Monday, November 21, 2011

"The Rule of an Islamic Government," by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi

Below is an essay by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, an influential contemporary Pakistani religious scholar.

The Rule of an Islamic Government
Political Issues
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Shehzad Saleem)

Man, by nature, is a being who lives by instituting a government. The first manifestation of this took place when people decided that they would select chiefs of their tribes. After that, when these chiefs were able to establish their hegemony by conquering other tribes, they became the owners of the conquered lands and this gradually took the shape of ancestral kingdoms governed by kings. In later periods, these kings, in their capacity as great conquerors, laid the foundations of empires consisting of several countries. This brought into existence governments which include the Sassanid and the Roman empires. These empires have now become extinct but many kingdoms are still extant and have taken the place of constitutional monarchies. Except for some countries, this is the case every where. Among these exceptions is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It still exists with all real glory and majesty. The laws of such kingdoms are enacted by the king and his nobles. The Saudi government was established with the reformist movement of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb (d. 1792 AD). Thus on the very first day of its inception it decided that the law of the land would be the Islamic sharī‘ah. A great majority of Sunnī scholars does not regard kingdoms to be governments which are against the sharī‘ah and also more or less agree to the interpretation of the sharī‘ah made by the Saudi government. This is because they think that it is an Islamic government and on this basis they show allegiance to it.

The ideology of an Islamic revolution that has sprung up in recent times can be summarized as follows: it is only the disciplined minority of the righteous (sālihīn) which has the right to rule; if Godless people are rulers, then they are in fact embezzlers; it is the responsibility of the righteous to launch an effort to take back what belongs to them. Among the Shiites, this ideology already existed under the concepts of “government of the infallibles (ma‘sūmīn)” and “guardianship of the jurist” (wilāyat-i faqīh). Consequently, Sunnī and Shiite scholars have instituted religious parties at various places to achieve this very objective of bringing about an Islamic revolution. Moreover, the intellectual class is expending its efforts in various countries to realize this objective by trying to bring into existence a disciplined minority of the righteous. At some places, these efforts have been successful. For example, in Iran where religious scholars, under the leadership of Imām Khumīnī, were able to take the reins of political authority in their hands and are ruling Iran with full power since a quarter of a century. Another example is Afghanistan where, through the support and help of the Pakistani government, the students of religious scholars were able to set up a government which unfortunately succumbed to the incident of 9 / 11 and is now trying to revive itself by waging war against the NATO forces.

The question which arises in this context is: what does Islam want? A deep deliberation on the Qur’ān and Hadīth shows that the real addressee of Islam is the individual. It wants to rule the heart and mind of a person. Thus it makes it mandatory upon him to submit his whole self to the sovereignty of God. Just as the God of Islam is the Lord and Worshipped deity of people, He is also their king. Hence it is necessary that besides worshipping Him, obedience also be shown to Him and if He has prescribed some law or principle in some matter, then people must totally surrender to it. No doubt, Islam also addresses the society but only when the individuals of a society accept its rule over themselves. At that time, no effort or struggle is needed to achieve the supremacy of Islam at the collective level; Islam automatically manifests itself through the social, cultural and political mannerisms and attitudes of people. Thus if in the sharī‘ah of God, there is any directive related to the society, they are prepared to implement it without any hesitation.

This is an Islamic government. When it comes into existence in this way, it becomes a manifestation of God’s mercy on earth; however, if it does not come into existence, even then one should not be worried because the objective of Islam is not the formation of an Islamic government but the attainment of tazkiyah (self-purification). Its call is to the kingdom of God which people will attain on the Day of Judgement as a result attaining this tazkiyah. Islam calls upon people to save themselves from Hell and enter this eternal kingdom of God. It does not call upon people to establish an Islamic government. However, people who are anxious for this – and which in Qur’ānic terms may be called ukhrā tuhibbūnahā (the second thing which you desire, (61:13)) – have seen for themselves the experimentation which has taken place in this regard in the last one and a half century. In my opinion, they should now accept the reality that an Islamic government is neither established through a royal decree nor through the autocratic rule of religious scholars nor by a self appointed army of divine soldiers. This is not an objective but emanates or should emanate from the inner conviction of people on Islam and the Islamic sharī‘ah. If this happens, then the government which is established as a result can be called an Islamic government in every sense of the word. If the objective is to set up such a government, then instead of wasting one’s time in frivolous political stratagems and instead of killing oneself and killing innocent people in the name of jihād, all force should be directed in two things.

Firstly, through reminding and exhortation, knowledge and reasoning, education and instruction, efforts should be made to establish the rule of this government on the hearts of people. This effort should continue until the ruling elite of the Muslims have as strong a conviction in Islam and Islamic sharīah as the one possessed by those who take up the task of calling people towards Islam.

Secondly, at every level democracy and democratic values should be promoted so that if people get prepared to fulfil the requirements of their religion related to the political and economic spheres, no form of despotism causes any hindrance to them. Launching a struggle against despotic forces is in fact a struggle against fitnah and fitnah according to the Qur’ān is a greater sin than murder. Those who commit this grave sin, whether they are monarchs or dictators, deserve to be sent packing from the stage of this world forever.

(Translated from Maqāmāt by Shehzad Saleem)


Thursday, July 7, 2011

VIDEO: George Mason University Qur'an Studies Conference (2010)

New Approaches to Qur'an and Exegesis Conference Opening Remarks and Feras Hamza from Ali Vural Ak Center for Global I on Vimeo.

New Approaches to Qur'an and Exegesis

Center for Global Islamic Studies Fall Conference, 2010

October 23, 2010 - October 24, 2010 (Harris Theater)

This conference will bring together international scholars working on the Qur'an and its classical commentary tradition (tafsir). The presenters will discuss how new scholarly approaches to the Qur'an and the tafsir tradition have led to an increasing appreciation for the diversity of ways in which the Qur'an has been received and interpreted by Muslims, and the significance of this research for contemporary Muslim understandings of the text.

Presentations will include:

  • Dr. Asma Afsaruddin (Indiana University), "Reading Martydrom in the Qur'an: An Exegetical Survey of Key Verses"
  • Dr. Juliane Hammer (George Mason University), "American Muslim Women's Readings of the Qur'an"
  • Dr. Todd Lawson (University of Toronto), "Tafsir and the Meaning of the Qur'an: The Crucifixion in Muslim Thought"
  • Dr. Mohammed Rustom (Carleton University), "The Word Made Book: Mulla Sadra's Qur'anic Hermeneutics in Context"
  • Dr. Qamar Al-Huda (US Institute of Peace), "Modern Tafsir on Peace-building and Reconciliation in the Qur'an"
  • Dr. Feras Hamza (American University of Dubai), "The Unwritten Tafsir and the Lingering Elusiveness of the Qur'anic Text"
  • Dr. Joseph Lumbard (Brandeis University), "Covenant and Covenantalism in the Qur'an"
  • Dr. Walid Saleh (University of Toronto), "Arabic Historiography of Tafsir: Printing and Ideology in the Modern Islamic World"
  • Dr. Caner Dagli (College of the Holy Cross), "The Laws of War and Religious Coversion in the Qur'an"
  • Dr. Muzaffar Iqbal (Center for Islam and Science), "New Approaches to the Qur'an and Science Nexus"
  • Farhana Mayer (Institute of Ismaili Studies, London), "Mystical Hermeneutics and Cosmology in the Tafsir Ascribed by the Sufis to Ja'far al-Sadiq"
  • Dr. Kristin Sands (Sarah Lawrence University), "The Problem of Listless Lovers in al-Qushayri's Lata'if al-Isharat"

In addition, Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr of George Washington University will be giving the keynote speech.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Iran's Theocracy: From Khumayni to Khamenei (Hujjat al-Islam Mohsen Kadivar)

Mohsen Kadivar is an Iranian Twelver Shi'i religious scholar who is very critical of the governing regime headed by al-Sayyid 'Ali Khamenei. Though he is a critic of many of Khumayni's ideas, Kadivar also provides a nuanced portrait of the revolutionary grand ayatullah.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Islam and the Taliban: An Essay by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi

Below is an essay by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, an influential contemporary Pakistani religious scholar, on "Islam and the Taliban" in which he critiques these movements' religio-political ideology.

Islam and the Taliban
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Asif Iftikhar)

Islam and the Taliban1

The Taliban says that democracy is a concept alien to Islam. The ideal way of setting up an Islamic government in our times is the one that it adopted for Mullāh ‘Umar’s government in Afghanistan. The constitution, the parliament, and elections are nothing but modern day shams. For its implementation, Islam does not depend on any of these mechanisms. Whatever interpretations have been accepted in the Ḥanafī law2 are final and authoritative. The opinions of its jurists have all been compiled in matters related to individual as well as collective affairs. These opinions and verdicts, in the Taliban’s view, are based on the Qur’ān, the sunnah (the Prophet’s teachings), ijmā‘ (consensus), and qiyās (analogy) and are contained in the manuals of fiqh (Islamic law) and in the fatāwā (verdicts) of “qualified” Muslim jurists. These laws and verdicts must be implemented. And this implementation does not require the approval of any parliament. The modus operandi recommended by the Taliban is that all institutions of the government be under the judiciary and the judiciary itself be in control of the ‘ulamā’ (religious scholars) as it is the ‘ulamā’ who are the experts in the understanding and interpretation of the sharī‘ah (Divine law). The Taliban believes that the last 1200 years of Muslim tradition stands in its support. In its opinion, after the appointment of Imam Abū Yūsuf as the qādī al-quḍāt (Chief Justice) of the Abbasid sultanate, the same modus operandi was adopted everywhere for the implementation of Islam. It was the Western colonialism that put an end to this tradition. Now, the Muslims are independent; therefore, this approach to running the affairs of the state in accordance with the sharī‘ah must also be restored.

The activism of the Taliban is for the purpose explained above. In this battle, suicide missions are its greatest weapon. The Taliban believes that this weapon is a special blessing of God to enable it to fight the armies equipped with modern technology. With this weapon, it believes that it can make any government in the world fall to its knees. The basic features of the strategy the Taliban has adopted thus far are:


Friday, April 22, 2011

Prof. Jonathan Brown: "Abiding Stereotypes about the Prophet Muhammad in the Medieval and Modern West"

Jonathan Brown - Abiding Stereotypes About the Prophet Muhammad in the Medieval and Modern West from Ali Vural Ak Center for Global I on Vimeo.

Lecture by Prof. Jonathan A. C. Brown, one of the brightest young Islamic studies scholars around today and someone I am fortunate to call a friend. He's speaking here about the images of the Prophet Muhammad in history and particularly in Europe and North America (and at my alma mater to boot!)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Two Lectures by Grand Ayatullah Bashir Najafi on Ramadan & Fatima al-Zahra

Grand Ayatullah Bashir Najafi, one of the four maraji' al-taqlid in the Iraqi Shi'i shrine city of al-Najaf al-Ashraf, discusses Ramadan, the Islamic lunar month of fasting, in an Urdu lecture.

Grand Ayatullah Najafi discusses Fatima al-Zahra, the wife of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first Shi'i Imam, in Arabic.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Nasir Khusraw: An Eleventh Century Fatimid Isma'ili Poet: "The Sovereign of Time"

Shish fasl, by Nasir-i Khusraw. Persian manuscript, 13th/19th century. This treatise presents Fatimid Ismaili doctrines in a succinct and compact manner suitable for teaching purposes.

Below is a poem by Nasir Khusraw (Nasir-i Khusraw), an eleventh century Isma'ili poet who is also one of the most famous poets who wrote in Persian. A convert to Isma'ili Shi'ism, Khusraw traveled from his native city of Balkh in modern day Afghanistan to the capital of the Fatimid Caliphate in Cairo in 1047 C.E. He studied there for three years with the Fatimid scholar and da'i (missionary) al-Mu'ayyad fi'l Din al-Shirazi and then returned to Balkh where he worked to spread Isma'ili Shi'ism. Hostile local Sunnis burned down his house and Khusraw was forced to relocate to the mountainous region of Badakhshan for safety. He spent the rest of his life writing philosophical tracts and poetry until his death around 1072 C.E.

The translation below is taken from a translated collection of Isma'ili Shi'i poetry, Shimmering Light: An Anthology of Ismaili Poetry, published by I.B. Tauris and the Institute of Ismaili Studies. The translator is Faquir Muhammad Hunzai, a research associate at the Institute and a former university lecturer in Arabic and Persian at a Pakistani university. He earned his Ph.D. from the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University.

The Sovereign of Time

The soul of the universe
is the sovereign of time,

for God has raised up

the body through the soul.

When the auspicious Jupiter

saw his face, it became
the source of munificence,
the mine of good fortune.

As long as the clouds

of Nowruz wash all quarters

of the garden with

showers of illustrous pearls

and the nightingale laments
the rose at the break of dawn,

like a grieving soul

separated from its lover:

may the authority of

the sovereign of time
prevail over space and time
and the denizens of the world!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood & the Demonstrations: PBS Frontline

This PBS Frontline documentary suggests that Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood played a bigger role in the mass popular demonstrations against Hosni Mubarak than originally thought. It also captures the cleavage between the old and new guards of the Egyptian Ikhwan. The documentary, to a degree, uses the term "Islamic" as one of unease. Ending with a formulaic question about Israel, as if this issue is the most important, also mars an otherwise decent documentary.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi on Egypt's Protests on Al-Jazeera's Al-Shari'a wa'l Hayat

Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi on Al-Jazeera Arabic's show Al-Shari'a wa'l Hayat (Islamic Law and Life) discusses "Egypt's Protests."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lessons in Tafsir al-Qur'an: Surah Al 'Imran (Part 1)

Al-Sayyid 'Allamah 'Ali Fadlallah, son of the late Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah of Lebanon, lectures on the interpretation of Surah Al 'Imran (The House of Imran) of the Qur'an.