Jumuah lecture on Friday 9 November 2018 (1 Rabi-ul-Awwal 1440)by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town.
Part 1 in the series: POLITICAL ETHICS OF OUR BELOVED PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAWA)
Today is the first day of the great month of Rabi-ul-Awwal and our season of mourning and grief of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) draws to a close with the conclusion of the month of Safar. Our attention and concentration is now on the most important event of this month of Rabi-ul-Awwal, being the blessed Milad of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). Indeed, he is the seal of Prophethood, the best of creation and the most beautiful example to follow.
Our practice every year is to dedicate these discussions in Jumuah during Rabi-ul-Awwal to the personality, lifestyle and message of beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
I started this Khutbah with verse 25 of Surah Hadid (chapter 57 of the Holy Quran) where Almighty Allah (SWT) says:
لَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَنزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْمِيزَانَ لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ
“Certainly We sent Our messengers with clear arguments, and sent down with them the Book and the balance that men may conduct themselves with justice.”
This is a very important verse if we want to understand this institution of Prophethood and the purpose of the revelation of Prophets (a.s). In this series, we will discuss very important aspects of the Seerah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
CRITERIA FOR ESTABLISHING JUSTICE
As a prelude to our discussion, it is very important to study the above verse of the Holy Quran, where Almighty Allah (SWT) is mentioning some pertinent points, as follows:
1. There is no doubt, that one of the prime purposes of Prophets (a.s) is to establish justice amongst the people;
2. The establishment of justice requires balance;
3. The establishment of justice requires a program or constitution, which is of course divine revelation;
4. We understand indirectly, that Prophets (a.s) came with the purpose of establishing justice, with just principles and values. The purpose of their revelation is justice, and this process of establishing justice is also based upon justice.
5. People should maintain justice. Prophets (a.s) cannot impose justice on the people. People should themselves stand for justice. They have an important role in establishing justice.
In other words, a genuine Prophet (a.s) with clear, coherent evidence is one condition. This genuine Prophet (a.s) must come with a program, which is another condition. This process of establishing justice requiring balance is another condition. However, the role of people is extremely important, because they need to be receptive to the justice.
These are very crucial points pertaining to the above mentioned verse 25 of Surah Hadid. Our discussions in the next few Jumuah Khutbahs will be framed on these 5 principle points.
CRITICAL ROLE PLAYERS TO ACHIEVE SOCIAL JUSTICE
Sometimes we speak about individual justice. Of course, this verse does not refer to individual justice, but rather, it refers to justice amongst the people ie. social justice. Now, social justice, as I have relayed earlier, has 2 role players, namely the leader with the balanced program, and the other being the masses. This is where the whole dynamic of politics come into play.
Politics is basically a process where the leadership, together with the support of the public, establishes justice in the society. Amazingly, everybody claims the same when it comes to election time. Politicians will be begging for your votes, so that they can bring about justice in society through your votes. This is the political process. How truthful politicians are is a different discussion.
What I am trying to say is that Prophets (a.s) needed a political program in order to achieve this justice referred to in the above quoted verse. They need a political philosophy and system to achieve this system of justice, which is ultimately the purpose of Prophethood.
MORAL CHARACTER OF POLITICAL SYSTEMS
In this series of discussions, it is my intention to discuss the Akhlaq of the politics of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). We will analyze in detail what is the ethics and morality of Prophetic politics! We will develop this discussion in light of the principle points established earlier from verse 25 of Surah Hadid.
When we talk about political morality, we need to understand the relationship between morality/ethical values and politics. We will not delve deeply into philosophical and sociological discussions, which is a very big debate in political science.
We will examine 3 approaches in this regard:
1. Machiavellian approach
2. Marxist approach
3. Muhammadian approach
1. MACHIAVELLIAN APPROACH TO POLITICS
The first approach is that politics and morality have nothing to do with each other. This approach takes the view that morality is a personal matter whereas politics is about fighting for power. In other words there is no morality in the pursuit of power!
This is synonymous with the Machiavellian approach to politics, where power is everything. Machiavelli was an Italian politician and philosopher who wrote the well-known book titled The Prince, where the fibre of his political thought is that religion and politics are mutually exclusive.
This notion of the separation between church and state was conceived by Machiavelli, and that is why he is called the “father of modern political theory”. The church is symbolic of religion and also moral and ethical values, which Machiavelli argues that politics have no association with. Unfortunately, when we look at the practical reality in the world today, we see this form of politics to be the norm!
2. MARXIST APPROACH TO POLITICS
The second approach does not deny the role of ethics and morality. It accepts that Akhlaq and moral values is needed, even if you are a politician. However, the very important condition in this approach is that moral values are dependent on politics!
In principle, this means that politics itself is important ie. the criteria is to obtain power and control over the people. Akhlaq and good morals is accepted as long as it is congruent with this. Good morals fall by the wayside the moment that it conflicts with power.
We have numerous examples of politicians falling into this school of thought! They certainly are widespread. Marxists are a case in point! Marx writes that morality does not have any absolute value. Rather, the distinction between good and bad originates from society. It is good if it helps with our purpose, otherwise it is nothing more than a shrewd trick!
We often hear the slogan being proclaimed by those revolutionary inclined in our society, where they shout “we are only non-violent to those who are non-violent to us”. This is an example which falls into this second school, which does not like violence as it is anti-morality. However, we are committed to this value only to the people who are committed to it as well. This means that if our enemy is not committed to non-violence then we will also do whatever we want!
In this second approach, Akhlaq is secondary to politics, when the purpose and aim defines the means! This whole theory of explosion explains that the clashes of society will reach to a point of explosion, resulting in a revolution. Now, there are no restrictions to do whatever you want, to reach to that point of explosion. It is all justified.
3. MUHAMMADIAN APPROACH TO POLITICS
The third school of thought explaining the relationship between Akhlaq/morality and politics takes the position that Akhlaq and ethical values is primary and politics is secondary. In this approach, politics is there to achieve power, but for a defined purpose being the establishment of justice!
In this approach, it is not possible to establish justice through unjust means. This is really a very serious discussion today, when we evaluate the position of liberation movements, in our own country South Africa and other parts of the world.
There are plenty of dark spots when you study their track record of days in the liberation struggle. They would have conducted lots of questionable or deplorable acts. I am not referring to oppressive regimes here! I am talking about liberation movements, namely those who claim to be struggling and fighting for justice for the people.
However, in their own struggle, if they suspected someone to be troublesome (eg. spying), they would be summarily removed without trace! There were many such cases brought before the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and they justified their position by arguing that their prime purpose was to bring justice to the people. Therefore, it is acceptable if they did something wrong in between!
This third school holds the position that Akhlaq/morality is primary and politics is secondary, and therefore categorically denounces this. It does not endorse the slogan of being “only non-violent to those who are non-violent”. This third school says that we are non-violent, period! It does not matter who is on the opposite side.
PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAWA) – THE PERFECTION OF MORAL CHARACTER
So I want to re-emphasize this principle point, that Akhlaq is principle for those who follow this third approach. In fact it is the pre-requisite before one can fight for justice!
This third approach is the political school of Islam, which all Prophets (a.s) presented, and also the political school of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). He is the perfection of moral character, before he fights for justice. We learn this about Rasulullah (SAWA) in verse 4 of Surah Qalam (chapter 68 of the Holy Quran):
وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ
“And most surely you conform (yourself) to sublime morality.”
The Holy Quran explains the relationship between Rasulullah (SAWA) and the people in verse 159 of Surah Aal-e-Imraan:
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ وَلَوْ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لاَنفَضُّواْ مِنْ حَوْلِكَ
“Thus it is due to mercy from Allah that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you”
This verse is often quoted in reference to Rasulullah (SAWA) and his approach. There are various angles that one can explore with this verse. One angle is the socio-political angle, as Allah (SWT) is saying to Rasulullah (SAWA) that his success depends on his good Akhlaq, so much so that people would disperse if he was rough and tough.
Therefore, the social relationship of Rasulullah (SAWA) and his social interaction with the people is the manifestation of sublime moral character.
With this background, we will explore some principle political Akhlaq of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). Important to remember that we will be exploring political morality, and not moral politics! This discussion will develop in subsequent Jumuah lectures during Rabi-ul-Awwal.
ABSENCE OF JUSTICE IN NIGERIA CONTINUES UNNOTICED
There are a few points to discuss, which we have mentioned before, but it is still not enough. The situation in Nigeria has attracted the attention of Amnesty International and numerous other human rights lobbies, who have been quite outspoken about the massacre and persecution of our fellow brethren in Nigeria, which is on such a huge scale.
Again, a much higher court ordered the release of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, who is the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, while a much lower court repelled this decision a few days ago, demanding his continued imprisonment.
This is the situation before us in Nigeria, where people who are peaceful and committed to moral values in their struggle for justice and human rights have been killed indiscriminately, persecuted, imprisoned, kidnapped and made missing without trace.
Again, this terrible reality in Nigeria is in no small number. Just last week on the occasion of Arba’een, we witnessed more than 50 people being killed and hundreds injured at the hands of the Nigerian military.
There is no justification for such atrocities being committed against the followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s) in Nigeria. As people living in South Africa, we are regarded as one of the major leaders on human rights, with our proud background of struggle, and prominent position in the international community, it is our responsibility to create awareness and repeat our appeal, and to express our anger and displeasure at the deafening silence.
I speak under correction, but to my knowledge, we have not heard even a small statement of condemnation from DIRCO, or any form of challenge to the Nigerian government requesting clarity about the killing of these people. More than 300 people have been killed over the past few months, while hundreds remain imprisoned, or missing. This is while their leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky is being tortured, eyesight lost, family imprisoned and sons killed. Despite this, there is no outcry or any demand for justice for these people!
Really, I believe that we as South Africans have a special responsibility towards our brothers and sisters in Nigeria. I hope we will be able to create awareness and apply pressure on our government to demand justice for the followers of Ahlul Bait (a.s) in Nigeria.
THE MOCKERY OF JUSTICE IN OUR WORLD TODAY
There was an important article written by one of our brothers in the Cape Times, which should be spread far and wide, wherein he highlights the stark contradiction in the position adopted by our South African government in selling arms to Saudi Arabia, which is used to suppress and kill innocent Yemenis and the people of Bahrain.
It is really laughable that Shaikh Ali Salman, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Bahrain, was given a life sentence for collaborating with Qatar! Would you believe it, Qatar of all countries! These small kingdoms are so paranoid when it comes to their power that they can say anything they want.
Decades ago, they would criminalize any opposition voices by claiming that the opposition is collaborating with Egypt, namely Gamal Abdel Nasser. That era ended, and then it became a case of anybody opposing them being collaborators with the Islamic Republic of Iran. While Iran is still seen as the bogeyman by these monarchs, this has taken a new twist where one would now also be accused of collaborating with Qatar, of all countries!!!
The obvious question is what a religious leader of the majority of Bahrain has to do with Qatar, which results in him being sentence to life imprisonment? He has nothing to do with Qatar. This is the big mockery that justice has become today!
The situation in Yemen is also in front of us, where the human catastrophe is beyond our imagination!