by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 1, Rajab, 1443)
Ever since the advent of Islam, it has faced opposition from those whose vested interests were threatened by its message of fairness, equity and justice. When first proclaimed in Makkah, Islam was opposed by the chiefs of Quraysh because they saw their privileged position being challenged. In Madinah, where the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions migrated to after facing 13 years of persecution, there emerged the munafiqeen (dual loyalists) as well opposition from some of the leaders of Jewish tribes residing in the oasis town. The threat of Makkan chiefs resulted in several battles until they were finally defeated with the liberation of Makkah in the eighth year of the Hijrah. The Islamic State in Madinah also had to face the superpowers of the time: the Byzantium and Persian.
Within three decades of the Prophet leaving this earthly abode to join heavenly company, the Islamic system was subverted from within when hereditary kingship was imposed on the Muslim Ummah. The people that had lost the struggle against Islam wormed their way into the Islamic domain waiting for an opportune moment to strike. While the kings and their hangers-on maintained a veneer of Islam to claim dubious legitimacy, the Muslim masses retained their commitment to it.
This led to a curious dichotomy: the rulers were largely secular but insisted on claiming the title of ‘Khalifah’, while the masses followed the injunctions and principles of Islam. Even the nominal ‘khilafah’ was abolished in March 1924. This was the result of European colonialists marching into Muslim lands and parcelling the Ummah into nation states. Instead of the Qur’anic designation of the Ummah (21:92), nationalism was imposed on Muslims. This has been an unmitigated disaster. It resulted in the loss of Palestine to the Zionists and the Arabian Peninsula falling under the control of Najdi Bedouins who were agents of British colonialism and now of US imperialism.
Beyond physical dislocations, the intellectual challenge has been even more devastating. This came from external as well as internal sources. The first blow to the Islamic ethos was delivered by King Muawiya still wedded to Jahili notions but insisting on being addressed as ‘Khalifah’ or even ‘Amir al-Mumineen’! The Islamic titles were necessary in order to claim legitimacy for essentially an illegitimate act: usurpation of power at the point of the sword.
Some Muslims might argue that the Islamic domain expanded tremendously during Muawiya’s reign and that of his successors. Such conquests cannot confer legitimacy on dynastic rule. Islam’s principles are immutable; they are not about conquests or expansion. The Islamic civilization is not an imperialist project. It has to do with winning hearts and minds through its pristine principles of equality, fairness and justice. Muawiya’s actions dealt a severe blow to these principles and caused irreparable damage to Islam.
Fast forward to today. While the colonialist powers, primarily British and French but also Germans, Spaniards, Portuguese and even two-bit players like Belgium and the Netherlands, subjugated Muslim lands, they failed to break the Muslims’ attachment to Islam. It was not for lack of trying. In most Muslim societies, colonial languages, habits, dress and educational system were imposed. Despite such efforts, only a thin layer of elites became westernized while the masses remained attached to Islam.
This was most strikingly demonstrated by the victory of the Islamic revolution in Iran led by the ulama. Hitherto, the colonialists had assumed that they have reduced Islam to the same level as Christianity: confined only to matters relating to personal salvation without interfering in the affairs of state: governance, politics or usury capitalism. The Islamic revolution hit them like a bolt from the blue.
Since 1979, the colonialist powers have been trying to undermine the Islamic revolution by a vicious campaign of propaganda, sabotage, assassinations, wars and sanctions. Far from succeeding, the Islamic Republic has become stronger.
In order to subvert the Muslims’ attachment to Islam and the Islamic State, the western powers came up with the demonic plot to create Daesh terrorists. These terrorists have been given the completely erroneous label of the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’ (ISIS). The aim is to create such a horrific image of Islam that Muslims would be repelled by it and would not wish to live in an Islamic State much less wishing to establish one.
Despite the horrors perpetrated by Daesh, the vast majority of Muslims have not fallen for this western-backed plot. This explains why some western rulers are getting hysterical about the Muslims’ attachment to Islam. Take the case of French President Emmanuel Macron. He has claimed that Islam is in “crisis” and wants to “reform” it. Quite aside from the audacity of his assertions—he is no scholar of Islam—he is actually fighting for his political survival in France, hence making such ludicrous statements.
The French society, and indeed much of the western world has shifted to the right. Right-wing fascist movements have gained ground amid growing economic and social dislocations that their systems are unable to address. They have to seek scapegoats. Islam and Muslims are useful bogeymen to deflect attention from their own failures.
Macron is joined by the sick man of Europe: Britain. The prime minister of this tiny island state, Boris Johnson has used insulting language against Muslim women in hijab and niqab. One is constrained to ask: what happened to the appeal of western hedonistic culture? Similar attacks on Islamic symbols and on Muslims have been launched in most European countries as well as in North America. Muslims have been murdered in their places of worship as well as killed on the streets.
An even more insidious campaign is being waged through some Muslims. Their line of argument is that the Islamic State is not an Islamic obligation; a secular state would do just fine. These so-called scholars say they cannot find anything in the Qur’an or the Prophetic sunnah to support the need for establishing or living in an Islamic State. This cannot get any more blatant.
Some of them are on the payroll of corrupt illegitimate rulers. These so-called scholars seem to be either ignorant or deliberately misleading Muslims. Neither is acceptable. Let us consider some ayats from the noble Qur’an.
Allah says that you have in the Messenger of Allah the best example to emulate (33:21). Further, the Qur’an tells us, “Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger and those in authority over you” (4:59). It also says, “Take what the Messenger gives you, and shun what he forbids you from” (59:07). And finally, in repeated ayats, the Qur’an says that “He [Allah] is the One who sent the Messenger with the deen of Haqq (truth) so that it may become dominant over all other systems, however much the mushrikeen may be averse to this” (9:33; 61:09).
When the Prophet (pbuh) migrated from Makkah to Madinah, he established the Islamic State. He also promulgated the Covenant of Madinah guaranteeing the rights of all constituencies residing therein. He also entered into treaties with other tribes, as well as with the Quraysh of Makkah in what is referred to as the Treaty of Hudaibiyah. And then, the Prophet (pbuh) sent letters to kings, rulers and governors inviting them to Islam.
Given the above—the Qur’anic commands for us to obey and emulate the noble Messenger—and the fact that he established the Islamic State in Madinah, how can any Muslim argue that the Islamic State is not obligatory? There is even a hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) which states that a Muslim must either live in the Islamic State or strive to establish one. Absent both, he dies the death of jahiliyyah.
Today, the entire global banking system is run on usury. Instead of being a medium of exchange, money has become a commodity with a price. Islam expressly forbids usury (2:279-280). If there is no Islamic State, how will usury be abolished? Many injunctions of Islam cannot be enforced without the power and authority of the Islamic State. For instance, who will ensure that zakat is paid in full and on time? Further, jihad can only be declared by a legitimate authority in the Islamic State.
Those who argue that there is no obligation of establishing an Islamic State are either ignorant or working for the enemies of Islam. Muslims will not accept either.