1. The End of the Revelatory Age
There is an account that tells us how the Companions of the Prophet (s), Abu Bakr and Umar (r), visited a woman who was crying after the Prophet (s) had died. After trying to console her by saying the Prophet (s) was in the better place in the Afterlife than this worldly life, she explained that with his death, that sublime link to God that our Prophet (s) was graced with (vis-a-vis revelation – a portal of communication from the divine) – had now ceased – forever – in our mortal life-times. On hearing this, both Abu Bakr and Umar (r), realising the significance of her words, joined her in a flood of tears.1
But wait! When we hear of this account, we believe we too understand the significance of her words. We assume – ‘Yes I got it! I understand. This account is simply relaying how where once God spoke to the Prophet and thereby to the Companions of the Prophet, at the time – and so indirectly to us… well, now, that is no longer the case.’
Yes? No? This explanation actually adds nothing to the sheer magnitude of what had just happened. Think for a moment…
If we accept the biblical and Qur’anic notion that God spoke to man via revelation from the time of Prophet Adam (a), then we might begin to understand the glaring significance. History can then be divided (globally speaking) into two great epochal periods:
1. The Revelatory Age (From Prophet Adam to the Last Prophet, Muhammad – peace on them all), and
2. The Post-Revelatory Age (the historical period, post-Muhammad (s)).
The significance of the time of the Last Prophet (s) is absolute in order to understand his positive impact and value to the whole subsequent age that follows. Don’t believe me? Fine. But please don’t rely on an Islamophobic ‘expert’ on Islam to explain the obverse to you. Why? (Click here for the answer to that nugget.) You see, it was in the Last Prophet’s famous Farewell Sermon prior to his death that the following verse was revealed to him from God:
“This day have I perfected your religion for you and have completed My favour unto you, and have chosen for you, Islam, as your religion.” (Qur’an 5: 5)
This is not merely an endorsement for the Islamic religion that God is confirming to his Prophet and to us. It is actually also an assertive statement to designate Islam as ‘The Religion’ that requires no more future Prophets to realign the faithful to the ‘Straight Path‘ to God’s pleasure, anymore (as was the case with previous Prophets, each time renewing, reminding, recharging the message that came before.) But because God has purposefully made Islam the ‘perfected’ religion it therefore represents the evolved replacement and culmination of all the great axial religions. We – ourselves – are now responsible to do the ‘renewing, reminding, recharging’ based upon the Islamic principles. No new (authentic) Prophets will come with a new revelation from hereon because the Qur’anic message – the Last Testament – is succinct and clear enough. It is now the only relevant, intact, current and trans-historical revelation we possess. As such it is – and has always considered itself to be ‘The Universal Religion’. The message is as much for you as it is for me – whether you’re Muslim or not. And the Prophet (s) might be recognised by Muslims (and non-Muslims) as the ‘Prophet of the Muslims’ – but he is also designated, Qur’anically as the ‘Prophet of All’.
“And we have sent you (O Muhammad (s) not but as a mercy for the ‘alamin’ (all that exists).” (Qur’an 21:107)
God’s words as authentically recorded in the finality of the Qur’an together with the evidences of hadith that document the breadth of the Prophetic Sunnah (his Way) is sufficient – is sufficient and necessary! – as the guidance par excellence for humankind from hereon till the end of days.
2. What is the Post-Revelatory Age?
We have entered into a new epochal moment in history that differs on a super-paradigmatic level to the previous (Revelatory) Age spanning from the advent of man (with or without the Evolution Theory) right down to the Last Prophet (s). And what is that? Namely, the end of God’s direct conversation (revelation) with His creation. One might falsely make the assumption that the former age might be dubbed the ‘Age of God’ and the latter might now be named the ‘Age of Man’ – or perhaps the ‘Age of Religion’ versus the ‘Age of Humanism’ or something along those lines. This dichotomy certainly fits into precisely how modern history interprets pre-modernity and modernity, respectively. However, the error of this understanding might explain the strife we see in today’s world, where the zeitgeist of Godlessness is pitted against that of Godliness: conceptually, not a good idea in the first place. The fact is God has not gone anywhere. He is Ever-present as He has always been. And He certainly does not need my – or anyone else’s – defence! (See what I’m talking about?) Rather the Revelatory period is the ‘Age of the Prophets’ and the Post-Revelatory period is supposed to be the ‘Age of Vicegerents’ – of Caretakers, Stewards… Guardians, if you will.
Let me explain:
We arrive instead at an age where God’s message and communication becomes located in a living, oral tradition that revolves around a divinely revealed Book (the Qur’an) and historical reports of the sayings and doings of the Final Prophet (s) (The Sunnah). God’s communication can also be inferred from the textbook of our lives (experience) and this world (phenomena). BUT the name of the game is to interpret experience and phenomena together with God’s message for us via The Book and Sunnah (whose purpose is to benefit us in both this life and the hereafter) in order to be rightfully guided on the most direct route to God – and not the scenic route that might allow us to wander off and lose ourselves in an entirely worldly and, therefore, failed vocation. Now, in this Post-Revelatory Age, we are no longer able to do this ‘interpreting’ with the direct hand-holding of Prophets or God Himself (via the Prophets) but with reference only to the guidance contained in the Book and Sunnah provided by God via the Last Prophet (s). And it is in this way that we must understand the ‘Age of the Vicegerents’. We must safeguard this, our divine message, from the same corruptions that ultimately destroyed all the previous sacred dispensations so that we can not only know God – and know Him correctly – but so that we can act accordingly (practice what is preached) and try to be a source of goodness, like the healing touch of warmth against the shivering, cold and despairing soul.
But what does this mean? This ‘Vicegerent Age’ of Post-Revelation? Well, we begin to realise how truly significant God’s apparent ‘silence’ is in our present time, where now an atheistic/anti-theistic, secular-centric, hyper-materialistic, extremist zeitgeist reigns supreme. When the atheists say that we are ‘altogether alone in our godless world’, they are, in fact, half-right (despite the crudeness of this viewpoint) and they merely confirm what Muslims already once knew.
Yes, we are ‘alone’ (but not forsaken!) – and we possess the total guidance we need (via Islam) to live deeply and fully spiritual and worldly lives, simultaneously, in this time-period – because such a guidance was meant for this time-period!
Indeed, culturally speaking, after the death of the Prophet, there was a chance for man (without the immediacy of the Prophet’s or God’s guidance, other than what has already been left behind) to demonstrate the magnitude of this message, lived out, ‘unhindered’ for the next 30 years. And this was during the rule of the (Rightly-Guided) Vicegerents (632 CE – 661 CE). This, therefore is not an idea or theory – but a lived reality and benchmark, a workable model-period that has demonstrated success, spiritually AND empirically.
The fruits of such a magnanimous culture became manifest for the next thousand years (c.f. the rise of Capitalism in Early Islam; Feminine power in Early Islam; Science, the scientific method and Humanism in Early Islam [pending post]). The effervescence of this inspired culture, however, was dispirited and hampered somewhat by the subsequent rule of (worldly) kings. This ended up suffocating the light of the divine guidance to a simmer as the kings began to authorise misguidance, wittingly or not – right up until our current modern age of godless arrogance. This current conceited period, which has accelerated the almost total destruction of the last remnants of what was golden from the classical age of Islam is one where humanity is being tyrannised by a godless morality that aims to destroy Islam specifically and religion generally, but will inevitably destroy not only humanity itself, but the very habitat of our world(s). (See the Crisis of Civilization.) The fact is, many non-Muslims can sense the damage that has been done not just to the world, but to their own lives, by this all-consuming, hyper-capitalist, globalising system and mono-culture. This is why the Prophet (and his way) is a mercy not just for Muslims, but for non Muslims too. However, people – ignoring this fact – do not know precisely what ought to be done about this mess. No doubt it is human and natural for everyone to have their own theories about how to solve this problem. But consider – without Islam in the driving seat in the Post-Revelatory Age, given what has already been said above, there can ONLY be misguidance at best and Shaytanic, dis-guided, destructive, corrupting influences at worst that will perpetuate and guarantee the total self-harm for all and everything concerned. (And for all those non Muslims thinking: What? Islam is a mercy for non Muslims too! I know what you’re thinking, so bear with me. You’d need to distinguish between 4 things: a) The Islam actually practiced by the Last Prophet (s); b) Islam and the Last Prophet (s) as described by money-making Islamophobes and their ‘Terror’ Industry often via the mainstream media across our contemporary popular culture; c) non-practicing Muslims; and d) mis-practicing Muslims. More on this in a later post).
You see, the (balanced, holistic) capitalism as demarcated by the Prophet of Islam is the inspiration for the modern world – but without the Islam he guided us to, the system falls apart – the centre cannot hold – and what inevitably ensues is the extremism of the vulture global-capitalism of modernity, which is wrecking havoc the world over. (A very important, but old lecture by Humza Yusuf, elucidates the point in more detail, here.) The godless, despite their best efforts will make matters worse. They possess no organic, genuine and authoritatively-sacred moral-compass to guide them to outline the parameters to safeguard humanity and the world from their greed, arrogance, desire and hunger for power and apathy for humane concerns – except for what sells by making them look popular by appearing concerned. Others have called these modern, Nation-State vanguards of extreme capitalism, ‘Pathocracies’ – as in ‘psychopaths’+ ‘rule of’. All modern nation states have something in them – a liability – an inclination to this ‘System’. But ALL of the Muslim nation states (despite their ‘Islamic’ veneer) have certainly fallen in line and are definitely part of ‘The System’, which is subservient to the global Plutocrats that are running this pathocratic game.
You see, it is no surprise that the overtly ‘miraculous’ types of miracles that were the hallmark of the Prophetic traditions of the ancients, appear to be less visible since the death of the Last Prophet (s). It is no surprise that some (non-Muslim) religionists and philosophers began to talk about notions of ‘Theism to Deism’ after the demise of the Last Prophet’s hegemony (circa 18th Century CE) with God being discoursed as though he had distanced himself from man [but we know that He certainly is NOT distant!2 Rather ours is merely a new stage or a new setting – but with the same test]. It is no surprise, therefore, that afterwards, philosophical discussions traversed from Deism to Nihilism in spite of all the ‘isms’ in between. Of course it would! When we begin to follow our own conjectures about life and existence and refer to God through corrupted (inauthentic) sources or not at all, such a route to meaninglessness is inevitable.
All this, then, can be seen to lend itself to the (false) notion that the existence of God is in fact – and has always been – ‘all too human’ (Nietzsche). And so the ‘Age of Man’ is able to supplant what ought to have been the ‘Age of Vicegerents’. Our role as true men and women was to interpret God’s Qur’anic message for our lives (as the Rightly-Guided Vicegerents once did). But when this begins to be misconstrued as the ‘Age of Man’, it in fact manifests itself as the ‘Age of Man-as-god’ and we becomes beasts in an Age of MANipulation.
3. The Narrative of Modern “History”
So, in fact, instead of the oft-repeated modern narrative that after the period of 1. (Dark-Age) Western Christianity where everything was superstitious, backwards and intolerant (which was, to some extent, true) and where 2. Christianity somehow is explained away to represent ALL religions (which is patently false and a neat but cheap and underhand trick), we then enter a time of 3. ‘Enlightenment’, science and progress (enabled ironically via the Islamic civilisation’s ‘Proto-Modernity’ that ran concurrently with the Dark-Age Western Christian period but – surprise surprise – is given no credit whatsoever). The results of this ‘Enlightenment’, then, is said to then apparently and inevitably lead to 4. greater atheism and anti-theism (wrong!) because we are now grown-up from our childlike, religious mind-frame… But this is an immature way of looking at it.
We can offer, alternatively, a more accurate and relevant ‘global’ breakdown of the Post-Revelatory Age as it relates to our contemporary world, as follows:
1) 632 CE – 661 CE: The Rightly-Guided (Rashidun) Khilafah (Right-Islamic, Just and Globalising, Proto-Modern, Competing hegemonic) Period
2) 661 CE – 1750s CE: The (Misguiding) Monarchical (Nominally-Islamic, Globalising, Proto-Modern Hegemonic) Period
3) 1750s CE – present: The (Dis-guided) Nation-Stateocratic (Anti-Islamic, Global, Modern Hegemonic) Period
This breakdown has been partly influenced by Dr Khalid Blankinship’s rendition (Please see his ‘Islamic Statehood‘ from 16:40) as well as the hadith:
“The Prophet of God (s) said, ‘Prophethood will last among you for as long as Allah wills, then Allah will take it away. Then it will be (followed by) a Khilafah Rashida (rightly guided) on the pattern of the Prophethood. It will remain for as long as Allah wills, then Allah will take it away. Afterwards there will be a hereditary leadership which will remain for as long as Allah wills, then He will lift it if He wishes. Afterwards, there will be biting oppression, and it will last for as long as Allah wishes, then He will lift it if He wishes. Then there will be a Khilafah Rashida according to the ways of the Prophethood.’ Then he kept silent.” [Musnad Imam Ahmad]
What can be seen immediately about the Post-Revelatory Age thus far is as follows:
Firstly, the Rightly Guided (Rashidun) period is very short – and is the moment where the vicegerency of the Islamic mission is taken seriously and the justice and seed of civilisational enlightenment and prosperity begins to permeate globally. This is a historical fact – which receives zero air-time in today’s anti-Islamic climate, because it is an uncomfortable truth that does not sit well with the aforementioned Modern historical narrative. It IS, however, well documented in academic books of history for the period. Popular history books tend to skip over the period, mentioning only that between the Dark Ages and Renaissance Europe, the Muslim Civilisation merely “handed over” Greek Philosophy back to the West, which is a laughable retelling. It is, crucially, never uttered in mainstream schooling in the Western world. Tut, tut. Nonetheless, it is an ideal period for all of us – Muslims and non Muslims – all of us Post-Revelatorians, short of the obvious Prophetic period that preceded it, since this is the only period where humanity can witness how the Qur’an and Sunnah ought to be approached appropriately when one is remiss of the Prophet’s living guidance or God’s direct revelation. And this guidance can be gleaned in periods of consolidation and growth (during the reign of Abu Bakr and Umar (r)) AND periods of unrest, Fitna and dissolution (during the reign of Uthman and Ali (r)). Take note, folks – THAT LAST PART IS IMPORTANT if Muslims want to know the right way of dealing with Fitna. (More on this later. HINT: You see, there was a reason God had Ali (r) find himself becoming the fourth – and not the first of the Rashidun Vicegerents in actual history. He was the right man for the right time, when the rest of us would have run a mile. Wisdom, my friends, wisdom…)
Second. The next, huge, one-thousand year period demonstrates how despite the paradox of misguiding kings that rule, Islamic cultural hegemony still spread across the world – even if nominally. I say ‘misguiding’ and not ‘misguided’ as the latter is too final and severe in its presumption of deviation from the sacred order introduced by the Prophet (s), whereas the former indicates the notion that bit-by-bit, and with ever deeper rifts, sacred-misguidance crept – or perhaps strolled – into the Islamic polity so that it was not merely the kings that had lost much of the authentically Islamic objectives of life – but so too had much of the populace. This period, especially in its formative periods – regardless of the misguiding rule of the Islamic polity – gave rise to critical cultural developments (augmented nonetheless by the previous Prophetic and Rashidun periods) that brought about the conditions that made the Modern world possible. It is for this reason that the Muslim civilisation at this time ought to be labelled ‘Proto-Modern’ and NOT ‘Pre-Modern’. However, Proto-Modernity took a turn for the worst when non-Muslim Europeans absorbed Classical Muslim knowledge but omitted Islamic guidance (via Muslim Spain, the Crusader states of the Muslim middle east and Muslim Sicily) during the European Renaissance. The secularising West then became the heralds and drivers of the global, Modern World in spite of the waning Muslim civilisation. And it is this secularising that is being imported globally that is part of the problem. Although the real problem is the demise of authentic Islam from the world stage.
Who is to blame for this turn of affairs? (Pending post. Short answer: No one. Deal with it!)
Finally, the Modern period… also dubbed the ‘Age of Extremes’ – and no wonder – was a seismic shift for the Western world – let alone the Muslim world! The loss of Islamic global hegemony is significantly important on two fronts. Firstly, the multi-ethnic, inter-cultural buoyancy and the august system of balance and temperance that this hegemony potentially offered in scope and practice is now undone – but not yet lost in toto. The Modern hegemony that has replaced it might try to take up its mantle – but its cosmetic appearance that glitters gold with its extreme materialism, elitism and hubris merely masks (in Dajjalic fashon) its grotesque underbelly that is merely a replica of the Islamic precursor with no definitive substance to its grounding. It is therefore failing humanity, which is predictable – and without Islam, humanity is doomed to fail. Modernity is self-defeating. It is an illusion. People, I implore you to seek after Al-Haq (The Real) for your own benefit: for your sanity in this life and for your souls in the next.
Secondly, the loss of Islamic global hegemony is significant because the last time Islam had no hegemonic value was way back during the Prophetic Meccan period! It was not in Mongol times when Genghis Khan’s horde decimated the Islamic world, as some might believe – because even then, its cultural hegemony was strong enough for Islamic civilisation to resurrect so swiftly. So why might the Meccan period be significant? Because if we, nowadays, are to be looking for antecedents and precedents in order to guide our people to live Islamically in today’s world, this is made difficult because during the Meccan period, the early Muslim community still had the Prophet to guide them. There was no disunity in terms of leadership, and therefore, with questions of ‘what should we (Muslims) be doing now?’ – because all the Muslims knew who was in charge to direct them and they were obedient to the Prophet, they were effectively driven to success.
In today’s world, there is no leadership at all in the Muslim world, let alone a vicegerent. And clearly, no hegemony. Muslims should therefore stop blaming other Muslims for not being united because it is common sense, natural, and logical to be disunited without leadership (king or vicegerent) or when lacking hegemony. This does not mean that Muslims should not urge each other to unity. But this ought to be done more sensitively, tactfully, and less impetuously (i.e. more patiently).
Gai Eaton once mentioned in a lecture (in the early 2000s) that he felt that the symmetry between the Muslims in the West nowadays and the Muslims of the Meccan period should be closely observed. And by this he explained that what characterised the Muslims of the Meccan period was their reliance on their own conscience when deciding how to conduct themselves (i.e. ‘how to be’). I would add, however, that this would have been tempered somewhat by their practicing-understanding of Islam from authentically knowledgeable people (i.e the Prophet; the Companions), who’d they sit with to gain such knowledge. They certainly were not being stifled by frameworks, parameters, textbook responses (ossified over time) in ‘how to be’, because there was much that had not yet been revealed in terms of the Islam that was being practiced in that formative period. Our time differs, however, from the Meccan period in that in ours we do possess the whole history from the Madinan Period till the end of the Age of Kings when Islamic dictates were given (in the late Prophetic period); a diverse range of ‘Islamically-faithful’ dictates were given (in the Rashidun period); and an extensively diverse range of Muslim (culturally ‘Islamic’) dictates were given thereafter. However, all these dictates would have all come from a position of power (Islamic hegemony). This difference of power is critical. Because one might question whether some of these dictates might apply in the Modern (anti-Islamic) period when there is no authoritative, Islamically-compliant stand-in that functions as an authentically legitimate Vicegerent. Conversely, the Meccan period did not have access (clearly) to this historical advantage / disadvantage – depending on your point of view. I suggest we consider it as an advantage because it seems carelessly unwise to throw potential Prophetic guidance away. But the knowledge of this history increases in need in our time. (If you possess it, you are obliged to spread it, people – and preferably freely.)
What is required is not a Fiqh of Modernity, so much – but a ‘Working Towards’ a Fiqh of Modernity. By ‘Fiqh of Modenrity’ what is meant is Islamic guidance in this uncertain, disunited, leaderless and extreme terrain (which implies a deep understanding of modernity and the ‘secular sciences’); flexibility; and conscience-based attitude (which implies emotional and social intelligence) vis-a-vis Qur’an and Sunnah (which implies Islamic knowledge)). The ‘Working Towards’ is important because we certainly don’t need more ossified, abstract-idealistic textbook responses – but rather collective, lived-it responses.
With humanity left to its own desires, as Modernity dictates, and with its heedlessness of Islamic divine guidance, we can clearly begin to see how Godliness has finally been unabashedly thwarted; how tyranny abounds but is masked with happy faces acted out on TV screens, where we cry tears for fictional characters as real people are massacred – or left homeless by their doomed quest to buy a home on interest; where we abjectly idolise fame, wealth and celebrity to oblivion; where there exists 9-9 work stress, depression, old-age isolation, a First to Third World hierarchy; and where State and guerrilla extremism is the order of the day behind the scenes and in between the sugar-coated tea-break, politician-campaigning for true-sounding lies and adverts to sell you a brand new life of fake plastic. But don’t worry. At least they invented the railway train.
What is clear is because Islam is no longer the hegemony, the world is in peril from total destruction by Nation-Stateocratic pathocracies. (For the answer as to why would God create a ‘perfected’ system for the world, namely Islam – and then have a period in history – the current one – where His system appears to have ‘fallen apart’ – please read this pending post.)
4. After Thought
“But wait!!” you ask, ‘Isn’t the tyranny of religion everywhere nowadays? From bible-bashers in America to neo-Israeli crusader-state of terrorism in Palestine – and wait for it… ‘Islam is the solution’? Are you having a laugh! Haven’t we heard this before? Haven’t we even watched the news! Because everything on the news doesn’t have an agenda because they only want to tell us what we need to know. You know, the truth. What about ISIL or ISIS or what is it? IS? Are they not the Islam come back to rescue us all? Knights in shiny black-flag armour? And what about al-Qaeda? And Anjem Choudary, whoever he is! And the guy with the hook on his hand?” Good questions. Very good questions. I’m afraid that’s another post too, boys and girls!
1 The actual hadith (report) is as follows: “Anas reported that after the death of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) Abu Bakr said to ‘Umar: Let us visit Umm Aiman (a companion of the Holy Prophet of Ethiopian origin) as Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) used to visit her. As we came to her, she wept. They (Abu Bakr and Umar) said to her: What makes you weep? What is in store (in the next world) for Allah’s-Messenger (may peace be upon him) is better than (this worldly life). She said: I weep not because I am ignorant of the fact that what is in store for Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) (in the next world) is better than (this world), but I weep because the revelation which came from the Heaven has ceased to come. This moved both of them to tears and they began to weep along with her.”
Sahih Muslim book 031, hadith 6009
2 This verse was revealed as an answer to a question addressed to the Prophet (s) by some of his Companions (r). They asked him: “Oh Messenger of Allah! Is our Lord near to us, so we can secretly talk to Him, or is He far, so we should call upon Him [loudly]?” Thereupon Allah Almighty revealed this verse: “And when My servants ask you (O Muhammad) concerning Me – then (answer them), I am indeed near (to them by My Knowledge). I respond to the invocations of the supplicant when he calls on Me (without any mediator or intercessor). So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me, so that they may be [rightly] guided.” [Qur’an 2:186].