The famous speech by Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (ra) delivered in Urdu at Markaz, Dewsbury in 1982. Still very, very relevant for all of us today.
Your warm reception and friendliness is a source of great happiness for me. If I do not respect your wishes and express my inner feelings, I would be most ungrateful. If I desire, I could shower you with praises, for Almighty Allah has bestowed me with an abundance of vocabulary, but I would not be fulfilling the right of friendship.
As an ordinary student of Islam it is my religious responsibility to warn you. If you do not lead an upright life, if you continue to live an insular lifestyle, and if you fail to manifest the beauty of Islam to non-Muslims, then you face some real dangers. In such a case, there is no reason for you to feel content and secure in this country. If ever the fire of race, religion or nationalism rages here, you will not be saved. In Spain, there were Mosques a hundred times more beautiful than yours. So do not feel content and self-satisfied. As an ordinary student of religion, I would wish to express my joy and happiness at this wonderful new Mosque.
But how shall I congratulate you on your achievement when the words of congratulation are self-evident on the walls. How better can I compliment you?
Others may not speak to you as plainly, but remember, the glorious Cordova mosque still stands in Spain. Iqbal so eloquently reminisces the great legacy of Islamic Spain in his famous poem Masjid-e-Qurtaba. In Islamic Spain there were such brilliant mosques, celebrated Madrasahs, famous scholars, such as Shaykh Akbar, Ibn Hazm, Qurtubi, Shatbi – and how many others shall I mention? However, when the flames of religious sectarianism raged, the mosques and madrasahs became deserted. Once Islamic Spain boasted such magnificent structures, distinguished educational centres, and a refined culture and society. Regrettably the Muslims, despite such a high standard of living, did not draw the native non-Muslims of that country to see the Truth of Islam, to warn them of the dangers of disbelief, with the result being that religious violence subsequently consumed Muslims like a morsel. The Arabs with their glowing history, architectural splendour, vast ocean of knowledge, were displaced from the country, and today the ears eagerly await to hear the call to prayer and the empty mosques thirst for your prayer.
You must earn your place in this country. You should leave an imprint on the host community of your usefulness. You must demonstrate your existence here is more beneficial than that of the native people. You must impart on them the lessons of humanity. You should demonstrate how noble and principled you are, and that there cannot be found more upright humans elsewhere besides you. You need to establish your worth, that you are a blessing and mercy for this country. However, if you decide to live in an enclosed environment, content with your prayers and fasting, apathetic to the people and society you live in, never introducing them to the high Islamic values, and your own personal qualities, then beware, if any religious or sectarian violence flares up – you will not find safety.
I pray to Almighty Allah (SWT) that my prediction is totally untrue and baseless. Remember, you are guests here. Your outreach work, mosques, madrasahs, worship and religious sacrifices are all worthy of commendation. May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant you barakah, but do not forget to earn your place in this country. Gain mastery of the national language and become proficient so that you can use it effectively to propagate Islam. Prepare writers and orators, and although you will distance yourself from their religion, do not distance yourself from them. Earn credibility through your daily activities, so much so that if you are entrusted with onerous responsibilities, as was Prophet Yusuf (AS), you do not shirk but embrace all challenges wholeheartedly.
You will have to present a new pattern of life to this country. You will not earn recognition by exerting yourselves in the workplace. If you overwork, you will be looked upon disparagingly and be likened to horses and bulls and labelled as money-making machines. However, if you can show to the natives here that you are worshippers of Almighty Allah (SWT) and not wealth, you do not bow before power but only before virtue, you are humans and think like humans, you are concerned not only about yourselves but also about others, and that you are compassionate not just to your own children but also to theirs -and to them – that you are earnestly concerned about the path of destruction they have chosen for themselves, you will then earn their respect. They will begin to respect Islam and become desirous of studying it. They will ask you for literature concerning Islamic beliefs and practices, and an opportunity will arise here for you to propagate Islam.
However if you remain preoccupied in eating, working and engaged in prayers, indifferent to what is happening in the country, insulated within Muslims, totally apathetic to what is happening outside, unaware of which direction the country is taking – in such a situation if there is any trouble you will not be able to save yourselves.
I have been meaning to convey and emphasise this message to you, because I do not know whether I will be able visit you in the future. You gathered here with love and affection and therefore it was easy for me. As a student of religion it would have been convenient for me to suggest virtues of reciting various incantations (dhikr) or prescribe certain daily litany (wazifah), but you might not have had an opportunity of listening to the message I have just conveyed from anyone else. Please strengthen your position in this country and earn your recognition. Do not be like a straw or crop that is uprooted by the slightest breeze. You should be so firm that not even a hurricane is able to shift you. Display such noble character that you enthral the natives, then see how these people will stand to defend you. If there is the slightest opposition against you, they will be the first ones to argue on your behalf and vouch for what a blessing you are for them.
May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant us the ability to understand what is right, may He bless and protect you. Ameen.