One thing is clear from both the attendees of the conference and election results across the Middle East and North Africa: The day the Islamic political parties have been waiting for has come. Yet this day has come with a multitude of challenges that could see the success of these political forces jeopardized without them even gaining full power.
These challenges include transparency, struggling economies with high rates of unemployment, and rule of order in places like Egypt and Libya. Yet the one challenge that the Islamic groups seem to be grappling most with intellectually is that of pluralism.
Many of the Islamic political movements in the Arab world are products of post-colonial trends that sought to return the independence of struggling nation-states, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. They then went underground for decades after being marginalized by authoritarian regimes that sought to quash all types of opposition. The regimes were particularly brutal toward religious groups, which they viewed as having a faith-based resilience that kept them as a dangerous source of real opposition to the political status quo.
Pluralism has not been on the agenda of many of the leaders in these movements, at least not an understanding of pluralism that goes beyond just diversity, encompassing an energy and willingness to engage and make policy based on pluralism. Sadly, the only real pluralism that these leaders have been exposed to was during their time as graduate students in the West.
Developing a culture of pluralism requires the newly elected leaders of these societies to grapple with diversity in all forms. It is a social contract that both governments and citizens in a society need to be committed to and willing live by. These movements clearly have a long way to go.
Pluralism is not only an important commodity in societies that have various religious, ethnic, and racial groups but an important component of power sharing.
Case in point is the ability of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to develop coalitions that transcend token representation and include real compromises with liberals, secularists, and Copts. The Brotherhood has gone from 50-percent support in the parliamentary elections to half that in the presidential elections, much of it because of their inability to build trust and create coalitions with people they disagree with.
These groups' problems with pluralism go beyond their political platforms, impacting even how they interpret religious texts. Having for decades lived in authoritarian societies, these groups' leaders have not had the ability to develop a strong Islamic discourse on pluralism, as is being developed by Muslims living as minorities facing the reality of pluralism daily in the West. For many years dictators have used economic, social, and religious differences in societies as leverage to pit communities against each other based on fear and to sustain their power.
Religious institutions in these societies, such as Al-Azhar in Cairo, have not had the independence from government intrusion necessary to develop curricula that would challenge state structures and develop open societies. Freedom of thought and expression are the hallmark of developing a theology and discourse based on pluralism.
If the Islamic political movements are going to succeed and not become just like the authoritarians they resisted for so many years, it would behoove them to look at historical religious precedence within their own faith and replicate the experience of the Prophet Muhammad when he first arrived in the city of Medina.
He brought together the various communities, including the Jewish community, pagan community, and the nascent Muslim community, to sign the historical document known as the Sahifa. The Sahifa brought these communities together, as one society, to all imprint their unique identities into a constitution that would serve as a model for pluralism.
The challenge for these movements is clear, and the road ahead is filled with various pitfalls, both on the domestic and international fronts. The question now is whether they will have the honesty to be introspective. Just this week, the father of the Islamic political party in Tunisia, Rachid Ghannouchi, addressed the issue of pluralism here in Doha, saying the success of theses groups will depend on whether they choose to "be the representative of their people or whether they choose to claim to be the representatives of God."
2-How Islam Views Pluralism & Democracy
Question and answer details
|Dear Sheikh! Some people keep on yelling that Islam is the religion of one political party meaning that when Muslim activists come to power, they will never allow the existence of any other political party, a thing that marks a defeat of all forms of democracy. Please comment!|
AnswerIn the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All thanks and praise are due to Allah and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear questioner! Thanks a lot for your question and the interest you show in having a clearer view of the true teachings of Islam. May Allah help you get the right understanding and stand firm on the Straight Path! Amen!
First of all, we would like to highlight the fact that pluralism is something known to Islam and Muslim scholars a long time ago. Islam does not say that only one party should run the affairs of the whole state or seize power; rather, it leaves the matter to be determined according to the rules of As-Siyasah Ash-Shar`iyyah (Shari`ah-Oriented Policy) that vary according to time and place. Muslim scholars accept the articles of the democratic system that cope with the teachings of Islam.
Making this concept clear, here is the fatwa issued by the eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi, vice President of the European Council for Fatwa and Research:
“To claim that Islam advocates monocracy is untrue. It is well-established that since the time of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, Muslims have known different political parties that have constituted in shaping political structure of the Muslim societies.
The Emigrants (Al-Muhajirun) and the Helpers (Al-Ansar) acted as if they were two parties, still they were far remote from enmity known among the fans of each party. They (the Emigrants and the Helpers) differed concerning choosing the Caliph. This was the first political difference of its kind occurring among Muslims. Each party demanded that the Caliph was to be chosen from among them. This is not far different from the demand of any contemporary political party.
Yet, the emergence of real partisanship was remarkable after the assassination of Caliph `Uthman ibn `Affan, may Allah be pleased with him. The assassination itself was a form of a military coup against the ruler, another act that can be carried out by a political party.
Later, the Kharijites appeared during the reign of Caliph `Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, and were known as a political party as well as a sect. Many dynasties that appeared later including the Abbassyds, the Turks and the Mamlukis were no more than political parties taking power.
In fact, forming political parties or gatherings that call for political legal goals is completely Islamic. Muslim activists who hold the view that Islam allows one party are very few and even have no effect on the mainstream. Muslim activists who can win elections all believe in pluralism within the framework of Islam. In case those peaople come to power, there will be no fear of any political despotism.
As for the true concept of democracy, it is not our main concern. We, Muslims believe in pluralism and political freedom as part and parcel of Islamic teachings. It is worth stressing here that we accept the articles and the principles of democracy that cope with the teachings of Islam and reject those principles that are non-Islamic. Our main reference is Islam when deciding whether to accept or reject any new ideology.”
Kini kita, ummah Islam berada di 'belakang' dari segi kebendaan , kita mengekori negara-negara maju di barat atau mengekori negara yang menganuti faham dan nilai barat. Sudah tentu kita dilanda rasa rendah-diri. Apa yang kita lihat pada alam nyata, mereka di barat lebih tersusun, lebih mewah, lebih bebas & bahagia. Sementara kita masih diperingatkan di dalam al-Quran yang kita adalah sebaik-baik ummah, kita berada di atas kerana iman kita yang luhur, kerana amal soleh, kerana amar al-ma'ruf dan nahy ann al-mungkar.
Persoalan ini telah disentuh oleh Tonybee dan bukunya Civilization On Trial
Kita mesti mengakui kelemahan kita di dalam belbagai bidang pengurusan kehidupan. Kita mesti mengakui kebaikan dan kelebihan beberapa nilai orang barat yang semakin pupus di kalangan kita. Sebagaimana mana contoh nilai-nilai baik yang ada pada orang barat yang disebut dalam hadith Imam Muslim tentang banyaknya orang Rom di akhir zaman.
Adakah Islam menentukan bentuk tertentu bagi pengurusan politik ummah, atau Islam membiarkan kita menyesuaikan nilai-nilai Islam mengikut tempat dan zaman?
Adakah idealisme masyarakat Madinah di zaman Rasulullah Sollahu alaihi wasallam serta para khulafa ar-Rasyidin dan masyarakat salaf as-Soleh masih merupakan impian kita?. Atau kita telah mengimpikan masyarakat yang terbuka, demokratik, humanisme yang mendakap pluralism seadanya?
Adakah masih relevan perbincangan dalam kitab-kitab tulisan ulama silam dalam soal ini atau kita perlu usaha tajdid sendiri-sendiri, dengan menyesuaikan semangat maqasid ajaran al-Quran dan sunnah dalam kerangka politik yang ada pada hari ini. Adakah kerangka ini lebih menepati maqasid tersebut berbanding pemerentahan Islam di zaman silam?.
Adakah bentuk dan amalan ulama di zaman salaf itu adalah semata-mata catitan sejarah ummah yang gilang-gemilang tetapi sudah tidak relevan dengan zaman kita? Adakah Islam pernah mengajar bentuk corak tertentu bagi pemerentahan, atau terpulang kepada ijtihad kita? Apakah urusan politik itu adalah urusan duniawi, tiada istilah 'ittiba' dan bid'ah padanya?
Apakah ajaran-ajaran tentang 'do & don't' di dalam kerangka politik ummah di zaman salaf perlu diterapkan sepenuhnya dalam kerangka politik demokrasi semasa?