The Umma’s endemic malady
On the authority of Thawban, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “Other nations are likely to encroach upon you like [hungry] people when they come for a meal! A companion asked: Will that be because of our small number at the time? He replied: No, you will be numerous at that time, but you will be scum and rubbish like that carried down by a torrent, and God will take fear of you from the breasts of your enemy and will cast al-wahn into your hearts. A companion asked: what is al-wahn, Messenger of God? He replied: love of the worldly and dislike of death.”
The hadith is authentic in Sunan Abi-Dawud.
Meanings and Lessons:
- This is one of the most prescient hadiths that heralds the degraded state of the Umma after a period of power, unity and expansion. This hadith is one among other hadiths that prophesies future events and it is additional proof of the veracity of the Messenger’s Prophethood.
- When the Messenger tells us about ominous things that will happen to the Umma, this does not mean we should take it as an inevitable and fated reality and that we should do nothing to change the course. The Messenger, by disclosing future developments, warns Muslims not to be dragged down to the route of misfortune and fatalism. And this warning entails we should be aware of the looming dangers, and take preemptive action to protect the Umma.
- The striking analogy of hungry people crowding in to eat up the food is exactly what is happening to the Umma as colonial powers have plundered its wealth, exploited its many resources, particularly oil, fragmented it into pieces and impoverished Muslims across the Muslim world. Worse than that, they have alienated Muslims from their faith and inculcated hearts and minds with alien material doctrines, and reinforced the “cult of submissiveness”, to use Ibn Khaldun’s phrase.
- On hearing this ominous downfall, the companion got stunned and asked whether this would happen due to the small size of Muslims at the time. The Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, teaches us that quantity never outperforms quality, this means that the billion and plus Muslims in the world is no longer an advantage if they are poorly trained and are dependent on other countries for food, medicine, technology, etc.
- The Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, answers that we will be numerous, but like scum and rubbish carried down by a torrent. This analogy is expressive of the extent of shallowness, futility and nothingness the Umma will reach. Look! On world stage Muslim community have no say on crucial issues, they have no share in decision-making, and with respect to standards of justice and development, we are lagging far behind. Though we, as Muslims, have a message to convey to the world, nobody is ready to listen to us because we do not really stand for the model humanity is aspiring to. We talk the talk and never walk the walk.
- As a consequence to our inertia and disunity, we, as a Muslim community, are no longer feared by enemies, they are rather emboldened to assault us and occupy our lands without dreading any retaliation, save some resistance here and there, and the occupation of one of our holiest places: al-Qods is indicative of our impotence and deep lethargy.
- Another punishment from God, the Almighty, is that al-wahn is cast into our hearts. It is the deep-seated and chronic malady of Muslim community. It is the love of the worldly and dislike of death. It is the Prophetic accurate diagnosis of our malady. The root evil of Muslims is their attachment to the ephemeral worldly and their rivalry to get the most of it while we are supposed to be the Umma of Jihad (Jihad in its broad sense), the Umma with a mission to enjoin what is good and denounce what is wrong and inappropriate, the Umma bringing mercy and peace to humanity and dispensing justice to the world regardless of race, ethnicity or color.
- When the malady is diagnosed as the heart’s passionate attachment to the worldly, the remedy should start by being aware of our original purpose in life and our ultimate destination. Muslims can never recover their dignity and power unless they heal the ailments of the heart to rein in the ego, discipline the soul and refine the character. In other words, without spiritual and balanced education, there is no chance to launch the aspired collective project of renaissance and self-dignity.