The Obsession with Historical Glory

As mentioned above, one of the major reasons for the original Islam becoming an alien religion among the Muslims is that for latter day generations the basis for the Islamic ethos became the later history of Islam instead of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Muslims found their glorious history far more attractive than the Qur’an and Sunnah. For them they were just sets of words. Their history, on the contrary, gave them an immense sense of pride, as it was full of imperial grandeur and conquests. Although they continued to pay lip service to the Qur’an by reciting it, they were, in fact, lost in the glories of Islamic history. Gradually they came to associate themselves and Islam with this grand history: instead of the Qur’an and Sunnah, history became their chief source of inspiration.

This change of the source of inspiration wrought immense harm. When the Qur’an and Sunnah are one’s intellectual sources it is modesty that is bred in the mind, whereas if one takes history as one’s intellectual source, pride is bound to be generated.

If the Qur’an and Sunnah are taken to be the true sources of knowledge of God’s will, all mankind, in the words of a Hadith, will be regarded by the believers as God’s family; the whole of humanity will become their concern: whereas, when the mind is shaped by history, Muslims see themselves as rulers, and others as subjects. If they derive Islam from the Qur’an and Sunnah, then all God’s creation—even a blade of grass—will appear to them as God’s signs. Whereas when history is the source of their Islam, the forts and palaces of their kings become signs of grandeur and glory to them. This is exactly what has happened with the latter day Muslims. Almost all the activities of Muslims in present times bear testimony to this fact. The speeches of their leaders, the books of their writers, the poetry of their poets, seem to centre on their glorious history. Their writers and speakers provide them food for thought about historical glory rather than divine glory. This is the reason why in modern times a large number of books have been written by the Muslims bent on the celebration of history, while perhaps not a single book has been produced on the majesty of God Almighty.

Given this state of affairs, when a reformer arises to call Muslims to the religion of the Qur’an and Sunnah, his voice naturally appears strange to his hearers. For they feel that this person is calling them to a position of modesty, whereas their religion (that is, history) aims at placing them in a position of strength. In such an atmosphere, the words of the reformer will impinge as worthless, alien and unacceptable.