The following are some excerpts from the book "Let us change the world" by Syed Abul A'la Maududi. I think most of the observations are very true.
Jazakum Allahu Khairen,
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... Those who are leading the Muslim Ummah in the field of religion for centuries have reduced Islam to a static and inert set of rituals. Time has perhaps stopped moving for this religious elite for the last six or seven centuries. The logic and philosophy they teach believes in change and that 'old order changeth giving place to new' but practically they have shut their eyes to the evernew changes on the globe.
The world has changed beyond recognition. The conditions prevailing in the world, its views, trends and theories have entirely changed. The social problems and issues have taken many turns, but our religious leaders are still living in the same old conditions five or six centuries back. They made no progress and never tried to understand the evernew changes and the issues and problems emerging from these changes. Rather they tried to hold back their people from adjusting themselves with the changing times and to pull them back to the past. Such an attempt can and did suceed for some time but not forever. No nation can afford to keep itself aloof and unaffected by the new thoughts and issues for long while dealing with other nations and countries. If their leadership fails to guide them in the evernew intellectual, academic and practical issues and problems, then it is quite natural that their followers will discard their leadership.
But the trouble lies actually somewhere else. Getting deeply involved in the side issues, our religious leaders ignored the main issues and problems. Later the main issues were eclipsed by the side issues creeping up in thousands. These side issues carried no real importance in Islam but assumed importance like the fundamentals of Islam. Islamic society is in fact based upon the commandments of Quran, Sunnah of the prophet (saw) and the interpretations of Quran and Sunnah by the Islamic scholars and jurists respectively.
Unfortunately, this order has been totally reversed and changed. Now the first and foremost importance is given to the opinions and findings of the modern scholars and jurists, then to the Sunnah of the prophet(saw) and lastly to the teachings and commandments of the Quran. This reversed order is really responsible for the stagnation reducing Islam to something static and stale. Who can dare deny the magnificient role and academic proficiency of the renowned scholars and leading jurists, commentators of the Quran and the narrators of the Ahadith. But after all, they were human beings, having access only to human means of seeking knowledge. They had no direct access to Divine revelation, as was available to the prophets. They applied their mind and their deep insight in the Holy Quran and the sunnah of the prophet(saw) and worked out the details of beliefs and laws from the authentic Islamic principles stated in Quran and Sunnah. Their casuistic exercises, no doubt, do help and guide us, but canot be regarded as the original source and fundamental principles. Opinion and inference of a casuist, be it of his own assessment and understanding or inferred from Quran or Sunnah cannot be taken as an unchallengeable or unchangeable rule or law because the human wisdom and knowledge is always subject to human limitations and a particular time and period. It is only Allah Almighty who is over and above all the limitations of time and space. He is the real source of knowledge and the mutations of time cannot affect Him even slightly. This knowledge was transmitted through the verses of the Quran to the prophet(saw).
Therefore only the prophet(pbuh) only can become the source and fountain head of knowledge, thought and laws for the people of every period and age. Islam moved with the march of time as long as the scholars of Islam derived knowledge and guidance from this source and tried to solve the day to day issues and problems in the light of Divine guidance and the teachings of the prophet(saw) through proper thinking and sincere contemplation.
But the march of Islam suddenly stopped when the Muslim religious leaders and scholars gave up delving into the Quran, stopped, ascertainment and scrutiny of the Traditions of the prophet(pbuh), blindly followed exegesists and narrators of Traditions, when the casuistic works of the jurists and scholars of the past were made unalterable and permanent laws, when direct acquisition of knowledge from the Quran and sunnah was given up and when the side issues and the details worked out by the scholars of the past were regarded as the main and principal issues leaving aside the fundamentals of the Quran and sunnah. The progress of Islam started retarding instead of making any advance. Muslim scholars and researchers got involved in explaining and debating the out-dated issues instead of leading the world in the new field theories and practice. They differed and debated on the details and inferences of the old scholars, forming evernew factions and groups on the basis of different religious interpretations, indiscriminately declaring their opponents as infidels and deviators from the path of Islam. Instead of attracting the world to the path of Islam, they started discarding even the Muslims as infidels. They became hard and rigid among themselves and soft and accomodating for others, contrary to the teaching of the Quran, that the Muslims are soft and accomodating for the believers and hard and rigid for the non-believers. They demonstrated that they are really divided among themselves though the outsiders consider them as one and united. What a tragedy that this was exactly what the Quran had said about the non-believers, as compared to the believers, that apparently they (non believers) are one but actually they are apart from one another.
Some blamed religion for all the misdeeds and failure of the
religious leaders, holding religion as the biggest hurdle in their march towards progress.
They openly called the Muslims to discard Islam and follow the developed nations. Some
others made it a point to condemn and abuse the Ulema and the religious leaders, as if the
secret of progress and prosperity lay only in this reproach and condemnation of religious
leaders. Another group started amending and trimming the religion.
Thus several groups and parties have sprung up to check and set right the deteriorating situation. But they are inclined not toward reform but revolution. They have never assessed the situation with a cool mind to find out what is really wrong.
The real remedy is nothing but to set right the order already reversed. The Quran should be reinstated to its real place of guidance. The traditions of the prophet(pbuh) should enjoy the same importance and status as enjoyed in the golden era of the prophet (pbuh) and his devoted companions and all those related to him. The contributions of the past jurists, scholars, commentators and the Traditionalists should be given the same importance and respect as was given to them by the scholars of those days. We should not tamper with anything that needs no change and yet should not take everything of the past thinkers and scholars as the last word and as unalterable verdict, or that their writings have left us in no need of any further deliberations in the Quran and research on the hadith or that no further research and thinking on Quran and Sunnah is now possible.
Once this sequence is restored, the bogged train of Islam shall start moving again. The train has stopped simply because the engine has been detached and carried behind the train, the driver too has left the engine and is seated somewhere in any back bogey, while it is presumed that the front bogey would not only move by itself but also carry the other bogies with it.
But all this should be done not with a mood of retaliation and reaction but very coolly. It is no case for tempers running high as nothing has been intentionally done. Nobody can allege that the religious scholars had somewhere conferred and decided to impose stagnation on Islam and prevent its onward march. This is simply the outcome of the decline in intellectual, literary and ideational faculties of the Muslim communities and their political, military, economic and cultural vigour and strength. This decline has not only blighted their fighting spirit but also the enthusiasm in the field fo academic research and casuistry. As the concept of life and its various problems underwent a change, so changed their notions about religious and academic issues and by and by all their intellectual faculties decayed.
For all this neither the religious scholars can be blamed nor their followers. It was nothing but natural, and no accusations or anger would serve any purpose. The only remedy possible is a dispassionate study of the malady in depth and of the extent to which it has spread and, with all wisdom, to replace the wrong with the right.