In search of breathing-space when all ground was occupied by ‘Islamic professionals’

Developing Just Leadership

Kalim Siddiqui

Muharram 13, 1424 2003-03-16

Islamic Movement

by Kalim Siddiqui (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 32, No. 2, Muharram, 1424)

Here we conclude a series of reprinted articles reflecting on the Islamic Revolution in Iran and its impact on world history, written by the late DR KALIM SIDDIQUI and first published in 1989.

To see light at the end of the tunnel is a great responsibility. The greatest single difficulty arises from the fact that there are many around us who do not even recognise that we are living in a confined space. That they are not free, that the country to which they belong is not free, that their rulers are agents of kufr, that their economy is run in the interests of dominant economic powers outside, that the ‘education’ they are receiving is designed to destroy their very existence, all is often considered ‘treasonable’ nonsense.

In Iran the Islamic revolutionaries enjoyed a great advantage in that there the shah and his regime and the ruling classes were openly hostile to Islam. They had no Islamic pretensions. This clear and open commitment to eradicate Islam from society is found in only two other modern Muslim nation-States: Turkey and Indonesia. In all other countries the rulers are engaged in trying to secularize their countries, but everywhere they also maintain a fraudulent Islamic facade. This art of using Islam to destroy Islam is most highly developed in such countries as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and Sudan. Even Ba’athist Iraq now spends millions on trying to acquire an Islamic image. What is perhaps more important for such regimes is that they keep a large number ofulama and other career ‘Islamic workers,’ the ‘Islamic professionals,’ in their service.

We are trapped in the tunnel with such ‘Islamic professionals’ and their paymasters. Some of these professionals are themselves trapped and know that they are. I will mention only three of them. The first I met in Tripoli, Libya, in July 1973. He was Shaikh Mahmoud Subhi, head of the Call of Islam Society. I told him of the Muslim Institute, which was then a fledgling body operating from a room in my house. He listened carefully and said: "I am a government servant. The Call of Islam Society is a State organization. You must stay independent of us. I will pray for you. You can do more work for Islam from London than from Tripoli." I was stunned by his frankness. Some three years later I met the late Shaikh Abdul Hamid Mahmoud, the shaikh al-Azhar, in Makkah during an Islamic conference there. I told him of the Muslim Institute. His reply was equally forthright. "We are controlled by the government. The Azhar cannot do anything for you." Ten years later I met another shaikh of al-Azhar in his grand offices in Cairo. He was Shaikh Gad Abd al-Gad. He, too, made his situation clear, though in less explicit terms. A year later when I met him again, also in Cairo, he asked me to arrange an invitation for him to visit Tehran to meet Imam Khomeini. Not surprisingly, the brothers in Iran were not interested. Who can blame them?

However, lower-level ‘Islamicists,’ those working for Saudi front organizations with such pretentious names as the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (Riyadh), Rabita al-Alam al-Islami (Makkah), Supreme Council of Mosques (Makkah), International Federation of Students’ Islamic Organizations (Kuwait), Islamic Society of North America (formerly MSA) and their subscribers worldwide, were less modest. Indeed, most were so arrogant, specially those with Ikhwan and Jama’at-e Islami connections, that they were not prepared to discuss any options outside the Saudi framework. They would concede that the Saudis had their faults, but they also insisted that the Saudi regime, on the whole, was genuinely committed to Islam. The ‘Islamic professionals’ are known to everybody. I do not have to name them here. The private wealth most of them have accumulated in Europe, North America, Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere is considerable. The number of these professionals has multiplied greatly in recent years as the Saudis have increased their budgets on ‘Islamic propaganda’ against the Islamic Revolution. The greed of these professionals is as rapacious as that of any careerist in any other trade. They will not be denied their pound of flesh.

Those of us who have seen the light at the end of the tunnel still have to deal with those who are blinded by the glitter of gold, or who refuse to see and are determined to make sure that no one else gets the message. Having captured the moral high ground, the problem for us is one of relating with the environment. It is; not a simple question of making da’wah; it is also a question of survival in the short-term. One needs space to breathe while all the available space is occupied by those committed to the status quo.

This was the position before the Islamic Revolution when, armed with nothing more than the Draft Prospectus of the Muslim Institute, I launched on a global search for "space to breathe". I found some space to breathe in the most unlikely places: South Africa, for instance. Flying back from Johannesburg in 1975, I changed planes in Nairobi and reached Jeddah via Khartoum and Addis Ababa. In Jeddah the expatriate Pakistani view was that the Saudi Islamic scene was totally controlled by a Jama’at-e Islami professor and that I would find no joy there. It took me nearly three years to develop the private sector in Jeddah and to secure a foothold in the Islamic Secretariat there. By 1979 the private sector in Jeddah, Bahrain, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, South Africa, Britain and North America, together with the Islamic Solidarity Fund of the Islamic Secretariat, were providing us with more resources than we are ever likely to see again. We were able to build up a substantial capital fund invested in properties in London.

Everything was going according to plan so long as we were the only ones who had seen light at the end of the tunnel. As soon as there was a flash of lightning for all to see, and we found that our position was vindicated, we lost virtually all the lucrative support that had been painstakingly developed over many years. Jeddah, Riyadh, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and the Islamic Secretariat closed their doors on us immediately after we held a seminar in London in March 1980 to mark the first anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. The Islamic Revolution has cost us dear with no likelihood of the global Islamic movement, including Iran, finding us comparable resources. The fact is that had it not been for the capital accumulated before the Revolution we would not have survived the Revolution.

However, the compensations are truly global and historic. The breathing space we now enjoy is unlimited. Muslim masses everywhere, and a whole generation of youth, have seen the light at the end of the tunnel.

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