ISLAM AND MODERNISM
Search for “Modernity” by itself is a commendable desire and a natural urge of humankind. If this urge was not there, man would not have reached from stone-age to atomic era, could not have gained access to aero-planes and spacecrafts from camels and bullock carts, nor would have progressed to electric bulbs and search lights from wax candles and earthen lamps. All these material advancements and scientific achievements, which have put nooses on the planets and conducted their buckets to the bottom of sea, are in fact an importunate effect of man’s inherent trait that he is a “modernist” and avaricious of “better to best” achievements.
Hence Islam, being a natural religion, is not opposed to modernism as far as it implies to be modern in the simple sense of the word. Very often it has been appreciated and given due encouragement. Particularly the use of latest and newer methods in industry and craft and war technologies is proved from prophetic traditions. On the occasion of battle of Ahz’ ab when the tribes of Arabia joined together and raided Madina, a renowned companion Salman F’arsi suggested a new technique for its defence which was never practiced in Arabia before. He suggested digging of a trench around the city. This was hailed by the Prophet (PBUH) and he himself took part in digging the trench (Al-bidayah wan-Nih’ayah 4:95)
On the advice of Salman F’ arsi the Prophet used two new weapons in the battle of Ta’if which, according to some narration, were constructed by Salman himself. One of them was a ‘catapult’ which served as a cannon of the time; the second was “Dababah” the Tank of the time (Albidayal wan-Nih’ayahy 4:95).
Not only this, but Ibn-e-Kathir has reported that the Prophet (PBUH) had sent two of his companions, namely ‘Urwah Ibn Mas’ud and Ghitan lbn Salmah to the city of Jarash in Syria to learn the techniques of manufacturing Dababas, Manjaniq (catapult) and Dhabur. Jarash was the famous industrial town of Syria and Dhabur was a weapon similar to Dababa which was used by Romans in their wars. These two companions could not take part in the battle of Hunayn and Ta’if because they were in Syria learning this technology (Tabqat-e-Ibne-Sa’ad vol 2, p. 221, Tarikh Tabri p. 353 vol. 2., Albidayah wan-Nih’ ayah p.345 vol 4).
Ibn-e-Jarir has reported that the Prophet (PBUH) had asked the people of Madinah to promote agriculture by increased cultivation and use of camel skulls in their fields for increased production (Kinzul-’Ammal p.199 vol: 2).
According to one narration the Prophet advised people to promote their business by increasing trade in clothes because a cloth-merchant always wishes that the people remain prosperous and free from worries (Kanz-ul ‘Ammal p.199, vol. 2).
Also he persuaded many people to go to Oman and Egypt for trade (Kanz-ul-’Ammal p.197, vol. 2)
To get the benefits of agriculture and minerals he said:
(Seek your living in the hidden wealth of the Earth) (Kanz-ul ‘Ammal p.197, vol. 2).
The people of Arabia were ignorant of naval fleet, but the Prophet (PBUH) had joyously predicted that some of his people will travel through the sea for Jeh’ ad in the way of Allah as if they are kings on a throne (Sahih Bukhari, kitab-ul-Jeh ad). He described several virtues of the first naval fleet of the Muslims. Consequently Hadhrat Mu’awiyah (RA) prepared the first naval fleet during the caliphate of Hadhrat Usman Ghani (RA). This enabled the access of Muslims to Cyprus, Rhodes, Crates and Sicily and then the entire Mediterranean Sea came under their command.
Hadhrat ‘Amr bin ‘Aas (RA) in the year 8.AH used the method of “Blackout” during the war of Zat-us-salasil against Lakhm and Juzam, and ordered his troops that there should be no lights nor any fire kindled for three nights in the battlefield. When the troops reached Madinah and the Prophet (PBUH) came to know of it he inquired the reasons for this action. ‘Amr bin ‘Aas replied “O Messenger of Allah, my troops were less in number than the enemy troops, hence I ordered to keep all lights off at night lest the enemy may boost its morale by finding the low count of our troops”. The Prophet was pleased with this tactic and offered his thanks to Almighty Allah (Jam’a-ul-Fawa’id p. 27, vol.2).
These are a few examples of the Prophetic era which have been casually mentioned. The aim of this description was to emphasize that Islam has not objected to any modern advancement just because it is recent and modern. Rather it has encouraged modernity for rightful purposes and within rightful limits.