Religious Movements

The Easterners learnt from Europe only to fight back at her with her own arms. This is true in the case of the Far East as well as the Near East, regardless of difference in beliefs, environments and social conditions. The Japanese took to copying Europe's civilization, sciences and industries after coming in contact with Europe and realizing that they were unable to oppose her effectively.

The biggest favor which Europe can claim to have given to the East was given unwillingly. The impact of Europeanism on the Easterners' minds produced a realization of the realities of life and of the requirements of advancement and progress.

The Easterners know before that that they were backward. They also know the reasons of their lagging behind other nations in the race for advancement. They know all that as a sick man knows his ailments and their causes and, instead of consulting proper medical authority, seeks the help of cheats and blackmailers.

The Easterners were equally ignorant of their religious and world affairs. They mixed up their customs and beliefs with pure myths and the realities of their religious teachings they clung more to the popular superstition but never thought of the religions they had abandoned.

When the Easterners were repeatedly defeated by Europe and their opposition had no meaning they realized the reasons for their opponents' victory. They know that Europe won the battle by her superiority in science, industries, politics and system of government. This was the correct diagnosis of the ailment and it also proved to be the first step towards proper realization of the nature of things.

There was almost an unanimous view about the necessity for improvement and the call was for borrowing modern sciences and falling in line with the modern way of living and thinking.

Eastern Christians frequented the modern schools where they received education regardless of the nature of the subjects taught and the intentions behind them. The Muslims refrained from attending modern schools opened in their countries because they were run by Christian missionaries and their associates. But at the same time, they did not refrain from sending their sons to Europeans the schools and religious bodies there were quite separate. During the days of Muhammad All the Great the Egyptian government sent hundreds of brilliant students to European capitals to learn medicine, engineering, arts and military subjects. The government also arranged for the training of more students by European teachers.

It was not before one or two generations after Europe's coming into contact with the East that the Muslims agreed to have a new outlook towards religion .This time, they unanimously declared that the superstitions which weighed heavily on them and their ancestors' life had nothing to do with real Islam. But they were divided in prescribing the treatment for the illness, a fact which related to the varying degrees of knowledge of modern sciences by different groups. Those who had a big share of modern sciences reconciled between religion and modern science, others left all that was new and devoted themselves to religion and its simplicity, as they understood it. The result was a number of religious movements appearing here and there. Some had the correct vision while others had wrong notions, but all of them were an outcome of the basic nature of these notions and their past and present circumstances. None of them aimed at renouncing worldly affairs and confining their activities to the Hereafter.

Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani appeared in India and claimed that he was Jesus, the son of Mary, and the Guided Mahdi whose arrival tile Shiah expected and believed him to be the Imam (the leader). He declared that he wanted to harmonize between the Muslims, Christians, Shiahs and the Sunnis. He pretended that the soul of Mary and the Christ had transmigrated in his body. He projected -himself in a way very much like Brahma who combined both attributes of male and female in the eyes of the Brahmins. His belief in himself was shared by that of his followers and they were convinced that he was the Spirit of Allah sent for the salvation of Muslims Christians and Brahmins by his new faith.

It is easy to trace in this movement the ancient Indian belief incarnation and the transmigration of the soul of males females or animals in other bodies.

A similar movement appeared in Iran when Mirza Ali Muhammad Shirazi claimed to be the awaited Imam. He founded the Islamailia faith in which he introduced pantheism. After this he took a jump and said that the outer expressions of Shari'ah were no longer to be adhered to and that faith in hidden reality was his religion. Theory permitted the believers in the transmigration of souls to decide matters as they wished according to the new revelations. He said that his believers received inspiration from Allah in all of their actions. Later, he publicly and openly asked for the discontinuation of some of the sacred rites which the Muslims were asked by the Quran to perform. It is not difficult to realize that this movement was related to the conditions in which the forerunners of Secretism (Batinis) and the Ismaili thrived. These were the circumstances in which the idea was formed of the transmigration of Hormuz's soul in the body of his faithful apostle Mitra to carry on an eternal war against the god of evil Ahraman.

In Arabia Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Abdel Wahab raised his clarion call condemning luxury in clothing and ostentation. It is also not difficult to detect the nature of the desert pervading this rigidity in manners and this sharp division between the sensible and the invisible world. This was contrary to the Indian and Persian environments where sensibility mixed up with imagination and the worldly life was connected with chat of the heavens.

In the Sudan Mahdism emerged, which deprecated luxury and asked its followers to eat at subsistence level and to wear the patched clothes used by the Darwishes. This call encouraged the people to fight the "Turks" and to eject them from the Sudan. The term "Turk" was applied by the Sudanese to all the non-Arab races, particularly the whites.

It is very easy to perceive the spirit of revolt of the Sudanese against the exploiters pervading the movement. The Mahdi wanted to stir his brethren to fight the foreigners. This was also the cure with which the Sudanese tried to remove corruption in the primitive society of the country which knew nothing about the modern life and its problems.

In Egypt a movement for reform was led by the late Shaikh Muhammad Abdou. It was like a new subject taught in an old school, or a new interpretation of the Divine Laws which adhered strictly to the original texts. With this new interpretation the Shaikh wanted to face the problems of the age. Through the Shaikh's appeal the spirit could be seen of ancient Egypt with a system of government thousand of years old and which provided for adherence to the texts of orders and prohibition laws issued successfully by dynasty after dynasty. All that the ancient Egyptians believed in was a memorized text or the interpretation of it. It was the spirit it of Egypt which showed itself since Pharaoh Akhnatoun who declared himself a prophet; Egypt is the only nation in which prophethood wore a crown and held a scepter.

It was not the unruly amongst these movements which influenced the Muslim world when it felt a tremor due to its collision with European civilization. These movements, in fact, were like the dust which showed the direction and the force of winds blowing in different directions.

The movements worked to remove superstitions and falsehood from the mind. Previously, falsehoods hindered the people's realization of the facts and the discovery of the causes of problems facing them. These movements helped people to make a proper and sound decision and to have a belief in religion which did not prevent the mind from development, or obstruct the efforts of the reformers. These movements enabled the Muslim to satisfy his mind and conscience and to remove any differences which existed between two.

Islam withstood the first shock and reconciled itself with a culture based on scientific observation.

The problem today is not of any conflict between Islam and modern sciences or sound thinking. The problem which Islam faces today is how to carry out its mission along with other religions and to combat the present materialistic madness which aims at suppressing the ambitions of the soul and at converting the human being into an animal, knowing no religion save that of the stomach and the body.