by Perwez Shafi
The unity is one of the most important value not only of Islam but of all other religions as well as of man-made secular ideologies. It is considered as a fundamental building block in human and social relations without which no higher purpose or lofty goal can be achieved. This is recognized and acknowledged by all of humankind.
Imagine a large group of people passing through a city. This group is considered as mob if they have no leadership, every individual and small groups have their own ideas and goals, each acts independently from others, each goes in different direction, and the impact or consequence is largely negative and destructive on the city due to their disorderly behaviour. On the other hand, same group can be a formidable and organized force if having a well defined purpose by a committed leadership, all well trained and equipped to achieve this purpose, all pull their weight in the same direction, any impact or consequence of their effort is generally positive and constructive. Hence it is only unity which turns an unruly mob into a powerful and organized force for beneficial ends which cannot be achieved individually.
And the process of gradually turning a mob into well organized force for useful purposes by eliminating all factors representing chaos and disorder, is considered as integration. In other words, turning various parts gradually into systematic whole is a integration process. Thus both unity as well as integration is necessary as unity deals with an end state, and how to achieve that end state whereby individual parts and their functions gradually lose their distinctiveness is described as integration.
Hence unity and integration are universally accepted as positive values and much sought after while disunity and disintegration or chaos are considered as negative values to be shunned away. In other words, unity is considered as a center of gravity around which the whole system revolves and functions smoothly and purposefully.
Compare to any other religion or secular ideologies, Islam puts much greater emphasis and value on unity. But in nature unity can be exhibited in difference ways: among all species of birds, all parrots have common bodily structure and how it functions. Similarly, all zebras are united as a distinct specie within animal world, with similar size, shape, colours and in their activities. Again if one observed the universe, individual galaxies have a center around which it revolves and functions without interacting with other galaxies and stars.
But all these examples of unity either falls under genetic law or inherently ingrained in the structure, body and its function of the matter. The animal world on earth and below water are restricted to their primordial and inherent structure and functions. They cannot consciously decide to do something collectively which is otherwise impossible to do individually except at the survival level. Hence consciously deciding for a special purpose to perform or undertake collectively and to do so with a freedom of choice is missing or absent. They cannot conceive of higher purpose nor can they exercise freedom of choice because Allah Subhanau t'alla has not granted them those powers. Hence they cannot act otherwise then whats determined by their inherent nature. The concept of unity based on genetic law or inherent structure of matter are not relevant and useful in human social relations.
That's where Allah Subhanau t'alla has made humans as Ashraful Makhluqat because only he has the characteristic of consciously deciding to pull human and material resources to undertake a mission which an individual cannot hope to achieve and to do so by exercising a full freedom of choice. Only human specie possess these unique qualities -- consciously decides to achieve collectively higher or loftier goal and at the same time exercising a full freedom of choice. Therefore, unity have these two components -- collective purpose and freedom of choice.
Other ideologies or societies may emphasize on unity to achieve some material benefits in this world and in the process achieve competitive edge over others. On the contrary, Islam emphasize unity among societies to correct or reorient their direction towards Tauheed -- Unity of Allah. Tauheed conceptually is the central focal point towards which entire universe must redirect and reorient. Hence in all human effort and purpose consideration of alignment with Tauheed is considered a positive, constructive and integrative value.
On the other hand, in all human effort and purpose where consideration of alignment instead of Tauheed is given in any other direction will be considered as shirk and kufr and under the control of Satanic or taghuti powers which by nature is negative, destructive and disintegrative value. The result of these human effort and purpose is chaos, destruction and leads to disintegration.
Thus, in this world there are only two paradigms which operates at individual and social levels. One in which the focus of all human effort, purpose and freedom points towards Tauheed would have a positive and constructive impact on their lives. And where any human effort, purpose and freedom points to any other direction except towards Tauheed would have a negative and destructive impact resulting in chaos and disorder in societies. Therefore, these are Ibleesi values and humans -- individually and as societies -- are prone to fall prey to it if not make a conscious and persistent struggle to avoid it.
Needless to say that Islam not only prefer Tauheedi values of unity and integration but also ask its followers to struggle against elimination of all sources of Ibleesi or taghuti values and its consequences of disunity, chaos and disorder in human society.
In addition, unity is not a static concept in Islam that once achieve can maintain status quo forever. On the contrary, like Iman, it is a dynamic value which can vary with time depending upon the existence or non-existence of various factors. All human and social struggle if conducted within the Tauheedi paradigm would lead to greater and higher levels of unity and bonding with society. This would indicate greater unity of purpose, higher levels of training and coordination, consciously Tauheedi direction is generally set by the committed leadership by exercising full freedom of choice given to human beings. Thus, a nation instead of acting like a mob acts as disciplined and well organized social force to achieve higher and loftier goals. In this case unity is not a mechanical act or achieved only for a short time to achieve worldly advantages rather by nature it is a default position.
When individual and collective thought and action becomes such that it start sliding from Tauheedi paradigm and eventually enters the Ibleesi or taghuti paradigm unit, if achieved, is for a short time, for material benefits or advantage, but dominated by greed, individual and social chaos, disintegration of values and human life, destruction of spirituality within humanity reaching below the level of animals.
Thus, study of human societies becomes an interesting subject in which against an historical evolutionary landscape, certain societies rise in power, prestige and leadership role for rest of humanity due to existence of certain positive qualities and values within them and due to absence or rather minimally present negative and chaotic values, while other societies falls for the same reasons. Thus, unity in Tauheedi paradigm provides a fundamental building block upon which societies rise while its lack of it keep them at a lower level.
Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) after initial struggle at Mecca and then at Medina transformed a jahili society directly into an Islamic society and also instead of tribal, ethnic or nationalistic state set up an Islamic state.
But soon after his demise, the unity of Ummah started unraveling due to sliding back from Tauheedi worldview or paradigm. Conscious unity of purpose through freedom of choice was replaced with emphasis unity of state where it was transformed into a kingship and later on as heredity kingship -- a form of kufr. The kind, humanistic and just Islamic state was turned into brutal and authoritarian kingship where whatever the king said became the law. Hence ijtehad gradually came to an end while shura or parliament became irrelevant and justice against exploitative and ruling elite became extinct.
Against this chaotic situation and disintegration and a slide from Tauheedi paradigm to Ibleesi paradigm, unity of the Ummah disappeared. Law and order deteriorated while the society was held hostage by the ruling elite and kings leading to fear, disunity and chaos. Against this deviation from the Tauheedi paradigm number of ulema from all schools of thoughts stood up, resisted the onslaught of chaos, disintegration and dictatorship. Most prominent among them was Imam Hussain whose sacrifice of his own and family lives set the revolutionary principle for later generations to emulate was that the power of sword cannot overcome or subdue the truth, justice and blood. However, since the deviation had not only penetrated ideologically but also actively practiced, it made the Ummah disunited, sick and lethargic.
While Ummah was at its lowest level, the West was rising and progressing. It acquired scientific knowledge through curiosity, wage persistent struggle against both religious hierarchy and authoritarian heredity kingship. Both wanted to exploit the masses to keep their privileged position. Hence after thousand years of oppression and persecution, the western masses revolted against both the religious hierarchy and authoritarian heredity kingship. Under the attractive slogans for democracy, freedom and human rights the western society went to the other extreme and started denying the existence of God. By the 20th century, this notion became a creed in western society and they more or less became atheist. While materially and scientifically they progress and developed technological wonders, while spiritually they fell to lowest level. While they had unity of purpose for materially and scientifically, while they became spiritually empty from within leading to nihilistic ideologies and attitudes leading to self-destruction.
While on the path of spiritual emptiness and self-destruction, they colonized almost the entire Muslim world due to their superior scientific, administrative and military practices and equipment. The illiterate and backward Muslim world were in awe of the western material progress and developed an inferiority complex so intense that even after so-called independence they have unable to shed that complex.
Starting from mid-19th century and throughout 20th century, Muslim began to wake up and launched number of movements to throw the colonial yoke. But unfortunately the Muslims also internalized the western negative values which may be a panacea to a perpetually warring nations but had a destructive impact on Ummah.
At global political level, with religious, social and economic unity of the Ummah in tatters, the last blow to political unity of Ummah was dealt when the symbolic ideological, political and military center of the Muslim world -- the Uthmania Khilafat in Istanbul -- was abolished by the colonial powers. The Muslim world was divided into small parcels of land according to the interests of the occupying colonial powers.
The struggle for independence took the form of nationalistic struggle rather than Islamic struggle due to domination of western ideology. The Ummah was further divided based on nations, ethnicity, tribalism -- all various forms of kufr. Instead of performing the difficult task of converting Muslim societies into an Islamic societies -- the integration process, they were divided into westernized and non-westernized sections. The ideological and political solution the west provided for granting 'independence' was limited to nationalistic liberation to be negotiated at the conference tables. In this unequal power relationship the west would chose and groom Muslim leaders, promote certain parties who plays according to their rules, give anyone privileged position who perpetuated their subservience. The venue, agenda and the outcome of any negotiations were carefully controlled by the west. But in general three basic principles were at the core of western ideology: first, the divide and rule; second, acceptance and subservience to western ideological and political system and dependence on them was amply rewarded; and finally, control of Muslim resources and integration of their economies with the west through global institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Westernized Muslim elite protected the western interests hence naturally the west promoted them into power after so-called independence who keep on protecting their interest upto now. Instead of setting up Islamic states they were only able to set up Muslim nation-states well integrated into a western world order. While the western capitals control the westernized elites of the Muslim world, the World Bank and the IMF controlled and run their economies. The overall lopside power inequalities, the 60 or so Muslim countries were forced to export raw material at low and fluctuating price while imported high-priced manufactured goods with gradually ascending prices. There was close unity between elites of Muslim and western countries while the masses were severely restricted through passport, ID checks, border check posts and national boundaries which were crossed only when the permission is given. Alien education system was imposed on the masses to keep them align with the west and ignorant about its own glorious roots.
In these circumstances the ulema at best confined to their seminaries as refuge and restricted their usefulness to the society to fiqhi problems and at worst they also sought narrow and material interest for self-preservation. But in general they also operated within non-Tauheedi paradigm comfortably set up by the departing colonial powers for their secular counterpart -- Muslim ruling elite. Instead of preparing Muslims through their thought and action and unity for real independence, the ulema like their secular counterpart also declared the kufr system of nation-state to be an Islamic state. This also saved them from making any real and popular effort to reject the illegitimate nation-state system and come up with an alternatives. Thus the ulema also abdicated their real responsibilities and leadership of the society while content and limited themselves to minor fiqhi issues within the kufr system of nation-states. They in general have yet to realize this contradiction much less to struggle out of it.
At global political level, United Nations provided sop for the Muslims against injustices, oppression and persecution in every part of the world. In almost every country the colonial empires sew the seed of divisions within religious unity by encouraging sectarian movements and divisions. Few even challenged the basic tenets of Islam and act as western agents but they were eventually declared as non-Muslims like Qadianis in India and Pakistan and Bahais in Iran.
Against this background, sixty or so odd Muslim nation-states existed in the second half of the 20th century under the domination and control of the west. Secular Muslim ruling elite protected western interest and values while the masses were still dreaming of united Ummah with one political centre. Despite a decline of centuries and two hundred of colonial occupation the idea of one united Ummah remained ingrained in the ordinary Muslim psyche.
There are two ways achieve functionally united Ummah. The first is mechanical unity which is a top-down approach, Govt.-centered, bureaucratic and nationalistic. According to mechanical unity approach all the governments of the Muslim nation-states mutually decide to merge into each other to form a new federal state with one government and a capital. As a result individual nation-states lose their separate identity.
But this approach ignored the existing reality and history of individual nation-states. Not all nation-states may want to join the super nation-state. All are at different stages in their evolution, thinking and approach towards Islam. But the biggest obstacle in the path of integration are the Muslim political elite who off course at the behest of their western masters would not dare to even think about this idea. Beside the super federal state which comes into being would still be nation-state albeit with a much larger size. The requirement of ideological conversion and commitment needed for Islam would be missing except for paying lip service like today. In addition, due to large size, uneven economic and political development is each areas, and huge bureaucracy would be severely prone to outside interference and destabilization. Hence the danger of breakup would be lurking pretty close.
Although approach to mechanical unity is not practical, top-down, government-centered, bureaucratic and nationalistic in its outlook but its appeal is in its simplicity that all 'independent' Muslim nation-states could easily merge into one.
The second approach is organic unity which is a bottom-up, mass-centered, and popular in its outlook. Here it is already taken for granted that Muslim governments and nation-states are averse to unity and integration thus they are ignored. Instead joining bureaucratically and administratively, masses should take the initiative and become one like a gathering in the Hajj. Once the unity is achieve to atleast some degree it would exert popular pressure on the governments and states. Unity at masses level may even let lose more liberation struggles.
This organic approach may sound good but it has certain problems which are difficult to overcome. For instance, masses cannot act alone with the benefit and guidance of popular leadership who can make independent decisions. The leadership of ulema is even more difficult to be available given their narrow and sectarian worldview and sponsorship from salafi school of thought. Without proper, committed and visionary leadership including of ulema is next to impossible to have. The other problem might be suppression of popular movement with the help of the west who branded it as a terrorism.
Thus the Ummah is at a critical stage where both these approaches -- mechanical and organic -- have serious defects and deficiencies which are difficult to overcome if not impossible. But the Muslim could not yet conceive of a third approach -- an Islamic Revolution -- where major defects and deficiencies can be overcome at least in one nation-state and convert that small geographical area into an Islamic state. This strong revolutionary center would radiate outwards and supports local revolutionary movements in other areas.
The third approach was not only difficult to conceive but unheard off in the entire history of Islam except the Islamic Revolution caused by Prophet Muhammad in the 6th century. Iran became the pioneer of this approach by removing all internal divisions and contradictions and pooling all its resources.
Islamic Revolution of Iran was a divine blessing because for it occur all the inner and outer contradictions were resolved, prerequisite conditions were satisfied, and able to liberate from the US -- the external hegemonic superpower. More than hundred year of ulema struggle to limit imperial power of Shah, or overthrow if possible, unite, galvanized and reformed the society into an Islamic one, provided leadership for the revolution, and successfully challenged the US -- the real power behind the Shah's regime. The ulema provided the revolutionary Islamic ideology to successfully challenged the Kufr world order until it is completely destroyed.
For the first time in almost thirteen hundred of Muslim history the 1979 Islamic Revolution emerged as an epicenter and a model of revolutionary activity which will guide rest of the Muslims in the foreseeable future. It also provided an alternate to traditional and orthodox thinking on the subject of social change. The Islamic State came into existence through this Islamic Revolution also replaced from the Muslim psyche the global political center missing since the destruction of Uthmania Khalifate.
The Islamic Revolution and later the Islamic state was guided under the able leadership of Imam Khumeini. His approach to internal and external unity among Muslim of the world was pretty simple and based on four points.
First, the Imam reminded Muslims about their glorious past and to restore connections with its roots; to remind them how Muslims were chosen for the leadership role to guide the world; what was the caliber and taqwa of the Prophet Muhammad and later his companions and Ahle-Bait; and how this leadership was taken away from them and why the politico-military power was slipped away from them. In short, he reminded Muslims of their historic responsibility and power they had and threw light on the causes of their decline.
Second, he considered an important Islamic duty for all Muslims to resist the colonial powers and their local agents. The political, economic and social policies and exploitation of the US and the west in general are to be resisted at all cost. In fact, he directly linked control of any country by western powers to its lack of unity. In order to create unity among Muslims he considered it necessary to stop all their interference in Muslim societies and only this path will connect them to their glorious past.
Imam Khumeini stated: There is only one way to restore the lost glorious Islam that people should follow the principles of Islam and this is possible when Muslims will liberate themselves from the clutches of the oppressors. They will elect sincere and able officials in their government who will run the state on Islamic principles. Then Israel and the agents of big powers will never survive.
Third, on the international level he sought cooperation among all Muslim nation-states, for common problems and their solution, pooling resources and sharing their benefits. He did not made cooperation dependent on first having a pure Islamic state. He hoped to influence others through his reasonable position to share the resources for the benefit of all Muslims.
And fourth, to achieve further unity at religious and social level to reduce as much as possible contradictory positions of various schools of thought and in faqhi areas. In other words, these were secondary differences which could be resolved by discussing and performing ijtehad among alims. At a common level listen and tolerate other's positions while not leaving your own.
The Muslim had a glorious past when with Islam they set up a highest form of civilization. They were pioneers in politics, administration, justice, business and economy, and their curiosity led to biggest scientific and technological discoveries of the time while they saved the knowledge of ancient times from becoming extinct.
But then the decline of Muslim power and institutions started basically for not being united, power was grabbed by the corrupt elite from the sincere and muttaqi leadership and turned an Islamic state into an hereditary kingship -- a form of kufr. The door of ijtehad were closed particularly in the Sunni world and rule of law became subservient to kings. Leadership corruption lead to social disunity and disharmony hence the Islamic societies became dysfunctional and disbalanced.
The continued decline led to loss of all power, oppression and persecution by colonial powers who emerged from their dark ages. They occupied Muslim lands and their intrigues and machination destroyed the basic fabric of Muslim society. The elimination of last symbol of Muslim political power -- the Uthmania Khalifate -- further disoriented the Muslims.
Since Second World War, sixty odd Muslim nation-states emerged from political decolonization. But they tied and integrated in the western world order. Hence Muslim could not benefit from their own resources and were not sovereign in selecting their rulers.
The only hope towards unity among Ummah once again had always entrenched in the Muslim psyche. But they were unable to go beyond mechanical or organic unity for which they neither had prerequisites and enough power to overcome the western colonial threshold. Thus the Muslims were humiliated and utterly hopeless.
Finally the ray of hope emerged in the form of Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. The Revolution not only successfully challenged the US through unity of thought and purpose. The able and muttaqi leadership under Imam Khumeini conceived for the first time a revolutionary method of struggle and guided people and societies. This method of liberation had not been conceived by the Muslims. Thus the Islamic Revolution became the epicenter and political center through which revolutionary energy radiates outwards.
After establishing its control over Iran, the process of unity and integration started among rest of the Ummah. Now either Muslim countries can undergo their own home grown Islamic Revolutions and also they can associate with the Iran as an epicenter of revolutionary activity and draw strength from its maturity.