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By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Islam is a way of life. Its philosophy demands that man not only follow it in his personal life, but that he should also communicate it to others. In this respect, Islam, as well as being a personal matter, assumes the character of a universal mission.
Now what is the correct way to communicate this message of Islam to others? That is, what in effect is Islamic activism? Islamic activism means da'wah activism, which entails a total avoidance of confrontation and a strict adherence to persuasion as a means of carrying conviction.
This concept of Islamic activism is clearly laid down in the Qur'an and Hadith, the principle of which has been described in the Qur'an is these words: Therefore give warning. Your duty is only to warn them: you are not their keeper (88: 21-22).
This shows that the responsibility of the people of Islam, or the target of the Islamic mission is not a mere matter of the practical implementation of the Islamic system. It is rather a question of making people aware of the message of Islam whilst we ourselves remain within a sphere of tranquility and pacifism. While it is the responsibility of the preacher of Islam to communicate the message, it is the responsibility of the mad'u whether to accept or reject that message.
The same point has been made in the hadith. Whenever the Prophet Muhammad had before him two options, he almost always chose the easier one (Al-Bukhari). To most problems, there are generally two or more solutions, some easier of execution, some harder. According to a hadith, the way of the Prophet was to opt for the easiest course. It is clear then that in social matters, persuasion is an easier course to adopt than that of clash and confrontation. It should be emphasized that this does not indicate a preference for facility. What it does indicate is a deliberate avoidance of the impracticable in favor of the practicable and sustainable. That is why, on all fronts, it is the policy of Islam to adopt the course, which is comparatively easier. In present times, it has been accepted throughout the world that striving towards worthy goals by peaceful methods is a fundamental human right. Conversely, there is no instance in which violence is justifiable. It follows then that the Islamic method is that of confining oneself totally to the peaceful sphere and using the approved, peaceful means of the time, for the use of violence for the attainment of social and religious goals will be held to be un-Islamic. So far as khilafat, or the political system of Islam is concerned, this is a conditional, not an absolute injunction. Engaging in war and violence in order to establish it is in no way sanctioned in Islam. This is because, whenever violent activism is resorted to, it will clash with the existing system, which will, in turn, resort to force in order to suppress the movement. In this way, what had earlier been a lesser evil will now assume the proportions of a greater evil.
Moreover, head-on collisions will prove to be the ruination of all the means and resources used so profitably into the peaceful sphere. All such moves, in the words of the Qur'an, will amount to "committing evil in the land’ (2:205). Measures of this nature, far from being Islamic activities, are little better than crimes.
It must be stressed that the political system of Islam invariably establishes itself by the consent of the public rather than by force; coercion is neither possible nor desirable.
In every Muslim country, there is a constitution and a legal system. This constitution and set of laws distinguish between what is lawful and what is unlawful. Whenever a Muslim enters a country, he becomes subject to its legal system. So that between that Muslim and the country of his adoption, there must be a tacit agreement that he will abide by the system of the country in letter and spirit. Under no circumstances will he violate it, either overtly or covertly.
Muslims residing in a non-Muslim country have only one of two options-either they live there in total obedience to the law of the land, or, in the case of disagreement, they leave the country without public protest or demonstration. The third option, remaining in residence there, but flouting the law is non-Islamic conduct and legally untenable. Those who favor this third alternative are criminals according to Islamic principles, and will certainly merit God's punishment in the Hereafter. If, as a result of legal infringement, a clash with the system ensues, this will not fall into the category of defence, but will be considered a criminal act. In such matters, the Shari'ah ordains that Muslims end the conflict by unilateral surrender, rather than call it defense and continue to combat the system.
In short, true Islamic activism is only that which is achieved through da'wah and carried out in the names da'wah.
The only struggle, which deserves divine succor, is one, which is peaceful and conducted in true da'wah style. No struggle carried on in any other manner can be crowned with success in this world of God, even if it goes by the name of Islamic, or Qur'anic activism.
According to the Qur'an, the true mission of Muslims is to be witnesses to the truth. Those who rise to this task will be entitled to divine succour. When God Himself has linked success and succor to da'wah and bearing testimony, how can the Islamic mission be achieved in any other way? It must be remembered that God comes to the assistance of those who tread the path of God-a unique path of struggle based on the principle of da'wah.
If an individual feels that the system of an established government is not to his liking, and he does not even want to engage in peaceful da'wah work, he may opt, in the light of the Shar'iah, not for jihad but for hijrah-emigration. It is impermissible for him to make his dislike for the system an excuse for attacking it. What he must do instead is separate himself, as far as possible, from that system.
There are two forms of this separation or Hijrah. One is emigration in terms of leaving the place. The other is emigration in terms of moving from one arena to another. The latter entails removing oneself from the field of politics and committing oneself to non-political pursuits, while the former means leaving the country altogether and settling elsewhere.q