In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Grande Strategy

Strategy and Culture

by J. Uddin


Like a traveler who took a series of wrong turns, bewildered in the midst of unfamiliarity, the Muslims today ask themselves, ‘How did we end up here?’ The past century has been nothing short of a monumental disaster, prior to which was over one thousand years of unprecedented success. Since the fall of Ottoman Turkey, there has been a deterioration of Islamic will, of energy and of unity. Colonization, Western Imperialism and globalization have sent the Muslim world into an abyss of misguidance. If we are not distracted by mindless entertainment saturating mass media, we are being bombed and slaughtered. But that which has never died is hope. Perhaps the quintessential of human strength, the idea that things are not great, but they can get better. What we need is the unification of Muslim countries all over the world, under the umbrella of an Islamic State.

What has become glaringly clear to those Muslims who try to address the issue of Muslim impotence is that there is a distinct lack of scholarship on the issue of uniting the Muslims. The classical scholars over our history have done admirable work in keeping Islam alive, a Universal Acid which left no issue untouched. All facets of life were illuminated with the light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and the lamps were the differences of opinion amongst the ulema. The variations were a celebration of Islamic academia, of Islamic ideas and of Islamic energy. Whether it is fear of thinking out of the box or just plain inability, latter-day scholars have not continued this tradition, certainly not on the problem of re-establishing a Muslim State. As noted by Allama Iqbal, “Owing to their ignorance of the modern mind, have become absolutely incapable of receiving any fresh inspiration from modern thought and experience. They are perpetuating methods which were created for generations possessing a cultural outlook differing, in important respects, from our own.” The common themes of ‘returning to the sunnah’ by praying more and adhering to personal worshipping rites are sometimes accompanied by ‘we must return to jihad’. Both of these positions are absolutely true, but are not exhaustive strategies of uniting the Muslims. It is because we do not understand the cultural outlook we find ourselves in that we cannot find a comprehensive or coherent formula for re-establishing a State.

Even movements such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, whose sole purpose is to establish Khilafa, do not seem to present a clear strategy. The unlimited quotations of why a State is needed and why jihad is obligatory do not help the cause in any measurable, or practical way. There is a noticeable rift between those who believe the democratic process can bring about an Islamic revolution and those who believe military means are the only way. Those of the former opinion are usually rejected by the Muslims themselves, being labeled as appeasers of the West, and going against the Sunnah. Those of the latter opinion are labeled terrorists by the West and the governments who they oppose. They also alienate many Muslims who genuinely wish to take action but who also see that aimless warfare will achieve nothing. Just like many other things, the answer lies somewhere in-between. The success of the Muslims lies in applying the Sunnah of our Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and his Companions. But they never knew a world where Muslims were not in a jama’ah. We are in unchartered waters. Never in our history have there been so many Muslims and so much Muslim populated land, but no State. How then, can we use the experience of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and his Companions to resurrect the Islamic State?

To understand how Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم established Medina as a State, we must understand the society he lived in. Arabia was a tribal society, with huge emphasis on the tribe and less on the individual. In the harsh conditions of the desert, a man had his tribe for sustenance, protection and social standing. Without his tribe, he was likely to die at a young age. A natural product of such a strong tribal culture is that of nobility and strong leaders. The survival of the tribe was very dependant on the strength and honor of the leader, and vitally, the obedience of the whole tribe to that leader. It is this social setup which Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم started his risaalah. It is abundantly clear that during the early days of dawah, Rasoolullah صلى الله عليه وسلم would appeal to the leaders of Quraish and also the leaders of any other tribes he came in contact with. Today’s Muslims should ponder over this. He did not aimlessly give dawah to everyone, although he was open to anyone who enquired. His strategy was to win over the leaders, for obvious reasons. A tribal leader who embraced Islam would in most scenarios cause the whole tribe to follow suit. If not, it would at least open the doors for Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم to give dawah to the people of that tribe in peace. Although this method was largely unfruitful in Mecca, it was the opposite for the town of Yathrib. The leaders of the tribes Al-Aws and Khazraj pledged their allegiance to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم and their whole tribes followed accordingly. Thus, Rasoolullah صلى الله عليه وسلم acquired a base and a State, Medina. He did not do this via jihad. Nor was it merely private worship of salah and supplication to Allah (although these were of course essential), it was through strategic dawah. He targeted the most influential people as well as the masses.

So how can we apply this case-study to the Muslim word today? Is the social setup the same today as it was back then? Clearly, the answer is no. With the establishment of democracy throughout the Muslim world, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria, Lebanon and Indonesia to name a few, and the remainder falling under various types of authoritarian governments, the landscape is clearly different. Therefore, is it viable to give dawah to the leaders of these countries and expect the whole nation to follow if successful? The democratically elected leaders do not have that kind of authority or respect. Democracy and Western ideologies have brought about a new type of individualism, a direct product of capitalism and the dilution of religion in public life. Everyone’s opinion counts, regardless of whether that person has any merit in expressing an opinion on a given matter. One-man one-vote systems give people the illusion of grandeur, that we are masters of our own destiny. When everyone considers themselves their own master, targeting even legitimate leaders for a cause can be misguided and pointless. The masses may simply vote him out if he adopts a position against the public will. ‘Power to the people’, as they say.

But leadership is still a virtue. People are voted in to positions of representation. How can we use leaders of our Muslim societies to re-establish Khilafa? Since they are not tribal leaders, they are elected; the focus of attention must go towards the electorate. What if the people wanted Khilafa and elected a leader to represent this desire? This would not only fulfill people’s newly found democratic right, it would be in line with the Sunnah where leaders are used to establish a State. This is essentially a bottom-up approach, where the people are cultivated to want a State, and elect a local leader to forward this agenda (this is opposite to the top-down approach of Rasoolullah, as he cultivated the leaders and then the masses followed). If this method is reproduced throughout a nation, there will be a large block of voters who have representation via their locally elected leaders. As with any democratic system, once there is enough support, the government must bend to the will of the people or the system will collapse. This is unless they call on the army like in Algeria in 1991, which brings us to the issue of jihad. It is a fallacy to think that a State can be re-established without jihad, as elements from both within the Muslim world and the West will do anything to stop this dream becoming a reality.

The last Islamic government to be established without military interference from the West was Iran. Although Iran is a country far from being the State we are trying to establish, it managed to overthrow a corrupt Western-backed regime with relatively small amount of violence from their national military. The reason for this is clear. The masses of people who supported the coup prevented military action and the desire for change was apparent in the military as well. Compare this with the recent attempt of the Islamic Courts in Somalia, who managed to form a semblance of a government before being invaded and chased out by American backed Ethiopian forces. They did not have the unified backing of their weak and ravaged population to cause enough of a deterrent to foreign armies.

If we are to have any hope of establishing a State, we must begin via the culture we already have in place like the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, in this case being democracy. Via the democratic process we can at least elect local leaders who will push the agenda of Khilafa. By galvanizing enough support nationally, a gentle revolution can be implemented at the constitutional level of a Muslim country. Dawah at provincial or regional levels can produce positive results and translate to strategic voting for pro-Khilafa candidates. There are many Muslim countries where this can happen. In fact, it almost did happen in Algeria in 1991 by the Islamic Salvation Front, who won the first round of elections. What prevented this momentous feat was the decision of the national military to block the move and outlaw the party. Therefore, any strategy adopted must also involve winning over influential military personnel, who represent a leadership role similar to tribal leaders of Ancient Arabia i.e. their troops will follow them wherever they go. Strategies such as these must be explored by our ulema, who must provide better and more comprehensive scholarship on the issue. Perhaps we can then not only dream of unity but actually start implementing it.

Vision Without Glasses


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