by Zafar Bangash (Reflections, Crescent International Vol. 40, No. 12, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1433)
In his masterpiece, Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali offers the following advice to Muslims: shun those ‘ulama’ that stand as supplicants at the ruler’s door. Instead, seek guidance of those that are visited by the rulers. Imam Ghazali was writing at a time when the rulers were Muslims.
Today, Muslims have fallen to such depths that hundreds of millions are forced to live under non-Muslim rule. This is most strikingly evident in India with almost 200 million Muslims. They often complain that because of the creation of Pakistan, they have to suffer the wrath of the Hindu fascists who blame them for partition. They also argue that absent partition, their numbers would be far higher, hence they would have been much better off in India. This is mere conjecture. What is indisputable is that it is not numbers but rather a lack of bold and sincere leadership that is responsible for the Muslims’ sorry state.
How is it that 15 million Sikhs in India can defend themselves but 200 million Muslims cannot?There is clearly a lack of leadership, especially of the ‘ulama’ in India. Far from standing up for the rights of the oppressed Muslims, these so-called ‘ulama’ berate Muslim youth for being “too militant.” When Muslims are unjustly accused of indulging in terrorist acts, these same ‘ulama’ are quick to condemn them. After suffering years of torture in India’s notorious jails, when the Muslims are exonerated of any wrongdoing by the courts, as was witnessed in the case of Malegaon blasts, these ‘ulama’ remain mum. The least that could be expected of them would be to condemn such acts of barbarism against innocent Muslim youth. Perish the thought.
As far as these ‘ulama’ are concerned, they would rather go to Hindu temples and bow to idols to prove their loyalty to India. They are quick to pounce at every opportunity to visit the Zionist State of Israel. Once there, they reprimand the Palestinians for demanding a state of their own! They do not hesitate even in distorting the message of the Qur’an by claiming that Allah (swt) promised this land to the Jews (nastaghfir-allah). We will refrain from naming these so-called ‘ulama’ for the present but it may become necessary to unmask them in the future.This is the condition of the so-called ‘ulama’ in India.
The situation in the Muslim heartland is even worse. Let us look at the Arabian Peninsula where tribal chiefs have usurped power and co-opted some ‘ulama’ to do their bidding. It is interesting to note that the court ‘ulama’ in Saudi Arabia expressly forbid questioning the legitimacy or authority of the kingdom’s rulers but eagerly urge people to rise up against the ruler in Syria. Why the deference to one set of rulers and opposition to the other? Surely, we are not living in early Islamic history when the Umayyads led by Mu‘awiyah refused to pledge allegiance to Imam ‘Ali (d) that led to so much disruption in Muslim life!
The behavior of such ‘ulama’ is truly distressing. Like the Saudis, the Qataris have also co-opted a number of ‘ulama’ to serve their interests. Some are given a platform on al-Jazeera television turning them into celebrities. They are also given huge mansions to live in with an army of servants at their beck and call. Such comforts can affect and soften up even the most enlightened scholars; this is the reason why struggling members of the Islamic movement characterize the Peninsula as the “graveyard of scholars (maqbarah al-du‘at).”
There is also another phenomenon sweeping the Muslim East: thebuilding of huge cathedral type masjids named after rulers who in their lifetime perhaps never set foot inside one. There is the King Hasan Masjid in Rabat; there are similar masjids in Oman and Abu Dhabi named after rulers. But the Qatari rulers have gone much further: they have constructed a masjid in the name of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab, founder of the Wahhabi parochialism.
While the Qataris have had a long border dispute with Saudi Arabia, in recent years, the two tribal monarchies have been drawn closer together because of Islamic uprisings in the Muslim East. It was in Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab Masjid that one of these ‘ulama’, of Egyptian origins, prayed for the long life of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during a Jumu‘ah Khutbah while urging people to rise up against Bashar al-Asad of Syria.
In the same breath, he condemned the people of Bahrain for rising up against the Khalifa family! Muslims must pay much greater heed to Imam Ghazali’s advice about shunning ‘ulama’ that stand as supplicants in the courts of the rulers. Had Imam Ghazali known that these rulers would also be subservient to the kafirs, he would surely have denounced them in much stronger terms. Is it any wonder that Muslims are suffering so much when their ‘ulama’ serve taghut so eagerly?
Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought