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Islamic Renaissance
Political Issues
Dr. Mustansir Mir

In several Muslim countries today, there is being witnessed, in one form or other, the phenomenon of Islamic Renaissance. Of the many features of this phenomenon there is one which may be called its hallmark. It is that Muslims all around are becoming increasingly conscious that they are heirs to a distinct and glorious legacy of which they can still be proud, that they can longer afford to neglect the social dimension of their religion, and that Islam is a living ideology which serves as their only source of strength and solidarity. As this awareness grows, there is being heard a call for Islamisation. It is being demanded that Islam be enforced in all of spheres of life and that the whole society be reorganized on the basis of the principles enunciated by Islam.

Naturally, the question arises: How to begin? Which steps to take first, and at what point to make the breakthrough? It is generally conceded that a lightning type of change would be neither possible nor desirable. But, as in some other Muslim countries, there are many people in Pakistan who are asking for overnight Islamisation. If at all they are being serious, then, besides showing a lamentable lack of sensibility, they are doing great injustice to Islam itself. Their stance is that any delay in promulgating it would only indicate lethargy, even insincerity, on our part. In their simplicity they forget that Islam has not only a philosophy of its own but also a methodology of its own. And that methodology, as anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Islam will agree, is a judiciously graduated methodology. It was in a period of twenty-three years that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) received the Quran from God and evolved a society based upon it. It is said that the Holy Prophet worked in a hostile, un-Islamic environment whereas we have to work in a friendly, Islamic set-up. But this is to confuse the issue. It is true that a Muslim society will facilitate Islamisation, and for obvious reasons, but it should not be forgotten that implementation of any system has problems in its own right. Implementation is not a push-botton process, it implies transforming the mentalities of a very large number of people, changing a huge and complex social structure, and evolving new patterns of thought, culture, and behaviour. Even after the establishment of the Islamic State of Medina, it took the Holy Prophet no less than ten years to pull all the injunctions of the Quran into force and to fully educate the people who had entered the fold of Islam.

There are some people who propose what may be termed Islamisation by chain reaction. They hold that we should begin by implementing Islam in anyone major sector of life and that success in that sector will pave the way for the total Islamisation of the society. The idea is that one an `explosion' is made in one area, the other areas will of themselves pick up the impulses and thus the inexorable process of Islamisation will get sparked off and be finally completed. But this theory, though much more plausible than the first one, is not without some serious flaws. Firstly, it assumes that a social law operates and yields results in more or less the same manner as does a natural law. But this is not true. While in a physical world a self-perpetuating chain reaction automatically sets in soon after an atom bomb is exploded, no such thing, once a social law is enforced, can be expected to happen in the sphere of social existence. The difference between and natural and social laws is a fundamental one. A natural law, applied repeatedly to a large number of identical phenomena, will always produce identical results, but a social law, applied a second time to the same human collectivity, might give results different from those obtained the first time it was applied. The reason is not difficult to find. In the case of natural laws, the medium is a silent, compliant nature, but in the case of social laws, it is the questioning and not-so-predictable human beings. In one case the acceptance is total and unconditional, in the other it is preceded by doubts and followed by criticism. Secondly, a society cannot be so compartmentalized that change made in one sector will never be resisted by the others. It is very likely that an intersectoral conflict will occur, and if it does, the resultant disharmonies and problems might cause irreparable damage to the society.

The basic defect of the two theories of Islamisation discussed above is that they reckon without the one most important variable, the human variable. In a society, a meaningful and lasting change can be brought about only when the members of that society are preconditioned to receive that change favourably. Preconditioning certainly means that all or most of the population should desire the proposed change, Islamisation in the present case, but it means; more vitally, that the society should as a whole be in a position to make that desire good in actual practice. In economics, a distinction is drawn between wish and demand. A man is said to have a wish when he wants to buy a certain thing without having the means to do so, and he is said to have a demand when he has the means also. We must ask ourselves whether ours is a `wish' or a `demand' for Islamisation. A moderate view would probably make it more than a wish but less than a demand. In the present case, the factor which is crucial in making the wish a real demand is, as noted above, the human factor. Our society, if it really wants to make a success of the experiment of Islamisation, must have a sufficiently large number of men who have the ability to translate the Islamic principles into modern practice, who are equally acquainted with the ideals of Islam and the realities of modern life, and who can be accused neither of stale religiosity nor of unbridled modernism. It is only this kind of people who can engineer the programme of Islamisation successfully. For they will be religious without smacking of antiquity and modern without seeming to be aliens. Muslim societies are torn at heart between `olds' and `mods' and the only way to heal this wound is to produce a crop of men who are `old' and `mod' at the same time. Once we have produced men of this stamp, they will take proper care of the task of Islamisation. On the one hand, they will build up the climate which is so necessary for the successful implementation of Islam: with their balanced personalities they will clear the atmosphere of doubts and generate in the people firm confidence in Islam as a feasible system. On the other hand, with their profound knowledge of tradition and modernity, they will put forward workable schemes and fix priorities. It is in the fixation of priorities that we are most likely to stumble. The saying of an ancient sage will never loose its relevance. `There is,' he says, `a foundation and a superstructure in the constitution of things, a beginning and an end in the course of events. Therefore to know the proper sequence or relative order of things is the beginning of wisdom.' If we want to avoid any mishaps in our experiment of Islamisation, we must not lose sight of this fact. We must remember that we cannot install Islam like a prefabricated house, it must grow from the ground like a tree; the trunk must come out first and the branches and leaves will sprout when the season comes.


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