I was recently invited to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina to lecture about the experience of Islamist parties. During the question-and-answer section, a member of the audience asked me to stop criticising the Muslim Brotherhood and the president, because the whole Islamic project has become threatened.
I realised that the man, like most Egyptians, didn’t understand the difference between holy Islamic principles, and pious people who may do both right and wrong and can be criticised for their policies and opinions.
I asked him the usual question: “Where is the project?” He became anxious and said: “I mean that the Islamic current is threatened.” I asked again: “You mean the project or the current?” He replied: “They are the same.”
I then replied that there is huge difference between both concepts but, unfortunately, the members of those currents were wrongfully taught that they are Islam itself. So, they – subconsciously – loathe others and can’t believe that anyone but them can achieve any good for Islam. They can’t imagine that others, who don’t belong to their current or group, can be more virtuous of heart.
Believing that the people and the approach are the same, that criticism falsifies the Islamic project, and taking whatever the leadership says as absolute truth, all this serves towards justifying mistakes instead of following the virtue of self-criticism and learning from mistakes to develop.
Omar Ibn Al-Khattab criticised the Caliph Abu Bakr’s insistence on making Khaled Ibn Al-Waleed among the supreme leaders, and Abu Bakr did not refute him. Abu Zar criticised some of the Caliph Othman Ibn Aafan’s economic policies, although this was against the majority opinion, and nobody doubted his religiosity.
The prophet (peace be upon him) said about Omar Ibn Al-Khattab: “God has placed justice at Omar’s tongue and heart,” and “if a prophet was to come after me, it would have been Omar,” and told Omar “whatever path you take, the devil takes another.” If someone was told any of this, he probably wouldn’t accept any criticism or verification. However, Abu Obaida criticised one of Omar’s political decisions as a caliph and said to him “is it an escape from God’s destiny?”
If some are afraid that enemies shall gloat over them, they should read Surat Al-Nesaa well and understand the ten that take the side of a Jewish person over a whole household from Al-Ansar. This was at a time when Jews and hypocrites were fiercely challenging the new Islamic state.
We didn’t agree with the people to disregard mistakes. We promised people we would be truthful, even if it was against our interests. And Muslims – as the Hadith states – are obliged to do what they promise.
Islamists have to be alert that representing or being Islam is an illusion. It is not healthy for Islamists - although I don’t agree with the term - to believe that they are on one side while the Egyptian people are on another. It contradicts with the principles of the call for Islam.
I am keen on defending sharia as long as I live, but with the understanding of the first generation of Muslims. However, I refuse to defend people who do right and wrong, instead of defending Islam itself.