The importance of maintaining Islamic values in political activism

Developing Just Leadership

Fahad Ansari

Safar 11, 1428 2007-03-01

Islamic Movement

by Fahad Ansari (Islamic Movement, Crescent International Vol. 36, No. 1, Safar, 1428)

Say: “Shall we not inform you regarding the greatest losers concerning their deeds? [They are] those whose efforts have been wasted in this life, while they thought that they were acquiring good by their works.” (al-Qur’an, 18:103-104)

Last month witnessed the continuing Zionist onslaught against the Palestinian people, and more specifically against the precincts of Masjid al-Aqsa. According to the Israelis, they were carrying out repair works to the walkway leading to the Moroccan Gate of the al-Aqsa sanctuary. When news emerged that they were also carrying out excavation work beneath the walkway, Muslims around the world erupted in protest.

Despite Israeli reassurances that there is no ulterior motive, and token gestures such as setting up a live camera to record every second of the excavations, Muslims around the world remain deeply suspicious, and with good reason. Since the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem in 1967, there has been a relentless series of plots against Masjid al-Aqsa: arson attacks,attempted bombings, repeated attacks on the sanctuary by Israeli troops firing teargas and live machine-guns. Excavation work by Israeli authorities beneath the sanctuary has been taking place for almost 40 years, causing many to suspect that these are part of a greater plan to destabilize the foundations of Masjid al-Aqsa, in preparation for the Zionist plan to build their Temple. Indeed, one need only remember the words of David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, to be sure of the zionists’ real intentions: “Israel is meaningless without al-Quds and al-Quds is meaningless without the Temple”, he said.

In light of this historic enmity towards al-Aqsa, Muslims everywhere became enraged at this latest attack on the integrity of the masjid. In Britain too, calls were made to attend a vigil outside Downing Street to condemn Britain’s shameful silence in the matter and to display our love for al-Aqsa. I normally leave vigils, protests and demonstrations on a spiritual high,iman rushing through my veins. Some may argue that they are very limited in their effectiveness but even then, knowing that lots of people made a conscious decision to leave what they were doing and come together to speak out against injustice, is enough to confirm to me that the pulses of the Ummah are still beating. Yet after leaving this particular vigil I could not help but feel disheartened and saddened, with a bitter feeling of doom creeping into my heart.

Although the numbers were low (only about 100 out of a possible 1.6 million Muslims turned out), far more disturbing was the attitude of several of the Muslims who did attend. As the vigil went on and the skies grew darker, a concerned brother approached us and reminded us that it was time for the maghrib prayer. Bearing in mind that the protestors were almost exclusively Muslim, it wasn’t entirely unreasonable to expect an announcement of sorts that it was time to pray, that adhaan would be made and the salah would be performed. When no such thing was forthcoming, we began to approach brothers to remind them of the prayer. The responses we received left me reeling. With the exception of a handful of people who were genuinely grateful for the reminder, the majority of the demonstrators shunned us. Many said they would pray later when they went home, others complained that the ground was wet, others remained embarrassingly silent, and some even seemed annoyed at these party-poopers coming to ruin their fun. Most troubling for me was the argument that it would “look bad for Islam” were we to pray together inside our pen outside Downing Street. Instead, they continued to repeatedly chant “bi ruh, bi dum nafdeeq li ya Aqsa” (with our souls and our blood, we will sacrifice ourselves for Aqsa) before bursting into childish giggles.

The first qibla, the second masjid built on earth, and the third holiest place in the world is being destroyed, and everyone present knew it, but they were so terrified of offending the British public that they were oblivious to their duty to our Creator. Ibn-Rajab said, “If one realises that every creature walking on earth is from dust, how can he give priority in obedience to someone who is from dust to the Lord of lords? Or how can he please the dust and anger the Owner and the Bestower? This is something strange.”

How can we expect Allah (swt) to bestow His Mercy upon us when we willfully disobey His fundamental commands while believing we are engaged in doing good deeds? Muslims came to protest the attempted destruction of the third holiest mosque in the world, yet refused to pray at the appointed time for whatever reason. The irony of it is all too clear.

How can we expect Allah (swt) to bestow His Mercy upon us when we willfully disobey His fundamental commands while believing we are engaged in doing good deeds? Muslims came to protest the attempted destruction of the third holiest mosque in the world, yet refused to pray at the appointed time for whatever reason. The irony of it is all too clear.

This touches at a deeper malady within the Ummah at the moment, with “active” Muslims being those most likely to be affected by it. It is an illness which is one of the largest causes of our pitiful state today, something which if left unresolved will destroy us like a lethal cancer. In a nutshell, what I am referring to is a lack of real trust in Allah and an arrogance that we can emerge victorious without His help and assistance. I say all this first and foremost as a reminder to myself, because Allah knows best how I regularly fall into this devious plot of Shaytan.

Recent events around the Muslim world have politicised the Muslims today to unprecedented levels. A global Islamic awakening and revival is under way in which Muslims are being compelled to take definite positions. It is no longer possible to sit on the fence, remain neutral and keep one’s head in the sand. Without a shadow of doubt, the international focus on Islam and Muslims has played a substantial role in engendering this revival.

But while all this seems to appear positive and encouraging, on closer inspection we find that we may actually be on a cursed path to failure. Most worrying is that we are racing down it with our eyes tight shut. In our haste to politicise ourselves and struggle for Muslim rights, we have forgotten that our primary goal in this life is supposed to be gaining the pleasure and acceptance (ridwan) of Allah (swt). Adopting Machiavellian concepts such as “the end justifies the means” (for instance), we have forgotten about the akhirah. Demonstrations, electioneering, lobbying are only a means to gaining Allah’s pleasure but we have made them an end in themselves. What benefit will it be to us that we may manage to vote out a sitting MP if, in the process, we earn the wrath of our Creator? Of what benefit will our alliances with atheist groups and coalitions be if, in our efforts to achieve and maintain them, we compromise our deen and lose favour with the Most Supreme?

Abandoning the prayer so as not to offend disbelievers, frequenting bars in order to network and attend meetings, leaving the Qur’an to engross ourselves with political science, abandoning the prayer to spend more time leafleting: the list of betrayals goes on and on until the question arises of whether anything remains to separate us from the atheist anti-war movement. The soul, the spirit, the intention behind our actions has dissipated so that, while Allah has made us “the best of people” (al-Qur’an 3:110) we have become no more than a pathetic extension of the secular left.

We must always remind ourselves that victory is with Allah and is promised to the Ummah if we are truly believers (al-Qur’an 3: 139). When we see the oppression against Muslims escalating every day with victory not forthcoming, we must ask ourselves “are we truly believers?” It is only our straying from Allah’s commands that is delaying this victory. When Umarbin al-Khattab (ra) despatched the army of Sa’ad bin Abi-Waqqas (ra) to the Battle of al-Qadisiyyah, he advised him: “Fear your sins more than you fear the enemy, because your sins are more dangerous to you than your enemy. We Muslims are only victorious over our enemy because their sins outnumber ours, not for any other reason. If our sins were equal to those of our enemy, then they would defeat us due to their superior numbers and resources.” It is clear that the more we obey Allah, the more we hasten His victory; the more we disobey Allah the more we delay this victory.

Unfortunately, a problem with many Muslims today is their inability to strike a balance. Either they are too politicised, abandoning the spiritual side of the deen, or they focus solely on the inward actions and development of the self, without externalising it for the benefit of humanity.

This is not to say that we must forsake the very important political work we are doing. On the contrary, it is obligatory on us to continue it, but we must recheck our framework of reference. We need to remind ourselves of our aims, our objectives and our ultimate goal, and continue our work with these kept clearly in mind. At the same time we need to gain a steady balance. Unfortunately, a problem with many Muslims today is their inability to strike a balance. Either they are too politicised, abandoning the spiritual side of the deen, or they focus solely on the inward actions and development of the self, without externalising it for the benefit of humanity.

Hollow slogans and chants will not free al-Aqsa nor improve our plight; nor will spirituality without action. What is needed is a return to the ways of those people who were warriors by day and monks by night: the Companions (ra) of the Prophet (saw). The various revivalists the Ummah has produced over the centuries all had this hallmark of mixing spirituality and emotional strength with their struggle, for they knew that without it they could only fail, both in this world and in the Hereafter. We need to study the lives of people like Imam Ahmad ibnHanbal, Salahudeen Ayyubi, Ibn-Taymiyyah, Imam Shamil, Hassan al-Banna, Umar Mukhtar, Shaikh Ahmad Yassin and their like. If we do not, and thus carry on down the path we are on now, we are in danger of not only losing Masjid al-Aqsa but of becoming those whom Allah calls “the greatest losers”.

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