Analysis: More than Bad Rulers and Corrupt Societies
Posted: 18 Safar 1424, 20 April 2003
In the past centuries the Muslim world was much more integrated than we realize. It was one social, cultural, religious and economic domain. Its language, system of education, currency, and laws were the same.
When British journalist Robert Fisk said that in the face of disaster Arabs act like mice, he was being polite. He could have said that the Muslims act like mice. The question is why?
It is easy and customary to blame the current Muslim rulers for this sorry situation. No doubt the Iraq invasion would not have been possible without their acquiescence and support. If they refused to open their lands, waterways, and airspace to the invasion, it could not have taken place. Neither would the slaughters in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosova, Kashmir, Chechnya, and Palestine have been possible if the Muslim rulers had their act together. But was it only because the Muslim rulers happened to be immoral, coward, and unscrupulous characters? Is the 1.2 billion strong Ummah suffering only because there are fifty-four corrupt persons who are ruling it?
These rulers do not carry out all their plans personally. They have armies of compliant soldiers, bureaucrats, and other staffers at every level of government that do the dirty work. Further the societies at large produce, nurture, and sustain the corrupt machinery of the corrupt governments. As we continue our investigation, we find that our problem is corruption; not only of the rulers but also of the ruled. Today we have strayed from the Shariah in our personal lives; we lie, cheat, steal at a higher rate than ever before; we exploit and oppress in our small spheres. In short, our problems are caused by our moral corruption.
But there is something more. And it is getting scant attention in the Muslim discourse.
Islam teaches us the correctness of belief is even more important than correctness of deeds. There is an implied message here: The corruption of ideas is far more devastating than the corruption of actions. This may be happening here. We complain about the particular tribal leaders that happen to be there today but forget about the tribalism that sits at the root of all this. This tribalism of the nation-states has been enshrined into the constitutions, legal structures, bureaucracies, and the entire apparatus of government in every Muslim country. Its language and thinking, though anathema to Islam, has gained widespread acceptance. While we condemn its outcome, we do not sufficiently examine or challenge the system itself.
We complain about the particular tribal leaders that happen to be there today but forget about the tribalism that sits at the root of all this
We constantly talk about the Muslim brotherhood and the need for Muslim unity. We assert that Muslims are one Ummah. Simultaneously --- and without much thought --- we embrace the symbols, ideas, and dictates of its exact opposite. We have lived under our nation-states, celebrated our national days, and sang our national anthems all our lives. As a result the realization that the gap between the idea of the nation-state and that of one Ummah is wider than can be patched with good leaders of individual nation-states does not occur easily. We do not realize that we may be trying to simultaneously ride two different boats going in opposite directions.
So let us consider some real life situations. In Pakistan, the provinces of Sind and Punjab share the Indus River. Available water is less than their combined needs and Punjab is situated upstream while Sind is downstream. Quite naturally, there is constant bickering over the distribution of water. The conflict is resolved by the presence of a central government and by the realization that both provinces belong to the same country. Now imagine that the two provinces had been transformed into two separate countries. We can be certain that the small issue that no body in the world knows about or cares about today would become a big international conflict. And it may matter little whether they were called Islamic Republic of Punjab and the Islamic Republic of Sind! The logic of a sovereign country is very different and once you embrace that there are consequences that good intentions and good people alone cannot overcome.
When completed Turkey's Southeast Anatolia Project, (GAP in Turkey) will reduce water supply to Syria by 50% and to Iraq by 90%, selling it instead to Israel through the so-called Peace Pipeline. A comparable situation would be Punjab denying water to Sind and then selling it to India.
To understand that let us move from the Indus basin to the Furat-Dijla (Euphrates-Tigris) basin. What is presented as a hypothetical situation in the former has been turned into an unfortunate reality in the latter. Both Dijla and Furat originate in Turkey, pass through Syria, and end up in Iraq where they join to form the Shat-al Arab that then discharges into the Persian Gulf. Mesopotamia means the land between the two rivers, the two rivers having been the source of civilization since the ancient times. Add the artificial international borders between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, and the same life giving water turns into an explosive that could rock the area. In 1974 there was a near war between Syria and Iraq as Syria began to fill the reservoir that has become Lake Asad, decreasing the flow of the river to Iraq to as little as 25 percent of the normal rate. Armies were moved and threats were exchanged, though finally diplomatic activity by the Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia defused the situation. In 1990 tensions ran high as Turkey stopped all flow in Furat for one complete month as it started to fill the Ataturk Dam.
Today Turkey's Southeast Anatolia Project, (GAP in Turkey) is promising a much more serious conflict in the days to come. The multi-billion dollar GAP includes more than 20 dams and 17 electric power plants, which will reduce water supply to Syria by 50% and to Iraq by 90% when it is completed in another twenty years. Even more bizarre is the plan Turkey has for part of the water that it denies to Syria and Iraq seriously endangering their agriculture and economies; it will sell it to Israel through the so-called Peace Pipeline that will run through the Mediterranean. The agreement with Israel was signed in 2001. "We have declared that we can sell water to whichever country needs water, regardless of its language or flag," said Cumhur Ersumer, Turkey's energy minister at that time. "It looks like Israel will be the first country to buy Turkey's water." That is the logic of the nation-state as articulated by Suleyman Demirel: "Neither Syria or Iraq can lay claim to Turkey's rivers any more than Ankara could claim their oil. This is a matter of sovereignty."
We can be sure that accountants in Turkey can show that Turkey will benefit economically by doing what it plans to do. And even a so-called Islamist party in Turkey will be driven by those calculations pledging, as it does, allegiance to "Turkish national interests." A comparable situation would be Punjab denying water to Sind and then selling it to India. No matter how corrupt leaders in Pakistan become (if they have not already reached the limit) it is just impossible to imagine that outcome. And yet the same situation is not only possible, it is there in the other case. Such are the wonders of the corrupt ideology of nation-state!
Conflicts of interest between any two entities are normal and natural. What is crucial is the mechanism and structure for resolving them. Islamic laws of inheritance highlight this fact. Conflicts could develop even among close relatives over distribution of inheritance. Since Islam values very smooth relations and does not like even the slightest bickering there, the Shariah has provided the detailed rules for this distribution. Neither the people involved, nor the government can override this distribution. Thus a solid mechanism has been provided for resolution of these conflicts.
In case of two provinces of the same country, the mechanism for the resolution of their conflicts remains in the form of the central government as well as firm realization on the part of everyone that they are riding the same boat. However when they turn into independent countries, both of these are lost.
How the definition of the self-interest can change with a change in the frame of reference can be seen through another example. When the US gave the Pakistani ruler the choice of either joining the invader or joining the target he did not hesitate for a minute to choose the first option. It can be criticized as much as one wants, but the fact remains that under the frame of reference under which Pakistan and all Muslim countries operate today, that was an option. But can we imagine the US demanding, or Pakistan conceding the support for attacking Baluchistan? This would clearly be seen as preposterous by everyone. As far as the Shariah is concerned, the two situations are exactly alike. But in the system of nation-states they are not.
The gap between the idea of the nation-state and that of one Ummah is wider than can be patched with good leaders of individual nation-states
That the opposition to what the Pakistani president did was manageable is also a reflection of the fact that Muslims the world over have generally and unwittingly bought into the philosophy of this nationalism.
The imposition of embargo on Afghanistan and Iraq is another example of the clash between Islam and the nation-state. Islam teaches that it is not a believer who eats while his neighbor goes to bed hungry. The system of the UN on the other hand, ordered its member-states not to supply any food or medicine to those dying of hunger and disease in Iraq. Again, the fact that Muslim countries have complied with the latter without any consternation or serious opposition is a reminder of our subconscious acceptance of the nationalist ideology.
We can see why world Muslims acted like mice in the face of disaster. The Qur'an warned us not to engage in disputes and infighting or we would become weak and powerless. But we have not only done the exact opposite, we have given a permanent structure and legal cover to the arrangement for that infighting in the current political organization of the Muslim domain.
This exposition of the ideology of nation-state invariably faces a mental block; namely that all this is impossible. This argument runs like this. We had a Khilafah centuries ago. Since then we have had a checkered history of nominal Khalifah, Sultans, and Nawabs running their own kingdoms and fiefdoms. Today we have fifty-four states and there is no way we can change that in our life times. Yes and no. While we had more then one centers of political power for centuries, the Muslim world was much more integrated then than we realize. It was one social, cultural, religious and economic domain. Its language, system of education, currency, and laws were the same. There were no restrictions on travel, or movement of capital or goods. A Muslim could take up residence and start a business or get a job anywhere. Ibn Batuta traveled from Tunisia to Hijaz, East Africa, India, Malaya, and China, covering 75000 miles without traveling the same road twice. During the twenty-five year journey he took up residence where he wanted to; got even government assignments as Qadi and even as ambassador in China for the Sultan in India. If that was possible then, it should be easier now because of the huge advances in the communication and transportation technologies alone.
The corruption of ideas is far more devastating than the corruption of actions.
No one is suggesting that we can dismantle the fifty-four Muslim governments overnight and replace them with a Khilafah. But we can gradually breakdown the barriers between the Muslim states in travel, trade, and all exchanges at personal levels. With free flow of people, goods, capital, and ideas throughout the Muslim domain, a quite revolution can begin. We could realize that this domain is much more self-sufficient and strong then we have ever realized. That its various parts complement each other's needs and strengthen each other. That it is the artificial borders between Muslim lands drawn by colonial powers that have terribly weakened it!
While we recognize that the barriers to that vision are real and very serious, we must also realize that the most serious barriers are mental and psychological. We must break through the mental straitjacket and realize that another world is possible. Only then we will begin to see how to get there. It may take a generation or many generations. But we will never get there if we do not know that is where we want to go. Today sometimes Muslims say out of frustration that Muslim governments should form their own United Nations. The suggestion does capture our deep desire for unity as well as our deep running confusion about it. For it has one s too many. The Islamic discourse should be about a United Nation of theirs and not United Nations.
"We sent thee not save as a mercy for the peoples." (XXI:107)
I have just recited before you a verse from Surah Anbiya of the holy Quran. In it God addresses the holy Prophet to tell him that he had been sent as a mercy for the whole world and all the peoples that might be born on this planet. This was, indeed, a unique declaration, or, if I could say so, a revolutionary proclamation for the entire humanity. And, this was put about by God in a Scripture which was destined to be read, after its revelation, in every age, time and clime, by billions of men in every nook and corner of the world. It was to have an unending line of exegetes, commentators and researchers who were to scan every word of it, evaluate its revelations and scrutinise the truth of its contents in the light of past and coming events. Whenever a man makes any statement or a writer comes out with a report in an article to be published in some news- paper or a journal, he has to think a hundred times lest he should be controverted by somebody. If he happens to make any unusual claim, he is extra-cautious for the fear that he might be challenged by another person or proved to be a fibster. As everyone of us knows, books last longer than the journals; they continue to be read for years together and some even live for hundreds of years. Thus, anyone putting forth an annunciation in a book has to be overcautious; he has to make sure that the reaction of his readers is not adverse and that his claim is accepted. Now, you see, the Knower of all secrets has made this declaration in a book about which He Himself says:
"Falsehood cannot come at it from before it or behind it. (It is) a revelation from the Wise, the Owner of Praise." (XLI:42)Read more...
Muhammad (s.a.a.w.) was of a height a little above the average. He was of sturdy build with long muscular limbs and tapering fingers. The hair of his head was long and thick with some waves in them. His forehead was large and prominent, his eyelashes were long and thick, his nose was sloping, his mouth was somewhat large and his teeth were well set. His cheeks were spare and he had a pleasant smile. His eyes were large and black with a touch of brown. His beard was thick and at the time of his death, he had seventeen grey hairs in it. He had a thin line of fine hair over his neck and chest. He was fair of complexion and altogether was so handsome that Abu Bakr composed this couplet about him:
"As there is no darkness in the moonlit night so is Mustafa, the well-wisher, bright."
His gait was firm and he walked so fast that others found it difficult to keep pace with him. His face was genial but at times, when he was deep in thought, there there were long periods of silence, yet he always kept himself busy with something. He did not speak unnecessarily and what he said was always to the point and without any padding. At times he would make his meaning clear by slowly repeating what he had said. His laugh was mostly a smile. He kept his feelings under firm control - when annoyed, he would turn aside or keep silent, when pleased he would lower his eyes [Tirmidhi].
His dress generally consisted of a shirt, tamad (trousers), a sheet thrown round the shoulders and a turban. On rare occasions, he would put on costly robes presented to him by foreign emissaries in the later part of his life. [Ahmed, Musnad, Hafiz Bin Qayyim]
His blanket had several patches. [Tirmidhi] He had very few spare clothes, but he kept them spotlessly clean. [Bukhari] He wanted others also to put on simple but clean clothes. Once he saw a person putting on dirty clothes and remarked,
"Why can't this man wash them." [Abu Dawood]
On another occasion he enquired of a person in dirty clothes whether he had any income. Upon getting a reply in the affirmative, he observed,
"When Allah has blessed you with His bounty, your appearance should reflect it." [Abu Dawood]
He used to observe:
"Cleanliness is piety."
Reference url: http://muslim-canada.org/muhammadatharhusain.html
Allah, the Exalted, says:
"Worship Allah and join none with Him (in worship); and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, Al-Masakin (the poor), the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who is a stranger, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (you meet), and those (slaves) whom your right hands possess.'' (4:36)Read more...
|The First Phase ... The Status Quo in Madinah at the Time of Emigration|
Emigration to Madinah could never be attributable to attempts to escape from jeers and oppression only, but it also constituted a sort of cooperation with the aim of erecting the pillars of a new society in a secure place. Hence it was incumbent upon every capable Muslim to contribute to building this new homeland, immunizing it and holding up its prop. As a leader and spiritual guide, there was no doubt the Noble Messenger (Peace be upon him), in whose hands exclusively all affairs would be resolved.
In Madinah, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) had to deal with three distinctively different categories of people with different respective problems:
1. As for his Companions, the conditions of life in Madinah were totally different from those they experienced in Makkah. There, in Makkah, they used to strive for one corporate target, but physically, they were scattered, overpowered and forsaken. They were helpless in terms of pursuing their new course of orientation. Their means, socially and materially, fell short of establishing a new Muslim community. In parallel lines, the Makkan Chapters of the Noble Qur’ân were confined to delineating the Islamic precepts, enacting legislations pertaining to the believers individually and enjoining good and piety and forbidding evils and vices.
In Madinah , things were otherwise; here all the affairs of their life rested in their hands. Now, they were at ease and could quite confidently handle the challenges of civilization, construction, means of living, economics, politics, government administration, war and peace, codification of the questions of the allowed and prohibited, worship, ethics and all the relevant issues. In a nutshell, they were in Madinah at full liberty to erect the pillars of a new Muslim community not only utterly different from that pre-Islamic code of life, but also distinctive in its features in the world at large. It was a society that could stand for the Islamic Call for whose sake the Muslims had been put to unspeakable tortures for 10 years. No doubt, the construction of a society that runs in line with this type of ethics cannot be accomplished overnight, within a month or a year. It requires a long time to build during which legislation and legalization will run gradually in a complementary process with mind cultivation, training and education. Allâh, the All-Knowing, of course undertook legislation and His Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), implementation and orientation:
“He it is Who sent among the unlettered ones a Messenger [Muhammad (Peace be upon him) from among themselves, reciting to them His Verses, purifying them (from the filth of disbelief and polytheism), and teaching them the Book (this Qur’ân, Islamic laws and Islamic Jurisprudence) and Al-Hikmah [As-Sunna: legal ways, orders, acts of worship, etc. of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)].” [62:2]
The Prophet’s Companion (May Allah be pleased with), rushed enthusiastically to assimilate these Qur’ânic rules and fill their hearts joyfully with them:
“And when His Verses (this Qur’ân) are recited unto them, they (i.e. the Verses) increase their Faith.” [8:2]
With respect to the Muslims, this task constituted the greatest challenge for the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him). In fact, this very purpose lay at the heart of the Islamic Call and the Muhammadan mission; it was never an incidental issue though there were the matters that required urgent addressing.
The Muslims in Madinah consisted virtually of two parties: The first one already settled down in their abode, land and wealth, fully at ease, but seeds of discord amongst them were deeply seated and chronic enmity continually evoked; they were Al-Ansar (the Helpers). The second party were Al-Muhajirun (the Emigrants), homeless, jobless and penniless. Their number was not small, on the contrary, it was increasing day by day after the Prophet (Peace be upon him) had given them the green light to leave for Madinah whose economic structure, originally not that prosperous one, began to show signs of imbalance aggravated by the economic boycott that the anti-Islamic groups imposed and consequently imports diminished and living conditions worsened.
“… because they say: “There is no blame on us to betray and take the properties of the illiterates (Arabs)” [3:75]
Religiously, they showed no zeal; their most obvious religious commodity was fortunetelling, witchcraft and the secret arts (blowing on knots), for which they used to attach to themselves advantages of science and spiritual precedence.
They excelled at the arts of earning money and trading. They in fact monopolized trading in cereals, dates, wine, clothes, export and import. For the services they offered to the Arabs, the latter paid heavily. Usury was a common practice amongst them, lending the Arab notables great sums to be squandered on mercenary poets, and in vanity avenues, and in return seizing their fertile land given as surety.
They were very good at corrupting and scheming. They used to sow seeds of discord between adjacent tribes and entice each one to hatch plots against the other with the natural corollary of continual exhaustive bloody fighting. Whenever they felt that fire of hatred was about to subside, they would nourish it with new means of perpetuity so that they could always have the upper hand, and at the same time gain heavy interest rates on loans spent on inter-tribal warfare.
Three famous tribes of Jews constituted the demographic presence in Yathrib (now Madinah): Banu Qainuqua‘, allies of Al-Khazraj tribe, Banu An-Nadir and Banu Quraizah who allied Al-Aws and inhabited the suburbs of Madinah.
Naturally they held the new changes with abhorrence and were terribly hateful to them, simply because the Messenger of Allâh was of a different race, and this point was in itself too repugnant for them to reconcile with. Second, Islam came to brabout a spirit of rapport, to terminate the state of enmity and hatred, and to establish a social regime based on denunciation of the prohibited and promotion of the allowed. Adherence to these canons of life implied paving the way for an Arab unity that could work to the prejudice of the Jews and their interests at both the social and economic levels; the Arab tribes would then try to restore their wealth and land misappropriated by the Jews through usurious practices.
The Jews of course deeply considered all these things ever since they had known that the Islamic Call would try to settle in Yathrib, and it was no surprise to discover that they harboured the most enmity and hatred to Islam and the Messenger (Peace be upon him) even though they did not have the courage to uncover their feelings in the beginning.
The following incident could attest clearly to that abominable antipathy that the Jews harboured towards the new political and religious changes that came to stamp the life of Madinah. Ibn Ishaq, on the authority of the Mother of believers Safiyah (May Allah be pleased her) narrated: Safiyah, daughter of Huyayi bin Akhtab said: I was the closest child to my father and my uncle Abi Yasir’s heart. Whenever they saw me with a child of theirs, they should pamper me so tenderly to the exclusion of anyone else. However, with the advent of the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) and setting in Quba’ with Bani ‘Amr bin ‘Awf, my father, Huyayi bin Akhtab and my uncle Abu Yasir bin Akhtab went to see him and did not return until sunset when they came back walking lazily and fully dejected. I, as usually, hurried to meet them smiling, but they would not turn to me for the grief that caught them. I heard my uncle Abu Yasir say to Ubai and Huyayi: “Is it really he [i.e. Muhammad (Peace be upon him)]?” The former said: “It is he, I swear by Allâh!” “Did you really recognize him?” they asked. He answered: “Yes, and my heart is burning with enmity towards him”
An interesting story that took place on the first day, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) stepped in Madinah, could be quoted to illustrate the mental disturbance and deep anxiety that beset the Jews. ‘Abdullah bin Salam, the most learned rabbi among the Jews came to see the Prophet (Peace be upon him) when he arrived, and asked him certain questions to ascertain his real Prophethood. No sooner did he hear the Prophet’s answers than he embraced Islam, but added that if his people knew of his Islamization they would advance false arguments against me. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) sent for some Jews and asked them about ‘Abdullah bin Salam, they testified to his scholarly aptitude and virtuous standing. Here it was divulged to them that he had embraced Islam and on the spot, they imparted categorically opposite testimonies and described him as the most evil of all evils. In another narration ‘Abdullah bin Salam said, “O Jews! Be Allâh fearing. By Allâh, the only One, you know that he is the Messenger of Allâh sent to people with the Truth.” They replied, “You are lying.” ... That was the Prophet’s first experience with the Jews.
That was the demo-political picture within Madinah. Five hundred kilometres away in Makkah, there still lay another source of detrimental threat, the archenemy of Islam, Quraish. For ten years, while at the mercy of Quraish, the Muslims were subjected to all sorts of terrorism, boycott, harassment and starvation coupled by a large scale painstaking psychological war and aggressive organized propaganda. When they had emigrated to Madinah, their land, wealth and property were seized, wives detained and the socially humble in rank brutally tortured. Quraish also schemed and made attempts on the life of the first figure of the Call, Muhammad (Peace be upon him) . Due to their acknowledged temporal leadership and religious supremacy among the pagan Arabs, given the custodianship of the Sacred Sanctuary, the Quraishites spared no effort in enticing the Arabians against Madinah and boycotting the Madinese socially and economically. To quote Muhammad Al-Ghazali: “A state of war virtually existed between the Makkan tyrants and the Muslims in their abode. It is foolish to blame the Muslims for the horrible consequences that were bound to ensue in the light of that long-standing feud.”
The Muslims in Madinah were completely eligible then to confiscate the wealth of those tyrants, mete out for them exemplary punishment and bring twofold retaliation on them in order to deter them from committing any folly against the Muslims and their sanctities.
That was a resume of the major problems that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) had to face, and the complicated issues he was supposed to resolve.
In full acknowledgment, we could safely say that he quite honestly shouldered the responsibilities of Messengership, and cleverly discharged the liabilities of both temporal and religious leadership in Madinah. He accorded to everyone his due portion whether of mercy or punishment, with the former usually seasoning the latter in the overall process of establishing Islam on firm grounds among its faithful adherents.