By Shaykh Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi رَحِمَهُ ٱللَّٰهُ
I climbed Jabal-i-Noor and found myself standing by the Cave of Hira, where the holy Prophet received his Apostleship and the first Revelation from God. Reflecting on this sacred place, I couldn’t help but think that it was from here that the sun rose, illuminating the world and bringing new life to humanity. While the world welcomes each new morning, often, there is little uniqueness or bliss in these ordinary days. People wake up with the sun, but their hearts and souls remain indifferent and unresponsive. What then is the significance of these seemingly routine mornings? The truth is, the real dawn arose from this very Cave, filling the world with light and awakening it from a deep slumber.
Before this transformative morning, life’s natural flow had come to a standstill. It seemed as though heavy locks were placed on every aspect of human existence. The intellect remained locked, impervious to the efforts of philosophers; the conscience of man seemed shut, impervious to the attempts of reformers. The hearts were sealed, unaffected by the signs of nature or the lessons of history. The potential of mankind was constrained, and the social and spiritual environment offered little hope for revival and progress. Seminaries lacked substance, courts of justice were in name only, and the pleas of the weak and oppressed fell on deaf ears.
Family life suffered from the pressures of social and economic tensions. The doors of royal palaces remained closed to the poor and downtrodden. The coffers of the wealthy remained locked, impervious to the cries and suffering of the hungry and distressed.
Many reformers and lawmakers attempted to address these challenges but failed to unlock the true solutions. They lacked the right key. The key that had been lost over time. They tried using their own manufactured keys, but they were ineffective. In their desperation, they even attempted to break the locks, but their efforts only resulted in broken tools and wounded hands.
At a critical point in history, the knot of humanity was untangled on a barren mountain, seemingly an insignificant place known as the Cave of Hira. Here, the Lord of the Worlds showered unbounded mercy upon the world through the Apostleship of the holy Prophet, restoring the long-lost key of Faith. With this key, the Prophet unlocked all barriers, one by one, and opened the doors of transformation.
When he applied the key of Apostleship to the lock of intellect, it yielded. The intellect began to function properly, absorbing knowledge from the Signs of God in nature and realizing the unity amidst diversity. Polytheism, idolatry, and superstitions lost their hold.
The key of Faith also unlocked the human conscience. The unruly Nafs-i-Ammarah transformed into Nafs-i-Lawwamah and eventually Nafs-i-Mutma’inah, where falsehood and sin became intolerable. People felt the perpetual fear of God, drawing lessons from natural calamities and showing compassion to the oppressed.
With the key of Apostleship, dormant human potential burst forth like a flame, sweeping across the world like a tidal wave. Lives that were once aimless blossomed into exemplary individuals, and the conquerors of powerful kingdoms emerged.
When the key of Apostleship was applied to the lock of the intellect, it yielded, and all its complexities and confusions were removed, restoring proper functionality. With this key, the intellect gained the ability to study and draw insights from the Signs of God, both in animate and inanimate forms. By contemplating the heavens and the earth and all they contained, it began to comprehend the brilliance of Unity, dispelling the absurdities of Polytheism, idolatry, and superstition. Additionally, through this key, the holy Prophet opened the lock of human conscience. Released from the control of the inner critic (Nafs1), which had grown into Nafs-i-Ammarah2, it was transformed into Nafs-i-Lawwamah3, and in an instant, Nafs-i-Lawwarnah developed into Nafs-i-Mutma’inah4.
Consequently, falsehood could not infiltrate the purified conscience, and sin became intolerable to the point where transgressors would confess their guilt and seek severe penalties from the Prophet. For instance, a sinful woman, an adulteress, pleaded to be stoned to death; however, the Prophet deferred the sentence on legal grounds. The woman returned to her village without any compulsion, yet she later voluntarily reported back to Medina.
Upon the appointed time, the woman insists on the punishment of death by stoning, a form of execution known to be agonizing. In another instance, during the defeat of Iran at the hands of Muslims, a poor soldier finds the Crown of Cyrus and secretly returns it to his Commander, displaying a remarkable act of honesty that goes unnoticed by the public.
The key of Apostleship was then applied to the hearts of people, leading to a wonderful transformation. A miraculous change occurred as individuals started living in perpetual fear of God, heeding warnings from natural calamities, and finding benefit in the Signs of the Lord.
Empathy for the oppressed grew, and they treated the indigent with kindness and affection. Unleashing the potential of dormant human capabilities, this key ignited a flame that swept like a tidal wave across the world. Lives that were once wasted in mundane pursuits flourished, and individuals who were once ordinary rose to become conquerors of powerful kingdoms.
Educational institutions were also revitalized with the same key. The holy Prophet emphasized the value of education and highlighted the connection between Faith and knowledge. This created an unprecedented enthusiasm for learning, turning every mosque and Muslim home into a center of education.
Now, a Muslim was both a student with regard to himself and a teacher with regard to others when it came to Faith. Faith became the greatest incentive for seeking knowledge. The Prophet used the key to break the stagnation in the judicial system. As a result, every jurist became a reliable and honest judge, and every Muslim officer upheld the highest standards of justice. The Muslims became truthful deponents solely for the sake of God. Firm belief in God, the Quran, and the Hereafter took root in their hearts, leading to the recognition of the supremacy of justice. Unfairness, breach of trust, false swearing, and perjury became things of the past.
Family affairs, which had deteriorated to the point of ill-will, mistrust, and fraudulent practices even between family members, were rectified. These evils, which had spread throughout society, were eradicated, and the seed of Faith was sown in the individual as well as collective existence. The Divine commandment was revealed and embraced by the people.
0 mankind ! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Be careful of your duty toward Allah in Whom ye claim tyour rights) of one another and towards the wombs (that bare you). Lo I Allah hath been a Watcher over you. (IV : 1)
By defining the duties of each member of a family and community, the holy Prophet reconstructed the social edifice on the foundations of love, truth and justice, and inspired the society w ith such a living fear of God and trustworthiness that even the highest officers and noblemen conducted themselves as models of plain-living and piety. The rulers behaved as servants of the people, and did not regard their position higher than that of the guardians of orphans. They refrained from taking a penny out of the public money if they had a private income of their own. and in case they had no personal income, they would accept from the Public Exchequer only what could suffice for the bare needs. It was by means of this belief and conviction that the Prophet engendered indifference to the world and eagerness for Futurity among the people. He taught that wealth belonged to God, and He had made men His trustees in making use of it.
Believe in Allah and His Messenger, and spend of that whereof He hath made you trustees. (LVll : 7)
And bestow upon them (the needy) of the wealth of Allah which He hath bestowed upon you. (XXIV : 33)
The Prophet warned against hoarding of wealth with the Divine pronouncement :
They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings (0 Mohammad) of a painful doom.
On the day when it will (all) be heated in the Fire of Hell and their foreheads and their flanks and their backs will be branded therewith (and it will be said to them): Here is that which ye hoarded for yourselves. Now taste of what ye used to hoard. (IX : 34-35)
The individuals that the Prophet cultivated were staunch believers in God. Their faith was genuine and sincere. They lived in constant awe of the Almighty and remained truthful and trustworthy even when no one was watching. Their focus was on the Hereafter, and they attached little importance to worldly possessions, easily subduing materialistic desires with their spirituality.
Whether engaged in trade or working as laborers, they upheld scrupulous honesty and integrity. If they attained wealth, they displayed generosity and kindness, while in times of poverty, they faced hardships with equanimity. When appointed as judges, they exhibited utmost fairness, and if they ascended to thrones, they ruled justly and selflessly. As humble and affectionate masters, they treated their servants with loyalty and worked diligently. When entrusted with public funds, they managed them with exemplary care and integrity.
These virtues served as the foundational bricks upon which the Islamic society was built, forming the very essence of the Islamic state. This society and its state were like lengthened shadows, reflecting the morality, disposition, and way of life of the individuals who comprised them. The moral and spiritual qualities of its people permeated every aspect of the society: the traders’ honesty, the well-to-do’s liberality and compassion, the judges’ fair-mindedness, the rulers’ sincerity and selflessness, the masters’ modesty and warm-heartedness, and the servants’ dutifulness.
Just as the Islamic society stood as a representation of its members’ moral virtues, the Islamic Government also became the driving force behind the citizens’ goodness and righteousness. Operating at the highest level of justice and fairness, it served as a powerful instrument for progress, welfare, and improvement in every sphere of life.
As I stood at the edge of Cave Hira, deep in thought, my mind drifted away from the present world, and the image of the illustrious Islamic society from the past unfolded before my eyes. It was as if I was living in that luminous environment myself. However, reality soon intruded, and I found myself back in my own world, where problems and complexities seemed to prevail endlessly, causing chaos and confusion everywhere. I began to wonder if these modern challenges could be resolved using the same key of wisdom.
I realized that the problems of today were not entirely new; their essence was rooted in the same fundamental issues that existed in ancient times. The central concern remained the individual, the building block of society and the state. Unfortunately, the current state of individuals seemed to revolve around the pursuit of power and material desires. They were deeply engrossed in themselves and their worldly cravings, losing sight of the spiritual realm. The materialistic outlook had gained excessive importance, and the pursuit of sensory pleasures had become their primary goal. This disconnection from God, His Messenger, and the Hereafter was at the core of all the hardships and vices plaguing society.
In contemporary times, when an individual enters the world of trade, greed and the pursuit of personal gain often take precedence. Customers and the government are frequently deceived and manipulated for financial advantage. Moreover, the less privileged members of society often seek to live off the earnings of others, while the wealthy tend to prioritize their own interests above all else.
The realm of politics is rife with corruption and a hunger for power among those in positions of authority. Leaders, in general, exhibit self-serving tendencies and are driven by their thirst for dominance. In various fields, masters and employers can display a lack of empathy and compassion, while loyalty and trustworthiness in employees and servants may be compromised.
Even when someone is entrusted with financial responsibilities, there is a propensity to engage in fraudulent activities and dishonest dealings. Additionally, gaining power can lead some individuals to act oppressively and tyrannically. The scientific community, unfortunately, has seen the creation of weapons solely designed for death and destruction rather than for the betterment of society.
These prevailing behaviors and attitudes illustrate a troubling state of moral decay and ethical decline within contemporary society.
A society comprised of virtuous individuals reflects the noble qualities of its members, while a society consisting of corrupt individuals embodies their faults. The manifestation of these faults is evident in various aspects of the collective existence. Greed is evident among merchants, discontent among the underprivileged, and excessive self-indulgence among the elite. The society becomes a breeding ground for craftiness, treachery, oppression, disloyalty, fraud, nationalism, and inertia, among other undesirable habits and practices.
This pervasive malady is the root cause of the unhappiness and unrest in modern society. Tensions, anxieties, and discontent can all be traced back to the craze for materialism, the tendency to excessively prioritize material possessions. This obsession with material wealth gives rise to black marketing, bribery, hoarding, and inflation. Despite the efforts of social scientists, statesmen, and lawmakers, solving one problem often leads to the emergence of more complex issues. Their attempts to untangle the knots prove counterproductive, resembling the actions of quacks who create more problems than they solve.
Various ideologies have been proposed as solutions, from autocracy to democracy, from dictatorship to totalitarianism, and from capitalism to socialism. However, these changes merely address surface-level issues, failing to address the core problem—the deterioration of the individual. The lack of serious efforts to reform individuals leaves the root cause untouched, leading to an exacerbation of societal challenges.
However, I dare say that even if the thinkers and reformers had fully grasped the truth and delved into the real source of trouble, they would have still failed to find a cure. The reason being that the solution lies beyond their capabilities. Despite having access to powerful tools for knowledge dissemination in this age of intellectual advancement, they lack the vision and ability to transform individuals from evil to good. Their minds and hearts are devoid of spirituality, or rather, they remain ignorant of the true worth and significance of the soul. Internally, they are bankrupt, unable to nourish the heart and instill faith within it. They have lost sight of the essence of forging a living connection between humans and the Creator, and establishing a harmonious balance between the outer material existence and inner spiritual needs, knowledge, and morality.
Their spiritual bankruptcy, blind materialism, and intellectual arrogance have led them to the point where they eagerly embrace the ultimate weapon of destruction in their arsenal, capable of wiping out the human race and turning the world into a desolate mass of ruin and despair.5
1. Self; soul; spirit.
2. The soul that commands to the indulgence of pleasures end sensual appetites; carnal or inordinate desires
3. Accusing soul; consciousness of right and wrong of one’s own act, or motives.
4. The satisfied soul.
5. Being a speech broadcast from the Saudi Radio Station, Jeddah, in Rabi-ul-Awwal, 1350 A.H. It was latter translated into Urdu by Maulana Atiqur Rahman and published in Al-Furqan ( Lucknow) of Rabi-us-Saani, 1371 A. H.
link to article : In the Light of the Cave of Hira