Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kings and Kingship, The Dialogue Series

Man is a political animal endowed with speech, memory, the capacity for abstract thought, deductive and inductive reasoning, knowledge of The Divine Spirit that Created the world and all within it, and he has been given the opportunity to choose. He is the vicegerent of The Divine Spirit entrusted with the world in which he lives. He is the trustee of himself and his brother and sisters, charged with creating a society free of injustice, oppression, poverty, and real hunger. The science of politics is not merely concerned with law, constitutions, government, and states; for this is the laymen’s view. Yet at its essence politics is the study of human interactions as it relates to individual and group 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. Having lived as a Muslim, who was drawn to Islam because of its primordial Beauty and Message to me as an individual and as a member of the human race, I can attest to the current truths and diseases within the Ummah.  Poor management, grandiose delusions, forgetfulness, and his need to satiate the hunger of his passions have led to master-slave dialectic.  Hegel is correct that the master cannot live without the slave, for without slaves-without servants-who would identify him as a master. Yet contrary to the Hegelian assertion, the servant, quite correctly, lives in the knowledge that his master controls his destiny, his livelihood, his ‘daily bread’, and ultimately his politics. The servant is bound to his master in practice, while the master is bound to him in theory. The servant has no choice but to engage in some type of work in order to secure his most basic needs; in order to eat, to possess shelter, to possess clothing, and security he must do his master’s bidding. Who has supplanted Allah (SWT) as the master of the Muslim? Whose bidding must he obey in order to maintain his position in this world? Moreover, what has been his response? The servant needs the master as much as the master needs the servant. ? 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 virtuous households where the citizen compels himself to live justly among the other households in the village? What are 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 benefitting from the efforts of their government, while privacy, individual rights and property are held sacred? These are the questions for the Islamic Nationalist who is dedicated to the study of Islamic Political Theory and its practical application, for al-Farabi has identified the vain philosopher as, he who learns the theoretical sciences, but without going any further and without being habituated to doing the acts considered virtuous by a certain religion or the generally accepted noble acts. Instead, he follows his own inclination and appetites in everything, whatever they may, happen to be.

My dear brother Abdassamad identifies quite correctly that in our past as human beings and Muslims, The Lord of the Worlds (SWT) has Appointed kings to rule over the respective communities. Yet, he neglects to mention that all of these Divinely Appointed Kings were also prophets (AS) or like Talut, selected by prophecy, and were men who could be entrusted with absolute rule for the very nature of their characters were just and in accordance with The Commands of The Lord of the Worlds. Moreover, Qur’anic Revelation of human history does not preclude the ummah of Muhammad (SAAW) from repeating the Test of Bani Isra’il. It is a Warning to those of us who are Muslim to choose leadership for the correct reasons. Allah States in His Glorious Qur’an:

And whenever We sent a Herald of Warning to any town, its wealthy people said, “We disbelieve in what you have been sent with.”And they said, “We are greater in wealth and children; we will not be punished!” Proclaim “Indeed my Lord eases the sustenance for whomever He wills and restricts it for whomever He wills, but most people do not know.”[1]

To use these Ayahs as an argument against people choosing their leadership-not their laws-is extraordinarily tenuous at best. Democracy is not defined merely as rule of the people, as this is its etymology. For example, in our contemporary times nations carry the adjective of democracy and/or republic in their official titles: the Democratic People’s Republic of, Hellenic Republic, Federative Republic of, Republic of; even the United States of America is a federal constitutional republic, as is its neighbors to both the immediate north and south. If North Korea, Greece, Brazil, Yemen, Indonesia, as well as Canada and Mexico can be made to fit into a single category of democracy in their collective theories and applications of said theory, then my dear Abdassamad is quite correct in his ‘quick’ analysis of democracy. Yet, we submit that the notion of democratic theory is as diverse and divergent as the human race itself. Moreover, all political philosophers would agree that this type of government is as old as monarchy and not without its pitfalls and dangers. We agree with Aristotle, as does al Farabi, when he wrote, ‘It must not be assumed, as some are fond of saying, that democracy is simply that form of government in which the greater number are sovereign, for in oligarchies, and indeed in every government, the majority rules; nor again is oligarchy that form of government in which a few are sovereign’. [2] Aristotle identifies three forms of government, and their three respective degenerations: kingly rule degenerates into tyranny, aristocracy into oligarchy, and constitutional government into democracy. All Muslim political philosophers and observers must recognize this all-salient factor: democracy is merely the most tolerable of the three failing systems by which mankind are organized within the confines of the State. Aristotle goes on to state in the Politics:

Of forms of democracy first comes that which is said to be based strictly on equality. In such a democracy the law says that it is just for the poor to have no more advantage than the rich; and that neither should be masters, but both equal. For if liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost. And since the people are the majority, and the opinion of the majority is, decisive, such a government must necessarily be a democracy. Here then is one sort of democracy. There is another, in which the magistrates are elected according to a certain property qualification, but a low one; he who has the required amount of property has a share in the government, but he who loses his property loses his rights. Another kind is that in which all the citizens who are under no disqualification share in the government, but still the law is supreme. In another, everybody, if he be only a citizen, is admitted to the government, but the law is supreme as before. A fifth form of democracy, in other respects the same, is that in which not the law by their decrees. This is a state of affairs brought about by the demagogues. For in democracies which are subject to the law the best citizens hold the first place, and there are no demagogues; but where the laws are not supreme, there demagogues spring up. For the people becomes a monarch, and is many in one; and the many have the power in their hand, not as individuals, but collectively…The spirit of both is the same, and they alike exercise a despotic rule over the better citizens. The decrees of the one correspond to the edicts of the tyrant; and the demagogue is to the one what the flatterer is to the other. Both have great power-the flatterer with the tyrant, the demagogue with democracies of the kind we are describing. The demagogues make the decrees of the people override the laws, by referring all things to the popular assembly. And therefore they grow great, because the people have all things in their hands, and they hold in their hands the votes of the people, who obey them…Such a democracy is fairly open to the objection that it is not a constitution at all; for where the laws have no authority, there is no constitution. The law ought to be supreme over all, and the magistracies should judge of particulars, and only this should be considered a constitution. So that if democracy be a real form of government, the sort of system in which all things are regulated by decrees is clearly not even a democracy in the true sense of the word, for decrees relate only to particulars. These then are the different kinds of democracy.[3]

In 622ce, the prophet Muhammad (SAAW) ordered the drafting of a Constitution for the people of Medina. Its 47 amendments or decrees further supported its first, which read: this is a document from Muhammad the prophet (governing the relations) between the believers and Muslims of Quraysh and Yathrib, and those who followed them and joined them and labored with them. In Aristotelian terms, this was a polity or constitutional government that had been established on the Arabian Peninsula. It is a fusion of democracy and of aristocracy, in that all Muslims were equal under the Law and Command of Allah, with access to their government, who was headed by not only the best amongst them, in the prophet Muhammad (SAAW), but also the Best of Creation. Aristocracy means, rule of the most excellent, and within the vein of Islam this can only be the most pious. It was from this class of his (SAAW) Sahaba that the prophet (SAAW) would select the individuals needed for administering in government. However, our true lesson and Founding Principle of Muslim Government can only come after The Holy Message was Delivered upon the death of our beloved prophet (SAAW):

Ali had now withdrawn to his house, and with him were Zubayr and Talhah. The rest of the Emigrants gathered around Abu Bakr and they were joined by Usayd and many of his clan. But most of the Helpers, of Aws as well as Khazraj, had assembled in the hall of the Bani Sa’idah of whom Sa’d ibn Ubadah was chief, and word was brought to Abu Bakr and Umar that they were debating there the question as to where the authority should lie, now that the prophet [SAAW] was dead. They had gladly accepted his authority; but failing him, many of them were inclined to think that the sons of Qaylah should be ruled by none except a man of Yathrib, and it appeared that they were about to pledge allegiance to Sa’d. Umar urged Abu Bakr to go with him to the hall, and Abu Ubaydah went with them. Sa’d was ill and he was lying in the middle of the hall, wrapped in a cloak. On behalf of him another of the Helpers was about to address the assembly when the three men of Quraysh entered, so he included them in his speech, which began, after praise for God, with the words: ‘We are the Helpers of God and the fighting force of Islam; and ye, O Emigrants, are of us, for a group of your people have settled amongst us.’ The speaker continued in the same vein, glorifying the Helpers, and while giving the Emigrants a share of that glory, deliberately failing to recognize the unique position that they held in themselves as the first Islamic community. When he had finished Umar was about to speak, but Abu Bakr silenced him and spoke himself, tactfully but firmly, reiterating the praise of the Helpers, but pointing out that the community of Islam was now spread throughout Arabia, and that the Arabs as a whole would not accept the authority of anyone other than a man of Quraysh, for Quraysh held a unique and central position amongst them. In conclusion he took Umar and Abu Ubaydah each by hand and said: ‘I offer you one of these two men. Pledge your allegiance to whichever these ye will.’ Then another of the Helpers rose and suggested that there should be two authorities, and this led to a heated argument, until finally Umar intervened, saying: ‘O Helpers, know ye not that the messenger of God [SAAW] ordered Abu Bakr to lead the prayer?...Then which of you will willingly take precedence over him?’…Umar seized the hand of Abu Bakr and pledged allegiance to him, followed by Abu Ubaydah, and others of the Emigrants who had now joined them. Then all the Helpers who were present likewise pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr, with the exception of Sa’d, who never acknowledged him as Caliph[Vicegerent for the messenger of God (SAAW)], and who eventually migrated to Syria. Whatever they decided in the hall, it would have been unacceptable for anyone to have led the prayers in the Mosque in Medina except Abu Bakr, so long as he was there; and the next day at dawn, before leading the prayer, he sat in the pulpit, and Umar rose and addressed the assembly, bidding them pledge their allegiance to Abu Bakr, whom he described as ‘the best of you’…then Abu Bakr gave praise and thanks to God and addressed them, saying: ‘I have been given authority over you, and I am not the best of you. If I do well, help me; and if I do wrong, set me right. Sincere regard for truth is loyalty and disregard for truth is treachery. The weak amongst you shall be strong with me until I have secured his rights, if God will; and the strong amongst you shall be weak with me until I have wrested from him the rights of others, if God will. Obey me so long as I obey God and His messenger [SAAW]. But if I disobey God and His messenger [SAAW], ye owe me no obedience. Arise for your prayer, God have Mercy upon you.

If Abu Bakr, who is mentioned via pronoun within the Holy Qur’an; who was selected by the prophet Muhammad(SAAW) to lead the prayer in his postmortem; if he did not declare himself king, nor fulfill the role of monarchy, then what man in the 21st century can rightfully expect our generation of Muslims to recognize a Muslim-king? Monarchy is antithetical to Islam, for Allahu Malik, and it is our goal as an Ummah to restore the Vicegerency of the Seal of the Prophets (SAAW). How can this best be achieved? It is within the framework of what Aristotle, and perhaps more correctly Cicero, has termed a mixed government-a combination of democracy/aristocracy/monarchy-by, which the Ummah can practically be governed. Moreover, lest we forget, we as Muslims are bound to the precedents set by the prophet (SAAW) and the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs in relation to political jurisprudence and administration. As has been mentioned previously to my dear Abdassamad, the best scholar in our contemporary times on this subject is Abdul Malik al Sayed.

Inshallah, I will leave my response here, though I plan on writing a treatise on the method by which a modern, Islamic government can be created…

Isma'il ibn Bilal

[1] The Holy Qur’an 34:34-36
[2] Aristotle, The Politics, Book IV:4
[3] Ibid

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