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Towards rational political participation

Shaikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi


There are ideological phenomena that no careful examiner can miss in the sphere of the Islamic Movement, particularly in the political field.

There is the "ideology of the crisis" which still influences many of the leaders and writers of the Islamic Movement and tints, in one way or another, much of the material written for purposes of promoting Islam or for education, as well as the political tendencies.


The Islamic Movement has to shake off this dangerous ideology of the crisis and deal with people, life and the world as a whole according to an "ideology of well-being".


There is the "Zahirite ideology", which stops at the letter of [religious] texts and does not go beyond it to deal with the [real] purposes of Shari'ah, thus not heeding the interests of people. Prominent scholars have affirmed that rules are meant to serve the' interests 'of people in earthly life and in the hereafter. Any rule that abandons 'interest' for 'evil', or neglects 'wisdom' in preference of 'nonsense', has no relation whatsoever with Shari'ah (Islamic Laws), even if it is misunderstood as belonging to Shari'ah, as Imam Ibn Al-Qayyem said. Such an ideology might be acceptable in relation to some rituals or rules that apply to individuals, but it can never be acceptable in the field of "Shari'ah politics" which should be based on flexibility and tolerance and take into account the change in time, place and the humans themselves. There is the "Kharijite ideology" whose advocates are characterized by honesty and bravery but are narrow-minded and near-sighted in their attitude towards religion and life, violent in dealing with others and always rejecting, accusing and suspecting everybody, even the Islamists themselves, while they admire their own opinions, which is a fatal shortcoming indeed.

There is the "Imitational ideology" which seeks an answer to every ideological, political or legal problem in the books of the earlier scholars of its school, never breaking out of their boundaries or examining Shari'ah in its broader concept and with its various schools and methodologies, nor addressing this age and its contemporary developments and problems. In adopting this attitude, such an ideology narrows what Allah has made expansive, and makes difficult what Islam has facilitated.

The Islamic Movement will not have a rational political ideology unless it overcomes these adverse ideological phenomena and their effects on its people and nurtures this new type of 'Fiqh' (understanding): the Fiqh of approved practices, the Fiqh of goals, the Fiqh of balances and the Fiqh of priorities.

'A Deficiency That Should Be Addressed in Fiqh of Politics' The Islamic Movement should seek to rectify the defective, strange concepts and decisions that we read and hear, and the methodologies of deduction that are even more strange and more peculiar. These peculiar concepts, rules and methodologies are most evident in the Fiqh of Politics, which has not received in the past the same degree of attention devoted to the Fiqhs of worship, transactions, marriage etc.

The 'Fiqh of Politics' of today is afflicted with much misconception and ill judgments, and its basics are so much varied in the minds of Islamists that the rules applied by some may be far from those applied by others like east is far from west.


We have seen some people who regard Shura [process of consultation] as mere informative, not a compulsory duty, we have seen others who vest the head of state with the right to declare war and conclude treaties without consulting the representatives of the nation, and we have seen still others who consider democracy as a form of unbelief. We have also seen those who believe that woman has no place in Islamic politics and that her only place is her father's house, from which she may only go to either of two place: her husband's house or her grave. To them, woman has no right to vote in any elections, let alone run in the elections for local governments or the Parliament.

There are also those who see political plurality as an arrangement that is rejected by Islam, and believe that no parties, groups or bodies that have any political views or affiliations should be established in a Muslim state.


I was dismayed when some brothers showed me a treatise that some zealous advocates of the Call had written under the title "Monotheism Is Against Membership Of Parliament", for I saw that as a peculiar confusion of issues of practice with issues of doctrine. Issues of practice deal with right and wrong, not belief and unbelief, and they are part of Shari'ah politics where 'Ijtihad' is rewarded twice when it is right and once when it is wrong.


The same mistake was made by the Kharijites in the old days when they branded Imam Ali lbn Abu-Talib as an unbeliever on account of a worldly matter related to politics that they had turned into a doctrinal issue, saying "He had given people control over the Religion of Allah, and none but Allah shall have judgment". The Imam's reply to their allegation was most eloquent, as he said, "A word of right intended to establish wrong"!


'An Important Dialogue on Fiqh of Politics' I was greatly amazed to see among the scholars of Afghanistan, those who have led the 'Jihad' so zealously and bravely, some who see the education of women as 'Haram' (illegal) and think the same of using elections as a means for selecting people's deputies or the president of the state. They also believe that the determination of the term of office of the president of the state and the saying that shura is obligatory are haram.


One of the brothers who is convinced of such ideas discussed them with me, saying that the failure of the Islamic Movement in modern times had been brought about by its belief in ideas which he regarded as non-Islamic and that we [Muslims] would not succeed unless we used Islamic means to attain Islamic ends.


I asked him, "What makes the determination of the term of office for presidents 'Haram' if Muslims deem it as being in their interest"?


He replied, "It is against the practice of Muslims since the days of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him). None of the Caliphs was chosen for a fixed term but they stayed in rule for life, especially the Rightly-Guided Caliphs whom the Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered us to cherish and follow every practice they set and cling to it stubbornly. The Prophet warned us in this hadith narrated by Al-Irbad Ibn-Sariya against newly-invented matters, as he said that every innovation (in religion) is a straying [from the straight path], and this is a new matter that the people have invented".


I countered, "We were ordered to follow the Prophet's 'Sunna' [practices] before following the practices of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, as the Sunna is the second source of legislation in Islam and should be referred to, besides the Quran, in any disagreement, and the hadith you mention that was narrated by Al-Irbad says, "Follow my Sunna and the practices of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs." Therefore, you have to refer to the Prophet's Sunna first.


The Sunna of the Prophet, as everybody knows, is either a statement, an action or an approval. His actions in particular may not be obligatory in themselves, but indicate only allowance and permissibility, except when they are coupled with other pieces of evidence that indicate recommendation or compulsion. That is why some of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs went against the actions of the Prophet whenever they saw that the interests for which the Prophet had done such actions had changed so that acting in the same way would not be in the interest of Muslims. An example of that is distribution of [the property in] Khaybar among fighters by the Prophet after its conquest, while Omar did not do the same when he conquered the rural areas of Iraq, as he saw it more fit for his time not to do so. Many of the Prophet's Companions argued against Omar's opinion, particularly as his opinion was contradictory in letter to the general provisions of 'Surat Al-Anfal', "And know that out of all the booty that you may acquire tin war], a fifth share is assigned to Allah".


Omar commented by saying, "I found property that can suffice for the people in present and future. Do you want the people of the future to find nothing left for them?"


This means that Omar took into account the welfare of coming generation, which is a wonderful act of mutual dependence among the generations of the Muslim nation, so that one generation may not live in luxury at the expense of a coming generation or generations. Omar's argument in so doing was based on the verse of Surat Al-Hashr which stipulated the distribution of the war booty between the Muhajirin and the Ansar, "and those who came after them.


Imam Ibn-Qudama explained the difference between the action of the Prophet and that of Omar by saying that each had done what was most appropriate for his time.


Now, if the actions of the Prophet. which were a part and parcel of his Sunna, were not compulsory for those who came after him and the companions sometimes acted otherwise for certain consideration, how can the actions of the Muslims after him be compulsory for those who come after them?


Precedents do not have the property of legal obligation. It is only that they were adequate for their time, place and circumstances. If these factors change, so must the actions built on them. The focal point here is that we should choose from the systems and legislations of those before us what is suitable for our time, our environment and our circumstances within the limits of the general texts and goals of our tolerant Shari'ah.


As for the argument that Muslim scholars unanimously stand against the limitation of the term of office of rulers, it is somewhat misleading.


There is no arguing against the unanimous agreement that a ruler may reign for life. However, the limitation of terms of office, on the other hand, was never discussed or researched, but was a subject of complete silence by these people. It is said that no words should be attributed to a silent man, therefore we should not attribute either affirmation or negation on this issue to them.


On the other hand, as for the saying that the determination of the term of office of the head of state is an introduction of a newly invented matter in Islam and that it is unanimously agreed that every innovation is a straying, we admit that the second part of the saying- i.e. every innovation is a straying - is accepted. However, the first part of the saying -i.e. that such action falls under innovation in Shari'ah -it lacks proofs.


In fact, an innovation is what is invented in matters of a purely religious nature, such as creeds and worship and their branches, while the changing matters of life such as norms, traditions, customs and administrative, social, cultural and political practices are no innovation at all, as they fall under what scholars call "public interests" as explained by Imam Al-Shatibi in his book 'Al l'tissam'. Thus, the Prophet's Companions did some things that the Prophet did not do, such as writing copies of the Quran, using registers, levying land taxes and building a jailhouse.


Those Muslims who came next, after the Prophet's Companions, did, in their turn, things that their predecessors (the Companions) had not done, such as minting money, organizing a mail service, etc. Muslims have introduced innovations that were unheard of in the days of the Prophet and his Companions, such as recording the sciences that were existent before their time and introducing other sciences like sciences of religion, linguistics and various human sciences.


(Dr Yousuf al Qaradawi is the Chairman of International Association of Islamic Scholars (IAMS)

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