By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
21 April 2016
Arabic Book: UsulI'tiqaad Ahlis-Sunnah wa'l-Jamaa'ah,
Publisher: DaarTayyibahlin - Nashr wat-Tawzi ',
6th edition, 1420 nH, Riyadh, KSA
Price not mentioned
It can be inferred from the essential message and egalitarian values of Islam that the consistent, progressive, coherent and empirically tested concept of democracy is the best solution to the inconsistent and self-imposed doctrine of “Khilafah” today. To put it succinctly, every Muslim state or so-called Islamic caliphate including the one conceived by the Daesh or ISIS (Islamic State of Syria and Iraq) should be replaced by the democratic notion of “Republic”.
But merely voicing this progressive Islamic thought based on an Islamic reformation may land one in a great trouble. While engaging in this gigantic task, I am afraid, one may have to speak up with the sword of the violent adherents of the Khilafah hanging upon his head. Of course, one will need to courageously challenge the status quo in the Muslim world today. But how many fellow Muslims will try to weigh the worth of such spirited blood being shed by the ISIS-inspired murderers and the ilk day in and day out, in order to curtail Muslim reformative voices???
The self-imposed caliphate of Dr. Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in Syria and Iraq is brazenly inconsistent with the Islamic principles of governance. It is based on an anti-pluralism, anti-democracy, supremacist and exclusivist theology. Regrettably enough, the present-day extremist Islamist clerics with a short-sighted understanding of Islamic scriptures, control the heartthrobs of these xenophobic and exclusivist outfits the world over. It is not difficult to see how they are playing out in their hands. Far away from resolving the real problems of the modern Muslim societies, they are hell-bent on telling them tales of Muslim victory (Ghalba-e-Muslim), divine governance over the earth (Hakimiyah-e-ilah), religious knowledge of eschatology (Ilm Akhir al-Zaman) and the millenarian narrative (al-Alfwalalfiyah). They make tall claims of guaranteeing them abundant rewards in the life after death. And thus, they ultimately keep the gullible common Muslims masses deeply steeped in narratives of violent extremism, jihadism, puritanical radicalism, xenophobia, exclusivism and a retarded mentality of separatism and ghettoisation.
All this can be clearly seen in an Arabic book, “Mujmal UsulI'tiqadAhlis Sunnah wal-Jama'ah” authored by the Salafist preacher and televangelist, Shaykh Dr. Nasir al-'Aql, who is based in Riyadh and spreads the Salafist views and thoughts through his Friday sermons and televangelism. His preachy religious shows often appear on the Arab Salafist TV channels as well as on his own social media forums. He also teaches online on various websites including the salafitalk.net.
The title of this Arabic book can be loosely translated as: General Principles of the Beliefs of the Sunni People. Before I reproduce what the author tries to stress in it, I must express my utter amazement at the idea behind choosing a very misguiding and dubious title for the book. The author has cunningly incorporated the term, “Ahlus Sunnah or Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah” in the book’s title. Though he is a contemporary Salafist Televangelist known for his puritanical fundamentalism in most parts of the Arab world, he tries in his popular book to advertise himself as an ideologue of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah, the term adopted by the mainstream Sunni Muslims in South Asia and other parts of the world.
In the very first chapter of the book, the author characterises democracy as a ‘deviant ideology’ that separates religion from country affairs. In his view of Islam democracy is not only “an erroneous action” but also amounts to Takfir (infidelity). Here is what he says in Arabic, followed by its English translation:
"تقسيم الدين الى حقيقة يتميز بها الخاصة وشريعة تلزم العامة دون الخاصة وفصل السياسة أو غيرها عن الدين باطل بل كل ما خالف الشريعة من حقيقة أو سياسة أو غيرها فهو إما كفر وإما ضلال بحسب درجته"
“Classification of religion (Deen) into the ‘reality’ which is specific to only a few people, and the Shariah which is incumbent only upon the common people, rather than the rest few, is not correct. Similarly, separation of politics or other affairs from religion is indeed a flawed theory. Whatever comes against the Shari’a, whether in the form of ‘reality’, or politics, or anything else, must be ruled as Kufr (disbelief), or aberration, depending on its degree of deviation (“MujmalUsulI'tiqadAhl As Sunnah wal-Jama'ah”, by Dr. Nashir al-‘Aql page: 66).
As separation of religion from politics, or secularism, is an essential part of Democracy, it has clearly been likened here to Kufr. Democracy for these radical Islamists goes against the Shari’a. Going by this anti-democracy theology, most citizens of the world are engaged in shirk (polytheism). While the reality is that democracy is the hallmark of the peaceful and pluralistic states including some Muslim states today. It is highly cherished as a just and upright form of governance and considered essential even for their own survival as minority religious communities by the mainstream Muslims living in the non-Muslim majority countries.
On the contrary, according to the radical Islamist view, democracy is the Amaratus Sa’ah, one of the major signs of the Qayamah, end-times or Doomsday. Thus, the radical Islamists theorise that today’s people are living in the age of Dajjal, the false Messiah or Anti-Christ, who has deceived mankind into submitting to the rule of governors other than Allah. The author of this book contends that those believing Allah as Sovereign cannot accept any man-made constitution, parliament, Supreme Court or even a government as Sovereign.
According to this viewpoint, the sovereignty of Allah actually implies the supremacy of Islamic state over all other forms of governance. The political Islamists reinforce this idea clearly stating that the Shariah, which forms the bedrock of the Islamic Caliphate, embodies the supremacy of Islam over all other religions, states, governance systems and over public life. The Caliph, also known as the Ameer-ul-Mu’mineen or Imam-ul-Muslimeen is considered Ameer al-Jama'ah (head of the community). Both Muslim and non-Muslim citizens of the Islamic state have to pledge allegiance to him through the institution of Bai’at(allegiance). Such a territory in which the Islamic Shariah dominates in this way is declared “Dar al-Islam” (land of Peace). The caliph has the sovereignty, full freedom and complete authority to enforce Allah's commandments in the form of Islamic Shariah in his occupied lands.
The fundamental thesis of the chapter concerning “religion and politics” (الدین والسياسة) in theological books like this is worth discussing. It forcefully calls for the establishment of Khilafah (caliphate) with a view to eliminating democrat, secular, liberal and all other systems of governance. Khilafah is an integral part of the Islamic Shariah, as outlined in it. The jurisprudential rationale (Illat-e-Shar’aiyah) behind this ruling is that since Muslims submit to the will of Allah the Almighty considering Him as “al-Haakim” and “al-Malik” (the most supreme Sovereign), therefore they cannot submit to any entity other than God's supreme authority (al-Hakimiyah al-Ilahiyah) and the divine law (al-Shar’aiyah al-Ilahiyya), not only in the State but in all other institutions.
Consequently, the book asserts that if a non-Muslim head of state is accepted as a sovereign ruler, as it is usual in the democratic systems of governance, such an act would be akin to shirk (associating a deity with Allah) which is the greatest sin in Islam. The author avers that this act can be punished with beheading in an Islamic state.
The core essence of this book is that the insistence on the Khilafah (caliphate) with a view to eliminating democrat, secular, liberal and all other systems of governance is an integral part of the Islamic Shariah. The jurisprudential rationale (Illat-e-Shar’aiyah) behind this ruling is that since Muslims submit to the will of Allah the Almighty considering Him as “al-Haakim” and “al-Malik” (the most supreme sovereign), therefore they cannot submit to any entity other than God's supreme authority (al-Hakimiyah al-Ilahiyya) and the divine law (Al-Shar’aiyah Al-Ilahiyah), not only in the State but in all other institutions. Consequently, the book asserts that if a non-Muslim head of state is accepted as a sovereign ruler, as it is usual in the democratic systems of governance, such an act would be tantamount to shirk (associating a deity with Allah) which is the greatest sin in Islam. The author avers that this act can be punished with beheading in an Islamic state.
Going by this anti-democracy theology, since democracy or secularism is the hallmark of modern states and is recognized even by the mainstream Muslims today as a just and upright form of governance, most citizens of the world are indulging in a global shirk. This is, in the author’s view, one of the major signs that people are living in the age of Dajjal, the false Messiah or Anti-Christ, who deceived mankind into worshipping other than Allah. The author further contends that those believing Allah as sovereign cannot accept any man-made constitution, parliament, Supreme Court or even a government as sovereign.
According to the author of this book, the sovereignty of Allah actually implies the supremacy of Islamic state over all other forms of governance. He states very forcefully that the Shariah which is the institution of the Islamic Caliphate embodies the supremacy of Islam over all other religions, states, governance systems and over public life. The Caliph, also known as the Ameer-ul-Mu’mineen or Imam-ul-Muslimeen is considered Ameer al-Jama'ah (head of the community). Both Muslim and non-Muslim citizens of the Islamic state have to pledge allegiance to him through the institution of Bai'at (allegiance). Such a territory in which the Islamic Shariah dominates in this way is declared “Dar al-Islam” (land of peace). The caliph has the sovereignty, full freedom and complete authority to enforce Allah's commandments in the form of Islamic Shariah in his occupied lands.
The anti-pluralism thesis and theology of the extremist Islamists such as the Salafist author of the book “MujmalUsulI'tiqadAhlis sunnah wal-Jama'ah” should be condemned and refuted point by point to ensure democracy, pluralism and religious co-existence in the Muslim countries. For that, the monopoly of the priestly classes over the Islamic law and philosophy will have to be done away with. A great number of Muslim modernist thinkers, reformists and sociologists who ventured into Ijtihad or rethinking of the Islamic postulates have concluded that democracy is consistent with the progressive Islamic thought.
For instance, the celebrated Islamic philosopher of India Allama Iqbal premised in his book “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought” that modern democracy can go a long way in achieving the Islamic pluralism. Therefore, the Allama advocated that the inconsistent concept of “Khilafah” should be replaced by the coherent concept of “republic”. With a view to fostering this thought, he courageously challenged the status quo in the Muslim world. It is not difficult to see why Allama’s book “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought” is banned in Saudi Arabia. Much in the same way, many other democrat Islamic reformers like Mohammad Abduh of Al-Azhar Islamic University Egypt, Ali Shariati of Iran, renowned Muslim reformer Amanullah Khan of Afghanistan, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad of India and even the contemporary Islamic modernists like Tariq Ramadan developed a pluralistic understanding of governance within an Islamic framework. They reiterated in their books that the anti-democracy, anti-science and anti-rationality theology that is taught in most Muslim seminaries today is defective and outdated and is not adequate for the emerging challenges faced by the Muslim Ummah. Given this predicament, we Muslims desperately need a reconstruction of our religious thoughts concerning the principles of state and governance.
A NewAgeIslam.com columnist, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is classical Islamic writer and commentator on Muslim affairs.
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