Islam and Social Development
Islam is not an intoxicant for people. It does not force them to renounce pleasure with worldly things, or force them to sit down and fold their arms away from struggle, work and enlightenment. Instead, it calls for knowledge, which is one of the two conditions for advancement. The second condition is a call for work, which is the implementation of what is discovered by knowledge. This is a proof that it is a religion of continual activity. It is a religion of power in everything: material, spiritual, military, sanitary, political and social. In addition to that, it has been reported in an authentic prophetic hadith that, “A strong believer is better and is more lovable to Allah than a weak believer”. (Hadith by Muslim)
Islam itself is a phase of the human society advancement. It came at the end of the preceding religions, which were suitable to the degree of intellectual growth and social development within the limited communities of which their messages of reform came. As civilization spread and means of communication and contact became easier, communities reached a new stage, moving towards a global human community, and thought reached a full maturity. The message of Islam came as a pinnacle of this general progress, with its comprehensive and mature laws that touch on all the human activities in line with the tradition of advancement, until it reached the extent which Allah has ordained.
How does Islam prepare a strong Muslim in face of contemporary variables?
I think that modern man is different from the old man addressed by the prophets tens of centuries ago! I do not think that a person of this age is charged with a mission other than that assigned to humankind and the Jinn from the dawn of history. This mission is precisely illustrated in the Qur’ān,
“In no way did I create the jinn and humankind except to worship Me.” (Qur’ān, 51:56)
Created with many talents and privileged far above other creatures, man has been entrusted with the required mission. Undoubtedly, new nascent matters appear in this age of great scientific advancements. Thus, discoveries unveiled many secrets of the universe and industries highly developed, giving rise to many new machines and devices. Life, in turn, has become facilitated and easier than before. Similarly, the manufacture of mass destruction weapons has become more developed and thus wars can threaten the entire human life. Humanities emerged and wished to lead the world in all fields whether literary, economic, political, etc.
What can a Muslim man do when facing all these new matters? In my experience with Islam, I am not worried about my faith or my way of life. I feel, however, that Islam is the only religion that can keep pace with this age of science and knowledge! Simply, Islam is the religion of knowledge. It urged humankind to research and discoveries:
“Have they not looked into the Dominion of the heavens and the earth and what things Allah has created?” (Qur’ān, 7:185)
True science is inseparable from faith. It calls people to have faith. Moreover, it is not atheistic. It mostly disbelieves in clairvoyance, myths, and antinomies. I agree with it in this regard. I see stupid disbelief as a beast-like feature or something similar. Allah Almighty says,
“Surely, the evilest of beasts to Allah are the deaf, the dumb, who do not consider.” (Qur’ān, 8:22)
Additionally, I have followed a survey among scientific groups in Europe and America. The findings prove that the great majority of people there believe in Allah, but a few are confused whereas very few, whose hearts are deviated, do not follow any creed. Therefore, claims that the majority of scientists are atheists are a downright lie and a deliberately circulated malicious rumor. I love knowledge so much as one loves delicious food. This love drives me to repeat this Qur’ānic supplication:
“O ‘Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” (Qur’ān, 20:114)
One seeking the pleasure of Allah should increase or widen his knowledge. The so-called material science; namely, the science searching in the kingdom of Allah (the universe) is better and more fruitful than unreliable vague philosophies that brought nothing to humanity but confusion, controversies, and vanities. Industrial progress which has provided humans with comfort and leisure is a great blessing worthy of great thanks to Allah. To encourage Adam to do good deeds, Allah allowed him residence in paradise and said,
“Surely it is due to you neither to hunger therein nor to go naked. You neither thirst therein nor suffer the heat (of the sun).” (Qur’ān, 20:118-119)
This means that in Paradise there is no tiredness or sickness at all, let alone working in the glaring sun to earn livelihood. Who does prefer tiredness or difficulties to comfort?!
Now, a person living in one country or continent can visit his beloved people in another in a few hours by taking a plane furnished with means of comfort. Compare this with the case in the past when our grandfathers would have to endure the difficulties and dangers of travel. We have to give more thanks to Allah for all these modern means of comfort. Muslims must master these modern industries and be familiar with their use. The following verse shows how the Jinn at the time of Prophet Solomon mastered some industries, which should encourage us to excel in industry. Referring to the services given to Prophet Solomon by the Jinn, Allah says,
“They build for him whatever he decided: chambers and statues, and bowls like water-troughs, and anchored cauldrons. ‘Do (righteousness), House of David, in thankfulness; indeed, only few of My servants are constantly thankful.” (Qur’ān, 34:13)
Skill in such civil industries is thus necessary for developing and mastering the military industries that land, sea and air wars require. I hate wars and have no wish for meeting the enemy. However, what to do when enemies invade your homeland and insult your religion in their attempt to force injustices, deny rights, promote corruption, burning the fruits and muzzling the voices reminding of the divine blessings! There would be no way but fight. A country that cannot make its weapons cannot fight against enemies. Skill here is a religious requirement and patience, a form of strive.
On the other hand, it is important to mention the great progress that human civilizations achieved in the political, economic, and administrative systems that mobilize the masses and direct them to defined goals. The secret behind this success is the great advancement in the study of humanities. Such knowledge is the “code’ followed by Europe in its peculiar public conditions. Yet, these studies are only branches of the ancient philosophy after the introduction of scientific methodology to them, partly or completely, aiming at more precision. However, some scientifically imprecise views exist concerning the sciences of education, sociology, and economics. As Muslims, we should benefit from such studies and their application in the various fields of life. The Shūra (consultation) systems, for instance, in such countries have succeeded in wiping out autocracy and empowering nations. Why do not we benefit from such effective systems and others related to public money protection against skilled political embezzlers or dishonest employees?
I am aware that there are religious scholars who hate the majors of humanities and their findings. Such scholars unfortunately limit their examination to the mistakes in these fields. Additionally, they argue that such majors tackle topics about the human soul and society has already comprehensively tackled by religion. We do not neglect the statements of religion on psychological or social issues; we draw from the efforts of human beings what can achieve the goals approved by reason and revelation (Qur’ān and Ḥadīth). If people of other religions have already explored some means or methods for achieving justice, we should be the first to benefit from them. For instance, the Prophet (pbuh) did not refrain from digging the ditch in spite of being a Persian war technique unknown to the Arabs at that time. In fact, modern civilizations, despite their several defects, generally harmonize with the human reason and nature in many scientific and constitutional areas. It is thus our right to leave the evil findings and accept the good ones.
Sorrowfully, there are many ignorant people, who speak in the name of Islam and take much interest only in apparent aspects mostly contrary to it. I heard a man saying proudly that he convinced one of the Americans to convert to Islam and that his piety has been illustrated greatly in that he was convinced to wear Arab white costume. Sadly, I ridiculed, “Why has not he also been convinced of wearing the Arab headband!? What is the relation between clothes and our religion!? You should leave him to wear his customary clothes so that people may know his noble moral Muslim character?” Actually, one can never learn Islam from t Bedouin jurists, Turkish military officers, or fake Sufi dervishes.
Why do we forget the precepts and virtues of Islam and cause people to abide by traditions of a certain race or honor the customs of some ages? I knew an English Muslim convert who became a follower of the Naqshbandi Sufi order. He was a kind person. However, I lost hope that he would give much benefit to Islam! The number of Muslims immigrating to England is two millions, which is double the number of the English Jews there. The Jewish influence, however, is more profound and far-reaching in the fields of culture, politics, and economics. They almost direct England as a whole. Unfortunately, most of the Muslims there with British nationality have no such profound influence and they even have no weight at all. Like others, they often do not adhere strictly to the right Islam descending from the heavens. Besides, they are preoccupied with internal issues and trivial matters. Islam clears the hearts from vain desires and the minds from illusions. It then unites all the Muslims in their ongoing endeavor in the cause of Allah. However, there is no place for Islam where there is corrupt disposition of the human intuition or any crocked thought.
 Shaikh ‛Aṭiya Ṣaqr, Former Chairman of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, “Understanding Islam”, Al-Azhar Center for Translation (ACT), 2017, p. 79.
 Muḩammad El-Ghazāli, “A Hundred Questions on Islam”, Al-Azhar Center for Translation (ACT), 2017, p. 101.
 This number was in 1983 when the book was published. Currently, the number of Muslims is about two million eight hundred and sixty nine thousands, according to 2011 report referred to in the footnote of question 16 of this book. (Professor Ahmed Shafeek Al-Khateeb)