Continuity and Change in Islam

Nov 12, 2007

This allowed Islam to do what other religious systems - or other human systems of any other kind - were neither equipped nor capable of doing. 

As a result, in spite of all the variations and deviations that attacked it along the way, Islam remained basically intact, authentic, uniform, unadulterated and perfectly recognizable and predictable through the ages.

Islam thus provided the world an inevitable and often the only point of reference by which to manage and organize its life on earth

What is more, as time went on, the world gradually changed to fit the teachings, contours and specifications of Islam and not the other way around.

Islam's Constancy in the Face of Change

Islam, thus, remained constant in its core teachings in the face of all the winds of change that were sweeping the world. And Islam continued to provide direction and impetus to that change wherever and however it could. 

Islam of course could do it because of the exhaustive first-hand documentation that was - and is to this day - available to it in the form of the Qur'an and the Hadith. Qur'an, of course, being the book of summary divine teachings directly from God, and Hadith being the record of the detailed implementation of the Qur'an in the life of the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, and thousands of his noble Companions.

And both of these primary sources of Islam thereafter remained at the disposal of the Muslims - and at the disposal of the world - in the form of the unbroken and continuous day-to-day practice of Islam, on a global scale, by generation after generation of Muslims, since the time of the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam to the present day.

Thus, Islam remained a living, vibrant and visible presence for all these 1400 years for the entire world to see and emulate.

World Adopts Islamic Teachings and Practices,
But Gives Islam or Muslims No Credit

And that is precisely what the world did.

It saw Islam both in theory and practice, liked what it saw and proceeded to adopt its teachings and practices as it needed them. But often it did so in bits and parts and without giving Islam or Muslims any credit.

In part, the failure of the world to embrace Islam fully and completely, and its inability or unwillingness to openly acknowledge its debt to Islam and Muslims, was due to several reasons. Among them were political rivalries that often marred Muslim-non-Muslim relations in many parts of the world. Among them were personal jealousies of leaders and their lust for wealth and power.

Among these reasons was also the failure of Muslim leadership to work as a unified structure to present Islam to the world as a solution to its problems. In other words, the Muslims in those days did no better job of acting as the designated agents and representatives of the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, to present Islam to the world and invite the world to Islam in a coherent and concerted manner, than they are doing today.

Nor was the Muslim leadership smart enough - or really cared - about claiming any credit on behalf of Islam or for Muslims for all the benefits that the world was deriving from the presence of Islam in its midst or along its borders. Times were often good for the Muslims and Muslims generally sat back and lived their lives by default in the lap of whatever scraps of luxury and tranquility were available to them.

Recalling the Handwashing Discovery by ASM in Mid-1990s

Taharat - cleanliness and hygiene - are among the most central teachings of Islam. And yet they are also among Islam's most elementary teachings.

The Qur'an teaches them.

The Hadith teaches them.

And the Muslims in every age and place - such as they were or continue to be - have practiced them without a moment's interruption in their history.

At the top of the list of these unbroken practices for all these 1400 years has been the practice of Handwashing.

The world knew it. And it saw it everywhere, everyday. The world knew that the Muslims - whatever else you may say about them - were absolutely and unquestionably the preeminent and indefatigable Handwashing people of the world.

And yet, the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) seems to have completely ignored this more-than-obvious fact when, in the mid-1990s, it began its research project on Handwashing and launched its campaign to teach school children the virtues of Handwashing.

Did the ASM know about it? I don't know, but it should have.

Did the ASM give Islam and Muslims any credit for it? I don't know, but it should have.

Did Muslims claim any credit for it for Islam and for themselves? Not to my knowledge, but they should have.

They should do it at least now. And they should do it after clear and open acknowledgment of where they heard it first and who told them about it: I mean about this business of making the ASM acknowledge its debt to Islam and Muslims.

Islam Is a "Path," Not a Desert Expanse or a Jungle Bush

What people need to understand is that Islam is a well-defined path. It is a Siraat, a road, not an uncharted desert expanse, a trackless tundra, an open prairie or a jungle bush.

Qur'an teaches us - in Surah Al-Fatihah - to ask God every day and several times a day to show us the way, the path and a straight path on top of that.

In fact, a Muslim must make that prayer to God Almighty no less than 17 times a day.

Ihdinas siraatal mustaqeem. 

Paraphrase: "Show us the straight path."

Path Means Boundedness and Directionality

And we all know path means lines. It means distinct demarcations. And it means clear direction and well-defined boundaries and milestones.

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