If we say, Punishment has reached them,
And rejection by God has come to them,
Then we, too, like them, and more than they,
Deviate, and can one who deviates be safe?
Can we be sure that vengeance will not fall upon us,
When corruption has combined with license upon us?
The veil is stripped from people whenever
Free rein is given to disobedience 
This poem was recited by an anonymous Muslim poet while mourning the loss of Toledo, the former Visigothic capital in 1085, permanently shifting the balance of power there in favour of Christians monarchies. When one reads it by itself we can most certainly apply its context to our present day. What makes us believe and proclaim that we are lost as an Ummah and that the road back is too long? The most High will not forsake us so long as we do not forsake Him. Look at the people of the past and what they accomplished. Look how vile the situation in Spain became for Muslims, to the extent that Spanish natives who are Muslim through their ancestors are almost non-existent, despite the 781-year Muslim dominance in Andalusia Spain. It is worth looking at the past for many reasons, not least so that we can draw lessons from those before us. History teaches us the patterns of success and failure and indeed the Spanish tapestry paints a vivid image of this.
In this article we will analyse specific instances in the history of Islām that are being replicated in our modern day state of affairs, previously contributing to the downfall of those great nations of the past.
The year 1031 was the beginning of the period in Islamic Spain known as Muluk Al Tawaif. This roughly translates as the period of the Faction Kings. This was a period in which multiple kingdoms sprang up in the wake of the collapse of the Ummayad Khilafa in Andalus. It was a period that is reminiscent of the time today. Taxes were prescribed outside the remit of Islamic jurisdiction, alcohol was ever present as was debauchery, excessive love of poetry, Bid’ah (innovation in the religion), misguidance due to Greek Philosophy while forgetting the essential concepts of Walā’ and Barā’a (loving and hating something for Allāh’s sake). The Tawai’f kings would ally themselves with non-Muslims to fight their Muslim brothers. Ibn Hazm, a notable scholar of the time, summed up these kings in the following quote:
“By God, I swear that if the tyrants were to learn that they could attain their ends more easily by adopting the religion of the cross, they would certainly hasten to profess it! Indeed, we see that they ask the Christians for help and allow them to take away Muslim men, women and their children as captives to their lands. They frequently protect them in their attacks against the most inviolable land, and ally themselves with them in order to gain security.”
Interestingly these Tawai’f kings are comparable to the sultans that were present during the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Whereas previously, the sultan would promote members of their family into office based on merit, Sultan Ahmed I introduced a new system where the potential ruling sons would stay in the palace until their time came. The intention behind this seemed pure as previously these sons would be sent to govern provinces and gain experience before ascending to overall leadership. This often resulted in civil wars between them after the father’s demise. Sultan Ahmed’s new system meant that the new sultan would ascend to the throne with no prior experience of overall governance or leadership, and thus, just like the Tawaif kings, their priorities were not the promotion of Islām but rather their main priorities were to continue the life of palace luxury that they had become accustomed to. As such corruption spread in government and Jihād was no longer promoted to the same extent. Again we see that as soon as priorities shifted from the hereafter to the transient pleasures of the Dunya then the foundations of the nation immediately began to creak under the load of disobeying Allāh.
Essentially these party kings attacked one another, caused conflict in Muslim lands and sought the help of their Christian neighbours against one another. If we look at this in the context of the Islamic world today, we can change the names of the characters and the story remains the same. We have countries with majority Muslim populations that can in no way be attributed the moniker of a Muslim country. We have these same countries uniting with one other, against one other, but more critically, we have these same countries uniting with non-Muslim countries to do so. What is the overall purpose of these Muslim leaders? By simple virtue of the length that these dictators and kings remain in office and the complete lack of development in the countries they rule over, it is clear that their aims are personal ones. Just take a look at the personal wealth of one Husni Mubarak and compare it with the typical living standards of the rest of the country. Again, we see the direct comparison that can be made with our current powers and the powers of the nations of the past.
This generalised weakness and love of luxury and desires was seized upon by some Christians of the past. These very same Christians who were aiding the Muslims against each other realised their opportunity to wrest Spain from the Muslims. Christian Spanish Princes welcomed reinforcements brought to them from the French provinces Aquitaine and Bourgogne and began a ferocious attack on the Muslims, winning victories at Barbastro in 1063, and Toledo in 1085. Only then did it become clear to the Muslims that the Spanish leader Alphonso VI of Castile intended to conquer the whole of Spain.
Looking at our modern world, Islamic rule has been non-existent for the entire last century. In Egypt we see certain countries funding and supporting the illegal war against Islām and the coup against legitimacy, fearing that Islām will overrule their monarchies. Palestine, the jewel of Islamic civilisation was lost in the middle of the last century. Instead of welcoming and adopting the Palestinian refugees, they are at best treated as second class citizens, stripped of their rights or shot at borders and in their departing vessels. How have the non-Muslims responded? In exactly the same way that their ancestors did in the past, harnessing this naivety and made great gains by hijacking their resources, establishing military installations and instilling in the locals a passive and defeatist ideology. By invoking the aid of Western powers to remove Saddam Hussein in the second major offensive campaign after September the 11th, the US seized the opportunity to invade Iraq, controlling its reserves, driving its inhabitants into insecurity and poverty and somehow putting its citizens under the obligation of thanks. The modern day Muluk Al-Tawaif of our times used their famed short sightedness and love of Dunya to accommodate the western invasion into Iraq and the US decided to further capitalise in every way possible.
But the war has moved on, not only through bullets and bombs; but a major war that slips between our eyes is the financial war. If you want to see the true invasion of Muslim lands, go to the Middle East and observe the number of American conglomerates and multinationals feasting on Muslim money. Do we believe that the money generated by these companies goes into Muslim pockets? Or does it go into financing and furthering the aims and objectives of the Non-Muslim Empire?
Observe the past once again. In the 17th and 18th century, when the Ottoman Empire was in decline, economic decline came part and parcel. The Ottomans were already in a state of economic downturn when the government came up with schemes that gave control of an entire industry to a certain European government in exchange for a single payment, again demonstrating the short sightedness of the leaders of the time. The effect this had on local merchants and businesses was devastating. For example, in 1740, an agreement was reached with France that gave French citizens the right to trade in and travel to any part of the Ottoman Empire. With the loss of economic authority, the leaders of the time also lost any effective rule on trade policies, becoming slaves to foreign influences. A comparison could be made here with some of the oil rich monarchs of our time, who concern themselves more with acquiring personal wealth than the general welfare of the Muslim ummah or even the welfare of their own countries.
The biggest and longest lasting nail in the coffin for the Ottomans was due to the policies they enforced in the 19th century. In this period the Ottoman rulers decided to move towards a more Europe-friendly government model, culminating in the Tanzimat reforms of 1856 which departed from the Sharī’a based governing system. The rest is history. Even despite the efforts of Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1876, who emphasised the Islamic nature and history of the Ottoman empire, the popular European notion of secularism in politics had gained ground, leading to the removal of Abdul Hamid and the installation of his brother who had no real power. Eventually, the empire was totally disbanded after the First World War with the infamous Ataturk playing a key role in pushing the secularist agenda. Again, we can immediately draw comparisons with Arab countries that are keen to stress that they are “more Arab than Muslim”. As successful as the overthrowing of Mubarak and Ghaddafi was, it was disappointing to see that there was a very strong Arab nationalist pride theme running in the background of these revolutions. Thus, in hindsight, perhaps the subsequent illegal coup against President Morsi and the promotion of Islām was not so unexpected.
We as Muslims are often guilty of living in our glorious past. We celebrate the sustained successes of the Muslim dynasties at their peak. In any discussion about Spain and Turkey we point to their rich Islamic history and the social, economic and academic advances that were made. In this period of decline, perhaps a closer look at a situation comparable to ours experienced by our predecessors would paint a more vivid image of where we currently stand as a nation. What they faced as a consequence of their actions can develop our foresight of what to expect in our future. More importantly, such a study will no doubt help us avoid the pitfalls that led to their demise.
The Prophet sala Allāhu ‘alayh wasallam said: “Soon the nations will gather against you, just as people gather around a feast.” One of the companions asked, “O Messenger of Allāh, will this be because of our small number on that day?“ And the Prophet said, ”No. Your number will be great. But you will be without substance, like the foam on the face of a river; and Allāh will remove from the breasts of your enemies the fear of you; and Allāh will throw wahn into your hearts.“ One of the companions asked, “What is wahn, O Allāh’s Apostle?“ And the Prophet responded, ”Wahn is to love this life, and to hate death!“
Do we think that this Hadīth applies exclusively to us? Indeed the Muslims of the Ottoman Empire and Andalusia must have thought the same thing when the Muslim world was being eroded during their times. But we must always remember that Allāh helps those who help themselves. Although, these nations eventually fell, in the period of their existence, there were constant cycles where Islām would be the dominant force and success would follow and then periods when the love of Dunya would again lead to the enemies of Islām sensing weakness and making their move.
So what is our point? Why are we trying to draw lessons from what were in the end, nations that succumbed to the Dunya? Those nations offer us a story of how they arose and how they fell. We are a nation that needs change;
“Verily! Allāh will not change the condition of a people unless there is a change of what is in themselves.”
We often focus too much on what the enemies of Islām are doing. Indeed, there are books written about how far reaching the American covert black operations are. It is sometimes for us a source of depression. Again, we only need to look at history to remind ourselves that there is nothing standing in our way other than our own selves. If a tribe of Arabs living in a small town obsessed by inter-tribal politics and warfare before Islām, far removed from the latest technology of the time, overpowered two of the largest and most advanced empires in history, the Romans and the Persians, armed only with the simplest and purest message, then perhaps we are selling ourselves short with our fear of the current Western hegemonies. Perhaps our focus should be back on ourselves and how we build Islām back into our lives instead of spending them glued to our televisions watching disaster after disaster strike the Muslim world and feeling more and more depressed with every passing day. After all, fear and hopelessness is also a mighty weapon that is being used against us.
 Anonymous quoted by Al-Maqqari: Analectes; ii; p. 778 in D. Wasserstein p.281
 Quoted by Mackay: Spain in the Middle ages; 27 from M. Asin Palacios: Un Codice inexplorado del cordobes Ibn Hazm; Al Andalus; 2; 1934; p. 42 in D. Wasserstein: The Rise and Fall of the Party Kings; Princeton university Press; 1985; p. 280.
 Al-Djaziri: A Short History of Islam p233
 Hadith: Authentic, recorded by Abū Dāwūd.
 Al-Qur’ān 13:11
AbdulRahman El-Nounu is a Mechanical Engineer by profession having completed a MEng and is currently pursuing his doctorate (EngD) as a Manufacturing Research Engineer.
He is actively involved in arranging Islamic structured courses with international Dawah institutes and delivers basic study circles in his locality while attending regular Tafseer classes. AbdulRahman’s research and political activism focuses on international affairs and he is an author to Islam21c on current Middle-Eastern issues.