Reviving Hope: Saviours of Islamic Spirit


The following article is a brief overview of the theme of Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Hasani Nadwis book, Saviours of Islamic Spirit, which is the English rendition of the first volume of his original 5-volume work, Tarikh-i Da’wat wa Azimat.

Over the course of the last 300 years, the Muslim world has undergone stagnation, decline, and eventual disintegration. In the last century, after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Muslims experienced intense assaults on all fronts. From facing brutal massacres and attempts at ideological and cultural eradication to unending political corruption and state-sponsored persecution, in such despairing times, clinging onto hope seems a brave endeavor indeed.  

The European colonization of Muslim lands has instilled an inferiority complex and ideological servitude in Muslims across the globe. Whether consciously or unconsciously, they seek to emulate their former masters in their culture, morals, and even beliefs. In the latter part of the 19th century, a sense of psychological defeat could be perceived in the writings of certain Muslim elite intellectuals, who propounded ideas that sought to adapt our religion to the ideas and ethics of the dominant civilization, i.e., the West, in order to attain honor and dignity in the modern world.

Verily, we were a disgraceful people and Allah honored us with Islam, so if we seek honor from other than Islam, then Allah will humiliate us.

ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb

In his Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun says, “Throughout history, many nations have suffered a physical defeat, but that has never marked the end of a nation. But when a nation has become the victim of a psychological defeat, then that marks the end of a nation.” Thus, should one conclude that the psychological defeat of Muslims has marked the end of their nation? In such despondent circumstances, it is understandable for the Muslim to cry out in despair and anguish, “when will the help of Allah come?” yet Allah’s (swt) help has always reached the Muslims when they were on the brink of destruction.

Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Hasani Nadwi, in his book Saviors of the Islamic Spirit, narrates such episodes of Islamic history where Allah raised up extraordinary individuals, revivers, men of courage and zeal, graced with divine determination, who lifted the Ummah from its misery and destitution and resisted the onslaught of the fitan of their times. Aided by the Help of Allah (swt), they restored the religion and the Muslim world back to its glory and honor.

They wish to put His light out with their mouths. But He will perfect His light even though the disbelievers hate it.

Qur’an, 61:8

The book commences with the era of Caliph Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, who, in a period of rampant political corruption and oppression, overturned the situation, brought in the needed political reforms, and reestablished justice in his brief tenure before his assassination.

Around a century later, when theological deviance (of Mu’tazilites) gained political support and was forcibly propagated upon scholars, Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal stood up for the truth and faced tremendous persecution and suffering at the hands of the tyrannical rulers of his time. However, his struggles eventually reached fruition, and orthodoxy was reinstated.

Around the 11th century, when Hellenistic and esoteric philosophy had intellectually captivated Muslim scholarship, Imam al-Ghazali, the Proof of Islam, undertook a tremendous scholarly effort that completely annihilated the philosophies that were antithetical to the Islamic worldview.

When the Sacred Land of Jerusalem was conquered by the Crusaders, Allah (swt) raised a powerful leader like Saladin to liberate it from the shackles of enemies. Likewise, when the Muslim world seemed to be on the brink of extermination due to the Mongol invasions, Allah (swt) raised forces that came to the defense and effectively resisted the Mongols.

Pertinent to our present circumstances, there is an exemplar for us in all of the above-mentioned figures. Today, when the liberal hegemony is aggressively imposing religious heterodoxy under the guise of reformism, we should stand firm for the truth like Imam Hanbal. When our states are plagued by oppression and corruption, we should strive, and pray to Allah (swt), to raise a figure like Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz who would restore justice. When Islam is being intellectually challenged by a multitude of kufri philosophies, we should rebut them with the same intellectual exertion as that of Imam al-Ghazali. When our lands are being invaded by belligerent forces, we must demonstrate the courage and determination of Saladin.  

Sayyid Abul A’la al-Maududi said, “This law (Shariah) has not been revealed for the cowards and the undead. It has not been revealed for the servants of desires and slaves of the world. It has not come down for the dust that flies in the direction of the wind, insects that flow on water, or the colorless that are colored in every color. It has been revealed for those brave lions who are determined to change the direction of the wind, and who have the courage to fight the current of the river and change its current. It was sent for those who love Allah’s color (sibghatullah) more than any other color in the world and have the zeal to paint the whole world in it. A Muslim is not meant to go with the flow.” [Tarjuman ul Qur’an (1936), Isharaat]

Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Hasani Nadwi has undertaken an excellent effort by compiling the lives and contributions of the brave lions in our history. If a Muslim is bordering on despair, then this work, Saviours of Islamic Spirit, can not only help him/her restore their hope in Allah’s (swt) Victory and Mercy but also drive them to tread the path of these courageous figures. And Allah knows best.

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