Saturday, January 11, 2020

Can the Human Be Possessed by Jinn? | Iyad Hilal

Allah (SWT) has sent down the Qur’an as a book of guidance to mankind. He created the human for the sole purpose of worship (i.e. to seek His pleasure by living the way of life THAT Allah has ordered him to adopt. He can do so within the framework of the guidance that Allah (SWT) has revealed concerning this. However, he can only do so if he properly understands its meanings and implications. Al-Arqam Institute has been conducting the online Tafsir class since 2011 and has completed Tafsir of Juz’ ‘Amma in its entirety.

We now are progressing through the Tafsir of Surah al-Baqarah. Some facts about Surah al-Baqarah: - It is the longest Surah in the Qur’an occupying more than two Juz’
- Its revelation started with the Prophet’s migration to Madinah and continued throughout the ten years of the Prophet’s life in Madinah.
- It contains the longest Ayah in the Qur’an (Ayat al-Dayn – 282)
- Surah al-Baqarah is also called Surah an-Nisaa’ al-Kubra – The Major Surah of Women. This is because it contains more rulings related to women that Surah an-Nisaa’

Surah al-Baqarah is comprehensive in its scope as it covers issues pertaining to:
- 'Aqeedah
- Ahkaam regarding social order
- Qiblah
- Financial Transactions and more

However, its theme can be summarized by one word – Guidance. The style in which Surah al-Baqarah will be presented is that of analytical Tafsir. As such, we will be addressing the topic in-depth while depending on well-known great books of Tafasir of each type – Tafsir bil-Ma’thoor wal-Riwayah (Reports and Narration-based Tafsir) & Tafsir bil-Dirayah (Tafsir Relevant to the Current Situation)

The sessions will be conducted by Br. Iyad Hilal who holds a MA in Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh) & Islamic Legal Theory (Usul al-Fiqh).


Muslims, Islam and Liberal Democracy | Dr Reza Pankhurst

(The following is a section reproduced from an article originally published in the academic journal Political Theology 11.6 (2010) 826-845)

Research supported by the United States Department of Homeland Security conducted in 2007  found that an average of 71 percent of those interviewed across four Muslim countries (Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia and Pakistan) agreed with the goal of requiring “strict application of Shari’a law in every Islamic country”, with 39% agreeing strongly, while 65% agreed with the goal of unifying “all Islamic countries into a single state or Caliphate” in line with classical orthodox Islamic position that holds that there should be a single ruler for the Muslim community. The same research found that 74% wanted “to keep Western values out of Islamic countries”, and yet 75% held positive views of globalization while 67% believed that “a democratic political system” was a good thing[1].  Other research in 2006 which covered 10 Muslim countries found that 79% wanted Shari’a incorporatedas a source of legislation, while majorities in Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, and Bangladesh wanted it as the “only source” of legislation.  Yet at the same time, results also show that majorities also admire the West for its democracy and the overwhelming majority would include provisions for freedom of speech or “allowing all citizens to express their opinion on the political, social, and economic issues of the day” if they were drafting a new constitution[2].

Can it be that Muslims really want a democratic state with the Shari’a as its basis? Could such a model work within the existing nation-state framework, and how would it correspond to the aspiration of unifying Islamic countries under a single Caliphate? Dalia Mogahed and John Esposito write that though those surveyed showed they admired aspects of Western democracy, they did not want “wholesale adoption of Western models of democracy”, and suggest instead that they seem to want “their own democratic model that incorporates Sharia[3]. This is reflected in a lot of thinking in the Middle East by Islamic scholars and intellectuals, termed “New Islamists” by Raymond Baker, with their belief that “democracy in modern times affords the best means to justice”[4]. Not only in the Middle East, Muslim intellectuals in the Western tradition have also formulated their own ideas about how polity in the Islamic world should be organised. There are those who talk about a separation between religion and the state, though not politics, with Islamic values informing the views of the Muslim part of the population, such as Heba Ezza[5], Abdullah Naim[6] and Mohammad Ashmawi[7]. Abdelwahab El-Affendi talks about the “self-evident advantages of democracy”[8], while Asma Afsaruddin thinks that many in the Islamic world want to live as observant Muslims at the same time as living in democratic societies[9]. Muqtedar Khan firmly states that “Muslims must widely and unambiguously accept that Islam and democracy are compatible”; those who do so are approvingly referred to as “Muslim democrats” whereas others are scolded as “Muslim isolationists”[10]. Others such as Khaled Abou el Fadl make the case for liberal democracy as the most effective form of government to protect and promote Islamic values, while part of the premise of Naim’s work is to prove that “Muslims can be liberal in their own right, from an Islamic perspective”[11] . But as mentioned by Saba Mahmood in her response to Abou el Fadl, rather than ask how Muslims could become better liberals, can we not ask whether the world could be lived differently, with alternative visions being explored rather than succumbing to the hegemony of Western political ideals[12]. It is this hegemony that needs to be taken into account if the positions of Muslims, whether intellectuals, politicians or otherwise, are to be understood correctly.

This hegemony of the superiority and universality of democracy has underlain much of the approach to analysing the politics of Islamic individuals and groups across the Middle East and general Muslim world. Briefly, analysts normally fall into two broad camps, widely known as the Orientalists on one side and their detractors on the other, alternatively named ‘essentialists’ and ‘contingencists’[13] or ‘internalists’ and ‘externalists’[14].  The common narrative is that the Orientalists hold a limited set of conceptual categories derived from the classical texts of Islam that are applied universally in their analysis of political Islam[15], whereas their opponents view such an approach as reductionist and rather argue that the various social movements and developments should be understood as the product of particular local socioeconomic and political woes[16]. The first approach generally holds that the incompatibility of Islam and ‘modernity’ as the trigger for regional discontent and the support for various Islamic movements, whereas the second contends that factors such as the failure of secular nationalist movements to resolve the societal problems of poverty and denial of political representation are the main causes of the backlash. While some Orientalists consider that any calls for democracy by Islamic parties are purely utilitarian in nature[17], their opponents consider that any reference back to Islamic tradition by such parties are in fact a tactical instrument or simply a call for participation and better governance articulated in a more authentic form[18]. However, for all their differences and arguments, since the end of the Cold War both sides implicitly make liberal democracy as the ultimate reference in their approach to analysis, such that Michael Salla notes that “the relationship between liberal democracy and political Islam is unidirectional: Political Islam either responds to liberal democratic norms by demonstrating their consistency with the Islamic heritage; or reacts to them as contrary to the Islamic heritage”[19]. As such, the two schools of thought could also be categorised as those who believe in the incompatibility of Islam and liberal democracy, and those who argue its compatibility, with both sides implicitly accepting the assumption of the universality of liberal democratic norms.

This assumption is standard fare, with undergraduate books on comparative politics dividing governments into “democratic” on the one hand, with various models and shades, and anything completely outside the democratic category generally considered “authoritarian”[20]. The promotion of democracy is considered to be an explicit objective of the West, and it could be argued that for any political discussion to be taken seriously requires the adoption of the slogans that aspire towards democracy and freedom. Alternatively it could be argued that the adoption of such slogans, whether by the general Muslim population or Islamic movements, obscures what is really being said by all sides involved. For example, as mentioned previously research has shown that some Muslims simultaneously believe in having Shari’a as the only source of legislation while believing that a democratic political system is a good thing. To highlight the issue further, while research shows that 94% of Egyptians polled would put freedom of speech in any new constitution they were charged with drafting[21], 71% from another poll believed that “the government should have the right to fine or imprison people who publicly criticize a religion, because such criticism could defame the religion”[22]. Just as the apparent belief in democracy must be qualified, the profession of belief in freedom of speech must also be qualified.

These differing conceptions extend to thinkers and activists. El-Affendi mentions 3 trends amongst Muslim thinkers – those who enthusiastically espouse the ideas of democracy and claim compatibility with Islam; those who accept democratic procedures, but voice philosophical objections to democracy and put limits to ensure conformity to Shari’a; and those who reject it[23]. If these three positions were unpacked the first position could be generally explained as those who claim compatibility between Islam and democracy, and by that mean the basic underlying idea that sovereignty for legislation lies with the people rather than with a monarch or an elite class (with or without reference to natural law). This group who could be referred to as the ‘Muslim secularists’, which includes some of those mentioned such as Naim and Ashmawi, believes that all decisions are subject to popular sovereignty, though the opinions of the people may be informed by their personal religious beliefs. They also generally consider that there is nothing called an “Islamic State”, which they view as an historical construct (although they will differ over when it was constructed, with some considering it a purely modernist phenomenon), that there are no clear political instructions in the original Islamic sources of the Quran and Sunnah (authenticated traditions of the Prophet Mohammad), and that those who believe in an Islamic State or Caliphate articulate a model where the ruler of such a State is a type of autocrat who derives his authority from God directly and therefore must be obeyed.

Members of the second group, such as the well known Egyptian scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, claim that there is a compatibility between Islam and democracy since the heart of democracy is that “the people choose who will rule them and manage their affairs”, while they should not “have a ruler or system they hate forced upon them”, that they have the “right to account the ruler” and “the ability to change or remove him if he goes astray”[24]. However, while these are some of the values of a democratic system, this conception says nothing about the sovereignty of the people to rule which is arguably the fundamental core of “rule by the people”. Qaradawi simultaneously holds that ruling must be by the law of God, and further claims that this principle is firmly established and uncontested in Islam, and, indeed, that it forms the basis for the Islamic State[25]. In other words, through his understanding of the values of Islamic and Democratic rule, Qaradawi thinks he has identified an overlap, and consequently sees no problem in talking about their ‘compatibility’. This group sees no specific Islamic ruling system beyond some general principles though they do assert that Shari’a should be implemented in its entirety, and so the shape and form of the Islamic State remains, for them, largely undefined, even though many (like Qaradawi) maintain the principle of a single, unified leadership or Caliphate state for all Muslims.
The third group, which includes scholars like Taqiudeen an-Nabhani who founded the Islamic political party Hizb ut-Tahrir, denies the compatibility of democracy with Islam in origin. At the same time, they believe that the ruler of the State should be elected, that the people have the right or even duty to account their rulers, and that the ruler can be removed. In other words, they believe in the values that Qaradawi has claimed as being “democratic”, but they reject democracy because they consider that it is the idea of popular sovereignty that contradicts the foundation of the Islamic State, where, they argue, sovereignty lies with God or the Shari’a[26]. In effect, there is no real difference between the second and third group on their view of the commonly held philosophical underpinning of democracy, other than the use of terminology. Though between the two groups there are different conceptions of how detailed the Islamic system of ruling is and to what extent institutions can be “borrowed”, this is inconsequential to their understanding of democracy as a set of values.
In conclusion, for the sake of this particular discussion if democracy is understood to mean popular sovereignty then there appear to be in effect only 2 schools of thought regarding it: the ‘Muslim Secularists’ who deny Islamic government while affirming politics being informed by general notions of Islam and that sovereignty lies with the people, and those who believe in Islamic government based upon the principle that sovereignty lies with God, or more precisely the Law of God, the Shari’a.

Dr. Reza Pankhurst is the author of The Inevitable Caliphate (Oxford University Press, 2012) and The Untold History of the Liberation Party (C Hurst & Co, 2016)

[1], “Muslim Public Opinion on Us Policy, Attacks on Civilians and Al-Qaeda ” (The Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, 2007).
[2] Dalia Mogahed, “Special Report: Muslim World – Islam and Democracy,” (Washington D.C.: The Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, 2006).
[3] John L. Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, Who Speaks for Islam? : What a Billion Muslims Really Think : Based on Gallup’s World Poll–the Largest Study of Its Kind (New York, NY: Gallup Press, 2007), pp.48.
[4] Raymond William Baker, Islam without Fear: Egypt and the New Islamists (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2003), pp.171.
[5] Heba Raouf Ezza and Ahmed Mohammed Abdalla, “Towards an Islamically Democractic Solution,” in Faith and Secularism, ed. Valérie Amiraux and Rosemary Bechler (London: British Council, 2004).
[6] Abd Allah Ahmad Naïm, Islam and the Secular State : Negotiating the Future of Sharia (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008).
[7] Mohammad Said Ashmawi, Al-Islam Wal-Siyasa (Beirut: Al-intishar al-Arabi, 2004).
[8] Abdelwahab El-Affendi, Who Needs an Islamic State? (London: Malaysia Think Tank London, 2008), pp.34.
[9] Asma Afsaruddin, “The “Islamic State”: Genealogy, Facts, and Myths,” J. of Church and State 48, no. 1 (2006).
[10] M. A. Muqtedar Khan, “The Politics, Theory and Philosophy of Islamic Democracy,” in Islamic Democratic Discourse : Theory, Debates, and Philosophical Perspectives, ed. M. A. Muqtedar Khan (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2006).
[11] Naïm, Islam and the Secular State : Negotiating the Future of Sharia, pp. 269.
[12] Khaled Abou El-Fadl and et al., Islam and the Challenge of Democracy (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2004).
[13] Fred Halliday, “The Politics of ‘Islam’ – a Second Look,” British Journal of Political Science 25, no. 3 (1995): pp.400-1.
[14] Peter R. Demant, Islam Vs. Islamism : The Dilemma of the Muslim World (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2006), pp.181-200.
[15] Michael E. Salla, “Political Islam and the West: A New Cold War or Convergence?,” Third World Quarterly 18, no. 4 (1997): pp.730.
[16] Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, “Political Islam and Foreign Policy in Europe and the United States,” Foreign Policy Analysis 3(2007).
[17] David Brumberg, “Rhetoric and Strategy: Islamic Movements and Democracy in the Middle East,” in The Islamism Debate, ed. Martin Kramer (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1997), pp.15.
[18] John L. Esposito, Unholy War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp.54.
[19] Salla, “Political Islam,” pp.737.
[20] As an example – Rod Hague and Martin Harrop, Comparative Government and Politics: An Introduction, 6th ed. (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).
[21] Mogahed, “Special Report: Muslim World – Islam and Democracy.”
[22], “Defamation of Religion,” (The Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, 2009).
[23] Abdelwahab El-Affendi, “On the State, Democracy and Pluralism,” in Islamic Thought in the 20th Century, ed. Basheer M. Nafi and Suha Taji-Farouki (London: I.B.Taurus, 2004), pp.189.
[24] Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Min Fiqh Al-Dawla Fil-Islam (Cairo: Dar al-Sharouq, 1997), pp.132.
[25] Ibid., pp.102.
[26] See for example Abdul Qadeem az-Zalloom, Nitham Al-Hukm Fil-Islam (Beirut: Dar al-Ummah, 1996), pp.31.


Friday, January 03, 2020

A Productive and Khair New Year 1441 Hijri For Everyone

I’m wishing my brothers and sisters – a belated productive and Khair [Good]-filled New Year! 1441 Hijri.

Yesterday was the beginning of the New Year, 1441! That’s right, 1441 years have passed since the Prophet Muhammed (SAAW) made his historic hijra (migration) from Makkah to Yathrib, setting up the first Islamic State and society, to be known simply as “The City” (Al-Madinah).

Now while Muslims are not commanded to celebrate the new year of the lunar calendar used by the Prophet Muhammed (SAAW), a new calendar year – as any event that occurs upon Muslims, should be used to reflect on our relationship with our Creator, Allah (SWT), through our personal rituals, our personal development as His servants, and our relationship with the Ummah.

Most Muslims today would greatly benefit from reflection upon the origins of the Hijri calendar.
You see, the Christians celebrate their New Year based upon a Gregorian calendar they borrowed from the Romans but setting their dating system based around the estimated birth of Jesus to represent the first year of time for Christians.

So old Christian calendars usually had “BC” (before Christ) to represent years before Jesus was born, and “AD “(Anno Domini – Latin: “the year of our lord”) to represent after.

After the 17th century, Christians started to change AD to CE (“Christian Era”), but it has now increasingly been referred to now as representing the term “Common Era” – which signifies how universalist the West views itself after it “influenced” (through military conquest and imperialism) other tribes and nations around the world to adopt its dating system.

The Jewish calendar was based on the famous estimated (guessed) calculations of Rabbi Jose ben Halafta in 160 “CE” of the beginning of Creation(!), with the current Jewish year being 5779 AM (Anni Mundi, year of the world).

However, the Hijri dating system is quite different in marking its start point. As much as many post-colonial Muslim pundits and state-appointed scholars today wish to shy Muslims aware from remembering the world project of Muhammed (SAAW) and the intrinsically connected political-spiritual message of Islam – the hijri calendar is a yearly reminder that Islam isn’t, and never was, a part-time project limited to rituals, recitation and Jummah, but a comprehensive guidance to mankind.

You see, the Islamic calendar was arranged by Caliph Umar (RA), with the agreement (ijma) of the other sahabah (Companions of the Prophet Muhammed [SAAW]), that the beginning of the Islamic era, started not with the Prophet Muhammed (SAAW)’s birth, nor with the first revelation of the Quran, nor its completion.

The first date of the Islamic era was the arrival of the Prophet Muhammed (SAAW) at Yathrib, beginning the era of the Islamic state of Al-Madinah, and the collective work for the Islamic world project to spread the message of Tawheed, and the cause of justice and mercy to mankind.
Muslims should think seriously about this. The companions of the Prophet Muhammed (SAAW) didn’t think the Islamic era started with the birth of the Prophet (SAAW) or the first revelation of the first verse of the Quran! Instead, they considered that the Islamic era only truly began, with the creation of the first Islamic state and society where the law of Allah (SWT) was the highest, and the worldview and objectives of the state were the calls to Islam and establishment of God’s justice and mercy politically and social amongst human beings.

In fact, while there was a Prophet of Islam, but no society and state organised around his teaching, the companions still considered that to be an era before the *establishment* of Islam.

This is evidenced by the fact that Jahilliyah isn’t tied to the presence of revelation, but the presence of political and social organisation of a people specifically under that revelation. The Prophet Muhammed (SAAW) is reported to have said:
“whoever dies whilst there was no Bay’ah (allegiance) on his neck (to a Khalifah), he dies a death of Jahiliyyah (ignorance).'” [Sahih Muslim]

The classical scholar, Al-Maaziri said the hadith is “With regard to bay’ah being given to the leader of the Muslims”.

Imam Nawawi also said: “What is narrated in the ahadeeth narrated in the books of Sunnah about bay’ah refers to giving allegiance to the Muslim leader, such as when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever dies and did not make an oath of allegiance (to the Muslim leader) has died a death of jahiliyyah.”

Jahiliyyah, therefore, isn’t merely ignorance about Islam, it is also anarchy – a society where the people are collectively organised by ignorance of Islam (even if many of the people are individually believers). This led many Muslims thinkers to consider “the time of jahilliyah” to be essentially, a time of anarchy. A time where the commands of Allah (SWT) are no longer operates as an organising force for society, and the cause of Islam is no longer the purpose of politics – leaving society and politics with no purpose and therefore it becoming only an arena for power struggles and egos – and society left for competition and fighting and bickering to advance and protect “street credit”, “family/tribal reputation” and gaining “respect’ through power.

Muslims today live in such a time as we have no establishment of Islam as the highest reference point for our global Muslim society, and no leader we have selected to be the successor to the Prophet Muhammed (SAAW)’s political role (i.e. a Caliph) to unite our affairs, our defences and our resources and advance them in the cause of Islam.

Seeing as the Islamic era wasn’t set at the birth of the Prophet Muhammed (SAAW), nor the beginning of him being informed of his prophethood (SAAW) via the first revelation of the Quran, but rather the beginning to the time of Islam and end of the era of Jahiliyyah (pre-Islam) was the establishment of Islam as the highest reference point for a society and state and a society united under a leader to organise their efforts and advance the cause of Islam (“not national interest”)- the question we must ask ourselves is, in which era do we choose to live in? An era of Islam? Or in the eras like the time before the establishment of Islam (Jahiliyyah)?