Does Islam accept the theory of historical materialism? Are the Qur’anic analysis and interpretation of historical questions based on historical materialism? Some people think that they are, and maintain that at least one thousand years before Marx Islam based its analysis of history on this idea. Dr Ali al-Wardi, a Shi'ah scholar of Iraq who wrote several controversial books, including the one entitled Manzilat al-Aql al-Bashari (The Position of Human Intellect), is one of them. Perhaps he is the first person who originated this idea. Now among a certain section of Muslim writers it has gained popularity and it is regarded as a mark of being broad-mindedness and a fashion of the day to analyse history in Islamic phraseology from this point of view.
But from our point of view those who think on these lines either do not understand Islam or historical materialism or both. In view of the five basic points of historical materialism mentioned by us earlier and the six conclusions drawn from them, it is easy for those who are conversant enough with Islamic thinking to conclude that historical materialism and Islam's way of thinking are diametrically opposed to each other.
The material conception of society and history, especially if it is given the false colour of Islamic authenticity, is a great danger to Islamic teachings and Islamic culture. Therefore we think that it is necessary to study carefully the problems which have given or may give rise to the notion that Islam regards the infrastructure of society as economic and the nature of history as materialistic in essence.
It may be pointed out that in our study of the subject we have used more points than used by the supporters of this notion. They have based their arguments on two or three verses of the Holy Qur'an and the traditions of the Holy Prophet, but we in order to make a full and comprehensive study, have included some other points also, which although not used by the supporters of this idea, may be adduced in its favour.
I. The Holy Qur’an has given various social conceptions to the world. In the course of our study of society we have counted about 50 terms having a social significance. A study of the social verses of the Qur’an and the use of these terms in them indicates that from the view-point of the Qur’an, societies consist of two diametrically opposite categories of people.
The Qur’an from one angle suggests the existence of a bipolar state of society on the basis of material prosperity. It designates one pole as the Mala' (self-indulgent, ruling clique) Mustakbirun (the arrogant, oppressors, tyrants, the immoderates and the voluptuaries), and the other Mustaz'afun (the under-privileged, oppressed and deprived), Nas (the masses) Zuriyya (the plebeians, ignoble, the means and insignificant- as opposed to Mala'). 1
The Qur'an puts these two poles or these two categories opposite each other. From another angle the Qur’an envisages the bipolar state of society on the basis of spiritual and moral conceptions, and divides society into two distinct groups. The first group consists of the infidels, the polytheists, the hypocrites and the wicked, and the second group consists of the pious, the righteous, the reformers, and of those who fight for a sacred cause and those who lay down their lives for it.
If we carefully consider the meaning of the Qur’anic verses signifying the existence of these two material and two spiritual categories, we will find a sort of conformity between the first material and the first spiritual category and similarly between the second material and the second spiritual category. The infidels, the polytheists, the hypocrites and the wicked are the same people as the self-indulgents, the arrogants, the immoderates and the voluptuaries. They are none else. Similarly the Mu'minun (believers and faithful), the Muwahhidun (the monotheists), the Salihun (the righteous, virtuous) and the Mujahidun (the warriors and fighters for a sacred cause.) are none but the under-privileged, the poor, the helpless the servile, the oppressed and the deprived. Therefore on the whole, society has only two and not more than two poles or diametrically opposite categories. The first category comprises the opulent, the exploiters, the tyrants and the oppressors; who are the infidels and disbelievers. The second category is that of the oppressed and the underprivileged. It comprises the believers and the faithful. From this it is clear that it is the division of society into the oppressors and the oppressed, which brings into existence the two categories of the believers and the disbelievers. It is oppressiveness that begets infidelity, hypocrisy, wickedness and depravity; and it is the state of being oppressed that gives rise to faith, piety and righteousness.
To comprehend this equation clearly it is enough to study the Surah al-A'raf, 7:59 - 137. In these verses the stories of Prophets, like Nuh, Hud, Salih, Lut, Shu'ayb and Musa have been briefly recounted. In all these stories, with the exception of the story of Lut, it may be observed that the class which joined with the Prophets was that of the underprivileged and the class which opposed them and resorted to disbelief was that of the arrogant and aristocratic gentry. This equation can have no explanation other than that of class conscience, the existence of which is essential and natural according to the theory of historical materialism. Therefore from the view-point of the Qur’an the confrontation between faith and infidelity is only a reflection of the confrontation between the oppressors and the oppressed.
The Qur’an expressly says that property, described by the Qur’an as 'riches', is the cause of oppression and arrogance, the qualities which are totally against the teachings of the prophets, who preach piety, modesty and peace. The Qur’an says:
"Remember that man is rebellious when he thinks himself independent and rich." (Surah al-Alaq, 96:7).
In order to underline the evil effect of property the Qur’an has recounted the story of Qarun (Korah). He was an Israelite, not a Copt and belonged to the tribe of Prophet Musa. He was one of those underprivileged people whom Fir'awn (Pharaoh) considered to be inferior and of low cast. But as he acquired great amount of wealth, he misbehaved with his own people and looked down upon them. The Qur’an says:
"Qarun was a man from the people of Musa, but he oppressed them. (Surah al-Qasas, 28:76).
Does this not make it clear that the Prophets' opposition to oppression was in fact a confrontation with the property, the proprietors and the proprietorship? In some of its verses the Qur’an itself says expressly that the chief opponents of the Prophets were those who were deeply sunk in ease and luxury. In the following Qur’anic verse this point has been expressed as a general rule:
"We did not send to any township a warner, but its pampered ones declared: Lo! We are disbelievers in that which you brings to us." (Surah as Saba 34:34).
All this shows that the mutual confrontation of the Prophets and their opponents and the mutual confrontation of faith and infidelity are a reflection of the confrontation of two social classes of the oppressed and the oppressors.
II. The Qur’an calls its addresses the 'Nas' or the masses, which is the underprivileged common people. That shows that the Qur’an believes in class conscience and thinks that only the downtrodden masses are fit to give ear to its call to Islam. That (also shows that Islam has a class bias. It is the religion of the weak and the underprivileged. Islamic ideology is addressed only to the masses suffering deprivation. That is another proof
of the fact that according to Islamic point of view economy is the infrastructure of society and the nature of history is material.
III. The Qur'an declares that the leaders, the reformers, the martyrs and even the Prophets rise from among the masses, not from among the aristocratic and well to do class. In respect of the Prophet of Islam the Qur’an says:
"He it is who sent among the masses of people (people belonging to the ummah) a messenger of their own." (Surah al Jumu'ah, 62:2).
These masses could be none other than the underprivileged masses. Similarly in respect of those who sacrifice their life for a right cause, the Qur’an says:
"We shall raise from every people a witness and then ask them to produce their proof"(Surah al-Nahl, 16:89).
Here also the word ‘people’ refers to the deprived masses. It is because of the necessity of harmony between the ideological and social basis in the one hand and the economic and class basis on the other, which the leaders of all social movements and revolutions invariably rise from among the underprivileged masses. This necessity cannot be explained except on the basis of the materialist conception of history and the prime importance of economy.
IV. The nature of the movement conducted by the Prophets and their confrontation as described in the Qur’an, is infrastructural, not superstructural. The object of the Prophets' mission has been to establish justice, fair play and social equality and to pull down the walls of class distinctions. The Prophets always paid their first attention to infrastructural matters and only subsequently turned to the superstructural matters such as doctrines, beliefs, and the reform of morals and behaviours, which have been their second objective.
The Holy Prophet said: "He who has not the means of living, cannot prosper in the Life Hereafter".
In other words there can be no spiritual life without a material life. This maxim leads to the conclusion that the material life has precedence to the spiritual life and that the spiritual life is the superstructure and the material life the infrastructure of society. Similarly the Holy Prophet has also said: "O Allah! Bless our bread with abundance; for had there been no bread, we would have given no alms, nor would we have offered our prayers." This saying of the Holy Prophet also leads us to believe that spirituality depends on materiality.
It is absolutely wrong to say, as most of the people now think, which the activities of the Prophets were confined to the superstructural matters, which they were keen only to reform people and improve their moral conduct, and had nothing to do with infrastructural matters or at the most attached a secondary importance to them.
It is also wrong to say that the Prophets thought that when the people should embrace faith, everything would be all right automatically, justice and equality would be established and the exploiters would of their own accord restore the rights of the underprivileged to them. In short most of the people have the wrong notion that the Prophets pushed forward their objectives with the weapon of faith and therefore, their followers also should go along the same path.
This idea has been fraudulently invented by the exploiting class of the religious leaders in order to make the teachings of the Prophets ineffective and has been imposed on other people in such a way that it has been accepted almost unanimously. In the words of Marx, those who issue material goods to society, issue intellectual goods also to it. As a matter of fact those who are the material rulers of society are its spiritual rulers also and control its thinking.
The working method of the Prophets was contrary to what most of the people believe now. The Prophets first delivered society from social polytheism, social discrimination, tyranny and behavioral polytheism. They only later paid attention to the belief in monotheism and practical piety.
V. The Qur’an mentions the arguments adduced by the opponents of the Prophets all over history along with the arguments of the Prophets and their followers. The Qur’an clearly points out that the logic of the opponents has always been that of conservatism, conventionalism, and looking to the past, whereas the logic of the Prophets and their followers has been unconventionalism and looking towards the future. The Qur’an makes it clear that from sociological point of view the opponents of the Prophets used the same arguments which in a society divided into the exploiters and the exploited were usually used by the class of the exploiters. On the other hand the Prophets and their followers used those arguments which had throughout history been used by the sufferers and the deprived.
The Qur’an carefully recounts the for and against arguments of the opponents and the supporters of the Prophets and shows what kind of logic they had. Like these two groups their two sets of arguments have existed side by side all over history. The Qur’an has recounted these arguments in order to set a standard by which the theories of even today may be adjudged. In the Qur’an there are many scenes where the arguments of the Prophets and their opponents stand side by side with each other. 2 As an example we quote here some Qur'anic verses with short explanation of them:
“And they say: If Allah had so willed, we would not have worshipped them [The angels].” (Surah al Zukhruf, 43:20).
(As we now do, and our worship of the angels means that Allah has willed so. Doctrine of predestination.)
“They have no knowledge whatsoever of that. They do nothing but guess.” (Surah al Zukhruf, 43:20).
(Of what they say about predestination. What they say is not based on any logical argument.)
“Did We give them any Scripture before the Qur’an, so that they were holding fast thereto?” (Surah al Zukhruf, 43:21).
(There is no such thing. They have no revealed Book to support their idea of predestination.)
“In fact they say only: We found our fathers following a way, and we are guided by their footprints.” (Surah al Zukhruf, 43:22).
“And even so we did not send a warner before you (Holy Prophet) to any township, but its luxurious ones said: Surely we found our fathers following a way and we are following their footprints.” (Surah al Zukhruf, 43:23).
The Prophet said to them: Even though I bring you better guidance than that you found your fathers following? (Surah al Zukhruf, 43:24).
(And you know for certain that logically the guidance I have brought is better, but you stiff follow in the footsteps of your fathers.)
“They answered: In any case we reject what you have brought.” (Surah al Zukhruf, 43:24).
We see that the opponents of the Prophets often use the argument of predetermination and fatalism. As sociology points out, this is the logic of the beneficiaries of the existing situation, who want to maintain the status quo, and use predetermination as a pretext to prevent any change. They often use the practice of their forefathers as a plea to justify their action and describe the past as sacred and worth following. To them it is enough to prove the propriety and validity of a thing that it has some connection with the past. This is nothing but the logic of the conservatives and the beneficiaries of the existing situation.
In contrast, the Prophets instead of supporting predetermination and conventionalism, advocate that which is more logical, more scientific and more beneficial. That is the logic of the revolutionaries who have suffered under the existing situation. When their opponents lose in their arguments against the Prophets, the last thing they say is: Whether predetermination is or is not a valid theory and whether conventional practice is or is not to be respected, we are against your message, your mission and your ideology, because your message is against our existing social and class interests.
VI. Most significant is the Qur’an's orientation in the conflict between the underprivileged and the arrogant. Just as historical materialism predicts on the basis of its dialectic logic, the Qur’an also believes that in this conflict the final victory must be of the underprivileged. In this connection the Qur’an underlines the inevitable direction of the course of history, and points out that the class which possesses the quality of being revolutionary invariably gains victory in its persistent conflict with the class which by its nature has the quality of being reactionary and conservative and that the former succeeds the latter in the possession of the land. The Qur’an says:
"We desire to show favour to those who are oppressed in the earth, and to make them leaders and to make them inheritors." (Surah al-Qasas, 28:5).
Similarly in the following verse it says:
"We caused those people who were despised to inherit the eastern parts of the land and the western parts thereof which we had blessed. And the fair word of the Lord was fulfilled for the children of Isra`il because of their endurance; and We annihilated all that Fir'awn and his people had done and that which they had contrived." (Surah al A'raf 7:137).
The view of the Qur’an that history advances towards the victory of the oppressed and the exploited, is in complete agreement with the rule we inferred earlier from the theory of historical materialism to the effect that reactionism and conservatism were the characteristics of exploitation. This quality being against the law of evolution, exploitation is bound to vanish sooner or later. It will not be out of place here to cite with some comments a part of an article published recently and written by some intellectuals who have passed from intellectualism to Marxism. The last quoted verse of the Qur’an has been used as the heading of this article. Under this heading the article says:
"What is more interesting is the support given by Allah and all the phenomena of the world to those who are despised. There is no doubt that according to the Qur’anic way of thinking these despised ones are the subjugated and oppressed masses who have no say in determining their destiny. In view of this position of the masses and the support given to them by Allah, who wills to favour them, the question arises: Who are the people who carry out this Will of Allah? The answer is evident.
When it has been admitted that society has been so organized that it is divided into the two opposite classes of the oppressors and the oppressed and it is also known that it is the Will of Allah that ultimately the oppressed should inherit the land and be its leaders and the oppressors should perish, it becomes clear that the Will of Allah is to be implemented by the oppressed themselves under the leaders and the intellectuals who rise from among themselves.
In other words, it is the Prophets and the martyrs from among the oppressed class who take the first steps to fight against the tyrannical and oppressive system, and pave the way for the establishment of the leadership and the supremacy of the oppressed. This whole idea is actually a reflection of what we know about the Qur’an's conception of religious revolutions and historical changes. As, from social point of view, monotheists' revolutions revolve round the leadership of the oppressed and their inheritance of the land, the leaders and the pioneers of their movement must rise from among themselves and their social ideology must be their own."
The above thesis comprises several points.
i. From the point of view of the Qur’an society is bi-polar and has always been divided into the two opposite classes of the oppressors and the oppressed.
ii. The Will of Allah (or in the words of the above cited article the support given by Allah and all the phenomena) is directed to the establishment of the leadership and inheritance of the oppressed as a universal rule. In this respect there is no difference between the faithful and the infidels or between the monotheists and the polytheists. The above quoted verse lays down a general and universal rule. Allah always grants victory to the oppressed as such against the oppressors. In other words all over history there has always been a conflict mainly between the oppressed and the oppressors and the law of evolution requires that the former gain a victory against the latter.
iii. In society Allah's will is realized through the oppressed themselves. The leaders, the pioneers, the Prophets and the martyrs rise from among the oppressed class, not from among any other class.
iv. There is always a sort of harmony between the intellectual and social basis of society on the one hand and the class basis in the other.
Thus we see how from the above quoted Qur’anic verse several Marxist principles about history have been derived, and how the Qur’an has been made to reproduce the philosophy of Marx 1,200 years before Marx was born.
As this idea about history has been allegedly derived from the Qur’an, let us see what conclusions are drawn from its application to contemporary history. The gentlemen who have derived this so-called Qur’anic idea, have immediately and without any delay applied it as a test case to the analysis of the present religious movement. They say that the Qur’an tells them that the leaders of any revolutionary movement must necessarily rise from among the oppressed. But today it is observed that the divines who constitute one of the three dimensions of the system that corrupts history, have become revolutionaries. So how to solve this anomaly?
According to these intellectuals the answer is simple. There can be no doubt that there is a conspiracy. As the rulers felt that their existence was in danger, they in order to save their skin ordered the divines depending on them to play the role of the revolutionaries. This is the conclusion that is drawn from this Marxist idea (excuse me, the Qur'anic idea). It is obvious to whose advantage such conclusions are drawn.
What has been said to justify the theory of historical materialism from the view-point of the Qur’an is either totally incorrect or is correct in itself but the conclusion drawn from it is wrong. Now let us study the foregoing arguments.
First, it is absolutely false to say that the Qur’an has divided society into two mutually opposite material categories and two mutually opposite spiritual categories and these two divisions correspond with each other. In other words, it is wrong to say that from the Qur’anic point of view the infidels, the pagans, the hypocrites, the wicked and the corrupt are the same as the aristocrats, the arrogants and the tyrants, and similarly the faithful, the monotheists and the martyrs are the same as the oppressed and the underprivileged. It is a lie to assert that the confrontation of the infidels with the faithful is a reflection of the confrontation of the oppressors with the oppressed. Such a correspondence cannot be inferred from the Qur’an, at all. In contrast what can be inferred from the Qur’an is quite contrary to that.
In its lessons of history the Qur’an shows that there have been believers who rose from the arrogant and aristocratic class itself and they fought against their own class and its values. The 'believer of Fir'awn's family' whose story is related in one of the chapters of the Qur’an by this very name, is an example. The Qur’an has also mentioned Fir'awn's wife who was his life-partner and enjoyed all the privileges and comforts enjoyed by Fir'awn himself, but, still she was a believer.
The Qur’an has related the striking story of Fir'awn's magicians. This story shows how man's natural instinct of seeking truth revolts against falsehood and fraud, spurning all his personal interests. These magicians were not frightened by Fir'awn's threat that they would be hanged and their hands and feet would be cut off from alternate sides.
According to this story as related by the Qur’an the uprising of Prophet Musa is basically an uprising that demolishes the theory of the materiality of history. It is true that Prophet Musa was an Israelite, not a Copt. He did not belong to Firawn's family. But from his early childhood he was brought up in Fir'awn's palace like a prince. Still he revolted against the Fir'awnic system in the midst of which he himself lived and of which he was a beneficiary. He left Firawn's palace and preferred to be a shepherd of the old man of Madyan. He was later raised to Prophethood and then he formally came into collision with Fir'awn.
The Holy Prophet of Islam was an orphan in his childhood and a poor man till his early youth. He was well-off only following his marriage with Khadijah. Referring to this point the Qur’an says:
"Did He not find you an orphan and protect you? Did He not find you needy and suffice you?" (Surah al-Dhuha, 93:6-8).
According to the principles of historical materialism, during the period when the Holy Prophet was well-off, he should have changed into a conservative justifying the status quo. But it was during this very period that his revolutionary mission began, and he revolted against the capitalists, the usurpers and the slave-owners of Makkah and fought against idol-worship, a symbol of that way of life.
It is not true that all the believers, the monotheists and the monotheistic revolutionaries belonged to the under-privileged class. From the class of the oppressors also those whose nature was unspoiled or less spoiled and persuaded them to revolt against themselves (repentance) or against their class (revolution). Similarly the whole oppressed class was not with the believers, nor were all the oppressed the monotheistic revolutionaries. Therefore it is clear that neither all the believers belong to the oppressed class nor all the oppressed have been the believers. It is absurd to claim that these two categories correspond with each other. However, it is true that most of the followers of the Prophet belonged to the oppressed class or at least to the class whose hands were not polluted with oppression. Similarly most of the opponents of the Prophets were oppressors.
Though the human nature which prepares the ground for the acceptance of the Divine message is common to all human beings, yet the aristocratic oppressors living in luxury and ease become so accustomed to their existing position that their way of life becomes a great hindrance in their way. To be able to accept truth it is necessary for them to free themselves from the polluting effect of wealth and power, but very few succeed in doing that. In contrast the oppressed class does not have any such impediment in its way. Its members by accepting truth, not only respond to the call of their true human nature but by doing so they regain their lost rights also. For them to join the group of the believers is a good augury as well as a good entertainment. However it is correct that the majority of the followers of the Prophets come from the oppressed class and only a minority from other classes. But the question of alleged correspondence is absolutely absurd.
The Qur’anic conception of the nature of history is different from what the principles of historical materialism say. From the view-point of the Qur’an, spirit is basic and matter can in no way have precedence to it. Spiritual needs and spiritual urges exist in man quite independent of his material needs and do not depend on them. Thought is as basic as work.
The psychic personality of man is far more important than his social personality. The Qur’an believes in the basicity of real human nature and holds that within every man, even within a distorted man like Fir'awn, there exists a natural man, this natural man may be in a captive state. The Qur’an is of the opinion that there always a possibility even for the most distorted man to move the right direction and accept the truth, though this possibility may be very slight. That is why the Prophets have orders to exhort the tyrants in the first instance by means of advice and counselling to change their ways and call on their natural personality to revolt against their filthy social personality. In many cases such efforts have been crowned with success. This success is called repentance (tawbah).
At the first stage of his mission Prophet Musa was ordered to go to Fir'awn and try to awaken his dormant human nature. He was to fight against Fir'awn only in the case of his failure in this attempt. From Musa's point of view Fir'awn was keeping a natural man prisoner inside himself as he was confining many people outside. In the first instance Musa went to Fir'awn to instigate his inner prisoner, which is natural Fir'awn or whatever was left of him, to revolt against the social Firawn or the Fir'awn as he had been made in society. Allah says to Prophet Musa:
"Go to Firawn, for he has rebelled, and say to him: Are you interested in reforming yourself.? (If you are), I will guide you to your Lord, so that you may have a fear of Him." (Surah al-Nazi'at, 79:17-19).
For the purpose of guidance the Qur'an believes in the value and effectiveness of preaching, reminding, counselling and logical arguments (in the words of the Qur’an itself: wisdom). From the view-point of the Qur’an these things can reform man, change the course of his life, transform his personality and bring about a spiritual revolution in him. The Qur’an does not believe that the role of ideology is limited, whereas according to Marxism and Materialism the role of guidance is confined to making people conscious of class contradictions only.
Secondly, it is also wrong to assert that the Qur’an is addressed to the common people who are the same as the under-privileged masses and that, as such, the message of Islam is addressed to the oppressed class only, or that the ideology of Islam is that of the oppressed and Islam gets its followers and soldiers exclusively from among the oppressed masses. Actually the addressees of Islam are 'nas' which mean men in general.
No dictionary gives the meaning of 'nas' as the oppressed masses, nor is this word used by the Arabs in that sense. In fact this word has no class significance. The Qur’an says:
"It is obligatory on the 'nas' (people) to go on a pilgrimage of the House (of Allah); (this is for) those who can afford it." (Surah Ale Imran, 3:97).
Can the word 'nas' in this verse signify the oppressed masses? The Qur’an in many places has used the phrase, 'Ya ayyuha an-nas' vocatively. No where this expression refers to the underprivileged masses. It has always been used to address the men in general. The generality of the address of the Qur’an springs from the theory of true human nature as mentioned in the Qur’an.
Thirdly, it has been claimed that the Qur’an has stated that all leaders, pioneers and martyrs rise exclusively from among the oppressed masses. This is also a wrong assertion.
It is ridiculous to claim on the basis of the Surah al Jumu'ah, verse 2 that the Holy Prophet rose from among the ummah and that ummah signifies the masses of people. The word used in the verse is ummiyyin, a plural of ummi, which means unlettered. This word is an adjective from 'umm' and not from "ummah". Furthermore, even the word ummah means society consisting of multifarious groups, frequently mutually incongruous. It does not mean masses at all. Even more ridiculous is to cite the following verse as an argument. It has been wrongly interpreted (rather distorted) to mean:
"We rouse from every ummah (mass of people) a martyr, (revolutionary). Then ask each one of the ummahs to produce their proof, (the revolutionary killed in the way of Allah.) " (Surah al Qasas, 28:75).
Firstly, this verse follows another verse. Both the verses are interconnected and refer to the events of the Day of Resurrection. The preceding verse is this:
"The day Allah will call the pagans and say: Where are my partners you alleged (that they existed)?" (Surah al-An'am, 6:22).
Secondly: The word, "naza'na" in the verse means 'We take away', and not 'We rouse'.
Thirdly: the word 'Shahid' in this verse does not mean martyr. It means a witness. According to the Qur’an every Prophet is a witness of the deeds of his community. In the Qur’an not a single instance can be found in which the word Shahid has been used in the sense of martyr as it is generally used today. Anyhow, in the sayings of the Holy Prophet and the Imams it has been used in this sense. But not in the Qur’an in any case. From the above it is clear how the verses of the Qur’an are misinterpreted to justify a stray notion of Marx.
Fourthly, we must know the objective of the Prophets. Is their first and main objective to establish justice and fairplay or establish a bond of faith and spiritual knowledge between man and Allah or to establish both of them? In other words, are the Prophets dualists as regards to their objective or is there any other possibility also? We have already dealt with this point while discussing the topic of Prophethood and hence need not repeat here what we have already said. Here we confine ourselves to an inquiry into the method used by the Prophets to achieve their objective. As we pointed out while dealing with practical monotheism, the Prophets neither concentrate all their efforts on freeing man from within and severing his relation with other things as the mystics claim, nor on improving and modifying his outside relations as some other schools of thought assert. The Qur’an in a concise form says:
"Come to an agreement between us and you: that we shall worship none but Allah and that we shall ascribe no partner to Him and that none of us shall take others for Lord beside Allah." (Surah Ale Imran, 3:64).
Now the question is whether the work of the Prophets begins from within or from without.
Do the Prophets first undertake to bring about an inner revolution by creating faith and spiritual zeal and then rouse those who have been intellectually and emotionally prepared to establish social monotheism, social reform and social justice. Or do the Prophets first pay attention to the questions of social injustice and rouse the people to do away with social polytheism and social discrimination and only subsequently work for the inculcation of faith and doctrinal and moral virtues.
A little study of the method of the Prophets shows that unlike the reformers, the Prophets and the Imams (Divine Guides) begin with the inculcation of faith, belief and spiritual earnestness and reminding the people of the beginning and the end of human race. A study of the order in which the surahs (chapters) and the verses of the Qur’an were revealed and a study of the questions to which the Holy Prophet paid attention during his 13-year mission at Makkah and 10-year mission at Madina respectively, will throw ample light on this subject.
Fifthly, it is but natural that the opponents of the Prophets generally had a conservative outlook. But it cannot be inferred from the Qur’an that all of them without any exception had such an outlook, or that all of them belonged to the well-to-do class of the exploiters. All that can be inferred from the Qur’an is that conservatism was the logic of the leaders of the opponents. They no doubt were aristocratic arrogants and in the words of Marx, being the masters of the material goods of society, issued to others the intellectual goods also.
It is also but natural that the logic of the Prophets was that of dynamism, reason and indifference to the old customs and usages. But their way of thinking was not an inevitable result and reflection of any sense of their being underprivileged and deprived of their rights, but was due to the fact that they were perfect human beings and their reasoning and sentiments were fully mature. We will show later that as man attains maturity in his humanity, his dependence on his natural environment, social atmosphere and material conditions is reduced and he becomes independent of them. The Prophets' independent way of thinking made it necessary for them that they should not be tied to old customs and traditions and should deliver others also from their blind observance.
Sixthly, what has been said about the 5th verse of the Surah al-Qasas is also not acceptable, because some other verses of the Qur’an describe the destiny of history differently, and incidentally throw light on the evolution of history. Even if it is presumed that this verse signifies exactly what has been stated, it is further explained and qualified by some other verses. Further, basically this verse does not lay down any universal rule, and as such, it is not necessary to explain or qualify it while comparing it to other verses.
Actually this verse is closely connected with a preceding and a following verse and if all the three verses are considered together, it becomes quite clear that in this verse no universal rule has been mentioned as has been argued. We deem it convenient to consider this verse in two parts. In the first part we will consider it apart from the verses preceding and following it on the presumption that it independently lays down a universal rule of history. Then we will compare it to other verses from which some contrary rule of history can be derived, and see what can be inferred from all the verses put together. In the second part it will be shown that basically this verse does not mention any rule of history as has been claimed.
First part: In several of its verses the Qur’an refers to the evolutionary course of history, and says that the destiny of history is the final victory of faith over infidelity, of piety over licentiousness, of virtue over corruption and of good deeds over bad deeds. In the following verse we read:
"Allah has promised such of you as believe and do good deeds that He will surely make them succeed (the existing rulers) in the earth as He made those who were before them succeed (others); and He will surely establish for them their religion which He has approved for them, and will give them in exchange safety after their fear. They worship Me and ascribe nothing as partner to Me." (Surah an-Nur, 24:55).
In this verse a promise of a final victory and succession in the earth has been made to the virtuous believers. Unlike the verse of the Surah al-Qasas, in this verse the emphasis is on ideological and moral virtues instead of on being oppressed. In fact it has been declared that the final victory will be that of a particular sort of belief and a particular sort of conduct. In other words, the final victory will be of the man who is faithful, upright and virtuous. In the final victory three things have been promised. The first is the succession which means the attainment of power by the faithful and the final defeat of those holding it at that time. The second is the materialization of such moral and social values, as justice, chastity, piety, boldness, self-sacrifice, love, adoration, earnestness and self-purification. The third thing promised is the negation of every kind of polytheism, whether connected with worship or obedience. The Holy Qur'an says:
"And Musa said to his people: Pray to Allah for help and be patient. The earth belongs to Allah. He gives it to those of His slaves whom He will. Happy shall be the end of the pious." (Surah al-A'raf, 7:128).
"We have written in the Psalms once more that My righteous slaves will inherit the earth." (Surah al-Anbiya’, 21:105).
There are some other verses also on the subject.
Now what to do? Should we take as an authority the verse of succession of (Surah an Nur) or the verse of oppression of (Surah al-Qasas)? Can it be said that although the significance of these two verses is apparently different, they still describe the same truth, because the believers and the pious are the same as the oppressed, for the state of being oppressed is their social and class symbol and faith and piety are their ideological symbols? Of course not!
In the foregoing we have proved that the theory that the so-called superstructural terms of faith, virtue and piety are analogous to the terms of being oppressed and being underprivileged, is not correct from the view-point of the Qur’an. From its point of view it is possible that some groups be believers, but not oppressed. It is also possible that some other groups be oppressed but not believers. The Qur’an has mentioned these two categories separately. Anyhow, as we have pointed out earlier, when in a class-dominated society an ideology based on the Divine values of justice, self-sacrifice and charity is introduced, naturally the oppressed form the majority of those who accept it, because they do not have to face the inhibition existing in the nature of other classes. But still that does not mean that all believers belong to the class of the oppressed.
Secondly each of these two verses shows a different mechanism of history. The verse of the surah al-Qasas describes the course of history as a class war in which the spirit of the oppressors is always reactionary and that of the oppressed by its very nature is revolutionary. This struggle as a rule culminates in the victory of the oppressed, whether they have or have not the qualities of faith and good deeds in the Qur’anic sense. For example, the term oppressed covers all the exploited people including such people as those of Vietnam, Campochia etc. We may say that this verse defends the rights of all the oppressed, and indicates the principle of Divine justice:
"Deem not that Allah is unaware of what the oppressors do." (Surah Ibrahim, 14:42).
All the cases in which the oppressed have been granted or will be granted leadership and inheritance of land, are manifestations of Divine justice.
As for the verse relating to Istikhlaf (succession, 24:55) and other similar verses, expound a different mechanism operating in history as a natural process. The rule that represents this mechanism is broader in its scope than the rule of Divine justice, although it covers the principle of Divine justice also.
According to the mechanism to which this and some other verses refer, side by side with many kinds of struggles motivated by material gains which go on in this world, there always exists a struggle which is not motivated by material gains. It is conducted purely for the sake of Allah, and has always been led by the Prophets and after them by their faithful followers. It is this struggle alone that has pushed humanity forward in the field of human culture, and can rightly be called a struggle between truth and falsehood. It has pushed history forward from the view-point of humanity and human spirituality. The main motivating force of this struggle has never been the pressure of a different class. It is motivated by man's natural tendency towards truth and justice, towards acquiring the knowledge of the system of existence and towards building society as it should be.
It is not a sense of deprivation which has pushed man forward, but it is his natural and instinctive desire to attain perfection that has induced him to make progress.
Man's animal capabilities have remained unchanged from the beginning of history. They have neither developed in any way nor can they develop any further, but his human capabilities have continued to unfold themselves gradually. In future more than today man is expected to free himself from his material and economic limits and incline more and more towards faith and belief. Material, economic and class struggles have not pushed history forward. It is ideological, doctrinal and godly struggles which have pushed it. This is the natural mechanism of man's evolution and this is what is meant by the final victory of those who perform good deeds, show moral rectitude and fight for the right cause.
The Divine aspect of this victory lies in its being a manifestation of Allah's mercy and His fostering care which require the evolution of all existing things, whereas Divine justice simply necessitates compensation. This Divine aspect has been developing over history and will reach its final stages at the end of it. In other words, the good news which has been given in the Qur’an is about the appearance of the mercy and fostering care of Allah and not merely about the emergence of the Divine power and of retribution.
Thus, we see that each one of the above mentioned two verses (and similar other verses) has its own specific logic. One of them speaks of the class which attains victory and the other of the course which history must traverse to reach the stage of that victory. One of these two verses describes the mechanism which moves history, and the other refers to that Divine aspect of history, which is a manifestation of Allah's attributes. Each one of these two verses has a special logic of its own. Nevertheless it also has become clear that the verse 55 of the Surah an-Nur is more comprehensive as regards to its results than the verse 5 of the Surah al-Qasas. What man gets according to the latter is only a part of what he gets according to the former. The Surah al-Qasas shows only that Allah helps the oppressed, whereas the Surah an-Nur speaks of several other favours which He bestows on the believers.
Second Part: As for the second part of the discussion, it is a fact that the verse 5 of the Surah al-Qasas does not lay down any universal rule. Consequently it neither explains the course of history nor does it refer to any mechanism of it. It does not say that the oppressed will be victorious just because they are oppressed. The wrong impression that this verse mentions a universal rule is due to the fact that this verse which is interconnected with a preceding and a following verse, has been pulled out of its context. Further, the relative pronoun 'allazina' in the verse has been taken to mean 'all those', and thus a rule has been derived from it. Let us consider all the three verses together:
"Surely Fir'awn exalted himself in the land and divided its people into groups. A group among them he oppressed, killing their sons and sparing their women. He was one of those who created corruption. And We desired to show favour to those who were oppressed in the land to make them the leaders and the inheritors; and to establish them in the land, and to show Fir'awn and Haman and their hosts which they feared from them." (Surah al-Qasas, 28:4-6).
These three verses are interlinked and all of them put together relate one story. All the three verses are joined by conjunctions, and hence they cannot be separated from each other. Moreover, as the third verse describes the fate of Fir'awn, whose arrogance is mentioned in the first verse, it serves to complete the first verse and cannot be detached from it.
Had the third verse not existed or had Fir'awn's fate not been mentioned in it, it would have been possible to separate the second verse from the first and regard the second verse as an independent statement of a general rule. But the inseparable link between these three verses precludes such a possibility. In their present form these verses signify that Fir'awn exalted himself, divided his subjects and oppressed a section of them. Allah willed to favour those who were despised, oppressed and suppressed by him and made them the leaders and the inheritors. Therefore the relative pronoun in the second verse refers to only a particular people, not all the people in general.
There is another point. The verse says: "We desire to favour them and to make them the leaders." (Surah al-Qasas, 28:5). It does not say: "We desire to favour them with making them the leaders." In other words there are two independent sentences joined with a conjunction. Hence the meaning of the verse is: " Our will is to favour the oppressed with sending a Prophet and a revealed Book to them, with educating them and with inculcating the belief of monotheism in them. And as a result of that Our will is to make them the leaders and the inheritors of (their own) land."
As such although this verse deals with a particular case, this case is one of those cases which are covered by the verse 55 of the Surah an-Nur. Apart from all that, it does not stand to reason to think that the verse says that the children of Isra'il would be made leaders simply because they are the oppressed irrespective of the fact whether a Prophet is or is not sent to them and whether they accept or do not accept his teachings.
The supporters of the theory of historical materialism from the view-point of Islam, may raise another point and say that Islamic culture in its spirit is either the culture of the oppressed class or that of the oppressors or of both. If it is the culture of the oppressed class, it must have the colour of that class, its addresses must be the oppressed people and its mission and its orientation must revolve round them. If Islamic culture is the culture of the oppressors, as claimed by the anti-Islamic elements, not only it must have the character of that class and must revolve round it, but it must also be reactionary anti-human and ungodly.
Obviously no Muslim is going to accept such a proposition. Moreover, the characteristic features of Islamic culture are a witness to the contrary. To say that Islamic culture is the culture of both the oppressed and the oppressors amounts to saying that it is an indifferent, isolated and irresponsible culture, which believes in leaving Allah's job to Allah and Caesar's job to Caesar - a culture that does not differentiate between good and bad, the oppressor and the oppressed, the exploiter and the exploited, and treats all of them alike. Practically such a culture would be conservative and would work to the advantage of the oppressors and the exploiters.
If in social conflicts between the aggressors and the aggrieved, some people adopt the policy of irresponsible neutrality, they practically give support to the indifferent and neutral, practically it is the culture of the aggressors. Therefore in view of the fact that Islamic culture is not neutral and indifferent, nor does it support the oppressors, it should be regarded as the culture of the oppressed. Its objectives, its mission and its orientation should all be viewed from this angle.
Anyhow, this thesis is totally fallacious. In our opinion there are two main reasons why some Muslim intellectuals are inclined towards historical materialism. Firstly, they presume Islamic culture to be a revolutionary culture, hence they think, their inclination towards historical materialism is inevitable. All other such assertions as to say that the Qur’an indicates this or that, or that such and such is the impression gathered from the Ouran or a particular verse of it, are mere pretexts to justify that idea. It is here that these intellectuals have fallen away from Islamic way of thinking and have reduced the pure, human, natural and godly logic of Islam to the level of a materialistic logic.
These intellectuals are of the view that a culture can be revolutionary only if it exclusively concerns underprivileged and the oppressed class rises from this class, is oriented to this class and all its leaders are from this class. Its relation with other classes can be of hostility, antagonism and conflict only.
These intellectuals think that the way of a revolutionary culture must necessarily end at the belly, and that all great revolutions of history, including those brought about by the Prophets were the revolutions of the belly and for the belly. They have made the great Abu Dharr, who was a sage of the ummah, an earnest worshipper of Allah, an advocate of what is good and a determined warrior for the sake of Allah, merely an Abu Dharr who cared for his belly only and thought it not only proper but also imperative to fight every body for the sake of it.
Above all his greatest virtue, according to these gentlemen, was that he knew what suffering hunger caused, for he personally had experienced its agony. He had developed a hatred against those who were responsible for creating a situation which caused hunger, and therefore made a continuous struggle against them. Here ends the personality of this Luqman of the Muslim ummah, this gnostic confessor of monotheism, this faithful fighter of Islam and this great man who was the second person to embrace Islam, is degraded to the level of a materialistic.
These intellectuals think that, as Marx holds, a revolution can be brought about only by a violent mass movement.3
They are unable to imagine that a culture, a school of thought, an ideology, the objectives of which are divine, which is addressed to human nature, whose message is universal and which is oriented towards justice, equality, purity, spirituality, love, charity and struggle against tyranny, can create a great movement and cause a deep revolution - a human revolution full of Divine favour, spiritual liveliness and human values, although we have witnessed examples of such a revolution repeatedly over history. The Islamic revolution itself is a shining example of this kind of revolution.
These intellectuals cannot understand that for a culture to be responsible and not to be neutral in its outlook, it is not necessary that it should rise from an oppressed and depressed class. They think that a comprehensive culture must necessarily be neutral and impartial. They cannot imagine that it is impossible for a comprehensive school or a comprehensive culture having a Divine basis and having been addressed to human nature, to be irresponsible, indifferent and impartial, and that is an attachment to Allah and human conscience that creates responsibility and commitment, not an attachment to the oppressed class. This is one of the main reasons of the misunderstanding of these gentlemen about the relation between Islam and a revolution.
Another basic reason of their misunderstanding should be looked for in the relation between Islam and its orientation. These intellectuals have clearly observed in the Qur’an's interpretation of the sacred movements, a strong inclination of the Prophets to safeguarding the interests of the oppressed. At the same time from the view-point of these gentlemen, the Marxist principle of harmony between the economic conditions of a people and their orientation, or their social basis on the one hand and their doctrinal and practical basis on the other, is an indisputable fact. From these two premises they have concluded that as according to the Qur’an all sacred and forward movements and consequently from the point of view of the Qur’an, history must have a materialistic and economic nature and economy must be the base of the social structure.
From what has so far been said it is clear that the Qur’an believes in the principle of the true state of human nature, and maintains that human life is governed by the logic of this state. Diametrically opposed to this logic is the logic of gain, which is the logic of the man sunk to the level of animals. Islam does not believe in the theory of harmony between economic basis and doctrinal basis. It regards this theory as inhuman, in the sense that it applies only -to the men who have not reached the level of humanity. The logic of such people alone is that of gain. As for those who are intellectually and morally trained, their logic is that of true state of nature.
It is a sort of indulgence that we say that the orientation of Islam is towards safeguarding the interests of the oppressed class. In fact, Islam is oriented towards justice and equality, though naturally it is the oppressed and the exploited who are mainly benefited by this orientation and it is the oppressors and the exploiters to whom it is detrimental and destructive.
Even where Islam wants to safeguard the rights and interests of a particular class, its main aim is the realization of a value and the foundation of a human principle. It is here that once again the extraordinary importance of the principle of the true state of human nature, which is expressly mentioned in the Qur’an and which in Islamic sciences should be considered to be the most important principle, becomes clear.
Much has been said about this principle, but scant attention has been paid to its depth and dimensions. Mostly it is observed that people talk of human nature, but as they do not pay adequate attention to the vast dimensions of this principle, in the end they pick up views quite contrary to it.
A shocking example of this kind of misunderstanding is the mistake about the origin of the religions. So far we have discussed the nature and origination of historical phenomena from the view-point of religion (particularly Islam). Now we would like to consider religion itself as a socio-historical phenomenon, which has continuously existed from the dawn of history and throw light on its origin and orientation.
We have repeatedly pointed out that the theory of historical materialism has introduced the Marxist principle, according to which there must be a harmony between the conditions which give rise to a culture and the orientation of that culture.
There is a principle, which, the mystics and the theosophist believers, applies to all the systems working in the universe. This principle says: "The ends return to the origins."
And Maulana Rumi has said:
"The parts are forced towards the whole,
Nightingales are in love with the rose's face;
What comes from the sea flows back into it,
And everything returns to its source,
Like the restless waves gushing from mountains-tops,
My soul burning with love, is restless to be free from the body."
The Marxists have enunciated a similar principle in respect of intellectual, philosophical and religious matters and finally applied it to cultural and social phenomena also. The Marxists say that every idea is oriented towards the direction from which it arose. This is almost the same thing as the idea that the ends return to the origins. The Marxists say that there exists no idea, religion or culture whether partial or impartial, which may aim at improving the social position of a class other than that from which it has originated.
According to this school, every class has a special shade of thinking and a special taste. That is why in class dominated and socially divided societies there always exist two kinds of maladies, two philosophical ways of thinking, two moral systems, two styles of art, two kinds of literature and poetry, two outlooks on life and sometimes even two types of knowledge. There being two forms of infrastructure and property relations, all these things are divided into two forms and two systems.
Marx is personally of the opinion that there are two exceptions to this two-fold system, namely religion and government. From the point of view of Marx these two are special inventions of the exploiting class which provide a special method of exploitation. Naturally these inventions are oriented towards the advantage of that class which has invented them. The exploited class because of its position, has neither originated religion nor government. They have been imposed on it by the opposite class. That is why there exists no two systems of religion or government.
Some Muslim intellectuals maintain that contrary to the view of Marx there actually do exist two systems of religion. According to them, just as in class dominated societies there are two systems of morals, art, literature and other cultural matters and each system has its own origination and orientation, one of them belonging to the ruling class and the other to the subject class, similarly there always exist two religious systems in society. One is the ruling religion which is the religion of the ruling class and the other is the subject religion which is the religion of the ruled.
The ruling religion is the religion of polytheism and the ruled religion is that of monotheism. The ruling religion is the religion of discrimination and the ruled religion is the religion of equality. The ruling religion is the religion of the justification of the existing situation and the ruled religion is the religion of revolution and the condemnation of the existing situation. The ruling religion is the religion of stagnation, tranquility and silence, and the ruled religion is the religion of uprising, agitation and protest. The ruling religion is the opium of society and the ruled religion is the tonic of society.
Therefore Marx's theory that the orientation of religion is always towards the interests of the ruling class and against those of the ruled and that religion is the opium of society, is true only in the case of the religion which is originated by the ruling class, though there was a time when it was practically the only religion which existed. On the other hand, this theory is not true in the case of the religion of the ruled, which is the religion of the true Prophets, though it was not allowed by the ruling systems to prevail and prosper.
This is the way how these intellectuals have tried to refute the Marxist theory that the orientation of religion is invariably towards the interests of the ruling class. These intellectuals think that they have thus proved the falsity of Marxism, but they do not realize that although what they have said is contrary to the personal views of Marx, Engels, Mao and other Marxist leaders, yet it is still a Marxist and a materialist interpretation of religion.
It is shocking, they have paid no attention to this point. They have supposed that the ruled religion also has a class origin, and thus have unconsciously accepted the theory of harmony between the origin of the cultural phenomenon and its orientation. In other words they have accepted the theory of the materiality of religion. The only difference is that contrary to the view of Marx and the Marxists, they have maintained that there can be a religion originating among the exploited and underprivileged class and oriented towards their interests. Thus although they have been able to discover an interesting theory about the orientation of the ruled religion, yet they believe in the material and class origin of religion.
What conclusion can be drawn from what these intellectuals have held? The conclusion is that the ruling religion of polytheism is the only historical religion, which actually has had a definite role in life, for the compulsion of history has been at the back of the rulers and the political and economic power at their disposal. In these circumstances it was only their religion which could stay and prevail. As for the religion of monotheism, it was not possible for it to strike root and take a concrete form. Consequently it could not play any historical role in society, for a superstructure could not go ahead of the infrastructure.
As such the monotheistic movements of the Prophets were bound to fail. The Prophets preached the religion of equality, but before long the polytheistic religion under a cover of monotheism distorted their teachings. In contrasts, the polytheistic religion not only continued to thrive, but became stronger than ever before and more active in persecuting the underprivileged.
In fact, although the true Prophets tried to arrange some pieces of bread for the people, virtually they became a tool in the hands of their opponents for tightening the rope round the neck of the oppressed and the exploited. What the Prophets desired to accomplish through their teachings was not accomplished, and what was accomplished, was not desired by them. In the words of the jurists, what was intended, did not happen and what happened, was not intended.
The materialists and the anti-religious elements allege that religion is the opium of society. It is a narcotic and a cause of stagnation and sluggishness. It justifies tyranny and discrimination and preserves ignorance. This allegation is true but only to the extent of the ruling religion, which is the religion of polytheism, which is the religion of discrimination and which has been dominating over history. But it is incorrect as far as the true religion, the religion of monotheism, which is the religion of the oppressed and suppressed is concerned, which has always been kept out of the scene of life and history.
The only role which the religion of the ruled has been able to play is that of criticizing and denouncing. Its position has been that of a minority party in a legislature. The majority party forms its government, implements its programme and carries out its plans. But a minority party, howsoever progressive it may be, can do nothing except criticizing the policy of the majority and raising objection against it.
The majority party pays no attention to these criticisms. It runs society as it likes, and sometimes uses the criticism of the minority party for consolidating its own position. Without this criticism it could collapse under the ever-growing pressure of its opponents, but the criticism of the opposition serves as a warning to it, and enables it to take suitable counter measures to make its position stronger.
The above thesis also is not correct in any way, neither with regard to its analysis of the nature of polytheism and monotheism, nor with regard to the role of these two creeds as depicted in history. There can be no doubt, which some sort of religion has always existed in the world whether it be the religion of monotheism or polytheism. Even both these religions have existed side by side. As to the question whether the religion of polytheism is the first to come into existence or the religion of monotheism, the sociologists have expressed divergent views. Most of them maintain that in the beginning there existed the religion of polytheism only. Gradually the religious ideas developed and man reached the stage of monotheism. But there are some sociologists who hold a contrary view.
Religious traditions and some religious doctrines also support the second theory. Anyway, how did the religion of polytheism come into existence? Was it really invented by the despots of history to justify their tyrannies and their policy of discrimination, or are there some other reasons of its coming into being? Most of the authorities have mentioned some other reasons, for it is not possible to accept that polytheism is simply an outcome of social discrimination. It is even more unscientific to describe the religion of monotheism as a pretext of the underprivileged class against social discrimination and as an expression of its aspirations for the establishment of equality and fraternity. In addition, this view is totally inconsistent with Islamic principles.
The above statement paints the true Prophets of Allah as exonerated failures. According to the supporters of this theory, the Prophets were failures because they were defeated by falsehood and could achieve no success in any period of history. Their religion did not penetrate the core of society, nor was it able to secure any notable share in the religious life of the rulers. Its role was confined to criticizing and raising objections against the ruling religion. The Prophets were exonerated, because contrary to the allegation of the materialists, they never joined hands with the exploiters, nor were they a factor of stagnation and inertia. Their sympathy was not with the exploiting class. On the other hand they belonged to the underprivileged class, had sympathy with this class and struggled for the restoration of its lost rights.
As the true Prophets cannot be blamed with respect to the spirit of their mission, which is the same as their orientation, they cannot also be blamed for their failure, for which they are not responsible, because the compulsion of history arising from private property was at the back of their opponents. The emergence of the system of private property compulsively divided society into the exploiters and the exploited.
That part of society which consisted of the exploiters, being the master of the material products of society, quite naturally became the master of its spiritual products also. In these circumstances the Prophets cannot be held responsible for their failure because in view of the compulsion of history it was not possible for them to resist the exploiters. Compulsion of history is a material version of fate and divine decree, though in this case the decree is issued not by Allah in the heaven, but by, a god on the earth, not by Absolute Allah, but by the material god, which is the ruling power called economic infrastructure of society, the main spring of which are the tools of production.
Although with this analysis of the situation, the true Prophets have been exonerated, yet the blame is laid on the world system which is generally described as a right system in which good always prevails over evil. The Islamic theosophists who have an optimistic view of the world system, claim that the world is good and sound. Evil and falsehood are only transient and temporary and their existence is not of essential character. The world system or for that matter, human social system is basically good. The Qur’an says:
"As for the foam, it passes away as scum upon the banks, while, as for that which is of use to mankind, it remains in the earth." (Surah ar-Ra'd, 13:17).
The Qur’an says that in a conflict between the right and the wrong, the right is always victorious.
"We bring forward the truth to crush and destroy falsehood; it is doomed to vanish" (Surah al-Anbiya’, 21:18).
The Qur’an also says that the support of Allah is always at the back of the true Prophets:
"We surely do help Our Messengers and those who believe, in the life of this world and on the Day when the witnesses arise." (Surah al-Ghafir, 40:51).
The Qur’an also asserts:
"We decreed that Our servants, the Messengers will certainly be victorious." (Surah as-Saffat, 37:171).
But what these so called intellectuals say, contradicts this principle. Though they exonerate the Prophets and other past reformers, what they say amounts to blaming their Allah.
This is, in fact, a difficult problem. On the one hand the Qur’an views the world system with a sort of optimism, and insists that the social life of man revolves round what is right, theosophy also in accordance with its own principles claims that what is good and right always prevails over what is bad and false, and that the existence of evil and falsehood is accidental relative and unreal, without any real and independent existepce of its own.
On the other hand, a study of the past and present history causes a sort of pessimism about the prevailing system, and gives support to the view of those who assert that entire history is a series of tragedies, tyrannies, injustice and exploitation.
It is rather difficult to say whether we have misunderstood the world system or the social system of man, or alternatively is it that we wrongly think that the Qur’an views history and life with optimism? Or is it that we have not misunderstood anything but there exists an insoluble contradiction between the actuality and the Qur’an?
As far as the world system is concerned, we have discussed this point in our book, Divine Justice, and with the grace of Allah resolved the doubt. As far as the course of history and man's social life are concerned, we propose to discuss the question in a later discourse under the heading, Conflict Between Truth and Falsehood, and to express our views on it. We shall be gratified if other thinkers, also express their views on this question.