed by the heavenly voice by which they had been addressed : So lose not heart, nor fall into despair; for ye must gain mastery if ye are true in Faith.
When this verse was revealed, there was no government of the Arabs in any part of the world; there was not a government even in the Peninsula of Arabia; Islam had made its advent barely ten years ago and it was toddling like a child. But if God found them worthy of being addressed with those soul- stirring words, do we not merit to be the recipients of that Divine edict today, when we represent forty states and a large number of our flags are flying on the building of the United Nations ? Though we do not possess nuclear arsenals and are lagging behind in scientific knowledge and modern education and do not come up to the standard the Western nations due to our apathy and internal discord and failure to appreciate the true worth of the Islamic teachings, we are definitely in a better shape than the Arabs of the earliest decades of Islam who did not have even a state or government of their own. Don’t we, then, also deserve to be told: So lose not heart, nor fall into despair :for ye must gain mastery if ye are true in Faith.
This conviction is the real price of a truthful Believer. It is the cell without which a torch is worthless. This belief is the make-weight that brings down the scale of a balance in which it is put. It is the same make-weight that had been put in the balance by the sacred Prophet in the form of these memorable words in the thick of the Battle of Badr:
Oh Lord ! If these handful of men are killed today, Thou shalt not be worshipped on the earth till the end of time.
The holy Prophet had realised that it was thin time for repentance and supplication; God had endued him with wisdom and understanding, discernment and good judgement. There was no future for Islam and Muslims if the outcome of the Battle of Badr was going to be determined by numbers and plain strength. They would have been wiped out from the face of the earth for there were only three hundred and thirteen Muslims while against them was arrayed an army, – 1000 strong and fully equipped. How could the small band of Muslims prevail over the mighty horde of the Pagans ? At that critical hour, the Prophet turned to God with earnest repentance and prayer and entreated Him in these historic words :
If these handful of man are killed today, Thou shalt not be worshipped on the earth till the Day of the Last Judgement.
This is our worth and station. The Islamic countries carry a weight in the world and even in the United Nations. Were the people whom we have the honour to represent possessed of a living faith, permeating every nerve and fibre of their existence, the Muslims would even now be honourable in the world and commanding a position of strength and importance.
Brothers, do not look up to anyone for aid or support, Avoid being a hanger-on of others. Borrowed strength is ephemeral. It does no endure. Also let it not be that your name was shone in the comity of nations, and, numerically, you were strong in the population count of the world, but had no weight in the scales of God. We can be weighty in the scales of God only when we are truthful Believers, the spark of Faith is present in our hearts and we are not only the bearers of the message of Islam, but also proud of it even here in the United States the citadel of Western power: and can say on the trumpet’s tune that we are Muslims and proud of Islam and that we are an imperishable people and the custodians of the Divine message. We are no parasites or spongers, but possess our own culture and civilisation and we are not going to accept any grafting upon it. The Lord has bestowed the greatest boon and blessing upon us which is Islam.
God will be our Helper and Protector when we are proud of Islam, and Islam is ours and we are of and for Islam. It is the promise of the Almighty, and Allah never breaks His promise. Says the Quran:
If ye help (in the cause of) Allah, He will help you and plant your feet firmly. (-XLVII: 7)
But it we remain Muslims only in name and the reality of Islam is not present in us, we cannot hope for any help from the Lord since it is Faith alone that counts with Him and carries weight.
May Allah grant us the good fortune to revive the Islamic values in our midst and to cherish them again: to bend only before Him, and fear no one aside of Him, and be loyal to His faith, and proud of His message! We beseech Him from the depths of our hearts to confer this wealth upon us. He, indeed, is able to do all things.