The Third Phase : Slavery and its Aftermath

Let us now pass on to the third phase and sec the condition that we passed through during that period. We need not discuss things in detail because that phase ended barely a score of years ago and it still well remembered.

In this sub-continent as well as in other Muslim countries the alien rulers subjected the people to all kinds of oppression and inequity. They destroyed the old Muslim empires, deprived the Muslims of their rich lands, took over their religious trusts and trifled with their lives, honor and property. But far more deadly for the Muslims than any of these inequities was the destruction of the old educational system and its replacement by a new system of education based upon entirely different moral values and cultural norms. Through this new intellectual instrument they sought to alienate the future generations of Muslims from their past and ensure that they would treat themselves with contempt, feel ashamed of their own history and traditions, disdain their own culture as out of date and retrogressive, and reject their own distinctive system of life as impracticable. On the positive side, the new education sought to inculcate in the future generations of Muslims the belief that all knowledge, culture and morality belonged to the West and that the ideal conception of humanity was that of the West.

This was indeed the worst of the countless crimes that the alien masters perpetrated upon the Muslims of this land. The old system of education had enabled us to maintain our links with our past and keep ourselves acquainted with our religion; it had served to keep the community anchored to its traditions and culture. The new system of education supplanted the old and made it practically worthless from the economic point of view. All Muslims who aspired for progress and success in life abandoned the old system of education and adopted its alien substitute. This great change in the educational system had deep and far-reaching effects on the life of the community : under the force of circumstances nearly all the effective elements in society-those that were relatively well off and were also intelligent and educated, ambitious and active, and endowed with the qualities of leadership-turned to the new system of education, which tended to alienate them from, and make them disdainful of, their own religion, culture and history.

Transfer of Leadership

With the introduction of the new system of education, the alien rulers restricted the avenues of progress to those educated under that system. This was a deliberate policy aimed at forcing the Muslims to abandon their children to the new system of education and allow it to alienate them from their religion and culture. All the Western powers pursued this policy on a large scale in all the Muslim countries that passed under their sway. A natural corollary of this policy was that the more a Muslim could alienate himself from his past and detach himself from his cultural moorings, the easier would he find it to rise to the higher positions in the administration. This policy was, of course, never reduced to a regular rule nor, indeed, was it necessary to make it a part of the administrative formulary. It was just followed as a unwritten rule calculated to bring into the highest positions in society and administration, Muslims who only owed a formal allegiance to Islam and were practically non-Muslims in their character, conduct and everyday life. Consequently, within a short period, such Muslims captured all the effective positions in the administration and in social and economic life that were open to members of the Muslim community.

Movements of Liberation

The study of Western literature and history stimulated the urge for political freedom in a large section of the young men educated under the new system, and sooner or later the urge Sowed into organized movements for liberation in all the Muslim Countries. Naturally enough the leadership of this movement passed into the hands of those who had been educated under the new system, who could understand, and make themselves understand, in the language of the rulers, and knew how to deal with the ruling nation. The logic of the situation demanded this kind of leadership and left no .alternative for the community. The products of the old religious schools were not fit to lead the Muslims at that juncture; the community therefore had to accept the leadership of the new educated class.

The new leaders of the community were by no means genuinely devoted to Islam, but nearly all of them appealed to the religious sentiments and susceptibilities of the Muslims, for that was the only way to secure their allegiance and support. In every country, the new leaders appealed to the Muslims in the Faith. They proclaimed that they were fighting a war between Islam and unbelief and called upon the Muslims to join them, to devote all their energies to the: struggle and, if necessary, lay down their lives to ensure the supremacy of Islam.

This trick was played upon the Muslims in every Muslim country. The latest instance in point is Algeria. I have, studied the Algerian situation at close quarters and discussed it personally with Algerian leaders in Egypt, and I am in no. doubt that, in Algeria as elsewhere in the Muslim world,. Islam was exploited to the full in the struggle for liberation.. Algerian leaders have confessed to me that unless they told their people that they were engaged in a war between Islam and Kufr (unbelief ), not a single soul would come forward to join the struggle. In short, it was in the name of Islam that the people were called, it was in the name of Islam that they responded to the call and rallied to the banner and it was from Islam that they derived the super-human courage to go through the ordeals to which they were daily subjected during the struggle for freedom.

Similarly, when the Greeks invaded Asia Minor after the First World War, Mustafa Kemal exploited Islam to the full. He would go into the rank and file of the armed forces with the Holy Book in his hand and warn them if they did not join him in the war against the Greeks, the Qur'an. would soon be eliminated from Turkey. It was this appeal in the name of Islam that aroused the Turks and induced them to measure swords with the Greeks in spite of the shortage of arms on the Turkish side and the overwhelming support and aid of the Western Allies on the Greek side. Fighting under the banner of Islam, the Turks eventually triumphed over the much more powerful aggressors and booted them out of Turkey.

It was practically the same story in every Muslim country struggling for freedom. The leaders were, on the whole, virtually ignorant of Islam and indifferent to it. They had no will to enforce the writ of Islam in the land, or even to mould their own lives in accordance with its principles. They had grown under a new civilization and culture and their values, tastes and inclinations had changed radically. But the common Muslim people were compelled to entrust their leadership to such elements, who in turn appealed to the religious sentiments of the Muslims and exploited then as best as they could. Where ever the Muslims have won a battle of national liberation, the appeal to Islam has played a decisive role in the outcome.