Secularism And Islam
What is Secularism
Secularism implies that the Divine Guidance, worship of God, and obedience to Him, should be confined to the personal life of each individual and except for the small sphere of a person’s private life, all other affairs of this world should be settled purely from the worldly viewpoint, according to our own wishes and expediency. In such matters it is out of the question to think of what GOD may have commanded, what His Guidance consists of and what the Divine Books may lay down. This attitude owes its origin to the reaction that set in among the Western peoples as a result of their hatred of the man made theology of Christian missionaries, a theology which had become a curse for them and which forged their shackles. Gradually, however, this attitude developed into an independent theory of life and then became the foundation of modern civilisation. One often hears the utterance, religion is a private affair between GOD and man. This brief sentence is in fact the creed of ‘modern civilisation’. It implies that if a man’s conscience bears witness to the fact that there is a GOD Who should be worshipped, he is welcome to do so in his individual and personal life. But GOD should have nothing to do with this world and its collective affairs. The system of life built upon the foundation of this creed seeks to disassociate from the influence of GOD and Religion all the relations between man and man and between man and this world. Culture, education, economics, law, parliament, politics and administration of public affairs and international relations are all to be divested of this influence. Whatever is done in all these numerous aspects of life should be regulated by one’s own whims and knowledge. It would be irrelevant, indeed wrong in principle, and even a sign of the utmost ignorance to say that GOD has prescribed certain principles and laid down some commandments for us for the regulation of such matters. (Zidan, 1992, pp.93-94)
The theory that GOD and Religion are concerned only with the individual life of man is completely meaningless, having nothing to do with reason and argument. It is perfectly obvious that the relations of man and GOD cannot lie beyond either of two alternatives. Either GOD is The Creator of man and the world in which he lives as well as being its Master and Sovereign, or He is not. If He is neither The Creator nor The Master, nor again The Sovereign, then it is entirely unnecessary to have any relations with Him. It is utterly absurd to worship [that is, serve] a being entirely unconcerned and having nothing to do with us. But if He is in reality our Creator, Master, and Sovereign and so also of this universe, then it is equally meaningless that His jurisdiction should be limited to the private life of an individual and from the very point from which the contact of one person with another commences, His jurisdiction should cease and come to an end.
If this limitation has been imposed by GOD Himself, then there should be some authority for it. But if man has assumed this independence himself and discarded GOD from his collective life, then this constitutes an open rebellion against his Creator, Master, and Sovereign. And only a lunatic can claim to combine with this rebellious attitude, the claim that he accepts GOD, His Religion, Guidance and directions in his individual life. There can be nothing more absurd than that each person should claim individually to be the servant and slave of GOD, but when these separate individuals collectively form themselves into a society, they should cease to be servants of GOD Almighty; that each component in a society should constitute GOD’s servants. But the composite whole of these parts should not be His servants. Surely it is a proposition which a madcap alone can conceive of.
Again it passes our understanding completely that if we do not need GOD and His Guidance and direction in our family affairs, in the affairs of our town and city, in our schools and colleges, in our bazaars and markets, in our parliaments and government houses, in our high courts and secretariat offices, in our cantonments and police lines, and in our battlefields and peace conferences, then what other sphere of life is left in which He should be needed at all? Why should such a GOD be accepted and believed in or worshipped, Who is either so useless that He does not give us any guidance in the affairs of our life or (we seek the refuge of GOD in saying so) that He is so foolish that none of his directions to regulate our affairs appear to us to be reasonable or practicable?
So much for the intellectual side of this question. But when we look at it from the practical viewpoint, the consequences are extremely serious. The fact of the matter is that whichever aspects of mans’ life are divested of relationship with GOD, will be contacted by the devil himself. Truly speaking, the private life of an individual is nothing but a mere name. Man is a social being and his whole life is collective and social. To start with, he is born as a result of the social contact of a mother and a father. On coming into this world, he opens his eyes in a family and as soon as he comes of age he comes into contact with society, a brotherhood, a township, a nation, a cultural system, a social system, an economic system, and a political system.
All these numerous contacts which bind him to others and the other people to him, on the rectitude of them all indeed depends the welfare and success of each individual and of all the human beings as a whole. And GOD Alone is capable of vouchsafing to man stable, enduring, equitable and correct principles, and to prescribe proper limits for the regulation of human contacts. Whenever man acts independently of Divine Guidance, nothing is left of the permanent and firm principles of truth and justice. This is because after depriving himself of GOD’s Guidance, no other source is left to seek guidance from except man’s own passions, imperfect knowledge and experience.
That is why in a society based on the secular system , or irreligiousness, principles are made and unmade every now and then due to the shifting passions of the people. You can see how in every aspect of human relations have entered the evils of injustice, oppression, faithlessness, unbelief and lack of mutual confidence. Individual, class, tribal and racial selfishness have overshadowed all human affairs. Starting with the relations between any two persons and right up to the relations between nations, there is no aspect which is intact and free from evil and crookedness. Every individual, group, class, nation and country within its own sphere of jurisdiction has whenever possible evolved laws, principles and regulations to secure its own particular ends and objectives and none of them cares in the least what effect or influence this will have on other individuals, groups, classes and nations. The only thing for which they care is power and force.
Whenever and wherever there is the fear of force they retract their hands and feet which are otherwise spread out beyond all limits. But it is obvious that force is not a conscious and equitable thing. It is nothing more than blind power; hence, it has never been able to bring about a proper balance and equilibrium in human affairs. Whoever possesses greater force does not merely squeeze others to the extent desirable but thinks more and more about expanding himself. Hence, irreligiousness or secularism implies nothing more than this: That whoever adopts it as his creed and attitude in life will reduce himself to an irresponsible and unbridled of his own self, be it an individual, a group, a country, a nation, or a group of nations. (Zidan, 1992, pp.97-100)
– Islam On Secularism: Quran’s Perspective
» Those of you who know what the word ‘secularism’ means may be wondering about the relevance of the above statement to this talk. Some of you might even argue – on the basis of their understanding of what secularism means – that the greatest trick the Devil ever played was to convince the world that God does not exist. However, I tend to think that Verbal was right, and for (at least) two reasons: First of all, the idea that ‘God does not exist’ – or atheism – is nowhere near as widely accepted as one might think. What this means is that if this is the Devil’s greatest trick, it’s not such a great trick after all because it hasn’t fooled everyone, and I think that that’s an important feature of a really great trick; secondly, and perhaps a little controversially, from an Islamic perspective, there really is no such thing as atheism.
But if God exists, then where is He because He certainly doesn’t seem to be present in the world? Perhaps He is too busy looking after the rest of the universe to bother with us. Perhaps God is in His Heaven. But then, who is minding the store down here, on Earth? Who is it that is running ‘the show’? Is it a magic show? How great are the tricks ? What’s the greatest trick that can be pulled? And who is the magician? I’m sure by now you have probably guessed the answers to all these questions. However, you may still be a little surprised by the ways in which these answers are going to unfold.
In this article, I am going to attempt to explain how the Devil has played his greatest trick. However, in order to appreciate what is to follow, we will first need to travel back into time, way back into what we might refer to as prehistory, to the dawn of human consciousness.
» In the previous section, it was maintained that atheism is a rare, rather a non-existent, phenomenon and that, in reality, what happens is rejection of The Real God and substitution with a false god. Before we examine the various ways in which this takes place, it is worthwhile briefly noting with Al-Attas (1985) that Islam totally rejects any application to itself of the concepts secular, or secularisation, or secularism as they do not belong and are alien to it in every respect; and they belong and are natural only to the intellectual history of Western Christian religious experience and consciousness. (p.23)
On his view; The nearest equivalent to the concept secular is connoted by the Quranic concept of al-hayaat ad-dunya : ‘the life of the world’, or ‘the worldly life’. The word dunya , derived from dana , conveys the meaning of something being brought near; so that the world is that which is brought near to the sensible and intelligible experience and consciousness of man . By virtue of the fact that what is brought near the world – surrounds us as it were and overwhelms us, it is bound to distract us from consciousness of our final destination which is beyond it, what comes after it: al-aakhirah or the Hereafter. Since it comes at the end , al-aakhirah is felt as far, and this accentuates the distraction created by what is near. (pp.38-39)
Yet it is crucial to appreciate that The Quran does not derogate the world itself, or dissuade from contemplation and reflection and interpretation of its wonders; it only warns of the distracting and ephemeral nature of the life of the world. The warning emphasis in the concept of ‘the life of the world’, or the worldly life ( al-hayaat ad-dunya ) is the life of it, so that the world and nature is not demeaned as in the concept of the secular. (p.39)
Consider the following verses :
You will find two kinds of people in the world: the first kind’s sole aim of life is to find prosperity in this world and they do not think about the Hereafter; the other kind, however, yearn not only for bliss in this world but also to be protected from disaster in the Hereafter. Both kinds shall have what they have worked for. According to Allah Almighty’s Law of Requital, every human action produces its result although the latter may not be perceptible for some time. Secularism is belief in God, but His exclusion from our earthly affairs. It is, therefore, a world view which is strongly dualistic , and denounced in the strongest terms by The Quran, which seeks to return man to a unified form of existence. Consider the following verses;
Quran Chapter 16 verse 48-50; To realise how powerful Allah’s laws are, they should see how they work in the outer universe or even look at things of daily life, for instance, how the shadows of everything turn about right and left in absolute submission to Allah Almighty in the humblest manner. In fact, everything in the universe whether animate or forces of nature submit to His laws without false pride. They know fully well how strong is the grip of these laws which are imposed on them. They, therefore, obey them submissively.
Quran Chapter 16 verse 51; (The same Allah Almighty whose absolute law is in operation in the entire universe with perfect order and discipline) says (to mankind) that they should too enforce only His law in their affairs – they should not accept two authorities; Allah Almighty in the outer universe and some other man-made laws in their own world (or two laws side by side – one man-made and the other that of Allah). This is the example of two gods in this world.
Quran Chapter 16 verse 52; Everything in the universe is busy in the accomplishment of His plan. Human beings should, therefore, also obey His laws ceaselessly. Ask them if in the face of so much clear evidence they would still believe in laws other than that of Allah Almighty.