View Printable Version :: Email to a Friend
Amruhum shura baynahum: Common Criticisms and Misconceptions (3)
Political Issues
Dr. Junaid Hassan

 

Dominance of Islam in the World

 

هُوَ الَّذِیْ أَرْسَلَ رَسُوْلَهُ بِالْهُدَى وَدِيْنِ الْحَقِّ لِيُظْهِرَهُ عَلَى الدِّيْنِ كُلِّهِ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْمُشْرِكُوْنَ.(٦١:٩)

He is the one who has sent His Messenger with [pure] guidance and true religion to make it prevail over all religions, however hateful this may be to these Polytheists. (61:9)1

 

Based on this verse, it is argued that God sent the Prophet (sws) to ensure Islam’s dominance over all other worldviews, religions, and ideologies. He accomplished that not only by peacefully inviting people to Islam but by using force, too, when necessary. True believers, therefore, must follow in his footsteps and struggle likewise for the dominance of Islamic law in Muslim countries as well as the rest of the world.

As for using force, it needs to be remembered that the Prophet and his Companions (رضي الله عنهم) received the political authority of Medina merely through preaching. As Medinan chiefs accepted Islam, they invited the Prophet to migrate to Medina and take charge as a head of state. Thereafter, believers were permitted for the first time to fight the Meccans in self-defence (Qur’an 22:39-40). Without political authority, neither Muhammad (sws) in Mecca nor Moses (sws) in Egypt2 was permitted to take up arms. Jesus (sws) and other messengers faced severe persecution by the most wicked, but there was no question of retaliation. Thus, no matter how noble a cause may be, the religion of God never allows any armed struggle without a legitimate government, with full control over its army. Such a government is needed to decide, as a true representative of believers, when and when not to fight as per the injunctions of God; maintain discipline within its army; keep a check on war crimes; ensure respect of treaties, non-combatants, and prisoners of war; avoid anarchy, and so on (See “Islami Inqilab” in [20], pp. 296-309). The Prophet, therefore, said:

 

إِنَّمَا الإِمَامُ جُنَّةٌ، يُقَاتَلُ مِنْ وَرَائِهِ وَيُتَّقَى بِهِ. (البخاری، رقم ٢٩٥٧(

Indeed, the ruler [of Muslims] is their shield. An armed struggle is only launched under him, and in him refuge is taken [during that]. ([3], no. 2957) 

Let us now come to the prevalence of Islam over all other religions, as mentioned in 61:9:

Some time after permitting jihad for self-defence, God made fighting an obligation for the state of Medina for two purposes: a) to eradicate religious oppression and persecution, and b) to punish those who obstinately rejected the call of Muhammad (sws), even after fully recognising him as an ambassador of God (Qur’an 2:190-194).

For the first cause, Muslims of all times can and, sometimes, must take up arms under a legitimate ruler. The second cause, however, is specific to messengers (rusul) and their companions: When a messenger (rasul) of God makes truth plain to the extent that his addressees are left with no excuse to reject it, the rejecters are severely punished right in this world. It is an invariable law of God, which manifests towards the end of a rasul’s career. Thus, the people of Noah, Hud, Salih, Lot, Shuʿayb (sws), and Pharaoh, for example, were destroyed through natural forces. Similarly, the persistent Polytheists and the People of the Book in and around Arabia were punished at the hands of God’s last Rasul and his Companions.3 A different method was adopted in the last case because, unlike other messengers, Muhammad (sws) not only had political freedom and authority but sufficient resources to fulfil this purpose. Such punishment results in the political and religious dominance of messengers and their companions, and annihilation or complete submission of their opponents (Qur’an 14:9-14). The verse under discussion (61:9) alludes to such dominance. At other places, this law of God is explicated as follows:

 

إِنَّ الَّذِيْنَ يُحَآدُّوْنَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُوْلَهُ أُوْلَئِكَ فِی الْأَذَلِّيْنَ. كَتَبَ اللَّهُ لَأَغْلِبَنَّ أَنَا وَرُسُلِي إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَوِیٌّ عَزِيْزٌ.(٥٨: ٢٠-٢١)

Those who oppose God and His Messenger shall be among the most humiliated, for God has written: ‘Certainly, My messengers and I shall prevail.’ Indeed, God is all-powerful and almighty. (58:20-21)

 

أَلَمْ يَأْتِكُمْ نَبَأُ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ قَوْمِ نُوحٍ وَعَادٍ وَثَمُودَ؟ [...] وَقَالَ الَّذِيْنَ كَفَرُوْا لِرُسُلِهِمْ لَنُخْرِجَنَّـكُمْ مِّنْ أَرْضِنَآ أَوْ لَتَعُودُنَّ فِیْ مِلَّتِنَا فَأَوْحَى إِلَيْهِمْ رَبُّهُمْ لَنُهْلِكَنَّ الظَّالِمِيْنَ. وَلَنُسْكِنَنَّـكُمُ الْأَرْضَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ. (١٤: ٩-١٤)

Have the accounts of your predecessors not reached you: the people of Noah, the ‘Ād, and the Thamud, and those who succeeded them? […] [At last], the rejecters [among them] told their messengers, ‘We shall expel you from our land, or you have to return to our religion.’ Thereupon, their Lord inspired to [the messengers], ‘We will destroy these wrongdoers and settle you in this land after them.’ (14:9-14)

 

Regarding such punishment, the Qur’an (17:15) proclaims:

وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِيْنَ حَتَّى نَبْعَثَ رَسُوْلاً. (١٧: ١٥)

And never would We punish [a people] until We sent a messenger [to fully unveil truth to them].

 

Such dominance of messengers and punishment of their opponents, therefore, is an exclusive law of God.4 This implies that it cannot be generalised to justify contemporary armed struggles for Islam’s dominance over other religions. In 61:9, ‘all religions’ refers to religions prevailing in the Arabian Peninsula, i.e., the religions of the direct addressees of a messenger. It was a prophecy, which was fulfilled in the lifetime of the Prophet. Later, however, the Companions also launched offensives against the rulers of the surrounding kingdoms. These rulers rejected Islam despite being invited by a messenger and seeing undisputable evidence of his messengership. Thus, as per the same law, God made these offensives successful and granted Islam dominance there, too. Beyond these territories, however, the Companions waged no war for this purpose, nor did Islam conquer all religions then present in the world.

To conclude, therefore, 61:9 does not lay down any general ruling but pertains to a law of God specific to His messengers and their companions. For fulfilling the wish of Islam’s dominance, the only jihad (endeavour) that Muslims of all times should undertake is what the Qur’an (25:52) calls the ‘great jihad’ of preaching (For details, see [18], pp. 580-610; “Tawil ki Ghalati” in [20], pp. 169-180).

Another oft-quoted verse in this regard is as follows:

 

أَنْ أَقِيمُوا الدِّيْنَ وَلَا تَتَفَرَّقُوْا فِيْهِ. (٤٢: ١٣)

Uphold the religion and be not divided therein. (42:13)

 

The word we have translated ‘uphold’ is ‘أَقيمُوا’, which is translated by some exegetes as ‘establish’. As a consequence, it is claimed that this verse directs Muslims to enforce religion (shariah) in the entire world (See commentary on this verse in[2]).

According to linguistic rules, however, such connotation is impossible here. The verse, instead, directs believers to keep their religion straight and uphold it, in spirit and letter, in their individual and collective lives.5 Regarding the collective injunctions of Islam, like jihad and penal shari‘ah, it needs to be emphasised that they only become applicable if Muslims happen to have a collective system (state). In such a system, such injunctions are to be exclusively executed by and under their elected rulers. It is apparent from the Qur’an and the Hadith that individuals and non-state groups are not their addressees. This is an agreed understanding of classical exegetes and jurists, which is challenged in the present times for no reasonable reasons[18], p. 582 & 612). Here, it is also important to realise that the Islamic shari‘ah by-definition is a religious law and is, therefore, only applicable to Muslims. Since there is no compulsion in religion, it cannot be enforced on non-Muslims.

 

Revolt against rulers ‘who do not judge by the law revealed by God’

The preceding discussion may help us deal with another misconception: The Prophet (sws) said that ‘those who change their religion, kill them’[3], no. 3017). Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, the Qur’an (5:44) says that ‘those who do not judge by the law revealed by God are [truly] disbelievers’. From these rulings, it is implied that those Muslim rulers who turn their backs on the shari‘ah are apostates and, therefore, deserve to be overthrown and killed.

If this hadith is seen in light of the Qur’an, it becomes clear that it is not a general ruling. Instead, it is a corollary of the punishment for the persistent deniers of a messenger from among his direct addressees. In conformity with this punishment (a special law of God), God ordained death penalty for the Polytheists of Arabia. They could, however, avoid this penalty by repenting from polytheism and embracing God’s religion (Qur’an 9:3-5). But how about those who, after accepting Islam, would revert to polytheism? Obviously, the averted death penalty should have been meted out to them, and that is exactly what the Prophet decreed. This ruling, therefore, was specific to such Polytheists. It has nothing to do with disbelievers, polytheists, and apostates of our time, including those Muslim rulers who refuse to judge by the law revealed by God (See [20], 139-143).

In case of such open disbelief6 by rulers, however, their obedience does not remain a religious obligation for Muslims, and a struggle (revolt) may be launched to overthrow them. That is because the Qur’an’s directive to ‘obey […] those given authority among you’ (4:59) pertains to the rulers subservient to God and His Messenger. Thus, on religious grounds, they certainly lose their right of being obeyed when they cross a certain limit. Explicitly, that is, if they approve a law or give an edict obliging a believer to transgress against God, or if they openly renounce Islam. In the first case, a believer must humbly refuse to obey the particular edict and bravely face any consequences of non-compliance [16], no. 4763). The second case, on the other hand, even makes revolt permissible. Thus, the Prophet explained:

 

...إِلَّا أَنْ تَرَوْا كُفْرًا بَوَاحًا، عِنْدَكُمْ مِنْ اللَّهِ فِيهِ بُرْهَانٌ. (البخاری، رقم ٧٠٥٦)

‘[You may challenge your rulers’ authority] in case you witness open disbelief from them, and you have indisputable evidence from God to establish that [such has indeed taken place].’ [3], no. 7056)

 

But even after such disbelief, revolt can only be staged against an authoritarian regime and in leadership of a person who is backed by a clear majority of Muslims. Otherwise, it would not only be a revolt against a regime (government) but Muslims and their collective system (state). The latter is a capital crime, for it falls under what the Qur’an (5:33) refers to as ‘spreading disorder on the earth’ (See [16], no. 4798). Furthermore, in case of an armed revolt, all conditions and principles prescribed in Islam for jihad must also be fulfilled.

It is important to note that revolt can be either permissible or impermissible but neither obligatory nor desirable in religion, for it puts lives, wealth, infrastructure, and the entire collective system at stake.7 So, even after an outright rejection of Islam by their rulers, Muslims may well decide not to rebel, but exhort them to mend their ways, peacefully leave the rulership, or come to some reasonable agreement with them. Even if nothing works, they may keep living under them as long as they are not forced to give up the faith or its practice. That being the case, religion requires them to, whenever possible, migrate to another place where they may live in accordance with their faith and conscience [18], pp. 77-78). Such persecution, however, obliges other polities of Muslims to wage jihad, if possible, and deliver their brethren from such despots [18], pp. 595-596).

In case not only their rulers or representatives but a majority of a Muslim population descends to open disbelief, believers are only required to, as mentioned earlier, invite them to God’s path with wisdom, compassion, and goodwill. Commoners aside, even messengers of God were never allowed to assume a warder’s role over their people (For details, see “Islami Inqilab” in [20], pp. 296-309)

 

References

[1]. M. Asad, The Message of the Qur’an. London: The Book Foundation, 2008.

[2]. S. A. A. Maududi, Tafhim Al-Qur’an, 6 vols. Lahore: Idarah Tarjuman Al-Qur’an, 1985.

[3]. M. ibn I. Bukhari, Al-Jami’ Al-Sahih, 2nd ed. Riyadh: Dar Al-Salam, 1999.

[4]. A. A. Islahi, Islami Riyasat. Lahore: Dar Al-Tadhkir, 2006.

[5]. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Darimi, Sunan Al-Darimi, 2 vols. Riyadh: Dar Al-Mughni, 2000.

[6]. A. Y. Y. ibn I. Al-Ansari, Kitab Al-Kharaj. Lahore: Maktaba-e-Rehmania, 2016.

[7]. S. Numani, ʻUmar: An abridged edition of Shibli Numani’s ʻUmar Al-Faruq. London: I. B. Tauris, 2004.

[8]. A. ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad. Riyadh: Dar Al-Salam, 2012.

[9]. M. ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012.

[10]. M. ibn Sa’d, Al-Tabaqat Al-Kubra, Vol. 3. Beirut: Dar Al-Fikr, 1994.

[11]. I. ibn Kathir, Tafsir Al-Qur’an Al-Azim, 4 vols. Lahore: Amjad Academy, 1982.

[12]. J. A. Ghamidi, “Al-Islam Course (Mizan Lectures): Qanun-i Siyasat.” Al-Mawrid, Pakistan, 2003.

[13]. A. A. Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, 9 vols. Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1985.

[14]. J. A. Ghamidi, Al-Bayan, 5 vols. Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2018.

[15]. J. A. Ghamidi, “Ghamidi kae Sath: Jamhuriyat, Islam kae Muṭabiq ya Khilaf,” Samaa TV, Dubai, 2012.

[16]. M. ibn A.-Hajjaj Nishapuri, Al-Jami’ Al-Sahih. Riyadh: Dar Al-Salam, 2000.

[17]. J. A. Ghamidi, “Mizan Lectures: Qanun-i Siyasat.” Al-Mawrid, Malaysia, 2018.

[18]. J. A. Ghamidi, Mizan, 11th ed. Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2018.

[19]. J. A. Ghamidi, Maqamat, 4th ed. Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2017.

[20]. J. A. Ghamidi, Burhan, 10th ed. Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2018.

[21]. J. A. Ghamidi, “Dars Qur’an-o-Hadith: Al-Anʻam.” Al-Mawrid, Malaysia, 2018.

[22]. M. Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. California: Stanford University Press, 2013.

[23]. Dr. Javed Iqbal, “Ijtihad & Allama Iqbal,” Zain Khan, Pakistan, 2016.

 

______________

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________

1. This verse also occurs at two other places in the Quran, 9:33 & 48:28.

2. Later, however, as Moses and his followers formed a polity following the divine destruction of the pharaoh, jihad was rendered obligatory for them in the Torah (See Deuteronomy).

3. See Chapter 9 of the Quran, esp. 9:3-5, 9:14 & 9:29.

4. The rationale behind such miniature judgement in this world is to substantiate for humankind the basic claim of religion, i.e., the existence of a just God and the advent of a day when entire humankind shall be judged likewise, based on their moral conduct [18], pp. 169-174).

5. For a detailed discussion, see “Tawil ki Ghalati” in [20], pp. 169-180.

6. Open disbelief implies such unequivocal expression of disbelief that leaves no room for doubt or debate that apostasy has, indeed, taken place [12]. An example is an outright rejection of any of the basic tenets of Islam, e.g., belief in God, His messengers, the Day of Judgement, and so on. As mentioned in the text, a tacit or explicit refusal to legislate, run collective affairs, or settle disputes according to the directives of Islam is also an instance of open disbelief (Quran 5:44). A historical example thereof is the constitutional secularism of Turkey, introduced by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (d. 1938) [17].

The situation in most Muslim-majority states, however, is not the same. Therein, Muslims and their representatives accept the communal law of God and wish to live by it. Yet, there exist confusions or reservations about it, and those at the helm of affairs confront serious problems when it comes to its implementation. The problem, in fact, lies with the mainstream interpretation of the shari‘ah. Therefore, the need is to pinpoint flaws in that with an open heart and mind, purge it of these, and re-educate people about the law of God. Without such an exercise, as Iqbal (d. 1938) [22] indicated in his renowned lectures on Islam, enforcement of the traditional understanding of the shari‘ah in a present-day state is but a daydream [17].

As another case in point, the view that part of the shari‘ah (e.g., penal shari‘ah) is not static but moveable (i.e., subject to change), as held by Iqbal [23], cannot also be termed open disbelief. Rather than apostasy, it is a matter of understanding of religion, requiring debate and discussion (Ghamidi, pers. comm). Similar is the case of belief in the continuance of wahi (revelation) even after the discontinuance of prophethood, as professed by the Sufis and Ahmadiyya Muslims.

7. Admittedly, it is so in the case of jihad as well, but the risk is much lower because jihad-proper is done under a state system; approval of an elected government; organised army; state law; better means to assess resources, handle information, calculation of  the probability of success/failure, and so on (Ghamidi, pers. comm).

   
 
For Questions on Islam, please use our