Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Lawful or Unlawful?

The Lawfulness of Muslim Revolutions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

As protests and defiance spread in Muslim countries, questions are being asked as to whether such conduct is halal.

As revolutions and uprisings sweep the Middle East and North Africa, most Muslims everywhere are energised by a wave of hopeful change in a region that has suffered far too long under the stultifying rule of “presidents for life.” However, some Muslims are more hesitant, and view the protests as unsanctioned rebellions against legitimate rulers.
To begin to analyse the current situation, each of the movements in the various affected countries would have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Conditions in each country are unique, and therefore any blanket statement would be inaccurate and irresponsible. What follows are some considerations that would have to be part of any meaningful discussion of the Islamic legitimacy of the various movements that can potentially reshape the political map of the Middle East.
Firstly, we have to bear in mind that classical treatises and writings dealing with Muslim political theory will not give us the entire answer to the question of the Islamic legitimacy of the ongoing uprisings in the Muslim world. This is because those writings occurred in a socio-political environment that differs from the current one. Especially significant is the advent of the modern nation-state, and its associated concepts of state sovereignty, legitimacy, allegiance, citizenship, the social contract and the national interest. Each of these concepts, in the modern setting, differs from its pre-modern conceptual counterpart, or was unknown at the time. Hence, the writings of pre-modern Muslim scholars, no matter how brilliant, cannot give us full insight into the social, political and cultural issues that Muslims are currently dealing with.
Secondly, the nature of the neo-colonial arrangements that prevail in many Muslim nation-states, where a “comprador bourgeoisie” “manages” the indigenous masses on behalf of a foreign power renders the entire question of the legitimacy of the state a controversial point. In other words, if the state is merely a front for foreign control, and the policies it pursues are oriented to serve the interests of a foreign elite first and foremost, it is meaningless to discuss the allegiance people owe to the state without asking a deeper question. Namely, if in reality allegiance to the state is a sort of de facto allegiance to a foreign non-Muslim power, how can questions of allegiance to the state have any definitive meaning or relevance from an Islamic perspective?
A third issue of significance is the hegemonic nature of the modern state and its ability to exert control over the lives of its citizens in ways that were inconceivable at the time medieval Muslim political theorists were writing. Generally speaking, the modern state controls the economic life chances of its citizens; it defines the parameters of political participation; it controls the scope and nature of education; it can intrude almost at will into the private lives of its citizens; it can determine the conditions of mass incarceration (ie. the Japanese Internment Act, or the current Drug War in the USA) and, if it chooses, it can tyrannise the citizenry with impunity as, by definition, the state monopolises the legitimate use of force in the society it presides over.
The upshot of the preceding passage is that the expanded reach of the modern Muslim state demands an expanded basis for defining allegiance and legitimacy. In earlier times, when the lack of information and security technology limited the scope of state power, it was natural to limit the scope of state legitimacy to questions revolving around primarily religious issues. However, the deepened reach of the state demands that examination of legitimacy and allegiance begin considering questions such as economic security, political participation, and basic human dignity along with related matters. If these issues are motivating Muslims who are challenging the legitimacy and efficacy of their states, they have to be considered by the religious scholars and authorities who are assessing the appropriateness of those challenges.
When we do consider existing Muslim writing on these issues, there are caveats that normally escape discussion. Let us consider, for example, the issue of the legitimacy of revolt against an established “Muslim” ruler. There are those who claim that any rebellion against a Muslim ruler is unsanctioned. However, we do not find this opinion in the writings of the traditional scholars. This opinion is close to the conservative Sunni view. However, even the Sunni view is conditional, and rebellion is sanctioned in the case of the ruler openly rejecting Islam or sanctioning laws or practices that violate accepted Islamic laws or principles, and it is not feared that a greater tribulation will befall the believers should they rise up.
This Sunni position, which gives priority to stability over justice, evolved over time and is informed by well-known historical realities. However, it is not universally accepted among the Muslims. The Shi’a and the Mu’tazila both hold that a rebellion in the pursuit of justice is lawful, and even encouraged in some instances. This is particularly the case when the injustices being challenged are clearly unsanctioned by the laws or principles of Islam. Hence, the scholarly consensus needed to declare the current protests as absolutely forbidden is lacking.
Similarly, a simplistic application of the verse, “If two parties of the believers fight each other make peace between them…” (49:9), to challenge the protests would be difficult in places like Egypt, because two parties amongst the believers were not fighting each other. The protesters were non-violent in their actions and intent. Any violence was initiated by the supporters of the government, or the state security forces, while during the periods the protesters resorted to violence it was clearly in self-defence. As soon as the violence against them abated, they returned to their non-violent ways. Their peaceful protest was guaranteed by Article 54 of the Egyptian constitution, while Article 57 clearly condemned as unconstitutional the violence the pro-Mubarak goons were employing against them. Hence, to declare their movement as illegitimate would be difficult from either an Islamic or a constitutional basis.
This brings up a related point. In that the protesters were speaking out against the excesses of tyrannical, authoritarian powers, they are engaging in the best Jihad. The blessed Prophet mentioned, “The best Jihad is a just word in the face of a tyrannical ruler.” In light of this hadith, what Islamic argument can validly be made to deny the people their right to speak out against the tyranny of their rulers?
Others argue that these rebellions are sowing the seeds of instability in the region. It should be borne in mind that the seeds of instability are sown by the governments themselves and the rapacious elites and foreign powers that benefit from their rule. The political repression of the people and their economic exploitation is the source of any instability, not the action of those protesting against the abuses. The protesters are themselves the fruit of the seeds sown by the ruling elites. Hence, any efforts to identify the source of any instability must go to the source of that instability and not focus on its effects.
Finally, we can add that as Muslims we should not see ourselves as being eternally trapped in a world where we are the helpless objects of the actions of others who have constructed institutions that are antithetical to our values and interests. The nation-state system in the Muslim world is less than one hundred years old. As an institution, it has debatable legitimacy and authenticity according to Muslim political thought. The way its socio-political role in Muslim societies has evolved has been shaped by un-Islamic realities such as colonisation and the Cold War, and by un-Islamic institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and now the World Trade Organisation. To declare this arrangement beyond question, criticism or challenge is not only unjust, it is a betrayal of Muslim history.
This is an issue that requires an analysis beyond the limited space available here. We pray that God blesses the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere to fulfil their aspirations to enjoy a dignified existence in lands where the nobility and honour conferred upon them by God is celebrated and cherished.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The best month of the year!

Freedom in Egypt after 30 years

Salute to the young Egyptians!

Bye-Bye Suzanne and Mubarak!You won't be missed

You glue ain't stitching enough

People's power. Knocked out the American puppet

Planting the seed of freedom and justice in Tahrir Square

Monday, January 10, 2011

Sudan Set For Split

Entah mengapa aku teringatkan kisah Tanah Melayu dan Singapura.

Rakyat Sudan di sebelah selatan telah keluar beramai-ramai untuk mengundi.

Lebih 40 ulama Islam termasuk Dr Yusuf Qardawi telah memfatwakan tidak harus (HARAM) hukumnya bagi umat Islam mengundi untuk mengeluarkan Selatan Sudan. Agenda Barat adalah jelas untuk memecah-belahkan kekuatan negara Islam paling luas di benua Afrika ini.

Di sebalik keghairahan umat Islam di Malaysia dengan tahun baru 2011 dan AJL semalam, adakah yang masih peduli?

Dari website BBC
Huge numbers of Southern Sudanese have been voting in a landmark referendum on independence from the north.
The week-long vote is widely expected to result in Africa's largest country being split in two.
Amid scenes of jubilation, south Sudanese leader Salva Kiir said: "This is an historic moment the people of Southern Sudan have been waiting for."
The poll was agreed as part of the 2005 peace deal which ended the two-decade north-south civil war.
The leaders of the mainly Muslim north have promised to allow the potential new country, where most people are Christian or follow traditional religions, to secede peacefully.
The BBC's Will Ross in Southern Sudan says he has not met a single person who says they will vote in favour of continued unity with the north.
But President Omar al-Bashir has warned an independent south would face instability.

Long lines of people began waiting to vote well before dawn, as Southern Sudanese turned out in droves to decide whether or not to seek independence.
"We watched the light of the sun rise up this morning - the dawn of a new chapter for the south," said Paul Nduru, a teacher who had been waiting from midnight.
There was a carnival atmosphere, with people waving the Southern flag, as dancers and drummers beat out tunes.
Red and white tape marked out the lines for the queues, with celebratory party balloons tied alongside.
Many people queued up to vote long before polls opened.
"My vote is for my mother and father, and my brothers and sisters who were murdered in the war," Abraham Parrying told the BBC as he waited to vote in the southern capital, Juba.
"I also vote for my children-to-be - if God grants me that - so that they can grow up in a south Sudan that is free and is at peace."
Another voter, 36-year-old soldier Maxine About, said he had "seen the inside of war so we have to stop the war now".
"We are very happy the Arabs are going away," he told the Associated Press.
Voting had been due to end at 1700 local time (1400 GMT) but polling was extended in many Juba polling stations because of the long queues.
Southern Sudan has high levels of illiteracy so voters are faced with two symbols on the ballot paper - a single hand for independence or two clasped hands to remain one country.
On Saturday, Mr Kiir said the referendum was "not the end of the journey but rather the beginning of a new one".
He was speaking in Juba alongside US Senator John Kerry, who has been in talks with both northern and southern leaders attempting to smooth the voting process.
Mr Kiir, who was the first to cast his ballot, urged people to "be patient", in case they were not able to vote on the first day of polling.
Veronica De Keyes, head of the the European Union observer team in Juba, said voting appeared to have started well.
"What I observed this morning was very moving in the sense that you can feel it, in the crowd, the expectation of the people is important," she said.
"It's very, very well organised. People are queuing very quietly so far and I hope it reflects what is happening in the country today."
However, the run-up to the vote was marred by an attack by rebels on Southern Sudan's military in the oil-rich Unity state.
Col Philip Auger, a military spokesman, told the Associated Press on Saturday that his troops had retaliated and killed four of the rebels.
UN officials confirmed that they had received reports of an attack in the area, but did not say which side had suffered the fatalities.
There are also reports of clashes between southerners and Arab nomads over grazing rights for their cattle in the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei, long seen as a potential flashpoint which could trigger wider violence.
It was due to hold a separate referendum at the same time on whether to join north or south Sudan but this has been postponed indefinitely as the two sides cannot agree on who is eligible to vote there.
EU-style bloc?
In an interview with the Arabic news channel al-Jazeera, Mr Bashir said he understood why many southerners wanted independence, but he expressed concern at how the new nation would cope.
"The south suffers from many problems," he said.
"It's been at war since 1959. The south does not have the ability to provide for its citizens or create a state or authority."
Mr Bashir said southerners living in the north would not be allowed dual citizenship, and floated the idea of the two nations joining in an EU-style bloc.
He also warned that if southerners seized Abyei for themselves, it could lead to war.
Analysts say Mr Bashir is under intense pressure from northern politicians, who fear that secession of the south may lead to a further splintering of the country, in particular the western region of Darfur which has faced its own rebellion since 2003.
North and south Sudan have suffered decades of conflict driven by religious and ethnic divides.
Southern Sudan is one of the least developed areas in the world and many of its people have have long complained of mistreatment at the hands of the Khartoum government.
Earlier this week the official in charge of the referendum commission, Chan Rene Madut, said the region was attempting "something that has never happened".
"Nobody ever bothered to ask the people of Southern Sudan as to what their destiny should be," he said.
Turnout in the referendum will be important, as the 2005 peace agreement stipulates that for the vote to be valid, 60% of the 3.8 million registered voters must take part.
The official result is not due to be announced for at least four weeks, partly because of the logistical difficulties gathering the ballot papers from across a region the size of France and Germany which has no paved roads linking its towns and cities.