Once, an Arab man asked me, “From where do we begin?”
By “we”, he meant Muslims.
I answered, “You people start thinking with problems. You think there are problems that need to be solved. And then you go about trying to solve them. But this is not the Prophet’s method. Unless you change this way of thinking, you are not going to get God’s help.”
I explained to the man that the Prophet of Islam was born in 7th century Arabia. There were huge problems there at that time, much more severe than the problems today. For instance, 360 idols had been installed in the Kaaba, the most holy place of worship. There could not have been a bigger problem that this. Female infanticide and adultery were common. In Arabia at that time, polytheists had established complete dominance. Inter-tribal rivalry and war were rife, and these conflicts sometimes continued for years. The culture of the people was such that if they did not have enemies to fight with, they would fight among themselves. Near Madinah there were two powerful empires—the Sassanid and the Byzantine empires—and the both were opposed to any true believer in God. When the Prophet sent a letter to the emperor of Iran, the latter tore it up and threw it away and said, “He sends me a letter although he is my slave!”
There was not a single problem in the list of today’s problems that was not present in Arabia at the time of the advent of the Prophet of Islam. But yet, it should be noted, the Prophet did not start his mission with these problems. Instead, his method was to go to the Kaaba and preach to the people about the one God, about tawhid. He did not disturb the idols that had been installed in the Kaaba.
For 13 years the Prophet peacefully preached Islam in Makkah, enduring stiff opposition and persecution. Then, he shifted to Madinah. When he got to Madinah, he did not go about telling people about the oppression that he had been subjected to by his Makkan opponents. He did not complain about these problems.
Muslims must decide if they want to emulate the Prophet in this regard or if they want to act according to their own whims. So, firstly, Muslims must decide if they want to follow their own thinking or the Prophet’s example. I know for a fact that the former is a wrong course, and that the latter course is right. My mission is based on the pattern of the Prophet’s mission.
And what is the method of the Prophet? It is to start not with problems, but with dawah.
And what is the method of dawah?
It is to ignore problems and difficulties and to engage in inviting people to the one God. If Muslims do not follow this principle, they will remain stuck.
The Quran says that God will help the believers. Muslims need to reflect on this. For instance, the verse where God says: “And never will God allow those who deny the truth to harm the believers.” (4:141)
Given this, Muslims should ponder on the fact that for the last 200 years or so they have been engaged in fighting others, but still they are not getting God’s help. They first fought against the European powers in Africa and Asia—the British, the French, the Dutch—and even now they are continuing to fight. Despite this, they have not been able to gain anything at all. All their fighting has only caused them great destruction.
So, the proper place for Muslims to begin work is to admit that this violence that they have been indulging in for the last 200-odd years has been all wrong. Without doing this, nothing is going to happen. Muslims must openly and frankly admit that they have deviated from the path of the Prophet.
Today, Muslims have created such a furore imposition of the Shariah. But did the Prophet of Islam start his mission with the enforcement of the Shariah? No. This method of these Muslim groups is not Islamic. The Prophet started his mission with trying to instill iman or faith in people, and not with whipping people.
In many countries across the world today, in places like Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and so on—there is this talk of Shariah, of forcibly imposing the Shariah. This is deviation from the path of the Prophet.
Hazrat Aisha, wife of the Prophet, says that the first verses of the Quran that were revealed to the Prophet were about heaven and hell, and then, when people’s hearts had got softened, were verses revealed about halal and haram, about things that were permissible and others that were forbidden. She says that if verses about abandoning adultery and wine had been revealed before the verses that helped in preparing people’s mind, people would have said: “We will surely never leave wine. We will surely never abandon adultery.”
Thus, first of all the Prophet created willingness in people by preparing their minds and inculcating in them the Islamic spirit. When they showed readiness to follow Islam, it was only then that commands about lawful and unlawful things were revealed. Had the sequence been reversed, people would have never obeyed the commands about the lawful and the unlawful.
But today we see that in Muslim societies there’s no willingness for accepting the Shariah. People today live in hate, violence, and indulge in various kinds of evils. Imposing the Shariah on such Muslims is impossible. It’s putting the cart before the horse. Without preparing individuals, without preparing society by developing acceptance for religious commandments, nothing will happen. When General Zia ul-Haq became President of Pakistan, he sought to enforce the Shariah. He tried to enforce zakat, but many people tried to evade it. Many of them claimed to be Shias so that they would not have to pay zakat to the government. So, this effort to enforce zakat became a joke.
Unless there is willingness in people for abiding by the commandments of religion and the society is suitably prepared for it and, today, unless international conditions are appropriate, it is not possible to seek to enforce the Shariah.
Take, for example, the issue of Shatm-e Rasul, or abuse of the Prophet. Muslims have enforced laws against this in many countries, but, despite this, they are being unable to put a complete stop to instances of blasphemy or abuse of the Prophet. Khomeini, followed by all the Muslim ulema across the world except for myself, issued a fatwa calling for Salman Rushdie to be killed. But they could not kill Rushdie, and the one who issued the fatwa died. So, the fatwa has become a mockery
As I mentioned earlier, the Prophet did not begin his mission by talking of imposition of the Shariah. He only talked of tawhid, morals and dawah. This is the method of the Prophet. On the Day of Judgment God will ask us if we accepted or rejected the Prophet. If you did not follow the Prophet’s example, you become a denier of the Prophet. In this world Muslims are stoning others; and there, in the Hereafter, Muslims will be stoned for not following the model of the Prophet.
Muslims are following their own opinions, not what the Quran says, not the example of the Prophet. And so, it is likely that they will be whipped in the Hereafter.