You can build a throne out of bayonets, but you can't sit on them long -- Boris Yeltsein
They come, they see – and they disrupt: they take out processions, they intimidate people, they shout slogans, they burn tyres, they throw stones, they break windscreens, and, in doing all that, they brave batons and tear gas. And after their enervating battle against some elusive injustice, they, in complete oblivion to the impropriety and inexpediency of their hooliganism, retreat to preen themselves on another day of cherished glory.
These self-proclaimed warriors of God, who owe their mention in the news more to the nuisance they cause than to any service they render, seem absolutely unaware of the vagaries of time or the requirements of their religion. It is not surprising therefore that even after years and years of ceaseless failure since the creation of Pakistan, these 'holy men' are still unable to learn from their mistakes and still oblivious to the actual challenge they face.
It all began when religion and politics were mixed in the wrong way. No doubt Islam wants the constraints of religion in politics, but, though this religion has not prohibited it as such, common sense and lessons learnt from history point out that religious movements can best serve Islam by staying out of politics and concentrating on understanding and disseminating their religion. In other words, it is a boon when politicians and political leaders are religious and politics and government remain within the bounds of decency, ethics and religion. But it a great bane when politics creeps into religious activities and endeavours and religious scholars aspire for political goals.
Providing justifications is something humans have always been good at, especially those that wear beards and are experts in producing guttural, anathematising sounds which are used as meaninglessly out-of-context as they are used effectively to stupefy the followers into a reverent silence. Take Ahwanu'l-balyatayn for instance. Sounds impressive, doesn't it? There's an aura of dignity about it that commands respect. This doctrine of 'lesser of the two evils' has always served a useful purpose for those who are trapped in two evil situations and can avoid only one. A man in unbearable hunger has nothing to eat except either pig-meat or donkey meat. Here Ahwanu'l-balyatayn not only sounds impressive but also makes sense. But to those who are more than certain that it is their shoulders upon which the edifice of Islam's survival rests and that the future of the Ummah depends on the success of their plans and strategies, the panacean words have more important uses: whenever, any haram stands in the way of their lofty plans to rule the country – for the sake of Islam of course (no reference to the intentions involved intended here) –, viola! Ahwanu'l-balyatayn comes in handy.1
Another term is Taghiru'l-munkar bi'l-yad, that is changing wrong with hand. In other words, using force to end wrong. This term is based on a saying of the Prophet (sws). He is reported to have said:
He amongst you who sees any wrong should change it with his hand; if that is not possible for him, then with his tongue; if that is not possible for him, then [he should condemn it] in his heart -- and that is the weakest level of faith. (Muslim, Kitabu'l-Iman)
This statement of the Prophet (sws) has a specific context in reference to which the statement merely means that it is the duty of every Muslim to try for the eradication of evil within the confines of the social and legal authority he or she has26. For example, parents are afforded the authority by the conventions of society to use some mild form of physical punishment, if required, for the proper upbringing of their children. This obviously does not mean that they have the authority to batter their children. Similarly, the government -- a court of law to be more precise -- has the legal authority to award a suitable sentence to an offender, if he is found guilty. Now, if some parents did not use their authority to stop their children from becoming heroin addicts, they would certainly be at a weaker level of faith, especially if physical punishment of a sort would have helped and it were love which stopped them from using their authority. Love does not mean that you let those you love do wrong. Similarly, a judge who, under some pressure, gave a lighter punishment to an offender would certainly be at a weaker level of faith. Indeed, in the absence of a reasonable excuse, he might even be regarded as being devoid of faith altogether on the Day of Judgement.
The Prophet of Allah (sws) never took the law into his own hands. During the thirteen years he preached Islam in Makkah, he never went beyond the confines of the law of the land. The few companions and followers he had during those years were indeed more loyal to him -- and hardly any Muslim would doubt that -- than his followers today can ever claim to be. The followers of the Prophet (sws) never hurt even a single of his opponents in retaliation even when he was pelted with stones at Ta'if.In Makkah, invectives were hurled against him day and night, yet none of his followers regarded it a matter of his faith to beat up a few offenders to avenge the Prophet (sws). Obviously, not all of his companions – especially those truly close to him as Abu Bakr (rta) and Ali (rta) – had chosen to remain at a weaker level of faith. And, clearly the Prophet (sws) himself did not choose to exhort his companies to do something in retaliation.
Actually, it was only after the Prophet (sws) had established an independent State at Madinah that laws were enacted and implemented by him – and that too was done gradually so as to avoid imbalance in society.
It is evident from this restraint that anarchy and disruption are against the nature of Islam. In fact, this religion gives the Islamic State the right to give a severe death sentence to those found guilty of creating a situation of anarchy, disorder or disruption.3
Yet, our gladiators would continue their vandalism and disruption in spite of these arguments as, in their opinion, the government of Pakistan is not Islamic and most of the people in it are quite close to being Kuffar (infidels) and Munafiqun (hypocrites). The important questions then are whether a State having a morally and religiously corrupt government becomes an un-Islamic State, and, whether any individual or group has the right to declare someone in the Ummah a Kafir (infidel) or a Munafiq (hypocrite).
The Islamic principle on which a State is founded is described in the Qur'an in the words amruhum shura baynahum (their affairs are through consultation amongst them)4 . This principle entails that the State affairs be run by the vote of the majority of Muslim citizens. A State is formed when a people establish their government in a geographically independent area over which they have power and authority. Therefore, when the majority of Muslims in a geographically independent area, over which they have power and authority, form their own government through consultation -- elections in modern times --, that government, in accordance with the verse quoted above, represents the Islamic State. Therefore, allegiance to that government is a religious obligation on the Muslim citizens of that State:
Obey Allahand the Prophet and those who are in authority among you. Then, if there is difference of opinion among you, refer it back to Allahand the Prophet. (4:59)
It is evident from this verse that even in case of any difference of opinion regarding the interpretation of the contents of religion, the matter should be resolved through the Qur'an and the Sunnah5 rather than through violence and disruption. And, from the verse quoted earlier (42:38), it is clear that the verdict of the majority of the Muslims regarding the correct interpretation must be accepted as the law of the land. Thereafter, those who dissent do have the right to express their points of view in a peaceful and constitutional manner, but they do not have the right to create a law and order situation or to rebel against the State. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:
You are organised under the rule of a person and someone tries to break your collectivity apart or disrupt your government, kill him. (Muslim, Kitabu'l-Imarah)
It is only when a Muslim is ordered to do something against the directives of Allahor of the Prophet (sws) is he required to disobey those with political and legal authority in the system he lives in. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:
Whether they like it or not, it is obligatory on the faithful to listen to and obey their rulers except that they be ordered to commit sin. If they are ordered to commit sin, they should neither listen nor obey. (Muslims, Kitabu'l-Imarah)
The Qur'anic words 'obey Allah and the Prophet...' require that a Muslim not obey any command against the directives of Allah and the Prophet (sws). But even then, he is not allowed to disrupt the system or commit crimes. The reason is that when a government is formed in accordance with the Qur'anic principle of amruhum shura baynahum and can be changed or deposed on the same basis, any rebellion against that government amounts to a rebellion against the collectivity of Muslims, which in Islamic terminology, is Muharabah and which, as the statement of the Prophet (sws) quoted earlier explains, is an offence punishable by death.
Prominent people of this Ummah as Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik Ibn Anas and Ahmad Ibn Hambalnever resorted to violence, vandalism, or rebellion in spite of facing extreme hardships to propagate the truth.6 In Al-Masa'il al-Rasa'il al Marwiyyah 'an Ahmad Ibn Hambal, Ahmad Ibn Hambal is reported to have said:
Far be it from Allah [all that is wrongly associated with Him], blood is but blood7. I do not believe in it nor do I recommend it. Enduring what is on us8 is better than disruption, in which blood is shed, people's wealth is expropriated and things and matters sacred are desecrated.9
The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:
I order you five things: pledging allegiance to the State, listening to and obeying [your rulers in that State], Hijrah10and Jihad in the way of Allah. (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hambal)
In the same collection of his sayings, the Prophet (sws) is also reported to have said:
He who sees something despicable in his ruler should bear with it, for he who detaches himself to the slightest degree from the state and dies in that condition shall die the death of ignorance. (Kitabu'l-Fitan)
In another version, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said:
He who sees something despicable in his ruler should bear with it, for he who detaches himself to the slightest degree from the Sovereignty and dies in that condition shall die the death of ignorance (Kitabu'l-Fitan)
In these two versions, the words Al-Jama'ah (the State) and Al-Sultan (the Sovereignty) have been used interchangeably, which clearly shows that this directive of the Prophet (sws) pertains to such a body as has political sovereignty in a geographically independent area in which there is a system of government.11
It should be obvious from the arguments given above that the government in Pakistan, which is brought to power through the mandate given to it by the majority vote of the Muslim citizens is the embodiment of the sovereignty of the State and as such it represents the State. Therefore, even if the rulers are morally corrupt, a Muslim does not have the right to disrupt the government. It is indeed his duty to propagate the truth with wisdom and sagacity and, if need be, with personal sacrifice. The way the likes of Ahmad Ibn Hambal, Malik Ibn Anas andAbu Hanifahbore persecution at the hands of the rulers of their respective times is a testimony to the fact that the prominent scholars of Islam have never shirked from making sacrifices for the sake of truth, yet have always distanced themselves from vandalism, disruption and rebellion. Indeed, it is this kind of propagation which was termed as a great Jihad by the Prophet (sws). He is reported to have said:
Verily, words of truth and justice are a great Jihad especially when said in front of an oppressive ruler. (Tirmidhi, Kitabu'l-Fitan)
Rebellion against the state is allowed only when certain conditions have been met. A brief mention of these conditions would not be out of place here:
The first condition is that the rulers unequivocally deny Islam or any of its directives. The fourth verse of the 59th surah of Qur'an quoted earlier points out that obedience to rulers is obligatory as long as they are from within the Muslims ('those in authority among you').
The Prophet (sws) is also reported to have laid down the same condition for refusal to accept the authority of the rulers.
... when you see unequivocal denial by them and in a matter regarding which you have an explicit directive from Allah. (Muslim, Kitabu'l-Imarah)
The second and the third conditions, based on amruhum shura baynahum -- 'their affairs are by consultation among them' (42:38) --, are that the government against which Khuruj is taken place should be a dictatorship which does not enjoy the support of the masses and that the leader of the Khuruj should be a person who has the indubitable support of the nation.
All these conditions are essential in that even if one of them is missing,Khuruj is not permissible.
Furthermore, in case of militant struggle, there is another condition: the rebels must migrate to another land and form an independent State there.
Before discussing the basis and the reason for this condition, it would be pertinent to point out here that the militant Islamists often term all their subversive activities as Jihad. Actually, Jihad is a nomen verbum of Jahada, which means to make one's utmost effort. In Islamic terminology, the word denotes one's utmost effort in the way of Allah. One of the connotations of the word is making one's utmost effort in a militant struggle for Allah. In that sense it is used as a synonym for Qital fi sabil Allah(killing in the way of Allah), which is the more precise term for any kind of militant religious struggle -- be it a battle or war or a rebellion (Khuruj). And in any case, Qital fi sabil Allah is a prerogative of the State. In other words, in Islam there is no concept of Jihad or Qital12of any kind without the authority of the State.
The basis for this condition is that God Almighty did not ever give the permission to use the sword even to the Prophets (sws), who are the final manifestation of the truth for their people, until they had established their rule over their followers as their political sovereigns after migrating with them to another land and forming an independent State there. Moses (sws) was given the directive for Jihad only after this condition had been met and, similarly, the Prophet (sws) and his followers were also allowed to do Jihad only when after the Pledge of 'Aqabah they were able to establish an independent State at Yathrib (later known as Madinah).13
The reason for this condition is that without the authority of the State Jihad often becomes Fasad. A group which does not even have the legal authority to sentence a criminal cannot be allowed to gamble with the lives and property of people. For this reason, Muslim jurists have always regarded this condition as essential:
And the third category of collective duties is one in which [the authority] of the Head of the State is a necessary condition, for example Jihad and the implementation of the Islamic law of punishments. (Al-Sayyid Al-Sabiq, Fiqhu'l-Sunnah, vol. 3, p.30)
Hamidu'l-Din Farahi writes:
Jihadin one's own country is not allowed unless one migrates to another land. Accounts of Abraham's life (sws) and other verses [of the Qur'an] related to Hijrah14 also point up this principle. The events of the Prophet's life (sws) also corroborate it. The reason for this principle is that without the authority of one who represents the collectivity of the Muslims in the State and has political sovereignty, Jihad is merely chaos and disruption and anarchy and disorder (Majmu'ah-i-Tafasir-i-Farahi, p. 56)
A prominent exegesist of the Qur'an, Amin Ahsan Islahi, makes the following comments on the same principle:
The first reason [for this condition] is that God Almighty does not like the disruption and disintegration of even an evil system until a strong probability exists that those out to disintegrate the system will provide people with an alternative, righteous system. Anarchy and disorder are unnatural conditions. In fact, they are so contrary to human nature that even an unjust system is preferable to them. For this reason, God Almighty has not given the right to wage war to a group which is dubious and obscure, the power and authority of which is undefined, which is without the sovereignty of a ruler, the loyalty and obedience of which is untested and the members of which are disorganised and undisciplined -- who can disrupt a system but cannot prove that they have the ability to integrate a disintegrated environment. This confidence [that a group will be able to create harmony and integrate a disorganised environment into an organised system] can only be reposed in such a group as has actually formed a political government and has such control and discipline within the confines of its authority that it can be termed as Al-Jama'ah15 . Until a group attains this position, it can strive to become Al-Jama'ah [through religiously allowable and through legal and constitutional means] -- and that endeavour of its would be its Jihad for that time -- but it does not have the right to wage an armed Jihad and a war.
The second reason is that the import of the authority which a group engaged in war gets over the life and property of human beings is so great that such authority cannot be given to a group in which the authority of the leader over his followers is merely moral16.Mere moral authority is not a sufficient guarantee that the leader will be able to stop his followers from Fasad fi'l-Ard17. Therefore, a religious leader does not have the right to allow his followers to take out their swords18 merely on the basis of his spiritual relationship with them, for once the sword is unsheathed there is great danger that it will not care for right and wrong and that those who drew it will end up doing all [the wrong which] they had sought to end. Those revolutionary groups the object of which is nothing more than disruption of the existing system and deposition of the ruling party to seize power for themselves play such games -- and they can, for in their eyes disruption of a system is no calamity, nor is cruelty of any kind an evil. Everything is right to them [as long as it serves their purpose]. However, the leaders of a just and righteous group must see whether they are in a position to provide people with a system better than the one they seek to change and whether they will be able to stop their followers from doing such wrong as they themselves had sought to root out. If they are not in that position, then they do not have the right to play games with the lives and property of people on the basis of their confidence in mere chances or create greater disorder than the one they had sought to end.19
It should be obvious from the passage quoted above that the right to wage an armed struggle cannot be given to a group of individuals, who do not even have the legal authority to award punishment to a criminal. Without political sovereignty, Jihad is often nothing short of Fasad.20 Thus, such militant groups as mislead their followers into believing that their vandalism, disruption and terrorism are a form of Jihad have no Islamic basis whatsoever for their claim and their retaliation against the state of Pakistan, which has been founded and runs on the basis of amruhum shura baynahum, and the constitution, which upholds the supremacy of the Qur'an and the Sunnah, is absolutely against Islam.21
As far as the question of who is a Kafir amongst the Muslims is concerned, it must be remembered that Takfir, or declaring a person a Kafir, is the prerogative of either the Prophet (sws) – who does that on the basis of Divine revelation. The reasons for this principle are as follows:
A Kafir in the true sense of the word is one who denies the truth even after it becomes absolutely clear to him. Revealing the truth to a person or a group so clearly that no excuse is left for that person or group to deny it may be termed as Itmamu'l-Hujjah.
The Prophet (sws) was the last messenger of God. With his status as a Rasul,22 the Prophet (sws) was in a position to do Itmamu'l-Hujjah even as an individual.23No one after him has that privilege. No individual or group can do Itmamu'l-Hujjah now because no individual can claim that his propagation has manifested the truth to the extent that no excuse is left to deny it. Indeed, an individual cannot even be absolutely certain of having understood the truth absolutely. He can only be certain with God will reward him for doing his duty as he has been given the light to see it. Only the Prophet's word (sws) is final in religion.
Therefore, we can only say with certainty about those people whom the Prophet (sws) declared as Kuffar on the basis of Divine revelation that they were Kuffar indeed. Now, who is worthy of eternal damnation by God is something no one can say anything about. As long as a person is alive, he has a chance to enter the kingdom of Heaven, and only God knows of his fate after death. Even if a person disagrees with another, even if in his eyes the other person is doing wrong, he cannot say what his fate will ultimately be. If the other person is to be punished by law for some crime, he should be so punished. If he is to be admonished by society, he should be so admonished. But in no case should he lose his basic rights as a human being. In no case should a person regard another as one condemned to Hell. For this is a decision that only God will make. One should continue to pray for him and to try and convince him of a truth, but one should, despite condemning his evil, not condemn the person in one's heart.
Above all, a Muslim should not regard another Muslim as a Kafir. No Muslim should call another Muslim Kafir merely because of a difference of opinion or a weakness.
Even declaring someone a non-Muslim means taking away all his rights including those as marriage and inheritance. This matter is essentially a legal one, and, therefore, only the state has the right to decide the matter. A person who professes Islam is a Muslim unless the Islamic State, which represents the opinion of the Muslims in a land, declares him otherwise. Ideally, effort should be made to convince him of a truth (without coercing him in any manner). If it all, he has to be declared a non-Muslim, it should preferably be done at the level of not one Islamic State but at the level of a body representing all Islamic States so that a person is not a Muslim in one Islamic State and a non-Muslims in another. The Qur'anic guideline to the Islamic State in this regard is that a person who processes to be a Muslim should be considered otherwise if he:24
a) accepts the fundamentals of Islam (what are those fundamentals can again be decided on the basis of amruhim shura baynahum in relation to the Qur'an and the Sunnah).
b) says the obligatory prayer, and
c) pays zakah (the obligatory payment of tax on Muslims)
It should be obvious from the points made above that the attitude and behaviour of those religious groups that resort to vandalism and disruption in society for their so-called religious aims are absolutely unjustified and un-Islamic. Moreover, the importance and value of religious work demands that those working for religion should at least have ethical and Islamic goals and ideals, if not an Islamic and a decent character. Above all, a scholar of religion should be a good Muslim and a paragon of decency. His personality should appear above political gains and there should be an aura of dignity and selflessness about him.
Although the Shari'ah does not stop a religious scholar from taking part in politics, the Qur'an clearly indicates that his main objective should be indhar, that is admonition. In other words, his basic responsibility is to study religion deeply – so that he is not an epitome of 'the blind leading the blind' – and to disseminate it.
And it was not for all believers that they go forth, but why not from each group of theirs did some come forth for gaining sound knowledge in religion and warn their people when [after gaining knowledge] they returned to them so the people would save themselves (9:122)
Those who are out to propagate religion, whether they are scholars or other Muslims helping a scholar in his task in their personal capacities, need to do more, for they have to conquer hearts. And for that one doesn't cause others harm: one faces harm. One doesn't persecute, but bears persecution – and returns the favour with goodness:
The good and the evil are not equal. Repel evil with that which is better than all others; then you will see that he, between whom and you there was enmity, has become as if he were a truly close friend. And this sagacity is not afforded to anyone except to those who persevere and this wisdom is not granted except to those who are indeed very fortunate. And if you feel any evil incitement from Satan, seek refuge of Allah. Verily, He is the Hearer, the knower. (41:34-36)
It is indeed unfortunate that such religious groups as had attracted talent as well as enthusiasm and commitment from amongst the Muslims have not learned even now from constant failures that by ignoring their real task of studying and disseminating religion, their identity is now nothing more than that of rogues and vandals, or, at best, of failed political parties whose import lies in their nuisance value. It is unfortunate that these parties have not put their best efforts in educating the younger generation on religion. The deplorable state in this regard can be judged from the number of text-books at any level which present religion in a captivating and interesting manner and which answer the questions in young minds and face the challenge of modern times, it can be judged from the number of teachers of religion in good schools – teachers who inspire awe and can become role models for youngsters, and it can be judged from the number of truly competent scholars of religion that we produce each year.
Would that those religious groups who burn tyres, raise slogans, behave indecently towards state guests, disrupt society and resort to violence and vandalism in the belief that their insignificant and misplaced battles for their religion can help them win the war knew what their real battleground is and what are the required weapons and strategies in the war for which they have been made responsible by their Master.
(Note: The word Allah is pronounced as Allah by Muslims. This is the correct pronunciation and should be used inside of Ala, which is more common in English speaking peoples.)