Avoiding Asabiyah's comeback

Developing Just Leadership

Muhammad H. al-'Asi

Ramadan 03, 1434 2013-07-12

Bismillah Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem. Alhumdulillah. Peace and blessings on Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wa alihi ws sallam), his Noble Companions and Family. Dear Committed brothers, dear committed sisters,

This is the first Jum’ah in the month of Ramadhan and it has been our method to try to bring the meanings of Ramadhan into the conscience area in our lives. This Ramadhan we will part with that method simply because there’s an issue of life and death, there’s an issue of conflict and wars, there's an issue of tension and misunderstanding that has set in that is disturbing societies and countries in the Islamic hemisphere of the world. So we will continue to cover this area that has become an area of argumentation and then an area of alienation and then of tension among the Muslims. We will try to continue where we left off bearing in mind the ayah of consolidation and togetherness in Surah Aal Imran in which the Creator says

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ تُقَاتِهِ وَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا ۚ وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ

Oh you who are securely committed to Allah guard against Allah as is due to Him in the full measurement of this guard and do not die except in a state of submission to Him. And hold firm to Allah's binding matter all of you- no exceptions- and be not divided; and bare in mind Allah's provision, favour and privilege upon you when you (who are now Committed Muslims), were once enemies of each other and then He reconciled your hearts and familiarized and acquainted you with each other and then, due to this provision, favour and privilege you became brethren of each other; you were on the edge of a pit of fire and Allah saved you from it; it is with this is mind and with understanding these dynamics and factors that Allah is going to guide us. (Surah Aal Imran verse 102-103)

Until the end of these ayaat which we covered before in which you were in previous khutbahs and on your own privy to its meanings. The last time around we said there were three major political trends after the Prophet passed on- three political directions, viz. the Ansar, the Muhajirun and there was the Hashimiyun (radi Allahu anhum). They may be referred to in different ways or in different words but these are basically the three political ideas that were around at that time. We explained how Al Ansar presented themselves at Saqifah when a decision had to be made as to who is now going to become the leader of the Muslims and we’ll try to do this a little more in the future to fill in may be some of these gaps that result from the lack of pertinent information. And there was the Hashimi or the Alawi explanation of who shall be the leader when all is said and done. We should repeat here in these political orientations there is an element of asabiyah. We don't know what the exact word would be- we've been giving it a thought back and forth we've explained the word asabiyah as clannishness. It's a form of tribalism, it's an expression of social power around a particular ethnicity or race or nation- anything that can be more or less exclusive of the other. When you have that element you’re excluding others because they’re not part of you- that’s when you detect al asabiyah. Another way of expressing al asabiyah is it is the social ego- that's the problem that these Muslims had to deal with; there’s a social ego out there belonging to a certain group of people and a social ego belonging to another group of people or a communal ego or a tribal ego. We know an ego in the self is a problem but when it becomes scattered into a large number of people it hides itself because you can no longer attribute it to a particular individual (i.e.) “look that individual has an ego.” Now it’s dispersed, it’s harder to deal with. We said that we sensed this asabiyah in Al Ansar, we sensed this asabiyah in the Muhajirin but it wasn't the asabiyah that was divisive. It was an asabiyah that was meant to be inclusive, (in somewhat of a contradiction of its own definition). Then in the camp of Al Imam Ali (radi Allahu anhu wa alayhi as salaam) we found that because those who identified with him came from different asabiyah backgrounds they were the ones who stood out without an asabiyah. Then what happened months after the bai'ah in the saqifah that we spoke about, (that is very well known in the Islamic history books), Fatima (alayha as salaam), the Prophet's daughter passes away. This had, among other things, a political meaning because people’s love for the Prophet of Allah extended to an expression of love to his daughter and that extended to Ali but when she passed away that affection that some people had for the Prophet's daughter was recalled from Ali. This is one of these areas that not many people factor in when they speak about this time period. The Ansar in the saqifah expressed some type of asabiyah when they did not publically acknowledge the virtues of the Muhajirin. We stated their position. We identified their strong points in their position but one of the weak points that comes is because they were unable to place their credibility or their merit on one side and the merit of the Muhajirin on the other side- that would have been the objective thing to do because all of them are in this together “so let's see how we come out” as opposed to how they come out. This wasn't done. There was a give and take and we covered that area there but the omission of this indicates that there's some type of asabiyah at work- not a distractive one because as we said it was submerged. We saw when there was a difference of opinion when they were going to give the bai'ah to Abi Bakr (radi Allahu anhu) (i.e.) they were going to pledge that Abu Bakr has become the leader we saw that the Aws began this process because Sa'd ibn Ubadah (radi Allahu anhu) was from the Khazraj. When they saw that “wait a minute here, there’s a race here between one of the Muhajirin and one of the Ansar” and this one from the Ansar belonged to the Khazraj (and) didn't belong to the Aws themselves they were the first from all of the Ansar to go to Abi Bakr and say you are the leader. So this also indicates that we had this element of asabiyah present. The Muhajirin also had this element of asabiyah in them. When they quoted the Prophet and said the leaders hail or come from Quraysh and they were Qurayshis. The overwhelming majority of Muhajirun were Qurayshis so when they are using this hadith in this context it tells you that they are looking out for their own in the general sense of the word. All of them there knew that Islam had elevated them to a new level of akhlaaq, of altruism, of selflessness but still they carry in themselves a history- brothers and sisters, if a person becomes a committed Muslim it’s not easy to get rid of, especially that element of asabiyah. You belong to some people- think about it as a tribe, think about it as a language, think about it as a culture, think about it however you want- who are not necessarily committed Muslims. This happens in your life. You personally, whoever you are, look around (and) think of your social self- are you truly a member of a group of committed Muslims or along with that comes “well you belong to a certain tradition, you belong to a certain linguistic group, you belong to a certain nationality.” All of these things are part of what brings together asabiyah. They lived with it then, we live with it now. So there’s a silver lining to this asabiyah- it can become protective. Remember, we said the Prophet of Allah used this asabiyah for protection when he was in Makkah. The Hashimis were his social umbrella and the others, even though they wanted to get rid of him, couldn't do so because they knew that there is an asabiyah relationship between the Hashimis, Bani Abdi Manaf and the Prophet- they knew this. So the Prophet didn't say “wait a minute here…” In these circumstances, remember Muslims were persecuted at this time. He didn't say “I am not going to make good use of this asabiyah.” He did. Its one thing to live in an asabiyah in a non-Islamic social order (and) it's another thing when you deal with asabiyah when Islam is the social order- two different things. So there was an underlying common denominator among all of these that the asabiyah of Quraysh maybe a fair trade off among all of them- the Ansar, the Muhajirin and the Hashimiyin. This usbah of Quraysh may be the best middle ground here among everyone.

Now let us look at what was said in those hours when Muslims had to decide who is going to be the leader. Abu Sufyan who up until that year had a history of an active opposition, social opposition, economic opposition, political opposition and military opposition to the Allah's Prophet, (i.e.), on all fronts he was opposed to Allah's Prophet (and) in the last year when Islam was the wave of the future, (i.e.) Islam right now has become the order of the day so he joined (or) became one of those tulaqa’ in Islamic history, (i.e.) those who were released from their status of potential prisoners of war when Makkah was liberated. When he and Muawiyah and the rest of that clan sensed what was going on here- this person was not a dumb person; in his own world he was smart, he was shrewd- with these different inclinations that were expressing themselves. When the popular will was to pledge that Aba Bakr was to become the leader he said oh descendants of Abd Manaf… Abd Manaf is the common grandfather of the Hashimis and the Umawis. So he’s speaking here to two bloodlines that come from the same grandfather- Abd Manaf, so he is calling them- he is calling those who are called Alawis, he is calling those who are Muhajirin, he is calling those who were Umawis, Hashimis all of them. He said but who’s Abu Bakr to take care of your affairs? This issue of leadership belongs to the Children of Abdi Manaf which means to the Umawis and the Hashimis- that is where it belongs, let's be honest with ourselves. (You) see, what he’s doing here is he is coming out. He’s speaking. At least he has the courage to say what is on his mind but he generalizes it. He didn't say it belongs to us- it belongs to that extended pedigree of the Prophet. Then he says in that same context on that same occasion, (we’re trying to give you a sense of his wording), you mean to tell me that this affair- the leadership of the Muslims- right now goes back to the most insignificant part of Quraysh? What he meant by that was Bani Murra. Bani Murra are the people of Abi Bakr. He says you mean to tell me that all of this right now is winding down to an unnoticeable segment of Quraysh? Abu Sufyan had some rationalization for what he said because before the Prophet the leadership of the Arabians was in Makkah and the center of that leadership was those who were taking care maintenance-wise and otherwise of Al Bayt Al Haram and the Ka'bah and these were Banu Abdi Manaf- these were the Umawiyun and the Hashimiyun. So when he is suggesting something like that he is not suggesting it out of the blue. There’s a background. It’s like saying well they have experience and they have recognition. So Abu Sufyan's words were obviously wreaking with asabiyah. Then Abu Sufyan also has some poetry, (for those of you who understand the Arabic language we're going to quote it. It’s not our habit to quote this but it tells you (and) we'll translate the meaning). Words of truth but the asabiyah content of it is in the wrong direction, fallacious. He said Children of Hashim, don't let people take advantage of you especially Taym ibn Murra which is Abu Bakr's clan and Adi which is Umar's clan. This whole affair is from you and it goes back to you and the only one who qualifies to assume this responsibility is Abu Hasan, which is in reference to Ali. This is what Abu Sufyan is saying. Now you tell us (and) give us an explanation, (especially those of you who come from the Sunni-Shi’i traditional way of thinking), why Abu Sufyan was saying something like that? Give us an explanation. We want an explanation! You can't just go about saying that this is a personal clash between Ali and the three Khulafa’ before him! This wasn't a personal thing. Can we elevate ourselves and understand that there’s a larger social reality that they were dealing with- all of them together. Then Abu Sufyan goes to Ali and he says extend your hand so that I can give you my bai'ah. Everyone was there listening to what he was saying. This is not something that, (you know), is in one or two history books- it’s all over the place. Why would he say something like that? Then when things went the way they went what happened was- this is a criticism that comes towards Abi Bakr for those who haven't really thought through this process- after Abu Bakr became the leader he gave the commanding position of the Muslim army in the North in Ash Shaam to Yazid the son of Abu Sufyan- Muawiyah's brother. Some people would say “why did he do that?” If we were looking at just this one event, that's true- it is a valid question “why would he be doing something like that” but he wasn't doing something like that in a vacuum. There were a lot of forces at work and he was now trying to take away that asabiyah sting out of the Abu Sufyan clan. OK- here you take this position. Go lead these armed forces and go lead up there hundreds if not a thousand miles away. Just leave. Because later on you’re going to understand that there was a civil war. What began amongst the Muslims was a civil war. It’s called hurub ar riddah- inaccurately translated as the wars of apostasy. This has nothing to do with apostasy and we covered this previously. These were people who wanted to break away from the central authority- no Abu Bakr, no Umar no Ali (radi Allahu anhum)- no one. Who are you guys to be ruling over us? That was their psychology speaking. Concerning these three different orientations you’ll find many ahadith. If you cover the books of hadith they’re going to tell you the virtue of these and the virtue of those and the virtue of the others and you'll probably find them anywhere you look. The fact that we remain with here (and we know some people are going to be surprised by this), there is not one statement from the Prophet that you read and you find that says to every Muslim and every listener- Muslim or not Muslim- that the Prophet categorically said that Abu Bakr or Umar or Uthman or Ali (radi Allahu anhum) or anyone else is the leader after him! If he had one statement (or) if there was one ayah in the Qur’an like that we wouldn't be living with the problem that we are living with today. If anyone can quote the ayah or the hadith we'll all obey. Is there an ayah like that? What is done is they will quote an ayah or they will quote a hadith but that ayah or hadith needs a twist of information. It doesn't by its own meaning and weight deliver that particular meaning so they go off on tangents trying to explain it. We think we’ve covered this ayah- it’s in Surah Al Maa’idah if we can recall correctly.

وَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلْ فَمَا بَلَّغْتَ رِسَالَتَهُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ يَعْصِمُكَ مِنَ النَّاسِ

… and if you don't do that you haven't communicated this message and Allah is going to protect you from people… (Surah Al Maa’idah verse 67)

All of this. OK, everyone understands this general meaning. What’s this specificity of it that says a particular person is the leader? Is Ali's name here? Of course there are strong suggestions that Ali should be the leader- that's a different issue. If there are words and statements that are vouching for Ali as leader that's different from saying “here he is- he’s your leader. Do you understand this! I’m making it very clear for all of you to understand when I’m gone Ali is the leader.” If it was expressed in this way, as we said, we wouldn't have had this issue that we have today but simply because there's a gap here in understanding what was meant by this we have what we have today. That doesn’t mean that Ali was the most qualified. We want to pre-empt those who listen selectively- we want them to know this speaker believes in his heart of hearts that Ali was the most qualified to lead the Muslims after the Prophet but that's a different issue. Who am I? Who are you? Who is anyone else that our ijtihad becomes binding on the rest of the Muslims? The rest of the Muslims are looking at ayaat- what Allah said and what the Prophet said- that's what they’re looking at. So in this give and take it seemed like there was a type of undeclared consensus among everyone that the middle ground is going to be Quraysh- that's as close as we can get to satisfying the thrust of Al Ansar and the Muhajirin and the Hashimiyin. If we’re going to go outside of this we’re going to prepare ourselves for an internal fight that we cannot afford because right now there are other powers in the Arabian Peninsula that are going to declare war on this Islamic self determination in Al Madinah and they did that. Immediately after Abu Bakr became the Khalifah of the Muslims then all hell broke loose in Arabia. So this time period that extends from Abi Bakr to Ali was a time period in which the Mujtahidin of those times- Ansaris, Muhajirin and Hashimis- thought could serve as a “cool off” period. So, (probably this would be the best thing to say here (and) we’re going to try to word it very carefully), the successorship to the Prophet was deputized to Abi Bakr for, (what would be in today's language called), the public interest. No one wants war to break out here so to avoid something like that let's give this responsibility to Abi Bakr and they did that with their senses and their minds and their conscience tuned in to the Qur’an and what they learnt from the Prophet. What they wanted to do was dampen (and) they wanted to throw a chill in an atmosphere of fitnah so that the average person now can catch his breath. Remember, they’re coming out of twenty three years of wars between Al Madinah- well virtually; ten years of a hot war and twenty three years of a hot and a cold war. The wars that they just experienced was close to them. They were just last year, last month, the year before in these several years that have past. This is not something that strains the memory because they are living with it. They lived the consequences of these wars. In these wars people were killed. “My brother was killed, my uncle was killed, my cousin was killed.” Who was doing the killing as far as the people with asabiyah are concerned? The committed Muslims. The sword of Ali was still dripping with the blood of the Mushrikin who now became Muslimin in the past year or so. These Mushrikin of the past twenty two years were fighting the committed Muslims and the person out there in the frontline who was sacrificing the most (and) potentially placing himself in positions of martyrdom and death was Ali. Are you going to say a person like this has become the leader of the Muslims immediately after the Prophet passes away with this asabiyah at work and this is a society of revenge- not to speak about asabiyah there’s the issue of revenge- so people deep down in their hearts and in their internal minds had it out for certain individuals and Ali was one of them. Now the Muslims were not just the Muhajirin who came from Makkah to Al Madinah and the Aws and the Khazraj had welcomed them in Al Madinah, now the Muslims were in the tens of thousands in Al Hejaz and in Arabia and the overwhelming majority of them just became Muslims in the past year or two so how are they going to think? Do you think these are committed Muslims? These are Badriyin? These are as’haab al fath? These are the ones who sacrificed all that they had when they left Makkah? These are the ones who shared all they had in Al Madinah? No! These are not the ones we are speaking about- these are a few thousands. When we are speaking about the larger picture we are speaking about scores of thousands of people- a hundred thousand (at) hajjatul wada'. A hundred and fifteen thousand or so Muslims. Muslims?! Alladhina Aamanu?! Watch what you say and then bring this accuracy to this day when Muslims have to decide who is going to be the leader. So common sense told them the best thing to do here is to find a person who first of all is a senior. They had much respect for a person who is senior like sixties or seventies as opposed to a person who is still in his thirties. Abu Bakr as opposed to Ali- a person who is easy going, who did not participate in the frontlines and who did not have a sword that was still dripping with the blood of the Mushrikin on the order of Ali; someone who can be acceptable for everyone. So there was this consensus. Why is anyone upset with this? When Abu Bakr assumed this responsibility he didn’t knock down Ali. He didn’t get personal with Ali. He didn’t say a statement that would harm the reputation of Ali. Why is anyone upset with this? If you look at the larger picture- don't look at two or three personalities, look at the larger picture- then you'll understand there's no tension here. There's no hostility here. So why is there tensions and hostilities amongst some of the Muslims today who attribute themselves to these pioneering Muslims? Because it’s a matter of ignorance- that's all it is. This ignorance has to go away and has to be replaced with information that is impartial, that is not sectarian, that speaks truth to power and it doesn't compromise in the process. There’s no compromise here. We’re not trying to score for one against the other. If we begin to approach this with this type of thinking then our problems begin to wither away and then we can fulfill the meanings of the ayah

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا ۚ وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا ۗ

And hold firm to Allah's binding matter all of you- no exceptions- and be not divided; and bare in mind Allah's provision, favour and privilege upon you when you (who are now Committed Muslims), were once enemies of each other and then He reconciled your hearts and familiarized and acquainted you with each other and then, due to this provision, favour and privilege you became brethren of each other; you were on the edge of a pit of fire and Allah saved you from it… (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)

Dear Muslims observing the fast of Ramadhan…

Taqwa is a lofty objective- something that we should be conscious of everyday of our lives especially when we decide something, that’s when taqwa counts. You can think about taqwa, you can dream about taqwa, you can theorize about taqwa but taqwa comes to its full value of appreciation when it is part of you (and) when you decide something- whether that's a personal decision, a family decision, a social decision and then from there on into the world. Whatever decision it is, if you have the power and authority of Allah on your mind and in your conscience then you have this element of taqwa. In this month of Ramadhan when Allah's authority and power are supreme (and) everything else is trivial in comparison we look at what is happening in the world right now with its media trying to look the other way. From what is happening in Egypt there's a lot of very dangerous developments taking place in that country. What we'd like to bring to your attention is the fact that the people there played the democratic game, (so to speak). They were told “OK, if you want a ruler after the deposed Pharaoh Mr. Mubarak you have to all decide together.” That's called the voting process. You go and vote and you decide on who’s going to become your representatives in Parliament and who is going to become your President and all this and the Muslims and the people of Egypt did that. Then after that was done and you had a person who had an Islamic objective in life who became the President then he had all types of pressure come to bear on that country- economic pressure. Right now they tell you Egypt only has a few months left or several weeks left of supplies of wheat. Wheat is the main staple of Egypt. It accounts for their major item on their table spreads. It always has in supply around a year of wheat supplies, now its dwindled down to just several weeks- they say and the unemployment rate is off the radars (or) off the charts. The economy has gone down. There has been mistakes- yes, plenty of mistakes by these elected officials but we thought the democratic West, the Euro-American conglomerate of democracy honored the democratic process. Here they are in Egypt (and) they are not even able to say that a military coup took place in Egypt. That's obvious- anyone can understand it. Why can't they say it? Why can't they express the obvious? Are they trying to hide something? A junta is ruling now in Cairo and those who were elected are out of office! Does that ring a bell? When there were elections here in the Islamic Center! We’re not thousands of miles away from the White House, we are virtually next door and they undid an election here. Those of you who come from the experience of the Islamic revolution in Iran can see now what would have happened if in the first year of the Islamic revolution in Iran about thirty four years ago the Imam conceded to what is called Western electoral democracy politics. We wouldn't have known because the Imam had his way and his way was correct, it was right. You can now appreciate that. All of these people at the beginning who had this Islamic background- there were plenty of them around, one of them is still around. He goes between the United States and the Islamic Republic- used to say “but yes we are Muslims and we are committed Muslims and we know what our Islam is and we want a better Islamic society.” He gives you all of this but then he says, (at that time there were two superpowers), “but we have to recognize the Soviet Union and the United States. We have to recognize this fact. Who are we to behave outside of their spheres of influence?” Well this person right now should look at Egypt. It behaved inside the sphere of influence of this country- the one that this guy comes to every once and then and what has happened to it? The military was breathing down the necks of these elected politicians. Take notice you who are in Turkey. The military there is breathing down your necks too and anytime they'll come with their tanks (and) they'll come with their forces and take over the Presidential palace and they'll do all of this. Look at what's happening.

This is the time to appreciate and, (for those who lived with us here for over thirty years in this street), watch what is happening in Egypt. If you couldn't learn from what was happening here in Washington DC learn from what's happening in Egypt. Before they came in by force to confiscate the Masjid and the Islamic Center we had among us people, (we no longer have them with us here today, but at that time we had people), who were communicating with Ash Shaytaan Al Akbar behind the scenes and then they would come to us and they'd say “they are committed Muslims.” After this Islamic Center and Masjid here was confiscated and claimed by these tawagheet we had some people who were with us (but) who right now are trafficking with Ash Shaytaan Al Akbar. They go to iftar in the State Department or in the White House or all around. If you couldn't see it here watch what is happening in Egypt. Dig them out (and) see who they are. Doesn't this become a time when we open our eyes and know who is with us and who is against us? Who will give us sweet words but they will stab us in the back with a poisoned instrument. They’re still around. They didn't disappear. Some of them passed away, (may Allah treat them with His mercy and with His justice) but those who are still around, (and they are still around), how do they have a face to look you in the eye without having an artificial smile on their face? They think we are only surface deep. We can see their behavior and character before we see the cosmetics of their complexion. We look, we see, we visualize by the light of Allah and these gimmicks and these cosmetics don't fool us! They don't fool us in Washington DC, they don't fool us in Egypt. Some of the “Egyptian brothers” felt they had to speak to the Americans. They felt like they had to reach an understanding with the Americans- what did you do in the past year? You were working on that very hard- what was the result? And some of you others who don't come from Egypt entertain these types of ideas- you want to go down that road (then) expect those types of consequences.

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