History holds amidst its pages centuries of persecution under the authority of religious figures. Those so claimed to be “MEN OF GOD,” committed all kinds of crimes under the sweet claim that “God willed it.” If you carefully read history, you will come to understand that those men’s purpose was not religion, but power- power with all its means, political, financial, economical, and military. In short, they created a symbiotic relation between power and religion.
Many Muslim preachers today are following into the footsteps of their predecessors. They too mix their religious preachment with politics, economy, military, etc. They seek to drive people towards a certain political direction which has come to exist under the name Islamism. Islamists claim that they want to present to the world a modern example of the Islamic civilization; hence, they seek avidly after seizing power through the legitimate channels. These guys are not extremists in their approach, but they are extremists in their thoughts and ideas.
To clarify my point here, let’s go back to the beginning, and try to think reasonably. The famous Arab Jurist Abul-Wafa’ Ibn-’Uqail (1040 – 1119 A.D.) said: “Politics is every decision taken seeking to improve people’s lives and fight corruption, even if it were a decision that the prophet P.B.U.H. never took, nor is there any injunction in the Qur’an referring to it. Whoever says: ‘There is no politics except for the matters that Shari‘ah has tackled,’ is surly mistaken and claiming that the companions of Prophet Muhammad were innovators.”
Prophet Muhammad was not a politician, a congressman, an ambassador or a minister. He never held any of those positions, nor did he ever seek after them, though they all existed in a certain fashion during his time. When he was offered by the Makkan pagans to be declared as their king in return for waiving the preaching of Islam, he refused and said: “If they were to put the sun in my right palm and the moon in my left, I shall never stop preaching Islam till I see it prevail or die trying;” and he insisted on preaching his message in the face of persecution, insults, social boycott, poverty, hunger, brutal physical assaults, and being targeted to kill by most Arabs.
When companion ‘Odai Ibn-Hatem narrated the story of his faith, he described the prophet saying: “I traveled seeking to meet the prophet at Madinah. When I arrived, I found him praying in the mosque. I entered and greeted him. He looked at me and said: ‘Who is the traveler?’ I answered: ‘ ‘Odai Ibn Hatem.’ He got up welcomed me, and held my hand inviting me persistently to his house. On the way there, a very old weak woman called him by his name. He stopped and kept on listening to her demands for a very long time. I said to myself: ‘I can swear that this is not a king.’ When she finished, we went on our way. When we entered his house, he picked up a pillow made of leather stuffed with arum, and handed it to me saying: ‘Sit on this.’ Noticing it was the only pillow inside the room, I said: ‘No, you sit on it.’ But he insisted saying: ‘No, but you sit on it,’ and he sat on the floor. Seeing this, I said to myself: ‘I swear that these could never be the conditions of a king.’ [Recorded by Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Hisham and others]
Hence, the prophet P.B.U.H. never sought after power, nor did he come to teach any of the political sciences which we know today, but he was sent to educate each and every human being, whether a king, a politician, an engineer, a doctor, a nurse, a scientist, a husband, a servant, a farmer, etc., about the Creator of this universe, and how to be a truthful sincere servant to Him alone, whether you are a president, or a peasant.
Emirate or governorship is not a desirable position in the prophet’s teachings. On the contrary, it was recorded by Bukhari and Muslim that two men entered on the prophet and said: “Instate us as governors O prophet.” The prophet P.B.U.H. replied saying: “We (Muslims) do not instate those who seek governorship or are desirous of it.”
They also recorded that Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H. said: “Him who seeks after emirate does not receive aid [from Allah] when instated, but him who is instated without seeking after it shall receive Allah’s aid.”
Abu-Hurayrah the companion, also reported that the prophet P.B.U.H. said: “Verily you shall be keen on emirate, and on the judgment day, it shall be a great remorse.” [Recorded by Bukhari]
Allah orders us to improve people’s lives and preserve it, each and every person according to his or her capacity. The sweeper who cleans the streets is doing this according to his capacity, the physician who treats those who are sick is doing this according to his capacity, the wife who raises good children and takes care of her husband is doing so, the ruler who promulgates fair laws is doing so, etc. All of the previous in the general sense of the word is from Islam, but there are no specific injunctions in the Shari‘ah tackling the means and measures that should be taken in order to fulfill any of those tasks in the best manner. For instance when ‘Omar established the judicial and postal systems as a Caliph, he was not following any prescribed laws in Shari‘ah, this was common sense, it is something which people’s lives needed in order to continue in an upright manner. The simple man whom the prophet P.B.U.H. praised for cutting down a tree that narrowed the people’s road, was not following a certain injunction in Shari‘ah. Shari‘ah orders us to do what’s right and beneficent, and to fight corruption and what’s harmful.
Think about any of the above mentioned examples, do we actually need revelations from beyond the boundaries of the universe in order to carry them out. These are matters of common sense, they don’t need a rocket scientist to deduce their necessity. What’s the use of being created having this fascinating mind, if you are going to halt its utilization, and insist that you need divine revelations in order to act in worldly life matters?! The prophet P.B.U.H. said: “You are more aware of this worldly life affairs and their disposal.” Politics is the system through which worldly life affairs could be maintained properly. And because it’s a matter of worldly life, Islam never prescribed a certain way for practicing it, nor did the companions agree on a certain fashion for practicing it after the prophet’s departure. Each and every one of the rightly guided Caliphs had his own manner of governorship. Each one of them followed a different path in instating governors and observing their performance. Each one of them followed a different path in responding to people’s complaints based on the situation at hand. The examples are endless here. Likewise, Islam doesn’t teach Muslims how to reclaim the desert, it doesn’t utter a word about how to cultivate wheat or cotton, nor does it speak of how to build up factories, or develop modern technologies; there is no mentioning whatsoever of how to develop a remedy for encephalitis, carditis, hepatitis, etc. I can have a field day with this issue. What Islam orders us to do is to seek avidly after knowledge, preserve this earth and remember our Lord’s perfection for everything in each and every act we carryout.
Back to mixing preaching Islam with practicing politics; if you wish to practice politics with the intention to reform people’s lives, then be my guest, but don’t lie or claim that there is a certain prescribed Islamic way for practicing politics. Muslims have always followed anyone for uttering the words Islam or Muhammad amidst his speech; they don’t realize that their desire for the justice of Islam could only be fulfilled through their own practice. No one can repair your heart if you don’t criticize yourself and repair your intentions. No one of those Islamists has a magic stick with which he can cast a spell on you and change your life. No one is going to defend the weak ones by empty speeches and fancy conferences. Unless you change yourself, nothing will ever happen.
Prophet Muhammad’s approach in reformation was not built upon seizing power. It was built upon raising sound pious hearts, and planting the sense of justice, equality and fraternity among all people. If any nation, tribe, or even a small bunch of people succeed in reaching such a state, surely they shall prosper and be able to accomplish anything. Reformation according to my understanding of Islam is to raise sincere, well educated, pious persons with sound hearts; only then shall the state of justice which all believers dream of be established.
Written by: Ehab Shawky
In response to: Symbiosis