SHAFAQNA – NOTE TO READERS: This article concludes my series (for now anyway) on political Islam, religious legitimacy and the principle of custodianship within Islam the nation-state. See part one here.
Before I begin I feel I must clarify a few points and call on you readers, to keep an open mind. It is often we read people’s thoughts and arguments from under a thick coat of prejudices – whether or not we care to admit it.
I must say that whenever I have attempted to discuss Islam, its Scriptures and its various school of thoughts, many have screamed “blue murder” reading into my work sectarianism, and self-righteousness under the misapprehension I was attempting to redact their beliefs.
My goal is only to reclaim history and redress those changes a wealthy Wahhabi clergy has rained on Islam’s many communities over the centuries. I am here to discuss those events Wahhabism has worked to disappear so that the true nature of Islam would be lost.
Finally, I am here to offer you a new perspective on Islam – one, which you likely never considered.
If we are honest with one another we need to admit that Islam still feels today very much like a foreign religion. Only this year French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared Islam incompatible with Western values … whatever those maybe.
The argument has been that Islamic values stand in negation of Western values, and that by extension Muslims remain a fifth column to an otherwise united secular Western society. This would be looking at Islam through the lens of Wahhabism.
Islam is no more foreign than Judaism or Christianity … Abraham I recall, the father of many nations, hailed from what we call modern day Iraq – not exactly your Viking ancestor.
Faith is not bound by geography, or ethnicity. Faith unites people and communities beyond their differences in the experience of the Divine.
Today, state officials have postulated that Islam cannot exist alongside the modern concept of the nation-state, on the premise that Muslims need to live in rejection of all others to assert their identity. How many times have we heard commentators assert that Muslims ambition to live according to Sharia law – a state within the state, to forever erode at secularism?
Again, if you are referring to those sociopathic hordes draped in the banner of the Black Flag Army you might have a point … Although what they advocate is not Islamic law, rather, an aberration called Wahhabism.
The hate and disgust the West has learnt from its governments has been directed at the wrong parties and the wrong faith – or as I believe we should call it: dogma. It is Wahhabism the Western world is really reproaching NOT Islam. It is Wahhabis the West should feel anxious of, NOT Muslims.
More than any other group, Muslims have suffered a terrible fate by the hands of Wahhabism. Muslims have actually been decimated under Wahhabism. Islam tenets have been perverted, and redacted; its principles and history soiled and sullied. Research for yourself and you will see that Islam stands not the enemy but the victim.
Look beyond what you have been told to see and discover what friendships our democracies have entertained in the name of capitalism … look at the dangers greed exposes you to. Only this September Saudi Arabia’s most senior cleric called for a grand religious genocide against, Shia Muslims, Christians and Jews to assuage Wahhabism warped sense of righteousness. That word again: righteousness. A dangerous word indeed when devoid of wisdom and knowledge.
Now that I have clarify my stance allow me to delve into an aspect of Islam which has seldom been talked about: Islamic nationalism and how it relates to the Oath of Ghadeer.
What Islamic State?
Under Islam and according to the true tradition of the Prophet Muhammad Muslims ought to be organized not as a state but a community. Islam does not impose any one particular form of governance – at least not as we understand it today. On the matter Dr John Andrew Morrow noted the following: “The Prophet Muhammad never, ever, described his system as a State, a Caliphate, a Sultanate, a Republic or a Democracy. On the contrary, he described it as an Ummah, a Motherland, a Homeland, a Federation or a Confederation.”
And: “In other words, the Prophet Muhammad wanted to create a Union of Free People under the precepts that he conveyed in the Covenants that he made with Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians; namely, under the precepts of the Quran: freedom of movement, freedom of work, freedom of study, freedom of religion, and freedom of choice. These are the very freedoms that the Prophet granted in his Covenants.”
Why is this relevant you may ask?
Well …to begin with it pretty much debunk the notion that Islam is socially, religiously and politically reactionary. It also settles this preconceived assumption the West has entertained vis a vis Islam propensity to dominate over nations through violence. Note here that I am not denying that Muslims across history committed great many and grave crimes; only that Islam neither condones nor calls for such crimes.
The Quran, you may have heard radicals claim, hold the keys to political Islam. The Quran many Wahhabis have advanced, among whom, Saudi Arabia’s very own Wahhabi mouth piece: Grand Mufti Al ash-Shaykh, serves as a constitutional matrix to political Islam.
I have to disagree … I am not alone in my disagreement. While the Quran stands as Islam holy vessel – the Word of God manifested, it remains a religious text, not a political act in itself.
Muslims were given a constitution. Not only were they given a constitution but they were given a charter of rights and freedoms in the covenants the prophet entered in with religious communities outside the realm of Islam.
According to the Constitution of Madina, identity is not based on race, religion, kinship, class, gender, or tribal affiliation: it is based on membership in the Ummah. aka community, It is what we call today citizenship.
The Constitution of Medina reads: “To the Jew who follows us belong help and equality. He shall not be wronged nor shall his enemies be aided.”
For those who claim that there is only place for Muslims in an Islamic State, I point to the political charter prepared by the Prophet Muhammad: “The Jews… are one community with the believers… The Jews have their religion and the Muslims have theirs.”
The community of Muhammad was a brotherhood of believers based on consultation: “The Jews must bear their expenses and the Muslims their expenses. Each must help the other against anyone who attacks the people of this document. They must seek mutual advice and consultation, and loyalty is a protection against treachery.”
From day one, the prophet’s system, Islam political make-up, was a confederation: it was pluralistic, multi-ethnic, multiracial, multilingual, and multi-religious. All people were included in one Ummah – Humanity in all its glory.
The Prophet Muhammad granted Covenants of Protection throughout his prophetic mission, from the early years of his calling to the last years of his life. He granted Covenants of Protection to the Christians of Abyssinia, Arabia, Mount Sinai, Egypt, Jerusalem, Mount Carmel, Syria, Assyria, Armenia, and Persia. He granted them freedom of conscience, freedom of belief, and freedom of religious practice. He protected their religious establishments and prohibited forced conversions.
As Messenger he repeated over and over again: “It is not permitted to remove a bishop from his bishopric or a Christian from his Christianity, a monk from his monastic life or a pilgrim from his pilgrimage or a hermit monk from his tower. Nor is it permitted to destroy any part of their churches, to take parts of their buildings to construct mosques or the homes of Muslims.”
For those of view in needs of factual proofs I would direct you to the work of Dr John Andrew Morrow, a scholar of tireless integrity and impeccable credentials.
As can be appreciated from these prophetic traditions, the prophet did not simply ask Muslims to tolerate the People of the Book: he commanded his followers to engage with them, dialogue with them, and love them as fellow human beings. He called upon Muslims to protect them and defend them. It is what we call pluralism, the energetic engagement with diversity; the practical and concrete application of human rights.
Back to the Oath of Ghadeer …
Succession and Custodianship
The Oath of Ghadeer which confirmed and asserted Imam Ali as Islam Custodian, Guardian, Keeper of the Word and altogether appointed authority stood beyond the political, for his station was secured by God.
Imam Ali’s appointment as successor goes beyond simple politics, beyond the temporal even. He forever remains the First Imam of Islam, the pillar upon which the Prophet leaned on to carry his prophethood. This is not to say that Ali was divine, only that his purpose was.
A man born into Islam, Ali became by the sheer strength of his faith and devotion an extension of the Word spoken, where the Prophet was the Word’s vessel and manifestation.
Still Wahhabis would have the world believe that Islam remains their birth right and property.
Islam sits far beyond their reach!
Ibn Ishaq, the prominent historian wrote in his biography of the Prophet Muhammad: “One of the first things that the Prophet did after receiving revelation was to identity his divinely appointed successor: “Which of you, then, will help me in this, and be my brother, mine executor and my successor amongst you?’ All remained silent, except for the youthful Ali who spoke up: ‘O Prophet of God, I will be thy helper in this.’ The Prophet then placed his hand on Ali’s neck and said, ‘This is my brother, mine executor and my successor amongst you. Hearken unto him and obey him.’”
This happens years before the Oath of Ghadeer … Far from being an isolated event, the Oath of Ghadeer, which should have forever sealed the institutional future of the Muslim community, had been a factual constant.
The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of Najran, which dates from 7th year of the Hijrah, reads: “I commit myself to an alliance and pledge with them on behalf of Allah and I place them under the safeguard of His Prophets, His Elect, His Saints, the Muslims and the Believers, the first of them and the last of them. Such is my alliance and pact with them.”
Ali was Islam appointed heir, and legitimate Guardian. Arguing otherwise would be denying History.
But my intent here is not to assign blame or imply Machiavellianism … I am only arguing a point of historical and political significance.
With the Oath of Ghadeer Islam secured and anchored its political institutions while at the same time offering a method of governance based on divine legitimacy – the perfect union one might argue of the secular and the divine.
Now is that not an interesting concept to ponder over?
By Catherine Shakdam – Director of the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies. This article was published in the Huffington Post as part of our efforts to raise awareness on Islam.