Thursday, December 23, 2010

Islamic Government-The Dialogue Series (Part III)

 ‘Umar  was reading a copy of the Torah translated into Arabic, as the Jews used to translate the Torah into Arabic. Abu Hurayrah said, “The people of the Scripture (Jews) used to recite the Torah in Hebrew and explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. On that, the Messenger of Allaah , said, "Do not believe the people of the Scripture or disbelieve them, but say: {We believe in Allaah and what is revealed to us.}[Quran 2:136].” [Al-Bukhaari]

This was explicitly stated in another version of this Hadeeth narrated by Al-Bazzaar on the authority of Jaabir . He said, “‘Umar copied part of the Torah in Arabic, brought it to the Prophet , and began to read it to him. As he read, the Prophet’s face changed color. One of the men of the Ansaar said, "Woe to you Ibn Al-Khattaab! Can you not see the face of the Messenger of Allaah?’ Thereupon, the Prophet , said, ‘Do not ask the People of the Book about anything for they will not guide you when they have gone astray. (If you listen to them) You will either disbelieve in what is right or believe in what is false. By Allaah, if Moses had been alive today, he would have been obliged to follow me.’” [Al-Haafith Ibn Hajar  said that one of its narrators is Jaabir Al-Ju‘fi and he is a weak narrator][1]

Words have power, my dear Abdassamad. Monarchy certainly is defined as absolute sovereignity embodied within one individual, who usually obtains said power at the death of his father, while relinquishes his throne at his death. This is not of the Islamic system, otherwise the prophet Muhammad(SAAW) and our Lord (SWT) Would Have Addressed it otherwise. Monarchy may have been Perfectly-Sanctioned by Allah for Bani Isra’il, but we belong to the new and final Ummah of the Seal of the Prophets (SAAW) and it is the reconstitution of Caliphate and Dar al Salaam, we as believers must seek. As previously stated, mankind is a political animal, and our interactions as it relates to groups and individual distinctions, separately and as each relates to one another, and each to hierarchy, the dynamics of power, rights, justice, and all of their respective sources and theories. Politics is the master art of the human being from all communal functions emanate from it, such as the idea of property, trade, employment, etc. If monarchy is to mean sovereignity in one man, while democracy means sovereignity of the common people-well, it is with respect that I ask you to justify either as Islamic when Allah (SWT), Alone, and without partner is Absolute Sovereign within the Islamic political framework. In short, I submit to you that in order that we fulfill our obligations to Allah and to one another, we must all serve defined roles, each holding significant portions of power, while we recognize the Law of Allah and the Sunna of the prophet Muhammad(SAAW). This is Islamic democratic-republicanism, which brings with it a system of checks and balances so that the Ummah can be educated, fed, housed, clothed, protected, and most importantly, ensured the Social Justice that are its collective members birthright Guaranteed by The Creator(SWT).

Abdul Malik al Sayed writes in his Social Ethics of Islam: Classical Islamic-Arabic Political Theory and Practice of nine principles by which a government, if they are applied, can be considered Islamic:

(1)     When the sovereignity of the people and of the state belongs to God, and the Islamic temporary state on earth is in reality a viceregency, its rights, and the rights of its deliberative bodies, whether the caliph’s or the consultative assembly’s, are subordinate to the law revealed by God through his prophet.
(2)     In Islamic states, Muslims have equal rights regardless of their origin, race, color, or language. No group, clan, class, or individual is entitled to special privileges. Nor can any such individual or group determine that any other group’s or individual’s position is inferior. The Prophet [SAAW] said: ‘Muslims are brothers to one another, none of them has any preference over another except on grounds of piety.
(3)     The Shari’ah is The Supreme Law under which everyone from the most humble person up to the head of the state must submit to the Qur’an and to the authentic practice and sayings of Muhammad who said, ‘Nations before you were destroyed because they punished those among them of low status according to law, and spared the high ranking. By God, Who Holds my life in His Hand, if Fatimah had committed theft, I would have chopped off her hand.’…
(4)     The government, its authority, and possessions, are a Trust of God and Muslims, and hence must be entrusted to him who is the most God-fearing, the most honest, and the most just. No Caliph, Imam, or president has a right to rule the community in ways not sanctioned by the Shar’ah…Muhammad[SAAW] said…’the head of the Islamic state must be appointed by Muslims, after due consultation and concurrence of Muslims. He must run the administration and take care of the legislative aspects which the Qur’an and the Sunnah left as the responsibility of the community.
(5)     Ali, the fourth caliph in Islam, reported that he asked the Prophet [SAAW], ‘what shall we do if we are faced with a problem after you die about which there is no notion in The Qur’an nor have heard anything concerning it from your lips?’ Muhammad answered, ‘Collect those of my people that serve God truthfully and place the matter before them for mutual consultation. Let it NOT be decided by an individual opinion’.
(6)     ‘The head of state, the Amir, must be obeyed ungrudgingly in whatever is right and just, (maruf) but no one has the right to command obedience in the service of sin (ma’siyah). The prophet said, ‘It is incumbent on a Muslim to listen to his Amir and obey whether he likes it or not, unless he is asked to do wrong; when he is asked to do wrong, he should neither listen nor obey…the caliph must be chosen based on his merit which eliminates any considerations based on roles, family origin, or previous social status…
(7)     The least fitted for responsible position in the government, especially the position of the caliph, and in higher administrative positions are those who overtly seek them. Muhammad said, ‘Verily, we do not entrust a post in this government of ours to anyone who seeks or covets it.’
(8)     The most important duty of the Caliph and the government of the Islamic state is to institute the Islamic order of life; to promote all that is good and to eliminate all things which are evil. The Qur’an said: ‘Those who, if we give them power in the land, establish worship, and pay the poor due and kindness and forbid inequity; and Allah’s is the sequel of events’.
(9)     It is not only the right but the duty of every member of the Muslim society to check the wrong, that which is abhorrent to the Islamic principles, committed by the government or any of its agencies. Muhammad said that, ‘the highest kind of jihad is to speak up for truth in the face of a tyrant or a government that deviates from the right path’.[2]

Al Sayed goes on to state this most salient assertion:

The rules of the early Islamic state were based on the foregoing principles. Members of the communities fully understood that Islam demanded democratic solutions to the political problems they faced in their daily lives; a solution could be achieved by the consultative assembly, Majlis al Shur’a. The Qur’an stated, ‘Their [the believers] communal business is to be transacted in consultation amongst themselves’. This made it imperative for the Muslims to delegate their legislative affairs to an assembly chosen by the community and specifically elected for this purpose. Decisions reached by Majlis al Shur’a through majority vote were not to be of an advisory character but legally binding on the executive, and thus not to be rejected by the holders of executive power[3]

Imagine an environment where your local imam had a position within the national government, representing the needs, the concerns, the rights of you and your family. It is within this national governmental body, Majlis al Shur’a, that he could identify the need for resources from the State treasury for roads, hospitals, schools, and the engineers, doctors, teachers, and administrators among you could bid on contracts in order to ensure their construction. Doctors, teachers, administrators, engineers, and all other Muslims like to eat. They like to live in finely manicured homes. Women like to have the hair-styled. Televisions, computers, laptops, cell phones; all are indirectly made possible via the Tertiary Economy from governmental investment into a single area: your hometown. Hospitals need not only doctors, but nurses and an army of people to perform any myriad of tasks in order to maintain its minimum and high standard of operations. All of this leads to better services within the community, while employing large segments of the community itself, and it is founded in a well-administered and functioning Government.

For some this will be a repeat to an earlier post, Inshallah, we pray they will bear it patiently. In his Islamica article, Mr. Khalil al-Anani correctly stated that centrist, Islamic-political parties can be, and indeed must be, the bulwark against the extremist provided that moderate political Islamic groups are allowed the opportunity to participate in the political arena. This, for al-Anani, will provide Muslim 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 of Jordan, 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 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…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-republic and a reconstitution of Dar al-Salaam from West Africa to Indonesia and the Adriatic to the Gulf of Aden. We cannot delude ourselves into the belief that this will be a reality in our lifetime, and of course, God Knows Best. Yet that which is equally undeniable and true, is that in order to secure the rights of Muslims in historically Muslim homelands-rights Endowed to all of us by our Creator, The One True and Living God-those of us in the United States and Great Britain must redefine the purpose of our political efforts and lay the foundation for the political future of our Ummah. As of now, there are several Muslim organizations, staffed with very talented individuals-both men and women-whose respective mission statements seem to be exactly the same: to improve the lives of Muslims within the boundaries of the nation-state in which they reside. This is vitally important in creating an informed, politically conscious Muslim population. Yet, this remains only one front in a much wider conflict. As Muslims living in the post-9/11 world, our greatest jihad lies in the global war of ideas, both in Muslim homelands and in the West. In order that we may claim victory for Islam, we must shift the paradigm that is our thinking about ourselves as a people, the politics/economic climate in which we live, begin to coordinate our efforts, and practically apply the following prophetic tradition to our society and politics. The prophet Muhammad (SAAW-May the Peace and Blessing of God be upon him) 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, or Oakland being linked to the concerns of his 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 or notions of ethnicity and tribe. Indeed, our sacrificing our Islamic politics to the idols of culture, tradition, and convention is precisely the reason why we represent the weakest demographic on the planet. 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, Mubarak’s Egypt, Pakistan, in Gaza and the West Bank, and otherwise contribute to the systemic subjugation and institutional oppression of we, the Muslims.

The extremist have appeal because they offer a solution to today’s Muslim youth. It answers their frustrations and hopes to be free Western dominance and the Muslim autocrats they support. There is no doubt that the extremist solution 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 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.

I am a Muslim. I am aware that self-preservation is an instinct, we as a People, possess. We, the Muslims in general and the Islamic Nationalists in particular; whom love Allah (SWT), His messenger (SAAW), and the Islam that he (SAAW) received, understood, interpreted, propagated, and instructed are compelled to follow The Guidance Provided to us by The Holy Qur’an and the Sunna of the prophet (SAAW). The violent extremist, who have come from our midst, have appeal because they act. The extremist have appeal because they offer a solution that the living can see. No matter is it that the solution is warped, immoral, and un-Islamic; for it is a solution that embraces and is paradoxically fueled, by our youth’s frustration, joblessness, and hope for freedom. It is a solution that is fueled by the innocent lives destroyed in this world and in the next, in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. All Muslims long to be free and in a nation of our own. There is no doubt that we, the Muslims, who adhere to The True Islam, know that the extreme, violent determinism of our most unfortunate, misguided brothers and sisters is the wrong tactic, the wrong solution. Nevertheless, we must accept the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. as they apply to our most cavalier inaction. Those of us in the West have done a poor job in highlighting, propagating, and exposing the American and British people respectively-in particular 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 our beloved prophet Muhammad (SAAW) in relation to utilizing our political voice in a place where political expression is lawful and possible. Therefore, as our men, women, children are killed; suffer under high unemployment rates and poverty; suffer under political oppression of dictators, tyrants, and petromonarchs, who are often supported by the United States and Great Britain: we must look to ourselves, find our culpability, and engage in a parrhesia-bold speech- in a effort to cleanse the heart of the body politic-the Muslim Leviathan. This is consistent with a prophetic tradition when Muhammad (SAAW) said: speak the truth even though it be bitter. Yet, in order to speak truth, one must first search for it in one’s own nation, community, home, and individual actions. Are we, the Muslims of the West, truly concerned about the principles of Islam in their totality or are we here to engage in the free market fundamentalism that governs their political and economic system? Are we all brothers in a religion and creed 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 of the Indian subcontinent and its Diaspora, and one for converts, primarily poor African-Americans? What does it mean, practically and in a political-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 compel a bloodless revolution whose goal is a Second Enlightenment. As Allah as my Witness, we the Muslims must engage in a similar enterprise-a communal Tasawwuf-in order to save our community irrespective of borders and gain redemption and salvation in Sight of our Lord, Exalted and Most High. If Hobbes is 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 to cleanse his heart, then so should a nation. The call to wisdom is a call to the international Muslim community to engage in tasawwuf, making its mission towards providing a greater understanding of Islam, promoting parrhesia, democratic-republicanism, and a new future. Those of us who quietly hold the sentiments of the Muslim Brotherhood and other moderate Islamic Nationalist parties in our hearts must begin to utilize our voices as citizens of the Ummah of our beloved prophet (SAAW). The Muslims of the West, collectively, have a done a poor job in condemning random, indiscriminate attacks against innocent civilians, no matter their national origin and religious affiliation. Furthermore, we have failed to justify the legitimate political concerns of hundreds of millions of our brothers and sisters throughout the Ummah. In short, our greatest sin is our moral cowardice. It is our collective silence, our enormous indifference, and our preoccupation with acquiring ‘the American Dream’ that all these forms of oppression and death to happen to our people, both home and abroad. Moreover, so long as Muslims throughout the globe 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, and provinces beget nation-states: Western imperial powers have constructed the boundaries that separate Kuwait from Iraq or Egypt from Sudan. Muslims who nearly a century ago, sacrificed their iman for worldly power 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 member of the Ummah of the prophet Muhammad(SAAW).

Isma'il ibn Bilal

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