By Moaz Nair
October 17, 2019
A PAS cleric in the recently held Malay Dignity Congress came to a vague conclusion that “Muslims should not surrender power to non-Muslims”. The cleric must have referred to a verse in the Quran:
“O you who believe! Do not take friends from the Jews and the Christians, as they are but friends of each other. And if any among you befriends them, then surely, he is one of them. Verily, God guides not those people who are the wrongdoers.” (Quran, 5:51)
This could possibly be the only verse in the Quran that the cleric can vaguely gyrate to make that point.
Other than this, perhaps the cleric must have been influenced by a foreign-born preacher who has kept on spewing that: “It’s better to vote for a corrupt Muslim than to vote an honest non-Muslim into government”.
In other words, the preacher was implying that never surrender power to an honest non-Muslim to lead even when the Muslim leader is corrupt. This is an insult to the intelligence of enlightened Muslim scholars.
Quranic scholars are quite clear on this matter, knowing that the verse was revealed during a time when Islam was daunted by the Jews of Medina and the idol worshippers of Mecca.
In the Arabian Peninsula then, the tribal system manifested itself profoundly. The verse was revealed during this period.
The cleric however failed to mention the fact that Muslims also continued to live peacefully with the Jews and other tribes of Medina who had not broken any accords much later after the revelation of this verse – with non-Muslims playing important roles in governance. This is historical Islam.
The present Muslim world has seen non-Muslims holding important posts in governance without objections from Muslim scholars.
In Pakistan, an Islamic republic with less than 5% non-Muslims, there have been non-Muslim ministers and judges. No one has questioned it on the basis of verse 5:51 even though the country has political parties based on religion.
In Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Tariq Aziz, an ethnic Assyrian and a member of the Chaldean Catholic Church, was made the deputy prime minister (1979–2003) and foreign minister (1983–1991), in addition to being a close adviser to Saddam.
We could unearth countless examples of diversity throughout Islamic history right from the days of the Prophet.
Working under a non-Muslim ally is obviously not a sin in Islam. It never has been, unless they are proven to be enemies who would undermine the human rights of the Muslims.
Obviously, this is not the case in the Malaysian context. Muslims are free to practise Islam and non-Muslims are no threat or obstacles to their ways of life. Muslims and non-Muslims, for that matter, are willing to live together and share prosperity and hardship together.
Islam is a very diverse religion and not everybody is going to agree on what is said by the cleric.
“And We have certainly honoured the children of Adam and carried them on the land and sea and provided for them of the good things and preferred them over much of what We have created, with [definite] preference.” (17:70).
“Children of Adam” in this verse certainly refers to all mankind. The verse shows that man by his very creation deserves regard and respect. This respect is man’s natural birth right, regardless of which community he belongs to.
Respect and justice for humankind is one of the fundamental teachings of Islam. Islam not only recognises unqualified equality between men irrespective of any distinction of colour or nationality, but makes it an important way of life.
“O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” (4:135)
The cleric should be cognisant of the fact that the Quran is quite clear on the issue of choosing leaders.
Muslims should not be complicit to corrupt and untrustworthy leaders among them when there are honest leaders among the non-Muslims who can be entrusted to lead, as having faith in honest non-Muslims leading does not tantamount to surrendering power to them.
To quote the chairman of the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), KH Amidhan: “When Muslims face two choices: one Muslim leader but unjust, and the other leader of non-Muslim but a just one, then select the just. That is, if there is evidence that the non-Muslim leader is just.”
Large numbers of Muslims outside of Muslim countries have no qualms voting for non-Muslims to lead and are happy to live under their stewardship.
Otherwise, Muslims would never have voted in the elections in these countries.
Muslims are working under non-Muslim corporate and industrial leaders as well holding important administrative posts in the government in these countries without any misgivings.
These are progressive nations and are pioneers in science and technology contributing to the well-being of humanity. Their products and inventions are shared by all people – Muslims and non-Muslims.
Shouldn’t Muslims be grateful to these people? They are able to progress because of good leadership. Why can’t they then become leaders?
Religious texts have to be interpreted in a broader perspective and in the context of the 21st century, where in the present, people of all religions wish to live together in peace.
Societies have evolved with time where Muslims and non-Muslims are willing to live together unlike how life was centuries ago. With modern education, societies of today are less tribal and fixated when it comes to religion compared with those living in the Middle Ages and prior to that.
The thought of humanity has gained traction through time with modern progressive education, technological advancement and economic prosperity.
The elementary concept of human rights can be dated back to the first human being on earth.
In the modern era, developments of human rights were started by philosophers such as Thomas Paine, John Stuart Mill and G W F Hegel during the 18th and 19th centuries.
It was further recognised after the Second World War, with the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
From the human-race perspective, the peace-loving, honest, incorruptible and capable non-Muslims are of equal status with Muslims who are of the same qualities and they are not Islam’s sworn enemies.
By allowing them to lead does not mean that Muslims have surrendered power to them. Six decades of independence has seen power sharing in the country.
Those in charge of the nation have come from all races and religions. This country has been peaceful all because of mature politics of power-sharing. The country is moving on with this formula.
The cleric and his supporters should look into the many failed Muslim countries which are led by Muslim leaders who are war mongers, know no democracy and are corrupt to the core.
These countries have never flourished and are doomed. Compare this with some countries that are led by non-Muslims where Muslim refugees find paradise in them. They are democratic and the rule of law applies to all their citizens.
Humanity is cherished in Islam. When minority non-Muslims are ready to live with the majority Muslims peacefully, why the need to discriminate against the former?
It’s mind-boggling to the cultured that a Muslim must lead even when he or she is dishonest and untrustworthy. Nor do the cultured want a non-Muslim to lead if he is untrustworthy.
Moaz Nair is an FMT reader.
Original Headline: Non-Muslim leaders and our confused clerics
Source: The Free Malaysia Today