A Whiter Shade of Pale
Classics strangled by ideological keywords
The reality of Islam is submission.
What is missing in our age is submission.
Every age has an element which preponderates in it. It holds sway over humans and their existential choices.
This age has self-centeredness at its core.
While Sufi contemplation is a much prized topic of discussion, this is the age of the self-contemplating human; the age of appearance, of the monitor-mirror reflecting the self-pleased faces of those who crave for fame, charisma and audience.
When we embraced Islam, our life trajectory met the life trajectory of the anaemic Muslims from traditional tribes and nations (the so-called “born” Muslims).
Their life project was easily described:
• Self-expansion in this lower world (the dunyā)
• Earning enough points for the promised Bliss of the Hereafter.
Every country in this tight global prison has its peculiar denomination.
Here in South Africa they call it e-bucks.
Electronic tokens of money, mostly virtual partly real.
When they stand before the Owner of the Day of Requital, the Just Judge, they will witness virtuality severed from reality and voided of substance on the Scales.
Outdoors, they lived precisely as secular humanists did.
Their politics, finance, trade, social dynamics, anthropological guidelines, civic existence (constructing and managing space in urban realities, etc), and all the rest, were indistinguishable from the modes of life of their Rūmī and kindred hosts.
In the enclosure of their private habitats and the basic nuclei of distinct communal interface (mosque activities, weddings and funerals, some educational institutes, seasonal gatherings), they acted out the religion they had reduced Islam to.
Dilution – Reduction – Adulteration – Minimalism – Miniaturism: We have investigated those realities more than once.
There was no designing of Islamic villages, no rebuilding of societal pillars, and no yearning for that.
It is obviously from this emaciated milieu that the personage we scrutinized in our twin writing “Talmudic Muftis Grow” sprang out.
He might have shared with us the common background of “new” Muslim from “the West”, yet we could not recognize ourselves in his lineaments.
There could be no identity, despite the shared background, since the primal life impulse was totally heterogeneous.
The Muslim we associated with from day one, as our natural likes, were those fashioned by the same transformative ethos we made reiterated reference to in our aforesaid article.
We can observe the modernist camp, with its two poles, Ikhwanism and al its satellites, and militant Wahhabism with its diverse cells of terror.
There was then a more insightful camp, which sought to understand historical phenomena before proposing a socio-political way forward.
Movements such as Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Murabitun arose therein.
They had a special appeal among Muslims in so-called “Western” countries, as they benefited from their first-hand experience and inside knowledge of kufr.
Ikhwanism is so patently absurd in its native flaw as to deserve only a flashing mention.
If their ideology is to penetrate existing secular organisms and run them more successfully by Islamizing their morals, they cannot then complain, as it is being done in Egypt and elsewhere, that forces inimical to their ideology are aborting their attempts.
They cannot have the cake and eat it, too.
From the beginning, their ideology proclaims, they are competing with inimical forces within the same structural space. Their promise to voters is that if they choose them over their political enemies, they will run those organisms better.
If they do not do so, and they have in truth only sowed economic misery and social impoverishment, not just political upheaval which they might rightly or wrongly ascribe to their foes and rivals, it means that Allah has openly revealed their ideology to be sheer falsehood.
A learned scholar from the Islamic West (more precisely from “the nearer Maghrib”) recently posed this pointed rhetorical question on a social network:
If the Ikhwan were to expend the same amount of enthusiasm on reviving the four schools of jurisprudence and the two main doctrinal schools of Ahl as-Sunnah as they expend on the promotion of their (defeatist) ideology, the word of the Muslims would again be united and potent, and there would be one house, firmly erected as before: What stops them from that?
Naturally, we know (and we have often underlined) that we are unquestionably alive in the prophesied age of escalating darkness and decadence, where the unity of the ummah is torn by an absence of ruler and polity, and more fractures rather than less are expected in the near future.
But let us apply his knowledgeable acid test to the Muslims who took on the transformative brief of the Dīn and were hampered by affiliation to an ideological movement.
When we entered Islam, the route was pictured clear in our hearts:
Islam was to please Allah by following His Messenger, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, and serving the totality of His Dīn. The Garden, for us, lay at the feet of such a life-absorbing engagement. It was not to be secured by earning collateral points while focusing on this worldly transit.
It was not to be won by adherence to other than … Islam, pure and simple,
Everything else was at the most a potential tool to accomplish that.
An idea, an ideological stance, shifting personnel, all of that was merely a mount to ride on the way to the goal: The expenditure of the self in reaching Allah transcended the medium, just as it ought to have transcended the political aspirations of Ikhwanis.
What went wrong then? What lay at the root of the failure?
If one looks at it, for 13 or so centuries Islam showed a constant profile.
What I read in the sources bequeathed by the earlier masters is mutually attesting. The same winsome house is photographed from different angles. You look at any one photograph, and you are pleased at once with its familiar shape.
There is no problem there. The problem must therefore be in the activism of present-day Muslims.
I am disinterested in any in-depth probe of manipulative humans with sinister agendas: my sole focus is on genuine stars of commitment to the Dīn.
Hizb ut-Tahrir, stirred into action by the commendable eagerness to pave the way for the return of Caliphal authority, formulated a very intricate multi-point program based on walā’ and barā’.
Why not simply saying, as we do, as the said North African scholar is doing, that the champion forward motion is simply to reactivate the foundations of that single house, peopled by victorious Muslims with no solution of continuity prior to the collapse of Caliphal rule?
Let us illustrate the point through even more lucid examples.
The Murabitun movement, addressing a cream of Muslim intelligentsia, many of whom were among the best believers I interacted with, rekindled concern in the arch-themes of power and empowerment and in the transactional judgments of the Law.
Even assuming fictional money is taxable, all the schools of Ahl as-Sunnah concur with the fact that zakāt on latent assets such as coins cannot be forcibly collected by an Islamic authority, even when it does exist and operates justly.
That is trite law. We have made it even clearer, in case someone was still confused, through our cyber article [http://www.theislamiccommunity.com/article/zak_257_t_on_latent_assets] “Does the Mālikī madhhab instruct an Islamic leadership to forcibly take pecuniary zakātable assets from their owners?”. We have pointed those holding onto a unanimously unacceptable view to the fact that their own qualified teacher in Great Britain disowned that elementary error?
No one wrote or could have written a reply casting doubt on what is well-known to be the universal position of Ahl as-Sunnah on the mas’alah throughout the centuries.
Why have valuable Muslims in that movement not simply folded up an erroneously held view and espoused the definitive judgment of their own Imām and their own jurisprudential school?
Why have they not expended the same passionate enthusiasm on confirming that well-cemented part of the united Sunni house?
The Lawgiver calls and we respond without placing obtruding intermediaries in between.
Why, then, have they refused to submit, bent on adding further fuel to the divisiveness in the ummah?
The beginning and end of the fast:
Some of their best members have been repeatedly alerted to the fact that the school of their Imām, exactly like the manifest view of the Hanafiyyah and the preferred Hanbalī ruling, supports the entry and exit of seasons of worship through a sighting anywhere in the world which can be acted upon.
There are now valuable sites which, even on the assumption of paying legal consideration to the notion of uniform rising points, make it incredibly easy and reliable to gather Muslims all over the world on a balanced implementation of Sunni jurisprudence across madhāhib, one that refurbishes the same healthy column of moon-sighting that has propped up the same authentic house we have spoken about.
Ideological keywords stand in the way.
Ideological keywords attract egos.
Egotism rules the day.
We might tell a devotee of minimalist Islam that the whole Book ought to be adhered to.
We have done so repeatedly before.
He is unlikely to accept what his self is determined to reject.
The devotee of ideology likewise finds it hard to submit.
We might tell him the Law instructs him to migrate from his error to the truth, whether it is about the unanimous fiqh on zakāt or the equally universal precept that a spiritual authority, a doctor of inward ailments, cannot be the political authority appointing or dismissing leaders, or about the unequivocal fact that an exchange of electronic signals purporting to represent currencies is plain usury, and that whoever advocates its use as if lawful is a usurer to be disgraced accordingly.
Whether he is Ikhwani or anti-modernist, the interposing ideology he passionately subscribes to and serves frequently urges him to depart from the house of Sunni correctness as embodied by the four madhāhib and the mainstream schools of ‘aqīdah.
At that point, he no longer emulates. He innovates.
At that point, he no longer submits. He rebels.
Ostensibly, he voices allegiance to the united word of Ahl as-Sunnah, but he acts against what he voices.
He is schismatically ruptured, though differently from the minimalist Muslim.
You might say that he is veiled by being under a spell, and we are certainly able to analyze the building blocks of that fascination extensively.
Whether or not one concurs with that analysis, ultimately no one is spell-bound by something unless he wants to be.
Why does he want to be?
Selves love manifestation.
This is an age prizing manifestation; and selves dread obscurity: “Bury your self in the land of obscurity”, Ibn ‘Atā’illāh famously wrote.
Emulating the classics who served the vigorous house of Ahl as-Sunnah does not make room for self-manifestation, certainly not enough room.
Servants might be blessed but are little known.
Keywords which ideologies plant in hearts and minds excite the self.
They might collide with truth, but they captivate.
The rule on taxation of latent assets, one example among countless others, might say one thing, just as the Sunnah teaches us that, contrary to the Ikhwan’s fallacy, you cannot storm a foreign palace and rule a nexus of Muslims by simply substituting yourself from its displaced occupiers, but the visibility ensured to me by espousal of an existing, publicly acknowledged ideology is an irresistible lure for many a self.
I can secure a role as protagonist. I stand a chance of being cast as a leading actor in the film of visualness.
That is why in three decades, whether in a reformist movement like the Ikhwan or in a revivalist movement like Hizb ut-Tahrir (used by us purely as paradigms, like any other groupings mentioned herein), I have not seen a sustained program of learning and dissemination of the holistic Islam of the classics.
That Islam is a bridge to something else, as opposed to something else being a bridge to that Islam. Ideologies foster vested interests, even the vested interest of announcing the arrival of Ramadān to a handful of followers, and vested interests obfuscate submission.
Self-effacement in giving renewed voice to that Islam is not appealing.
Humanism is appealing.
Innovations in Islam are appealing.
The market succumbs to commodities which are deemed appealing.
The self is an insidious faceless beast. It is impatient. It pretends instant gratification. It screams with Jim Morrison, ‘I want the world and I want it now’, but genuine construction work on the house is only driven by the sacred virtues of patience and delayed enjoyment.
The self is fond of shortcuts.
Emulation along the united path of Ahl as-Sunnah, faithful submission to its age-old signposts from fiqh, ‘aqīdah and Sufism, calls for the full distance to be covered. It eschews shortcuts, so lovers thereof eschew it in turn.
This path of renewal, therefore, can only be watered by Muslims who have resisted the sirens of self-entrenchment; Muslims who are still faithful to the original vow to submit by serving none other than Allah for nothing other than His pleasure, regardless of where their selves lean in their individual and communal existence.
Allah, Exalted is He, has said in His Book:
«Allah has bought from the mu’minūn their selves and their wealth in return for the Garden. They fight in the Way of Allah, and they kill and are killed. It is a promise binding on Him in the Torah, the Injīl and the Qur’ān, and who is truer to his pact than Allah? Rejoice, then, in the sale you have concluded. That is indeed the vast victory» (Sūrah at-Tawbah: 112).
We always understood that to be our sole life project.
Earning incidental points for the Hereafter why centralizing the dunyā cannot be described as the contract of sale Allah is urging us to conclude with Him.
Favouring ideological tools of self-manifestation over objective truths, after the estimable choice of a committed Islamic activism, spoils the validity of that contract.
Worse still, fewer are now the judges who dare setting it aside as irregular, as conscience should demand of any genuine fighter in His Way.