Dr Kalim Siddiqui: Muslim political culture as a basis for the unity of the Ummah

Developing Just Leadership

Crescent International

Muharram 18, 1423 2002-04-01

Islamic Movement

by Crescent International (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 31, No. 3, Muharram, 1423)

This month marks the sixth anniversary of the death of Dr KALIM SIDDIQUI, one of the leading intellectuals of the contemporary Islamic movement. Here we reprint an abridged version of an article first published in 1983.

It is my object to indicate some of the ways in which the unity of the Ummah has taken shape through history. Despite the issues that appear to divide us, a solid mass of the Ummah is united at many levels. The apparent causes of division operate only on the surface. It is my view that the history of Islam has produced a political culture that is common to all Muslims. Muslims throughout the world, whatever their political, cultural, linguistic or ethnic origin, or whatever their other preferences may be, all belong to a common political culture.

By political culture I mean a combination of a common set of memories, a common historical experience, a commonly defined and felt current situation, a common enemy and a common expectation of the future. Within this framework we can go as far back as Adam (a.s.). It is part and parcel of the political culture of Islam, the ‘stored’ memory of the Muslims. The earliest common experiences of history itself were shaped by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, through a long chain of prophets. We are the people who are responsible for the defence and promotion of this Divine tradition of history and history-making.

Within this framework we have certain primary roots. The primary roots of this political culture, which has found expression in various ways throughout history, go back to the Qur’an and to the tradition of revealed knowledge as a whole. The secondary roots of our political culture are spread throughout Islamic history. Some of us prefer to rely on some secondary roots, others to rely on other secondary roots. As a result of these preferences over our secondary roots, we have "schools of thought" in Islam, but the primary roots of our common political culture are the same and commonly shared, and about them there is no dispute among the Muslims: there has never been, there is not today, and there never will be in the future.

Having said that, I want to move to the contemporary situation, and deal with the unity of the Ummah, which has been severely damaged by the colonial system. The colonial rulers over Muslim lands have taken great care to divide the Ummah in a way that will prevent the Muslims from acting together as a single force in the making of history. It is this scheme of the colonial powers and the western civilization that has been defeated by the power of the Muslim political culture expressed in the Islamic Revolution in Iran. I have over the last few years defined and analyzed the Islamic Revolution in terms of its four major characteristics. The first of these is the Islamic Revolution’s commitment to unite all Muslims into a single movement.

The complete mobilization of all Muslims in the pursuit of a single set of goals is the first basic characteristic of this Revolution. If we go right back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) we would find that this was also the primary characteristic of the Ummah that was created by him in the Hijaz. The goals were revealed to the Prophet and they remain unchanged to this day for all Muslims. The mobilization of the Ummah of all Muslims in pursuit of a clearly defined set of goals is the basic quality of the Islamic Revolution in Iran today, and this was also the basic quality of the original Islamic movement that was led by the Prophet 1,400 years ago.

The second feature of the Islamic Revolution in Iran is that the people of Iran produced from among themselves a leadership which was committed to the goals of Islam. This was not a middle-class leadership, or a leadership created by a particular class of people or political party in order to pursue their particular interests. This is a leadership which is muttaqi. There is one basic characteristic of taqwa: that it is contagious. The taqwa of the leadership has been transmitted to the young generation of Iran today. There are some in Iran, in their middle age, who seem to be in a no-man’s-land as far as taqwa is concerned. But the young people in Iran are a muttaqigeneration, and this, I think, is a very hopeful pointer to the future of the Ummah, the future of the Islamic State and of the Revolution. Thus the mobilization of the masses and the emergence of a muttaqi leadership are the first two of the basic characteristics of an Islamic movement. A movement that fails to produce a muttaqi leadership or fails to mobilize the Muslim masses cannot bring about an Islamic Revolution or establish an Islamic State.

The third characteristic of the Islamic Revolution is produced by the combination of a muttaqi leadership and the mobilized masses of Iran. This combination has released the energies of the people and committed these energies to the restructuring of the entire socio-economic and political order of Iran. It is no longer a case of merely changing the government of Iran, which is what people like Bani-Sadr wanted. This is a question which has been positively decided in Iran in favour of a complete change in the socio-economic and political order at every level, from the colonial culture that had become dominant.

In this field Iran has another very important role to play. For the first time in modern history we now have a living, dynamic laboratory where policy options based on Islamic concepts can be tried out. When we say that Iran is Islamic, we do not for one moment mean that everything in Iran is right. Iran is Islamic because a genuine attempt is being made to find policy options from the prescription of the Qur’an and the Sunnah in order to solve the problems of a modern society. Of course, much of what is happening in Iran is experimental and provisional; these are experiments shaped by Islam and controlled by a muttaqi leadership. Alternative hypotheses will be tried out until successful models can be created at all levels of the socio-economic, political and cultural order of the Islamic State of Iran. If we refer back to Madinah we find that this is precisely what happened there. Every single existing relationship was changed by Islam. Families were divided, fathers against sons and sons against their fathers, and properties were redistributed. Change is the basic and permanent condition of Islam and the Islamic Revolution. This we find in the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, and this is what we have witnessed in Iran since the Islamic Revolution.

Finally, I would draw your attention to the confidence and ability with which a social order controlled by the Islamic movement, led by a muttaqi leadership, deals with the outside world. It is not possible for the superpowers, or any other powers, close or distant, to divert a Muslim people who are mobilized in the pursuit of the goals of Islam. One of the major achievements of Islam throughout history has been that Islam has defeated all those who have tried to stop it from becoming dominant in its immediate environment. Islam is not, and cannot be, subservient to other civilizations. An Islamic State cannot be a colonial State, it cannot be a State controlled or manoeuvred from outside. Islamic civilization cannot be half Iranian, half Afghani, half Arab and so on. It is perhaps inevitable that even today we still suffer from the disease that we are trying to cure. But the basic and fundamental point is that the Islamic civilization and the State cannot be subservient to any other kind of civilization, or any other kind of State, either a single State or a combination of States. The Islamic State and Islamic civilization must always be dominant over their environment. If the Islam of an ‘Islamic State’ is in any way subservient to some other social or cultural value, there is some weakness in its particular application of Islam. Islam does not allow any form of compromise, or some kind of ‘working relationship’, with its enemies, particularly not with those who are committed to the destruction of Islam.

These being the core values of Muslim political culture, I view the Islamic Revolution in Iran as a powerful expression of Islam in the world today. The Muslim political culture has been shaped by history itself. Nonetheless, we have to take account of another stream of history which has become powerful and hence controls a large part of the world. This particular stream of history is known to us as the western civilization. In my view, the western civilization stands for everything that Islam does not stand for. If there were any, or there have been any, or there can be found any similarities between the Islamic civilization and the western civilization, these are entirely accidental and superficial: these must not mislead us to believe that there is anything common between us and them. This is the mistake that was made by some Muslim thinkers when the powerful western civilization, emerging from Europe, overtook the lands of Islam. Some Muslims took the view that the western civilization was a Christian civilization and that we would be able to adopt and convert it into an Islamic civilization. As a result of this totally mistaken view, men like Sayyid Ahmed Khan in India, and many others in different parts of the world, preached that Muslims could profit from working within the western civilization. The result is that the west has found among us people who serve their interests; this has also enabled the west to destroy a great part of our heritage, our history and our society.

Now, however, we are well on our way to destroying the western myth that Islam is medieval, out-dated, and unable to create and support a State or society in the twentieth century. According to their history and historiography, religion was merely a product of man’s ignorance and superstition. Man, they said, had now grown up, become scientific and rational. They wanted to consign Islam to the same void as they cast Christianity.

The Islamic Revolution in Iran has shown that, despite the emergence of men like Mustafa Kemal, the Saudi royal family, and the leaders of Pakistan and many other countries, the Muslim political culture is still capable of restoring history to its original intended course. What Muslims everywhere must realize is that of all the nation-States and their political and economic systems that exist today, none is a creation of Islam or can serve the interests of Islam. All these so-called Muslim nation-States are the creation of imperialism and have nothing whatever to do with Islam or Islamic history. We have destroyed one pillar of western civilization in Iran, and all the others are destined to meet the same fate. There can be no difference of opinion among the Muslims on this particular point.

The western civilization controls the world by its economic policies. There is an alliance between the rich of the rich countries and the rich of the poor countries. It is through the latter that the former control our societies, our countries and our cultures. The Islamic Revolution in Iran has shown that when the Muslim political culture takes hold of the society, it takes us beyond the reach of the western civilization. The Islamic Revolution in Iran has destroyed the whole bag of political tools that the western civilization has used against Islam for the last 200 years. The colonial powers and the communist terrorists had hoped that the economic hardships created by trade sanctions would persuade the Muslim masses of Iran to overthrow the Islamic leadership. We have seen, however, that the Muslim masses, once they are mobilized by a muttaqi leadership, are prepared to undergo any amount of hardship in order to achieve the goals set by the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet, peace be upon him.

In the case of Iran, two other points may be noted. One is a total commitment to do the right thing, whatever the cost. For instance, the Islamic Revolution in Iran has its own Constitution. It has been adhered to completely by everyone in Iran. Whatever the external consequences, the people of Iran have steadfastly believed that they should carry on with the internal working of the Constitution. The second is the emergence of a new set of institutions, such as the Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Inqilab-e Islami (the Revolutionary Guards), the Jihad-e Sazindagi (the Jihad for Reconstruction), and the Baseej (Mass Mobilization for War), among many. These institutions are slowly but surely taking over from the old institutions set up by the monarchy. I hope that the Islamic State of Iran will now help to create new institutions in the Islamic movement outside Iran. This is its natural role as the leading edge of the global Islamic movement.

[This article was first published in Crescent International, March 1-15, 1983. It is based on Dr Kalim Siddiqui’s speech at the International Unity Conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from December 28, 1982 to January 2, 1983.]

Also see this issue: Editorial: Dr Kalim Siddiqui’s lessons for all Muslims today

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