Saturday, January 19, 2013

Egypt’s Constitution and the Facade of Change (part 2)


Ali Harfouch

3-    Islamic Law and Sovereignty
Establishing an Islamic political system is a means, and not an ends as ‘the State’ is a necessary entity by which the political and social based Islamic legislation is implemented and thus the will of the Absolute creator is sovereign in all domains of life. In other words, the purpose of Shariah and ‘the State’ in Islam is; the preservation of Allah’s sovereignty in the political sphere. Islamic law is however eviscerated of its divine and revelatory nature, more so, of its primary purpose when it loses its sovereignty and its principles are reduced to a “main source of legislation” while sovereignty is held by a Secular parliamentary establishment. The will of the divine, as expressed through Shariah, is subordinated to the will of competing and contending political factions in Parliament. From a rational perspective alone, this is absurd as epistemic authority is, by its very nature, relegated to revelation which emanates from the will of the Absolute as  opposed to the limits of our parochial ‘reason’ or the volatile ‘ will of the people’ (i.e. an aggregate of” morally autonomous rational individuals”).  The constitution is thus fundamentally flawed, on both a rational and religious basis – and will continue to be so as long as the Secular political architecture and its overarching conceptual-framework is preserved.
Reformist will point to the second, fourth, and other clauses which state that the “Principles of Shariah” are the ‘main’ source of legislation. First and foremost, the architecture of ‘the State’, its conceptual basis, obligations, duties, and legislation are to be, from an Islamic normative perspective all derived from revelation. Legislation and the implementation of law is one dimension of any political system.
Secondly, the “Principles of Shariah” which Article 219 designates as “al-Adilla al-Kuliyya, al-Qawa’id al-Fiqiyya, and al-Qawa’id al-Usuliyyah” are not in themselves sources of legislation but rather they are conceptual tools and modalities used by scholars to understand the nature and dimensions revelatory legislation in a holistic way. Separating the “Principles of Shariah” from the content of Shariah is thus to eviscerate the principles from its content and substance.  Not to mention, that these principles are subjective and historically contingent to the factors and environment in which they were developed. Having rendered the “Principles of Shariah” from their content, context, and substance they are then informed and defined by temporal hegemonic political paradigms.

4-    False Dichotomies
When confronted with explicit and manifest Qur’anic injunctions of the Absolute political and legislative sovereignty of the Creator – a common retort is to secondary and misplaced Usuli or jurisprudential principles such as the “lesser of two evils”. Both “evils” are products of the same dismal reality with one being slightly less “evil” subjectively of course, than the other. Furthermore, one of these two evils is absolutely unavoidable; there is no third-way, a third option. In the end, they end up legitimizing and preserving the very same political architecture and structural conditions which had produced those two “evils”. The irony being, that by choosing the lesser evil they end up legitimizing the “evil” origins of both.  This stems from nothing short of political naivety and superficiality. Seemingly not having learned from the experiences of a revolution which was far more effective than any ‘legitimate channel for participation’ which taught reformist and revolutionaries alike that the options or ‘legitimate channels’ designated by the illegitimate political system are not immutable nor do they serve as the only options for change, if anything, they preserve the status-quo. What is all the more perplexing is the fact that the referendum in Egypt is not over that of an Islamic constitution versus a Secular constitution but rather a Secular constitution which subordinates the sovereignty of the Absolute Creator to that of the Created. And hence the ‘sovereign’ majority will decide whether or not the will of the Absolute is given a secondary status in the newly drafted constitution or no status at all. The rational and religious absurdities of this are quite obvious.

An Alternative Trajectory for Egypt
Economic progress, social cohesion, and political stability are unattainable without political and economic independence. And the key to this politico-economic independence lays in the intellectual liberation through the introduction of a counter-hegemonic alternative to the dismal status-quo in Egypt. Surely,  counter-hegemonic alternative would offer nothing but utopian ideals nor does thrive off the exclusionary politics of nationalism but rather a humane, liberating, and practical alternative from which we can derive both a coherent set of political, economic, and principles and also, a politico-economic and social system which embodies this principles. What is needed is a coherent vision and a comprehensive politico-economic program to deal with the deeply-rooted structural problems and contradictions in Egypt’s faltering system. A cosmetic reform under the masquerade of an Islamic-Democratic-Free Market hybrid “Nahda” program as espoused by the Freedom and Justice Party would fall short of the needed radical structural transformations. The necessary trajectory and answer to the crisis lies not too far from the roaring chants and cries of Egypt’s “Islamist” majority – that answer being; a principled and actual articulation and implementation of what revolting populations around the Muslim world are demanding, they want Islam in power, and not Islamist in power.

Ali Harfouch is a student of Political Studies at the American University of Beirut working in Islamic activism with Islam Policy.

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