Islamist's View of Islam and State: A Counter Narrative Is a Must
By Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef (Shahbaz Nadwi), New Age Islam
17 March, 2015
The grim situation prevailing in the Islamic world created by radical Islamists and religious extremists is a matter of concern and calls for serious thinking and introspection on the part of mainstream Muslims. However, it is necessary to realize that the distorted interpretation of religion and not religion as such, is the cause of this situation.
In fact, this situation is the outcome of so-called Islamism, being taught in our seminaries and propagated by so-called Islamic movements and political and religious parties.
To counter this extremism, it is not sufficient to inculcate secularism in Muslim societies as is done by the West and its protégé Middle East dictatorships and army rulers of Arab world, but it is necessary to give out a counter narrative to this political Islam.
Here are some outlines of this desired counter narrative, expounded by both Wahiduddin Khan and Javed Ahmad Ghamidi in their thought provoking and insightful writings. With this counter narrative, stereotypes indoctrinated by political Islam would come under strains and help the people of the world correct their understanding of Islam and refresh their thinking about Islam, its positive role and its relevance in modern world.
(1) In contrast to the popular viewpoint put forth by Maududi, Syed Qutb, followed by Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim Brotherhood and their affiliated outfits, Islam indeed, in absolute terms, addresses an individual not a society. Of course it addresses a society too, but the society always comes in, on conditional terms. An individual necessarily will be responsible to God in Hereafter too, and not a society. Collective injunctions given in both Quran and Hadith are also meant for Muslim rulers in their individual capacity.
Hence it is a baseless notion that state is rooted in Islam's basic teachings, so it should be Islamized, as it is argued by Islamists these days. Several Muslim thinkers of twentieth century propagated the notion that Muslims were obligated to establish an Islamic state; failing to do so they will be committing a grave sin. With this propaganda, Islamists have committed a blunder in their relevant countries by creating an unbridgeable rift between Muslim and non Muslim communities of the country.
As for the political theory of establishing a theocracy, non Muslim citizens of a Muslim majority country are compelled to regard themselves as second class citizens of that country as Islamists are not ready to give them an equal status. A minimum status they could be given is only of a protected minority. Except this reduced position, non Muslims have no right in a theocracy, dreamed by Islamists in Pakistan, Egypt and elsewhere.
(2) In fact Muslim majority countries may establish their united state or Common Wealth. We Muslims may dream for that and we may also struggle to realize this dream. Yet this is neither a Shariah order, nor Muslims are supposed to do this job compulsorily.
Likewise, neither Caliphate is a religious term nor does Islam pursue its followers to establish it on a global scale. In the wake of first Hijri century, Muslim world was divided in to two rival and often inimical-to-each-other Islamic empires; Abbasid Caliphate in the east, making Baghdad its seat of power on one hand, and Umayyad rule in Spain (Islamic Andulus) on the other hand .The two caliphates had been there for many centuries. And during that intellectually fertile period there lived many top most authentic scholars, great jurists and Imams of Islam. They never expressed their resentment, dislike or disagreement with this political schism of Islamic rule. No one amongst them stated that, that was anti Islam and anti Shariah practice. Why? Because there was no order in Quran and Hadith to this effect that Muslims should establish a united caliphate.
Yes, it is true that whenever an Islamic state was established anywhere in the world, revolting against its jurisdiction was considered an unpardonable sin and perpetrators of this sin, according to a Hadith, would go to Hell.
(3)In Islam the basis of nationality is not religion, e.g. Islamism is only a popular yet baseless notion, as our religious texts are silent on this subject. Neither Quran, nor Sunnah mentions that Muslims are a nation or they should be a unified nation. Yet it is clearly stated that Muslims are brothers (10: انماالمومنون إخوة (الحجرات), so accordingly, Muslims are related to each other as brothers not as a unified nation.
So notwithstanding their division into different nation states, various races and cultural communities, Muslims are brothers to each other, linked with a strong bond of Islamic brotherhood. So they are bound morally to defend their brothers’ rights if they face oppression, torture or aggression. They are incumbent to care for their brothers when they are in agony and need. Muslims should help their brothers and strive to maintain economic and social relations with them.
Muslim countries may be demanded not to close their doors upon them for job market etc.Yet they cannot be demanded that surpassing geographical boundaries, giving up all their nation states and forgiving their separate national and cultural identities, they must be transformed into one Islamic state or caliphate as they call it generally. Contrary to this popular notion, Muslims are free to form their separate nation states. Likewise, if they have full religious freedom, they can live in non Muslim countries too, as their citizens on the basis of their native land. Nothing is unlawful for them according to Quran and Sunnah.
(4) A group among Muslims may exist who claim to be Muslim or insist on their being Muslim, though they may adhere to any belief or ideology regarded by Muslim scholars or Muslim masses a false belief and untrue creed. Their belief or practices may be regarded untrue, even may be termed as waywardness or infidelity, but, since these people also present explanations in support of their belief from Islamic sources: Quran and Sunnah, they cannot be termed as non Muslim or unbelievers.
To know the right position of such beliefs, actions and creeds in the sight of God, we have only one option; to wait for the Day of Judgment. In this world people having such astray faith, are Muslims according to their announcements and confessions and must be treated as Muslims ala other Muslims, who adhere to main stream Islam. Yes, Ulema have the right to try to correct them, to call them to main stream Islam, to condemn that part in their belief, if any, as infidelity or idolatry and so on and so forth .They also have the right to let people know the truth regarding them. Yet the decision that they are no longer Muslim or they must be outlawed in Muslim society, is a divine provision. No one is entitled to give this decree himself. Everybody who has a slight insight into Quran and Sunnah knows that God did not give this privilege to any human being.
(5) In Islam idolatry, infidelity and apostasy are considered great sins. Yet no one is entitled to punish anyone on account of these sins. Again the punishment for these sins is a divine prerogative. Only God will give a befitting punishment of these sins on the Day of Judgment. Of course, He gives that also in this worldly life if He wants to. The law for that is that a messenger is sent to a people and he delivers his mission to the extent that no excuse remains for them. Then if the people persist on their polytheism, infidelity and wrong doing, they are destined to be doomed. After the last messenger of God, this door of divine punishment is closed forever.
These are some outlines of the perceived counter narrative to the popular political interpretation of Islam which is quite prevalent in today's world of Islam and which is the main cause of all trouble.
Dr.Mohammd Ghitreef is the director of Foundation for Islamic Studies, New Delhi
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