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Time to reconsider the Seerah

by Imam Mohammed al-Asi

The phrase 'Islamic history' is a misnomer. Muslims do not really have Islamic history
per se. There is history about Islam which is the product of non-Muslim, and often anti-
Muslim, minds. This is true from the wars and battles of epic Islamic military encounters
to the political and international relationships that extended from the dynasties of 1300
years ago to the present time.

The same is true about contemporary writings about the attempts to re-establish an
Islamic world order, beginning with the Islamic Revolution in Iran, passing through the
era of Islamic resistance and jihad in Afghanistan, Chechenya, Lebanon and the Balkans.
Traversing the Islamic transformation afoot in Sudan to observing the fight-to-the-finish
in Algeria (Muslims versus kuffar and munafiqeen), along with the meandering of Islamic
tendencies in Turkey around the infamous legacy of Mustafa Kamal 'Ataturk' and
secularism, one gets to the valiant Islamic confrontation with Israeli and Indian
chauvinism and jingoism in Palestine and Kashmir. None of these recent and
contemporary Islamic movements have never been effectively placed in an Islamic
context and presented from an Islamic point of view. Even the records of the last
semblance of Islamic political authority, represented by the Ottoman State with all its
mistakes and deviations, is still inaccessible and thus non-presentable from an Islamic
perspective. The archives are the best kept secret of the Turkish secular nation-State.
Some pertinent information about the following issues is needed. Why Muslims fought at
Yarmuk the way they did; why Muslims took on the Mongols at 'Ain Jalut the way and in
the manner they did; why Muslims began to lose their grip on Andalusia (the Iberian
subcontinent) which resulted in the infamous Inquisitions; why Muslims were forced to
retreat from the outskirts of Vienna (Austria) twice; why Muslims failed to break the
back of the caste system in the Indian subcontinent; and why Muslims expanded their
belief/creed system to as far afield as Indonesia but lost their political/ideological system
as close to home as in the land of the first Qibla and the third Haram (Palestine). We may
never have accurate and detailed understanding of all these developments because
Muslims have not been the gatekeepers of their own domain, or the spokepersons of their
own affairs and their own destiny!

Whatever the ebbs and flows of history over this time span of some 1400 years, the fact
remains that the details and particulars of the lifetime of our beloved and honourable
Prophet, upon whom be peace, are still luminous and shining. We have volumes of
detailed information and literature that expand upon his exemplary life. We have an
abundance of narrations found in the books of hadith and Seerah: Ibn Hisham, Tabaqat
Ibn Sa'd, Tarikh al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Ya'qubi, Maghazi al-Waqidi, al-Mas'udi, Ibn Kathir,
and Ansab al-Balathuri to Al-Halabi, Abi al-Fida, al-Miqrizi, and Ibn al-Athir. In addition
to these, there are contemporary commentators and narrators of the Prophet's Seerah such
as the late Muhammad al-Ghazali, Mustafa al-Siba'i, Muhammad Izzat Darwazah, Jawad
Ali, Muhammad Husein Heykel, and Muhammad Sa'id Ramadan al-Buti, among so many
others.

The information that we have about the actions, movements and decisions of the Prophet
is so overwhelming that putting all the pieces together has become something like a jig-
saw puzzle, if we were to try to relate his calculations and determination to the reality and
circumstances of his time and age.

What is conspicuously absent from this information pile-up is any analysis of the
Prophet's decisions from a power perspective. It is because of this obvious delinquency
on behalf of Muslim historians and writers that we have a conceptual vacuum into which
the Orientalists rushed with their 'left' and 'right' theories to interpret to us, to the world at
large, and the character, priorities, and objectives of our and mankind's last Prophet, upon
whom be peace.

It is now time for the Muslims to take a disciplined and logical, and simulateously
coherent and integrated, look at the prophetic decision-making process in light of the
facts of 'power' that seldom change from one generation to the next.

Such well-known facts as the Prophet's seclusion before his heavenly commission in the
grotto of Hira for as long as one month every year - according to some sources - have to
be reconsidered in light of power considerations. These considerations are relevant to all
who are active in society the way the Prophet, upon whom be peace, was before the age
of 40 when he recieved his first words from heaven.

Note that the first people to become Muslims after the Prophet, upon whom be peace,
received revelation from on high were his wife Khadijah (a female in the nomadic and
tribal configuration of power), then his cousion Ali (who was no more than ten years old
at the time, a boy in the same power configuration of nomadic Arabia), then Zaid ibn
Harithah who was a former slave who had been set free and adopted by the Prophet... all
these were individuals whose power in Makkan society was restricted, Khadijah as a
female, Ali a mere boy, and Zaid, a slave!

Further down the road, and from a power perspective, why did the Prophet, upon whom
be peace, stay for 13 years in Makkah without any visible power, power base, or power
influence? What determined his asylum escape to Medina? Was it not sheer power as the
power factions of Makkah finally, after 13 years of the Prophet's challenge to their vested
interests and to their self-serving status quo, decided unanimously to assassinate the
Prophet, upon whom be peace, which is another expression of the ultimate use of power:
bloodshed.

Was the Prophet's move from Makkah to Medina a reaction to their power alliance to kill
him; or was it his realization that he had exhausted all remaining means to win them (the
Makkan society) to the divine programme of Islam? This meant a power shift from the
aristocracy of Makkah to the pioneers of a new Islamic world order.
Another issue of power significance is the decision of hitherto inimical forces in Medina
to form a full fledged political and military reality in Medina on the basis of the Qur'an,
Islam, and the Prophet's leadership. Do Islam and the Prophet's Seerah advocate free-
wheeling tabligh and da'wah, as many sincere but naive Islamic missonaries think today
as they go from one land to the next for one week, 40 days, or even months on end
without even once focusing on the issue of power? If the Qur'an, Islam and the Prophet
are reduced to this open-ended tabligh we would never be able to consolidate the
heavenly trust into the power structure that the Prophet finally anchored into Medina with
all the sacrifices, battles, and wars on which it was built.

We also have to take a hard look at the Islamic relationships with the mushrikeen and
Yahud in Medina and in the Arabian Peninsula from a power point of view. Was it
necessary to expel Bani Qaynuqa', Bani al-Nadir, and Bani Qureitha from the Islamic
State in Medina? Wouldn't the Muslim Gandhis want to tabligh these mushriks and
Yahud to death? What else can Muslims do besides tabligh when there is no power
concept to Islam, the Qur'an, and the Prophet?

Then why do we have a Prophet who launched, supervised and participated in scores of
military operations, followed by hundreds of military expeditions and movements? Had
his Seerah been free of the elements of power, there may be an excuse for some pacifist
or conscientious objection here and there; but the hard fact of the Prophet's Seerah is that
power is an integral and essential component of State and society building.

The exercise of power is implicit also in the Prophet's dispatched emissaries to the
powers of his time: Byzantium, Persia, and Egypt towards the end of his reign... In fact,
there is no aspect of the Prophet's example which cannot be better understood by
factoring in the power consideration. This is because power is a fact of life.

There are many, if not all decisions of the Prophet that have to be reconsidered and
reconstructed on the basis of an imminent power struggle that has never been absent
when a Prophet or an Imam stands up and declares the superiority of Allah's power over
all the man-made and man-imagined powers of the world.

If and when the Seerah and Sunnah of the Prophet, peace be upon him, are freed from the
restricted framework in which they are presently studied, they will come alive with new
dimensions and new frontiers. Until this is done, Muslims everywhere struggling for the
establishment of Islamic societies and an Islamic world order will be handicapped and
held-back by the failures of their own understanding of the message and example Allah
has given his creations and servants.

The writer is Imam, Washington mosque, USA.


The Unknown Prophet: Forgotten
Dimensions of the Seerah
Muhammad Al-Asi

The image that we have of our cherished Prophet (saw) is one of a man of morals, ethics,
and social qualities, unparalleled. He has always stood out as a man of excellence in his
family, community and extended society. No Muslim would dispute that the Prophet's
character is a model to emulate when it comes to issues of religious services, intra-family
behavior, marital standards, inheritance, and the like.

But when we turn our attention to our Prophet's example as an advocate of the Islamic
cause and Islamic idea, we are dumbstruck to notice that information about his character
in this area is virtually non-existent! The Islamic books that come our way from centuries
past contain at best brief mention of the systemic way (the Sunnah) in which our Prophet
promoted the ideological and political components of Islam. The authors of these books
may have not been able to foresee the day when Muslims will no longer have an "Islamic
state" or an "Islamic government", and when they would have to reconstruct one, relying
on the example of the Prophet as he went about communicating and publicizing Islam in
the civic sense of the word. It did not occur to them that, about thirteen centuries after the
Prophet's success in Madinah, the Muslims would have to rebuild their own "Madinah"
from scratch. It took thirteen centuries to secularize the Muslims; this was a result of
Muslims' failure to keep the Prophet's "activist" character alive and crystal clear in their
minds, and of the success of non-Muslims in imposing upon the Muslims an image of the
Prophet (saw) which is strictly and stringently one of a "spiritual leader."

Never in the history of ijtihad have we Muslims had to live in a time in which we no
longer have in our possession a government which belongs to all the Muslims, or at the
very minimum which is open to the Ummah's popular affiliation. Now is the time for
Muslims of good will, sound reasoning, and experience in the Islamic movement to focus
on the state-building character and the statesman figure of Muhammad (saw) so that we
are able to go about setting up our Islamic state the way he did.

The contemporary Muslim mind has to become "preoccupied" with how the Prophet
(saw) went about putting together an Islamic state. Therefore, the information about this
state-building has to occupy center-stage in our discussions, in our lectures, in our
khutbahs, in our studies, and in our research. Islamic institutions and resources have to be
committed to this urgent task.

When Rasulullah (saw) personally led the Ummah, he secured for people who became
Muslims a refuge, a shelter, and a home which is the Islamic state. Thus when people
became Muslims they would have the shelter of living in an Islamic dar (domain). Now,
with all the Muslims there are in the world (the number is quickly approaching one and a
half billion) they are living in a kafir domain; they are virtually adrift and homeless. The
inherent condition of today's Muslims who have lost sight of a Prophet as commander is a
religious community of people who are beholden to the forces and powers of kufr: secular
kufr and religious kufr, mental kufr and military kufr, as well as kufr by choice and kufr
by force.

Our first priority should be to rediscover and relearn how our commanding Prophet
approached the issue of power: how he set about dislodging the power of kufr and
consolidating the power of Muslims. This should be the burning issue for every Muslim
who no longer tolerates a continuation of generations and centuries that have been spent
on explaining matters of personal hygiene, night prayers, and a terrifying argument about
the exact minute if not the exact second when a Muslim should break his fast (in other
words, does night begin with sunset or with nightfall?)! The millions of Muslims who are
lost to hunger, illiteracy, malnutrition, refugeehood, and warfare every year do not allow
us the ivory-tower and slow-motion ‘da'wah approach' (favored and sponsored by those
arch-enemies of the Prophet's Sunnah and Seerah, the usurpers of the Haramain) that are
responsible for our sad state of affairs from Morocco to Makkah as well as from
Mongolia to Madinah. We should not be studying hair-splitting fiqhi issues in halaqat
(study sessions and circles); we should be learning how to consolidate our social will-
power and how to form active and status-quo-challenging units throughout our African
and Asian lands to reclaim them for Islam.

We should no longer be concerned with who will lead the salah as much as we should be
concerned with his ability to lead us before and after the salah. Leadership is absent in
the Muslim conscience and therefore it is absent in the Muslim community. We have to
have enough courage and selflessness as to define who is qualified to lead us in politics
before prayers, in the public arena before the privacy of the masjid. This leader should
have the allegiance and confidence of the Muslim Ummah as long as he remains within
the reference of the Qur'an and the Sunnah. This galvanization of the Ummah needs every
single Muslim. We do not have the comfort and leisure to exclude half the Muslim
Ummah from this holy duty; ie. our womenfolk:

"And [as for] committed Muslims, both men and women, they are superordinate to each
other..." (Al-Qur'an 9:71).

This whole effort cannot be realized without a break with the ritualistic Islam (patronized
by the Saudi establishment) and promoted by well-meaning but misleading "Islamists"
who will never breach the issue of authority, leadership and statesmanship and where
these issues belong in today's real and vicious world. Obviously, all of this spells out an
"agenda" of Islamic political activity; not in the western definition of politics, which is
sullied and corrupt, but in the Islamic definition of politics which is clean and healthy.
What this means is that there has to be a solid base of committed Muslims who are aware
that before they win the prize of being at the helm of state affairs and decision-making
they will have to win over public opinion. The issue is one of public opinion. But you
would not know it as things stand today. That is because there is a hypnotizing
spirituality that freezes the Muslim will from entering into the struggle for the minds and
hearts of the public, and this hypnotic spirituality is complemented by a cunning
materialism that decays the Muslim will and causes the Muslims to join the "modern and
developed" world!

Today's reality is that Muslims have voluntarily elected to dismiss those parts of the
Seerah of the Prophet (saw) that give meaning to a clash of concepts, cultures, and
civilizations when such are at opposite ends of purpose (those that come from Allah vs.
those that are from al-shaytan);and that many Muslims have become bewitched by
"Islamic practices" that are traced all the way to the oilfields of Arabia, while others are
intoxicated by an Islam that acknowledges American "legitimacy". When such attitudes
dominate so many of our masjids and ‘madrasahs', it is no wonder we are where we are
today.

Out of this mess emerge those Muslim "Uncle Toms" who are trying to get Muslims to
join the systems of kufr. Muslim lobbies have popped up in Washington DC and other
western cities, advising the Muslim public to join kufr political organizations and parties
in America and Europe! Such attitudes come naturally to the Muslim minds that have
been inactive for centuries, which argue that if it is right to join the parliament of Egypt,
or Iraq, or Syria, if it is alright to become a member of the ruling classes in Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, Bahrain and the like, then there should be no serious inhibitions on connecting
and entering into the governments in Europe and America!

In the absence of a Seerah culture, almost anything goes. And so we have "Islamists"
who tilt with the highest bidder. Some of them will say in private that they are out-foxing
the fox, outsmarting the enemy, and bedevilling the devil. They cannot find any reference
for this in the Qur'an and Sunnah — lest the Muslims wake up and spoil their courtship of
the kuffar — so they prefer to draw confidence from popular sources and place it
squarely with the elites. Never was the Prophet of Allah (saw) beholden to the elites of
his time; but you wouldn't know it (it would not even occur to you to think about it) as
this whole chapter in the Prophet's struggle for an Islamic authority, government and state
are off-limits.

The Islamic current coming from a core of committed Muslims in the Islamic movement
has to charge the people who will in turn support the Islamic leadership of the committed
Muslims in their struggle to marginalize the kuffar and to overturn the system of kufr.
The catapulting result will be a popular Islamic revolution that will install a divine system
that is capable of doing and sustaining justice and peace on earth. This is precisely what
characterizes the Islamic movement/revolution in Iran as contrasted with "Islamist"
parties and organizations that are more interested in bypassing or overlooking the
"popular charge" of iman capable of taking on kufr in its political and military
expressions.

Technical issues

There are some technical issues that we should be aware of at this level of thinking and
activity. First, the Prophet (saw) was trying to convince non-Muslims of this Islamic
responsibility and objective. Today, many of us have to convince "Muslims" of this same
responsibility and objective. Second, the Prophet of Allah was implementing the Qur'anic
meanings as they were revealed, over twenty-three years. But today we have the whole
Qur'an in our possession.

If we were to retrace the Seerah and begin where the Prophet himself began, are we to
expect our "Makkan" era to be followed by the equivalent of Madinah? In Makkah (prior
to the hijrah) there was no Islamic authority (although there was Islamic legitimacy,
represented by those parts of Allah's Book that were revealed during that time-span, and
by the Prophet himself) but because of the lack of authority that was contingent upon the
attendance of a conforming Islamic public and the absence of a confronting kafir elite
supported by public opinion, the Prophet could not function as the governor or ruler in
Makkah. Therefore, there was no implementation of hudud (legal and criminal
punishments), there was no call to arms (the Muslims did not have military force in
Makkah at that early stage), and there were no bilateral or multilateral agreements that
Muslims signed with other powers around (equivalent in our time to regional or
international accords.)

Another question that is generated by this momentum is: are the Muslims accountable for
establishing their Islamic social and political order within a certain period of time?
Allah's Prophet (saw) was able to do it in twenty-three years; should these twenty-three
years be a litmus test for Islamic parties that claim they are putting the Prophet's Sunnah
to work? Or should it be an open-ended affair which may actualize in one decade or one
century or whenever Allah wills it to be? If the latter, isn't this tempting people to become
lax in following through the whole range of issues raised from the first words of iqra
onwards?

And if this whole program of the Prophet (saw) as registered in books of Seerah is not
implemented in one generation, does that mean that the party trying to implement it is
less than sincere, or does it mean that it has to re-evaluate its programs? Or does it mean
that ‘Islam is no longer an option' (na‘udhu billah)? Or could it mean that there are
sinister powers who are setting up "Islamic" parties and associations who are meant to
fail so that the Muslim public who were not won over by these very same parties become
disillusioned and disenchanted by "all this talk about an Islamic government and an
Islamic system"?

The reconsideration of how the Prophet (saw) dealt with opposing ideologies and politics
has to be clear-cut and realistic to the public that will eventually disestablish kufr and
establish iman. There are (mis)understandings and (mis)interpretations of ayaat and
hadiths that deter from this Prophetic priority of gaining power and running the affairs of
state. For example, some Muslims misinterpret the ayah: "O you who have attained to
faith! It is [but] for your own selves that you are responsible: [those] who go astray can
do you no harm if you [yourselves] are on the right path" (Al-Qur'an 5:105). Some
people construe this ayah to mean that once you are guided it is no longer your
responsibility to guide others!
There are also numerous hadiths that are misconstrued, such as: "it does not behove a
committed Muslim to humiliate himself by exposing himself to that which he cannot
tolerate." Some people interpret this hadith to mean that a person should not put himself
in a position that will cost him his job, or place him in prison, or cause him to lose
position and status. This could be extended to mean that it is Islamically acceptable to co-
operate with despots and autocrats.

Then there are those who say that this task of effectuating an Islamic authority and
government can only be done by al-Imam al-Mehdi (saw). And from now until then no
one should be concerned about having an Islamic government.

Whether these ideas are supported by an ayah or a hadith, or any other source, they
amount to a distortion and an abuse of the Prophet's relationship to Allah, and what our
relationship is to both Allah and the Prophet (saw). Such interpretations, which may be
technically defensible, but are clearly contrary to the spirit of the Prophet's Sunnah and
Seerah, must be recognised as such and judged according to the higher criteria.

Islam and Public Opinion

Let us assume for a moment that Muhammad (saw) had not gone public with Islam. Let
us also assume that he did have the desire to go public with it but did not do so. Would
you think there would have been any opposition to him? Would you think that he would
have felt that "if he is guided then he need not worry about guiding anyone else"? And
would you think that he would be "humiliating himself" by standing up to the powers that
be, and it would have behoved him to "keep a low profile'' and not "rock the boat"? The
bulldozing answer to all that is that no Muslim in his right mind could imagine for one
moment Muhammad (saw) disengaged from publicizing and calling attention to Allah
and His declared Qur'an. Islam would never have had the influence that eventually
accompanied later generations had it not been for the Prophet's insistence on
"mainstreaming" Islam. The combination of a human prophet with the word of Allah in
full opposition to the errant norms and deviant "values" of the time had to be tangible,
noticeable, and apparent to all humans around. It is in this capacity that a prophet and
followers of prophets are evaluated, more so than by offering individualistic salaat,
selfish siyams, and personal hajjs!

"We sent all [these] prophets, breaking good news and delivering ultimatums, so that men
might have no excuse before Allah." (Al-Qur'an 4:165)

This announcing and reporting of Islam was the Prophet's priority. Had it not been for
this insistence on bringing the Islam to the general public's attention there would not have
been any Islamic authority, any Islamic populace, and any Islamic community. But there
is something of a "disconnect" between this driving force that characterized the
ideological struggle in the formative and post-formative years of Islam in Makkah and
Madinah as they were pioneered by the Prophet (saw) and his disciples, and the status
quo mentality and behavior that characterize today's "back-door" da'is who are more
concerned with matters of taharah and najasah than they are with matters of justice and
hostilities. It was clear to the Prophet and first-generation Muslims that the value of Islam
was in its expansion and in its power; but this is not at all clear to those who have cut
down and cut back on Islam until it has become today's stagnant system sponsored by
Saudi banknotes.

Accordingly, Muslims who have not thought out the power position in the Seerah of the
Prophet (saw) have nowhere else to go but to channel "Islamic activism" into petty fiqhi
matters that consume much-needed Islamic energies, times and efforts. Questions of
where your hands belong when you are in your salat, or whether it is mandatory to pray
two rak'aat as you enter the masjid while the khatib is delivering the jumu‘ah sermon, or
other such issues, may be intellectual teasers when we have an academic Ummah; but
when we have an Ummah that is burning at the center and at the peripheries, when we
have wars that are incinerating our Muslim populations in military campaigns, and
hostilities wherever we are minorities and wherever we are majorities, it is an insult to the
Prophet (saw) to fiddle while Makkah is burning!

Isn't he (saw) the one who said:

"The parable of he who carries out the legalities of Allah as compared to the one who
doesn't is like people who boarded a ship. Some of these people settled on the upper deck
while others settled on the lower deck. Those in the lower deck who drew water from the
sea would slip by those in the upper deck saying that well, in our portion of the ship (the
lower deck) we have the right to drill wherever suits us and in the process we are not
drilling holes in the upper deck (which belongs to them)! If people in the upper deck
permit this to happen, and those in the lower deck have their way, everyone will perish.
But if those in the upper deck take corrective action then they and everyone else will be
spared imminent destruction" (Al-Bukhari).

This above hadith may be referred to as the hadith of social solidarity. No Muslim is
permitted to think, behave and act as if he or they have nothing to do with other Muslims
who are not in their location, geography or "part of the world." What binds Muslims
together is their sense of belonging to truth and justice; and what drives them to their
common destiny is their shared divine standard of cooperation and understanding, as the
above hadith clearly demonstrates.

This socio-political feature of the Ummah is absent because the Ummah has neglected it
in the character of its Prophet (saw). But the ayaat and the hadiths are categorical and
unconditional about this:

"Let there be of you an Ummah [of people] who enforce the ma'ruf [the observance of
moral values and conduct] and who interdict the munkar [from social practice]: and it is
they, they who are effective." (Al-Qur'an 3:104).

"You are in truth the best Ummah that has ever been ushered in for people: you put the
ma'ruf into effect and you get rid of the munkar; and you are committed to Allah..." (Al-
Qur'an 3:110).
And Allah's human exemplar (saw) said:

"By He who has my life in His hand, you [the Muslims] will decidedly see that the
ma'ruf is done, and you [the Muslims] will decidedly see that the munkar is revoked; or
else Allah in due time will visit you with penalty from Him after which you will call on
Him but He will not answer your calls." (al-Tirmidhi.)

He also said:

"Whoever witnesses a munkar should change it by force, but then if he is unable he


should try to change it by speaking out against it, but then if he is unable to do that, then
he should object to it by his heart which is the weakest expression of commitment
(iman)." (Muslim)

But what is ma'ruf? And what is munkar? The simple definition of these two key terms
(that have also been scrambled throughout the course of time) is that the ma'ruf is the
preponderant and concurring popular understanding of what is good, moral, honorable,
decent and proper. And the munkar is the preponderant and concurring popular
understanding of what is bad, evil, disgraceful, nasty, and wrong. And because the public
mind and ‘common sense' is so aware of the ma'ruf and the munkar it becomes a social
and a mass activity to see to it that ma'ruf is established and munkar is disestablished. But
what happens when this human standard of understanding and conduct is diminished or
reversed? What happens when a munkar such as totalitarianism is given a "good" name
under the title of socialism or communism? What happens when a munkar such as
economic exploitation is given a "good" name under the title of free-market operations
and capitalism? What happens when a munkar such as ‘Saudi' Arabia gets away with
having a "good" reputation or arouses only passive concern among Islamists and certain
‘Islamic movements?' And then what happens when generations of Muslims lose the
capacity to identify these grand munkars and get bogged down in reducing the munkar to
personal and family issues?

"And thereupon, when they had forgotten all that they had been told to take to heart, We
saved those who tried to prevent the actualizing of evil, and overwhelmed those who
were bent on evil-doing with dreadful suffering for all their iniquity..." (Al_Qur'an
7:165).

The Centrality of Iman and the Priority of Its Implementation

Reduced to its very basics, Islam is a consistency of ma'rufs that extend from soul to
society in one parallel; and, at the same time, Islam is also an obliteration of munkars that
run the same stretch: soul-to-society. The powerhouse of ma'ruf is the deep-seated iman
in Allah, the Day of Accountability, etc. Along with that is the munkar and its fireball is
kufr. This is a closed-circuit dynamic: iman is alive and well, growing and increasing,
energetic and flourishing only when there is a human effort to extend this iman into all
spheres of life. That is why the Qur'an almost always mentions iman followed by 'amilu
al-salihat (commit to Allah and do what is right). Iman thrives when it gains people and
power both. And to sustain both people and power together, the Prophet (saw) sought and
struggled for a government that is instrumental in voiding the munkar and deploying the
ma'ruf.

What our current day Muslims see in our Prophet (saw) is that he was pleading with his
contemporaries to become "pious" and "God-fearing"; what they fail to see is that he was
also working with them to secure the social and political environment that is inducive to
the blooming and prospering of iman. There is only one way to remold society to meet
this condition, and that is by being in control of the organization which is the governing
authority of a political unit. This he eventually did by establishing the Islamic state in
Madinah. The unacknowledged aspect of the Seerah of our Prophet (saw) was his life-
long task of empowering the committed Muslims. And notice that once he did have an
Islamic state in Madinah, he did not police people's personal ethics. There were no moral
patrols going around telling people to brush their teeth, or to close their shops for salat, or
to enforce any other personal obligation in the private domain of a singular Muslim. The
functions of the newly-established Islamic state in Madinah were at the level of
combatting the munkar all the way down to its kufr sources and promoting the ma'ruf all
the way down to its imani sources.

A committed Muslim is required to have faith, confidence, freedom from doubt, and trust
in Allah, and only Allah. A committed Muslim is expected to know that Allah is the
source of life; He is in control of "developments," and He manages whatever happens on
earth: what appears to humans to be negative or what appears to be positive. Allah is the
highest authority and the sole authority of persons, peoples, and populations. No human
adversary eludes or evades Him. A committed Muslim is certain that Muhammad (saw) is
the final Apostle of Allah. A committed Muslim has unwavering trust in all that
Muhammad (saw) said and communicated, as well as in the infallibility ( 'ismaf) of this
Prophet and what was revealed to him. The more a committed Muslim thinks about these
issues and the more he is involved in communicating the power-issues therein the more
he sustains and fosters his iman.

Individual Obligations vs. Collective Duties

If we were to examine the legacy of the Sunnah, we would find that there are two types
of responsibilities: one is personal and the other is collective. The personal fardh
(obligation) can only be discharged by each individual in the capacity of his own self. If
this individual Muslim abandons any of his/her obligations it is not possible for anyone
else, or society as a whole, to perform them on his/her behalf; all the Muslims in the
world, should they desire to perform it, are not able to "fill in" for the personal or
exclusive obligations required of each individual Muslim self. This means that every
Muslim is personally responsible for the "do's" and "don'ts" which are presented to us ad
hominem as if they are the be-all and end-all of our dealings with God and our dealings
with man! Of course any Muslim will tell you that salat, the fasting of Ramadan, the
capacity to perform the Hajj, the paying of zakah, "honoring thy parents", eating halal
food, avoiding haram servings, refraining from lies, backbiting, and adultery, and so on,
are all issues in which the Prophet's character shines through: the good is to be gained
and the bad is to be trounced.

The Prophet's image is scrambled, though, when it comes to obligations pertaining to


Muslims collectively. These obligations or responsibilities were the Prophet's
institutional concern before the individual's "selfish Islam." These functions and
necessities are duty-bound on any plurality of Muslims. If this plurality of Muslims are
incapable of shouldering these collective obligations and assignments, then all of them
are living in sin until such time when these tasks and trusts actualize in the form of social
order and a political direction. And an individual Muslim cannot hide behind the excuse
that he is exempt from the task of the "plural Muslims" because there was no "solidarity"
of Muslims around him, because if there isn't such a solidarity he himself is responsible
for putting one together. Even a Muslim as one is responsible for the Muslims as many:
"and every one of them will appear before Him on Resurrection Day alone" (Al-Qur'an
19:95).

It may be of some consolation for opportunistic souls to "throw the blame" on other
Muslims in this worldly lifetime, but on the Day of Judgment this single soul (whoever it
is) will be held responsible for not bringing about a mass transformation of the human
condition around him. A Muslim who has taken to heart the methodology of the Prophet
(saw), and is serious about performing the Prophet's Sunnah and emulating his Seerah,
has no choice but to adopt the priorities of Muhammad (saw) and move ahead with utter
reliance on Allah. Any Muslim who is not in that state of mind is guilty of betraying the
Prophet even if he has worn out prayer rugs by his sajdat and fasted his stomach to an
ulcer!

Therefore, a devout Muslim should take stock of the fact that a person who is dominated
by rituals and ceremonies is self-centered. The figure of our most respected Prophet
(saw) should return to our minds, schools, masjids, and families as a political ruler, a
military commander, and a lawgiver. In his capacity as Rasulullah (saw), his overriding
concern was to secure the right social climate for the prosperity of iman. There are issues
now that have been off the radar screen of the Sunnah and Seerah. These issues are:
governing in compliance with what Allah has revealed, jihad for the cause of Allah,
ijtihad that relates revelation to reality, and identifying and then taking corrective
measures in terms of the ma'ruf and the munkar. With very few exceptions, Muslims
today are effectively living in sin because they are delinquent and blameworthy for
neglecting and omitting this vital obligation that rests with the collective character of the
Muslims.

Take, as an example, ijtihad. The Muslims are guilty of abandoning ijtihad. Even though
there are a few isolated mujtahids here and there, as long as ijtihad is not an
acknowledged institution in Muslim life, all Muslims are culpable for not having ijtihad a
permanent feature of their public life. Even if we have some organizations or associations
of Muslims who are working on "reactivating" ijtihad throughout the Islamic hemisphere,
this does not relieve the rest of the Muslims of the blunder and offence of voiding ijtihad
from their collective life. Only when the relatively small number of Muslim working in
this area are able to reinvigorate ijtihad to its satisfactory level and function will the
Muslims as a whole be released from the responsibility of re-instituting it.

By the same token, Muslims are guilty of diminishing the awareness of the Prophet (saw)
as a statesman and the highest "official" in the Islamic state. The Prophet (saw) did not
rest in Makkah until he founded the Islamic state in Madinah. And he did not rest in
Madinah until he moved the powers and forces of Islam to all four corners of the Arabian
peninsula; and it was the contuation of his policies his death that have seen the movement
of Islam extended to the four corners of the earth. Therefore, founding an Islamic state is
in the best tradition of the Prophet (saw). And every Muslim who has fooled himself or
has been fooled by others to miss or drop this Sunnah of the Prophet (saw) is guilty of an
offence against him. Even when we have Islamic "parties" and "leagues" that are working
on bringing back an Islamic state, the rest of the Muslims are still guilty and living in sin
because they still do not have an Islamic state that unites the Ummah and serves as the
protector of all committed Muslims and the promoter of all the deen. Meanwhile, with
these facts about the Prophet excised from our living memory and our textbooks, we have
an Ummah that is scratching its head and hammered on the head at the same time!

The Prophet's Lost Dimension

The lost dimension of the Prophet (saw)'s Seerah is the constructive and systematic
element of his character that has been lost by the Muslims and on the Muslims. The
Prophet's work in Makkah was not haphazard or reactionary. He went about
communicating Islam in his immediate society in a particularly methodical way; it is this
that is the key to his Sunnah.

At first, when the Prophet (saw) was commissioned, he spoke to people around him about
issues that polarized society: a very few committed themselves to Allah with him and the
very many who denied him. These polar positions are what we refer to as iman and kufr.
At first, Islam was not public; no one had heard of it before. But after a short while it
became a "controversial" issue which would not go away. What we understand of the
Prophet's approach to empowering his side and weakening the opponents' side was his
two pronged strategy: on one level he would present an "ideological" Islam that is at odds
with "ideological" shirk in public. On the other hand he would have secret meetings and
congregations for those who committed themselves to Allah and His messenger (saw).
Muslims had a center (not a masjid) called dar al-Arqam. This served as a schoolhouse
and a retreat.

The ideological Prophet (saw) would approach anyone whom he thought is nonresistant
to the meanings and intents of Islam, regardless of their age or social status, their tribe or
origin. It also appears from reading through the books of Seerah that when the number of
Muslims reached around forty the Prophet (saw) permitted all to go public with their
Islamic ideological assaults against the kafir establishment in Makkah. And this included
both men and women of a variety of backgrounds and age groups -- many were young.
There were also some who were well-established in society and some who were
oppressed; some who were rich and some who were poor. All of this has to be understood
in context. The total number of people in Makkah at the time was probably a few
thousand. Makkah was the cultural and religious hub of the Arabians. Makkah was not an
agrarian centre; it was a settled town dependent on visitors and travellers, with an
established hierarchy whose "legitimacy" centered around the Ka'bah and the customs
and traditions of ancestors and heritage.

The thrust of the Prophet's Sunnah was to publicize the message of Islam in its
ideological dimension rather than in its ritualistic aspect. People in Makkah knew that
Muhammad (saw) was advocating and promoting an alternative lifestyle. They knew that
Muhammad had gained a homegrown following. They knew that Muhammad was
preparing this following for an important mission. The Makkan public also knew that
Muslims were keeping a low profile and concealing their identities. All of this meant that
the Makkan population began to feel the challenge coming from this man Muhammad
(saw). They did not know where the Muslims were meeting, but the Makkan Arabians
had a feeling that something was brewing. What surprised the Makkan establishment and
its public was not as much the public presentation of ideological Islam as it was the
public egression by scores of Muslims who became the vanguards representing an
ideological "provocation," an element of potential "social instability," and a possible
element of "insubordination."

The transition from being "underground" to going public was timed by Allah's words:

"Hence, proclaim openly all that you have been urged [to say], and eschew the mushriks
[whose authority is aught besides Alllah]: verily, WE shall suffice you against all who
[now] deride [this message - all] who assert that there are, side by side with Allah, other
[rivaling] divine powers as well: for in time they will come to know [the truth]." (Al-
Qur'an 15:94-95.)

From here on the Prophet went from confidential activity to an all-out attempt to capture
public attention and allegiance. This represented the clash of ideological and political
concepts which ultimately becomes the clash of militaries and civilizations. The second
not-well-known stage of the Prophet's Seerah commences: the interaction and contra-
action of ideas; i.e., mental iman vs. mental kufr. And indeed this was the most dangerous
and intimidating stage of them all. The Prophet's home was pelted with stones. Umm
Jamil (Abu Lahab's wife) would place filthy and foul substance (najasah) in front of his
house. Abu Jahl would cast placenta or afterbirth effects of a sheep slaughtered for the
idols on the Prophet (saw). Other Muslims were threatened and harmed.

The Makkan mouthpieces ridiculed the Prophet (saw) as he would pass by saying: "This
is the son of 'Abd al-Muttalib who claims that the heavens speak to him!" Makkah and its
people were busy committing hate crimes against the Muslims, not because the Muslims
were emphasizing prescribed procedures for conducting religious ceremonies such as
issues of taharah, najasah, and the likes, but rather because Muslims were serious about
deconstructing the system in Makkah and replacing it with one that comes from Allah.
Imagine if today's Muslims were meticulous about adopting this methodology of the
Prophet and reliving his character as he took on the powers of ideological and political
kufr! Imagine if we were to save our energies which we expend in explaining issues of a
private and personal nature, and instead concentrate on regaining control of our own
societies and selves to have them molded in the image of the Qur'an and the Sunnah! Of
course the "Islamic" religious establishments will cry foul, and of course the plutocrats of
our time will use every trick in the book to deter us from Allah; but isn't this exactly what
the Prophet facedand hence isn't it what we are expected to face? The power-brokers of
the time made fun of Muhammad (saw) but we, the "sanitized" Muslims, do not want to
sully our "esteemed" selves and become the "laughing stock" of the regimes around!
Why? Are we smarter than Allah's Prophet? Or are his Seerah and Sunnah outdated
(nastaghfiru Allah)?

When Muhammad (saw) began to speak in terms of power, he was derided and mocked.
The Makkan "media" would say: Why can't Muhammad turn al-Safa and al-Marwah into
gold? Why can't a written book come down to him from heaven? Why can't we see
Gabriel? And why can't Muhammad resurrect the dead? All of these statements and
others like them were not mouthed against Muhammad because of his teaching on issues
pertaining to the new Muslims' private life; rather all these statements were expressed
against Muhammad (saw) because he was addressing the issue of radical and
uncompromising change for Makkah and the world on terms set by Allah, the Almighty.

Finally, a break-through occurred when people from Yathrib (Madinah) came and offered
Muhammad (saw) the power base that he had sought through over a decade of consistent
and principled struggle. It should be noted here that during those thirteen years in
Makkah the Muslims did not have one masjid. The first masjid that was built by the
Prophet (saw) was the one in Madinah. It would seem the masjid is a place where the
regulation of power takes place through meetings, conferences, shura sessions, debating
public policy, and the likes -- something Muslims were not able to do in Makkah for the
simple fact that they had no power. In our time and age, no one considers these delicate
decisions and everyone is keen on building masjids precisely when and where Muslims
have no power. Can building a masjid be in violation of the Sunnah? Given our mentality
of "everything goes" the answer is obviously not!

Imagine if there were Muslims who took Islam as seriously as the Prophet did, and at this
level of understanding, would we be where we are today? Billions of dollars that are
spent of individualizing and secularizing Islam would become the concern of the Islamic
movement that draws its inspiration from the way the Prophet of Allah set about on his
23 year mission of destroying the injustices that come from wealth and power
accumulations and excesses. This much-needed reconsideration of Muhammad (saw) is
the rapturous issue of our time; the past several generations have proven that as long as
the Prophet is unidentified as a model for radical ideological change the Muslims will
continue to limp from one setback to another.
The Seerah, political Islam and political
judaism
In September, the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT) convened an International
Seerah Conference in Pretoria. In this issue, we publish the first part of the paper presented by
IMAM MOHAMMED AL-ASI, elected Imam of the Washington Islamic Center and a senior
member of the ICIT.

The contemporary world is in the process of a political reconfiguration. The traditional


concepts and frameworks of understanding, capitalism vs. communism, right vs. left, and
conservative vs. progressive, are outdated and have been left behind. The nation-states
that represented these concepts are either no longer around, such as the Soviet Union and
the socialist bloc), or are in crisis, such as the United States, which appears to have
entered a phase characterised by an internal moral meltdown and a transnational
entrenchment throughout the resource areas and the e-consumer markets of the planet.
We are living in an exciting time: a time of an ideological impasse in today’s world that
begs for a way out of what is becoming a historical cul-de-sac. At the same time, the
ruthlessness of the current world can become a cause for pessimism and passivity. Many
ordinary people all over the world feel helpless in the face of the total absence of justice
in their local communities, as well as in the community of nations. Because of this social
and political claustrophobia, people are increasingly opting out of their secular
convictions and searching for "religious" answers to their problematic lifestyles and
social conditions. The Jewish and Muslim communities are no exception to this. These
two bearers of Scripture find themselves not only faced with these common complaints of
mankind, but also at a deadly and defining moment in their history and their struggle for
the Holy Land.

Our concern in this paper is to refer our current Islamic affairs to the Seerah of Allah’s
Prophet (saw) and hence to increase our understanding of current developments in the
Holy Lands. To do that we have to reopen the book on the Islamic-Yahudi initial contact
in the Arabian Peninsula fourteen centuries ago, and see for ourselves how Allah’s
Prophet (saw) dealt with this issue in a world that was also at a historic crossroads.

In this context, the first thing to note in the Seerah is that during thirteen years of
confrontation with the crass materialism of the ruling and moneyed classes of Makkah,
the Prophet (saw) never came into any type of direct (nor apparently any indirect)
opposition to Jewish political ambitions or designs. While the Prophet (saw) had no
power in Makkah, it appears that he also came into no immediate conflict with the
Arabian Jews of the time. There were no Jews in Makkah; most Arabian Jews were
concentrated in Yathrib, later to be called Madinah al-Rasul (or Madinah for short) after
the hijra. It is important to note that the Prophet’s ideological clash with the established
order began with his own people, whose avowed antagonism to the Prophet’s advocacy
of an Islamic world order, that would eventually replace their personal greed, their class
privileges and their financial interests with a divine re-organization of affairs, could not
be claimed as a defence of residual Abrahamic traditions and rituals. Although the likes
of Abu-Lahab, Abu-Jahl and Abu-Sufyan may well have been concerned with protecting
the idols and icons that legitimised the oppressive Makkan and Arabian status quo, the
greater challenge was to their personal greed, their class privileges and their financial
interests which could not survive a divine reorganization of affairs that would enable
people to have human dignity, even slaves, paupers and the other underclasses of Arabian
society.

To understand better the potential for conflict between the established Jewish community
and the new Muslim community that was actualised in Madinah, we need to look back to
the years before the birth of the Prophet (saw). Established sources inform us of the Jews’
knowledge of the impending advent of a prophet. ‘Abdullah ibn Sallaam, who was
Jewish convert to Islam during the Prophet’s lifetime, said that this final prophet is
described in the Torah as: "‘O Prophet! We have sent you as a witness and a conveyer of
glad tidings and warnings, and as a sanctuary for the religious outcasts. You are My
servant and My Messenger. I designate you a trustee. [You] shall not be venomous or
caustic, nor a rabble-rouser. [You] will not match evil-doing with evil-doing, but rather
[you] shall forgive and pardon.’ I will not end his life until he adjusts the wayward
nations by having them profess that there is no deity/authority except God. He will open
up closed eyes, unseal deaf ears, and unfold locked hearts" (see the Tabaqat of Ibn Sa’d).

‘Abdullah bin Sallaam (ra) tells us that his father used to say: "If this forthcoming
prophet — whose descriptions are in Scripture — is from the descendants of Harun then I
will be his follower; otherwise, I will not" (see al-Baladhuri). In Deuteronomy 18 it is
stated that: "The Lord your God will raise up a prophet from among you like myself, and
you shall listen to him ... I will raise up for them a prophet like you [Moses], one of their
own race, and I will put My words into his mouth. He shall convey all My commands to
them..." These words were given a racist twist by the Jewish interpreters of the Bible,
who interpreted "one of their own race" to mean one of the children or descendants of
Israel, and not his brother Isma’il. Had the Jewish interpreters of Scripture acknowledged
their common Semitic racial heritage with the Arabians, they would have had no excuse
to reject the prophethood of Muhammad (saw).

The time and age of Muhammad (saw) was alive with the anticipation of the coming of a
prophet, as attested by many who were to become Muslims. ‘Asim ibn ‘Amr ibn Qatadah
and others said that "we were interested in Islam because of what we heard from the Jews
about the impending appearance of a Prophet who will smite us in a manner reminiscent
of ‘Ad and Iram." Salamah ibn Salamah (ra), a veteran of Badr, said that his family had a
Jewish neighbour of Bani ‘Abd al-Ashhal. "One day he pointed his hand towards Makkah
and Yemen and said: ‘There will be a prophet appear from direction.’ When asked ‘Who
will live to see him?’ he said while staring at me as I was the youngest: ‘If this boy lives a
full life he may live to see that day.’" Ibn al-Hayyaban — a Jew who left the Levant,
moved to the Hijaz and settled among the Bani Quraida, and who died about two years
before the beginning of the Muhammadi mission — said when he was dying: "O Jews!
Why do you think that I left the Levant? To come to people of despair and hunger [in the
Hijaz]? I came in expectation of a Prophet whose time has arrived. This is the land of his
asylum. I hoped to live to witness his coming and to follow him." (See al-Bidayah wa al-
Nihayah by Ibn Kathir; also the Seerat by Ibn Hisham and the Tarikh by al-Tabari.)

The religious and social climate of the Hijaz was set by Jews, who were spreading the
word that the coming of a prophet was imminent. They were proud of this
foreknowledge, and anxious to see its fulfilment. These rising Jewish expectations were
central to Jewish life in Arabia because they were certain that this prophet would be one
of them and would perpetuate their status over all the others in the region. They did not
expect this prophet to be an Arabian; much less did they realize that he would become a
threat to their vested interests and their financial dominance. They never imagined that
this predicted prophet would bring a Scripture that was inclusive of all world societies
and opposed to religious racism and so to Israeli exclusivism. The last thing they
expected was that this prophet would, by his principles of justice, expose their
commercialised practice of religion and their monopolising of scripture for their
exclusivist and sectional financial interests.

When the age of this foretold prophet — according to the Bible — arrived, and when it
became obvious that he would not be a Jew, and then when Muhammad (saw)
commenced his mission, the Arabian Jews were afraid that their fortunes and pre-
eminence were at stake. This fear generated evil ideas whose implementation seemed
justified by the assumption of Israeli privilege and racial superiority. It is not far-fetched
to say that a people who have a history of assaulting and assassinating prophets and
apostles who do not cater to Israeli interests will once more think about killing yet
another prophet (Muhammad saw) because he threatened their interests. With hindsight,
this explains the words of the Christian monk Bahira, who said to the Prophet’s uncle
Abu-Talib while he was travelling to Damascus with the boy: "Go back with your
nephew [Muhammad saw] to his hometown. Protect him from the Jews. By Allah, if they
were to see him and detect what I know of him they will do him harm. This nephew of
yours has a great role to play." (Ibn Hisham.)

With all these factors at work at the dawn of the Islamic call in Makkah, and with
Muhammad (saw) leading the struggle against the power centres of Makkah, we notice
that during the Prophet’s Makkan struggle there was apparently no connection of any
kind with the Jews in Madinah. The historic sources are silent about any relationship
between the leaders of Quraish and the Jewish leaders in Yathrib, who could easily see
what the consequences of a victorious Muhammad (saw) would mean for them. Despite
the historic silence on this issue, there is reason to believe that during the Makkan period,
there was communication between the Jews in Yathrib and the chiefs of Makkah. Both
the Makkan and Yathribi elites had a common interest in defeating or neutralising
Muhammad (saw), the Qur’an and Islam altogether. The political, economic and military
realities of the Arabian peninsula made it essential necessary for all those in power that
this new deen, Islam, be nipped in the bud. It would be naive and foolish to think that the
Jews in Yathrib were indifferent to a challenge to the powers in Makkah that lasted and
grew for over thirteen years, especially as this challenge was coming from a Prophet
whom their own sources predicted. Jewish commercial, social and political interests were
in the balance. And the Jews had also to be aware that the Khazraj tribe in Yathrib was
beginning to show interest in supporting this beleaguered Prophet. Banu al-Nadir and
Banu al-Quraida, who were aligned with the Arab tribe of al-Aws, were keeping a close
eye on al-Khazraj, another Arab tribe. How could the Jews of Yathrib be unaware of
Muhammad (saw) and his message in Makkah when Jewish merchants regularly travelled
to Makkah on business? They even attended the annual Hajj. Any analysis of known
historic events at that time suggests that the relationship between the Yathribi Jews and
the Makkan mushriks was warm and cooperative. Likewise, when Islamic activity was
increasing in Madinah, the Makkan bosses, who were not on good terms with the
Khazraj, had no difficulty in making alliances with the Jews on the basis that "my
enemy’s enemy is my friend". Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf, the Jewish chief of Bani al-Nadir, may
have been the main coordinator of anti-Islamic activity after Islam was established as a
political, legislative, executive and judicial force in Madinah.

The founders of an Islamic state in Madinah — and we should never lose sight of this
fact — did not do so by rallying the national, cultural and spiritual potential of the
Arabians against a common enemy in Madinah, the Jews. Rather they founded the
Islamic state in Madinah as a decisive and exhaustive break with their own national,
cultural, spiritually sterile former lives. When Muhammad (saw) was labouring for
thirteen years to establish Islamic allegiance and authority in Makkah, where there were
no Jews in residence, Allah was preparing eventual success with an Islamic allegiance
and authority in Yathrib, where the Jews were a substantial bloc. It was not Muhammad’s
choice to have been born in Makkah; Allah could have had him born in Yathrib, and
those first thirteen years of struggle and contention could have been in a multi-religious,
multicultural and multinational Madinah. And then an immediate clash with the Jewish
elite in Madinah would have ensued, along with the other people of vested interests in the
jahili status quo. The will of Allah was to have the Prophet (saw) demonstrate by his
Seerah that the struggle for Islam in its power dimensions has to be shaped by the local
circumstances of the time. In the Prophet’s case, from Makkah; in the case of other
Muslims from wherever they are native and indigenous until there is a life-and-death
stand-off; in the case of the Prophet (saw) it was the decision of the Makkan leaders to
assassinate him which triggered a new phase in the struggle. At the same time as the
struggle in Makkah was reaching this new level, dealings with the delegation from
Yathrib were coming to fruition, with their offer to the Prophet (saw)of their allegiance,
support and resources if he would come to Yathrib. The Makkan elite’s plot to kill
Muhammad (saw) coincided with the Yathribi elite’s offer to ally with him and sustain
him, and with the first and second ‘Aqaba pledges of allegiance.

In this valuable lesson of the Seerah, which is little understood by most Muslims, the
Prophet’s sustained campaign against jahili Makkah led to a new set of social factors in a
more accommodating Madinah; at the same time, the changing forces and directions of
history made inevitable a clash with Jewish antagonism which — nearly 1400 years later
— would result in a Jewish return to the Muhammadi milieu. Put differently, the
Prophet’s Seerah shows us that a strong-willed and strong-minded Islamic opposition to
the mushriks, as in Makkah, must inevitably lead to conflict with those established elites
whose interests are threatened and whose worldview cannot accept the emergence of a
powerful Muslim Ummah determined to establish divine order and justice in the world.
In Madinah, that elite consisted of the Jews. Today, again, in Palestine and in the West,
Muslims find themselves confronting Jewish power once more.

Before we go on to the details of the Jewish-Islamic confrontation in Madinah, a word is


in order here. In today’s political climate, when we have a hostile Israel that is deeply
aware of the threat that Islam is to its survival as a global, powerful moneyed elite, we
note that the public impression is somewhat similar to that given in history books about
the early history of Islam: that the politically-minded Jews are not concerned with Islamic
developments and movements. There is an undeniable and burgeoning Islamic political
movement in such areas as Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Sudan, and Algeria — as well as
areas relatively distant from the traditional heartland of Islam, such as Uzbekistan,
Kashmir, Malaysia and Nigeria. While there is discussion of this movement generally,
there is little sign of the Israeli Zionist Jews being concerned about these developments in
particular. But, as the Israeli Jews of Madinah, trekking back and forth to Makkah during
the time of the Prophet (saw), were evidently alarmed by the imminent Islamic
breakthrough in the Arabian peninsula fourteen centuries ago, now these same Israeli
political descendants of Banu Qainuqa, Banu Nadir and Banu Quraida are active in and
around countries such as Egypt, Turkey, and Algeria to prevent an Islamic political
breakthrough on the order and the scale of the initial breakthrough in Arabia 1400 years
ago.

But neither the ulama who should have a better understanding of history, nor the political
pundits in the Islamic movement, are relating contemporary events and developments to
their historical and ideological origins. Zionism did not start in 1948, and nor was it
finished off 14 hijri centuries ago. The military achievement at Khaybar was the end of a
beginning. The impending military affair with the Zionist Israelis in the heartland of the
Muslims [Palestine] may be the beginning of the end. But to put all these crucial issues in
perspective, we need to have a clear idea of the continuity of this historical issue, and in
particular the deep-lying and essentially unchanging nature of our relations with non-
Muslim power elites in general, and Jews — the people who should have known to
welcome the Prophet but chose for their own selfish and short-term interests to fight him
— in particular.

When Allah's final Prophet (saw) gained the power to exercise authority and influence
over the society of Madinah the Jews in that society realised that they were in no position
to oppose him, at least during these times of fervent popular support for the Prophet
among the Ansar of Madinah. They also knew that it would be unwise to have a Jewish
minority spearhead a saber-rattling offensive against this de facto Islamic state and its
leader. Besides, the Quraish in Makkah still had a belligerent enough attitude to finish off
this common enemy. And what could be more "Jewish" than to have the mushriks of
Quraishi Makkah do the fighting and the dying while the Israelis in Madinah coordinate
the whole affair from behind the scenes?

It was with these sorts of consideration that the three Jewish factions in Madinah signed
the Saheefa ('constitution') of Madinah. This constitution set the stage for the new
political and civic relationships in Madinah. It would seem that the Jews had little choice:
Islam was spreading like wildfire, the Muslims' enemies were a long way away, and the
Jews needed to play for time. We should note that in the Saheefa the Jews agreed to
cooperate in defending Madinah against any offensive by the Quraish, and to share in the
expenses of any military effort to this end. But, as we shall see, the Jews did not honour
any of their contractual obligations. [Recent history suggests that this is a trait of the Jews
- unfortunately many Palestinians and other Arabs today seem incapable of learning the
lessons of our own history.]

When the first test of Yahud began - at the battle of Badr, when the forces of mushrik
Makkah assaulted the Islamic order in Madinah - and the Jews failed to meet their
commitment in the Saheefa of Madinah, the Prophet (saw) did not turn against them and
lunch military hostilities against them. Immediately after the military triumph at Badr
might have seemed a good opportunity to seize to raise questions with these betrayers.
But he (saw) did not. Still, back in Madinah, he did not lose sight of Makkah. Of course
Makkah is no ordinary city. It is the seat of the Abrahamic tradition, the site of the
Ka'aba, and the place where the Qur'an was first revealed. At this critical juncture,
Quraish were still a military force to be reckoned with, and the newly-founded Islamic
state still did not have the military strength to fight on both fronts - the mushriks and
Yahud - simultaneously. For the time being it was enough to have Yahud militarily
neutral. Even under pressure from the mushriks, Allah's Messenger (saw) did not ask for
or accept any military support from Yahud after the proof positive at Badr of where they
stood. This explains the Prophet's reply when he was asked on the day of Uhud (the
second military showdown between the Muslims and the mushriks): "Should we not seek
the help of our Jewish allies?" He (saw) said: "We have no need of them"[Ibn Hashim].

This partnership between the Islamic administration in Madinah and the Jewish factions
was reached under the unequivocal and overriding auspices of the newly-established
Islamic authority whose undisputed leader was Rasool-Allah (saw) himself. This
precludes any parallel in our own times with the Jews who are living in Palestine who
have not (and will not) accept the idea of an Islamic government in the region, much less
agree to anything similar to what the Jews of Madinah agreed to 14 centuries ago.

Initially Muslims and Jews of Madinah took a wait-and-see attitude. The Muslims waited
to see whether the Jews would come to their senses, recognise and acknowledge the
authenticity of the Islamic message, and sign up to its Divine mission on earth; while the
Jews waited to see whether the Makkan and Arabian opposition to Muhammad would
finally terminate the Islamic enterprise. The battles of Badr and Uhud did not augur well
for the Jews' hopes. While the Muslims interpreted some common rituals as an incentive
for the communities to find common ground and common purpose, the Jews interpreted
them as an intrusion by the Muslims into what was originally and exclusively Jewish.
The Muslims perceived themselves as the normal, logical and destined extensions of
Abraham, Moses and Jesus, but that could never be the way the Jews viewed the
Muslims.

"The conflict began with the migration of the prophet Muhammad from Mecca to
Medina, where there were three Jewish tribes. The Jews for the most part rejected his
apostolate, and resisted his political and military leadership. The resulting struggles, and
the hostilities which they engendered, are reflected in the Qur'an, in the Tradition, and in
the Commentaries, where the Jew is depicted as stubborn and perverse, rebelling against
the commands of God, and rejecting and killing, or trying to kill, His prophets" [Semites
and Anti-Semites, Bernard Lewis et al., 1986, p. 128.]

The Jews in Madinah during that initial period may have thought that Muhammad (saw)
would acknowledge some ritual similarities between the two religious communities and
offer the Jews protection while absolving them of civic responsibilities. It did not take
long for these Arabian Jews to wake up to the reality that the superficially similar
religious practices of the two communities were not going to distract the Prophet (saw)
from the troubling Jewish influence in the partisan, financial, and cultural environment of
Madinah, or Arabia for that matter. Eventually it began to dawn on the Jewish bloc in
Madinah that this Muhammad (saw) was "for real"; he and his movement had the whole
world in their sights; this is not just another power faction that can be added to the
Arabian potpourri of clans and cliques. It was after this initial "wait-and-see" period,
during which the Muslims gave the Jews every opportunity to recognise the Divine
message, which the Jews showed no inclination to do, that the truth about the Jews and
their motives was revealed in the Qur'an. The Qur'an began by pointing out that if these
Jews were really committed to the Torah and Moses (as) they would have to adhere to
what Muhammad (saw) was presenting to them and to the world at large. When the
Yahudis still showed no sign of conscience about this matter, the Qur'an began to warn
that Judaism had been turned and twisted so as to serve the Jews' financial and pecuniary
interests. While all this was being disclosed, the popular tide was momentously on the
side of the budding Islamic leadership in Madinah. This exacerbated a distinctly Jewish
fear of becoming numerically insignificant and economically irrelevant. The
establishment of an Islamic bond between al-Aws and al-Khazraj, who had previously
been antagonists in Madinan social affairs, meant a death-blow to Jewish social and fiscal
power in Madinah.

The Jews could no longer have any doubts about this Islamic "monotheism". It was not
and could not be a means to support a "God of Israel" to the exclusion of other peoples
and races. The "chosen race" mentality would have no future in an Islamic land governed
by principles of justice, dignity and brotherhood. The Jews now fell back on their
historical character and openly turned against Muhammad (saw), as they come out
against Jesus (as) and other Prophets (as) who would never have any of their Yahudi
arrogance.

Imagine the Yahudi mind questioning the presence of the Makkan muhajireen in
Madinah! The Prophet himself (saw) was not from Madinah; how could he become a
head of state in which he was not born, in which he never lived, and of which he was no
"citizen" nor "national"? This whole incursion of Makkan Muslims into Madinah
(formerly Yahudi-dominated Yathrib) was the reason for the Jews eventually being
evicted from their Hejazi homeland. The poor, homeless and oppressed Muslim exiles
came to Madinah with nothing of material significance; how could they in a few years
replace the affluent Jews in Madinah who had virtually everything?
It is at this psychological, historical, geographical and social polarisation between the
Islamic Jewish communities in Madinah that we discern a political clash of wills. There
was a Jewish polity that believed in its own superiority, its genetic quality, and its status
as a social and economic elite; all of which when left no room for "foreigners",
"inferiors" and people who do not belong (gentiles). Then there is an Islamic polity that
believes in ikhraj (social influx), a common multiethnic world, and a struggle by the
oppressed for a just, balanced and harmonious world that is inclusive of all others: Jews
and Christians, as well as Muslims.

When the Jews in Madinah realised that Muhammad (saw) was not returning to Makkah,
they tried to nudge him towards al-Quds (Jerusalem). This was effectively a Yahudi
blackmail or bribery: if you [Muhammad] and your religious community are facing
toward Jerusalem in your daily prayers, and if you claim that you are an extension of
previous prophets and apostles - all of whom were Jerusalem-specific - then why don't
you move to Jerusalem? But Allah knew what these Yahudis were up to, so He instructed
His Prophet (saw) to make Makkah the Muslims' qibla. Beside the other details and
benefits that came out of this episode, it is yet another indication of principle and
perseverance in the Prophet's Seerah; otherwise what could be more satisfying than to
take on the Scripturalists in their own holy of holies, go to the source and claim it for the
integrationist Muslims for eternity? But once again the Prophet (saw) was not in reactive
mode. He did not react to the mushriks in Makkah and abandon his mission there under
duress. He eventually left Makkah only when Allah gave him permission to do so.
Similarly, Muhammad (saw) was not going to abandon Madinah and go to Jerusalem
because of Yahudi pressure.

When Allah's Prophet (saw) made Makkah the Muslims' qibla, the Jews were nervous
because it signalled the beginning of a decisive break with their Scriptural follies on the
one hand, and also the beginning of a potential Islamic consolidation of the Arabian
tribes throughout the peninsula. Reacting to their own impressions of these bold Muslim
moves, the Jews of Madinah hinted to the Prophet (saw) that they would follow him if he
returned to Jerusalem as the qibla [al-Qur'an 2:142-150]. Remember, all this came from a
Jewish community in Madinah that had violated a legal and constitutional document with
the Islamic head of state: Rasool-Allah (saw). This politically inspired opposition by
Yahud to the first Islamic state in Madinah was to have its social and psychological
fallout. Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala instructed the committed Muslims on how future
relations should be with these types of truants and renegades:

"O you who are securely committed to Allah! Do not surround yourselves with those who
are not of your [moral] kind. They spare no effort to corrupt you; they would love to see
you in distress. Vehement hatred has already come into the open from their mouths, but
what their bosoms conceal is yet worse. We have indeed manifested these [latent] facts, if
you would but use your reason. Lo! It is you who [are prepared to] love them, but they
will not love you, although you believe in all the Scriptures. And when they meet you,
they assert, 'We believe [as you believe]', but when they find themselves alone, they
gnaw their fingers in rage against you. Say: 'Perish in your rage! Behold, Allah has full
knowledge of what is in the bosoms [of men]'" (al-Qur'an 3:118-119).
This Islamic opposition to Yahudi double-dealing has nothing to do with what is known
nowadays as anti-Semitism. Never in Islamic history have committed Muslims expressed
animosity to Jews because of their ethnic origins or Torahic Scriptural principles. The
power position of the Prophet (saw) in Madinah did not mean that the Jews were to be
excluded because of race or religion. It was in response to this open-arms approach that
'Abdullah ibn Sallam, a Jewish sage in Madinah, became a Muslim soon after the hijra, as
did his family.

Beside these and many other details the strategic focus of Muhammad (saw) was not
blurred or distracted from his affair with the mushriks of Makkah. The Jews in Madinah,
especially after the decisive Islamic victory at Badr, realised that every defeat of the
Arabian mushriks was eroding their position; that if Arabian shirk were decisively
defeated the Jews would be on their own against the new Islamic order. This would
obviously spell the end of Jewish "superiority", "supremacy" and "social status". This
type of Jewish approach to an ascending Islamic order left them no choice but to throw in
their lot with the Arabian mushriks before it was too late. So they resorted to
psychological warfare, character assassinations, sedition and military activity. These Jews
became the glue of all the powers that were opposed to Islam. Eventually these Jewish
factions were expelled or eliminated in the process of thwarting the mushriks' juggernaut
based in Makkah.
The Seerah and the political questions
confronting the Islamic movement today
The ICIT held a second International Seerah Conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka, last month. Here
we publish the paper presented at the conference by IMAM MUHAMMAD AL-ASI.

The question of politics has always been a grey area in the minds of contemporary
Muslims. Thank Allah that at last Islamic political consciousness is on its way in, and the
over-ritualisation of Islam is on its way out. There are, of course, many strains of political
and even "ideological" approaches to this Islamic movement, which is here to stay. That
is no reversal of Allah’s will. Islamic political awareness is the wave of the future, and it
should be. But does that mean that the vanguards of this Islamic movement are at the
peak of their political maturity? Of course not. Does it mean that the leaders and activists
of this Islamic movement are not going to make mistakes, and sometimes terrible
mistakes? Of course not. There will inevitably be mistakes and errors along the way,
which will refine and reposition the movement as it tentatively progresses, taking one
step back for every three forward, stumbling through one phase only to regain its footing
in the next, learning and maturing from the errors it makes and the experience it gains.
Allah’s Messenger (saw) said: "All the descendants of Adam are prone to making
mistakes, and the best mistake-maker is he who asks [Allah] for forgiveness."

Today’s Islamic movement is like a callow and inexperienced youth trying to feel his
way through the jungle of modern politics in a pitch-dark night. This confusion is the
product of a chronic disconnection between the experiences that enriched the first
generation of Muslims and that dearth of experience that plagues our contemporary

Muslim generations. Allah’s Messenger (saw) spent a lifetime in struggle against the
deniers of Allah’s power and rebels against His deen. The details of the Prophet’s
paradigm of radical social transformation of the pre-Islamic Arabian jahiliyyah into a
new and forward-looking Islamic social order are rich with lessons if only we, the
Muslims of the contemporary world, could see past the limited traditional understandings
of the Seerah and look instead to its historical and power dimensions.

The Center of Reference

Makkah and Madinah were the battlefields of the earlier Muslims. In Makkah there was
low-intensity war between Muhammad (saw) and the few who were with him, on the one
side, and the power structure of the vested interests and the majority of the people, on the
other. In Madinah there was all-out military war between Muhammad (saw) and the new
power-base of Muslims in the liberated Yathrib against the rest of the Arabian peninsula,
with Makkah as its headquarters. In Makkah, the enmity to Allah’s Prophet and his
message was led by the mushrikeen; in Madinah, their equivalent were the Yahud; both
these groups have their modern successors. But then, neither of these hostile factions had
the benefit of hiding behind their religious rituals or their national or racial cultures, as
they do today.
When Allah’s Messenger (saw) was being persecuted in Makkah, it is inconceivable that
the Yahudis in Yathrib, the closest urban area to Makkah, later to become known as
Madinah, were unaware of the thirteen years of power struggle in Makkah. Some of these
Yahudis were merchants who used to come to the annual fair of Ukaz, held near Makkah.
But whatever contact there may have been between Yahud and the mushriks, the
Muslims’ principled struggle in Makkah at that time was focused entirely against the
mushriks there. Even when Allah’s Prophet (saw) moved to Madinah, he continued his
unrelenting struggle against the mushrik enemies of Islam in Makkah. This endeavour
was not compromised in any way; the Prophet and his Companions knew well that Islam
faced two enemies, in Makkah and Madinah, but the struggle against the Arab enemies of
Islam was maintained until Makkah was liberated.

The identification of these two enemies is to be found in Allah’s words: "You will surely
find that, of all people, the most hostile to those who are committed [to Allah] are the
Yahud as well as the mushriks..."(5:82). We should understand that the Yahud were
hiding behind these Arabian mushriks. They knew that their day was coming, and that the
longer the mushriks held out against the Prophet, the more time they themselves would
have to put together forces and alliances that would, they hoped, eventually defeat the
Muslims and destroy Islam.

The Rationale for a War Against "Israel" in Madinah Rather Than the Mushriks in
Makkah

This is not the place for a detailed account of the long and tortured history of the struggle
between Allah’s Messenger (saw) and the Israeli deniers of truth in Madinah. Instead we
will look at some arguments that are seemingly logical but are in fact contrary to Seerah
priorities and precedents.

One strong argument for a war with the Israelis of Madinah at that time was their
obviously racist character. The Israelis refused to acknowledge Muhammad (saw)
because of their racism: he was an Arab — descended from Ibrahim (as) through Isma’il
(as) — instead of being an Israeli, descended from Ibrahim as through Ishaq (as). This
racism turned them against God because He had given His mission to Muhammad (saw)
of the Quraish, instead of giving it to them and their race!

Let us try to follow this Israeli racism and the extremes to which it will go to undermine
an Islamic order. The Israeli Yahud in Madinah tried to use hypocrisy to subvert Islam
from within. Some of these yahud feigned Islam; some of them were even rabbis. Many
are known by name in the recorded history of the Prophetic period: Sa’d ibn Hanif, Zaid
ibn al-Lusait, Nu’man ibn Awfa, ‘Uthman ibn Awfa, Rafi’ ibn Huraimalah, Rufa’ah ibn
Zaid ibn Tabut, Silsilah ibn Barham, and Kinana ibn Suriya’. These Yahud would wait
for a suitable moment to inject their venom. One such incident concerns Zaid ibn al-
Lusait. He blew his cover, so to speak, when the Prophet’s pack animal got lost.
"Muhammad claims to receive news from heaven, yet he does not know where his own
pack animal is!" he exclaimed.
Another ploy to cause confusion was to declare that they had accepted Islam, and then
proceed to renounce and revile Islam. The idea was to take in or distract weaker, newer
Muslims, who — they hoped — would be easily misled and confused, in order to cause
rifts in the Muslim rank and file, and to slow the phenomenal progress and growth of
Islam.

The books of Seerah — in episodes that tend to gather dust rather than inform the
contemporary Islamic movement — tell us that ‘Abdullah ibn Daif and ‘Uday ibn Zaid
(both Yahudis of Banu Qaynuqa) met with al-Harith ibn ‘Awf (a Yahudi of Banu
Quraida) and made a plan. They said: come, let us all announce our faith in Muhammad
at the beginning of the day, and then at the end of the day let us quit the faith. In this way
the general Muslim public will be shocked and confused.

Addressing this fifth column, Allah says in the Qur’an:

O people of earlier Scripture! Why do you cloak the truth with falsity and conceal the
truth of which you are [so well] aware? And some of the followers of earlier Scripture
say [to one another]: "Declare your belief in what has been revealed to those who believe
[in Muhammad] at the beginning of the day, and deny the truth of what came later, so
that they might renounce [their deen]." But [O Muslims] do not believe anyone who does
not [really] follow your own deen. (3:71—73)

Another ploy that these Yahud used was to come to Allah’s Prophet (saw) and ask him to
do impossible things. They were not doing so in order to ascertain whether or not he was
a prophet (they already knew that he was), but rather to show that he was inferior in some
way to the miracle-performing prophets who had preceded him. So they asked him: "If
you are telling the truth and you are God’s messenger, then have Him talk to us so that
we may hear Him." On another occasion their question was: "O Muhammad! If you are
truly a prophet, then tell us: when will the Day of Resurrection come?" Another time they
said: "We understand that God created humanity, but who created God?" It may easily be
considered that the trouble that these Israeli Jews were trying to brew within the Islamic
power base in Madinah gave the Islamic leadership enough reason to declare war against
them; yet Rasool-Allah (saw) did not do so at this stage. The war continued against the
mushriks of Makkah.

Then, as the war against the powers of kufr and shirk in Makkah intensified, the Israeli
Yahud began to show their true colours. There were contacts between the Yahudi
instigators in Madinah and the mushrik leaders in Makkah. These contacts developed into
the Makkan military campaign against the Islamic presence in Madinah known as al-
Ahzab (the confederates); this assault ended with the mushriks of Makkah withdrawing
without having accomplished their objectives.

It should be noted that the Yahud of Madinah had entered into a civil constitutional
arrangement with the Prophet (saw). They were not an independent and distinct nation-
state or polity, as they are today in the form of Israel. There were three Yahudi tribes in
Madinah which had a degree of autonomy, but they had no military force to speak of, and
their agreements with the Prophet involved no military ties. At the battle of Uhud, when
the Muslims were in dire need of help and support, the Prophet (saw) declined a
suggestion to call on the support of the Yahud. Their main power concentration in the
Arabian peninsula was at Khaibar. Interestingly, the three Israeli power factions in
Madinah began to violate their agreements with the Islamic authority one after the other
in a way that ran parallel to the Muslims’ military gains against the mushriks. Banu
Qaynuqa was the first faction to break its agreement with the Prophet, after the Quraish
were defeated at Badr.

During the first stage in Madinah, when the Muslims were consolidating their positions
against Quraish, there was what may be called "an open door approach to Yahud". This
policy of good will was meant to help the Yahud surmount their own religious arrogance
and racial prejudice. It was hoped that they would, with a public policy of Islamic
understanding, recognise the Prophet whose coming they had expected, and accept Islam
as the mature form of their own revelation. This was not a gesture of weakness, nor a
policy of appeasement, and it did not work.

The factors at work when the Seerah was being established are also at work in our
contemporary history. The first-line enemies persecuting and tormenting Muslims are the
mushrikeen who appear firmly ensconced in Makkah today, and its offshoots, the capitals
of Muslim countries from southeast Asia to northwest Africa. Remember, the first
disagreements between Muslims and mushriks in Makkah were in the form of social
excommunications, economic boycotts and psychological warfare. It was from this that
emerged the full-fledged fight to the finish. Israeli Yahud were not neutral in this affair.
They began to sense, especially after the defeat of Quraish at Badr, that if they stood
aside while the Muslims defeated the mushriks, then they too would meet the same fate.
They realised that if the mushriks were defeated, they would be left either to fight alone
or to accept Islamic authority and governance. This, of course, was utterly unacceptable
to them because of their vested interests, their xenophobic character and their historical
monopoly of Scripture. So they actively entered the fray against the Islamic order.

Israeli Jerusalem in Defence of Mushrik Makkah

In today’s political landscape nothing much has changed that makes it impossible for us
to draw lessons from the Seerah. In the Arabia of the nomads fourteen centuries ago there
were mushriks and Yahud, both the affirmed enemies of the committed Muslims.
Fourteen centuries later, the same enemies confront us, albeit from relocated power
centres. Then, the mushriks had their seat of opposition to Muhammad (saw) in Makkah;
today they have it in Riyadh. Back then Yahud were lodged in Madinah; now they
occupy al-Quds.

There has been a suggestive change in the status of both the mushriks and Yahud between
then and now that has eluded the Muslim political mind. In the case of the mushriks, this
change concerns their ability to disguise their shirk by intense and concentrated rituals.
Abu-Jahl, Abu-Lahab and their sort did not claim to be Muslims and were unable to use
their status as the Abrahamic custodians of Makkah to accuse Muhammad (saw) and his
Companions of being extremists, radicals and terrorists. Today the Aal-e Saud present
and promote a distorted version of Islam, and use their status as the custodians of the
Ka’aba to accuse the Islamic movement, which sees through false rituals, of being
extremist, radical and terror organisations.

Today’s Yahud, meanwhile, are no longer in Madinah but in Palestine. They have
graduated from being "autonomous" to being "independent". Instead of being the
unbelievers (kuffar) that they were in the time of the Prophet (saw), they are seen as "ahl
al-kitab"; due to a superfical understanding of the Seerah, the Yahud of today are not
identified with their sort in Madinah.

"Israel" today is a combination of the Yahudi economic elite in Madinah and their
military counterparts in Khaibar. The mushriks today are the ruling elites that are strung
together from Arabia to Asia and from Arabia to Africa. Because of the historical
changes that have taken place, the Islamic movement in today’s world has to relearn the
Seerah in order to be able to draw lessons for today’s battlefield in which the mushrik and
the Yahud are allied. Should the Islamic movement first concentrate on establishing an
Islamic allegiance, authority, and alliance in and around Makkah? And, with the popular
sentiment that will eventually take hold in Arabia, should this new development lead to a
relentless opposition to the mushriks who directly and indirectly occupy Makkah and
Madinah today? Or should the Muslims who are committed to Allah, and understand the
significance of the Seerah, launch local and regional struggles against the mushriks in
their own societies and communities? In other words the Islamic movement has to ask
itself whether Makkah is to be liberated by all Muslims everywhere, before they think
about liberating themselves wherever they are; or whether Makkah is symbolic, and
hence wherever Muslims are they should consider that place their own priority? What
follows from this is an extremely important question: should the dedicated Muslims of
the contemporary Islamic movement be fighting all over the world, as they are doing
now, for the purpose of fighting their own taghuts; or should they pause, reconsider their
tactics, and then concentrate on one particular area to liberate, after which they may go
onto other areas, one area at a time, until the Muslim territories are eventually freed of
mushriks and kuffar?

And if the leaders of the Islamic movement were able to bring their minds together and
decide to concentrate on liberating one area, would it be Palestine or Kashmir? Would it
be Algeria or Egypt? It would seem that the mass-mobilisation of Muslims is apt to go for
the liberation of al-Quds and Palestine. But is this decision compatible with the Seerah?
And why shouldn’t the liberation of Makkah from mushrik control be considered the first,
essential step to liberate Palestine and the other Muslim countries?

We have a couple of matters to think through before we consider a final answer to these
questions. The first is from the Seerah itself. Rasool-Allah (saw) could have re-focused
and re-concentrated his efforts against Yahud in Madinah, and he would probably have
had "tribal", "national" and "class" support for such a policy. Yahud in those days were as
opposed to Islam as they are today. But Allah’s Messenger (saw) concentrated on
Makkah. The three Yahudi power factions in Madinah gradually began to take the side of
the Makkan mushriks. They thus they revealed their own position while Allah’s Prophet
(saw) was waging jihad in the context of Arabian society from which the Muslim
community had emerged.

Another thing that has to be carefully considered by the Islamic movement is the Iraqi-
imposed war on the Islamic Republic (1980 to 1988). For almost a decade, when an
Islamic state led by a legitimate and able Imam was engaged in active war against a
mushrik-inspired, mushrik-instigated enemy, much of the Muslim world was mired in
confusion. The question was: how could Muslims be fighting and killing other Muslims?
— this war should be ended immediately. The obvious hollowness of this argument —
the war was between an Islamic state and a state representing a secular nationalist
ideology, acting for an international alliance put together by the greatest enemies of
Islam, even though its soldiers were personally Muslim — still eludes many Muslims.

Is it permissible for some Muslims to conclude from such a war that today we must focus
entirely on the enemies of Islam in occupied Palestine? No two Muslims will disagree
about the desirability of a combined Islamic war-effort against the zionist usurpers and
occupiers of the land of the Isra’ and Mi’raj and the area of the first qibla. But although
this seems the logical and convenient thing to do, not least as an alternative to
confronting enemies within our own lands, who may even be Muslims themselves, does
it have a basis in the Seerah?

The problem today is that the distinction between mushriks and Yahud has become
obscure and muddled. There is a strong facade of legitimising ideologies (democracy,
freedom, human rights and so on) and rituals shrouding today’s mushriks. There is also a
Muslim inferiority complex that makes it very difficult for a Muslim public opinion to
take a realistic view of zionist Jews and imperialist Christians. This inferiority complex is
fed daily with slanted information, coming from an official media and ulama that
presents all Jews and Christians as ahl al-kitab; most Muslims have not been able to
develop a practical distinction between an apparently benign people of Scripture as a
religious community, and the malign realities of their worldly political ambitions and
activities.

Another way of looking at this issue of priorities is to imagine for a moment that
Muhammad (saw) were to return to the world today. Based on our knowledge of his
Seerah, do we imagine that he would be galvanising the Muslims to liberate Makkah first,
or al-Quds? Would he approve of the "royal" family that has nationalised Makkah and
Madinah, and made them captive to foreign powers? Would he prioritise the liberation of
Palestine when Arabia itself is under occupation?

His Seerah is meant to provide us with answers that are relevant to our times. What does
it mean to have hundreds of thousands of non-Muslims stationed throughout the land of
Allah’s Messenger (saw) to protect monarchies and principalities that rule not because of
any Islamic legitimacy, but because they serve the purposes and interests of foreign
powers? Would such piratical regimes endorse and support an Islamic war of liberation to
free Palestine and al-Quds?
In today’s world, the Islamic movement has splintered into two impulses: the first is to
forcefully resist mushrik control in the Ummah; the second is to resist Yahudi control.
Both of these impulses acknowledge the deepest and strongest enmity against the Islamic
movement. Behind the scenes these two forces are working overtime to coopt, contain or
confront the Islamic movement.

Today, we need to liberate our critical faculties and our understanding of the Seerah
before we can liberate our homes and our countries. There is now a serious effort to
reconcile the Islamic movement with the governments that rule the Muslim world. One of
the justifications for this is the external threats that loom ahead, the most immediate
being the prospect of American military aggression against "Iraq", and with no end in
sight to this bloody scenario. But such rapprochement with governments that have
bloodstained records of dealings with the Islamic movement is a monumental mistake;
the moves for such rapprochements are cold-blooded strategies against us by enemies
whose objects have not changed.

In confronting these realities, committed Muslims must be crystal clear in our thinking on
the contemporary historical situation, and our understanding of the lessons of the Seerah
of the Prophet Muhammad (saw), in dealing with enemies that are as determined, ruthless
and bloodthirsty today as they were 1,400 years ago.
The Qur'an says: Zionist Israel will be
shattered
By Mohammad Al-Asi

The Israeli zionists have convinced themselves that their presence in Palestine is
permanent. They have even managed to deceive world public opinion into believing this
myth. The brainwashing that has gone into this effort is phenomenal.

There are even some fatigued Muslims who have bought into Israel as a permanent
fixture of the Middle East. They parade themselves with fancy titles and impressive
credentials. The media flash their images around the world and they do not tire of trying
to convince any late- comer to 'the real world' with its 'shrewd pragmatists' that there is
no use and nothing to be gained from opposing the zionist Israeli fait accompli. These
Israelis in Muslim skin are packaged as journalists, news commentators, diplomats,
professors, area specialists, researchers, politicians, and of course religious scholars and
ulama.

They look at Israel from a military point of view and find it has the latest military
technology and is working on developing new military programmes and objectives, and
they conclude for the Muslim public that Israel is invincible. Then they turn around with
another set of data and statistics and they find out for us that the Israelis are advanced in
agriculture, industry, tourism, and business. Israel has penetrated the European and the
American markets, they argue. Therefore, Israel is economically moneyed and thriving.

Then they come with yet another list of 'facts' about the coherence and the monolith of
the Jewish people. They tell us that these Israeli Jews have worked for thousands of years
to return to Zion. And if they disagree on one or the other issue, they will never disagree
on their right to live, forever, in the land of Israel. And for good measure they throw in
the Jewish peoples' resolve to have Jerusalem (al-Quds) as the united and 'eternal' capital
of Israel.

To bolster their argument they tell us indefatigably that the Jews are politically as strong
as ever because they are in virtual command and control of the American and Russian
administrations; not to mention their political and foreign policy clout in the European
continent. It is enough to have the Jews running the only superpower in the world, the
US, to know that Israel is shielded, guarded, and protected from all political angles. All
of this and much more is heard ad nauseam from local and international opinion
moulders.

Little do these mouthpieces realize that they are contributing to an Islamic build-up and
groundswell that will eventually erupt in a total and all-out liberation movement that will
pluck this zionist forgery out of its historical gimmicks, its contemporary follies, and its
future entrapments. Muslims expect this Israeli menace to become a contemporary
Goliath. Listen to how the Qur'an brings down the pro-Israeli arguments above while, in
essence, stating the very notion that are supposed to have us scared into recognizing
Israel's illegal and unlawful existence:

'And We decreed through revelation to the children of Israel: ôTwice, indeed, will you
spread corruption on earth and will indeed become grossly overbearing.ö Hence, when
the prediction of the first of those two (period of iniquity) came true, We sent against you
some of Our bondsmen of terrible prowess in war, and they wrought havoc throughout
the land: and so the prediction was fulfilled.

And after a time We allowed you to prevail against them once again, and aided you with
wealth and manpower, and made you more mobile (than ever). (And We said:) ôIf you
persevere in doing good, you will but be doing good to yourselves; and if you do evil, it
will be (done) to yourselves.ö And so, when the prediction of the second (period of your
transgression) came true, (We raised new enemies against you, and allowed them) to
disgrace you utterly, and to enter the Temple as (their predecessors) had entered it once
before, and to destroy with utter destruction all that they had conquered.' (Qur'an - 17: 3-
7)

The first 'eye-popper' in this ayat is the magnitude of Israeli corruption; they shall wreak
havoc on a global scale. The trouble-making of the zionist political agenda is not
confined to the Middle East. Israel is not a regional threat; it is not a local danger; it is a
global risk that breeds instability because of its Jewish partisans around the world. The
Qur'an speaks of two times in history when the children of Israel shall have this trans-
continental potential and effects of destabilization and mischief.

Our reading of history - even though there are other opinions about this initial Israeli
havoc-wreaking thrust - is the Israeli interest that extended in the inter-prophetic years
from the time they seemingly managed to 'frame' Jesus, upon whom be peace, in a legal
setup with the Roman authorities by which they intended to have him killed, crucified, or
otherwise eliminated and the time they mobilized to turn back the tide of Muhammadi
wave that flowed out of the Arabian Peninsula. In a casual and establishmentarian
reading of history they 'succeeded' on both accounts.

They were instrumental in the Roman condemnation of Jesus to death and they were
instrumental in the subversion of the universal Islamic political system that turned into a
usurpation of power instead of a representative power. It took them nearly 2,000 years to
tie in their first success (the anti-Christ agitation in Roman Palestine) and some 1,300
years after their twin effort of bringing down the Islamic system, to concoct their thief's
State on the usurped land of Palestine.

This has ushered the children of Israel into their second worldwide role of corruption and
instability. The Qur'an describes the status of the children of Israel in today's world with
accuracy and precision: 'and you will indeed become grossly and incomparably
unsurpassed.'
Who in the world can argue with these Qur'anic words and description? There is a
convergence here between what the Qur'an is telling us and what the pundits and
politicians are saying: the Jews, the Israelis, and the zionists have an unprecedented clout,
control, and capacity. But the script does not end here. These children of Israel are setting
themselves up with this disproportionate swing of power. This new-found power by the
elders of zion after many centuries of ghettoes and slums in the diaspora is the reason
why the Israelis have institutionalized a self-destructive course of aggression, ineptitude,
and warfare.

The combined power of the worldwide zionist interest is causing the children of Israel to
lose their hitherto common sense in their relationships with Muslims and Christians alike.
The children of Israel who are currently intoxicated with military, political, and economic
power privileges and prerogatives are no longer sober enough to know that their forceful
presence in Palestine has throughout the years worked to militarize Palestinians; their
physical occupation of surrounding Arab lands is working to militarize the adjacent Arab
peoples; and their arrogant disregard for world public opinion is working to militarize the
Muslims of the world for an eventful and prophesied combatant clash of the inevitable
with these high and mighty Israelis.

No Muslim should be arguing about the physical strength of the Israeli military
establishment. No Muslim should be quarreling with the Israeli clout around the world.
No Muslim should be contesting the fact that the Israelis have secured a worldwide base
of support on almost all levels from the Hollywood script to Holy word Scripture for the
illegitimate, illegal, and unlawful State of zionist Israel. This is a fact predicted by the
Qur'an and evidenced by the data and information so clear in the Yahudi stranglehold on
the world when it comes to Israel.

And this is exactly where things should be: when Muslims do eventually lock horns with
this Israeli atrocity, they will do so to prove that it is the intangible power of Allah that
will destroy their tangible and much-celebrated power of their demonic state of mind and
politics.

Little do they know but the Jewish worshippers of Israel who are publicly celebrating 50
years of a historical aberration are, by all the forces of history and divine decree,
celebrating the coming of a day when they will have to come to terms with Islamic self-
determination in the Holy Land area and beyond that into the expanses of Africa and
Asia. The prophet of Allah, upon whom be peace, summed it up when he said: 'The final
hour shall not commence until the Muslims engage Yahud in warfare. And the Muslims
will deal the deathblow to Yahud. These Yahud will hide behind timber and boulder that
will call out on Muslims: 'O Muslim there is a Yahudi in disguise, come and annihilate
him.'

The writer is Imam, Washington Mosque, USA.


The Seerah’s strategy: The importance
and centrality of the liberation of
Makkah
The study of the Seerah of the Prophet (saw) to learn lessons relevant to the contemporary Islamic
movement is a major project of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought. Here, IMAM
MUHAMMAD AL-ASI, of Washington DC, discusses the centrality of Makkah in the strategy of the
Prophet’s Seerah, and its implications for Muslims today.

Introduction

When Islam was cast in its eternal Qur’anic expression over 14 centuries ago in Arabia,
the world was suffering from superpower inertia. The glitter of both the Roman and
Persian empires had become lusterless. The relationship between men seeking God and
men slaving for Satan was as bad as it can get. The mission of ‘Isa (as) (Jesus) as it
struggled to survive in and around the Holy Land was being passed through the
oesophagus of the Roman power structure. The grand stand-off between the Persian and
the Eastern Roman (or Byzantine) Empires had no significance. We can say at this point
that state-structures, mighty rulers, and big-power status had little relevance to most
people.

It was in this scenario that, in an obscure and isolated spot in the world, a young man in
Arabia began to receive and experience the kalaam – words – of Allah. It was in this
milieu that a struggle began in an unfamiliar and disregarded Makkah. This whole
struggle is defined and outlined by the strategic and tactical decisions that were made by
Muhammad, Allah’s Messenger (saw) – the human manifestation of the Qur’an. It is
these decisions and determinations, taken in the context of this struggle, which constitute
what Muslims usually refer to as the Seerah.

Geography, location, and site

One question that historians, social scientists, and philosophers will always ponder is that
of "Why Arabia?" Why did Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala select this particular place for the
revelation and enactment of his final Scripture, with universal teachings and global
implementation? Why wasn’t so important a Scripture, and so crucial a Prophet, sent to
one of the advanced and "civilized" societies of human history at that time, such as
Egypt, or Persia, or Greece, or India, or China, or Rome?

And furthermore, why, of all the places in Arabia, why did Muhammad (saw) emerge
from Makkah, which was backward and undeveloped even by Arabian standards? There
were other, more advanced or urbane centers in Arabia that might have had a better
claim. Yemen was known for its advancement and sophistication, having a higher state of
culture and social development than the "backward" Makkah. Yathrib (later to become
known at al-Madinah al-Nabi) was more cosmopolitan, with an agricultural base, a
business class, and multi-religious character. But Muhammad (saw) was not meant to
have been born and raised in Yathrib or Yemen, any more than he was meant to have
been born or raised in Persian or Roman society. His birth and upbringing in Makkah,
and the fact that that small town became the centre Allah’s final revelation, was
undoubtedly a matter and expression of Divine Will. But what is there about Makkah that
it was marked as the birthplace of Muhammad (saw), the place of origin of the Qur’an,
the cradle of Islam, and the provenance of the Seerah?

Makkah is an ancient city, although its early history is not well chronicled. The word
"Makkah" itself does not ring any linguistic bells in the derivative-rich Arabic language,
which is surprising considering that Makkah is as central to Arabic as Rome is to Latin or
Oxford is to English. The name "Makkah" refers in fact to a valley: "And He it is who, in
the valley of Makkah, blocked their hands from you, and your hands from them, after He
had enabled you to vanquish them; and Allah is ever watchful of what you are doing" (al-
Qur’an 48:24).

Reference is also made to Makkah in the third surah of the Qur’an, with its initial letter
‘M’ re-formed into the initial ‘B’: "Behold, the first Temple ever set up for mankind was
indeed the one at Bakkah: rich in blessing, and a [source of] guidance unto all the worlds"
(3:96).

Bakkah here refers to Makkah or the land located between its two surrounding
mountains. (The word "bakka" referring to a valley appears to be of ancient Semitic
origin.) Similarly, Makkah may be used to refer to the whole of the sanctified city, or to
the sacrosanct or inviolable temple area within the city.

The inquiry into the location of a nebulous Makkah located in a barren Arabia may have
to be referred to the fact that Ibrahim (as) had brought his wife Hajar (r) and their son
Isma’il (as) to this peculiar position and precise place to enhance its Scriptural, Semitic
and seminal significance. Allah’s words are:

And [remember the time] when Ibrahim spoke [thus]: "O my Sustainer! Make this land
secure, and preserve me and my children from ever conforming to idols – for, verily, O
my Sustainer, these [false objects of adulation] have led many people astray.

Hence, [only] he who follows me [in this my faith] is truly of me; and as for him who
disobeys me – You are, indeed, much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace!

O our Sustainer! Behold, I have settled some of my offspring in a valley in which there is
no arable land, close to Your sanctified Temple, so that, O our Sustainer, they might
devote themselves to [institutionalizing] prayer: induce You, therefore, people’s hearts to
incline towards them, and grant them fruitful sustenance, so that they might have cause
to be grateful. (Al-Qur’an 14:35-37.)

The human motivation of Ibrahim (as) in resettling his family in Arabia at a place
dedicated to Allah was his wish and plea to have this particular residence of his family an
abode of stability and security. Ibrahim brought his family to an arid and sunbaked part of
the world. There was no trace of urban life around. It was Isma’il’s exposure as a baby-
infant to the scorched and bone-dry elements of the Arabian desert that caused the
eruption of water which still flows to day, and is called the well of Zamzam.

It is because of this history that Makkah became central to the Ibrahimi legacy and
endowment. There is no future or current civilization or modernity that can really eclipse
Makkah or cast a shadow on its Ibrahimi roots and origin. And when Ibrahim (as) said:
"O my Sustainer! Render me one who carries out [the legalities of] salah and have my
offspring [do the same]; O our Sustainer! Accept our plea..." (14:39), he foretold the
centrality of this remote and barren part of the. When Muhammad (saw) was born in
Makkah, he was the fulfilment of this du’a of Ibrahim, his great forefather. Before
Muhammad (saw), the descendents of Ibrahim (as) included other Prophets of Allah
(swt), but their duties began in their immediate environment, which was centered around
al-Quds (Jerusalem). Among the paradigmatic and geographic distinctions of the
Muhammadi mission was its reassignment of the qibla from al-Quds to Makkah. This
event was itself a chapter in the on-going history of the Muhammadi mission,
emphasising and confirming the centrality of Makkah to that history. Later, when the
Prophet was forced to flee Makkah, to avert the plans of the power elites in Makkah to
kill him, and he was excluded from Makkah for the next several years, with the
embryonic Islamic state in Madinah becoming the focus of the Seerah, the struggle to
liberate Makkah remained a central theme of the mission.

Makkah’s early status

It is understood from some historical references that a temple once stood in the area that
was to become known as Makkah, and that, by inspiration from Allah, Ibrahim (as) left
his wife and baby son in this desolate area of Arabia. When Ibrahim left them there,
Hajar (r) repeatedly asked him: "Where are you going, and why are you leaving us in this
forsaken valley where there is no trace of life?" He tried not to answer her, but when she
asked him: "Did Allah instruct you to do this?", he said "yes". She then said: "if that is
the case Allah will not forsake us." Ibrahim then walked until he was out of their sight,
then turned towards that abandoned temple, raised his hands and made the du’a quoted in
ayah 14:37.

It should be mentioned here that a miracle made Makkah possible. After Ibrahim (as) had
left Hajar and Ismail, food and water began to run out. As the child cried, and perhaps
appeared to approach death, Hajar was wandering to and fro, frantically trying to find
some source of life, some water, anything at all, knowing that her son’s death was
inevitable unless some help was found. At this threshold of life and death, as out of
nowhere, water suddenly came gushing from beneath Isma’il’s feet. It was this water of
life that attracted other forms of life to this hitherto barren part of the world. Birds and
animals moved into the area, people followed, and the place that Allah had ordered that
Ibrahim (as) leave his wife and son because an oasis and a centre of settlement and
civilization in Arabia. As the will of Allah would have it, Hajar was from the land of the
Nile and Ibrahim was from the land of the Euphrates; and their son Isma’il was now from
the land of zamzam.

Makkah was to become the haven of the forsaken, the weak, the tender, the infirm, the
powerless and the frail. In an odd twist, the significance of Makkah has been lost on
Muslims adrift and picked up by others, who captured the meanings of Makkah and
regenerated it to their own purposes and interests, saying: "Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."

All of Makkah’s rich history and symbolism have been smothered by small-minded,
dogmatic and intolerant attitudes that have usurped Makkah from the Hajars, the Isma’ils,
the family and children of Ibrahim (as). The very reason that Makkah exists is that it is a
refuge, a shelter and an abode, and a retreat for helpless mothers, hungry children,
stateless refugees and dispossessed "foreigners." Wasn’t that the condition of Hajar and
Isma’il who were the first two who relocated, settled down, and then took up residence in
what was to become the Makkah of today?

Makkah then and Makkah now

Are they, then, not aware that We have set up a sanctuary secure [at least for those who
are committed to Allah], the while all around them men are assailable, insecure and
under attack? Will they then [continue to] adhere to false principles and to deny the
blessings of Allah? (29:67)

It goes without saying that Makkah had always been considered a refuge, a safe place and
a shelter from danger for those who felt threatened or beleaguered. The pre-Muhammadi
inhabitants of Makkah honored its origins and its character of being a sanctuary and a
recourse for those who needed it. If the anti-Islamic mushriks had continued to honor this
historical heritage they would not have threatened to kill Muhammad (saw) while he was
an established and legal resident of Makkah. Makkah then was opened to the homeless,
the stateless and the powerless. There is no incident that we know of in the notorious
jahiliyah in which anyone wanting to relocate to Makkah was told that they were not
allowed to! It was unheard of. Makkah was even a temporary shelter for murderers and
criminals who would run into the vicinity of the Masjid al-Haram in order not to be
pursued by the aggrieved party.

Today, by contrast, Makkah is a forbidden zone. It is not open to committed Muslims,


much less to those who have nowhere else to go. Imagine if Allah’s Prophet (saw) were
living among us today and watching how access to the area is controlled by the
descendants of his foes, who appear to be adopting Islamic rituals to thwart the most
basic social values and standards of social justice of his teachings, and are bitter enemies
of the growing number of Islamic activists and members of the Islamic movement who
embody and espouse those values and standards.

In the first instance we would expect that the vast resources of the Islamic movement in
today’s world would be marshalled to liberate Makkah, if Allah’s Prophet (saw) were
leading today’s Islamic movement. This is only being consistent with his Seerah and
sunnah when he spent a lifetime trying to wrest control over Makkah from an elite that
understands "religion" to be at the service of their interests, or who are not interested in a
message of divine justice that will sweep away their status quo beginning with the
definition of the Masjid al-Haram and all the way up to their riba-tainted
commercialization of society, religion and the human spirit.

The Islamic movement in our generation has to ask and answer a relevant question: Is
Makkah the responsibility of its own inhabitants or is it the responsibility of all Muslims
everywhere? Is Makkah an antique preserved for the ritualistic Muslims who are satisfied
with a habitual or a mechanical Islam; or is Makkah meant to be the springboard for a
vibrant and involved Islam that has to become the focus, the heart and the hub of an
Islamically-motivated strategy and program that cannot rest until justice and equality are
achieved? Muhammad (saw) was not interested in liberating Makkah simply because he
was one of its citizens; he was interested in liberating Makkah as a divine responsibility.
Muslims will not be able to recapture their historical mission and press on with their task
of raising Allah’s deen to its worldwide civilizational status until we regain control of
Makkah.

What type of Makkah do we have today? A ghost city. True, people from around the
world routinely visit Makkah to fulfill their religious obligation by performing ‘umrah or
the Hajj, but these pilgrimages do not have the global repercussions, transcending all the
subdivisions and fault-lines of the ummah, that they are supposed to have. At present, two
million members of a weakened and divided Ummah are permitted to go to Hajj every
year, but the annual gathering of hujjaj is little more than a gathering of ineffective and
absent-minded Muslims, with no impact whatsoever on the lives of Muslims or the affairs
of the ummah, let alone the way the world is run.

Yet there are millions of widows, orphans, the destitute, refugees and others in need,
simply among Muslims, who have no access to Makkah. And when Makkah no longer
performs the role of Makkah, we have mushriks fill the void. There are the United
Nations, its Security Council, the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Work Agency),
the G8, the Scandinavian countries, and there are scores of other international and
regional governmental departments and agencies, claiming to fulfil the role traditionally
of Makkah, but on the mushriks’ terms, and for their own purposes.

Is there really an Islamic Makkah while Arabia is ruled by a Saudi regime which is totally
subservient to the world’s greatest power of kufr, and gives free rein to the American
Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigations (and probably the
Israeli Mossad too – how would they prevent it?) to wander the peninsular, including the
Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah, in pursuit of committed Muslims who are trying to
energize the seerah and popularize Qur’anic justice? There is a particular hadith of
Allah’s Prophet (saw) which is particularly germane to some seerah-less Islamic
movements today:
The Prophet (saw) said: You [the committed Muslims] will most certainly promote and
construct what is self-evidently good and correct [al-ma’roof] and you will most certainly
demote and deconstruct what is self-evidently bad and corrupt [al-munkar] and you will
indeed have checks and balances on a ruler prone to injustice, and you will curtail his
penchant away from justice to have him abide by the principles of justice, and you will
by all means place such a ruler within a reference of truth and justice — or else Allah will
put your hearts on a course of collision and conflict and He will condemn you [the
committed Muslims] as He has condemned them [the children of Israel who deny Allah’s
power].

People around the Prophet (saw) listening to this immediately asked: Should we resort to
armed opposition? He replied: No, as long as they standardize and institutionalize the
[social] salah.

In the closed circles of certain elites in the Islamic movement the whole seerah of Allah’s
Prophet (saw) and many meanings and implications of the Qur’an, have effectively been
suspended because of misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the last sentence of this
hadith. The Prophet (saw) is saying that we should not resort to unseating a Muslim ruler
as long as he "aqama al-salah"; i.e., as long as he extends the range of salah from the
personal to the social, from the masjid to the masses, from the pulpit to the parliament,
and from theory to practice. Note well: the Prophet (saw) did not say as long as they are
just going through the motions of sujud and ruku’. Now, because we are speaking about
Makkah and how central and pivotal it is to recapturing the essence of our Islamic
mission, where do the grotesque rulers of Makkah and Arabia stand on the scale? Are
they actively involved in an Islamic movement that – through struggle – is concerned
with the self-determination of the committed and sacrificing Muslims? Or are they
apelike in their prayers, while outside the masajid their actions in power go directly
against the principles of Islam, reflecting instead the orders coming from the White
House, the Pentagon, and the CIA?

Have you not considered he who falsifies al-deen? It is he who repulses the orphan; he
does not campaign for [nor advance the cause of] the impoverished [and moneyless].
Misery, then, to those [Muslims] who pray [in a mechanical and mindless way] – those
who are unmeaning and purposeless in performing their prayers; they are the ones who
pretend [to be praying] and they are the ones who withhold [financial] support. (Al-
Qur’an, Surah 107, al-Ma’uun).

Makkah is ruled by people whom this description fits exactly. The king, the crown
prince, the minister-princes, all the way down to the local princelings, are all condemned
as all of them are condemned as charged in this above surah: they falsify Allah’s deen,
reducing it to empty ceremonials and obtuse legalisms against the poor that they would
never apply to their own royal larceny. They are swift to chop off the hands or heads of
Bangladeshi, Somali, Pakistani, and Egyptian Muslims in the public square after
Jumu’ah prayers, because of some petty thievery. This they want us to believe is Allah’s
deen and shari’ah! But when it comes to the theft and usurpation of the Holy Land, al-
Masjid al-Aqsa, and al-Ard al-Mubarakah, these same Saudis and their pet ulama
deactivate Makkah so that Muslims can never use its power and its central symbolism as
a base from which to organize themselves to liberate their usurped countries and
homelands. The average Saudi-minded Muslim is fanatical about the importance of
Muslims’ toes being perfectly in line when standing for salat; but the same crypto-
Muslim simply cannot comprehend that Muslims today lack a saff marsus: a compacted
front line of combatant Muslims to fight for the sake and cause of Allah. Little do these
midget minds understand that a straight line during salat that does not translate into a
compact line during jihad is no line at all.

How many orphans do we Muslims have? No one really knows; with the kind of Saudi-
sponsored Islamic da’wah organizations dominating the scene, no one seems interested in
finding out. Our Prophet (saw), who himself was an orphan, would go uncounted and
unnoticed by the official Saudi propagation of Islam, were he to be born today. How
about the miskeen – the impoverished or disposessed – spoken of in Surah Ma’un? Why
would the coroneted kings and the patrician princes of a ruling royal family want to be
bothered with the subject of "needy Muslims," not to mention needy human beings? The
ayaat above speak of a needy person in the generic sense, but perhaps the mental capacity
of the Saudi princes cannot expand this to encompass the human condition. Nonetheless,
they need to be held at least partly accountable for the millions of Muslims living in
misery while these salat-thespians deposit Muslim wealth in the very imperialist and
zionist riba operations that are driving more and more Muslims (and non-Muslims) into
new depths and vicious cycles of hunger, poverty and hardship. If we today had a clear
and sincere application of seerah necessities and priorities, these royal violators of the
Qur’an and deniers of Allah’s power would be the first to be set straight. They are not
behaving as Muslims should; rather, by acting as Muslims should not, they are "the ones
who pretend..."

At times like this, when Muslims need Makkah the most, it is off-limits to us! Muslims
need the safety and security of Makkah, but Saudi forces are ready to follow imperialist
and zionist orders, and spill innocent Muslim blood around the Ka’bah; this is not
speculation or a flight of fancy. They have proven that they are capable of bringing in
kafir military forces and opening fire on the freedom-aspiring Muslims. If Sharon is the
butcher of Beirut, then Fahd is the meatman of Makkah. Sharon has his equivalents in the
seerah; so do Likud and the whole zionist, Israeli project and enterprise. And they will be
dealt with accordingly, insha’Allah, as will those Muslims in the ummah today who
follow un-Islamic and anti-Islamic agendas instead of working for promoting the
principles and values embodies in the seerah of the Prophet (saw).

To achieve this, we must first of all set our Islamic house in order. We have to begin as
the Prophet (saw) taught us. He began and virtually ended a lifetime with a strategy to set
Makkah free from its tyrannical elites. He did not rest until that was accomplished. And
in the process pockets and outposts of kufr in Arabia were also liberated from their
Makkan counterparts. Is it any wonder that the Western and Israeli political and military
establishments today are protecting their Saudi allies by political and military assistance –
direct and indirect – and negative propaganda.
Conclusion

Allah says to us: "Indeed, Allah does not change a condition of a people until they change
that which is within their [social] selves..." (13:11). We will not be able to transform our
stagnant societies into resilient Islamic societies until we change our social psychology.
This social psychology today is trapped within a dogmatic and unresponsive approach to
the Qur’an and the Prophet (saw). The Muslim public mind has to rise up to the relevant
meanings of the most important documents in our possession: the Qur’an and the
example and teachings of the Prophet (saw).

Makkah is under Saudi occupation – effectively the control of the kuffar – because minds
are hobbled by our maladroit and cumbersome lack of understanding of the seerah, and
above all, because of the selective or partisan approach to the Qur’an and its ever-
relevant meanings
Kalim Siddiqui: a scholar par excellence
By Mohammed al-Asi

The scholars of Islam are that assembly of ulama who have internalized the knowledge of
Islam and communicate their understanding to the public. It is not enough to know facts,
nor even to verbalize them. What is real is the implementation of this higher knowledge
within the daily life of individuals and societies, persons and properties, families and
nations, and regions and hemispheres.

The body of Islamic scholars in our time is in a state of gestation. They are struggling to
understand the Qur'an and Sunnah in context. Many, regrettably, are unable to see the
Qur'an and noble Prophet (upon whom be peace) in the context of today's world. These
undeveloped scholars present an undeveloped image of Islam to the public. As a
consequence we are unable to develop a relevant Islam that addresses the issues of our
time and place. In analyzing this scholarly anaemia, we find a common blind spot shared
by the overwhelming majority of such scholars: the issue of power. These scholars do not
address the issues of power in Islam and in today's world, and so have have contributed
significantly to the emergence of a Muslim Ummah which is powerless and vulnerable.
Some of these expedient scholars throw a passing reference to 'power' issues such as
Kashmir, Algeria, and Iraq, but only to pre-empt potentially difficult questions. To add
insolence to ignorance, most of these respected scholars (respected by a yet-to-mature
public) wear the attire of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The late Dr Kalim Siddiqui
stands out from this crowd as a rare scholar in his own right. Unlike formally qualified
individuals, who imbibed religious information from formal Islamic universities and
religious seminaries, many through mere rote learning, Dr. Siddiqui did not fit into this
traditional image. His writings, speeches, presentations, and works were, however,
Islamically centered, Qur'anically referenced, and prophetically driven. He could see
issues that were beyond the bounds for the conventional Muslim scholar. Dr. Kalim could
go with his fresh and relevant Islamic information and ideas where no other scholar in
our time has gone before. Dr. Kalim broke new mental grounds as he observed the forces
of kufr at work today against the Ummah , as he analyzed the forces of history, their
results and their possibilities for today's Muslims.

Many ulama have trouble with the various versions of Muslim history: the Sunni, the
Shi'i, and so on. A typical Sunni 'alim would not quote from a Shi'i source, and vice
versa. Dr Kalim had a unique ability to move comfortably between two versions of
history and identify the positives and the negatives as they relate to each other and the
issues of power, governance, and politics. This not only says volumes about his research
abilities and his scholarly objectivity but it also indicates that he had no irritants in his
heart against Muslims of any school of thought. We say this because it is precisely this
subjective bias that has bedeviled other scholars and rendered their works one-sided or
prejudiced. Dr Kalim was not a man who was impressed by petty arguments relating to
fine fiqhi or theological points. He did not evaluate Muslims by the manner of their daily
rituals as much as he was interested in assessing Muslims as to their fulfillment of their
role as Allah's empowered species on earth (khulafa). An alim who appreciates personal
diversity (the personal fiqhi latitude of legitimate Islamic options) while insisting on
collective unity of purpose (the consolidated character of a united ummah vis-a-vis the
forces of kufr) is rare indeed today. Dr Kalim was not constrained, like other ulama, by
his personal preferences in matters of salat, siyam or Hajj. He bypassed these, as should
other responsible ulama, to concentrate on the issues of power and governance.

Dr Kalim took a closer and sharper look at reality, as well as history. He realized that the
problems we Muslims have today can all be traced to the absence of Islamic government,
the seat of Islamic power and dignity. In his book Stages of Islamic Revolution, Dr Kalim
track the fatal shift from the prophetic model of governance to a monarchical system
during the Umayyads period and thereafter. He outlined the historical sequence that was
to engulf and affect all Muslims, which he identified as 'Islam, error, deviation, correction
and convergence.' These are all power concepts: Islam as a power, error as power
usurpation, deviation as power inheritance, correction as the power of revolution, and
convergence as the combined power of the Sunni and Shi'i forces of history.

Finally, Dr Kalim saw in the Hajj an annual conference with the promise and potential for
a worldwide impact beginning with the Ummah and then reaching the farthest corners of
the globe. No one can speak about the prospect and the potency of the Hajj if they cannot
address the deliberate Saudi control and command of the Hajj season, and their bid'ah of
reducing Hajj to meaningless motions and directionless deliberations, a fact that has
affected millions of people who travel to Mecca and Medina to feel only isolated
moments of ecstasy amid the misery and emptiness that engulfs one. Dr Kalim, may
Allah rest his soul in peace, felt the pains of the Ummah and was not tied by the pennies
of its enemies. Thus he was free to entertain the hope of the Muslim masses that one day
the Hajj will be meaningful, dignified, and liberated.

What distinguished Dr Kalim was his total attachment to the principles of the Qur'an and
Sunnah when many others were attracted to anti-Islamic ways and means. Distinguished
he lived, and distinguished he passed on.

Muslimedia: April 1-15, 1998


Kalim Siddiqui: A Man of the Qur'an and the Sunnah
Muhammad al-Asi

It would occur to the ordinary or the average Muslim that a man related to the Qur'an and
the Sunnah is a man who quotes the Qur'an and the Sunnah frequently and recurrently.
And we do have such individuals who spare no occasion and seize all opportunities to
refer to the Qur'an and the Sunnah. But in the case of the late Dr. Kalim Siddiqui, we
encounter a man of Allah whose vision and ideas are grounded in the Qur'an and the
Sunnah like very precious few others in our generation.

What distinguished the late Dr. Siddiqui is his ability to understand and explain the
Qur'an and the Sunnah from a perspective that has been absent from the Muslim mind
and from the Muslim Ummah for a very long time. The late Dr. Siddiqui had his attention
fixed on the Ummah and its civilizational dimension. Nothing else could distract him
from this holistic view of all the segments of this one Ummah from the first Islamic State
in al-Madinah to the recommencing Islamic State in Iran; and from the densely-populated
heartlands of this Ummah to its scattered emigrant sons around the world; and from the
pristine quality of the foot-soldiers of Islam to the dubious quality of the elitist
"Islamicists." Dr. Kalim marhum could take a Qur'anic and a Prophetic overview of this
whole Islamic condition and prognosticate the direction of the Ummah.

This is a far cry from those who have throughout the years and generations, and many
with good intentions, managed to cramp the Qur'an and the Sunnah into the individual's
lifestyle or who, at best, dare not go beyond the kitchen and the bedroom in their
understanding of the Qur'an and the Sunnah!

Before we take a closer look at Dr. Siddiqui's ideas in light of the Qur'an and the Sunnah
we should understand that one of the most important contributions expressed throughout
the works of Kalim is his thorough understanding of the world of kufr and jahiliyyah. At
a time when many Islamic da'is and activists tried their best to negotiate an understanding
between Western civilization and Islamic civilization, when they tried to reconcile yahud
and shirk with iman and Islam, at a time when some Islamic personalities worked to blur
the line between Western institutions and the institutions of Islam, at a time when it was
profitable to assimilate Islam into the larger world order created by Western civilization,
at this critical time and juncture in Islamic history, Dr. Kalim's words were a beacon unto
the heeding sons and daughters of the global Islamic movement. He, as is the Sunnah and
Seerah of Allah's cherished Prophet, upon whom be peace, stood virtually alone in
pointing to the criminal nature of the forces of kufr. It is this profound understanding of
the inimical forces of Western Civilization throughout the years and in our contemporary
times that gives Dr. Kalim's statements on Western Civilization their urgent value and
significance.

"For never will yahud be pleased with you, nor yet the nasara, unless you enlist in their
own worldview. Say: 'Behold, Allah's guidance is the only true guidance.' And, indeed, if
you should follow their errant views after all the knowledge that has come unto you, you
will have none to protect you from Allah, and none to support you." (Al-Qur'an, 2:120.)

Dr Kalim's understanding of the Muslim response to colonialism reflected this ayah. He


says:

When power and authority in the Muslim world passed to colonial powers, it was
inevitable that the new rulers would create oppressive organs of state and institutions to
consolidate the colonial system. The Muslim political elite hoped that the emergence of
European-style institutions would give them the opportunity to develop the creative
energy that was so evident in the European aristocracy. What Muslim rulers, aristocrats
and elites had failed to defend on the battlefield they hoped to recapture under the
patronage of the colonial rulers. The colonialists encouraged such hopes on condition that
they learned European languages, learned to dress like Europeans, and cultivated
European manners, etiquettes and life-styles... [1]

The Prophet of Allah, peace be upon him (PBUH), says: "You shall imitate the sunan of
the people of scripture, even if they were to enter into a lizard's hole you would be found
doing the same thing."

Dr . Kalim took the meaning of this hadith further than the simple Muslims who can only
see its meaning on the level of the individual, but cannot see it, as did Dr. Kalim, on the
collective level. And I quote:

For the Muslim colonial elites everything changed; they had new rulers, new languages,
new dresses, new books, new history, new philosophy, new political institutions, and new
personal, social, cultural, and economic goals to pursue with new zest and vigor. Indeed,
for them colonialism was a revolution! [2]

After having elucidated the hostile and belligerent nature of the kufr civilization towards
all expressions and vestiges of Islamic civilization, the late Dr. Kalim withheld no frank
and direct statements concerning the ruling elites in the Muslim world. This is of
paramount concern to all Muslims who nowadays are struggling against their republican
or their monarchical rulers. The characterization of kings or presidents who pray and fast
and perform their hajj while the cameras are rolling is still a grey area in the minds of
most Muslims. Not so with the crystal clear ideas of Dr. Kalim. His writings and
statements concerning these types of turn-coat despots are unequivocal. In one such quote
Dr. Kalim says:

Once the colonialists had begun to transform their colonies into nation-states controlled
by those whom they had succeeded in detaching from the Grand Paradigm, the ulama did
not have the political vision to realize that the 'fathers of the nation' and the 'monarchs'
were essentially no different from the former governor-generals and viceroys. They did
not realize that these Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Field Marshals, Generals, and
Colonels, though bearing Muslim names and often even managing to display personal
piety, were in the political field operating outside Islam. This is the point that escaped
Maulana Abul A'la Maudoodi and the Jama'at-e-Islami in Pakistan; the political vision of
Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimoon was sharper, but not sharp enough to realize that the 'national
question' in Egypt, for instance, was not an Islamic cause. [3]

This particular issue, the real nature and position of the ruling elites in the Muslim world,
has still not been conclusively settled in the minds of those at the executive levels of
today's Islamic parties. As long as this area remains foggy in the public Muslim mind, the
efforts of the Islamic movement will always fall short of defeating these elites who owe
their survival to the forces of kufr and not to the forces of Islam.

The 'theological' or the 'fiqhi' grounds that have paralysed this whole issue is a hadith of
the Prophet which says that rulers should be obeyed as long as they "construct salat"
("ma aqamu fikum al-salat"). There are two rebuttals to this misunderstanding of the
hadith . The first one is that the Prophet (pbuh) in his precise wording said that Muslims
should not confront such erratic rulers as long as they construct salat. The concept of
constructing salat is not what the status quo promoters interpret it to be, ie. praying.
There is an obvious difference between praying and constructing salat. The difference is
that praying is a one on one relationship with Allah, while constructing salat involves
developing a collective relationship between the community and Allah. Obviously,
today's rulers and leaders are not concerned with a binding relationship between their
'subjects' and Allah, so they cannot be covered by the above hadith.

The second rebuttal is that the exclusion of rulers from accountability on the basis of this
hadith flies in the face of the clear and obvious meanings of the Qur'an itself. When an
interpretation of a hadith contradicts or violates the established meaning of the lucid
ayaat then we annul the unsound interpretation of the hadith and adhere to the unanimous
meaning of the ayaat.

In this instance the meanings of the Forthright Qur'an are beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The words of divine origin are:

"O You who are divinely committed! Do not take the yahud and the nasara as your
allies; they are but allies of one another, and whoever of you allies himself with them
becomes, becomes, verily, one of them; behold, Allah does not guide such misjudging
folks.

"And yet you can see how those in whose hearts there is disease vie with one another for
their [the yahud's and nasara's] goodwill, saying [to themselves] 'We fear lest the tide
turns against us.' But Allah may well bring about good fortune [for the truly committed]
or any [other] event of His own devising, whereupon those [waverers] will be smitten
with remorse for the thoughts which they had secretly harbored within themselves - while
those who have attained to faith will say [to one another], 'Are these the self-same people
who swore by Allah with their most solemn oaths that they were indeed on your [the
Islamic] side? In vain are all their works, for now they are lost!" (Al-Qur'an 5:51-53)

The tragic, but unavoidable, events in Algeria attest to the truth of this matter. The
murderous and sub-civilizational war by the Algerian junta against its own Muslim
population is the most articulate comment on this nominal ‘elitist' corp, demonstrating its
practical worth on behalf of the Western interest by turning its guns against its own
Muslim population; and yet, alas, some Muslims still have 'difficulties' understanding
these bloody dictators in light of the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh).

We still have a wide cross-section of the Muslim ulama who snap to attention when they
are summoned to official meetings, confidential briefings, and ceremonial conferences in
the name of Islam! It is too common to encounter obliging scholars-for-dollars who are at
the beck-and-call of ritualistic Muslims who are in truth ruthless rulers, die-hard
dictators, and criminal kuffar who are lodged into the Western interest, heart, mind, and
soul.

In the vision of the late Dr. Kalim Siddiqui (may Allah rest his soul in peace) the catalytic
formula binding these two antagonists of the global Islamic movement is the nation-state.
The one Ummah, due to the combination of the forces of kufr and nifaq, has been sliced
and diced into over fifty nation-states, all of them (with the possible exceptions of Iran
and Sudan) working in tandem with the imposed Euro-American world order. These
nation-states are as alien to Islam as are the idols of antiquity. In fact, the nationalism
built around these nation-states is a modern version of idolatry, as multitudes of people
commit their allegiance and loyalty to these artificial entities.

Much like the Prophet himself, who saw the impending demise of the Roman and the
Persian Empires when the first generation of Muslims were at their most vulnerable, so
did Dr. Kalim foresee the collapse of the nation-states of our times, especially those
nation-states forced upon the Ummah. Dr. Kalim spoke to the global Islamic movement
much like the Prophet (PBUH) spoke to Suraqah. Dr. Kalim says:

All nation-states that today occupy, enslave and exploit the lands, peoples and resources
of the Ummah have to be dismantled. It is the nation-states that give life and
respectability to nationalism. Nationalism is not an idea that precedes its political
manifestation. With some exception, the idea of nationalism has been artificially planted
in order to support an externally imposed state. The idea of the state based on nationalism
is so alien to the moral genius of our people that every single nation-state in the Ummah
is unstable, weak and for ever on the verge of collapse. All Muslim nation-states in the
world today are maintained by a mixture of internal oppression and external support. It is
only the regular injection of military and economic 'aid' from the leading imperialist
powers that keeps these states going. None of these states has solved any of its own
problems or those of its people. Since these states have no roots in the history of Islam or
in the history of their people, they will not be difficult to dismantle. [4]
Two issues were particular emphasised by Dr. Kalim. First, that kufr does not
compromise with Islam; therefore, kuffar will not accommodate committed Muslims. The
line has been drawn and the forces of kufr are as ancient as time itself; the Muslims
should be on their guard and should mobilize their resources and potentials to be their
masters of destiny and not some appendage of some reactionary receptacles of the
imperialist diktat. This is referred to by some naive Muslims as the "either/or" attitude.
Or what others may call the "black or white" Muslim approach! The fact of the matter is
that on issues of kufr and iman there is no common denominator. These should learn the
short surah in the Honorable Qur'an that reads:

"Say: 'O Kuffar! I do not conform, nor am I devoted to your standards, and neither do you
conform nor are you devoted by my standards [of reverence]. And I will not conform to
that which you do, and neither will you [ever] conform to that which I do. Unto you, your
systems [and institutions] and unto me, mine!" (Al-Qur'an, Surah 109, al-Kafirun).

Dr Kalim's second point was that political nifaq (expressed by nominal Muslims) has to
be regarded as being on the side of kufr. Note the following ayaat:

"Allah has promised the munafiqs, both men and women, as well as the kafirs, the fire of
hell, therein to abide: this shall be their allotted portion. For Allah has rejected them, and
long-lasting suffering awaits them." (Al-Qur'an 9:68.)
"[And so it is] that Allah imposes suffering on the munafiqeen, both men and women, as
well as on mushrik men and women. And [so, too, it is] that Allah turns in his mercy unto
the divinely committed men and women: for Allah is indeed much forgiving, a dispenser
of grace!" (Al-Qur'an 33:73.)
"...Behold together with those who are kuffar Allah will gather in hell the hypocrites..."
(Al-Qur'an 4:140.)
"O Prophet! Strive [or fight] against the kafirs and the munafiqs, and be adamant with
them. And [if they do not repent] their destination shall be hell - and how vile a journey's
end." (Al-Qur'an 9:73.)
"O Prophet! Remain conscious of Allah and defer not to the kuffar and the munafiqeen:
for Allah is truly all-knowing, wise." (Al-Qur'an 33:1.)

Once these two facts are well established in the Muslim mind, as Dr. Kalim sought to
have them, then the global Islamic movement shall encounter no more those
obstructionists who have for so long fudged this whole issue and postponed the day of
reckoning with the avowed enemies of Allah and the Prophet and the Islamic movement.
In Dr. Kalim's mind, this was well established, and so he was able to think ahead to the
future of the Islamic movement, come what may. And many things did come: the
breakthrough of the Islamic Revolution in Iran under the leadership of Imam Khomeini
and the muttaqi ulama; Persian Gulf wars, numbers one and two; the Palestinian intifada;
the Salman Rushdie affair and the Imam's fatwa; the genocide in Bosnia; the war in
Chechnya; all these issues require a response in the tradition of the Prophet (pbuh).

And here is one of the most important contributions of Dr. Kalim to the Islamic
movement. He insisted on the populism of Islam. He saw the ‘political party' style
factions in the Islamic Movement as a throwback, a legacy of the colonialists, and an
obstacle to the popular and the grass-roots mobilization of the Ummah. In the same
manner that the nation-state served as a fragmenting agent of the Ummah at the political
and military levels, the "Islamic party" serves as fragmenting agent at the ideological and
the revolutionary level of the Ummah. Dr. Kalim states in many of his writings that the
level of change that is required in this Ummah from its present pathetic state to the robust
condition of a total Islamic transformation can only be accomplished by the all-out
mobilization of the Muslim masses from continent to continent and from ocean to ocean.
Nothing short of such a genuinely global movement will be able to anchor the new
Islamic reality into the Muslim hemisphere of the world. A glimpse of the possibilities
presented to us in the mobilization of the masses of Iran in their opposition to the Shah
and his cronies. That proved that once a Muslim people are on the march, no force is able
to defeat them. Dr. Kalim believed fervently in the mobilization of the Ummah. To that
end, he held regular conferences and seminars in London where he would assemble the
heart-beat of the Muslim world through the convergence of all the pace-setters and the
foot-soldiers of the global Islamic movement. At these meetings Dr. Kalim would
articulate the Ummah's inner-most thoughts, its fears and frustrations, its hopes and
expectations. These conferences proved that the Ummah had a commonality that
superseded its nationalisms, its racialisms, and its nation-state superficialities.

Not only was Dr. Kalim opposed to the Western paradigm in its mental and ideological
structure and trappings, he also was averse to its cosmetic facades. The comparison
between the mujahideen who brought their heart-felt issues to London without any
fanfare or extravagance, and the jet-set Islamicists who routinely massage their egos at
plush venues, could hardly be greater. In Dr. Kalim's words:

Many senior members of such Islamic parties and movements are today earning fat
salaries in the service of the Saudi King and the Sheikhdoms of the Gulf. During the hot
summer of those regions these worthy sons of Islam can be seen serving Islam in Europe
and North America while on holiday on full pay. Islam and the Islamic movement have
been reduced to a holiday activity to be pursued at no personal cost. Some professionals
also find a little Islamic work a useful appendage in their careers in, for instance, law, and
medicine, and business. Man Muslim millionaires have acquired formidable reputations
for their 'love of Islam' through well- placed and suitably publicized patronage of 'Islamic
work'. [5]

Dr Kalim Siddiqui, like few other sons of Islam saw the realities of such kufr heads of
state: that rather than being courted, they should be put in court and held responsible for
their misdeeds. The Prophet of Allah (PBUH) when he sent letters to the kings of Egypt,
Abyssinia, Byzantium, and Persia did not do so from a position of "let's strike a deal." He
never entertained the idea that the Islamic movement has the popularity, and the rulers
have the capital, so something can be worked out! In simple terms, Allah is the source of
support for the Islamic movement and the taghoots have no such source of support, so
there can be no sort of compromise in dealing with officials in the highest offices.

In Dr. Kalim's own words:


The Islamic movement is the traditional instrument of change. It is not a political
movement with a manifesto written by a committee or with an ideology strung together
by a motley collection of philosophers, historians, dreamers and activists. The Islamic
movement, in its purest form, is the manifestation of the Divine Will. As such, the first
complete Islamic movement was none other than the movement which was led by the
Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, in the Arabian peninsula just 1400 years ago.
The primary roots of the Islamic movement, therefore, go back to the Prophet's
movement and the Islamic State in Madinah. The labyrinth of secondary roots is spread
throughout Islamic history and deeply embedded in the political culture of the Muslims."
[6]

It thus becomes problematic to see leaders of the Islamic movement today departing from
the Prophet's precedents in dealing with heads of state. When the Prophet did correspond
with the heads of state of his time he did so in fulfilment of the ayah:

"Say: 'O followers of earlier revelation! Come unto that tenet which we and you hold in
common: that we shall conform unto none but Allah, and that we shall not ascribe
divinity to aught beside Him, and that we shall not take human beings for our lords
besides Allah." (Al-Qur'an 3:64.)

The Qur'anic address is calm but also direct and clear. There is no element of
appeasement and no notion of inferiority. Thus should be the manner in which we
address these heads of state. [7]

Another area that distinguished Dr. Kalim was his consolidation of the Muslim Ummah,
particular in view of the historical divergence of the Sunni and the Shi'i schools of
thought. The Prophet (pbuh) says: "A Muslim to a Muslim is like a structure; one part
reinforces the other part." Dr. Kalim scrutinized the historical development of the Muslim
Ummah and found that both schools of thought had their deficiencies and their merits. He
is one of the few Muslim scholars who could speak his mind publicly and vividly on
issues often deemed to be too sensitive to breach. Not only did he have the courage to
state that the Sunni ulama were lax in their relationships or their understanding critique of
the post-khilafah regimes, but he also stated that the Shi'i ulama were mistaken in their
withdrawal from the process of checking political deviation after the disappearance of the
twelfth Imam.

The late Dr. Kalim Siddiqui elevated the central idea of the Prophet's Sunnah.
Throughout his writings he endeavored to have the Muslims see the Sunnah as it relates
to the power structure around in the society of Madinah, in the growing force of Islam in
the Arabian peninsula and in the expansion of the initial Islamic authority into the four
corners of the earth. The Prophet (PBUH) made decisions to go to war; this decision is a
Sunnah. The Prophet dispatched military expeditions; this decision is a Sunnah. The
Prophet appointed military commanders; this is a Sunnah. The Prophet wore military gear
and personally participated in wars and battles; this is a Sunnah. The Prophet concluded
political and military agreements and arrangements; this is a Sunnah. The Prophet
gathered intelligence information about military build-ups and movements; this is a
Sunnah; etc... When we read Dr. Kalim and understand his scope of analysis, we make a
qualitative transfer from the personalized Sunnah to the Sunnah of the jama'at, from the
traditional and dormant understanding of Sunnah to the forward and active reasoning of
Sunnah. To make this leap requires unconditional confidence in Allah, with no strings
attached. Here is where Dr. Kalim always had a healthy and an optimistic vision of the
future. Nothing could deter him from seeing the inevitability of the Islamic State of the
future. Even when many self-styled Islamicists were abandoning this tawakkul (reliance
upon Allah) and reaching some modus operandi with nation-state governments, Dr.
Kalim never, for one moment, lost hope.

When the people who are supposed to be supportive of you begin to abandon the cause,
you naturally feel frustrated and dejected. The Prophets of Allah, humans as they are,
reached a point of inquiring about Allah's succour and support. They begin to entertain
the notion that "all is not well," and this cause may become a lost cause.

"[All the earlier apostles had to suffer persecution for a long time:] but at last -- when
those apostles had lost all hope and saw themselves branded as liars -- Our succour
attained to them: whereupon everyone whom We willed [to be saved] was saved [and the
deniers of the truth were destroyed]: for, never can Our punishment be averted from
people who are lost in sin." (Al-Qur'an 12:110.)

At this juncture in time the Islamic Revolution in Iran, under the able leadership of Imam
Khomeini, was literally a Godsend. It broke through the barriers of kufr and oppression,
and it galvanized the Muslim Ummah by declaring "neither East nor West, neither Sunni
nor Shi'i". It stirred the aspirations and the ambitions of all faithful and untainted
Muslims. It also enables the thinking Muslims to see the current position of the Ummah
on its long course to Allah.

While petty scholars were busy digging up historical and fiqhi issues to divide the House
of Islam, and to isolate Imam Khomeini and the line of the Imam, when Saudi Arabia was
financing every effort to tarnish and discredit the Islamic Revolution in Iran, based on
such flimsy accusations as to the validity of a Shi'i's wudu (prayer cleansing), or to the
way that Shi'is pray, Dr. Kalim could see past these minor differences to examine the life
and death issues the time. For the first time, the contemporary forces of kufr, represented
by the West, were putting aside their own differences -- in particular, their division into
capitalist and communist camps -- to come together to kill the will of the Muslims to
implement their Islamic political and ideological preferences.

In his support of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Dr. Kalim was not as gullible as to give it
a blanket statement of approval. Allah requires us to be honest and truthful in expressing
ourselves. Even when the world is at war with a part of the Ummah we are not allowed to
disregard the truth.

"O You who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to Allah, bearing
witness to the truth in all equity." (Al-Qur'an 5:8.)
For that reason Dr. Kalim, and only Dr. Kalim in the Sunni context, as far as we are
aware, took the whole issue of the Islamic Revolution and wilayat-e-faqih to its historical
origins. He researched and investigated the Shi'i tradition and scholarship, and traced the
changing understanding of the role of ulama from the Akhbaris to the Usulis, and how
this intellectual background provided the basis for Imam Khomeini's ijtihad on the
possibility of having a legitimate Islamic government in the absence of Imam Mehdi. He
also pointed out that not all Shi'i ulama agree with the concept of wilayat al-faqih. [8]

After explaining the process by which Islam developed into Shi'i and Sunni schools of
thought and how both accrued their own peculiar errors, deviations, corrections, and then
convergence into what is or what is becoming an Islamic revolution and then an Islamic
State, Dr. Kalim has this to say about the Islamic State in Iran:

The validity of the newly expanded base of our knowledge will remain uncertain and
problematic unless it is demonstrated that the historical sequence from which it is derived
is repeatable. Historical sequences are repeatable over long periods of time. Thus, if the
Islamic Revolution in Iran has not been followed by another revolution within a decade
or two in any other part of the Ummah, it may not necessarily mean that the first Islamic
Revolution's validity is in doubt. However, if another fifty or a hundred years pass
without evidence of repeatability, then the validity of the historical sequence achieved in
Iran would begin to lose its wider relevance. Similarly, if the accretion of new knowledge
from the process of correction and convergence remains confined to the Shi'i school and
does not become relevant to all schools of thought in Islam, then the process may also
lose its wider relevance. The failure to repeat itself outside Iran, or failure to attract wider
acceptance in the other schools of thought in Islam, may also suggest that the process of
correction and convergence is in some respects incomplete. Should this be the case, new
evidence of unacceptable results will accumulate. However, if predictable and desirable
results begin to emerge in other parts of the Ummah, then the validity of the process of
correction and convergence will have been established. [9]

This concern for the cohesion of the Muslim Ummah from its formative years with all its
"ups and downs," with all its residual intrigues was characteristic of a man of Allah. It is
very easy to extol the virtues of some great Islamic personality in history, it is also
relatively unchallenging to pronounce platitudes about the theoretical solidarity of the
Muslim Ummah, but when the time comes to stand by this Ummah, defending any part of
it that is under attack from the forces of kufr and at the same time working out the
modalities of integrating its segments into one body of a solid rank and file, then only
few meet this challenge, and certainly the late Dr. Kalim is one of those few.

We have heard oft-repeated the ayah:

"Verily, [O you who believe in Me,] this community of yours is one single community,
since I am the Sustainer of you all: conform [comply, observe, obey] Me [alone]!" (Al-
Qur'an 21:92.)

It is also effortless to quote the well-known hadith:


"Committed Muslims in their mutual affection, fondness of each other, and attachment to
each other are like one single body, if one part of that body aches and pains the rest of the
body will respond with care and solicitude."

How many of the calibre of Dr. Kalim showed this type of concern and tenderness for the
Ummah? He did not busy himself with empty slogans; he pressed on with the hard task of
consolidating this Ummah and defending it at times of duress. Much to the chagrin of the
kufr forces the Muslims closed ranks behind their beleaguered brothers in all parts of the
Ummah. To a certain degree it was the undaunted determination of Dr. Kalim and his
likes who saw the cohesion of the Muslim Ummah not only possible but imminent.

The similarities between the initial pulse in the Prophet's day and age is akin to our
momentum in our day and age. And if the Prophet's method is practical and functional
then what we need is to get on with the unfinished business of history. Islam is Islam,
kufr is kufr, humans are humans, and those who place their trust in Allah shall emerge
victorious at the end of the day, be they in the Arabian peninsula or in the Indonesian
archipelago or in the continent of Atlantis! In Dr Kalim's words:

The position that has to be taken now, and only the Islamic movement can take it, is that
the western civilization is in fact a plague and a pestilence. It is no civilization at all. It is
a disease. It feeds upon itself to its own detriment. The west today is qualitatively no
different from the jahiliyyah, the primitive savagery and ignorance, that prevailed in
Arabia and the rest of the world at the time of the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be
peace. That jahiliyyah also called itself a 'civilization'; it had its 'values', it had its centres
of knowledge and gave education to its children. It was strong in its trading relations and
had a rich culture. The people of Makkah were renowned for their hospitality and poetry,
and other forms of art also thrived there and elsewhere. That jahiliyyah even had its
'gods'.

In that setting Islam came as the instrument of change, indeed of transformation. Islam
was not revealed to the Prophet in the seclusion of a monastery. Revelation forms only a
part of Islam and consists of the actual words of the Qur'an. The rest of Islam is the actual
method of change applied by the Prophet, upon whom be peace, and the Islamic
movement that he led. This is known as the Seerah (life) of the Prophet, and the Sunnah
(everything the Prophet said, did, caused to be done, allowed to be done, and ordered to
be done). The Islamic movement that the Prophet led also included all those who
accepted Islam: a handful in Makkah, then the many thousands in Madinah, and finally
almost the entire population of the peninsula. The Qur'an called for the total commitment
and participation of Muslims with all their resources in the struggle of the Islamic
movement (Al-Qur'an 2:208; 3:142; 8:74; 9:16; 111). [10]

Comparing Dr. Kalim with many of the high-profile activists and scholars of our time,
one is reminded of the ayaat in the Qur'an:

"Do you, perchance, regard the [mere] giving of water to pilgrims and the tending of the
Inviolable House of Worship as being equal to [the works of] one who is committed to
Allah and the Last Day and strives hard in Allah's cause? These [things] are not equal in
the sight of Allah. And Allah does not grace with His guidance people who [deliberately]
do wrong.

"Those who are committed, and who have forsaken the domain of evil and have striven
hard in Allah's cause with their possessions and their lives have the highest rank in the
sight of Allah; and it is they, they who shall triumph [in the end]!

"Their Sustainer gives them the glad tiding of the grace [that flows] from Him, and of
[His] goodly acceptance, and of the gardens which await them, full of lasting bliss,
therein to abide beyond the count of time. Verily, with Allah is a mighty reward!" (Al-
Qur'an 9:19-22.)

Of course, giving water to pilgrims and tending to the Holy Sanctuary in Makkah is to be
rewarded by Allah, but that reward will be little compared to what Allah will give to
those who are committed to Him and struggle with determination for His cause.
Likewise, those da'is who expend one word here and one admonition there will be
rewarded by Allah. But their reward shall pale in comparison with what Allah has in store
for those, like brother Kalim, (and we can vouch for no one), who constantly and
tirelessly struggled and argued, who confronted and contended, for Allah. His is the
portion of the ayah above.

Dr. Kalim was a combatant. He did his fighting in the world of ideas where Muslims
have become most vulnerable. He stood at the front line of the ideological frontiers of
Islam, he brandished his pen and he fought the mental invasion of kufr valiantly and
heroically. He showed no signs of retreating from that position until the last moment of
his life. His ink was truly equivalent to the blood of the martyrs. At that front line
position he showed the rest of us how to be when we confront the bogus and spurious
forces of kufr.

Dr. Kalim did not vacate that position under threats from the external enemies of Islam;
he did not vacate that position for the lucrative incentives offered by the internal enemies
of Islam. He was not satisfied with watching the assault on this Ummah from all
directions. He had to speak out when almost everyone else was silent or passive in this
global and titanic clash of civilizations.

Dr. Kalim was the embodiment of the Prophet's words: "The best jihad is the word of
truth in the face of tyrannical authority."

Dr. Kalim you have left a void that will prove difficult to fill, but do not fear. We shall
move up to that front line position and display the words of truth. It is the Sunnah and the
Seerah of the Prophet that will motivate us to go forward.

Dr Kalim, you were always radiating with optimism and confidence. We encounter that
poise and enthusiasm in our mutual exemplar, the Prophet of Allah, Muhammad the final
Prophet, upon whom be peace.
Rest assured that this Ummah will honor all the mujahids who walked in the footsteps of
the Prophet. You have joined that auspicious caravan, and with Allah's help we will also
join it.

"[Such as] these will be rewarded for all their patient endurance [in life] with a high
station [in paradise], and will be met therein with a greeting of welcome and peace,
therein to abide: [and] how splendid an abode and [how high] a station!" (Al-Qur'an
25:75.)

Notes

1. Kalim Siddiqui, ‘Political Thought and Behaviour of Muslims Under


Colonialism', in Zafar Bangash (ed), In Pursuit of the Power of Islam: major
writings of Kalim Siddiqui, London and Toronto: The Open Press, 1996, p. 267.
This was the keynote paper presented by Dr Kalim Siddiqui at the Muslim
Institute seminar on ‘Muslim Political Thought during the Colonial Period',
London: August 6-9, 1986. - (Back to text.)
2. Ibid., p. 268.- (Back to text.)
3. Kalim Siddiqui, ‘Integration and Disintegration in the Politics of Islam and Kufr',
in Zafar Bangash (ed), In Pursuit of the Power of Islam: major writings of Kalim
Siddiqui, London and Toronto: The Open Press, 1996, p. 199. This was the
keynote paper presented by Dr Kalim Siddiqui at the Muslim Institute seminar on
‘State and Politics in Islam' in London in August 1983. - (Back to text.)
4. Kalim Siddiqui, ‘Nation-States as obstacles to the total transformation of the
Ummah', in Zafar Bangash (ed), In Pursuit of the Power of Islam: major writings
of Kalim Siddiqui, London and Toronto: The Open Press, 1996, p. 267. This was
the keynote paper presented by Dr Kalim Siddiqui at the Muslim Institute's World
Seminar on ‘The Impact of Nationalism on the Ummah', London, July 31-August
3, 1985. - (Back to text.)
5. Kalim Siddiqui, ‘The Islamic movement: setting out to change the world again',in
Zafar Bangash (ed), In Pursuit of the Power of Islam: major writings of Kalim
Siddiqui, London and Toronto: The Open Press, 1996, p. 159. This paper was
written in 1982 and published as the introduction to Kalim Siddiqui (ed), Issues in
the Islamic Movement 1980-81, London and Toronto: The Open Press, 1982.-
(Back to text.)
6. Ibid., p. 142. - (Back to text.)
7. See Dr. Kalim's letter to British prime minister John Major in March 1996,
written in his capacity as Leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain. This
letter is reprinted in A Life in the Islamic Movement: Kalim Siddiqui 1931-96,
London: The Muslim Institute, 1996.- (Back to text.)
8. After the late Imam Khomeini passed away (May the Mercy-giving rest his
blessed soul in eternal peace) we no longer hear or read much about wilayat-e-
faqih. This has an ominous ring to it; because it would indicate that the internal
Shi'i opposition to the concept have gained a strong foothold within the
administrative structure of the Islamic State in Iran. Or it would indicate that the
supporters of the concept are so vulnerable vis-a-vis the opponents that they dare
not dwell on this "controversial" or this "heretical" concept!- (Back to text.)
9. Kalim Siddiqui, ‘Processes of error, deviation, correction and convergence in
Muslim political thought' in Stages of Islamic Revolution, London and Toronto:
The Open Press, 1996, p. 126. This paper is also published in Zafar Bangash (ed),
In Pursuit of the Power of Islam: major writings of Kalim Siddiqui, London and
Toronto: The Open Press, 1996, and on-line on the website of the ICIT
(www.islamicthought.org/pp-ks-processes.html). - (Back to text.)
10. Kalim Siddiqui, ‘The Islamic movement: setting out to change the world again',
op. cit., p. 144.- (Back to text.)

About this paper

This paper was presented by Imam Muhammad al-Asi at the ‘Dr Kalim Siddiqui
Memorial Conference' convened by the Muslim Institute for Research and Planning and
the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain in London on November 3, 1996. - (Back to top.)
A Straightforward Prophet, yet a
zigzagging Islamic movement
The Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought convened a conference on the Seerah in Toronto last
month, in association with Crescent International. Here we present the paper presented by IMAM
MOHAMMAD AL-ASI.

Muslims around the world recite wonderful ayaat of the Qur’an in beautiful voices.
Almost every khutba, lecture and speech refers to Allah’s Prophet (saw). The Qur’an
itself became a human reality via the life of this dearest Prophet. There are in the Qur’an
ayaat that refer directly to Muhammad (saw) as a hero and a model for emulation:
"Verily, in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent exemplar for everyone who
looks forward [with hope and awe] to Allah and the Last Day, and is continuously
conscious of Allah." (33:21)

As a superb model of human behavior the Prophet has dwelt in the thoughts and feelings
of billions of Muslims, over fourteen centuries of time, and in the worlds of humans and
jinn. The emotional attachment to Muhammad (saw) is beyond question, but the mental
affinity with him leaves a lot to be desired. Candidly speaking, few of us have made the
effort required to understand the statesman Prophet, or the ideological Prophet, or the
military Prophet. We seem to be content with having the spiritual Prophet, or the moral
Prophet, or the "religious" Prophet. This, in a nutshell, is where we have failed him. We
can understand the western mind wandering as it developed secular definitions of life,
existence and God. We do not agree with it, but we can understand how it happened. But
if we look at ourselves, how can we explain our secularization of Allah’s Prophet? What,
in these fourteen centuries since his hijrah, can explain our reducing the Sunnah to
culinary, hygiene and other personal matters? Where is the Prophet who struggled in
Makkah for thirteen years, enduring persecution, humiliation, the torture of scores of
followers, abandonment, social estrangement, economic sanctions against his nascent
community, and finally the attempts of the mushriks of Makkah to assassinate him?

The Muslim mind has still not sorted out this delicate and vital issue. The consequences
of this failure are growing numbers of victims who are socially dislocated, politically
alienated, and economically oppressed. This cannot go on forever. We must begin to
follow our Prophet not only in pious sentiments in our speeches and sermons, but by
emulating his Seerah, particularly his jihad, in our actions. The humble object of this
paper is to look at the illuminating character of Rasul-Allah (saw) in what may be one of
his most outstanding and persevering objectives.

Did the Prophet Begin With Rituals or Ideology?

All Muslims know that the first individuals to respond to and accept Muhammad (saw) as
Allah’s messenger and Prophet were his wife Khadijah, his cousin ‘Ali, his adopted son
(mawla) Zaid, and his friend Abu-Bakr. But what do we mean when we say that these
people accepted his message? What was his message at that time? Was he telling
everyone to pray? How to perform their ritual bathing (ghusl)? Or was he presenting
them with another set of obligations?

I think it is clear that at that stage there were no ritual requirements of salah, zakah,
sawm, and hajj as we understand them today. Allah’s Prophet, our model of emulation,
was not asking people to become ritualistic Muslims. These rituals were institutionalized
just before or after the Hijrah to Madinah. For more than ten full years, therefore,
Muhammad (saw) was trying to communicate something to his society, they were in
denial and up in arms against it, and it most definitely was not the rituals of Islam. The
point is, of course, that the Prophet was soliciting individual commitment to social
transformation. He was appealing for an eventual elimination of the socio-economic
status quo in favor of a new socio-economic order based on the revelation that he was
receiving from Allah swt. The process was summarised by the Muslims’ article of faith,
or declaration of allegiance, which places Allah as the only divine authority and
authoritative divinity that man has, and Muhammad (saw) as the one who is His
messenger, who is communicating and explaining this truth.

When Muhammad (saw) began this struggle of a lifetime he began, like all other prophets
before him, by touching on the social and interpersonal relationships that tied him for
forty years with the individuals and peoples among whom he was born, by whom he was
raised, and with whom he resided. Once his divine mission began, we observe that
relatively few people committed themselves, their lives, and their resources to him and
his Qur’anic message. The vast majority of Makkah’s occupants rejected and opposed
him.

In these years, the close circle of committed Muslims around the Prophet had to conceal
the fact that they had broken with their society as far as its economic, military, political
and social character was concerned. Even Abu-Bakr, a leader of sorts among his own
clan because of his experience and seniority, and well-respected and very well-known by
the Makkan elite, had to hide his new allegiance. Over the years, other Makkans became
Muslims; people such as Talhah ibn ‘Ubaidillah, Sa’d ibn Abi-Waqqas, ‘Abd al-Rahman
ibn ‘Awf, al-Zubair ibn al-’Awwam, and ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, as well as ‘Uthman ibn
Madh’un, al-Arqam ibn Abi al-Arqam, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abd al-Asad (Abu-Salamah), and
‘Amir ibn al-Jarrah (Abu-‘Ubaidah). Probably no more than two hundred individuals in
Makkah made the transition from shirk to Islam, but as their numbers increased
opposition to them increased sharply.

The Prophet (saw) is reported at the beginning of his da’wah to have gone from house to
house trying to explain the necessity of yielding to Allah and to no other earthly
authorities. He was able to do this without arousing hostility because of his honorable
reputation in the community. His message was to conform to Allah and obey Him, rather
than merely "worshipping" Him. Once individuals were convinced of this message, they
were admitted to a consolidated body of people. This Islamic ideological fermentation
was not nurtured in a masjid; there were no masjids in Makkah, and they did not build
one. There was, however, a meeting place, called Dar al-Arqam ibn Abi al-Arqam, where
the Prophet would infuse the Muslims with the meanings of the ayaat of the Qur’an that
had been revealed so far. There Muslims would ponder the meanings and implications of
the Qur’an. This gathering place was a retreat where this ideological core felt closer to
Allah and His Prophet, as pressure on them was increased by the mushriks of Makkah’s
elite. They continued to meet there secretly until Allah gave the instructions that opened a
new chapter in Muslim-mushrik relations in Makkah: "Hence, go public with all that you
have been instructed [to say], and avert the mushriks." (15:94)

It was no secret that Muhammad (saw) had set out on a divine mission to change the way
people related to each other, and to Allah; that was the most important aspect of his
struggle. At the core of this preaching was a new deen (way of life and existence) in
which humanity and divinity are related. He knew that this would require a consolidated
human, with all the Muslims working on a new order for the social dynamics and
behavioral patterns of man on earth. The Makkan mushriks were sharply aware of this
danger to the status quo and to their privileges. They did not want anyone–least of all a
prophet–disturbing their lucrative trades, their slave-markets, and the beliefs that
sanctioned these exploitations.

It should be noted that Allah’s Prophet (saw) did not invite kuffar to Islam. The average
Makkan was just an ordinary person who might have doubts about certain social issues,
or who might agree with some things and disagree with other things, and was otherwise
trying to make it from day to day for himself and his family. These were people whom
the Prophet came to enlighten. Before the Prophet presented them with Islam, they were
not kuffar; it was only after they rejected him and Allah that they became guilty of kufr
and shirk. And even then the gates of repentance were open to them.

When the ideas of Islam combined with a growing number of adherents, the Makkan
elites felt acutely threatened. It was an existential threat that had nothing to do with the
way Muslims performed their rituals. At this point what began as an explanation of Islam
became a clash of convictions and ideas. From this point on, the relationship between the
emerging Muslims in Makkah and the ruling mushrik elite became a struggle between
ideas, inspirations and interests divided by the eternal fault-line between Islam and kufr.

The pressure on Allah’s Prophet (saw) intensified dramatically, but he did not alter his
position. This patient and steadfast endurance of pain and hostility has come to be viewed
as the most important sunnah he has bequeathed his ummah, while his social behavior,
plan of action, and his elaborate and systematic campaigns against the well-entrenched
pre-Islamic institutions and forces go unnoticed and barely mentioned by many sincere
but shortsighted Muslim activists. The Prophet was ridiculed by society’s upper social,
economic and intellectual classes, while the Quraish tried to ignore him altogether,
hoping that by dismissing him they could prevent him from gaining any ground. One of
the derogatory comments they made about Muhammad (saw) whenever he passed by
them in their gatherings and meetings was: "O here comes the [grand] son of ‘Abd al-
Mutallib, who says the heavens are speaking to him!" This was the situation the Prophet
faced; every response he made is a feature of the character and quality that we Muslims
have to acquire to live up to his example.
In the first instance, the Prophet said something which upset Makkah’s prominent people
so much that they had to react with comments of this nature. Not that he intended to
aggravate them, but that his words of truth and justice by their very nature disturbed
Makkah’s high society; and this example is a central part of the Sunnah and Seerah. In
the second instance, the Prophet himself had to bear the consequences of the wrath of
these elites and those that they controlled. This forbearance and the human effort to
counter the pressure, without compromising on the truths we have to state, is a sunnah
and part of the Seerah. We have to continue to function normally in society when its
power elites are trying to break us. How we go about defending ourselves against the
pressures coming from the society and its officialdom is a sunnah and part of the Seerah.
This is precisely the area that we have not developed for lack of knowledge or experience
(or both).

The rationale for leaving Makkah vs. the principle of liberating it

It is not difficult to think of reasons why Muhammad (saw) might have left Makkah
during those difficult times. It would have been entirely natural and understandable for
him to have sought ‘greener pastures.’ But he did not. Instead he insisted on continuing
his work in Makkah. The mushriks demanded he perform miracles, saying that if you are
truly a prophet then why can’t you turn al-Safa and al-Marwah into gold? They asked
him show them a written book coming down from heaven. Yet the more they mocked
him, the more he strove to proclaim the truth, to assail their graven images, and to expose
their ‘men of religion’.

If for nothing else, the Prophet (saw) would have had common sense on his side if he had
left Makkah because of his treatment, and that of his companions. The family of Yaser
bin Ammar, for example, were subjected to appalling torture to make them renounce
Islam, but they refused to do so. They had gained a grounded understanding of the
Seerah–the more they were hurt and abused the more they stood up for their iman and
Islam. This Quraishi policy of persecution would have been enough by itself to refocus
the whole Islamic effort on another city or another region.

Then there were the rumors and propaganda. Makkah was full of Quraishi slanders
against Muhammad (saw) and his followers. The Arabian peninsula echoed with false
information about Muhammad and the Muslims, which reached even beyond Arabia into
Africa and other places. The crescendo of anti-Muhammad misinformation reached its
peak during the annual hajj, when people came to Makkah from all over the peninsula.
The patricians of Makkah met with al-Walid ibn al-Mughirah, a clan chieftain, to discuss
how to discredit Muhammad at this time. Some suggested that Muhammad be presented
as a type of cleric, but al-Walid replied that Muhammad does not speak the language of
clerics. Some suggested that Muhammad be pronounced a madman; al-Walid rejected
this because there was nothing about Muhammad to suggest that he was irrational or
insane. Others thought to accuse him of being a sorcerer; but al-Walid turned that down
because there was no evidence for it. They finally decided to say that Muhammad (saw)
speaks spell-binding words, and accordingly accused him of being some kind of
wordsmith with the ability to hypnotize individuals, break up marriages and ruin families.
Makkah was on the desert fringe of two civilizations, the Persians and the Byzantines, so
the Quraish tried to assert that somehow Muhammad was being taught by a Christian
young man by the name of Jabr. This information circulated so widely that it was
answered by Allah swt. Thus was revealed the ayah: " And, indeed, full well do We know
that they say ‘It is but a human being that imparts [all] this to him [Muhammad]!–
[notwithstanding that] the language of him to whom they maliciously point is clearly
foreign, whereas this is Arabic speech, clear [in itself] and distinctly showing the truth [of
its source]." (16:103)

By this approach, the Makkan elites were saying in effect that Muhammad no longer
belongs in Makkah–the words that he is preaching come from alien sources and he is
more attached to those "alien sources" than he is to his culture, his mother tongue and his
ancestral religion. Yet still the Prophet of Allah (saw) did not think about changing
Islam’s center of gravity from Makkah to some other place.The Quraish, the power-
brokers of Makkah, did not give up on trying to force Muhammad (saw) out of Makkah,
short of confronting him with lethal force. Next they tried to ostracise him (saw) and his
kin. The powers in Makkah agreed to isolate Muhammad (saw), and the clans of Bani
Hashim, and Bani ‘Abd al-Muttalib. This meant that no one was allowed to trade with
them or to inter-marry with them. An official document to this effect was posted in the
Ka’bah. The Quraish and its coalition thought that this internal exile closing Muhammad
and his relatives from Makkan life would be more effective than their earlier strategies.
This situation continued for between two and three years. The Quraish expected that the
Prophet’s clansfolk would begin to distance themselves from him, and even that some
Muslims would renounce their Islam. And finally Muhammad would be alone, detached
and unattended.

And still the Prophet (saw) did not cave in. He still did not think of moving, relocating
the seat of Islam from Makkah to some other base. He emerged from all these challenges
with greater determination to liberate Makkah. The news about this economic boycott
and social ban spread throughout Arabia, and people who might otherwise have been
indifferent began to realize that there is something special about Muhammad.

How did the Prophet and his followers and folk respond to this internal black-listing?
They took refuge in an area on the outskirts of Makkah, and suffered the pains of
starvation, deprivation and all the difficulties of want and loss. At times they could not
find food to satisfy their hunger. These Muslims were not permitted even to speak to
other people. The only exception was during the sanctified months (al-Ash-hur al-
Hurum), when the Prophet (saw) would go to the Ka’bah and tell Arabs from outside
Makkah of the meanings of Islam. These restrictions drew sympathy from other peoples
in Arabia. Some listened to what the Prophet had to say and then responded positively to
his call. Others secretly sent food and water to him and his people. This situation lasted
for about three years before five young men decided that this boycott was ill-conceived
and misguided.

These five young men — Zuhair ibn Abi-Umayah, Hisham ibn ‘Amr, al-Mut’im ibn
‘Adi, Abu al-Bukhtari ibn Hisham, and Zam’ah ibn al-Asad — decided to find a way to
annul the notice posted in the Ka’bah. The following day one of them came to the
Kaëbah and addressed the people there, saying: "O people of Makkah! We eat our food
and we dress up while Banu Hashim are wasting away in the valley on the outskirts of
Makkah, unable to buy or sell! I will not sit still until the noxious boycott-document on
the Ka’bah is torn up." Upon hearing this Abu-Jahl loudly retorted: "You are lying! And
by Allah! It will not be torn up." Then the other four young men came forward to support
what their colleague had said. Abu-Jahl realized that these five together represented a
significant bloc of people in Makkah, and that confrontation with them would cause
serious rifts within Makkah. And so the document was brought down and shredded, and
the Prophet and his people were permitted to return to Makkah. And finally Quraish
realized that nothing is going to stop Muhammad (saw) from expressing Allah’s words
and doing Allah’s will on earth.

The heroic aspects of the Seerah of Allah’s Prophet in these episodes of his life are
overlooked by those who are planning in the Islamic movement at the moment. How is it
possible that people do not see how steadfast and principled Allah’s Prophet’s decisions
were in Makkah? True, there were two attempts to explore other areas for support or
refuge outside Makkah, al-Habashah and al-Ta’if. But these attempts to relieve the
pressure on the persecuted Muslim community in Makkah were no substitute for
liberating Makkah first. Proof of this is that when the Prophet organized an Islamic state
in Madinah, he still concentrated his energies on liberating Makkah. During his ten years
in Madinah, he dispatched military forces, himself participated in military battles, and
waged war to have Makkah and the Ka’bah established as the base of Islamic authority.
What else is there, when Allah says: "Certainly, the first domicile designated for people
is the one that is in Bakkah [Makkah]..." (3:97).

The Muslims’ contemporary action-plans are moving in various directions, as if no one


wants to be bound by this Prophetic model. If there is any political and social element in
the Sunnah that Muhammad (saw) bequeathed us, the liberation of Makkah is central to
it. How can we overlook this most enduring and lifelong sunnah of Rasul-Allah (saw)?
How can we be fooled by self-styled "custodians of the haramain" when these same
custodians are the clients of shaytani and taghuti world powers?

It should be clear by now to all observant Muslims that the liberation of occupied
territories in all the corners of the earth can only be achieved after the liberation of
Makkah. We will not be able to consolidate ourselves when our heart is held captive by
the enemy. Makkah is our heart. We, in the best tradition of our exemplar, Muhammad
(saw), are called upon to set Makkah free. We have no other choice.

The activities that are specific to Makkah are the activities that will mold this ummah
back together. The Hajj, ‘Umrah and Makkah as the qiblah are guaranteed to consolidate
the Muslims if we can free Makkah from the strangulation of rules and regulations that
have rendered it as irrelevant to our social, political and military affairs as Anchorage,
Alaska. The liberation of Makkah in the tenth year of the Hijrah heralded the entrance of
tens of thousands of people into Islam, since which time Islam has worked its way to all
the continents of the world. It was very difficult to get to Makkah, but once that was
accomplished the expansion of Islam was phenomenal.

Palestine occupies a special place in every Muslim’s heart because of al-Quds. Our
wound in Palestine is probably one of the deepest inflicted upon us in the fourteen
hundred years since the Muhammadi liberation of Makkah, because we are painfully
aware that al-Quds was the first qiblah, and that Muhammad (saw) went on a night
journey from Makkah to al-Quds. And that is precisely the point. He did not go from al-
Quds to Makkah on a night journey. The city of origin is Makkah, which is also our
current and final qiblah. Let us get our priorities straight.

The Prophet (saw) had the option of avoiding Makkah and liberating as much land as
possible in Arabia and beyond, before even thinking about a return to Makkah; but he did
not take it. And in his decision to struggle, suffer, fight for Makkah, we perceive the
essence of his immaculate Seerah. We must all pray for the day when this fact dawns on
the Islamic movement and it finally understands its priorities.
The status of Makkah and the dire straits
of the contemporary Ummah
Last month, Crescent International published the paper presented by Imam Muhammad al-Asi at the
ICIT Seerah conference in Toronto on May 10. SHAMA QURESHI, a reader in the UK, is less than
entirely convinced by his argument...

A great deal of what Imam Mohammed al-Asi has said in his paper presented at the
Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought’s Seerah conference in Toronto in May (‘A
straightforward Prophet yet a zigzagging Islamic movement’, Crescent International,
June 1, 2003) is no doubt true enough, but his understanding of the Seerah of Rasool-
Allah (saw) appears too simplistic in some regards.

It may be true that Rasool-Allah’s foreign policy in Madinah was directed ultimately
towards the liberation of Makkah, but it is far from being all he was doing there. In
modern terms, Rasool-Allah (saw) had social, familial and inter-tribal policies; he had
‘interfaith dialogues’ with Jews and Christians (in terms and on terms laid down by the
Qur’an, and without compromise); and he had economic and financial policies, grounded
ultimately on the ethical guidance of the Qur’an. He was doing all this before Makkah
was liberated, without knowing when or in what circumstances that would eventually
happen. Indeed, he was active in Madinah, doing everything that needed doing to
establish Madinah as the first Islamic State, before Makkah even became the qibla of
Islam, never mind being "liberated"; Makkah (or, to be precise, the Ka’aba) did not
become the qibla of salah until about 17 months after the Hijra.

For eight years after the Hijra the Muslims consolidated themselves in Madinah, as
individuals, as families and as a community, in accordance with the Qur’an’s hidayah
(guidance), despite the fact that Makkah was in the hands of Quraish, and in the
strangulation of rules, regulations and superstitions pertaining to idolatry. Likewise in
Makkah before the Hijra, the Muslims had established themselves as an ummah and an
ikhwah (brotherhood) without any territory at all apart from their own homes and Dar al-
Arqam. They did this by freeing their thoughts, ideas, attitudes, feelings, habits,
priorities, deeds and abstentions from the domination, colonisation and contamination of
kufr, shirk, custom, worries about "what will other people say?" and so on; they did it by
shaping their dealings with each other, their families, neighbours and trading-partners,
non-Muslim and Muslim alike, according to the word and spirit of the Qur’an and the
practical example of Rasool-Allah (saw), even with no territory to call their own except
for the ground under their feet. They did it even before they had any inkling of where the
future would take them, or of what would happen, or of what Allah would require of
them, or of whether or they would ever be "free" or free of persecution.

Imam al-Asi suggests that "it should be clear by now to all observant Muslims that the
liberation of occupied territories in all the corners of the earth can only be achieved after
the liberation of Makkah." In fact, Yathrib (as Madinah was known before the Hijra) was
liberated before Makkah, by Muslims who had liberated themselves of their un-Islamic
culture, customs and attitudes. It seems to me that Rasool-Allah (saw) tried to liberate
Makkah by liberating its rulers (the heads and other influential men of the clans of
Quraish) until it became clear that it was impossible to liberate Makkah in that way. Then
he was willing to go wherever Allah ta’ala sent him, and liberate some other land or
lands as a preliminary to the liberation of Makkah. Makkah is indeed the centre of Islam
and the Ummah, but not in the sense that we have to be tethered to it as a goat is tethered
by a rope or a chain to a post in the ground. Islam is a universal deen: in principle it
should be possible for us to live it, practise it and enjoin it anywhere, at any time, because
"Allah’s are whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth" (Q. 2:284,
3:109, 4:126 and many other ayaat).

Surely it is not acceptable that we should so particularise the deen that it becomes a
geographically bound and limited phenomenon. Yes, Makkah, the Ka’aba and their
environs (Safa, Marwa, Arafat, Muzdalifa, the miqats etc.) are the stage of the Hajj and
‘umrah: but they are primarily the qibla from any distance away. The primacy of
Makkah’s being the qibla of salah over its being the venue of Hajj is suggested by the
fact that salah is for all Muslims, all the time, whereas Hajj is only fard (obligatory) upon
those who can afford it. Makkah is the qibla of all Muslims, and it is clear that Makkah
can be the qibla of our salah and other sujud regardless of our physical distance from it,
and regardless of its own political status; remember, Rasool-Allah (saw) and the
Companions (ra) offered salah facing a non-liberated Makkah for about seven years.

So, in fact, Rasool-Allah (saw) and his Companions (ra) were willing and able to live
fully Muslim lives anywhere, giving up their homelands and kindred if necessary to go
any distance in the wholehearted service of God (Sayyidina Salman ra, for instance,
came to Yathrib, several years before the Hijra, all the way from a village near Isfahan,
Iran, looking for a truth and a cause to cleave to). Their real victory was that they
liberated themselves, their families and their societies from the dhulumat of unIslamic
ideas, attitudes, feelings, customs: Makkah, the Hijaz and all the other lands that came
into the Muslims’ hands did so as a natural consequence of their winning their fight
against themselves, and against the shayatin and the taghut of various sorts by which they
were surrounded.

At the same time, the Muslims were willing to go any distance in the service of Allah and
the Qur’an, and come back to their homelands if the opportunity offered (and if they
could do so without compromise); but they were also willing not to return to Makkah in
their lives if that proved necessary, as it did for those muhajiroon who died or were
martyred between their hijra and the liberation of Makkah. If Allah (swt) had so willed,
their grandchildren or great-grandchildren could have been the first to liberate Makkah
physically, though an element of its liberation was achieved when Allah declared it the
qibla of salah, and another was achieved at Hudaybiyyah when, for the first time since
the Hijra, the state of effective war between Makkah and Madinah ceased.
Although Makkah and the Ka’aba were liberated eight years after the Hijra, and from
then on there was free traffic between Makkah and Madinah, Makkah was never again
"the base of Islamic authority", as Imam al-Asi put it. After the "liberation" of Makkah,
Rasool-Allah (saw) returned to Madinah and remained there. He continued to use it as his
permanent base and his home until he died and, following his example, the khulafa’ al-
rashideen did likewise: none of them ever used Makkah as the capital of the expanding
Islamic state/territory. Even the later khulafa’ of the era of mulukiyyah, when they moved
the capital of Islam from Madinah, did not go to Makkah: they left the Peninsula
altogether for more central and more convenient seats of authority because the territories
of Islam were expanding steadily. Makkah remained the qibla and the venue of Hajj and
‘umrah, but was never the centre of political power.

As an aside we should note that in fact Makkah’s specialness or sacredness seems not to
have saved it or its people from straying or almost straying, even after its liberation.
According to Abu ‘Ubaydah bin al-Jarrah (ra) and some other rawis (narrators, ie.
sources), after the news of the death of Rasool-Allah (saw) became known in Makkah
many of its people were tempted to backslide from Islam, and some actually decided to
do so. The situation was so volatile that Attaab bin Asid, governor of Makkah at the time,
was in such fear that he went into hiding. It was Suhayl bin ‘Amr (ra), one of the
negotiators of Quraish at Hudaybiyyah, who had accepted Islam after the liberation of
Makkah, who controlled the situation and saved Makkah from this humiliation.

It may therefore be argued that, instead of the liberation of Makkah being a pre-requisite
for that of other occupied territories, the liberation of other territories is necessary in
practice, if not in principle, before the liberation of Makkah and its environs is even
possible. As the Muslims of Iran liberated US-dominated, SAVAK-strangulated Pahlavi
Iran, so Muslims elsewhere should be able to liberate their own societies and territories.
Once various areas are controlled by Muslims in the light of the Qur’an and Seerah, the
Muslims of those territories will (insha’Allah) be in a much better position to cooperate
with each other and with Muslims in other lands for a military or economic (or both)
assault on the rest of the "occupied territories" (including the Arabian peninsula), either
simultaneously or one by one.

One advantage of this view of the possible future history of the Ummah is that it is very
flexible. Iran happened to be the first Muslim country to burst its shackles by bringing
about an Islamic Revolution and establishing an Islamic State (to put it in the modern
parlance), but it could as well have been any other Muslim people that did so, instead.
Similarly, it does not matter whether the next Islamic Revolution is in Malaysia, or in
Sudan, or in Nigeria. Another advantage is that no part of the Ummah need be held back
by lack of progress elsewhere: each Muslim people can return independently to the
Qur’an and the Seerah for guidance and inspiration to deal with their particular local
problems and difficulties. So the Muslims in Iran have set up the first Islamic State in the
modern world, and made significant progress in developing and refining their model,
despite lack of progress in this direction by Islamic movements elsewhere. This lack may
have hindered them and made their task more difficult, but it has not prevented them
from achieving whatever they are capable of achieving.
However, these are all large-scale plans, to be implemented by societies and Islamic
movements. This means that they are also necessarily long-term plans, difficult to
organise, initiate and complete in the short scales of individual human lives. The
immediate question before us, therefore, especially before Muslims in the West, is what
we can be doing as Muslim individuals and Muslim families, before or at the same time
as all that is being planned, or is happening slowly, in the Muslim lands.

One factor that we can note is that in some ways the situation of Western Muslims and of
Muslims in Muslim countries is alike: territorially in effect we all have only our homes
and some of our mosques and community centres (the ones that are not controlled by
governments) to work from as Muslims and Islamic activists. The situation of Muslims in
Muslim countries is not qualitatively different from that of Muslims in the West in this
regard; in all Muslim countries at the moment (except Islamic Iran) all political and
military power, and almost all financial and economic power, is effectively in the hands
of the enemies of Allah, Rasool-Allah (saw) and the Qur’an. This means that in some
ways our situation is comparable to that of the Muslims in Makkah before the Hijra.

However, it must be clearly understood that there are also significant differences between
our situation and the pre-Hijra situation of Muslims in Makkah. We have access to all of
the Qur’an, and all of the Seerah and ahadith; ie. to all the experiences and history of the
prototypical Qur’anic generation, whereas in Makkah before the Hijra the Muslims did
not know in advance what the long-terms aims of Islam were, or what Allah and the
Qur’an would require of them next year or next decade; they had committed themselves
to obedience and submission without any detailed idea of the nature of the commands
that would be laid on them, such was their trust in Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saw).

Unfortunately many Muslims (especially in the West) are tempted to take this limited
similarity between our modern situation and the pre-Hijra situation as a licence to carry
on doing what they are doing now: stand or sit back, get on with their lives, and do as
little for Allah (swt), His Messenger (saw), the Qur’an and themselves as they imagine
that the Muslims did in Makkah before the Hijra. This extremely naive and simplistic
reading of the pre-Hijra Seerah and Sunnah must be jettisoned if we are ever to get
anywhere as an Ummah and an ikhwah; if we are to avoid being merely and only "froth
upon the water", in the words of one famous hadith, for the foreseeable future. This
ignorant, shortsighted and expedient reading of the Seerah has in the past been used to try
to justify worldly, westernised, career-seeking, self-aggrandising lifestyles of Muslims
both in the West and in Muslim countries.

This wilful self-deception must cease, whether we practise it as individuals or as families,


neighbourhoods or larger communities. It is time for us to admit that, as we are now, we
are a shame and disgrace to the Lord we claim to worship, to the Book we pretend to
read, to the Messenger we half- or quarter-heartedly imitate and fail to follow truly, to the
cause to which we barely pay lip-service; and that we, our families and our societies have
been increasingly so for generations or centuries, so that now the situation has assumed
crisis proportions.
We must remove the blinkers of complacency and self-satisfaction from our eyes and our
ears, and go forward (not back) to the Qur’an, the ahadith, the Seerah and the Sunnah: in
particular, we must re-read and re-examine the pre-Hijra Seerah and Sunnah of Rasool-
Allah (saw) and his Companions (ra). We must realise and admit the thoroughness with
which they took themselves apart, especially the very fibres (so to speak) of their brains,
hearts, souls and consciences, and put themselves back together again in the light of the
revelation from Allah and the practical example of His Messenger (saw), shedding all
extraneous ideas, attitudes, influences, priorities and practices that did not sit easily with
the usul (principles) and shari’ah (code of law, roughly) of the deen.

Only when we have done likewise, and acknowledged the totality of their commitment
and allegiance to the absolute rightness of the Qur’an and of its bearer, and tried our true
and real best to live up to them, will we be in any position to entertain a realistic hope
that we or our future generations can produce the kind of leadership that will be capable
of understanding issues clearly, of making plans and formulating effective policies, of
inspiring our confidence and trust, of dealing firmly with our enemies and detractors, and
eventually of leading us to liberate our own homelands and others from the dhulumat
(darkness) in which we are at present again shrouded.

All this applies in particular to long-established Muslim societies that have taken on
board, and fallen into the pitfall of defending as ‘Islamic’, many or most of the
prejudices, attitudes, priorities, habits and customs of other peoples, be they the pre-
Islamic Arabs, the Hindus of the Indian subcontinent, or the secular modernists of the
West (to name but a few examples). It also applies (to a lesser extent) to Western
converts, who occasionally, despite a commitment and singlemindedness that show the
rest of us in a very poor light, occasionally bring Western ideas into their perception and
practice of Islam.

Nor need this pre-Hijra process (so to speak) be as difficult as it seems at first sight. In a
hadith qudsi related on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (ra) and recorded by the two
Imams (rahmatu-Allahi alaihima) in the Sahihayn, Rasool-Allah (saw) reports that Allah
says: "I am as My servant thinks that I am. [...] if he draws near to Me a hand’s span, I
draw near to him an arm’s length; and if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw
near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed." So
all we need to do, in essence, is to ask for and hope for with our whole selves, with all the
acts and abstentions of every part of our bodies, not merely our tongues and lips, and
insha’Allah we or our future generations must eventually be answered by Allah through
the fruits of our deeds.