But how did this new faith infiltrate the Islamic World? How did it come to acquire the strength to engulf Muslims within their own homes; what can explain the mighty hold it enjoys over the hearts and minds of men? All these questions require careful examination.
In the nineteenth century, Islam had begun to show signs of fatigue and decay. In matters of faith, religious endeavour, knowledge and learning it had indeed reached a nadir…. Islam, in fact, knows no old age and no decline. Like the sun, it is every young, ever new. It was the Muslims, themselves, who had fallen prey to senility and degeneration. They had become narrow of in outlook, their thinking had become stereotyped— it had lost originality— their minds had grown fossilised, they had lost enthusiasm for Religion, and, exceptions apart, the ability to present it in an effective manner.
In addition to this, no attempt was made to establish contact with the young educated classes and to influence their minds although the future belonged to them. It occurred to no one to impress upon them the basic truths that Islam was an eternal, evergreen Faith, the Faith of humanity, that the Qur’-an was a miracle of a Book, permanent, unchanging, deathless, whose wonders knew no limit and whose treasures were boundless, that the Holy Prophet was the Prophet for all times and the leader of all men, that the Islamic Shariah was a marvel of legislation, endowed with the ability to march hand in hand with life and answer all the demands it may make upon jurisprudence. Faith, morality and spiritual values are the only foundations on which a civilised, enlightened society can be built. Modern civilisation, however, has only the means and the channels. The ends and the real springheads are contained in the teachings of the Prophets. And a healthy and balanced system of civilisation can come into being only when there is a harmony between ends and means.
This was the thing and situation when the West made its assault on the Islamic World. An assault which contained its whole armoury of thoughts and ideas, designed and hammered into shape in the minds of the foremost thinkers and philosophers of the time and garbed in such philosophical phraseology that they gave the impression of being the very essence of human wisdom and learning, although quite a good deal was purely empirical and had no basis in fact. Western thinkers took a lot for granted and drew conclusions that were in a measure just hypothetical. The systems of thought they had built up were an amalgamation of fact and fiction, of knowledge and ignorance, and of firm reality and poetic imagination—yes, poetry, for you must not imagine that poetry is confined only to verse and rhyme; it is practised also in the realms of philosophy and the social sciences.
These ideologies came under the shadow of political conquest by the West, and the people of the East bowed down them both emotionally and intellectually. Eastern intellectuals welcomed them with open arms.Some of them, of course, accepted them intelligently and consciously, but their number was few. With the majority, it was a case of unthinking acceptance, dazzled as they were by the material superiority of alien rulers. They saw and they surrendered. Their minds were hypnotised and belief in Western ideas became synonymous with progress and enlightenment and the most important criterion of learning and wisdom.
Thus it was that this new apostasy spread its wings over the Muslim East without any hitch or opposition. Neither the father objected to the downfall of the son nor the teacher to that of the student. Religious leaders also felt no qualms about it. It was a silent revolution. The apostates did not make their way to any Church or Temple; they did not prostrate themselves before any idol nor make any sacrificial offerings at any polytheistic altar—signs which, in the past, indicated spiritual metamorphosis.
The apostates of old used to walk openly out of Muslim society and associated themselves freely with the society of those whose Religion they had accepted. They used to declare boldly their change of Faith and submit cheerfully to what they had to bear as a result. They did not insist upon clinging to the benefits accruing from membership of the society they had in fact forsaken. But present-day apostates who turn their backs on Islam do not at the same time also walk out of Islamic society in spite of the fact that of all societies it is only an Islamic society which is based entirely on spiritual beliefs since it cannot come into being without the presence of a particular set of religious doctrines. These modern apostates continue to avail themselves of all the possible advantages of membership of the Islamic society. This is a unique situation for Islam.
As they have turned and twisted moral and spiritual values, so also have these ideologies sown the seeds of paganism sentiment and feeling in the Muslim World upon which Islam has declared an open war. For instance, take paganish factionalism which is founded on race, country and nation. It is currently being venerated with fanatical enthusiasm and reverence. The human family is cut into pieces in its name. It has been raised to the status of a religion and given complete control over people’s thoughts and emotions. it is indeed the most powerful rival to Religion judged by the extensiveness and intensity of its influence. It gains ascendancy over one’s entire existence. When it sweeps over a society it pushes the work of the Prophets into oblivion and reduces Religion into a soulless programme of rituals and ceremonies; the organic unity of mankind about which God had declared; Lo! This your religion, is one religion, and I am your Lord, so worship Me, is destroyed and the human race is divided into a number of warring camps.