Nearly eight years ago, I came across a rare print of a speech delivered by Mawlānā Muḥammad Ilyās al-Kāndhalwī in a library. I asked a student to help me transcribe it so that it could be edited for language and style and posted online or published in the future. I came across my edit of the piece from years ago and decided to upload it here for general benefit, despite it being incomplete in regards to referencing the hadith and missing citations for certain quotes. I also didn’t cross-reference those quotes to check for accuracy. Lastly, I was unable to locate the name of the original translator. If anyone is able to help with the above tasks, it would be much appreciated.
A message by the late Mawlānā Muḥammad Ilyās al-Kāndhalwī to an All-India Conference of the ʿulamā and Muslim political leaders held at Delhi in April 1944.
In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the All-Merciful. We praise Him, believe in Him, and place our trust in Him. We additionally invoke His choicest blessings and peace for Muḥammad (a mercy, guide, bearer of glad tidings, and a warner for all times and all peoples), as do we invoke the same for all of his family, his companions, and his followers.
Scholars of Islam and its elite!
Upon you be peace, mercy, and the blessings of Allah! A most humble creature and a particle of dust as I am, I have for long been calling Muslims toward a critically important mission which alone can – in my humble opinion – procure for them true success in this world as well as in the next. So far but a few from the common Muslims have listened to my call and joined the mission. Yet due to very limited knowledge and on account of a lack of proper understanding they began doing the job in a manner that fell far short of its requirements. In spite of all this, the positive results achieved thus far have not remained unnoticed by those gifted with knowledge and understanding, who have thereafter been commending the work and encouraging people to take part in it.
However, on account of the limitations mentioned above, the work did not appeal to all of our elders in Islam sufficiently to win their full approval. Some of them took it as a mere call to the kalimah while others took it as solely a call towards ṣalāt, and so on. In short, the real worth of this mission has remained obscure to them and the program (mission) has not appeared before our elders in such a lucid form as to have deserved their active participation, and so, unfortunately, they still prefer to stand aloof. But the “goods” can be delivered only when the work is taken up by those who are really worthy of doing it. It has, therefore, always been the burning desire of my heart to explain my mission to those who can most appropriately understand it and thus have the satisfaction of winning the attention of those who really matter and can judge its proper value. But, alas, this desire has so far remained unfulfilled and my submitting these lines to your auspicious gathering is a humble venture in that direction.
Certainly Allah gifted each one of His prophets and messengers with qualities most admirable and potentialities most perfect of all persons of their times, and He sent them as models of progress and success for the enlightenment and guidance of mankind. These holy persons, as a class, are the real fountainhead of everything that man has achieved and are the source of all the progress that he has made in the secular as well as spiritual field. In the end, Allah sent Muḥammad (the seal and master of all the prophets, upon them be peace). He was the final word in excellence and perfection. Through him the limit up to which man was destined to reach has been achieved and it is impossible, therefore, for any to transcend him in any field. The only way now left for the approach to perfection is to follow in the footsteps of Muḥammad (upon him blessings and peace). Any track which deviates from his path is bound to lead to eternal gloom, abasement, and humiliation. So much so that even if the great and gifted prophets like Mūsā and ʿIsā (upon them be peace) were to return to the world today, they would have to follow Muḥammad (upon him blessings and peace) in order to reach perfection. The Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) is reported to have said:
“Had Mūsā been alive today, he would have but followed me.” (Hadith)
All the requirements of this life and the next life are fully covered by the way of life brought by Muḥammad (upon him blessings and peace). This is the singular beauty and distinguishing feature of his teachings. Every human act done in Muḥammad’s (upon him blessings and peace) way is one hundred percent religious and devout, while any deviation from his path is irreligious and temporal. Therefore, it must be cursed and rejected. In short, the Islamic way of life gives full guarantee of progress and success through which one can aspire in the spiritual as well as the secular fields. According to Islam, this life is for the exhibition of what man has accomplished and a cultivation of the next life. The Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) has declared:
“This world is the cultivation for the next.” (Hadith)
It is, therefore, quite evident that if the Muslims lead their life strictly according to Muḥammad’s (upon him blessings and peace ) way, they are sure to receive the showers of Allah’s blessings, and they shall be marching on the highways of triumph and success in this life and in the Hereafter. This explains the relationship between “perfection of religion” and the “completion of favor” as mentioned in the following verse of the Holy Qurʾān:
This day: I have perfected for you your religion. And I have completed My grace upon you. (Q 5:3)
“Religion” is said to be “perfect” when the Islamic way of life is adopted exclusively, all other ways being completely discarded. Subsequently there is no limit to triumph and success. Hence we must not expect Islam to lead us to success if we follow those ways of life which are anything but Islamic.
The Muslims are quite distinct from other people in regard to the factors which cause their rise and fall. Complete adoption of Islam and strict obedience to Muḥammad (upon him blessings and peace) must bring them success in every field of life and must lead them to triumph over every other community.
For you shall be the uppermost, if, indeed, you are believers. (Q 3:139)
On the other hand, when Muslims become unmindful of their Islamic duties and deviate from Muḥammad (upon him blessings and peace )’s way, abasement overtakes them and failure falls to the lot. Just as adherence to Islam procures triumph and success, aversion from it is sure to produce ignominy to the so-called followers.
But whoever turns away from My remembrance, for him, indeed, will be a stringent life. (Q 20:124)
It is, therefore, not possible for the Muslims to reach their goal by simply racing shoulder to shoulder with other communities. How can they prosper by following in the footsteps of the Jews, Christians, idolaters, and disbelievers? Even if they do achieve some worldly gain, it will be the mere temporary gain of a few individuals and will cause no good to Islam. As has been said by Allah: And so, anyone [after this] who seeks [submission to God through] a religion other than Islam [as revealed to all the prophets] – never shall it be accepted from him. (Q 3:85)
[O humankind!] Follow what has been sent down to you from your Lord. And, apart from Him, you shall not follow any patrons. (Q 7:3)
If your profess adherence to a religion, you must stick to all it stands for and you must shun everything against it. To practice what suits you and to ignore what doesn’t is not adherence.
Then is it that you believe in part of the Scripture and disbelieve in part [of it]? (Q 2:85)
In fact, even the slightest (doctrinal) inclination to the alien is intolerable in Islam. That is why the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) was so vexed about ʿUmar (may Allah be well-pleased with him) studying the Torah.
Now let us look at how we can achieve “success”. Success can be achieved in two ways:
(1) Through individual effort, and
(2) Through collective effort.
An individual Muslim can reach “success” to some extent by observing what Allah has enjoined and by discarding what is forbidden in Islamic law (the Sharīʿah).
The more he is keen on carrying out enjoining good and forbidding evil, the more shall he be successful in receiving from Allah His diverse favors, both material and spiritual, and in both this world and the Hereafter:
Whoever does righteous deeds, whether male or female, and is a believer, We shall, most surely, cause him to live a good life. Moreover, We shall, most surely, recompense [all of] them with their reward, in accordance with the very best they ever did. (Q 16:97)
No doubt, nowadays “the enjoined” is usually ignored and “the forbidden” is in full vogue, but still there can be found some who are firm on the right path, and none can deny that the more a person is wedded to Islam the more he is gifted and blessed by Allah. In short, life is “beautiful” in proportion to obedience and devotion. We should not forget, however, that for real success to be attained adherence to each and every commandment of Allah is essential, and this is generally wanting everywhere. For the collective success of the people we have to adopt such means as should provide them (so to say) “wings” to fly from their low position towards heights of glory and lead them to the goal they aspire to reach, including solutions to their social and political problems.
In my opinion these means are as follows:
(1) The inculcation of a missionary spirit:
Every Muslim must be very particular not to miss any opportunity to call the people to Allah and therefore to the true path of success. This he must consider as his most essential duty. (The call towards the straight path of Islam and devotion to Allah must be accompanied with wisdom, love, and kindness.) This was the lifelong mission of the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) and his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and should equally be that of every Muslim. Allah has commanded: Call to the path of your Lord, [O prophet], with [sound] wisdom and fair admonition. (Q 16:125)
This duty has been the common aim of life for all the prophets, upon them be peace. When the line of prophets ended with Muḥammad (upon him blessings and peace) the Muslims, as a community, were charged with the responsibility of caring out this task after him. As has been commanded by Allah:
Say [to them, O Prophet]: This is my way. I call to God based on clear [revealed] proof – I and whoever follows me. So most highly exalted be God, for I am not of those who associates gods with God! (Q 12:108)
We are told that the saving of a single soul is more valuable than possessing the riches of the whole world: “If Allah were to use you to lead a single person to the right path, it is better for you than to possess the whole world and what it contains.” (Ḥadīth)
This was the spirit behind the spreading of Islam far and wide in so short of a time, and it is the lack of the same spirit which has now plunged the Muslims into a state of unconsciousness and forgetfulness.
(2) The acquisition and transmission of knowledge:
When success cannot be attained without following the religion, and that religion cannot be followed without knowledge, the seeking of knowledge becomes essential for every man and woman. It was, therefore, said by the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace): “Seeking sacred knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim.” (Ḥadīth)
It is the knowledge which Muḥammad (upon him blessings and peace) brought for the guidance and enlightenment of mankind which must be acquired by everyone. Any other type of knowledge cannot vouch for the correct guidance of people in the proper direction and is therefore out of the scope of our discussion. As regards to knowledge, a Muslim has a twofold duty: to learn, and then to teach others. The latter is more important. As has been explained above, “knowledge” covers all the commandments of Allah, and it is incumbent on a person receiving any commandment of Allah to convey it to others. The Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) has been ordered in the Qurʾān thus: O Messenger! Proclaim all that has been sent down to you from you Lord. For if you do not, then you will not have conveyed His message. (Q 5:67)
What has been said to the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) in the above verse applies to every member of the Muslim community. As the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) has said: “Convey to others what you hear from me, even if it may be a single āyah (verse, or piece of knowledge).” (Ḥadīth)
In another hadith he is reported to have said: “One who withholds knowledge when it is sought from him shall be bridled with fire on the Day Of Judgment.” (Ḥadīth)
An ignorant person may not sometimes care to seek knowledge, but it cannot be taken to mean that he does not need it. Imam Ghazālī, stressing this point, writes:
“The ignorance of the people about Islamic law is so great that even townsmen do not know the obligations of salāt. You can then imagine what would be the plight of villagers and of wandering tribes like the Kurds, Turkmāns, etc… No one is born a scholar. He must acquire knowledge from someone else. Each one of us is a scholar of what he knows (it may be about a minor point of religion), and it is incumbent upon him to impart even this much to others.”
According to Ghazālī, the ‘ulamā who engage themselves in unimportant discussions and in solving imaginary or very rare problems, shutting their eyes from their essential duty towards the masses, have caused the regretful lapse in this direction. He therefore writes:
“One who is really anxious about the discharge of his religious duty has so much to do in this connection that he can find no time in hairsplitting in rare problems and for indulging in other unimportant discussions which are at the most not more than mere kifāyah (a duty in which the engagement of a few absolves all from responsibility), and a farḍ ʿayn (a duty essential for every individual) has to receive preference over a kifāyah, and a kifāyah of higher priority over that of the lower one.”
(3) Enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong:
Knowledge can lead to success only when it is put into practice. Islam is not a mere treasure-house of knowledge and wisdom. It is, in fact, a complete code of practical life, and adherence to that code is a prerequisite for success in this life and in the Hereafter. It is, therefore, imperative that some people must take upon themselves the responsibility of enforcing Islamic practices for the good of mankind. This task has been entrusted to the whole Muslim community. It has been made their mission and lifelong duty. Allah says:
You [believers] are the best Community ever brought forth for [the good of] humankind: You enjoin what is right. And you forbid what is wrong. And you believe in God. (Q 3:110)
As for the believing men and the believing women – all [of them] are allies of one another. They enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. (Q 9:71)
According to the hadith, the work of enjoining good and forbidding evil is the substance of īmān (belief) and therefore the essential duty of every believer. The level of īmān in different people can be graded by the degree in which this duty is observed by them.
“If any one of you see wrong being done, he must set it right with his hands; if it be not possible, then with his tongue; and if that much also cannot be done, than he must at least abhor it from the core of his heart and that is the lowest level of īmān.” (Ḥadīth)
According to the above hadith, there are three means of carrying out this function:
1) With force of hand
2) The use of the tongue
3) Through abhorrence in the heart
The adoption of any of these particular means is the result of varying degrees of īmān, viz., (1) strong īmān (2) moderate īmān and (3) weak īmān. When a person does not possess even the will to abhor wrong from his heart, what īmān worth the name can he claim to possess? This point has been further clarified in another version of the same hadith where the following words are also reported to have been said by the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace): “….After that, there is no īmān [in him] equal even [in weight] to a mustard-seed.” (Ḥadīth)
In this connection, it is important to note, first and foremost, that those “rights” should be enjoined only and those “wrongs” only should be eradicated which are universally admitted and undisputed. Controversial and disputed matters should be thoroughly avoided. What is the sense in dwelling upon the unimportant when the important is yet to be emphasized? Shāh Walī Allāh writes:
“In my humble opinion, enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong should be limited to the following:
1) In the case of obligations, major sins, and the inviolable, it should be done with full force. Those who are unmindful in this direction should not be taken as friends and their company be completely discarded.
2) In matters where the ʿulamā of old or of later times have differed, it should be restricted to expression of opinion and mere explanation of view-points, and no other action should be taken.”
(4) Mutual cooperation and well-wishing:
To put the people on the right path of Islam is not such an easy job as may be left to individual and isolated activities. Much collective and concerted effort is needed for this gigantic task. It is therefore said by our Lord Almighty: Rather, you shall help one another to virtuousness and to the fear of God. But you shall not help one another to sin and to aggression. (Q 5:2)
This cooperation and harmony cannot be achieved unless the Muslims are first tied together with ties of mutual love and brotherhood. Indeed, all the believers are brethren. Thus set aright [relations] between your brothers. And fear God, so that you may be shown mercy. (Q 49:10)
In order to further strengthen and cement this brotherhood, every Muslim is enjoined in respect to another question. He must always be ready to extend help to his brothers in faith and should consider it his sacred duty to protect the honor of another Muslim. The rights which are due to a believer and the duties which he owes to others have been very much stressed in the Islamic code of ethics.
The above are the basic requisites of success for the Muslim community. But all attempts are to be made collectively in order to achieve success for the community as a whole. The more the efforts are made to promote this goodwill in society, the more firmly will we be “holding to the rope of Allah” and more quickly and automatically an organized social and political order will come into being. As has been said by Allah: So hold fast to the rope of God – all [of you] together! (Q 3:103)
Just as a collectively “holding fast to the rope of Allah” is sure to bring triumph and success, so shall individualism lead to weakness and disintegration. Moreover, obey God and His Messenger, and do not quarrel [among yourselves], or else you will become fainthearted and your strength depart. (Q 8:46)
The points leading to collective success have been determined and laid down. Now, there can be two different teachings for action in this direction:
- First acquire power, then prevail upon the people (by dint of force) to live up to these points.
- (b) First strive among the people with heart and soul and then employ the consequent favors of the Gracious and Merciful Allah in seeking His further pleasure. The former has been the way of the Prophets and the Messengers of Allah (upon him blessings and peace), but they have always worked through persuasions and have delivered discourses and humbly sought to inspire the people with their message.
There shall be no compulsion in religion! For truly rectitude has been made clearly distinct from perversity. (Q 2:256)
We cannot force the people to accept Islam. Our duty is only to point out the right path and to dissuade them from following the wrong one. To perform a religious duty under compulsion cannot be an act of worship and devotion. It will in fact then be subservience to men in power. All the prophets of Allah, therefore, preferred the latter method. Mūsā (upon him be peace) was adopted by the Pharaoh and his wife and was raised in the palace as a prince. He was very easily able to attain power, as all circumstances were in his favor, and then he could have certainly forced the people into acceptance of the right religion. But this did not happen. On the contrary, he was made to forsake all prospects of coming into power and was charged with Allah’s mission while he was in a state of utter helplessness and privation, and in this state he was sent to face his opposition, the most formidable power of his time. This has always been Allah’s “way” of action and in it there can be no change. For never will you find in the [established] way of God any alteration! And never will you find in the [established] way of God any change! (Q 35:43)
The Almighty and Glorious Allah has most graciously blessed us with a program which is derived from the excellent ways and methods of the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) and through which we see the glimpses of the life led by the Prophets (peace be upon them) and the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them). It includes all the principles which are essential for collective success and at the same time does not omit anything necessary for individual success. Deep communion with the Creator is the secret of success and this movement lays the greatest stress upon devotion to Allah. The following are the chief points of the program:
(1) Allah the Almighty, the One, is the real Lord and Sovereign Master. We are His subjects, His slaves, and His servants. This fact should be much repeated by our tongue, listened to by our ears, and acknowledged by our heart so that we may begin to consider ourselves really nothing but mere slaves and servants to Allah. Again, we must resolve to spend our whole life in service and slavery to Allah as was done by Muḥammad (upon him blessings and peace) and to stick to the program laid down by him. This is the dedication as expressed in the kalimah: “Lā ilāha illallāh Muḥammadur Rasūlullāh“. This kalimah should be recited so often that its spirit permeates all our being, our soul is filled with the delight of its sound, and all of our actions are performed with the total submission of our will to Allah.
(2) What we have professed in the kalimah has to be proved by the employment of our self and resources in the service of Allah. By offering salat at the appointed hours of the day and night as an obligatory duty, we in fact practice the employment of our self in Allah’s service. Salat should therefore not be merely a ritual but be so full of earnestness that it may influence our whole life by refining and improving all our habits. It should imbue us with the spirit of constant service to Allah. Indeed, the Prayer guards [one] against immorality and evil. (Q 29:45).
Fasting in Ramadan is another field in which we receive training in obedience and service to Allah by discarding the desires of our body for a full month. Money is something we earn through hard work and sweat, but when our earnings reach the fixed limit, we are required to transfer one-fortieth thereof to the deserving needy in the name of our Gracious Lord. This is “zakat” and it means the employment of our resources in Allah’s service. “Ḥajj” and “jihād” are the services in which the self and resources both are involved.
(3) The Qurʾān, the last divine scripture, is a complete code of life and has been given to us for our guidance and enlightenment. We must make it a point to recite and study the Qurʾān daily, with such love and reverence that its inspiring message may permeate all of our being and there may rise from inside of us a genuine urge to lead a life exactly according to its teachings. And very truly We have made the Qurʾān easy for remembrance. So is there anyone to remember? (Q 54:17)
Side by side with the Qurʾān we should also study the works of the eminent ʿulamā and jurists of Islam which explain the meanings of the scripture and application of its teachings in our daily life. This will help us in putting our knowledge into practice which will further open us to knowledge. The Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) is reported to have said: “One who acts up to his knowledge is given by Allah the knowledge of things not yet known to him.” (Ḥadīth)
(4) Allah’s supreme being is beyond all conception. We can perceive His beauties only through His attributes. We must, therefore, spend some time every day in extolling His Glory; for example, through reciting (100 times) the kalimah tamjīd (the formula of glorification): “Glory be to Allah! Praise be to Allah! There is no god save Allah! Allah is the Greatest! There is no strength and no power save Allah, The Sublime, The Tremendous.”
At the same time, we should daily (morning and evening) recite (100 times) istighfār (the formula for seeking forgiveness) to Allah for the lapse and negligence in our duties as slaves and servants of Allah. Again, Muḥammad (upon him blessings and peace) is the greatest benefactor of mankind. In gratefulness to him we should recite durūd (formula of invoking blessings on Muḥammad upon him blessings and peace). This may also be done 100 times daily (morning and evening).
(5) We must show kindness and respect to those people who have agreed to be slaves and servants to Allah through the acceptance of Islam. We must give what is due to them and must not do anything which is likely to harm them. They must be preferred to the non-Muslims. Special reverence and deep respect should be shown towards those who are close to Allah and towards those who are custodians of the knowledge and wisdom brought by Muḥammad (upon him blessings and peace) and are trustees of the divine trust. The Prophet is reported to have said: “He is not of us who does not show kindness to our juniors and who does not acknowledge the rights of our seniors. He is not of us who chooses to deceive us (i.e. the Muslims). Never can a Muslim be a true believer until he likes for other Muslims what he likes for himself.” (Ḥadīth)
Now anybody can achieve success through adhering to the above points. Had there been something better than this, we would surely have been appraised of it. But due to the wickedness all around us, it is very difficult to reach success through individual efforts in this direction. To overcome this difficulty, we have to resort to the techniques adopted by the Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) and his venerable Companions, and that is to combine practice with a call to practice. This, if done in a collective manner, is sure to bring success to the community very quickly and without any difficulty.
But [as to] those who strive for Us [alone, against every evil], We shall, most surely, guide them upon Our pathways [to salvation]. For, indeed, God is, most surely, with those who excel in [doing] good. (Q 29:69)
For this call the Muslims are required to spare their time for traveling in groups, from house to house, street to street, village to village, and town to town exhorting the people to lead their life according to the principles mentioned above. No amount of opposition, threat, or persecution should deter them from carrying out this job which is the life mission of all the prophets in general and that of Muḥammad (upon him blessings and peace) in particular. A few days each month and a few weeks each year are to be reserved for performing this service for which the Holy Prophets (upon them all be peace) devoted their whole lives. This effort is sure to bring Allah’s blessings and mercy upon us. For this mission, which is a common duty of all the Muslims, a few volunteers should offer to leave their homes to travel to distant places for striving in the path of Allah, cheerfully bearing all the hardships that may fall upon them. They will spend these days in living collectively with the spirit of Muslim brotherhood in an atmosphere of perfect harmony and love. Their sole occupation will be the acquisition and imparting of Islamic knowledge, inviting the attention of the people towards Islamic practices, spreading the message of Allah, extolling His glory and sanctity, praying and supplicating to Him at every step. A person with comparatively better knowledge will be their “muʿallim” (instructor) and one with the capability of management their “amīr” (leader). The amīr will look after the comfort of the group and will see that every moment of each individual’s time is fully employed in this program which adequately covers learning, teaching, self reforming, spiritual training, and inviting men to the right path. The group will, therefore, constitute a mobile school, a traveling convent, and a beacon of truth and guidance – all at one time. Thus, a collective life on the model of our ancestors-in-Islam will come into existence, if only for a few days. Yet even this will surely win for us the favors of Allah and the pleasure of our dear Prophet (upon him blessings and peace).
The party going out for tablīgh (as this work is popularly known) will comprise about 10 persons. They will gather in the masjid and select their amīr (leader). They will offer two rakʿāhs of nafl prayer (if time permits) and then all together supplicate to Allah to grant them aid, strength, steadfastness, and success. They will then move out with earnest goals and serious deportment while extolling the glory and sanctity of Allah, and while avoiding indulging in anything which may be irrelevant to such a sacred occasion. When they reach the locality where they are to deliver the “call”, they will once again raise their hands in collective duʿā (supplication) before Allah. They will then go out for gasht (jawlah, visitation) from door to door and collect people in the masjid where they will exhort them to observe their duty to Allah by sticking to the tablīgh points and principles. During the visitations, womenfolk in the house may also be addressed (with permission and cooperation from their menfolk) on the topic of adherence to salāt and other points. The person who volunteers to continue the work in his locality will be helped in forming a jamāʿah (group), selecting their amīr, and starting the work. They will be visited occasionally and imparted necessary instructions for caring out their mission properly. Every person in the party will obey the amīr. The amīr, on the other hand, will attend to every individual in the party and look after his needs. He will hold council (mashwarah) on every point and at every step and will proceed according to such mashwarah.
This mission is an extremely important service, as it is the occupation of the prophets. Therefore, those who engage in this occupation are deputizing on behalf of the prophets and none can deserve the blessings of Allah more than them. This task, however, demands much care and a heavy sense of responsibility. In fact, tablīgh is not for the purpose of bringing others to the straight path. It is a process of self-reformation and a service to Allah by His humble slaves. The main object is to win the pleasure of Allah and reach success through His service and obedience. The following instructions should, therefore, be remembered:
(1) If one can afford it, they should pay out of their own pocket for food, passage, etc… One should not hesitate to spend upon their needy companions as well.
(2) To be able to serve and encourage those who are devoted to this work is a great blessing of Allah. One should never fail to treat them with respect and regard them with deference.
(3) One should be humble towards Muslims in general, speaking to them softly and respectfully. One should not look down upon any of them. One must show special veneration to the ʿulamā of Islam. Just as it is essential to feel reverence for the Qurʾān and the hadith, so also is it essential to extend our profound respect towards the persons who carry the knowledge of the Qurʾān and the wisdom of the hadith in themselves. The disrespect of ‘ulamā is in fact disregard for the entire religion and merits Allah’s anger and curse.
(4) Instead of wasting time in telling lies, backbiting, picking quarrels, and other useless pursuits, one should utilize it in the study of books on religion and in profiting from the company of adherents to Islamic practices so that knowledge about these may increase day by day. Be particularly cautious about saving yourself from useless and superfluous pursuits while you are out in the path of Allah and spend your time exclusively in the pursuits mentioned below:
(i) Taʿlīm, i.e. collective teaching and learning under the supervision of a muʿallim (instructor).
(ii) Reading the Qurʾān, extolling the glory and sanctity of Allah, and individual study of religious books.
(iii) Explaining the object of the mission to other people and exhorting them to join the mission.
(5) Earn a living through clean and fair means. One should be frugal in spending, but give members of one’s family and other kinsman their full dues as enjoined by Islam.
(6) One should never engage with controversies and discussions about unimportant things. Restrict your call to basic beliefs and practice.
(7) One should beautify their actions with sincere intentions. An act of religion is fruitful (both here and in the Hereafter) only when it is done with sincerity of the heart. Muʿādh (may Allah be pleased with him) was appointed governor of Yemen. When he was being sent off by the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace), he requested a word of advice. The Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) said: “O Muʿādh! Purify the intention of your (deeds in the) religion, and then a little of good action will suffice you.”
In another hadith it is said: “Allah accepts only that which is done to seek His countenance.”
The Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) is reported to have said: “Allah does not look towards your appearances nor towards your possession, but He does look towards your hearts and your deeds.”
Sincerity is therefore the most essential demand of this mission. Ostentation and acting for the sake of show have no room in this program and its performance. The more sincerely the work is done, the more rapidly the movement will flourish and prosper.
At the time of Imam Ghazālī, Muslims were at the height of their political power. Schools, seminaries, and spiritual lodges were buzzing with students and devotees. Great progress was being made in Islamic studies. In spite of all this, the sensitive mind of Imam Ghazāli strongly felt the urgent need to perform missionary work among the masses. He, therefore, writes:
“If someone does not realize his own wrongdoing, it is for those with knowledge to make him aware of it. Each scholar should, therefore, take charge of some locality, viz. a town, a village, a masjid, etc… and make known to the people all that is good and all that is harmful, all that is blessed and all that is cursed, and impart necessary instructions to them. For this purpose he should go to the people himself to deliver the sacred call. The ʿulamā are the successors of the Prophets and the Prophets (peace be upon them) never left the people alone to their ignorance. They would, in the beginning of their mission, go from door to door in search of one who could be shown the right path. A person suffering from the disease of the soul seldom realizes that he is diseased, just as a person with no mirror cannot see the blot on his face. Somebody else has to tell him about it. It is incumbent upon the heads of Islamic states and Islamic institutions to depute pious and sincere scholars to every village and locality to teach religion to the common masses. Man is born ignorant and he needs instruction from somebody in the basic essentials of Islam. This world is full of diseased persons. Inside the earth are the dead and on its surface are the sick, and the sick of the soul outnumber those of the body.”
Imam Ghazālī was shocked with the sad ignorance and neglect of the people living in villages and in the suburbs of the capital and exhorted the urban Muslims to realize their duty in regards to their rectification. He writes:
“The ignorance of the people about Islamic Law is so much that even the people of the towns do not know the essentials of prayer. You can imagine the plight of the villagers and of the wandering tribes, like the Kurds, the Turkomans, etc… No one is born a scholar. He has to acquire knowledge from somebody else. Each one of us is a scholar of what he knows (it may even be about a minor point of religion) and it is incumbent upon him to impart to others even this much. One who is really anxious about discharging his religious duty has so much to do in this connection that he can find no time for hairsplitting in lesser problems and for indulging in other unimportant discussions which are, at the most, not more than mere kifāyah (duty in which the engagement of a few absolves all from responsibility) and farḍ ʿayn (a duty essential for every individual) has to receive preference over a kifāyah, and a kifāyah of higher priority over that of a lower one.”
During the glory of the Mughal Empire in the Indian subcontinent, Shaykh Aḥmad al-Sirhindī, the great reformer of the 10th century (AH) writes in one of his epistles:
“A most humble creature as I am, I cannot resist narrating my own story. For very long I have been receiving, through Allah’s Grace, abundance in knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual power. Allah gave me all the strength to be able to do whatever I was required to do. Now I have no ambition except to strive for the revival of a single sunnah of Muḥammad (upon him blessings and peace) and to let the spiritual pursuits and accomplishments be enjoyed by those who find pleasure in them.”
In another epistle he writes:
“Striving to bring Islam into practice and for reviving any of its tenets (especially when it has been extinct) is the best of all the deeds. One may spend millions in charitable deeds, but immense reward is deserving for those who strive to bring into vogue a single tenet of Islam. By making the Islamic practices current in this society, you are actually doing the work of the prophets and joining hands with them, and they are surely the best people in His creation. It is an admitted fact that the Prophets (peace be upon them) were favored by Allah with the choicest of all the virtues and the best of all the deeds, while spending in His way has been done by many others beside them.”
He writes to Khān-e Aʿẓam (a Mughal leader):
“Ours is a time when Allah is prepared to reward very little effort with a very great recompense. The People of the Cave had no other known deed to their credit except forsaking their homes in the path of Allah, but his has brought them so much fame and honor. A soldier gets much more for the little contribution that he does when the enemy is in action than what he receives when there is peace and quiet. Khwaja ‘Ubaidullah Ahrar (the shaikh’s ancestor in spiritual order) used to say, ‘If I choose to become a shaykh (head of a spiritual order), nobody will go to any other shaykh, but I been given quite a different task to perform.’ This task was to strengthen Islam through popularizing the Islamic sovereigns of his time and influence them to introduce Islamic law in their land.”
In another epistle, comparing the pursuits done for one’s own benefit with those done for the good of the people, the shaykh writes:
“Suppose a person is engaged in dhikr (glorifying and sanctifying Allah). Just at that moment he sees a blind man headed towards a pit in front of him, and so close is he that a single step will cause him to fall into it. Now what is the most appropriate thing to do for that person – to continue doing dhikr or to save the blind man from the pit? The latter is undoubtedly the correct thing to do. Allah is above all needs, while the blind man is in need of help. Carrying out an act of Allah’s pleasure is the practical application of His remembrance and therefore the real dhikr. Saving the blind man is sure to please Allah and is included in dhikr. In simply glorifying and sanctifying Allah he was doing what was due to Allah, but in saving the blind man he is doing both what is due to Allah as well as what is due to his fellow beings. He will thus be doubly rewarded.”
Shah Walī Allah al-Dihlawī, the great philosopher of Islam, has also stressed the importance of this mission in many pages of his books. In Fuyūḍ al-Ḥaramayn, he writes:
“From what is said above can be deduced the necessity of the deputation of missionaries to different localities. The Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) had been sending men to various tribes in all directions to call them towards belief in Allah and in his prophets and to impart upon them the essential knowledge of Islamic practices. We find Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī deputed to the Ashʿarīs, Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī to Banū Ghifār and Banū Aslam, ʿAmr bin Barā to Banū Juhaymayan, ʿĀmir al-Ḥaḍramī to ʿAbd al-Qays and Musʿab b. ʿUmayr to the people of Madīnah. These persons were not required to do any state work. They were simply dispatched to invite the people towards Islam and teach them the Qurʾān and hadith. Everybody cannot be a khalīfah, but everybody can be a muballigh (preacher). For a khalīfah, the gift of profound knowledge and power of expression is necessary. A muballigh, however, is required to restrict himself to the simple program of his mission and dwell only on a few important points. Everything beyond that he will refer to the khalīfah and get instructions from him.”
The nature of this mission, its importance to Muslims, it technique, its principles, and what the great reformers and philosophers have said about it have been described in the above lines. Now it is for you to embrace it with open arms. I do not say that every Muslim institution should suspend their activities in their own fields. But I do believe that this work alone will plant real life and spirit into those activities. It is, therefore, essential that all the groups working for Islam should consider this work indispensable for their mission, and it is with this idea that these lines have been written and are being sent to your auspicious gathering. In conclusion, we say: “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and we invoke peace and blessings upon Muḥammad (upon him blessings and peace) and his family and upon all of his Companions.” Āmīn.