Political Islam: Fourteen centuries of war and failure

Mahmoud El-Wardani, Thursday 24 Apr 2014

Al-Dimerdash Al-Aqaali traces the development of political Islam through the ages

Min 'Aam Al-Gama'a ila Hokm Al-Gama'a (From the Year of Consensus to the Rule of the Group) by Judge Al-Dimerdash Al-Aqaali, Sama Publishing, Cairo, 2014. pp. 303

Judge Al-Dimerdash Al-Aqaali launches his book about political Islam starting from the Year of Consensus, in which the Prophet Muhammad died, through to the reign of the Muslim Brotherhood between June 2012 and June 2013.

Between the Year of the Consensus and the rule of the Brotherhood blood ran under the bridge incessantly. Wars and invasions among Muslims occurred despite being co-religionists and also despite the fact that the Prophet and Islam as a religion did not prescribe a form of governance at all. This is an established fact according to the Holy Quran and the Sunnah (the sayings and teachings of the Prophet). The form of governance was left open in order to let Muslims choose what is appropriate for them. With the exception of the first three Muslim caliphs: Abu-Bakr, Omar and Uthman, strife and infighting was the common denominator among almost all who followed them. Uthman, the third caliph was assassinated and also the fourth, Ali ibn Abi Talib, and afterwards wars ensued.

Thus, the author investigates some of those who called for the Islamic Caliphate. He sheds light on those who made it their life's quest to instigate sectarian and religious conflict. Delving into the narratives of Islamic history, the author demonstrates the feverish attempts to establish a distorted version of the Islamic state.

The author does not tire of repeating his main statement, which is: there is no religious text that prescribes the form of the Islamic state and all that occurred was spontaneous and on the spur of the moment, inspiredby the political reasoning of the Prophet's companions.

What is certain is that there is not a single specific theory devised in the earliest period of Islamic history about the rotation of power and the way of choosing the ruler. Moreover, Islamic Sharia (religious law) did not order the implementation of a certain kind of political rule, but there were plenty of ruling systems which were approved by Islamic jurists throughout ages, and the door was open to formulate independent judgment that is compatible with different times and places.

Al-Aqaali tackles what happened after the assassination of the Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib and Muawiyah ibn Abi-Sufyan reigned and founded the Umayyad Dynasty thus launching the train of hereditary rule. He had laid down the foundations of the first and most dangerous constitutional coup in Islamic history. For instead of applying the Shura (Muslims used to decide their affairs in consultation to choose their caliph) he designated his son Yazid as his successor and obtained a pledge of allegiance by the sword.

Matters were the same after the Abbasids defeated the Umayyads and founded their dynasty, which continued for five centuries and was able to reach with its united borders a scale never achieved before or since. Afterwards, the pillars of the empire crumbled and disintegrated due to the lack of justice, Shura, widespread favourtism, non-application of the rules of religion and the fall of the caliphs into an abyss of moral decay and financial corruption. Hence, the Abbasid dynasty died clinically before being actually buried.

As for the Ottoman Empire, it inherited the Islamic Caliphate after it defeated the Mamluks in Egypt and the Levant. The capital of the Caliphate was transferred to Istanbul as a new addition to the pages of political Islam. After several centuries, the Ottoman Caliphate gasped its last breath. Following its humiliating defeat during WWI, chaos ensued, the last Caliph Abdul Majid II was deposed and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk became the founder of the Republic of Turkey in October 1923.

Ataturk embraced the Westernised model of government because he believed the Ottoman heritage was a cumbersome burden that hindered the emergence of a new Turkey. He abolished the Islamic Caliphate and the status of Sheikh Al-Islam and Turkey was to have a secular system.

In addition to analysing the Turkey during the rule of Ataturk, Arbakan and Erdogan, Al-Aqaali devotes a chapter to Shia political Islam and the Islamic Revolution in Iran, a chapter on political Islam in Syria, a chapter on the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Sudan.

The author finishes with two important chapters: the first is about the Muslim Brotherhood since its establishment in 1928. He differentiates between two plights that the group faced: the first was when two Brotherhood members assassinated Egyptian prime minister Mahmoud Fahmy Al-Nukrashi in 1948 after he outlawed the group, then its founder and Supreme Guide Hassan Al-Banna was killed. The second plight was in the 1960s, when Sayyid Qutb emerged and the group embraced his ideas about declaring the state and society unbelievers. For Qutb, contemporary society was a living in Jahiliyyah (ignorance of divine guidance) which prevailed before Islam emerged. Qutb, in his turn, adopted the ideas of the Indian theologian Abu-Al-A'la Maududi and asserted in his book 'Signposts on the Road' that: "People's conceptions, beliefs, customs, traditions, culture sources, arts, literature, jurisprudence and laws and even much of what we consider Islamic culture, Islamic references, Islamic philosophy and Islamic thought is also the product of Jahiliyyah."

The last chapter is devoted to a profound and extensive comprehension of the Salafist Call society's papers and the satellite channel sheikhs. He affirms that the Salafist current arose under the government's patronage without the slightest objection from it, even the security apparatus' control over it before the revolution was not concealed.   



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