by Zafar Bangash (Reflections, Crescent International Vol. 33, No. 9, Ramadan, 1425)
The world of Islam has witnessed great changes over the last two decades. From the Islamic Revolution in Iran to the victories of the mujahideen in Afghanistan and the Hizbullah over the zionist invaders of Lebanon, the Islamic movement has achieved significant victories against its enemies. Yet there have also been setbacks; the most obvious, that such victories have not been repeated in other places. The performances and experiences of Islamic movements must be analyzed critically and appropriate lessons drawn from them. In particular, we must ask ourselves why the Islamic movement has failed to establish more Islamic states.
True, Muslims have had to face many attacks, including both the vicious repression of movements and activists, and massive propaganda campaigns that have created confusion even among committed Muslims, but these are challenges that must be faced and overcome. Even the noble Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, faced enormous challenges throughout his Prophetic mission; although his divine mission was supported by courageous and self-sacrificing companions, there were both victories and setbacks. There was, however, always clarity of purpose in his life's struggle. Shura (consultation) was a constant element in virtually all decision-making. Differences of opinion were never suppressed; if the Companions were not convinced of what the Prophet said, they would ask whether what he said was a Divine command. If not, they would press their own points of view.
Today minor fiqhi differences among Muslims are deliberately projected as irreconcilable differences in order to keep us divided and distracted by internal squabbles. That parts of the global Islamic movement have fallen for the machinations of the enemies of Islam, and pushed into the narrow alley of sectarianism, has had disastrous consequences for the Ummah. The noble Messenger of Allah, upon whom be peace, said that “differences of opinion [within the bounds of respect] within my Ummah are a sign of rahmah (mercy)”. We must not let them continue to be a source of conflict, weakness and failure.
Equally serious is the fact that most Muslim rulers have joined enemies against fellow Muslims. In the past, such treachery was perpetrated surreptitiously; today it is done openly. General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, Husni Mubarak of Egypt and king Abdullah of Jordan are but a few of the many who have usurped power over our lands and societies, and use it to do the US's bidding. They torture and kill their own people in the name of “fighting terrorism”, and some even flaunt their secularism under the guise of “enlightened moderation”. But such moderation does not apply to Muslims and Islamic movements; it extends only to tolerating the crimes perpetrated by the US and its allies against Muslims. During the period of the erstwhile Soviet Union, these rulers were busy waging “jihad against Godless communism” on behalf of the US; now they have joined the US's crusade against Islam. According to the Qur'an, because of their behaviour they were munafiqs (hypocrites) in the past; today they have fallen into kufr by accepting the kuffar as their protectors. The Qur'an tells us that even from among the People of the Book, those who accept some Prophets and reject others are kafirs (Al-Qur'an: 4:150-151).
The Islamic movement must work hard to identify the reasons for its failures, and develop strategies to overcome them. Despite great odds, Muslims have achieved great successes on the battlefield; it has been in the political arena that they have suffered the greatest failures. The forms that these failures have taken have been many and varied. Some movements have turned themselves into political parties and have been co-opted into the dominant jahili systems in Muslim societies; the Jama‘at-e Islami in Pakistan and the Ikhwan al-Muslimoon in Egypt are prime examples. The temptation to get involved in secular politics is great but must be resisted, for it has only ever strengthened the enemies of Islam, rather than producing positive results for Islamic movements.
What Muslims must understand is that there are no quick-fix solutions to the challenges of history. Islam requires hard work and a great deal of patience; this is what we learn from the Sunnah and Seerah of the Prophet (saw). Joining the jahili system to implement Islam has never worked: the Prophet refused the inducements of the Quraish chiefs in Makkah, by which they hoped to dilute the message of Islam by making it a part of the existing power structure. How, then, can Muslims act contrary to the Sunnah and hope for success?