The Process of Transforming the Muslim World’s Jahili Societies

Developing Just Leadership

Zafar Bangash

Ramadan 19, 1442 2021-05-01


by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 3, Ramadan, 1442)

That the socio-economic and political order in the Muslim world needs change is not in doubt. What is important to understand is that the drive for change can only be directed by a clear understanding of the dynamics of change. States, organisations, cultures, movements and even civilisations that are most successful are those that manage, direct, guide, influence, anticipate and control the forces of change.

In much of the Muslim world, change is imposed from outside. Barring minor exceptions, Muslims have little or no input in the change imposed on their societies. This clearly works to the detriment of the vast majority of Muslims.

Most states, especially those with pretensions to great power status, try to project even routine activities as part of profound change. Further, they indulge in aggressive behaviour to demonstrate that they are in control of events and can bring about change that is to their advantage. The behaviour of regimes in the US, Zionist Israel, Britain, France and others in Europe provides ample proof of such conduct.

America, the self-proclaimed superpower, insists that its relations with other states, especially China and Russia, will be based on the “rule-based order”. But the rules it talks about are what suits the interests of the US and its allies at any given time.

In recent weeks, the new regime in Washington has declared China as the “greatest challenge” it faces this century. Some US military officials have even threatened war, including the use of nuclear weapons. New military alliances (the Quad, for instance) are being cobbled to “contain” China’s growing economic and military power.

China is not the only country targeted both militarily and through propaganda. American hostility to Islamic Iran borders on the scandalous as is evident in its repudiation of the multilateral nuclear agreement signed with Iran in July 2015. It was endorsed by the UN Security Council through resolution 2231. Further, the US has imposed more than 1600 new sanctions on Iran.

Tehran accepted stringent restrictions on its nuclear program and even allowed intrusive snap inspections of its facilities, far exceeding any other country, in return for sanctions removal. The new US regime led by Joe Biden, while saying it was a mistake to walk out of the deal, insists that Iran must return to full compliance before Washington would consider its next steps!

American officials also allege, quite falsely, that Iran may be 12 months or less away from making a bomb. This false allegation has been leveled at Tehran since 1996 despite the fact that Iran’s leader, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa (religious edict) banning the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Examples of America’s hypocrisy abound. Washington insists that North Korea must give up nuclear weapons but there is not even a hint that the Zionist occupiers of occupied Palestine do the same. Instead, it is lavished with billions of dollars in aid. The US itself has not fulfilled any of its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

So, the US’ ‘rule-based order’ is whatever Washington says is the rule at the time. Not surprisingly, those at the receiving end of US aggression find this unacceptable.

Let us, however, return to the Muslim world and its travails. With the sole exception of Islamic Iran, not a single Muslim country can be considered independent, regardless of their national flags or anthems. They are all subservient, to varying degrees, to the US and European powers. Most Muslim rulers serve at pleasure of the West.

So, the question Muslims must ask is: what is the way out of this dilemma? It will certainly not come about by following the same failed policies that have led to the current sad state in the first place. The Muslims’ primary sources of guidance are the noble Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah (deeds and actions) and Seerah (life-history). Seeking guidance from sources outside Islam or relying on institutions created by the enemies of Islam will not lead Muslims out of their sorry predicament.

No Muslim—or, anyone that claims to follow Islam—denies the primacy of the Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah and Seerah. This, however, is not followed in practice. Almost all Muslim societies are governed by systems bequeathed by their colonial masters. In the Arab world, a crude form of tribalism is imposed. There is no codified law; the whim of the ruler or his henchmen passes for law.

It needs emphasizing, although this is not what the illegitimate rulers in Muslim countries like to hear, that Islam has the capacity to develop, order, organise and direct change. This is why Islam insists that all Muslims living at any given time, must bring the prevailing historical situation under their control. Also, contrary to current practice, Islam demands that the world’s natural resources—oil, natural gas, minerals etc—should be used to benefit all mankind. They cannot be arrogated for the personal use of rulers or their hangers-on.

The noble Qur’an uses the word “sakharra”, meaning utilization, of natural resources (Qur’an 43:13). This stands in the stark contrast to the Western practice of “exploitation” of natural resources. Pillage of other societies and degradation of the environment are the direct results of this policy that has spawned a lifestyle of rapacious extravagance and consumption.

In order to transform our societies, Muslims need to develop a much greater engagement with and understanding of the noble Qur’an than is currently the case. Today, the vast majority of Muslims are non-Arabic speaking. That, however, should not act as a deterrent. Many non-Arabic speaking Muslims have learnt the language of the Qur’an. This is commendable.

For others, there are translations available in many different languages. We in the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT) have just completed an English translation by Imam Muhammad al Asi. This will be available shortly. We urge readers to pre-order copies (US$45/copy). We are confident that this new contemporary translation, beautifully bound in leather, will greatly enrich the Muslims’ understanding of the noble Qur’an.

Together with the divine Book, the Seerah (life) of the Prophet (pbuh) and his Sunnah (practice, example), are the basic models that exemplify Islam’s method of historical transformation. Most Muslims have an anecdotal understanding of the Seerah. It is necessary to grasp the Seerah as a process of total transformation.

The Prophet (pbuh) began with a handful of followers in Makkah. They were subjected to immense persecution yet they did not lose hope.

Despite such difficulties, the Prophet (pbuh) was clear about what he wanted to achieve: a base of operations. His visit to Taif just before the Isra wal Mi‘raj was a quest for a territorial base. Allah had other plans for His beloved Prophet. Taif was barely 40 km from Makkah and would have been an easy target for the Makkan mushriks. They would have attacked and perhaps destroyed it at the first opportunity.

This is not mere speculation. Even when the Prophet (pbuh) migrated to Madinah some 300 km away, the Makkan mushriks attacked them resulting in what is referred to as the Battle of Badr. Led by the Prophet (pbuh), it was their absolute faith in Allah, their steely determination and the righteousness of their cause that Allah granted them victory. This is Allah’s promise to His faithful servants (47:07). Numbers or weapons have little to do with the outcome of a struggle.

Badr, however, did not occur in a vacuum. There was a long process of struggle and transformation that led to the most spectacular victory in early Islamic history, perhaps the greatest victory in all Islamic history. Organized effort imbued with discipline were the building blocks of this effort that led to the establishment of the first Islamic State in Madinah. This clearly required the development of a versatile political process of great complexity and effectiveness. This process as a whole may be called the hikmah (wisdom) of the Prophet.

The Prophet’s hikmah included his spiritual, intellectual and physical qualities that are an integral part of his Sunnah and Seerah. The situation facing Muslims today demands that muttaqi scholars turn their attention to the formulation of the underlying principles and structural forms of the Prophet’s hikmah. The descriptive aspect of the Seerah must now be transformed into an analytical process to derive lessons for the transformation of deeply flawed Muslim societies.

The Prophet (pbuh) transformed the jahili society of Arabia in the short period of 23years. Today, Muslims have once again fallen into a state of jahiliyya, perhaps worse. True, those that benefit from this Jahili system would resist change but this has been the case since the dawn of history.

To transform Muslim societies to assume their divinely-ordained mission, two steps are essential: a far better understanding of the noble Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah and Seerah. The month of Ramadan offers a great opportunity to embark on this noble mission in earnest.

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