As I represent the Islamic point of view, I take up first those aspects of the Communist economic system that bear on religion.
My foremost objection against Communism — an objection which all beliefs in life after death must have — is that it leaves little scope for individual voluntary effort, which alone is the basis for earning merit for the life to come. Instead of withholding some reasonable portion of his wealth for the State, and leaving the individual free to spend the rest as he wishes, a person is left with nothing more than what suffices for his needs. This deprives him of the means to provide for the life to come. He is given food, he can clothe himself, he is assured of shelter, his education and medical care, but he has not a penny left to provide for the life Hereafter. In other words, Communism looks after only the material side of a person’s life — which may span forty to fifty years — but entirely ignores the life Hereafter that is believed to be everlasting.
This is something to which no one who is convinced of the truth of religion and wishes to follow its teachings could ever be reconciled. Islam, for instance, expects, as some other religions do, that its followers spread out and carry its message to the world’s four corners so that mankind can seek deliverance. Anyone who remained away from Islam would miss this deliverance, and on the day of judgement he would face God as a guilty person. You may call a Muslim mad or a fool for holding such beliefs, but as far as he is concerned and as long as his convictions remain what they are, missionary activity devolves upon him as a duty that he may not shirk in any circumstances. After all, if he wished well for mankind, he would feel obliged to deliver the message that he believes is for its benefit. No one would like his friend to fall in a ditch or be shot to death. How, then, can one reconcile himself to his friends being given the everlasting punishment and be deprived of Paradise and God’s nearness and pleasure. Call it what you like, for a person attached to his religion, it is a strong desire to help his brother improve his moral and practical life. There is no room for this sort of work under Communism; any such efforts would be politically curbed.
I speak on this point from actual experience of conditions prevailing in Soviet Russia. Some time back, I had sent an Ahmadiyya Missionary to this country. But, far from letting him preach his message, the government threw him into prison where he was mercilessly tortured for a long time, and was forced to eat pork. (At this point, Huzur(ra) pointed to the missionary in question, who was present in the audience and asked him to rise from his seat so that others could see him.) For almost two years this missionary was kept in captivity in various places — Tashkent, Ashgabat and Moscow — and while in prison, he was subjected to so much torture that he lost his mental balance. Then he was pushed across the border into Iran from where the British Embassy informed the Government of India about him and the information was sent to me, and at our request he was repatriated to India at our expense.
There are political reasons why the Communists disallow religious missionary work, which we need not pursue here. But the issue remains that a minority needs to make tremendous sacrifices to win over the majority to its religion. It certainly involves great personal sacrifice as well as expense of making available the religious literature, etc. But the Communist system leaves no margin for people to spend anything at all on such things.
Take the case of the Ahmadiyya Movement, for example. We are a very small community, but our aim is to win over the whole world for Islam. In order to convey Islam’s message to 170 million Russians, massive expenditure on missionary activity and preparation of literature is required. But we would be unable to fulfil our mission if Communists take away all earnings beyond what is needed to meet the barest necessities of life. Communism, besides, opposes religious missionary activity because, from its point of view, this does not constitute useful activity. Only operating a machine, tilling the soil, or working in factories, etc. — which yield an economic return — are, regarded as productive work. It dismisses religion as consisting of superstitions and foolish fantasies, and, as such, does not recognise propagation of true faith as useful work. There is, therefore, no reason for the State to permit such parasitic activity.
Thus there is a direct clash between the Islamic conception of life and the communist viewpoint. To a Muslim, it matters little if he has to go hungry so long as he succeeds in improving his chances in the life to come. And, he wishes the same for his brethren — if they do not win God’s pleasure, their life would have been in vain no matter how much wealth they acquired in this worldly life.
Anyone who holds this belief would be duty-bound to help his misguided brethren to provide something for the Hereafter. But Communism takes away all surplus wealth in the name of protecting the country, thus leaving everyone to suffer a spiritual death. As noted earlier, Islam shares with the Communist order the principle of ensuring that everyone gets adequate food, clothing and shelter and has access to education and medical relief. The government must, therefore, have sufficient public revenues to discharge these responsibilities. However, apart from taking away surplus funds, Communism forbids propagation of our faith. In short, we give them our support and we do so because this is the teaching of the religion we follow; but Communism instead of being thankful to this religion, repays the kindness by depriving it of all opportunities for growth on the pretext that it amounts to useless activity and a burden on the national economy.
Had Communism openly and honestly clashed with religion, we would have differed with it but could have had little basis for complaint. But the Communists profess to be unconcerned with religion while, by indirect and underhand means, they try to minimise its influence and stifle its spread. They seek to enter our hearts and homes as trusted friends, but betray this trust by covertly destroying the objects that we treasure most. The reality becomes apparent only when it is too late. If Communism declared openly that it did not recognise a life in the Hereafter, it attached no value to this idea, and it would not permit individuals to preach their religion, whoever accepted Communism would do so with eyes open. But outside Russia these vital aspects of the system are deliberately kept out of sight, behind a fraudulent claim that Communism is only an economic philosophy that has no concern with religion and does not clash with it. Missionary activity comprises a fundamental and most vital part of religion, which could not be sustained when the public is denied the right to raise funds for maintaining it and religion itself cannot long survive. In short, Communism aims to strangle the propagation of religion and seeks to establish an irreligious social order.
Now consider another aspect of this question. Suppose a Muslim said that he wanted nothing from the Soviet State but be allowed to dedicate his life to the service of religion and to visit every Russian town and village to convey Islam’s message. Would the Soviet State permit him to do so? Would his activities not be stopped by straightaway throwing him in prison? There can be only one answer to this question. The Communist government of Russia would not hesitate to use force against such a person. He would be locked up in jail and told either to undertake some ‘useful work’ for his living or go without food or clothing. In other words, if I dedicated my life to God and the study of the Holy Quran and Hadith (a study indispensable for me if I desire to improve my life in the Hereafter), Communism would view this as sheer waste of time and an excuse to live at others’ expense.
A Muslim must refuse to be tied down to the ultra materialistic theories of Communism in matters of such transcending spiritual importance. He must insist on his right to be guided by the Holy Quran, which deems it necessary that among the Muslims there should always exist a body of men entirely devoted to the task of calling people to the right path and dissuading them from the wrong. Allah the Almighty says:1
That is: O Muslims there must always be among you a group of people who free themselves from the materialistic pursuits to oversee the religious obligations. The duties assigned to such people would be that they will enjoin piety, motivate people to carry out good deeds, and forbid them from immorality.
In other words, Islam requires that a group of Muslims must be totally dedicated for this task. It is true that Islam accords no special privileges to such devotees, but they are assigned certain specific duties that they must carry out. While there is no priesthood in Islam, it does call for a religious order to spread its message. Christianity gives to the priest some additional privileges. But in Islam even those who serve religion have the same rights as everyone else, though their work is well-defined and is of a religious nature — to spread Islam and to plant it deep in the hearts of people so that they live up to it and to regard this duty as their highest purpose in life. Deprived of the spiritual nucleus of such a body of men, the Islamic order could not survive, for it requires people who understand its rules and regulations and who are willing to spread its ideals.
Among the world’s religions, Islam is the most detailed, encompassing a comprehensive and complete law. It has a clear teaching on the devotion and worship due to God, a clear teaching in regard to the economic aspect of man’s life, his political activities, moral and ethical questions, social relationships dealing with employment, education, family life and business dealings, law of inheritance, international affairs, judiciary precepts and procedures and a host of regulations designed to cover every conceivable contingency in human life. Each of these aspects demands a thorough study, which is impossible unless a body of capable men make it the object of their lives. If such persons were stamped out of existence, from whom would the ordinary people learn? What would they learn? And how would Islam spread in the world?
Tafsir [commentary of the Holy Quran] is a vast branch of learning in itself that cannot exist independently of competent scholars devoted to its study, involving a thorough grasp of the earlier works and traditions, a command over the language, its usage and grammar, familiarity with the hadith, [sayings of the Holy Prophet(sa)], and a study of comparative Religion, Arab and Jewish history, and the Bible. All this cannot be achieved without a lifelong effort, though, of course, a person might be blessed with this knowledge directly from the divine source. But this, is very rare — perhaps once in a century. Others can acquire it only through diligent study based upon righteousness. In the Communist State, such work is not considered work at all — it would not permit anyone to spend twelve years in studying and then a lifetime of teaching it to others. Such a person would be imprisoned or deprived of food and lodging, as he is a useless burden on the State.
The situation is similar with respect to the branch of learning known as hadith. It involves careful study of dozens of works and their expositions, Arabic usage and grammar, and careful scrutiny of the chain of narrators in the case of each hadith. Without a proper study of hadith — a life-long activity — adequate knowledge of the details of Islamic teaching is impossible. Similarly, in the case of the branches of learning known as fiqah [religious knowledge], qada [jurisprudence], history, tasawwuf [mysticism], and teachings of Islam in social and economic activities. All these are branches of study that cannot be ignored without turning Islam into a dead letter, and no Muslim worth the name could ever be reconciled to such a state of affairs. But there is no place for such scholars or their students under Communism. The State would consider them unproductive and grant them no allowances. People themselves would have no means for supporting them through voluntary private donations — as is the experience in countries like India, China and Arabia. The truth is that between Islam and the other religions, on one side, and Communism, on the other, there is a fundamental difference in the conception of what constitutes work. Our view is that a machine operator, a person propagating or teaching religion, and a recipient of religious education are all engaged in useful work. Communism, however, accords this status only to a machine operator, while those teaching or learning religion are regarded as parasites. To teach the alphabet is useful work according to the Communist view but to teach the profound truth — ‘There is none worthy of worship but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger’ — is waste of time and energy.
Thus, while we are in accord with Communism that only useful workers may have their labour rewarded, we cannot accept at all that no work is to be considered useful unless the Communists so certify. In the estimation of Communists, to work for the betterment of one’s spiritual life is no work at all; to teach or learn the Holy Quran, hadith, fiqah, tafsir, tasawwuf, and to teach morality is no work. In the eyes of a Muslim, on the other hand, these things are far more precious than life itself. To ensure proper study of religion and adequate effort is made for its propagation, thousands of scholars are needed in a country like Soviet Russia with its Muslim population of 30 million. But Communist Russia would only look upon them as shirkers, idlers and worthless people, who are a burden on society, and need to be quickly eliminated.
These two views stand poles apart; it is impossible to reconcile them. Undoubtedly, some do claim to serve religion, but they are impostors, who do not practice what they claim. But a person who really and truly serves religion at the cost of personal comfort and gain deserves to be recognised as a true leader; he holds a position similar to that of the soul in relation to the body; he is our greatest benefactor. To the Communist, however, such persons are only despicable scamps or idlers, and traitors to the nation, who should be imprisoned or driven out of the country.
There is someone who, in our estimation, stands so high that the mightiest rulers of this earth carry less weight and value in our eyes than the dust on his feet. It is the deepest and fondest desire of our hearts to sacrifice our lives for him. — He is Muhammad(sa), the greatest benefactor of mankind, who illuminated the human soul with Divine Light. But, according to the Communist way of thinking, he would be considered (God forbid) as a burden upon his people, as were all the chosen ones of God before him — Jesus(as), Moses(as), Abraham(as), Krishna(as), Ramchandra(as), Buddha(as), Zoroaster(as), Guru Nanak(rh) and Confucius(as). The Soviet regime would, God forbid, send all such persons into workshops to make shoes or clothing for farm and factory workers or assign them the task of cutting other people’s hair. Failing that, they would be deprived of food since according to them they are parasites and a burden on the national economy.
Communism does, however, recognise the work of painters and sculptors as ‘creative artists’, but considers work done to uplift people’s souls or morals as utterly useless. As we all know, man does not live by bread alone, and food by itself cannot give him the peace of mind. The world is full of people who, if prevented from praying to God, would have no peace, no matter what luxuries of life were placed at their disposal.
It is indeed odd that Communism recognises it as work when labourers spend a few hours in factories, but then go out to dissipate themselves in drink, cinema or dance-halls. Photography and music, too, are considered useful pursuits, but moral improvement and purification of the soul constitute no work at all.
Some time ago, Marshal Malinovsky was asked about his sons interests. He responded laughing, ‘They are interested in photography, music and keeping rabbits’. A child of fifteen, in other words, who spent his time in photography and music or in scampering after pet rabbits deserves to be fed and taken care of by Communism. But the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa), Jesus Christ(as), Moses(as), Krishna(as), Buddha(as), Zoroaster(as) and Guru Nanak(rh) (God forbid) are considered as parasites and danger to society. They are not worthy of being called ‘workers.’
History provides no example that matches the selfless, ceaseless labour of love undertaken by these great moral benefactors of mankind. But for their toil and effort, humanity would have lacked social cohesion, which depends on the sense of moral obligations that developed only after colossal sacrifices on the part of these great Teachers, who worked and suffered for the human cause day and night. Yet Communism condemns them as worthless people and places them far lower in the scale than drunkards and debauches who work in factories for hardly eight hours a day, then give themselves up to all sorts of low and vulgar pursuits.
In short, there is no place for these great and noble souls in the Communist system. I cannot speak for others, but I do know that in a state that provides no place for the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa), there can be none for me. We can regard as ours only that country or regime that accords to the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa) a place of ultimate honour. A country closed to him must be a country closed to every true Muslim. Communism might cover up this stark reality from religious believers to win their sympathy and allegiance, but it can never attract them if the truth is told. Communists are prone to assert that they do not oppose any religion. The Communists might declare that they do not oppose religion, but in reality that is not the case. Their oral pronouncements are therefore no more than lies.
Regarding this point, it may be mentioned that Russia obstructs religious education on grounds that parents have no right to impart religious knowledge to their children and thereby influence their leanings. Communists argue that it would be cruel to allow parents to influence their children, as they lack judgement to freely decide for themselves. Children must be allowed to choose for themselves about religion upon reaching adulthood. On the surface it seems to be a fair and reasonable demand, but in reality it is cruel and terrifying. All religions seek to propagate a positive message — the existence of God — whereas nonbelievers deny it. Those with a positive message have the responsibility to spread it; nonbelievers need do nothing. Thus, the Communist position is not one of equality, but is deceptive and unjust. It can be likened to a situation where a man is barred from telling his child about his being the father, but is then given assurance that no one else would be allowed to deny his fatherhood.
If a child is not taught the alphabet or history, he is bound to remain ignorant, similarly for religious education. As stated earlier, religion has a positive message to impart, but nonbelievers are just deniers. By not allowing religious education, the deniers are the ones who achieve their goal. Thus, while Communism claims to be impartial on religion, it is only committing treachery. This is not impartiality or equality in treatment, but fraud and deception. The Holy Quran plainly proclaims ‘Teach man what he did not know.’ As soon as you have ruled out the possibility of teaching, you put those so deprived at a disadvantage, and place them in a position of pre-Islamic days of ignorance, and prevent Muslims from carrying out their duty. There are some other points that arise in this connection, but as I am not addressing aspects of Communism that are not related to economics, I shall not go into them here.
Apart from the harm flowing from its opposition to religion, Communism is defective when judged on the basis of reason and common sense as well.
It is not in human power to establish complete equality for all, covering all aspects of life. Happiness does not depend on money alone, nor do contentment, solace and the peace of mind spring only from the satisfaction of material wants. Besides, given the same standards of living, the amount of pleasure derived must differ greatly from individual to individual. Given the same quality of meal, some people eat it with greater relish than others at the same table. The sense of taste, smell, eyesight, or general health varies among people. Intellectual and physical capabilities are a great source of self-confidence and consequent happiness, but no State action can make these factors equal for everyone. Our near and dear ones are a great source of happiness, but no regime can guarantee that wives, children, parents or friends of each individual would live equally as long. The presence of children around the hearth satisfies the deepest needs of human nature, but no one can guarantee that all married couples will have children, or have an equal number of children, or that the children will all live equally long, be equally healthy, or achieve equal success in life. The pangs of separation from a loved one can be a source of great pain. A mother who has lost her only child will not relish a sumptuous meal, whereas a poor mother who holds her child in her lap will enjoy even a simple meals more than a feast.
The intensity of emotions in regard to dear ones may be judged from the following incident in Lenin’s life. The Russian Communist Party split into two groups at an early stage of its history because of some fundamental differences in viewpoints. The Mensheviks, who were led by Martove, held the view that on gaining political power, the Communist system must abolish capital punishment, but Lenin, who led the Bolsheviks — while accepting the principle — wanted to delay its adoption until after the Czar had been executed. The basic reason for Lenin’s tougher stance was that the Czarist government had previously ordered his brother — to whom he was deeply attached — to be hanged in connection with a crime, and Lenin wanted to have his revenge on the Czar.
The suffering of our friends and relatives thus profoundly affects our happiness, and no one can take out an insurance against such suffering. It is therefore beyond the power of man to remove or level up inequalities in the countless aspects of human life, and the kind of equality that Communism rants about is little more than a delusion. Abiding happiness comes from the relationship with God alone, because all contingencies are under His control. You may grant food and clothing in equal amounts, but the man who lacks the relationship with God can have no peace. There are countless things whose presence or absence cause dissatisfaction, but it is entirely up to God to grant or withhold them.
1 Surah Al-e-‘Imran, 3:105, (publishers)