Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Call to Wisdom

In his Islamica article, Mr. Khalil al-Anani correctly stated that centrist, Islamic political parties can be the bulwark against the extremists provided that moderate political Islamic groups be allowed the opportunity to participate in the political arena. This, for, al-Anani will provide Arab societies, weary of violence, death, and destruction of the extremists, with the Qur’anic-based politics of social justice, liberty, equality, and enlightenment. He calls for a shift in the political paradigm in order that Tunisia’s Nahda Party, Morocco’s Justice and Development Party, the Islamic Centre Party, and a host of others can practically and fundamentally revolutionize their respective societies. Amr Hamzawy, in a policy brief for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, offers the wisest course of action that should, and indeed, must be championed by Western Muslims, in particular those of us who are American and British citizens. Hamzawy wrote in his “The Key to Arab Reform: Moderate Islamists” that:

It is both desirable and feasible for the West to reach out to Islamist movements in the Arab world now that there are signs that some of these groups embrace nonviolence, pragmatism, and democratic procedures. Those who still insist that there is no such thing as a ‘moderate Islamist’ miss the reality that activist organizations in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and Yemen have evolved after decades of failed opposition to repressive regimes…U.S. and European officials understandably worry that Islamists might jettison democratic transition and when they gain significant power…Islamists are critical of prevailing societal conditions in Arab countries, which they describe interchangeably as decadent, underdeveloped, or unjust; they blame authoritarian ruling elites for these societal conditions and therefore consider political change as the first crucial step toward altering Arab reality.

 Hamzawy has provided the blueprint for what should, and must be, the political activism of Western Muslims, which God Willing, will facilitate al-Anani’s shift in paradigm and foster the creation of a practical, Islamic democratic-republicanism and a reconstitution of Dar al-Salaam from West African to Indonesia and the Adriatic to the Gulf of Aden. We cannot delude ourselves in the belief that this will be a reality in our lifetime, and of course, God Knows Best. However, that which is equally true and undeniable, is that in order to secure the rights of Muslims in historically Muslim homelands-rights endowed them by their Creator-those of us who reside in the United States and Great Britain must redefine the purpose of our political efforts. As of now there are several Muslim organizations, staffed with very talented individuals-both male and female- whose respective mission statements seem to be exactly the same: to improve the lives of Muslims within the boundaries of the nation-state they reside. This is vitally important in the creation of an informed, politically conscious Muslim population. And yet, this remains only one front in a much wider conflict. As Muslims living in a post-9/11 world, our greatest jihad lies in the global war of ideas. In order that we may claim victory for Islam, we must shift the paradigm that is our thinking and begin to coordinate our efforts and practically apply the following prophetic tradition to our politics. The prophet Muhammad (SAAW) has said: none of you truly believes until he wants for his brother what he wants for himself. Therefore the call for wisdom lies in the concerns of the brother who resides in Harlem, Newark, New Jersey, or Oakland being the concerns of the brother in Alexandria, Beirut, or Algiers and vice versa. The difference in language, culture, and skin complexion must all be superseded by the sublime testification of faith and the political implication that God intended it to hold that we are one community under one Lord. It is an un-Islamic and sophomoric attitude that we should divide ourselves politically because of national origin, language, culture, etc. Moreover, if self-preservation is an instinct we possess as a people, we had better follow the guidance provided to us by the Qur’an and Sunna; engage in what Dr. Cornel West has termed Socratic Questioning; and coordinate our efforts towards a viable, peaceful, Islamic solution to problems that claim lives everyday in Iraq, Muburak’s Egypt, Musharaff’s Pakistan, in Gaza and the West Bank, and otherwise contribute to the systemic and institutional oppression of Muslims. The extremist have appeal because they offer a solution to today’s Muslim youth that answers their frustrations and hope to be free from Western dominance and the Muslim autocrats they support. There is no doubt that it is the wrong solution, but in the words of Martin Luther King:

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words of violent actions of the bad people, but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only for the words and actions of the children of darkness, but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.

Those of us in the West have done a poor job in highlighting, propagating, and exposing the American people, in particular American policy and decision makers, of the sound, peaceful aspirations of the Nahda, Justice and Development, Islamic Centre parties, or Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. We are either gripped with fear or too disinterested in following the Sunna of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in relation to utilizing our political voice. Therefore, as our men, women, and children are killed; suffer under high unemployment rates and poverty; suffer under political oppression of dictators, tyrants, and petromonarchs often who are supported by the United States and Great Britain: we must look to ourselves, find our culpability, and engage in parrhesia-bold speech. This is consistent with a prophetic tradition when the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: Speak the truth even though it be bitter. Yet, in order to speak truth, one must first search for it one’s own nation, community, home, and actions. Are we the Muslims of the West truly concerned about the principles of Islam in its totality or are we here to engage in the free market fundamentalism that governs the political and economic system of the West? Are we all brothers in a religion and way of life that is founded upon the universality of mankind? If we answer in the affirmative, then how do we reconcile the fact that in far too many of our communities there are three mosques in a five mile radius: one for Arabs, one for those from the Indian subcontinent and its Diaspora, and one for converts, primarily poor, African-Americans? What does it mean, practically in a political socio-economic sense, to be a Muslim? This is the Socratic Questioning that Dr. Cornel West has demanded that all Americans engage, in the hope that the answers will compel a bloodless revolution whose goal is a Second Enlightenment. As God as my Witness, we the Muslims must engage in a similar enterprise, in order to save our community irrespective of borders and gain our redemption and salvation as individuals. If Hobbes was correct in his Leviathan that a nation is composed of its citizens, thereby creating one collective individual or body politic, then just as one man should engage in tasawwuf or Sufism, so should a nation. In final analysis, the call to wisdom is a call to the international Muslim community to engage in tasawwuf in order that it can purify the heart of the Muslim Leviathan. The Council of American-Islamic Relations is the preeminent advocacy organization for the political/legal concerns for American Muslims. Its mission towards providing an greater understanding of Islam, empowering American Muslims, and promoting social justice are congruent with communal tasawwuf, Socratic questioning, parrhesia, and democratic-republicanism.

It is the hope of all moderate Islamist that the Council of American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Islamic Society of North America, and a host of others can succeed in revolutionary altering the perception of Islam and Muslims throughout the globe, foremost amongst the Muslims themselves. So long as Muslims are divided, plagued with neo-colonialist notions of progress, our understanding of Islamic Political Theory and local, community development will remain stunted. Households beget communities, communities beget cities within provinces, provinces beget nation-states: Western imperial powers have constructed the boundaries that separate Kuwait from Iraq or Egypt and the Sudan. Muslims who nearly a century ago, sacrificed their iman for worldly power have rallied the masses to love their being Arab or Pakistani or Saudi, more than their love for being a servant of The One True and Living God and a member of the Ummah of the prophet Muhammad (SAAW).

Holmes wrote, 'Man's mind stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions'. There is too much credit given to mankind, by mankind, in relation to the wonders of his mind. Thoughts,ideas, perceptions, beliefs: all are subject to Objective Truth or the spiritual opiate of self-delusion, aggrandizement, and ultimately, a falsehood that other men believe to be 'truth' or the way of the world. So now that we, the Muslim people, look at ourselves as separate citizens of nation-states whose leaders look to the corridors of power in Washington, London, Paris, Brussels, and Madrid for direction, capital, and the answers to our communal existential questions, how do we revert to Islamic Political Principles? One and a half billion people live in nation-states where hierarchies have been formed, customs created, laws written, and individual tasks performed for the greater benefit of masters of the system of the liberal capitalism-the free market fundamentalist. So in Dhaka or Amman or Sharm al-Sheik, who cares for the thoughts of the philosopher in a global society dominated by the acquiring of land, labor, and capital? Who listens to the concerns of the woman once her seductive dance is done? Who seeks justice in a society where he who steals the greatest amount from the multitude is praised, while the destitute are imprisoned for taking sustenance from one another or for their participation in the illicit trade of drugs and human bodies? Who seeks Ultimate Happiness in a global society where the Self, vice, sensory, and carnal pleasures are seen as virtues? How does man's mind stretch to the correct ideas, if after choosing that which is unnatural, false, self-delusional, he is never to return to the mind's original dimensions? Where is liberty, justice, equality, and human rights in the unnatural society? Under what system is the least of us as important as the best of us? What is truly the virtue of being human; and of creating and maintaining a virtuous household where the citizen compels himself to live justly among the other households in the village? What is the individual's duty to the community and the community's duty to the individual? Finally, how does the State achieve Ultimate Happiness within its realm with the goal of each citizen feeling and benefiting from the efforts of their government? Wallahi Al-Theem, these are questions for the Islamic Nationalist who is dedicated to the study of Islamic Political Theory and its practical application. It is these brothers and sisters to whom I pray answer my call. I am merely a citizen of a dead nation who longs for its resurrection.

In our contemporary times, it is an arduous thing for a Muslim to adequately explain to those who are truly ignorant, what Islam truly is at its core and its essence. It is a difficult endeavor to explain to the old man on a Louisville bus station, why he is mistaken that Islam teaches violence or the destruction of all that exists in the West, but no Muslim can blame him for holding such sentiments. Many Americans truly believe it to be a tenet of Islam, that we the Muslims advocate and believe that The One True and Living God Has Called for their destruction and demise. How do we answer such a gross fallacy? Unfortunately so many brothers and sisters of the Deen hasve met such a challenge in a most cowardly fashion. I lose patience with Muslims who argue that 9/11 was a Zionist conspiracy, planned and perpetrated by Israelis, in order to engender support to attack Iraq. Or that Osama bin Laden was a CIA operative who was ordered by the Bush administration to attack the United States for the same aforementioned purpose. At some point we, as Muslims, must recognize and understand the times we are living as Muslims; that indeed this is a Dark Age in our history. It is not only because Bangladesh is the Wage Slave Coast of the 21st century; or that two thinly-stretched American armies are in Iraq and Afghanistan where Muslims are dying every day; nor is it about a new Pakistani front, for these are just symptoms to the disease that is our hearts. The prophet Muhammad (SAAW) has said: Muslims are to one another as one building, each part of which supports the others, and as one body, which when one of its organs suffers the rest of the body suffers with it. For the Western student and scholar of political science and theory, this is reminscient of Thomas Hobbes, but for the average Muslim, one could submit most do not know the hadith, and if they do, it is not related to the politics Islam. The disease in the Muslim Ummah is a disease that every Muslim carries because he is silent, apathetic, defeatist in the use of his power, his voice, and his efforts. His foresight and thinking is limited to his culture, his ethnic traditions, and his concerns for comfort. He claims to love the prophet Muhammad and points the his Companions (RAA), for this is what he speaks about during the Friday Sermon. And once the sermon is complete, millions of men all over the country rush back to jobs at banks and corporations before returning to surburban neighborhoods. His sons and daughters are taught to love Islam, Allah, His messenger (SAAW),  and also the honor and reputation of their families as dictated by culture and ethnic traditions. It is important to point this out, because in order to build communities one must have households. Indeed, there is no Muslim community in America, but several communites of Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indians, Arabs, and urban African/Latino-Americans each who think of themselves as distinct from the other,  just as it is on the macro-international level. We begin to see that Qutb was correct, the Muslim community only denotes the name of billions of people who worship, ritually, as those who lived in another time. Yet, I submit that if our worship was truly Islamic, as a people, the challenges-or accidents of life-would not be as they presently stand. Islam is alive, but not in the hearts of the Muslim community. It is this disease that requires a remedy of political theorist-statesman and dialectical theologians. Al-Farabi writes that:

The art of dialectical theology is a disposition by which a human being is able to defend the specific opinion and actions that the founder of the religion declared and to refute by arguments whatever opposes it. The art is also divided into two parts: a part with respect to opinions and a part with respect to actions…if a human being were to reach the end of perfection with respect to humanity, his position with respect to those who have Divine Intellects would be that of a child, an adolescent, and an immature youth with respect to a perfect human being. Many children and immature youths object to many things by their intellects that are not objectionable or impossible in truth, although to them they happen to be impossible. And this is like the position of the one at the end of the perfection of the human intellect with respect to the Divine Intellects. Before being educated and trained, a human being objects to many things, finds them repugnant, and imagines that they are impossible.When he is educated by means of the sciences and given training in experiments, those presumptions disappear: the things that were impossible for him are transformed and become necessary, and he now comes to wonder about the opposite of what he formerly used to wonder about…so for these reasons, these [dialectical theologians] were of the opinion that religions are to set down as valid.

Divine Intellects are the Gifts of Allah to the prophets beginning with Adam, culminating with Abraham, Ishmael, Issac, Moses, David, Jesus son of Mary, and ending with Muhammad (may the Peace and Blessing of The One True and Living God be upon all of them); it is they who have taught to mankind the proper and improper, and for the Muslim this is a major tenet of faith. The dialectical theologian in our contemporary times-and here we cease in following the opinion al-Farabi held of this group of scholars himself-is for the benefit of the Muslim people, and the Muslim people alone. It is not his or her role to prove the validity or truth of Islam to non-Muslim people. It is their task to preach and propagate Islam and its virtues to the billions of people who claim to be its adherents, as to Muhammad’s Interpretation of what it means to be a Muslim. Already within the West men such as Hamza Yusuf, Zaid Shakir, Siraj Wahhaj, and very few others are making tremendous strides in the revival of the Islamic spirit in the hearts of Muslim men and women. It is the knowledge that they teach that must be harnassed into the younger generation that seeks to remedy the disease in the heart of the Ummah. The Islamic Revolution must last a longer lifetime than most of us will have and Allah Knows Best. For here al-Farabi is correct in stating that, virtuous religion is similar to philosophy, though we would proceed a step further and identify it simply as philosophy. Islamic philosophy is based in social justice, individual rights and obligations, and must be again made paramount in the lives of Muslims.  This will take a greater amount of time and effort if we are ever to see Islam return to its original, practical form.

Islam, in its original theorectical form, doesn’t seek to murder, injure, or harm innocent civilians; and those who say it does are the worst kind of liars. Islam seeks to redeem mankind and to provide Truth and Purpose to his life. This is not achieved by the murder of American civilians, who are themselves, lost in an oppressive cycle of earning money and paying debts that will consume their lives. It is not their murder The One True and Living God Seeks or Commands, but rather the end of their oppression. The practical application of the Economic Theory of Islam, as we will examine in the next chapter. The dialectical theologian must reform the Muslim, and the Muslim must work to reform the West using Islamic Political Philosophy, but Western language. Americans and British people are not the enemy of Islam, but the system that uses them as mere fodder is our true adversary.  For the Islamic Revolution to begin it the dialectical theologians must be its catalyst, as the army of experts in the administration of governance begin in their respective training. Perhaps it is a contradiction to state that which is highly probable: the Islamic Revolution will coincide with the decline of the American Empire. Furthermore, it will be the duty of the dialectical theologian to ask the most vital questions to the Muslim Ummah. What is Islam? Not its meaning, but rather, if it is to lead mankind into a new age of social democractic political theory in the 21st century, what systems, values, and Immutable Laws and their respective Spirit will Islam provide to modern society? What are the Islamic Rules of Engagement in relation to warfare? When is warfare appropriate and when is it action a Trangression to The Laws of Allah? What is the true role of women in a modern, Islamic society? What does diplomacy based on Islamic Social Democratic theory look like, moreover, how can it lead to peace in lands that have been ravaged by death, murder, destruction, and tyranny of Muslim leaders and the Western governments that support them? How is Islam to lead, 1.5 billion people back to their original dimensions when the minds of men have so clouded, indeed, decimated the Sirat Al-Mustaqueem in relation to political, economic, and societal development and maturation? Reform cannot be taken to mean, reinterpretation of The Laws that are clear. Nor can anyone allow the evil, base, vainglorious appetites of men in kufis or women, without hijab, to eradicate that what Allah Has Made halal and haram. This is not the purpose of a Muslim Reformation, for such an effort is from the accursed one and his forces who reside in both the Western and Muslim worlds. It is precisely the reform of politics within the Muslim world that is required and must be fostered by the dialectical theologians already present, but whose voices have been silenced by the call for a Islamically antithetical jihad and indiscriminate killing of the very people we, as an Ummah, should seek to redeem. In short, in the middle of bin Laden and Irshad Manji, lies the path to our redemption as a people. Tariq Ramadan is a force in Islamic scholarship who has written extensively, searching for this path. We disagree with his tactical outline as to how Muslims living in the West should view their governments and their allegiances to said governments. And yet, we applaud Ramadan for taking us in the arena of ideas, compelling us to question where he is correct and where he is not. Tariq Ramadan is a good and decent brother, and Allah Knows Best. He is without doubt an extremely brilliant scholar and his voice in the movement to come is invaluably necessary. His ideas and their presentation are something we can only hope to duplicate, even though some of those ideas have been deemed quite incorrect. Whether Tariq Ramadan, Hamza Yusuf, Jihad Brown, Zaid Shakir, or whomever-the fact remains that none of these men, sound as they are in the field of Islamic scholarship, are prophets or messengers of Allah(SWT). Thus, their ideas, their collective body of work, must be examined and debated by Muslim ladies and gentlemen who possess wise knowledge about our religion and ethos in addition to the methods by which our world can be operated to its highest moral and political/economic efficiency. We, as an Ummah, have an opportunity at this moment to explain ourselves to an American Executive administration that has proven itself willing to listen, should we make sense. Those of us who claim Islam and live within the United States must do more to speak to America about Laws of The One True and Living God in relation to social democracy. We must explain to the American people that Social Justice is The Justice of Allah, as we understand Him(SWT), and that the notions of social evolution, avarice, and a widening gap between the haves and the have nots is immoral, un-Islamic and simultaneously, un-American.  The dialectical theologian must reveal that the drive to Ultimate Happiness in this world, for all people regardless of their choice in exercising their universal right to conscience, station, or ethnic background is what Islamic Social Democratic political theory is founded upon.

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