The New Mongol Invasion
A Discourse from an Enlightened Perspective given at a Private Home in Pakistan
Ali A. Allawi
Firstly, the beginning, which is also the end, is both the beginning and the end.
Thanking Allah is the beginning of our task and thanking Allah is the end of our task.
Points of the Compass
One can look at current, contemporary events at hand with reference to certain Qur`anic Ayahs that tend to encapsulate the spirit of the age as it were, or the Zeitgeist as the Germans call it. One particular Ayah is in Surat ul-Hijr.
And there is not a thing but its sources and treasures are with Us,
but We only send it down in due and ascertainable measures. (15:21)
The infinite wisdom apparent in the Ayah is to show humanity that whatever events have transpired, whatever actions that man is taking, the degrees of bounties or constrictions, afflictions or joy, whatever exists that governs mans actions, that governs his relationships, his relative position with other people or groups of people (nations) is from Allah. Whatever we think belongs to us or belongs to others, whatever we think as being our property or our possessions, be it goods, knowledge, position, reputation or be it, in the case of nations, countries or civilisations, power, glory or culture, it is all due to Allahs infinite generosity and it is only a speck from His infinite treasures. This puts what we read and come across in a certain perspective, which will allow us to deal with it in its proper order of priority and hierarchy.
The decline of Muslims, the rise of the West, the rise of Muslims, the decline of the West, the rise of China, the decline of China, the rise and fall of Empires and Civilisations is part of the Sunnah of Allah. It is part of the ways in which history manifests itself in time. These treasures, which we perceive as real treasures, are infinitely small dots from the Ocean of Allahs Power and Generosity.
The massive river of Allahs Ever-continuing and Ever-effulgent Mercy, Power and Wealth in comparison to that of civilisations may be viewed as people carrying jugs of water from that river. You send somebody to that river with a jug, he comes back with water, and he comes back with something that you need. However, the source of the water is not the water carrier, nor the jug; the source of the water is the river. That river benefits that person or that group of people because they have found for themselves a jug, an urn to carry the water. That river is open to all. When it rains it rains on the dry and the wet, the rich and the poor, on every single centimetre of wherever it falls. There is no discrimination in Allahs generosity. Allahs generosity is accessible and open to all. In the context of the Ayah it is a constant reminder, which is the other name for the Qur`an al-Karim, known as the Dhikr Hakim The Wise Reflection or Wise Remembrance. All these Ayahs are designed to trigger in us responses that allow us to deal with ourselves as well as to deal with the outside world.
The condition of Muslims now is the condition of powerlessness, weakness, backwardness, and that of oppression. If we question ourselves as to these conditions, at the existential level, one can look at the treatises and theories from all kinds of philosophers as to why civilisations and cultures rise and fall and what are the requirements for powerfulness. We could start by quoting from Chomsky to Spengler and these days you have apologists for the new American ascendancy. They think their analysis and assessment is the only correct one for our time. This may be true for a short span of time but in reality if you relate all matters back to Allah, the affair returns back to Him. Thus the withdrawal and the granting of Allahs bounty in the form of power, in the form of might, in the form of weapons, wealth and so on are a part of Allahs treasure and that treasury is infinite.
The other reminder is that Allah also tells us that whatever we think of as a permanent condition is in fact a transient condition: it moves. Everything is in a state of flux and change except His Lordship, except his Face. The Prophet (s.a.w.) was in a situation of extreme weakness: in Mecca he was hounded, cornered, stoned and thrown out of the city but that never deflected from his inner tranquillity and certainty that Allahs Rahmah was everywhere and that His promise was right. To him the powerlessness of Muslims was reflected in the power within him by being in a state of total submission to Allah (swt). He refers to himself as Abd Allah. The highest station of the Prophet is not that of Musa (a.s.) who was Kalimu llah, who spoke to Allah, or that of Issa (a.s.) who was Ruhu llah or even Ibrahim, Khalilu llah the friend of Allah. His highest station is Abd Allah, the person in absolute submission. His outer powerlessness is outweighed by his inner power that emanates from his submission.
There are many examples in the Qur`an instructing man to recognise his true submission; one such example is in Surah An-Naml.
Say: Travel the land and see the end of the transgressors!
Allah instructs man to look around him, to reflect on the past and see the conditions of those who transgress Allahs Decrees. In other passages we see the state of those who have transgressed Allahs limits, who were mighty and then fell. The condition of Muslims now has dramatically changed if we reflect on power and wealth and what we consider useful knowledge, all of which have really come from Allahs treasury (khazana). If we reflect on the fact that civilisations rise and fall, the phase that we are passing through now, may be uncomfortable, and it may be in some cases oppressive and constricting. Again, if you are in Tawhid, in a state of submission, you will also recognise that this is part of the pattern in which history unfolds itself.
History is the interaction of individuals and groups with Allahs Decrees. If you interact positively then the decree is bound to be positive, your destiny is bound to be positive and your end is bound to be positive. If you interact negatively then your destiny is bound to be negative. Many of the problems we have in trying to understand why things are what they are is because we reduce them to rational and logical explanations, we reduce them to systematic explanations of a rational nature as to why we are in this condition. If we reflect upon our past, as Allah tell us in the Qur`an al-Karim in Surah Al-Mulk, return your gaze to your past, return it once again and you will see that whatever has happened to you is really a form of perfection. The way that you interact with events, people and conditions, leads to your current state. You may ponder that you have done your salat, your sawm and so on, and still ask the question of: why is this happening to me? If you reflect on the conditions by which you accept this current situation, it is really a reflection of the way you interacted with Allahs Decree. If you are in a state of Ridah, in a state of contentment, this question should not even arise, because you interacted positively. The examples from the Qur`an can be drawn for individual experiences as well as for a collective or national experience.
Mongols Old and New
The Mongols were a very primitive tribal group in Central Asia. Within a matter of one and a half generations they destroyed two or three major civilisations. It was not just the Muslim world that was ruined, the Mongols ruined the Chinese Empire and the Mongols in the North attacked and devastated large parts of Eastern and South Eastern Europe. This eruption of nihilism, this eruption of complete primitiveness, how did it overthrow these established civilisations? The answer really is that the Mongols did not destroy the Muslim world. It had already destroyed itself long before. It had destroyed itself by communal strife, by inter-madhhabi problems.
A lot of nonsense pertains to the Mongols arriving in Baghdad and destroying it because of the treachery of one Vizier who happened to be a shiah. This is completely untrue. When the Mongols attacked and entered Iran, the country was overwhelmingly divided between the Hanafis and the Shafiis. In each city at which the Mongols arrived in Iran, one of the two factions that were fighting each other collaborated with the Mongols and opened the door for them. In Rayy which had absolutely no Shias as far as records were concerned and was composed of Hanifis and Shafi'is, the wars between them allowed the Mongols to come in killing nearly seven hundred thousand people. This place is thousands of miles from Baghdad. The decay of the Muslims Empire, the distancing from Allah's decrees, created a vacuum allowing this mighty civilisation to be just swept away like a feather in a storm. Again, this is part of Allahs Rahmah. A set of incredible circumstances that happened stopped their advance into the rest of the Muslim world, and into North Africa and Egypt.
Similarly, we are faced now with a situation where another cataclysmic wave is coming. It is coming whether we like it or not and the issue is not whether we are going to stop it either, because we cannot. In comparison the army of the khilafah outside of Baghdad when they tried to defend the city from the Mongols, had three or four hundred thousand people in their army. It was better armed, better equipped and had better instruments of warfare, but they could not stop the Mongols. The army had already disintegrated, their will to fight had gone and the commitment to the Din had disappeared. What was left was just a hollow shell. So naturally it was going to happen. When the Mongols came to Baghdad they destroyed the entire city and built a mountain out of the skulls.
The suggestion here is not that the Americans are going to do the same but the lesson that we have to learn is that civilizations or cultures that appear to be Muslim but in reality have none of the essential requirements of Islam, are really already in the dustbin of history. Frankly, we deserve to be in the dustbin of history. The Abbasi Khilafa, in its last decade, in its last four centuries had completely decayed. They were so incompetent, so aggressive and so unjust that they allowed themselves to be swept away. Their glories were doomed anyway and it just happened to be at the hands of a rival power instead of at the hands of time.
When Helagu conquered Baghdad, (he was one of the grandsons of Genghis Khan) he gathered all the great ulama, and asked them about the main elements of the Religion, of the Din. The ulama said that it is to worship Allah and to obey his Decrees. He asked them what the decree for injustice was and they answered that the Decree for injustice and oppression is the hadd of destruction or the removal of the injustice or oppression. He then asked them what is better, a kafir who is just; or a man who says he is a Muslim but was unjust. The ulama conferred and said "Al-kafir al-'adl afdal min al jahil al-muslim", meaning the kafir who is just, is better than a Muslim who is unjust. Then he said, I am a kafir and I am just. I am the wrath of Allah on you, and he killed the entire city. He was actually acting out Allahs decree in his own way, in his own bigoted, in his narrow-minded, primitive, animal way.
George Bush does not go to bed every night asking for Allahs mercy. One cannot accept his claim for being in submission. Nonetheless, he is an instrument of Allahs Decree. We have to see what it means to us, how do we reconstruct ourselves, our civilisations and how do we reconstruct our Din in its outer aspects in order to understand.
The Mongols came and within a matter of fifty years were absorbed into the larger picture and their traces are almost non-existent now. Islam in its outer aspect, in its glorious aspect, in its architecture, literature, art, various forms of culture and life, disappeared. What we have now is the inheritance of centuries of neglect, centuries of ignorance and centuries of inability to interact positively with Allahs decrees; which are the source of all positive things. Allahs Decrees equally apply when one interacts negatively. It will result in woeful consequences, and in wrong results for us as individuals. All in Allahs Vision is perfect. There is only goodness and perfection from the One. It only becomes imperfection and it only becomes evil when we interact incorrectly with those Decrees.
The Illusion of Unity in the Ummah
In my mind, we are passing through a historic phase of a new Mongol invasion that looks increasingly inevitable. If one reflects on the conditions of the Muslim world before September 11, 2001, you will see why. There is not a single Muslim country, which is ruled with a degree of fairness and justice. Wherever you go in the Muslim world there have been massive injustices committed at the level of the ruler, at the level of society, at the level of family, at the level of men and women. These constant injustices have become the defining features of the East.
The other feature is positive. The other feature is these echoes of the past that allow us to remember and reflect on what we can and must do in order to recover our inner tranquillity and inner certainty, which is bound to be according to Allahs promise of sa'adah, happiness in this world.
Just look at the generations that fought for independence in the Middle East and the Arab world in which thousands of people participated. They claimed to be heroic figures recovering national independence and wanting to throw out foreign influence. The result invariably has been worse for the common man than it was before. There are calls everywhere in the Middle East, a wave of nostalgia, for the good old colonial days.
In Iraq, which has been most miserably misgoverned in the last fifty years, and especially in the last thirty years, there is not a single person possessing any decency and quality who does not reflect positively on the good old days. In Lebanon, it is the same thing. Lebanon was ruined because its people were incapable of reaching a very modest adjustment between groups and sects. All this disruption which has taken place, this tremendous amount of oppression, injustice and evil that has emerged in our societies, the biggest evil is this constant takfir. Muslims accuse other Muslims of being kufar, of being religiously inadequate or incapable of understanding the truth. One of the greatest thinkers of Islam, Imam Ghazali, wrote a book on the conditions by which one can call another person a kafir. These conditions are extremely strict and practically impossible to meet. Any person who has the name of Ism al-Azam, the Name of Allah, on his tongue and makes only a verbal confirmation of the finality of the Prophecy is a Muslim. It is as simple as that.
The constant attempt to define what is correct and incorrect, what is proper and improper, what is authentic and inauthentic has led to the tribalization of the Ummah (which is supposed to be a community of one, of one people). One of the great virtues of early Islam, even after the third or fourth centuries of Islam, is the way that the differences between the madhhabs, between nations were accommodated. We are simply not allowed to disrupt the overall harmony of the Ummah.
Wars were fought between various rulers, kings, and sultans while dynasties rose and fell; however, diversity was accepted as an integral part of being a unified community. A unified community does not mean you have to be homogeneous. It does not mean the imposition of a certain perspective of one onto the other. Some of the major damages that we have inflicted upon ourselves are the volumes on takfir, the continual attempt to prove the other wrong.
There is no right or wrong according to man's interpretation. The only right is the Prophetic way. Those who are close to the Prophets light, who follow their conscience and whose qibla ultimately is Allah (swt) can only be the Hizb Allah. The Qur`an talks about this and it is not some party waving a flag with a kalashnikov. This is not to detract from the legitimate struggles of these people but one cannot create for oneself a false authenticity that goes against the Prophetic way.
The Prophetic way is to acknowledge the Supremacy of the One and to acknowledge His guidance, which is available through the only written record that we have of Allahs interaction with man. There is no other written record. They can produce as many books as they want but even they themselves will tell you that the Bible is largely a chronicle. Parts of it may have Divine Inspiration; others are verbal histories, written down mainly from the history of the Jews. In between the Surat ul-Fatiha and the Surat ul-Naas are the entirety of creation and the entirety of Allahs interaction with man through the medium of sounds and through the medium of words. Any person who then acts is bound to act in ways that are going to be singular because we are all different biologically. We are different in terms of our experiences, our environments, our upbringing, and different in whom our friends are and what we aspire to. Thus, diversity is acceptable as our common practice. It would be horrible if everyone looked, dressed, and felt the same. To impose this rigid model of non-diversity on communities and to enforce it with violence (be it the lowest forms of violence that is verbal followed by higher and higher degrees) is intolerable.
We have allowed this to take place in our own societies. Everywhere in the Muslim world there have been deep divisions created by this emanation from the most primitive parts of the Muslim World, the barren deserts of central Arabia, of Nejd, into the heartlands of Islam. All of a sudden we find societies divided. Neighbours who use to coexist for generations are suddenly at each others throats and people are being expelled and massacred because of some idiot claiming that he has the only valid interpretation of the Qur`an. What can the Muslim Ummah do? Every day in Europe on the satellite channels there is constant chatter about the Ummah being one thing or another. The Ummah they are referring to died in the first century. It exists among individuals not at the community level. What exists now are only deep divisions and injustices.
Perhaps the new Mongol invasion, which is one hundred and eighty degrees different from the old Mongol invasion, is Allahs way also. The Mongol invasion was an invasion of primitive tribes-men who erupted from central Asia. They had nothing to offer. Now we have the most advanced culturally and technologically sophisticated of nations invading us. There is not one argument as to why they should not win. What do we have to offer which is better? The only thing that we could possibly have is the echo of holding on to this 'Urwat al-Wuthqa, this Divine Rope, in our daily lives as communities and as nations.
In his poem, Shikwa Allamah Iqbal complained to Allah: Why are we in this condition when we do our salat every day; when we do all of these things, for You? His shikwa pertained to all the issues of misery affecting Muslims. His shikwa was very real. The jawaab-e-shikwa, the answer, is that our shikwa should not be a shikwa (a complaint). There is no complaint because Allah has already told us what will happen. For example: If a child keeps playing with a match, one day he will burn the house down. We do not understand the elementary rules of life. Another example is if you go to the third floor of a building and throw yourself out of the window you will break a leg or worse. We know that there is a law out there -we may not know its mathematical calculations- it is called the law of gravity. We are bound to the law of gravity although Allah can change even that law. The law of life is that if one interacts in a particular way then the result will be necessarily in a certain, related way. Our own definition of what is positive or negative does not define the result. That is why man is in a constant state of anxiety and agitation. One cannot define the conditions of happiness. These conditions cannot exist as a result of ones own definition. A person may state that he will be happy if he had a million dollars. But if he had a million dollars he still would not be satiated. Another person may think acceptance to a university will bring about happiness. The individual may get to the university and have the most miserable time; or perhaps the most glorious time. The fact remains that the degree of happiness is purely transient. It is momentary because your desire for it is momentary.
Shaykh Fadhlalla in his wisdom once defined happiness as: The total sum of desires fulfilled divided by the total sum of desires. If all your desires are fulfilled you have a happiness ratio of one. The other side of the coin is if you have no desires your happiness is infinite. It is better to have fewer desires than to have no desires fulfilled. Man intuitively knows that if our condition is that of contentment then nothing should make us discontent If our condition is to accept that whatever we have is only a drop from Allahs treasury than whatever we dont have is also due to Allahs mercy. Nothingness and bereft-ness are mans original condition. Everything-ness is one of Allahs Names, Al-Ghani, which is the Ever-Rich, or Ever-Bountiful. One way of gauging an individuals, groups or nations true worth is to refer everything back to Allah. If one refers everything back to Allah then one recognises the source of all wealth. We are in a state of poverty. We are of those in need; He is not in need of us.
Similarly, nations can interact positively and collectively if they interact in the way that is demanded of them. By imposing adl on society and removing injustice, by removing discrimination, by encouraging knowledge, by encouraging wisdom, by encouraging the seeking of knowledge and the seeking of wisdom and by following in the Prophetic path then we will be content with the material wealth of that nation. One of the measures of success is wealth, but if our only measure of success is the wealth that is possessed, than frankly we should just become subservient to the prevailing culture because it has managed to provide a better standard of living and more relative justice than our societies. However, we know there is a better way of organising a society and a better way of organising ourselves. We know that if we interact correctly then the results are bound to be good for us.
One need not worry about what the Americans are going to do in the Middle East. They may just end up forming alliances there and leaving. The Americans in turn are controlled by hidden monetary and financial forces, by the drive for wealth and power and by the drive to accumulate. The accumulation of wealth is the single most important determinant of modern technological societies. From accumulation comes power. Most people in the west make money and then they seek power. Most people in the east seek power in order to make money. The whole thing is upside-down. Western society is based on certain drives. Philosophers call it: the will to power, the will to dominate, and the will to accumulate. Its basically the disciplined animal self that has gone riot, but what we have is the undisciplined animal self. Discipline by and large is better than no discipline. Order is better than chaos. Millat ul- kuffar wahida - the Prophet (s.a.w.) said that the millah of the kufar is one. If we are of that millat, then we should prefer order to chaos. We, however, are supposed to offer better things to this world. Those who have been exposed to the Commands of Allah have been exposed to the Kun, to the Be. We have been exposed to the Qur`an-al-Karim, knowing that there is a better way of organising our lives. We cannot offer anything that is derived from others, improve on it and turn it back to them. We cannot do that, because they are the source of that, not us. This is not to say that we should return to a pristine Islam; nobody really knows what went on in the early days of Islam. There are at least two different historical explanations for every single incident and event in Islam. There isn't anything upon which all Muslims agree. The only exception is the Qur`an and the Prophet (s.a.w.). Muslims disagree about succession, the virtues of different branches, about the khilafah, and about every item of fiqh. There will be three or four different interpretations of every item of fiqh, which does not mean that they are all untrue or that they are all true; they are just different perspectives. This is the natural order. Diversity is one of Allahs Commands. Multiplicity is the feature of creation. One is Allah. We are manifestations of the Creator, therefore we are in the plural not in the single.
If societies weave their real fabric together, if madhhabs unite and do so not out of some silly attempt at unity but by going to the roots of the meaning of unity, than we may have a chance at recreating an order that has something to offer this world. If we recreate that order, our own example then we will become an example to other nations who will follow. This example will be the ummatan wasata, the central, middle nation, (2:143) over which the Prophet is the overseer and which oversees other nations.
Wa Kadhalika jaaluna kum ummatun wasata The true meaning of the Ummah is a nation or community which is balanced and takes its orders not from Kings and generals but from the Prophetic example. Because it got its certification, as it were, from the Prophetic way it becomes an example to other nations.
Why did the Mongols ultimately join the Muslim Ummah? Why did only a few of the Mongols who ended up in Europe and Russia become Christians? In fact, the Tartars of Russia who are the remnants of the Golden Horde, are all Muslims. In their state of primitiveness, having gone through their orgy of destruction, having destroyed whatever was in front of them - being the Wrath of Allah for the nation which used to be the Ummahtan wasata and became disobedient the Mongols were then absorbed by the echo of Islam and became Muslims. Some of them became in fact great contributors and protectors of Muslim thinkers and philosophers.
Americans and Europeans are a pragmatic people; they will become Muslim if it is in their interest. One cannot have an approach of force-feeding or references to the glories of Cordova because the West has very little historical sense and the average man on the street has an amazing aversion to history. They are more interested in day to day games and pleasures than they are in their history and in their past. It is easy to convince others of your superiority if you are pointing to something superior other than yourself. However, if you are not pointing at anything why should anybody jettison what is manifestly more advanced in terms of technology and in terms of material wealth? Allah (swt) says in the Qur`an (in many places) for us to look at other civilisations as examples. For instance the people of Ad and Thamud, their civilisations rose and fell. Few of them have left any traces; most of them disappeared in time.
The great technological wonders that we see around us will not be remembered a thousand years from now. Yadu`llah, the hand of Allah, is above that, it is above the Americans it is above the Arabs above the Pakistanis above the Germans and above all nations.
Those who submit to Allahs commands will have nothing but success. Those who deny Allahs commands will have nothing but misery even though they may be sitting in castles of ivory and along rivers of pearls.
May Allah grant us the wisdom and knowledge to see through all of this and to put us on the path of the Prophet (s.a.w.), the great Imams and path of the great Walis, Ameen.