In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
All Praise is to Allah (s.w.t) subhana wa ta’ala (the Most High) whom we ask for help and forgiveness. We seek the protection of Allah (s.w.t) from the sins of ourselves and our creeds. No one can misguide whom He guides, and whom He does not guide will never find guidance.
I testify that there is no God but Allah (s.w.t), the one with no partner, and that Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) Sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is His slave and messenger.
This article will try to have a look into the problems of many societies in our time. We can see that many people are attracted by the materialistic and often atheistic way of life. They want to find their happiness in a pure materialistic approach to life. Let us look at the consequences of such a way of life (materialism) and after that let us look for the best solution to these problems. Let us take the case of Europe as an example. I hope it will help us to understand some of the existing problems in our time.
Religion in Europe
As I already mentioned I want to take Europe as a typical example for a western society. The European Continent is dominated by the Christian Religion. 46% of the population of the European Union are Catholics, 22% are Protestants and 29% are without any religion. Only 3% are Muslims1. There are many surveys about the religions in Europe. Secularization is firstly a Christian phenomenon2. This means that the religion lost its important functions in the European societies. We can see that through some examples: In the Netherlands in the year 1879 100% of all Dutch were members of the church. In the year 1989 only 40% to 50% were members of the church. Only 20% of the population are going regularly to the church3.
Why do many people depart from religious life? Some sociologists stress the materialistic and so-called modern way of life in the Christian West. But we will see later that Christianity cannot offer any solution to many problems. As a point of departure, let us look at the consequences of the Westerners’ problems to their daily-to-day lives.
The families in the West are affected by many problems. For example many women are only interested in making money. They want to get high-paying jobs. This leads to some problems. These women are usually old when they want to get children or they do not want to get children in order to have nice and easy life. In West Germany for example in the year 1900 every family had 4.1 children; in 1988 it decreased to 1.59 children. The divorce rate increased dramatically, too. This leads to a social disintegration and a number of negative consequences: an increase of suicides, criminality, alcoholism, homosexuality, etc.4 As I am from Germany I will give some statistical evidences from this country but it would be possible to take any other country. I will just look at some bad consequences as a result of social disintegration.
Let us look at the suicide rate. The rate is quite high. In the year 2000, 11,000 people committed suicide5 ; and about 110 000 people attempted to commit suicide. This is a high number and we should ask: Why? There are also other problems: about 2.7 million Germans are alcoholics6 and about 40 000 died because of their consume of alcohol in the year 2000. What is also interesting: 1.2 billion tablets of psychopharmaca were used by the Germans in the year 1996. Again we must ask: Why? Why do the people want to escape from this world either by suicide or by alcohol? What can help? I want to emphasize in the following section that only Islam can solve these problems.
Islam is the Solution
As you have seen there are many problems especially in the western societies and supposedly also in other societies which try to follow that way of life. What is the solution? Can Islam give answers to all these problems?
First I must emphasize that Islam stresses the importance of the Hereafter. Many so-called materialistic societies used to forget that life in this world is only a short time compared with the Hereafter. Everyone must know:
It was related that Abu Hurairah (r.a.) radhi Allahu anhu (May Allah be pleased with him) said that the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s..s.) said: “This life is a prison for the believers and a Paradise for the unbelievers.” (Muslim)7
You can see that this hadeeth clearly explains that for many people the life in this world is like Paradise. These people think that their life is very important. They don’t realize that it is only for a small or temporary moment. In the Qur’an we can read:
“What is the life of this world but play and amusement? But best is the Home in the Hereafter, for those who are righteous. Will you not then understand?” (6:32)
This is very important, we must understand that life in the Hereafter is much more important than life in this dunya. If the people realize that they can live according to Islam, a materialistic way of life is of no value:
Narrated Abu Hurairah (r.a.): Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) said: “The slave of the Dinar, the slave of the Dirham, and the slave of bordered silk cloath are wretched. If such one is given anything he is pleased, but if not he is displeased.” (Bukhari)8
Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) stresses the problems which conduct many people to a false way. Therefore he (s.a.w.s.) informs us how we should life:
Narrated Sahl bin Sa’d (r.a.): “A man came to the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) and said: “O Allah’s Messenger direct me to a deed which if I do, shall be loved by Allah and by people.” He replied, “If you practise abstinence in the world Allah will love you, and if you abstain from people’s possessions they will love you.” (Ibn Majah)9
We can see that our wealth and materialistic way of living won’t help us in the Hereafter. We must know that we should live according to Qur’an and Sunnah.
“And whoever obey Allah and his Messenger, fears Allah, and keeps his duty (to him), such are the successful.” (Qur’an 24:52)
Only such a way of life will help us and lead us to success. If you are rich, you should know that this is is only for this dunya (world). Let’s look at how the best generation of Islam lived: Umar bin Al-Khatab (r.a.) reproached himself for missing the Asr prayer in congregation by giving away 200,000 dirhams10. Imagine how pious the first generation of Islam was living. These are the people we should respect and follow.
It is also very important to stress that Islam is a religion of social justice. Therefore zakah is one of the pillars of Islam. Allah subhana wa ta’ala commands:
“And establish the prayer (salah) and pay the obligatory charity (zakah).” (73:20)
On gold and silver usually 2.5% must be given as zakah. This amount should be given for example to the poor (al- Fuqara or al-Miskin), the people with debts (al Gharimun), etc. You can see that Islam helps the needy in order that they feed their families and have a proper (halal) way of living. With the zakah the poor people get enough and will not resort to any form of illegal buisiness or commit crimes in order to get food or satisfy their basic needs. We realize that Islam is based on humanitarian and just system of life.
Islam also forbids suicide, alcohol, homosexuality, etc. Many of these problems can be found in mostly materialistic-orientated societies. Many ahadeeth show clearly what is allowed and what is forbidden. I give some examples.
Abu Hurairah (r.a.) reported that Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) said: “He who killed himself with steel (weapon) would be the eternal denizen of the Fire of Hell; and he would have that weapon in his hand and would be thrusting it in his stomach for ever and ever; he who drank poison and killed himself would sip that in the Fire of Hell where he is doomed for ever and ever; and he who killed himself by throwing himself from (the top of) a mountain would constantly fall in the Fire of Hell and would live there for ever and ever.” (Muslim/Bukhari...)10
Every Muslim knows what consequences will follow if someone commits suicide. We don’t have the right to commit suicide because only Allah (s.w.t) has the right to decide the moment of our death.
“Say ‘Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds’” (6:162)
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, the suicide rate in the West is quite high. Many people are even discussing about the right for everyone to commit suicide. This is totally against the law of Allah (s.w.t).
Let’s look at another example. Alcoholism is a big problem for many societies. In Islam every intoxicant is forbidden:
Aisha (r.a) reported: “Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) was asked about Al-Bit (an intoxicant prepared from honey), whereupon he said: Every drink that causes intoxication is forbidden.” (Bukhari and Muslim)11
Islam is very clear about intoxicants. A strong believer will not take it. Many big problems will be prevented because of this rule. For example it is evident that many people die because of the excessive use of intoxicants, or that the family life will be destroyed as a normal social communication is impossible when using alcohol or other narcotics. We can see that Islam offers solutions to many problems which afflict the so-called modern societies.
Another big problem is the high criminal rate in many countries. Many people want to have a lot of wealth and therefore indulge in thefts, robberies, graft and corruption, etc. It is a sad fact that many youth are becoming thieves12 in order to buy expensive clothes, cars, etc. The western societies can’t prevent them from doing such things, because they don’t offer the youth other ideals. For example they could say that wealth is not the solution for everything. But instead of that everyone defines himself through money. The western societies can’t prevent many of the people from becoming criminals, because the criminals are not afraid from the police men. If the police catches them they will be questioned and after that they can often leave the police office without any sort of punishment. Or if they will be punished, they will be made to stay in jail for days or so, which to them is nothing. It’s just an additional experience for them. Others will even take it a holiday for them. How can the criminals know that they commit a big sin? In an Islamic society everyone should know the consequence:
Aisha (r.a.) reported Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) cut off the hand of a thief for a quarter of a dinar and upwards. (Bukhari and Muslim)13
Many western people think that this sort of punishment is barbaric. We should answer that that is the best form of punishment. Cutting the hand of a thief will serve as a deterent for him to stop the crime. It will also prohibit others to do the same crime. In other words, everyone knows the consequences of committing thief and therefore the criminal rate is very low. In the western societies, the criminals often continue with their criminal acts. Maybe after some time they must go to jail. But is this punishment enough and just? Will this kind of punishment teach the criminal a lesson to reform himself? What about the rest members of the societies who would be tempted to commit the same crime? In what way, society can prevent them? With such a way, the western system actually punishes the poor families of the criminal even their innocent children, by being lenient to such form of crime.
In this article I mentioned some problems which are prevalent mostly in the so-called materialistic societies, for example alcoholism, suicide, etc. After that I asked: why are there so many problems? I stressed that the social disintegration of the families and the mainly materialistic values lead to such effects. The family life is very important. In Islam, divorce is legal but it is not good:
Narrated Ibn Umar (r.a.):Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) said, “The lawful thing which Allah hates most is divorce.” (Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah)14
But materialistic values lead to conflicts and often divorce. We should remember that life in this world is nothing compared with life in the Hereafter. If we realize that we want to live according to the rules of Allah (s.w.t), which includes the teachings of His Messenger (s.a.w.s.). This means we will make everything that pleases Allah (s.w.t). We will do everything we hear and know of the Prophet’s Sunnah, as Allah tells us that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) is the best model for us to follow.
Before stating the very conclusion of this paper, let me mention an important hadeeth, because it explains the way to Paradise:
Narrated Abu Hurairah (r.a.): Allah’s Messenger (s.a.w.s.) said, “The fear of Allah and good character are the major things which lead to Paradise.” (At-Tirmidhi)15
Note that the above beautiful hadeeth is just one of the many virtuous teachings in Islam that can reform our total personality toward righteousness – one that is pleasing to Allah subhana wa ta’ala and hence, worthy of His eternal reward in Paradise. Islam, therefore, is the solution to all sorts of problems of this time. For our success, both in this world and in the eternal world to come, let us learn Islam and live a true Islamic life according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
1. Zulehner/Denz: Wie Europa lebt und glaubt, Düsseldorf 1994. (eng. How Europe lives and believes)
2. Martin, David: A general theory of Secularization. Hampshire 1993 (1978)
3. Zulehner/Denz 1994, page 38.
4. An Excellent Book about this topic is: Mamarinta Omar Mababaya: Islam: The Solution to the World’s perplexing social Problems, Riyadh 1995.
5. The statistical numbers I took from the newspaper “Staatsanzeiger für Baden-Württemberg No.24, page 2 (2002).”
7. From Sahih Muslim:Text and Translation Ahmad and Dina Zidan, Vol.2; Hadeeth No.2079.
8. See at Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani: Bulugh Al-Maram, Riyadh 1996, Hadeeth No. 1267.
9. See at Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani: Bulugh Al-Maram, Riyadh 1996, Hadeeth No. 1271.
10. From Abu Bakr Al-Jazairi: Islamic Etiquette, Riyadh 1998, page 46.
11. Bukhari compiled it in Book on Ablution Hadeeth No.235, Drinks Hadeeth No.5157; 5158. Muslim compiled it in Book on Drinks Hadeeth No. 3727, Tirmidhi compiled it in Book on Drinks Hadeeth No. 1786, 1789. Abu Dawud compiled it in Book on Drinks Hadeeth No. 3197, 3202; Ibn Majah compiled it in Book on Drinks Hadeeth No.3377; Ahmad b. Hanbal compiled it in Part 6, Page 36, 71,72.
12. The criminal rate of youth is very high and still increasing: For example in the German city of Hamburg. Look at www.hamburg.de/aktuelle-meldungen/archiv_2002/januar/pe_2002_01_17_bfi_01.htm.
13. Bukhari compiled it in Book on Penalties Hadeeth No. 6291; Muslim compiled it in Book on Penalties, Hadeeth No. 3189; Tirmidhi compiled it in Book on Penalties Hadeeth No. 1365; Abu Dawud compiled it in Book on Penalties Hadeeth No.3810, 3811; Ahmad b. Hanbal compiled it in Part 6, Page 36,80,104,163,249, 252.
14. See at Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani: Bulugh Al-Maram, Riyadh 1996, Hadeeth No. 915.
15. See at Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani: Bulugh Al-Maram, Riyadh 1996, Hadeeth No. 1327.
(Published by the Wisdom Enrichment Foundation Website (http://www.wefound.org), March 11, 2003)
The following is an enlightening article written by brother Alexander (Abu Bakar) Stark. The management and staff of the Wisdom Enrichment Foundation (WEFOUND) express their thanks and congratulations to brother Alexander (Abu Bakar) Stark for his scholarly work. The author is from Neckarstr, Remseck, Germany. He finished his Master's degree in Social Anthropology (Ethnology) at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. He became interested in Islam when he was in Indonesia conducting research related to Sociology and History of South Asia for his graduate thesis. When he came back to Germany he started to read books about Islam. Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah), with the help of some German Muslims in his country, he embraced Islam in 1997. He is blessed with two children (twins), masha Allah. According to him, he joined the WISDOM International Islamic Learning Program to learn authentic knowledge of Islam in order to do Da'wah to his fellow Germans who are not yet Muslims. We pray to Allah subhana wa ta'ala to grant him more authentic knowledge of Islam and give him the right opportunities to implement and share it to his fellowmen in Germany and to others for the Pleasure of Allah the Almighty.