The Case for an Islamic State
Islam is a complete way of life and it is vital for Muslims to deal with all that takes place around them. Islam is not merely a passive religion that we keep in our personal lives. That for every Muslim, there is a political component and where appropriate, even a military component in the way of Islam, above and beyond the basic tenets of faith. This is particularly true when we see oppression against Muslims. In such circumstances, a true Muslim is not only a passive preacher but has to have a more holistic approach to life. And this is reflected in the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions, all of whose lives are exemplified by social and political struggle as much as a spiritual struggle illustrated in prayer and fasting.
Yet Muslims today mostly ignore the need to strive socially and politically.
Where we stand today, Islam is being attacked, Muslims are being persecuted, and Muslim states are being dissected and neutered. This is a process that did not start now, but one that has steadily flowed through history, whenever our enemies found the opportunity; Spain in the 15th century, Africa, Muslim India, Uthman Europe after World War I, Palestine, to name a few. And in more recent times in Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, amongst others. Islam today, without doubt, is threatened.
From Morocco to Philippines, From Chechnya to Somalia. We are facing internal divisions and external threats that seem beyond the ability of the ummah to coup. How things stand today is visible to everyone. The vivid images of the mass murder and imprisonment in Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan and more brings tears to the collective Muslim eyes. Yet, somehow the need is to hold our emotions and think clearly to fight back and regain our faith, strength and unity. The perennial question is, what can a Muslim do? Is it that Muslims must live under oppression and endure and hope that Allah will save the Muslims somehow? That this is Allah's Will? Yet, Islam does not appear to be a passive religion:
And fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah. but if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.
(سورة البقرة, Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #193)
A doctrine of passivity and fatalism does not seem to hold. If one takes this principle of fighting oppression, and sees oppressors in powerful countries like the United States and Israel, which as individuals we Muslims cannot fight, one is faced with a moral quandary. Clearly, as individuals, Muslims are quite helpless today. As individuals Muslims can be locked up, tortured or simply eliminated. But as a people, united in faith to the idea of Islam, we can fight them. To do so, we need our collective strength. We need to be organized. We need to create a movement to establish a Muslim state that can project our collective will.
Yet, if we look at any map, we see a host of Muslim states. One may wonder, why establish one when there are so many that profess to be Muslim states? Is not Saudi Arabia or Iran Muslim states? But what is a Muslim state? I say that there is no Islamic state because I do not see any country today that reflects the Islamic state in the spirit of Medina. Or remotely so. No, it is not an ideal that we are seeking to run after. Broadly, a state that practices one of the four accepted madhabs, a state who's government is not oppressive, a state that does not provide lip service to Islam but also practices it in its laws and policies. A state that is not a client state of the United States.
The long and short of it is that, today, there is no state that comes remotely towards the ideal of a Muslim state as was established in Medina-tun-Nabyi. In some ways, perhaps Sweden is closer to a Muslim state than most professedly Muslim states; It is plain to everyone with how much dignity Sweden treats its citizens, how it conducts itself in international affairs, and how it combines welfare and a free market, production and environmental consciousness, justice and freedom of speech to name a few instances.
As we see, there is no place on earth today were an Islamic state exists, as in the spirit of the state of Medina during the Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) time. Iran under the clergy, does not seem to reflect the spirit of Medina. Nor is there any other Muslim country that does. It appears we do not have an Islamic state ready-made for us. We would need to do the hard work, with our sweat and blood, to create this Islamic state and choose a place and country to do this in.
And such a state would need to be established while being besieged by our enemies, countries that today control the world and would do anything to stop us. If we attempted to create such a state at a random location in the Muslim worlds, and let us suppose, by the Grace of Allah, that we succeeded: it is more likely than not that the United States or Israel or whoever else, would find some pretext to label us terrorists, without evidence or by fabrication. We have seen this in Somalia recently as well as many times elsewhere. If Muslims attempted to, with the Grace of Allah, create an Islamic state, they would face the greatest military, political and economic might collected by the enemies of Islam today.
Now, like ants we would labor away, toiling away at a colony, only to see it destroyed. Clearly, even if such a state can attain massive economies of scale and scope with respect to a host of issues, creating such a state seems impossible and hopeless, in relation to the reaction we will face against us.
Thus, our choice would have to be careful indeed. Would we create an Islamic State only to have it bombed to oblivion on trumped up charges? Further, to fight oppression against Islam, this Islamic State would need to have the wherewithal of doing so. That is, the ability to project conventional military might. There are few countries in the world that have this, and few Muslim countries that can compete, given the might of our enemies.
We are today at a crossroads and we have three choices before us. One road will take us to assimilating into the Western civilization and relegating Islam to the role that Christianity today plays in the West or that the religion of the Romans played in their age. The second road leads us to reviving Islam in its true spirit and meaning. The third choice is to decay and die were we stand.
What is certain is that if we are to take the second road, to revive Islam in its true spirit and meaning, it is clear that the way forward is together – as the entire Muslim Ummah rather than in separate nationalisms. Divided into different nationalisms and along our petty differences, races, indigenous cultures, we will fail as we did in Spain. The similarities are most striking - the politics of Muslim Spain to the politics of Muslims today. Each little principality was worried about their own, with each its own proud "Me First" slogan. Each of these states were taken down one at a time. Once Spain was conquered, Islam was razed out of every nook and corner of her. In contrast, consider contemporary history; From Ataturk's "Turkey First", we now have "Pakistan First", "Bangladesh First", "Iraq First", "Egypt First" and more. Spanish Muslims allied themselves with Christians to fight fellow Muslims to guard their narrow and myopic interests. How different is what we are doing today? See the Pakistan Army fight the Mujahideen and aid Western Allies in Afghanistan. Remember that without Pakistan's strategic, political and logistic support, NATO and the US would be hard pressed to maintain the presence there.
Come see the Muslims of the United States. Visit us, each in our own little petty masjid – the Arab Masjid, the Pakistani Masjid, the Afghan Masjid, the Bangladeshi Masjid, all lined up and ready to make their own nationalisms at home, while making the other feel alien. Unless we change the condition of ourselves, Allah knows best, but I do not see our Creator changing the conditions of our historical progression.
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