What is an Islamic society? Being the followers of the most complete and perfect religion, how should we envision our communities to be? Do we aim for a self-sufficient society, or do we look upon others to fulfill our needs?
The society which the Holy Qur'an aims for is the one that is self-sufficient and independent in itself. ("...and Allah does not grant the unbelievers any way [of domination] over the believers." [4:141]) Therefore, an actual Islamic society is one that has cultural, economic, scientific, political, industrial, and technological independence. This means that we should not have to depend upon other (non-Muslim) societies to fulfill our requirements. In addition, we must have the means through which we can defend ourselves from our enemies. We must have the knowledge and resources that surpass those of our enemies.
In today's world, the basis for success of any society undoubtedly lies in knowledge and education; the Islamic society is indeed no exception. There is no doubt in our minds as to how Islam and its leaders have continuously stressed on the need and importance of knowledge or education. We all know the saying of our Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny): "Acquisition of knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim." What one normally tends to think is that this knowledge, which has been obligated on us, exclusively entails Islamic sciences. If one looks deeper into what "Islamic sciences" cover, it would be interesting to note that it does not merely signify theology. The great martyr and scholar Ayatollah Murtadha Mutahhari had said, "Islam's all-inclusiveness and finality as a religion demands that every field of knowledge that is beneficial for an Islamic society be regarded as a part and parcel of the 'religious sciences'."
Any science or field of knowledge that is important to sustain and preserve the strength of an Islamic society automatically becomes obligatory (Wajib Kifai) upon all of us. Although all fields of knowledge will fall into this definition, there are some of them that are needed even more than the rest. As an example, consider the knowledge of medicine and particularly the lack of female physicians and OB/GYN practitioners in our communities.
When we look at our communities, it is indeed disappointing to see that secular education is not always seen from the Islamic perspective. We may usually discover two extremes: either secular education is given too much weight, such that religion is considered inferior in its relation, or it may even be thought of as inferior and isolated from religion, perhaps even contradictory to it. Both of these extremes are un-Islamic. Contrary to this and in actuality, the study of other sciences can in fact serve as a way to attain the Marifah of Allah, and to attain His proximity.
Secular education is also usually looked at with a materialistic lens that is merely to satisfy our survival needs and to boost up our prestige and reputation in the community. Engineering and healthcare professions are regarded as the most ideal and ultimate paths to success. Therefore, parents begin pushing their unwilling children into these fields from an early age. Such stereotypes must never exist in an Islamic community, because we believe the Qur'an when it says: "You endue with honor whom You please, and You bring low whom You please: In Your hand is all good." (3:36) Therefore, sustenance, prestige, and honor are actually the gifts of Allah.
Taking into account this situation, it should not be of any surprise to us to see the present condition and the decline of the Islamic Ummah. If we desire the progress of our communities, we must start to think actively in terms of how we can build our societies and how we should become the individuals that the Islamic system wants us to be. Parents have a very important duty in this regard, as they become the key inspiration and motivation for their offspring. They should not give their children a selfish and materialistic dimension towards life, but rather inspire them to act according to the needs and demands of the Islamic community. Our beloved Prophet had said: "All human beings are the family of God, and the most beloved of men near God is one who is most beneficial to His family."
We all eagerly yearn for the return of the last luminary, the Imam of Our Time (may Allah hasten his reappearance). Through his reappearance, we aspire for a society that is perfectly Islamic and free from every deficiency and shortcoming (Daulat Kareema). However, we must remind ourselves that Allah does not change a nation's situation unless the people themselves endeavor to change it. Therefore, if we need to establish a perfectly Islamic society under our Imam, we must first equip ourselves with the knowledge and abilities that can be of service to our Imam.