Academic journal article Islamic Studies

The Reform of Muslim Society*

Academic journal article Islamic Studies

The Reform of Muslim Society*

Article excerpt

It is with infinite satisfaction that I see, in my own day, the Muslim peoples waking from their torpor and aspiring to throw off the foreign yoke. That means that they have understood, at last, that the duty of every Muslim, a duty sacred above all - is to have liberty and that without it there can be neither happiness nor real progress. I must confess, however, that my satisfaction is not unmixed, since I observe that the great majority of representatives of the Muslim intellectual classes are intent only on endowing their countries with hardly disguised copies of Western institutions; and think that they can only compass their revival by adopting the principles and concepts of the Indo-Aryan world. This state of mind in the Muslim "intelligenzia" distresses me, because it shows that they no longer perceive that Islam, when teaching us to worship the One God, at the same time endowed us with a complete set of moral and social principles proceeding from belief in the Divine Unity; that those principles are imposed on us by that belief; and that all Muslim societies have been engendered by them and have lived by them. It would seem then that our intellectual elite are no longer able to assure themselves with full conviction, that Islam is the human religion par excellence: religion in its highest and completest form; that it is civilisation itself in the most perfect sense; and that, consequently, there can be no social salvation, as there can be no eternal salvation, outside it. They apparently forget that, if, for the Christian world, all roads lead to ROME, for the Muslim world all roads lead to MECCA. In other words, each of these two worlds is called to follow a different direction and destiny, to play a different part in the general evolution of humanity. The difference between the ideals, conceptions, aspirations, needs and means of the Christian world and those of the Muslim world is, without the slightest doubt, as great as that which exists between the beliefs, moral and social concepts, general mentality and origin of Christendom on the one hand and Islam on the other. How could it be otherwise when the former spring from the latter?

It is therefore flagrant error to believe that institutions with which the Christian world has provided itself, as suited to its needs, political or social - in the last analysis the two merge into one - can ever suit us, whatever modifications of detail we may make in them. The two worlds are in fact so essentially unlike that by no effort can they be brought to share the same concept of individual and collective life.

I can only ascribe the distortion of Muslim mentality above-mentioned, which looks for the regeneration of Muslim society as a result of its assimilation to Western society, to the unfortunate influence of the foreign domination endured by peoples who accept the Prophet's Law - a domination which has played the part of an intellectual dissolvent among them. I propose to dispel the errors with which that mentality is laden, and to prove that, from the moral and social point of view, the Islamic world has no reason to envy the West; that, on the contrary, it is Christendom which must go to school to Islam in those respects. The best way to enlighten minds upon this question of supreme importance is to state in plain terms what has been the social work of Islam. This reminder will convince my compatriots and co-religionists that the Reform of Islam should consist simply in Muslims learning to understand better, and apply better, the teachings of their sublime religion.


The whole social work of Islam rests upon the fundamental principle of the sovereignty of the Shari'at. Muslim society is that which is subject to that sovereignty.

Now, the Shari'at is the sum total of the natural ethical and social truths which the Prophet revealed to us in the name of the Creator, and on which human happiness depends.

The sovereignty of the Shari'at, therefore, is only that of moral and social laws which have their source in nature itself, and which are thus immutable and independent of human will just as are the physical laws. …

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