Fair Opportunities, Counselling and Uplifting, Political Secularization

Issue 913 » September 23, 2016 - Dhul Hijja 22, 1437

Living The Quran

Fair Opportunities
Ya Sin (Ya Sin) - Chapter 36: Verse 47

"And when they are told: 'Give [in charity] out of what God has provided for you,' the unbelievers say to those who believe: 'Are we to feed those whom God could have fed, had He so willed? Clearly, you are lost in error.'"

It is God who feeds and provides. All the provisions that people receive on earth are created by Him. They cannot create any of that; indeed, they cannot create anything whatsoever. It is God's will that people should have needs which they cannot attain to without hard work, such as planting the earth, extracting its raw material to manufacture things, transporting its produce from place to place, offering such produce in return for other products or for money, etc. It is also His will that people differ in their talents and abilities to ensure that everything needed to fulfil man's task of building human life on earth is available. The accomplishment of this task not only needs talents and abilities that earn money and produce wealth; it also requires others that can meet different human needs, without earning money. This makes for a complex human society, in which people have different lots in a bustling world, and across generations. However, the resulting differences of the means available to different people does not lead to the ruination of life and society. In fact, it is a by-product of life's movement.

Therefore, Islam addresses the individual, requiring those who have plenty to relinquish a portion of their money, which is given to the poor to provide for their food and other needs. By doing so, Islam reforms a great many people, rich and poor alike. This portion is zakat, which, by definition, implies purification. Islam makes it one of its acts of worship, and uses it to establish cordial and caring relations between the rich and the poor in the unique society it establishes.

Islam puts in place a system that ensures fair opportunities for everyone. It then allows varied human activities, which are necessary for the fulfilment of man's role on earth, to run their course. Furthermore, it deals with any negative side effects.

Compiled From:
"In The Shade of The Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol. 14, pp. 217, 218

Understanding The Prophet's Life

Counselling and Uplifting

[continued from issue 912]

8. Counselling (Nasiha)

It is reported in Sahih Muslim that Fatimah bint Qays mentioned to God's Messenger (peace be upon him) that both Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan and Abu Jahm had proposed to her. The Prophet said to her: "Abu Jahm never puts his stick down, whereas Muawiyah is a mere wandering pauper." This statement does not imply that it is not permissible for a woman to marry a poor man. It simply means that Fatimah bint Qays sought the advice of the Messenger of God, who advised what was best for her.

9. Spiritual uplifting of people (takmil al-nufus)

Numerous examples of the commands and prohibitions of God's Messenger can be found whose aim was to perfect the character of his Companions and encourage them to follow the course befitting their high standing in Islam, such that it would be extremely hard for the entire Muslim community to follow, were it required to do so. He drove them to assume the most perfect of states by strengthening the bonds of Islamic brotherhood in its utmost forms, shunning the glitter of this lower world and delving deep into the teachings of the religion so as to understand it. This is because they were being prepared to be the bearers and disseminators of Islam.

An example of such commandment is narrated by Abu Dawud from Ali ibn Abi Talib, who said: "God's Apostle forbade me to use gold rings, to wear silk clothes and clothes dyed with saffron, and to recite the Quran while I am in ruku and sujud [bowing and prostration in prayer]. I am not saying he forbade you these things," meaning that some of the things mentioned here were not forbidden to the entire Muslim community, but only to Ali.

..... [to be continued]

Compiled From:
"Treatise on Maqasid Al-Shariah" - Ibn Ashur, pp. 41-44


Political Secularization

An Islamic democracy is not intended to be a "theo-democracy," but a democratic system founded upon an Islamic moral framework, devoted to preserving Islamic ideals of pluralism and human rights as they were first introduced in Medina, and open to the inevitable process of political secularization. Islam may eschew secularism, but there is nothing about fundamental Islamic values that opposes the process of political secularization. Only the Prophet had both religious and temporal authority, and the Prophet is no longer among us. Like the Caliphs, kings, and sultans of history's greatest Islamic civilizations, the leaders of an Islamic democracy can hold only civic responsibilities. Moreover, there can be no question as to where sovereignty in such a system would rest. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people can be established or demolished solely through the will of the people. After all, it is human beings who create laws, not God. Even laws based on divine scripture require human interpretation in order to be applied in the world. In any case, sovereignty necessitates the ability not just to make laws, but to enforce them. Save for the occasional plague, this is a power God rarely chooses to wield on earth.

Those who argue that a state cannot be considered Islamic unless sovereignty rests in the hands of God are in effect arguing that sovereignty should rest in the hands of the clergy. Because religion is, by definition, interpretation, sovereignty in a religious state would belong to those with the power to interpret religion. Yet for this very reason an Islamic democracy cannot be a religious state. Otherwise it would be an oligarchy, not a democracy.

From the time of the Prophet to the Rightly Guided Caliphs to the great empires and sultanates of the Muslim world, there has never been a successful attempt to establish a monolithic interpretation of the meaning and significance of Islamic beliefs and practices. Indeed, until the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran, no Islamic polity in the history of the world had ever been ruled by one individual's reading of scripture. Therefore, any notion of the Valayat-e Faqih, or "guardianship of the Jurist," in an Islamic democracy must remain solely that: guardianship. Not control.

This does not mean the religious authorities would have no influence on the state. Khomeini may have had a point when he asserted that those who spend their lives pursuing religion are the most qualified to interpret it. However, as with the Pope's role in Rome, such influence can be only moral, not political. The function of the clergy in an Islamic democracy is not to rule, but to preserve.

Compiled From:
"No god but God" - Reza Aslan, pp. 264-266