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The Interpretation of the Behavioral Motives Among Muslims in the Early Period of Islam

In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

By Dr. Akram Diya Al-Umari

In an Islamic society in which the basic beliefs and principles are both deeply-rooted and dominant, behavioral motives are greatly influenced by the aspiration to please Allah and gain His reward in the hereafter. The best Muslim believers do not include any other motive for their actions. It is essential for the Muslim to ensure that his intention in all his deeds is aimed solely at pleasing Allah, be they acts of jihad, self-purification, or any social, economic, or political activities. The activities of a Muslim in all spheres of life must be directed towards pleasing God. The Muslim knows well that if he were to include anything else in his intention besides God, then his deed would be unacceptable, as stated in the hadith: “Allah does not accept any deed except that which is purely intended for Him and is done for His sake.” If this way of thinking is guiding many conscientious Muslims even today, then what was its influence on the generations of the companions of the Prophet and those who followed after them (tabi`un), who were the best of all generations?

The knowledge of the effect which Islam exerted on the education of its followers in the first period of Islam – and on the purification of their souls, and polishing their minds, the sincerity of their religious belief, together with their directing their worship to God alone – makes it abundantly clear that their participation in the military campaigns known as al futuh (the conquests or ‘opening up’ of other lands) was not primarily motivated by any worldly ambition. Rather, it was the compelling desire to propagate Islam, to enable it to take firm root in these lands and to organize and administer the newly-conquered territories. It was the wish to solve the economic problems of these lands, and any new problems which might arise, in accordance with the true teachings of Islam. The Muslims were not motivated by any desire to dominate those peoples or to acquire their wealth, nor were they attempting to escape from the hardship of life in the desert, as has been maintained by Caetani and other Orientalists.

Al Tabari narrated that Rabi` ibn `Amir entered the court of Rustum, the Persian leader, who asked him: “What brought you here?” Rabi` said: “God sent us, and He brought us here in order to lead whom He wills from the worship of man to the worship of God alone; from the narrowness and oppression of this world to the space and abundance of the hereafter; and from the injustice of other religions to the justice of Islam. He has sent us with His religion of His creation, to call them to Him.”

What Rabi` ibn `Amir, the representative of the Muslims, said to the Persians was not only the expression of his personal feelings. Rather, it voiced the thought which was predominant among the Muslim leadership and most of the Mujahidin. This does not exclude the possibility that some of the Bedouin who had participated in the military expeditions had been attracted by the prospects of material gains and booty, in addition to the desire for jihad; but these Bedouin did not represent either the leadership of the movement or its motivating spirit. We must state this because the Muslim society is a human society. In it are found the elite who are committed to the highest moral and spiritual ideals, with their intentions directed purely towards God, who are desirous of earning His good pleasure and who direct their efforts towards achieving this end. But there are also lesser classes of Muslims who take it upon themselves to maintain the minimum standards which will entitle them to call themselves Muslims.

We must explain clearly that the interpretation of the course of Islamic history during the first period of Islam can only be undertaken by a Muslim who repeats daily what God said to his Prophet: “Say: ‘Truly my prayer and service of my sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for God, the cherisher of the worlds: No partner hath He; this am I commanded …’”. (Al-An`am 6:162-163). This is the Muslim whose mind and emotions have been affected by the Qur’an and the Sunnah, who has felt their impact in molding his personality and determining his actions and conduct. This is why Westerners and Orientalists have failed to understand the true motives for the actions of Muslims during the first period of Islam. For example, when Henri Lammens, a well-known Orientalist, discussed the incident of the Saqifah of Banu Sa`idah (an early example of the application of the Shura, in which the majority was persuaded by the minority) his judgment of this incident was impaired by his recollections of the conspiracies at the French court of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which distorted his eventual depiction of the incident. He concluded that the outcome of the meeting of Saqifah came about as the result of a conspiracy woven by Abu Bakr, `Umar and `Uthman, who, in the Saqifah of the Banu Sa`idah, had agreed to seize the caliphate and succeed one another.

The studies of the Orientalists are numerous, and differ in their levels, quality, and freedom from religious and racial prejudice. However, these studies are usually carried out by scholars who live in environments which are remote from Islam, and which have their own philosophies and cultures. It is difficult for them to appreciate Islam and consequently, it is difficult for them to understand the true reasons for a Muslim’s conduct, both individually and socially. When they seek to interpret the history of Islam, they draw analogies with European history, despite the very different natures of the two histories. We must not forget, moreover, that the Europeans cannot but help looking at the world from their own perspective, which is militarily and technologically superior. Thus they tend to ascribe every possible merit to themselves, while ascribing defects to others. When Toynbee wrote his history of world civilizations, he allotted only a small space to the history of Islam, a space which was not commensurate with the size of Islam’s real contribution to world history.

The most glaring deficiency of the Orientalists’ studies is their failure to arrive at a correct understanding of Islam, its true spirit, and its effect on an Islamic society and on the course of that society’s history. This is a grave deficiency which prevents our acceptance and approval of these studies, especially those which are concerned with the Sirah and the era of the Rightly-guided Caliphs, when the practical implementation of Islamic theory coincided with the theory itself and faithfully reflected it.

Courtesy Of: Islaam.com
Source: Madinan Society at the Time of the Prophet

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