by Abu Dharr (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 41, No. 9, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1433)
Once King Muawiyah had usurped the Khilafah, the issue of power and authority was gradually removed from Muslim consciousness and Islam reduced to mere rituals. The sorry state of Muslim rulers today is the direct result.
Muslims — and many of them are not conscious of this — have morphed throughout the 14 centuries into a stilted formulary two billion people on earth. In this stretch of time rituals became customs, customs became traditions, and the grand sum of rituals, customs, and traditions now substitutes for the Islamic religion. All this began when power corrupted the highest office in the Ummah with King Mu‘awiyah usurping power; and from there on the bloody trickle-down effect of power usurpation finally ended up without any power from our governments’ heads to our governments’ toes. The silence of the Muslim lambs is horrifying concerning this dislocation of power: from the clean conscience and the cordial characters of the rulers in the first 30 years after the Prophet (pbuh) to the bloody hands and vicious figures of the majority of rulers throughout the centuries, starting with Kings Mu‘awiyah and Yazid and still continuing to today’s Saudi kings and all their financial soulmates from monarch to president.
Like all leaders who are megalomaniacs they [Ummayad and ‘Abbasid kings] were interested in expansionism, wealth, and dictating their orders. They were not, contrary to the public impression borne of ignorance, interested in spreading the din of the Prophet (pbuh). They did not spread Islam in Arabia itself; why would they be interested in spreading it outside of Arabia?
The millennial accretion and drift of a watered-down Islam has made it very difficult to open up this issue without some hyper-traditionalist Muslims feeling offended. The issue of power, authority, and decision-making has been excluded from any definition of Islam or iman! So when someone wants to flip the switch on these types of hardcore traditional Muslims they feel aggravated and incensed: how dare you interpose issues of power and politics into Islam!? Their muscular knee-jerk psychology is paralleled by their feeble and ad lib rationality. What do we do here? Do we abide by their ignorance? Or do we open up this subject and try to couch it in terms that will not inflame their inherited assumptions about a history that the Muslims themselves, outside of power circles, never wrote? We shall attempt to walk through this emotional minefield, trying hard not to explode their sensitivities.
Let us say that the decision-makers in the Umayyad and ‘Abbasid ancestry regimes were acting like all decision-makers who were intoxicated with power. We know that many Muslims are familiar with being intoxicated with alcohol but they are not at all familiar with those who are intoxicated with power. This demonstrates our point above quite clearly. But let us go on. The war criminals who were responsible for the massacre at Karbala, the catapulting of the Ka‘bah, the rape of hundreds or thousands of Muslim women in Madinah in the first Umayyad ruling class were certainly capable of behaving like the Mongols and the Crusaders in their crimes against humanity… were they not? The moral character of the khulafa’ did not transfer to the rulers after the khulafa’. Therefore, we (Sunnis and Shi‘is) should never call Mu‘awiyah, Yazid, et al. “khulafa”. Like all leaders who are megalomaniacs they were interested in expansionism, wealth, and dictating their orders. They were not, contrary to the public impression borne of ignorance, interested in spreading the din of the Prophet (pbuh). They did not spread Islam in Arabia itself; why would they be interested in spreading it outside of Arabia? They were cutting it down in Arabia as attested to by their brutality and bloodshed against Sahabis and Ahl al-Bayt personalities and parties that did not toe the official line.
Our din is expressed in our Qur’an and Sunnah. If the Qur’an and Sunnah place the highest premium on justice then that is how we should think and behave. And if the Qur’an and Sunnah do not mention a person’s beard and its length then we should not. The Qur’an, not even in one fraction of an ayah, speaks about the beard (we are taking the beard as an example of the many other tertiary issues that have come to define today’s cobweb traditional Muslim psyche). The length of a person’s beard or dress should never be a judgmental issue as it has become due to the trivialization of Islam throughout all these tradition-laden years. What has happened in this long and extended affair when power was taken out of Islamic studies, discussions, and discourse is that we have today in the masjid and study groups a din where justice is, for all practical purposes, an absent subject matter; and in the best of those limited instances it is abstract. This is not Allah’s (swt) din; the din in the Qur’an and the Sunnah traceable to the Qur’an is the din of justice: front, center, and back.
Our inherited din has to be re-understood and re-defined squarely and solidly in the Qur’anic domain along with the verifiable Sunnah. Our din has been explained to us — directly and indirectly — by the usurping powers that have survived on their success and our failure — their success at purging our din from its power and justice ayat and hadiths and our failure in reinstating our din with its necessary ayat and hadiths pertaining to power and justice. Regimes and jahili power structures are never to be concerned with justice and freedom. When was the last time you opened up al-Bukhari, Muslim, al-Tirmidhi, etc. and read a hadith about justice, freedom, power, or injustice, persecution, and discrimination? The hadith books are full of hadiths about attire, steps and walking, sitting down, standing up, and using your right and left hand when it comes to food — but nothing about using your right and left hand when it comes to struggle and jihad.
We have indisputable information condemning Yahud and Nasara for the primal sin of changing God’s words and placing their own words into God’s Books. Thank Allah (swt) that His final Book and words have not been changed in script — even though they have been changed in sense and significance. Some Muslims are as guilty as Yahud and Nasara for committing themselves to some meanings of the Qur’an while abandoning other equally significant meanings of the Qur’an.
The Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said — and this is repeated many times from the minbars — “You [the Muslims] will follow and fall into the [aberrant] social patterns of those before you, inch by inch and yard by yard, to such an extent that even if they were to enter into a lizard’s hole you would do the same.”
The details and developments and deviations of our history is not our Islam… Being proud and stately about our Islam does not equate to being sensational and grandiose about our history.
Many of us still repeat — mindlessly — that we are the best ummah on earth, the best ummah from among all peoples, the best ummah there ever was; but we never think that this “best-ummah” status in the Qur’an is conditioned upon al-amr bi-al-ma‘ruf wa-al-nahyi ‘an al-munkar (the authorizing and establishment of what is self-evidently right and just and the decommissioning and deconstruction of what is self-evidently wrong and repugnant).
Even this whole subject of al-amr bi-al-ma‘ruf wa-al-nahyi ‘an al-munkar has been cut back and cut down into the arena of petty issues. The inherited and taken-for-granted legacy of Islam that we honor as our “religion” today does not identify offensive activities and injustice as the most obvious munkar of them all. While justice and fairness itself is the most obvious ma‘ruf of them all.
The details and developments and deviations of our history is not our Islam. Can we try to understand that? Being proud and stately about our Islam does not equate to being sensational and grandiose about our history. Our Islam, our Qur’an, and our Prophet (pbuh) are a work of Allah (swt). But our kings and princes and presidents are of our own making. If you and I are critical or adverse to a king in Arabia over a thousand years ago or a king in Arabia today that does not and should not reflect on the quality and the eminence of our God-given Book and Prophet (pbuh).
“And say, ‘The truth has now come [to light], and falsehood has withered away: for, behold, all falsehood is bound to wither away!’” (17:81).