It is difficult to introduce all the reasons behind the backwardness of Muslims; yet I will mention the most important ones.
First of all, I would like to present a concise description of the reality of the Muslim Ummah.
It is very painful to contemplate this painful reality.
I think this reality is closely related to the meaning implied in the following sound hadith.
Thawban said: The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said, “The people will soon summon one another to attack you as people, when eating, invite others to share their dish.” Someone asked, “O Messenger of Allāh! Will we be small in number at that time?” The Prophet replied, “No, you will be numerous at that time, but you will be scum and rubbish like that carried down by a torrent. Allāh will take fear of you from the breasts of your enemy and cast wahan (enervation) into your hearts.” Someone asked, “O Messenger of Allāh! What is wahan (enervation)?” The Prophet replied, “To love this worldly life and dislike death.”(sahih: Abū Dawūd (5297))
The hadith depicts a wonderful literary image in which Muslims are seen as a prey for which all nations scramble.
To depict Muslims as a sort of food is to present them as being without power or ability to defend themselves.
According to this image, Muslims are deaf; they fail to listen to the threats of their Jewish, Christian and Communist enemies who publicly declare their intention to occupy and overcome the entire Muslim Ummah.
They moved from the stage of declarations to the stage of implementation as it is the case in Palestine and Afghanistan.
Despite all these dilemmas, many Muslims around the world feel satisfied while embarking upon their daily activities, i.e. eating, drinking, and amusing themselves.
The idea is that we fail to listen to the message; or we listen and fail to understand, which bears the worst of consequences.
The hadith presents a wonderful image of Muslims being surrounded by enemies, who are like hungry people surrounding their bowl of food.
On hearing this, the Companions thought that they would be few in number and so asked, “Will we be small in number at that time?”
The Prophet answered, “
No, you will be numerous, but like scum and rubbish that is carried down by a torrent.”
The Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhe wa sallam) drew the Companions’ attention to the fact that power is not measured by quantity and that the status of the Ummah cannot be changed to the best only because of the number of its peoples; there must be a qualitative change.
Today, Muslims constitute more than one billion people, which is one fifth of the world’s population.
However, what is the influence of this great number in ideological, economic, military and political terms?
They are insignificant, nothing more than scum that is carried along on waves.
The real problem with Muslims is not their number, it is their corruption, backwardness and the fact that they persist in abandoning the principles of Islam.
In the same hadith, the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhe wa sallam) says, “
Allāh will take fear of you from the breasts of your enemy and cast enervation into your hearts,
” the reasons for this is that the Muslims of our times have two qualities: love for this worldly life and hatred of death.
People’s thoughts are engrossed with this worldly life, as they spend their lives for its sake and work hard to obtain the most of its transient pleasures. This is the general condition of Muslims.
What is more painful about all this is that Muslim preachers and those who seek religious knowledge are in no way different from the common people; they submit to their worldly desires and dedicate their lives to them.
Simultaneously, they deceive themselves by making fake excuses and falsely justifying themselves.
For example, many songs which people like to replay betray a dangerous world view.
These songs view life as restricted to achieving pleasure and that the purpose of life is to satisfy the greatest amount of sinful desires.
In addition to these inner weaknesses, disbelievers, Magi, Jews and Christians have, from the earliest times, been conspiring against the Muslim Ummah.
Their schemes have taken on more than one form that has changed according to changes in the world’s conditions.
Several military campaigns were waged against Islam by the Crusaders, Tatars as well as modern imperialism.
Along with this, there is the intellectual invasion, which has established a cultural imperialism that is even more dangerous.
The cause behind the backwardness of Muslims lies within themselves, although we do not deny the effect of external factors.
But we have to remember that it is normal that our enemies fight us, conspire against us and do their best to weaken, humiliate and subjugate us.
Allāh, the Most Exalted, says,
“And they will continue to fight you until they turn you back from your religion if they are able” (al-Baqarah, 217).
They are like the germs that attack and destroy the human body, yet we should not blame the germs and forget the weakness of the infected person who fails to protect himself.
In much the same way, Muslims are to blame for their declining conditions.
Muslims should arm themselves with every possible weapon so as to fight their enemies and retain their faith safe.
It is said, “He who does not protect his property, will lose it.”
When Muslims were struck by disaster in the battle of ‘Uhud, they asked, “How could this happen?” Allāh, the Most Exalted, answered them, Why [is it that] when a [single] disaster struck you [on the day of Uhud], although you had struck [the enemy in the battle of Badr] with one twice as great, you said, ‘From where is this?’ Say, ‘It is from yourselves [i.e. due to your sin].’ Indeed, Allāh is over all things competent. (Āli ‘Imrān, 3:165)
Allāh, the Most Exalted, informs us that the disaster that befell the Muslims during the Battle of Uhud was due to what had been done by the Muslims themselves.
This meaning is asserted in another verse where Allāh, the Most Exalted, says, “That is because Allāh would not change a favour which He had bestowed upon a people until they change what is within themselves. And indeed, Allāh is Hearing and Knowing” (al-Anfāl, 8:53).