Attacks in Islamic lands are causing terrible damage. Countries’ administrations, unity and order are rapidly falling apart, and thousands of innocent people are dying. Yet there is another more destabilizing development, at least as harmful as exploding bombs in Islamic lands.
The roots of this development began to show themselves in Europe some 500 years ago, and led to endless sectarian conflicts because of major social and political upheavals.
These upheavals in Europe began when the German Catholic monk Martin Luther questioned certain practices of the Church in 1517. Protestantism, which began with the growth of a movement critical of the Catholic Church, ushered in a major turning point in world’s history; this transition gave birth to new economic and political models, such as capitalism, secularism and nationalism.
Another result of the turning point brought about by Protestantism, at least as important as those mentioned above but less frequently noted, was the creation of deep-rooted changes in Christians’ lives and moral conceptions.
Before Protestantism, Christians believed that the Bible addressed the human soul and that salvation was possible through the training of the soul. According to Christians, the Bible revealed that this world is transitory and worthless and that human beings’ true abode is in the hereafter, and called on people to avoid thinking in a worldly manner. In addition, Catholic teaching told people to regulate every area of their lives in the light of the faith.
With Protestantism, Europe adopted a mentality that attached more importance to ‘this world,’; that looked to material things and not the soul, as a result of which the importance of the hereafter was forgotten. A similar process has been taking place in the Islamic world for some time now. The one result of that process is Muslims’ adopting worldly values.
Puritanism is a religious movement that was born out of Protestantism and is still influential in the USA. It is most interesting how Puritans and some influential communities in today’s Islamic world adopt the same methods.
One of the reasons for the current strength and influence of Puritanism is that it attaches special importance to the securing of “influential professions.” The famous German sociologist Max Weber also emphasized this in one of his books; “Owners of capital and employers, and even the upper, educated layers of the working class, personnel who have received a high level of technical or commercial education in modern fields of work bear Protestant characteristics.” Just like the Puritans, some Muslim communities in various parts of the world attach great importance to their members assuming professions and thus securing posts at senior levels within the state.
Another common factor is business. Puritans were strongly encouraged to take part in trade. Puritans were even enabled to start their own businesses against the possibility of failing to attain promotion in other enterprises. They were thus encouraged to ensure their businesses made as much money as possible for the sake of Puritanism. One can see a similar development today in some Muslim communities in Islamic lands. Indeed, things have progressed so far that each community has established trade associations by combining the businesses of their members under a single roof.
Protestants (and Puritans), who achieved great success in producing highly-qualified personnel and achieving material strength, also took an interest in politics. Protestants in Europe were influential enough to bring about deep-rooted changes in the structures of states. It is possible to interpret what is happening in Egypt in terms of Muslims taking an interest in politics in much the same way Protestants do. However, the end of a political movement that regarded increasing Egypt’s trade and tourism revenues as more important than achieving unity among Muslims, was very different to what they expected.
The real issue to be stressed here is not only the parallels in the management of Protestant and some Muslim groups, but the effect that parallel has on Muslims.
An increase in the wealth and strength of Muslim communities has led to a decrease in the influence of Islam on their members. Encouraged toward business, these people have come to regard profit and earnings as the reason for their existence. When they think that Islam and religion may harm their business and the profits gained from it, they are capable of acting out of purely commercial interests or concerns for the future; as a result, they prefer to act as a business community rather than a Muslim community when they think their investments are threatened.
This way of thinking has led to a Muslim model that prays and fasts but that model is generally made happy by possessions and lives a life far removed from religious moral values.
People who know Islam and believe in Allah must not forget that the reason for their existence in the world is to serve Allah and the faith. We come into this world in order to live by moral virtues, love and loyalty, not in order to manage factories or guarantee our futures. Of course Muslims can also be wealthy, but they must use their wealth in order to earn Allah’s approval, to cause people to admire Islamic moral values and to provide a more pleasant world for the people. Every Muslim who strives on the path of Allah must know that Allah helps those who help His faith. Sincere Muslims exhibit moral values opposed to the “fear of poverty” or “desire for wealth” encouraged by satan and always behave in favor of Allah. They never choose worldly interests over Allah’s pleasure, but always submit themselves to Allah.
Wealth is certainly not something to be condemned for Muslims. Allah has created all worldly blessings for believers. Indeed, the Prophet Solomon (pbuh), praised by Allah in many verses of the Qur’an, prayed to Allah for riches. Allah heeded the Prophet Solomon’s (pbuh) prayer, and the Qur’an always speaks of the very wealthy Prophet Solomon (pbuh) in terms of great praise:
“We gave David Solomon. What an excellent slave! He truly turned to his Lord.” (Surah Sad, 30)
He said, ‘I have put the love of good things above the remembrance of my Lord…’ (Surah Sâd, 32)
The important thing is to use all wealth in a way that will be pleasing to Allah. Shying away from acting like a Muslim out of a fear of losing one’s possessions is something that true believers will never do. While believers benefit from and enjoy Allah’s blessings in this world, they enjoy using what is given to them on Allah’s path even more as that is the real goal.
Muslims must be careful that methods similar to those of the Puritans in America or the Protestants in Europe do not distract them from their true aims. It is not money or rank that give Muslims strength in this world, but, always and only, sincere faith and living in a manner pleasing to Allah.
Adnan Oktar's article on Harakah Daily: