The following is transcript of a useful talk given by a brother in 1999.
Out of about 6 billion people inhabiting the Earth around 1.6 billion of these people are Muslims mostly concentrated in the Middleast, from the west to east Africa, Indian sub-continent, southern states of the former soviet union stretching from the black sea to the west of China. These people are of different ethnic, lingual and race backgrounds. Despite all of these factors they hold one thing in common the creed of Islam. Islam the deen which was described by one of the western writers as the thunder coming out of Arabia, has managed to bring many different nations and people under its fold. From having a few tribes in the heart of Arabia who counted a few thousands to today’s 1.6 billion. This is achievement was done under the Islamic state which the Prophet (PBUH) established in Madina. Today questions are asked regarding the ability of Islam to mould different people of different backgrounds together. How could such a deen be able to do that? Under the Khilafah Rashidah the Muslims opened the lands of Iraq where there was a mixture of Christians Arabs and Persians, in Persia there was some Jews and Romans. They opened Al-Sham and it used to be a Roman province following Christianity where Syrians, Jews, Armenians and some Romans and Arabs lived. They opened Egypt and north Africa where Barber tribes lived under the Romans. After the Khilafah Rashida came the Umayyad Khilafah who opened Al-Sind, Khawarizm, and Samarkand all becoming Islamic lands. Also Al-Andalus (modern Spain and Portugal ) was opened during their time. After the Umayyds came the Othmani Khilafah which expanded the lands ruled by Islam by including modern Turkey, and all the Balkans including Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, upto the Vienna.
All these opened lands were of different nationalities, languages, religions, customs, traditions, laws, and cultures. To transform and mould this mixture into a unified ummah with a unified deen, language, culture, and laws is a very difficult job. This did not happen except for Islam, and was achieved only by the Islamic state. When all these people lived under the banner of Islam, and were ruled by the Islamic state then they were molded into one ummah. At this point a question starts to rise in the minds of people: what made it possible? The answer to such question can be found by studying Islam, and these lands that came under Islam. We can narrow down the reasons to four:
1. The Teachings of Islam:
Allah(SWT) has sent the Prophet(PBUH) as mercy to all mankind. So the message of Islam was destined to spread all over the Earth to reach all people. So when armies of Jihad stormed out of Arabia, and was described as the thunder coming out of Arabia, that thunder was the result of the Muslims realizing their duty to carry Islam to all mankind by Jihad. By doing so they made it possible for people to understand Islam, and know its rules.
For example, at the time of Omar Bin Al-Khattab Egypt was opened by Amro Bin Al-‘As. Hasan Ibraheem Hasan in his book ‘History of Islam’ (P.196):
“The Arabs did not treat the Coptics harshly or unjustly. They were very gentle with them. They gave them the choice of accepting Islam and if they did they have the rights and duties obliged by Islam. But if they refused they pay a small tax (Jizya) which amounts to 2 dinars, exempting the women, the old, and the children. In addition to that they removed the oppression they lived under..”
In this example we saw how the teachings of Islam regarding the non-Muslims under the Islamic state are treated.
Regarding the system of government, for example, in those lands that was opened by armies of Jihad it used to rely heavily on bribes, knowing the right people, and which family/tribe your from. Under Islam this was uprooted, and replaced by merit. The one who possesses right skills/knowledge for whatever job to be done is selected. Justin McCarth in his book ‘The Ottoman Turks’ regarding the issue of merit (P.126)
“ At its height, the Ottoman administrative system was based on merit. It rivaled the traditional Chinese civil service system in that regard. Functioning as required, the devsirme system was a model of meritocracy. The way to the top in the devsirme system was by proving oneself physically and mentally. Önly the most qualified were sent on to schools where they were trained to become officials and generals”
He also observes how the Othmani Khilafah appointed Qadi Hisba in the market place to keep in check those who try to cheat the public.
2) The mixing of the Muslim armies in their daily lives and their work with the indigenous peoples
Modern imperialism represented by Britain, France, and America created ghettos in the lands they occupied. These ghettos are the form of small compounds within the cities/villages where you find only foreigners live their. This can be seen today in Muslim countries. This reinforced the segragation mentality between occupier and the natives. This can clearly be sensed by the emotions that third world countries including the Muslims hold toward America, France, and Britain. On the contrary to this, when Islamic state sent its armies to open new lands the army was involved in inviting people to Islam. Some even settled in the new opened lands. If we look at Spain we find the resmeblence of early the Arabs who opened it during the Umayyd Khilafah. If we look at the east coast of Africa, Zenzibar and Kenya we find a lot of Omanis. If we look at Egypt we find families of Arab and Turkish descent populating the area from north and east of Sudan upto the Mediterranean sea who worked in farming and trade. Also new villages/towns started to emerge as a result of the arrival of the armies of Jihad. Example to that is the city of Cairo built by Jaoher Al-Seqily in 358H. The city of Marakish in Morocco. There is a quote by the Seljuk Sultan Alab Arsalan, who loved buildings and architecture:
“ Our remains are the evidence of our high esteem, and plentiful of our given gifts”
3) The quick embracing of Islam by the people of the conquered countries
The Spanish historian (Aghnisio Aulaghi) writes in his book, The Islamic Revolution in the West; Pershalona 1974,
“In reality, no military campaign can go on indefinitely because the more the campaign conquers and advances the weaker it becomes. Also, when the conqueror advances and his initial bases become unable to support him, then he must establish alternative bases. Such a matter would take substantial amount of time in the 7th century. The Arabs however, neglected this basic strategic principle at that point in time, according to traditional history. As soon as they would conquer a land, they rushed to conquer another: They reached Tunis, then immediately turned to morocco; once they reached the Atlantic, they sailed to Europe. Three years later, they crossed the Tibeerini mountains and conquered the Akitania province in France. “The Arabs did not accurately know these military targets. Nor did they have maps, nor did they know why they came or what they were going to do in Iberia.
Such statement is built on the notion that like the Romans who conquered north Africa and Al-Sham before the rise of Islam, the natives will be forced to convert into the belief of their new conquers. With the likes of the Spanish inquisitions we cam see why he uses this notion. The result of forced conversion is either people will revolt or they will pretend until they get the chance to proclaim their original belief. The recent demise of the Soviet Union resulted in the resurrection of Islam in the Muslim-dominated republics, and the Orthodox church in the other republics. When the Islamic state (the Khilafa) whether the Rashidah or Ummayd, or Abbasid or Othmani demised did the people revert back to their old beliefs? No, Islam is a great intellectual power that gives a tremendous energy to those who believe in it, for it is the Deen from the Creator Allah (swt) sent Mohammad (PBUH with the message of Islam to elevate people from the darkness of Jahiliyah to the light of Islam, from worshipping the created to the worship of the creator alone, from the injustices of the man made laws to the justice of Allah’s laws. It gave the way to understand the existing problems, and gave us the way to solve them and implement them. Indeed, Islam is the Deen from the Supreme given to mankind to organize the relationship between man and His Creator, with himself, and with others, leading to the happiness of mankind.
Islam is what enabled the Arabs to save themselves and others. Let us take the example of Omar bin Al-Khattab. Before becoming a Muslim, he was a great enemy of Islam. Such animosity led one of the Sahabah to say, “If the donkey of Aal Al-Khattab becomes a Muslim, still Omar will not.” however, when Omar heard the verses of Quran read, understood their meanings, and realized their miracle, he became a Muslim. He started learning its beliefs, rules and act accordingly. He became a different man. he used to be a harsh man killing girls at birth, he became a great and merciful leader. He heard the honorable Quran say, “When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned: for what crime did she commit.” (81:8) and realized the truth and stopped that ugly act. he heard the Messenger of Allah say, “The Imam is a caretaker, and he is questioned for his subjects.” He realized that leadership is not an honor but a responsibility. Thus he said, “If a goat tripped in the road, I would be afraid that Allah would ask me why didn’t you pave the road for her O Omar.” Looking at this we find the secret of Islam and its ability to create a coup de’tate a someone’s personality. It is this characteristic which brought people living in the newly lands opened by the Muslim armies into Islam.
At the time of the Prophet(PBUH) and the Khilafah Rashidah the armies were from Arab tribes. After opening north of Africa, the Barber and Moroccans started to make up part of the Muslim army. During the Umayyad Khilafah the Persian race started to appear in the Muslim army after opening Persia as evidence of them embracing Islam. During the Abbasid Khilafah the Turkish race started to appear in the Muslim army reflecting the opening of Samarkand, Khawarizm and Bukhara. The Abbasid Kahleef Al-Mu’atasim who demolished a the city of Amoriyah because a woman called for his help, his mother is Turkish. Then the Othmani Khilafah took upon itself to unify Anatolia and open the Balkans. So what the Spanish historian did not observe is the fact that as Muslim armies opened new lands, the inhabitants of these new lands embraced Islam in large numbers. These large numbers in turn became the new blood injected into the Muslim army giving it a new lease of life and energy maintaing its momentum throughout.
The Othmani Khilafah was given its share of accusations that it only used Turks in government, and its armies. Obviously this is in clear contradiction to the teachings of Islam. This allegation in itself was false. This can easily be seen from the quote by Justin McCarth (P.124):
“ A number of military functions were performed by freeborn troopsÖwhole villages often served as derbend guards. Their purpose was to protect major roads, mountain passes, trade depotsÖChristians as well as Muslims served as derbend guards”
Also the writer Mufaq Bin Al-Margah in his book ‘the awakening of the sick man’ said (P.32): “what we sensed is that Abdul Hameed the Turkish, took Arabs as his entourage, the Kurds as his supporters, and the Chechnyans as his guards a lot of historians counted hundreds of Arabs in the Othmani army ”
4) The radical change in the way of those who embraced Islam and their transformation from a situation to a better one
Before Islam in Arabia people used to worship the idols which were made of wood of stone. Even some of them were made out of dates, and they used to worship them during the day and eat them in the night when they get hungry. They used to bury their daughters alive. In the public places and the markets there was tents with red flags indicating prostitution. When a woman gets pregnant she lines up the men she slept with and selects one of them to be the father of her child. In Persia they worshipped the fire. In Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt there was the Christians believing in the trinity, and the atheists. There was also the atheists of the sub-Sahara in Africa. In the Indian-subcontinent people worshipped cows and believed in incarnation.
The Arab tribes used to raid each other for the sake of booty, show of strength, or because they lost a camel race. In other situations they were content to serve other great nations of their time like the Roman and Persian empires. The nomad tribes of north Africa, Anatolia, Kurdestan, and others were following the rain season with their cattle.
This was the state of the people prior to the revelation of the new deen to humanity. It was bleak and dark picture. Humanity was in desperate need for a new way of life. After the revelation of the new deen to the Prophet(PBUH), and the establishment of the Islamic state in Madina to implement the teachings, and laws of Islam, radical changes were sensed in the people who embraced Islam. One example was during the time of the Khaleef Oman Bin Al-Khattab when he sent Amro Bin AL-‘As to open Egypt. In 20H he besieged the fortress of Napoleon for 7 months, after that the King of Egypt, Al-Muqawqas, sent an envoy to them. When the envoy came back he described them as:
“We have seen people death is dearer to them than life, humbleness is dearer to them than self-glorifying. No one of them has a desire in this life that concerns him. They sit on the ground, their leader is like them, you cannot distinguish their noble from their layman, and the master from the slave. If the time of the prayer comes no one stays behind, they wash their limps with water, and they are submissive in their prayer”
This is a clear contrast to what these people used to behave before embracing Islam. Islam has pushed the people to think about the one who created them, and what is their purpose in life. After coming to the inevitable conclusion that their purpose in life is to worship Allah(SWT), and this is what makes them happy and tranquil, not accumulation of the material wealth, or the pleasure of the flesh. The previous example reflects how Islam has managed to radically change the perspective which these people viewed their lives. It gave them a specific objective in life, seeking the pleasure of Allah(SWT). Showed them that this life is just a test and a rout to the next life where the one who succeeds in pleasing Allah(SWT) by abiding by the halal and haram will go to the Jannah, and the one who fails will go the hellfire. Humbleness is virtue that Islam requested. There is no difference between people except by taqwah, the fear of Allah(SWT).
Islam has managed to unleash untapped energies in the Muslims. They understood their responsibility to propagate the message of Islam, but they cannot do that without having the knowledge. Hence, educating the Muslims was a responsibility undertaken by the Islamic state starting by the Prophet(PBUH) himself, and the Kahleefs after him following his foot steps. As a result of this many cities in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and north Africa, Spain, Balkans, Indian-subcontinent, and former Soviet republics became known for reputation as world class learning centers. For example, the Abbasid Khilafah embarked on translating the medical books to extract its technology and propagate it. They built hospitals, medical colleges, clinics to teach and train doctors and dentists. They even encouraged medical conferences where members of the medical profession used to gather from all parts of the Khilafah in the hajj season to exchange results of their research. As a result Baghdad in the east and Qurduba in the west became the two main medical centers of the Islamic state. Obviously such knowledge is valuable for the citizens of the state, but also more valuable when the Khilafah was engaged in Jihad campaigns were medical attention was critically needed for the injured. Such practice was applied to ther areas of knoweldge whether technology, engineering, mathematics, physics or those related to Islamic studies like Islamic jurisprudence, tafseer, liguistics where the madrasa was the basic unit of the education system since the early days of the Khilafah up to the Uthmani Khilafah, and even today there still remains a few of them scattered over the Muslim countries.
In conclusion, there is definite proof that Islam through the Islamic state has managed to mould people into one ummah. The history of the Ummah of Muhammad (PBUH) is filled with countless examples that illustrate that Islam has achieved what Allah(SWT) has sent it for as mercy to mankind. Even the Kafir Orientalists were astonished to the level has achieved that. So it is long due for the Muslims to study their history carefully and objectively.