Everything that happens in this world is controlled by the well-known laws of nature. The same is true of the rise and fall of a nation. The Qur’an, in the chapter Al-Anfal (The Spoils of War), gives substance to this law thus: God would never withdraw a favor that He had conferred upon a people unless they change what is in their inner selves. God is all-hearing and all-knowing. (8:53) The same law is referred to in another Qur’anic chapter: God does not change the condition of a people’s lot unless they change what is in their hearts. (13:11)
By the word ‘peoples’ the Qur’an means the nation or society and by the word ‘heart’ or ‘inner self,’ the Qur’an refers to individuals. Here, the Qur’an refers to that law of nature that determines the fate of peoples or nations. This law applies without exception to all nations. According to this law, the destiny of a nation depends upon the individuals of which it is composed. Every individual is an important unit of his or her nation. If the individuals are good in character, the whole nation will be good, but if the individuals are bad in character, then the whole nation will become bad. This law tells us how to reform a nation or a society after deterioration has set in. This law gives us the starting point. Whenever it has become apparent that a nation has fallen into evil ways, we have to start our reform from its individual members; that is the only possible way to begin. You can successfully address an individual mind, but you cannot similarly address a crowd. This means that in such a situation we have to change individuals through education, both formally and informally. We have to change their minds and hearts, we have to change their way of thinking; we have to de-condition their conditioned minds.
Initially, every nation is a favored nation. God is merciful to every group of people, but, with the passage of time, signs of degeneration begin to appear. Now the question is: what to do to regain the initial position? How to rebuild a society which has gone into decline? The process of building a nation is like growing a garden. If you start by sowing seeds, you can grow a beautiful garden. The answer is: begin from the beginning. Begin with individual reform. By addressing the individual, you can reach out to society as a whole. But if you start by addressing society in totality, you will not get anywhere. The process of building a nation is like growing a garden. If you start by sowing seeds, you can grow a beautiful garden; but if you start with the garden itself, you will not reach your desired goal.