Collective life – an individual’s testing ground: (by Maulana Maududi)


In a sense the way to one’s self-development passes through collective life. It cannot be achieved in isolation from it. The individual must prove his mettle through social relations, his success or failure in the next life depends upon it. He cannot retire to a wilderness, forsaking the challenges of life. His role consists very much in performing his obligations towards others. He cannot survive on his own.


On the contrary, he is tied by many bonds to others – as someone’s son, father, brother, husband, friend or enemy, neighbour, employer or employee, superior or subordinate, trustee or dependent. His test consists in fulfilling his obligations as prescribed by Allah while he is bound to many by a number of ties. He is expected to play his role amidst fear and expectation, love and anger, hope and despair while he is burdened with trusts and responsibilities. It is to be seen how far he adheres to the limits set by Allah and how he discharges his role as His vicegerent. He is also tested as to what qualities he develops, what traits he displays and what legacy he leaves behind for his heirs.


The Islamic concept of virtue loses all its meaning if an individual severs his ties with collective, social life. If the individual takes up fewer responsibilities, he hardly undergoes any test and fails to develop his character. One who opts for the renunciation of life and lives as an ascetic abandons the test altogether in neglecting the opportunities available to him for his self-development. He will not, of course, get any credit for his inaction and lassitude.


Not only does an individual get a chance to develop his character in collective life; he is able to discharge many of his obligations towards Allah only if he plays an active role in social life. If a pious person refuses power and authority, he cannot perform most of his obligations towards Allah. For, if rebels against Allah assume power and have control over culture, politics and economy, it might result in the suspension of Shari`ah commands. Corruption will overwhelm social life. Far from enjoining good and forbidding evil, people will rather promote vices and suppress virtues. This is detestable in the sight of Allah.


There is no realistic chance that one’s spiritual exercises or nominal preaching of Islam, which may not offend unbelievers, will lead to any fruitful result. The only way to self-development consists in removing ungodly persons from positions of power and of authority and in devoting one’s total energy and resources to upholding and enforcing Shari`ah in the land, which will put an end to mischief and corruption, promote virtue and piety while forbidding evil.