From Asabiyah to Political Parties

Developing Just Leadership

Muhammad H. al-'Asi

Shawwal 01, 1434 2013-08-09

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,

You and I know that there is a very serious and deadly type of program to have Muslims cancel themselves out and one of the most important factors in this overall scheme is the factor of Sunnis verse Shi’is and vice versa and we said previously that we are going to visit this issue at its roots, at it origins (and) in its genesis so that we can try to diffuse it with all of the implications it has gained throughout all of these years and centuries. We mention previously the ayah that has the meaning of tying the Muslims together and that’s the ayah in Surah Aal Imran

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا

And hold firm to Allah's binding matter all of you- no exceptions- and be not divided… (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)

And then the other ayah

وَلَا تَنَازَعُوا فَتَفْشَلُوا وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ

… and don’t dispute things with each other to the point of ripping yourselves apart because the consequences is going to be failure. The winds in your sail will simply go away you are no longer going to have motivations you are no longer going to have momentum you no longer going to have movement… (Surah Al Anfal verse 46)

Now we will go to where we left off. Remember, we spoke about an extremely important element in life of that first generation of committed Muslims- an element that was working beneath the surface; we called it al asabiyah. We reached or we tried to follow this element through the words and the statements of certain individuals on different occasions until now we reach the reign of the third successor to Allah’s Prophet, Uthman (radi Allahu anhu). At this time we begin to detect (that) what was previously an asabiyah that was underground, (so to speak), has now surfaced and when it surfaced it became something like partisan politics or political polarisation- thus many historians refer to this time period as a type of fitnah (or) a sedition that put the Muslims on the historical courses that they have remained on since that time. So we can say what was, before Uthman, detected in our history as a concealed asabiyah during his twelve years of reign surfaced as partisan politics that at the end of his reign expressed itself in a type of violent militant confrontation; that is why some people have some type of ambiguities, (and we’re not speaking about average people. We’re speaking about historians and intellectuals and the rest), when they refer to these twelve years of governorship. The mismanagement in the last six years of Uthman’s tenure led to those who did him wrong (in) killing him and then from that time on there’s been a split in trying to evaluate and identify those who killed him along with those who had forsaken him. Remember this person didn’t have any guards around, there was no security state, there was no military force to protect the ruler of the Muslims- (he’s) just an average person just like you and me when it comes to security issues. So when this resentment of his rule climaxed there was a type of mob that attacked him in his residence and killed him. Some of the feeders into this act can be summarised as peculiar to the way he ruled. (We’ve covered this territory before and we’ll refresh your memory very briefly on it). So some of this agitation against him came because of some of the decisions he made in as far as governors, administrators and decision makers in the outlying areas of now a growing and an expanding Islamic domain (and) other factors simply have to do with the nature of the development of a growing Islamic reality at that time. Here we have to think about new people becoming Muslims (and) other people becoming Muslims who are not familiar with the Qur’an or the Prophet (and) others who became Muslims simply because Islam appeared to them to be the conquering wave of the future and then in conditions like this where there’s a gap between the rulers and the people- you take a look at human history, (forget about this time period for a moment), but when there’s a gap and there are serious grievances by the people and there’s no remedial access to straighten whatever has gone astray what happens in every other society in the world is that there is a type of political underground. Now the question in this period is: remember the people who have become Muslims in the hundreds and thousands now are the fresh Muslims. These are not the ones that have been tempered, disciplined and polished by the experience and the presence of Allah’s Prophet among them. This is a period unlike the twenty three years when the Prophet was around. So in this atmosphere can we say with certainty that there was no underground political activity going on? This is a question that also has been between a give and a take concerning those who looked at this issue. We present it as a question to be thought through because, (remember), what we are saying here cannot be said in other places. There’s so much Sunni asabiyah and so much Shi’i asabiyah- remember the issue of asabiyah here- that it becomes odd or it becomes anti-whatever the established order is to begin to look at these issues with an open mind and heart. Now, speaking about Uthman’s era we backtracked some months or weeks even days and we sensed there is a type of disagreement among the six individuals of the shura that were appointed by the second successor to Allah’s Prophet to decide who is going to be the leader of the Muslims. Even among them we sense that there is no agreement. Some of the individuals there-in wanted to become the leaders themselves. They had a personal desire for it and some of them were, in a sense, cautious about it but when we filter these shura members as was done at that time we find that it comes down to two persons Imam Ali and Uthman (radi Allahu anhuma). Even among the shura members they saw that there were two persons here that basically would, in their own schema (or) in their own arrangement of thoughts, be the ultimate runner ups for this office, (viz.) Ali and Uthman. For you to get a little flavour of how this plays out- when Umar (radi Allahu anhu) passes away there is an issue who is going to lead the Janaza prayer for him and these two individuals- Uthman and Ali appeared to be the ones who were motioned to do that and Abdur Rahman ibn Awf (radi Allahu anhu) sensed that and he excluded them and he said, (these are his words whether they are accurate or not Allah knows best), both of you are inclined towards the executive position and you are to be relieved of this meaning leading this janaza prayer. So who led this janaza prayer on Umar? It was Suhaib (radi Allahu anhu). None of these individuals who were the forerunners for that position.

In some of these back and forth discussions that took place we find Ammaar ibn Yaser and Al Miqdad ibn Al Aswad (radi Allahu anhuma) favouring Ali and Abdullah ibn Surrah and Abdullah ibn Rabi’ah favouring Uthman. Later on we get a sense of who these two individuals on both sides are but we still can trace the same psychology and the same attitudes that were in the Saqifah the day the Prophet passed away (and) we still sense they are around now with a little more vigour as to who is going to become the third successor to the Prophet. Quraysh was Quraysh- it envisioned this position as an institution belonging to it (and) as an affair peculiar to it. The Khilafah, as far as the Quraysh was concerned right now, was something that was in its circle much like the Saudis of today. The Saudis have built a type of reputation that goes way beyond the Peninsula- you’ll see it in the Indian subcontinent, you will see it in other Arab countries, you will see it in far away lands; people perceive the Saudis with some type of exceptional quality. The same type of perception that we are dealing with today was alive and kicking during that time but it wasn’t called the Saudis, it was called Quraysh. So when we say Quraysh don’t think that this is some type of fickle affair, this is something substantive (and) something that runs very deep. So finally when the decision was made, (and we covered this territory), there’s some details to it but finally Uthman became the successor number three to the Prophet and we know as a result of that in the future what was going to happen- the Umawi asabiyah was going to work its way through now the head of the Islamic state and come back to the rest of all of the Muslims as the ultimate rulers and decision makers of the Muslims. Ali said it very accurately when he characterised that affair now the public (or) the general people out there have their attention focused on Quraysh and Quraysh itself considers now this political hot item (or) this political hot potato of who is going to become the leader of the Muslims as an internal Qurayshi family affair. Now remember Quraysh had the influence and the clout that the Saudis have in today’s world- let’s bring you up to date (and) let’s give this some practical understanding. So Ali goes on to describe this, he says if that branch of Quraysh, Banu Hashim- in the years leading up to this we said Banu Hashim were the only ones who did not display this asabiyah problem. Remember Banu Hashim are part of Quraysh and the general attitude among the Qurayshis was “if this branch Banu Hashim were to assume this office and this position, (i.e.) the Khilafah and the Imamah it is going to stay in them.” You see- what this type of presentation does is it causes people to keep their distance from Bani Hashim because they fear the asabiyah. What complicates Bani Hashim’s issue here is (that) even though they didn’t display an asabiyah the others who did display this asabiyah were afraid that the virtues of Bani Hashim will be combined with the fact that the Prophet himself was from Bani Hashim so it is going to be something like “Al Imamah cloaked with asabiyah.” That’s how some people understand it. Remember what we are telling you, please understand what we are telling you is something others will not tell you. Some of them know it but are afraid to express it (and) others just don’t know it and speak out of self centeredness! So they were afraid that if Quraysh (meaning the over all majority individuals of Quraysh to the exclusion of Bani Hashim) did not assume this responsibility then the asabiyah of Bani Hashim is going to be cloaked by its merits or worse case scenario- this asabiyah that they are all guilty of is going to express itself in Bani Hashim.

So when Uthman came to occupy that position he came through channels of what are considered personal relationships, social factors, the asabiyah element that now is beginning, (not in this year but in the years to come it is going to become like political parties), and people wanted someone who is easy going. The public opinion (or) the average individuals who were out there in Hejaz and in Arabia were sort of in a sense, (we’re going to simplify this but we know simplification runs the risk of stimulating some un-needed emotions), (hard times). The time of Abi Bakr and Umar (radi Allahu anhuma) were, generally speaking, hard times on the Muslims public. There was a drought and there was famine during the time of Umar. The state was extended to its limits, people were living in austere conditions. Abu Bakr mobilised all of the potentials of the Muslims to put down civil strife and potential civil wars. So the Muslims have lived right now, prior to Uthman, about twelve years of very harsh economic and military policies and they were looking for relief. Some of you can put this in today’s world. If the leader comes and he begins to demand “the austerity of his own people. They have to tighten their belts and they have to give of what they have whether it is finances or whether it is blood. There’s a war here.” So you can put people through that for some period of time and because the committed Muslims there were still a significant base there was no detrimental repercussions but still when they were looking at this there were two things here. There was Uthman and there was Ali. In their minds they calculated that if Ali is going to assume this responsibility, as far as their economy is concerned and as far as their military is concerned he is going to remind them in a sense of Abi Bakr and Umar and they don’t want anyone to remind them of those hard times. It’s like the popular mood was saying “give us a break.” So when they looked at these two individuals they said well, Uthman is easy going. We tend to favour him as the leader. That was a strong strain in the Muslim public at that time. Even some people- later on, Muawiyah spoke on this issue and he said Umar is the problem because he distributed the responsibility among the group called Ahl Ashura. If he just appointed someone the Muslims would not have ended up with the problems that were generated during Uthman’s time.

The first issue that helped to transform the asabiyah into a political party during Uthman’s reign and it was there in the first days of Uthman was how do we deal with those who assassinated Umar? What do you do? Ubaydullah ibn Umar took justice into his own hands, (we covered this territory before), and he killed three individuals- the assassin himself and those that he thought were accomplices to the assassination. Uthman took it upon himself to exempt Ubaydullah ibn Umar from the rule of law. This person should have been put in an Islamic court and the Islamic court should have looked into all of the details for and against him. That wasn’t done. Uthman said the diya, the blood money, of these persons who were killed by Ubaydillah ibn Umar is his responsibility. That created or that fuelled the asabiyah that was beneath the surface now to begin to surface. OK- some people see right now, in their minds, there’s a favouritism there in the highest Muslim office and we are going to have to deal with that. So now there was a type of asabiyah between those who are Arabians and those who are not Arabians. They felt it. This is some type of taking sides and the Muslim ruler should not be taking sides in this issue. They also combined that with the fact that the policies right now that have become the rules and regulations of the land were favouring the Muhajirin (radi Allahu anhum) in addition to the favouring of Arabians vis a vis all other Muslims and if that was the case they should have a recourse. There should be a channel to express themselves and deal with this issue but they didn’t find a channel to do that. So right now there was a sense that there is some type of official asabiyah. This is another complicating problem.

Then, what Umar feared most of all happened and that was (that) Quraysh now was taking the lead as opposed to all of the rest of the Muslims in the country. Remember, Umar was concerned about this so he told the Muhajirin who were from Quraysh he feared that if they would go to some other places they were going to establish their own power centres and these power centres can come back to destabilise the central authority. So he told these people you are under city arrest and they were because when they wanted to go somewhere else they had to apply for some kind of permission and they would go to that area or that city or wherever and come back. They weren’t free to go everywhere and anywhere they wanted to go. This was official policy and the reason for this is Umar did not want this Qurayshi asabiyah to cancel the equality and the justice that are at the centre of Islam. We will quote Umar during his life, of course, I sense that Quraysh wants to use the resources or the assets of Allah as their assistance for their own selves exclusion to Allah’s subjects but as long as ibn Al Khattab is alive a resounding no to that meaning to this Qurayshi possibility (or) probability of happening. Here I am, there is an area there outside of Al Madinah and between that area and Al Madinah I stand. And, in today’s language, I have Quraysh on a leash and they are being restricted for their own good. I have them on a leash and I have them inhibited lest they begin to tumble into the fire. Umar had a sense that Quraysh was a danger to others and a danger to its own self. OK- that was the official policy to try to deal with the most important asabiyah in the Arabian Peninsula at that time but when Uthman came now (it was) as if someone had Quraysh behind locked doors and now the door was wide open and they began going everywhere and doing everything they wanted to do. What was going to develop is something like a religious aristocracy because many of these people who were under city arrest were prominent. They were well known. They had a sterling history. They fought with Allah’s Prophet. They gave off of what they had so they had a polished reputation. They were going to leave with that polished reputation from Al Madinah to other parts now in Iraq, in Ash Shaam, in Egypt (and) they were going to spread all around and what was going to happen now was they were going to combine wealth with reputation. To give you just a sense of this- Az Zubayr (radi Allahu anhu), who was one of those who was nominated but Umar from the six members who qualified to become the leaders of the Muslims, went to Al Basrah and there he built a mansion (or) a castle and his place became a magnet for business people, for tycoons for, (what some people would call), capitalists. We are very careful here not to introduce certain terminology into our own internal affairs that is why we said “some people would call.” So now this person became something like an icon in society. He also built the same thing in Egypt and Kufa, in Alexandria. What happened? These were people who just ten years ago were simple and humble. Then they say when he died, (we can’t go into the details so we’re just going to sum it up by saying), he had enormous wealth. The same thing happened to Abdur Rahman ibn Awf (radi Allahu anhu). He built one of these palatial mansions that could accommodate hundreds of horses, camels and these other things. Also, when he died his wealth was calculated to be like, (in today’s world), a multi millionaire. He wasn’t one of these humble people that he was during the time of Allah’s Prophet. Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas (radi Allahu anhu) (was) also one of these luminary figures in the time of Allah’s Prophet (but) during Uthman’s reign he also joined this class of people and built a palace or a mansion built of onyx. We have many, many examples of how wealth broke out. (It’s) as if someone had wealth caged in prior to this time (and) when Uthman came it was as if wealth spilled out of the container it was in and contaminated certain individuals.

Due to this there were three types of trends during Uthman’s reign. The people of Basrah favoured Az Zubayr, the people of Kufa favoured Talha (radi Allahu anhu) and the people of Egypt favoured Ali. These were trends that were building up during Uthman’s reign (and) later on we will see that they’re going to gel into political forces. Talha and Az Zubayr went to Iraq- they personally used to travel there. Ali didn’t travel to Egypt, he sent Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, Muhammad the son of Abu Bakr because Ali married Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr’s mother after Abi Bakr passed away. This could be some consideration for those who try to build in some type of animosity between those who preceded Ali and Ali himself. So now we were left with a type of polarisation in society and what exacerbated this problem was the military. The policies that were applied to the military changed. Before this time when the military would go out to these lands they would share the war booty (or) the war leftovers. It was done on a sharing basis. Now in Uthman’s time that wasn’t the case. The military was being paid just like in today’s military (when you) pay the enlisted and the officer court a salary at the end of the month that’s what was institutionalised during this reign. So this asabiyah- mind you- the main factor of asabiyah that no one speaks about that was the major explanation for what was developing and happening in that generation of Muslims now was beginning to find channels to express itself. When the Muhajirin and the Sahaba left Al Madinah and the Hejaz and went to these areas they began to have power centres. Then we had the old asabiyah that was at work, (i.e.) Banu Umayah, and the other tribes and clans of Arabia and now we had a new element of a asabiyah- government now making decisions favouring some people at the expense of others. Then we had now a civilian verses military asabiyah or a military verses the official government line asabiyah. This is not an issue between one person and the next person. How many times we have to repeat this unlike these simplistic historians want the average Muslim to believe?! (i.e.) this is a difference or a dispute or an argument between one person and the other person and they cancel out all of these social factors that are involved.

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا

And hold firm to Allah's binding matter all of you- no exceptions- and be not divided… (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)

And then the other ayah

وَلَا تَنَازَعُوا فَتَفْشَلُوا وَتَذْهَبَ رِيحُكُمْ

… and don’t dispute things with each other to the point of ripping yourselves apart because the consequences is going to be failure. The winds in your sail will simply go away you are no longer going to have motivations you are no longer going to have momentum you no longer going to have movement… (Surah Al Anfal verse 46)

Dear brothers and dear sisters…

You can see nowadays with your own eyes the results of our own ignorance of our ownselves. Some people have moved into this area (and) now they are fuelling sectarian hostilities between Sunnis and Shi’is. Can you deny that? Can you see it around? What hurts more than that is very many innocent people are dying or being killed because of this! You don’t think there are troublemakers on the line here (and) there are elements who want to fuel the hostilities among Muslims? The bombs that take off, the explosions that take place in Islamic Centres and Masajid at areas where Muslims congregate on Fridays. There’s no consideration for Al Ash’hur Al Hurum! Muslims have a four months security zone in their year- something no other people in the world have. People have a land security zone- they’ll say “this land here will have no weapons in it” but no one has a time security zone like we have; but we ask you, ask yourself, when all of this warfare is taking place does it ever occur to any of these individuals that the particular month that they are killing themselves in is a shahr haram? It never passes anyone’s mind! As if exactly we are back in the days and the times of jahiliyyah! Even in the times of jahiliyyah the ash’hur al haram had social awareness to it. They used to play with months. They’ll shift the months. They’ll take Al Muharram in the first month of the year (and) they’ll make it the fourth month or some other month and they’ll take another month and replace it. They used to play this trick but no one ever said they are not aware of ash shahr al haram or ashur ul hurum. Now, we who claim to be the Muslims that we are, (with) all of these things taking place who is it that says this is taking place in ash shahr al haram?! Just this one point (and) just this one issue that this awareness is no longer in us is enough to identify how far away we have been withdrawn from our Qur’an, our Prophet, our Islam. Try to take away salah at tarawih from one Masjid and all hell will break loose- does anyone dare do anything like that? Try to take away one du’a from one Masjid (and) all hell will break loose but this issue, (i.e.) to be aware of the social and justice ramifications of al ash’hur al hurum is not observed by any Muslim. (It’s) as if everyone’s living with “well this is normal. This is the norm now.” This is how far we have gone astray.

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