Sunday, 9 December 2007

Teddies, Shariah law and civil society

The early release of Ms Gibbons and 'pardoning' of her 'crime' by Sudanese president Omer el-Bashir has been welcomed by all. This was after the hard work of the two Muslim peers Lord Nazir Ahmed and Lady Warsi.

Lord Nazir issued a statement, saying that the misunderstanding is over. Gordon Brown said that she never should have been arrested. The Sudanese ambassador said the pardon meant that the initial error had not been 'forgotten', rather it was 'forgiven', whilst maintaining the original 'mistake' - and the conviction therefore - still 'stood'.

This, however does not really address a number of fundamental questions; amongst them: Muslims may well belie such an incident as being alien to Islam, but how does it take place in the name of Islam? What if she was guilty? Do Muslims advocate flogging and imprisonment in that case? It seems in some circles, they go even further. "Moderate" Islamist movement leaders such as el-Sheikh el-Nur of the Muslim Brotherhood went further and said, "If she intended the prophet by naming the teddy bear, she should be killed".

In the same vain are punishments such as amputation of limbs, stoning of adulterers, and lashing/imprisoning/killing those that dare name a bear Muhammad. Are these really aspects of Islam, and the "shariah" that are essential aspect of divine wisdom, as understood by Muslims?

Muslims and Muslim scholars have attempted to address this and many other issues that pertain to Muslims, Islam and modernity and civil society, but the question still arises amongst Muslims and mainly propounded by Islamists. Muslim scholars have traditionally viewed the Shariah as seeking to preserve certain fundamental goals (maqasid) as vital necessities, upon which the whole of the shariah is built and in fact the rest of the rules are just means (wasail) to realize them.

These would be the preservation of religion, intellect, family/lineage, life and property. Muslim theologians also believe that these are universal values. Muslim scholars have explained that these aims are fundamental interests (masalih) that societies seek. And the rest of the rules were means to do so.

So Muhammad (saw) organised his community, alongside the Jewish tribes, and polytheists by negotiating an agreement in Mithaq ul-Madinah 'The document of Madinah'. This was in his time, and situation, how best to realize these aims. He described the Muslims, Jews and Polytheists who were signatories to this document as 'one Ummah, separate from the rest of mankind' and a plurality of legal traditions, Jewish and Polytheistic local tradition e.g. blood money (see Ibn Hisham).

The Prophet made other agreements; He agreed with the tribe of Thaqeef that they would have their own leader for prayer from amongst themselves, they would not join the congregation of Madinah, they would not pay the Zakat (alms) nor would they take part in the Jihad (armed conflict) alongside the Muslims (Sunan Abu Dawud).

Muslims maintained this political tradition. They asked Abu Bakr to appoint the next leader to prevent the discord that occurred after the appointment of Abu Bakr. Umar separated the power of judging from the governors to ensure justice. The Muslims appointed Uthman, after Umar had restricted the nominees, on condition that he follows the rules and laws of Abu Bakr and Umar (See Bukhari). The court of mathalim was established by the Abbasids (Mawardi the Qadi and writer notes this was an imitation of the Persian system present at the time) to bring about justice and account the governors.

Mawardi, the Judge and scholar from the Abbasid era describes in his work both the functioning of polity in his time, and dictates some rules pertaining to them. He gives an incident where Qadi Abu Yusuf was adjudicating in a case with competing interests. The Qadi informed the Caliph, Harun al-Rashid who advised discretion and not imposing the old traditions in a manner that would create political discord as it was completely out of sink with the views of Society. Imam Mawardi states that Abu Yusuf did so, and is perfectly permissible as it was seeking the maslaha (see Ahkam al-Sultaniyah). In the same context Imam Ahmed al-Hadawi al-Murtada explains that the 'Hudood' ("prescribed punishments") should be dropped when there is an interest (Maslaha) in doing so (See 'al-Azhar').

In today's day and age, we can have various means to ascertain lineage and parental responsibility, maintenance measures; DNA testing involved in detecting crimes and various means of rehabilitation; a developed and developing understanding (there is still huge disparity in the West between salaries across gender) of the social value of women in the work place and their understanding of socio-economic-political matters - we can seek to redress any imbalances and outdated or outmoded expressions of the means by which the these important goals (Maqasid) are realized. All of this away from the influences of the medieval mindset. We can relieve ourselves of ancient and outmoded punishments, such as 'flogging' and 'stoning' as not being consistent with the actualizing of the Maqasid (Something that the Ottomans had abandoned for the last 300 hundred years in its imperial life).

Professor Imran Khan Nyazee in his work 'Theories of Islamic Law', explains that today we should re-evaluate the disparity between female testimony, their apparent economic value as being equal to that of men, and more importantly, the most appropriate political system as a democratic political system which would facilitate the best means of Muslims realizing the above aims in a just political order.

It should also be clear that the Prophet and the early Muslims were able to establish a 'social contract' that facilitated harmony in their own societies, allowing the political means to develop pragmatically, as necessitated. Where are we in this respect? How close are we to developing our own 'home-grown' organic conception of civil society and develop a discourse where we can replicate the same notion of 'Ummah', that the Prophet (saw) managed to create in multi-faith Madinah, whilst maintaining social cohesion? This for me is the question of our age.

Rashad Ali is a former lecturer at Jami Taybah University, Madinah and King Adul Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He is a former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, Britain and previously a member of its Wilayah (leadership) committee.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Shiraz Maher on Panorama

Last Monday's Panorama, presented by Shiraz Maher, was an excellent piece of investigative reporting and essential viewing for anyone who wants an insight into the murky world of Islamism.

Shiraz has now 'come-out' and now wants to expose Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) for the organisation it is. HT Britain is trying to market itself as a conciliatory and moderate organisation that condemns violence as a means to achieve political ends. With access to other former HT insiders, and HT literature the group wanted to keep hidden, Shiraz reveals that HT Britain's conciliatory approach was merely a crude facade that concealed the same radical and extreme views.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Maajid Nawaz on Newsnight tonight

Maajid Nawaz, one of the most senior members of the radical Islamist party Hizb-ut-Tahrir, talks exclusively to Newsnight on BBC Two tonight.

On the programme to be broadcast at 10.30pm Nawaz reveals how Hizb-ut-Tahrir advocate the killing of millions of people to unite and expand an Islamic super-state and why he resigned from the party.

For 12 years Maajid Nawaz was inside Hizb-ut-Tahrir, not only propagating their views in Britain, but exporting them to Pakistan and Denmark. He was imprisoned in Egypt for four years for being a member of the party. Up until May this year he was on their leadership committee.

The establishment of the Khilafah – an Islamic state across the Muslim world under Sharia law – is the central aim of Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Last month they held a series of international conferences, the largest in Indonesia, to "accelerate" its establishment.

Hizb-ut-Tahrir publicly state that this would be achieved "without resorting to violence" and "following an exclusively political method".

But Maajid Nawaz has told Newsnight that, once that state is established, the party does advocate violence, and violent expansion beyond the Muslim world.

He says: "They are prepared to, once they've established the state, to fight other countries and to kill people in the pursuit of unifying this state into one state. And what I'd like to emphasize is that such a policy is not agreed upon within Islamic theology.

"... Hizb-ut-Tahrir privately and publicly condemn terrorism but the point I'm making is that's not the danger I'm concerned about.

"The danger I'm concerned about is creating a mentality, a psyche that can allow a state and it deems it acceptable for a state en masse to kill people in the cause of an ideology."

Hizb-ut-Tahrir is a global Islamist movement founded in 1953, committed to the establishment of a unitary Islamic state across the Muslim world, under Sharia law. It is banned in many Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt, Syria and Turkey.

After the July 7th bombings the then Prime Minister Tony Blair moved to ban the organisation in Britain but there was insufficient evidence to do so.

The debate over proscribing the party has centred on how extreme the movement is and its stance on violence. It insists that it works through exclusively political means.

Nawaz says that his time spent in prison meant he started questioning if there was a better way "than just meeting oppression and anger with more anger and more oppression".

He developed serious doubts, leading to a decision to leave.

"I regret my whole association with Hizb ut-Tahrir and the way in which I propagated those ideas.

"... I think that what I taught has not only damaged British society and British Muslim relations and damaged the position of Muslims in this society as British citizens, I think it's damaged the world."

Despite his criticisms of the party, Maajid Nawaz is not joining calls for Hizb-ut-Tahrir to be banned in Britain.

He says: " I expressly and explicitly say to the members I want them to leave Hizb ut-Tahrir because I believe Hizb ut-Tahrir is an obstacle to the Muslim community moving forward, not only in this country but in the world in general. And that's why I'm here, because I regret me being a part of that obstacle.

"My ideal scenario would be not to ban the party but it would be that through the power of discussion and persuasion and the strength of challenging thought with thought, that eventually the party would fizzle out in this country and hopefully generally throughout the world."

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Rashad Zaman Ali - Khilafah is an "expansionist, totalitarian state"

Let us not mistake the Muslims fealty and sentiments of spiritual brotherhood, and sharing teh pains of their brethren across the globe, mistaken for a non-existent ideologocal bond which politically supercedes tehir patriotic political ideas and political system.

They don't see a contradiction between being Egyptian/Syrian/Turkish/Secular-Turkish/Saudi/Kurdish/Socialist-Kurdish/Salafi-Saudi/ and Muslim.

Only some of the the extreme Islamists would have an identity problem with I dunno, say being Muslim or British and end up fly posting all the Muslim houses in his city after taking their addresses down from the council register ;-).

Most people wouldn't have that hang up. Most people don't think that there is a contradiction as they don't politicise their identity with an expansionist totalitarian state as a part of their identity in the name of the Ummah.

Posted by: Rashad Zaman Ali from Sheffield | 31 August 2007 at 02:51 AM

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Islamism must be fought and defeated

Islamism and Wahhabism undermine the very fabric of Islam; combined, these ideologies are a subversive influence on Muslim communities across the globe and a security threat to the West. I believe this issue transcends the right-left division of conventional politics and requires us to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all right-thinking citizens, irrespective of party politics.

It is simply wrong to work to overthrow the Muslim rulers of Muslim countries which are from a scholarly perspective Dar al-Islam. While one does not endorse the brutal dictatorships that dominate the Arab political landscape, just as the Ahl al-Sunnah persevered through the tyranny of Hajjaj bin Yusuf, we should counsel Muslim rulers, exercise sabr, be abundant in dua, and work for political change with and not against the hukkam.

In this pursuit, we should seek guidance from that centuries-old repository of cumulative knowledge: the traditional Muslim ulama.