Some circles claim that today’s wretched state of the Muslim World has been occasioned by the religion of Islam and therefore they stand against the religion. How should we respond to them?

The Details of the Question
Some circles claim that today’s wretched state of the Muslim World has been occasioned by the religion of Islam and therefore they stand against the religion. How should we respond to them?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

There is a disease-like perception, which once used to be brought into the agenda so often and now recurring many times: To suppose that the religion is an impediment to the advancement and to look for the causes of Islamic countries being behind Christian countries in the religion of Islam.

I would like to point out some issues before responding to this claim, through which we could get to the first answer of the question.

First point:

At the times when the religion of Islam emerged, Muslims were subject to the oppressions and tyranny of polytheists, and afterwards set up a state and kept progressing up to the last century. The Era of Bliss being an era of faith, morality, justice, and welfare is the first evidence to that. Umayyad of Andalusia being a pioneer to Europe in science, and the wonders that the Seljuks and the Ottomans achieved in both knowledge and art are not to be overlooked.

Here we need to distinguish between the words Islam and Muslim. Those who progress or drop behind are Muslims, not Islam. Islam is what it is.

"This day I have perfected for you your Religion (with all its rules, commandments and universality), completed My favor upon you, and have been pleased to assign for you Islam as religion." (al-Maidah, 5:3)

Then we need to seek the answer to this question:

- Were we loyal to Islam more when we established empires or when we were behind?

Another point:

Those who put forward Islam as a reason for Muslims’ staying behind need to speak about Islam itself rather than Muslims, and to set out by saying “these decrees of the Quran and these and those hadiths of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are hindrances for advancement” and to produce their evidences.

For example, they need to prove that prohibition of telling lies, tyranny, adultery, stockpiling, interest, backbiting, racism, in short, any sort of ill doing is a hindrance to advancement.

Third point:

Those who blame Islam for Christians being more advanced than Muslims need to do one more thing, which is to search the Bible in order to find out the bases of today’s technology and material welfare and to say that "Muslims are backward since they have been deprived of those." This is something impossible. For, there is no single verse in the Bible with regard to neither the economic life nor the state management.

Having indicated one more point lastly, we shall move on to the answer of the question:

Those who put forward this claim need to prove that it is Islam which stipulates a kind of system of education which transform the hard-working, active, zealous, upright, patriotic people of previous times into the reckless, fraud supporting, lustful, selfish people of today.

Now let us try to give an answer to the question by basing it upon the views of Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, the author of the Risale-i Nur:

In the work called Lemeat (Gleams) in the Risale-i Nur Collection, Badiuzzaman poses this question:

“Somebody once asked: Since ‘truth will prevail’ is the truth, why has the infidel prevailed over the Muslim, and force over right?”

The answer to this question is given from four different aspects but satisfactorily.

He first dwells on causes and draws our attention to the fact that causes and reasons coincide with each other in this world of wisdom. Be it Muslim or disbeliever, whoever meets the preliminary conditions of the achievement they expect and observe their causes and reasons will have the success. It is clear how to benefit from a tool under what conditions, with what techniques, and with what kind of planning. Whoever observes these rules and carry out causes will have the success.

The word force in the question above is mentioned as follows,

“Force possesses a truth; there is an underlying meaning in its creation.

If you want to be successful and to get the better of your adversaries, you need to try to be powerful. For power also possesses a right. Those who take hold of the power are most likely to come out as winners. If you make wood and steel collide, it is obvious that wood will smash.

Secondly, he handles the question with regard to the qualities in man. All beautiful qualities have been mentioned in the Quran, and have been put into practice most perfectly by the Messenger of Allah. However, a Muslim may not be able to demonstrate them in his/her practices considering the factors of evil-self, Satan, the corrupted state of the society and so on. Again, a non-Muslim may have some fine manners because of the education s/he has received and of social structure. These are his/her Muslim qualities. What clashes with each other are not the beliefs in hearts but these qualities.

Let us give an example from the life of commerce: The qualities such as knowledge, uprightness, the order of working, having principles have direct impacts on the outcome of commerce. If a non-Muslim possesses these qualities and again if a Muslim lacks these qualities, it is most probable that a non-Muslim be wealthier than a Muslim is. Here, a non-Muslim does not get the better of a Muslim, but Muslim qualities get the better of non-Muslim qualities. However, finally, the truth prevails in the realm of attributes. He proceeds to make another comment, which broadens our horizons:

Furthermore, in this world the right of life is general and all-embracing. It is a universal mercy that has a meaningful manifestation, a wise inner purpose, which unbelief does not impede.”

The right of life is general and all embracing. That is, in this respect, there is no difference between a believer and an unbeliever, a human and an animal. Whoever has been given life is also given sustenance. Sustenance is given not to belief or worship but to life. The right of belief and worship is the eternal bliss in the Hereafter.

Setting out from here, we can continue as follows:

There are different mirrors and different places for each name of Allah Almighty. Most of them are not related to the faith of an individual. For example, if a farmer who wants to get more shares from the manifestation of name the Sustainer (ar-Razzaq) meets the necessary conditions, he will enjoy more crops in his field. Here the faith of the person does not matter at all. Again, a person who wants to enjoy the manifestation of the name the Healer (ash-Shafi) on himself/herself takes the useful medication for his/her illness. His/her faith is not to be taken into consideration either. Because this person has known how to require the manifestation of this name and in return healing has been bestowed upon him/her. Someone who does not take this procedure might not heal even if s/he is a perfect believer.

Thus, if a Muslim wishes to make use of the manifestations of divine names, s/he must be a mirror worthy of those manifestations. If s/he does not do that, s/he gets nothing. However, the same believer becomes a candidate for the Divine bounties in the realm of the Hereafter by engaging in worship, good deeds, and sincerity.

A person who does not fulfill these conditions cannot get his/her share from Paradise no matter how much successful s/he may be.

In the same place, he calls on our attention to the third point of the issue:

He says that Allah has two separate systems of laws. One of them is the decrees of the Quran, which puts man’s actions into order pertaining to will. The other one is the laws that arrange the order of the universe and the objects in it. The first is Sharia. The second is called code of laws pertaining to the worldly life, which is the second type of Sharia. The laws of nature are from this second type of Sharia.

It is stated that those who obey or oppose the decrees of the Quran will get their reward or punishment mostly in the Hereafter, and those who conform or not with the code of laws pertaining to the worldly life will be rewarded or punished in this world. Thus, those who do not act in accordance with the code of laws pertaining to the worldly life suffer from poverty, wretchedness, and misery. As for a non-Muslim who conforms with these rules in accordance with the Divine will even unknowingly, s/he receives his/her reward in this world.

These three issues are basic factors for success or failure. And most of the events are explained with one or a few of them. Nevertheless, sometimes we may fail to achieve our goals although we have done everything necessary. Here we are obliged to seek a hidden aspect of mercy of divine ordaining. Now in the fourth part of the answer, he points to this issue and draws our attention to the divine determining and will.

In the fourth point, he suggests that unbelief gets the better of the truth, assists and strengthens the flourishing of the truth.

This point is important in this respect:

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) says in a hadith, “Most of the troubles come to prophets and to the other beloved servants of Allah (SWT) in accordance with their degrees.” That most of the prophets were insulted, driven away from their homes and inflicted torture upon comes true with a Divine wisdom. The hardship they face, as Badiuzzaman puts it, is like worship. The worship which is based on the principle of patience, trust in Allah (SWT) and is quite hard to endure deserves an enormous reward. With these hardships, the prophets and the beloved servants of Allah Almighty progress spiritually and, besides their Divine causes, gain the heart of people even if late. While those who oppressed them are tortured in their graves, their communities live and let, live the truth on earth.

Just as day and night are of use differently in the growing of a plant, so too are effects of the manifestations of Glory and Beauty of Allah in the growing up of human spirit.

This is a Divine wisdom. Hardships and calamities that hit the friends of Truth have nothing to do with the first three points.

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