By Khalid Ishaque
Individuals committed to the Islamic Movement are like the building bricks fused together to form a solid wall. Each individual, like a brick, must be strong and capable of withstanding the loads and stresses that it is called upon to bear. Just as each brick must be fully burnt and purified in a kiln and pass certain minimum standards, so too an individual has to go through a process of training and development in order to be effective within the edifice of the Movement. But what is involved in this construction of the individual? What has the individual got to do in order to prepare himself for his role in the Movement? These are fundamental questions – for a pre- requisite to the revival of Muslim society is a revival of the individual or the self. 

The starting point in this process is what the Qur’an calls the qalb – man’s heart. Look at yourself and you will find inside you a whole universe – emotions, desires, urges, instincts – which motivate you from within. The qalb does not mean the pump which pushes blood around the body — it means the centre or locus of the personality which is pumping motivations, desires and urges and which makes man do what he wants to do.

The Qur’an goes on to explain that this is the key to man. His success depends not on what he is physically, nor on what he does, but on what lies at the centre of his personality. The Qur’an declares that¬†

“Except the one who comes to Allah with a sound heart on the day of Judgement,”

none will be successful in His eyes. Another hadith of the Prophet – peace be upon him – is:

“Beware, there is a piece of flesh in the human body. If it is right, then the whole body is right and sound and if it is corrupted then the whole body is corrupted. Look, this is the ‘heart’.”

According to the Qur’an, the basis of corruption stems from within man. The social institutions may be corrupt, there may be exploitation and abuse in the economic sphere and politics, but the basis of all these diseases lies inside man’s heart. The Qur’an says

“The disease (is not somewhere in the body, it) is inside their heart.”

What it is tkat stops man from seeing right and doing right, that turns him blind? The Qur’an explains

“It is not the eyes which go blind but it is the heart inside you which goes blind.”

This then is the basic starting point for the Movement – to purity the heart and then summon it to the service of mankind, whether it be in government, in political institutions or in economic ventures. For us who are committed to Islam as a Movement and who are involved in the path of Jihad, attention should always remain riveted on keeping the heart – the centre of our personality – pure. Our whole attention must be focused on this continuous struggle. All the rites that have been prescribed by the Qur’an reach out to purify the deepest regions of our self. The Qur’an states

“It is not the flesh and blood that reaches Allah, it is the taqwa within your heart that finds acceptance. “

If the individual is the primary building brick of society, then the heart is its foundation within each man. The important question is therefore how should we set about preparing this most basic of building bricks.

First we must understand that the ‘heart’ must submit totally and exclusively to its Creator. It cannot be compartmentalised – we cannot dedicate one piece of it to Allah, and another to some other god, like wealth, status, career, women and so on. There is a beautiful verse in the Qur’an which throws light on the absurdity of such a situation. It tells about some of the Mushrikin who sacrifice animals and then say that one part of the animal is for Allah and another is for their other idols. Then it asks us to remember that whatever is assigned to Allah is also, in reality, assigned to the idols, because Allah does not accept something divided. He is One, indivisible, and wants man to be undivided in service to Him. So long as we remain divided within ourselves, so long as our heart lies in a hundred places, so long as our eyes are set in a hundred directions, so long as our destination is not one but many, we shall never be able to achieve that first condition for building a strong and pure personality. 

Why do we allow divided loyalties to capture parts of our heart? Nothing of this world is going to be of use to us when we breathe our last, however hard we may have striven for it and however valuable it might seem to us. We must recognise that the prizes we should want are not the worldly possessions received from human beings like ourselves. It is only our Creator who can put a real value on our striving and bestow the real reward. “Shall I tell you of a ‘business’ which will deliver you of a tormenting punishment?” This ‘business’ amounts to a man committing his whole undivided being to Allah alone, and selling himself in order to seek His pleasure. This is the first step towards the building of the individual. 

The second step is to love Allah. The Qur’an says

“Those who believe love Allah more than anything.”

It does not say that one must love only Allah. Love is a blessing given to us by Allah which is manifested in so many aspects of life. In Islam, however, it must be foremost for Allah, our Master. What is love? Perhaps it cannot be defined in terms which adequately reflect its nature and importance in man’s life. It is not possible to define it by a formula as we define a scientific fact, nor can we define it by a mathematical equation. But still each one of us knows what love is and can tell, from his own experience, the powerful force that it is once it comes to reside in the heart. It becomes the overpowering force in life. It captivates you, it grips you, it moves you and you are prepared to do anything for the sake of it. Once love is there, what you do is not something which has to be imposed upon you, because you need imposition only for the things you do not love. Iman is something which must penetrate deep in our heart and generate love for Allah and His Prophet, more than for anything else. Unless that happens inside you, you cannot even get the real taste of Iman. According to one hadith nobody can taste Iman unless Allah and His Prophet are more beloved to him than everything else. 

But we must remember that this love for Allah and His Prophet is not of a kind to take us into the seclusion of a monastery. It is a love which makes us do our duty to Allah while we are in the street, at home or in the office – everywhere we live as servants of Allah, willingly making every sacrifice required of us. 

Whether or not we have that love is something for each one of us to closely examine. One of the criteria is that if you love something, one of your most intense desires is to get nearer to it. Now we have a way in which we can come nearer to Allah and ‘talk’ to Him, and that way is the Salat. The Prophet said that when a person performs Salat, he actually comes nearer to Allah and talks to Him. If you look at how you pray five times a day, you will have a barometer in your hand to find how much you love Allah. Once you are praying to Him, you are in front of Him, you are near to Him, you are talking to Him, you are responding to Him in gratitude, you are asking for His forgiveness. Prayer is not just a ritual in which you go through certain postures. The soul has to surrender itself exclusively to Allah and love Him. This love is like a seed which, as it grows, envelopes the entire personality. This will make you the sort of person the Islamic Movement needs today.

The next question is how to nurse and cultivate this seed of Iman. The most important nourishment for it is the Qur’an. We know that the first workers of the Islamic Movement got their training from the Qur’an. It was their guide, their light, their leader. It is a treasure house of soul-stirring inspiration and wisdom. We can and should spend hours in understanding the Qur’an. There are thousands of pages of Tafseer to read. But we must know that the real test of benefiting from the Qur’an lies somewhere else. The Qur’an itself says that when people really listen to it their faith must increase. Where there is a fire there is smoke. If the fire of iman has been lit inside the heart, there must be smoke, and you will see that those who truly listen to the Qur’an, their eyes begin to well up with tears which trickle down their cheeks. Nowadays when we listen to the Qur’an or read it, our hearts are not moved, nor do our lives change. It is as if water is failing on a rock and flowing away. Our task is to replace this hard rock with soft absorbent soil, so that the Qur’an may nourish the seed that has been planted. We should always study the Qur’an as if it is being revealed today. One of the greatest injustices we do to the Qur’an is that we read it as if it was something of the past, and of no relevance to the present.

The next method of sustaining the seed of iman is to develop a strong bond of brotherhood, Brotherhood reinforces man’s life like nothing else. The Qur’an says

“you bind yourself with those who call upon Allah morning and evening.”

As soon as you have planted the seed in your own heart, and you have recognised it in someone else and you find that he agrees with you, you feel ten times stronger, It has been proved experimentally that the ‘group’ life is one of the most powerful forces to stimulate and inspire man.

The final method to nourish the seed of Iman is Da’wah – to strive and invite others to the path of Allah, the same path as you are following yourself. Again, if the faith is there inside you, this is a necessary outcome of it. As iman increases you get aroused and you want to go out and tell everybody what you think is right or call upon them to join your mission and your group. Moreover, as your group grows, your iman grows as well, each reinforcing the other, and that is how the whole of life becomes integrated and finds a path to the Movement.

To sum up: your person is the key to your Movement and your ‘heart’ is the key to your person. Make your heart belong to Allah alone; let Him alone be the prize you seek. And let His love be uppermost in your heart. Once it is so, every duty will turn into a pleasure, to pray will be a delight, to indulge in politics for the sake of Allah will be a blessing. To nourish the seed of iman and the love of Allah in your heart, you have three means at your disposal! first is the Qur’an; second is the Brotherhood; third is the Da’wah – we need persons who will make every endeavour and offer every sacrifice to change the entire world around them through a social movement, in the light shown by the Qur’an and the Prophet who brought the Qur’an to us.

The Muslim
[ December 1973 – January 1974]