Addressing Prophet Muhammad e, the Quran enjoins: “Therefore, bear up patiently as did the steadfast apostles before you. Bear up with patience and do not seek to hurry on their doom.” (46:35)
That is, showing restraint in adverse situations and refraining from negative reaction form the basic principles of Islamic activism.
This means that, in unfavourable situations, no emotional move is made; rather, by avoiding the path of of reaction and retaliation, actions are planned on the basis of realism.
This principle can briefly be called positive activism. That is, without interfering with the prevailing state of affairs, one should try to discover opportunities as they occur and avail of them.
To initiate one’s actions by challenging the status quo amounts to choosing a negative starting point.
On the other hand, maintaining the status quo and availing of all opportunities which present themselves amounts to taking a positive course of action. This method can briefly be called positive status quoism, for which a
complete scheme can be chalked out in the light of the Seerah (biography) of the Prophet.
1. Positive Status Quoism in Religious Affairs:
Prophet Muhammad e received his first prophetic call in 610 A.D. in Makkah. This city was dominated by idolaters, who had placed in the Kabah 360 idols belonging to various Arabian tribes.
The Kabah had, therefore, become a religious centre for all these tribes. The presence of these idols in the Kabah was totally against the beliefs of the Prophet, an upholder of monotheism in the true sense of the word.
Yet rather than make efforts to upset the status quo in Makkah, he fully engaged himself in his task of spreading the word of God, availing of whatever opportunities were available—despite the presence of the idols.
In those days the Kabah was the gathering point of the inhabitants of Makkah, and meetings were held there almost daily. The Prophet began to make use of these gatherings for the purposes of da’wah.
On his visit to the Kabah, instead of interfering with the idols, he would go to the people and recite the verses of the Quran to them.
This policy of avoiding the idols and availing of da’wah opportunities proved to be a wise one: many people, profoundly influenced by the holy Quran, embraced Islam, and this without there having been any disruption of Makkah’s peaceful atmosphere. This gave an added impetus to the Prophet’s missionary endeavours.
2. Positive Status Quoism in Social Affairs:
In Makkah, there was a public place known as Dar Al- Nadwah, which served as a political centre. This was dominated by the idolaters. When their opposition to Prophet Muhammad e intensified, they took a unanimous decision to boycott the Prophet, his family and his followers.
When the boycott too failed to inflict any harm on his mission, his opponents issued a death warrant from this same Dar Al-Nadwa.
When the Prophet heard of this, although his situation was now extremely serious, he did not attempt either to revoke the decision of Dar al-Nadwa or to launch a protest campaign supported by his followers.
On the contrary, what the Prophet did was quietly leave the city for Madinah, a town 300 miles away from Makkah.
Even after reaching Madinah, he did not devote any time to planning counter moves, but gave his full attention to the task of da’wah. This was also an example of positive status quoism.
In this way, the Prophet, by avoiding direct confrontation with the situation at hand, found another vast field in which to continue his peaceful activities.
3. Positive Status Quoism in Political Affairs:
When the Prophet migrated to Madinah, after thirteen years of his prophethood, the existing society of Madinah was composed of three groups— Muslims, idolaters, and Jews. Accepting that social set-up as it was, the Prophet established a system based on plurality.
The status of Madinah under this system was that of a city state, the Prophet being the head of state.
Within this framework, other social groups were granted the right to lead their lives as they wished and resolve their issues in accordance with their respective religions and cultures.
This set-up provided another example of status quoism. It was by accepting the prevailing situation there, that the Prophet began his peaceful da’wah mission. The result was miraculous.
The multi- cultural society of the first phase was gradually transformed into a unicultural society in the second phase.