The Prophet Muhammad (saw)
 

The Struggle for Power in the Age of Ignorance and Modern-Day Societies

Throughout history possessing authority and power, ruling and leading people or, in short, the idea of dominance has been an important factor in directing a person or institutions in social events, political disputes and every kind of inter-personal relations. Ruthless struggles and conflict have been experienced among various people, groups or societies for the purpose of taking over authority to rule. Just as in every subject, on the topic of sovereignty, Allah intended to realize a revolutionary movement based on the principles of unity, justice and equality; to construct this social system based on these principles by means of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh); and thus to eliminate the oppression, disorder, anarchy and chaos dominating societies.

In regard to the perception of power, there are striking parallels between the perception that dominates many social structures today and that of the age-of-ignorance in which the Prophet lived. From a socio-political perspective, those dominant in Arab societies during the age-of-ignorance were: the wealthy, those possessing power, and men of religion who collaborated with these. These three groups had unlimited authority in society to set rules, implement them or change them. These people set all the rules and regulations in the social structure and established them to their own best interests. For this reason, the weak being oppressed and destroyed by the strong was perceived and practiced as a traditional law. Powerful families and tribes attacked the powerless and weak, pillaged their property and took their women and children as slaves. Slavery was accepted as an indispensable element of the social structure. Slaves, male and female, were seen as animals; they were bought and sold and could easily be killed. Violation of the rights of orphans was at its height. People acting as guardians of orphan girls seized their property to avoid losing it and refused permission for them to marry. Society was divided into notables and non-notables. Those with slave origins, the poor, the weak and those of non-Arabic origin called the mütearibe had no say in society or in the determination of the society's structure or future. Injustice and oppression were the main factors dominant in the functioning of society. Girls were seen as creatures that gave embarrassment to their fathers and were sometimes savagely buried in the ground after their birth. Discord, anarchy and chaos dominated society in every aspect.

Arab idolaters accepted the metaphysical and cosmological authority of Allah in principle; however, they opposed the sole, absolute sovereignty of Allah in social life. Even though they based some social rules and regulations on Allah, they, themselves, established social rules in accordance with their own best self-interests. So for this reason the Meccan idolaters, the prominent Meccans in particular, violently opposed the idea of Allah's sole and unlimited sovereignty in both the whole universe and social life as embodied in the Prophet's call, "la ilahe illallah." These powers that dominated society usually attributed to Allah the rules and regulations that they had put themselves. In addition, when it was to their interests, they did not hesitate to change and degenerate some traditional practices like pilgrimage and the forbidden months which remained in society as an extension the periods of Hz. Abraham and Hz. Ishmael.

When we look around us, we see that the social structure similar to the one originating the Arab perception in the age-of-ignorance is widespread today. The only criteria of the sovereignty that is attempting to be established today in the natural and social structure are perceived to be political, economic and military power. Those possessing these elements of power are trying to dominate their surroundings with them; they are not only trying to construct the social structure according to this power, but moral value judgments as well. When looked at this angle, it is obvious that the perception and tradition of the age-of- ignorance that was widespread during Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) time is also continuing today.

Thinking about the difference between the Islamic and age-of-ignorance traditions in regard to relations with the social and natural surroundings man lives in, will give us important building stones on the subject of comprehending the essence of Islam's message. Islam reminds us that in regard to divine authority, power or sovereignty, man is a part of the universe he lives in and it emphasizes that Allah is the only sovereign power in the universe. According to the age-of-ignorance understanding that is widespread in many societies today, man is in the center of the universe and the basic purpose of life is dominance and control of the social and natural environment. It is a fact that this misperception regarding man's existence lies in the foundation of many of the difficulties and problems we face today. Instead of understanding and building the structure of the universe of which man is a part and which is under the absolute sovereignty of Allah who d everything, man does not hesitate to destroy his social and natural environments due to his endless ambition to dominate. This ambition and unrestrained attitude has led to conflict throughout history, including today, and a destructive attitude of man towards his environment. The only escape this is to accept Islam's message that Allah has absolute sovereignty over human life and to abstain this unrestrained attitude and behavior.

 

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Şinasi Gündüz

Professor Şinasi Gündüz, the head of the Religious History department at the Faculty of Theology, Istanbul University, graduated from the Faculty of Theology, Ankara University in 1984. In 1991 he completed his doctorate at the Middle East Research Department, Manchester University. In 1995 he received his associate professorship from Ondokuz Mayıs University, Faculty of Theology, and he became a professor in 2003 at Istanbul University, Faculty of Theology. Still head of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department at Istanbul University, Faculty of Theology, Şinasi Gündüz is a member of the Executive Board of the Faculty of Theology, Istanbul University and is a member of the Senate of Istanbul University; Professor Gündüz has published a large number of international articles. He has written sections for international publications and presented articles in a number of refereed journals and at international academic conferences, making great contributions to the field of religious history. In 2004 Professor Gündüz was seen worthy of the Successful Researcher Award by the Istanbul University Rector's Office and in 2005 by the Istanbul University Academic Research Projects Institute.

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