by Zafar Bangash (Reflections, Crescent International Vol. 35, No. 2, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1427)
An essential pre-requisite for the proper cure of a disease is its correct diagnosis. This is true of social ills as well as individual illnesses. Although modern science provides many tools to determine an individual’s ailment, it is much more difficult to diagnose the problems of society. The problems facing Muslim societies today are a good example of the results of a wrong diagnosis leading to inappropriate prescriptions. It is now widely recognized that, far from making progress, Muslim societies have regressed since the end of colonial rule. What is equally disturbing is that those claiming to lead the Islamic movement have made little headway despite the Muslim masses’ instinctive understanding that Islam offers solutions to their social problems. The reason for this paradox is simple: an incorrect diagnosis of the problem.
What distinguished Dr Kalim Siddiqui, the tenth anniversary of whose death is being commemorated this month, was his clear understanding of the situation Muslims face. He identified two problems in particular: the nation-state structure, and the political party approach to acquiring power. He rejected both as creations of western hegemony, and part of the problem we face rather than the solution we need. Our problems would not be solved, he said, unless the Islamic movement assume its proper role as a all-embracing movement in which every Muslim was automatically a member, and which acted in all spheres of society, not just the political or religious.
Unfortunately, many Muslims cannot understand that electoral politics is a game played by competing groups within the same ruling elite to preserve the status quo. There is no room in this for those who wish to implement Islam. The repeated humiliations suffered by such political parties as the Jama’at-e Islami in Pakistan and the Ikhwan al-Muslimoon in Egypt, operating within the colonial system, confirm this. The only place where the Islamic movement has been successful is Iran. There, the late Imam Khomeini did not pursue electoral power; he rejected the very legitimacy of the nation-state structure and the Shah’s regime, which he denounced as a US-zionist puppet. He refused to countenance anything short of the removal of the Shah and the complete dismantling of all state structures, replacing them with institutions rooted in Islam.
In his rejection of the nation-state structure, Dr Kalim stressed that Muslim nation-states were not free, despite the departure of their colonial masters. He described their so-called independence, as well as that of all other so-called Third World countries, as fraudulent. Behind the facade of independence, they are in fact under far greater Western control than they had been during the colonial period. Institutions created to serve the interests of the colonial masters continue to flourish decades later. The westernised nationalists who inherited power from their colonial masters have turned out to be even more ruthless, as well as grossly incompetent.
Dr Kalim’s prescription, articulated in the Draft Prospectus of the Muslim Institute, published in 1972, seven years before the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, was the complete abolition of the nation-states and their replacement by Islamic states. At the time, he saw no prospect of this happening in his lifetime. In fact, the Islamic Revolution validated his theoretical analysis less than a decade later. Yet nearly three decades after the Islamic Revolution, ‘Islamic’ parties in the rest of the Muslim world continue to wander in the political wilderness because they cannot break free of the colonial system of electoral politics. The military takeover in Algeria in December 1991, when the country’s Islamic movement was poised to win the country’s elections, confirmed the limits of political freedom available to Islamic movements in electoral systems.
Based on his analysis of the historical situation facing the Ummah, Dr Kalim also hypothesised the existence of the global Islamic movement, consisting of all Islamic movements in all parts of the world. The fact of the unity of the Islamic movement was widely accepted during his lifetime, although the use of the term has declined somewhat since his death. He traced the development of the Islamic movement through Muslim history, and identified its core in the Sunnah and the Seerah of the Prophet, upon whom be peace. He said that all Prophets were leaders of Islamic movements but only Prophet Muhammad (saw) was successful in establishing an Islamic state, the crowning achievement of the Prophetic mission. Thus, without the Islamic State, Islam remains incomplete, and many of its fundamental injunctions cannot be implemented. He also pointed out that since the power of kufr has become global today, only a global Islamic movement can successfully confront it. The nation-states that divide the Ummah are an impediment to the realization of this goal, as are such artificial entities as the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Muslims must rise above such distractions and work at the level of the global Islamic movement if they are to meet the challenge of history.
Dr Kalim understood and articulated the historical situation facing Muslims today with exceptional clarity. Completing the challenge that he defined is the unfinished business of the Ummah.