[The above is adapted and translated from an article appearing in Risalah 7/8/9-2003 titled Tafsir al Maudu’iyy: Fasad Petanda Kejatuhan Ummah by Dr Siddiq Fadil, President of Kolej Dar al Hikmah.]
The survival of the community depends upon the existence of a cluster or group of people who are committed in the struggle for reform and persevere in fighting corruption (fasad).When there is no more resistance then the end of a nation is near at hand. The decline of a civilization or the fall of a nation does not happen in a blink or in a moment. It starts with a deep malaise becoming cancerous until in the end it brings about death. For every community as for every individual comes its appointed time.
Causes of Decline
The decline of a civilization does not necessarily mean extinction and complete obliteration. It may happen to be an internal decay: loss of credibility, loss of nerve, loss of strength, honour and respect. It may be in the form of a loss of identity, dilution of character and personality, thereby converting the nation into something else or into another alien civilization. The process reaches its finale with the loss of spirit, will and resistance, falls into alien domination until its existence has no meaning or concern. This internal cause is described in surah al anfal: 53:-
Because Allah will never change the Grace which he hath bestowed on a people until they change what is in their (own) souls: and verily Allah is He who heareth and knoweth (all things).
This verse (ayah) concerns Sunnatullah – God’s Law in history – on the decline of a nation that originates from a change in character (taghyir al nufus) – an internal transformation, digression and corruption of the mind and self. This fall in character or self corruption is an internal disorder that brings about loss of grace, loss of peace, prosperity, dignity and social wellbeing. The most serious form corruption of soul and mind is fasad al aqidah – the spoiling, the defiling of the foundation of belief and faith – especially by committing shirk – associating others with God, advocating something other than God and even regarding leaders as demigods.
Tawhid in its purity has liberative implications, giving complete freedom to the hearts and minds of people. However, when the heart and mind is corrupted by advocating other human beings, desires and various other forms of falsehood (taghut), mankind loses its freedom, becoming enslaved like the parable of ‘the cattle with a pinned nose’. Man without freedom has essentially lost his main character of humanity. This phenomenon has been attested to by the early reformers with the idea to empower man by rehabilitating his freedom of thought. To free man from all forms and obstacles which prevents his wishes and to free man from inhibitions to his thoughts.
Corruption of faith causes amnesia, forgetfulness, man becomes arrogant, proud, tyrannical, oppressive, brutal and a transgressor unleashed. This is seen when man puts his desire as his idol. From fasad al nufus (self corruption) it extends into fasad al mujtama’ (social corruption). Relations between men are broken; there is a loss of mutual respect, brotherhood, altruism, togetherness and cooperation. On the other hand, mutual hatred, self interest and eternal enmity becomes the norm. This happens when man transforms by disregarding aqidah (purity of faith) and throws away natural noble human traits. Men are derailed from the limits of humanity, some becoming like demigods while others are weak slaves to be exploited and manipulated. The phenomenon of Pharaoh is the manifestation of corruption of the hearts and minds to become arrogant, tyrannical, rampantly oppressive, enslaving, brutalizing and mistreating the weak, the Children of Israel. The Children of Israel manifests the loss of human dignity, self respect, loss of nerve and fighting spirit until they accept as perfectly natural the state of slavery generation after generation sheepishly. This phenomenon of corruption repeats itself throughout history. The message is in surah al rad: 11:-
For each (such person) there are (angels) in succession. Before and behind him: they guard him by command of Allah. Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls). But when (once) Allah willeth a people’s punishment, there can be no turning back, nor will they find, besides Him, any to protect.
Al marhum Abdullah Yusuf Ali in his commentary of the verse mentions: “It is only when he has made his own sight blind and changed his own nature or soul away from the beautiful mould in which Allah formed it, that Allah’s wrath will descend on him and the favourable position in which Allah placed him will be changed. When once the punishment comes, there is no turning back. None of the things which he relied upon other than Allah can possibly protect him.” Thus, man shall forever be regarded and treated according to their state and their qualities, the way they deserve, whether they be lions or sheep.
Sunnatullah: Cause and Effect
It is obvious that what happens to a nation is not accidental but has reasons and causes for it. The Qur’an always tells of the causes and effects especially the internal reasons. Failure to be wary of fasad al nufus (corruption of the self) causes the nation to be weak and brittle. Many civilizations rot and collapse from the inside with little disturbance from the outside. To be wary and guardful of the causes of destruction needs meticulous and conscious work and tireless efforts. There has to be concern, concerted effort and action towards fighting all forms of corruption (fasad) even those considered ‘small’, ‘light’, ‘minor’, ‘minute’ or ‘insignificant’ evil. Man if due to his smug and arrogance, usually likes to disregard, push aside or belittle such ‘minor fasad’ , issues which are really big and of utmost importance. This is highlighted in the surah al nur: 15:-
Behold, ye received it on your tongues and said out of your mouths things of which ye had no knowledge; and ye thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of Allah.
The verse condemns and warns of the false and slanderous news concerning an alleged scandal which maliciously attacks the sanctity of the Prophet’s family and household as well as threatening the fledgling first Muslim community. To a community of liars, scoundrels and slanderers, such an event is considered small and even as a passing sensation. But, to Allah s.w.t. and the Islamic community, it is a grave and serious affair because it stains and dishonours the dignity of a known and noble person. Honour and dignity are cherished and are priceless values. This is why they are guaranteed and protected by the shari’ah. When society belittles and tramples over honour and decency, hence slander, false accusations and backbiting are rampant, the acculturation of corruption has occurred and this is utterly despicable and condemned in the sight of Allah s.w.t.
The prohibition of fasad in all its forms: oppression, evil, iniquity, licentiousness, sin are stated explicitly as part of the Prophetic mission.
It is important for the continued existence and presence of reformers (muslih) to fight against corruption in all of its forms. The mission of reform is to save man by humanizing mankind to be free from the cancer of corruption of the self. It is hard and difficult as the problem has developed through the ages. So it was for Prophet Musa a.s. in facing the intransigence of the Children of Israel. So it is if the Muslim ummah allow their hearts and minds to be self destructed by ‘dead thoughts’ (al fikr al mumit). Imagine the situation of a generation of Muslims who are forced to accept Islam devoid of the dimension of jihad (strive and struggle). The fighting spirit is part of a nation’s character. It does not develop in an instant after much erosion and decay over generations. Without deep realization, proper understanding and driven by a fighting spirit, communities will quickly degenerate afflicted by fasad al nufus (corruption of the self) to become cowards (al jubn) and infected with al wahn (the excessive love of the material world and the fear of death).
The above is adapted and translated from an article appearing in Risalah 7/8/9-2003 titled Tafsir al Maudu’iyy: Fasad Petanda Kejatuhan Ummah by Dr Siddiq Fadil, President of Kolej Dar al Hikmah.