Allah told us why He created us and said:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ ٱلْجِنَّ وَٱلْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
Zariyaat 51: 56 And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).
In order that we can live our lives in a state of worshipping Allah, He sent Islam and told us to follow it completely in all aspects of our lives. He said:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱدْخُلُوا۟ فِى ٱلسِّلْمِ كَآفَّةً وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا۟ خُطُوَٰتِ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنِ إِنَّهُۥ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ
Baqara 2: 208 O you who believe! Enter perfectly into Islam (in all aspects of life) and follow not the footsteps of Shaytaan. Verily! He is to you a plain enemy.
My brothers and sisters, we seem to live in a time where we have made the Deen subservient to ourselves. We seem to believe that simply doing personal acts of worship and that also when it is convenient to do so, is sufficient for us. Why then did Allah order the Believers to enter Islam completely and perfectly? After all they are Believers because they entered Islam. Then what does it mean to enter Islam completely and perfectly?
Let us remember that Islam is a practice. It is a complete way of life that touches every aspect of our lives. It is something that we can take the help of and rely on for every decision that we need to make, be it domestic, public, administrative, business or anything else. Islam shows us the way. I remind myself and you that the purpose of life is to worship Allah as it is His right to be worshipped in the way taught to us by His Messenger Muhammad. That is the essence of the Kalima Tayyiba – La ilaha illAllahu Muhammadur Rasoolullahi. When we bear witness that only Allah is worthy of worship, we worship Him alone. And when we bear witness that Muhammad is His Messenger, the last and final of all Messengers, we prove that by worshipping Allah in the way that Muhammad taught us to worship Him. That is why Salah is so critically important, because it is the physical manifestation of the Kalima Tayyiba; the demonstration of Tawheed. This principle of worshipping Allah in the way taught by His Messenger is extended in Islam to every aspect of life. To obey Allah the way Rasoolullah did. That is the essence of entering Islam completely.
To understand what went wrong, first a bit of history. The Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) was more than moving from handmade to machine-made. It changed three critical things: time of day, family dynamics, and method and content of education. These changes are almost never mentioned but they are far more important than the invention of the assembly line and literally changed our society in ways that one can safely say are irreversible. What are these changes?
Prior to 1760 society was mostly agrarian. If you want to see what that was like, I strongly advice a visit to the Amish in Pennsylvania or elsewhere. They are people who have decided not to change. Whether that is for the good or not is for you to decide and I am not going to describe it in detail because for a proper understanding it is essential to visit an Amish settlement. They welcome visitors and tourism is a source of income for them, so please go and visit them. I can assure you that it will be interesting.
The Industrial Revolution changed the time of day from sunrise to sunset, to shift start and knock off in the factory. Your day could begin at 2.00 AM and end at 2.00 PM. And your night was from 2.00 PM onwards or whatever the shift time was. At least one parent never saw their kids awake. This is also how the latchkey kid was born. A kid with the doorlatch key on a tape round his neck, who lets himself into an empty house when he gets off the school bus. He/she takes food from the fridge and gives himself over to the TV or now, the mobile phone. It is estimated that in America schoolboys watch an average of four pornographic movies per week. Let me leave you to figure out what that means in so many ways. As you can see, it was not only about the time of day but of all that came with it.
The second thing it took away was the primacy and value of parents as being their children’s teachers, guides, life skills coaches, and breadwinners. This inspired respect and gratitude for parents. It ensured that values of family, community, culture, and religion were alive and continuously reinforced. Work was divided between men and women and boys and girls learnt different life skills from their mothers and aunts and fathers and uncles. This ensured that the bonds of family were strong and everyone, no matter how old or young had a place and value. Parents were valued as role models.
Elderly grandparents were not shunted off to an old people’s home and left there to die alone. They had influence in all family decisions, were the repositories of family and community history, customs and traditions and were consulted for their wisdom. Serving them was considered an honor and children were eager to spend time with them and listen to stories which served the dual purpose of entertainment as well as a powerful means of learning important lessons. To this day I recall with great happiness, my time with my grandparents, more than 55 years ago.
With the Industrial Revolution parents went to work. Children no longer knew what exactly their parents did, almost never entered the parent’s workplace, didn’t learn life skills, or even religion, from parents. They were sent off to a school where one unrelated adult taught 30/40/50 children. He/she taught a set curriculum and inculcated his/her own values, which sometimes were totally alien to the child’s culture and tradition. For religious study they were sent off to an after school Maktab or Sunday School or the local Imam came home to teach them to read Qur’an by character recognition. Religion was no longer intrinsic to their lives but an extra chore, to be done when it couldn’t be sidestepped. To use religion as a guide for worldly life became alien and foreign. What added to this was that those who teach religion often come from the poorest strata of society and have no education other than what they study in the Madrassa and so have no idea how to link religion to worldly affairs with a view to showing the way. That has resulted in our current situation where most Muslims have no knowledge of even the most basic matters of Deen. And inadvertently we created a priestly class in a religion where there is no priesthood.
In the post-Industrial Revolution society, there was neither time nor place for the elderly and they became a burden, sent off to be cared for by paid employees. Values of family loyalty, cohesiveness, culture, manners, even family relationships and the privilege and responsibility that came with them, all went out the window. Even family face time became a scarce commodity because of the conflict of work and school times and demands of both places. Homes became de facto hotels where inmates came and went at will.
Educators removed God from the equation by promoting atheism in the name of science and stigmatizing what they called ‘blind faith’. They didn’t acknowledge that true belief is based on knowledge and is not blind at all. The confusion of often contradictory philosophies supplanted the clarity of Revelation and shouted down those who preferred the Word of Allah to the ideas of men. Most general education became pedantic and theoretical unless one went to a trade school and children graduated with almost no skills, and as a result, deficient in self-confidence. In an agrarian society children learn to work with their hands and with animals and other people and learn skills which give them confidence. Teenagers are given serious responsibilities that impact their families and communities and earn respect.
In the post-Industrial Revolution society, childhood merely gets delayed and ‘children’ in their twenties are dependent on their parents in multiple ways. With the advent of technology education, children were driven further and further away from God and traditional religion. The new religion is Modernism which seeks to teach its theories as dogma and fact. It is totally materialistic, hedonistic, and worships desire. To fulfill desire is the ultimate goal of life to which end all effort is directed.
Islam sticks in the craw of Modernism as it not only presents a model of behavior based on belief in our Creator but a model which covers every aspect of life for us to adhere to it and be accountable to Allah after death. Modernism seeks to supplant Revelation with science and philosophy, thus placing man on par with God. And often as in the case of Darwinism, theories masquerading as fact. Sadly, as I mentioned earlier, the fact that our scholars are not educated in science and philosophy, is a major handicap in answering the questions that are raised. The result is that our children are confused and conflicted and many leave the Deen in all but appearance.