By Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D.
17 January 2017
The Tawheed, which Muhammad (s) propagated, was distinct from all other ideas because it was based on two principles:
Tawheed Rububiyyah, which means that Allah, is One, without any partners or associates.
Tawheed 'Ulluhiyyah, which means that Allah must be worshipped alone in everything, and total slavery must be to Allah alone in everything ranging from the spiritual to the political.
It was this call for Tawheed, which provoked the anger of the Makkan political authority because they realized that Muhammad (s) posed a threat to their societal setup with this call. The response of Ja'afar ibn Abi Talib (r) also illustrates this understanding which the Makkan authorities feared:
"He summoned us to worship the One True God and to reject the stones and idols we and our fathers had been worshipping in addition to Allah. He ordered us to be trustful in speech, to fulfill all the duties that were entrusted to us, to care for our relatives, to be kind to our neighbors, to refrain from unlawful food and consumption of blood. He forbade us to engage in lewdness and lying, the devouring of the money of the orphan and the defamation of married women. He commanded us to worship the One God and to assign no partners unto Him, to pray, to pay the purifying tax and to fast. We deemed him truthful and we believed him, and we accepted the Message he brought from Allah."
This understanding of the spiritual-political nature of the Message of Islam can also be found in many verses of the Qur'an.
Neil Armstrong walked on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969. Why did it take thousands of years for man to land on the moon?
Non-Muslims ask, "If Islam had never come into existence, would there have been anything seriously lacking in world history?" The answer is yes.
Polytheism and superstition looked upon things and creatures as deities, and encouraged their worship. Before the advent of Islam, polytheism dominated the entire world. Man considered the moon, the sun other planets, wind, river, snake, cow, fire, mountain, etc. as deities. These natural objects inspired man to bow before it rather than try to conquer it. Holding the moon to be sacred was a major obstacle to even thinking of conquering it. The supremacy of polytheism was brought to an end by the Islamic revolution, which replaced it with monotheism, making it the dominant creed of the times. What is revolution?
Revolution is defined as a sudden, radical or complete change; especially the overthrow or renunciation of one ruler or government and substitution of another by the governed. To change fundamentally or completely. To turn over in the mind: reflect upon: ponder.
In the Muslim world this revolution was brought about through the influence of religion. The western world began its revolution by separating the secular sciences from religion culminating in the landing of man on the moon. Modern science is a part of the Islamic revolution. Because of the polytheistic view natural sciences had become forbidden territory and natural phenomena were given sanctity. The Islamic revolution of monotheism opened the doors of research and investigation by displacing nature from its sacred pedestal. Modern science is wholly the gift of the Islamic revolution-directly in its initial stages, and indirectly in its later stages. Modern scientific revolution was set in motion by Islam, which was sent by the Almighty for the guidance of all mankind for all eternity. Henri Pirenne author of "History of Western Europe" says, "Islam changed the face of the globe. The traditional order of history was overthrown." Islam is complete truth. All-pervasiveness of superstition served as a hurdle to all kinds of human development. The kings or rulers exploited the masses through polytheism and superstition. The kings represented God on earth. Some kings like Nimrod, Pharaoh claimed as gods.
Dr. George Sarton, a former Professor of History of Science at Harvard University, stated in his book, "The Life of Science" that the foundations of science were laid for us by the Mesopotamian civilization (present day Iraq) whose scholars and scientists were their priests. The second development of science came through the Greeks. The Third Stage of development, however, is to be credited to the meteoric rise of Islam. For nearly four hundred years Islam led the scientific world as from one end of Islam to the other, from Spain to India, the great body of past knowledge was exchanged between her scholars and the torch carried forward with the new discoveries. Scholars of Christendom from about the eleventh century were mainly occupied for over two hundred years in translating from Arabic into Latin. Thus Islam paved the way for the Renaissance, which in turn led to science's fourth great development in the modern world.
It was God's decree that Prophet Muhammad (s) to be a da'i (missionary) as well as a mahi (eradicator).
The Qur'an says:
"We have revealed to you this book so that, by the will of their Lord, you may lead men from darkness to light.
(Quran, 14: 1)
The Nile Goddess
In Egypt, it was an ancient and pagan custom that sometime in July a virgin decorated with bridal clothes was thrown in the Nile river as an offering to propitiate (or to do something to get favors) the Goddess of the river Nile. After the advent of Christianity, the Egyptians became Christians, however they continued to follow the ancient custom of sacrificing a virgin to the Goddess of river Nile.
During the time Hadrat Omar (r), Egypt came under the Muslim rule and Amar bin Al-Aas was appointed Governor of Egypt. The Egyptian elders waited on the Governor in July, and wanted his permission for continuing the old custom of throwing a virgin in the river to seek the pleasure and favors of the Nile Goddess.
The Governor said that such a practice was offensive and revolting to Islam and hence he disallowed such practice in an Islamic State. He further argued that Islam knew of no Goddess of the Nile and the question of any expiation did not arise. Islam knew of only One God-Allah and Allah did not stand in need of any propitiation.
After listening to this argument the Egyptian elders were not satisfied. They warned the Governor Amr bin Al-Aas that unless the sacrifice was made, the Nile River would not rise in flood and the entire countryside would get dry. Governor Amr was however, unyielding and inflexible that floods or no floods human sacrifice could not be permitted. The Egyptian leaders returned home in a gloomily mood.
The month of July came and passed away. No sacrifice was offered, and there was also no rise in the level of the river Nile. The month of August came and still the river did not rise. The Egyptians were trembling at what would happen if the river did not rise. The month of August passed away and still there was no flood in the river. The Egyptian leaders grieved and said, " That is all due to Islam. The Muslims have brought this fate on us."
The month of August was gone and September came, and still there was no sign of any rise in the level of the river Nile. The Egyptians lost hope and most of them were thinking of migrating elsewhere. That made Amar bin al-Aas worried. He reported the facts of the case to Hadrat Umar (ra) and wanted his instructions. Hadrat Umar approved of the action of Amr in not permitting the human sacrifice. Along with the letter, Hadrat Umar (ra) sent a card on which it was written:
"In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. From the slave of Allah, Umar the Commander of the faithful to the Nile of Egypt.
"Everything in the Universe is subject to the will of Allah. The rise in your level is subject to the will of Allah, and we pray to Allah (SWT) to command you to rise in level."
Hadrat Umar asked Amr that the card should be thrown in the middle of the river. On the eve of the Feast of the Christian Day of the Cross, Amr had the Christians assemble on the river bank and after reciting some verses from the Noble Qur'an and taking the name of Allah, he threw the card of Hadrat Umar in the middle of the river. Then the Muslims assembled on the riverbank lifted their hands in prayers seeking the blessings of Allah, in making the river rise in level. The card of Hadrat Umar floated on the surface of the Nile for some distance and then it disappeared.
The next morning the river rose to its full flood height. Verily Allah had commanded the river to flow, and that was the end of the evil custom of sacrificing a virgin to secure a rise in the level of the river. That was the vindication of Islam. Many Egyptians now came to believe that Islam was a blessing and a true religion. They hastened to the Muslim camp and were converted to Islam.
Before the time of the Prophet of Islam, the ancient civilizations such as Greek, Egyptian, Roman and Persian- all were polytheistic (shirk) in their beliefs. That is they worshipped natural phenomena such as the earth (Goddess Gaiga now in the west), rivers, mountains, sun, moon or stars. Only Islam was able to displace them from the pedestal of worship and created the intellectual frame of mind, which is known as the scientific revolution.
The polytheists believed the river to possess divine attributes. They believed the goddess of river caused the water to move and made it useful or harmful. In Islam the river is a creation of Allah and not a creator and it was a servant of Allah and not the Lord. Thus the Muslims found ways and means to exploit the rivers on a large scale. The history books tell us that there is no precedent in any nation to the large-scale irrigation system developed by the Spanish Muslims. The Spanish Muslims developed agriculture and created Departments of agriculture science and irrigation in the universities. They studied trees and carried out research on the properties of soil. The infertile lands were converted into orchards and lush green fields, in today's terms -a green revolution. Before this people treated rivers, springs and sea as gods. But the Muslims brought the green revolution because of their monotheistic thinking.
Polytheism (shirk) was prevalent until the 7th century. It was replaced with monotheism (Tawhid) by the Islamic Revolution. This in turn opened the doors of research and investigation by abolishing the practice of worshipping the natural phenomena. Modern industrial progress owes its existence to the Arab Muslims due to their creed of monotheism, which instilled them a mental and practical revolution. Islam changed the thinking of the Muslims and contributed to the modern scientific revolution. Historians acknowledge that Islam changed the face of the globe. Polytheism and superstition blocked the progress and advancement of human development. Islam encouraged the investigation of nature and destroyed the sanctity of nature.
Islam also destroyed the concept of intermediaries between God and man, such as the Kings and priests who claimed as God's representatives on earth or even the incarnations of God on earth. Polytheism (shirk) curbed freedom of thought. Polytheism and superstition were the major obstacles to all kinds of progress. Superstitious beliefs were an obstruction in the pat of free enquiry. The search for new truths and discovery of nature's secrets remained forbidden areas for them for centuries. Before the Islamic revolution, the world had been swept by superstitious beliefs and idolatry. The revolution based on monotheism of Islam put an almost complete end to polytheism (shirk) The Greeks excelled in the fields of art and philosophy. Their contribution to the field of science (except Archimedes' hydrostatics) was actually quite negligible. Plato's teacher, Socrates (may be construed as a Haneef) never worshipped the pagan gods which were worshipped by the Athenians in Greece and instilled free enquiry among the youth of Athens and for that he was forced to drink hemlock as a punishment in 399 BC. Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier in 212 BC failing to recognize him. The atmosphere for scientific progress did not exist in ancient Greece. Similarly, the mighty Roman Empire never produced a single scientist.
In Islam with its foundation of monotheism created an atmosphere and environment which stimulated scientific research that lead to the conquest of natural phenomena. The modern age which is the age of science and industry, of freedom and equality is the direct consequence of the Islamic revolution rooted in the Qur'an.
From the sixth century to the 10th century Europe was in dark ages while the Islamic civilization attained the pinnacles of science and technology. After the crusades the Europeans came in contact with the Islamic civilization. They went to Muslim universities in Spain, Sicily, Cairo, and Baghdad. They translated the Arabic works into Latin for over two hundred years. The European Renaissance started in the 15th century and culminated in the emergence of the modern industrial civilization. Islamic revolution is responsible for the emancipation of the human thought.
During the Abbasid era, paper was being manufactured on a large scale and so books could be produced without the dearth of paper. There were more than 400,000 books in the library of Cordova (Spain) in the tenth century, whereas in Europe at that time, the library of Canterbury- the top of the list of the Christian libraries- contained only 1800 books in the 13 the century.
In many countries scholars were born with creative minds who could think independently of the their fellow citizens. But due to the unfavorable atmosphere and hostile environment of times, their efforts could be brought to fruition. Their knowledge withered away before they could flower. On the other hand Islamic revolution produced favorable atmosphere, it unleashed a mighty flood of knowledge which had been kept pent up for thousands of years by the dam of polytheism (shirk) and superstition. For progress of Science and Technology an atmosphere of free investigation is essential. One may be surprised to know that even today there are some people and societies who believe that the earth is flat. Even today the Hindus with MD and Ph.D. degrees worship the Sun as god and believe that the lunar and solar eclipses are caused when the snakes Rahu and Ketu swallow them. One thousand years ago Abu Rayhan Al-Biruni explained how the solar and lunar eclipses are caused by the shadows of moon and earth falling on the sun and moon respectively. The Hindus believe in 320 million gods and goddesses. Even if one spends one minute in reciting the name of a god, the whole life is not enough to recite the names of 320 million gods and goddesses.
Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. is President Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.