How will it be theoretically and practically possible to establish a universal state under Al-Mahdi (as)?
To examine the possibility, we must first analyze it from the theoretically point of view, and then from the practical point of view.
The theoretical point of View
No reasonable person would claim that this international event will happen suddenly, without any preparation. History is comprised of events that occur on the basis of historical laws.
The Qur'an shows that no historical event has happened on an accidental basis. Therefore it would not be out of place here and refer briefly to the subject of historical changes. In nature there is nothing really accidental, and no phenomenon can come into existence without a cause. Relatively speaking though, there are incidents. If, one morning, you leave your house and run into a friend whom you had not seen for years and who is passing by your house at that particular moment, such a meeting would be considered accidental. This is because there exists no natural law that leaving one's house must necessarily be followed by such a meeting or else such a meeting would have taken place everyday. However, it is also true that such a meeting is an essential consequence of this particular departure at a particular moment in specific circumstances. When we see that no binding and invariable sequence exists between a cause and its effect we call the resulting event an accident. Accidental occurences are not governed by any universal or general rule, nor do they come within the purview of any scientific law. A scientific law is concerned only with an invariable sequence between specific conditions and a specific phenomenon.
Some may argue that historical developments are nothing more than a series of accidental occurences, not governed by any universal or general rule. To support his view, he may argue that a society is a mere collection of individuals. Every one of them has personal traits and an individual character. Personal whims and individual motives produce a set of incidents, which lead to a series of accidental occurences, and it is these happenings which constitute historical development.
Others would argue, however, that a society has its own personality, independent of the individuals that make it, and it acts as demanded by its own nature. The personality of the society is not identical with that of the individuals. It comes into being through the combination of individuals and their cultural actions and reactions. Only if we view societies as possessing their own individual personality and direction can we begin to discuss a philosophy of history. If it is assumed that history has no personality then we can only study the life of the individuals, and not the collective life of nations and peoples. 210 In that case the scope of taking lessons and drawing morals would become limited to the individual's life.
The expectation of solace is a question, which is philosophical and social as well as religious and Islamic. As mentioned earlier, it has a Qur'anic basis. It would be better to throw light on the Qur'anic view regarding society and the ever-changing course of its life i.e history.
It is undeniable that the Holy Qur'an looks at history as a lesson, a precept, a source of knowledge and a subject of worth contemplation and deep thinking. Now the big question is whether the Qur'an looks at history from and individual angle or a collective one. Whether it puts forth only the life of individuals for the purpose of persuading others to emulate the example of the good and to abstain from the ways of the wicked, or it has an eye only on the collective life, or at least on the collective life too. In the latter case, is it possible to infer from the Qur'an that society, as distinct from individuals, has a personality, a life and even consciousness and feelings? Similarly, is it possible to deduce that groups and nations are governed by definite rules which are equally applicable to all of them?
The Holy Qur'an looks at history as a source of knowledge and a subject worth contemplation and deep thinking. The Qur'an, while relating the stories of the past for the purpose of reflection and instruction, puts forth the life of the past nations as admonishing material for the benefit of other people:
That nation is gone. They have reaped what they sowed, and the same applies to you. You are not responsible for their deeds. You are responsible for your deeds only (Qur'an 2:134-141).
Every nation can only live for an appointed time. When its term ends, it will not remain (alive) even for a single hour, nor will they die before the appointed time (Qur'an 7:34 and 16:61).
The Qur'an emphatically refutes the idea that destiny can it any way be affected by the blind forces of fate. It clearly states that the destiny of nations is subject to and governed only by the firm and consistent laws of nature. Allah (swt) says:
Are they waiting for the punishment which has been the lot of the earlier people. You will not find any change in Allah's way (of dealing with such people) (Qur'an 35:43).
Attention is drawn to a point which is of vital importance. The Qur'an argues that people, by looking at their own deeds and behavior, can find out for themselves whether a good or a bad destiny awaits them. The forces which determine the destiny are just a sequence of reaction set in motion by their own deeds. Particular acts are always and invariably followed by particular reactions. Although Divine Will ordains the course of history, the role of man as a free agent is not eliminated. There are many passages in the Qur'an, which refer to this subject, such as:
Surely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change themselves (Qur'an 13:11).211
Based on that, we believe that each society has its own nature, character and a living, growing and developing mentality. Therefore a logical question will arise: How should we interpret this evolution?
We have already seen how the Holy Qur'an lays stress on the genuineness of a society's personality and its evolutionary progress. We also know that there have been, and still are, other schools of thought holding a similar view. No we must find out -from the viewpoint of the Holy Qur'an and of other schools of thought- how history develops. What are the responsibilities of man in this respect and what part is he supposed to play? What form should "The Great Expectation" assume is another closely related subject which we shall explore at the same time.
Historical evolution can be interpreted in two ways. One method is the materialistic or dialectic, and the other is human or natural. The exponents of dialectical materialism base their doctrine on four points.
First, they maintain that all things are constantly moving and progressing whereas, as they assert, according to so-called "metaphysical" thinking, things are static and motionless. This is actually quite a baseless argument. The upholders of metaphysical thinking do not believe that things are static. The term "unchangeability" is used by such thinkers in a relative sense, but they nonetheless believe that all physical things are subject to change. It is only metaphysical things which may be described as static. Unfortunately the supporters of dialectical materialism, being the adherents of the maxim that the end justifies the means, concentrate their attention on achieving their intellectual objectives while ignoring the actual statements of their opponents. The principle of motion is not a distinctive feature of dialectical thinking.
The second principle is that of the correlation and interaction of things. This, too, cannot be considered to be a pioneering characteristic of dialectical thinking. The supporters of this doctrine allege that the rival theory of metaphysical thinking does not believe in this principle, but again, this is not the case.
The third principle is that of contradiction. Again, we must ask whether or not the upholders of "metaphysical" thinking totally deny the existence of contradiction in nature. On this point the supporters of dialecticism have raised an unnecessary uproar. They base their arguments on the existence of the principle known in logic and philosophy as the law of non-contradiction. They assert, that as the supporters of metaphysical thinking believe in this principle, they must naturally deny the existence of all sorts of contradiction. But the dialecticians conveniently forget that this logical principle is not even remotely connected with the existence of contradictions, in the sense of conflict between the various elements of nature or the elements of the society or history. Due to their beliefs that all parts of nature are in a state of mutual harmony and compatibility, the dialecticians go a step further and assert that the supporters of the metaphysical thinking call upon the various elements of the society to be at peace and on this basis they urge the persecuted not to resist oppressors and to adopt a policy of appeasement and surrender. We again emphasize that all of this is a distortion of the truth. According to the supporters of metaphysical thinking, contradiction in the sense of divergence and the mutual competition of the various elements of nature exists and is necessary for the continuity of Allah's (swt) blessings.
The fourth principle of mutation in nature and of revolution in history is also not a basic characteristic of dialectical thinking. It was never mentioned as a dialectic principles by Hegel, the father of the modern dialectic method of reasoning, nor by Karl Marx. It was recognized as a biological principle of evolution in the Nineteenth century and was later introduced into dialectics by Friedrich Engels. Today it is an accepted principle of biology and is not the exclusive monopoly of any particular school of thought.
The distinctive feature and real basis of this school is two fold. One is the doctrine that ideas, not only external realities have a dialectical nature, meaning that ideas are subject to the above-mentioned four principles. In this respect no other school of thought shares the views of this school. The other distinctive features of this school is that contradiction is interpreted to mean that everything nurtures its antithesis within itself, and is subsequently transformed into it. This antithesis itself passes through the same process. This doctrine claims to apply to nature and history both of which, as they put it, pass through contradictions. According to this school evolution means the combination of two opposites, one of which is transformed into the other.
The doctrine of contradiction in the sense of conflict between different parts of nature and their occasional combination is quite old. The new claim of dialectical materialism is that besides the contradiction and conflict between varying parts of nature, contradiction also exists within each part of itself. This contradiction takes the form of a battle between the new progressive factors and the old decadent ones, culminating in the final triumph of the progressive ones. These two features are the corner stone of the dialectical way of thinking.
It is entirely wrong to consider every school upholding the principles of motion and contradiction to be dialectical. Those who have come across the principles of motion, change the contradiction in Islamic teachings have drawn the conclusion that Islamic thinking is also dialectic. This is incorrect. The fact is that according to the dialectical thinking all truths are transient and relative, whereas Islam believes in a series of permanent and eternal truths.
Further, to believe that nature and history move in a triangular from (thesis, antithesis and synthesis) and pass through contradictions ia an essential characteristic of the dialectical way of thinking. Islamic teachings do not approve of this belief.
The supporters of dialectic materialism have created this misconception. They, in discourses which are never free from an element of propaganda, give all non-dialectic thinking the name of metaphysical thinking according to which, as they allege, all parts of nature are motionless, unrelated to each other and free from all sorts of contradiction. They accuse the Aristotelian logic of being based on these very principles. They assert this view with such force that those who have little direct knowledge are often misled.
Those who are impressed by such statements, if lacking in the knowledge of Islam, easily come to the conclusion that the principle of immobility, lack of interrelation, and absence of contradiction must form the basis of Islamic thinking. They base their arguments on the premises that Islam, being a religious creed, has a metaphysical. Some then conclude that, insofar as metaphysical thinking is based upon these aforementioned three principles, belief in them must be a part of the Islamic way of thinking.
Another group, which is somewhat acquainted with Islamic teachings, presumes that Islamic thinking, not being metaphysical, must be dialectic. As this group recognizes no third alternative, it naturally comes to this conclusion. All this misunderstanding and confusion is the result of under reliance on what the supporters of dialectical materialism attribute to others. We would argue for a moderate path. Evolutionary stages of history are linked with each other by a natural and logical bond. Each stage has its own place and cannot be moved forwards or backwards.
210. Mutaharri, Murtada, Qiyam wa inqilab, pp.65-67.
211. Ibid: pp.65-67
Adapted from the book: "The Awaited Saviour; Questions and Answers"
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