The general understanding of the way our societies are to be Islamized is that there should arise a strongman with a big stick who should force people into obeying injunctions of Shari'ah. The injunctions that usually come to people's mind are those that prohibit drinking or prescribe certain punishments for theft, adultery, etc. It is because of this understanding that we sometimes welcome dictators, especially when those dictators know how to use Islam.
But such an understanding of Islamization has nothing to do with the authentic Islam. For, otherwise God would have chosen the Prophet of Islam from among the great kings or military generals of the world, which He evidently did not do. He rather chose him from among the poorest and the weakest of the earth - a destitute orphan from a nation that was already one of the poorest in the world.
Even after choosing his Prophet, God did not give him any irresistible worldly power to enforce His law. In fact, for most of the Prophet's life God kept power in the hands of his enemies who first persecuted him as well as his followers and then kept them under military pressure by a vastly outnumbered army. God finally did give the Prophet political power but almost as soon as he was given this power God took him away from this world.
God did not send the Prophet with a stick but with knowledge, wisdom and a book of revelation. With these he sought to change people's hearts and minds. He appealed to their reason and their sense of right and wrong and then left them free to decide. He told them:
"There is no compulsion in religion. The right way now stands out clear from the way of error..." (2:256)
He sometimes used harsh and scolding language and sometimes used sweet words. And sometimes he challenged to a debate:
"Bring your evidence, if you are truthful."
But all of this time his aim was to reach people's hearts and minds.
After the Prophet, the work of Islamization must of necessity be done by the 'ulama, not by the rulers, unless, of course, rulers are from the 'ulama. There are two types of 'ulama: 'ulama haqq and 'ulama batil. Ulama haqq are those who because of faith in their hearts have made a deal with their Lord in accordance with the following words of God:
"God has bought from the believers their lives and their possessions in return for the jannah." (9:111)
Because they have given up attachment to the life of this world, they fear none but Allah and speak against serious wrong that they find around themselves. Such 'ulama rise among all Muslim peoples and among all Muslim sects, both Shi'a and Sunni.
'Ulama batil, on the other hand, are attached to the life of this world. They declare one part of the Qur'anic truth while distorting or hiding another part. They are dumb when it comes to basic wrongs in their societies but speak loudly when it comes to unimportant sectarian differences or superficial issues of the kinds. They are often on the payroll of the rulers of their countries.
The work of Islamization begins with balagh, declaration of essential truth. In fact, in some sense balagh is the whole work of Islamization. The Holy Qur'an says of the mission of the Prophet that:
"The Messenger has no obligation except to deliver the message." (5:99)
When balagh is properly done, that is, when the teachings of Islam are spread sufficiently widely without subtraction or distortion, then certain developments automatically take place in the society and bring about Islamization.
It is obvious, however, that proper balagh cannot take place unless there exists in the society an atmosphere in which people are free to express their views. But such an atmosphere does not exist in most Muslim societies which are ruled by repressive kings and dictators. An important part of Islamization, therefore, is for 'ulama haqq to try and rid Muslim countries of these rulers and to thus remove the restrictions that are put on people's freedom of expression.
First published in Al-Ummah, Montreal, Canada in 1985. Copyright. The article may be reproduced for Da'wah purpose with proper references.