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Contents Dedication Vanguard Preface Relaxed and Neutral The Quraysh Condition and the Concept of Obedience Intellectuals and Scholars at a Loss

Chapter One Questions Raised Before the Revolution Reform before Revolution The Price of Change v. the Price of No Change Does History Repeat Itself? On the Concept of Revolution Revolution: In Search for the Causes When Does a Revolution Occur?

Chapter Two Revolution: the Question of Legitimacy

One: Is Islamic Political Thought in Need of Revision? What is Islamic Legitimate Politics? The Prophet’s government The Four Rightly-Guided Caliphs The Caliphate and Monarchy Rules for Rulers Two: Revolution and the Legitimacy of the Winner Historical Change Scholars and the Question of Need Obedience and Consultation


Three: Is It the Role of the People or the Elite? Whose right? Four: Revolution and Strife Five: Revolution: Peaceful or Violent? Six: Who Is Behind the Revolution: a Party, a Conspiracy, or the Nation? Mentality of the Masses The Islamists Behind the Curtains The Arab Revolutions in Israeli Eyes

Chapter Three After the Revolution.. Ambiguous Issues

One: Post-Revolution States and the Question of the Enforcement of Islamic Law Status and Concepts Self-Renewing Law A Gradual Approach Achieving the Purpose Human Error Subject to Discretion Fundamentals and Details Two: State Identity after the Revolution: Civil or Religious? Three: The Democratic Solution and the Islamic Political System Four: The Relation between Rulers and Citizens

Chapter Four After the Revolution.. What Relation with Others? One: The Islamists and Relation with non-Islamists 2

Two: The Islamists and the Relation with the West Three: National Reconciliation and the Relation with Prominent Figures of Old Regimes Sweeping the Past General Pardon A Share of the Gains Fearing Revolutionary Conflicts No Justification for Revenge It Shall Not Be Said Four: Revolution as a Prelude to Progress

Chapter Five Worries after the Revolution.. Some Questions and Problems One: Stolen Revolutions Two: International Intervention Three: Revolution and Sectarian Strife

Conclusion: What the Future Holds for the Revolution?




To the souls of martyrs, residing in the green birds of heaven: they were alight when born and alight when they left our world;

To the martyr who expects no commemoration on earth;

To the last person holding out with an open breast, nursing the dreams of departed friends;

To justice on earth and in heaven.


Vanguard There is no need to encourage a revolution, since revolution is normally beset with grave danger. It inevitably occurs when serious and radical reform becomes impossible. There are no advocates of revolution. Repression, injustice, corruption, backwardness and poverty are the factors that motivate revolutions. No one starts the preparations for revolution. It comes unplanned. It just starts all of a sudden, when all means of reform are blocked, justice is stalled and repression rife. Serious reform deserves sacrifice, which does not mean loss. It is indeed the best means of struggle for the success of revolution.


Preface Relaxed and Neutral My approach does not touch any particular situation in any country, because I would like my discussion to be unrestrained. I want to be unshackled by the constraints and peculiarities of any local situation. Moreover, I do not want to face the consequences of applying a general discourse to a particular case. We need to be relaxed so as to establish a balanced concept of obedience and revolution at the same time. It must not make either of them negative and unacceptable or a sublime ideal to be sought after in all situations. We must not adopt an accommodating approach that justifies existing practices as though they are the foundation of the state, or considers a particular system of government as ideal and incomparably better than all else. Certain ideas derive their validity from being frequently repeated. There are forums that focus on certain religious texts and unanimous verdicts, to the exclusion of others, as fit their own preconceived ideas. Here is an example:

The Quraysh Condition and the Concept of Obedience When you read a book of commentary on the Prophet’s Traditions, such as Sharh alNawawi [ala Sahih Muslim or Fath al-Bari, you find under the topic of the ‘Head of State’ a statement such as: [Iy[ad says: “The condition that the Head of State must belong to the Quraysh is agreed by all scholars. It is considered a question of unanimity. None of the early scholars is known to have disagreed with this. The same applied to all later scholars in all generations.” He adds: “The view of Al-Khawarij and the Mu[tazilah is discounted, as it is contrary to what all Muslims are agreed upon.” Al-Nawawi says: “The Caliphate belongs to the Quraysh. It is not permissible to assign it to anyone who does not belong to it. This was unanimously agreed during the generation of the Prophet’s companions as also in subsequent generations. Whoever voices a different view, whether belonging to deviant sects


or others, is countered by the unanimity of the Prophet’s companions and their successors”. 1 Al-Qurtub[i expresses a similar view. 2 The unanimity mentioned in these views is questionable. [Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second Caliph, said: “Had Salim, Abu Hudhayfah’s ally, been alive, I would have made him my successor”. 3 Ibn Hajar says in Fath al-Bari: Whoever confirms the unanimity on this question needs to provide an explanation of what [Umar is quoted as saying. Ahmad quotes this statement by [Umar with an authentic chain of transmission: ‘If Abu [Ubaydah is alive when I am about to die, I will make him my successor...’ He mentions this statement which also includes: ‘And if Abu [Ubaydah has predeceased me, I will make Mu[adh ibn Jabal my successor...’ Mu[adh ibn Jabal belonged to the Ansar and had no ancestors from the Quraysh. An explanation may be given on the lines that the unanimity to make a condition that the Caliph must belong to t he Quraysh was achieved after [Umar, or that [Umar changed his view at a later time. 4 The Ansar’s attitude on the day when Abu Bakr was chosen as the Prophet’s successor makes it clear that at least some of them had a different view. Indeed the condition of ancestry appears to be applicable to a certain period of history when the Arabs were only willing to accept the authority of the Quraysh. Substantive conditions, such as the implementation of justice and consultative government are far more important. The above-quoted statements by [Iyad, al-Nawawi and others are largely forgotten. They are hardly ever quoted in a paper or a sermon. Had it been related to a question of obeying rulers, some people would have never tired of quoting them so as to denounce dissidents as being deviant, followers of al -Khawarij or al-Mu[tazilah and opposed to the Muslim community. This is exactly what is being done with a different statement by alNawawi: “Rebelling against them and fighting them are forbidden according to the unanimous verdict by Muslims. This is true even if [such rulers] are transgressors and Vis. Sharh al-Nawawi [ala Sahih Muslim. Vol. 12, p. 200. Also, Tarh al-Tathrib, Vol. 8, p. 79. Also, Fath al-Bari, Vol. 13, p. 119. 2 Vis. Al-Mufhim, Vol. 4, pp.5-6. 3 Al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Umam wal-Muluk, Vol. 4, p. 22. Also, Ibn [Asakir, Tarikh Dimashq, Vol. 58, pp. 404-405. A similar view is quoted by Ibn Sa[d, Vol. 3, p. 317. Also by Ahmad, Al-Musnad, 130, and by [Umar ibn Shabbah, Tarikh al-Madinah, Vol. 3, p. 922. “If eith er on e of two men is alive and I make him my su ccessor, I will be confident that he will b e up to the task: Salim, Abu Hudhayfah’s ally or Abu [Ubaydah ibn al-Jarrah.” 4 Vis. Fath al-Bari, Vol. 13, p. 119. 1


wrongdoers. Several Traditions by the Prophet confirm this. The Sunni scholars are unanimous that a ruler may not be deposed on grounds of his being a transgressor...� 5 It should be noted, however, that a good number of scholars from the early generations as also a number of other eminent scholars express a different view justifying rebellion against a ruler who is clearly a transgressor or rules unjustly. Such views are quoted by Ibn Hazm, al-Ghazali, al-Iji and others.6 When you carefully consider the two views that are claimed to be unanimous, you will inevitably discover that some people publicize the second, presenting it as universally accepted, while totally ignoring the first one. You may also find the reverse. Neutrality in such matters eludes anyone who speaks or writes trying to impart legitimacy to a particular situation, or defending it without paying due regard to considerations of objectivity. This is by no means peculiar to those who support rulers and governments. On the other side you find people who consider revolution to be the standard by which to evaluate and classify matters and actions. Some others reject everything that exists. This leads in most cases to a pattern of either individual or collective dictatorship. Many revolution supporters dream of a transformation that leads to the establishment of the type of government they prefer. It may be a type that leads to social division and to the spread of hatred, fanaticism, fear, doubt and suppression of people’s freedom. These will inevitably lead to an atmosphere that paves the way to a counter revolution. In such a situation we see selectivity, and selectivity is incompatible with both knowledge and Godconsciousness. To arrive at a mature vision of questions related to Islamically acceptable politics, the relation between people and rulers, revolution and democracy, we need a good measure of psychological and intellectual relaxation and a similar measure of neutrality that rises above personal, family and tribal interests. We must also guard against the pitfall of applying a particular pattern to communities and soci eties that are fundamentally different in culture, make-up as well as economic and social conditions.

Intellectuals and Scholars at a Loss

Vis. Sharh al-Nawawi [ala Sahih Muslim. Vol. 12, p. 229. Vis. Ibn Hazm, Al-Fisal fil-Milal wal-Nihal, Vol. 4, p. 84. Al-Iji, Al-Mawaqif, Vol. 8, pp.2-3, Radd al-Mukhtar, Vol. 4, p. 264. Also, Vis, al-Qurtubi, Tafsir, Vol. 6, p. 157. 5 6


After the Second World War Francois Furet wrote an article in which he discussed how intellectuals found themselves at a loss after World War II. Likewise, after the Algerian Revolution against the colonial power, Malik ibn Nabi wrote about the feeling of loss Algerian intellectuals experienced after the revolution. As we go through the Arab Spring of revolutions, there seems to be a state that we may call: ‘Intellectuals’ loss after the Arab revolutions’. There seems to be a total loss as we try to identify a way out; a loss in the re-structuring of concepts; a loss in establishing a revolutionary vision; a loss in remoulding relations with allies, friends and enemies. When people go through a period of loss, it is not surprising to have numerous propositions, ideas and theses. It is a period when everyone feels his solution to be faultless. People strongly advocate their own solutions. Yet in this period, every proposed solution is beset by fear and hesitation. In this rapidly changing Arab situation there is urgent need for the emergence of scholars who combine penetrative vision with contemporary education, in addition to integrity and moral discipline. States, communities and institutions need to come up with proper and fair formulae, rather than try to gain power. We need the scholar who deals with the religious texts more than the current situation, just as we need the intellectual who deals with the current situation more than the religious texts. I am not giving a sermon in these pages. Nor do I claim that what I am writing is free of personal judgement or uninfluenced by the current situation, whether positively or negatively. I do not even suggest that what I am writing or quoting strictly conforms to these conditions except in as much as it raises questions or starts a dialogue that endeavours to be objective and steers away from bigotry and levelling accusations. “If those who are God-fearing experience a tempting thought from Satan, they bethink themselves [of God]; and they begin to see things clearly. Their [evil] brethren try to draw them into error with unceasing determination. (7: 201 -202) It is only fair that I should say that my role in writing this book has largely been to select, adapt or quote what I feel to be right of other people’s writings. I have read a large number of books and far more articles. My role has largely been to take from her e and to add there so that I could come up with this work. This is a humble effort, which I find strenuous after I have been away from research for a long time. Yet it is less than what the reader expects. I have concentrated on ideas more than proper organization and the flow of information. The time was too pressing to address both aspects together. I hope that I can achieve that in a later edition. 10

I wish to express my gratitude to the Nama’ Centre for having encouraged me to concentrate over several months on reading religious and political works, many of which are in Arabic while others are translated, in order to prepare this work.


Chapter One

Questions Raised Before the Revolution


One Reform before Revolution The best option for any society is to set in place a process for change so as to meet the ever-changing needs of its people. Many states have put in place ways and mechanisms to gauge the feelings of society and determine how best to respond to them. Thus, what people feel and what they discuss in private accurately reflect what should take place. Centres of studies and research undertake this task in the developed countries and give advice and recommendations to decision makers. They draw graphs; undertake surveys and study statistics to gauge people’s concerns, visions, aspirations, preferences and needs. Thus they help to make policies reflect people’s concerns, and ensure that policies are modified as people’s concerns develop and change. Government policies need to be close to what people feel. Only in this way, society remains fresh and comfortable as the early hours at dawn. Otherwise, it will feel suffocated as time passes with people feeling deprived, unable to achieve justice or to claim their rights. The result would be an explosion that comes totally unexpectedly to decision makers who do not try to understand people’s feelings or respond to their health, psychological and political needs. Karl Marx predicted that the main capitalist powers, such as Britain and Germany, would be the ones where revolution would occur, because their affluent societies have their deprived classes. This, however, did not take place. Instead, revolution occurred in poorer countries, such as Russia and China. The reason was that the ruling classes in Europe were quick to recognize the danger presented by the Communist theory. Therefore, they promulgated laws that gave benefits and rights to the working classes and the deprived, such as paid holidays and other privilege s. Moreover, they guaranteed freedom of speech. These measures were successful in averting revolution which, otherwise, would have been inevitable. Dictatorial regimes, on the other hand, often find it difficult to deal rationally with changing situations. Some people in high positions in such regimes fear for their interests. Such regimes dread that reform might lead to their demise. Their philosophy is that reform means concession and that the first step along that way is the most serious. They argue that once you take one step down the ladder, you will ultimately find yourself at the bottom.


The best option is to take the opportunity and use the time, which may often be injury time, in order to achieve the desired result. This must not be in the form o f giving small bribes to people, reducing their economic and social plight by wage increase, providing easy loans, subsidizing some basic items and punishing some aspects of corruption by making some junior officials scapegoats. What should be done is to put in place some serious and brave reforms to prevent social implosion. These measures start with the relaxation of state security measures and the abandonment of monopolizing wealth and political power. They must also ensure people’s rights and freedoms, particularly political freedom and the freedom of expression. Perhaps most people have given up on existing regimes, believing that they will not change after having been in a state of stagnation for many years. It is important, nevertheless, to remember that the most urgent and useful option for Arab regimes, in order to sort out the present crises is to be more open with people. They must offer serious and brave concessions in the areas of the rights of citizenship, justice and rule of law. They must also restructure the relationship between rulers and citizens so as to put an end to repression and futile slogans and to endeavour to win people’s acceptance through guaranteeing their freedom and decent standards of living. Al-Jarrah ibn [Abdullah, the Governor of Khurasan, wrote to the Caliph, [Umar ibn [Abd al-[Aziz: “Peace be to you. The people of Khurasan have become corrupt. The only remedy to reform them is to use the whip and the sword. If the Caliph permits me, I will apply this remedy.” The Caliph’s reply was as follows: “I am in receipt of your letter in which you state that the people of Khurasan have become corrupt and that the use of the whip and the sword is the only remedy for them. You ask my permission to use these. Your statement is false. The remedy to bring them back to order is the proper administration of justice and giving everyone their rights. Therefore, apply this to them.” 7 An essential preliminary step is to accept pluralism and diversity. A well balanced social contract is needed to reconcile opposing trends and guarantee equal opportunity for all to participate in the political field and in running the country. This social contract is between two parties who agree “by mutual consent” (4: 29) to fulfil commitments and obligations: “Be true to your contracts” (5: 1). The two parties are politicians and people, while the purpose is to ensure the fulfilment of rights and the protection of freedoms and security. It should be understood that ‘security’ does not mean the security of a small group of people who monopolize decision making in all political, financial and administrative spheres.


Vis, al-Khatib, Al-Muttafiq wal-Muftariq, Vol. 3, p. 1731. Also, Ibn [Asakir, Tarikh Dimash q, Vol. 72, p. 59.


It is under the banner of ‘security’ that the security and safety of entire nations are violated, as are their freedom, rights and lives. By contrast, revolutionary enthusiasm may postpone or ignore the question of security, particularly in the most important period of rebuilding the state and the society based on justice. The peoples of Arab countries that have witnessed revolutions say: “Any future situation is better than the ones they overthrew. Decades of flowery slogans have given us nothing other than defeats, regression and increased of backwardness, corruption, repression and poverty.” We say that change, in any shape and by any means, is a risk that deserves to be taken in order to rid ourselves of a long period of awful stagnation. It opens up a new state of affairs that achieves, perhaps most importantly, self determination for people so that they can shape their future by themselves, without any imposition or exclusion. Many people raise doubts based on the history of different revolutions. This is due to the fact that they belong, in some way, to the current status, or benefit by it. Alternatively, they may despair of any change: they realize that the current situation is very low, but they see nothing beyond it other than a precipice. In either case, these people are ultimately among the victims of the current situation. Others may raise doubts from a different angle, looking only at a balance sheet of profits and losses. They feel that temporary release does not justify the heavy price that is bound to include loss of life, destruction of property and spreading hatred.

The Price of Change v. the Price of No Change Achieving serious reform that respects people and treats them well remains the best option, wherever possible. Other people’s experience confirms that this is possible. In Canada, for example, a democratic system was achieved without going through wars or revolutions. Scholars of Islamic jurisprudence who look at the objectives and purposes of legislation always attach due importance to the overall objectives of guaranteeing people’s rights, protecting their freedoms, ensuring justice, preventing corruption and improving living conditions. When these objectives are achieved at minimum cost and least losses, then that is what Islam prefers. Its spirit and general principles support that. Some governments believe that they are well stable and immune to change. They cite in evidence the fact that their regimes have been in existence for many decades. This, however, is no better than an elderly person suggesting that attaining to old age proves 15

that he will not die. Yet old age is the only stage of human life that can be extended through proper health and psychological care.

Two Does History Repeat Itself? Revolution in the Muslim world has a very long history, starting with the rebellion against [Uthman, the third Caliph, then the one led by al-Husayn, the Prophet’s grandson, and the rebellion by the people of Madinah which witnessed the Battle of al -Harrah. Then the ‘Scholars’ Revolution’ took place under the command of [Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Ash[ath, leading to the Battle of Dayr al-Jamajim. All these took place in the first century of Islam. Al-Khawarij staged several rebellions. The Abbasid Caliphate foug ht many rebellions such as that led by Muhammad ibn Abdullah, known as al-Nafs al-Zakiyyah, and his brother Ibrahim, Musa al-Kazim’s revolt, and the Zaydi revolt at al-Raqqah. Revolts against the Memluks and the Ottomans were also very frequent. The best k nown of these was the revolt led by the scholars of al-Azhar in Egypt. However, the Abbasid revolution is perhaps the only one that succeeded in establishing a vast state that survived for several centuries. Islamic history also witnessed other rebellions and revolts by scholars both in the East and in the Andalus. On the world stage there were revolutions that re-shaped societies and introduced fundamental change in the political and economic fields. They even changed the course of history in Eastern and Western Europe and in the Americas. In the eighteenth century, the French monarchy could not adapt itself to the changes taking place in society. As a result, several factors combined to lead to the French Revolution in 1789. Its consequences continued for many years, leading to a social, economic and political crisis. It took the French 80 years to achieve a truly democratic system. Ten years after the revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte, a 29 year old army officer seized power and ruled France until his defeat at Waterloo. Twenty-six years after the revolution, the French royal family was back in power, so as to make the loss of life by hundreds of thousands of people were not guillotined or died in war appear all in vain. In 1830 a new revolt took place to replace one tyrant with another who tried to obliterate all that was achieved by the revolution. In 1848, the French people revolted again, putting up barricades in the streets. Hundreds of people lost their lives in a hard struggle between the people who were determined to remove tyranny, whatever


the sacrifice, and the ruling elite who relied on support by the aristocracy and others in influential positions. The masses were happy when the Second Republic was declared, thinking that they have done away with tyranny. However, the new president, Louis Napoleon, followed the same line as his uncle and monopolized power. Weary and exhausted, the people succumbed. However, his defeat by Prussia in 1870 led to a new revolt. The Third Republic was thus ushered in and things stabilized. One result of this was the declaration of human rights, including the right of all people to liberty, justice and security. Europe witnessed revolutionary action in most countries. Some of these revolts led to the promulgation of democratic constitutions that defined the relationship between the people and their rulers. Indeed, European history is full of revolutions and counter revolution. However, counter revolutions that sought to re-establish the old regimes, with their royal and clerical orders, were largely unsuccessful. What is strange is that Fascist and Nazist uprisings took place in some of the most civilized European countries, with the result that a democratic system gave rise to a totalitarian tyranny. The problem was that the democratic pattern did not lay down checks that would prevent tyranny. Therefore, some intellectuals and philosophers, like Karl Buber, argued in an article on lessons learnt from the twentieth century that the most fundamental principle of democracy is to formulate a system that precludes all types of individual, party, family or sectarian dictatorship. Eastern European countries managed to oust their dictatorial regimes which were in power for more than a century. According to research centres, our world is witnessing a steady increase in democratic regimes and increased pressures on repressive and dictatorial ones.


Three On the Concept of Revolution

Revolutionary spirit may mean a call for renewal and self criticism, in the hope of progressing to a better situation. Within this framework, revolution becomes continuous evolution and a dialectic relation that aims to change things to the better. From this perspective, we may speak about a broad concept of revolution that starts with accepted facts, but without having to submit to them. The world has thus experienced the Industrial Revolution, the revolution of knowledge, the electronic revolution, the genetic revolution, the communications revolution, etc. These have introduced radical changes into well established concepts and opened the way to unprecedented achievements that have served man. In this light, revolution means to review and develop what exists, and to build over it. It does not mean the mere destruction of the existing situation. Continuous paradigm development thus becomes a revolutionary spirit that societies are well advised to uphold. The same applies to the social and cultural paradigms. This is the opposite of sticking to tradition and submitting to what exists, believing that it could not be improved. Indeed, it is possible to build on any situation and make it better. Factors of weakness and deterioration creep into every human situation. To be alert to such factors and resist them reflects a determination to survive and maintain legitimacy. This applies to individuals and nations alike. Revolution calls the existing situation into question, trying to sort it out, and to rebuild over it, using either new or existing bricks. Scholars and researchers differ as to its specific concept. Raymond Williams wrote a book, The Long Revolution, on this subject, tracing the Latin roots of the word which connote a rolling movement. In this context, ‘rolling’ means a change over that brings what is on top to the bottom and what is at the bottom to the top. In this context we may cite the Qur’anic verse that says: “Such days [of fortune and misfortune], We deal out in turn among men.” (3: 140) Williams says that revolution started as a concept that turns the ruled into rulers. This is exactly what Ahmad Shawqi, a famous Egyptian poet of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, expresses as he addresses a dictator calling him Pharaoh. He says: “The age of individual tyranny has gone, as has the state ruled by elite classes. Rulers everywhere now defer to the rule of the people”. The linguistic meaning reflects a noble concept. It recalls 18

a system of values that seeks a fruitful marriage between modernity and renewal on the one hand and integrity and preservation on the other. The fruits of such a marriage inspire creativity. Within this context, revolution is different from wars of independence. The latter often mean that the colonial system remains but brings into power national figures. Revolution seeks to transform the regime so as to make it national. Revolution is also different from a military coup that is normally staged by a small group of officers who may raise some revolutionary slogans, but then lay their hands on everything. In most cases, a military coup leads to a small section of people monopolizing all affairs. In essence, a revolution is an expression of general fury. It differs from an uprising or a popular movement that has limited objectives. However, an uprising may develop into a revolution, depending on the political reaction and the response of the general public. Specifically speaking, revolution is a social phenomenon that aims to change the political system through general social action. Certain public figures are in the forefront of such a radical change, but the whole society, not a small political section or a party, participates in enforcing such a change. Reform calls to a return to the fundamental principles in an attempt to rectify malpractices. By contrast, revolution attempts to change the whole system in order to replace it with a new one. Revolution is a leap, not a gradual change. It is the product of accumulated dissatisfaction over a long period. It seeks to end an earlier experience that has failed to introduce any measure of reform and change that satisfies people’s aspirations. De Tocqueville, a famous French historian, is of the view that stalled or ineffective programmes of reform constitute one of the most serious causes of revolution. This is due to the fact that the population would have recognized the importance of reform and the need for it. They are aware of the urgency to put it into effect. Therefore, inaction or slow response adds to their frustration so as to make them despair of any positive outcome from such stalled programmes. De Tocqueville arrived at this conclusion after having st udied a number of revolutions. Revolution is an attempt to bypass the great gulf between the rulers and the ruled. It, therefore, seeks to achieve equality between the ruled on the one hand, and between them and the rulers on the other, through the reinstatement of the social contract. A contract presupposes the equality of the two parties to it, and that they are both subject to the law of universal justice that makes no exceptions. Revolution is sometimes a way of protest against the gulf between what exists in practice and the presumed state of law and order.


It is not always that revolution involves killings and bloodshed, although many revolutions go close to that. Indeed, revolution is essentially a peaceful action. However, it may be met with much violence. A stage is then reached when those in the thick of revolution find it necessary to defend themselves. In such a case, the revolution becomes accompanied by armed rebellion. However, a revolution maintains this status as long as such armed rebellion remains limited to self defence and does not lead to internal fighting or a civil war that targets civilians. History speaks of what is known as ‘coloured revolutions’, which are acts of civil disobedience that aim to enforce certain demands by peace ful means. They may adopt an emblem with a particular colour, and normally end without bloodshed. In this category the revolutions of Yugoslavia, Georgia, Lebanon, Pakistan, Tibet and the green revolution of Iran are placed. The police and the army play an important role in the success and peacefulness of a revolution. We often see people in the revolution giving roses to army and police personnel, and hugging them. This is the reason why the Tunisian revolution was called the Jasmine revolution. It was totally different from the Libyan revolution which had to become militarized due to the heavy shelling of the rebels by the Gaddafi brigades. Revolution does not seek to be militarized. However, repressive regimes try to defend themselves using military force, destroying everything and turning cities into living hell. This makes fighting inevitable.


Four Revolution: In Search for the Causes People do not like revolution, just as they do not like war. However, dissatisfaction may considerably exhaust their tolerance so as to bring them close to a flashing point. Their closeness to it may be a vital factor in the break out of revolution. A wise government will always be aware of the nation’s mood. When it feels dissatisfaction growing into a social fever, it will offer palliatives, but will seriously look for solutions through real reform that ensures security and guarantees a safer future. Safeguarding the country and preventing revolution are achievable only through the proper administration of justice, guaranteeing people’s rights and freedoms, allowing free expression and political participation by all, even in a gradual process. When the nation sees real hope of the fulfilment of its aspirations, it will most probably try to support reform and safeguard the gains it aims to bring about. A slap on someone’s face by a policeman, or an attitude by some official may start an unpredictable series of events. Sometimes, the masses act like a huge dinosaur, in a collective spirit that may be new, strange and totally unexpected. The most serious case of revolution is a sudden, unexpected explosion that shatters all values and constraints. Internal and external forces feel that it represents the present and the future. They try to deal with it in this way in order to safeguard their future position. This is what happened in the recent Arab revolutions. Some people believe that revolution is a sudden, uncontrolled change. This is a rather flawed view. All revolutions that produced fundamental change were preceded by clear signals and indications. Revolution is the result of a host of flaws, problems, lack of will and repression by an ageing regime. Such a state of affairs is contrasted with vitality, action, determination and clear vision by the people. Sometimes, people draw a clear vision of the future. This may help to keep their thinking on the right track and make them aware of how transformation works and change is accomplished. Samuel Huntington, the author of Clash of Civilizations, believes that revolutions are historically linked to the need to modernize. De Tocqueville, on the other hand, notes that revolution occurs as a result of ineffective modernization programmes or reluctant measures of reform coupled with much repression. To my mind, the most important causes of revolution are: 21

1. The divine law of change and the occurrence of defects and weakness. Prophet Muhammad says: “It is a divine law that whatever rises high in this world shall come down”.8 This is coupled with the need for renewal, fresh blood and vigorous spirit. Some ailing situations accurately reflect the Qur’anic verse: “When God wills people to suffer some misfortune, none can avert it. Besides Him, they have none to protect them.” (13: 11) This verse occurs in the Surah [i.e. Qur’anic chapter] entitled Thunder, which focuses on change. The same message is given in the verse that says: “When [the end of] their term approaches, they can neither delay nor hasten it by a single moment.” (7: 34) Boredom is enough to change the mood of many people. Hence, change is a natural requirement. Referring to the Children of Israel, the Qur'an says: “And [remember] when you said: Moses! We can no longer put up with one kind of food.” (2: 61) Time and apathy will only increase the effect of the factors of weakness, making the need to change even more acute. 2. The absence of a joint programme approved by the government and the people. In the absence of a well defined aim agreed upon by the nation, people go their divergent ways. The national dimension becomes a personal dimension, and people have diverse interests. Thus, instead of a gain for all, the gain of some means a loss for others. 3. Backwardness, poverty, miserable conditions, injustice and dictatorship. The environment that leads to revolution is one of cumulative anger caused by the spread of corruption, unemployment, poverty, lack of social and human security, miserable daily life conditions, social and political deprivation, insults, lack of freedoms, ill-treatment of people by the security forces, and the humiliation felt by ordinary people when they deal with government officials. Ibn Khaldun says: “Do not think that injustice means only taking someone’s money or property, giving nothing in return, as many people think. Injustice is much wider than that. Whoever takes someone else’s property, oppresses him at work, demands from him or imposes on him something unsanctioned by the divine law, is guilty of injustice. Those who unjustifiably take people’s money are unjust, as are those who forcibly take it away or plunder it. Those who deny people their rights are unjust, as are those who confiscat e people’s property. The evil of all this will ultimately rebound to the state and it will decline and fall”. 9

8 9

Related b y al-Bukhari, number 2872. Vis. Ibn Khaldun, Al-Muqaddimah, (Arabic edition) pp. 35-356.


People’s anger is at the core of rebellion. Hence, most revolutions are characterised by anger and the lack of clear objectives. The people in revolt are fully aware of the conditions they want to eradicate, but in most cases they do not know what they want in their place. They raise general slogans, but the road to achieve these is unclear. In one of his interviews after the Arab revolutions, Henry Kissinger said that the angry protesters know well enough how to meet together, but when the existing regime falls, they do not know what to offer in its place. Although his analysis is neither accurate nor universal, it gives a clear signal to the angry protesters in the Arab world, telling them to clearly define their objectives. 4. All powers concentrated in one hand. This leads to the spread of corruption that soon gets out of control. Some contemporary regimes reflect what H arun alRashid, the Abbasid Caliph, is reported to have said to a cloud: “Let your rain fall wherever you wish; I will still receive my taxes for what you produce”. 10 This means that all threads end up at the same point, and all roads lead to Rome, as the saying goes. 5. People’s hopes and aspirations. Such new hopes and aspirations are the result of renewed awareness of what they can achieve as they compare themselves to other nations. They discover greater potentials that their governments could have realized. Our modern world has introduced new means of instant communications with sound, vision and information. It has thus reduced barriers between nations and provided ways of comparison. With the new communications networks, the old political barriers and borders are brought down. People are able to look at other societies that are free and able to grow and prosper. They compare such situations to their own, which is full of injustice and corruption, despite the fact that they have the elements and factors necessary for progress and advancement. The increased awareness of human rights and their concepts as well as the wider scope of knowledge and education have enabled man to acquire a different mentality to that of the age of ignorance and lack of awareness. Shaikh Muhammad [Abdu refers to this when he says that it is the middle and lower classes that rebel against dictatorship when proper and useful education is extended to them as they come to acquire a public opinion. It has never occurred anywhere in the world that the upper classes, the rich and those in power advocate 10

Vis. Ta’aththur al-Inafah fi Ma[alim al-Khlafah, Vol. 1, p. 194.


equality with the rest of the population, relinquishing their own privileges and ending their monopoly of power and public offices so as to make these available to the rest of society. 11 6. Availability of means of communication, mutual influence and emulation of others. Some people describe revolution as a type of ‘fever’ which has its early signs and indications. It can be diagnosed only by a competent ‘doctor’. It is sometimes accompanied by delirium, and the patient may suffer one relapse or more, and may acquire immunity for a while. New technologies, satellite channels, the new media, such as Facebook and Twitter, provide a suitable environment in which the deprived classes can meet and discover their importance and the resources available to them, which are simple and great at the same time. 7. Negation of Identity. We may recall that Bourguiba, the former Tunisian President, used to look with contempt at Islam and its values, as well as Arabism. He was succeeded by Ben Ali who targeted the Islamic identity by his repressive policies and democratic slogans. The author of The Tunisian Identity, Islam, Arabism mentions that Tunisia could acquire a Francophone, Mediterranean, African or even a Roman or old Carthage identity, but it must never have an Arab Islamic identity. 8. The availability of a model to be copied. In most cases, it is the democratic system that is available in most countries. It is a system that can be developed so as to adapt itself to the special circumstances of every country. 9. Breaking through the barrier of fear with readiness to sacrifice. This takes place gradually and then escalates. 12 Some people imagine that the only way to rule is by enforcing a strong system based on security forces. They further think that the relaxation of repression leads to collapse. A dictator may imagine that his people are a special case. But this is incorrect. His people can by no means be more backward than the Europeans of the Middle Ages who ultimately revolted and were able to gain their rights. 10. Available Opportunity. This may be in the form of rivalry or competition between different sectors of the ruling classes, with some of them trying to gain advantage over others. When this takes place, they may compete for popularity, with some of them exposing the repressive practices others commit. It is a case of a dispute between thieves leading to the discovery of the stolen goods.

11 12

Muhammad [Abdu, Complete Works, Vol. 1, p. 341. Vis. From Dictatorship to Democracy.


Failure to cope with internal disasters may provide an opportunity as it exposes the lack of preparedness or the inability to handle the crisis. Other situations that provide an opportunity are military defeats, government indiscipline and inability to monitor details. All these may bring about a new situation that provides an opportunity for social action, or a confused situation that leaves analysts unable to judge accurately. The relaxation of stringent security and administrative measures is the inevitable outcome of changes taking place. It may lead to an intermediary situation that gives analysts a new insight into the new mood of the population.


Five When Does a Revolution Occur? Generalization after a single case can be faulty. It certainly does not provide a reliable rule to be applied in other cases. Strangely enough, no one could accurately predict the Arab revolutions, even after their early signs appeared. Egypt said: “We are not Tunisia”. Libya echoed that, and words with similar effects were used by Syrian and Yemeni politicians. It also appears that no one expects the same scenario in his own country. What is amazing is that the situation may improve, but the feeling of injustice becomes more acute because of increased awareness and greater demands. Thus, any concessions given by the government are considered to be responding to ‘earlier demands’ that have become obsolete. However, there comes what we may term ‘the critical moment’ which represents a divorce from the present situation so as to deal with it in a totally different way. It appears that predicting this critical moment is uneasy. Should a number of the aforementioned causes combine, the possibility of a revolution breaking out becomes greater. The law of history is subtle and rather unclear. It is unlike the laws of physics. Revolution is like a fruit which could experience anyone of several possibilities: it may dry up, or be picked before it has ripened. On the other hand, it may ripen first and be picked on time, or else be left and then be picked much later when its quality has deteriorated. These possibilities indicate awareness of the situation and its requirements with a proper response to each requirement or neglecting them altogether. Major events of the last century opened many windows for the Arabs. These included the collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate; the liberation from colonialism; the collapse of the Soviet Union; political cooperation with the United States; military cooperation with the US in the ‘war on terror’ and giving her a green light to intervene in the region. Yet all these windows did not encourage democratic change in the Arab world. They were exploited by dictatorial groups and i nward looking ideologies. The desire for participation and political action by the masses was not merely weak in the 1950s and 1960s; it was also confused. The masses just accepted the dogma laid down by the ‘inspired leader’ who spoke about the decadence of pluralism and party politics and 26

drummed up the benefits of one voice, one party and one leader. Added to this was the confusion of peculiarity and repression, justice and arbitrary rule, within the totalitarian system of the Eastern Block where no discussion of human rights was allowed. It was considered interference in internal affairs. The failure of nationalist projects and the defeat of nationalist policies meant the failure of an entire generation and the collapse of its dreams. It could do nothing other than nursing its wounds, without finding any alternative.


Chapter Two

Revolution: the Question of Legitimacy


One Is Islamic Political Thought in Need of Revision? What is Islamic Legitimate Politics? We often hear the term, al-Siyasah al-Shar[iyyah, which we have translated as ‘Islamic legitimate politics’. However, the term is not clearly understood and has no clear definition. Although the concept it points to is very serious and important in any civilized structure, it is often overlooked by those concerned with Islamic scholarship. This is due to two reasons: preoccupation with matters of detail and fear of delving into a matter that concerns the ruler further than what the ruler approves. A number of scholars describe politics as ‘deputizing for the Legislator’. 13 This is stated by Ibn Khaldun. 14 Al-Mawardi expresses it as ‘deputizing for the Prophet’. 15 Bot h statements are confusing because they place politics in the area of what is sacred. In his encyclopaedic work, Al-Funun, Ibn [Aqil, an eminent Hanbali scholar, records a debate he had with a scholar from the Shafi[i school of thought. The latter said that the only acceptable politics is that which is in agreement with the divine law. Ibn [Aqil said in reply: Politics include such actions as will help people to be closer to goodness and away from corruption, even though such actions are not included in the legislation God’s messenger had promulgated or in Islamic divine revelations. If by saying ‘the only acceptable politics is that which is in agreement with divine law’ you mean that it is not in conflict with what divine law states, then you are right. If, on the other hand, you mean that the only acceptable politics is what divine law states, then this is wrong. It also puts the Prophet’s companions in the wrong. Ibn al-Qayyim records this in his book, I[lam alMuwaqq[in, and other works. 16 According to Ibn [Aqil, the essence of politics is the sort of action that is judged on the basis of its usefulness through experiment and people’s experience, even though it may not be mentioned in Islamic law, provided that it does not clash with any religious text. We do not need religious text to determine, for example, the usefulness of working

In Islamic terminology, the Legislator is God. – Editor’s note. Ibn Khaldun, Al-Muqaddimah, (Arabic edition) p. 272. 15 Al-Maward i, Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah, p. 15 & 254. 16 Vis. Ibn al-Qayyim, I[lam al-Muwaqq[in, Vol. 4, p. 283; Al-Turuq al-[Hukmiyyah, p. 12; Badai[ al-Fawa’id, Vol. 3, p. 152. 13 14


through institutions, or implementing administrative patterns, or effecting change. It is enough that such matters are not in conflict with any religious text. Again according to Ibn [Aqil, we may consider Islamic legitimate politics on the basis of the fulfilment of two objectives: Firstly, implementing such religious orders and texts that are within the jurisdiction of the ruler, whether they apply to individuals or to the community as a whole, such as the system of inheritance. Secondly, commitment to the universally agreed essential values and standards, such as justice, freedom, guaranteeing of rights, and life preservation. Included into this is what is termed ‘the preservation of the five essentials’ and what is added to them such as guaranteeing human dignity and safeguarding the human community. To put it another way, Islamic legitimate politics is: 1) implementation of the religious text, wherever a definitive text occurs, and 2) ijtihad, or scholarly discretion to achieve the interests of the people in the areas to which no religious text applies. Public interest is influenced by the existing circumstances. It abides by the prevailing local and international traditions, but it draws on the historical experience of the community and its highest values. The academic debate in history and at present about the legitimate politics, benefit and harm is certainly important, but it does not produce a complete theory. Nor does it meet the present practical needs. It mostly concentrates on trying to win the debate and to show that the other party is on shallow grounds.

The Prophet’s Government Prior to Islam, the Arabs in Makkah and the whole of the Arabian Peninsula did not have any form of government. The system established by the Prophet was the first real government they ever had. One of the tasks assigned to the Prophet was that of the ruler, which included choosing army commanders, financial administration, entering into peace agreements, enforcing the punishment of criminals, corresponding with other heads of state, receiving foreign delegations, etc. Books documenting his life and books of Hadith are full of such matters. Hence, the question of government and succession was never raised during his lifetime. His companions only asked him who would be the ruler after him. When offered a choice between being a messenger and servant of God and being a king and a messenger of God, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) chose the first so as to free himself of the burden of kingship and its consequences. He also made it clear to his provincial governors that they must not resort to dictatorship. They should rather abide by God’s instructions, such as: “You are not one to use coercion with them.” (50: 30

45) “You are not their overseer.” (88: 22) Qatadah, an early scholar, says: “God Almighty dislikes coercion. He has prohibited it and explained its nature”. 17 This is contrary to what Ali Abd al-Raziq maintains in his book, Al-Islam wa Usu l al-Hukm, saying that there is no religious foundation for the Caliphate system. It is true that the terms ‘state’ and ‘politics’ were not in use in that period. However, the Qur'an gives a clear order to rule in accordance with God’s revelations. This applies to questions and issues to which religious texts apply. The Qur'an also establishes general principles such as obedience according to what is generally accepted as reaso nable, the administration of justice to all, honesty, responsibility, ihsan or doing things well, and consultation. It also forbids injustice, unfair dealings, aggression and dictatorship. The Qur’anic address on political matters is not detailed as it is the case with matters of worship and faith. Its address is oriented to objectives, taking into consideration the ever changing circumstances in time and place. Therefore, the standard to be applied in implementing Islamic legitimate politics, referring always to God’s revelations, is to put those general principles into effect. The details, measures and patterns are left for people to determine in accordance with their circumstances and what suits them. These differ from one community to another and from one generation to another. They are subject to discretion which will inevitably vary. We do not find in the Qur'an or the Prophet’s Traditions many details about the nature of Islamic government and how it should be handed over, nor about the relationship between ruler and subjects. The same is the case of questions of medicine, commerce or administration. Such fields are covered by the principle stated by the Prophet: “You know your world better”. 18 Buraydah, a companion of the Prophet who commanded an expedition, reported the instructions given to him by the Prophet: “ If you besiege a fort and its people request you to give them a pledge by God and His Prophet, do not do that, but give them a pledge by your honour and the honour of your companions. It is a lesser sin that you violate your own pledges than to violate a pledge by God and His Prophet. Likewise, if you besiege a fort and its people request you to apply God’s judgement to them, do not do that, but apply to them your own judgement. You do not know whether you can determine God’s judgement of their case”. 19

17 Al-Tabari, A[hkam al-Bayan, Vol. 21, p.477. 18 19

Related b y Muslim, number 2363. Related b y Muslim, number 1731.


This hadith defines the general areas of legitimate politics that serve the interests of the Muslim community but cannot be attributed to God and may not be discussed or determined in the name of Islam. An error in determining the interests of the community may lead to a distortion of Islam and its principles. Political relations and administration should be attributed to the people running them and those who lay them down. They may not be attributed to Islam. The same applies to treaties and covenants. These should be based on the principles of justice and human relations. They may not be made as pledges given by God and His messenger, because violating them in this case means violating God’s own pledges and those of His messenger. The hadith also establishes the area of ‘people’s judgement’ and its status in Islamic law. The leader or commander enforces his own judgement and that of his companions to other people, informing them that should any error occurs, it is his own fault, as he is the one who determines the judgement according to his own discretion. Therefore, it is Islamic in as much as it serves the objectives of Islamic law and is in accordance with Islamic principles. The Prophet’s statement is of special importance to those who work in the Islamic field. They must make clear that their views are based on their own scholarly discretion, i.e. ijtihad. They cannot attribute their human discretion to Islam itself. Where scholarly discretion applies, the one who has greater knowledge and experience takes a lead. Ibn Taymiyyah mentions that legitimate politics is determined on the basis of the more useful and suitable for implementation and administration. It does not rely on who is more God-fearing or more religious. 20 In dealing with other towns and tribes, the Prophet generally approved their practices, considering that it was enough that they had adopted Islam. He only sent officials to collect their zakat and sent people to educate them. His was akin to decentralized government that ensured obedience and commitment and allowed advocates of Islam to do their work. At the same time, it allowed every area or tribe to retain its own character, introducing no amendment, except where the practice is fundamentally wrong. Modern states assign responsibility for every individual to the state, from birth to death, including all details, secrets and personal affairs. The state is also responsible for the collective areas, such as transport, residential policy, employment, travel, economy and relations with others. By contrast, the pattern that was applied at the time of the Prophet in the area of the relation between the ruler and individuals focused on the collection of zakat, organization of jihad and similar areas. A person may go through his entire life without knowing the ruler or being known to the ruler.


Ibn Taymiyyah, Al-Siy[asah al-Shar[iyyah, pp. 15-19.


It may be difficult for people to understand the difference between the concept of government at the time and our contemporary situation where we have close interaction in the areas of politics, economics, information and development.

The Four Rightly Guided Caliphs The first difference of opinion among the Prophet’s companions was that which occurred in the meeting at the Saqifah. The meeting, however, ended with a una nimous agreement to choose Abu Bakr as the Prophet’s successor. Another disagreement took place after [Umar was killed. The disagreement was all in public. It was not kept in closed rooms. Then discord, i.e. the Fitnah, took place, but the antagonists did not manipulate religion to serve their interests in the fight. They only spoke about rights, legitimacy and discretion. This means that the dispute was political. The Fitnah at the end of [Uthman’s reign was closely connected with social change and the long duration of the Caliph’s reign. This frequently happens. However, its most striking aspect was [Uthman’s determination to be the victim, refusing to let the situation develop into civil war or to allow bloodshed in the capital of the Muslim state. This is exactly the opposite of what we are witnessing these days and what took place in history where the loud outcry is: “either I rule or the country will be in ruin”. Perhaps the most important issue was the choice of t he Caliph, as well as the transfer of power and the general framework in which this took place. In each of the four cycles, the process relied on the choice made by the Muslim community. Although Abu Bakr was given special approval in several statements by the Prophet, people differed about him in the Saqifah meeting, which some scholars describe as the first parliament in Islamic history. Yet eventually they agreed to appoint him. He only nominated [Umar to succeed him after having consulted the people and gauged their views. [Umar in turn appointed a consultative committee to choose his successor. They undertook a comprehensive process of consultation, seeking the views of everyone including young women. They ultimately narrowed the choice, nominating either [Uthman or [Ali. When [Uthman was assassinated, [Ali was chosen to succeed him. We may say here that the Shia’s view on the choice of the Imam removes it from the human area and the right of citizens to participate in that choice. It makes it a choice by God. Thus, the whole issue is removed from the area of legitimate politics that are not subject to definitive religious texts and fundamental Islamic principles. It is placed instead in the area of beliefs and faith.


To limit the ways by which power is transferred to the four patterns that took place at that time cannot be supported by any evidence. The fact that they took place means that they are permissible, but does not exclude other patterns and systems. A certain pattern may be suitable in a particular social environment. When that environment undergoes educational, technological or geographic change, it may require different patterns. Indeed it is most remarkable that God’s will left the proces s of choosing or nominating the Caliph in the early period of Islam undefined in any detailed measure. In his infinite wisdom, God left their methods of choice to be based on the principles of justice, ihsan [i.e. doing things well], right and consultation as they interacted in that period of history. [Abdullah ibn [Umar gives this highly significant report: “I attended my father when he was stabbed. People commended him and said to him: ‘May God reward you well for what you have done’. He said: ‘Some are looking up to something and some fear something’. They asked him to nominate a successor. He said: ‘Shall I bear the burden of responsibility for you during my life and after my death? I wish I end up with nothing for me or against me. If I nominate a successor, I will be doing like someone who is better than me. [He meant Abu Bakr]. If I leave you without nominating anyone, I will be doing like one who is better than me, God’s messenger.’ I realized when he mentioned the Prophet that he would not nominate a nyone.” 21 The early Caliphate was a unique historical system that cannot be repeated. It was, therefore, required to put in place Islamic rulings that could not be put otherwise. This is due to several reasons, such as: 1. Its closeness to the time of the Prophet and the fact that the Caliphs learnt from him directly. Their reign, therefore, represents a role model. No one, however, can hope to emulate their experiment. Theirs was a ‘Caliphate following the system laid down by the Prophet’. An authentic hadith reported by al-[Irbad ibn Sariyah quotes the Prophet as saying: “Whoever of you lives long after me will see great differences. Therefore, hold on to my way and to the way followed by the rightlyguided Caliphs. Hold on to it and never let it slip away from you...” 22 It is clear that the phrase ‘the way followed by the... Caliphs’ refers primarily to the general affairs of the state. Hence the reference to their post as Caliphs. Their way is what they all agreed upon, or what was widely known with no objection voiced. The hadith also allows differences over the issues they differed upon. The way they conducted government was to administer justice, refrain from taking public money for themselves, refrain from favouritism, select people for public posts on the basis of competence, regardless of their ancestry, and choose governors on the basis of consultation. Related b y Muslim, number 1823. Related by Abu Dawud, number 4607, al-Tirmidhi, number 2676, Ibn Majah number 44, Ibn Hibban, number 5 and al-Hakim, Vol. 1, p. 176. 21 22


2. They combined knowledge of Islam with administrative ability. Thus, they were the scholars and the rulers at the same time. Therefore, the Qur’anic statement, “Believers, obey God and obey the Messenger and those from among you who have been entrusted with authority,” (4: 59) applies to them in all situations. Early scholars interpret this Qur’anic statement in two ways, the better known of which says that it refers to scholars and rulers. Ibn al -[Arabi says: “In the early period of Islam, the rulers were competent scholars...” 23 They were the authority in matters of government and in Islamic scholarship at the same time. After them we had divergent schools of thought in matters of religion and diverse views in government and politics. That was, then, a period that set standards and a sublime model. To require people to emulate this model in every generation is impossible. What we should do is to consider that generation to be the practical explanatory memorandum that takes a religious text from its theoretical field to place it in practical life, with all its problems, contradictions, right and error. On this basis we say that the practice of the rightly guided Caliphs is the highest and practical point of reference. The purposes they sought can only be achieved by adopting the measures that ensure justice and fairness among people, ihsan, consultation and the preservation of people’s rights. The difference between the post of the Caliph or the overall ruler and other governors requires thorough consideration and discussion.

The Caliphate and Monarchy Ibn Taymiyyah mentions that although the Caliphate is theoretically the preferable system, it may not be suitable in all situations. Monarchy or a different system of government may be more suitable for people at times, provided that justice is ensured. 24 One religious Umayyad Caliph tried to force people to follow a very religious and ideal way of life. He thought that he could emulate [Umar ibn al-Khattab or [Umar ibn [Abd al-Aziz, but this led to a rebellion against him and it is said that some of the rebels drank his blood. He was in no way insincere, but the reason appears to be that he did not fully understand how circumstances had changed.

23 24

Vis. Bada’i[ al-Silk fi Taba’i[ al-Mulk, p. 391. Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmu[al-Fatawa, Vol. 35, p. 22.


After the Caliphate, strong-fisted rule took over, with the pretext of preventing chaos. Subsequently, a situation of authoritarian rule developed through the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. This authoritarian rule relied on three elements: 1. God’s will as its source of legitimacy. The ruler would try to make people understand that he is part of God’s will, which made any objection to him an objection to God. As such, it is futile and destined to fail. This allowed the concept of ‘force’ to creep into Islamic thought. The thought that government was assigned by an act of God was circulated. As such, individuals, institutions and society have nothing to do with it. They could neither amend it nor object to it. Indeed, they could not voice any reservation concerning it. This concept was the worst thing government did to the people, making them believe that they would be following their religion by submitting to unjust rule. They believed that they had to accept it as God’s will and that it was not up to them to combat a situation of injustice by trying to impose justice, or replace a situation of falsehood by a situation of right. 2. Making financial gifts to win popularity and people’s loyalty and to drum up support, instead of using state funds according to need and competence. Thus, numerous gifts were given to people. Calling them ‘gifts’ implied that the ruler owned the money and that he was right to make whatever gifts he wanted to make to whomever he wished. This made wealth circulate among a special group of people. This is contrary to the principle of distributing war gains and its objective as stated in the Qur'an: “ Thus, [war gains] would not just circulate among those of you who are rich.” (59: 7) 3. Force. The fact that a person managed to win power should be enough to make people accept him and ensure stability. People’s views were of no importance, as long as he could impose his will. His means to ensure continued rule was ‘fear, not love’. The Prophet mentioned that the Caliphate to succeed him would last thirty years, after which God will give power to whomever He will. This is stated in an authentic hadith. 25 The Qur'an states: “Say: Lord, Sovereign of all dominion, You grant dominion to whom You will and take dominion away from whom You will.” (4: 26). It also says about David: “God bestowed on him the kingdom and wisdom, and taught him whatever He willed.” (2: 251) It seems, therefore, that the main problem is not with the nature of the political system and whether it is headed by a Caliph, King, President or Prince. The most important

Vis, Al-Musnad, by al-Tayalisi, number 1203, Al-Musnad, by Ahmad, number 21919, Al-Jami[, by al-Tirmidhi, number 2226, Sahih, by Ibn Hibban, number 6657, Al-Muntakhab min [Ilal al-Khallal, number 129 and Al-Silsilah alSahihah, number 459. 25


matters are justice, good government, independence of the different authorities and making sure that power is not all in the hand of one person. It is not right that we treat Islamic history generally and the political history of Islam in particular as sacred. Nor is it right to say that we must defer to it. We should treat it as a human experiment that provides us with lessons to learn, mistakes to avoid and right measures to emulate. Generally speaking, the concept of ‘force’ as applied to politics may be a means to ensure stability. However, it gives the masses a subtle, or not so subtle, impression that the change of government, the administration of justice and the enforcement of reforms can only be achieved by the use of force. This view has been adopted by some revolutions, but it is a course beset with danger.

Rules for Rulers Some of the writings of those periods were influenced by the existing situation or by neighbouring cultures, particularly the Persian. Some writers, who served the rulers, such as Ibn al-Muqaffa[ , copied the Persian model that gave the ruler a measure of holiness. They used too many great titles for rulers, and put in place etiquettes for speaking to the ruler, how to behave in his presence and how to enter a room where he is. Some of them said that if the ruler sneezes, no one is allowed to say, ‘bless you’, to him. According to alJahiz, a famous literary figure of the Abbasid period, certain groups alleged that a ruler is not held to account on the Day of Judgement. Those great titles that were given to rulers were useless and meaningless. An Andalusia n poet describes this stating that rulers of city states are given titles of kings and emperors. Thus they are made to look like a cat trying to emulate a lion. Scholars who wrote on what is legitimate in the political area, or what they called AlAhhkam al-Sultaniyyah, were more or less describing what was actually in practice and trying to give it legitimate justification. What took place eventually was that great power was concentrated in the hands of rulers. Al-Mawardi was one of the most famous scholars who wrote on this subject. A section of his book is taken directly from the Persian culture. Hence, we find the theme of obedience prominent in his writings. Justice Abu Ya[la followed a similar line. Later, alJuwayni and al-Ghazali wrote largely in the same vein. Their writings are the result of the scholarly effort they exercised within the prevailing conditions at the time. However, our study of what took place in our political history must not stop us from looking at the essential values stated in the Qur’an and by the Prophet which define 37

justice in government. Nor can we overlook the scholarly and popular efforts that aimed to influence government and deal with its digression. We may say that the fact that religious scholars stood away from those in power in Islamic history led to the spread of dictatorship and weakened the moral and institutional spirit of the state. However, it had its positive aspect: it kept our Islamic history immune to what happened in Europe, where the Church imposed its hegemony on the state.


Two Revolution and the Legitimacy of the Winner Historical Change Both a student of Islamic history and a religious scholar observe a huge gulf between ‘the practice followed by the rightly guided Caliphs’, which represents the course followed by the Prophet’s companions in implementing the values and concepts of the Qur'an and the Sunnah, and what happened in the Umayyad period and subsequently. Mu[awiyah, the first Umayyad Caliph, was first a governor of Syria appointed by [Umar ibn al-Khattab. He was generous, forbearing and a man of integrity. This enabled him to gain popularity. He took over at a time when Islamic society had just gone through a painful period of strife and crisis in which the blood of some great people was shed. It led to a state of confusion and shock. Mu[awiyah used this to pave the way to the establishment of the Umayyad dynasty which ended the system of the rightly guided Caliphs. The term ‘the practice of the rightly guided Caliphs’ refers to their method of government and state administration. It is reported that the Prophet said: “The first one to change my Sunnah [i.e. practice] is a man from Umayyah”. 26 This hadith, if authentic, is understood to refer to changing the system of choosing the Caliph and make it a hereditary system. [Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, the Umayyad Caliph, was the first to take the Caliphate by the sword, openly and without offering any justification. People were forced to pledge loyalty to him after [Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr was killed. He certainly changed the Caliphate and was himself changed by it. The transformation was profound: politically, socially and culturally. The choice of the Caliph was no longer by consultation; it became hereditary. The pledge of loyalty became forced and compulsory. Money became the means to win over those in opposition and to buy people’s loyalty. There was no financial accountability.

Related by Ibn Abi Shaybah number 35877; Ibn Abi [Asim in Al-Awa’il number 63, Abu Ya[la. It is also mentioned by Ibn Kathir in Al-Bidayah wal-Nihayah, Vol. 11, p. 648, as also in Al-Matalib al-[Aliyah, Vol. 18, p. 284. It is mentioned by al-Dulabi in Al-Kuna, Vol. 2, p. 508, Ibn [Adiy in Al-Kamil, Vol. 4, p. 97, Al-Bayhaqi in Dala’il alNubuwwah, Vol. 6, p. 466, Ibn [Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq, Vol. 65, p. 250. Vis. also Al-Silsilah al-Sahihah, number 1749. 26


All this was coupled with a gradual change of concepts, particularly the political ones, such as government, people’s pledges, consultation and the Caliphate. The political practice went through a fundamental change which also led to a change in scholarly writings. The changeover was gradual. During Mu[awiyah’s reign, many of the Prophet’s companions were alive, and they spoke out against whatever was unacceptable. The gulf, however, was growing wider with every new Caliph, except for the three known for their justice Mu[awiyah ibn Yazid, [Umar ibn [Abd al-[Aziz and Yazid ibn al-Walid. They planned for a return to the political system that operated during the reign of the rightly guided Caliphs. Perhaps the fact that the Arabs came to know administrative and political organization only recently had some effect on the turn of events. The tribal role began to reappear, while the elites in society feared a return to insecurity and political upheavals. This was a product of the outcome of the dispute between [Ali and Mu[awiyah which developed into an armed conflict. The reactionary changeover in the Islamic political system was not accomplished peacefully, but it was ultimately able to impose itself, exploiting the fear from the violent rebellions by al-Khawarij and the fear that the outer regions could secede causing the state to split up. The defeats of the people of Madinah in the Battle of al-Harrah and the scholars in Dayr al-Jamajim also helped the spread of the mentality of submission to authority. Qatadah said: “It was only after the defeat of the scholars that the philosophy of al-Murji’ah was started”. 27 Perhaps the revolution by al-Husayn ibn [Ali in 61 AH (681 CE) was the best known in Islamic history. He called for a return to the practice of the rightly guided Caliphs. The reaction to al-Husayn’s killing was far reaching and long lasting. It led to several rebellions such as those of al-Tawwabin and al-Mukhtar ibn Abi [Ubayd. These rebellions had widely divergent aims. It was at this point that the intellectual history of the Shia and their beliefs started. The Umayyads and those who followed them relied on the principle of ‘the winner’, but clothed it with a claim of right and the need to avenge [Uthman’s killing. The Abbasid revolution overthrew the Umayyad rule by force, as their state weakened beyond repair. Vis. Ibn al-Ja[d, Al-Musnad number 1056, [Abdullah ibn Ahmad, Al-Sunnah number 644, Al-Khallal, Al-Sunnah number 1230, Ibn Battah, Al-Ibanah al-Kubra number 1235 and Lalaka’i, Sharh U sūl I[tiqad Ahl al-Sunnah walJama[ah number 1841. 27


The Abbasids were able to recruit support by the Sunnah and the Shia. The Battle of al Zab, near Musil in Iraq, was the decisive confrontation that put a final end to the Umayyad rule. Scholars and the Question of Need The legitimacy of the winner was the subject of discussion due to the lack of social and civil institutions that could tilt the balance and the absence of a constitution that defined rights and duties. Islamic scholars found themselves in a difficult position because of the limited choices available. Moreover, they recalled cases of failure that led to increased authoritarian rule in a situation that was akin to a state of emergency that allowed the ruler to discard the little that remained of justice and people’s rights. The scholars were keen to preserve the unity of the Muslim nation and to avoid the possibility of civil war that threatened a fragile social structure. Therefore, they rejected division even at the price of having to justify authoritarian r ule. Theirs was a practical ruling in a particular cultural period and temporary circumstances. It was by no means an everlasting religious ruling. Just as it could not be suitable at the time of the Prophet’s companions and the rightly guided Caliphs, it is equally unsuitable for later generations, but for different reasons. Even those who approved it considered it temporary and changeable as circumstances change. It was by no means a constant ruling that relied on clear texts or clear practices by the first Muslim generation. Yet the ruling involved some contradiction and a measure of appeasement. If someone manages to score a victory, people have to submit to his authority by reason of force. Should another one rise against him and oust him, the people will have to submit to this latter one. They will even consider an attempt by the first one to regain power a rebellion that could lead to a death sentence, regardless of his status. Those scholars considered this to be a ruling necessitated by a pressing need in a society that could only submit to such situations. Such rulings by scholars did not prevent the Abbasids from staging their successful revolt and establishing their state. They realized that the majority of the scholars would give them their support if they were to win. By the same token, the scholars would be against them should they lose. It is as the saying goes: “Whoever wields power must be obeyed”. If, after the Abbasids victory, the Umayyads were to regroup and try to stage a comeback, their attempt would be a rebellion against legitimate authority and they should be fought. If they had enough power and were able to reinstate themselves by force, they would gain legitimacy.


This begs the question: which successful revolutions will the scholars support? Which will they condemn because of their failure? When will the rebels by considered traitors and when will they be the supreme leaders? The answer is based on two factors. The first is the balance of power and careful planning. This was what the Abbasids did, as they patiently and carefully worked in secret for 30 years. The second is the nature of the period and whether it is one of stability that militates against change, or one of mild dissatisfaction that is not ready for a change, or one that witnesses strong dissatisfaction that goes up to the critical point when the general mood is ready for a total change. We do not find this clearly stated in books of Islamic jurisprudence. We find it in books of sociology, such as Ibn Khaldun’s Al-Muqaddimah, in which he says: Under this heading we may mention the case of people who rise to change some wrong, whether they belong to the masses or they are religious scholars. Many of those who are devoted to worship and a religious life stand up to oppressive rulers calling on them to refrain from doing what is wrong and counselling them to do what is right. They do so hoping to earn God’s reward. They gain popularity among the masses and in so doing they expose themselves to great danger. Most of them are killed as a result, and they are accountable for their deeds rather than earning reward for them, because God has not required them to do what they did except in situations where they are able to do it in safety. The Prophet says: “Whoever of you sees an evil action, should change it with his hand. If he is unable to do so, then with his tongue. If he is still unable to do so, then in his heart. That is the weakest degree of faith”. 28 Kings and regimes are normally strong and stable. They cannot be undermined except through strong demands widely supported by tribes and communities, as we have already explained. Such was the case of God’s prophets (peace be upon them all) when they advocated their messages with the support of their tribes or communities. Had God so willed, He would have given them the support of the entire universe. In His infinite wisdom, He let things take their normal course. If an individual takes this way, advocating what is right indeed, the fact that he is acting without adequate support leaves him exposed to serious danger. If, on the other hand, he is seeking power, he is likely to face many impediment s and to be 28

Related b y Muslim, number 49.


placed in danger, because what he seeks is something granted by God and cannot be achieved without His help. He helps only those who are sincere and have the interests of the Muslim community at heart. No Muslim or man of insight doubts that for a moment. 29 The position of Islamic scholars appears to be indicating that a person without sufficient power and one who does not meet the necessary conditions must bear the consequences of his rash action and failure. We may understand this attitude that was influenced by circumstances as on the one hand encouraging a person who meets the necessary conditions to lead the nation to have enough power, and on the other attempting to break the cycle of conflict and unsuccessful takeover attempts which makes rulers more dictatorial. Moreover, the logic of Islamic scholarship aimed to preserve social peace and prevent chaos and strife, by which terms scholars most probably meant civil war. We cannot put all the blame on Islamic scholars. Part of the blame must be placed at the door of the community for failing to build its political institutions. This led to the aggrandizement of the ruler’s power. He looked at his people with contempt, even to the extent of nominating a child as his heir. Ibn al-Khatib wrote a book about kings and rulers who assumed power before attaining puberty. 30 It should be noted that the book is not written to criticize or protest against this phenomenon. The non-existence of the institution of consultation allowed the logic of force and the wielding of power to gain the upper hand. Rather than the wholesome condition of “they conduct their affairs by mutual consultation” (42: 38) there prevailed the condition “Strong is their internal hostility”. (59: 14) The adoption of this attitude by Islamic scholars meant that many stated rules concerning the system of government were bypassed. These included that the pledge of loyalty must be by free consent; that should two Caliphs be given pledges of loyalty at the same time, the second should be killed. The guidance provided by the practice of the rightly guided Caliph was also bypassed. Moreover, the hereditary system, repression, monopolizing wealth and government, the politicization of the judiciary system and even the politicization of religion itself were all tolerated. Eminent scholars and judges, such as Sharik and Ibn Taymiyyah, were accused of heresy and deviation. Yet many scholars rejected the way followed by the government, but their rejection was merely at the individual level. Their attitudes were applauded by the people and recorded 29 30

Ibn Khaldun, Al-Muqaddimah, (Arabic edition), p. 200. The book has the lengthy title, I[lam al-A[lam fi man buyia[ qabl al-Ihtilam min Muluk al-Islam.


in books. We learn about the attitudes of scholars like Ma [qil ibn Yasar, Abu Hazim, Sufyan al-Thawri, Sa[id ibn Jubayr, Malik, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Abu Hanifah. It seems clear that the people found themselves with two options: either to submit to the ruling authority or to revolt. The third option of organized and watchful opposition did not exist, due to local and historical reasons that merit a study. Therefore, putting all the blame on the religious scholars betrays a measure of overlooking all historical facts and circumstances. It does not study the available options or take into account causes and effects.

Obedience and Consultation Obeying the ruler in what is reasonable is certainly right. Without it chaos and anarchy will prevail. We will discuss a number of Qur’anic and Hadith texts that require obedience in a later chapter. As we are speaking about Islamic law we need to discuss the right of choosing who is to be listened to and obeyed before the pledge of loyalty is given to him. We must also speak about the duty of consultation which protects the community from dictatorship and protects the ruler from his own leaning towards tyranny and selfishness. We note that there are Qur’anic commands at both levels. God says: “Believers, obey God and obey the Messenger and those from among you who have been entrusted with authority.” (4: 59) He also says: “Consult with them in the conduct of public affairs.” (3: 159) The physical and military power of the state cannot be checked either by humble submission or the spread of chaos and social violence. It can only be checked by strong institutions that represent society and act as safeguards, providing controls and defending people’s rights. A spiralling problem occurs when the state considers that the establishment of such institutions an erosion of its authority or a step towards power being wrenched away from it. It resorts to stifle these institutions and suppress them. Thus, even a cultural or social meeting, or one that seeks to provide voluntary social service becomes a cause of suspicion and grounds for indictment. A meeting that seeks to provide advice or to call for reform is treated as a declaration of war. In Islamic history, the general Islamic orders developed into public institutions addressing areas such as the administration of the law, education, endowments, zakat and


controls [i.e. hisbah]. However, there was no independent institution to provide consultation.31 Authors like Louis Massignon, Bernard Louis, George Maqdisi and Sherman Jackson wrote about the role of the Fiqh institutions in Islamic history. They show this role in bright colours, describing it as a desperate attempt to ensure balance in society. Massignon considers them as one of the earliest, if not indeed the earliest, ‘trade unions’ in history. Maqdisi outlines the most important features of trade unions, such as being independent, having common grounds uniting their membership, self-managing, income generating and self financing through endowments and other ways. These were characteristic of schools in Islamic history. They were not merely educational institutions. They were also independent social centres that maintained their own ideas, championed the causes of the community, and guarded their full independence from politicians and their supervision. They went as far as expressing reservations concerning the ruler, or criticizing him, or demanding further rights. 32 Yet most of these schools were established by princes and rulers who patronized them and made endowments to finance them. While these academics speak of early trade unions and institutions in Islamic history, well before they developed into their present Western shape, the institutions available in our Arab world do not play a role as social and civil safeguards, providing people with protection against injustice and tyranny. We have gone through a very long debate about whether consultation is obligatory or not. This despite a clear Qur’anic text ordering consultation, the Prophet’s practice and the enforcement of this text by the Prophet’s companions in the most serious issue of choosing the Caliph as well as other issues. We have also witnessed a long debate on a question raised in our time, but was not discussed by early scholars. This is the question of whether consultation is binding on the ruler or merely informative. The practice of the Prophet’s companions confirms that consultation is both obligatory and binding. Al-Jassas says: “The order given here indicates obligation. The purpose of consultation is to put the results of consultation into effect.” 33 Also Ibn [Atiyyah agrees: “Consultation is one of the essential rules of Islamic law. Whoever does not consult experts and religious scholars must be removed from office. There is no disagreement on this issue.” 34

Vis. Nasr Muhammad Arif, Al-Ittijahat al-Mu[asrah fi al-Siyasah; Abd al-Hameed Abu Sulayman, Ishkaliyyat alIstibdad wal-Fasad, p. 9; Ahmad al-Raysooni, Al-Shura. 32 Vis. Sherman Jackson, Islamic Law and the State, p. 108 in the Arabic edition. 33 Al-Jassas, A[hkam al-Qur'an, Vol. 2, pp. 329-331. Th e same view is stated b y al -Razi, Vol. 9, pp. 409-410. 34 Vis. Tafsir Ibn [Attiyyah,, Vol.1, p. 534. 31


Ibn Khuwayz Mand ad says: “It is obligatory for governors to consult scholars on issues of religion that they do not know or are ambiguous to them, and to consult army commanders on issues related to war, and consult the dignitaries in society concerning matters of public interest, and consult ministers, officials and governors concerning the interests of the country and its development.” 35 The comment by Ibn [Atiyyah that ‘There is no disagreement on this issue’ is not taken as totally correct. Disagreement is found and the final say is what is supported by clear evidence. Imam Ibn [Arafah rejected this view, saying: “This is incorrect, and has no support by any scholar. It is well known that when the ruler does what is more serious than abstaining from consulting scholars and religious men his removal is not obligatory.”36 Al-Tahir ibn [Ashur, a scholar of high repute considers Ibn [Atiyyah’s view to be correct. He argues that Ibn [Arafah compared the abandoning of consultation to an act that makes the ruler a wrongdoer. Such actions do not justify the removal of the ruler. He then adds: “The analogy is seriously questionable. Wrongdoing brings harm to oneself, while ignoring consultation exposes the interests of the Muslim community to great risks. The Maliki school of thought considers the order concerning consultation as binding. According to them, the text of any legislation is general unless there is evidence to make it otherwise.” 37 This rule that an order stated in the Qur'an or the Sunnah is binding unless there is evidence to make it otherwise is supported by the overwhelming majority of scholars of Fiqh methodology. Abu Hurayrah said: “I never saw anyone who consults his companions more than God’s messenger (peace be upon him)”. 38 Needless to say, no one needs to consult his companions less than God’s messenger. He consulted them in obedience to God’s order which signifies obligation. His other purpose is to set the example for later generations.

Vis. Tafsir al-Qurttubi, Vol. 4, p. 250. Vis. [Abu al-[Abbas al-Busayli, Nukat wa tanbihat fi Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Majid, Vol. 2, p. 130. This book is a summary of Ibn [Arafah’s Tafsir. 37 Vis, Al-Tahrir wal-Tan wir, Vol.4, p. 148. 38 Related b y al-Shafi[i in his Al-Musnad, p. 277, [Abd al-Razzaq number 9720, Ahmad number 18928, Al-Tabari in his commentary on the Qur'an, Vol. 21, p. 296, Ibn Hibban number 4872. The basic meaning of th e hadith is included in al-Bukhari’s Sahih: vis. Fath al-Bari, Vol. 5, p. 334. 35 36


Three Is it the Role of the People or the Elite? The term Ahl al-Hall wal-[Aqd does not occur anywhere in the Qur'an or the Sunnah. I am not aware of it being ever used by any of the Prophet’s companions. However, it is widely used by the scholars. It means the ‘people of sound judgement, influence and management’. Ahmad states, as reported by Ishaq ibn Ibrahim: “The overall ruler is the one who is approved by Ahl al-Hall wal-[Aqd, when everyone of them refers to him as Imam, meaning the ruler.” 39 The term is decisive, suggesting the existence of an elite in every period of time which is able to made momentous decisions in all major issues. However, the term needs to be looked into, as it was coined in a particular period of history. Life normally moves from simplicity to complexity, and from spontaneity to regulation and order. Apart from the case of the rightly guided Caliphs, Islamic history does not show any institution that cared to gauge the views of the elite and whether they agreed on an issue. We are referring here to both an elite of scholars and one of leaders of society. Islamic history is a history of elites in the main part. The prevailing culture looks down on the so-called masses, who are often described as uncivilized mobs. A similar notion prevailed in the West. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbs claimed that the love of war and evil is ingrained in their nature. Human experience encourages the institutionalization of this term and consulting people on who to represent them. This should be coupled with a consultative role for the elite, provided that this role does not encroach on the rights of ordinary people.

Whose Right? The right belongs to the community as the community is the principal party in the contract. The ruler is its representative. However, his authority has no divine basis. The pledge of loyalty is a contract based on mutual agreement, without coercion. This is universally agreed by the early scholars. 40

39 40

Vis. Abu Ya[la, Al-A[hkam al-Sultaniyyah, p. 23. Vis. Al-Tab ari’s commentary on the Qur'an, Vol. 6, p. 245. Also, al-Mawardi, Al-A[hkam al-Sultaniyyah, pp. 36-38.


The authority granted to the ruler does not negate the original rights. Nor is it a permanent contract that cannot be revoked. 41 Abu Bakr said to the people: “Obey me as long as I obey God and His messenger. If I disobey God and His messenger, I can have no claim to be obeyed by you.” 42 [Umar said: “The Caliphate is based on consultation”. 43 Al-Qurtubi comments: “[Umar has made government, which is the most serious of all events, based on consultation”. 44 [Ali said: “The pledge of loyalty to me must be based only on the consent of the Muslim community.” 45 It is perfectly the right of the Muslim community to give a conditional pledge of loyalty, stipulating conditions of length of term or specific action. The Prophet’s companions stipulated a condition that [Ali would punish [Uthman’s killers.46 [Abd al-Rahman ibn [Awf stated a condition for both [Ali and [Uthman that they would follow the Qur'an, the Sunnah and the practice of the first two Caliphs. A well known hadith states: “Muslims abide by their conditions, except for a condition that forbids something lawful or makes lawful what is forbidden.” 47 Those who have the original right may specify a term for the contract, as it is the case in the constitutions of some countries, where the term of office is specified as four or five or six years. This comes under the heading of undefined interests of the community, i.e. Al-Masalih al-Mursalah, and also under conditions of agreements. The Prophet says: “Muslims abide by their conditions, except for a condition that forbids something lawful or makes lawful what is forbidden.” The purpose is to ensure justice. Some of the alMuwahhiddin Caliphs specified two years as the term of office for judges. 48 [Umar is quoted to have said: “I have thought of allowing no governor to stay in office more than four years. If he is just, people will have become bored with him, and if he is unjust, people will be relieved when he departs.” 49 Ahmad relates in Al-Musnad on the authority of al-Sha[bi: “[Umar wrote that no governor of mine should stay in one place for more than one year, but al-Ash[ari may Vis. Ibn Muflih, Al-Furu[, Vol. 7, p. 41. Vis. Mu[ammar, Al-Jami[ number 20702; Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah, Vol. 2, p. 661; Al-Tabari, Tarikh alUmam wal-Muluk, Vol. 3, p. 210; Ibn Hibban, Al-Thiqat, Vol. 2, p. 157; Qiwam al-Sunnah, Al-Targhib wal-T arhib, p. 716; Ibn al-Athir, Al-Kamil fil-Tarikh, Vol. 2, p. 193; Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wal-Nihayah, Vol. 8, pp. 89-90 & Vol. 9, p. 415. 43 Vis. Ibn Abi Shaybah, Al-Musannaf number 37062; Ahmad, Al-Musnad numbers 186 & 341; Muslim, Sahih number 567. 44 Vis. Al-Qurtubi, Tafsir, Vol. 4, p. 251. 45 Al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Umam wal-Muluk, Vol. 5, p. 63. 46 Vis. Al-Tamimi, Al-Fitnah wa waq[at al-Jamal, p. 102; Al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Umam wal-Muluk, Vol. 4, p. 444. 47 Related b y Ahmad number 8784; Abu Dawud number 3594, al-Tirmidhi number 1352; Ibn Hibban number 5091. Vis also Irwa’ al-Ghal[il, Vol. 5, p. 142. 48 Al-Lu’lu’i al-Zarkash i, Tarikh al-Dawlatayn, p. 44. 49 Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari, Vol. 2, p. 240. 41 42


stay for four years. In his will, [Umar stressed that no governor should stay in office more than two years. 50 Among the scholars who wrote on this point was my teacher Shaykh Muhammad ibn [Uthaymin who wrote: “It is perfectly appropriate to limit the term of an official post to one year, or two or three or four or a specified duration. This is indeed useful. Specifying a number of years for the term in office has the benefit of testing the official and judge his work. Many a person may be thought to be unsuitable for office then proves himself to be suitable, while we may think someone suitable and he proves to be unfit for office.” He justifies his view by saying that employment is unlike a tenancy agreement. Determining the term of office should take public interest into consideration, regardless of the length of the term. 51

50 51

Vis. Al-Taratib al-Idariyyah, Vol. 1, p. 299. Vis. Ibn [Uthaymin’s comments on Al-Hisbah by Ibn Taymiyyah.


Four Revolution and Strife Historically, ‘revolution’ has been given negative connotations, such as the revolutions of al-Zanj and al-Qaramitah. It is also associated with failure and its terrible consequences such as the death penalty and long imprisonment. Such punishments are the outcome of failure to judge the situation carefully. This grim image, however, was later modified as it came to refer to successful revolutions which managed to establish strong states, such as the Abbasid revolution, and the revolts against colonialism in the Arab world, as also great world revolutions such as the French, the American and Russian revolutions. These latter revolutions established states and put in place strict comprehensive laws. Perhaps it is useful in this context to mention the Magna Carta which represented one of the earliest revolutions against despotism. It took place in Britain in the thirteenth century, and ultimately produced a document of that name. In 1215, the King was besieged and forced to sign the document that curtailed his power and stressed the rights of individual citizens, making clear that no one could be imprisoned except under the law. The Magna Carta remained the reference point to later conventions. It inspired the French revolution, the American constitution (1787) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a result, the first world parliament was elected in Britain. At the time, the Muslim world was ruled by the Memluks, as mentioned by Professor Umar Farroukh. It is worth mentioning that this was the period of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah. When revolution is mentioned, the first thing to be heard after that is Fitnah, which means sedition. Sedition leads to ruin, disunity and erosion of peace in society. It replaces the state system with civil war and chaos. People’s fortunes will not improve if the alternative to despotism means chaos and tribal or regional conflicts like those that continue to take place in Somalia. Few, however, are those that remember that it is despotism that leads to such chaos. A long period of injustice coupled with depriving the people of their rights of meeting and organizing themselves, making that a criminal offence, will eventually lead to an uprising. Times change and today’s world stability does not allow chaos to prevail for a long time. The culture of safeguarding people’s rights and political partnership is making its mark on the world, while the mechanism of peaceful resistance is becoming deeply rooted.


From a historical standpoint, we need to study the practice of the rightly guided Caliphs, even in the way they dealt with revolution. If our outlook is practical, we need to realize that the world is witnessing great changes and different patterns. These cannot be reduced to a single type of outcome. If we adopt a logical outlook, we must look at results and consequences, trying to prevent what is harmful and evil and to facilitate the attainment of sound objectives. We also need to understand the divine law of nature, making use of it. We should also try to achieve the best outcome, remembering the rule that one form of God’s will may be avoided by another form. If, on the other hand, our standpoint is Islamic, we should realize that the whole issue of revolution comes under the heading of ‘preventing the means to evil’. This does no t mean that all doors should be closed and people should be silenced so that they do not say what others do not like to hear. It means making a fair contract that safeguards all rights and prevents surprises and adverse developments.


Five Revolution: Peaceful or Violent? Resorting to violence is a very serious matter, as it opens the doors to civil war. It is the opposite of well considered peaceful action which often gives unexpected positive results. This is particularly the case when such peaceful action is undertaken by the whole nation with the participation of all groups and trends, and not limited to a particular community or political group. I understand a particular advice by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as laying clear and strong emphasis on peaceful action, which is referred to as ‘staying away’. This is included in a hadith entered in both authentic anthologies of the Prophet’s Traditions. Abu Hurayrah quotes the Prophet as saying: “This group of the Quraysh people will bring my nation to ruin. He was asked: ‘What do you advise us to do?’ He said: ‘If people will only stay away from them’.” 52 The phrase ‘this group of the Quraysh’ refers to the people who assume power after the reign of the rightly guided Caliphs. ‘Bringing the nation to ruin’ refers to the use of force and killing people. The advice to ‘stay away’ means that people should not cooperate with them. This will undermine their authority. It is indeed peaceful resistance, or civil disobedience, and refraining from giving such rulers support to strengthen their hand. Peaceful revolution is not a new phenomenon. As far back as 494 BC, the people of the Roman Empire revolted against the nobility, and their revolt was peaceful. Later, mankind managed to make far reaching political changes without resort to violence. The high cost the European nations paid through their violent revolutions is by no means inevitable. Through their sacrifices and their blood those nations have paved the way for others. Our world has undergone fundamental changes that make it easier for people to win their rights. An important factor in all this was Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s On the Social Contract. Since 1980, many nations were able to overthrow dictatorial regimes without the resort to violence. These included Estonia, Lithuania, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Slovenia, Madagascar, Mali, Bolivia and the Philippines. Peaceful resistance also consolidated the democratic change in many other countries, such as Nepal, Zambia, South Korea, Chile, Argentina, Haiti, Brazil, Uruguay, Malawi, Thailand, Bulgaria, Hungary, Zaire, Nigeria and a number of the republics of the old Soviet Union. 52

Related b y al-Bukhari number 3604, and Muslim number 2917.


According to a survey undertaken by Freedom House, the number of countries that are classified as ‘free’ has considerably increased in the last ten years. T his is confirmed in Gene Sharp’s book From Dictatorship to Democracy. The book contains information, experiences, mechanisms and nearly two hundred methods that have been used in the past and at present. Many of these may be used and adapted to different circumstances, even under the most repressive regimes. Experts speak of campaigns of boycott and civil disobedience. These represent a message to the strugglers for freedom that they must not despair, and a message to the society that it can do something, and a third one to the dictatorial regimes that they must respond to people’s demands or go. The book mentions certain highly effective methods that cannot be countered by state security forces, such as expression by clothes, slogans, posters, balloons, or non-compliance. The list is long. Henry David Thoreau is considered the founder of the theory of civil disobedience w hen he refused to pay tax in protest against the slave law and the war against Mexico in 1846. His philosophy influenced such figures as Mahatma Ghandi and his work in both South Africa and India, and Martin Luther King in America. The Arab Spring revolutions surprised most observers as they started a spontaneous action using the new media that enabled quick communications, organized action and expression in the absence of any scope for reform or negotiation with the dictatorial regimes. Dictatorships have points of weakness which make it possible to level a fatal blow to them at a particular point. They have their own Achilles heel. In Greek mythology, when Achilles was a baby, it was foretold that he would die in battle. To prevent his death, his mother Thetis took Achilles to the River Styx which was supposed to offer powers of invincibility and dipped his body into the water. But as Thetis held Achilles by the heel, his heel was not washed over by the water of the magical river. Achilles grew up to be a man of war who survived many great battles. At the time of the Battle of Troy, his family kept him on an island, but he decided to join the battle. A poisonous arrow shot at him was lodged in his heel, killing him shortly after. In the Arab revolutions, the use of force was an exception that took place in Libya and to a lesser extent in Syria. To achieve the desired result, the use of force must take the following considerations into account: Firstly, it must be a last resort option which is adopted only after all other options have been tried and failed;


Secondly, it must be a reaction to the regime’s violence and its use of force against the protesters. In other words, it should be a response to the other side within the limits of self defence and protecting the population. It must not reach a stage of revenge or targeting others who are not involved in the conflict. Thirdly, it must be a generally agreed option by the people. The decision must in no case be unilaterally adopted by a section or a party, because in this case it puts others in a position that is not of their choice and it could lead to the splintering of the protest movement. Fourthly, the use of force must not mean having to fight the world. In other words, the protest movement must make sure that the international situation is likely to win it regional and international support to secure better results and ensure that help will be forthcoming till the end. Fifthly, the use of force must avoid implicating any civil group, or public institutions, or religious or community aspects. Such implication could adversely affect the social fabric of the country, its pluralist and civil character, and its neutral achievements. These belong to the nation, history and the country, and they have nothing to do with the dictator or anyone else. The use of force involves increased bloodshed and creates future crises that may be very difficult to solve. Its consequences could be very serious. Therefore, it must re main very limited even if that means greater sacrifices.


Six Who Is Behind the Revolution: A Party, a Conspiracy, or the Nation? It is not unusual that when people are unable to analyze an event that comes all of a sudden, they attribute it to a carefully planned conspiracy. The Arab mentality often leans towards a conspiracy theory, because it removes the need for accountability and self criticism. A conspiracy means that we are victims to the plots cooked by others. In analyzing an event as serious as a revolution, objectivity is hard to come by. Many explain the event in the light of their initial attitude, whether supportive or otherwise.

Mentality of the Masses Most people cannot accurately gauge the mentality of the masses. They, therefore, find it difficult to explain their action. There is no doubt that different forces and parties try to exploit popular action for their own interests. However, simplifying matters in a way that paints the masses as being remotely controlled is a grave mistake. Many are those who do not believe that nations can liberate themselves, but this is not always true. History shows that dictatorship is weak and can speedily collapse in the face of public pressure. Machiavelli said that a prince who finds himself in opposition to all the people cannot feel secure. The more ruthless he is the weaker is his regime. 53 Even the one who looks at the masses with contempt must realize that they exist and must be carefully studied. They have a spirit of their own and they can be motivated. It is interesting to realize, as Gustave Le Bon says, that human life and the course of history do not rely on facts alone. He considers that a true and modern principle. 54 Crowds applauding their favourite singer or lining the pavements to greet their passing leader can work miracles. They can burn today what they yesterday considered sacred. When a dream is shown to hungry or poor masses, they become a force of legendary proportions. The ‘masses’ phenomenon can be explained as follows: 1. Everyone comes together with a single spirit and common emotion. As such, differences between people in mentality and thought is temporarily removed so as 53 54

N. Machiavelli, The Prince, (Arabic edition) pp. 106-107. Gustave Le Bon, The psychology of Peoples, (Arabic edition), p. 24.


to allow everyone to live at the same level. Just as the great flood carries stones, the great crowd will carry the individual, whether he is highly educated or illiterate. Such considerations are of little effect. The spirit of the masses can be generous, heroic and ready to sacrifice. It can also be destructive or a combination of both. 2. An individual acts consciously, but the masses act in an unconscious manner. 3. The masses need a leader who does not use logic to persuade them; rather, a charismatic leader who has a magical effect and uses simple but powerful slogans. This leader may later become a despot acting in the name of the masses. Many philosophers confirm that we live in the age of the masses, because the masses are the new force that will overpower all other forces. The fate of nations is no longer decided in presidential offices; it is determined by the spirit of the masses. When we speak of the masses, we are not pointing to any grouping. We are referring to a temporary entity, comprising numerous and divergent elements, but are strongly united at a particular moment of time in pursuit of a clear objective. Motivation and emotional fever and shared thoughts combine to channel enthusiastic fervour into clear action. The individual becomes part of a whole mass and his action is not determined by his own will. We do not need to go back to the age of heroism in order to understand the potentials of the masses. What we see today makes it absolutely clear that the masses are ready to sacrifice at the time of popular agitation. They are able to attain high standards of heroism and dedication for their noble cause. At such times, they do not know the unlikely or the impossible. Indeed, the unlikely will be the more attractive and desir able. Understanding the psychology of the masses will greatly change our understanding of the motives of the recent revolutions. Le Bon spoke at length about the role of the press in disseminating ideas and the inability of government to lead public opinion. But Le Bon did not live in the age of the internet and the social media networks. He did not know about Twitter and YouTube which have created a broad virtual audience of all colours and leanings. The masses are then the first and most important player in instigating revolution. Even a small spark may start a revolution, provided that the pressures are so intense as to make an explosion likely. Martyrdom is one of the most important driving forces of revolution. The slogan raised by the Iranian revolution was “The martyr is the spirit of history�. Bouazizi set himself 56

on fire to sign with his blood, spirit and life the most profound political statement in history. The Tunisian masses responded fervently. The response came later in Egypt, the largest Arab country which is closely monitored by security and intelligence services in the United States and Israel. However, “God came upon them from where they had not expected.� (59: 2). The spirit of the masses lives on the failure of the development and political experience. Having been placed outside both history and geography to become crowds preoccupied with earning their living, the masses try to regain their importance and reawaken their failed dreams. It may be said that the concept of citizenship was deliberately murdered throughout the Arab world, depriving the Arab peoples from their basic freedoms and all opportunities of development, including education, health, employment, and self determination. The concept of patriotism, which stresses the bond between citizen and country and complements the values of human rights, justice and freedom, was dwarfed so as to become the mere loyalty to a person, or a group, or a family. The Arab world is going through a period of profound change with far reaching effects on events. It seems that governments have totally overlooked this change. According to the report on Arab development, by 2015 the population of the Arab world will reach 400 million, half of them at a young age. Published reports make it clear that most Arab countries have failed to achieve their development targets for the period 1990 -2015, in the areas of education, fair distribution of wealth and political reform. As a result, 40% of the Arab population live under the poverty line, i.e. less than $2.7 a day per head. According to the United Nations Development Programme, unemployment in the Arab world is more than twice the world average, which means that it has reached 12%. However, reports suggest that the true figure is much higher. A report by the International Labour Organization says the number of the unemployed in the Arab countries stood at 25 million in 2010. It adds that 60% of those are below the age of 25.

The Islamists The second player is the Islamists. The success achieved by the Turkish Justice and Development Party under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has Islamic roots, has inspired many people. They realized what may be achieved under a leadership that combines sound vision with astute administration.


Islamic organizations have endured a long period of suppression and media onslaught. Nevertheless, they remained the toughest element of opposition in all Arab countries. It is clear that they took an active role in the revolutions, although they were not the ones to start it. Their organizational experience was of great importance. The results o f the elections in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, and the successes achieved by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi groups are indicative of that.

Behind the Curtain Some people stress the idea that these revolutions were instigated by Washington, and with a green light from Israel. Their argument is based on two elements: 1) the theory of creative chaos; and 2) punishment for the rulers who refused the American reform programme. Washington, in their view, wants to atone for its support of dictators against their peoples. Most certainly, Washington did not wish to see the Arab revolutions, because these revolutions were against its allies. Moreover, the mood of Arab public opinion is normally against Washington and Israel. The West, however, is adept at adapting to changes. Hubert Vedrine, former Foreign Minister of France, wrote in the Financial Times: How events in the Arab world will evolve is of co urse uncertain. What is certain, however, is that we in the west have to adjust to a new reality: an Arab world that will be more nationalistic. For now, the West is frightening itself with the spectre of political Islam. It is premature to say a solution has been found to avoid moving from the overthrow of authoritarian regimes to sinking into Islamism, but no expert on the Arab world foresees a scenario à la Iran which took everyone by surprise, including Iranians. Islamic parties will emerge stronger from free elections, but the chances that they will seek to hijack the democratic process are slim. And there is a counter-example to Iran – Turkey... The long and comfortable era for the West and Israel has ended. We will have to forgo the cosy relations we had and adapt intelligently. 55 It is not difficult to conclude that the support shown by the West and the United States in particular for the revolutions was merely to ensure that the new regimes which would emerge from these revolutions will be easy to deal with and to protect the interests of the West. Hubert Vedrin e, Dawn of a New Arab Nationalism, Article published in the Finan cial Times of London, 28 March 2011. 55


According to Chomsky, the United States adopted a similar attitude towards the former Rumanian dictator when continuing to support him became untenable. The same was the case with former presidents of the Philippines, South Korea and Indonesia. A paper written by an American researcher and published by the Rand Corporation a few years before the Arab revolutions under the title “The Siege Mentality” concludes that it was likely that Islamic opposition would be the only one to remain active in the Arab world. They suggested incorporating such opposition in the political system so as it would share the responsibility. They warned that much caution needed to be exercised, because the situation is complex. That did not happen at the time, but it is happening now after the Arab revolutions in more than one country. Recently, the West adopted a very negative and gloomy attitude when democratic elections resulted in a landslide for the Islamic Front in Algeria and a victory for Hamas in Palestine.

The Arab Revolutions in Israeli Eyes Incitement against the Arab revolutions has been predominant in the Israeli media. Columnists, analysts and academics have been very critical of these revolutions, linking them to Islamist movements. They described them as a delusion, claiming that the social media and some satellite channels, such as Aljazeera, have exaggerated them. Had the Egyptian police fired on the demonstrators, Mubarak would not have had to step down, they claimed. Furthermore, many wrote that the Arabs are not suited to live under democracy. Yaron London, a Channel 10 (Israel) broadcaster, said that the change that took place in Egypt was not due to the Egyptian public. It happened because Mubarak’s regime did not suppress the first demonstration. He added that the theory that people crave freedom is purely romantic. The truth is totally different. Needless to say, what happened in Benghazi shows the falsity of this assertion. It was the use of force that started the revolution. Dr David Bukai feels that the future will not be democratic. He calls the Arab revolutions ‘Aljazeera revolution’. An analytical study by the Centre for Contemporary Studies concludes that Israel sees the recent change as a direct threat to it.


Speakers in the Herzliya National Security Conference in Israel agreed that time was no longer on the side of Israel. It was unwise for Israel to hedge its bets on continued Arab weakness and internal differences. They also highlighted t he diminishing role of the US in the region, its preoccupation with home affairs, its failures in Iraq and Afghanistan and the economic crisis it is facing. Danny Rothschild, the Chairman of the conference, emphasized that the new developments weakened moderate Arab states and Israel. An Israeli film, Israel 2048, shown in cinemas, predicted that Israel will not be in existence to celebrate its centenary. This is due to the loss of national immunity and the absence of internal cohesion. The term ‘civil war’ was frequently used by the Israeli media in their coverage of the events in Egypt. The two Israeli newspapers, Maariv and Yediot Ahronot, spoke about the US and Israel being torn between displeasure with President Asad and fears of the likely consequences of his fall. What is taking place in Syria shows that the world’s indecision will only end when the rebels will make tangible gains on the ground. Such analyses have in common the fact that everyone has been surprised by the Arab explosion, its loud outcry and demand of freedom.


Chapter Three

After the Revolution.. Ambiguous Issues


One Post-Revolution States and the Question of the Enforcement of Islamic Law Status and Concept The belief that Islamic law, i.e. shari‘ah, takes precedence above everything else is not subject to question in any Muslim community. All national documents produced in Egypt, such as those published by Al-Azhar, the National Council for Constitutional Principles, Muhammad al-Baradai and all parties confirm this. The same applies to Libya and Tunisia. It is merely a documentation of the fact that the predominant majority in these countries are Muslims who wish to abide by Islamic law. The details of the relation of state and religion should be dealt with in the light of the special circumstances of each country. We need to carefully consider two words. The first is ‘enforcement’ which means putting Islamic law into effect. However, the word suggests that we have something ready and specific. All that it needs is to smoothly transfer it from people’s minds, or from books, to practical life. Perhaps many of those who speak about this primarily think of enforcing the mandatory punishments on adulterers, thieves and magicians. They also tend to overlook the circumstances and conditions that must be met to achieve social and political justice, or at least a minimum measure of it, which these laws aim to ensure and protect. Perhaps a better term is ‘to administer’ Islamic law, i.e. iqamat al shari‘ah as it gives a more comprehensive sense and suggests a gradual dimension. Besides, it is used in the Qur'an: “Steadfastly administer the faith and do not divide into factions.” (42: 13) Some enthusiastic people insist on a simplistic approach to complex problems. They do not trouble themselves to think before they take action. Therefore, they start to distribute the blame when they encounter failure. The second word that requires careful consideration is ‘the shari‘ah’, which means Islamic law. As it is used in this phrase, it refers to the detailed provisions of the law. However, such provisions often have different applications. Many cases are liable to have any of the five verdicts that make them obligatory, recommended, permissible, reprehensible, or 62

forbidden. Pronouncing one of these verdicts depends on the case itself, the situation in which the verdict applies and the benefit that results from its application. It is interesting to read that an enthusiastic young man justifies the fact that some rules of shari‘ah were not applied during the time of the Prophet and the rightly guided Caliphs on grounds that the Muslim state was weak at the time. The question is whether he lives at a time of Islamic power. We always say that Islam is suitable for all places and all times, but are the Muslims similarly suitable in all times and places? How can they be when their knowledge of Islam is poor and their practical insight is shallow? The enforcement of Islamic law is perhaps the most important issue that requires thorough understanding that neither moves away from the established rules and definitive texts, nor disregards practical circumstances and clear interests. Many are those who look into the details of Islamic law without considering its purposes, objectives, interests, conditions of application and substantive stipulations at the time and in future. The ideal enforcement of Islamic law is closely related to the system of the rightly guided Caliphate. We will see in due course how the Caliphs did their best to achieve this noble objective. After them, well versed scholars must always consider the practical possibilities and how people’s interests are served.

Self-Renewing Law During the Prophet’s lifetime, his enforcement of Islamic law was only complete 80 days before he passed away. It was completed when the Prophet received revelations that included the following divine statement: “ This day I have perfected your religion for you and have bestowed on you the full measure of My blessings and have chosen Islam as a religion for you.” (5: 3) Laws and provisions were revealed as things happened and circumstances required. Islamic law included some provisions that were not enforced either because their conditio ns did not apply or because some hindrances prevented their application. This suggests a gradual approach that prevents any turning away from Islamic law. This confirms that the enforcement of Islamic law means the application of the Islamic principles and the possible benefits on which the detailed provisions of the law is based. It is not right that we should hold on to some laws and rules in isolation of their bases and the benefits they are meant to serve. We cannot take these laws in the same way as we take the religious texts that speak about rituals of worship. Worship is something that


we apply at face values. If we were to take laws that concern practical matters in the same light, we may risk undermining the principles of Islamic law and its overall objectives. One of the most important and detailed areas in this regard clarifies that Islamic law includes provisions of varying degrees: some deal with essentials, some with needs and others with improvements. We cannot equate a general principle that all people need to ensure their benefits and interests with a special provision that relates to an individual’s personal behaviour. During the reign of the rightly guided Caliphs we find some cases where the Caliph gave a ruling that differed with what was the practice during the Prophet’s lifetime. [Umar provides several of these cases and I will discuss some of these presently. This confirms that what is greatly important with regard to the enforcement of Islamic law is to consider its objectives and rules. Moreover, the universal agreement of the Prophet’s companions and the rightly guided Caliphs on a particular ruling constitutes valid evidence in support of it. Therefore, what took place during that period and was unanimously agreed represented a gradual complement of Islamic law and its provisions. Likewise, careful consideration of new serious events and cases that take place at any time, whether leading to a unanimous verdict or a controversial one, is similarly a gradual complement. This continues as long as human life develops and changes. It aims to clarify God’s judgement on such new events and cases. We may compare Islamic principles to factories which continually turn up individual products. What these principles produce depends on the information and facts that are placed before them. They return, for example, a ruling that forbids narcotics and this ruling is based on a clear text, or analogy or a unanimous verdict. Likewise, they return a verdict permitting in-vitro fertilization (IVF) under certain conditions, or permitting organ transplant, or a host of modern business deals and contracts. We must always differentiate between what is unanimously agreed and what is subject to different opinions.

A Gradual Approach We then need to consider how a certain ruling is to be enforced in practice, the sort of punishments for expected violations and what solutions can be offered to those who are much involved in such violations. It may be a case similar to that of treating an addict by giving him decreasing doses until he gets rid of his addiction. This gradual approach was outlined by the Prophet to Mu[adh ibn Jabal when he appointed him governor of Yemen. He told him to call on people to declare their belief in God’s oneness and the 64

message of Prophet Muhammad. If they do that, he should then tell them to offer their obligatory prayers. If they do, then he should tell them that they have to pay their zakat, i.e. obligatory charity. [Umar ibn [Abd al-[Aziz was the Caliph at the turn of the first century of the Islamic era. His son, [Abd al-Malik, thought that his father was not enforcing Islamic law fast enough. He took the matter up with him, saying: “What will you say to God when you meet Him to justify that you have slackened in enforcing something right and prohibiting something evil? What stops you from going full speed in administering justice? By God, I will be happy if both you and I are brought to our death for establishing what is right.” [Umar’s answer was: “Do not hasten matters, son. God denounced wines twice in the Qur'an before He forbade it on the third occasion. It is enough for me that every day that passes sees me abolishing something evil or enforcing something right until I meet my Lord. I fear that if I try to enforce right all at once that the people will reject it totally. This will lead to strife.” 56 The gradual approach takes into account people’s readiness to understand matters and accept them. It couples that with the practical interests of the people such as improved economic standards, safeguarding their rights, consultative government that makes them feel their importance and enhancing their sense of belonging to the Muslim community. This gives profound insight into the area of feasibility which we may call Fiqh al-Istita[ah, or the understanding of feasibility. I have written on this area in more detail.

Achieving the Purpose In discussing the broad area of ‘enjoining what is right’, scholars often cite the story of the man who urinated in the Prophet’s mosque. 57 To me, the story raises a question that relates to what scholars of Fiqh methodology call ‘achieving the purpose’. The question is: ‘What did Islamic law say in this case?’ Does it require immediate objection and action to stop the man who is obviously doing something that both Islamic law and human nature consider as unacceptable and ill-mannered? The Prophet says: “Whoever of you sees an evil action should change it with his hand. If he is unable to do so, then with his tongue. And if he is unable to do so, then with his heart. That is the weakest of faith.” 58 Vis. Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Zuhd, Vol. 1, p.504; Al-Asbahani, Hilyat al-Awliya’, Vol. 5, p. 354; Ibn [Asakir, Tarikh Dimashq, Vol. 37, pp. 45-46; Ibn al-Athir, Al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, Vol. 4, p. 119; Al-Shatibi, Al-Mu wafaqat, Vol. 2, p. 148. 57 The referen ce here is to the case of a Bedouin who talked to the Prophet in the mosque. He then went aside and urinated. The Prophet’s companions who were in the mosque started rebuking him and wanted to go up to him and stop him. The Prophet told them to leave him alone. When the man finished urinating, the Prophet spoke to him gently, explaining that a mosque is a place of worship which must be kept free o f impurities. He then called for a bucket of water to be brought in. He poured the water over the area where the man had urinated. He then told his companions that had they scared the man, they could have caused him a serious problem. – Editor’s note. 58 Related b y Muslim, number 49. 56


Stopping the man was certainly possible both physically and by word. Those companions of the Prophet who started to rebuke the man used their tongues. However, the Prophet ordered them to stop, allowing sometime for the man to finish. He then dealt with the matter very wisely, explaining to the man his error. He then ordered that the area be cleansed. In fact, the Prophet objected to his companions’ use of a strong word such as ‘what are you doing?’ What would he have said, had they said or did something stronger? Islamic law requires that a mosque must be kept clean and free of impurity, and to remove from it whatever is unsightly or disgusting. It also requires that a man who urinates in the mosque should be rebuked and stopped by whatever means possible. What happened in this case was totally different. The strange thing is that the Prophet halted those who started to express their disapproval, telling them to stop. He wanted them to let the man continue until he had finished. In their case, the Prophet acted immediately, while in the case of the Bedouin, he was most considerate. He most probably trusted that their strong faith would make them understand. The Bedouin’s action was spontaneous and in line with his normal practice, while the action of the Prophet’s companions was based on Islamic law, seeking to enforce clear instructions. There is no doubt that it relied on clear texts, but the question here is one of enforcement. Here we are faced with the problem of the ‘enforcement of Islamic law’. Does it mean that we put all rulings into effect and implement them, as the Prophet’s companions tried to do in the Bedouin’s case? Or does it focus on a certain aspect, such as enforcing the specified mandatory punishments, whose function is to deter prospective offenders? The point here is that if the punishable action does not take place, then no punishment is enforced. Moreover, the mandatory punishments are subject to certain practical procedures. Moreover, the enforcement of the mandatory punishments is not to be diligently sought after. The Sunnah shows that it should be stopped when there is any element of doubt. People must not pursue it. They are encouraged to overlook the offence, wherever possible. The operative principle here is that it is better for the judge to pardon by mistake than to enforce the punishment by mistake. Ibrahim al-Nukha[i said: “I would prefer to prevent punishment in a hundred confirmed cases than to enforce it in one unconfirmed case”. 59 Ibn Abi Shaybah quotes Ibrahim al-Nukha[i as saying: “[Umar ibn al-Khattab said: “I prefer to stop mandatory punishments on the basis of doubt to enforcing them on the basis of doubt”. 60 The mere enacting of a certain law may be a stronger deterrent than its enforcement. Doubt may apply to the case of a single person or to countless people, as in the case of 59 60

Raghib al-Asfah ani, Muhadarat al-Udaba’, Vol. 1, p. 282. Ibn Abi Shayb ah, Al-Musannaf, number 28493.


the controversy among scholars concerning certain drinks. Some of them consider these drinks as intoxicants and rule that they are forbidden, while others consider them permissible. Likewise, certain types of marriage are ruled lawful by some scholars and unlawful by others. The enforcement of Islamic law inevitably means proper understanding of every case, whether it applies to an individual or to a group of people. Such understanding should be coupled with careful choice of what is most suitable to the case, allowing the element of time to take effect, even if this means a delay in implementation. This is a special type of ijtihad, i.e. scholarly discretion, which can only be exercised by an elite of God -fearing scholars who devote themselves to the study of Islamic law and its rules, and have thorough insight into the cultural, political and social conditions of the Muslim community.

Human Error The enforcement of Islamic law does not mean that human beings will become angels. Nor does it mean that human error, whether deliberate, unwitting or in clear rejection of Islamic law, will disappear. Human error may be a simple mistake by an individual, as in the case of that Bedouin, or it may be complex and cumulative. It may over time become a long lasting social or political habit. It may also involve confusion. Some errors have become part of the identity of a tribe or a community who will defend them even with arms. Some wrong actions are part of global traditions, endorsed by international relations, media and various influences. Certain things are not considered wrong. They have become interwoven in social tradition. They can be analyzed into several right actions and some ambiguous ones. Some human situations may become so well entrenched that they cannot be resisted. To ignore them is to ignore obvious facts that may be strange but clearly exist. Wrong action is part of human life and cannot be eradicated. For this reason, Islam opens the door to repentance and seeking God’s forgiveness. Compensation for wrong action is also valid. One of God’s attributes is that He forgives sins and errors. The Prophet says: “By Him who holds my soul in His hand, if you were not to commit sins, God will take you away and replace you by others who commit sins, then seek His forgiveness. He will then forgive them.” 61 For certain, the Prophet’s attitude was never one of acquiescence in, or justification of any wrong action. A wrongful action remains wrong, even if the majority of people do it.


Related b y Muslim, number 2749.


To object to it in one’s heart is the lowest degree of faith, as stated in the above-quoted hadith. There is a gulf between a religious statement and its implementation. The shari‘ah is one thing and its enforcement is another. This is a fundamental point that needs study and discussion. Enforcement involves a human effort which may be right or wrong. The scholarly efforts, or ijtihad, by the leading scholars are by no means infallible. Any such effort is given a reward when it happens to be wrong, and a double reward when it is right, according to a hadith reported by [Abdullah ibn [Amr. Infallibility belongs to the whole Muslim community, when it is unanimous. It does not belong to any group or individual. No one is better in practice or has better understanding of Islam than the Prophet’ s companions. Yet the Prophet ordered them not to pledge to people that they would judge them according to God’s judgement. They had to give them their own judgement. The reason is that they could not know if their judgement is identical with God’s judgement.62

Subject to Discretion Islamic law may state a certain verdict, but putting that verdict into a practical form and applying it to the action of a person is a matter that requires human action that applies discretion in fitting the text to the practical situation. Such discretion is made by humans who may be absolutely sincere and dedicated, but they remain human. As Shaykh [Abdullah ibn Bayyah says in Fiqh al-Waqi[ wal-Tawaqqu[, the area of this scholarly effort is the point where time, place, man, action and religious text all come together. It is, then, a sort of equation that changes when a change is introduced on either side. Understanding the psychological and intellectual state of individuals and communities, the extent of their tolerance of the enforcement of Islamic law, what suits them and what improves their situation is a serious matter requiring fine and profound insight. Scholars may have varying views in this area. The practical enforcement of Islamic law requires thorough knowledge of religious texts coupled with understanding the historical situation that is in need of a verdict. This involves awareness of acceptability and the likely reaction. Could the reaction be detrimental to the community, or could it slow life or its gradual reform? 62

This is stated in a h adith related by Muslim, number 1731.


Slowing life means raising problems that become subject to strong dispute. This could lead to division in the Muslim community that slows development. It may also play into the hands of the enemy. Some reaction may impede the progress of shari‘ah itself. It could lead to turning against it and suspecting the aims of at its advocates. People may come to believe that it belongs to the past and it has no place in the present, because what they have seen of it does not fit the present circumstances. That can only be the result of not giving enough thought to proper application. Some sincere and honest practices of advocating Islam may lead at times to raising doubt about the religion itself among certain groups in society: women, youth or vulnerable people. This is only due to the fact that their circumstances and background has not been taken into account. The prevailing circumstances constitute a changeable, not neutral, factor. People simply adapt to the conditions and times they live in. There is no set prescription to how we understand prevailing circumstances. It relies on effort and insight. During the Prophet’s lifetime, a wounded man was in the state of ceremonial impurity, i.e. janabah. Some of the Prophet’s companions told him that he must take a bath to remove it. He took a bath which caused his death. When the Prophet heard of it, he said: “They have killed him, may God kill them. Could they not have asked, since they did not know? Enquiry is the cure for ignorance.” 63 This emphasizes the importance of sound knowledge of the matter in question. No one should try to give a ruling without thorough knowledge, insight and the ability to deduce rulings. The Prophet’s reaction was to condemn those who acted on face value without looking into the particular situation of the individual concerned and the fact that theirs was an early community. The Prophet’s guidance tells us that the question of ‘ability’ that is mentioned in the Qur'an and the Sunnah does not mean only a person’s physical ability to do something. It is far more than that. It means securing the benefit, i.e. maslahah, and preventing the harm, i.e. mafsadah.

Related by Ahmad number 3056; Al-Darimi number 779; Abu Dawud numbers 336 & 337; Ibn Majah number 572; Ibn Khuzaymah number 273. Vis. also Ibn Abi Hatim, Al-[Ilal, p. 77; Sharh bulugh al-Muram, Vol. 3, pp. 12361239 and S. Al-Awdah, Fiqh al-[Ibadah, Vol. 1, pp. 306-307. 63


The Prophet was able to stop the Bedouin urinating in the mosque, and he could rebuild the Ka[bah on the same foundations on which Prophet Abraham built it. 64 He was also able to kill the hypocrites in Madinah. 65 He did none of these, preferring to leave matters take their course, because he judged that any of these actions would cause more harm than good. In the case of the hypocrites, he said: “People shall not say that Muhammad kills his companions”. 66 He felt that killing them would cause people who were not aware of their hypocrisy misunderstand the situation. The harm in this case takes the form of misinformation, and the Prophet did not wish to give such a chance to fault-finders. With regard to the rebuilding of the Ka[bah, he felt that some people would not easily understand the need for changing its shape. They might think that he wanted to gain some honour by doing so. Moreover, rebuilding it might detract from its sanctity in some people’s minds.

Fundamentals and Details What was very clear ever since the first day of the Islamic message, and at all times, comprises the fundamental principles and the basic doctrines, such as the belief in God’s oneness and the rejection of any form of associating partners with Him, or setting equals to Him. This has always been the most important principle advocated by all prophets and God’s messengers. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the last of them, reasserted it in the clearest of terms. The Qur'an advocates it at length, citing the evidence for it and making clear that whatever is contrary to it is false. Incorporated in it are the beliefs in God’s messengers, scriptures, the Day of Judgement and all that a Muslim must believe in. Second came the fundamentals that are closely related to people’s life and safety and the protection of what is essential to their life, interests and the requirements of their wellbeing such as justice, respect, freedoms and their other rights. Scholars of Fiqh methodology group this under the heading, ‘the five essentials’, which refers to the preservation of religion, life, property, mind and offspring (or family honour). Added to these is the protection of association and its requirements, including freedom, respect of humanity and the social fabric of a community or a nation.

The Prophet told his wife, [A’ishah, after Makkah h ad fallen to Islam that when the Quraysh rebuilt the Kabah, after floods had w eakened its building, shortage of funds caused them to redu ce it in size. He added: “Had it not been for the fact that your people, i.e. the Makkah population, were new comers to Islam, I would have rebuilt it on the same foundations on which Abrah am had built it.” – Editor’s note. 65 The chief of th e hypo crites, [Abdullah ibn Ubay, was very hostile to Islam but pretended to be a Muslim. He did a few actions which were calculated to undermine Islam, weaken its fledgling state and hurt the Prophet and his family. [Umar sought permission to kill the man, but the Prophet refused and told him that he would not do something that might be exploited to spread false rumours about him or Islam. – Editor’s note. 66 Related b y al-Bukhari, numbers 3518 & 4905 and Muslim, number 2584. 64


Islamic law does not provide only for the protection of these. It provides for their enrichment and consolidation. Careful study of the provisions of Islamic law will show that they all serve these basic purposes. Proper Isla mic politics require that these fundamentals must be given precedence over everything else, even if this means that some details are lost or overlooked. I will attempt to cite evidence showing the Prophet’s policy of giving priority to the fundamentals that relate to faith and those that relate to human life. These are the ones that will ensure the consolidation of the true faith or the sound development of human life and its steady progress. Unfortunately, the great majority of interested people concentrate on details and finer elements instead of focusing on the fundamentals. This is a flaw in the intellectual and educational system that leads to the neglect of the fundamentals and giving them a very secondary position. They are taken for granted by some people, while others consider their discussion as seeking an easy way out of the arena of debate. The arena witnesses an unending debate over matters of detail most of which have no definitive ruling in Islamic law, or over matters of secondary importance in people’s life. This, while fundamental issues suffer lack of understanding and little interest. When the Muslims defeated the Persian Empire and took over Iraq, many of them, including a good number of the Prophet’s companions, wanted the Caliph, [Umar ibn alKhattab, to divide the land of Iraq among the army which fought the battles. The rule stated in the Qur'an concerning war gains, whether moveable or immovable property, is that 20% are given to the Muslim state and 80% divided among the fighters. Thus, the argument advanced in this case was in line with the rule as stated. Moreover, such division would have been most gratifying to the soldiers who risked their lives and fought these battles. [Umar, however, refused such division, arguing that it was necessary to protect the interests of the future generations. His famous argument was: “How about tomorrow’s Muslims who will find that the land and its people have been divided and inherited? This is not right.” He further said: “If I were to divide the land of Iraq and its population, and the land of Syria and its population, what would be left to protect the borders and to meet the needs? What would be there to provide for young orphans and widows in this land and elsewhere?” 67 The issue was debated at length, as clearly documented in several books of reference. Ultimately, the Prophet’s companions were convinced. No one was forced or pressurised to change their minds. It was a model scholarly debate. [Umar then ordered that a land tax should be levied from its owners. 67

Abu Yusuf, Al-Kharaj, p. 35.


The Qur’anic verse that defines the beneficiaries of zakat, i.e. the obligatory charity, mentions eight classes of people including one it calls ‘those whose hearts are to be won over’. These are people of influence whose good will towards Islam will benefit the Muslim community. They are given a portion of zakat to win them over. [Umar stopped paying them, arguing that the reason that necessitated paying them a portion of zakat no longer obtained. Islam was in a position of strength and could do without their good will. It could be argued that the enforcement of Islamic law was to take the Qur’anic verse at its face value and continue to pay such people. Would that be right, or was [Umar right in stopping such payments? Islamic law states a mandatory punishment for theft, which is to cut the thief’s hand. Does the enforcement of Islamic law mean the application of this punishment in all cases of theft that exceed a certain value when the stolen articles are taken from a secure place, as required by the relevant Qur’anic verse? Could the punishment be stopped in some economic circumstances, as done by [Umar, the second of the rightly guided Caliphs, during the Year of Famine? Ibn [Abbas, a top scholar who was a cousin of the Prophet, is reported to advocate the second alternative. What does the enforcement of Islamic law mean with regard to marriage between a Muslim man and a Christian or Jewish woman? Is it permissible as clearly stated in the Qur'an, or is it outlawed as [Umar objected to it? His argument was based on fear of associating with prostitutes and turning away from Muslim women, preferring nonMuslim women who might be prettier. Islamic law does not specify a punishment for a drunken person. During the Prophet’s lifetime, he was beaten up, without specifying a method or a number. Some people hit him by hand, some by their robes and some with their shoes. Later, however, Kh alid ibn al-Walid complained to [Umar that people were taking the punishment lightly which led to increase in drunkenness. [Umar consulted the Prophet’s companions. [Abd al-Rahman ibn [Awf said: “When a man is drunk, he becomes delirious, and his delirium may cause him to abuse others. His punishment should be the same as an abusive person, i.e. eighty lashes”. Scholars differ as to his punishment and whether it should be forty or eighty lashes, and whether the punishment may be repeated every year if he continues to drink. If a man divorces his wife three times all at once, how will Islamic la w be enforced? Will it make the three times one divorce, as was the case during the Prophet’s lifetime and Abu Bakr’s reign? Or will it count as three divorces, as [Umar preferred? The latter is mentioned in a hadith related by Muslim on Ibn [Abbas’s authority: “During the lifetime of the Prophet and Abu Bakr’s reign as well as the first two years of [Umar’s reign, a 72

divorce pronounced three times together counted as one divorce. [Umar ibn al-Khattab then said: the people are precipitating something i n which they had better be careful about. Perhaps we should take them by their word. He imposed all three.” 68 A certain country may declare the enforcement of Islamic law, using the appeal of the slogan to win popular support. Thus, the very principle of e nforcing Islamic law becomes a political slogan. The more important significance of enforcing Islamic law is to ensure justice, judge between people in fairness, protect people’s rights, support the weak and vulnerable, safeguard public property, protect people’s honour and protect them against aggression, abuse, arbitrary imprisonment and unjustified killing. On the other hand, a country may become Islamic without declaring the fact. It only need to work hard to achieve the overall objectives of Islamic law. In a Muslim society, a clear announcement that Islamic law is the governing law will give people reassurance and satisfaction. Islamic law, however, must be taken in total. No process of selectivity may be introduced.

Vis, Malik, Al-Muwatta’, Vol. 2, p. 748; Ibn [Abd al-Hadi, Mahd al-Sawab fi Fada’il Amir al-Mu’minin [Umar ibn alKhattab, Vol.1, p. 323; Abd al-Salam ibn Muhsin Al- Issa, Dirasah Naqdiyyah fi al-Marwiyyat al-Wardiah fi Shakhsiyyat [Umar ibn al-Khattab wa Siyasatihi al-Idariyyah. Also, Salman al-Awdah, Kayfa Nakhtalif , p. 59. 68


Two State Identity after the Revolution: Civil or Religious? The term ‘civil’ is rather loose and can be used to mean more than one thing. Real importance is given to the constitution and the legal provisions that regulate political activity. Many Islamists do not find any contradiction between a civil state and an Islamic one. For a state to be Islamic means that it abides by the religious Islamic values and that its decisions and choices are kept within the framework of Islamic law. A civil state means that the nation or the community is committed to the social and human arrangements agreed upon by all groups of the community, i.e. the citizens and their convictions. However, the term ‘religious state’ is rather confusing. Historically, it is linked to theocracy, which means government by a clerical order. This was never part of Islamic thought, nor was it practised in Islamic history except in the new Shia theory of Wilayat al-Faqih, i.e. the guiding role of the religious scholar. In Islam, religious scholars are not legislators. They monopolize neither power nor politics. Islamic law, history and thought do not know anything like a religious theocracy. Abu alA[la Mawdudi, one of the best known Islamic intellectuals of the modern era, who advocated the principle of haakimiyyah, i.e. Islamic government, expressed strong reservations against the concept of a religious state which upholds the authority of religious men. He stated that there was nothing in Islam that supports such a concept. It is both alien to Islam and misguided. It could be used as a means to reinstate tyranny under the name of religion. The term ‘civil state’ means that there is a civil, social contract between the state authorities and institutions based on justice and the distribution of authority. ‘Islamic state’, on the other hand, means the state functions according to Islamic controls and objectives. Governments and institutions represent the will and preferences of the people. They represent the people according to a purely civil contract and within certain conditions that must be observed, and under certain controls. In addition, accountability is upheld. God Almighty says of Himself: “He cannot be questioned about whatever He does, whereas they shall be questioned.” (21: 23) All people are, then, accountable. Authority in the Islamic system is human, not clerical. 74

When a state is permanently under the power of a group or a party, there can be no guarantee against its becoming a dictatorship. The worst type of dictatorship is that exercised in the name of religion. People are forced to accept it under the peril of physical punishment in this life and the threat of further punishment in the hereafter. The clear separation of the legislative, executive and judicial authorities is absolutely necessary in order to keep the central government well balanced and immune to corruption. Such separation was a clear understanding of [Umar, the rightly guided Caliph, when he said to Mu[awiyah, his governor of Syria: “You have no authority over [Ubadah ibn al-Samit while he is the judge in Palestine”. 69 There is a clear indication of such separation in the Qur'an, where the legislative authority is referred to as ‘the Book’, i.e. the Qur'an, and the judicial authority as al-mizan, i.e. the balance, and the executive authority as al-hadid, i.e. the iron. The Prophet used to send governors and judges to provinces. When an authoritarian ruler controls the administrative and the judicial authorities, corruption becomes a natural result. Even if he tries to check it, he will not be able to do so, because it will have infiltrated into the fabric and relations of society.


Vis, Ibn Majah, Sunan, number 18; Musnad al-Shamiyyin, number 390; Usd al-Ghabah, Vol. 3, p. 158.


Three The Democratic Solution and the Islamic Political System

The fall of a ruthless dictator is welcomed with great celebration. It is an event that gives people some of their happiest and most enjoyable moments. It is a moment to enjoy pure happiness, just like young children who care little for what comes next. However, the suffering of those who were victims to the dictator’s tyranny should not be forgotten. Those who had to pay a heavy price during the struggle against dictatorship and survived deserve people’s gratitude and the community should be proud of them. Those who were killed at the hand of the dictator will have their reward: “ If you should be slain or die in God’s cause, surely forgiveness by God and His grace are better than all the riches they amass.” (3: 157) Many are those who continue to talk about the defects of democracy. This is valid if the person concerned has lived under democracy and has an insight into its philosophy. It is certainly not valid in the case of someone who has not experienced it, but only tries to go back to the roots of its name. Such people will be well advised to speak about the defects of tyranny and authoritarian rule. These are immersed in evil and corruption. It is right to note that one dictatorial regime may be replaced by a similarly dictatorial one, as Aristotle says. Therefore, we need to show enough humilit y so that we can agree a formula that ensures justice and takes us into a better situation. Such a situation will not be perfectly satisfactory to any group, because it will not meet the total theoretical picture of everyone. It can be, however, reasonably satisfactory to all, as the ideal solution in the circumstances or, to borrow Churchill’s phrase, ‘the least bad of all systems’.

Question: How does Islam view democracy? It is generally agreed that the concept of democracy was first initiated in Athens in the sixth century BC. It simply envisaged an end to the rule of the aristocracy so as to allow participation by the largest number of citizens in decision making, either directly or through their representative. However, the right of participation was denied to women and slaves. The Western democratic system is based on materialistic thought that makes human will the ultimate arbiter in deciding what is right. It is a personal matter in the sense t hat 76

everyone determines what he considers to be right. Then the community agrees on the course to be followed, in accordance with a system that applies to all. In a nutshell, in the Western democratic system, there is this materialistic philosophy which is fundamentally at odds with Islam. However, there are also the political practice, human experience and administrative procedure which may all be borrowed and adapted in accordance with positive civilized interaction and the special social environment. To succeed in practice, every political experience must conform to the conditions of the environment where it is to be implemented, and to the religious and cultural conditions of the country. Jean-Jacque Rousseau, the French theoretician of the Enlightenme nt mentions that every nation which wants to put its policy on a sound basis must in the beginning rely on religion. The Qur'an denounces the majority at times. Does this mean a permanent denunciation of the majority and that the elite is always right? In his book, Al-Haqiqah al-Jawhariyyah fi Mushkilat al-Aqaliyyah wal-Akthariyyah, 70 Dr Ahmad Rahmani concludes after a long discussion that across human history, the majority always stands on the negative side while the well aware minority stands on the positive side. However, this generalization conflicts with the fact that the Qur'an often denounces al-mala’, which means the elite and also refers to authority. According to the Sunnah, the Prophet endorsed people’s testimony of whether a certain person is go od or bad. He said: “You are God’s witnesses on earth”. 71 The unanimity of scholars, i.e. ijma[, is one of the sources of reference in Islamic Fiqh. Such unanimity may be approximate, which means the majority view. In a lesser position comes the view of the majority of scholars, which is right in most cases. It is referred to in some reports as the ‘view of the overwhelming majority’. Just before the Battle of Uhud, the Prophet accepted the view of the majority, but the battle ended in defeat. Yet after the battle, he was given Qur’anic revelations that included the instruction: “Consult with them in the conduct of public affairs.” (3: 159) Ibn Mas[ud, a companion of the Prophet says: “Whatever the Muslims agree to be good is good in God’s sight”. 72 As already stated, the Prophet made Muslims God’s witnesses on earth against one another. This means that testimony belongs to the people.

This title translates as: The fundamental truth in the question of the minority and the majority. Editor’s note. Related b y al-Bukhari, number 1367 and Muslim number 949. 72 Related b y al-Tayalsi, number 243, Ahmad number 3600. Vis also Al-[Ilal al-Mutanahiyah, Vol. 1, p. 280; Ibn alQayyim, Al-Furusiyyah, p. 60; and Kashf al-Khafa’, Vol. 2, p. 245. 70 71


An authentic hadith related by al-Shafi[i and others on [Umar’s authority states: “Satan is always with a lone person. When they are two, he is further afield”. 73 The hadith to which we have already referred, mentioning the ‘overwhelming majority’, may be poor in authenticity, but its meaning is valid. Scholars have always given more weight to the greater number. Since government means representing the people, then the people have the rights of choice, making conditions, authority and dismissal. However, no single group has the right to speak in the name of all the people. The people should speak clearly for themselves, either directly or through their representatives. Mu[awiyah said to his son Yazid: “The people of Iraq always speak ill of their governors and get fed up with them. If they ask you every day to change their governor, do so.” 74 The Qur'an teaches us that we will do well to benefit by other people’s experience. During the Prophet’s lifetime ideas such as digging a dry moat across the entrance to Madinah to defend it against large forces was borrowed from other nations. Other borrowed ideas included having a pulpit in the mosque and using a seal on the Prophet’s letters. As Ibn al-Qayyim says, actions and statements are judged primarily on their objectives and meanings. 75 This whole area is one of human experience. It is not an area of worship and purely religious legislation. Moreover, it is an area that is subject to development and change. It is not constant. Democracy is then the fruit of human experience. It takes various forms. Eight reputable philosophers published a book in French which discusses democracy in every state. They agree that it is wrong to reduce the concept of democracy to putting ballot papers in boxes, i.e. the rule of the majority. Other mechanisms, including a spirit of mutual accommodation to promote the common interests, are needed for democracy to yield its full benefits. Undoubtedly, democracy is infinitely better than all types of dictatorship. One of its best features is the achievement of a good measure of justice, mutual consent and the peaceful Related b y al-Tayalsi, number 31, Ahmad number 114, al-Tirmidhi number 2165, Ibn Majah number 2363, Ibn Hibban numbers 4576 & 6728. Vis. also Al-Silsilah al-Sahihah number 430. 74 Vis. Ansab al-Ashraf, Vol. 5, p. 100. 75 Ibn al-Qayyim, I[lam al-Mu waqqi[in, Vol. 3, p. 143. 73


transfer of power, as we see in most countries. Moreover, democracy acknowledges its mistakes and takes measures to rectify them. In relation to government, Islam lays down certain principles and objectives. The closer a system comes to the fulfilment of these principles and objective, the better it is. The most important of these principles is to ensure justice to all. It is a fundamental aim of Islamic law, and a basic objective of the principle of ‘enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong’. Justice is the essence of good government. The Qur'an lays down the following order: “God commands you... whenever you judge between people, to judge with justice.” (4: 58) The Prophet gives a description of the Mahdi 76 who comes at the end of time. The description includes: “He will fill the earth with justice and fairness after it had been full of injustice and oppression”. 77 In the Qur'an God says: “We sent Our messengers with clear evidence of the truth, and through them We bestowed the book from on high, setting the balance, so that people could uphold justice.” (57: 25) This confirms that the purpose of sending prophets and the exercise of power is to ensure justice to all. Shaykh Rashid Reda was one of the earlier scholars who wrote in support of benefiting by the democratic experience. He considered it a form that can implement the Islamic principle of consultative government and fulfil its objectives. He explained this in his commentary on the Qur'an, Al-Manar, (Volume 5, page 165). The fact that the constitutions of several countries have abrogated Islamic law is not the result of democracy. Rather, it is an act of dictatorship. Generally speaking, the people in the Muslim world want Islam to be implemented. If a nation chooses something other than Islamic law, the fault is not in the system which reflects people’s wishes. The fault belongs to the people who have chosen the wrong course. The task assigned to prophets was one of advocacy so that people would be convinced of the truth of religion and its morality. There is no need to ignore any situation. Rather, it is necessary to know the situation and deal with it wisely, with rational advocacy of the truth. No pressure or compulsion may be employed. Is it possible to force people to become believers? Is it not conviction that makes people believe? 78 The Mahdi is an advocate of the truth of Islam who will call on people to reform themselves and adhere to Islam. His title ‘Mahdi’ means ‘a follower of right guidance’. Prophet Muhammad foretold of his coming ‘at the end of time’. – Editor’s note. 77 Related by Ahmad numbers 773 & 11326, Abu Dawud number 4282, Ibn Hibban number 6823, Al-Hakim, AlMustadrak, Vol, 4, p. 441 & 664. Vis. also Al-Silsilah al-Sahihah number 1529. 78 Vis. Ahmad al-Raysooni, Al-Shura fi Ma[rakat al-Bina’, p. 171. 76


In the Muslim world there are tribes, social institutions and leaders whose presence is felt. They must not be ignored. They should be integrated in the system. Undoubtedly, making the transition to a political system based on institutions is not easy. On the basis of what we have said, it is right to say that Islam has given room for choice between political models and systems, pointing out that the best is the closest to the practice of the Prophet’s companions and the rightly guided Caliphs which gave due emphasis to justice, freedom, consultation and protection of property and all people’s rights. In the field of political and civil action, some groups talk about ‘deviant’ practices, but their memory can only recall such actions as demonstration, sit-in, civil protest or formation of parties. They turn a blind eye to such deviant practices as taking power by force, acquiescing in oppression and the hereditary transfer of power. Some companions of the Prophet considered the last of these to be adopting the system of the Byzantine rulers in place of the Prophet’s Sunnah. Another deviant practice was the appointment of two successors, one after the other, which was first done by [Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. It was objected to by the leading scholars of the time, such as Sa[id ibn al-Musayyib. 79 It should be said, however, that there is nothing to prevent us from adopting some of those practices of other countries in the system of government or some contemporary Western ways of protest and expression. They may be accepted if people accept them and rejected if people reject them. Whatever we accept or reject must ensure that a true interest is served and that it is consistent with the values of justice and freedom. Furthermore, it must not be in conflict with a text that is truly authentic and definitive in meaning. It must also be allowed by the country’s constitution.


Vis. Al-Ma[rifah wal-Tarikh, Vol. 1, pp. 472-473; and Hilyat al-Awliya’, Vol. 2, p. 170.


Four The Relation between Rulers and Citizens The Qur'an very clearly speaks about the principle of obedience to rulers. One example is the verse that says: “Believers, obey God and obey the Messenger and those from among you who have been entrusted with authority. If you are in dispute over anything, refer it to God and the Messenger.” (4: 59) At face value, the dispute is between the addressees and their rulers. In such a case, the dispute should be referred to God and His messenger, which means in practice reference to a neutral arbiter, or engaging in a dialogue to sort out the differences. In the Sunnah there are numerous texts speaking about obedience. Abu Hurayrah quotes the Prophet as saying: “God will be pleased if you abide by three things... and that you give sound advice to whoever is assigned authority over you.” 80 In the two authentic anthologies of Hadith, [Ubadah ibn al-Samit of the Ansar is quoted by his grandson as saying: “We have given pledges to God’s messenger to listen and obey in times of hardship and ease, when we are active or slackening, giving priority to others over ourselves. We further pledged not to engage in dispute to gain power, and also to say the truth wherever we are, fearing no blame for fulfilling our duty towards God.” 81 Such was the pledge of the Prophet’s companions, denoting their absolute faith. It combined obedience and refraining from wrongful dispute with clearly stating the truth, wherever they might be, fearing no blame. The two authentic anthologies enter a hadith in which Ibn [Umar quotes the Prophet as saying: “A Muslim must listen and obey in all matters he likes or dislikes, except when he is ordered to commit a disobedience to God. Should he be so ordered, then he must neither listen nor obey.” 82 Both also relate on the authority of Ibn Mas[ud that the Prophet said: “There will be much selfishness and other matters of which you disapprove.” They asked: “What do you advise us to do?” He said: “Fulfil the duties incumbent on you and pray to God to give you your rights.” 83 Abu Hurayrah quotes the Prophet as saying: “Whoever refuses to obey, abandoning the Muslim community and dies in this state, will have died like the people of ignorance.” 84 Related by M[alik in Al-Mu watta’, Vol. 2, p. 990; Ahmad numbers 334 & 8799, Muslim number 1715, Ibn Hibban number 3388 and al-Bayhaqi, Vol. 8, p. 163. 81 Related b y al-Bukhari number 7199; and Muslim number 1709. 82 Related b y al-Bukhari number 295; and Muslim number 1839. 83 Related b y al-Bukhari number 3603; and Muslim number 1843. 84 Related b y Muslim number 1848. 80


In totality, the texts stress two important points. The first is the pledge of loyalty, which is “a contract of agreement between two parties. Two conditions apply to it as they apply to all contracts: consent and absence of coercion.” 85 Consent is more important in the case of the pledge of loyalty than a sale contract which is concerned with a transfer of ownership. Consent to a contract of sale is mentioned in the Qur'an: “ unless it be through trade which you conduct by mutual consent.” (4: 29) It is on the basis of this Qur’anic text that scholars state the main rule in this area, which makes any contract valid only when the two parties consent to it. Al-Qarafi and other scholars have recorded that this rule is universally agreed by scholars. The Prophet is quoted to have said: “The best of your rulers are the ones whom you love and who love you; who bless you and you bless them. The worst of your rulers are the ones you hate and they hate you; the ones you curse and they curse you.” Some people asked: “messenger of God, shall we fight them with arms?” He said: “No, as long as they attend regularly to prayers with you”.86 This hadith is not meant merely as a point of admonition or a factual report. It refers to a constant social pattern. A whole system of the relation between a ruler and his people may be based on it. It suggests a mutual relation between right and duty. It cannot be imagined that people will do their duties if they are denied their rights. This is endorsed by an authentic hadith in which the Prophet said: “This clan of the Quraysh will bring my community to ruin”. People asked him: “What do you advise us to do?” He said: “If people will only stay away from them”. 87 We commented on this hadith under the heading ‘Revolution: peaceful or violent”. The second point stressed in the quoted texts is obedience. It goes hand in hand with the pledge of loyalty when the ruler is chosen by general agreement among the people. It also takes place in the absence of the condition of choice by general agreement, as in the case of a ruler taking power by force. This means that obedience may be transferred from o ne ruler to another who again takes power by force. This is what scholars have stated. The pledge of loyalty is different. The Prophet says: “Whoever gives a pledge of loyalty to a ruler, giving him a promise with his hand and heart must obey him as long as he can...” 88 Sound approach requires taking all different statements together, studying the views of earlier and contemporary scholars and considering the likely results and outcome. This is different from looking at the apparent meanings of texts in isolation from their objectives and points of focus. Hence scholars differ in their rulings on rebellion against repressive or wrongdoing rulers. Some prohibit it; some permit it and some say it is obligatory. The Al-Mawardi, Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah, pp. 22-24. Also, Ibn Khaldun, Al-Muqaddimah, p. 26. Related b y Muslim number 1855. 87 Related b y al-Bukhari number 2604 and Muslim number 2917. 88 Related b y Muslim number 1844. 85 86


basis of their different rulings is the importance they attach to the situation, the balance of power and the likely outcome. A host of statements in our Islamic heritage have contributed to the formation of an imbalanced understanding of the relation between the ruler and the people. Such understanding has continued to be generally upheld and often repeated on official occasions and in government functions. Such statements have at times contributed to an attitude that puts the ruler in the position of God. Ibn Hani’, an Andalusian poet, describes the Fatimid ruler, Al-Mu[izz, in terms that apply only to God, before saying that his position is that of Prophet Muhammad and that his soldiers are the Prophet’s Ansar. What happens when objection to a regime or a person is condemned as being a rebellion against the faith or against God Himself? Sometimes when I listen to those who attack Islamic political organizations, in order to win favour with a certain ruler, citing texts speaking of obedience or rebellion, I wonder what attitude will they take when such organizations become the rulers! Some people quote a statement in a hadith saying: “Even if you are beaten on your back and your property is taken away, listen and obey”. Both al-Bukhari and Muslim relate the original hadith on the authority of Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman, a companion of the Prophet, but they do not include this added statement. The hadith mentions that Hudhayfah asked the Prophet: “What do you order me to do if it happens when I am alive?” 89 He said: “You stay with the community of the Muslims and their ruler.” Hudhayfah asked: “What if they do not have a community and a ruler?” The Prophet said: “Then stay away from all those factions, even if that is extremely hard, until you meet your death in that condition.” 90 The added statement, “even if you are beaten...”, is mentioned only by Muslim on the authority of Mamtur Abu Sallam who mentions: ‘Hudhayfah said...’ The chain of transmission is broken between Abu Sallam and Hudhayfah. Hence, alDaraqutni says in his book Al-Tatabbu[ “To me, this statement is graded as mursal.91 Abu Sallam did not hear directly from Hudhayfah or from other companions of the Prophet

Hudhayfah was asking the Prophet about the future and whether it would bring a ch ange of situation so that the great transformation brought about by Islam would be replaced by something different. The Prophet told him of ch anges and that there would be situations where good may be mixed with evil and periods when evil would be widespread. – Editor’s note. 90 Related b y al-Bukhari numbers 3606 & 7084, and Muslim numbers 1847 & 51. 91 A hadith is classified as mursal if th ere is a break in its ch ain of transmission, with a later transmitter quoting an earlier one without having h eard it from him directly. A mursal hadith is classified as lacking in authenticity. – Editor’s note. 89


who settled in Iraq. Hudhayfah died a few days after [Uthman’s murder. Abu Sallam mentions that ‘Hudhayfah said’, and this confirms it as mursal.”92 In his biographical note on Abu Sallam, al-Mazzi says: “He reported from Hudhayfah, but his reporting is said to be mursal. Ibn Hajar says: “He reported from Hudhayfah, Abu Dharr and others without having heard from them.” Al-Nawawi agrees with al-Daraqutni that it is mursal, but he considers the text as authentic on the basis of the first chain of transmission. The report by that first chain of transmission does not include the addition in dispute. Muqbil al-Wadi[i says in his edition of Al-Tatabbu[: “This addition is lacking in authenticity because it comes through these broken chains”. The second hadith is reported by [Ubadah ibn al-Walid through his father who quotes his grandfather [Ubadah ibn al-Samit who says: “We have given pledges to God’s messenger to listen and obey in times of hardship and ease, when we are active or slackening, giving priority to others over ourselves. We further pledged not to engage in dispute to gain power, and also to say the truth wherever we are, fearing no blame for fulfilling our duty towards God.” It is entered in the two authentic anthologies of al-Bukhari and Muslim in this wording. 93 Ibn Hibban and others relate this hadith with a different chain of transmission, reporting through Hayyan Abu al-Nadr from Junadah ibn Abi Umayyah from [Ubadah. This version adds the wording, “even if they devour your property and beat you on your back”.94 It appears that this addition is not co nfirmed as authentic. As a reporter of hadith, Hayyan Abu al-Nadr is classified as ‘reliable’ by Ibn Ma [in, while Abu Hatim describes him as ‘acceptable’ and Ibn Hibban includes him among the reliable reporters. However, a number of reliable reporters have reported this hadith through Junadah ibn Abi Umayyah from [Ubadah but without this addition. These reports of theirs are included in the two authentic anthologies of al-Bukhari and Muslim and in other anthologies as well. 95 A number of contemporary researchers, such as Dr Misfir al-Dumayni and Dr Saud alFanisan have discussed this addition, concluding that the hadith is poor in authenticity and that the addition is ‘odd’. Yet citing this hadith and its addition about being beaten on the back with one’s property taken away in the forefront, as if it is the keynote of this subject, betrays a kind of Al-Daraqutni, Al-Ilzamat wal-Tatabbu[, p.182. Related b y al-Bukhari number 7199; and Muslim number 1709. 94 Related by Ibn Abi [Asim in Al-Sunnah, number 1026, Ibn Zanjaweih in Al-Amwal, number 24, Ibn Hibban numbers 4562 & 4566, and al-Shashi numbers 1221 & 1225. 95 Vis. al-Bukhari numbers 7055 & 7056 and Muslim number 1709. 92 93


selectivity. A better and more authentic hadith states: “Whoever is killed defending his property is a martyr.” This hadith is entered in a large number of anthologies including the two most authentic ones. 96 It is attributed to no less than 16 of the Prophet’s companions, such as [Abdullah ibn [Umar, Abu Hurayrah, al-Husayn ibn [Ali, Ibn [Abbas, Sa[d ibn Abi Waqqas, Ibn al-Zubayr, Ibn Mas[ud, [Ali ibn Abu Talib, Buraydah, [Abdullah ibn [Amr and Sa[id ibn Zayd. A number of scholars, such as al-Munawi and al-Kattani classify it as mutawatir, which is the highest grade of authenticity. 97 The majority of commentators have not mentioned any difference between a ruler and others. On the contrary, Ibn Hazm says: “Here, God’s messenger (peace be upon him) orders anyone who is wrongfully asked to part with his money not to give it. He is ordered to fight for it. He may kill without blame or be killed and become an innocent martyr. The Prophet did not specify any type of property. Indeed Ab u Bakr and [Abdullah ibn [Amr consider a ruler and an ordinary person to be in the same position in this regard.”98 In the history of a number of the Prophet’s companions, such as al-Zubayr, Abu Dharr and Sa[id ibn Zayd, we read that they acted on this hadith, threatening anyone who tried to take away their property that they would fight. There are several instances of this and they are all authentic. Muslim relates in his Sahih that when the dispute between [Abdullah ibn [Amr and [Anbasah ibn Abi Sufyan was prolonged, they prepared to fight. Khalid ibn al-[As went up to [Abdullah ibn [Amr and counselled him against fighting. [Abdullah said to him: “Are you not aware that the Prophet said: ‘Whoever is killed defending his property is a martyr’?”99 Further details of this story are given in Al-Musannaf and other books. It tells us that Mu[awiyah ordered his governor, [Anbasah, to take over al-Waht, which was a plot of land that belonged to [Abdullah ibn [Amr. [Abdullah and his servants and others working for him took up arms to defend it. 100 The view that the ruling is different for a ruler is advocated by Ibn al-Mundhir and others. Related b y al-Bukhari number 2480 and Muslim number 141. Vis. Jami[ al-Usul, Vol. 2, pp. 742-746, Al-Bayan wal-Ta[rif fi Asbab Wurud al-hadith al-Sharif, number 1568, and Al-[Alla’i, Al-Araba[in al-Mughniyah, p. 293-294. 98 Ibn Hazm, Al-Muhalla, Vol. 12, p. 285. 99 Related b y Muslim, number 141. 100 Vis. Al-Tayalisi, Al-Musnad, number 2408; [Abd al-Razzaq, Al-Musannaf, number 18566; Ahmad, Al-Musnad, number 6913; and al-Bayhaqi, Sunan, Vol. 8, p. 335. 96 97


The statement that orders submission even in the case of being beaten or deprived of one’s property is strange indeed. We wonder how can some people make it the basis of the theory of Islamic government. It has been circulated far and wide as if it were the total sum of this theory. We note that [Umar used to teach people what is totally different. He used to say: “By God, I do not send you governors to beat you up or to take away your property. I only send them to teach you your religion and the practice of the Prophet.” 101 Yet even if the hadith were considered authentic, it remains an advice to individuals in an Arab environment which is characterised by disdain for submissiveness and rebellion against injustice. Such characteristics may encourage disobedience, even in reasonable cases, or preparation for escalation into rebellion and fighting. Moreover, actions such as beating people on their backs or taking away their property may be justified on grounds of right, or suspected right, or some other explanation. Justice may not be satisfactory to all people. Indeed some people are unhappy with what is right. Some get angry easily and make excessive reactions. The important thing is what the Qur'an terms ‘the balance’: “[God] has set the balance, so that you may not exceed the balance. Weigh, therefore, with justice and do not fall short in the balance.” (55: 7-9) God also says: “Weigh with even scales.” (26: 182) This is the message given to prophets and they have urged those who succeeded them to uphold it. Some of the disputes over money and property cannot justify making any threats. They should be looked into by fair judges and their judgment should apply to all. Nothing in this hadith, including the addition, justifies the ruler in doing or allowing such practices. How could it be justified when the Qur'an mentions that God said to Abraham: “‘I have appointed you a leader of mankind.’ Abraham asked, ‘And what of my descendants?’ God said, ‘My covenant does not apply to the wrongdoers.’” (2: 124) When wrongdoing and injustice become normal practices, their perpetrator cannot be a leader of mankind. Indeed, such leadership cannot exist side by side with injustice. The Qur'an refers to the great danger that attends taking people’s property without proper justification. God says: “He does not ask you to give up all your possessions. If He were to ask you all and press you hard, you would grow tight-fisted, and He would bring your malice to light.” (47: 36-37) If malice and hatred result when God asks people to part with their possessions, what would be the result if the request comes from the Prophet or his rightly guided successors, let alone ordinary mortals?

Related by Ibn Sad, Vol. 3, p. 261; Ibn Abi Shaybah number 32921; Ahmad number 286, Abu Dawood number 4537; al-Hakim, Vol. 4, p. 439; al-Bayhaqi, Vol. 8, p. 48 & Vol. 9, p. 29. 101


Besides, is it possible that such words might have been said by God’s messenger who is described in the Qur'an in the following terms: “It is by God’s grace that you deal gently with them. Had you been harsh and hard-hearted, they would surely have broken away from you.” (3: 159) What is harsher than taking away people’s possessions and beating them up? This is indeed what God has forbidden His messenger to do, telling him that it results in disunity and the decline of the state. Moreover, we must believe in the hadith reported by [Ubadah in total. Part of it requires us to state the truth in all situations, fearing no blame whatsoever. There will always be in the Muslim community those who will restrain their anger if they are beaten up or their possessions taken away, but they will not hesitate to speak up, stating the truth, denouncing injustice and supporting the deprived. Their voices are heard loud in calling for the implementation of the values of justice, equality and reform in order to protect their society against malice and hatred. They realize that such ills threaten the structure of society with collapse. A symbolic story tells of a farmer who used to sell his butter to a shopkeeper, divided into portions of one kilogram each. The shopkeeper weighed one portion and found out that it was only 900 grams. He said to the farmer: “I will never buy my butter from you, because you cheat and give me less than the right weight.” The farmer shook his head and said: “I beg your pardon, sir. I do not have the right weight, as I am poor. I use the one-kilo sack of sugar which I buy from you and put in the other scale the same weight of butter.” The same argument applies to the hadith that says: “The ruler is God’s shadow and His spear on earth”. It imparts holiness to rulers and makes their rule divine. It gives them more than they hope for. It is true that Ibn Taymiyyah cited this hadith and commented on it, but it is clearly false. It is reported by al-Bayhaqi on Anas’s authority, Ibn al-Najjar through Abu Hurayrah and al-Bazzar through Ibn [Umar. In Majma[ al-Zawa’id, AlHaythami says of it: “One of its transmitters is Sa [id ibn Sinan, Abu Mahdi, and he is discarded.” Al-Daraqutni and others accuse him of false fabrication, and al -Bukhari classifies him as unacceptable. 102 The same may be said about the statement: “One day under a repressive ruler is better than 70 years without a ruler”. This statement is attributed to Sufy an al-Thawri, a scholar of the first century of Islam. In another version: “Seventy years under a repressive ruler is better than a community in chaos for one hour”. It is mentioned by Justice [Iyad in Vis. Al-Bayhaqi, Sunan, Vol. 8, p. 162; Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari, p. 101; Al-Haythami, Majma[ al-Zawa’id, Vol. 5, p. 196; Also, Al-Fawa’id al-Majmu[ah fi al-ahadith al-Mawdu[ah, p. 210; Al-Maqasid al-Hasanah, p. 207; Silsilat al-ahadith al-Da[ifah wal-Mawdu[ah, numbers 475, 1465, 1661, 1664, 2504, 5474. 102


Tartib al-Madarik as a report by Qir [aws ibn al-[Abbas attributing it to Malik and alThawri. 103 Such statements are cited by some orators and self-styled warners against strife, suggesting that the choice is between tyranny on the one hand and chaos and civil war on the other. They thus remind us of what a number of tyrants used to say in their final days when they faced the moment of truth. In most contexts they are true statements, but they are made to endorse falsehood. They are not religious texts, but they originated from early scholars who were known to have stood firmly in opposition to injustice by governors, disassociating themselves from them. Some indeed rebelled against such unjust rulers. They were often subjected to persecution for their attitudes, as is well known in their history. Malik was beaten up so badly that his shoulder was dislocated as a result. Qir[aws ibn al-[Abbas was already in prison when he said what is attributed to him. Sufyan al-Thawri spent much of his life on the run because of his opposition to rulers, as detailed in his history. Some people cite the hadith that says: “Remain patient. Whatever you may encounter in your time will be better than whatever comes next, until you meet your Lord...” This is an authentic hadith related by al-Bukhari, number 7068, but it is understood to be an address to the Prophet’s companions only, because of the last phrase, ‘until you meet your Lord’. They were in the best situation with the Prophet living among them. This situation continued to dwindle after that. Those who came after them might witness movements of modernization, reform or renewal. It is well known that Islam undergoes periods of progress as well as setbacks. History tells us of several transformations of these types. This idea is endorsed by the well known hadith that says: “The best of people are my generation”.104 It is said that the hadith is meant as a reference to the death of scholars, as mentioned by Ibn Mas[ud and Ibn [Abbas.105 This meaning is reiterated in the hadith that says: “God does not remove knowledge away from people. He removes knowledge through the death of scholars.” Alongside this hadith we may quote others that do not contradict it; rather, they explain it. One of these states: “God sends to this community every one hundred years a man to

Justice [Iyad, Tartib al-Madarik, Vol. 3, p. 326. Related b y al-Bukhari number 2652, and Muslim number 2533. 105 Vis. Al-Darimi, Al-Musnad number 249; Al-Tabaran i, Al-Mu [jam al-Kabir number 8991; Al-Bayhaqi, Al-Madkhal ila al-Sunan al-Kubra number 859; and Al-Faqih wal-Mutafaqqih, Vol. 1, p. 154. 103 104


renew its faith.” 106 Another says: “My community is like rain: it is not known when it is best: at the beginning or at the end.”107 It is absolutely wrong to use this hadith to justify injustice and corruption. God condemned those who claimed that whatever they did was their fate, as they said: “Had God so willed, neither we nor our forefathers would have worshipped any other than Him, nor would we have declared anything forbidden without a commandment from Him.” (16: 35) Some people often repeat the statement: “A despotic ruler is better than lasting chaos”. This is related by Ibn [Asakir who attributes it to [Amr ibn al-[As and its full text runs as follows: “A just ruler is better than abundant rain; a wild lion is better than an unjust ruler, and a despotic ruler is better than lasting chaos.” 108 It is also related by Ibn [Abd alBarr, al-Tha[alibi, al-Ya[qubi, Ibn Mufli[h and others.109 This hadith is understood to mean that it is better that a repressive ruler stays in power than that the country slips into total and lasting chaos. It does not, however, abrogate the hadith that says: “The best type of jihad is to assert the word of truth in front of a despotic ruler.” This hadith is related by Abu Dawud on the authority of Abu Sa[id alKhudri, and by al-Tirmidhi who classifies it as authentic. It is also related by Ibn M ajah and al-Bayhaqi in his Al-Shu[ab. Al-Bayhaqi comments that it is endorsed by another hadith, which is mursal, but its chain of transmission is sound. He mentions it on the authority of Tariq ibn Shihab. This last hadith is similar to the one that says: “The best martyr is Hamzah ibn [Abd alMuttalib and a man who stands up to a despotic ruler, bidding him to do certain things and to refrain from others, but the ruler kills him.” This hadith is related by al-Hakim on Jabir’s authority. It is also reported by Ibn [Abbas and classified as authentic by al-Siyuti in his Al-Jami[ al-Saghir, and graded as authentic by al-Albani. 110 It is not right to limit people’s options to two evils, one greater than the other. Islam encourages people to expect what is good and to seek it. It further encourages them not to submit to existing corruption. Even if a person is unable to change an evil by hand or Related b y Abu Dawud number 4291. Vis also Al-Silsilah al-Sahihah number 599. Related on Anas’s authority by al-Tayalisi number 2135, Ahmad numbers 12327 & 12461, al-Tirmidhi number 2869. It is also related on [Ammar’s authority by al-Tayalisi number 682, Ahmad number 18881, Ibn Hibban number 7226. Vis also Sharh [Ilal al-Tirmidhi, Vol. 2, pp. 501-502, Al-[Alla’i, Tahqi q Munif al-Rutbah, pp. 84-90, and Ibn Qudamah, Al-Muntakhab min [Ilal al-Khallal number 12. 108 Ibn [Asakir, Tarikh Dimashq, Vol. 46, p. 184. 109 Vis. Tarikh al-Ya[qubi, p. 197; Al-Tha[alib i, Al-I[jaz wal-Ijaz, p.62; Ibn [Abd al-Barr, Bahjat al-Majalis, Vol. 1, p. 71; Ibn [Asakir, Tarikh Dimashq, Vol. 46, p. 184; Ibn Muflih, Al-Adab al-Shar[iyyah, Vol.1, p. 176. 110 Al-Hakim, Al-Mustadrak, Vol. 3, p. 195; Al-Albani, Al-Silsilah al-S ahihah, number 374. 106 107


by word, then he denounces it in private. The hadith that says, “According to your conditions, you have your rulers,” is also cited. It is related by al-Daylami in Musnad alFirdaws on the authority of Ab u Bakrah. It is also related by al-Bayhaqi with a broken chain of transmission on the authority of Abu Ishaq al-Sabi[i. Several eminent scholars, such as Ibn Hajar and al-Albani, grade it as lacking in authenticity. 111 Yet this hadith has a valid sense concerning the law of change and the relation between the selfishness of the ruler and the acceptability by the ruled. God says in the Qur'an: “In this manner do We cause the wrongdoers to be close allies of one another.” (6: 129) It is a call to ensure change to the better. A ruler changes and leans towards goodness and reform when there is a strong desire and a firm will among the people to ensure such a change. Firm, lasting and far-reaching transformation begins with them. An often quoted statement is attributed to Imam Malik, permitting the killing of onethird of the population in order to ensure the reform of the remaining two-thirds. This is mentioned by al-Juwayni in Ghiyath al-Umam, al-Burhan in U sul al-Fiqh and by Ibn Qudamah in Al-Rawdah, without mentioning a chain of transmission. Al-Shihab al-Qarafi says that what al-Juwayni has attributed to Malik has been strongly denied by the Maliki scholars and is not found in their books. Ibn Hajar mentions in Inba’ al-Ghamr a story about disobedience by a group of people. The ruler called a meeting of the judges and consulted them. Something on these lines was said to the Maliki judge, but he denied it and said that it was totally unknown in the M aliki school of thought. 112 In Irshad al-Fuhul, al-Shawkani says: “Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni has gone too far in what he attributed to Malik of being excessive in this respect. What he stated is not found in Malik’s books or in any book by his disciples.” 113 Al-Shanqiti says: “Their claim that Malik permits killing one-third of the population to ensure the reform of the other two-thirds is false. Malik has not said this. None of his disciples quoted it. It is not found in any M aliki book, as clearly stated by al-Qarafi, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Bannani and others. We have spent a very long time in studying the Maliki school of thought and we kno w that this claim is false. Those who attributed it to Malik aimed it as criticism and to extend the area of al-masalih al-mursalah. In short, no scholar says this, neither Malikis nor belonging to other schools.”

Al-Albani, Silsilat al-ahadith al-Da[ifah, number 320. Ibn Hajar, Inba’ al-Ghamr, Vol. 4, pp. 143-144. 113 Al-Shawkan i, Irshad al-Fuhul, Vol. 2, p. 184. 111 112


Chapter Four

After the Revolution.. What Relation with Others?


One The Islamists and Relation with non-Islamists

An interesting question seems to have a telling effect in shaping the future: When the Islamists are in power, will their view of ‘listen and obey’ change? The answer is probably in the affirmative, unless the political atmosphere has become healthy, allowing smooth transfer of power and precluding the re-emergence of dictatorial tendencies under an Islamic banner. Islamic movements are often called ‘political Islam’. There is no problem with what terms we may use, provided that such terms are not used in a derogatory manner, or as a means to target the Islamists, or to imply that they do not deserve to have the full rights and privileges of citizenship, in the same way as all other parties. The Islamists do not represent Islam. They represent the programme they put before the people. It is a programme that is based on Islam, but does not claim that its premises are infallible. These may include some suspect or mistaken views, or indeed correct ones but are unsuitable for the present period. Their actual performance in government is no more than a human experience that must rely on knowledge and expertise. They also need to tap all national talent. The Islamists are now undertaking a great responsibility. It is very easy for religious advocacy to become a divisive force instead of being a uniting one. The despotism that reigned for long in most of our countries in recent years, causing a great deal of material and psychological suffering, is one of the main reasons that make people look to the Islamists as saviours. This is what gives them a clear majority in most countries. The results of elections in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt have reflected that. The same will be the case in Libya, Yemen and other countries. Politics will put them to the test before their supporters. They will also be the target of accusations and attacks by their traditional opponents and those with a totally different outlook.


Decorating the political picture with selected personnel of different trends in order to prove that we as Islamists are open to all is not our main task. Our task is to put in place a political vision that is clearly based on reality, and to work for the achievement of the general objectives that will benefit all people, such as political justice, economic development, protection of people’s rights, separation of authorities, observance of the rules of politics and the peaceful change of government. It is just not possible to remove people’s differences. Variety is part of God’s design for human life. We must not ignore or suppress it. Nor can we look at it with contempt, because that will lead to confrontation and explosion. It is extremely important in this regard to put the sublime Islamic ethics in front of our eyes. We must remember that Madinah, the Prophet’s capital, was a city of religious and ethnic variety. There lived in Madinah Arabs and Jews, the Aws and the Khazraj, the Muhajirin and the Ansar. Islam and Judaism were side by side. In addition, the hypocrites were active there for a long time. Idolaters lived in Madinah and in the surrounding area. The Prophet’s wisdom ensured that Islam could sail through such heavy waters in peace. The Prophet did not need any solution other than to advocate his message patiently, until the idolaters and hypocrites disappeared. An authentic hadith quotes Hudhayfah, a companion of the Prophet, speaking about the Qur’anic verse that says: “fight these archetypes of faithlessness.” (9: 12) He said: “Of those people referred to in this verse only three remain. Of the hypocrites, only four remain. One of them is an old man. If he were to drink chilled water, he would not feel it cold.” 114 Dreams that do not take causes and historical contexts into account, try to precipitate events, stir conflicts with other nations and ignore the fact that every step must be carefully planned are more like delusions. The Islamists have every right to regain their presence and freedom. They are part of the nation’s present and future. This, however, does not mean that they must behave as if they were the only actors on the stage. Nor should they express themselves as if they were the only ones who represent the nation’s conscience, hopes and aspirations. The great hopes of the nation will not be fulfilled by one section of the population. They will be achieved by the entire nation, the Islamists and the non-Islamists, the people of all trends, intellectual orientations and sects, and the non-Muslims who are part of the Arab people and who in the past had their own historical roles.


Related b y al-Bukhari number 4658.


Perhaps the time is not ripe yet to fulfil the dream of forming a single nation that unites all Arabs or all Muslims. Let us, then, concentrate on the great universal values we all enshrine: justice, freedom, human dignity, protection of rights, involvement in the efforts of building and development, fighting falsehood with right morally, politically and intellectually, making good use of scientific and technological advances and promoting economic, political and civilizational coordination. Our aim is to build, not to destroy. For building is the ultimate. Without faith and belief in God’s oneness, people will not benefit much by discarding their idols. The truth works with two engines: one to build and one to destroy. The destruction is necessary in order to build anew. Many people know what they do not want, but they do not know what they want. They are addicted to fighting. They hardly finish a fight before they are ready for another. The mother of all battles is not the Battle of al-Qadisiyyah; it is the battle within ourselves, trying always to remain on the right track, fair and God-fearing, steering away from injustice, aggression, denying people their rights or treating them with contempt. The new structure should be a state for all citizens without exception, goodly and not so goodly, believers and non-believers. We must remember that we judge people only by what they profess to be. We are not required to examine their hearts or what they harbour inside themselves, as clearly stated in more than one authentic hadith.115 Freedom of action is a great gain that we must retain intact. We must also abide by its conditions and avoid what could disturb its atmosphere for the country as a whole, or for a section of the population.


Vis. al-Bukhari, Sahih, number 4351, and Muslim, Sahih, number 1064.


Two The Islamists and the Relation with the West Do we see now a historic opportunity to develop our relation with our Western neighbour who is close to us in Morocco, Libya and Egypt. This neighbour of ours is always pushing us around within our homes, and often fights us either through Israel, its representative, or in some blind adventure as in Afghanistan and Iraq? Can we imagine that the period of 9/11 and al-Qaeda, 2001-2011, with all its mutual harshness is paving the way to a new, long or short, stage of tranquillity and review of the pattern of relations? Can we see a different face of the West? It is not the Crusader West, but a West with a fair, human, institutional or even pragmatic face? Will the West have a new look at the map, have a positive attitude to the new situation, re-discover the Islamists and their wide spectrum? Will it understand that their participation in government will change much of their views and that the mutual scare of them was no more than a false alarm? A number of prominent politicians in the United States and Europe have expressed something of the kind. Western politicians have been aware of the falsity of the so -called ‘Islamic threat’, but they dealt with it as true. The direct Western objectives are based on a strategy of five points: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Security of energy resources and raw materials, particularly oil; Fighting ‘terrorism’; Stopping immigration to the West; Opening consumer markets, investments and cultural exchange for Western products; 5. The essential presence of Israel and its military superiority. Numerous studies have been undertaken by institutes and research centres in the West, hypothesizing waves of democratic changes in the Arab world that come after a long and hard struggle and going through ups and downs. When we look carefully at these studies we realize that the West can read the situation well and can deal with it. It also can go on confrontation when necessary.


The West’s suspicions of the Islamists, whether they are of the violent or political variety, is based primarily on the phenomenon of al-Qaeda and its strikes in Africa, Asia, the United States and Europe since the mid-nineties of the last century. It is also based on the earlier conflicts between the Islamists and the ruling regimes in the Arab countries. These started much earlier and aimed at earning recognition and acceptance as a player on the political stage. Moreover, in the Western intellectual imagination appears the spectre of Ottoman Islam as a military threat. However, a host of economic variables, changes in the balance of power and mutual technological and cultural breakthroughs combine to make it possible to start a stage of tranquillity, revision, listening and rediscovery. In this context, Turkey, even under the rule of the Justice and Development Party, appears to be an advance example in the way it conducts its relations with the United States, the European Union and Israel. Despite the increased objections to its joining the European Union, the West clearly deals with it in a positive manner. The Libyan welcome of intervention by NATO was clearly at odds with traditional popular and Islamic thinking. It is very interesting to see the NATO military commander meeting with leaders of the revolution, including Abd al-Hakeem Balhaj, who used to be branded as terrorist. Indeed, one European country collaborated with the former regime in Libya in arresting him. Some political statements appear to give Israel more than it expects, at no cost to it. They are meant as proof of pragmatic realism. Political relations require broad experience and careful study. Spontaneously quick decisions and romantic speeches are not particularly useful in this field. What is certain, however, is that nothing is insoluble when the internal situation is sound. The West appears to be ready to deal with a difficult stage that tries to fulfil national interests before looking at the interests of others. We need to understand this. The Turkish example shows that it is possible to retain good relations despite much criticism and tension. The Zionist state realizes that its real strength lies in the weakness of its neighbours and the fact that it is the stronger party in any agreement or equation.


Three National Reconciliation and the Relation with Prominent Figures of Old Regimes

Sweeping the Past People speak of Bouazizi as a symbol, providing the inspiration for the Tunisian revolution. They speak of Hamzah al-Khateeb as a child who inspired the Syrian revolution. They mention Khaled Saeed as the soul of the Egyptian revolution. Other names are mentioned in Libya and Yemen. The old regimes have tried to give these figures bad names, both at the security and moral levels, accusing them of being drug addicts, or having promiscuous affairs, or committing crimes. Only the children were immune to this because such accusations could not stand in their cases. Let us assume that what the notorious security forces of those regimes tried to spread about those people was correct. Can they tell us about their own leaders and top figures? Can they show us some of their personal, financial and official practices? Let it all be true, are those notorious forces responsible for the morality of society? Do they hold all people to account on this basis? Or is it an exercise in selectivity, and for ulterior motives? Suppose it is all true, does a fault committed by any person deprive that person of the right to protest, demand reform or participate in a public event? Does it deprive him of the right to be in the leadership of positive popular action? Clear statements in our culture give preference in managing a confrontation to one who is a strong sinner over one who is God-fearing but weak. Committing sins and being God-fearing are personal matters, while strength and weakness are the qualities that determine success or failure in managing situations of responsibility. Those symbolic personalities, and many others, as well as what we see on the ground, reflect some aspects of the spontaneity and broadness of the revolutionary action. They show that it is part of the destiny of our nation. When God wills something to happen, nothing will stop it. 97

Whoever assumes the leadership must not deny such people their rights. He must not exploit the success achieved for personal gains. It is very important that the revolution remains faithful to its ideals and to steer away from the causes that led to it. The gains of the revolution must not be monopolized by leaders who were able to make capital of the events or by parties that were quick to support the revolution. Indeed, the gains of the revolution must not be exclusively for the revolutionaries. Such gains belong to all the people, without exception, including those who have not supported the revolution. When the revolution believes in this principle, it starts on its way to historical success. It will achieve much more than transitory or superficial changes. Everyone must gain by the revolution. Old opponents of the dictatorship might have spent most of their lives in foreign countries, unable to return to their homeland. Many of them lost their ties with their families and communities. They lived through much danger, long sufferings and fear of the dictator who could send his men to kill and assassinate in broad daylight. Other opponents of the dictatorship might have tried to exploit some chances to introduce some reforms from within the regime. They might have tried to protect some rights, spread knowledge, get some prisoners released. They might have judged that it was unwise to stick to one option. Others might have worked with the regime and joined the revolution when the bloodshed was at its greatest. They might have helped the regime in the past, but we must remember that many a minister or official works within the existing circumstances, trying to stop evil and bring about some good. There are others who kept silent and awaited the outcome of the struggle. They did not want to take any risks. They never thought of doing anything heroic, offering any sacrifice, or seeking glory. All they hoped for was to live in peace and security, enjoying what God has permitted them. I will go even further and speak of those who have supported the regime and then withheld support when it was clear to them that it no longer had any hope of survival. Wisdom requires that we try to make them see that their own interests lie with abandoning the regime and joining the revolution, which belongs to the whole nation. This is more likely to reduce bloodshed and to ensure future stability. It will also reduce the likelihood of a continuous cycle of violence which often engulfs communities after such events. It will help reduce and remove grudges that might otherwise continue to be nursed.

General Pardon After 21 years of struggle, the Prophet and his companions entered Makkah which had fallen to Islam with little fighting. It was a case of unconditional surrender by enemies 98

who had fought him hard, tried several times to assassinate him and raised armies to fight him with a declared aim of exterminating all Muslims. After their surrender, the people of Makkah gathered around the Prophet who asked them: “What do you think I will do with you?” They said: “Only what is good. You are a noble brother and the son of a noble brother of ours”. He said: “You may all go free. You are all pardoned”. 116 That was a great decision of exceptional magnanimity. We may appreciate part of its significance if we can visualize the situation when it was said and the people to whom it was said. They were the ones who tortured and killed Muslims, drove them away and took over their houses. They never showed them any leniency. Until very recently, their swords were dripping with the blood of vulnerable Muslims. Such unparalleled magnanimity; such ability to issue a most extensive pardon meant the past was totally and finally forgotten. It meant that Makkah in particular and Arabia in general were spared any possibility of civil war. It allowed the rise of the state of the rightly guided Caliphate. That state is a unique model that cannot be repeated, but it may be emulated when its great ideals of justice, mercy and freedom are assured for all. The first one who used the term ‘freedom’ in its comprehensive sense was [Umar ibn alKhattab, when he said to his governor of Egypt: “Since when do you enslave people whose mothers have brought them into the world free.” 117 Killing people, liquidation of opponents and revenge will only increase enmity and prepare the way to further rounds of struggle and counter revenge. Wise is he who tries to stop the cycle of violence and counter-violence. This can only be achieved by adhering to high moral principles, giving them more weight than the personal desire of revenge. What revolution should yield is totally different from the state of depression, despotism, heavy-handedness, selfishness and personal aggrandizement which were characteristic of the previous repressive regimes. The revolution takes place with the aim of changing situations, not changing personnel. Letting passions loose in order to take revenge is not a good revolutionary act. It is wrong to start a new round of random arrests and unlawful killings in the name of the revolution.

A Share of the Gains Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah, Vol. 2, p. 411; Ibn Zanjaw eih, Al-Amwal, Vol. 1, p. 214; Al-Tab ari, Tarikh alUmam wal-Muluk, Vol. 2, p. 161; Ibn al-Qayyim, Zad al-M a[ad, Vol. 3, pp. 307-309; Ibn Kath ir, Al-Bidayah walNihayah, Vol. 6, pp. 567-568 117 Ibn [Abd al-Hakam, Futuh Misr, p. 195. 116


Everyone is entitled to feel that he or she has a share in the gains made by the revolution, regardless of their intellectual orientation, political party, tribe, the geographical area to which they belong, or indeed their history. I always like to repeat that the revolution sweeps away everything before it. No one should suffer any injustice in this land of ours, whatever his or her religion, sect or affiliation happen to be. The future must belong to all. It is true that not everyone will be happy. It is never possible to please everyone. What is necessary is to put in place a constitution agreed by all. Islamic law should be its reference point, because it is the constitution of a Muslim country. Everything in life goes through change. When a revolution succeeds and establishes a new regime, it moves into a totally different situation which may not be fully understood by some of those who sacrificed much for the success of the revolution. Questions may be asked and problems may remain without answer or solution. Sometimes, the situation leaves hard feelings that may take long to dispel. We must fully understand that this present life represents a test. God says in the Qur'an: “It is His will that He tests you all by means of one another.� (47: 4) Imperfection is part of the nature of this present world. Even when they were with their prophets, people were not in absolute harmony. Later, the prophets’ followers went through whatever they had to face. God tests all people, believers and unbelievers. He may test a person by means of his foe at one stage, and by means of his friend at another. He may even test a person by himself.

Fearing Revolutionary Conflicts I had my worries about al-Qaeda and its violence. Now I think I understand part of the divine wisdom behind its existence. It has largely dissipated the uncompromising violent aspect that tends towards total rigidity. I can see it now as a process of relea sing some pressures which may have proper motivations and may influence some groups of people, but it can neither construct nor initiate. It ultimately disappears, leaving the field for peaceful action that remains calm and open to coexistence with others. A Bedouin was once asked whether he would be prepared to abandon his pursuit of revenge if that would guarantee his admittance into heaven. He answered that he would rather get his revenge and go to hell. We need to patiently exert every effort to ensur e that we do not succumb to the logic of that Bedouin. 100

It is revenge that makes a hell of this life with all that it breeds of raging conflicts, setbacks and failures. The Arabs have a massive cultural and psychological store in this respect. When cases of forgiveness and reconciliation are told to an Arab, he considers them special cases that may not be taken as a model to emulate. Revenge may be given the colour of spite or regaining one’s rights. My worst fear is to see the tribal pluralism that has old roots in the Arab psychology replace the goal of democratic pluralism. This may lead to chaos and a sort of internal wars.

No Justification for Revenge Indeed there can be no excuse for revenge or for summary or field trials which return death sentences and carry them out without looking carefully into the case. Yet there are people with real grievances. They might have their rights violated, their property taken away, and their honour and integrity compromised. They have every right to file their claims and recover their losses. If that is possible in an amicable way that achieves reconciliation, well and good. If not, then through the process of law. Embezzlement of public funds, abuse of authority and other offences against the state and the nation are very serious and must not be overlooked. However, all should be dealt with according to the proper process of the law so as to ensure that the accused will be fairly treated, no matter how grave his offences may be. Should the conflict be prolonged and far-stretching, an air of social serenity may be regained by putting an end to the past and its wrongs. People will thus be encouraged to look forward to a new stage that should be characterised by friendliness, peace and unity. When disputes and conflicts start at an early stage, they may lead to the failure of the revolution. In this case, all the parties to such conflicts will be like hunters who quarrel over who takes the lion’s hide before they have caught it. The Maliki school of thought, which is followed in Libya and North Africa, opens the gates for reconciliation between warring factions wider than any other school of Islamic jurisprudence. This is stated by scholars like Ibn al-[Arabi, al-Qurtubi and al-Tahir ibn [Ashur as they comment on the Qur’anic verse that says: “If two groups of believers fall to fighting, make peace between them.” 118 (49: 9)

Ibn al-[Arabi, Ahkam al-Qur'an, Vol. 4, p. 152. Al-Qurtubi, Tafsir, Vol. 16, pp. 318-321. Vis. also Al-Tahrir walTanwir, Vol. 26, p. 242. 118


It Shall Not Be Said “People shall not say that Muhammad kills his companions.” 119 This was the Prophet’s decision concerning the hypocrites who were a fifth column working to undermine the Muslim community. Preserving the reputation of the revolution is very important. A person listening to the news from afar cannot be aware of all the details and the different viewpoints. He will have a negative view when the media speaks at length about splits, unlawful killings and ignoring the legal provisions that ensure justice. The Prophet’s method aimed to absorb the hypocrites within the community and its aim to ensure progress. As time passed, their role considerably weakened. Ultimately, Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman, a companion of the Prophet, said: “Only four of the hypocrites remain.” 120 The hypocrites in Madinah were a large and influential section of the population. However, due to the Prophet’s wisdom, their influence began to diminish. The Prophet did not hasten action and did not act on suggestions based on angry feelings. He allowed time to have its effect and left things to settle down in accordance with the divine rules that work within human life. He maintained a far-sighted policy that allowed illusory opportunities to pass and watched things patiently. Ultimately, he achieved total success. Wise, sincere action will ensure that extremism, of any colour, will in time be isolated. Some people imagine that extremism is always Islamic. The fact is that there is secular extremism that allows no room for dissent. Such extremism must be kept in check. Those who dream of replacing existing dictatorship with a dictatorship of their own are not loyal to the revolution. They will be greatly disappointed when circumstances ensure that their dream shall not be fulfilled. Everyone who takes part in the struggle must be given their dues. However, no one may think that he is the cornerstone of the revolution while the others are no more than footnotes. The future is built by wise people who plan carefully and do not act in response to feelings of jealousy or anger. Nor is the future built by one who is deluded by his sense of Related b y al-Bukhari numbers 3518 & 4905, and Muslim number 2584. This hadith was the Prophet’s reaction to a suggestion that h e should senten ce the chief hypo crite in Madinah to death, after the man h ad caused much trouble within the Muslim community. – Editor’s note. 120 Related b y al-Bukhari number 4658. 119


power and rushes into ill-considered actions without carefully studying their likely results in the short or long term. We must be fully aware of the importance of the post-revolution stage, which is very delicate and may be slippery. Success will only come to those who plan with care and patience to build a firm institutional structure in which few differences, splits and quarrels occur. We must not lose sight of the Qur’anic verse that says: “do not dispute with one another, lest you lose heart and your moral strength. Be patient in adversity, for God is with those who are patient in adversity.” (8: 46) We also need to look at events in a broader geographical context. Open or secret actions are taking place in more than one Arab country. Undoubtedly, the cases of Libya, Egypt and Tunisia have strong bearing on such actions, leading people to be either convinced or unconvinced of their usefulness. People may fear that the outcome will bring unforeseen problems, or they may fear that there might not be enough support for revolutionary action at the regional or international levels. The political entity that comes after the revolution will not be a new model of the state of the Muhajirin and the Ansar. Some people imagine that, but they do not seem to fully understand how God’s laws operate. Nor are they well aware of the laws of struggle and the consequences of different events. Patience, self restraint, exerting efforts to bring people together, bridging the gaps between them, extending the hand of friendship to those who stand aloof and restraining anger are among the wisest human practices. As stated in the Qur'an, the qualities of the believers include: “when angered, they will forgive.” (42:37) It is very dangerous to let things break out of control, or weaken the central authority. According to the laws God has set in operation, such situations pave the way to a second revolution. In the wake of the rapid and sudden changes there seems to be an urgent need for a new type of Fiqh which addresses revolution and its consequences. Like most people, I dream that these rapid changes will usher a new stage that is much better than what we have seen and suffered so far. This does not mean that we expec t anything miraculous or supernatural. Let us enjoy this stage and celebrate it, and let our enjoyment remain untampered by fears of what the future might bring. A newborn cries as it comes into the world to announce its arrival. Its cries mean that it is well, and all thanks are due to God. It might be a girl, just as, in Arabic, freedom is feminine. You must not be like those Arabs of old who would hide away when they were told that their new child was a girl.


How could they tell: a girl could be “of greater purity than [a boy], and closer in loving tenderness.� (18: 81)


Four Revolution as a Prelude to Progress I was always greatly interested in the affairs of the Muslim world. I followed events through the media: press, radio, television a nd, more recently, through the new media. We are now able to follow an event shortly after it has taken place through the cameras of eyewitnesses. It is natural to be inquisitive. Added to that is the strong attachment we feel to communities with which we have the bonds of faith, language, race and destiny. Such interest is an expression of belonging: “Whoever does not care about the Muslim community does not belong to it.” From the point of view of its chain of transmission, this hadith is judged as unauthentic. 121 However, the message it conveys is included in scores of Qur’anic and Sunnah texts that establish the bond of brotherhood between all Muslims on solid basis, explaining what it entails. These include the following hadiths: “In their mutual compassion, love and sympathy the believers are like a single body: when any organ has a complaint, the whole body shares its sleeplessness and fever.” 122 “To one another, believers are like a building: each part strengthens the others.” 123 “A true believer is not one who eats his full while his next door neighbour is hungry and he is aware of that.” 124 The scope for influencing events is much less. In many situations we find ourselves unable to help. Following events becomes a strong cause of depression, particularly when one sees bloodshed and how people are killed or tortured. Wars sometimes have a tragic end with the powerful tyrant gaining victory. The laws God has set in operation will certainly produce their results. However, there will be tragedies before the picture is complete. A whole generation may pass before the conditions necessary for change are in place. Yet a believer remains happy, realizing that divine wisdom will take its course. He does not overlook the fact that after hardship comes ease, and that this present life will be followed by another life.

Vis. Al-Silsilah al-Da[ifah, pp. 309-311. Related b y al-Bukhari number 6011 and Muslim number 2586. 123 Related b y al-Bukhari numbers 481 & 6026, and Muslim number 2585. 124 Related b y Ibn Abi Sh aybah number 30359, and al-Bukhari in Al-Adab al-Mufrad number 112. Vis. also AlDhahabi, Haqq al-Jar, p. 5, and Al-Silsilah al-Sahihah number 149. 121 122


Heart-felt sorrow brings tears to the eyes and invites passionate prayers. This old and new method remains effective. The Prophet is quoted to have said: “When the end of time draws near, a Muslim’s dream is hardly ever false. The one who is foremost in speaking the truth is the one whose dreams are most likely to come true.� 125 Most of my dreams and those of other people are reflections of what we feel. They reflect hopes, fears and worries. Every time I go to sleep after a news bulletin I find myself in the midst of the events. In my dreams some of my hopes are fulfilled. When I wake up, I find myself remembering the thoughts of an old poet who says that the worst of his fears have been fulfilled. When will his hopes become reality? God is certainly able to bring about all our hopes. Many a time I found myself in my dreams in Jerusalem, Baghdad, Aden, Benghazi, Gaza, Cairo... I talked to their people and lived their events. I was a witness, who saw nothing, of some historical successes or cases of destruction of homes, bridges and cemeteries. The names of towns and villages are no longer known only to an excellent student of geography. The villages of Libya, Syria, Yemen and Tunisia, as well as Palestine, are now well engraved in our minds. Like many people, I follow the events of the revolution against tyranny hour by hour. I carefully study distances, times, sacrifices, international attitudes and possible gains and losses. These revolutions were started against authoritarian rule and to ensure independence for both individual and community. I, therefore, feel that these people who have chosen their way and offered sacrifices do not need much advice from outside. I am only giving a reminder of the little that is necessary. Firstly, some nations, such as the US, Europe, Japan, China, Finland, Singapore and Korea, have had their own national programmes of development. In the Muslim world Malaysia, Turkey and Iran have had theirs. Next door to us is a Zionist project. Secondly, it was from the Arab nation that God chose His last messenger, and His book, the Qur'an, is in their language. Today, the Arabs hold massive resources. God would not have placed them in such a situation unless they have enough potentials and also excellence in some, not all, aspects. This raises a very important and urgent question: Where is the Arab development programme? Do we find it in our oft-repeated talk about history? Or is it reflected in 125

Related b y mu number 2263.


those loud voices that continue to glorify the present, claim every success and ignore our chronic condition of backwardness? Is it confined to some intellectual debates in closed circles? I firmly believe that the emergence of such a development programme is an essential historical need. It is not yet there. It is the sun that is about to rise, the fruit about to ripen. Can I say that it is part of God’s will that shall be done? Nowadays I feel I can better appreciate what our scholars often repeated: “When God wills something to be done, He gets its causes in place.” The Arab Spring was more like a sudden earthquake that levelled down massive buildings whose owners never thought that God’s law would ever touch them. It never occurred to them that they would become a lesson, because they did not heed the lessons of the past. They thought that they were the exception, and that “their fortifications would protect them against God.” The Arab Spring has laid solid foundations for a brighter future for all Muslims. That spontaneous popular movement was great indeed, because it expressed a spirit that transcends all parties, organizations and traditional frameworks. This is an importa nt condition for the success of any programme. Let us remember that when the Prophet settled in Madinah, he did not exclude anyone of its population. None of the followers of other divine religions, hypocrites and those who had just turned Muslims was left out. His programme was neither exclusive nor violent. It absorbed all on the basis of complementarity and reassurance. Those popular movements charted a new course of action that sought to achieve the following essential demands: 1. Political freedom; 2. Justice and equal opportunity for all; 3. Putting an end to financial and administrative corruption and ensuring full transparency according to international standards; 4. Total and sustained development in its latest and widest concepts, including human rights, the environment, health, education, the media and the family, for the present generation and future ones; 5. Ensuring the moral and legislative distinction of Arab societies which have inherited a good measure of Islamic values and are able to consolidate these as motivation for action, excellence, achievement and co-existence. The popular action relied on peaceful means. It made great sacrifices and refused to be dragged into civil war. 107

Contemporary Arab intellectuals of different Islamic and national orientations, starting with Shakib Arsalan and Malik ibn Nabi, have worked out a variety of plans and programmes for development, but all these have been shelved. Today, we may dream that these will be revived so as to become subject of debate in the light of the present needs and circumstances.


Chapter Five

Worries after the Revolution.. Some Questions and Problems


One Stolen Revolutions When we speak of the outcome of revolution we remember the Egyptian revolution of independence and the comment of Shaykh Muhammad [Abdu: “The blond British have gone, leaving the dark British behind.” We also remember Frantz Fanon, the author of Les damnes de la terre, translated as The Wretched of the Earth, who was a Martinique-born French psychiatrist and revolutionary. He treated patients in occupied areas, then joined the Algerian revolution and fought with the Algerian liberation army before becoming a contributor to the Algerian paper Al-Mujahid. He travelled in several African countries calling on their peoples to rise against colonialism. He feared that the Algerian revolution might be hijacked by a group which was never party to it or to the Algerian people. Such a group represented the interests of the colonialists. He spoke of people of pale faces who drew close to the steering wheel and always tried to eavesdrop on the command room. They were the ones who led what he termed ‘the false independence’. He repeatedly warned against ‘Arab colonization’, pilfering the state resources, authoritarian rule and neglect of poverty and deprivation. Fanon was only 36 when he died. He was buried in a martyrs’ graveyard in Ain Kerma in eastern Algeria. With him were buried his dreams, theories and warnings. Some people oppose colonization so that they can replace it, and some look at the fall of a repressive regime as an opportunity to gain power. The motives of individuals and groups may differ, but the results are often alike. The new regime becomes more repressive and despotic than the one it replaced. Therefore, the people must be careful in their choice of to whom to give legitimacy. Leading lawyers, judges, thinkers and intellectuals bear a greater responsibility in this regard. A return to dictatorship is an extremely terrible prospect, but it happens, as in the case of Napoleon in France, the Bolsheviks in Russia and many other cases. According to alKawakibi, tyranny is not merely a regime; it is a political and social culture produced by the people in power and distributed to the nation. ‘Stolen revolution’ is an often used term that reflects a permanent fear of revolutionary comrades. It is often the case that the ‘thief’ is one party to the revolution or a party that joined it at a later stage. 110

The revolutionaries are united in their rejection of a tyrannical regime that denies people their rights. Changing such a situation is the aim of the revolution. In most cases, the beginnings raise general slogans such as the downfall of the regime, end of dictatorship, establishment of good government, justice, freedom, transparency, separation of authorities, independence of the judicial authority, etc. These are general objectives to which all subscribe. The revolutionaries do well to confine themselves to these common objectives. However, the people then differ on the alternative system according to their leanings and ideologies. These differences may remain confined to the media or lead to some squabbles. They may, however, escalate to physical fights and assassinations. It is not uncommon that the fallen dictatorship is replaced by a new dictator or by an ideological dictatorship. When this happens, much is said about the revolution being stolen. Accusations may be thrown at several parties. One group may be well organized and may have good relations and a proper understanding of the practical situation. It may be adept in presenting itself and in the way it pictures its vision. It can thus win a broad base and public support. On the other side there may be other groups, whic h have greater numbers and make greater sacrifices, but they do not form a coherent mixture or a well moulded group. They are, therefore, unable to press their vision. Nations revolt, but cannot rule. If they were to be left to choose what they want, they may not be fully aware of the options available and which of them is best. Things may develop into a struggle, with every party mobilizing its forces and bringing in its weapons, some of which are out in the open and others are kept hidden. That is the making of what the others call ‘conspiracy’. In the wake of the success of the revolution there may be some confusion. In the transitory stage, vacuums are left and mistakes are made. Every party will accuse the others of grave errors and putting up impediments and obstacles. It is impossible that all who take part in the revolution will have the same vision and perspective. However, it is possible to agree on certain stages. The stage that follows the success of the revolution should be that of building the state and establishing its institutions, drafting its constitution and ensuring its security.


The third stage is that of proper competition for office. Parties are formed to advance diverse viewpoints and programmes. They should represent the whole nation and abide by the agreed constitution. Thus, differences are well defined and the ultimate reference is clear. Things are determined through the ballot box and the specialized courts. The outcome is not decided by arms or defamation or slander. Mutual use of the media is part of the process. It must remain subject to an honorary agreement and specific rules to ensure that it does not degenerate into a slanging match. A broad section of those who take part in the revolution are ordinary citizens with no particular allegiance or specific political views. One party may exaggerate their role and give them prominence while the other tries to neutralize them, play down their role or include them among its supporters. In Arab countries there are nationalists, Islamists, secularists and people of other colours and orientations. All of them suffer, in varying degrees, under the dictatorship. None has suffered as much as the Islamists. It is not surprising, therefore, that they should fear a repeat of the old scenario when they were denied their right to participate in shaping the future. It is only wise that they should have proper reassurances that do not stop at verbal promises. They should be well represented in any provisional set up during the transiti on. This is what actually appeared to be the case in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. At the same time, the others, of all creeds and colours, have the right to be reassured that there will not be a monopoly of power under any pretext. The agreed constitutional principles must be upheld. They must not be overturned under any social, religious, political or ideological pretence. A believer dedicates his work to God and looks up to Him for reward. This reduces the agony people normally feel when they realize that their efforts have been taken away by others who ride above their shoulders to grab power. We have the famous story of [Abdullah ibn [Umar, a companion of the Prophet, who answered Mu[awiyah, the first Umayyad Caliph. Mu[awiyah said in his speech: “Whoever thinks that he has a better claim to be the Caliph should come forward”. Ibn [Umar said: “I was about to say that anyone who had fought you and your father for the sake of Islam has a better claim. I then remembered the reward God has prepared for the believers, and I held my tongue.” However, this should not make people prefer to withdraw into a corner. To work for the stability of the nation and to protect it from dangerous turmoil is part of jihad. 112

A country belongs to all its citizens. It is not in the interest of any country or any section of its population that another section is marginalized. A revolution is not a process of settling accounts, except with corruption and those who want it to persist. The first priority is to instil and consolidate the principles of peaceful transfer of power. After that, every group can present their vision. Drawing closer to others may often lead to a modification of views. It may dispel fears and suspicions. It can make us feel that we are closer to each other than we might have thought. Some objectives are common to all. They are great objectives, worthy of great sacrifices. The overthrow of despotism and replacing it with a government that represents the people, guarantees their rights and works for the common good is the highest of these objectives. People living under repressive regimes always dream of these. “He passed on to you their land, their houses and their goods, as well as a land on which you had never yet set foot. God has power over all things.” (33: 27) “You never thought they would go; while they thought that their fortifications would protect them against God.” (59: 2) On the other hand, every group has its own special objective. To achieve it, it uses the legitimate means available to it, such as political action, use of the media and scientific research. Competition and rivalry in these fields are healthy. Different perspectives are presented and seen for what they are. The arena is open to clear and honest action that may go a long way and achieve real gains. It becomes like a tree that establishes firm roots while it grows high into the sky. In the story of Prophet Joseph, as related in the Qur'an, a verse mentions: “Then an announcer called out: ‘You people of the caravan! You are surely thieves.’” (12: 70) This announcement was credible and it publicized something, even though it was not factual. Therefore, Joseph’s brothers replied: “By God, you know that we have not come to commit any evil deed in this land, and that we are no thieves.” (12: 73) What a great exchange between brothers! The revolution is an uprising against evil and corruption. A person who has suffered the agony of injustice and exclusion should rise above personal desire and greed. Yet those people’s history provides a testimony for them. Hence, they cited it: “You know... that we are not thieves.” It is as if they were saying: “Theft is not something we ever do.” In the surah which relates Joseph’s story and carries his name there are lessons of test, patience in adversity, empowerment, victory for the victim of injustice over his oppressor, as well as lessons of planning and dealing with political, economic and family problems. The story ends with Joseph’s acknowledgement of God’s favours: “My Lord, 113

You have given me power and imparted to me some understanding of the real meaning of statements. Originator of the heavens and the earth! You are my guardian in this world and in the life to come. Let me die as one who has surrendered himself to You, and admit me among the righteous.� (12: 101)


Two International Intervention The world powers often present themselves as saviours, but at the same time they give help and support to dictatorships in order to protect their interests. They appear willing to sell out whole nations in order to achieve a particular objective. They use monetary regulations and human rights as means of pressure and blackmail. However, when a dictatorship begins to crumble and the world becomes aware of its repressive nature, they begin to take action. Nevertheless, efforts can be exerted to mobilize world public opinion against repressive regimes on humanitarian and moral basis. It is also possible to call for diplomatic, political and economic sanctions, such as an embargo on arms sales, reduction of diplomatic missions, severance of relations, an embargo on external investments, expulsion from international organizations and giving aid as well as financial and media support to the forces opposed to repression and injustice. International observers may be sent to protect civilians and submit field reports which are far more credible. It may appear that the world has become more consistent and better aware that supporting oppressed peoples to regain their rights will make the world a safer place and will at the same time secure for the world powers their economic and security interests. International agencies are not truly neutral. However, they take the right attitude in cases where popular action is overwhelming, organized and rational. Rational civil forces can make their presence felt and put the world in a position where it has no option other than to support them. It seems that many of us do not have a clear attitude towards the West, international agencies such as the United Nations and its Security Council or human rights organizations. When we are fully confident of our ability and the correctness of our position, we should realize that there is nothing in Islam or in practice to prevent us from seeking such agencies’ support and appealing to them to adopt the right attitude. People’s differences about the motives of such agencies should not affect that. Even when there are ulterior motives dictating attitudes to a certain cause which is genuinely just, its being just is sufficient to win it support. However, it is better all round that world interests should be seen in rendering support to justice and popular institutional forces. Should such interests be felt to lie with a despotic regime, such 115

regime may resort to blackmailing the world, stressing that it protects such interests and that despotism is the world’s eternal partner.


Three Revolution and Sectarian Strife It must be clear that true religiousness is a factor of unity, not division. What opposes it is fanaticism and prejudice. Most Arab and Muslim countries have a broad or narrow measure of ethnic and religious diversity. It may be within the Islamic circle, with the presence of Sunnis, Shia, Ibadis, etc. or may go further afield, having Muslims, Christians, Jews and followers of other religions. It is interesting to note that the Muslim countries continued to have all these sects over many generations. Their presence is not new. However, some of them developed an inward looking attitude, while others developed positively, shedding some aspects of their orientation in order to be more open and integrate within society. This is one distinctive point of Arab societies after the formation of Arab states subsequent to the collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate. We, therefore, need to avoid trying to apply a single model to all countries. We must realize that there are certain basic principles that are common to all Arab countries, but there are also some wide differences. Hence, the model applicable to the Gulf states, for example, is unsuitable for Egypt, and the one suitable for Egypt may not be good enough for Lebanon. Citizenship is the right of all people. A basic principle makes them all equal before the law, as also in the right to have their chances in life. Serious and frank discussion should be conducted within each country to arrive at the most suitable solutions. The issues that are important to the minorities must be very carefully considered. Sectarian grievances could often provide the flashpoint, and the resulting fire engulfs all. Alternatively, the issue could be made a pretext for foreign intervention. It is wise to realize that taking pictures in a joint effort, such as people of one sect standing guard to protect those of another sect, or a demonstration joined by Muslims and Copts, does not mean that the problem is finally solved. Yet we must always encourage proper mutual understanding and amicable coexistence.


The presence of minorities does not mean that we should adopt secularism as a solution. Secularism may be suitable for one country, but not for another. As a slogan, secularism invites confusion and misunderstanding. It began in Europe as the antithesis of a creed that made the priest an intermediary between man and God. Such was his career. In the West, the Church held people’s souls and a portion of their property. In Islam, the relation between man and God is direct, with no intermediary. No one holds any spiritual authority. The first to raise the secular slogan in Arab and Muslim countries were some Syrian Christian intellectuals who advocated liberation from Turkish rule. We may draw a distinction between ‘government’ and ‘state’. Islamic government existed right from the early days of Islam, while the state as we understand it today was not in existence. ‘Government’ in this sense refers to the constitution and questions of sovereignty, while the ‘state’ includes a host of details that regulate matters of daily life. Nor is it right to say that religion is merely a matter for the individual. What belongs to the sphere of the individual often moves into the social sphere. As such, it is rel evant to the political sphere. Moreover, sometimes we need to protect religion from the authority of the state. In other words, we cannot make Islamic law subject to political interests, particularly because politics is often undefined. 126 The rights of minorities are properly respected in Islamic law. State constitutions must ensure that these rights are protected within a fair democratic framework and proper national dialogue that moves away from prejudice, fanaticism and negation of the o ther.

For more clarification referen ce may be made to Lu’ayy Safi, Al-[Aqidah wal-Siyasah: Ma[alim Nazariyyah [Ammah liddawlah al-Islamiyyah, Nazih Naseef al-Ayyoobi, Al-Arab wa Mushkilat al-Dawlah, Saad al-Din al-Uthmani, Al-Din walSiyasah: Tamiyiz la Fasl. 126


Conclusion What the Future Holds for the Revolution? The fall of a dictatorship is not enough on its own to create a virtuous system in its place. However, it opens the way for laying the foundations of a sound political, social and economic structure. This despite the fact that the cultural and structural legacy of the dictatorship will continue to work in people’s subconscious for a long while. Sometimes we allow the fallen despot to rule us from his place of exile, or from his prison cell, or even his grave by allowing ourselves to remain hostage to the disputes and issues he imposed on us during his reign. We must work hard to prevent the emergence of a new dictatorship. It is well known that the people and the institutions of civil society remain weak under dictatorial regimes. Unless we bring about a change in the balance of power of these forces, the new rulers can easily become as dictatorial as their predecessors. Ever since the days of Muhammad Ali in Egypt in the early nineteenth ce ntury, state intervention has gradually increased in the Arab world. With the development of new systems, trade unions have been either disbanded or marginalized, land has been nationalized, while education, industry, the economy and almost everything else have become state-run in a system of state capitalism. In Islamic history, the state was never totalitarian. It was only concerned with sovereignty. It was the society which took care of all information, economic, educational and industrial aspects. Needless to say, society predates the state and provides its foundation. Much of the importance of the presence of civil institutions is due to the need to respect the pluralism of society. They help to put in place civilian checks to stop the emergence of dictatorship and permanent barriers to a return to despotism. When the society and its institutions are stronger, the initiatives of its citizens enable it to regain the initiative and assume greater responsibility without going into conflict with more official institutions. Western experience shows that despite the fact that the central authority is powerful, its relation with the people is well organized. The balance between the people and the government is maintained through clear machinery, laws, political organizations and intermediate functionaries. 119

Civil society is not the opposite of the state. Indeed the civil activity strengthens it and takes over some of its burdens. When the state opens the field for social action, under the umbrella of public freedom, or under what is called privatization, it gives more importance to the public and reduces tension within society. When the concept of power is added to Islamic legitimacy, the combination must not mean an easy, new beginning for dictatorship. Many activists and researchers express the hope that all political trends should agree to the option of establishing a civil democratic state, based on citizenship and the supremacy of the people. This means that democracy is based on general agreement and contractual arrangements that endorse Arab identity and Islam, ensures justice and equal opportunities for all, guarantees the separation of authorities, enshrines general freedoms and adopts the choices of the people through their civil institutions and independent channels of expression. What society chooses may not move far away from its identit y and its religious and cultural values. It is very important not to make religion a political tool. However, respect must be afforded to the majority which always votes in favour of Islam being the ultimate point of reference. The religious address must also be respected as an expression of the people’s will. [Reference may be made to what we have said on the question of minorities]. On the other hand, the Islamists must clearly and unhesitatingly adopt the option of partnership in government, not monopolizing it. They must opt for pluralism rather than one-party government. Partnership means coalitions and consensus. These are not without their faults and weaknesses. Such weaknesses include the exchange of blame in the case of failure. Moreover, the chronic fear of conspiracy prevents full-hearted cooperation. However, going through the experience provides a long training course of democratic practices for all parties in the coalition. They are thus better equipped for a later stage when a party with an electoral majority forms the government. The new open horizons of freedom may not be well appreciated by the political parties, particularly when one party wins an absolute majority and forms the new government.


The transfer from revolution to state may not provide good training for only the Islamic parties, but also for societies and individuals who are raising great demands and nurturing expectations that continue to increase with the momentum of the revolution. There is a pressing need to help people to gently come down from the high tree of radical revolution and to smoothly place them in the field of work and action. They need to develop the realistic and rational awareness that the post-revolution government cannot transform the country into a rose garden overnight. When such awareness is in place, the people will move from repeating slogans of the maximum demands to participation in public affairs and discussion of what can realistically be achieved. They will debate what is feasible in the political and social fields. They will discuss gains and losses. In the case of Turkey, it was this question that caused the breakup between the new generation of the Islamists, such as Erdogan, Gul and Dawood Oglu, and the older generation of Erbakan. The Islamists bear a great and historical responsibility in ensuring the success of the postrevolution stage. This is a four-pronged question: 1. The right of the Islamists to regain their place that was denied them over several decades and to play their role in the political arena, receive media coverage and form political parties, etc. 2. Ensure that these countries of the Arab Spring do not fall back into a new form of dictatorship with an Islamic cover. They must not emulate the Iranian model after giving it a Sunni flavour. 3. Ensure that these countries do not sink into chaos and instability as a result of their struggle with other forces. This will only strengthen the argument for dictatorship which remains in the background. 4. Put in place a comprehensive national programme of development and mobilize all forces and potentials to carry it through. All groups should be involved in such a programme. We must prove that the equation that dictatorship is necessary to achieve stability is false. We must also prove that stability, progress and economic prosperity are possible in a pluralist democracy that accepts divergent views. This is the case in many countries of the world.


To achieve this, keeping extremism in check is a prerequisite, particularly when such extremism begins to prepare for a campaign of violence. It may be useful to have a third group that belongs neither to the government nor to the opposition and remains outside the political field. Its role is to monitor the action of both. All those who have shared, in a large or small way, in the burden of the post -revolution stage should endeavour to moderate the hopes and dreams of the revolutionaries. This is needed in order to avoid a repeat of past tragedies, disasters, setbacks and civilizational, economic and political backwardness. In conclusion we say that the general picture makes us more optimistic, looking for a better future. May God help our peoples to achieve their aims.


Revolution Questions  

book by Dr. Solaiman Al Oodah

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