ISLAM - GUIDANCE OR GOVERNANCE
“The difficulty before the real secularist (in the Muslim world) is to have to prove the impossible, namely that Muhammad, when he acted as a lawgiver or political leader, acted extra-religiously and secularly” – Fazlur Rahman – ISLAM- P. 229.
Apart from sectarian differences, Muslim thinkers and philosophers always struggled to determine if Islam is to govern Muslims through spiritual guidance or through application of man-made Sharia. The internal dynamics of Shari’yat Add Ma’arefat continues with uncountable literature in both sides. Muslims are still struggling to determine if Prophets’ mission was to preach spiritual guidance or to govern through state-law. Samuel Huntington’s warning “Clash of Civilizations” may be inevitable unless Muslim’s internal “Clash of Islam’s understanding” is properly answered.
Until recently, the West experienced its immigrant Muslims as a peaceful friendly community. But after 9 –11 and other similar incidents Muslims seem to have lost the trust and confidence of non-Muslims. A sense of scepticism and mistrust about Islam and Muslims is prevailing all over the non-Muslim world. As important members of human society, such frown to Muslims from world’s majority non-Muslims is a serious blockade of human progress.
In Muslim majority countries non-Muslims live among majority Muslims and in other countries Muslims live among majority non-Muslims. In such situation tolerance to “Others” is no more a choice but imperative. Majority of the followers of all major religions seem to have adopted that. So did Islam’s different sects.
It is Political Islam, defined by its founding father Maolana Mawdudi as: – “if the Muslim Party commands adequate resources it will eliminate un-Islamic governments and establish the power of Islamic governments in their stead” –Jihad in Islam –page 23. Political Muslims generally consider non-Political Muslims either as non-Muslims or less Muslims.
GUIDANCE OR GOVERNANCE? - THE QURA’AN
The very concept of governance by social laws is against the Qura’anic spirit. Nowhere in the Qura’an there is a single instruction, even remote, to establish theocratic State. Islam is based on five pillars, (1) Utterance of the witness-sentence, (2) Prayer, (3) Fasting, (4) Islamic tax and (5) Hajj the pilgrim to Mecca at least once a lifetime if one can afford. Each of those is entirely non-political and effectively detaches Islam from State-machine in every sense. Innumerable number of crimes and offences is possible in reality but the Qura’an dealt with only few particular cases that took place in the society. The Qura’an is silent on social crimes that did not take place at that time but is taking place now. That means Qura’anic instructions about social governance are contextual, applicable to only that society.
Islam is claimed to be the same religion continuously preached by numerous Prophets from Adam to Muhammad. The Qura’an mentions few of the Prophets and specifically describes their mission as preaching only.
1. Verse 61, 62: - (Prophet Noah) –“O’ my people! I am a Messenger from the Lordof the worlds. I deliver to you the message from my Lord and advise you”.2. Verse 67, 68: - (Prophet Hud) – “O’ my people! I am a Messenger of the Lordof the Worlds. I deliver to you the messages of my Lord and I am to you atrusted advisor”.3. Verse 79: -(Prophet Saleh) – “O’ my people! Indeed I did deliver to you theMessage of my Lord”.4. Verse 93: - (Prophet Shu’aib) – “ O you people! Indeed I did deliver to youthe Message of my Lord”.
The Prophets never expressed their concern to establish theocratic state. Noneof them instructed his followers to establish any such state. The Qura’anprescribes exactly the same task to Muhammad (SA) too, see bellow:
1. Ahkwaf 9: - Say, -(“O’ Our Messenger Muhammad)! I am not but an open Warner.
2. Bakara, 272: - Not on you (O’ Our Prophet Muhammad!) is incumbent theirguidance but God guides aright whomever He wills.
3. Kwahf 29 & 56: - Say –“The truth is from your Lord, so let him who pleasesbelieve”…..And We send Messengers but as bearers of Glad Tidings and Warners”.
4. Gashiyah 21 & 22: -You are only a reminder….you are not a compeller overthem.
5. Ahzab 45 & 48: -(O’ our Prophet Muhammad!) Verily We have sent you as aWitness, and as a Bearer of glad tidings and as a Warner.
6. Maydah 92 & 99: -Our Prophet Muhammad is bound only to deliver a clearannouncement (on Our behalf)…nothing is (incumbent) upon the Messenger but todeliver (the message).
7. Nisa 165: - (We sent) Messengers as givers of glad tidings and warners.
8. Kwaf 45: -You are not one to compel them.
9. Araf 188: - I am not but a warner and the bearer of good news.
10. Yunus 108: - Say –“O’ you people!…I am not a custodian over you.
11. An’am 48, 52, 66, 69 & 108: - We send not messengers but (as) heralds withglad tidings and warners…neither it is on you to answer for anything on theiraccount nor is it on them to answer for anything on your account….Say, -(O’ ourProphet Muhammad!) I am not a guard upon you…..We have not made you a keeperover them, nor you are a guardian over them.
12. Ra’ad 40: - Your (Prophet’s) responsibility is only to deliver, Mine (God’s)is to take account.
The message can’t be clearer. These verses are Islam’s cornerstones. Had IslamicState been part of Islam, there must have been clear instruction to Muslimsabout it. But the Qura’an rather stresses for establishing just societies basedon moral guidance delivered by Islam’s Prophets.
In difficult situations also, the Qura’an strictly maintains the essence ofmoral guidance, not imposition of laws as shown bellow.
1. “Will you (Prophet) then compel against their will to become believers?"Chapter Yunus-99: and in many other verses.2. “Allah will not guide but punish them who become Muslims and then leaveIslam, then again embrace Islam and then again leave Islam.” - Chapter 4 verse137 and at least seven other verses. No worldly punishment mentioned anywhere.3. “When you hear Allah’s messages disbelieved in and mocked at, do not sit withthem until they enter into some other discourse”. - Chapter Nisa verse 140.
Examples of few more verses will make it clear. The Qura’an contains versesabout allowance of wife-beating (Chapter 4:34), women’s half inheritance(Chapter 4:11) and half-witness (Chapter 2: 282), forbidding to befriendnon-Muslims (Chapter 5:51 etc.), instruction to slay idolaters wherever found,take them captives until they repent and embrace Islam (Chapter 9:5 etc), sexwith slave-girls is permitted (Chapter 70:5 etc.).
If these verses are taken as essence of the Qura’an, the guidance-verses have tobe shunned. That is neither possible nor desirable. On the other hand, theguidance-verses have the potential to reconcile these verses as “Matters ofContextual Past”. Here comes the important question of sorting out Qura’an’snormative and contextual verses. Incidents took place in that society; peopleasked specific questions, verses were revealed to answer and address, Prophethad to take decisions. Let us look at few verses: -
1. “They ask thee about the moon” – Chapter 2-189.2. “They ask thee what they should spend”- Chapter 2-215.3. “They ask thee about intoxicants and games of chances”- Chapter 2 219.4. “They ask thee what is allowed to them” – Chapter 5 –4.5. “They ask thee about accessions” – Chapter 8 – 1.6. “They ask thee concerning the orphans” –chapter 2-2207. “They ask you permission to marry. Tell them….”- Chapter 4-127.
Answers to these questions form the governance of that particular society.Neither the Qura’an nor Prophet included that governance in Islam’sfaith-system. Muslims are not instructed to apply that particular governance tochanged societies. As the Qura’an clearly declares that Prophets were not togovern but to guide, these governances must be reconciled as matters of past.
Islamic history tells us that early Muslims adjusted state-governance accordingto the need of the hour. The 2nd Caliph Omar did not chop off thief’s handsduring famine, defying Chapter 5:38. He also exempted some non –Muslim tribesfrom Jijiya the Islamic Tax denying contextual Qura’anic verses. Past IslamicJurists bypassed the Qura’anic instructions and decreed death sentence toapostates only because such apostasy could destabilize the war-torn Muslimsociety.
Understanding Qura’anic contextuality is extremely important. This is the wayMuslims can establish equity, human rights and peaceful coexistence withfollowers of other religions, and still remain within Qura’anic spirit.
GUIDANCE OR GOVERNANCE? - THE PROPHET
The main argument in favor of Islam’s governance is that: - Prophet himselfestablished the nascent “Islamic State” in Medina and ran it by consulting hiscompanions. But on the contrary, the simple fact of governance by people’sconsultation proves that it cannot be part of Islamic faith because Prophets donot size and shape religions by consulting fallible human beings. Our Prophetwas human being who lived in human society. He had to deal with situations butnever included his decisions in Islamic faith-system. He knew quite well thatthe contextual decisions of one time and place are not applicable to anothertime and place.
Prophet’s followers accepted him as a complete Prophet before his politicalleadership. Prophet’s followers accept him as a complete Prophet after the fallof Islamic empire. Had establishing Islamic State been his life-mission, fall ofIslamic empire should be failure of his mission. That is not possible, so isIslam impossible to be governance.
Unlike in other religionists, Political Islamists claim that copying Prophet’spersonal behavior is part of Islamic faith. There are countless “Prophet’sExamples” recorded in eight books called Sahi Sitta (actually seven books),Hadis Kudsi, Shiite Hadis and Sharia books. Had establishing Political Statebeen part of Islam, we would expect Prophet to say so.
But not a single example was found anywhere. Two important Islami documents, hislast sermon in Mecca and his last three instructions from deathbed are alsosilent about Islamic state. Rather, he repeatedly stressed Muslims to followIslam’s simple five pillars of guidance - (1) Witness, (2) Prayer, (3) Zakaatthe Islamic tax, (4) Fasting, and (5) Refraining from using few things–(Translation of Sahi Bukhari by Abdul Jalil, Hadis #12, 13 & 14, page 39). Thismessage was so important that he also insisted on the propagation of this amongpeople. All these are strictly non-political and reinforce the notion ofseparation of religion from the state-machine. Islam truly can be that simple.
The Prophet established a peace treaty called “Medina Charter” when he migratedfrom Mecca to Medina in 623 AD. In its clause 2 of 47 he used the word “Ummah”to include all populace irrespective of religion. That is secularism. That isagainst the concept of any theocratic State. But Political-Islam (read“Governance-Islam”) realizes the tremendous emotional force the word “Ummah”generates. So it actually overrides the Prophet by appropriating the word“Ummah” for only Muslims to consolidate its own strength and popularity. Boththe concepts of Khelafat Movement and Pan-Islamism of Jamaluddin Afghani arebased on this notion. Unable to realize Prophet’s spirit, Political Muslims takesingularistic approach to the word. No wonder they show two different kinds ofsupport to victims of oppression. The weaker is to all victims and the strongeris only to Muslim victims. Though it does not admit, it puts Muslim Brotherhoodover human Brotherhood. But, as very well pointed out by Maulana Husain AhmadMadani in his book “Muttahida Qaumiyyat Aur Islam” (Composite Nationalism andIslam), “The concept of Ummah is spiritual, not political”- (Asghar AliEngineer).
His image and acceptance as “Prophet Of Guidance” to his billion peacefulfollowers remains independent of his political role. Establishment of Mediniansociety was merely an historical construct. Political Islamists committed a hugeblunder by integrating Muslim’s political life with Islamic faith-system. Hadthe Meccans not tortured Prophet he won’t have migrated to Medina. In that casethe Medinian political governance would not be formed. But still he would enjoythe same status of Islam’s supreme Prophet. Many a times he insisted many of hismessages be propagated beyond time and place. Those messages were entirely ofguidance and essentially non-Political. All of his political governances aremisused to create political Islam, which suffers a strong pull of distant past.
GUIDANCE OR GOVERNANCE? - ISLAM’S PREACHERS
Islamic theology flourished in the Middle East by serious dedication and hardwork of many respected Imams, such as Bukhari, Tabari, Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Hisham,Malik, Hanbal, Shafi’i, Abu Hanifa, Malik, Taymiyah etc. All of them stayed awayfrom political power even after several invitations from the Muslim Caliphs.Almost all of them were severely persecuted, imprisoned, exiled, tortured andeven killed by Muslim Caliphs but they never joined the State-power.
Theyconstantly retained the notion that political power is antithesis to Islamicguidance.Islamic preachers established Islam in vast areas. They knew that powercorrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Many of them were robust fighters.
Based on people’s complain, they fought and defeated torturous kings. Aswinners, assuming political power could have helped them in such difficult taskof preaching Islam in lands of 100% non-Muslims. But still, just how many of them assumed political power? We found none.
Preachers of other religions maintained the same notion of refraining frompolitical power. Jesus never even tried to establish a political state, nor didMoses. Lord Buddha was a prince; he left palace for preaching. So did Mohavirthe preacher of Jain religion. Choitonnyo walked on roads barefooted and livedwith people to preach his Boishnob religion. Guru Nanak never established aSikh-state. These all are established religions today. On the other hand, Deen-EElahi the new religion of the great Indian emperor Akbar has vanished with time.
In Muslim empire in the beginning it was a norm to updating mode of governancewith respect to changed societies. (1) Prophet did not nominate his successorbut the first and second Caliphs did. (2) During famine the second Caliph Omardid not cut hands of thieves; he sidetracked the Qura’anic verse of cuttingthief’s hands. (3) He discarded quite a few examples of the Prophet by callingthe deviation “Bedat-E Hasana” (beautiful deviations). (4) He also did not takeIslamic tax from some non-Muslim tribe, thus overriding Qura’anic verse. (5)Caliph Mwabia openly said that some Prophet’s examples were not repeatable inprevailing circumstances. Imam Taymiya said the same about the first fourKhalifas. They knew that all of Prophet’s examples are not parts of Islam, attimes Prophet behaved extra-religiously.
Metamorphosis of Muslim’s governance is a historical fact; numerous additionsfollowed numerous abrogation. The worst was addition of politics to Islamifaith. Political developments of Muslims are taken as political dimensions ofIslamic faith-system. Many Muslim scholars warned Muslims about its disastrouseffects, some of which we are experiencing now. Realizing the thin-lineseparating Islam’s spiritual guidance and contextual governance is extremelyimportant in our turbulent world today. Otherwise we will be stuck forever withkilling non-believers, slavery, concubinage and violation of women-rights andnon-Muslims.
Apart from the external criticisms, the ever-existing internal conflicts andclash of ideas of Muslim societies are becoming louder and clearer. Muslimsalways struggled to decide if Islam is about guidance or governance, Marefa’ator Shariya’at. The hour of final decision seems near.
CONCLUSIONThe majority Muslims actually follow Qura’anic normative guidance. Weunknowingly reject many of so-called “Prophet’s examples” and so-called “Allah’sLaws”. For example, when we accept leadership of qualified women to run agovernment we reject one “Prophet’s Example” in Sahi Bukhari. When we shakehands with lady-coworkers or accept a singer’s witness, we defy Sharia Lawsbanning those. When we reject instant divorce by husbands we reject few ShariaLaws. When we object to forcing a divorced wife to a stranger’s beds to remarryher previous husband, we deny the Sharia law of Hila Marriage. When we makefriendship with good Christians and Jews; we “deviate” from another Sharia lawthat forbids us to do so. When we don’t get involved in armed-Jihad againstnon-Muslims we reject Sahi Hadis. We do those by natural human instinct of conscience.
Qura’anic verses of moral guidance can be always. (Examples: - 109:1- 6,38:15-17, 20:130, 19:83, 84, 20:134, 135, 17:54, 52:45, 47, 67:26 and manymore.). But contextual verses of slavery, sleeping with slave girls, polygamy,wife-beating, women’s half-witness, killing non-Muslims or observing “Limit ofSaturday” cannot be applied anymore. (Examples: - 22:39-41, 22:58, 2:190-194,2:216, 217, 5:33, 9:111, 8:15-16, 8:67-69, 9:122 and many more). But sadly,Governance-Islam decided Islam’s attitude towards non-Muslims in the followingorder: -
(1) Peaceful persuasion, (2) Fighting for defence, (3) Limited attack and (4)Open aggression.
They explained the Qura’anic progression as: - "So at first 'the fighting' wasforbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory againstthose who start 'the fighting' against you (Muslims) and against all those whoworship others along with Allah"- (Ref. Introduction section of the Englishtranslation of Sahi Bukhari by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, Medina IslamicUniversity). Dr. Sachedina criticizes this interpretation as - ”According to theJurists, the tolerant verses are abrogated by the sword verse (9:29) thatordains warfare against the people of the Book”- The Islamic Root of DemocraticPluralism, page 48). In his book “Istenbat al-Tanzeel” the well-known Islamicscholar Suyuti wrote, - "Everything in the Qur’an about forgiveness is abrogatedby Chapter 9:5. (The verse: - “So when the sacred months are over then slay theidolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives…”).
This is only a human interpretation; not from the Qura’an or Prophet. Suchthings happen when politics pollute a religion. Islam and Muslims are facingenormous amount of theological challenges from outside and within. These typesof interpretations are suicidal to Muslims but are natural outcome of religious governances. The above interpretation of our past scholars was based on theirfallible understanding of Islam. Our present scholars can undo it and guide ustowards Qura’anic pluralism, from governance to guidance. We Muslims must choosepeace over conflict, guidance over governance and spiritual Islam over Political Islam.
The above piece was forwarded by Ibrahim Mumin, a member of the World Muslim Congress and Director of Free Muslims based in New York. The write up piqued the interest of my friend Mohammad Suleman and he talked about exploring it.