The shaykh began the topic by highlighting how much he respects and admires Imam Hasan al-Banna Shaheed, Maulana Maududi and Sayyid Qutb Shaheed. Nadwatul Ulama movement actually pioneered the translation of Maulana Maududis works to Arabic which then had a big impact on Sayyid Qutb Shaheed. Shaykh Akram respects the efforts of these great thinkers, he has read their works many times, memorised parts of Milestones and he mentioned how he has been moved to tears reading some of their writings. The purpose of mentioning this was so that people do not think he is speaking from biased perspective when criticising.
It is important to unite despite of differences. The purpose of teaching is not to make everyone follow you. [Shaykh Akram regularly mentions this in his seminars emphasising that if someone feels they have a better argument then they can discuss, but people should think properly and then either agree knowingly or disagree knowingly].
Maulana Maududi, Imam Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb were the first to present political Islam as a focus. They understood that Islam is fully comprehensive and all the different spaces where Islam can be applied are all seen as one. They view personal space, family space, society and government as all one. So when they look at it all as one they focus on the state level because they feel when Islam is in power then it will be easy to follow in other aspects. This idea was put very nicely by Ml. Maududi in ‘Four Fundamental Terminologies of Islam’ where he explained the terms illah, Rabb, ibadah and deen.
Imaan, Islam and Shariah
First of all it is important for us to understand religion. Allah created you to test you properly. His command is you must worship Him. Allah has given you personal space and you must apply your imaan and islam there. If your space remains limited to the narrow personal space and you fully apply Islam and imaan there then your Islam is still complete. As your space grows to family or society or state then you apply imaan and islam there. Other religions never go beyond personal space but Islam is applied in every aspect.
Imaan is belief in the unseen, belief in Allah, in the Prophets, in Paradise, Hellfire…. Believe that there is no way other than to worship Allah. Once you have imaan then you have entered into a contract. Before the contract you can look around and question, but after the contract of imaan you must submit. Before imaan you can believe or reject, but after imaan you do not have any choice but full submission- that is Islam.
You apply Islam in your life, in your space that Allah has given you and your space can keep growing. The laws given by Allah to govern your space are called Shariah. Covers all the way from personal all the way to state level. Shariah only comes after imaan and islam.
Quran never says enforce the law, it says obey the law. Doing so willingly gets reward. This is not to say that a Muslim Government shouldnt apply the law on the people, rather the Muslim government applying the law is because the Muslim ruler is obeying the Shariah. In worldly function secular law and shariah both have similar purpose which are for order, peace and prosperity in society. Shariah goes beyond that though as a way for believers to use their space for ibadah. Thats why focus has to be on both imaan and shariah.
Imaan then Islam. People now take Islam as a belonging. It is obligatory to get imaan properly first, then true Islam will follow. True imaan is when belief in paradise gets more important than this world. This requires reflection on the Quran and ibadah.
Once you have understood imaan, islam and shariah you will never lose hope. We have been made to lead and build society not to follow. But we start at the wrong point. Allah wants us to start at imaan and islam but we start at shariah. If you want your young son to be a doctor, you don’t make a hospital for him and give him the title doctor. No, you start with teaching him the alphabet, then primary education, then secondary, then college, then university and so on.
A big problem today is that orientalists and advocates of maqasid today do not understand shariah. Maqasid shariah is being abused today to try to make shariah into secular law. People need to understand that shariah is divine. There are similar aspects between shariah and laws of other societies, so they end up thinking shariah is just Arab customs incorportated into Islam. They really need to understand that Shariah is divine- it is not from the Arabs of Hijaz or Yemen, it is from Heaven. There could be similar aspects in aims but that does not mean they are the same. There could be a similar purpose (such as prosperity) but the source is not the same.
‘Batil accepts union with batil, but Haqq never accepts union of religion/ideology with batil.’ (from an urdu poem, Iqbal?? )
Focus on Allah. If you have the right destination in mind even if you go on a slow transport you will get there. If you have no direction but have the fastest train you will never arrive at the destination.
Shariah is divine. Madhab is a human effort to understand the shariah. It is a human effort that is a part of the shariah, it is in area of ijtihad.
Shariah and Space
To explain his understanding the shaykh distinguishes the different spaces where Islam can be applied: these are personal space, family space, society and state.
Space to apply Islam is given by Allah. Space is not sought, but it emerges as you apply Islam in the space that you have. The space is accidental not permanent. A person can be a complete believer without an Islamic State.
Islam is a relationship between people and their Lord, it is not primarily a social, economic or political governing system. These things appear in Islam by accident.
Christianity became content with personal space, but Islam when more space is given Islam is applied there. We do not say leave what is for Caesar to Caesar.
When you choose between two things it is your conscience that decides, and conscience is formed by imaan and islam. If we just follow the law then that is not deep submission, the depth comes from imaan and islam.
Understand the limits of the laws, laws do not make pious obedient Muslims. Without imaan and islam any effort to implement shariah is non-Islamic and is meaningless. We need education, tarbiyyah and training.
Shariah is not a theory, it is for practice. It is not for fatwa purpose, it is to make a serious effort for application. This requires pragmatism and teaching.
Maulana Maududi and Sayyid Qutb Shaheed look at the whole of Islam as just one. They don’t see how Islam can be complete with just a small space. With this thinking laws become the focus of our dawah, but piety is not created by laws.
In KSA the shops have to close when it is time for salat, yet there are still people when they hear the adhan they just close the shop and sit inside not praying. Laws do not create piety.
If you force people to pray then some may pray without wudu even. Shaykh mentioned a story of a big madrassah he knows off, he was there for fajr salat, after jamaat finished he turned around and noticed that not a single person was standing up to make up a missed rakat. Shaykh as a guest thought this was amazing how every single young student makes it on time to catch the first rakat. Later a senior student explained that the madrassah has a rule that if you come late for salat you will not get breakfast so the latecomers don’t make up the missed rakat so to not get caught and Allahu ‘alam if they read it later or not. Laws do not create piety.
All the Prophets of Allah had the same complete religion but not all had a state. Eesa alayhi salaam did not even raise a rebellion against the Romans. Religion enters society and state accidentally and not purposefully. The central point is individual.
People today when they want an Islamic society they just think shariah. They do not think about helping people, helping neighbours etc.
Imam Ibn Taymiyyah had a huge following and support amongst masses, those who opposed him incited the Syrian ruler against him saying he wants to overthrow you. The ruler summoned him to interrogate him, Ibn Taymiyyah replied to him ‘You think I want your kingdom? I swear by Allah your kingdom and that of the Mongols have no value even of one penny to me.’
Society and Shariah
Khilafah- Muslims only had Khilafah for the four Khulafah ar-Rashideen radiallahu anhum. Even the Khilafah of Ali radiallahu anhu was only in Hijaz, Iraq and north parts of Egypt. After that there were kings even though they may have been called khalifahs. There were pious kings and worldly orientated kings.
There were instances where Muslims had worldly orientated secular rulers who maintained Islamic ethics in society. So the Muslims had Islamic society but not an Islamic ruler or State. Many times some ulama tried to rebel but always failed. Islamic Ruler was never established through this way.
The society remained Islamic because the focus was on reforming the individuals. That is why the Sufis became so popular and successful.
An incorrect effort puts Islam in conflict with the state. Our wrong efforts make Muslim rulers become an enemy of Islam. So the rulers see Islam as a threat rather than a mercy, which leads to a clamp down. In our history we see overall the ulama did not do that, so we find madrassahs and khanqahs flourished.
Islam is not primarily concerned with space. Society level and state level space are accidental, with more space comes more trust and responsibility.
State and Shariah
Ikhwanul Muslimeen and Jamaat-e-Islami seek power so much that they even compromise on their views.
Maulana Maududi always taught that women cannot be the head of state. But in Pakistan when Ayyub Khan stood for election, JI hated him so much so that they supported Fatimah Jinnah against him. Maulana Maududi tried to argue for this saying “Ayyub Khan has no virtue other than being a man, and Fatimah Jinnah has no defect other than being a woman.” Many JI members resigned after this saying if he has nothing going for him other than being a man then havent we got any other man to stand against him? Desipte this compromise Ayyub Khan still won.
Many Muslims focus on politics so much that they do not think that there are other ways to serve Islam other than to seek power.
Why is it that on a personal level we do sabr when we are insulted. But on a community level we just protest and no sabr. If a masjid imam is wronged by a committee member he will not incite the congregation to protest- rather he does sabr, speaks to other committee members or people of influence, and seriously think about how to right the situation pragmatically. On a personal level we are all pragmatic but on a community level we think any action will suffice.
The Prophet salallahu ‘alayhi wasalam did not do hijrah to establish a state. He moved because he salallahu ‘alayhi wasalam was oppressed and could not worship Allah. The sunnah of Allah is when you’re patient then Allah rewards you. The Prophet salallahu ‘alayhi wasalam was rewarded with the Medinah State.
Today people think the biggest problem is the separation of religion and state. But that is not true, if state and religion were one, the problems would still be there. The problem is basically the separation of religion from its reality. Make Allah rule your heart not the state.
To make your best effort for the sake of Allah.
Jihad is the last resort when all else fails. Jihad is a sacred thing which will remain till the Day of Judgment. It is not because people differ from you.
Recognize the difference between jihad and the Islamization of violence.
The real Quranic jihad becomes a duty with conditions (defensive is different):
1. Mujahideen have a safe place to move from.
2. They must be organized under one Ameer with authority from the Ruler of where it is being made from.
3. Must have enough numbers/resources for success to be likely.
4. It is against oppressors, those who are against Islam spreading and when there is no alternative.
5. That they pullout with minimum loss of life.
Jihad removes the barriers to dawah, but today we have become the barrier.
The Mongols defeated the Muslims, but Islam conquered the Mongols.
The hadith of dying death of jahiliyah if we die without bayah, doesnt that prove the necessity of working to set up an Islamic State? Hadith is about importance of jama’ah. Jamaah is unity of believers with one imam. If that happens then bayah is obligatory, and jamaah itself is obligatory for Muslims. Dividing the ummah into groups is a crime, it is criminal. Unity can happen without power.
Islam did not define or provide a structured political model for Islamic State or Khilafah.
everything is not always so black and white.
In books of fiqh we have the understanding of darul Islam and darul harb. And how Muslims in darul harb should leave, do hijrah and settle elsewhere.
There is always a third understanding that requires more thinking. This is Darul Dawah, make the whole world darul dawah. All the Prophets looked at the world as darul dawah. See the whole world as your door (house) do not confine to one place.
Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi, famous mujadid of India, made this 3rd choice of darul dawah. He said that there are two ways to change government; one is bring Muslims to the throne which necessitates conflict, and second one is bring Islam to those on the throne. In his time the ruler of India was the Mughal King Akbar who was not good for Islam, he actually tried to start his own religion. Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi could have used his influence to incite an armed struggle, but instead he started writing his emotional powerful letters to the governers of Akbar and other people of influence around him. He worked relentlessly to influence them towards Islam, eventually the ruler became afraid of and had him imprisoned.
However the rulers son became sympathetic towards the Shaykh and had him freed. When Akbar died his new religion died with him, and from his own household arose Aurganzeb who became a student of the family of Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi. When King Aurangzeb Alamgir came to power India was transformed, he commissioned the writing of Fatawa Alamigiri to be used to establish Shariah in India and did many great things for Islam. Shaykh Sirhindi succeeded even though he did not see the fruits of his work in his lifetime.
You cannot preserve deen by just setting up madrassahs. You either give dawah or you are given dawah towards something else.
Scholarship then became stagnant thinking that if effort of whole generations is just spent on preserving deen in madrassahs then society will remain Islamic. Imam Hasan al-Banna, Maulana Maududi and Sayyid Qutb Shaheed were like a reaction to this situation, they popularised the thinking that a real effort is needed for political power. This inspired many young people to armed struggle and the rulers began to see Islam as a threat. The method of Shaykh Ahmed Sirhindi was abandoned.
Throughout history the rebellions by pious believers have been mercilessly crushed by rulers. Hafiz Assad actually said “I can break the throne but not leave it” and this is exactly what his son Bashar Assad is doing. They would rather see everything destroyed than relinquish power.
Muslims in Secular Societies
Reconcile with government and carry out preaching and dawah. Reconciliation does not always mean justice, sometimes it means giving up your right to bring people together, to rebuild and prepare for the future. (said in context of Egypt).
There are more freedoms in many secular societies than in many Muslim countries. Live in secular society, contributing to improve it, do not always be demanding, rather demand rights of the weak in society not yourself.
Being ruled by your own desires is worse than being ruled by secular law. Struggle against yourself.
Method for change:
– Be critical of revivalist movements to improve them
– Start with Iman and Islam, full submission and ibadah.
– islam with a small _i because a capital _I is identity and small _i is full submission.
– Unity of Believers.
The believing community must be united on obedience to their Lord, not unity based on groups. Anybody who harms unity is a criminal. Do not even divide Muslims into Islamist and Secularist. Have unity and call to Islam. The Prophet salallahu ‘alayhi wasalam even had 300 full hypocrites in his followers but he didnt do anything to preserve unity. Unity is important.
Shaykh Muhammad Akram Nadwi is an Islamic scholar from the Indian city of Jaunpur and a graduate of the world renowned Nadwatul Ulama (India) where he studied and taught Shariah. Shaykh Akram is a Muhaddith of the highest calibre who has specialised in Ilm ul Rijal [the study of the narrators of Hadith]. He has Ijaza (licenses) from over 600 scholars. Shaykh Akram Nadwi has a doctorate in Arabic Language and has authored and translated over 25 titles on Language, Jurisprudence, Qur’an and Hadith.
In May 2010, he completed a monumental 40-volume work on the lives of female scholars of Hadith in Islamic History. Also now available in English is Madrasah Life (2007) the translation (from Urdu) of his personal memoir of a student’s day at Nadwat al-Ulama.
Shaykh Akram is the recipient of the Allama Iqbal prize for contribution to Islamic thought. As a leading scholar steeped in traditional Islamic learning and in modern academia, Shaykh Akram is a former research fellow at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, Oxford.
He is the Dean and the Academic Director of the Cambridge Islamic College.