Erewhon, Utopia, Khilafa

Sheauga, that news carnivore, points to a great article by Muqtedar Khan in Salon.com. Sheauga has some good comments accompanying it that are worth reading, but I can’t figure out how to link directly to his posts! In any case, he picks out the key points which I’ve reproduced here:

It is time the leaders of the American Muslim community woke up and realized that there is more to life than competing with the American Jewish lobby for power over U.S. foreign policy. Islam is not about defeating Jews or conquering Jerusalem. It is about mercy, about virtue, about sacrifice and about duty. Above all it is the pursuit of moral perfection.

That is such an important lesson; Islam, all religion, is not about solving the ills of the world. It is about worshipping Allah. Having moral perfection does involve doing for those who have less, and improving the world around you. Jews call this Tikkun Olam, I think. But no dunya outcome can possibly be the target of worship. If my practice of Islam is for the re-establishment of the Khilafa, then to me that is hidden shirk; I am now worshipping my religion, which I’m counting on to solve my earthly problems. The preoccupation with worldly outcomes is widespread; I saw a poster for an upcoming Islamic conference that had as its topics “The Muslim Ummah, Our Community & Our Society, and Global Concerns”. I can’t help look at that and see Politics, Politics, Politics. What about Allah, His Beloved Muhammad, and How to Draw Near to Them? I’m sure it’ll be mentioned, InshaAllah.

H.N. led me to an amazing website called Living Islam. It is phenomenal resource, assembled and in some cases authored by Sidi Omar K N. He makes a related point in a longer essay called Modernism and Postmodernism :

Also have the anti-traditional ideas of an utopia and progress penetrated quite a few fundamentalist minds of some world religions. This shift of emphasis toward the materialistic (“das Grobstoffliche”) is one of the symptoms of the decadence of time as foretold by the Messenger of Allah . It is then not surprising that the greater the loss of true spirituality in a community, the stronger the imagination of some kind of paradise on earth.

I want to tell you how great the essay is, but I haven’t finished reading it.

Back to the Khan article:

It is time that we acknowledge that the freedoms we enjoy in the U.S. are more desirable to us than superficial solidarity with the Muslim world. If you disagree, then prove it by packing your bags and going to whichever Muslim country you identify with. If you do not leave and do not acknowledge that you would rather live here than anywhere else, know that you are being hypocritical.

Of course, when I was younger and people would ask me why I don’t just leave if I’m not happy here, I would reply, “Because I don’t want to be victimized by our foreign policy.” [rimshot] I find it ironic that as I’ve come around to really respecting and appreciating the tremendous amount of good in this country, I’ve already charted a course to leave.

Another interesting article with muslim commentary dealing with the futility of fixating on political combat with the AIPAC, over at IslamAmerica. It [the article, not IslamAmerica] is very lefty, but there is some wisdom there.

Back in October, AltMuslim had an article on Muslims in political races. One interesting development was that in California, there was a muslim running for US Senate whose non-muslim competitor was endorsed by the American Muslim Political Coordination Committee. I can only speculate that this was because the non-muslim took a tougher stand on Israel. AMPCC pitched this as the maturation of muslim politics that they wouldn’t endorse a guy just because he’s muslim. But surely the benefit to muslims in the US, who all four member organizations of AMPCC represent, of having a real, live, visible muslim in the Senate outweighs any gain the other guy could give in Israel/Palestine matters.


9 thoughts on “Erewhon, Utopia, Khilafa

  1. Assalamualaikum,
    What is wrong about politics? In Islam it is part of the fiqh, termed as siyasah. Many great ulama wrote books on the administration of the states such as Khuruj by Abu Yusuf (hanafi), and al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah by al-Mawardi (Shafii).

    Allah specifically mentions that He created men to worship Him alone, but He also says that He created men to be His steward (khalifa) on the earth. al-Mawardi defined the term khalifa as ‘hirasatuddin wa siyasatuddunya bihi’ i.e. to guard the deen and to govern the world with the deen, whereas the Azharite scholar and mufti Mahmud Syaltut said khalifa means ‘iqamatuddin wa siyasatuddunya bihi’ (to uphold the deen and govern the world with the deen) which basically carries the same meaning.

    al-Imam al-Ghazali r.a. in his book Minhaj al-Abidin commented on the political world that ‘The deen is the foundation while the ruler is the guardian, something without a foundation will falls down, something without a guardian is worthless’.

    Islamic politic is all about putting the right people in power and strive against a corrupt ruler as he sa.w. mentioned ‘The best of a jihad is against a tyrant ruler’.

    The Sufis in the past has had great history in removing corrupted rulers, but in several occasion they did not have the correct political awareness when it comes to putting a just and pious ruler in power. After relieving the country from the infidels, they leave the matter of the state in the hand of power-monger, defeating the whole purpose of uprising in the first place.

    The Muslims, Sufis and non-Sufis have to learn to have this correct political awareness.

    As Islam is not only about worshipping Allah on the sajadah (prayer mat), the strive to worship and uphold Allah’s Law is also not only in the battlefield but in all manners of life, politics or non-politics.

  2. Assalamu Alaikum,

    From my experience what I have seen is that when any Muslim or any Islamic organisation challenges the corrupt system of the country and got viewed by the rulers as opponent to their political power soon they are bashed as extremist, wahabi etc. It does not matter what ever their background is. Situation is like this now, as if someone stands for any change to any policies and he is bit Islamic in thinking then he is Wahabi, he is extremist, he is fanatic blah blah. Now this syndrome has caught very well to some western media and government too.

    When I say traditionalist political party I really meant it. I am from Bangladesh, and Bangladesh has strong Sufi tradition, in fact it was Sufi’s who played the main role in spreading Islam what was once predominantly Buddhist country.

    Sadly, from my observation I have seen that good number of mainstream Western media is too quick to paint any Islamic organisation negatively and this portrayal for sure has caused many young Muslim to be frustrated on West more or less. From some of their point of view it is like “if they don’t follow live and let live policy on us then we will do the same”, which is extreme and they are few but this view did not get backing for nothing there were situation and good reason for having belief like that.

    Now a days I see more people from West who says that it is because of Islam this Muslim people are like that … I just pray among Muslims more and more people will understand that the way the West seems arrogant from their own media actually they are not. The people in the West are good and friendly.

    A Simple Muslim

  3. Nnydd, your passion comes through in your writing. It is certain that political life in Malaysia has a richness and complexity that is not often reported on here. Thank you and Simple Muslim both for your informative comments, here and down below.

    And, no doubt, there is nothing wrong with improving conditions in the country in which one lives, with striving to raise religious awareness among our rulers, and with trying to govern by what Allah has revealed. Indeed, we must.

    My main criticisms are with trends in Islamic political life here that appear highly separatist. The bulk of political energy is spent on two points: combating US support of Israel, and the use of secret evidence in deportation trials of immigrants. Neither of these are issues that, in my humble opinion, have the slightest chance of success or have the slightest potential for improving the perception of Islam nationwide. Criticizing every move by the government, complaining about every Hollywood product that mentions muslims in a less than saintly way, and being solely concerned with US foreign policy is a recipe for disaster for US Islamic politics.

    As for my swipe at Khilafists as being utopian in their outlook, I’ll stand by that. Whereas we must do as much as we can to improve our world, including to govern by Islam where this is feasible, I still don’t feel it is appropriate to believe that this will solve all our problems, that peace will reign on the earth, and that muslims will do no wrong. It is a fundamental belief of the three monotheistic religions that this world is slowly, inexorably deteriorating until the arrival of the end times. It’s a one-way, downward spiral.

  4. Brother Bin Gregory,

    You have made good points about political trends among Muslim in North America(by “here” you meant North America or Western world right ??).

    Forgive me if I am wrong but it seems it me from your earlier posts your “main” criticisms are against activities of some Muslims in other parts of the world where Muslims population are suffering.

    You have talked about “Wahabi” penetration in Russia, Chechnya, Cambodia etc with many sources other than the Islamic one.

    Thank You.

  5. Eid Mubarak!

    Simple Muslim, I took Nnydd’s comments to be in response to this particular post titled “Erewhon, Utopia, Khilafa”, where I discuss Khan’s memo to American muslims and complain (it’s easier to complain) about the US conference that seemed to be about nothing but politics. It is this post I was clarifying above. The leap from this post about american politics to wahhabi (why the “quotes”?) malfeasance worldwide is not a leap that I made.

    against activities of some Muslims in other parts of the world where Muslims population are suffering. What I have spoken about in previous posts speaks for itself. It was not about “some Muslims”, suffering or not, but about very particular groups of them involved in very particular nefarious activities. If you have something to add about the situation on the ground in Chechnya, Daghestan or Cambodia, I’d love to read it. Also, when you say this: with many sources other than the Islamic one., are you saying that news sources that are not from muslims are suspect? Because if you are, then I have a funny story about that. I lived in Dearborn, Michigan, which has a huge muslim population. My friend’s car broke down and he took it to the local mechanic, a muslim. The brother gave him a cost estimate of $1200. He then took it to a non-muslim who estimated it at $300. Should my friend have taken the muslim’s word and paid $1200 for a $300 problem? No. Neither should I rely on news from a guy with a muslim name and discard out of hand news from a non-muslim.

  6. Sorry for misunderstanding your post. I just wanted to be clarified rather being in misunderstandings.

    As for why in quotes, well I just can say that you will understand it when you yourself will be branded “wahabi” for just being a Muslim.

    As of sources, of course I don’t think western sources are wrong always. Some are doing very good job and of course there are so called “Muslim” media which are portraying wrong pictures of the situation. But brother, I have seen misuse of the term “wahabi” mainly by western media and I just wanted to let you know as a brother of faith that please don’t use it in way which may hurt another innocent Muslim.

    Since my English is not that good I think it better for me not to say too many things as there is chance of misunderstanding.

    Good luck to you Brother.

    Assalamu Alaikum

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