We are a product of our internal thoughts and impulses and external social systems and contexts. Both need to be reformed to reform ourselves.
"At a conceptual level, we should give greater consideration and more weight to situational and systemic processes than we typically do when we are trying to account for aberrant behaviors and seeming personality changes.
Human behavior is always subject to situational forces. This context is embedded within a larger, macrocosmic one, often a particular power system that is designed to maintain and sustain itself. Traditional analyses by most people, including those in legal, religious, and medical institutions, focus on the actor as the sole causal agent.
Consequently, they minimize or disregard the
impact of situational variables and systemic determinants that shape behavioral outcomes and transform actors.
The rigid Fundamental Attribution Error locates the inner qualities of people as the main source of their actions. We need to recognize both the power of situations and the behavioral scaffolding provided by the System that crafts and upholds the social context...
What we are is shaped both by the broad systems that govern our lives-wealth and poverty, geography and climate, historical epoch, cultural, political and religious dominance-and by the specific situations we deal with daily. Those forces in turn interact with our basic biology and personality. The potential for perversion is inherent in the complexity of the human mind. The impulse toward evil and the impulse toward good together comprise the most fundamental duality in human nature. This conception offers a complex, richer portrait of the pride and puzzles in human actions." (The Lucifer Effect - Philip Zimbardo)
Working on yourself does not lead to changing the ummah's condition.
This is because the elements that define a society and that must be changed to revive the ummah are not the same as those elements needed to change/reform/revive individuals.
The 4 components needed to reform any person in accordance to Islam are:
(1) Aqeedah as established by Islam,
(2) Worship: fulfilling the personal obligations (prayer, fasting, zakat etc) and abstaining from the prohibitions.
(3) Morals: being trustworthy, honest, truthful, abstaining from backbiting, slander etc.
(4) Transactions: conduct when selling/buying, in trading, business, marriage, relationships with others.
However, reforming individuals will not result in any change in societal matters, and when individuals abstain from munkar this does not lead to removal of munkar from society, e.g. if a person stops dealing with Riba, the riba system is still implemented in the society and will not just go away by itself!
Allah will not change the condition of the collective by merely having upright individuals (this is an incorrect understanding of that famous verse - explained at the end). This is certainly not what the messenger of Allah did.
The messenger of Allah (SAW) did not just seek to nurture upright personalities around him, and subsequently Allah changed their collective condition for them as a result. Rather he (saw) raised his Sahabah to become upright AND to be reformers - who confronted the societal norms, practices, beliefs and the oppressors until they were able to change the reality to conform to what Allah revealed. And THIS is what needs to happen to change our collective condition.
This is testified by the many texts that deal with changing the societal munkar, e.g. Many verses condemning and attacking the societal practices and way of life of Quraysh.
إن الناس إذا رأوا الظالم فلم يأخذوا على يديه أوشك أن يعمهم الله بعقاب
"Verily, if the people see an oppressor and they do not seize his hand, then Allah will soon send punishment upon all of them."
والذي نفسي بيده لتأمرن بالمعروف ولتنهون عن المنكر أو ليوشكن الله أن يبعث عليكم عقاباً منه ثم تدعونه فلا يستجاب لكم
"By the one in whose hand is my soul, you will enjoin good and forbid evil or else Allah will soon send the punishment upon you. Then you will supplicate to Allah and he will not accept it from you."
Therefore, change requires groups of believers to work as a collective, just as the messenger did with his Sahabah - to:
1- Culture the collective group with the ideas/concepts of Islam;
2- Enter into an intellectual and political struggle with the establishment and ruling class. The objective of this is to expose the corruptness and fallacy of the ruling class and beliefs; present Islam as a complete way of life able to solve all societal problems. This can be seen as te battle of the hearts and minds.
The measures of success in this step are to: (1) assess whether there is now a wedge between the ruler and the ruled/masses, (2) to assess the confidence level of the masses in the current system, and (3) assess the support people have for the alternative being presented.
3- Seek to win the allegiance of those who are able to transfer the power to the believers, who would then go on to implement the Shariah of Allah.
THIS is what the prophet did, in a nutshell.
During this process, it's not required that the general population of the Muslims to be upright. In fact, they will NEVER be upright when kufr is implemented upon them - where all evil is made easy, accessible, and promoted, and all good becomes difficult and those preaching for good are persecuted and suffocated!.
When the prophet established the state in the Madinah, which is the change we all want to see today, Muslims only made up a third or less of the population of Madinah. AND amongst the Muslim there were hypocrites!
That's why for our Sahabah and classical scholars this point above was a given:
Uthman bin Affan (ra) said:
"إن الله يزع بالسلطان ما لا يزع بالقرآن"
"Allah removes through governance and authority what would not be removed through the Quran alone."
الفرد كي يستقيم حاله يحتاج إلى بيئة صالحة، ومجتمع راشد، وسلطان يصلح حال الناس ويحملهم على الخير وييسره لهم، ويمنعهم من الشر ويحاسبهم عليه.
That is because the ruler is the one that implements what is in the Quran, and many people are weak who can't become upright with what is in the Quran alone with all the corruption around them.
Umar (ra) said:
إن الناس لم يزالوا مستقيمين ما استقامت لهم أئمتهم وهداتهم
"People will remain upright as long as their leaders are upright"
Ibn Taymiya said:
"ومعلوم أنه اذا استقام ولاة الأمور الذين يحكمون في النفوس والأموال استقام عامة الناس"
"It is known that if the rulers who rule over the people and their properties are upright, then the general population will be upright"
Even in many forms of counselling for people going through personal hardships, therapy includes changing the conditions around them, that would then result in lifting them from their state of misery.
"إن أردت أن تحدث تغييرا جذريا في معتقدات الناس أو سلوكياتهم، فيتوجب عليك أن تخلق مجتمعا حولهم يمارس هذه المعتقدات الجديدة، ويظهرها، ويرعاها"
مالكوم جلادويل، صاحب كتاب: نقطة التحول، كيف يمكن لأشياء صغيرة أن تحدث أثرا كبيرا
"If you want to bring a fundamental change in people's belief and behaviour, you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured."
― Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
So this idea that "fix yourself and the society will be fixed" is wrong and flawed, from a shari' point of view as well as from a logical point of view.
Allah (swt) says:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ
"Indeed, Allah does not change the situation/state of a people(nation) until they change what is within themselves"
Indeed Allah will not send angels to change our collective condition if we just change our personal state!
Rather, if we as an Ummah change our collective condition (أحوالنا كقوم وليس كأفراد ) i.e. we undermine and bring on all forms of societal batil in our lands - e.g. the rulers, borders, and nationalism that comes with it, and we establish the hukm of Allah/ the Khilafah that would then remove kufr/riba/fahsha/corruption - only THEN would Allah change our state from one of humiliation to dignity, defeat to victory.
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