The outlook of a school of thought on society and history and the opinion that it forms about these two, plays a decisive role in the ideology of that school. Hence it is essential to find out how Islam looks at society and history in the perspective of its conception of the world.
It is evident that Islam is neither a school of sociology nor a philosophy of history. In its revealed Book no social or historical problem has been dealt with in the language of these two sciences. The Holy Qur'an also has not used the usual terminology of the relevant sciences while dwelling on any moral, juristic or philosophical subject. None the less, Islamic view on a large number of questions pertaining to these sciences can be derived and deduced from the verses of the Holy Qur'an.
Islamic thinking in respect of society and history, being of special importance, it deserves an elaborate study and investigation. Like many other teachings of Islam, its views on these subjects are also a sign of the depth and profoundness, of its precepts and doctrines. For the sake of brevity we propose to deal with Islamic thinking about society and about history together in one chapter and confine our discussion to only those questions which in our opinion are essential for the identification of Islamic ideology.
We shall begin with society and then take up history. In this respect the relevant questions are as under:
(i) What is society?
(ii) Is man a social being by nature?
(iii) Is the individual that is basic and society only a drawn idea, or the other way round? Or is there a third alternative?
(iv) What is the relationship between society and tradition?
(v) Has the individual a free choice of action in the face of society and social environment?
(vi) What are the basic divisions of society?
(vii) Are all human societies on the whole of one and the same nature and essence, the dissimilarities existing between them being like those existing between the individuals belonging to one species? Or have they divergent natures varying according to their rational differences, temporal and spatial conditions and cultural levels? If so, naturally the various societies shall have various sociologies and in that case each of them can have its own peculiar ideology.
We know that all human beings in spite of their regional, racial and historical differences from physical point of view belong to one species, and that is why the same medical and physiological laws apply to all of them. Now the question is whether they form one species from social point of view also and consequently are governed by one moral and social system? Can one ideology be applicable to all mankind or should each society have a special ideology conforming to its special regional, cultural, historical and sociological conditions?
(viii) Are human societies which have been from the dawn of history to the present time scattered, independent of each other and subject to multiplicity and divergence of at least individual nature, advancing towards unity and uniformity? - Is the future of humanity unity of society, uniformity of culture and the disappearance of contradictions and conflicts? Or is humanity doomed to remain culturally and ideologically diverse and divergent?
These are some of the questions about which, from our point of view, it is necessary that the Islamic point of view should be made clear. We propose to discuss these questions one by one briefly.