by Abu Dharr (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 41, No. 7, Shawwal, 1433)
How historical baggage has smothered Muslim minds to sink into sectarianism while ignoring the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
There are social tornados and sectarian twisters on the geopolitical horizon. The evil brains of Zionism and the offensive minds of imperialism are stoking the fires of sectarian schism in Syria, hoping that it will catch on and spread to such places as Iraq, Pakistan, the Persian Gulf, and Turkey, to name a few. And Muslims who are poorly informed when it comes to their own history along with the simple-minded Arabians who are tuned into the elitist media, are falling into this sectarian snare.
The best way to treat this internal pathogen is to inoculate our Islamic mind with the truth — or as close to the truth as we can get. Once our immune system is energized, all the disease producing propaganda and half-truths of Israel and its Washington enabler will be flushed out of our societies like fecal waste leaving the human body. Medicine is sometimes bitter and immunization shots are painful but rather that then the bitter pain of decades or even centuries of civil strife and wars.
Muslims who are poorly informed when it comes to their own history along with the simple-minded Arabians who are tuned into the elitist media, are falling into this sectarian snare.
This is not going to be easy. So perk up and brace yourself for self-criticism and a thrust for the truth. You are going to have to put aside your hereditary Islam and open your mind. If you cannot do that then stop here, and move on to another article in the Crescent.
The damage that has been done by the Umayyad regime lives on in the religious customs and the literary works of “scholars” who are still revered and quoted by today’s run-of-the-mill Muslim. The Umayyad regime’s world-beaters are dead, but not their writing and presentation of what happened early on in Islamic history after the reign of the four successors to the Prophet (pbuh). To try to scramble some of the taken-for-granted serializing of that history, may we ask: why did the Muslims of the Umayyah dynasty go toward Egypt, North Africa, and Iberia with their military and not toward al-Habashah (Ethiopia) or Central Africa? The Prophet (pbuh) and his successors oriented their military prowess toward the Levant and the lands falling between the Rivers Tigris and the Euphrates (in other words Syria and Iraq).
In our presentation of information, we the Muslims (Sunnis and Shi‘is, the first more than the second) display an inability to think through the real world. We have no thinking capability of a type that is guided by the Qur’an and the Prophet (pbuh) to turn our civilization into one that conquers materialism and utilizes matter — a quest that has become the assay-mark of Europeans, Americans, the Japanese, the Chinese, and even the Indians. The litany of what comes after “the scholars said: qala al-‘ulama’” has canceled us and our generation from having equivalent ‘ulama’.
Medicine is sometimes bitter and immunization shots are painful but rather that then the bitter pain of decades or even centuries of civil strife and wars.
We the Muslims (Sunnis and Shi‘is) cling to a “spoken Islam.” We do not delve into the Islam of action and pertinent knowledge. The Qur’an and the Sunnah require us to have a leader. We — as a whole — appear incapable of that. The history of prophets and the Qur’an itself are centered on the issue of being fair and free from favoritism and self-interest. The Qur’an was not revealed with fasting, praying, and pilgrimage as objectives. The objective was and is social justice. How do we and how did numerous generations before us live without an obligatory sense for social justice that supersedes the “religious” sense of performing rituals. Look around today and you will find that there is an absence of social justice in societies that are inundated with printed Qur’ans! We still carry, from the time of the Umayyads, an inability to confront tyrannical rulers. We can understand, but not condone, why some people during the rule of Banu Umayyah were afraid to speak truth to power. But how about us today? Can we not speak truth to the power of a dead Banu Umayyah? We do have their parallels today. But let us skip these parallels for the moment… Are we not able to identify the crimes of the Umayyad despots? During that time there were persecution and massacres. Torture was practiced during the Umayyad and ‘Abbasid kindred kings.
Many Muslims who today are being swept by sectarianism say out loud with all their vocal cords that they adhere to the Qur’an and the Sunnah. How do you adhere to the Qur’an and the Sunnah and then live with discrimination, ignorance, poverty, and mutual hatred? There is no basis for this in the empowering Qur’an and the enlightening Sunnah. Some paid religious functionaries convolute the Qur’an and spin the Sunnah to legitimize the status quo sin and scandalization.
There are some takfiris (a godsend to the Zionists and imperialists) who rationalize an open-ended war against almost everyone who does not fit their definition of who is a Muslim. And that includes Jews, Christians, and Muslims. They cannot differentiate between a Jew and a Zionist, between a Christian and an imperialist, and between a Muslim who reports to Allah (swt) and one who confronts Him. If these sectarians read the Qur’an with prevailing minds they would understand that war in the Qur’an is called for in the case of self-defense or to help those who are oppressed. This rush-to-war impulse by sectarians and takfiris railroads Qur’anic input; it excludes shura, and it precludes having a pluralistic society. Such Saudi sponsored organizations as “Jundullah”, Fath al-Islam, al-Nusrah, Sepah-e-Sahabah, etc. from North Africa to South Asia do not make room for popular Islamic participation, freedom of thought, social justice, and an equitable distribution of wealth, among other features of an Islamic society.
There is no basis for this in the empowering Qur’an and the enlightening Sunnah.
From early on, understanding of the Qur’an and the Sunnah was subjected to the dynastic interest, the ruling class, and now the national interest of those who grabbed power. The doctrine of al-jabr (predestination) was given an “Islamic” explanation beginning with the Umayyads. This filtered down to a popular will that was defeatist and incapable of breaking out of political chains and military priorities. Muslims became conditioned to tyranny and social abuse. They were told it was their destiny!
On the flip side of this we had Muslims whose rituals were enough to have them enter paradise. Thus began the separation of masjid and state. Never mind about al-amr bi-al-ma‘ruf and al-nahyi ‘an al-munkar, that are Qur’anic principles and Prophetic priorities. Why bother, when al-Jannah is only some takbirat, tahlilat, and tasbihat away. If you stiffen yourself into the habit of salah and rituals you are guaranteed entry level into paradise even though you and your world were teaming with tyranny and the institutionalization of sin. Juxtaposed with this is the officially induced fear that the slightest violation of wudu’ or salah or the adhan or any other ritual will have you wind up in Hell-fire! Lined up to substantiate all this are a dozen hadiths validating your entry into paradise and a dozen hadiths describing your entry into Hell — all these hadiths’ validation and definitions courtesy of the ruling establishment. Reading about Heaven and Hell in the Qur’an makes you realize that they are merited or incurred because of mega-issues — not petty ones.
During the time of the four successors to the Prophet (pbuh), governance did not have an element of malice in it. Human nature was imperfect — as it always is — and some mistakes are subject to correction. Not so during the time of the Umayyads and the ‘Abbasids. Those mistakes were given an air of legitimacy and precedence. The ruling class became the arbiters, the reference, and the know-it-all. Un-conforming persons who were scholars in their own right were marginalized, persecuted or killed. Some scholars with bright minds but lacking courage were used by these ruling families to justify the persecution or assassination of great scholars with courage to speak truth and justice to power and finance. We know that the dose of traditionalism is so concentrated in the minds and hearts of some Muslims, that even to mention some flaws in the time of the four khalifahs becomes an issue of pointing fingers and even takfir! Once again Muslims read the Qur’an but do not think through the Qur’an. The first generation of Muslims has been conferred an aura of unspoken infallibility. It is that first generation within which the Prophet (pbuh) lived about whom this ayah was revealed,
And know that Allah’s Apostle is among you: were he to comply with your inclinations in each and every case, you would be bound to come to harm [as a community] (49:7).
It is after the Prophet (pbuh) passed away that harm began to creep into Islamic society. Take a look at what is called “human rights” just 60 years after the Prophet (pbuh) passed on. Take a look at the punishments and penalties of the dynasties in Islamic societies; take a look at their nepotism and favoritism; take a look at the comeback of tribalism and cultural precedence. It first appeared when Quraysh was raised above al-Ansar. This seeped into different departments of government. The Ansar of Madinah made up, at that time, the bulk of the Sahabah (maybe two-thirds). The harm crept into our officials and like stubborn bacteria could not be dislodged from our body-politic.
The Umayyad clan of rulers was interested in money and concubines. Islamic opposition to them was made a cardinal crime and a strategic sin. They imposed military service to channel opposition energy outward and deflect from their crimes against humanity. The promotion of Islam and the merits of jihad were propaganda instruments that were used by the ruling class to win over people to their side.
To overtake the sectarianism that is being fueled by weapons and wealth today the Muslims here and now will have to demystify their history and get to know their deen. The more we suspect official history the more we elevate our din; and the more we elevate our history the more we suspect our din. Our Islam can no longer be burdened by what most of our unscrupulous scholars infer or rationalize to be a history of ours that is infallible (by commission or by omission — Shi‘is and Sunnis).
Notice that this irrefutable history was concerned with the geography of people who were white and rich. Poor and “black” people were not of any concern to these dynastic elites. When the Umayyads were dispatching their armies they reached southern Europe all the way to Iberia — thousands of miles away and even to China, but Somalia and Djibouti, which were just across from the Arabian Peninsula, did not similarly receive any Muslims for da‘wah purposes in their lands.
Why couldn’t the Islamic ruling class send a boatload of da‘is or even one Islamic figure to the “wretched” East Africans? Islam is for all races — whites and blacks; but our map of futuhaat in that era showed that the Umayyad decision makers were more interested in whites over blacks. This still continues to be the attitude of Arabian officialdom today that ranks whites above dark-skinned people by leaps and bounds. If the criterion of equality as revealed in the Qur’an and as explained by the Prophet (pbuh) was guiding those initial military campaigns we would have seen a more balanced spread of Islam in all directions.
This is a small concern compared with the political dysfunctionality, economic disparity and social discrimination that were located within the ruling class since King Mu‘awiyah won in a war against Imam ‘Ali. Quraysh and Thaqif outdid the social equality and the social justice that are integral to the Qur’an and Sunnah. If current scholars of Islam are unable to take an objective look and to do some selfless research in this area, we will be open to further divisions on the basis of our self-centered interpretation of history — an interpretation that has given our history a halo of sacredness that rivals the sanctity of the impeccable Qur’an and the substantiated Sunnah.
We should reach an age of intellectual maturity when we are able to separate the mistakes of history from the infallibility of the Qur’an and Prophets (Å). The more we are critical of our historical deviations the more impelling our Islam is. Conversely the more we idolize our officials the more we trivialize our Islam,
“Now there has come unto you from Allah a light, and a clear divine writ.” (5:15).