Dr Kalim Siddiqui has left a huge legacy of intellectual output on Muslim political thought. We consider only a few aspects from his great contribution.
Last month’s column, “Dr. Kalim Siddiqui’s legacy,” generated considerable interest and comment from readers. While everyone appreciated Dr. Kalim’s contribution to Muslim political thought, a number of pertinent questions were also raised. These included his views on the role of the Muslim masses, and how Muslims would organize politically in the absence of political parties. These are important questions and require serious consideration.
The question about the role of the Muslim masses was asked in the context of Dr. Kalim’s proposal for the ‘ulama and western-educated Muslims to work together and collectively chalk out a strategy to get the Ummah out of its present bleak predicament. What would be the role of the masses in this set up? Obviously in a short column like this (I have deliberately resisted the temptation to exceed this space), it was not possible to discuss all aspects of Dr. Kalim’s ideas but in the current column I will attempt to elaborate on his thought further. In fact, the two questions — role of the Muslim masses and the form of political organization in the absence of political parties — are interrelated.
Dr. Kalim insisted the Islamic movement is the only legitimate form of political organization. “The Islamic movement in its purest form, is the manifestation of Divine Will,”...the Islamic movement is an open system in which every Muslim is a member.
Dr. Kalim insisted the Islamic movement is the only legitimate form of political organization. “The Islamic movement in its purest form, is the manifestation of Divine Will,” he wrote in the introduction to the first volume of the annual anthology, Issues in the Islamic Movement (1980–1981). Unlike a political party with an office, a manifesto written by philosophers and historians and membership lists, the Islamic movement is an open system in which every Muslim is a member. He defined the Islamic movement “as the struggle of the Muslims to establish, maintain, develop, defend, extend or re-establish the Islamic state as an instrument for ‘al-amr bi-al-ma‘ruf wa-al-nahi ‘an al-munkar’ for the welfare and happiness of all mankind in this world and the Hereafter.”
He went on: “There are three partners in the Islamic movement — Allah (swt), the Prophet (pbuh) and the general body of Muslims.” The Qur’an also emphasizes this point:
“Might and honour belong to Allah, His Messenger and those that make a faith-commitment [to Allah]” (63:08).
Every committed Muslim is conscious of Allah’s (swt) power presence at all times. Allah (swt) guides the committed Muslims as well as comforts and supports them in times of danger. In extreme cases He even intervenes directly to help. The Prophet (pbuh) is likewise an active partner in the Islamic movement. His Sunnah and Sirah form an integral part of the movement and Muslims are required to relate to them and only pursue goals that he pursued and achieved. In fact, the Islamic movement can only use the methods derived from those used by the Prophet (pbuh). “The Muslim Ummah and all its members must conform to the standards of personal and collective behaviour and participation in the Islamic movement established by the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions,” wrote Dr. Kalim.
This requirement automatically disqualifies the political party approach since “the ‘Islamic parties’ that emerged during the colonial period… understood and presented Islam within the framework of European-style social democracy. For them, the Islamic state was only a slightly updated and ‘Islamized’ version of the post-colonial nation-State” (Dr. Kalim Siddiqui, Processes of error, deviation, correction and convergence in Muslim Political Thought, ICIT, 1989).
And “the third partner in the Islamic movement is the general body of Muslims, the entire Ummah. We know that in the first Islamic movement led by the Prophet (pbuh) all Muslims participated.” Since it is compulsory for Muslims to conform to the Sunnah and Sirah of the noble Messenger (pbuh) and follow only his method, then the political party approach based on the Western model is automatically disqualified. Further, political parties, even those carrying the Islamic flag, are forced to operate within the nation-state structure, another imposition of the West. The Qur’an outlines the concept of the Ummah and rejects divisions based on race, colour, language or geography. The fact that the Ummah is divided into nation states is the legacy of colonialism but for Muslims to continue to operate within political structures imposed by colonialism is to accept subservience as our permanent condition. Muslims will not find solutions to their problems outside the framework of Islam. All such attempts will fail as they have in every Muslim nation state where “Islamic political parties” have tried to bring about change. The Islamic approach to political organization is radically different from the Western model.
Dr. Kalim was very clear about these issues. Muslims need to reflect on them and go through their own “intellectual revolution” in political thought for positive change in their societies.
Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought