We are using this title because it conforms with the historical view we have adopted, namely that which considers the completion of the religion and seal of prophecy by the death of Mohammed (SAW) as being the correct view of history as opposed to the other view which was unfortunately imposed upon us.
We will first start this subject with an introduction explaining the prevailing view of history with the danger it represents to us and to humanity. Then we will move to advance the correct view to show how it can accommodate the whole of human history and prospect the future of mankind as a whole, as well.
Finally, we will conclude with a presentation of the contributions of this view to redress the prevailing view of history.
A PREVAILING VIEW OF HISTORY
The West's view of history, which they have unfortunately imposed upon us, is responsible for the distortion of the history of humanity and of the contributions of the nations and cultures to human civilization. It is also responsible for the West's self-conceit which shuns the contributions of other peoples. It is this same self-conceit that makes them believe that they represent the end of history, that they are the end of humanity – if not the last human beings, or that they are "superman".
The West's view of history, which they have unfortunately imposed on us, holds that history has only one dimension in which progress is closely linked to the progression of time. Thus the Twenty-first Century is more advanced than the Twentieth Century; the latter is more advanced than the Ninetieth Century; and the Ninetieth Century is more advanced than the Eighteenth Century, etc.
This view of history prompts them to believe that they are at both the top and end of history; it has inculcated in us, and in people from other cultures, the idea that we have no other alternative but to be their subordinates. If we refuse, then the only choice left for us, and for people from other cultures, is to return to our own history, and to isolate ourselves from the present and future human history.
THE CORRECT HISTORICAL VIEW: Through the Completion of Religion and the Sealing of Prophecy beginning from the death of the Mohammed (SAW)
ACCOMMODATING THE PAST
PROSPECTING THE FUTURE
The historical view that we endorse holds that history began from the time when Adam acquired knowledge and was taught all the names by the Almighty. Because the basis of human knowledge and the starting point of certainty in it is Revelation which constitutes the initial cognitive framework that is constant with fitra (human nature), and which has been confirmed through human experiences that knows what is just and substantiates it through enjoining what is wrong. The True Religion is based on fitra which is inherent in human beings, and it ordains adherence to rules and conventions.
The history of revelation, that of prophecies and divine messages, beginning with Adam, and then Ibrahim (father of the prophets), to Moses, Jesus, and the seal of the prophesy (hence the importance of history in completing religion and sealing prophecies) with the Farewell Pilgrimage (632 AC) in which the Apostle of Allah (SAW) said that time had come full circle just as it had on the day Allah created the heavens and the earth.
This is an announcement that human knowledge and the human course of history has come full circle and has taken a completely new direction with the revelation as a starting point, after the main guidelines had been drawn, and after the process of the sealed conclusion had been completed and the last call to the whole of mankind had been made – through the barriers of time and space, as Allah, be He exalted, says:(This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed my favors upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion)
Prophecy and divine messages are a progress in history. Prophets and messages had a role to play in the advancement of human awareness. The completion of the message was an announcement of the independence of the mind and resolve. The completion of human awareness after it has achieved its goal in the development of mankind.
This is why we can say that the course of progress and advancement, recorded by humanity through its march, has been charted according to fitra and the forbidding of what is wrong at every deviation from the right path and the enjoining of what is just, so much so that it has become its own rule by which it abides. This is an honorable march that was led by the apostles of God and the prophets (peace be upon them all).
Prophecy and messages are progress of history. Prophets and messengers played an important role in the advancement of human awareness through emphasizing what is fundamental in preparing the human being – and all message entrusted to them with as vice-regents on earth to people it and to take advantage of its riches, etc.
Therefore, the words "slavery to God" means preparing the human being for what he is good for while the term "istikhlaf" (vice-regency) is a trust placed in him to people the earth and to take advantage of its riches, etc. These words have all been emphasized by all the prophets and messengers through laying emphasis on La Ilaha Illa Allah, meaning that the human being can be a slave to no one but to Allah, that he is not to enslave others, and that he is God's vice-regent.
If every prophet/messenger makes it his business to set right every wrong that has emerged amongst his own people as a result of their straying from the right path, and to guide them along the right path, the concluding message will come overwhelmed with truth and more encompassing: the Holy Qur'an which came with the absolute Truth – the True Religion that deals with every aspect of life, enjoins what is just, and that is consonant with fitra (To Allah religion is Islam).
The base of progress and advancement was established and time has come full circle just as it did when Allah created the heavens and the earth. This noble history was made by prophets and messengers, and by the message that was brought by the Prophet (SAW) to his people, to the worlds, and to all the people marking the birth of an Ummah that has human and universal dimensions. The message of the Prophet (SAW) was the last stage of the revelation in history which can be taken as the source of all laws and legislations. Therefore, as an American orientalist rightly said, "the Holy Qur'an has changed the course of human history."
Prophet Mohammed (SAW) had elevated his people and the nations that had gone before and which existed in his age to a lofty level of progress and advancement, thus making them, by virtue of their being an Ummah of moderation, truthful witnesses on humanity, and they shall be held to account.
* If those who deny the existence of God and advocate secularism because they want to free the human being from fear and submission to nature, to rid him of the feeling of holiness while he is dealing with his daily problems of daily life, to liberate himself from social classes that have given themselves special privileges, Islam, through its rejection of all forms of paganism and the worship of entities other than God, and by declaring that everything in the universe is at man's service, seeks to free the human being from submission to nature..
Islam does not forbid the enjoyment of the good things in life; besides, there is no duality in Islam; it is a religion of equality, for none is infallible, except Prophet Mohammed (SAW) in conveying his message to humanity as a hole).
There is no divine government; there is a "government of all the people" which may be right or wrong in what it does. Shura (taking council) is the basis of the community which is to choose those who would govern it from among its own members (They are our guardians, not our rulers, what if only one guardian? The Shadow of God on earth).
* If the monotheistic call in Islam seeks to achieve equality - except with God – among people in terms of their humanness, humanity and human characteristics in terms of going right or wrong. Islam believes that there is no place, whether in the community of the faithful or in the Muslim society, for conflict over power on the basis that some groups in the community are better at a non-human level than others: this group is holier or more infallible than that. The people of the Prophet's Medina were an Ummah different from other peoples, but each people had their own religion – which in fact is one religion, regardless of the number of messages, prophets or nations. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) followed in their path, and he was an example and mercy to the worlds. His Ummah shall be the law for the people and a witness to the truth.
Matrimony (a spouse is just one half of the married couple, s/he needs the other half to form a couple; the husband and the wife are both spouses) is the first component in the making of human nucleus. Matrimony is the origin of the multiplication of mankind to form peoples and tribes so that they may know one another, and of the spread of humanity across the world. The most honored amongst mankind is the most pious. He who purifies himself shields himself from all sins in his march to success. Success is survival not extinction, wealth not poverty, dignity not humiliation, and knowledge not ignorance.
* The prophetic application of this revelation to people's lives and needs was evidence that every ayah (verse) constitutes a solution, a treatment and a stance, and that all the ayahs (verses) that had been accumulating over a period of 23 years have advanced solutions, treatments and stances.
* This revelation that springs from the real world is meant to help people understand the message, and understanding the Holy Qur'an is just one of the possible interpretations of the Holy Book. This means that if we want to consider revelation both as a source of knowledge and its subject matter, we would need to elaborate a theory of interpretation. Hence the need for a theory of interpretation rather than philosophy. The religious laws that have been sent down to us are not a specific science. They constitute a point of view, a basis, or a referential framework through which we can see things. It is from this basis and from this framework that sciences, literature, conflicts and orientations are to be seen. Our view of them will be different from that of a person who sees them from another angle or ideology.
These religious laws constitute a revolutionary stand and a good ideology that would guide mankind's struggle in our age, too, and permit mankind to have a balanced view of things. Therefore, the only thing that should preoccupy us is the task of reviving Islam's view of the world, and of political, economic and social issues.
What we want is that Islam produce a new human being, one who can stand on his own feet and be an example and a model to be followed by others.
Our task is to change the Holy Qur'an from verses read on the souls of the dead to real situations in the lives of people, and to understand it with the same simplicity and clarity as that with which Abu-Zarr al-Ghafari, the illiterate Bedouin, understood it.
If specialization has been the weak point of many, so much so that they want to extend it to Sharia (Islamic law), it creates elites, deepens discrimination and leads to excessive bureaucracy.
Islam's Sharia is what our Lord has commanded to Noah, Ibrahim, Moses, and Jesus. It was the Word of God sent down, and was completed by His Messenger Mohammed (SAW), the seal of all Prophets.
God's Word (God is the Supreme Example, and has no similitude) is the divine point of view, so to speak, the divine framework, the glasses that if the individual puts them on, he will see everything as it is in reality, which is different from the other point of view which can exaggerate some things and minimize others.
Through the cultural perspective, our view becomes clear and things take their normal size. If the cultural perspective is right, all our ideas, sayings and deeds will be right.
The human mind is either obedient to God or it is not. It sees people and things either through a divine vision or a personal vision, with all the differences this may entail.
On the basis of this view, the Sunnah of Prophet Mohammed (SAW) provides us with a perfect example of human experience realized in this revelation. The latter is not to change from an idea to a person, and from a realization of the message in the historical reality to personification.
As to Ijmaa (the consensus of the whole Ummah), it was a realization of this revelation in history if it is committed to this law. Regarding the methodology, they are free to follow it or not. What Muslims "consider as good, must be good with Allah." It goes from Allah to the Prophet, then to the Prophet-Messenger, to the Ummah and then back to the individual. It is history's philosophy based on the role of heroes, but it aims to turn groups into heroes and nations to historical leaders.
It was possible, through the four examples and their rearrangement, to begin with the real world reality and with people's lives, and with the Ummah, the community as a larger entity, as Iqbal says – then to take as examples the traditions and the heroes' biographies, then end with history as a while.
Instead of moving from the text to the real world, we go from the real world to the text. We can also understand the importance of time and the origin of revelation, and the law of progress and advancement.
Revelation was made to humanity to guide them in dealing with problems and situations. The real world calls for solutions to the problems that man cannot solve. The Book actually represents a number of situations and events that the Muslim world had witnessed but could not find solutions to. Every event or situation represents a pattern that may repeat itself in any and at any time. If the event came back again we call the same solution. This is a known characteristic of revelation in Islam that is known in Qur'anic studies as ‘tanjeem' and in the science of ‘tafseer' (i.e. interpretation science) as ‘reasons of descending' (Asbab Annuzul)- the Qur'an was revealed over a period of twenty-three years. Fundamentalists call these patterns that refer to human real life situations that are rich in psychological experiences.
In this view, the Sunnah represents, in the light of the biography of prophet Mohammed, a set of real life situations that define man's behavior as a sequence of ideal patterns, as well as models of human experience that can be followed and emulated.
The Sunnah implies that the revelation only becomes state after a first implementation in a given society. This could be proven in history through consensus and its interactions, rather than through a specific era or group. The disregard by each era of the consensus achieved during the era preceding it serves to give new impetus to history. Giving due respect to the opposition of consensus, even by one single vote, is an indicator of the vitality of the nation and its respect of the ijtihad of everyone, its acceptance of different viewpoints, as well as its disposition to give due regard to the opinion of minorities.
‘Ijtihad' (religious jurisprudence) is a principle of action and self respect. Similarly, the Shurah (consultation) emphasizes the principle of action and the respect of each and every entity within a group. ‘Consensus' is no more than the accumulation of the expertise gained by successive generations through the action of the masses in the form of collective action and historical practice.
The human mind (‘aql') is not sheer motion. It is a fully integrated structure and appears to be causal, condition-bound and able to transcend obstacles. It may be achieved in an ideal way, in the form of determination, or in a realistic one, in which case it becomes license. This mind is ultimately assessed through its soundness and faultiness. Furthermore, it may in origin be an expression of commitment to a compulsory duty, and in the case of refraining from action, a commitment to abstention for the sake of avoidance or outright prohibition. The obligatory deed or abstention therefrom represent two different poles. One generates obligation and the other negates this obligation. An action could be lesser in degree than an obligation in general, and it may be a multi-faceted obligation that shares responsibilities between a group that should assume leadership and a group that should appoint those who are better qualified. This is the deed that confers authority on the others. Would all parties be sinful if they failed to act accordingly!
Then there is the desirable action, as well as the action that is determined by nature and of which the lawfulness is inherent to its original innocence. Is this kind of action lawful at all?
In fact, revelation, for us, is the final phase in the history of revelation that started with Adam and ended with Mohammed (SAW). Revelation therefore took its final shape and became the ‘source' and the ‘reference framework' for which all means of preservation and documentation were made available. It is not a bestowed revelation, but one that was born out of the needs and conditions of people. Each verse contains a solution to a particular situation. The Holy Book was compiled out of the entirety of the verses that addressed these given situations. The Sharia was laid down to facilitate understanding, and understanding the Qur'an is only a theory of interpretation.
To summarize, we can say that:
1- Our understanding of history gives the latter two dimensions: one is seen as a parameter, or the benchmarks that signal the level of betterment on the required human or civilizational level, the second is the chronological dimension that defines the course of relational interactions in reality…
2- Our frame of reference is the religious laws that God prescribed to Noah, to the forefather of all prophets, Ibrahim, to Moses and to Jesus, and finally to Mohammed (SAW), and to all the prophets and messengers, peace be upon them all…God completed the faith and His grace by sealing prophecy with the last message he revealed to Mohammed (SAW).
3- Proclaiming the end of prophecy and revelation is tantamount to announcing that humanity has reached maturity and the stage of shouldering heavy burdens.
When the Almighty concluded religious revelation with the final message, Mohammed's, mankind had already tested all its potentialities, starting with the first sin and repentance from it, through the fight of Habeel and Qabeel (Abel and Cain), and the experiences of every generation, century or people that followed and what they learnt about the generations, centuries or peoples that preceded them. This process is similar to the growth of a child. He starts as a fetus, goes through certain stages of development when he is a non-entity, then grows to become a baby who learns all the names. Then he enters the phase of reasoning, acquires the responsibility of making choices, faces experiences and engages in battle. Then he grows stronger and reaches maturity, before advice and then he has to forge ahead.
4- Mohammed (SAW) was the carrier of the final divine word to the mature humanity. Subsequently, the human mind (‘aql) became free and capable of choice, guided by the light of the Qur'an and inspired by Mohammed's tradition. Man used his mind to confront the implications of events occurring in the course of his arduous march towards the final meeting with his Creator.
In his sermon at the farewell pilgrimage, the Prophet (SAW), having quoted the divine words: "Today I have completed your religion, concluded my grace and made Islam a religion of yours", declared that time had come a full circle to the day the Almighty created the heavens and the earth.
Despite the metaphorical reference of this declaration to the dawning of a new era for mankind, it truly means that during the farewell pilgrimage of Mohammed the days and months reverted back to their original order, as the Almighty intended them to be before the pre-Islamic Jewish manipulations. In fact, during the pre-Islamic era, people, following the lead of the Jews, used to defer months. Thus, at the time of the farewell pilgrimage, the cycle of deferred days and months completed a full turn, bringing back each period to a cycle of twelve months.
Consequently, the Holy month of Moharram of the eleventh year of the Hijra was identical to the Moharram in which the Almighty created the heavens and the earth. Since that time, every month of Moharram has been the same as it was when Allah created the heavens and the earth. After that, it became known that since the tenth year of the Higra and to date, the cycle of Islamic lunar months was never marred by any delays or deferment.
Therefore, the holy month of Moharram of the twenty-fifth year of the hijra is still the same holy month of Moharram that elapsed 1425 lunar years ago. For this reason, it is the month we ought to use in dating history having been included in the divine count of months when Allah created the heavens and the earth, and because:
5- It announces the completion of the faith (religion) and grace….and a turn in time of which the responsibility is thrust in the hands of Arabs and the Muslim nations surrounding them in, namely (1) Africa, (2) Persia or Iran, and (3) Turkey… Indeed, the Prophet (SAW) once said: ‘Bilal has precedence over all the Abyssinians (ancient inhabitants of Ethiopia), Salman has precedence over all the Persians, and Suhayb has precedence over all the Romans!'
Indeed, the neighboring states of Arabs are still (1) Ethiopia and the far reaches of eastern, central and western Sudan, (2) Iran and the lands beyond it, (3) Turkey and the lands beyond it…
In any case, the Qur'an is a reminder for the Prophet (SAW) and his (Arab) people, and we shall be held to account.
The prophet (SAW) was our witness, and we in turn have to serve as witnesses. The first condition in a witness is to be present. So, are we present? This is a question that we will answer by stating the need for us to be present in our modern world
On Correcting History According to our Vision
Our vision of history introduces numerous corrections to history as presented by those who lack our vision of knowledge and history!!! Our own vision is founded on a specific theory of knowledge.
A well-defined theory of history takes into consideration the role of revelation and its development in raising the awareness of man. It also associates the fulfillment of human awareness with the achievement by revelation of its objective in developing mankind. The completion of the prophecy and the message entails the completion of man's awareness, in mind and in will…
History began when Adam acquired knowledge and came to know all the names. The messages of prophets and messengers are meant to redress, advance and enhance history. These prophets and messengers had the role and mission of correcting, advancing and enhancing the awareness of man. Therefore, the completion of the message announced the independence of mind and will, and the attainment of human awareness.
Then time took a turn so that people could move along two axes: time and evolution! Modern history began, but instead of marking the movement of all people, it was a history of a Judeo-Christian legacy, and of the legacy of an Arab-Islamic experience that was in one of its aspects a model experience of the successful implementation of the revelation. Nevertheless and regretfully, to the Jewish-Christian legacy clung the remnants of Greek-Roman legacy, and to the Arab-Islamic legacy clung remnants of the transfer of revelation from the concept to the person, and a shift from the implementation of revelation in real life to the glorification of the individual. What followed was a shift from the concept of ‘Every human being is the vice-regent of Allah on earth' to one making this vice regency the prerogative of one person. This same concept replaced consultation for all those who obeyed the Almighty, performed their prayers, adopted Shura as their way, and gave charity out of what Allah bestowed upon them, by a form of shura that was confined to a few people!!! Resolve and consensus -the consensus of the nation which could have brought about an implementation of the revelation provided the law of God was adhered to and the rule ‘What Moslems consider good would be good in the eyes of God' was respected, also became confined to the few select.
Thus, the Shura collapsed and wealth, God's bounty, was preyed upon and grabbed. This was the wealth of Allah, His table laden with the bounty provided to all his worshippers and which they all were supposed to possess.
Then came the Umayyads' division which gave rise to a sectarianism that made feuds, chauvinism and ethnic conflicts a synonym of the saying ‘We have made you peoples and tribes to become acquainted with one another'.
The first battles waged in Arab-Islamic history occurred between those who strove to reinstate Shura, justice and coexistence on the one hand, and those hankered after tyranny, a Cesar or Kisra-like rule, with exploitation, Umayyad division and despicable sectarianism.
Our vision of the past, however, brings many corrections to history. Indeed, it is:
1- The first attempt made in modern times to present a new interpretation of our civilizational history which had been subjected to interpretations founded on theWest's vision.
The West appointed itself as the focal point of history by rendering the movement of this history governed by timeframes the beginning and extension of which were defined by the West as a criterion for progress. Each era succeeding a previous one reflected more progress. Consequently, the Twentieth century is the most advanced era in the history of mankind.
If the West is at the summit of this century, is it also at the peak of civilizational history?
What we are attempting to say here is that history has two dimensions or two axes. These are the dimension of extension in time, with a definition that differs from that of the west, and the dimension of evolution and progress. The movement of civilizational history within these two pivots can take the shape of a chart but it may not reflect the prevalence of a recent timeframe, while an earlier timeframe may show more merit.
2- This attempt also indicates that the history of man has reached the peak of evolution and progress with the fulfillment of monotheism. The final revelation of religion and the end of prophecy signal the start of the age of reason and the independence of the mind, while still respecting the eminence of the era guided by prophets and messengers and calling for monotheism: ‘The best of what I have said and the prophets who came before me, is the phrase ‘there is no God but Allah". The seal of monotheist religions was announced by Mohammed, (SAW), when he quoted the words of the Almighty: ‘Today I have completed your religion, finished my grace and accepted Islam as a religion for you'. On that day, the Prophet (SAW) announced the end of deferment and manipulation of months, the turning point in history signaling a day parallel to the day Allah created the heavens and the earth.
3- The present attempt reveals that the movement of the Ummah's civilizational history, within these two axes, has reached the apogee with the completion of religion and the end of prophecy, and that any shortcoming that tarnished it since is one that is comparative to the peak this history reached and not to its general historical framework. This enables us to engage in an objective historical criticism of the nation's civilizational history through a relative comparison of the eras of our Arab Islamic history with the moment of perfection (p) and the after-perfection (a.p.), and comparing these eras with the history of the world, allowing us thus to engage in self-criticism without relishing the hurt we could inflict upon this self. It would also enable us to confront the deficiency occurring in the issues of governance, wealth and unity in preparation for correcting such deficiency.
This attempt also makes it clear that the weakness that hindered the continuity of the perfect experience, which deficiency came after perfection, does not mean that this weakness dates back to the very first day. Instead, it accompanied a process of deterioration that brought us to a point where the indicator of deficiency rose higher than that of strength, hence the deterioration…
4- This attempt exposes the error made by our nation in its modern attempts at renaissance. This error tarnishes, and will continue to do so, our contemporary endeavors if we fail to realize that our attempts should have as objective to rise - and not a return to the past since it is impossible to bridge time—to the peak that was defined by the moment of perfection, and not by any other inferior level.
5- Our nation can rescue itself and the others by opting for its and the entire humanity's wellbeing, the day it makes the right choice in the midst of the questions that technology is raising. The technology of war is raising the question: Shall it be war or peace? Total annihilation or survival? The technology of agriculture and industry raises the question: Should the system based on exploitation and unfair distribution be allowed to continue, or should it be replaced by a new world order that brings about self-sufficiency and a fair distribution for all? The transportation technology, thanks to which the world has shrunk into a small village, is raising the question: Will racism and division prevail over coexistence and fraternity? The telecommunications and information technology raises the question: Will it be a one-directional flow of information, or dialogue, consultation and the pursuit of truth instead?
The options open for us are to either to choose a belligerent culture that would lead to wars, if exploitation, the ill distribution of wealth, famine and discrimination persist, or a culture of peace based on self-sufficiency, justice, dialogue and mutual consultation.
Choosing the best and final option is in our hands. The prophet, (SAW), was a witness for us, so that we serve as witnesses for other peoples….
It is the concluding message: accommodating the past and prospecting the future.
Wednesday, 5 Shawwal 1414 corresponding to 17/11/1372 of the death of the Prophet SAW).
Mr Ibrahim Bachir Al Ghweil
(One of those who strive, toil and struggle for a
a progressive Arab/Islamic, contemporary and future,
universal and human civilizational project…for all mankind)