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The Disintegration Of The Islamic State

uploaded 07 Nov 2006

Chapter 39

The intellectual weakness of the Islamic State began in the fifth century Hijri when some scholars called for the phasing out of ijtihad. This signalled the downfall of the State. Although there were still some mujtahideen left, intellectual weakness had already taken root and this affected the State enormously. Disintegration began creeping in and the State waned. By the time the crusaders came the State was in no position to repel the danger. The State became engaged in continuous battles with the crusaders which were to last for two centuries. The crusaders emerged victorious at first and managed to occupy parts of the Islamic State, then the State managed to recapture the occupied land and vanquish the crusaders. Rule and authority were taken over by the Mamluks who neglected the Arabic language and the intellectual and legislative side of ruling. The door was slammed in the face of ijtihad and the understanding of Islamic concepts weakened considerably, as a result. Scholars were forced to content themselves with taqleed (imitation) and the ailment worsened. This, however, only affected the State from within, since the State remained strong and its international standing remained intact. The Islamic State remained a superpower feared by all other nations, occupying the largest and strongest part of the inhabited world at the time. The ‘Uthmani State took over control of most of the Islamic world. In the 9th century Hijri (15th century CE) it united the Arab lands under its rule and its dominion stretched over wide areas of land. The ‘Uthmani State concentrated on its military might and the expansion of its authority as well as the glamour of its rule and power. It also concentrated its efforts on the conquests and neglected the Arabic language despite the fact that it is essential in order to understand Islam and one of the conditions necessary in order to effect ijtihad. The ‘Uthmani State never paid attention to Islam from the intellectual and legislative point of view, consequently its level of intellect and legislative ability dropped dramatically. Its strength was superficial due to this intellectual and legislative ailment. At the time, this weakness was not noticed by the Islamic State because it was at the prime of its glory and at the height of its power and military might. It used to measure its ideology, legislation and culture with that of Europe and at this time it found itself superior in every respect. This comparison reassured the State and served to make its weakness seem both bearable and negligible. At that time Europe was still plunged in total darkness, chaos and unrest. Europe attempted to launch a renaissance but it failed each time. The ‘Uthmani State was in a much better situation compared with Europe and as a result it viewed itself as being superior in culture and in its system of ruling, which led the ‘Uthmani State to ignore the internal malaise that it was suffering from. Thus, it unfortunately failed to notice its intellectual stagnation, legislative maladministration and the fragmentation of the Ummah.

What turned the ‘Uthmani State’s attention from internal problems was its sweeping victory over Europe - its seizure of the Balkans and the South-eastern part of Europe. This victory sent a shock to the rest of Europe and everyone became resigned to the fact that the Islamic army could never be defeated and that nobody could ever successfully face the Muslims. This was when the orientalist idea began. Its meaning then, was to abort the danger of the ‘Uthmani invasion headed by Mohammed al-Fatih, this was in the 9th century Hijri (15th century). The invasion continued until the end of the 11th century Hijri under the leadership of Sulayman al-Qanuny. The conquests were concentrated up until the middle of the 12th century Hijri (18th century) during which time the continuity of the struggle remained a major source of strength to the Islamic State. The strength of the ‘aqeedah of the Muslims and the specific concepts that they carried - although those concepts were not clear in their minds - had given the State a great moral boost and this helped to maintain that military might. Additionally, the presence of the Islamic ruling system, despite its maladministration, and the state of affairs in Europe which was plunged into intellectual, social and legislative decline, all that contributed to the continuity and superiority of the Islamic State. At that time the Islamic State could have attempted to understand Islam properly and devoted much more effort to the teaching of the Arabic language and the encouragement of ijtihad. The State could have devoted more effort to the intellectual and legislative side so that it established a strong foundation with which to launch its conquests while marching on a strong footing with sound concepts. This would have enabled the State to conquer the rest of the world in the name of Islam. The State would have been in a position to strengthen its structure and flood the world with the Islamic culture and in the process save the world from corruption and mischief. However, none of this actually happened. Encouragement of the Arabic language was limited to giving the Arabs a few teaching posts and other minor positions of jurisprudence which had little effect on improving the knowledge of the Arabic language and had no effect in awakening the intellect. In order to revive the Arabic language the State should have made it the official language, as it should always have been in the Islamic State, but this was not carried out. Again, because nothing was done on the intellectual and fiqhih (jurisprudent) fronts the feeble and misguided efforts of the State resulted in the status quo continuing and the State remaining on the same wrong track. As soon as the second half of the 12th century Hijri (18th century) came the trend was reversed and the internal weakness became apparent because the State was founded on the remains of the Islamic system which was maladministered and on confused concepts, some of them Islamic and others alien to Islam. The rule as a whole was more within the Islamic system’s milieu rather than being an Islamic system itself. This was due to the lack of understanding of the Islamic concepts and also to the maladministration of the Islamic ruling system because of the lack of ijtihad and mujtahideen. In the 13th century Hijri (19th century) the scales of history swung between the Islamic State and the non-Islamic countries. The awakening of Europe had just begun and its results became evident, meanwhile the consequences of the intellectual stagnation coupled with the maladministration of the Islamic system finally caught up with the Muslims. The 19th century CE witnessed a serious intellectual revolution in Europe. A considerable effort was made by the European philosophers, writers and intellectuals and a comprehensive change in the European concepts occurred with the aim of uniting the people of Europe. Many movements were established and these played a great part in the emergence of new opinions about life. Some of the most significant events that occurred were the amendment of the political and legislative systems as well as in all their ways of life. The spectre of the despot monarchy gradually disappeared to be replaced by republican systems based on representative rule and national sovereignty. This had a huge effect towards setting the awakening of Europe in motion. The industrial revolution also had a telling effect on the European scene. There were also numerous scientific discoveries and inventions. Taken all together these factors boosted Europe’s intellectual and material progress. This material and scientific progress resulted in swinging the scales of power in Europe’s favour at the expense of the Islamic world.

On the international scene the concept of Orientalism came to be altered so that it was no longer simply a question of containing the impending Islamic danger to Europe, but whether the Islamic State should be left as it was or whether it should be divided up. The European countries had different opinions due to the difference in their interests. This change in the concept of Orientalism and the change in Europe’s fortunes, reflected in its intellectual and scientific progress together with the industrial revolution, led to the political swing between the Islamic State and the unbelieving states in favour of the latter option.

The cause of the political revolution in Europe were the attempts made by its intellectuals to establish a new way of life. They adopted a specific viewpoint concerning life and embraced a new ‘aqeedah, then they founded a system on the basis of that ‘aqeedah. This led to the change of material concepts and the order of values which created a general transformation in their lives and this set the industrial revolution in motion, unlike the situation in the Islamic world or in the ‘Uthmani State that was ruling over it. Instead of looking and reflecting deeply on its ideology, instead of stimulating new concepts and resorting to ijtihad to solve its problems according to the rules emanating from its ‘aqeedah, instead of taking up science and industry, instead of undertaking all this the State panicked and became confused about how to react to Europe’s change of fortunes. It remained idle due to this confusion and this further led to its backwardness in science and industry. It therefore lagged behind the other European countries in terms of material progress and prosperity. The secret behind this decline was that the ‘Uthmani State was an Islamic State, Islam was the ‘aqeedah of the State and its system, the concepts of Islam were its concepts and the Islamic viewpoint about life was its viewpoint. It should have in fact looked into the new concepts that were emerging from Europe and measured them against its own ideological criterion. Then it should have studied the new problems from an Islamic perspective and given its verdict on those concepts and problems with the help of adequate ijtihad according to the Islamic viewpoint. Finally, the validity of such concepts would have to be judged. But the State did none of this simply because the Islamic concepts were not clear to it, it did not have any specific concepts because it did not take the Islamic ‘aqeedah as an intellectual foundation on which all the concepts were based, it was only a traditional ‘aqeedah for it. The basis on which the State was founded, which was the ‘aqeedah and concepts, was not clear to the ‘Uthmani State and the system was also idle due to the absence of ijtihad. The culture, which can be considered as the host of concepts concerning life, was not crystallised and was not linked to the State’s actions. This led to the intellectual decline and put a halt to progress. As a result of all this they were taken aback by the intellectual, cultural and industrial revolution they witnessed in Europe, however, they did not react for they could not come to a decision about whether to take what Europe had achieved or not. They could not differentiate between what is allowed to be taken of scientific inventions, discoveries and industry and what is forbidden to be taken from a particular philosophy, since a philosophy determines the viewpoint about life, and culture, which represents a group of concepts concerning life. Therefore they froze and they did not react and it was this which led to the stagnation of progress while the European progression gathered momentum. All this was in turn caused by the lack of a proper understanding of Islam by failing to realise the contradiction between the Islamic concepts and the European ones. Another cause was their failure to distinguish between science, industry and inventions which Islam encourages Muslims to acquire, regardless of the source, and the philosophy, culture and ideology which can only be adopted from Islam.

The ‘Uthmanis did not properly understand Islam, it was not at all clear in their minds. Such blindness led the Ummah and the State to the adoption of a casual life to which little attention was spared towards the system. Meanwhile its enemies held onto a specific system and carried it out. Europe became the holder of an ideology, regardless of its creed whereas the Islamic Ummah who held the right ideology lived in the shadow of that ideology. That ideology, however, seemed distant and a thing of the past because the Ummah lived in a State where the ideology was maladministered. Despite the fact that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said, "I have left with you two things if you held to you would never go astray, the Book of Allah and my Sunnah" and despite the fact that the State was Islamic and the Ummah was Muslim, and despite the fact that the intellectual and fiqhih wealth was available and accessible to everyone, the State did not grasp the meaning of that hadith and did not take the necessary steps to go back to the roots of Islam the ‘aqeedah and the system. The State did not make use of this wealth, a wealth which no other nation possessed or possesses.

Indeed the Islamic State did not benefit from this wealth because as soon as ijtihad was stalled and intellectual activity ceased the Islamic concepts became blurred in the minds of the Muslims and the Islamic cognisance declined. Books and other cultural heritage’s were kept on the shelves and only very few learned people and scholars were left. The desire to study and research thus diminished. The huge cultural and intellectual wealth within the State and society was not sought after because the State never encouraged the pursuance of it. Intellectuals sought knowledge for the sake of knowledge, or they sought knowledge to earn a living, rare indeed were the ones who sought knowledge to benefit the Ummah and the State.Consequently, the scientific, cultural and legislative activity was non-existent and the understanding of Islam was in disarray. Muslims understood Islam spiritually rather than intellectually, politically and legislatively. The original idea of Islam and the method by which this idea is implemented was blurred. Muslims could not correctly perceive the Qur’an and the Sunnah and began to think that Islam was merely a spiritual religion. They began comparing Islam with other religions from a spiritual point of view, instead of looking at Islam as being an ‘aqeedah and a complete way of life. It therefore came as no surprise when the Muslim Ummah, under the leadership of the ‘Uthmani State, stood idle and confused before the European revolution. It remained visibly behind without being affected by the economic progress which Europe was enjoying nor by the multiple inventions that took place there, nor by the industrial revolution that had been launched all over the continent. The effect that this European material progress had on the State was somewhat minimal and confused and never resulted in any notable benefit nor did it generate any material progress or any gain. The ‘Uthmani State could not stop the decline that was taking it into backwardness and disintegration, this was due to their failure to differentiate between science and culture and between culture and civilisation. They were therefore confused about whether to adopt the European achievements or to leave them alone. Most Muslims saw them as being contradictory to Islam and so they called for the prohibition of the adoption of European achievements.

A vivid example of this was when printing machines were invented and the State decided to print the Qur’an, some scholars prohibited its printing and they began issuing fatawa prohibiting anything new and of accusing anyone who studied the natural sciences of being an disbeliever. They accused every intellectual of being an atheist and a zindiq. A small group of Muslims at that time saw the need for adopting everything from the West, their science, education, culture and civilisation, those were the ones who had been educated in Europe or in the missionary schools that had infiltrated the Islamic world. At first that small band of Muslims made little impact on society. In the last years of the ‘Uthmani State the notion stating that the West adopted its culture from Islam and that Islam does not forbid the adoption of what conforms to it and that which does not contradict it, spread among the Ummah. The West succeeded in spreading this concept until it was adopted by the majority of the Muslims, especially the educated ones. Most of these were the scholars and learned jurists, they came to be known as modern scholars or reformists. However, due to the real contradictions between the Western and Islamic cultures and because of the obvious differences between the Western and Islamic concepts about life the attempts to harmonise the teachings of Islam with the Western culture were doomed to failure. The reformists lost their way and in the process alienated themselves from Islam. Their bewildered pro-Western approach failed because they could not correctly perceive the Western concepts and they neglected in the process the inventions, science and industry as they moved further away from Islam. The Ummah relied heavily on those reformists and as a result confusion spread. The State was unable to take a decisive stand and the Ummah rejected all means of material progress ranging from science, inventions and industries so she became weak and unable to stand or to defend herself. This weakness encouraged the enemies of Islam to mutilate the Islamic State bit by bit while the Ummah was powerless to react. The missionary invasion, disguised as scientific co-operation, began infiltrating the Muslim land. At the same time the various movements that emerged succeeded in destroying the structure of the State and the concept of nationalism, implanted and avidly encouraged by the West, took root all over the Islamic State; in the Balkans, Turkey, Arab countries, Armenia, Kurdistan and many other places.

In 1914 the State was in dire straits, it entered the First World War a shadow of its former glory and emerged defeated. Then finally it was destroyed. Therefore, the Islamic State disintegrated and the dream that had eluded the West for many centuries was finally fulfilled. The West wanted to destroy the Islamic State in order to destroy Islam. With the disintegration of the Islamic State the ruling system in the Muslim land became non-Islamic and the Muslims have lived ever since under a non-Islamic banner. Since that time they have lived under disbelieving regimes ruled over by laws of disbelief, they have become unsettled and their situation has deteriorated.

Source:   Serialisation - 'Islamic State', Hizb-ut-Tahrir

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