'Handbook' for workers and activists in the Islamic Movement

Developing Just Leadership

Waseem Shehzad

Muharram 25, 1418 1997-06-01

Book Review

by Waseem Shehzad (Book Review, Crescent International Vol. 26, No. 7, Muharram, 1418)

STAGES OF ISLAMIC REVOLUTION By Kalim Siddiqui. The Open Press, Kuala Lumpur. 1996. pp.138. Pbk: RM14.00.

Readers of Muslimedia and its sister-paper, Crescent International are familiar with the writings of the late Dr Kalim Siddiqui (right). His articles regularly appeared in these newsmagazines over many years. He first introduced the concept of the ‘Global Islamic Movement’ which today has become a household word among Islamic activists worldwide. No discussion about the Islamic Movement is complete without reference to Dr Kalim Siddiqui or his thought.

This book takes his thought to new heights. It is undoubtedly his most profound work todate. In the Foreword, Dr Kalim had described it as his ‘last testament’. Few realised the significance of this statement at the time. It came off the press barely two weeks before he died in Pretoria, South Africa on April 18, 1996.

In fact, he seemed to have realised that his sojourn in this world was nearing its end. In the last few days of his life, he repeatedly mentioned to colleagues and friends, ‘My work is done, you do not need me anymore.’ Just before to flying to South Africa, his doctor had told him that his heart was so badly damaged that it could fail at any moment.

While others would have given up the hectic life, not Dr Kalim who despite his serious heart condition, was determined to travel to South Africa to attend the Crescent International conference on ‘Creating a New Civilisation of Islam’. He lived according to the hadith of the noble Prophet, upon whom be peace, which he so often narrated: ‘even if you knew the world was coming to an end and you were planting a date tree, proceed with what you are doing.’ This summed up the life of Dr Kalim Siddiqui, the intellectual extraordinaire, visionary and revolutionary.

It was difficult to determine whether he was more of a revolutionary or an intellectual. He moved between roles with that amazing grace which few people have been able to master. He was educated in the west but he was not westernised. In fact, he was the bane of the western civilization which he described as ‘a pestilence’, and ‘a disease’.

Strong stuff indeed but he was not given to mincing words, especially when it concerned the enemies of Islam. With colleagues and friends, Dr Kalim was always kind and gentle; with Islam’s enemies he was harsh and strong, according to the Qur’anic command (47: 29)? (check).

He not only wrote in evocative prose but all his life he advocated an intellectual revolution among Muslims before change could be brought about in Muslim societies. He understood the contemporary situation in the Muslim world better than anyone else. He called for the complete dismantling of the nation-State structure, which he described as alien to Islam, before an Islamic State could be established in its place.

It was for this reason that he was such a strong admirer and supporter of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and of Imam Khomeini. He saw in the Islamic Revolution the realisation of his own dream which he had outlined nearly 10 years before the Islamic Movement in Iran overthrew the shah’s tyrannical regime.

But this book, despite its name, is not about the Islamic Revolution in Iran. In it, Dr Kalim looks ahead to Islamic Revolutions in other Muslim societies. He considers the entire Muslim world ripe for such revolutions.

What he outlines in this book are the stages or processes through which the Islamic Movement must go before it is able to achieve the ‘big bang’ effect of the Islamic Revolution. He calls the Islamic Revolution ‘a point in time when all forces of total change in a society converge’ (p.1). He is convinced that ‘the power the Islamic Revolution generates, under a muttaqi leadership, defeats and dismantles the post-colonial nation-State and sets up the Islamic State in its place.’

Dr Kalim, however, argues that despite Muslims in all parts of the world being a part of the Islamic Movement, the processes involved in bringing about Islamic Revolutions that lead to the setting up of Islamic States are as yet little understood. He sets out to outline these processes, starting with an intellectual revolution among Muslims. In this sense, this book is like a handbook for activists in the Islamic Movement.

He makes an eloquent case for looking at the Sirah and Sunnah in a different light. He says that the Sirah literature has so far concentrated on a meticulous recording of the chronology of events in the life of the Prophet but ‘analytical and creative literature has been slow to emerge’ (p.3). He goes on: ‘There is no harm in the application of the speculative method to the largely descriptive literature on the Sirah that now exists’ (p.4).

He explains why. ‘The use of speculative methods of research by committed and muttaqi Muslim scholars, with ends and purposes clearly defined and known, may prove to be greatly productive in unlocking the vast treasure-house that is the Sirah and the Sunnah of the Prophet of Islam, upon whom be peace’ (p.4). While he is not the first Muslim scholar to advocate this, Dr Kalim is perhaps the only one who has taken the power-perspective approach and given it renewed impetus.

A quick glance at the chapters reflects his meticulous approach. He begins with the role of the intellectual revolution. Chapter 2 addresses the process of its globalisation while the third chapter deals with Muslim Political Thought in great depth. In chapter 4 he calls for a global consensus among Muslims on these fundamental issues while in chapter five he deals with interim movements and partial revolutions. He examines the role of the Islamic political parties and the thought process that has guided their particular style of oprations, finding it wanting.

Chapter 6 is perhaps the essence of the book. In it he talks about ‘Movement, power and achievement.’ He says that no truth can maintain its position unless it be repeatedly demonstrable. In other words, it must be result oriented: ‘no results, no truth’ (p.69), he asserts with confidence. He describes all political systems as movements of one kind or another. They constantly move forward ‘to attain political goals.’ He says that Islam can also be looked at as a political system.

He insists that ‘Islam does not create a total functional system because it has the best theology. The totality of Islam is more than its theology, it includes the historical performance of the system it creates’ (p.72). To his critics who might argue that if Islam creates a total functional system, why has its performance not lived up to expectations, he says, ‘If results do not follow as they did when the method of Islam was first applied, then there is something wrong with the application. A goal-achieving system must achieve goals or lose power and slowly weaken to a point where others will defeat and destroy it.’

This is what happened to Islam when the khilafah was turned into mulukiyyah. Equally damaging to Islam’s regenerative power, from Dr Kalim’s point of view, was the emergence of man-made theologies. The initial error led to deviation, blowing Muslim history off course from the one prescribed by God and exemplified by the noble Messenger, upon whom be peace.

Dr Kalim then makes a strong plea for convergence at the core. He says that in Shi’i theology, the process of correction began some 300 years ago with the emergence of the usuli method of ijtihad. This ultimately resulted in the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. He calls for a similar correction in Sunni theology in order to complete the process of convergence. He is, however, satisfied with neither Shi’i nor Sunni theology, urging instead adherence to Islam as practised by the noble Messenger of God, upon whom be peace.

Had Dr Kalim Siddiqui written nothing else but this book, it would be enough to secure him an honoured place among the intellectuals of the Global Islamic Movement.

Throughout the book, Dr Kalim keeps returning to the Sirah and Sunnah of the Prophet and says that unless Muslims internalise the method and hikmah of the noble Messenger, they will not succeed.

As if leaving nothing to chance, he dismisses the western civilisation and its alleged military power. He says that ‘military power is merely an instrument, which may or may not work’ (p.75). ‘Real power,’ on the other hand, ‘is neither offensive nor defensive. Real power is regenerative; it is power to recover from defeat and dismemberment. This is a test that the Western civilisation has not so far faced’ (p.76).

While the west has yet to face this test, he is convinced that Islam has the capacity to regenerate itself. Dr Kalim sees the newly assertive power of Islam and the emerging power of the Global Islamic Movement as proof of this phenomenon. The west, on the other hand is already in decline with chips falling off the block.

He goes further. The west is not willing even to globalise its own supposed values: freedom, democracy and human rights etc. These it has not upheld in Bosnia and Chechenya, for instance. Islam welcomes and encourages the globalisation of its value-system. ‘This is the real power of Islam,’ he says confidently.

While advocating the setting up of Islamic States through the process of the Islamic Revolution, he calls for the globalisation of the phenomenon of the revolution. This, he says, is exactly according to the Sirah and Sunnah (Prophetic examples).

Stages of Islamic Revolution is not only the last book by Dr Kalim Siddiqui but it can be considered the essence of his life’s work. Every page is full of insights and ground-breaking ideas. It radiates confidence borne of a certainty that it is based on divine Writ and exemplified by the noble Messenger, upon whom be peace.

No activist in the Global Islamic Movement should be without this book. Those who are genuinely committed to the revolutionary process will find it of immense benefit. It is a book that needs to be read again and again to fully imbibe the wisdom in its pages.

Had Dr Kalim Siddiqui written nothing else but this book, it would be enough to secure him an honoured place among the intellectuals of the Global Islamic Movement. That he has so many titles to his credit despite leading a hectic life of travel and lectures, made doubly difficult by his severe heart condition, shows how much he cared for Muslims.

The best tribute that can be paid to him is to put into practice the ideas that he so passionately advocated.

Muslimedia: June 1-15, 1997

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