Preaching and Propagation
Essential as it is for us to affirm faith in God and the Prophet and to follow with righteousness and sincerity the straight path of Islam, it is also of no mean importance that we strove earnestly to guide the others, too, to the path of the faith who are ignorant of it or who may be unwilling to adopt it on account of prejudice or spiritual malaise. As God has placed on us the duty of being His pious, devout and faithful servants so also has He made it obligatory for us to work among His other creatures as well towards the same end, that is, towards making them also His pious, devout and faithful servants. That is what is meant by the service of faith and its preaching and propagation.
This work is so great in the sight of God that for it He sent down thousands of Prophets into the world. The Prophets bore tremendous hardships and went through the severest of trials and privations to carry out their mission. They work for the moral and spiritual reform and uplift of mankind (May the eternal blessings of God be on them their companions and supporters).
The glorious chain of Prophecy and Apostleship ended with the last of the Prophets, Prophet Mohammad (Peace and Blessings of God be upon whom). Though him also God proclaimed to the world that no more Prophets would now be raised up for the guidance of humanity. The celestial mission shall now be carried on by those who had accepted his guidance and the religion he had brought with him into the world.
In sum, after the termination of the luminous line of Apostles the responsibility for preaching and propagation of faith and religious instruction and reform of mankind has fallen wholly upon the shoulders of the followers of the sacred Prophet. This honour, indeed, is unique. In the Quran, the very object of the raising up of Muslims has been defined as nothing but this:
You are the best of Peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong and believing in God. (III: 110)
The Muslims were, thus, superior to all other peoples and communities for the simple reason that they, in addition to adopting for themselves the path of faith and righteousness, were charged with the special duty of striving to bring others also to practice what was right and to avoid what was wrong. It was because of this that they were given the distinction of being the ‘Best of Peoples’. It is also evident from the above verse that should the Muslims fail to discharge the function they would not only forfeit the claim to the distinction but would also render themselves liable to be punished by God for neglecting the duty He had assigned to them. Let us take an illustration: suppose a company of sentries is posted in a town by the Government to check the immoral activities of its citizens and the sentries not only fail to perform their duty but, what is more, they themselves begin to indulge in the transgressions they were required to suppress. Now will they be retained in service and rewarded by the Government or taken severely to task by it for their negligence and misconduct? It will, certainly, not be improper or unjust if they were punished more severely than the other offenders.
The conditions prevailing in the entire Muslims world today are so extremely deplorable that what to speak of the preaching of the faith and the correction and reform of others, not more than five or ten percent of Muslims themselves are true to Islam and do good deeds and abstain from what is evil and prohibited. In these circumstances, it becomes our primary duty to carry out the mission of moral and spiritual reform and guidance among our own people among such sections of them as have drifted mournfully away from the path of faith and moral uprightness.
One of the reasons for it is that those who call themselves, or are known as Muslims, whatever be their practical state, have, after all, forged a link between themselves and God and His Prophet and the Faith, and become members of the Muslims brotherhood or Ummat, through the acceptance of Islam. Solicitude for their moral and spiritual well being is our first responsibility in any case in the same was as the responsibility of looking after the welfare of his own children and near relations is greater on a man than that of looking after the welfare of others.
And, secondly, before everything else, it is the actual condition of Muslims from which the world will generally judge about Islam, and the spectacle of degeneration that Muslims, on the whole, present these days is such that it cannot be expected to make a very favourable impression on anyone in respect of their faith. The non-Muslim world is not likely to think very highly of the excellent teachings of Islam as long as Muslims remain what they are today. On the other hand, it is a feeling of revulsion and dislike, which non-Muslims usually get about Islam when they look at the moral and spiritual depths into which the Muslims have sunk. It has always been like this. People have always formed their opinion, good or bad or indifferent, about a religion from the actual moral and social state of its followers.
In the past when Muslims used to be true Muslims, observing strictly the postulates of their faith, people were attracted towards Islam simply by seeing them. Whole nations and communities were converted to Islam in this way. But since the Muslims sank so low that the majority of them remained Muslims only in the name, their conduct and morals grew un-Islamic and their hearts got bereft of faith and righteousness the world has developed a prejudice against Islam itself.
In fine, we should realize the truth of it clearly that the daily life of Muslims, their social and moral and spiritual conduct and behaviour, is the biggest testimony and the chief measuring rod with regard to Islam. If the practical life of Muslims is good the world will form a good opinion about Islam, and if it is bad the opinion the world will acquire about Islam will also be bad. In later case, the preaching of Islam among non-Muslims is destined to be fruitless. Hence, the success of all the efforts aimed at the propagation of Islam among non-Muslims as well is dependent on the condition that Islamic life, i.e., the life of faith and righteous action became the chief attribute of the entire Muslim community. From this point of view also it is necessary to strive first for the guidance and reformation of Muslims and to launch the struggle with all our might for popularizing the values of Islamic life among them before we turned our attention to others.
The Quran has given the task of religious preaching, reform and guidance the name of Jehad-i-Akbar, the great Jehad. If it is undertaken in the right spirit, with sincerity and selflessness and solely for the sake of winning Divine approbation, this work, definitely, is a very great Jehad in the sight of God.
Many people suppose that Jehad means only a war, which is waged in the path of God and according to the rules and instruction laid down for it in the Shariat. But this is not correct. The truth is that whatever endeavour that can be made at a particular time for the preaching of Islam and the moral and spiritual correction and guidance of mankind is the Jehad of that age.
The Holy Prophet remained in Mecca for about twelve years after the mantle of Apostleship had fallen upon him. During this period the Jehad of the Prophet and his Companions consisted altogether in adhering steadfastly to the faith in-spite of the terrible persecution unleashed on them by the enemies of Islam and in doing all that lay in their power, openly as well as secretly, to spread the Divine message of Islam and to reform morally and spiritually those who lived around them.
To devote oneself to the noble task of guiding the ignorant, the way-ward and the thoughtless to the straight path of Islam and of bringing them nearer to God, to spend one’s time and money on it, and to sacrifice one’s comfort, all this, in case, is Jehad in Divine estimation. In fact, it is the Jehad of the present age.
The rich reward that awaits those in the Hereafter who engage themselves in this lofty endeavour as well as the dreadful punishment that is going to fall to the lot of those who neglect it and do not participate in it can well be imagined from the Traditions we give below:
“A person who guides another to a deed of virtue shall receive the same recompense for it as the doer of the deed and there will be no reduction in the reward of the doer himself because of it.”
What the Tradition means is that suppose ten persons, or even five, were reformed through our effort and they came to believe in God and the Prophet and to observe the Divine commandments- they began to offer the Namaz and to carry out other religious duties and avoided what was wrong and forbidden then the reward they will earn on it jointly will be granted to us alone also. A little thought will show that there is simple no other way in which a person can win so much reward-the reward of the prayers and other pious and virtuous deeds of hundreds of men.
Another Tradition of the Holy Prophet says:
“By the Almighty, if only one man receives guidance through you, it is better for you than red camels.”
As we have said earlier, the endeavour for mankind’s moral and spiritual guidance and reformation is a service of the faith of the highest order and a thing of outstanding merit and excellence. It is the special heritage left to us by the Prophets. It means their deputyship; it means their vicegerency. What worldly gain, what earthly glory, can compare with it?
The Holy Prophet, in the under-mentioned Tradition, has made use of a simple example to impress upon us the importance of the work of religious reformation and guidance.
He said, “Suppose there is a double storied boat in which the passengers of the lower deck have to fetch water from the upper deck. This causes inconvenience to the occupants of the upper deck and they do not like it. Now, if in their foolishness the passengers of the lower deck decide not to go to the upper deck and of their supply of water they begin to bore a hole in the bottom of the boat, and the passengers of the upper deck do not stop them from doing so, the entire boat, with all the passengers, will sink, But if the occupants of the upper deck some how manage to dissuade the occupants of the lower deck from boring he hole, they will save the occupants of the lower deck as well as themselves from being drowned. The same is true with wickedness and sin. If a community, as a whole, dwells in a state of ignorance and sinfulness and its enlightened and virtuous sections do not take steps to reform it and to bring it on the right path then Divine punishment will be sent down upon it because of its sins and transgressions and the pious and virtuous members of the community will also be caught in it. On the other hand, if an endeavour is made by them to reform the sinners and wrong-doers, the whole community will be saved.”
Again, the Prophet is reported to have said:
“By the Almighty in whose power lies my life, do not neglect the duty of ‘enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong.’ Remember if you neglected your duty it is quite possible that God might send down His punishment on you and then all your prayers and supplications will avail you nothing.”
Brothers, some of the most enlightened and spiritually evolved divines of our day are of the view that the disasters and humiliations that have been visiting Muslims for a long time, and the troubles and difficulties they are caught in universally these days and which do not seem to abate or relent a bit in-spite of all their pathetic petitions to God and prayers etc., are due mainly to the very reason that they have ceased to discharge the function they were raised up for and for which they were made wholly responsible after the termination of Prophecy and Apostleship. Evidently, when a watchman fails to perform his duty he is dismissed from service and castigated sternly for his negligence. Come; let us resolve solemnly that we shall be found wanting no more in the discharge of our duty. God’s help will be with us. He has promised:
God, certainly, will aid those who aid His Cause. (XXII: 40)