Shura, ijma, and ‘amri bil ma’ruf wal nahyi’an al-munkar were largely formalities in the medieval Muslim world, and the situation was justified by Muslim jurists based on the notion of ‘ajz or impotence. At any rate, those concepts do not constitute a theory of a modern state.
Neither of the Islamists’ favorite jurists, Ibn Hanbal or Ibn Taymiyya, advocated rebellion against their respective dunyawi rulers. Such rebellion is only under ma’siyya. Ibn Taymiyya’s one of the most famous fatwas was not against his Memluke rulers, who by no means were particularly very religious, but was against the Mongols.
Equating state with religion: Maududi’s innovation
Therefore, what the most influential ideologues of Islamism, Abul A’la Maududi, did by advocating din wa dawla (not merely din wa dunya) was a clear break from the medieval conceptions of Islam.
Arguably, Maududi’s ideology was a reaction to an all encompassing modern state-formation and electoral politics dominated by the Indian Congress party at a particular point in time in India. His ideology was not intrinsic to Islam, for no founding texts of Islam has a theory of the modern state. Nation-states are all modern phenomena.
Failure of ‘al-Islam huwa al-hall’: lessons from Islamist politics
Again, advocating a bid’a concept of din wa dawla and condemning Nasser’s society as jahiliyya, Sayyid Qutb advocated a more militant strategy, but nevertheless an equally novel idea. We saw Qutb’s militancy taken up by several groups in Egypt and elsewhere to create an ‘Islamic state’ under the banner of al-Islam huwa al-hall. What happened? Clearly, we have not seen any ‘Islamic state’ anywhere in the world. The Islamist project of forcible change, under the banner of al-Islam huwa al-hall, has failed everywhere it was attempted.
After departing from Muslim Brotherhood’s founder al-Banna’s original and more conservative strategy of creating pious individuals, pious families, and a pious society first, which will then lead to an alleged ‘Islamic state’, Islamists learned lessons from their failure of militancy and re-embraced ‘Banna-strategy’.
Banna-strategy has, of course, been adopted by our Islamists, including Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed and Dr Abdul Majeel Abdul Bari, in several of their writings and khutba. The ‘Islamic nahda’ we now see in the Maldives, through modern social movement strategies, is an outcome of this more conservative Islamism of focusing individuals and families, through prayer groups, mosques, schools, the Internet, the economy, and so on. There is, however, a limit to conservative Islamism too.
No Islamist party that had a platform of creating an ‘Islamic state’ had won a major national election in recent times. Neither in Turkey, where the AKP abandoned their former platforms, nor in Indonesia, where the almost 90 percent Muslim population chose reformist parties over Islamist parties, have we seen din wa dawla/al-Islam huwa al-hall platform succeed. But both Turkey and Indonesia saw a hitherto unseen level of increased Islamic piety and observance in their societies during the same period. Today, even Muslim Brotherhood is part of modern party politics/hizbiyyah who now at least pay lip service to democracy.
Not surprisingly, the Adalaath party too has failed miserably in the major national elections. If Adalaath party has an ounce of sense for political pragmatics, they need to learn from others’ failures. A utopian notion of Islam is neither al-hall for our social problems nor al-hall for Adalaath’s failures in electoral politics.
Din wa dawla: despotism and a mockery of religion
If al-Islam huwa al-hall means anything, then the Islamic Republic of Iran, where allegedly din wa dawla and velyat-e-faqih exist, would represent al-hall to life’s problems. Instead, what we see in Iran is not only brutal despotism, but also a mockery of religion. Khomeini, when faced with the complexity of a modern nation-state, authorised sacrificing even basics such as prayer if they contradicted the religious rule.
After all, what does it really mean to rally behind a utopian slogan of al-Islam huwa al-hall? A slogan is no hall to anything, except perhaps drawing few more members to one’s almaniyy/secular power politics. Virtue, piety, religiosity are all good things. But these utopian visions of the good life do not provide hall to drug-abuse, the housing crisis, gang-related violence, inflation, and violence against children and women.
The logic behind all utopian hall is absolute despotism: there is no way to make all people, even a majority in the Maldives, subscribe a single vision of the good life except through utter despotic force.
Blind taqlid and nifaq: failing shar’ah’s maqasid
Calling for codification of hudud punishments, while Qur’an emphasises a balance between retribution and islah, is blind taqlid of Islamists elsewhere. Moreover, enforcing hudud punishments only on the people who commit crimes cannot absolve us from our collective responsibility in these social ills. We as a society have collectively failed these youths. In our failed circumstances, Islam’s higher maqasid would not allow blind taqlidi implementation of fiqh.
Enforcing fiqh – which itself is a human outcome – through codified positive laws by a modern state with enormous power over the life and death of people of different conceptions of good life does not represent a particularly Islamic act. It is very much an almaniyy attempt. Democracy, parliaments, codifications of fiqh, positive laws, are all beset with almaniyya/secularism and are handled by very much almaniyy representatives who act not on the logic of piety but on the logic of power.
Besides, as other Muslim scholars have argued, Qur’an’s allowance for tauba and islah at all major instances of hudud punishment would be lost in a rigid codification of punishments to be implemented by an equally ad hoc and corruptible judiciary.
Thus, behind a false notion of satthain sattha/100 percent muslim qaum to codify fiqh is pure nifaq that is condemned in Qur’an. The banner of al-Islam huwa al-hall is in reality nothing more than a political party’s almaniyy strategy to mobilise political support.
However, if Adalaath party is to win the hearts and minds of a sizeable section of Maldivians, they must come out of the pretense of subscribing to an alleged Islamic notion of din wa dawla while at the same time attempting modern hizbiyyah.
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