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The First Phase : The Ideal Period

In the first phase of our history, a single individual was chosen by God and appointed to reconstruct the life of mankind on the basis of faith in the unity of Godhead, belief in the life hereafter, and obedience to the teachings of the prophets. For thirteen long years that individual preached this message in Mecca, and he was more than a preacher: he was an embodiment of the type of individual that Islam sought to produce. By his behavior and conduct, his deeds and words, his treatment of others and his attitude towards men, he showed what kind of character and moral excellence Islam sought to promote and how a believer in Islam should conduct himself in the rough and tumble of life. The Prophet of Islam was a perfect embodiment of the principles that he preached and the precepts that he enjoined.

The Prophet's message and his personal example soon began to influence people, and within a few years he was joined by a large number of persons. All these converts to Islam accepted the Prophet's teachings earnestly after having fully comprehended its meaning and significance; not one of them responded to his call without understanding it in all its ramifications. And since they had adopted Islam through conscious understanding, all of them molded their lives on the pattern enjoined by the Prophet. The life of each one of the converts to Islam in Mecca during the first thirteen years underwent the transformation and revolution that Islam seeks to bring about in the lives of all men. Not only this. They also actively struggled against all the forces, internal as well as external, that stood against the revolution. In the process they readily made the greatest conceivable sacrifices for the cause and happily suffered all imaginable hardships, for they treasured the new values of life above everything else and were not prepared to abandon them at any cost. What is more striking, they did not content themselves with their personal adoption of the Islamic creed and all that it stood for: they were also determined to establish the Islamic way of life and ensure its supremacy in the world. And they staked their lives to ensure that they would never again be governed by any other way of life.

Within thirteen years the Prophet was able to gather around him a small but devoted group of courageous and selfless people; and then he migrated along with these people to Medina, where he set up in the first instance a small city-state. The area of that state did not exceed that of a small township of the present day, its population was merely six to seven thousand. But soon this tiny state became a challenge to the whole of Arabia. Its founder and chief, the Prophet of Islam began to establish a new social order which was the very antithesis of the pre-Islamic social system of the Arabs. And within a few years he succeeded in setting up a model Islamic society and state. The social order was a perfect manifestation of the Islamic ideals of human civilization and culture, of morality and private ethics, of social justice and economic equity, of brotherhood and fraternity, of solidarity and cohesion. The teachings of Islam no longer remained mere theoretical expressions, they became a living reality in individual and social life. Now one could see with the eyes under one's brows what type of man Islam wants to produce and what type of society and economy it wants to establish and what blessings all this brings to human life.

Within eight brief years, this small State, covering a few square miles and embracing a few thousand souls came to dominate the whole of the Arabian peninsula extending over more than a million square miles. And it was not merely a political change: it brought about a total and radical transformation of the life of the community in all its aspects. Their view of life, their values, their morals, their mode of living, all underwent a revolutionary change. Both the spirit and form of their civilization and culture underwent a radical transformation which eventually changed the course of human history. The community as well as its individual members adopted a new mode of thinking, a new kind of conduct and behavior and a new aim and mission of life which they had never known during the several thousand years of their previous history. For centuries before the advent of Islam, the Arabs had been split into countless political groups and factions, and their political life had been plagued by confusion; mutual hostility of tribal chieftains and blood wars. Islam made a clean sweep of this bloody confusion and established a unified and orderly political system. This was no mean achievement in itself; but Islam accomplished something much more difficult in bringing about an intellectual, moral and cultural revolution. It is indeed a pity that a biased historiography has misrepresented this great change as the outcome of a series of wars and expeditions, and many Western orientalists have all along been shouting from the housetops that Islam was spread by the sword. The truth is that the total number of persons killed on both sides in the wars fought during the days of the Prophet did not exceed one thousand and two hundred. Anyone with a grain of sense should find it easy to see that such a great revolution could not possibly have been wrought by the sword.


The Real Cause of Success

In fact the real reason for the success of that great and unique revolution was very different from what detractors of Islam have made it out to be. During the earlier years when the Prophet preached Islam in Mecca, only a small number of people could comprehend its meaning and significance. It was understood and appreciated only by those who were gifted with rare powers of intellect and comprehension, who could rise above the deep-rooted prejudices of the days of ignorance, who could recognize and accept the truth, who could follow it in practice and who possessed the moral courage to stake their lives for the sake of the ideals they had adopted. Later, with the Prophet's migration to Madinah, the situation changed radically. With the help of a small group of devoted followers gifted with these qualities and imbued with this spirit, the Prophet succeeded in establishing an Islamic social order in Madinah. As the head of a free Islamic state be began to introduce and implement the entire Islamic scheme of reconstruction and reform and thus provided a concrete and striking manifestation of the moral, social and political ideals of the new Faith. People could now see for themselves the peace and order, the virtue and righteousness, the honesty and integrity, the equity and justice, the fraternity and equality, that an Islamic society could establish. They could see how it could resolve economic difficulties and problems and purify and ennoble the lives of men. No one, except those who refused to see, could shut his eyes to these glaring realities, which stood in such sharp contrast to the dismal state of affairs before the advent of Islam, when the hand of each was against all and society was reeking with all manner of corruption and immorality. Even those who had at one time pitted themselves against the Prophet and staked their lives in a bid to crush the new faith in the cradle began to see the light. Such stalwarts as Khalid bin Walid, Akrimah bin Abu Jehl and Amr bin Aas were converted to the new religion. Even people like Abu Sufyan and cannibalistic Hind ultimately recognized that Islam, which had brought about such radical and revolutionary changes, in Arab society, was the true religion. The Islamic social order that the Prophet had established was an irrefutable evidence of the inherent soundness of faith and doctrines upon which it was founded.

Thanks to this great revolution the Prophet succeeded in creating the new community with a new code of public morality and a new pattern of individual character. Their collective life was governed entirely by the principles and precepts of Islam. Their beliefs and thoughts were purely Islamic. Their religion was not vitiated by the worship of any deity other than Allah. Their individual and collective morality had been purged of the evils of the days of ignorance and caste in the mould of Islamic ethics. The civilization and culture of that society were perfectly in accord with the spirit of Islam, and the State was governed exclusively by the laws of Islam. The life of the community was completely devoted to the cause of Islam and every one of its members was prepared to die for the sake of his faith, for the ideals he now lived by. The community pledged to bear the standard of God and uphold His cause in the world. This became the collective ideal of the community. And it was generally believed that the very purpose of the establishment of the Islamic State was to enforce the principles of Islam in the territories under its sway and to strive to spread the Faith to other parts of the world. The propagation of Islam was the mission of the new community. The State it had succeeded in setting up was a living embodiment of the principles and ideals of Islam and was also the standard bearer of the Faith in the world.

The formation of the first Muslim community and the establishment of the first Islamic state were followed, during the period of the rightly guided Caliphate, by a phenomenal expansion of Islam which may well be described as an explosion. Within the span of a few years the tide of Islamic expansion had overwhelmed a vast part of the globe extending from Turkistan and Afghanistan to Northern Africa. This wonderful phenomenon is bound to set any intelligent student of history thinking about its causes. It should be easy to see that it could not be attributed to physical power or material superiority. The people of Arabia were not endowed with any extraordinary physical or material strength, and their land lacked even ordinary natural resources. Indeed, with the exception of the recently discovered oil, Arabia is still miserably poor in resources. Its population, does not exceed ten million even now; during the rightly guided Caliphate it must have been merely a fraction of what it is today. The causes of the phenomenon must therefore be sought in factors other than material. It is obvious that the power that led Islam to triumph was the character and conduct of its votaries as reflected in the behavior of each one of them in peace and war, in the administration of conquered lands and in the treatment of the vanquished enemies. It lay in their unflinching faith and spotless character. When power was tempered with justice, authority imbued with virtue, and leadership crowned with morality, a new historic force was released -a force that conquered not merely lands but hearts and souls. This is how the miracle was accomplished.

The subjects of the Iranian and Roman Empires, which Islam overran and vanquished, could not have shut their eyes to the radical difference between the character and conduct of their old and new rulers. Under the old regime, they could not have imagined in their wildest dreams the governors and other dignitaries of state living and moving about like ordinary mortals, always accessible even to the humblest of men, ever ready to hear the grievances of those in distress. When under the Islamic regime they saw such rulers, all, except those blinded by rank prejudice, were compelled to recognize the moral superiority of the new rulers and of their religion.

Like the governors and other administrators, the conquering armies of Islam showed exemplary behavior. As they would pass through a conquered city, thousands of women, attractively made up, would line up on the balconies to see the soldiers' march past; and not one of them would raise his eyes to catch a glimpse of beauty on exhibition. Indeed, a whole army would sometimes march through a city without becoming aware of the inviting presence of pretty women on the balconies. This was something that the peoples of these lands had never seen or heard: what they had seen and heard was that no woman's honor was safe at the hands of a conquering army. In the circumstances, it was but natural that the battalions of the new conquerors should win the hearts of the vanquished peoples.

Scrupulous regard for the honor of women was but one of the many unique features of the character and conduct of the new conquerors; strict honesty in financial and other dealings with the conquered was another. For instance, whenever, a Muslim army was forced by enemy pressure to withdraw from any part of a conquered territory, it would refund all the taxes collected from the people to meet the cost of administration, because it was no longer in a position to discharge the responsibilities of administration and of protecting their lives and properties. This was again a complete departure from the precedent set by the earlier conquerors and rulers, who, far from refunding collected levies, would rob and plunder as much as they could before evacuating an occupied territory. The peoples of those lands could not have expected any conqueror to be honest in political dealings or administrative matters; what they actually experienced now was saintly character and exemplary conduct in every aspect of life. It was virtue incarnate, and they couldn't but be overwhelmed by it.

This, then was the real power and strength which enabled the earlier Muslims to conquer a large part of the world. There is no doubt that they achieved much more through their excellent character and exemplary conduct than they did by the force of arms. Each one of them had embraced and adopted Islam on the basis of a full understanding and appreciation of the creed, and had molded his character and personality in harmony with the spirit of the Faith. Therefore, in all aspects of their lives and in all spheres of their conduct, they acted faithfully in accordance with the tenets and injunctions of Islam; no temptation could make them flinch or swerve from their path, no oppression could force them to budge an inch from their stand, nor could any power, however great and terror striking, stand in their way. The people whom they conquered and ruled were not their political slaves but their admirers and their followers. They embraced the conquerors' religion, accepted their culture and even adopted their language. And down to the present day these conquered peoples regard their Muslim conquerors as their heroes and exemplars; on the other hand they are not willing to identify themselves with their non-Muslim fellow countrymen or ancestors. Could such a radical and total change in the lives and thoughts of men have possibly been brought about by the force of arms?

That was the first phase of the history of Islam. .This is sot the occasion to discuss the details of that stage of our history.* What needs to be emphasized in the context of the present discussion is the fact that Islam achieved such spectacular success in the first phase of its history because its votaries had consciously and earnestly accepted its principles and doctrines, which were fully reflected in the life and character of individuals and the conduct of the community and because a State determined to stake its all on establishing the rule of God on earth had come into being. These were the causes that gave Islam in the very first phase 01` its history a momentum that have survived for nearly fourteen hundred years and promises to last for ever. Even today, when the Muslims are in a state of cultural degeneration almost all over the world, they 'bear the imprint of the glorious fast stage of their history. However corrupt or degenerate a Muslim may be today, he still cherishes, in his heart of hearts, the ideal of Islamic society that was established by the Prophet and maintained and consolidated by the rightly guided Caliphs. He can never completely forget that ideal which continues to illumine the world. Every Muslim is still fascinated by that ideal and desires to see it realized once again. During the many long centuries since the end of the early Caliphate, Islam has been constantly spreading, and there is no part of the world where the light of the Faith has not reached. All this expansion and progress has been in spite of the .fact that there has been no dearth amongst the Muslims of tyrannical rulers, dissolute nobles or immoral commoners. We have long since ceased. to be an ideal nation that could serve as a source of inspiration to the rest of mankind. If Islam has been spreading in the world in spite of the sorry state of the Muslims, it is because they are still enamoured of Islam in its pristine purity, as it was preached and practiced by the Prophet, his first four Caliphs and his Companions. It is that Islam which people still regard as the tree Faith and which they desire to follow. Moreover, the little virtue that one still finds in the character and conduct of Muslims is a faint reflection of the great qualities that their ancestors had developed during the earlier decades of Islam. The imprint of glorious the beginning of Islam upon the life of the community has no doubt faded a great deal with the passage of time, but it has not vanished, and its influence abides. Whatever dynamism, we find today in Islam is entirely due to the great movement that Islam generated during the initial years of its historic career.

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