The Process of Islamization (P3)

Dr. Ja`far Sheikh Idris
Islamic Theory of Social Change

Perhaps the best way to introduce the Islamic philosophy of social change, in light of which we should make our program of Islamization, is by way of a commentary on that famous Qur'anic verse.

"Surely God does not change that in which a people are until they change that which is in themselves." (Qur'an xii,11)

The main points we find in this verse are:

1. A God who has absolute freedom of action.

2. Human beings whose freedom of action is limited.

3. A change which man brings about inside himself.

4. A change in man's condition which God brings about as a result of that human change.

These four points constitute the Islamic explanation or philosophy of social change. Let us therefore examine their implication briefly.

1. The first point distinguishes our conception of social change from the materialistic and naturalistic theories which assume the non-existence of God and therefore adopt the principle of the self-sufficiency of this world i.e. the principle that phenomena of this world, whether they be social or otherwise, can be sufficiently explained with the help of laws pertaining to it. This atheistic assumption has unfortunately been identified with scientific method as such, so much so that any reference to God in the explanation of phenomena is immediately ruled out as unscientific and not merely un-atheistic. We must beware of this unjustified confusion and insist on the justifiability, necessity and desirability of seeing the role of the Divine in the explanation of the natural and social phenomena of our world.

This point also distinguishes our conception from those atheistic viewpoints according to which the Creator is a mere prime mover whose only role was merely to start creation and then leave it to take care of itself.

The second point shows the advantage of our conception of social change over the deterministic theories which assume that man has no real efficacy or freedom of choice and that everything he does is imposed on him by a divine power or by natural or social causes. Man cannot indeed do anything against the will of God, but God has willed to give him the freedom to choose and the power to realize some of his intentions even if they go against the guidance given by God. One of the very important areas on which God gave man the freedom to act is his internal state. But since much of what happens to man depends on what kind of internal state he has, man can be said to be largely responsible for his destiny.

The third point tells us about a change that man brings about inside himself. What kind of change is this? Is it a change from good to bad or vice versa or could it be any of them. This last one is now the popular interpretation of the verse. Almost everyone now understands by this verse that when people change from good to bad, God punishes them by changing their condition from good to bad and vice versa. But this is not the interpretation that we find in the older commentaries. The older commentators seem to be agreed that the change referred to in the verse is a change from good to evil. This seems to me to be the correct interpretation because it is the only one that is comparable with a basic Islamic principle and because it is supported by many other verses.

The fourth point tells us that when a people so change, God punishes them by withdrawing from them some of the spiritual and material bounties which He had bestowed upon them and thus causes them to face hardship.

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