The recent spate of trouble and civil strife witnessed in the Muslims lands associated with the call for the absolute implementation of Sharī‘ah has once again thrown the theological and sociological arguments for applying Islam’s political system under the spotlight.
It is from the creed of the Muslim to accept that Islamic Law (Sharī‘ah) implemented in its complete and more importantly correct sense is the most just and perfect system to deal with all the affairs of mankind, in every sphere possible, and indeed is a collective obligation upon the Muslim nation. Unfortunately though, one witnesses extreme views/reactions from some Muslims with respect to this creedal matter, caused in the main by the prevalent Capitalist socio-political climate, often referred tonebulously as “the West”.
The first extreme response manifests itself as a liberal and rather ignorant strain of Islam which one guesses is due to the (no doubt real) pressures within society and the media in the Secular lands (and increasingly in the Muslim lands too) to conform to a''moderate Islam” of their own making, hence leading for example to baseless statements by prominent Muslims such as that, ''it would be permissible to have a Sharī‘ah state ruled by a non-Muslim elected in by democratic vote.”Naturally, such a legal position does not exist in the Islamic tradition, and illustrates the extremes that some have fallen into with respect to their valuation of Sharī‘ah – a petty and badly informed estimation.
One can maybe think of excuses for such a statement of politics, for it certainly has nothing to do with Islamic theology, yet one is concerned that the materialism we enjoy so much here in the Western lands might be starting to have an ideological impact upon our beliefs – bluntly referred to as “selling-out” by some – yet at the very least,exhibiting the extreme behaviour that sits in stark contrast to the other group ofMuslims that have fallen into error in this issue.
This then leads to that other extreme position – indeed the more dangerous of the two- which is based on the belief of paying any and every single price for the establishment of Sharī‘ah law, without exception – this is the call which we have witnessed in recent times of some Muslim groups taking up arms against the state and/or other entities in response to undoubted aggression, tyranny and provocation.
And why is it more dangerous? To understand this better, we can return to the classicaltheological debate amongst the early Muslim community about which sect was the more destructive: the extremely liberal Murji‘ah or the extremely conservative Khawārij – it is widely accepted that the deviance of the Murji‘ah is easy to spot and the general Muslims will always avoid those who are clearly watering-down their religion whereas the Khawārij always attract sympathetic support because as succinctly described by the Prophet (upon whom be peace) they are so ultra-religious in their acts of worship, particularly in those areas that the majority of people are often lacking (such as prayer) and thus wish they could themselves personally improve in,and hence this characteristic makes them far more dangerous as the general people are easily beguiled into their methodology and miss the harm of their misguided religiosity.
Likewise, some of the modern groups calling for political Islamic revolution or involved in pockets of armed resistance, often with much detriment caused to the majority as has been seen in recent times, also share a few of the same mistakes of those with extremist ideology.
The solution, as always, lies in the education of such protagonists with respect to their ideas and beliefs, as per the authentic sources of Islam, as understood by the rightly guided scholars of Islam, according to the current time and context of our Islam.
From the onset, one must understand that the Sharī‘ah is part of Islam but Islam is not just Sharī‘ah. There is no doubting its importance with respect to the absolute application of the divine Will of God on Earth, but this is only one aspect of Islam and certainly not the “be-all and end-all” – many people spend their entire efforts on implementing the Law on everyone else whereas the Qur’ānic narrative clearly prioritises the self first and then the rest of the community based on one’s ability.
And it is ability which is the key concept missing from the methodology of our brothers and sisters when we witness their attempts to establish Sharī‘ah at all costs.
Many people talk about its establishment (theoretically here in the West) and more practically in the Muslim lands yet it is beyond their capacity to do it in their respective societies. The question must be asked why become busy with that which cannot be done whilst neglecting that which can be done, such as studying the religion deeply,giving da‘wah, working on ones conduct and manners etc as opposed to getting involved in that which is not their priority?
One must also remember that to implement Sharī‘ah carries that all-important political dimension and thus will appeal to a lot of people but it can likewise be misused- like when the Khawārij said to ‘Ali (may God be pleased with him), ''The Law is only for Allāh!” to which he replied, “A true word, but with false intent.”
Hence, we should all be aware that the call for Sharī‘ah is an attractive slogan but the intention behind it could be false and therefore intentions, preparations and the right people for the system must be perfected first before trying to go for the big target of establishing a universal system of justice and law upon those who are not ready for it.
Preparations are emphasized here because a lack of them can lead to disastrous consequences as we have seen for of course the price of Sharī‘ah is very high i.e. it certainly does not come at any cost – God asserts in His Final Testament that no soul is burdened more than it can bear, and His Final Messenger Muhammad (upon whom be peace) stated that one’s ability to change the external condition is paramount before attempting that change. This therefore requires knowledge, wisdom, ability, power,support of the powerful and influential and the support of the public – referred to as the ‘asabiyyah or ahl’l-‘aqd – before one can realise ones intentions in a fruitful and more importantly, Islamically correct fashion.
It is pertinent here to quote the great historian and anthropologist Ibn Khaldūn (may God have mercy upon him) from his seminal work al-Muqaddimah, under the chapter "The Religious Movement without Popular Support Will Not Succeed” after discussing the struggles of Ibn Qusayy al-Sufi and his Murābitūn against Christian Spain and the later entrance of the Muwahhidīn:
As we have said before, everything that the nation wants implementing will require powerful popular support (al-‘asabiyyah) – as was mentioned in the authentic Hadīth that “Allāh did not send a Prophet except that he was protected byhis people”; if this is the case for the Prophets who are supported by miracles, then what then of those who can’t do anything in general without popular support? …
… Likewise, the way of the common people and scholars wishing to enact revolution to change the prevalent evil (in society) - indeed most of them who were practising and followed the system of Islam, adopted a methodology to stand against the people of injustice calling for a change in the evils (seen) and then its prohibition, and the enjoining of good whilst seeking the reward for it from Allāh. As a result, their followers increased as well as their imitators from the foolish and simple folk; they subjected themselves to catastrophe and most of them died in this way in sin and not rewarded because Allāh had not obligated that upon them;indeed He has commanded for that to be only done where ability is present as the Prophet (sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “Whoever amongst you sees an evil then let his change it with his hand; if he is unable then by his tongue and if he is unable to do that then in his heart.” The positions of States and Kings are deeply rooted and strong and cannot be shaken except by a strong determined effort which is backed by the power of tribes, groups and popular support as we mentioned before.
And that is the way of the Prophets (‘alayhim’l-salātu wa’l-salām) in their call to Allāh with their use of groups and tribes, although they are supported by Allāh by the entire Dominion if Allāh wants, however He has made such issues run according to the laws of nature and Allāh is All-Wise, All-Knowing.
So, if someone follows this methodology, even if he is upon the truth, he will be weakened if he doesn’t have powerful popular support and he will fall into a deep hole of destruction. As for those whose intention is simply to gain leadership then those people are most susceptible to face hardship and be destroyed because the command of Allāh cannot be achieved except with His Pleasure and His Help and sincerity to Him and sincerity to the Muslims. No Muslim should have doubt about it, and noother sane person should have any doubt about it either…” (al-Muqaddimah, 148,Maktabat’l-Asariyyah)
The fact that the establishing of absolute Sharī‘ah at this present time is not achievable due to our collective weakness should not deter those Muslims who wish to see true justice and mercy again in their own lives and the lives of their fellow human beings –one is not “in a state of sin” during this time of weakness as incorrectly stated by some but we should still be working to build the foundations of a strong and unified community to deal with the future as it unfolds for us.
Likewise for us here, it isn’t our aim to establish Sharī‘ah in the West; the Muslims have failed to do this in those lands in which they are the majority so then what false illusions are Western Muslims creating for themselves here in the non-Muslim secular Lands?
Our emphasis should remain with the reformation in character of our own circles and calling people to the Truth, bringing glad tidings to all and safeguarding our religion for ourselves and our families – a people who fled from the oppression of the so-called Muslims lands to try and rebuild their lives and Deen.
With the value of Sharī‘ah being so high, the price we ultimately pay for it must be the price that was set by our early founding Muslims based upon knowledge, wisdom and ability – anything else will no doubt result in waste, futility and failure.