Comment: Al-Islam huwa al-hall, from utopianism to hizbiyyah

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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18 thoughts on “Comment: Al-Islam huwa al-hall, from utopianism to hizbiyyah”

  1. It is noteworthy to remember that Islam provides for evolution of polity and nationhood and guarntees a perfect state if adhered to shariah.If you remove advent of Islam from world history ( not from any single perstective)the world is left with no continuum of development and civilization. Islamic values are scienitifcally proven. socially, polically and economically experimented for over 1000 years unabated.Clearly stood the test of time.Islam is ever glorious and will continue to glorify whosoever sticks to it regardless color or creed.What is more scientific than Quran itself challenging the humanity of all times hat it wil remain intact. It is intact because Sunnah is also intact. How is it God would not protect his religion revealed for eternal success or eternal bliss depending on one's choice.
    Islam is the solution, was the solution and will continue to be the solution for the humanity and one's denial of it will not change the reality. History also organic and will revenge the miscreants by demeaning the culprits in various ages and times.

  2. @Abdulla

    "Islam is the solution, was the solution and will continue to be the solution for the humanity and one’s denial of it will not change the reality."

    This is absolutely true and Muslims all over the world will agree with this. However, I think you've not got the message of the author of this article.

    We should say that, Islam has survied or rather God has protected Islam, despite the best efforts by dictators and brutal regimes that have led Islamic nations to this day. In modern times, from Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarek of Egypt, Assad of Syria to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, rulers of Islamic nations have distorted religion and oppressed their citizens to such an extent that it's hardly credible to call these leaders Muslims.

    It's natural for Muslims to long for a time when we had benevolent Islamic leaders who not only upheld religious values but who actually ruled according to democratic principles. The Islamic world haven't seen leaders such as those for over 1000 years!

  3. what is this?
    Did a secularist suddenly learn a few arabic words, for it to be thrown here and there?

  4. Islam and other religions, have been the ultimate tool of the politicians.

    It is not from a God.

    It is a magic wand that every politician and other power seekers have used through out the history.

    This is a fact and cannot be denied. By protesting or killing any non-believers does not make it any true.

  5. @svadheeb:

    "Rulers of islamic nations have distorted religion", how about upcoming preachers and would be rulers/statesmen?

    Do they not distort religion? like say Bin Laden, Aiman Al-Zawahri, Anwar-Awlaki, are they not distorting religion for their own political gain? Just like say mubark, king abdulla, saddam et. al.?

    They all distort in someways. And that is why NO ONE has a claim on absolute truth!

  6. @Ali Ahsan

    This article does not confirm to Maldivianess, this isnt Arabiya, a glossary with actual Maldivian words is needed.


    Sharia adhered countries like Saudi Arabiya is hell holes, while higher standards of living and scientific advancement is seen in western civilization albeit its not a utopian civilization.

    And claiming Sunna would be intact is false and a total lie going even against the Quran

  7. Suvadheeb,

    To that list of Saddam, Mubarak and King Abdullah who all 'distort Islam', you might also want to add the Taliban, the Adhaalath party, the Qutbites everywhere on the planet.. in fact, every single politician that stands on a platform of religion that I can think of.

    I have a simple rule when it comes to choosing my leaders - both spiritual and political, neither should cross into each others territory.

    A politician who claims to represent religion is mocking both democracy and religion.

    On one hand, they use cheap emotive tactics that move men to violence and hatred rather than lucid reasoning, thus disrupting democratic choice.

    This is why we see Maldivians turn out in hundreds/thousands to demand 'Sharia' - a system that has disastrously failed in every other country where it has been implemented.

    The Adhaalath party is mocking Islam, by reducing it to a footstool to make their political careers - and they're mocking Muslims by exploiting genuine grievances.

    The Qutbites are mocking Islam by once again exploiting the community's backwardness to play emotive politics of war and feelings of oppression.

    The few religious leaders I do approve of are those that truly understand and acknowledge that Muslims are faring badly, and behind the rest of the world in every field today.

    The answer is not war and 'glorious Islamic caliphate that will kill all crusaders and jews and free Palestinians from their misery and relegate rape and murder to the annals of history under benevolent sharia state'.

    The answer is science, education and literacy.

    Once Muslims adopt the path of learning and enlightenment, their problems will either vanish or seem conquerable.

    The Mullahs, unfortunately, cannot afford to let their unthinking sheep wisen up. Hence, Adhaalath.

  8. I really dont get what this guy (author) is trying to say...can someone explain in plain language...please

  9. Ali Ahsan, no doubt that most of these callers to hizbiyyah are followers of Banna and Qutb! But where are you leading us to with your cocktail of 'highly orthodox Salafist' jargon?

  10. Mere slogans whether religious or secular may not provide any remedies for the social ills that plague Maldives today. A mere whitewash of a dilapidated building does not render it refurbished and liveable. Shariah in its current form may not be the solution. Similarly a mere 'formal' democracy does not, as being witnessed in Maldives now, consitute a magic pill for such remedies. It is, perhaps, a matter of principle. The solution to societal evils begins with a belief that all members of society are equal and all must enjoy a decent standard of living. The government must ensure this through an equitable distribution of the state's wealth to its citizens via its services. In order to do this, intelligent, responsible and visionary leaders are needed. And a responsible citizenry who do not sell their votes and with the ability to distinguish true leaders from self-centred politicians who do not see beyond the tip of their noses is also needed.

  11. What ? :-S.....frankly..i dont understand what the author is trying to convey....So the author is Abu Jahulu right?

  12. @Ahmed Bin Addu Bin Suvadheeb

    Islam is the only religion that advocates "dictatorship". There are countless examples. Democracy is regarded as "weak" and unislamic. No need to quote Bilal Philip on that.

    As for "Islam is the solution, was the solution and will continue to be the solution" - this is exactly what every religion preaches - whether being Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam or Christanity.

    All these religions (except Islam) do not overlap politics or common day life of its people. Its only in Islam that our Mullah's preach stupid things 90 percent of which are related to "women".

  13. wish the author wrote this better. A case for separation of religion and state from the view point of Islam itself ?! (never thought id see that, makes me realize how little i really know).

    i encourage the author to rewrite this article.

  14. Before state and religion can be seperated English and Arabic must be seperated. The author has seriously failed in this regard.

  15. Ther terminology of your article is very foreign and need to be more clarified. "Al-Therminology Wal Clarifiedo" Cappito!

  16. What we have been learning and practising as Islam here in Maldives ... heh ... Qayoomism fabricated from the left over of Mohamed Jameelism.

  17. Islamic Shriah doesn't offer appropriate solutions to the problem faced by the Al Dawla Mahladibiyya. In fact all muslim countries are turning to democracy for good governance and advancement of their societies. Islamic countries ruled by brutal leaders convinced that the entire countries belongs to them, are falling one after the other. Take The example of our own country. The mess that Azhar educated Maumooniyya created to al dawla mauladiyya! Secularism is the forward!


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