This speech was delivered at the 15th Convention of Muslim Students Association of the United States and Canada. The audience included educationists, writers, historians and economists.
The subject for today’s discussion is Mutual contacts and relations among those who work for the propagation and preservation of Islam.’ I will try to shed some light on it, but it, will, perhaps, not be necessary for me to stick to its literal meaning. My attempt will be to indicate the real origin of these bonds and sentiments.
I believe that love and fellow-feeling cannot be generated among Tabligh (Meaning preaching and propagation of Islam) workers through external means. No substance has yet been discovered which can join the hearts. The spring- head of love is found within the heart of man. It cannot be brought in from outside. Nothing in the world can unite the hearts which do not feel drawn towards each other or are not governed by a common feeling or reality. It is not like joining stones in a building or sticking pieces of paper together. Says the Quran :
If thou hadst spent all that is in the earth thou couldst not have attuned their hearts (i. e., the hearts of the Believers). (VIII:63)
It shows that unity could not have been produced among the Believers, at any cost and by any means, had Allah not joined their hearts.
As you are aware, when the Muslims migrated from Mecca to Medina there was nothing in common between the Mohajirs (Literally, the ‘emigrants. Here it shows the Muslims of Mecca who had migrated to Medina and taken up residence there) and the Ansars (Literally, it means the ‘helpers’. In Islamic terminology it applies to the inhabitants of Medina who first embraced the Islamic faith and extended warm support and hospitality to the emigrants from Mecca) except the Arabic language. Even racially they were different from one another. The Mohajirs belonged to the Arabian tribes of Bani Adnan while the Ansars to the Yemenite trebles of Bani Qahtan. Yet an unexampled accord and feeling of oneness was created between them. Concerning it, the Quran says:
And remember Allah’s favour unto you: how ye were enemies and He made friendship between your hearts so that ye became as brothers by His grace. (III: 103)
It was the miracle of this brotherly feeling that when the Mohajirs reached Medina, the Ansars settled them not only in their homes, but, also, in their hearts. The Ansar said to the Mohajir: ‘This is my house: half of it is mine and half of it is yours. Take whichever part you like”. In the same way, the Ansars willingly agreed to give half of their agricultural lands and other property to the Mohajirs, so much so that some of them said that they had two wives, one of whom they were ready to divorce so that his Mohajir brother could marry her. And what did the Mohajirs do ? They acted with dignity. Instead of seizing greedily what the Ansars offered, they said : “Brothers, may God grant you an increase in your riches. Show us the way to the market and we will try our luck there.”
Such warmth and earnestness, obviously, cannot be produced by artificial means. As you are aware, to bring about unity in their ranks has always been a major problem with all human associations.
I will give a few examples to illustrate the point, and, then, try to explain what is the real springhead of oneness and solidarity. These examples have been taken from the biography of the sacred Prophet.
Abu Aziz bin Omair was one of the Pagans of Mecca who had been taken prisoner in the Battle of Badr. His real brother, Mus’ab bin Omair, was the standard-bearer of the Islamic forces. He had migrated to Medina earlier. When the hands of Abu Aziz bin Omair were being tied behind his back, Mus’ab bin Omair told the man who was doing it to tie hard and true as he was a rich man and would pay a good ransom. Upon it, Abu Aziz bin Omair said, “Brother, I had expected that you would put in a kind word on my behalf and tell him to tie my hands gently as I was your own brother, but you are telling him to bind firmly so that a large sum of money could be realised from me for my liberation.” Mus’ab bin Omair’s reply will always be remembered in the annals of moral and spiritual revolutions. He observed, “You are not my brother, but he who is tying your hands”. Unity of faith and loftiness of purpose had brought about such a transformation in the life of Mus’ab bin Omair that he bluntly told his brother that now the man who is tying your hands is my brother and not you because a new bond has sprung up between us which, though it has nothing to do with blood, is much more precious than the ties of kinship and lineage.”
In the same manner, it is related by a Companion, Abu Jalim bin Huzaifa, that -once, during the Battle of Yarmuk, I went into the battle-field in search of my cousin. I knew that those who are wounded in a battle are tormented by thirst, and, so, I was carrying a small water-bag with me with the thought that he might be in his dying moments and I will pour some water in his mouth and wash his face. When I reached my cousin, I found that he was in the pangs of death, and his lips were parched. I offered him a cup of water, but, in the meantime, a groan was heard and my cousin said, ‘This brother of mine is in greater need of water. Give the cup to him and leave me to fate’. So, I went to him and as I was offering him the drink, the groan of another man was heard upon which he requested me to give the water to him. It went on like that and when I carried the cup to one wounded person, he pointed out towards another till I returned to my cousin and saw that he had breathed his last. 1, thereupon, went to the second man, and, then, to the third man, and, so on, only to find that they, too, were dead. My cup remained untouched, and those deep- hearted bondmen went to meet their Maker without taking a sip from it.”
The third incident I would like to refer is even more amazing. When the Battle of Yarmuk was being fought, right in the thick of it, Caliph Omar decided to relieve General Khalid bin Valeed of the command of the Islamic forces and appoint Abu Obaida in his place. General Khalid had become a legendary figure around whom the myth of invincibility had grown on account of his glorious exploits in war, and it was, perhaps, why Caliph Omar wanted to replace him. He did not want the impression to gain strength that Khalid and victory went together, and instead of God, people began to rely upon him for overcoming the enemy. When the order of the dismissal of Khalid was received, preparation were being made for mounting a decisive attack and Caliph Omar had ordered that the headgear of General Khalid should be taken off and wound around his neck so that people knew that he had been dismissed. The General showed not a trace of sorrow or anger when the order was communicated to him. With unbelievable calmness he said: “I believe and I submit. There will be no change in my conduct. If I was fighting for God, I shall still fight, and if I was fighting for Omar, I have every right to withdraw for he has expressed lack of faith in me and deprived me of a such an honour.” He continued to fight with his usual skill and bravery. The dismissal made no difference to his determination and enthusiasm while in the so-called advanced societies of the present times we see that if a person is relieved of his office he is affected with loathing and becomes sulky and glum.
Unity of faith, unity of purpose and unity of love can bring forth marvellous results, provided that the faith, cause of love is all-pervading. Mere association or agreement is not enough. It is a great folly to think that agreement with an aim is sufficient. One should be in love with it. The incidents I have just described take place when the candle-moth relationship is established between a cause and those who strive for it.
I have mentioned here four incidents belonging to the eras of the sacred Prophet and the holy Companions which served to illustrate what a wonderful unity and spirit of sacrifice the oneness of faith and devotion to the cause bad produced among the followers of Islam. But you can say that is was the golden age of Islam when the hearts had been purged of sin and immorality. It is stated in the Quran :
But Allah hath endeared the faith to you and hath beautified it in your hearts, and hath made disbelief and lewdness and rebellion hateful unto you. (XLIX : 7)
Are instances of such a refulgent class and quality, also, found after that period of blessedness and glory had ended ?”, you may ask. These, you, may add, will be of greater value to you since you belong to the times that are far removed from the era of Apostleship and encourage you to seek inspiration from them in this, the 20th Century.
I submit that history will repeat itself and astonishing events like these will recur if the hold of faith is firm., commitment to the cause is complete, and a reformer or benefactor is found who dyes everyone in the same hue.
At present, I will relate to you only two incidents that took place in course of the struggle launched by Syed Ahmad Shaheed (martyred May 6, 1831) for the revival of Islam. Not much time has passed since then, and, what is more, these appertain to the days when the British had dug their feet in India and Muslim society had come considerably under the influence of the Western Civilization.
Molvi Abdul Wahab of Lucknow was incharge of the distribution of foodgrains at Panjtar, the headquarters of Syed Saheb’s army of Mujahids. (Meaning warriors in the defence of Islam) His practice was that he recited the Quran while distributing the flour etc., and some- times, gave the quota of twenty or twenty-five persons to one man without counting, but everyone received his portion and no one got more or less than his allotted share.
One day, as he was distributing the flour, Mir Imam Ali Azimabadi came for his daily allowance. He was a very powerfully-built man. The flour was being dealt out turn by turn to the Mujahids, and the Mir was in a hurry. He wanted to be served before those who had come earlier. Molvi Abdul Wahab told him to await his turn, but he would not listen and pushed Molvi Saheb so hard that he fell down.
Some Qandharis (Meaning the inhabitants of Qandbar in Afghanistan) also, were sitting there, waiting for their turn. They were annoyed at the behaviour of Mir Imam Ali and rushed at him. But Molvi Abdul Wahab checked them, saying, “He is my brother. If he pushed, he pushed me. What have you to do with it ?” The incident was reported to Syed Sabeb and when Molvi Abdul Wahab went to see him in the evening, he enquired from him about what Mir Imam Ali had done. ,As far as I am concerned,” replied the Molvi, he did nothing. He is a very good man. He had come for his allowance of flour but it was not his turn, and he did not like to wait. In the meantime, he collided against me. That was all.” When Mir Imam Ali came to know of what Molvi Abdul Wahab had said about him, he felt deeply ashamed and apologised to the Molvi and embraced him in Syed Saheb’s presence.
A more inspiring incident which reminds one of the earliest decades of Islam is that of Lahori who, also, was a member of the glorious band of Mujahids who had collected around Syed Ahmad Shaheed.
It is related in Seeral-i-Syed Ahmad Shaheed that once Lahori who was a very simple-minded man, and, jointly with Sheikh Inayatullah, looked after the preparation of fodder for the horses, got angry with the Sheikh over something. Upon it, Sheikh Inayatuilah, who was very close to Syed Saheb, got unnecessarily agitated, and in the altercation that followed, he delivered such a blow on Lahori’s head that he dropped on the ground and began to moan. When Syed Saheb heard about it, he reproved Sheikh Inayatullah severely and said, you would be thinking that you were an old colleague of mine and slept near my cot, but you did not remember that we had come here for the sake of God and yet did such shameful things. You thought that Lahori was the Sais of Qazi Madni and he was a very poor and ugly-looking person, and you hit him for that reason. You have done a great wrong. With me you and Lahori are alike. No one has a superiority over the other. We all have come here to serve the cause of God.”
After it, Syed Saheb told Hafiz Sabir Thanvi and Sharfuddin Bengali to take Lahori and Inayatullah to the Qazi and tell him to decide according to the Shariat and show no leniency.
On the next day, in the forenoon, Hafiz Sabir and Sharfuddin produced Lahori and Inayatullah before the Qazi who made them sit before him, and, turning first to Inayatuilah, rebuked him sternly, and said that he had done a very wrong thing for which he deserved to be punished. Then, addressing Lahori, the Qazi remarked, “Brother, you are a very good and harmless person. You all have left your homes in Hindustan and come to this distant place solely for waging war in the way of God so that He may be pleased with you and reward you in the -Hereafter. As for this world, it is a nine days’ wonder. So, the thing is that Inayatullah is your brother and he has committed this offence and assaulted you out of misfortune. If you forgive him, it will be very good and God will recompense you in the Hereafter for it, and if you take the revenge, you will be quits but you will not get the reward that is promised on forgiving. To forgive is the command of God and the Apostle, and so is to take revenge. But there is a reward on forgiving and satisfaction of self in taking the revenge”.
On hearing it, Lahori said, “Qazi Saheb ! I will get the reward if I forgive Inayatullah, and if I avenge myself, we will be quits; but will there be any sin in it ?” ,There will be no sin,” replied the Qazi. Both are the commands of God and the Apostle. Choose whichever you like. “Then I demand my right,” said Lahori. After a pause, the Qazi observed, “Brother Lahori, your right is that you hit Inayatullah at the same place where he had hit you.” He made Inayatullah stand before Lahori and told the latter to take his revenge. “My right is that I strike him twice at that very place. Is it not?” asked Lahori. “Of course,” the Qazi replied.
Those who were witnessing the trial were filled with consternation; they felt sure that Lahori would not let Inayatullah go without having his revenge. But Lahori had other ideas. He said, “Well, brothers, you are a witness to the fact that the Qazi has upheld my claim. I can take the revenge. But I forego it for the good pleasure of the Lord.” Be, then, embraced Inayatuilah and shook hands with him. With one voice, every-one complimented Lahori and said that he had done what only a truly devout and godly man could do.
No one can attain this moral stature without a genuine love for God and the Apostle, and the love for God and the Apostle cannot be produced simply by study and reflection or listening to the speeches. I am appreciative of the papers that have been read and the speeches that have delivered here, but on careful thought, you will agree that this is not the way to the gene- ration of love. A deep study of the life, sayings and doings of the Prophet is essential for the promotion of the sentiments of deep devotion and self-abnegation, and it should not be a formal one, but capable of going down deep into one’s moral and spiritual nature.
The honour you have done me and the affection and trust you have shown and the long journey I have undertaken to be with you demand that I presented the sum and substance of my knowledge and experience before you which is that there is nothing more precious, dynamic and inspiring in the vast treasure-house of Islam than the Quran and the biography of the Prophet. . The Book of God, the holy Quran, is something we can, honestly, be proud of. It is the greatest fountain-head of strength and vitality by means of which we can subjugate the hearts, subdue the propensities of the self and overcome the desires of the flesh. It can transform our lives and lift us from the lowness of the earth to the height of the skies. With its help we can confront the Devil and frustrate his designs. Springs of powers and energy that gushed forth from it in the earliest decades have not dried up. Next, is the biography of the that Prophet. I would appeal you must fervently develop t c strongest attachment, firstly, for the Quran, and, then, for the biography of the Prophet. The biography of the sacred Prophet can still bring about a revolution in the lives of men and give rise to anew Ummat.
Self-indulgence, self-worship and self-seeking have always been the bane of the Muslims. We have never been harmed or humbled by our enemies. It is on account of our own internal strifes and dissensions that we have suffered defeats and lost empires.
Take the case of Spain. The largest single factor leading to the ejection of Islam from that land were our internecine quarrels. I refuse to believe that it was the might of Christianity alone that forced Islam and Muslims out of Spain. No mean part was played by the mutual rivalries of the Northen Arabs, the Yemenite Arabs and the Hejazis that had been rife for a long time. It were the suicidal wars among the Yemenites, the Hejazis, the Rabi’a and the Muzir that culminated in the banishment of Islam, and, Spain, in the words of Iqbal, was deprived of the Azan.
Thy land is like the heavens in the sight of the stars,
For ages, alas, thy atmosphere has remained bereft of Azan.
The same story has been repeated in most of the Islamic countries. In India, too, the downfall of the Mughal Empire was brought about, mainly, by domestic feuds and factions and intrigues and uprisings.
The malady of self-seeking and earthly-mindedness cannot be overcome only by sermons and seminars. To subdue any- thing you have to use a more powerful agent. If we have to put down fire, we pour water on it, and for heating up iron, we ignite the fire. Selfishness and self-worship cannot be wished away, and unity and brotherly love are not engendered by public discourses and pious declarations.
When personal, tribal or factional interests are given preference over the aims and interests of Islam, it will lead to the same disastrous results that have overtaken the Indian Muslims.
When I was in Europe, I said, again and again, to my Muslim brothers who had settled there : “You are faced with a tremendous trail. On the day of Final Judgement, the Lord will call you to account and the holy Prophet will enquire. We had given you a very large field in which you could raise the banner of Islamic renaissance and give the call of Faith and subdue the conquerors of the world, but you started rushing at each-other’s throats and got involved in mutual quarrels and destructive struggles for power. Now, what answer will you give ?”
Gentlemen! The springhead of love is in the heart. Mutual affection, sympathy and fellow-felling cannot be produced by external means and without the love of God, and the love of God is generated by offering Namaz, shedding tears, making earnest entreaties to Him, and praying in the silent hours of the night for elevation in the ranks of believing brethren :
“Our Lord! Forgive us and our brethren who were before us in the faith and place not in our hearts any rancour towards those who believe. Our Lord! Thou art Full of Pity, Merciful.” (-LIX: 10)
The interest of Islam must prevail over all other interests. People have forgiven their bitterest enemies. I will tell you of an incident. Once a person suspected a very godly man to have stolen his purse, and without any proof or enquiry, started beating him like any thing. Other people intervened and scolded him for his meanness. The man realised his mistake and apologised to the holy man. Upon it. the holy man said, “Brother, there is no question of an apology. When you were beating me, I was beseeching the Lord that Oh God! If Thou hast decided that I entered Paradise then I will not set my foot in it until Thou alloweth this man, also, who is beating me, to enter with me. I was making this prayer. What to speak of having a grievance against you ?”
We should keep these life-patterns before us. We will find such instances in the biography of the sacred Prophet and the life-accounts of the holy Companions. Study the biography of the Prophet thoroughly and well. Go Back from here with the resolve that you will make the biography of the Prophet your constant companion and seek guidance from it. Also, read as much as possible, about the life and character of the blessed Companions. Correct your Namaz. We are the bondmen of the Lord. If we do not set right our bond with God, and our hearts are not imbued with love for Him, we can never feel sincerely for His bondmen, nor be truly high-minded and self-sacrificing for the mainspring of all these qualities and emotions, in Islam, is the love of God and the Prophet.