Why Does Islam Appeal to the Poor the Most?
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
Fearful of losing creditability and followers under the threat of scientific discoveries and secularism, major religions have reacted differently and have implemented new strategies.
Christianity has responded by what it calls modernizing and modifying some ideas that seemed impractical in the 21st century – thereby proving once again that it is not the original message of God revealed to Prophet Jesus (PBUH). Judaism has resorted to chauvinism with an irrational emphasis on a racist creed which likes to call itself the chosen of God. Hinduism never had pretensions to any universal concept from the beginning and views itself only as a regional religion that is deeply divided from within, in a myriad of castes at odds with each other. Hence, following its failure to integrate the dalits or the so-called lower castes, the extremists have resorted to Islamophobia and persecution of Muslims. Similar is the case of the Buddhists, who have gone on a rampage of genocide in Burma, and to a lesser extent in Sri Lanka, against the Muslims in the hope of preventing their followers from converting to other religions. But what about Islam, and how has it responded to the threats of secularism and atheism?
The answers are obvious. Islam and its egalitarian values, with emphasis on rationality, have had a wide appeal across the globe – even though some so-called elites amongst the Muslims may have fallen prey to the deceits of secularism and drifted away from the fundamentals of faith, while at the same time some other self-styled Muslims, who actually do not know the basics of Islam, have resorted to violence and terrorism. The West had been quick to exploit these irrational tendencies to its advantage by indirectly supporting these terror groups, as part of its policy of splintering the Muslim Ummah. The result has been extremism and propagating new generations of young, but misinformed radicals, who are ready to take any drastic actions on the misconstrued belief that whatever they are doing they are doing for the cause of their faith. This tendency may have tarnished the image of Islam to a certain extent, but it has also backfired on the West, when we see both the intellectuals and the low income groups of world societies, increasingly turning towards Islam for peace of mind, soothing of hearts, inner tranquility, and the quest to arrive at the ultimate truth. There seems to be a positive correlation between how demanding a religion is and its appeal to certain groups of people. Unlike ordinary businesses and in defiance of the law of economics, religion can actually retain loyal customers or generate new ones. All this is proof of the versatility of the teachings of Islam, which from the beginning had come with the message of liberating mankind from the oppression and exploitation of the rich.
What's more, since worship in Islam is natural and from the depth of the heart, without requiring money or costly practices, Islam has attracted a massive number of well-off followers as well, and effectively prevents them from defecting because of the lack of any consequences for doing so. In 2007 in the US, a public survey by the Pew Forum conducted in 2007, had revealed that while 92% of Americans believe in God, only 58% of them pray at least once a day. This percentage is inversely correlated to the level of personal income, with 64% for those with an income level of less than $30,000 and only 48% for those with more than a $100,000 annual income.
Further inquiry into the same survey reveals that the percentage of people who pray frequently is high, 70% and higher, in low income states such as Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and Tennessee, while this ratio is much lower, between 40 to 50%, for high income states including Massachusetts, Main, Connecticut, Alaska, and New Jersey. This is not the criteria although such findings may lend support to the proposition that the degree to which people practice a religion varies indirectly with their level of income. These findings may also explain why in economically advanced nations like the US, the percentage of people believing in core ideas of religion and belief in God is so high. Believing in God, the Almighty Creator, has no cost, but instead has a lot of benefits. However, when it comes to fulfilling the requirements of belief, the percentage of followers shrinks to a lower level as the monetary and the opportunity costs rise.
This is not the case with Islam, which thanks to its dynamism is the world’s most rapidly growing religion, and has thus been successful in creating a universal appeal that is bond to keep its devotees connected in the framework of brotherhood. It also has promises of reward in life and salvation in afterlife, and fulfills the expectations of humanity, with its emphasis on the natural inclinations of mankind, within the harmonious framework of virtue and self-dignity. Islam strives to liberate both the individuals and societies from all forms of bondage. It arouses in people the sense of the purpose of creation and the goals of life, with emphasis on good deeds and abstention from evil. Islam grants dignity to women, and there are no class differences in Islam, where the wealthy and the poor, enjoy the same benefits and social status.
Therefore, in view of these undeniable facts, religion becomes an attraction for the oppressed masses, and a necessary life-saving or a social status event for the rich as well. The rich may occasionally attend places of worship like mosques, but this does not mean that all rich persons are indifferent to religion and its practices. On the contrary the poor are considered the backbone of the society, and it is only in Islam that they discover the sense of social justice where all are equal in the sight of God, and it is solely piety and virtuous deeds that extolls one’s status, rather than wealth, ethnicity, language, colour of skin, etc. We can conclude that secularism and atheism are unnatural ideas, and cannot deplete the ranks of Muslims by deceiving the poor and the deprived.