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islam the misunderstood religion pdf download

  • Book Title:
 Islam The Misunderstood Religion
  • Book Author:
Sayyid Qutb
  • Total Pages
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  • Preface
  • Is Religion Antiquated?
  • Islam and Slavery
  • Islam and Feudalism
  • Islam and Capitalism
  • Islam and Private Ownership
  • Islam and The Class System
  • Islam and Alms
  • Islam and Woman
  • Islam and The Concept of Punishment
  • Islam and Civilization
  • Islam and Reactionarism
  • Islam and Sexual Repression
  • Islam and Freedom of Thought
  • Religion: The Opium of the People?
  • Islam and Non-Muslim! Communities
  • Islam and Idealism
  • Islam and Communism
  • What Next?


Dazzled by the achievements of science during the 18th and 19th centuries many

Westerners thought that religion had exhausted all its usefulness and surrendered to science once for all. Almost all the eminent western psychologists and sociologists expressed themselves in similar terms. Thus Freud the renowned psychologist, for instance, showing the futility of any advocacy for what religion stood for in modem time says that the human life passes through three distinct psychological phases: superstition, religion and science. Now being the era of science all religion was out of date.

As we have already explained in the preface there were certain causes which led the men of science in Europe to adopt a view of life antagonistic to religion, and based on its hatred. It was due to the great controversy that raged there between men of science and the Christian church which made them think-quite justifiably of course-that whatever the church stood for was reactionary, retrogressive, backward and superstitious, and that therefore it must of necessity vacate its seat for science so as to enable humanity to move ahead on the path of civilization.

Without appreciating the difference between the peculiar conditions of life obtaining in Europe at the time of this unhappy conflict and these in their own Islamic orient, people opposed to their sacred traditions handed down to them from past generations demanded their outright abolition. Then came the contagion of imitation which plagued the dominated Islamic orient and led the naive among its people to fancy that the only way to progress was that followed by the dominant nations of Europe, and they have to discard their religion just as Europe had already done failing which they feared that they would be trapped in an abyss of reactionarism, backwardness and humbug.

But such people overlooked the fact that even in the west not all the outstanding scholars were antagonistic towards religion, nor do their works exhibit anything of this sort. On the other hand, we find some intellectuals among them of great eminence, who, freed of the materialism of the Godless Europe, were driven to the conclusion that religion is a psychological as well as an intellectual necessity for mankind.

The most noted figure among them is the astronomer, James Jeans who started his intellectual career as a Godless skeptic but was led finally by his scientific exploration to the conclusion that the greatest problems of science could not be resolved without believing …God. The famous sociologist, Jeans Bridge went so far as to eulogize Islam for achieving a successful amalgam of the temporal with the spiritual into a harmonious system of thought blent with a practical code of life. The well-known English writer, Somerset Maugham epitomized the whole attitude of modem Europe towards religion when he remarked that Europe had in the present era discovered a new god-science, discarding the older one.

The god of science has, however, turned out to be extremely fickle, ever changing and constantly shifting positions, upholding today as a fact and reality what it rejected yesterday as false and spurious and vice versa, with the result that we see its “worshippers” doomed to a fate of perpetual restlessness and anxiety, for how can they find rest and peace of mind under such a capricious god? That this constant restlessness

with which the modern west is afflicted is a fact, is borne out by the large number of psychological and nervous disorders that are so common in the western community of today.

A still another result of this deification of modern science is that the world we live in is devoid of all meaning and purpose with no higher order or power to guide it, with a persistent struggle ever going on between opposing forces. As a result, everything in this world suffers change; economic and political systems change; relations between state and individuals alter; even scientific “Facts” do change. What can man expect save misery and perpetual restlessness in a world with such a somber setting where no Higher Power exists whom he should turn to for support, strength and comfort in this ruthless struggle of life.

It is religion and religion alone that can restore to the world of humanity peace and tranquility. It instills in man love for goodness and courage to stand up to the forces of evil and tyranny as a necessary condition of obtaining God’s pleasure and to make His will predominant on this earth awaiting with patience His reward in the Hereafter. Doesn’t mankind really need peace, tranquility, comfort, in a word, religion?

What will become of man but for faith and belief in an eternal life in the Hereafter? In this context man’s life upon earth assumes new dimensions opening far higher horizons of progress before him in the absence of which he is inevitably oppressed by a torturous sense of nothingness, as it means a virtual cutting short of man’s total life-span, making him a mere plaything in the hands of his whims and caprices which teach him nothing but to derive the maximum possible amount of pleasure during this short sojourn upon earth. Mutual rivalries, savage battles and conflicts over the possession of material gains follow, as now there is no Higher Power to lay checks on men’s desires. So, blinded by his greed and lust, each one of them wants to gain whatever he can lay his hands on in the shortest possible time.

Thus man is degraded to lower planes of feeling and thought. His imagination sinks low and so do his ideals and the means to achieve them. They are all marked with abjectness. Mankind is doomed to a perpetual life of hideous internecine wars that scarcely permit it to soar to higher and nobler ends in life. In such a world there is no room for love or sympathy as men are wholly obsessed with their carnal pleasures. They are led by their blind passions. How can they in such a context have lofty aspirations or even appreciate genuine human feelings?

Men in such a world no doubt gain some material profits. But of what use are these when fellowmen are constantly wrangling over them, each ready to cut his brothers throat should he find it opportune for his own material welfare. Materialism spoils life so much that even man’s material achievements are rendered useless and senseless. Men are enslaved by greed, lust and avarice. Blind appetites alone govern them. They have no control whatsoever over these vices. Nor can they ever hope to extricate themselves from their trammels.

Similarly, the nations too, due to similar causes, get entangled in devastating wars which spoil all harmony in life. And science with all its dreadful weapons is employed for the extermination of the human race and its obliteration rather than make it serve man

and contribute towards his well-being.

Viewed in this context religion means broadening the mental horizon of mankind, for life is not confined to this world alone but continues even beyond it-up to eternity. This brightens hope in man’s heart and encourages him to fight steadfastly against evil and oppression. Religion teaches love, sympathy and universal brotherhood and is thus the only way to peace, prosperity and progress which is in itself a sufficient reason for its retention. It equips man in the best possible way for the hard struggle of life.

Furthermore, it is faith and faith alone that can inspire man to rise above his self and suffer for noble and lofty ideals. Once it is taken away from him he is left with nothing else to look up or pin his hopes to outside his own self. He changes into a brute immediately. Many a man fell fighting in the noble cause of truth spending the whole of their lives in the struggle yet achieving nothing in the materialistic sense of the word. What inspired these noble souls to engage in a battle that brought them no material rewards, hat caused them rather lose whatever little they happened to possess? Undoubtedly, it was one of the many miracles of the Faith, for, so far as selfish motives viz. avarice, greed, lust etc. are concerned, these can never make man achieve anything really good, noble or of a permanent value. This is why the material triumphs won by selfish avarice are so short-lived and temporary as the incentive for immediate gain cannot equip man with character, nor can it give him the courage to stand fast suffering patiently and for long for a truly noble and lofty cause.

There are in fact some so-called “reformers” who seek inspiration from hatred rather than love. This is the headspring of their inspiration, which they say gives them the courage to bear hardships for their cause with patience. The hatred they cherish may be personal in character or it may spring among a class of people and be directed against mankind in general or the generation they may have happened to be born in. Such rancor- inspired people may realize some of their ends by way of “reformation”. Their rancor coupled with their fiery and innate cruel natures may as well sustain them and boost their “morale” to willingly suffer privation for the sake of the cause they stand for, but a doctrine based on malevolence rather than love can never lead humanity to anything good. They may remove certain evils and put an end to the existing state of injustice but offer no sound remedy for these ailments of mankind. Based on hatred and malevolence, such a philosophy of life is bound sooner or later to degenerate and create far more evil and injustice than that it had originally professed and sought to cure.

On the other hand, a creed that does not aim at the immediate gains of this world, nor derives inspiration from malevolence but fosters in men noble passions of love, fraternity and a will to lay down their lives serving their fellowmen, can alone guarantee to humanity a reward permanent and worth striving for, and pave the way to its future progress and prosperity. The essence of such a creed is faith in God and love for Him with a consequent virtuous mode of living that helps man get nearer unto his Creator. But both of these remain lifeless so long as one does not believe in the Hereafter as well. Belief in the Hereafter gives man a sense of security banishing from his heart fear of extinction with his physical death and promising him an eternal life. This, in other words, means that his efforts shall not be wasted away but shall be crowned with their fullest

reward in the life to come, if not in the life herein.

All this is, however, what follows as a natural corollary to a simple belief in God and the Hereafter as such. But so far as Islam is concerned it does not stop short there, but goes a long way ahead: it has a quite different and far more fascinating story to tell.

Those who may imagine that Islam has become outmoded and is no longer needed, do not know as to what it stands for, nor do they in any wise seem to understand its real mission in human life. As taught to them in the history books prescribed by the agents of imperialism in early life they think that Islam was revealed merely to put an end to idolatry and guide man to the worship of God alone, that the Arabs were torn into antagonistic tribes, so Islam came and united them and made them a strong and unified nation, that they were addicted to drinking and gambling and led depraved lives, so Islam came and checked them from these depravities as it did abolish so many other evil customs prevalent among them such as burying alive their daughters and wasting away their strength in acts of revenge, and that Islam called upon Muslims to disseminate its message which they did, this in turn leading to the battles that ultimately determined the boundaries of the Islamic world as we know it today. This was then according to these people the sole purpose of Islam in human life! “Being a historical mission it has long since been fulfilled: there is no idol-worship in the Islamic world; the once antagonistic tribes have been more or less subject to a process of absorption losing their identity in the larger nationalities or communities. As far as gambling and drinking are concerned let us bear in mind that human civilization has advanced to such an extent now that it is useless to declare such pastimes unlawful as we see that despite all religious taboos they still persist. It is no use insisting on their abolition. Thus they conclude that Islam has served its purpose in this world; it has had its day but is now quite out of place and is, therefore, no longer needed. We must, therefore, turn towards the modern doctrines of life as in these alone lies our salvation”.

Thus parroting the ideas of their western teachers these people betray their own ignorance. They know nothing about Islam or its real mission in human life. Let us, therefore, before proceeding further, see what Islam is, and what in fact it stands for.

Islam, in a word, means liberation from all sorts of slavery such as may inhibit the progress of humanity or may not allow it to follow the path of virtue and goodness. It means man’s freedom from dictators who enslave him by force or fear, make him do what is wrong and deprive him of his dignity, honor, property or even life. Islam liberates him from such tyranny by telling him that all authority vests in God and God alone; He alone is the Real Sovereign. All men are His born subjects and, as such, He alone controls their destinies, none of them having the power to benefit aught or even avert any distress from his own self contrary to or independent of His Divine Will. All men shall be presented before Him on the Day of Judgment to account for their performance in this life. Thus Islam brings to man freedom from fear or oppression inflicted on him by men like himself who are in reality as helpless as he, and who are no less subject to the Dominant Will of God Almighty than he himself is.

Not only this. Islam means freedom from lust as well, including even the lust for life, as it is this very weakness of man which is exploited by tyrants and dictators intentionally

or otherwise in enslaving their fellowmen, But for it no man would silently accept slavery to men like himself or sit idle to watch tyranny strut abroad and dare not challenge it, It is a great blessing of Islam that it taught man to fight tyranny and oppression bravely rather than cringe before them in abject servitude, Says the Holy Qur’an : “Say: If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brother, your mates, or your kindred, the wealth that ye hale gained, the commerce in which ye fear a decline, or the swellings in which ye delight-are dearer to you than God, or His Apostle, or the striving in His cause,-then wait until God brings about His Decision: and God guides not the rebellious” (ix: 24),

Contrasting the blind passions and appetites with the love of God, that represents in life love, virtue and truth and striving hard in His way-in the way of all that is good and lofty in life, Islam subjects the former to the latter, Unruly passions must be kept in check by the love of God; it must be the dominant and real directing force in man’s life as without this no man can claim to be a true Muslim,

A man engrossed in sensual pleasures may form a mistaken out look upon life and think that he enjoys life more than others do. But soon he realizes his mistake as not long after this he is reduced to a mere slave to his blind passions, He is doomed to a perpetual life of deprivation and restlessness, for animal desires once run rampant are never satisfied: they are rather sharpened all the more and degrade man to lower levels of animalism where all his efforts are focused on one object: how to derive the maximum possible sensual pleasure in life? Such an attitude towards life is, however, not conducive to progress, material or spiritual, as humanity cannot soar in higher realms unless it is freed from the dominance of the blind animal appetites. Only then can it march ahead freely in the fields of science, arts or religion,

It is for this very reason that Islam attaches so great an importance to the freeing of man from his animal passions. For this purpose it neither favors monarchism, nor does it forbid its followers to partake freely of the good things of this life. Rather it aims at the attainment of a balance between these two extremes. Whatever things are here, are for man. They are to serve him, not to dominate or rule over him. He should not, therefore, allow himself to be made slave to them. He should rather use them as means to a higher end i.e. his spiritual perfection by disseminating the word of God amongst his fellowmen. Thus Islam has a twofold objective in this regard: in the individual life, it aims at making a just and sufficient provision to each and every individual so as to enable him to lead a decent, clean life; and in the collective sphere, it arranges things in such a way that all the social forces of a community are directed towards the enhancement of progress and civilization in accordance with its basic outlook Upon life that aims at striking a balance between the units and the whole, between individuals an d the community.

Islam has also had the most liberalizing effect on human intellect as it is diametrically opposed to all sorts of superstition. Humanity has been in the course of history found to fall a prey to diverse absurdities of thought as well as practice, some of which were the lively play of man’s fancy and were acknowledged as such, whereas others were referred to as originating with gods to whom human hands gave shape. Thus did the human intellect grope about in the dark before the advent of Islam. With Islam it attained maturity and freedom from this hotchpotch of nonsense, symbolized in these so-called

gods, the Jewish traditions, and the imbecilities of the Christian church, and was once again brought back to the folds of True Faith and True God.

Islam uses a very simple terminology. Its teachings are very easy to understand, perceive and believe in. It invites man to make use of the faculties given to him and try to acquire the fullest possible understanding of life surrounding him. It does not as such admit of any inborn hostility between reason and religion or, for that matter, between science and religion. It does not force man to believe in silly stuff as a prior condition to his belief in God. Nor does it compel him to renounce his God so as to be able to admit of scientific facts. Not Content with this, Islam impresses upon man in clear and unequivocal terms that it is God and God alone Who has in His immense mercy subjected all the things on this earth to man, and that all the facts that are discovered by scientific exploration or the material benefits that flow there from to man, are in fact a blessing of God, for which man should other his thanks to God, and strive hard so as to become a worthy slave of so Merciful and Beneficent a Master. Thus Islam holds knowledge and science as a part of faith rather than regard these as an evil intrinsically opposed to genuine belief in God.

None of the above-mentioned problems staring mankind in the face’ have yet been resolved: the higher real human objectives are yet to be realized. Mankind is still the victim of various imbecilities, it still groans under tyrants and dictators and is yet far from being free from the oppressive demands of anima1ism and sensual pleasures. Islam has still a great and glorious part to play.

One half of the inhabitants of the world of today remain idol worshippers as ever. As an instance we may refer to India, China and a great many other parts of the world that are inhabited by such people. The remaining half or thereabout dotes on still another type of deity that has exercised as great, nay a far worse, corrupting influence on men’s thoughts and feelings carrying them still further away from the right path. It is this very deity that is styled Modern Science.

Science is a powerful instrument to help us increase our knowledge of the things around us. As such it has an impressive record of achievements to its credit. All these brilliant achievements were, however, vitiated by one fatal mistake of the westerners: they installed science as supreme God declaring that it alone had the right to claim the adoration and submission of man unto it. Thus they denied themselves all means of acquiring knowledge save that recognized by empirical science which let humanity wander farther away rather than bring it nearer to its real objective or destination. Consequently the otherwise vastly immense range of human endeavor and progress was shrunk small with the limitations such as all empirical sciences entail. For, in some cases it is just possible that the scope of empirical science, concerned as it is with mere matter, may be narrower as against the inherent capacities of man or it may not be able to soar higher than man is otherwise capable of with wings not of intellect alone but with those lent him by his spirit as well, bringing him nearer to his Creator and enabling him at the same time to obtain a far sounder and more correct understanding of the ultimate reality.

The protagonists of science also claim that science alone can introduce man to the secrets of this universe and life: hence, only that which is upheld by science is true; the

rest is all trash! But while making such a statement they overlook the fact that science

with all its brilliant and impressive record is still in its infancy and ever hesitant to commit itself as regards the veracity or supposititiousness of many things for the simple reason that it cannot penetrate deep into the heart of reality beyond effecting a mere superfluous survey of it. But still its votaries clamor and tell us with a very authoritative air that there is no such thing as human soul in existence. They deny that man, confined as he is within the limitations of his sensory organs, can ever have any contact with the Unknown -nor get even a glimpse of it through telepathy1 or dreams. They repudiate all these not because they have proved them to be mere illusions but simply because the experimental science with its inadequate instrument has not yet been able to fathom their mystery, as it pleased God to reserve these as something above and beyond the field of human perception. That it belongs to a higher order of things not subject to man’s observation was, however, sufficient to make these gentlemen turn their backs on it, some of them hurrying forward to announce to the waiting world that there was no such thing as human soul in existence.

Such then is the “enlightened ignorance” man suffers from today, which shows how desperately he stands in need of Islam to blow away these “scientific” cobwebs of today as well as the imbecilities inherited from a remote past. Idol-worship was the older form wherein human folly found expression: the cult of science-worship is its latest version. To liberate human reason and spirit, both of these needs must be shaken off. It is in this perspective that Islam emerges as the only hope for humanity, for it alone can restore peace between religion and science, bring back once more the tranquility and concord to this distressed world of today that has lost them through the perverted attitude towards life of the dominant West, forestalling an irreconcilable antagonism between man’s reason and intuition, between his desire for knowledge and a craving for God.

Historically the modem European civilization is the descendant of the ancient Grecian civilization bequeathed to modern Europe by the Roman Empire. In this Grecian civilization the relations of man to his gods were viewed as of mutual antagonism and active antipathy. Thus the mysteries that human endeavor lays bare or the good things that he happens to lay his hands on in this world were viewed as something he forcibly wrenches from these jealous but ineffectual gods, who would ban and take back all these if they could. Viewed in this light, the scientific achievements of man were just another name for his conquests that he won against his gods with a vengeance as they did not allow these willingly but only grudgingly.

It is this very pernicious spirit of the Grecian culture that still pervades the

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