Friday, July 31, 2009

Clever Toddler Activities

Second Attempt 135mm f/2.8 Nikon

One question that I get frequently is what to do with your toddler while the others are having school. This is also something that I am dealing with and so far it's not a real problem, AlhamduLILLAH. I usually give my two year old a workbook that I purchased from the dollar store if I don't have an activity planned.

She feels like she is a big girl and I can focus on the older kids. Also, I try to have a few general lessons where I can include everyone and if I am reading aloud, she listens, even if the material is way above her level. I found a website today where there's an abundance of ideas and tutorials. I hope that it is beneficial to you. Read More...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Word Family Game

I was visiting The Snail's Trail blog a couple of weeks ago and admiring some of her creative homeschool ideas. In particular, I liked the Handmade Word Family Game.

I sent my husband to the Home Depot to get some paint swatches and let me tell you - I was so tired of cutting out those little squares!

Handmade Word Family Game

I used a craft knife for the squares but I'm sure there is a better way.

Handmade Word Family Game

Handmade Word Family Game

Handmade Word Family Game

Go to the blog post that is linked above - she has a whole list of phonograms and blends and how to group them. Read More...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Butterfly Teaching Guide

MashaALLAH we might be going to the Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara during the month of August, InshaALLAH. Make du'a for us.

In the meantime, I am going to take a look at their teaching guide and see what we can get out of it. We can use it to supplement the Butterfly Field Guide that I purchased at the thrift store. Read More...

Pets From Outside

My husband won't get any pets for my kids so my daughter took it into her own hands, literally. Now we have three snails to look after - for a little while, at least!

The Girl Has Snails

Oh well, we'll have to make it educational, I guess. Go here for snail info: Snails as Pets.

Snails

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I've Been Thrifting

Yesterday and today, I went to Value Village. I rarely buy anything new anymore when it comes to our classroom. I try to look on Craigslist - which I really did not like at first and I go to the thrift shops or Ebay. Also, the library sells books for 25 cents each, so sometimes we get some really good stuff.

David Suzuki


This time I tried not to go overboard just because things were cheap. I made a list and devised a plan and for the most part I found what I needed. This was not on the list but how could I leave this behind? MashaALLAH.

Ka'ba clock $3.99

My toddler is the biggest challenge to our homeschool day, so I've been searching blogs and Google for ideas. I think the best thing that I can do with her is set up a makeshift Montessori-style area. I found a bookcase that is perfect for her size on Craigslist for $10.

Bought for $10

I also purchased a bundle of wooden baskets from Value Village so that her activities can be placed on the shelves and hopefully they will be eye-catching and inviting. I got plenty of ideas from Montessori Materials.


These baskets are good for sensory materials like these Scrabble tiles. I might make a simple chart of the alphabet and have her match the letters. Rubber stamps of the alphabet would be good too. Anything hands-on that introduces her to learning is valuable, InshaALLAH.

Scrabble Letters

Since my mother-in-law was visiting, we took another quick trip today and got some more books. If you buy four, the fifth one is free!

More Books

To make room for the books, I moved the puzzles and games up on top of the bookshelf and I'm putting some of the books for younger ages on the bookshelf for my younger daughter.


Then, I had to make room for the little bits of this and that from outside.


Nature Walk Contents

Friday, July 24, 2009

Having Trouble Emailing Me?

I don't know, things seem okay on this end but some people are having trouble. I put my Email address at the top; you can see it above the posts ( By the way, don't leave your Email addresses in the comments because everyone can see them. I check the email often but sometimes it might take me a bit to get back to you. InshaALLAH I will always do my best. Read More...

Free Book on the First Afghan War

On the Baldwin Project website....

If You Crochet (Or Knit)

You can make a cap.

Kufi for the boy

I made this one a while back for my son by using Syeda's pattern.

Kufi for the boy II

The pattern is clear and easy (I'm new and terrible at following crochet patterns).

She's on Ravelry too.

If knitting is your thing be sure to check out Umme Yusuf. She knits ten times faster than I do, mashaALLAH. Read More...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I Had to Try It At Least Once

Homemade play dough.

It was easy to make, although at first I thought I did something wrong.

Homemade Play Dough

It was really wet, then it got extremely clumpy and then it was smooth.

Homemade Play Dough

We didn't have any blue food coloring - just red, green and yellow, so we mixed it and this is what we got:

Homemade Play Dough

Recipe is here. Oh, and I added some halal vanilla extract so that it has a nice smell. Read More...

Wash Your Hands

Does it bother you when people try to touch your baby without washing their hands? Order one of these from Labeesa Kids if you're too shy to ask them. Read More...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Paint Your Very Own Janissary

Really. Why have your little one play with knights when they can have a Janissary like these? Read More...

What Do Your Children Wear?


When you're at home teaching, do they dress up? Do they wear hijab?

muhajabataani (two girls who wear hijab)

Do you? Pajamas? Does what you're wearing set the mood and help you get down to business? Does it not matter?


I'm curious so leave a comment or send me an email. Read More...

Khalid bin Waleed RA

I know that I mentioned an interest in making an altered version of Ambleside Online's curriculum and I am doing just that. It's taking a long time - including some late nights when my teething baby is asleep (for 10 minutes at a time, SubhanALLAH). I am in the process of putting together the proper materials and I hope to have everything mapped out for this soon, InshaALLAH.

One of the key components in Ambleside Online is narration. Reading rich literature and having the child narrate what has been said, either verbally, written or through art/drawings, etc.

I read the first chapter to my daughter just to see how she liked it and she did well, MashaALLAH. Narration also gets the child to focus and pay attention and the quality of the story is certainly important for that too. I am trying to gather resources - some of them free (woohoo!) to highlight the accomplishments of our Muslim heroes and hope to have a list of these soon, InshaALLAH.

EDITED: Oum Anas has brought it to my attention that the book on Khalid bin Waleed RA has some questionable content once you get into it. For that reason, I have taken the link down lest we be guided astray. May ALLAH always be pleased with our efforts and protect us all from confusion and misinformation about our deen (AMEEN). Read More...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

How and Why Muslims Should Dialogue With Others

By Maulvi Syed Nikhat Husain Nadwi

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)

There is no room for coercion in Islam. Islam appeals to people’s intellect, their minds, their sense of logic and reasoning in order to stress its claims. This principle can lay the basis for good relations between Muslims and people of other persuasions. Islam is not opposed to Muslims establishing social, economic or educational relations and bonds with others. This is why, from the early days of Islam onwards, Muslims have had these sorts of relations with others. The fundamental basis of such relations, as Islam understands it, is to jointly work against oppression and for establishing justice and peace. A second basis is the Islamic belief that all creatures are members of the family of God, and that, hence, they must be served. The third theological basis of inter-community relations and dialogue in Islam is the duty to respect the rights of all human beings.

Islam insists that there can be no compromise on its ideological principles, such as faith in the one God, prophethood, and the Day of Judgment. Besides this, there can be dialogue and discussion on all issues. Dialogue should also take a practical form, such as Muslims working together with others for constructive purposes, helping them or taking their help. Islam exhorts Muslims to respect others on the basis of their common humanity. It stresses social justice, peace and struggling against oppression, and for this Muslims can indeed join hands with others to work for a better world for everyone. This is a very important form of inter-religious and inter-community dialogue.

When two individuals are together, inevitably they start talking to each other. Without this, they cannot understand one another. If dialogue and interaction are so indispensable at the level of two individuals, how much more important it must be at the level of two or more cultures and religions! Obviously, unless members of different religious or cultural communities dialogue with each other there is no way they can truly understand one other. It is completely unreasonable to expect that cultural and religious communities can live in isolation with each other and not feel the need to understand each other’s beliefs, practices, issues, concerns and problems. Such isolationism will spell doom for the whole of humankind. It is also a form of escapism, and, undoubtedly, a reflection of obscurantism. The future of humankind critically depends on people of different communities understanding each other and jointly struggling for a more just and peaceful world, to work towards ending illiteracy, poverty, war, conflict and disease wherever these may be found.

The fundamental foundation of productive and sustainable dialogue is for religious and cultural groups to first understand each other properly and, on that basis, to come closer to each other. For this purpose, it is necessary to study in detail about other’s cultures and religions, their languages, histories, beliefs, practices and traditions directly, from their primary sources, in an unbiased manner. This should also go along with efforts to devise means to work together with other communities to solve their problems and address their concerns. Only in this way can cultures come closer to each other.

Typically, human beings people do not understand the truth or usefulness of a matter unless they see themselves as benefiting from it. Thus, inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue must provide tangible benefits to people, such as helping them solve their problems or mitigating or ending their conflicts. No one’s wounds can be healed or their empty stomachs filled simply by preaching to them about philosophical niceties or lecturing to them about ideological issues. This cannot tear down the walls of hatred that divide people. People have to see direct benefits accruing to themselves from dialogue for them to appreciate its importance. Hence, the most productive form of inter-religious and inter-community dialogue is to understand the causes of conflicts and differences between different religio-cultural groups and then involve people from all parties to dialogue together to jointly work out solutions, which will benefit the parties or communities involved in the dialogue. Similarly, they can work together for their common interests, including on economic, political, and social issues. This effort can start at the local level and then go all the way up to the national and international levels, too.

When seeking to initiate inter-religious or inter-cultural dialogue, it is crucial not to start with negative issues, because this is a sure way for dialogue efforts to fail. Rather, the focus should, as far as possible, be on positive issues and a constructive agenda. Likewise, it is not proper to seek to initiate a dialogue by harping on past events or grievances. Instead, the focus must be on the present, for the aim of the dialogue is essentially to improve the present conditions of, and relations between, two or more communities, not to harp on the past.

For such dialogue to succeed, partners to the dialogue must be willing to make sacrifices. They must be tolerant and broad-minded. They must take into account other people’s sensitivities and emotions and always be conscious not to seek to trample on their rights. Successful dialogue requires that partners be genuinely committed to work for peace, freedom, justice and good relations.

Another principle that must always be kept in mind when thinking about or engaging in dialogue is that to consider any other culture bad or to label it so is not proper. Islam forbids Muslims from abusing the deities of polytheists. This is so because this might provoke them to react in a similar way. This Islamic teaching suggests to us that Muslims must not abuse or vilify other cultures or brand them as enemies.

The rapidly changing world of today requires that all cultures must reconsider their ways of relating to each other, and work together for peace and prosperity for all. In our own country, India, home to numerous different religious and cultural communities, dialogue for this purpose is extremely necessary today. Unfortunately, the different religious communities in India know little about each other. This has given rise to numerous misunderstandings, which, in turn, continue to fuel conflict and violence. Very few Indians belonging to one community have studied, in a dispassionate and detailed manner, the religion, customs, beliefs, traditions and world-views of other communities living in the country in order to properly and dispassionately understand them. There are extremely few Muslims who have studied Sanskrit, the language of the Hindu scriptures, so that they could directly read and understand the Gita, the Puranas, the Ramayana, the Vedas and so on. Hardly any Muslims have studied the Pali language in order to read the Buddhist scriptures. There must be almost no Muslims who have directly met and interacted with Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religious leaders. Probably no Muslim has visited, or stayed for a while in, Hindu religious schools and other such institutions and their pilgrimage sites so as to directly understand them.

The same holds true in the case of all the other communities in India. There are hardly any Hindus who have read the Islamic texts, and have met, interacted and exchanged views with Muslim ulema. The distance between Hindus and Muslims has become so wide now that the doors of Hindu gurukuls and Muslim madrasas are closed to other communities, and both of them are characterized by a heightened sense of fear, insecurity and defensiveness.

All this so alarmingly suggests how distant the various communities of India are from each other. In fact, hatred between many of these communities has rapidly escalated in recent years, making the task of dialogue particularly difficult. Yet, dialoguing is an urgent task that must be taken up at all levels and as widely as possible. Dialogue is not the task only of our religious leaders and organizations, although they have a very crucial role to play in this. They must interact with their counterparts in other communities so as to create a climate of trust and dispel mutual suspicions and misunderstandings. This sort of dialogue is indispensable for the peace and prosperity of our common homeland. The different religio-cultural communities of our country also need to dialogue and unite to struggle against the baneful impact of many aspects of the dominant Western culture that is now playing such havoc with our cultures and mores.

Inter-community dialogue is indispensable to promote the unity and prosperity of our country and its traditional cultures. In this regard, I wish to point out that a major hurdle in this regard, and a cause for much acrimony, is the tendency of some people who, just because they are in a minority, insist that they have accepted the country’s political system and Constitution only out of compulsion, and claim that the moment they are able to gather enough power they will refuse to accept the Government and the Constitution of the land. This attitude has, in fact, become a major cause for concern throughout the world. Extremists, no matter what their religious identity, who espouse this view will not hesitate to use every means to capture power in the hope of thereby bringing about the Revolution of their dreams. Naturally, others will not take lightly to this. That is why conflict, force and violence must be avoided. We need to struggle against these authoritarian tendencies, and, through dialogue, work to ensure that all people get the same rights and opportunities to live and prosper. This is the only way out for global, as well national and local, peace, welfare and justice.

(This is an edited version of translation of extracts from Maulvi Nadwi’s Urdu booklet, ‘Muzakirat Ki Zarurat’ (‘The Need For Dialogue’ (New Delhi: Institute of Objective Studies, 2005).


Islam and Inter-Religious Dialogue

By Maulvi Syed Nikhat Husain Nadwi
(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)

In today’s world, one of the most crucial issues that we are faced with is the urgent need for different communities and civilizations to understand each other and to improve and strengthen their mutual relations. Modern developments have shrunk the world into a global village. Consequently, countries and communities are now heavily inter-dependent in order to sustain their lives. Different communities are now rapidly influencing each other at the social, economic, cultural and political levels. Increasingly, communities are influenced by each other’s ways of life, customs, practices and beliefs, not hesitating to adopt those that they find useful or good. Gradually, this is moving in the direction of a composite culture.

In this context, inter-cultural dialogue assumes a particular urgency. This is especially the case in a country where numerous cultural groups live together, where it is imperative that they must learn to respect each other’s rights, customs, mores and traditions. In the absence of this, particularly if one culture seeks to dominate or impose itself on others, such a society will inevitably move towards conflict and violence. This is why it is so necessary to seek to promote strong bonds of solidarity, based on dialogue, between people of different cultures and religions. This is needed not just for the proper evolution of these cultures and so that can learn from each other, but also for ensuring global peace and security. When cultures learn to not just tolerate each other but also to work together with others for their mutual advancement, they become supports of each other and a means for peace, rather than conflict. In this way, they can translate into vehicles for the promotion of mutually beneficial relations at all levels—cultural, social, political and economic.

Some people argue that each culture should be allowed to grow on its own, in isolation from others. This suggestion is simply unworkable, because if a culture restricts and cocoons itself in this manner its rapid death is inevitable. In today’s world, no culture can even conceive of, leave alone claim to, exist isolated from other cultures because every cultural group’s very existence is now so heavily dependent on other groups. Global progress, peace and welfare are a common need and a shared aim of all the communities of the world, without which each community cannot properly prosper.

Some other people are of the view that each culture should be given full freedom to expand, even though this might mean that one particular culture finally dominates the entire world. Yet, this is a sure recipe for conflict. The same result would follow from another approach to inter-cultural relations that is rooted in a vision of cultural hegemony that refuses to tolerate the existence of other cultures and seeks to wipe them out or else subjugate them. Obviously, this is a totally unrealistic approach. It is also a negation of a basic message of all Divinely-revealed religions, according to which all human beings are made of the same basic substance and are offspring of the same primal parents, and that, till the Day of Judgment, all human beings will remain tied to each other through their shared humanity. This bond of humanity that knits together all people is the primary, most basic and strongest of all relations.

In a plural society, where people of different religions, ethnicities, language groups and cultures live together, every group must be given equal rights and the same opportunities to progress. This can only be ensured and sustained through continuous inter-community dialogue. In my view, the only way to prevent inter-cultural or inter-religious conflict, as well as to promote harmonious inter-community relations in a plural society and at the global level, is serious dialogue that aims at improving relations between different communities so that they jointly work for establishing peace.

The point then arises as to what the bases of such dialogue should be. Should dialogue concern itself simply with the niceties of the philosophies of different cultural groups? Should dialogue remain restricted only to the theological level? Should dialogue be limited simply to preaching about peaceful coexistence? Or, should it, as I believe, go beyond this to focus particularly on the various social and other such problems and issues that different cultural groups face in common? Until inter-cultural dialogue takes up these common problems as well as issues of common interest as its bases, it will remain very superficial. This is why I believe that the first stage in inter-cultural dialogue is for members of different cultural communities to identify issues of common concern as well as common interest, particularly those problems that are a hurdle to better relations between various communities. The second step is to evolve means to address these issues through peaceful and sustained dialogue. But this must be carried out in a spirit of mutual respect, for no dialogue can succeed if it involves abusing or debasing the religious feelings and beliefs of other communities.

(This is a translation of extracts from Maulvi Nadwi’s Urdu booklet, ‘Muzakirat Ki Zarurat’ (‘The Need For Dialogue’ (New Delhi: Institute of Objective Studies, 2005).


Free Somali Folktales

I haven't read through all of the folktales but they look interesting. The English translation is first followed by the Somali version. Apparently, Somali oral tradition is rich with stories and these are just a few. Read More...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Does Islam Prohibit Muslims From Befriending People of Other Faiths?

By Maulvi Yahya Nomani
(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)

While Islam stresses good relations with people of other faiths, it is also mindful of its distinctive teachings and of the fact that the aim in life of its true followers is not to wallow in worldly comforts. In other words, it does not permit its moral identity and principles to be sacrificed or diluted. It does not allow Muslims to blindly imitate others so that the identity and distinctiveness of Islamic teachings and principles are wiped out. Islam does indeed call for unity and brotherly relations with people of other faiths, but not at the cost of the distinct identity of the Muslims. It cannot allow Muslims to lose their identity by being absorbed into another community.

According to a hadith report, the Prophet warned Muslims against imitating or following the ways of other communities. This issue has been incorrectly understood by some people. The actual import of this hadith is to warn Muslims from adopting or imitating those aspects of the identity of other communities that relate to the latter’s religious and social distinctiveness and with regard to which they are completely different from Muslims. It is obvious that a community that imitates or adopts such customs and practices of another community would soon be overwhelmed by the latter and made to feel inferior, and that it would gradually begin to lose its own identity, finally ending up being absorbed into the community whose ways it imitates.
According to the Kanz al-Daqaiq, a text of Hanafi Muslim jurisprudence, Muslims are not forbidden from adopting each and every custom or practice of the People of the Book [Jews, Christians, etc.—YS]. Only those things of theirs are forbidden for Muslims to imitate or adopt that are clearly forbidden (haram) or wrong. Muslims are also not allowed to adopt any practice of theirs with the intention of becoming like them. The same argument was made by Imam Abu Yusuf, the noted Hanafi jurisprudent, as quoted in the Durr ul-Mukhtar, a well-known text on Hanafi law.

It is evident from this that the aim of this restriction is not to promote hatred for or enmity against others, but, rather, to protect the Muslims’ ideological and moral distinctiveness. Nor does it aim at instilling a narrow communal consciousness and a false sense of communal superiority among Muslims. This restriction should be viewed in the light of the fact that Islam has provided its adherents a set of religious principles, moral values and beliefs, on the basis of which they should lead their lives. In order to protect their faith, beliefs and life-style, it stresses the need for them to express their distinctiveness from others in certain matters, while at the same time insisting that Muslims should seek to cultivate close brotherly relations with them. This distinctiveness is needed in order to protect the Muslims from being absorbed into other communities as a result of close interaction, which might otherwise cause them to lose their own identity.
While Islam exhorts Muslims to establish close and cordial relations with non-Muslims in general, it forbids them from collaborating with those non-Muslim enemies of Islam who are bent on the destruction of Islam, are at war with Muslims, or are engaged in dangerous conspiracies against them. For, as the Quran says:
‘O ye who believe! Take not My enemies and yours as friends (or protectors)― offering them (your) love, even though they have rejected the Truth that has come to you, and have (on the contrary) driven out the Messenger and yourselves (from your homes), (simply) because ye believe in Allah your Lord! If ye have come out to strive in My Way and to seek My Good Pleasure (take them not as friends), holding secret converse of love (and friendship) with them: for I know full well all that ye conceal and all that ye reveal. And any of you that does this has strayed from the Straight Path. If they were to get the better of you, they would behave to you as enemies, and stretch forth their hands and their tongues against you for evil; and they desire that ye should reject the Truth’ (60:1-2).

A Serious Misunderstanding

The question is often raised that while Muslims constantly claim that Islam teaches them to live at peace with people of other faiths and to relate with them with kindness, love and concern, the reality is just the opposite, because, it is alleged, the Quran forbids Muslims from having social or other such relations with non-Muslims and has prohibited friendship with them.
This wrong allegation is based on two basic misunderstandings. Firstly, a wrong conception of the terms ‘wali’ and ‘wala’, which are used in the Quran. Secondly, misunderstanding about precisely which group of unbelievers this prohibition applies to. In this regard, the fact is often ignored that at several places the Quran qualifies its statements so as to indicate that this prohibition does not apply to all non-Muslims in general, but, rather, to only a particular type among them. In fact, at one place the Quran also explicitly mentions that this prohibition applies just to a particular group among the non-Muslims, and that friendship with other non-Muslims is not forbidden. As the Quran very clearly puts it:
God does not forbid you regarding those who have not fought you on account of the Religion, and have not expelled you from your homes, that you should be virtuous to them and be equitable with them; surely God loves the equitable. God forbids you only regarding those who have fought you on account of Religion, and have expelled you from your homes, and have given support in your expulsion, that you should take them for friends; and whoso takes them for friends, those are the wrong-doers.( Quran 60: 8-9)

The First Misunderstanding
The first misunderstanding arises from a misreading of certain verses of the Quran that forbid Muslims from taking disbelievers as their walis. The Arabic word wali has been wrongly taken to be the synonymous of ‘friend’. In actual fact, there is no strict equivalent of the Arabic word al-wali or its derivatives in Urdu and English and many other languages. That is why it is often translated as dost in Urdu and ‘friend’ in English. It is this that causes people to wrongly believe that Islam forbids Muslims from taking non-Muslims as their friends.
The word wali actually refers to a person whom one has a very intimate friendship with. This also connotes helping, assisting and being in solidarity with such a person. Imam Ibn Jarir Tabari, an expert in the Arabic language and a noted Quranic commentator, explains a verse in the Quran which ordains ‘Let not the believers take for friends or helpers Unbelievers rather than believers’ (Quran 3: 28) as follows:
‘In this verse, God has forbidden the true believers from taking the disbelievers as their helpers […] That is to say, they are forbidden from considering them as their supporters, assisting them in their [non-Muslims’] religion, supporting them against the Muslims and the true believers and sharing the secrets of the Muslims with them.’ Commenting on the use of a derivative of the term wali the Quran, he adds, ‘In the Arabic language, the general meaning of the word wali is helper and supporter.’
From this discussion, it is evident that these verses forbid Muslims from establishing secret ties with the disbelievers or assisting them secretly. These verses have nothing to do with forbidding friendship and good relations with non-Muslims in general. This is made even more clear when the Quran explains that the wala or close bonding that it forbids is that which denotes ‘help against the true believers’ (for instance, Surah Al-e Imran: 28; Surah Nisa: 139 and 144). This restriction or specification regarding the phrase ‘against the true believers’ itself indicates that the bonding that the Quran forbids is of that sort that entails helping disbelievers against the Muslims.
The precise context of these verses, which is clearly evident in the verses themselves, must be properly understood. Without this, their actual import is likely to be misunderstood. The disbelievers that they refer to, whom it forbids Muslims from closely bonding with and helping, were those who were determined to wipe out Islam and were involved in a massive campaign for this purpose. They had even unleashed war against the Muslims. These included the polytheists of Mecca, who had declared open war against the Muslims, as well as the Jews of Medina. Besides provoking war against the Muslims, they were also trying to spread internal dissension, conflict and inter-tribal disputes among them and vilified Islam and the Prophet. At that time, Muslims had blood relatives or friends among both the polytheists of Mecca and the Jews of Medina. They had social relations and dealings with them. A number of hypocrites (munafiqin) among the Muslims also sympathized with the Meccan polytheists and the Medinan Jews, and they were proving to be skilled agents of the opponents of Islam in their conspiracies. The Quran unveiled the dangerous activities of this group of people. These subversive activities had reached such a dangerous point that in the ninth year of the Hijra the hypocrites set up their own centre, calling it a mosque, at Quba, whose aim was to undermine and destroy the polity at Medina headed by the Prophet, instigate dissensions among the Muslims, invite an army from outside to invade the town, and fan internal revolt (Quran 9: 107).
Besides these inveterate hypocrites, there was also a group of people among the Muslims with weak faith, who used to oscillate between the Muslims and their opponents, depending on which way the wind was blowing. The hypocrites were, by and large, under the influence of the Medinan Jews, and were working to fulfill their agenda (see Surah al-Maida: 52). The Quran instructed the Prophet to warn these hypocrites to be ready to be punished in Hell for having established secret relations with the enemies of Islam. It is in this context that the Quran berates these hypocrites for choosing those disbelievers as their walis and leaving aside the true believers, in the mistaken expectation that, in this way, they could acquire respect and power. They sat along with the leaders of the disbelieving foes of Islam in their meetings, where the latter would mock Islam and the Prophet. The Quran says that these hypocrites used to remain in waiting, being neither fully with the Muslims nor fully with their enemies, so that if the Muslims were victorious, they could come to them, saying that they were with them, and that if the disbelievers triumphed, they could go to them, saying that they had assisted them in defeating the Muslims.
This behaviour of the hypocrites is what the Quran refers to when it forbids the believers from taking disbelievers as their walis. As mentioned above, this group of hypocrites was heavily under the social and political influence of the Jews, and was hand-in-glove with them in their scurrilous propaganda against Islam and the Prophet. The Quran refers to this situation (particularly in Surah Ahazab and the Surah Noor). The leaders of the Jews mocked and reviled Islam, and in their meetings some Muslims would also be present. The pagan Arabs were also involved in this. These Jews and pagan Arabs tried to incite ordinary Muslims to disobey the Prophet and revolt against him. It was in this context that the Quran says that those in whose hearts there is a disease, that is to say who are hypocrites, rush towards the disbelievers to join hands with them for fear that otherwise they might fall into trouble.
This is the sort of wala or solidarity (a termed related to the word wali) with the enemies of Islam who are bent on uprooting the faith that the Quran forbids. Obviously, a relationship of wala with such people would be a direct contradiction of one’s Islamic faith, as well as a grave threat to Islam and the Muslims at the political and social levels, too.

The Second Misunderstanding

Another cause of considerable misunderstanding about Islam’s teachings with regard to the possibility of friendship between Muslims and others is that the above-mentioned prohibition of wala, or taking disbelievers as walis, has been erroneously interpreted as applying to all non-Muslims in general. It must be stressed here that, as the discussion of various Quranic verses above has shown, this order applies only to those non-Muslims who are enemies of Islam and who are involved in activities aimed at undermining and destroying it. This point is strikingly brought out in the following verses of the Quran:

O ye who believe! Take not into your intimacy those outside your ranks: They will not fail to corrupt you. They only desire your ruin: Rank hatred has already appeared from their mouths: What their hearts conceal is far worse. We have made plain to you the Signs, if ye have wisdom. Ah! ye are those who love them, but they love you not,- though ye believe in the whole of the Book. When they meet you, they say, "We believe": But when they are alone, they bite off the very tips of their fingers at you in their rage. Say: "Perish in you rage; Allah knoweth well all the secrets of the heart." If aught that is good befalls you, it grieves them; but if some misfortune overtakes you, they rejoice at it. But if ye are constant and do right, not the least harm will their cunning do to you; for Allah Compasseth round about all that they do (Quran 118-120).
These verses specify that the foes that they refer to are those whose hearts burn with enmity and who are engaged in plots to destroy the Muslims. It does not refer to ordinary, well-meaning, kind and sincere people of other faiths. The true import of these commandments can be properly understood from the fact that in a very highly secretive and sensitive matter, the migration of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina, the Prophet not only shared his plans with a non-Muslim, Abdullah ibn Arqad, but also fully trusted him. This fact clearly suggests that these verses forbid taking as confidants and intimates only those non-Muslims who are enemies of Islam and its followers. It is, thus, obvious, and needs no explanation, that a non-Muslim of good character is much better to have as a friend and confidant than a person who is Muslim in name alone and is a hypocrite and an opportunist.
The sort of non-Muslims that the Quran forbids Muslims from taking as their intimate associates is also clearly indicated in the following verse:
O ye who believe! Take not My enemies and yours as friends [or protectors] (wali)― offering them (your) love, even though they have rejected the Truth that has come to you, and have (on the contrary) driven out the Messenger and yourselves (from your homes), (simply) because ye believe in Allah your Lord! If ye have come out to strive in My Way and to seek My Good Pleasure (take them not as friends), holding secret converse of love (and friendship) with them: for I know full well all that ye conceal and all that ye reveal. And any of you that does this has strayed from the Straight Path. If they were to get the better of you, they would behave to you as enemies, and stretch forth their hands and their tongues against you for evil; and they desire that ye should reject
the Truth (60:1-2).

This verse strongly and explicitly forbids Muslims from taking disbelievers as their walis, but here, too, it does not refer to all non-Muslims in general. Rather, it refers only to those who ‘have rejected the Truth […] and have driven out the Messenger and yourselves (from your homes), (simply) because ye believe in Allah your Lord’.

Precisely which non-Muslims this Quranic prohibition applies to is an issue that needs to be carefully understood. Conversely, we must also properly understand which non-Muslims this prohibition does not apply to. The Quran very clearly indicates that this prohibition does not apply to the general non-Muslims who relate with peace and goodwill with Muslims. Instead, it restricts this prohibition only to those non-Muslims who are enemies of Islam and the Muslims. Thus, the Quran relates:
Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just. (8) Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances) that do wrong (60:8-9).

These verses very explicitly show precisely what sort of non-Muslims the Muslims have been prohibited by the Quran to take as their walis, and, on the other hand, which non-Muslims this prohibition does not apply to. From this discussion, it is clear that Muslims can, indeed non-Muslims who do not bear any enmity against Islam and its adherents and are not engaged in any activities against them as their friends.

Critique of An Extremist Position

The above discussion clearly shows that the arguments of some people who claim that Muslims must never befriend non-Muslims and that such friendship is banned in Islam are completely wrong and absurd. These people have not understood the relevant Quranic verses in their totality. Thus, for instance, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab [the founder of the Wahhabi movement—YS] even went to the extent of claiming, ‘A Muslim’s faith in Islam cannot be proper, even if he believes in one God and has abandoned polytheism, till he harbours enmity for the polytheists.’

In a similar vein, a contemporary Saudi Islamic scholar, Dr. Sahal bin Rafa‘ al-‘Aytabi, who teaches Islamic theology at the Ibn Saud University, Riyadh, claims that ‘Islam has forbidden love for non-Muslims, but, still, instructs them to deal with them with decency.’ He argues this on the basis of his own reading of the following two Quranic verses:

‘Thou wilt not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, loving those who resist Allah and His Messenger, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred. For such He has written Faith in their hearts, and strengthened them with a spirit from Himself. And He will admit them to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow, to dwell therein (for ever). Allah will be well pleased with them, and they with Him. They are the Party of Allah. Truly it is the Party of Allah that will achieve Felicity’ (58-22)


‘O ye who believe! Take not My enemies and yours as friends (or protectors)― offering them (your) love, even though they have rejected the Truth that has come to you, and have (on the contrary) driven out the Messenger and yourselves (from your homes), (simply) because ye believe in Allah your Lord! If ye have come out to strive in My Way and to seek My Good Pleasure (take them not as friends), holding secret converse of love (and friendship) with them: for I know full well all that ye conceal and all that ye reveal. And any of you that does this has strayed from the Straight Path’ (60:1).

It is obvious, however, that Dr. al-‘Aytabi’s argument and reasoning is faulty. Neither of the above-mentioned two verses deals with non-Muslims in general. The first verse refers only to those non-Muslims who have waged war against God and His Prophet and are enemies of the religion of Islam. The second verse also refers to the same sort of people. Besides, the general context of these two verses also clarifies that it is only this sort of non-Muslims, and not all non-Muslims in general, that the verses refer to. This point is made clearer when we recall that the Quran makes the Prophet declare:

‘Say: "No reward do I ask of you for this except the love of those near of kin." And if anyone earns any good, We shall give him an increase of good in respect thereof: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Ready to appreciate (service) (Quran: 42: 23).

On the basis of this verse, can anyone at all argue that it meant that the Prophet was demanding a one-sided love from these people, and that, in return for this, he hated them instead of loving them for being his near relatives? Of course not! Can any one claim that the Prophet hated his uncle, Abu Talib, who had protected him [Unlike Shias, Sunnis believe that Abu Talib, father of Imam Ali, did not accept Islam although till his death he provided protection to the Prophet from his Meccan opponents—YS]? Not at all! No one can make such a preposterous claim. Undoubtedly, the Prophet loved his uncle Abu Talib very dearly.
It is true that Islam is sternly opposed to polytheism and infidelity. But, this certainly does not mean that Islam commands Muslims to hate all non-Muslims. It certainly does not order Muslims not to love, on the basis of their common humanity or common nationality, those non-Muslims who are peaceful and well-meaning. From the above-quoted verses, it is evident that the Quran orders Muslims to deal justly and kindly with the non-Muslims who wish to live at peace with them and who do not oppress them. The Quran instructs Muslims to entertain good and noble feelings for such people, to be concerned, and to work for, their welfare, to be compassionate towards them and to help them in times of need. For, as the Quran says,
God does not forbid you regarding those who have not fought you on account of the Religion, and have not expelled you from your homes, that you should be virtuous to them and be equitable with them; surely God loves the equitable. God forbids you only regarding those who have fought you on account of Religion, and have expelled you from your homes, and have given support in your expulsion, that you should take them for friends; and whoso takes them for friends, those are the wrong-doers (Quran: 60: 8-9).
The words of Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab that I earlier quoted, which drip with extremism, are echoed by another Saudi scholar, the late Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz bin Baz, in a letter that was a response to an article by the former rector of Al-Azhar, Shaikh Jad ul-Haq, where the latter had sought to justify good relations between Muslims and others and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation. Shaikh Jad ul-Haq had written, ‘Muslims consider the followers of Judaism and Christianity as believers in God and Divinely-revealed religions. There is no difference among them as regards the basic principles of their Divine message.’

The Shaikh’s argument can be critiqued, because it denies the basic difference between Islam and other religions, which is not permissible. Furthermore, today’s Christianity and Judaism have departed from their true, original forms, and so cannot be said to be the same, in their basic principles, as Islam. Bin Baz pointed this fact out, but he went to another extreme by wrongly claiming, ‘Undoubtedly, God has made it incumbent upon the believers to hate, and to be enemies with, the disbelievers and has forbidden them from loving them.’

It is obvious that this argument is absurd and erroneous. It represents a gross misinterpretation or misunderstanding of Islamic teachings. There is no basis for such a claim in the Quran. Rather, there are enough references in the Quran to challenge and rebut this argument. It is necessary to urgently critique and to do away with these wrong interpretations, which pose a major barrier in promoting better relations between Muslims and other peoples.



InshaALLAH my daughter will be doing a bit of copywork to help with her handwriting. We haven't done any in quite a while and I think it really helps her fine-tune her punctuation skills and she retains the bits and pieces that she writes. We will try out some verses from Riyad us Saliheen and see how it goes, InshaALLAH. I plan to choose the verses and then copy them to the free worksheet generator at It makes a nice pdf file for you to print in either print or cursive. I am making a binder for her so that she can just go to the next assignment easily and do some independent work. Read More...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Critical Questions Related to Islam and Jihad in the Context of International Treaties and Citizenship of a Non-Muslim Majority State

By Maulvi Yahya Nomani
(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)

Islam insists that Muslims should abide by the pacts and treaties that they have entered into with others. The Quran repeatedly insists on this. In one place, it says, ‘[A] nd keep the covenant. Lo! of the covenant it will be asked’(17:34). A hadith report claims that the Prophet once remarked, ‘A person lacks faith if he is not trustworthy and he who breaks his agreements has no religion.’

From the Quran and the Sunnah it emerges that for the Prophet the treaty that deserved the highest respect and the strictest compliance was the political pact between two states or between an individual and a state to ensure peace and security of life and property. The insistence on abiding by pacts entered into with others is a central Islamic teaching, and those who break their treaties are warned of punishment in Hell. The Islamic doctrine of jihad in the path of God must be understood in this light. The Prophet Muhammad is said to have remarked:

‘On the Day of Judgment, when all of humankind shall assemble before God, every oath-breaker shall be given in his hand a flag announcing that he is a traitor, on which shall be written that he, son of his father, is a traitor.’

Muslims have no need to adopt any apologetic or defensive stance on the issue of jihad. The doctrine of jihad is one of the clear proofs of the truth of Islam. It is a necessary means for fulfilling the higher purposes of humanity, if and when the need so arises. It is also a means to secure God’s blessings. A true jihad has nothing whatsoever to do with strife and conflict that is a central aspect of the Western-inspired present international system, under which states continue to maintain elations with each other and formally abide by their treaties but surreptitiously engage in proxy wars to destabilize each other.

Lamentably, today, some elements are exhorting impressionable Muslim youth with to renege on their commitments and pacts in the name of jihad. In this way they are seeking to instigate them to violate the commandments of the shariah and the limits set by God, while also causing grave damage to the cause of Islam and its followers. These stupid people are not friends of Islam. Many of them, in fact, have been nurtured and are being used by the enemies of Islam. In this regard I can cite two notable instances—Abu Hamza al-Misri and Omar al-Bakri—both of who are based in England and are engaged in provoking young Muslims to take to violence while themselves enjoying the protection of the British Government.

With regard to such foolish people, let me say that the moment a Muslim applies for a visa to visit or stay in a non-Muslim country he enters into what, in effect, is an agreement with the government of that state, promising it that he will not pose any threat to the lives and property of the people of that country and that he will abide by the country’s laws. He reiterates this promise numerous times while travelling to that country and also when he enters it. Even if that country is vociferously anti-Muslim and anti-Islam, it is incumbent on that person to abide by this agreement and respect the lives and properties of that country’s inhabitants. This is because he has consciously entered into an agreement with that country’s government and has assured it that he will respect its laws and the lives and properties of its citizens. Therefore, he has absolutely no excuse for misusing the name of Islam to revolt against that state or to violate the agreement that he has entered into with it. If he violates this agreement and commits an act of aggression in that country, even with a good intention, he commits a crime in the eyes both of the law and of Islam. For, as a hadith report claims the Prophet once declared, ‘If a person assures someone else of protection from his side but then slays him, he will be made to hold the flag of treason in his hand’ (Masnad Ahmad: 21441). The same hadith is mentioned, along with a correct chain of transmitters, in the Sahih Ibn Haban (5982), with the addition of the phrase ‘even if the slain person is a non-Muslim’.

Another form of treaty or agreement is that relating to citizenship. Muslim citizens of a modern non-Muslim state have, in effect, entered into an agreement with that state and its other citizens. This agreement is more important than other ordinary agreements in that other agreements are generally valid only for a specified time period, while the agreement related to one’s citizenship lasts as long as a person retains citizenship of a given country. Citizenship has always been understood as an agreement between an individual citizen and the state of a country whose citizen he is. The state and its citizens have clearly specified responsibilities vis-à-vis each other, as do the citizens of the country among themselves. They all agree to protect, and not to harm, the lives and properties of the citizens of the country. If someone declares that he does not regard it his duty to respect the life of his fellow citizens and that he is free to take their lives and property, the state of which he is a citizen will, naturally, at once declare him to be guilty of treason.

In today’s world, citizenship has assumed the form of an agreement that is very wide in scope. Both the duties and responsibilities of the state as well as the commitments of its citizens have greatly expanded. In this regard, it is clear that it is not permissible for a Muslim citizen of a state wherein Muslims might even be badly oppressed and have numerous complaints of mistreatment and discrimination to engage in any sort of violence against that country or its ordinary citizens as long as he remains a citizen of that country. At the most, he can retaliate against a particular oppressor if he is being oppressed. Of course, it is a different matter if he renounces citizenship of that country and shifts to another country, where the duties binding on a citizen of his former country do not apply to him.

As long as the Prophet and his companions remained in Mecca, they remained as citizens, to use a modern term, of the Meccan state. Despite the cruel oppression that they were subjected to, they lived in such a way that ordinary Meccans felt no threat from them at all. Although there were a few minor conflicts between some Muslims and some Meccan polytheists at this time, these were individual disputes, such as those that can take place in any country between fellow citizens. These were, in any case, disputes between polytheists and Muslim individuals whom they persecuted, and to take steps in the face of oppression is not a crime. But, then, when the Prophet left Mecca his agreement with the Meccan polytheists effectively ended. The Meccan polytheists now longer enjoyed legal protection from the Muhajirs or Muslims who had shifted to Medina, and vice versa.

Lamentably, we rarely, if ever, consider these limits, rules and principles regarding citizenship as laid down in the shariah, which are specified in the Quran and expressed in the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet. This is why we have been unable to apply them to our contemporary context. In this regard, many Muslims hold extremist views that are tantamount to a gross violation of the shariah. It would not have been a matter of great surprise if these were restricted only to some Muslim youths, reacting in this manner in the face of the oppression. But, when what are thought of as serious intellectual Muslim journals and magazines also begin to toe this line, it is not just surprising and shocking, but grossly lamentable and troubling.

Let me clarify this issue by citing the response of some Muslim magazines in the wake of a recent controversy over the publishing of some cartoons derogatory of the Prophet in Denmark. These Muslim magazines referred to numerous instances in the past when inflamed and emotionally-driven Muslims had killed people who had mocked the Prophet. They presented them as heroic examples that Muslims must emulate whenever the image of the Prophet is derided. They argued that this is precisely what was commanded by the shariah.

It is true that those who deride the Prophet should deserve to be punished by law. But, it is also true that it is only for the courts and the state to decide the punishment and inflict it in such cases, and not for individual Muslims. If a Muslim takes the law in his hand and kills a person for mocking the Prophet, he has committed a criminal offence. This is because, in the Islamic shariah, the imposition or execution of such a punishment can only be done by an established legal authority. This prerogative has not been given to any individual person. The emotionally-driven rhetoric of some Muslim magazines exhorting Muslims to murder traducers of the Prophet reflected faulty knowledge of Islam and proved to be gravely damaging to Islam and its adherents. In the early years of Islam, no mufti ever gave a fatwa sanctioning this sort of punishment without the consent of the state and the courts.

A similar incident involved the murder some years ago by a Moroccan Muslim youth of a Dutch artiste, who painted verses of the Quran on the naked body of a female model. From the point of view of the shariah, the act committed by the youth was wholly wrong. Yet, many Muslims unconditionally welcomed and praised it. It is true that the youth may have been motivated simply by the love for Islam, but, still, the shariah did not permit him to kill a citizen of a country with which his own country, Morocco, had a peace agreement. Furthermore, this Moroccan youth had come to Holland on a Dutch visa, which, in effect, meant that he had undertaken, or entered into an agreement, not to harm the lives and property of Dutch citizens in any way and to abide by Dutch laws. The shariah did not give him permission to violate these two agreements. Hence, he was guilty of treason (ghadr) and violating agreements, which the shariah considers as grave crimes.

Wild emotionalism is often the enemy of reason. Besides this being a crime according to the shariah, did not the perpetrator of this crime and those Muslims who lauded him and his action realize how damaging and counter-productive, from the Muslim point of view, it was for Muslims to react to such provocations with such violence? Through such violence we have not been able to stop enemies of Islam from engaging in sacrilegious acts. Instead, by staging violent demonstrations against them, Muslims have become the bullets and batons of policemen even in their own countries. They have become the laughing stock of the entire world. Every now and then, some one or the other engages in such provocative acts simply to see us get enraged and turn violent so that we thereby earn a bad name.

Instead of reacting in this way, wisdom demands that we should turn our opponents’ stratagem upon themselves, rather than helping to sharpen their own swords which they wield against us. The intention of those evil-minded people is to spread hatred against Muslims throughout the world, particularly in the West. If we react to their provocation through violence we will only be playing into their hands.

Maulvi Yahya Nomani is a leading Islamic scholar, based in Lucknow, and associated with the Urdu Islamic magazine al-Furqan. He can be contacted on

Discovery Box

If I could afford it, I would probably get one of these. I think specimens like these are so interesting, but they can keep that scorpion, lol.

You could easily set up your own natural display. I've recently purchased my own natural shells from the sea via eBay (I'll show these in a little bit - they're stinky and I have to clean them).Of course, the best specimens are the ones you find for yourself!

To replace the box, try the Fira from Ikea. It can be decoupaged like these.

I love homeschooling! I love the thought of the children being exposed to the wonders of ALLAH, alhamduLILLAH. It seems that we took it easy on science this past term and I would like to dive into it soon, InshaALLAH. Read More...

Killing of Non-Combatant Civilians Is Against Islamic Jihad

By Maulvi Yahya Nomani

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)

Today, some misguided people, misusing the Islamic doctrine of jihad, are seeking to wrongly justify their indiscriminate killing of civilians, Muslims as well as others. At the very outset I should state that such acts are wholly impermissible in Islam. While discussing the issue of jihad in the path of God, it is crucial to bear in mind that shedding blood is not an end in itself, and nor is it the reason why jihad is a blessed act in God’s eyes. The reason why jihad in God’s path is considered a meritorious act is that it is a means for the exaltation of the true faith. The mujhaid is beloved of God because of his willingness to sacrifice his own life and wealth in God’s path. Islam considers shedding blood a crime, but regards oppression and strife as greater crimes. A true jihad aims at ridding the world of oppression and strife.

It is because of this that the Islamic shariah stresses that in a state of war only combatants or those who have trained to become combatants or are otherwise somehow involved in the war can be attacked. No harm should befall any non-combatants, for that is not permissible in Islam.

Once, in a battlefield, the Prophet came across the corpse of a woman. Driven to anger, the Prophet exclaimed, ‘What sort of war was she fighting that she was killed?’ Then, he sent a message to the man who was leading the Muslim forces, Hazrat Khalid, instructing him to ensure that henceforth no woman, labourer or slave must be slain in the course of the war (Sunan Abu Daud 2669, Masnad Ahmad 17158, Sahih Bukhari 3015). The Prophet repeatedly forbade the killing of women and children during war, as is mentioned in the books of Hadith. According to one hadith report, the Prophet declared:

‘Do not slay any old, infirm person, nor any child or woman. Do not cheat in matters of war booty. Be kind and charitable. God loves those who are charitable .’

The Prophet also forbade his followers from attacking the monks and mendicants of other faiths, even in the course of war. In a hadith recorded in the Masnad Ahmad (2723), whenever the Prophet used to dispatch an army to the battlefield he would instruct it to refrain from kill people worshipping in their places of worship and those who served in such places. In the Mu‘ata of Imam Malik (858) it is recorded that once, when Abu Bakr dispatched Yazid ibn Sufiyan to Syria, which was at that time a largely Christian country, on a military expedition, he said to him that he would meet people who would tell him that they had sacrificed the world in order to worship and serve God. Such people, he instructed Khalid, must not be harmed. He also warned him not to attack or slay women, children and the aged and infirm, not to cut down any fruit-bearing trees, not to despoil any human habitation or set on fire any orchard, and not to renege on treaties and agreements. In his collection of hadith reports, Imam Baihaqi has attributed similar instructions to the Prophet, and although the chain of transmitters of this report is weak, because of its large number of narrators it has been accepted as fairly strong.

All this clearly suggests that killing innocent non-combatants is not at all legitimate, and that those who engage in such heinous crimes in the name of jihad have made a mockery of that noble doctrine.

Maulvi Yahya Nomani is a leading Islamic scholar, based in Lucknow , and associated with the Urdu Islamic magazine al-Furqan. He can be contacted on

Friday, July 17, 2009

Jihad and Imperialism

By Maulvi Yahya Nomani
(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)

Some critics of Islam claim that the Islamic doctrine of jihad is but a license for imperialist conquest. There is, of course, no truth in this argument. When discussing this issue, we need to focus on what Islamic teachings about the subject are, instead of judging Islam by the actions of some self-styled Muslim rulers, who may have wrongly sought to legitimize their wars of conquests in the name of jihad.

The jihad that Islam sanctions is only for certain specified purposes, and to be undertaken only under extreme circumstances. It must abide by certain rules and conditions. It must be inspired solely by the desire for closeness to God and by indifference to worldly pleasures and luxuries. Such a jihad is a need and blessing for humankind to end the darkness of oppression and lead humanity to the pinnacle of blessings. At the same time, we must recognize that it is possible that some Muslim groups who claim to be engaged in jihad are bereft of the character required for those undertake jihad. Yet, this does not mean that the Islamic principle or doctrine of jihad is itself faulty.

Every thinking person will agree with this assertion of the Quran that if the spirit of jihad and people inspired by it were emptied from the world it would mean the victory of evil. The Quran says that in the absence of these there would be nothing to stop strife in the world. In other words, it is a major blessing from God that, through his prophets, He has ordered His chosen slaves to adopt piety and extirpate strife and oppression from the world and guide humankind and work for its welfare, using, if need be, physical violence for this purpose in the form of jihad.

Islam is a religious and spiritual message and invitation. Its real aim is not to capture power for a particular community or to ensure that a particular community should rule. Rather, its aim is to promote the moral values and spiritual truths that form the basis of its message. If Muslim political power helps to promote this aim it is desirable. However, if it proves to be a hurdle in this path it is hateful, and the Quran indicates that God will certainly destroy such power of the Muslims and make them face utter humiliation. Islam has blessed jihad as a struggle in God’s path. Those who are truly engaged in jihad are forever mindful of the Day of Judgment, when each soul will have to stand before God and account for his or her deeds, for as the Quran says:

That House of the Hereafter We shall give to those who intend not high-handedness or mischief on earth: and the End is (best) for the righteous (Quran 28:83).

If, as a result of jihad, God grants His slaves an opportunity to govern, they must realize that this is a custody (amanat), for which they will be accountable to God. If someone misuses this opportunity and, instead of regarding it as a custody from God, uses it to acquire worldly honour, power and luxuries, he will be severely punished on the Day of Judgment. When God appointed Hazrat Daud (David) as a ruler, He instructed him thus:

O David! We did indeed make thee a vicegerent on earth: so judge thou between men in truth (and justice): nor follow thou the lusts, (of thy heart), for they will mislead thee from the Path of Allah: for those who wander astray from the Path of Allah, is a Penalty Grievous, for that they forget the Day of Account. (Quran 38:26)

Being constantly mindful of the Day of Judgment alone can safeguard this custody given to rulers so that, despite having vast powers, they do not transgress the limits set by God. The path exemplified by the Quran and the Prophet’s practice can undoubtedly ensure proper protection of the soul. In a hadith report recorded in the Sahih of Muslim, the Prophet once instructed his companion Abuzar regarding the great responsibilities concerning the custody that governance is, adding that on the Day of Judgment it would cause rulers to suffer, save for those who ruled according to the truth and abided by their responsibilities.

Orientalist scholars have sought to related the jihads of the Prophet in terms of the economic marginalization of the Arabs of that time, especially the Bedouins. Hence, they claim that the real intention of jihad was to acquire wealth. This is not true. If this were really the case, why would the leader of these jihads, the Noble Prophet, have remained poor till he departed from this world? By the time of the Prophet’s demise, the whole of Arabia had been conquered. Wealth had poured into Medina , and had also been distributed to the poor, but still food was cooked only once a day in the Prophet’s house, and, at the time he died, this was made possible only by borrowing money from a Jew.

In the Prophet’s time, the largest war booty was secured in the aftermath of the war of Hawazan. The people of Hawazan had brought along all their wealth with them to the battlefield. When they were defeated, their wealth fell into the hands of the Muslims. If the aim of this or the other jihads of the Prophet’s time was lust for wealth, the booty gained from the Battle of Hawazan would surely have been sent to the homes of Muslims in Medina . Instead of that, the Prophet distributed all this wealth among the Quraish of Mecca and to the leaders of some other tribes who, till the other day, had been the leaders of the enemies of the Muslims. The pious, faithful Muslims of Medina got nothing of this. Consequently, some Ansars, Muslims of Medina, were upset. Hearing this, the Prophet called the Ansars and instructed them, saying, ‘Won't you be happy that the [other] people take away worldly things and you take Allah's Apostle to your homes, reserving him for yourself?’. They replied, ‘Yes.’ Then, the Prophet said, ‘If the people took their way through a valley, and the Ansar took their way through a mountain pass, surely, I would take the Ansar’s mountain pass.’

Syria was a fertile land. It was conquered during the rule of the Caliph Umar. As mentioned in the book Fatah al-Baldan, in many places the Syrians actually welcomed the Muslims. The Muslims had to face confrontations mainly in those cities where the Roman army had its encampments. The Syrians were mainly Christians, followers of the same faith as their Byzantine Roman rulers, but yet they welcomed the Muslims as liberators. It so happened that, on account of certain military compulsions, the Muslims withdrew from the Syrian cities of Homs , Damascus and Baalbek , but as they were doing so the Christians of these cities came to them, appealing to them not to go, and pleading with them not to leave them at the mercy of the cruel Romans. When the Muslims explained to them why they had to leave, the Syrian Christians prayed to God for the Muslims to return. They promised the Muslims that if the Roman army invaded their cities they would join hands with the Muslims to fight them. Naturally, this would not have at all happened if, as some people allege, true Islamic jihad was synonymous with imperial conquest.

Guerilla War and Terrorism Are Not Jihad

By Maulvi Yahya Nomani

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)

War involves terrible bloodshed and destruction. That is why any minor deviation of the proper rules of warfare can convert a jihad in the path of God into strife and chaos. It was because of this that the Prophet very clearly and explicitly laid down that if a Muslim government exists, all decisions relating to jihad must be made by it alone. Disobeying the decisions of the Muslim state in this regard is not at all permissible. There are clear instructions relating to this in the Quran and the Hadith.

In the corpus of fiqh or Muslim jurisprudence developed by the early ulema, there is not even the slightest hint of people declaring jihad without the permission of their rulers. As the famous fiqh text Kitab al-Mughni very clearly states, ‘The matter of jihad depends on the decision of the Muslim ruler’. This is why it is very clear that where a government of the Muslims exists, jihad can be conducted under its banner alone. Citizens of that state cannot engage in jihad independently of the state and without its permission. It cannot be that their state has a peace treaty with another country and, despite that, some of its citizens declare jihad against that country. That they might only do if they renounce their citizenship and do not become citizens of any regular state or if they set up a state of their own, in which case they can take decisions for themselves.

However, till they remain citizens of a regular state and either reside there or in some other country with a regular government they do not have the right to make decisions about war and peace. Under all circumstances, they will have to abide by the treaties entered into with other states by the state of which they are citizens. This is an explicit commandment of God and the Prophet Muhammad. The importance of this commandment does not in any diminish if anyone defies or ignores it.

Hence, if a group of emotionally-driven Muslims becomes a threat to the life and property of the citizens of a non-Muslim state that has diplomatic relations and peace treaties with the state of which these Muslims are citizens, it is a gross violation of the shariah, irrespective of how noble the intentions of such people may be. As long as the government of the country whose citizens we are has a peace agreement with another government, it is not at all possible to harm any citizen of that other country, not matter what complaint we might personally have against it. There is only one way for that to happen, and that is if one’s country snaps all relations and agreements with the other country.

Muslims who are citizens of a non-Muslim state or who have adopted the citizenship of such a state have, in effect, entered into an agreement to become part of that state. In accepting a common citizenship with the other, non-Muslim, citizens of that state, in effect they agree to live peacefully with, and to respect and protect the lives and properties of, all the citizens of that state. If the non-Muslim state of which they are citizens attacks a Muslim state, they can, on the basis of their rights as citizens, seek to dissuade their state from doing so, but they cannot take up arms against their state. That they can only do if they renounce their citizenship and openly declare that they have ended what is in effect their treaty with their state. Islam has clearly forbidden Muslims from causing damage to ordinary citizens of any country even in times of war. After entering into an agreement of common citizenship with non-Muslims in a particular state, this rule leaves no room at all for Muslims to engage in any such destructive acts.

Today, in the face of the sufferings and killings of Muslims in many parts of the world, a large number of Muslim youths are alienated and angry. They want to stand up to make sacrifices for their co-religionists. This feeling is understandable, and, indeed, praise-worthy, but only if it is given a proper direction and used in accordance with shariah principles, so that it can prove a major force for the reconstruction of the Muslim ummah and draw it out of stagnation and degradation. But, the aim of the shariah which God wants us to observe, is the honour of Islam and the promotion of goodness in the world. If we violate the shariah, neither can we achieve this objective, nor can we be worthy of receiving God’s help. And, this shariah has made it incumbent on Muslims to abide by the treaties they enter into with others, including with a non-Muslim state, of which they may be citizens.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Exploring ALLAH's Creation


We decided to get out into the sunshine and explore our usual spot yesterday. It was breezy and warm but not overly so and I was glad because I am not a hot weather kind of person (I'm not a cold weather person either, lol). This has been a rather comfortable summer so I am thankful for that, AlhamduLILLAH.

Bagging It

Usually I am sweating and miserable from the humidity. I'm trying to be more active too and taking the kids on a long walk (it's about 3/4 of a mile) ensures that I get some form of activity even on the days that I don't exercise.

Ducks in a Row

Puffy Clouds

The kids always find something new to get into and they like to bring home their "treasures".

Gathering Nature

This time, they brought along their "nature bag" and filled it up with lots of goodies.

Bag of Goodies

Ontario Flora

We always go along the creek that runs close to our house. So far, I haven't seen any area that is safe enough for the children to climb down to the water so we just look from above. In the colder months, these rocks are covered with rushing water and you can hardly see them. What a difference the weather makes.

The Path To...

Now we have a lot of wilting greens and flowers and some nice big pieces of fallen trees and I need to find some place to put it all.

Fallen Tree Limbs

It's funny to watch them explore because they will pick up vegetation but then get squeamish when the bugs show up! I admit that I am the same way but I don't run away screaming like they do, even when I see these. We have them in the house and it's usually me that has the encounter. Read More...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Who Needs An Islamic State?

By Yoginder Sikand

Abdelwahab El-Affendi is a well-known Islamic scholar and political philosopher from Sudan , presently based in London . Author of numerous works, his latest book, provocatively titled ‘Who Needs an Islamic State?’ discusses what he regards as the serious lacunae in contemporary Islamist political thought, which, in his view, have caused Islamist movements to reach a virtual dead-end, creating many more problems (for Muslims as well as others) than they have been able to solve. El-Affendi seeks to argue the case for a paradigm shift in Muslim political thinking in order to fashion a contextually relevant understanding of Islam and its role in, and relation to, the public sphere.

Islamism may be described as a version of Islam predicated on the centrality of the notion of an ‘Islamic state’ whose principal function is to enforce, and rule by, what is conventionally regarded as shariah law. Islamism is far from being the homogenous phenomenon that it is often taken to be. Nor are all versions of Islamism necessarily incompatible with democracy. Undeniably, however, many forms of Islamism are. Islamist ideologues, driven by triumphalist, even apocalyptic, fervor, have failed to a develop consistent position on such crucial issues as limits to state authority, people’s participation in law-making and governance, the role and status of non-Muslims and women and the question of violence. Almost all recent experiments in setting up ‘Islamic states’ have involved tremendous bloodshed, conflict and large-scale suppression of democratic rights, including of Muslims themselves. The tantalizing utopian society that Islamists promise to usher in seems to recede even further into the realm of possibility once Islamists come to power.

This, in brief is what El-Affendi argues in his book. He contends that, once in power, Islamist parties inevitably turn sternly authoritarian. This is inevitable, he suggests, because the leaders of these parties firmly believe that their understanding of Islam corresponds most closely to the Divine Will and hence cannot be opposed and must be imposed, even against the opposition of a significant section of the population, Muslims as well as others. Islamists in power generally have a very poor record of respecting democracy, though the author rightly notes, it is unfair to blame them alone for the serious democratic deficit in much of the Muslim world since they are more often than not the victims of despotism, both of Western imperialist powers and of regimes in Muslim counties closely allied to the West. Yet, he insists, even victims have choices. When out of power, the ‘misguided anti-democratic rhetoric’ of Islamists provides many a despot with ‘an alibi and a pretext to oppose democratisation’, and in the few instances when Islamists have managed to acquire power, their record in upholding democratic rights has generally been dismal.

El-Affendi critiques the Islamists obsession with the struggle for acquiring power as a means to enforce shariah. Instead, he advises that it is not primarily political but, rather, moral influence that Islam requires its followers to seek to acquire. The best way to communicate Islam to others, which is the principal duty of Muslims, is not through the force of arms, but, rather, for Muslims to exemplify Islamic virtues in their own lives and to offer an alternative model of life to the rampant consumerism and centralization of power characteristic of Western-inspired models of ‘modernity’. Sadly, he says, this is not happening. In fact, or so he claims, Muslims are even more materialistic than others, while contributing little or nothing to the world in terms of science and technology. As he very aptly, though bluntly, puts it, ‘We sound a lot sillier today when we claim that the Muslims should be a light unto mankind and show exemplary conduct and moral leadership. Now, it would be more realistic to just say we wish that Muslims should stop blowing themselves up and getting innocent people killed in the process.’

El-Affendi recognizes continued injustices directed by others against Muslims, as in Palestine , Afghanistan and Iraq , and also admits that violence in the name of Islam is often a response or reaction to the oppression of Western powers and of their client regimes in the Muslim world. Yet, he suggests, reacting to this with indiscriminate counter-violence, as some Islamist groups have, is not in line with Quranic teachings. Further, he adds, ‘The quest for the moral high ground is for Muslims not just a requirement of a higher moral order but an imperative of survival.’

El-Affendi believes that values underlying democracy, such as justice, fairness, decency, rational conduct, can be said to be ‘total harmony’ with a certain broad and inclusive understanding of Islam. The anti-democratic thrust of much contemporary Islamic political thought is thus not a necessary outcome of Islam itself. Rather, the he argues, it owes much to the fact that Islamism emerged as a response to Western colonialism and the collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate at the hands of Western powers. That historical context in which it emerged favored an authoritarian vision of state. Yet, El-Affendi says, that model of the state is outdated and does not do justice to the demands of Islam, for it miserably fails to guarantee justice and basic freedoms that, in his view, Islam insists upon. At the same time, he is not unmindful of the present imbalance of power at the global level that is heavily tilted against Muslim countries. One way to address the problem, he suggests, is for at least one leading Muslim state to be set up or promoted that would be accepted by other Muslim countries as a sort of leader, in the same manner in which the USA is accepted as the leader of the West. This would be less ambitious than the classical Muslim Caliphate, and would fall short of leading to a European Union sort of arrangement, though it could eventually lead to it. Such a state, which should be a viable democracy with a strong economic base and vibrant cultural life, could, he believes, play a major role in addressing the endemic instability of the Muslim world. He holds this out as a realistic alternative to the utopian vision of the Caliphate in Islamist circles.

A major concern of El-Affendi is to critique certain key aspects of traditional and contemporary Muslim political thought and discourse. He laments that many Muslims are reluctant to review the Muslim political heritage, somehow treating it as sacred, and even ardently defending those aspects of it that are patently immoral and, therefore, un-Islamic. For Muslims to critically reassess this heritage, he points out, does not mean abandoning the absolute commitment to the ideals that shaped it. A major aspect of Muslim political thought that he subjects to incisive critique is what he regards as its extreme idealism and the related tension between the ideal and the reality of Muslim political life. Islamists, he argues, are impelled by an extremely idealistic, indeed utopian, vision of the world, one that has scant concern for realism. Hence their willingness to resort to violence and authoritarianism to serve what they believe are divine ends. Hence, too, their ultimate failures. Commitment to Islamic ideals must go, El-Affendi advises, with what he calls a ‘healthy realism’.

While defending democracy and the rights of minorities, El-Affendi does not advocate that Muslim countries uncritically adopt Western-style secular, democratic state structures. In fact, he is bitterly critical of the modern state, which, instead of serving society, demands that society serve it. He draws inspiration from the polity set up by the Prophet Muhammad, which was, he says, characterized by voluntary participation, and was based on morality rather than coercion.

The ideal polity established by the Prophet was, however, subverted shortly after the Prophet’s demise, when the proto-democratic Caliphate was transformed into authoritarian monarchy that heralded the collapse of the idealist project. This, El-Affendi notes, resulted in the decline of the role of the wider community in political affairs and the further narrowing of Muslim political theory. It was at this time that doctrines were invented, including by some court-related ulema, making obedience to rulers compulsory even if they were tyrants. This justification that was sought to be bestowed on tyranny remains a greatly problematic aspect of Muslim political thought.

Another major drawback of traditional Muslim and modern Islamist political theory is, El-Affendi tells us, that since it is based on the notion of the Caliph as a virtually saintly leader, there are no proper checks and balances to his powers. The insistence on perfection in the Caliph, he perceptively notes, ‘has automatically removed from the community the right to criticize him, for everyone is by definition less pious, less learned and less wise than he is.’ The solution to the problems of the Muslim ummah was believed to depend on the arrival of an individual saintly ruler, which is precisely what leaders of various Islamist groups and Muslim messianic movements projected themselves as. The waiting for this ‘impossible arrival’ was, El-Affendi comments, ‘bound to relegate Muslim thinking to the realm of mythology and passive ineptitude.’ He suggests that Muslim political theory be revised by detailing the ideals inherent in Islamic history and norms in a more realistic fashion, and by insisting that they be adhered to in practice.

El-Affendi is bitterly critical of the tendency in Islamist circles to project the Caliphate as an end in itself, rather than as a means to certain desirable ends, such as justice and democracy. He finds fault with key Islamist ideologues, such as Maududi and Syed Qutb, for their aversion to democracy and their advocacy of a totalitarian, fascist-like state in the name of the Caliphate, whose ruler would be advised by a shura council but who could override its opinion. This would allow him to be a virtual dictator. In such a set-up, El-Affendi argues, totalitarianism would be further reinforced because the Caliph and the state he presides over would be charged with the responsibility of promoting virtue and combating vice, which could easily result in malpractices as well as gross interference in people’s private affairs. This, in turn, would surely lead to people opposing the Islamic state, as the experience of numerous countries where such experiments have been sought to be imposed so tragically illustrates.

In this regard, El-Affendi argues for effective checks on the powers of the Caliph or amir or leader of the Muslim state, because, he says, the conventional notion that the Caliph cannot be a tyrant because only the most pious persona can be selected for the post is wholly unrealistic. He notes that some scholars suggest that the amir be bound by the consensus (ijma) of the ulema, but he prefers to concur with the suggestion of Hasan al-Turabi, head of the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood, who argues that the amir should follow the ijma of the people, whose choice should be enlightened by religious as well as secular experts. El-Affendi also approvingly refers to the noted Tunisian Islamist Rashid al-Ghanoushi, who stresses that Islamist movements should consider themselves as just one among many actors within a liberal-democratic state and that they should regards themselves neither as the guardians of Islamic morality, nor as the sole authority as regards the interpretation of Islam. In other words, an Islamist party must shed its monopolistic tendencies and see itself as just another political party offering its programme to people, inviting them to decide freely between it and its rivals. In such a scheme of things, Islamic parties must acknowledge that there is always a possibility that they could lose to non-Islamic parties in freely-held elections, and they should respect the verdict of the electorate.

Another key aspect of Islamist political thought that El-Affendi scrutinizes is its vision of the state that is based on the notion of what he aptly terms ‘a principle of restriction’, which he contrasts with the original Islamic vision of the polity as based on ‘a principle of liberation and self-fulfillment’. This model is based on the notion of a benevolent autocrat who rules mainly though punitive powers. Not surprisingly, this model has throughout Muslim history been used by despots to shore up their own legitimacy and powers. Another crucial flaw of this model is what he terms as the ‘totalitarian quasi-utopian vision in which the Islamists conceive of a mighty state dragging an unwilling community along the path of virtue and obedience to the law’. This is reflected in their concern mainly with legal prohibitions and restrictions in the law. The citizen that Islamists seek to mould is essentially someone who is deprived of the freedom to sin, but, ironically, also one who lacks the freedom to be virtuous either. El-Affendi argues that this was certainly not God’s purpose when He created human beings endowed with free will.

The issue of community identity in an Islamic state also remains a subject of intense debate, El-Affendi points out. While many Islamists insist on following the medieval fiqh tradition in treating non-Muslims as dhimmis, with several restrictions on their rights, he refers to some Islamist ideologues who are now willing to revise the notion of dhimmi and consider non-Muslims as co-founders of the state and as full citizens with equal rights as Muslims. This reflects a growing realization that the division of the world in the classical fiqh tradition between dar ul-harb (‘Abode of War’) and dar ul-islam (‘Abode of Islam’) is a post-Quranic development that has no sanction in the Quran. El-Affendi eagerly supports the notion of dar ul-ahd (‘Abode of Treaty’) that some Muslim scholars have proposed, connoting states where communities agree to peacefully coexist. In such states, democracies where Muslims have equal rights, including the right to follow and propagate their faith, there can be no room for armed jihad, and Muslims must seek to cultivate peaceful and harmonious relations with non-Muslim fellow citizens.

This, however, does not mean, El-Affendi clarifies, that Islam is reconciled to the present Western-inspired international order, for, he says, it must play its role of being the sole remaining major challenger to the liberal-democratic Western-dominated international system in order to establish justice, first within Muslim communities and countries, and then, internationally.

Similarly, with reference to the notion of ummah, which some radical Islamists argue must translate into political unity of all Muslims across the world, El-Affendi chooses to side with those Muslim thinkers who consider that the notion does not preclude allegiance to a particular state. True, he argues, a Muslim’s ultimate loyalty must be to God, not to a community or state. Yet, other loyalties, such as to the family, tribe, nation and country, need not be seen as necessarily contradictory to this ultimate loyalty. This is why, he says, Islam recognized these other facets of identity, but sublimated and gave them a new expression within the new context of belief. In some ways, he adds, modernity and the modern system of nation- states can actually help advance some Islamic ideals. In theory, modernity allows for democracy, freedom (albeit one controlled by social responsibility and spiritual welfare), justice and peaceful interaction between different peoples, thus promoting the creation of a truly global community, which, El-Affendi says, is in accordance with Islamic teachings. In this regard, Islam, properly understood, can play an important role as a source of moral guidance to create a peaceful and just world order and to end the present heavily-skewed global imbalances of power and resources. El-Affendi sees this as part of the mandate of a community that regards itself as a ‘witness over mankind’, which should manifest itself in transcending self-interest in favour of global responsibility, attacking consumerism, nurturing the environment and offering an alternative to the international order based on the notion of the egotistic nation-state as a collection of individuals and groups motivated largely by narrowly-defined self-interest. These notions should, he argues, be recast in a moral context by redefining the role of the Muslim ummah as the conscience of mankind.

One of El-Affendi’s serious concerns with traditional as well as contemporary Muslim political thought is that it does not adequately provide for formal decision-making mechanisms suitable for a complex, modern state. One reason for this is that both are based on the model of the small-scale and closely-knit polity established by the Prophet in Medina , which, in turn, was built on a society characterized by mutual trust, close personal interaction and easy, mainly face-to-face communications. The charismatic nature of the leadership provided by the Prophet made it unnecessary to have formal decision-making structures that would require all leading figures to take part in the political process. Today, however, El-Affendi notes, the situation is vastly different, and more institutionalized and formal arrangements for decision-making and power-sharing are required in order to administer large nation-states. This is something that Muslim political thought has not devoted sufficient attention to. In this context, El-Affendi argues that that the idea of a single Caliph, so central to traditional Sunni political thought, may have to be replaced in favour of rule by a council of people, a system more in tune with the concept and realities of the modern state.

El-Affendi is also critical of the Islamists’ tendency to hanker after a single saintly hero, in the model of an ideal Caliph or a Mujaddid or a Mahdi, who could, almost miraculously, solve all the problems of the Muslims in particular, and the world in general. He rightly regards this as misplaced utopianism, pointing out the impossibility of applying political techniques suitable for small city states to vast countries. The classical Sunni caliphate model that both traditional ulema and Islamists seek to recreate, he insists, belongs to the category of republican city-states of the past and is unworkable in today, in a world of vast, multi-ethnic, modern states.

An aspect of the political practice of many contemporary Islamist groups that engages El-Affendi’s concern is what he regards as their overwhelming focus on the fight against foreign enemies, whether real or imaginary, which has been at the cost of the struggle for internal reforms within the Muslim community. This indicates a lack of sufficient introspection and self-critique and an unfortunate tendency to blame others wholly for one’s own weaknesses, failures and travails. Because of this, he argues, all sorts of corruption, despotism, mismanagement and ineptitude have been tolerated among Muslims ‘in the name of the fight against this enemy or that’, while ‘the enemy within, the biggest of all, was left untouched’.

A key aspect of the practice of modern Islamist movements that El-Affendi finds greatly problematic is their near obsession with ruling through restriction, control and punishment, rather than through working for the positive enablement of their citizens. This has made for proto-fascist tendencies to emerge within their ranks, ultimately causing the very people whom they supposedly wanted to reform in the name of Islam to oppose and even, as in some places, revolt against them. This, so El-Affendi says, was not the original Islamic idea of a political community, and can only be counterproductive to the cause of building up a truly moral Islamic society and polity.

By seeking to ‘establish’ Islam through coercion, and thus making capture of the state and its coercive powers their first or major concern, Islamist forces might thus only be causing their own downfall, El-Affendi argues. Their harsh, authoritarian approach to enforcing Islamic morality can only lead to corruption and widespread hypocrisy, causing alienation from, rather than genuine commitment to, Islam.

This means, El-Affendi writes, that the search for an ideal state must begin with the search for freedom for Muslims, including the freedom to think, to act, to even sin and to repent, to find oneself and one’s fulfillment in obeying God—only then can a truly righteous Muslim community and state emerge. This requires that, for the present, Muslims must participate wholeheartedly in the struggle for democracy, for right of every individual not to be coerced into doing anything his or her will. Only in this freedom will society be able to evolve an ethics based on the Prophetic model, wherein people submit to Islam voluntarily and abide by its rules by their conscience, not through fear of the state and its agencies of punishment. At the same time, El-Affendi adds, the freedom that he advocates is not one without moral restraints. To be free is not to be amoral. Rather, it means to be free from external, undesirable constraints. Yet, to be genuinely free also requires that the state must not be totalitarian, contrary to how several modern Islamist ideologues have conceived of it. The ideal Muslim state, as well as the Muslim community in general, does have the duty to help each individual achieve his or her moral potential, but it cannot shoulder the individual’s ultimate duty with regard to his or her own actions. El-Affendi recognizes that for any political community to function there has to be an element of coercion involved, but, he says, the ideal polity cannot approve of any element of coercion other than the minimum inherent in the principle of community itself. The Muslim state or the Muslim community cannot compel people to be righteous against their will, for that would only lead to hypocrisy, which Islam abhors. This is also a sure recipe for despotism, as the state, imagining itself to be the instrument of the Divine Will, can easily assume its moral duty to be to compel people to act against their own conscience. In other words, then, the state must be a democratic one, based on the free will of its citizens and the principle of peaceful resolution of differences and free debate about the demands of Islam and the operation of the community. It should also respect cultural and religious pluralism, and accommodate non-Muslims as equal citizens with equal rights and freedom. El-Affendi argues the case for a polity in a plural society as being an association of independent religious communities coexisting with each other, governed by a treaty rather than by a rigid Constitution in order to give the communities greater autonomy. Such a treaty would detail the rights and duties of all communities and would safeguard their common existence, similar to covenant of Medina covenant that brought the Muslims, under the Prophet, with the non-Muslim communities of Medina , in a common polity.

This would be a different sort of polity to the conventional modern state. Communities would join together not as subjects of an all powerful state, but as members of communities united voluntarily, each pursuing its own way of life in full freedom. This polity would allow for only that much coercion as is needed to safeguard and maintain the polity itself, but coercion would not the basis of the polity. In such a polity, a person would be free to join the community and polity of his or her choice or leave freely, something that is absent in the current international order, where citizens must conform to state-dictated norms and where freedom of movement to join other polities is severely restricted. In place of the territory-based modern state, El-Affendi suggests a polity which is not strictly territorial, and an international order based on peacefully co-existing communities rather than territorially-based and mutually exclusive nation states. It would not be an intrusive, coercive organisation that seeks to impose specific norms. Instead, it would be a co-operative association to help people to live freely according to the dictates of their conscience. It would conform to the shariah, but the shariah would not be imposed. Rather, the conformity to the shariah would be to the extent of the free expression of the free will of its Muslim citizens.

Such a state is to be distinguished from conventional states in that it has a higher moral purpose. It should, El-Affendi says, serve as a light for all humankind, and not being engrossed, as all other states are, in an endless search for comforts and material goods for its people. It must be characterized by a philosophy of giving and sharing, unlike conventional states, whose component groups vie with each other for the maximum possible self-aggrandisement.

This brings El-Affendi to the greatly controversial issue of the imposition of the shariah. He persuasively argues that attempts to force Muslims to abide by the shariah have inevitably failed in the past, and have even proven counter-productive. In this regard, then, conventional Islamist political thought is gravely lacking. The shariah, El-Affendi says, can rule only through the willing consensus of Muslims, when the community observing it perceives it as a liberating act, as the true fulfillment of the self. In other words, since the shariah must entail willing compliance to its rules, in actual fact it can never be imposed, whether by the state, an Islamist party or by Muslim clerics. When it is imposed against the will of the people, it is no longer shariah. When only coercion, not consent, underpins the rule of the shariah, it becomes hypocrisy.

The issue of the enforcement of the shariah by the state also shapes the way in which Islamists conceive the state itself—as almost an end in itself, or, at least, as the principle means to enforce the shariah. El-Affendi points out that this displaces the role of individuals in establishing justice, making social activity, including the dispensation of justice, dependent on the will of rulers, who can thereby easily turn into despots. Islamists often take the state as end in itself. And, since the Islamist party or the ‘Islamic’ state comes to be seen as an end in itself, in many cases self-styled Islamic movements have exhibited an unfortunate tendency of allowing their ends to govern their means, not stopping from engaging in blatantly un-Islamic and criminal acts, such as killing innocent people and engaging in terrorism, in order to achieve what they regard as noble ends. El-Affendi insists that Islam does not allow for this sort of approach at all.

El-Affendi is particularly critical of modern Islamist ideologues, such as the Egyptian Syed Qutb and the Pakistani Abul Ala Maududi, who conceived of an ideal Islamic state as being totalitarian, anti-democratic, authoritarian and coercive. He is bitter about what he calls the Islamists’ ‘self-righteous pretensions’, which translates into ‘a readiness to resort to violence at the slightest pretext’. He likens them to the Khawarij or Kharijites, an early splinter group from among the Muslims, who saw themselves alone as true Muslims, and the rest of the world, including other Muslims, as deviant, aberrant, even anti-Islamic, thus ruling out any room for compromise.

While still upholding the notion of a Muslim state moulded or guided by religio-moral concerns and principles, el-Affendi points to the serious gaps in modern Islamist political thought, indicating the way forward for the emergence of a genuinely democratic, pluralist and contextually-relevant Muslim political discourse.