Islam And Secularism
How Secularism Came to Islamic Lands
Many of the Muslim lands have fallen into the hands of the unbelievers. For example, Andalusia, the paradise of the Muslim world, fell to them. Now Palestine has fallen as well. There are those states that were formerly part of the Soviet Union and those that are still part of Russia. Still, these countries and others like them are limited in number and what happened to them is well known.
However, when we ask how many of the Muslim lands have fallen into the hands of hypocritical secularists, we find that they are too numerous to count. In truth, most of the Muslim lands have fallen into their hands and not the hands of the unbelievers. The reason for this is that hypocritical people know how to seize what they want discretely. They seek out positions of influence so they can have an affect on Muslim lands in order to obliterate their distinctiveness. The adaptability of hypocrites to all circumstances is what makes hypocrisy is so dangerous. They know how to wear many hats and speak with many voices. They can put on a different persona whenever the need arises.
A poet once wrote:
He has a thousand faces after he lost his own face,
So you will never know which face to believe.
This is the case with the secularists in the Muslim world. They present many different faces and have numerous masks. Their hearts are fickle. Therefore, it is necessary to expose them.
Allah says about the hypocrites: “They are the enemy, so beware of them. The curse of Allah is on them. How they are deluded!” [Sûrah al-Munâfiqûn: 4]
? Turkey: A Case Study
One of the first countries to fall into the hands of the secularists was Turkey, which at one time was the center of political power for the Islamic world. It fell as a result of what some Christians like to call “the struggle between the Cross and the Crescent”. The then head of the Christian secularization missions said: “The fruits of struggle between the cross and the crescent will not come forth in the remote, outlying countries or in our colonies in Asia and Africa. It will happen in the centers from which Islam draws its strength and spread outward from there, whether in Africa or Asia. Since the Islamic peoples who we are confronting look towards Istanbul, our efforts will be of no consequence if they do not bring us closer to demolishing the edifice of Islam in the center of the Caliphate and the capitol of the Muslim world.”
The Christians worked in cooperation with the Jews to bring about the downfall of the Caliphate. It was infiltrated by people like Medhat Pasha, a very influential Jew during the final years of the Ottoman Empire. On occasion, he even had a hand in deposing one Caliph and instating another. He had a role to play in the ratification of the country’s constitution and the granting of freedoms that he had been a vocal advocate for. It became clear later on that his only concern was for the freedom of himself and is fellow Jews and not for the entire populace. Such was the lament of Sultan `Abd al-Hamîd. The Jews prepared for and eagerly awaited the fall of the Ottoman Empire so they could carry out their plans against Palestine. Some of them, like the Jews of Donma, even pretended to be Muslims so they could more effectively influence the country’s politics.
The West hailed Medhat Pasha as “the father of freedom” since he was so vociferous in espousing freedom and pushed for the ratification of a constitution that guaranteed minority rights, including the right of the Jews to conduct themselves as they wished under the protection of the Ottoman Empire.
One of their strategies for secularization was to create heroes. A good example of this strategy was the creation of Kemal Attaturk. They involved him in the war against Greece from which he was to come forth as victorious. In this way they primed him and strengthened him for the role that they wanted him to play in bringing down the edifice of Islam and establishing secularism in Turkey. They succeeded through him in separating Turkey from the Muslim world.
Muslims around the world ceased to care what happened in Turkey. Before that time, any threat to Istanbul worried the hearts of every Muslim on Earth since they saw it as a matter of primary concern for the Muslim world. The Muslims had a strong emotional attachment to the Turkish Caliphate, in spite of all its shortcomings. When the Turkish caliphate fell, the Muslims around the world lost interest in it. Henceforth, Turkeys affairs would no longer occupy the minds and hearts of the world’s Muslims.
One of the most important tasks carried out by Kemal Attaturk when he attained power was the persecution, expulsion, and slaughter of Turkey’s Muslim scholars. During this time, the head scholar of Ottoman Turkey, Mustafâ Sabrî, died as a refugee in Egypt after fleeing from his country. Attaturk also destroyed all religious institutions. He even prohibited the call to prayer from being made in Arabic and prohibited writing in the Arabic script, replacing that script with the Latin alphabet. He imposed Western dress upon the people. He attempted to transform the Turkish people and give them an entirely new national identity.
Another strategy was to select a group of people to represent and advance the interests of secularism in Muslim Turkey. The enemies of Islam from among the Jews and Christians were clearly and openly in league with the secularists in the Muslim world. They sponsored many select young secularists to study in Western countries and acquire Western scientific knowledge and advanced administrative skills. When they returned to their own countries, they were truly a distinctive class of people, sometimes described as “cultured” or “enlightened” They were in an ideal position to carry out the task that they were trained for. The West had chosen them then endowed them with valuable skills while keeping the rest of their people in ignorance. Then they could use those select people for their own purposes.
The first task set out for these people was for them to become entrenched in the Ottoman government. They would work from these positions within the government against the scholars and Islamic activists.
These people enjoyed the confidence of the government and could use their position to spread their ideas among the Muslims behind the veil of the government machinery. They could do what they wanted and spread their base ideas and values without fearing any negative response from the government.
At the same time, they were successful in blackening the reputation of the Turkish government and in turning the people against it. It was their task to prepare the people for the eventual overthrow of the government. The people grew dissatisfied with the Ottoman government. The religious people hated the government because of the secularist influences that now permeated it. The rest of the population hated it simply because it failed to ensure their welfare. This created a number of dangerous opportunities for the secularists to exploit.
At the same time, they were intent on preventing the religious scholars from capitalizing on any of these opportunities. They recognized that the society contained within it two power bases. The first was of these was the religious power base comprised of the scholars and other religious activists. The other was that of the secularists and hypocrites.
Allah describes both of these groups in the Qur’ân. He says: “The believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is right, and forbid what is evil.” [Sûrah al-Tawbah: 71]
Describing the other faction, he says: “The hypocrites, both men and women, proceed one from another. They enjoin what is evil, and they forbid what is right, and they withhold their hands (from charity).” [Sûrah al-Tawbah: 67]
From their positions within the government, they worked to alienate the government from the scholars and weaken the scholars’ political influence. In this way, the secularists hoped to prevent the scholars from bringing about any political reform while they continued their efforts at increasing corruption and instability from within the government that they were ostensibly a part of.
The secularization of Turkey went through the following phases, culminating in the republic of Attaturk:
The first phase: The secularists applied their western expertise to modernizing and reforming the administration of the Ottoman Empire. In this way they showed themselves to be valuable and indispensable on account of their knowledge and experience.
This was the first, most subtle phase of secularization that most people tend to overlook, since the role played by the secularists at that time was a role that generally could not be carried out by scholars and students of Islamic knowledge. First of all, Islamic scholars were involved in other things. Moreover, Islamically oriented people were not afforded the opportunities those secularists had to acquire such expertise. This made many Muslims oblivious to what was going on at this stage of development.
The second phase: Once the secularists were firmly entrenched in government, they began applying pressure to speed up the disintegration of the state. They were not satisfied with the gradual corruption of religious values. They wanted to speed up Westernization much faster than the general public could ever be expected to accommodate. There was also a reversal of roles at this time between the secularists and the government. During the first phase, the Ottoman rulers were in charge and the secularists were riding their coattails. Now the secularists were in the lead and dictating to the intimidated Ottoman rulers. This state of affairs becomes more aggravated during the next phase.
The third phase: At this point, the secularists began their direct assault on very sensitive matters, including the political values of the state and the religious values of the people. They began openly targeting the religion and religious scholars.
They were actively nurturing political tension and general discontent at this point. In their public addresses and published articles, they openly talked against Islamic teachings. In periodicals throughout the Muslim world, they made sure to have something published in every issue that criticized one Islamic value or another or that targeted a prominent Muslim scholar or that cast doubt on a matter of faith or religious practice. They came up with slogans like “Religion is for Allah, but the nation is for everyone”.
What made their efforts at this stage so dangerously effective was that they did not present themselves as a single force that could scare people away or mobilize an opposition. They were very subtle in their alliance with one another. They appeared to be just disparate individuals with strange ideas or weakness in their religious faith. They were very successful in hiding the ties that they had to one another.
Sometimes, the government would benefit from such people to bring about some form of corruption that it wanted. It would call upon them to introduce a certain vice and give them the green light to do as they liked. They might be allowed to try something out in a particular area. If the population accepted it, they could go to something larger. If, however, the people rejected what they introduced, it was quite easy to backtrack, since the government was never officially involved.
The secularists at this time operated like the proverbial thief with a hooked cane who would use the hook to snatch up the possessions of others. If he was caught, he would say that he was unaware that the cane accidentally caught the object. If he went unnoticed, he would make off with his prize.
The fourth phase: In the final days of the Empire – right before, during, and right after the reign of Sultan `Abd al-Hamîd – there were serious military threats and dire political and economic problems. The secularists took advantage of these major crises to advance their aims. At this time, the secularist came out in the open with their true allegiances. They began operating openly as an opposition force in preparation for their eventual takeover. They established organizations and political movements. They produced their own publications and convened conferences. They allied themselves with foreign enemies of the Ottoman State, like the Jews and Christians, as can be clearly seen in their documentation from that time.
In this way, they ultimately gained total power in Turkey.
Methods Employed to Spread Secularism in Society
There were many approaches employed by the secularists to spread their ideas and their influence throughout Turkish society. Among the most important of these were the following:
1. Stripping society of its Islamic presence, institutions, and values. They started with substituting Islamic values and mores with their own in the media, in education, in economics, and in politics. They did not stop there, since they could be satisfied with nothing less than the total eradication of Islam from society. Therefore, they even targeted Islamic dress, tampered with the language, and changed the call to prayer. These and many other changes were imposed on the people by force in decrees issued by Kemal Attaturk.
2. Effecting social change by targeting women. They realized that women have a definite impact on the dynamics of society. A society could be brought to its moral ruin if its women are morally corrupted, exposed, and encouraged to be licentious. The temptations of women are difficult to resist. A society conducive to promoting such temptations will find its moral fabric compromised. This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Be piously fearful with respect to the world and with respect to women, for truly the first temptation of the Children of Israel was through its women.” [Sahîh Muslim (2742)]
The secularists also realized that by focusing on the issue of women, they could divide society. This is because the issue of women is not only a sensitive matter to religious people, but to all people possessing a sense of honor and shame. Indeed, many nonreligious people can be brought to rage when they see their wives, sisters, or daughters behaving in a compromising position with a strange man. The secularists realized that this was a way for them to tear the fabric of Ottoman society apart and divide up its citizenry into clearly distinct groups of various degrees of conservatism.
3. Exploiting ethnic and religious minorities. The secularists used these minorities to put pressure on the Ottoman state in its implementation of Islamic Law. They argued that those minorities were part of society and that they cannot be expected to adhere to Islamic Law. So they could exploit them as a barrier against the implementation of Islamic Law in Turkey, these secularists overlooked the centuries that these minorities lived under Islamic rule with all of their rights protected. The secularists also realized that these minorities would be more sincerely committed to secularist reforms than most of the Muslim supporters of secularism whose commitment to secularism often had its limits and who might very well forsake them in the end.