First, we must define the meaning of ‘The West’. The term, ‘The West’ (Urdu: Maghrib) is used both to pinpoint a location as well as to define a state of mind, an ideology, a philosophy and a way of life (Urdu: Maghribiyat). The former is incidental. The latter is powerful, potentially all pervasive, social engineering, statement of values and a definer of mankind’s actions leading to a new purpose for his life and existence. One is outside you and you live in it. The other is inside you and directs your decisions, desires and actions. It is essential to keep these two definitions in mind when we talk about ‘The West and Islam’. In order to avoid confusion in this article, I am going to call the ideology, ‘Westernism’. Like Islam, ‘Westernism’ is an ideology which is not location specific but is global. As evidence I ask you, what do you call Australia and New Zealand; Western or Eastern? Ask yourself why? So ‘Westernism’ is not only about culture but also about race and racial supremacy.
The secret is the globalization of thought. Technology has facilitated the global spread of this dominant culture and the internalizing of its values where people far removed physically from the West, see themselves in terms that are Western. They appreciate, like, look up to and down on each other on the basis of their adherence to Western values and norms, even though these may be far removed from their own cultures. You can see the effect of this on people’s clothing, the spread of English as the lingua franca of the world, hair styles, foods, drinks (sodas), smileys, emojis, abbreviations (lol, rofl). I can go on but won’t. The same holds for all the symbols of culture. There are still countries where local cultures enforce some level of decorum and bar promiscuity, but all barriers fall in the face of technology. Thanks to the internet, smart phones, Instagram, Netflix, Facebook, and WhatsApp there is no image, no news which can be hidden from the eyes of children if they want to see it. The only guard is the conscience. Nothing else will work. Least of all, force.
Today ‘Westernism’ is the most common, pervasive and widespread ideology in the whole world. ‘Westernism’ is as much a ‘religion’ as is Islam, Christianity or any other traditional religion. It has rules of engagement, conditions of entry and exit, reward and punishment, high priests, temples and evangelists. The fact that these titles are not used to name them is a part of the ideology of ‘Westernism’. But that doesn’t change either the nature or the effect of these symbols and pillars of this new religion. They are powerful, and they are effective. ‘Westernism’ is effective because it panders to every base desire under the illusion of anonymity to make money for the suppliers.
‘Westernism’ is a philosophy which is based on the supremacy of the self (desire) over everything else, including family, friends, society and God. Its symbol is the raising of self-indulgence to the level of not only a virtue but of the very purpose of life, definition of happiness and fulfilment i.e. for one to be able to do whatever one likes, irrespective of its consequences to anyone else. Freedom is sought to be interpreted as freedom from responsibility, accountability and consequences of one’s actions. Just take a look at the many conflicts that have taken place on one such ‘freedom’ alone, ‘Freedom of Expression’, and you know what I mean. The best answer to that was given by Pope Francis who, mentioning the freedom to say whatever one wants in the guise of Freedom of Expression said, “If my secretary were to curse my mother, I would punch him in the face.” What he meant was that there is no freedom without responsibility for what happens when you exercise that freedom. Please note that the Pope is a Westerner, living in the West. Yet his thinking is not ‘Western’ in terms of what I described as ‘Westernism’.
Islam on the other hand is also not ‘Eastern’ but universal. It is like the principles of flight which don’t change whether you are flying a plane in the US or Australia or India. Islam doesn’t change for the West or East or anyone or any place. It is universal, applicable in exactly the same way everywhere and holds its adherents to the same rules no matter where they live, in whichever century and in whichever circumstances. Islam is Islam and it is based on the principle of the supremacy of Allahﷻ over the self or anyone or anything else, accountability to Him from Whom nothing is hidden and the subjugation of the self (desire) to the rules of Islam. Its symbol is the Sajda which is to recognize that obedience to Allahﷻ takes precedence over self-indulgence and the purpose of life and fulfilment is to live and work only for the Pleasure of Allahﷻ.
There is no compromise in Islam about this fundamental philosophy of the Supremacy of Allahﷻ over the Nafs (self, desire) and everything and everyone else. For those who choose to follow their desires against the orders of Allahﷻ, He said:
أَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلَهَهُ هَوَاهُ أَفَأَنتَ تَكُونُ عَلَيْهِ وَكِيلًا
Furqan 25: 43. Have you (O Muhammadﷺ) seen him who has taken as his Elah (god) his own desire? Would you then be a Wakil (a disposer of his affairs or a watcher) over him?
Allahﷻ called following your own desires against the orders of Allahﷻ, Shirk and tantamount to worshiping desires instead of worshiping Allahﷻ and even prohibited Rasoolullahﷺ from interceding for the forgiveness of such people. What can be clearer or more serious than that, to understand the fundamental difference between Islam and ‘Westernism’?
Let me quote just one example to show how Supremacy of God was replaced by Supremacy of Man in Christianity. https://biblehub.com/deuteronomy/14-8.htm
In Deuteronomy 14:8 eating pork is clearly prohibited. Yet Christians have ignored this prohibition and pork is the most widely eaten meat in all Christian and Western countries and has been for centuries. The Bible clearly prohibits it, to no avail. The same with prohibition of usury and many other prohibitions of the Bible which are simply ignored. Islam clearly disallows this and nothing which is ordered in the Qur’an or in the Sunnah can be nullified by any Islamic scholar. That is one benefit of not having a priestly class which tends to be susceptible to changing the religion at will.
As you can see, these are two opposing philosophies which are mutually exclusive and irreconcilable. There can never be a compromise between them. One must necessarily submit to the other. That is the distinguishing factor, the signature of the Muslim, that he/she subjugates desire to the Will and Pleasure of Allahﷻ. A Muslim recognizes and joyfully accepts that it is the purpose of his creation to please Allahﷻ and does that in the way taught by Muhammadﷺ the Messenger of Allahﷻ. That is the essence of the Kalima: La ilaha illAllahu Muhammadur Rasoolullahi: There is nobody worthy of worship except Allahﷻ (so I worship him) and Muhammadﷺ is the Messengerﷺ (last and final) of Allahﷻ (so I obey and follow him). There are no qualifiers to this statement of faith, this declaration and oath, thanks to which a person enters Islam. It is a statement that is applicable to every person who wishes to enter Islam and remain in it, whether it is in the East or West or anywhere else. Obedience to Allahﷻ in the way of Rasoolullahﷺ is its essence. And that doesn’t change for anyone or any place.
Is Islam compatible with ‘Westernism’, the philosophy? No, it isn’t. But is it possible for people living in the West; the location, to live by Islam? Yes, without a doubt. That is why I began with the definition because when we ask about raising Muslim children in the West, we are not speaking about what we need to do in the location but what we must do with combating those parts of ‘Westernism’ as an ideology that are antithetical to Islam.
Combat it is. Make no mistake. Like combat, it requires, courage, has risk, is painful; potentially fatal if you fail and joyful and rewarding if you succeed. It is a serious business, not an intellectual exercise. The cost and benefit are both very real. The first thing to teach therefore is to draw attention to the definition above so that people realize that there is nothing ‘special’ about the ‘West’ as a location which requires Islam to be reengineered, interpreted or changed to suit people living in the so-called ‘West’.
What are the challenges of raising a child in the West?
The challenges have nothing to do with the location but with ‘Westernism’, which is global and inside us. What we teach our children and indeed before that, what we need to come to terms with ourselves is the following:
- Teach them respect for boundaries by respecting them yourself. Boundaries are the essence of parenting. Teach them that being Muslim means to recognize and accept the Supremacy of Allahﷻ and obedience and allegiance only to Him. This is the most fundamental principle which must be taught, practiced and demonstrated. This must be the differentiator of the Muslim, no matter where he/she lives. This is what drives every decision and action. This is the safety belt. Put it on or die.
- It is necessary to define boundaries without fearing unpopularity. Whether it is in parenting or in religion or in politics. All corruption begins when people who should know better, remain silent when they should speak. Christianity is losing people in Europe despite the fact that the church, in order to be popular, has legalized almost everything the Bible prohibits. But it is gaining converts in Asia and Africa where it is not so flexible and where local cultures also support boundaries. People need definitive rules. A free for all may sound nice but in reality, it is free for some, at the expense of others. Boundaries, like seat belts, restrict some freedom but save lives. Security is inversely proportional to convenience.
- Teach them to love Allahﷻ which is an outcome of Shukr (Thankfulness). An attitude of gratitude, where we are thankful to Allahﷻ for His mercy and blessings. Allahﷻ said about the Believers, that they love Him more than anything else.
وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَتَّخِذُ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ أَندَاداً يُحِبُّونَهُمْ كَحُبِّ اللّهِ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ أَشَدُّ حُبًّا لِّلّهِ
Baqara 2: 165. And of mankind are some who take (for worship) others besides Allah as rivals (to Allah). They love them as they love Allah. But those who believe, love Allah more (than anything else).
- Remember that without the Love, Glory and Majesty of Allahﷻ in the heart, obedience becomes a burden. Force or so-called logic are not substitutes, because they can both be countered to one’s own detriment. In Islam, the fundamental rule is that we obey Allahﷻ because He is Allahﷻ. We pray because Allahﷻ told us that it is the way to get close to Him and we want to be close to Him. We don’t pray to ‘discharge static electricity from our heads in Sujood’ (sic). Or because the bending and standing is good for the joints or digestion. We don’t fast because it is good for health. We don’t give Zakat to ensure distribution of wealth in society. We don’t do Hajj to reinforce or show solidarity to the global Muslim Ummah. We do all these because we love Allahﷻ. That is not only sufficient reason, it is the very best of reasons. After all, love begins where reason ends. Allahﷻ ordered us to establish Salah as the way to remember Him and our relationship to Him. He said:
إِنَّنِي أَنَا اللَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدْنِي وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي
Ta-Ha 20: 14. “Verily! I am Allah! La ilaha illa Ana (none has the right to be worshipped but I), so worship Me, and perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat) for My Remembrance.
- Teach them the importance and value of the Sunnah by following it yourself. For this it is necessary for us to know who Rasoolullahﷺ is and what the significance of our relationship with him as the one whose way we emulate and follow, is. This must be the very first thing we teach our children by word and deed. Allahﷻ and Rasoolullahﷺ must be the most commonly mentioned names in our homes. They must be the reference points for all our actions, culture, celebrations, events and decisions. ‘Does this please Allahﷻ?’ ‘Is this in keeping with the Sunnah of Rasoolullahﷺ?’ These must be the operative questions for all our decisions. Our children must become used to them from birth. Their absence in any situation must be the point of dissonance for them and give them pause to think.
- Allahﷻ told us about the importance of the Sunnah of Rasoolullahﷺ and recommended it as the best example to follow for the one who loves Allahﷻ and looks forward to meeting Him and who remembers Allahﷻ a great deal.
لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا
Ahzab 33: 21. Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammadﷺ ) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.
- Allahﷻ told us that the reward of following the Sunnah of Rasoolullahﷺ is that Allahﷻ will love the one who does that. Make that an aspirational goal for yourself and your children; that you try to earn the love of Allahﷻ. Allahﷻ said:
قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَاللّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
A’al Imraan 3: 31. Say (O Muhammadﷺ to mankind): “If you (really) love Allah then follow me (emulate me), Allah will love you and forgive your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
Teach them (and remind yourself) that the reward of following and emulating Muhammadﷺ is the love of Allahﷻ. No less. Reflect on what that means for you. What does it mean for your dua? What does it mean for when you need Allahﷻ the most, at the time of your death and when we meet Him on the Day of Judgment?
- Draw attention to the fact that following the Sunnah is good for us in this life as well, because all that Rasoolullahﷺ taught and did are the secrets to popularity and influence. But when a Muslim follows this with the intention of pleasing Allahﷻ and as a sign of his love for Muhammadﷺ, he earns the love of Allahﷻ. This once again is the relevance of Islam in modern times. The same rules apply today.
- Teach them about accountability to Allahﷻ to Whom is our return. Every speech and action of ours must be done with this consciousness. This is the essence of Dhikrullah (Remembering Allahﷻ). Whatever act of worship we do, repeating Allahﷻ’s names and attributes, Salah, Tilawatil Qur’an, fasting, charity and so on are all means to achieve this end i.e. a consciousness of the meeting with Allahﷻ. None of them is an end in itself, but a means to achieve the end which is to gain closeness to Allahﷻ by obeying Him. So, every time there is temptation to disobey, they must learn to ask, ‘Who am I disobeying?’ And not, ‘How big is this act of disobedience?’ They must understand that selective obedience in disobedience and that the essence of Uboodiyat (Submission to Allahﷻ = Islam), is to obey every command joyfully out of love.
- Teach them service as the means whereby a Muslim defines himself/herself as being a person who is most useful to society. Teach them the value of service in Islam as the means to earn the pleasure of Allahﷻ and His Forgiveness. Teach them service as being the signature of Islam. Service as the value that differentiates a Muslim from everyone else. Through this we will be able to answer the most common charge that Islam is no longer relevant to modern times. When Muslims are seen as beneficial for everyone in society and that being because of Islam, then the relevance of Islam to all times will be proven beyond anything that anyone can say against it. Allahﷻ said about Muslims being beneficial (service) to others:
كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ
A’al Imran 3: 110. You [Muslims] are the best of peoples ever raised up for [the benefit of] mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma’ruf (all that is good and permissible in Islam) and forbid Al-Munkar (all that is harmful and prohibited in Islam), and you believe in Allah.
Rasoolullahﷺ said, “The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind.” (Daraqutni, Hasan)
- Teach them to be thankful to all those through whom we receive Allahﷻ’s blessings, and that it is the best way to win Allahﷻ’s pleasure and the goodwill of the people. Imagine a society where Muslims are known for their attitude of gratitude seeking to help others, solve their problems, stand up for their rights and help those in need. Abu Huraira (RA) reported that Rasoolullahﷺ said, “He has not thanked Allah who has not thanked the people.” Sunan Abī Dāwūd 4811 (Sahih)
- Teach them to proudly and confidently (not arrogantly) display our differentiators in appearance, worship, dealings, speech and action. We must not blend in as some more numbers in an undifferentiated mass but stand out as notable and valuable individuals. That is the secret of brand. Differentiation. Brand inspires loyalty. Loyalty empowers influence. Without brand you are a grain of rice in a sack.
- Teach them the four noble values of Integrity (Truthfulness), Courage, Compassion and Excellence. These are the four core values of Islam. Anyone who lives by them can only be loved, respected and as a result, become influential. Teach them to always speak the truth and be fair and just in all dealings. Teach them to have the courage to stand up for those in need, those being oppressed, and to stand by their principles, no matter who is displeased. Teach them to have compassion and to show compassion and to behave with compassion by helping all those who can’t help themselves. Teach them to put their money and action where their mouth is and act instead of simply talking about values. Teach them to do everything they do and treat everyone they meet in the best possible way, no matter how small or trivial the action may be or who the person they meet, may be. Excellence is to speak and act as if you see Allahﷻ and though you don’t see Him, know that He sees you. This is the definition of Al Ihsaan (Excellence) that Rasoolullahﷺ gave to Jibreelu (AS) in the famous Hadith and it applies to everything we do in life.
Finally, we must remember that children listen with their eyes. They don’t care what you say, until they see what you do. So, raising children has less to do with children and more to do with parents. As you are, so will they be. That is why they are your Sadaqatul Jaariya and not vice versa.
The debate starts once again, “Should Muslims participate in politics in a democracy, since ‘democracy’ is itself not an Islamic form of government?” Let me try to put this in perspective. Before I begin let me state that I am not talking about the philosophy of democracy i.e. Supremacy of the People instead of Supremacy of Allahﷻ. Let me state also that in terms of Islam, the only one worthy of worship and obedience is Allahﷻ and that only Allahﷻ has the right to make laws which He did and His Messengerﷺ conveyed to us. Anyone who considers laws opposed to the laws of Allahﷻ as being superior or even permissible, has committed Shirk. This article is about the issue of Muslims living in democratic countries, often as minorities. What must they do? What options do they have and what are the consequences of these options?
To the question, “Should Muslims participate in politics in a democracy, since ‘democracy’ is itself not an Islamic form of government?” I would like to state that first of all, there is no specific form of government that is ‘Islamic’. If anyone disputes that statement and says that the ‘Khilafa’ is the only form of government that is permissible in Islam, then we have to ask why it is that ever since the ascension of Yazid bin Muawiyya, monarchy has been accepted as ‘Islamic’ even by Sahaba who lived under Yazid and supported his rule? This continued even though the terms, ‘Khalifa’ and ‘Khilafa’ continued to be used off and on, until the institution of Khilafa was finally abolished in 1923. For the record, the Ottoman rulers called themselves ‘Sultan’ and not ‘Khalifa’, though the government itself was called ‘Khilafa’. How does that work?
So, what is the Islamic form of government?
Islam is concerned with the nature of the government and not necessarily its form.
Consider this: the Khilafa Rashida itself followed three different processes to choose a successor in the case of the first three Khulafa.
In the case of Abu Bakr Siddique (R) it was an election of the Supreme Leader by lesser leaders in Madina. This was the usual way of the Arabs when electing a new Ameer or Chief of their clans where the decision would be taken by a few significant and powerful elders/leaders and everyone else would accept and support it. So also, in this case, it was not one-man-one-vote involving the entire population of Madina. Even if it had been, hypothetically speaking one could have argued that the people of Makkah, Ta’aif, Najd and all the tribes of the Hijaz had not voted. Yet, the leader being chosen would have authority over all Muslims. Abu Bakr Siddique (R) was elected by the people who had gathered in the Saqifa Bani Sa’ada and was later ratified by the rest of the community in Masjid An-Nabawi when other people gave him the Baya (Oath or Pledge) of Allegiance. In the election in the Saqifa Bani Sa’ada, which itself was not planned but was impromptu, many of the important Sahaba of Rasoolullahﷺ including Sayyidina Ali bin Abi Talib (R) were not present and neither was their opinion sought. This was not deliberate or by design but because Ali bin Abi Talib (R) was busy with the burial of Rasoolullahﷺ he was not disturbed, and he gave his pledge the next day.
But since Abu Bakr Siddique (R) was already accepted as the foremost among the Sahaba and was their leader, nobody objected and they all, including Ali bin Abi Talib (R) gave him their Pledge. They remembered that Rasoolullahﷺ had always sought his advice and used to give him precedence over everyone else because of him having been the first man to accept Islam and for his service to Islam and to Rasoolullahﷺ. They remembered that Abu Bakr (R) was Rasoolullahﷺ’s companion in the cave during their Hijra from Makkah to Madina. People remembered that Rasoolullahﷺ had given him Imamat of Salah from the Thursday before the Monday when he passed away. For the Sahaba, that was a clear sign that Rasoolullahﷺ preferred and had thereby nominated Abu Bakr Siddique (R) as his successor. Having said that, there are people to this day, fourteen centuries later, who differ and say that the Khilafa should have gone to Ali bin Abi Talib (R).
The fact that Ali bin Abi Talib (R) himself never said this nor did he object to the leadership of Abu Bakr Siddique (R) and gladly gave his Baya (oath) of Allegiance with sincerity (what else do we expect of Ali bin Abi Talib (R)?) cuts no ice with them. We will put that dispute aside as it is not relevant to this discussion and look at what happened two years later, when Sayyidina Abu Bakr Siddique (R) was dying.
Abu Bakr Siddique (R) took the advice of the Asharum Mubashshara (the 10 Sahaba who had been given the good news of Jannah by Rasoolullahﷺ) about his proposed choice, Omar ibn Al Khattab (R), as his successor. All of them except one (Zubair bin Awwam (R)) accepted this choice and so Abu Bakr Siddique (R) called Omar ibn Al Khattab (R) and nominated him. This action of Abu Bakr Siddique (R) was in keeping with the informal but clearly understood and accepted hierarchy among the Sahaba in which the Asharum Mubashshara came first followed by the Badriyyeen (Sahaba who participated in the Battle of Badr) and then everyone else.
Ten years later when Omar ibn Al Khattab (R) had been stabbed and was dying, he called the rest of the Asharum Mubashshara and told them to choose one among them to succeed him. Some of them declined to accept the role of Khalifa. There were two contenders who remained. Abdur Rahman ibn Awf (R), who was a scholar among the Sahaba and one of the wealthiest businessmen of the time was himself from the Asharum Mubashshara and who had declined to be considered for Khilafa, was chosen to pick between them. He decided to consult the Sahaba who had participated in the Battle of Badr and other significant leaders in Madina and at the end of this consultation, he borrowed the Amama (turban) of Rasoolullahﷺ and wearing it, he ascended the Minbar of Masjid An-Nabawi and announced Othman ibn Affan (R) as the leader who had been chosen to succeed Omar ibn Al Khattab (R). Everyone accepted this choice, including Ali bin Abi Talib (R) who had also accepted Omar ibn Al Khattab (R) as Khalifa and worked under him as a judge.
Othman ibn Affan (R)’s Khilafa ended in war and Ali bin Abi Talib (R) was forced to accept the Khilafa to put an end to the worst turmoil and violence that the Muslims had ever seen. However, this was also contested, and we have a history of ever more complex conflicts thereafter. Once again, I am not going into details here as they are not relevant. What is relevant however, is that twenty years later, when Muawiyya bin Abi Sufyan (R) was dying, he nominated his son Yazid bin Muawiyya (also called Yazid I) as Khalifa, thereby dispensing with the entire selection/election process and converting the Khilafa into a hereditary monarchy.
This became the default Muslim (Islamic) form of government all over the world, from the Banu Umayyah who started it, to the Banu Abbas, Fatimi, Ayyubi, Saffavid, Mughal, Uthmani (Ottoman) and other rulers right down to our modern times, who all accepted hereditary monarchy as the way Muslim lands were to be governed. Before we blame the kings however, let us reflect on the fact that none of their subjects, including Sahaba, all the Imams of Fiqh, all the Ulama of the Tabiyyin and their followers including to this day, have ever criticized or refused to accept hereditary monarchy, calling it ‘unislamic’ nor called for the establishment of the Khilafa. One reason could be that the Khilafa Rashida itself was established in three different ways. So, which of them would one choose?
The point that I want to make is that it appears from reading our history that Islam is more concerned with the nature of government than its form. Our great classical and modern scholars seem to be agreed upon this and this seems to be the majority view. Islam is concerned with how the government is carried on; whether it establishes the laws of Allahﷻ as mentioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah, whether it establishes justice or not, whether the poor and weak are taken care of, whether there is corruption or not, and whether law is enforced so that crime is minimized if not eradicated. It is not concerned with how the government itself came into being or its structure, if that government does what all good governments are supposed to do i.e. good governance. Therefore, different forms of governments were accepted as valid and legal if they provided good governance.
Of course, from the Islamic point of view, for a government to be considered Islamic, whichever form of government it may be, it must follow the Divine Laws of the Shari’ah and must not legislate against the Laws of Allahﷻ. Governments are free to legislate and pass laws to ensure the best for all people, without denying, altering or going against Divine Laws. For examples, laws of taxation, zoning of cities, regulation of road traffic and so on can be made because they don’t contradict the Laws of Allahﷻ. However, laws which make Halaal what Allahﷻ prohibited, for example, interest-based banking, consumption of alcohol and other addictive substances and so on, are not permissible and any government that makes such laws would be unislamic even if the government was run by Muslims.
I am not claiming that democracy is the best form of government from a Islamic theological or philosophical perspective but that it is the best among all that exist today. There are some clear issues about parliamentary democracy which must be borne in mind. A parliamentary democracy is the rule by political parties, where the party which gets the most votes rules the country. This means that independent candidates, no matter how good they are, have no chance to be effective or to be able to form a government. Candidates who stand on tickets from any political party must necessarily follow the party line in all matters, no matter what their own opinion may be. The party is run, not always by elected representatives but often by its ideologues and leaders, who need not be elected at all but who direct all policies and actions of the party.
It is in this context that we must look at democracy today when some people say that Muslims must not participate in democracy because it is not ‘Islamic’. My contention is that there is no such thing as an ‘Islamic’ form of government. What is ‘Islamic’ about a government, lies in its actions of governing. Obviously, there is great misunderstanding about forms of government which is exacerbated by our general lack of knowledge of history so that we have no perspective or decision-making ability. We must correct this urgently.
What is the role of Muslim citizens who live in democratic countries? Should they participate in government, from voting, to standing for election to discharging their responsibilities in difference capacities in Parliaments and Senates? Or should they abstain from doing any of these things. And if they should abstain, then how are they to ensure that their rights, needs and issues are represented and addressed by a government that they didn’t elect or show any interest in?
My contention is that democracy, like monarchy is simply a form of government; in terms of governance. Citizens of democratic countries must participate in democracy for the simple reason that all change can only be initiated and implemented from within. As a matter of interest, if we take the very first form of government of the Muslim State after Rasoolullahﷺ passed away, it was a ‘democratic’ decision. As I mentioned earlier, it was different from our present form of universal suffrage leading to universal suffering (except for politicians) but it was democracy, nevertheless.
The argument that most of these countries are not Muslim (meaning that the rulers are not Muslim) is met with two arguments:
- How ‘Islamic’ is a government where the rulers are Muslim but permit interest-based banking in their realms, when they know perfectly well that Allahﷻ not only prohibited it but declared war on behalf of Himself and His Messengerﷺ on those who participate in interest-based banking? How can a government, which is classified as an enemy of Allahﷻ by the definition of the Qur’an, be called Islamic?
- In the Shari’ah we follow the principle that if you can’t do (have) everything, you don’t reject or stop doing everything.
So, if we can’t have the perfect state of government that Rasoolullahﷺ provided when he was the ruler, we will live with and support rulers (and governments) who provide justice, safety, law & order, economic development and general protection of rights and privileges even if they do other things which are not perfect. We don’t support them in things which are against Islamic law (e.g. we will not participate in interest-based banking, even if it is allowed in the country) but we will support them in everything that is for the benefit of everyone.
Authority can be delegated. Not responsibility. Responsibility remains with the original person. Meaning that if the one to whom authority was delegated fails to perform, it is the one who delegated it, who will still be responsible. Often there is confusion between authority and responsibility. Authority is the permission to act. Responsibility refers to the consequences of the action. That is why training is very important, before delegating authority. The ruler delegates authority to various officials, but the responsibility remains with the ruler whether they succeed or fail. It will be called the success or failure of the ruler. So also, the CEO, Head of Family or whatever; delegates and should delegate authority, because he or she can’t do everything themselves. But the responsibility i.e. accountability, remains with them. If they delegate authority without preparing their subordinates or delegate it to people who are incompetent, then it is their rule or tenure or performance which would have failed.
We, the people of the nation, through the ballot box have delegated the responsibility of running the nation to those we elected. Hence, we retain the responsibility for their success or failure. It comes back to my favorite political quote: “We get the government we deserve”.
We should realize that we have delegated authority. Not responsibility. So, if those to whom authority was delegated, failed, we need to take back the authority and realize that to give ourselves good government is our responsibility, not anyone else’s.
In conclusion I would like to state clearly and unequivocally that Muslims living in democratic countries must participate in government in every way knowing that it is entirely in keeping with Islam to do so. They must participate because Islam orders them to support all that is beneficial for everyone, Muslim or otherwise and to do that in a way that showcases Islam for the rest of the world. Muslims must participate in democracy, because only by participation can we ensure that our interests are addressed, and our needs met. We have seen many examples of what happens when we don’t participate.
The first thing to do therefore is to ensure that your name is listed as a voter. Then YOU MUST GO TO VOTE. Whether it is raining or not, whatever be the situation, you MUST GO AND VOTE. Remember this is the only opportunity that you have in a democracy to be heard, to influence your own future and to protect yourself from those who wish to hurt you.
Finally, a party is elected not by the majority of the population of the country but by the majority of those who cast their vote. This last line is the key to modern democracies and the reason why you must vote. If you don’t enroll yourself and don’t go and vote, then don’t blame anyone else for the result. You are responsible, and you will pay the price.
All praise and thanks are due only to Allahﷻ alone and peace and salutations on our Master Muhammadﷺ, the last and final messenger of Allahﷻ.
قَدْ كَانَتْ لَكُمْ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ فِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ إِذْ قَالُوا لِقَوْمِهِمْ إِنَّا بُرَاء مِنكُمْ وَمِمَّا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ كَفَرْنَا بِكُمْ وَبَدَا بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةُ وَالْبَغْضَاء أَبَدًا حَتَّى تُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَحْدَهُ إِلَّا قَوْلَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ لِأَبِيهِ لَأَسْتَغْفِرَنَّ لَكَ وَمَا أَمْلِكُ لَكَ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِن شَيْءٍ رَّبَّنَا عَلَيْكَ تَوَكَّلْنَا وَإِلَيْكَ أَنَبْنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ
Mumtahina 60:4. 4. Indeed there has been an excellent example for you in Ibrahim (Abraham) and those with him, when they said to their people: “Verily, we are free from you and whatever you worship besides Allah, we have rejected you, and there has started between us and you, hostility and hatred for ever, until you believe in Allah Alone,” except the saying of Ibrahim (Abraham) to his father: “Verily, I will ask for forgiveness (from Allah) for you, but I have no power to do anything for you before Allah . Our Rabb! In You (Alone) we put our trust, and to You (Alone) we turn in repentance, and to You (Alone) is (our) final Return.
As you are all aware I live in two incarnations simultaneously – as a corporate consultant and leadership development expert with a global clientele, author of several books on the subject and having trained more than 200,000 managers, administrators, clergy, teachers, scientists, engineers and students worldwide and still counting; and as a Da’aee of Islam. While appreciating and being deeply grateful for all the honor and love that is bestowed upon me by people as a result of the Grace of my Rabb, I don’t accept all the titles that I am normally given when I speak at Islamic gatherings as I don’t consider myself worthy of any of them.
I begin this paper with this introduction to convince you that you must take me seriously. What I am going to say must be seen for what it is – a practitioner speaking. Not someone who has read a few books or someone who is an academic teaching either corporate or theological theory – but as someone who has read more than a few books, has written several books himself and who teaches and has practiced his teachings for more than 27 years and who is consulted by global corporations, business families and entrepreneurs worldwide. So, when I say something it is not merely theory. It is theory in practice.
It is the learning that I acquired by practicing that theory in multiple situations and reflection on it and an understanding emerging from it – in the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah, Seerah and Islamic history – all of which I have also had the privilege to study in my other incarnation. If I tell you about a stream, it is there, and the water is good to drink. But of course, to drink or not is your choice. Of horses and water – if you see what I mean.
There are five principle differences and contradictions between corporate theory and the work of Da’awa of Islam which make it a very unsuitable model to use. I don’t mean using tools of measurement and so on. I mean the whole philosophy of Organization Development that is being used by most modern Da’awa organizations in the West. These are:
- Seeing is believing versus Belief in the Unseen
- Source of power is wealth versus Source of power is Allahﷻ.
- All those in my work are Competitors versus all those in my work are Partners
- Inviting towards self; versus inviting towards Allahﷻ
- Accumulation of wealth versus Baraka
Allahﷻ said about His Anbiya:
أُوْلَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ هَدَى اللّهُ فَبِهُدَاهُمُ اقْتَدِهْ قُل لاَّ أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِنْ هُوَ إِلاَّ ذِكْرَى لِلْعَالَمِينَ
An’am 6: 90. They are those whom Allah had guided. So follow their guidance. Say: “No reward I ask of you for this (the Qur’an). It is only a reminder for the ‘Alamin (worlds).”
Allahﷻ said to His Messengerﷺ about his work:
قُلْ هَـذِهِ سَبِيلِي أَدْعُو إِلَى اللّهِ عَلَى بَصِيرَةٍ أَنَاْ وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِي وَسُبْحَانَ اللّهِ وَمَا أَنَاْ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
Yusuf 12: 108. Say (O Muhammad): “This is my way; I invite unto Allah with sure knowledge, I and whosoever follows me (also must invite others to Allah with sure knowledge). And Glorified and Exalted be Allah (above all that they associate as partners with Him). And I am not of the Mushrikun (polytheists).”
I want to first state some basic premises that I hold to be true.
- That the best method of Da’awa is the method of the Anbiya because they were chosen, trained and guided directly by Allahﷻ Himself and so our method can’t possibly be better than theirs, no matter which age we live in.
- That Insha’Allah the Niyyah of the people involved in these efforts and organizations is good and they mean well and are trying to do their best.
- My purpose is not to criticize but to try to assist them in their work.
- Any Da’awa organization that wants my professional advice (Inc.1) can have it for the asking – as those who know me, know already.
Let us examine each of the principles contradictions I listed above and see how it contradicts with the basic Qur’anic principles of Da’awa, the work of the Anbiya of Allahﷻ.
Seeing is believing versus Belief in the Unseen
The basis of this Deen of ours is Imaan bil Ghayb (Belief in the Unperceivable). The basis of corporate theory and indeed all Western secular thought is ‘seeing is believing.’
This is the foundation of our faith and of our difference. Let us remember that almost all current, modern Western thought is secular – the denial of God. And so is seriously hampered and handicapped in understanding reality, i.e. the issues of Imaan bil Ghayb. For them, the Unseen (actually the Unperceivable, not merely ‘unseen’) doesn’t exist, except where they wish to acknowledge its presence as in radio waves, UV radiation and other things which are unseen but which they accept the presence of based on their effects on the environment. However, it is a contradiction which shows up their double standards that they deny their own method when it comes to Allahﷻ. They will not accept the presence of Allahﷻ based on His signs. Neither will they accept that there is a life after death or that there is an accounting for our actions before the One who knows all that we do.
Be that as it may, this is not the subject of our discussion here, but I think it is important to keep this in mind before swallowing all Western thought or philosophy, hook, line and sinker because we are so much in awe of it. Since I am one of those who has not only studied in that system but have written books about it and teach in some of their highest institutions, my eyes, by the Grace of Allahﷻ are open to the dangerous delusions on which their principles are based and I am keenly aware of the fallacy of their methods and of the misery and suffering that their single-minded pursuit of power and wealth has unleashed on the world.
I began with the Ayah from Sura Al-Mumtahina which I believe is an Ayah that lays down the law and draws the lines as far as the methodology of the Anbiya is concerned. I have highlighted the beautiful dua of Ibrahimy where he stands out clearly for Allahﷻ and against Ghairulla and then makes this beautiful dua.
What is Tawakkul?
Tawakkul is the most critical requirement for anyone who intends to do the work of Da’awa because this was the foundation of the work of the Anbiya. Tawakkul begins where all logical expectations, survey results, predictions, prognoses and scenarios end. Tawakkul is the essence of Yaqeen, it is the proof of Imaan and it is the result of a connection with Allahﷻ and can come only as a result of it. It is the thing that Allahﷻ requires us to demonstrate before the doors of His bounty are opened for us.
Let me tell you a story to illustrate what I mean.
The story is of a mountain climber, who wanted to climb the highest mountain. He began his adventure after many years of preparation, but since he wanted the glory just for himself, he decided to climb the mountain alone. He started to climb but it began to get very late, and instead of taking a break and camping, he kept climbing until it got very dark. The night felt heavy in the heights of the mountain, and the man could not see anything. All was black. Zero visibility, and the moon and the stars were covered by the clouds.
As he was climbing, perhaps only a few feet away from the top of the mountain, he suddenly slipped and fell, falling toward s the earth at a great speed. The climber could only see black spots as he went down, and the terrible sensation of being sucked by gravity. He kept falling… and in those moments of terror, there came to his mind all the good and bad episodes of his life. He thought about how close death was getting, when all of a sudden, the rope snagged, and he was brought up with a huge jerk.
So, there he was, hanging from his rope in mid-air. Only the rope was holding him, and in that moment of stillness he had no other choice but to scream: HELP ME GOD!!
All of a sudden, a deep voice coming from the sky answered: ‘What do you want me to do?’
“Save me God!!” he screamed
‘Do you really think I can save you?’
“Of course,” he screamed. “Only You can save me.”
‘Then cut the rope,’ said the voice.
The next morning the rescue team found the climber, frozen to death, his hands holding tightly to the rope; hanging just six feet from the ground.
Tawakkul is to cut the rope.
Allahﷻ mentioned Tawakkul and made it a condition and sign of Imaan. He said:
وَعَلَى اللّهِ فَتَوَكَّلُواْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
Ma’aida 5:23…. and put your trust in Allah if you are believers indeed
He also said:
وَعلَى اللّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
Ibrahim 14:11 And in Allah (Alone) let the believers put their trust.
وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بَالِغُ أَمْرِهِ قَدْ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدْرًا
Talaaq 65:3. And He will provide him from (sources) he never could imagine. And whosoever puts his trust in Allah, then He will suffice him. Verily, Allah will accomplish his purpose. Indeed Allah has set a measure for all things.
Tawakkul is to take risk; to bet on Allahﷻ and to do it from a position of absolute Yaqeen (faith) and not simply knowledge. The most reliable criterion of Yaqeen is the ability to take risk. To be able to cut the rope. To discard Al-Asbaab-ul-Adna (lower means – resources, worldly means) in favor of Al-Asbaab-ul-A’ala (highest means – Sabr was Salah). Because those are the Asbaab (means) that Allahﷻ told us to seek when faced with difficulty. How much more, when this difficulty is in the cause of His Deen? He said:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاَةِ إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ
Baqara 2:153. O you who believe! Seek help in patience and As-Salat (the prayer). Truly! Allah is with As-Sabirin (the patient)
He also said:
الَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِرَ اللَّهُ وَجِلَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَالصَّابِرِينَ عَلَى مَا أَصَابَهُمْ وَالْمُقِيمِي الصَّلَاةِ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ
Haj 22:35. Whose hearts are filled with fear when Allah is mentioned; who patiently bear whatever may befall them (of calamities); and who establish As-Salat, and who spend (in Allah’s Cause) out of what We have provided them.
Remember when I am talking about taking risk and discarding Al-Asbaab-ul-Adna I am not saying that you have to completely reject all worldly means forever. I mean that for our worldly work to succeed we need the connection with Allahﷻ. It was the order of Allahﷻ which made Musa (AS)’s stick, a snake and an Ayah from Allahﷻ. Musa (AS) then didn’t leave the stick behind. He took it with him but now with a different perspective. Having understood the lesson; that all good and harm can only come from Allahﷻ and that any means in itself is powerless to do anything for us, Musa (AS) picked up his stick and used it as ordered by Allahﷻ.
However, as the Kalima Tayyiba begins with Nafi (denial) of all those who are considered worthy of worship and then goes on to the Isbaath (affirmation) that Allahﷻ alone is worthy of worship; for Tawakkul to happen one first needs to remove all faith and reliance from anything material before one can connect with Allahﷻ. It is like the electrician cleaning the wires and removing all oxidation and other impurities before splicing them onto the power cable because he understands that otherwise the impurities will interfere with the flow of current. So also, all reliance on material things has to be cut off before we can join with Allahﷻ. This is the Sunnah of Allahﷻ with respect to all His Anbiya where He took away all worldly resources before He helped them directly by His power, so that the world would be able to see the power of Allahﷻ clearly in action. Same rule applies to this day. So, have faith.
In the famous words of Barbara Winters: ‘When you come to the end of the light of all that you know and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen; there will be something firm to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.’
What powerful words which describe Tawakkul like nothing else. Notice please that she uses the word, ‘knowing’ and not ‘believing’. Knowing is certainty, Yaqeen. Belief can be wrong. But what one knows with certainty is true. Islam is to believe with certainty that which we can’t see.
The picture in my mind whenever I read these words is of a man coming to the edge of the cliff and stepping off to walk on air to the other side, confident in the knowledge that the One helping Him makes the rules. The One who makes the rules is not bound by them. Tawakkul is to understand this experientially in the deepest part of one’s being so that when the man comes to the edge of the abyss, he smiles to himself and walks on, without the slightest hesitation in his stride.
The first thing to ask ourselves therefore is, ‘What is my connection with Allahﷻ?’ ‘Where is my reliance? On Allahﷻ alone or on the means?’ Reliance on Asbaab is shirk.
Remember O! People there is no stopping the one who Allahﷻ takes forward and there is no going forward for the one who wants to go without the help of Allahﷻ. I know we will never say the latter publicly, but our actions speak louder than words. So, let’s see what we do.
A quick self-test is to see how many times the following words/phrases are mentioned in your internal organizational meetings: Allahﷻ, Tawakkul, Hidaya, Ikhlaas-un-Niyyah, Ridha’a of Allahﷻ, changes in the lives of students, market share, profit, income from conferences, number of students attending courses, brand building, exposure to the environment and people, mention in news, TV, press, competition and what to do to them and all similar stuff. Sit with a pen and paper and count. You’ll know. And remember that we don’t have to convince anyone about this. Allahﷻ knows if we are being truthful or not and our results will show up the truth soon enough.
Source of power is wealth versus Source of power is Allahﷻ.
In the corporate world the focus of all effort is revenue. This comes either through the sale of products and services or through voluntary fund-raising efforts. The more money, consumers or customers you have, the more products and services you sell, the more successful you are deemed to be. When that happens, you shout about it from the rooftops, your face appears on the cover of Fortune magazine, you are the guest in famous talk shows on TV and you are the toast of the town. You are highly visible, you are a ‘Brand’. You are the king of the world and the world wants to shake your hand. All of course until the next quarterly results.
In the work of Da’awa however none of these are criteria of success. On the other hand, success is determined by your connection with Allahﷻ, the amount of effort you made and the quality of your humility and repentance. Allahﷻ said about this:
يَا أَيُّهَا الْمُزَّمِّلُ
قُمِ اللَّيْلَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا
نِصْفَهُ أَوِ انقُصْ مِنْهُ قَلِيلًا
أَوْ زِدْ عَلَيْهِ وَرَتِّلِ الْقُرْآنَ تَرْتِيلًا
إِنَّا سَنُلْقِي عَلَيْكَ قَوْلًا ثَقِيلًا
إِنَّ نَاشِئَةَ اللَّيْلِ هِيَ أَشَدُّ وَطْءًا وَأَقْوَمُ قِيلًا
Muzammil 73:1-6 1. O you wrapped in garments (Prophet Muhammadﷺ) 2. Stand (to pray) all night, except a little. 3. Half of it, or a little less than that, 4. Or a little more; and recite the Qur’an (aloud) in a slow, (pleasant tone and) style. 5. Verily, We shall send down to you a weighty Word. 6. Verily, the rising by night (for Tahajjud prayer) is very hard but most potent and good for governing (the soul), and most suitable for (understanding) the Word (of Allah).
Allahﷻ taught His Messengerﷺ the method of doing Da’awa. He asked him to first build his connection with his Rabb and to stand in Salah in the night and recite the Qur’an and said that the rising in the night for Tahajjud was essential to develop discipline and to understand His Kalaam. One question that we in the work of Da’awa must ask ourselves is, ‘How many of my people (including and starting with myself) pray Tahajjud regularly and weep before Allahﷻ and beg for the success of their work? How many are strict followers of the Shari’ah? How many closely follow the Sunnah?’ Personal piety is a pre-condition of success in the work of Deen. If our people are not regular in Tahajjud (notice I am not even mentioning the Fara’idh because to me those are a given), reading the Qur’an, extreme care about Halaal and Haraam, strict compliance with the Sunnah and spending in the cause of Allahﷻ, then we are doomed to failure.
Let us remember that our Rabb doesn’t need us. We need Him. We are not doing Him a favor by doing Da’awa. He is doing us a favor not only by giving us the Tawfeeq to do Da’awa but also by not holding us accountable for the numbers who come to Islam because of our effort. We need to get recruited for His work. We need to show to His satisfaction that we are deserving of the honor of doing His work. We need to convince Him to use us.
That is the only requirement. Once that happens, Allahﷻ will teach us what to do and will support us. Until that happens, no amount of worldly resources will help. The focus in Islam is on the Unseen (Unpercievable). The source of power is Allahﷻ and not material wealth. Material is to be used, like the shoe on your foot. Not to be placed on your head or held in your hand.
About making effort for the sake of Allahﷻ unmindful of the number of people who respond to those efforts Allahﷻ gave us the example of Nuh (AS). He said:
قَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي دَعَوْتُ قَوْمِي لَيْلًا وَنَهَارًا
فَلَمْ يَزِدْهُمْ دُعَائِي إِلَّا فِرَارًا
وَإِنِّي كُلَّمَا دَعَوْتُهُمْ لِتَغْفِرَ لَهُمْ جَعَلُوا أَصَابِعَهُمْ فِي آذَانِهِمْ وَاسْتَغْشَوْا ثِيَابَهُمْ وَأَصَرُّوا وَاسْتَكْبَرُوا اسْتِكْبَارًا
ثُمَّ إِنِّي دَعَوْتُهُمْ جِهَارًا
ثُمَّ إِنِّي أَعْلَنتُ لَهُمْ وَأَسْرَرْتُ لَهُمْ إِسْرَارًا
Nooh 71:5. He said: “O my Rabb! Verily, I have called my people night and day (i.e. secretly and openly), 6. “But all my calling added nothing but to (their) flight (from the truth). 7. “And verily! Every time I called unto them that You might forgive them, they thrust their fingers into their ears, covered themselves up with their garments, and persisted (in their refusal), and magnified themselves in pride. 8. “Then verily, I called to them openly (aloud); 9. Then verily, I proclaimed to them in public, and I have appealed to them in private.”
But the result of this was colossal ‘failure’ in our modern terms. He did this for not a few days, months or years but for 9 ½ centuries because of which less than 100 people accepted Islam. May Allahﷻ forgive us but going by our modern standards; he is not the sort of person we would like to invite to our international conferences.
Take the case of our own Master Muhammadﷺ. In 13 years of intensive, full time work, day and night, he managed to get less than 100 followers. Once again…okay I won’t complete my sentence. But you do get the message, I hope.
But what was the status of Nooh with Allahﷻ? Allahﷻ quoted his example for us to follow and told us how many years he did his Da’awa and under what conditions. Let us remember that ultimately it is not how many students came to your class or what kind of feedback you got but whether Allah accepted your work or not, which will count. And that we will know only when we stand before Him.
And that is why Allahﷻ taught us what to do even when we are visibly successful.
إِذَا جَاء نَصْرُ اللَّهِ وَالْفَتْحُ
وَرَأَيْتَ النَّاسَ يَدْخُلُونَ فِي دِينِ اللَّهِ أَفْوَاجًا
فَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ وَاسْتَغْفِرْهُ إِنَّهُ كَانَ تَوَّابًا
Nasr 110: 1-3 When comes the Help of Allah (to you, O Muhammadﷺ against your enemies; conquest of Makkah), 2. And you see that the people enter Allah’s religion (Islam) in crowds, 3. So glorify the Praises of your Rabb, and ask for His Forgiveness. Verily, He is the One Who accepts the repentance and forgives.
Ask forgiveness when you are winning? No shouting from the rooftops? No prancing stallions, waving battle standards, blaring trumpets, beating drums. No TV, no public accolades, no prize distribution ceremonies. But sitting in the saddle, head bent so low that the forehead touches the saddle? Behavior that is anathema to modern corporate R&R (Reward & Recognition). No beating the chest; instead repent, ask forgiveness, praise Allahﷻ and thank Him for His help. Ascribe the success where it belongs – to the Creator, not to the creature.
All those in my work are Competitors versus all those in my work are Partners
Corporate strategy is founded on the principle of ‘grabbing’ market share. Grabbing implies taking something away from others in an act of violence. Competition is defined as anyone in our line of business and all such must be neutralized and if possible, destroyed. So competitive strategy is focused not only on how to win ourselves but also on how to make the competitor lose.
In Islam and the work of Da’awa everyone in the work is a partner. Allahﷻ said:
إِذْ أَرْسَلْنَا إِلَيْهِمُ اثْنَيْنِ فَكَذَّبُوهُمَا فَعَزَّزْنَا بِثَالِثٍ فَقَالُوا إِنَّا إِلَيْكُم مُّرْسَلُونَ
Ya Seen 36:14. When We sent to them two Messengers, they belied them both, so We reinforced them with a third, and they said: “Verily! We have been sent to you as Messengers.”
The Messengers didn’t see each other as competitors. They were partners reinforcing one another. Ibrahim (AS) and Lut (AS) were both Anbiya at the same time. Ibrahim (AS) didn’t say, ‘It’s great that Lut is not successful in his work. It is good that there are no subscribers to his Da’awa.’ The Sahaba and Tabiyoon were contemporaries of one another. There is not a single instance where they acted as competitors in the matter of Da’awa.
Today however we see very little difference in the observable behavior of Islamic Da’awa organizations who act like Coke and Pepsi in their attempts to grab market share or at least to sabotage the efforts of their ‘competition’. This is completely against and contrary to the Sunnah of the Anbiya who Allahﷻ ordered us to follow.
I believe the reason lies in the title that is given to this ‘modern’ Da’awa – Commercial Da’awa. I find it very strange that nobody objects to this disgraceful title. Da’awa and commercial? The contrast doesn’t hit anyone? See what Allahﷻ said about the cardinal principle of the work of His Anbiya:
أُوْلَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ هَدَى اللّهُ فَبِهُدَاهُمُ اقْتَدِهْ قُل لاَّ أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِنْ هُوَ إِلاَّ ذِكْرَى لِلْعَالَمِينَ
An’am 6: 90. They are those whom Allah had guided. So follow their guidance. Say: “No reward I ask of you for this (the Qur’an). It is only a reminder for the ‘Alamin (worlds).”
يَا قَوْمِ لا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلاَّ عَلَى الَّذِي فَطَرَنِي أَفَلاَ تَعْقِلُونَ
Hud 11: 51. “O my people I ask of you no reward for it (the Message). My reward is only from Him, Who created me. Will you not then understand?
ذَلِكَ الَّذِي يُبَشِّرُ اللَّهُ عِبَادَهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ قُل لَّا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ أَجْرًا إِلَّا الْمَوَدَّةَ فِي الْقُرْبَى وَمَن يَقْتَرِفْ حَسَنَةً نَّزِدْ لَهُ فِيهَا حُسْنًا إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ شَكُورٌ
Shura 42: 23. That is (Jannah) whereof Allah gives glad tidings to His slaves who believe and do righteous good deeds. Say (O Muhammadﷺ): “No reward do I ask of you for this except to be kind to me for my kinship with you.” And whoever earns a good righteous deed, We shall give him an increase of good in respect thereof. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most ready to appreciate (deeds).
فَإِن تَوَلَّيْتُمْ فَمَا سَأَلْتُكُم مِّنْ أَجْرٍ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلاَّ عَلَى اللّهِ وَأُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ
Yunus 10:72. “But if you turn away [from accepting Allah], then no reward have I asked of you, my reward is only from Allah, and I have been commanded to be one of the Muslims.”
قُلْ مَا سَأَلْتُكُم مِّنْ أَجْرٍ فَهُوَ لَكُمْ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلَّا عَلَى اللَّهِ وَهُوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ
Saba 34: 47. Say (O Muhammadﷺ): “Whatever wage I might have asked of you is yours. My wage is from Allah only. And He is Witness over all things.”
وَيَا قَوْمِ لا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مَالاً إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلاَّ عَلَى اللّهِ وَمَآ أَنَاْ بِطَارِدِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِنَّهُم مُّلاَقُو رَبِّهِمْ وَلَـكِنِّيَ أَرَاكُمْ قَوْمًا تَجْهَلُونَ
Hud 11: 29. “And O my people! I ask of you no wealth for it, my reward is from none but Allah. I am not going to drive away those who have believed. Surely, they are going to meet their Rabb, but I see that you are a people that are ignorant.
The Anbiya came to be obeyed and followed in all aspects of life and even more especially in their own work. Allahﷻ said about this:
أُوْلَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ هَدَى اللّهُ فَبِهُدَاهُمُ اقْتَدِهْ
An’am 6: 90 …They are those whom Allah had guided. So, follow their guidance.
So, whose guidance are we following when we call our work ‘Commercial Da’awa’? Whose guidance are we following when we take money to do the work of Da’awa? I mean especially those who take money to teach or speak at Islamic conferences. We have become like other motivational speakers on the so-called Speakers Circuit (may Allahﷻ forgive us, we even call it that) and charge fees to talk about the Glory of our Rabb. Isn’t this shameful to put it politely? Organizations we work for charge others fees to allow us to speak at their functions. And all of us, who claim to have an Islamic education, fail to see how we are doing this work of Da’awa directly against the basic foundational principle of Da’awa which Allahﷻ mentioned so many times in different ways but with the same meaning:
وَيَا قَوْمِ لا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مَالاً إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلاَّ عَلَى اللّهِ
“And O my people! I ask of you no wealth for it, my reward is from none but Allah.
Money brings with it greed. And believe it or not, we are not protected from Shaytaan and so we compete like people selling Coke and Pepsi and use their language.
Thus, is the work of the Anbiya reduced to a commercial activity to be judged by the same standards that the sellers of bottled toilet cleaners use to judge themselves.
What lessons do we learn from the Seerah about the behavior of Rasoolullahﷺ even with his real enemies? Who do we seek reward from when we work for high salaries, prevent those who can’t pay our fee into our classes, will not speak unless there are 10,000 people in the audience and act like prima donnas? Is this the way to do the work of Anbiya? Then please find me one example of a Nabi who charged a fee to talk about the greatness of Allahﷻ.
The corporate world judges people by the salary they make. They reduce human talent and wisdom to a priced commodity based not on its efficacy or value but on how popular that person is with the public. We do the same and forget that with Allahﷻ popularity with the public is not a criterion at all. Salaries don’t buy dedication – something that our ‘commercial Da’awa’ organizations know too well. Dedication comes from being conscious of the value and majesty of this work and feeling blessed to be in it. A great example of modern times in the so-called Jamat Tabligh (I say, so-called because that is not their name for themselves), which has no paid positions at all, globally. It does no public fund raising at all. The people of Tabligh never ask for money. They only ask you to go out with them in their Jamat tours to invite others towards Islam. You can’t officially donate money to the Jamat. It has no website, no Facebook page, no Twitter, no nothing. Yet it is by far the largest and most powerful Da’awa organization in the world with members not in thousands but millions in every country on earth. It is not my purpose to go into the details of how this is possible to do but only to quote an example that is before us all to see. Maybe it has something to do with the number of them who stand in Tahajjud every day and cry for the Hidaya of the world.
‘What about Fund Raising?’ you ask. After all fund raising has become a major activity in itself with more and more innovative ways being invented to delve into the reluctant pocket. People are quick to quote from the Seerah the incident of Rasoolullahﷺ raising money for Tabuk. Before I say something about that let me hasten to warn those who take examples from the Seerah to be very careful not to cherry-pick and then mould incidents from the Seerah to support their own activity. Rather to convert their activity to conform to the Seerah. The Seerah is for us to follow, not to use at will to justify ourselves and our actions. Cherry picking from the Seerah is dangerous because Allahﷻ told us to follow it entirely, not to cherry-pick as we wish. Tabuk is not a good example simply because Rasoolullahﷺ was not raising funds to pay salaries of any organization. Nor was he raising funds to do social work, no matter how noble. He was raising funds for jihad, plain and simple.
However, Tabuk fund raising is a very good example to illustrate something that I have never heard anyone talk about – the basic principle of fund raising in Islam.
About fund raising of Tabuk the incident that is narrated most often is about the generosity of Abu Bakr Siddique (RA). What nobody mentions is the situation of Rasoolullahﷺ himself. What was the situation of Rasoolullahﷺ’s household when he stood up to ask for funds? Did he have wealth and sustenance stocked for his family? Or was he in the same state as Abu Bakr Siddique (RA)? The basic principle of fund raising in Islam is that the fund raiser first invests his entire wealth in the work of Allahﷻ’s Deen and only then asks for others to contribute. After all it makes sense to take advantage of all the good things that you remind others about when it comes to investing for the cause of Allahﷻ, if you truly believe what you say. My brothers and sisters, let me remind you that Allahﷻ’s Jannah is not cheap. Neither is the company of Anbiya on the Day of Judgment. It requires investment in this life. Which means that you will have to make a choice, scale down your lifestyles, contribute your own funds and work voluntarily. Allahﷻ will put Baraka in your lives and fill them with peace and tranquility which all the money in the world can’t buy. But you must do it yourself.
So how to raise funds? First remind yourself that the essence of Tawakkul is to know that the One who makes the rules is not bound by them.
Go to the fund raising and look at the people and say, ‘La ilaha ill-Allah’ there’s nobody who fulfils our needs but Allahﷻ. These people can’t even take a breath on their own. What can they do to help me? La hawla wala quwwata illa billa. Then make dua – ‘O Allahﷻ use them if you wish or give me directly because you don’t need to use anyone. And if you give directly I will sing your praises from the rooftops.’
Then first make the biggest contribution yourself before you ask anyone. Allahﷻ wants to see how much you believe in what you plan to say about the value of giving for His sake. If you believe in it, then prove it by giving first. Then offer them the opportunity – never ask, never beg, don’t lower your prestige because you are asking for Allahﷻ’s work. Offer them the opportunity for their own benefit. And leave it to Him to do what He wills. It is His work, and He promised to help those who help His cause. So, don’t lose any sleep.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِن تَنصُرُوا اللَّهَ يَنصُرْكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَكُمْ
Muhammad 47:7. O you who believe! If you help (in the cause of) Allah, He will help you, and make your foothold firm.
Believe in His promise because His promise is always true. Just check to see if it is indeed His work that you are doing. This is important. Not everything we call His work is actually His work. So, don’t be wedded to your own bright idea. Seek for answers in the Book of Allahﷻ and the Sunnah of His Messengerﷺ because there is no better guidance. Do only what pleases Allahﷻ, not what is most popular or has the greatest demands. People’s fads and likes and dislikes have no meaning before Allahﷻ. Do what is pleasing to Allahﷻ and He will help you. Shut down all the rest because Allahﷻ will not help you in those activities.
Inviting towards self; versus inviting towards Allahﷻ
In the corporate world inviting towards yourself is a given. Inviting towards yourself is the basis of differentiation. It is the philosophy of branding. You don’t ask people to clean their teeth; you tell them to buy Colgate. You don’t ask people to use air travel; you tell them to fly Emirates.
Allahﷻ on the other hand said to His Messengerﷺ :
قُلْ هَـذِهِ سَبِيلِي أَدْعُو إِلَى اللّهِ عَلَى بَصِيرَةٍ أَنَاْ وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِي وَسُبْحَانَ اللّهِ وَمَا أَنَاْ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
Yusuf 12: 108. Say (O Muhammad): “This is my way; I invite unto Allah with sure knowledge, I and whosoever follows me (also must invite others to Allah with sure knowledge). And Glorified and Exalted be Allah (above all that they associate as partners with Him). And I am not of the Mushrikun (polytheists).”
We on the other hand invite towards our organizations in opposition to others doing the same work. When did you ever hear of ABC sending people to DEF’s courses because the DEF course is at a more convenient time or the teacher is a better teacher than the ABC teacher? When did you ever hear of ABC and DEF collaborating about what to teach, how to teach it and where to teach it? On the other hand, we hear story after story of ABC going into a country that DEF is already in and all the turf wars resulting from that. So, who are we inviting towards? And is our work the same as what Allahﷻ mentioned in the Ayah above?
The other attendant problem which is a very major matter is that about Ikhlaas-un-Niyyah. When we invite towards ourselves and our organization, what is our Niyyah? To please Allahﷻ? How can that be when Allahﷻ Himself told His Messengerﷺ to describe himself as someone who invites towards Allahﷻ. No Nabi ever invited towards himself. They all invited towards Allahﷻ. We on the other hand, caught up in our corporate philosophy are hopelessly embroiled in brand building. In the process we are dividing the Ummah.
We use key individuals and build them into brands not concerned even about what will happen to that individual based brand when that individual departs to meet His Rabb. We don’t even think of how strongly this contradicts what the Anbiya did. We use every opportunity to gain publicity, exposure, visibility and to put our brand out there in people’s faces for them to see and notice and speak well of us. There is not a flood, disaster or calamity, no widow to be supported, no orphan to be sheltered, no hungry mouth to be fed, but that it must be done only with the backdrop of our banner and logo. May Allahﷻ help us all, what do we think this does to our Niyyah? What is the Ikhlaas of our Niyyah?
I dread standing before Allahﷻ and seeing my book of deeds clean like a freshly wiped slate because all that I did was to build my brand and not for the pleasure of Allahﷻ.
We use our international conferences as major fund raising and brand building exercises all geared to take away someone else’s market share. Who is that someone else? Another organization working to spread Islam. Who is the ‘market’? Muslims. So, taking it away from him means what? Our conferences are reminiscent of major rock music events. Strobe lights, gyrating cameras on gantries, sounds almost bordering on music, markets with people milling around all over (how come nobody talks about the need to segregate in these bazaars?). 15-minute speeches by a galaxy of stars whose only claim to fame is the number of people who will come to watch them perform. And believe me, it is a performance. To give the poor speakers their due, what else can you do in 15 minutes? And the final criterion of success of the conference is, ‘What was the collection?’ Box office. No less. If you don’t believe me, sit and quietly listen to what people say in your internal conference meetings.
Accumulation of wealth versus Baraka
The basic principle of finance is ‘more is more and less is less’. The basic principle of Baraka in Islam is ‘less is more’. We lose sleep over the fact that we don’t have enough physical, visible resources when we should remember that we are the people of the Ghayb about whose RizqAllahﷻ said:
وَفِي السَّمَاء رِزْقُكُمْ وَمَا تُوعَدُونَ
فَوَرَبِّ السَّمَاء وَالْأَرْضِ إِنَّهُ لَحَقٌّ مِّثْلَ مَا أَنَّكُمْ تَنطِقُونَ
Dhariyaat 51: 22-23 And in the heaven is your provision, and that which you are promised. 23. Then, by the Rabb of the heaven and the earth, it is the truth (i.e. what has been promised to you), just as it is the truth that you can speak.
Allahﷻ taught this lesson of not relying on resources but relying on Him alone for the work of Deen to the Sahaba. When the Sahaba tended to veer off-track and rely on material strength, Allahﷻimmediately corrected them.
لَقَدْ نَصَرَكُمُ اللّهُ فِي مَوَاطِنَ كَثِيرَةٍ وَيَوْمَ حُنَيْنٍ إِذْ أَعْجَبَتْكُمْ كَثْرَتُكُمْ فَلَمْ تُغْنِ عَنكُمْ شَيْئًا وَضَاقَتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الأَرْضُ بِمَا رَحُبَتْ ثُمَّ وَلَّيْتُم مُّدْبِرِينَ
ثُمَّ أَنَزلَ اللّهُ سَكِينَتَهُ عَلَى رَسُولِهِ وَعَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَأَنزَلَ جُنُودًا لَّمْ تَرَوْهَا وَعذَّبَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ وَذَلِكَ جَزَاء الْكَافِرِينَ
ثُمَّ يَتُوبُ اللّهُ مِن بَعْدِ ذَلِكَ عَلَى مَن يَشَاء وَاللّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
Tawba 9: 25. Truly Allah has given you victory on many battle fields, and on the Day of Hunain (battle) when you rejoiced at your great number, but it availed you nothing and the earth, vast as it is, was straitened for you, then you turned back in flight. 26. Then Allah did send down His Sakinah (calmness, tranquility and reassurance, etc.) on the Messenger (Muhammad), and on the believers, and sent down forces (angels) which you saw not and punished the disbelievers. Such is the recompense of disbelievers. 27. Then after that Allah will accept the repentance of whom He will. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Allahﷻconverted their victory into a rout and then when the core group of Sahaba rallied around Rasoolullahﷺ, responding to his call, Allahﷻsent down the angels to help them and re-converted defeat into victory. And then Allahﷻrevealed the Ayaat which spelled out clearly what had happened and why so that the lesson would be learnt well. The Sahaba learnt that lesson very well.
In the battle of Mo’ata Abu Hurayrahy who became Muslim during Khaybar was in the army. He said, ‘I attended the battle of Mo’ata. When they came close we saw what nobody can face, weapons, preparation, silk, brocade, gold and my eyes became dazzled (bariqa basari).’ This showed on his face and Thabit bin Arqamy who was next to him saw it. This was an experienced and senior Muslim handing down his experience to his junior. He said to Abu Hurayrahy, ‘It seems you are seeing a huge force.’ Abu Hurayrahy said, ‘Yes, just look at them.’ Thabit bin Arqamy smiled and said, ‘You were not with us in Badr. We are not given victory because of our numbers.’
فَلَمْ تَقْتُلُوهُمْ وَلَـكِنَّ اللّهَ قَتَلَهُمْ وَمَا رَمَيْتَ إِذْ رَمَيْتَ وَلَـكِنَّ اللّهَ رَمَى وَلِيُبْلِيَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْهُ بَلاء حَسَناً إِنَّ اللّهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
Anfal 8:17. You killed them not, but Allah killed them. And you (Muhammadﷺ) threw not when you did throw but Allah threw, that He might test the believers by a fair trial from Him. Verily, Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.
That is the power of being accepted by Allahﷻbecause only then will one be guided, protected and supported with forces not visible to the eyes. Victory for Muslims comes from Allahﷻon the basis of their piety and defies all laws of strategy and tactics. We are people who were sent to take from the treasures of Allahﷻ and give to the world. This was our true brand. Our real differentiation. We were the givers to the world and the world loves those who give. But then we forgot how to take from the treasures of Allahﷻ and started chasing the world instead of giving to it. So, we lost our prominence, our nobility and our grandeur. We became like anyone else and the world started to hate us because they saw us as competitors for worldly goods.
As I write this I am aware that one must also provide solutions if possible. Many organizations are immersed in the corporate model and have also found their ‘niche’ in the ‘market’. Now what do they do?
First of all, I suggest that you read what I have written and see how much of it applies to you. After all you only need to correct what needs to be corrected. So, if you are already working according to the way of the Anbiya then all power to you.
If not, then what must be changed, must be changed no matter how painful, because the alternative of finding out that you were wrong on the Day of Judgment will be far more painful. Imagine that we discover that all our work was worthless because we looked for worldly gain and fame and approval of people and popularity and so it is said to us, ‘What you wanted was given to you. Today there is nothing for you here.’ May Allahﷻ protect us from such a fate.
As for salaries and the usual argument, ‘Abu Bakr (RA) also took a salary,’ let me clarify. Abu Bakr (RA) was forced to accept a salary and then he took the bare minimum that he needed to support his family. Then before he died, he gave a piece of land that he owned to the Baithul Maal in return for his salary for two years of his Khilaafa. Sayyidina Omar ibn Al Khattab (RA) wept and said to Ayesha (RA), ‘Your father set a very high standard for all those who come after him.’ Let those who take his name remember the whole story and not quote only a part to justify the corporate salaries that they take home. Anbiya took nothing.
So, I say, take what you must from the Islamic organization. But only what is essential to your basic needs. Nothing more. Seek the Fadhl of Allahﷻ elsewhere and Insha’Allah he will give it to you. There are many modern examples of people doing that. It is not my purpose to list them here but those who are interested may write to me and I will tell you about them. But never take from the people. Islam is not a business. Keep Islam free because Allahﷻ and His Messengerﷺ didn’t charge you for it.
As for being in a ‘niche’ – the basic principle that I am speaking about is to examine what that niche is. If it is something that is in keeping with the Sunnah and the work of Anbiya and you are doing it in that way, then go ahead. If not, change. Close it down. Stop doing it. Remember that only the work of Da’awa that is done according to the way of the Anbiya is sure to be rewarded. By all means use technology to the fullest extent. When I am warning you against the corporate model, I don’t mean the tools of corporate functioning. I don’t mean reporting channels, technology, tools of working more efficiently, quality systems and so on. I mean the philosophy of corporate growth, significance, measurement of success, competing in the market place, the whole concept of market itself and gaining prominence. Those must be discarded. It is not about the nuts and bolts of managing. It is about the principles of leadership. Believe me, there is a difference. A vast difference. The difference between Jannah and the other place.
It is clear (and certainly logically as well) that before we can expect to do the work of Allahﷻ, we must first become accepted by Him. We must get the job first, to be able to do the job. So, we must apply, beg, plead, show our ability, sincerity and willingness so that Allahﷻ accepts us for that most significant and honorable of jobs – the job of the best people on earth – the Anbiya of Allahﷻ. Only when we are accepted, can we expect to get the powers, authority, resources, forces, knowledge and the understanding to carry out the work satisfactorily.
Allahﷻ will help all those who He accepts for the work of His Deen as He helped the Anbiya. But that is provided we first prove ourselves worthy of His attention and the work of His Deen.
Please remember that Allahﷻ made the rules of Da’awa and His Anbiya followed them. So, success will come to only those who follow the Anbiya.
For the rest; well it is between you and your Rabb. I ask Allahﷻ to forgive me and you.
What is it that enables some leaders to continue to be inspirational and not lose followers even when their decisions may not be to their follower’s liking? This is a very critical dilemma of leadership, of walking the tightrope between populist actions and doing what needs to be done and risk losing popularity. In today’s political environment of playing to the gallery, leaders are often held to ‘ransom’ by their followers who give or withdraw support because they don’t like what the leader’s decision. Or don’t understand his wisdom. In modern times, the example of Al Gore comes to mind, where Americans chose George Bush over him for President of America. One can fantasize about how the world would have been different if the author of ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, had become President. But that is water under the bridge.
So, what is it that sets a leader apart where even when he proposes to do what his followers either don’t understand or don’t like, they still support him and commit to his way and he doesn’t lose trust in their eyes?
The two finest examples of this in Islamic history are the Treaty of Hudaybiyya and the Wars of Riddah. Let us see the challenges that the leaders faced in each of them.
I won’t narrate the history of this very famous treaty as it is well known. I will list the challenges that Rasoolullahﷺ faced. They were perhaps the most severe challenges that any leader could have faced, especially one who was the Messenger of Allahﷻ and so the recipient of Wahi (Revelation). He took the people with him on Umrah, naturally with the intention of performing Umrah but thanks to a series of events which obviously he could not have anticipated, he was now in the process of signing a treaty that was so one-sided as to be humiliating for the Muslims. Two of the most difficult to accept clauses were:
1. They must return to Madina without making Umrah
2. If a Muslim left Islam and went over to the Quraysh of Makkah he/she would be given refuge and need not be returned to Madina. But if a non-Muslim accepted Islam and went from Makkah to Madina, he/she must be returned to Makkah and must not be given refuge.
To add to the difficulty, Abu Jandal bin Suhayl the brother of Abdullah ibn Suhayl and son of Suhayl Ibn Amr, the orator of Quraysh had accepted Islam and consequently had been imprisoned by his father, escaped and came to Hudaybiyya having heard that Rasoolullahﷺ was camped there. His father Suahyl ibn Amr was the representative of Quraysh, negotiating the treaty. The clauses of the treaty had been agreed upon but had not been written down yet. He demanded that his son should be handed over to him to be returned to Makkah in chains and Rasoolullahﷺ agreed. He advised Abu Jandal (R) to be patient when he complained that the Quraysh would punish him for accepting Islam. The Sahaba were horrified because what was happening was directly against the custom of giving refuge to a victim and in this case to a fellow Muslim. Yet Rasoolullahﷺ was honoring the clause of a treaty even though it had not yet been signed. He was honoring his word which had been given, the writing of which was merely detail. The Sahaba were very sad and angry.
Sad about not being able to enter Makkah and make Umrah and angry at what the Quraysh were demanding. Omar ibn Al Khattab (R) even went the extent of questioning Rasoolullahﷺ. Once again, I will not go into the details here as these are well known. However, I would like to say that his questioning was really the unconscious expression of the doubt in the minds of many others, if not most. It was a cry of anguish in the face of the apparently placid and submissive acceptance of injustice. Yet when all was said and done, the Sahaba stood behind Rasoolullahﷺ solidly and followed him and did as he instructed them to do. And that is the bottom-line and the question that I raise here, ‘What was it about Rasoolullahﷺ that inspired them to follow him, even when his decision was not to their liking?’
To better understand the challenge from the perspective of the followers (Sahaba) let me list some of the obvious doubts that this entire incident raises. I am not saying that the Sahaba had these doubts. Allahﷻ knows what was in their minds and hearts and that is not the subject of our discussion here. This is an objective analysis of one of the most severe tests of leadership in history which is important for us to understand. I call this the ‘final exam’, which qualified the Sahaba in the sight of Allahﷻ to lead the world and Heﷻ opened for them not only the doors of Makkah but the whole of their world. Hudaybiyya was the toughest exam because it was not a test of bravery or physical prowess, but a test of faith and trust. The Sahaba passed it with flying colors.
The doubts that the incident raises are:
1. They believed in Muhammadﷺ as the Messenger of Allahﷻ who received Revelation (Wahi). They believed that one of the forms in which Wahi was received was in a dream. Rasoolullahﷺ had seen in his dream that he was making Umrah with his companions and so, had invited them to join him to travel to Makkah to make Umrah. However, now he was agreeing not to make Umrah that year and was going to return to Madina with them without fulfilling the intention of performing Umrah.
2. They had been taught and believed that Islam was the truth. They had been taught and believed that standing up for the truth and fighting against falsehood was a sacred trust and duty. Yet here they were apparently giving in to blatant injustice.
3. They now faced the prospect of returning to Madina to the taunts of the Munafiqeen who would no doubt cast aspersions on the prophethood and veracity of Rasoolullahﷺ.
4. For Rasoolullahﷺ himself were the questions, ‘If Allahﷻ wanted him to make Umrah, why did this barrier come about? Why did Allahﷻ not open the door for him to make Umrah after directing him to do so in his dream? Why was Allahﷻ wanting him to sign such a humiliating treaty with his enemies? What ‘face’ would he have with his followers who believed in his Messengership? What about his personal credibility as the Messenger of Allahﷻ?’
Truly Hudaybiyya was a test, difficult beyond belief. That is why I call it the ‘final’ exam of the Sahaba.
Wars of Riddah
Before we discuss the reasons for the Sahaba remaining steadfast in their support for Rasoolullahﷺ let me mention another similar incident in early Muslim history which was a landmark for the future of Islam. This was the refusal of many tribes to pay Zakat, after the death of Rasoolullahﷺ. They refused on the grounds that they used to pay it to Rasoolullahﷺ who was no longer present and so Zakat was not due any longer. Abu Bakr Siddique (R) the Khalifa reminded them that Zakat was not a personal payment to Rasoolullahﷺ but was a Rukn (Pillar) of Islam about which Rasoolullahﷺ had declared that anyone who separated Salah from Zakat had left Islam. It was on this basis that Rasoolullahﷺ had refused to accept the Islam of the Banu Thaqeef of At-Ta’aif when they came to him and offered to accept Islam on condition that they be made exempt from paying Zakat. Rasoolullahﷺ refused and declared that both Salah and Zakat were Pillars of Islam and equal in importance and that leaving of either would be tantamount to leaving Islam. On this basis, Abu Bakr Siddique (R) declared war on those tribes who refused to pay Zakat.
The Sahaba were very perturbed about this as it appeared that the Khalifa Abu Bakr Siddique (R) was planning to make war on Muslims. Omar ibn Al Khattab (R) asked Abu Bakr (R) how he could consider going to war against Muslims. Abu Bakr (R) said to him, ‘What has happened to you Omar, that you were very tough when you were not a Muslim but have become soft after entering Islam?’ He then reminded him about the ruling of Rasoolullahﷺ about separating Zakat from the rest of Islam and said, ‘Even if they refuse to give a single rope of a camel which is due, I will fight them.’ And that is what he did. In retrospect, it was this single unshakable stance of Abu Bakr Siddique (R) which preserved the integrity of Islam after Rasoolullahﷺ passed away. If he had not taken this firm stand, Islam would perhaps have disintegrated with people deciding to follow whatever suited them. But ask, ‘What is it that made the Sahaba support him even when they disagreed with his decision?’
In the case of Rasoolullahﷺ at Hudaybiyya, one could say that his position as being the Messenger of Allahﷻ was sacrosanct and when you believed that he was receiving Revelation, it was perhaps easier to follow without question. However, Abu Bakr (R) was not receiving Revelation. He was one among them, albeit first among equals, but an equal. Yet they obeyed him even though some or many didn’t agree with his decision, initially. Not only did they obey him, but they put their own lives on the line and enrolled in the conscript army which was the army of the time. Nobody stayed back. Nobody said, ‘I don’t agree and so I am not going to risk my life by joining the army.’ What made them do that?
I believe there were two major factors that operated in both these incidents; i.e. Hudaybiyya and the Wars of Riddah.
1. Trust: An unshakable faith beyond question in the personal credibility of the leader. This faith was based on the character of the leader which his followers had seen throughout his life and which inspired total trust and respect in their hearts. So, while they may have disagreed with the leader in a matter, his personal credibility, his intention that he wished the best for them, his objectivity, truthfulness, commitment to the goal (Islam), impartiality, lack of selfishness, sincerity, desire only to please Allahﷻ were never in question.
2. Respect: The belief that the leader was more knowledgeable, committed and sincere than any one of them. That he understands a situation better than the follower. That his track record shows that even in the past he had been right, when he differed with his followers.
As you can see, these two factors are dynamically linked. One supports the other. And both arise out of one’s conduct. When you live by your principles, you don’t have to keep talking about them. People see them in your life and emulate them in their own. The converse is equally true which we tragically see in our modern-day leadership. Leaders who don’t walk their talk may be obeyed out of fear but are never respected and loved. There is no way that a leader can divorce his personal conduct from his stated principles and expect followers to respect and follow his lead.
Personal credibility which translates to high respect. People trust those they respect. And they don’t trust those who lose respect in their estimation. A leader’s life is public. Every statement, whether made in seriousness or jest, is public. Every action, private or public, personal or involving others, is public. And they all contribute to the overall picture of the leader that people hold in their minds. Image and personal credibility of the leader is built on his walking the talk. People listen with their eyes and don’t care what you say until they see what you do. This is the Brand of the leader. They care less about what is being said, than about who is saying it. ‘How’ also matters, but only after ‘Who’. If people don’t respect the individual, what he/she says doesn’t matter. First the who, then the how and then the what. Seems strange but that is human psychology for you. People must first trust a leader. Then they listen to how he puts across his proposal. Then they think about what he is asking them to do. If the first two, especially the first one (high personal credibility), is strong, people will even go to extraordinary lengths to follow their leaders.
In times of stress, success of the leader depends on the ability of followers to recall and remember the brand. And still obey and follow the leader and commit themselves even when they don’t fully understand why they should commit. And even when they may not agree with some of what the leader is doing. Please note that what I am referring to is not what happens after the leader has explained what he is doing and why he wants their support. I am talking about a time when the leader may not have the time, opportunity or may for reasons of confidentiality, decide on a course of action without consulting his team. Will the team still follow him and commit fully to him and his course or will they hold back, rebel and not support? That is the meaning of faith in the leadership. Like all good things, maybe easier said than done, but like flying, if you want to fly, you must be aerodynamic. There is no alternative.