Jumuah lecture on Friday 16 November 2018 (8 Rabi-ul-Awwal 1440) by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town
Lecture 2 in the series:
POLITICAL ETHICS OF OUR BELOVED PROPHET MUHAMMAD (SAWA)
Last week we started a series of discussions for the month of Rabi-ul-Awwal in the light of the very important verse 25 of Surah Hadid (chapter 57 of the Holy Quran) where Almighty Allah (SWT) says:
لَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَنْزَلْنَا 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.”
The point which we concluded last week’s discussion, in a nutshell, is that one of the major objectives of all Prophets (a.s) is to establish justice amongst the people. The tools for them to achieve this social justice are the Divine Book (which is the constitution) and the criterion of balance.
From that point, we developed the discussion to conclude that there is a very important relationship between Akhlaq (ethics/morality) and politics. The political process is necessary to establish justice, but this political process cannot be achieved without the combination of balance and Akhlaq.
We discussed 3 approaches when it comes to the relationship between politics and Akhlaq/ethics. We established that the third school of thought is the approach of Islam and our Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), where Akhlaq is the principle and politics is secondary. In this approach, Akhlaq comes first and is ruling over all our strategies in the political process.
Nothing can justify changing ethics and moral values. The purpose does not justify the means. It is imperative for the means to be just as well. This was the major foundation of the political philosophy of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA). With this principle in mind, it is our intent to discuss different outstanding qualities of political morality of Rasulullah (SAWA).
LEADERSHIP IS ABOUT DELIVERY AND NOT ACHIEVEMENT
I would like to take a moment to reaffirm and crystalize the key message of last week’s Jumuah, to solidify our foundational understanding before we embark on the exciting journey of exploring the outstanding qualities of political morality of Rasulullah (SAWA).
Governance over the people is undoubtedly important and necessary. You cannot establish justice without the framework of governance in a political system. A political system must first be established before Prophets (a.s) could fulfil their purpose of establishing social justice. This is the governance or leadership for the righteous people, which the Holy Quran refers to as the “Saliheen”.
Once again, I would like to clarify this point, that this governance itself is not the purpose or goal to strive for. Rather, it is the means or tool only. This is again another very interesting discussion in the political philosophy of Islam, ie. whether governance or ruling over the people is a right or a responsibility?
Leadership is a fine balance between right and responsibility. What we understand very clearly is that it is the right of certain people to rule, since they are the most capable and most deserving people to rule. However, it is also their responsibility at the same time, beyond it being their right. Leadership is not a point of benefit for them. Instead, it is a point of delivery for them, of justice, peace and fairness to the people.
IMAM ALI (A.S) AND HIS EXTRAORDINARY SENSITIVITY TOWARDS THE PUBLIC TREASURY
This beautiful narration recorded of Imam Ali (a.s) in Nahjul Balagha (Khutbah 129) is worth reflecting upon, where he says:
“O Allah, you know very well that we do not fight for power. The struggle of our Holy Prophet (SAWA) and us Ahlul Bait (a.s) is not about power, nor do we seek the fuel of the Hellfire in this Dunya. Indeed, we want governance, not for power, but rather to bring back the major signs of Your religion, and to establish reform in Your cities, so that we can provide sanctuary to Your oppressed servants and re-establish those suspended limits of Your commands.”
This makes it very clear! We read in history that certain people from amongst the inner circle of Imam Ali (a.s) came to sincerely advise him not to be so hard in his political approach when he became the Caliph, reminding him that politics is about diplomacy and being a negotiator!
Imam Ali (a.s) responds to these people by asking whether they are suggesting that he seeks victory by injustice over the people he is supposed to rule over. Imam Ali (a.s) then takes an oath in the name of Allah (SWT) that he will never do this for even a speck of wheat!
The whole background to this scene was the distribution of Baitul Maal (public funds). These advisors of Imam Ali (a.s) were saying to him that some of the beneficiaries are from the elite in society, and hence they should be granted their extra share that they have grown accustomed to receiving from the previous ruler.
They questioned Imam Ali (a.s) on his uncompromising approach to justice whereby he allocated the same stipend to a slave who became Muslim recently and also to those who have been Muslim for a few decades. They were suggesting to Imam Ali (a.s) that to maintain the peace, these elite of society should be granted their extra share.
Imam Ali (a.s) replied by asking whether they are suggesting he should be seeking help with injustice and unfairness on the people whom he is ruling over. He again emphasized that he will never do it!
Imam Ali (a.s) went further to say that he would distribute this Baitul Maal (public funds) equally if it was his own money, so how can he distribute it unfairly if this is the property of Allah (SWT)?
MOHAMMADEAN GOVERNANCE WAS BASED UPON UNPARALLELED MORAL CHARACTER
So this is important to understand, that the purpose of governance in the Prophetic Sunnah is not a right to exploit, or benefit personally. Nor is this role of leadership or governance about achieving. Rather, it is a responsibility to deliver. This is a very important foundational principle, and Rasulullah (SAWA) established his state in Madina on this principle.
The political philosophy can be divided into 2 categories, namely internal and external politics. Internal politics talks about the relationship Rasulullah (SAWA) held with his own followers in the state of Madina and external politics is about his foreign policy ie. towards those not under his governance. We will discuss the details of these 2 categories, by focusing on the major political ethics of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA).
The very first ethical characteristic in the approach of our Nabi Muhammad (SAWA) is that of truthfulness and being trustworthy. Rasulullah (SAWA) began his relationship with people based the very important moral and ethical values of being truthful and trustworthy. As we have established early on, politics is the relationship between the leader and the people.
For 40 years of his life, before announcing that he received divine revelation, which he is now supposed to convey to the people as part of his mission of Prophethood, we see the Rasulullah (SAWA) ensured that his position in Mecca was firmly entrenched as someone who is truthful and trustworthy beyond any iota of doubt.
RASULULLAH (SAWA) ANNOUNCES HIS PROPHETHOOD AFTER WINNING THE TRUST
People did not know that he is a Nabi, but they definitely held him in the greatest esteem as “Sadiq” and “Ameen” ie. truthful and trustworthy. People were not Muslim. They were idol-worshippers or had other beliefs. They did not trust anybody in Mecca, but they had full trust in Rasulullah (SAWA).
When Rasulullah (SAWA) received the first revelation and he wanted to make this a public announcement, we read in history that he ascended the Mount of Safaa and called out to the people of Mecca.
After the people of Mecca convened, Rasulullah (SAWA) asked them whether they would believe him if he said that there is an army approaching from behind this mountain to attack them. They were all unanimous in their reply by saying confidently that they have never heard Rasulullah (SAWA) misrepresenting the facts, meaning that they do believe that there is an army behind the mountain if he is reporting this.
This once again highlights the level of trust that people had for Rasulullah (SAWA), so much so that they believed whatever he relayed without thinking twice. Based upon this, Rasulullah (SAWA) then replied to them by saying that “if you believe I am trustworthy like this, then I am going to share with you that I have brought a message to you from Almighty God (SWT), your creator.”
This issue was not only confined to the pre-Islamic era or the pre-establishment of Islamic governance. This Akhlaq of Rasulullah (SAWA) of being regarded as trustworthy and truthful was consistent throughout. Even once he became the head of state, it is important to recognize that his most noteworthy attributes were about being truthful and trustworthy.
RASULULLAH (SAWA) WAS VOID OF ANY SUSPICION OF CORRUPTION
Rasulullah (SAWA) was never, ever associated with any form of corruption or debauchery. This is in stark contrast to what we see in the world today, where corruption and debauchery is the biggest problem we see everywhere.
The spoils of war were collected in one of the battles, after the enemies were defeated, and there was a very important item which went missing. Would you believe it, some people actually commented at the time, that Rasulullah (SAWA) perhaps took this precious item for himself. It is on this point that the following verse from Surah Aal-e-Imraan (chapter 3 of the Holy Quran) was revealed:
وَمَا كَانَ لِنَبِيٍّ أَنْ يَغُلَّ ۚ وَمَنْ يَغْلُلْ يَأْتِ بِمَا غَلَّ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ
“No prophet could (ever) be false to his trust. If any person is so false, He shall, on the Day of Judgment, restore what he misappropriated”
This verse elaborates that it is not for Rasulullah (SAWA) to conduct any corruption, since he is the best of all the Prophets (a.s) and much higher in status than what we can comprehend. This verse says that not even any other Prophet (a.s) can conduct any form of fraud, and whoever does will face the consequences of dishonesty on the Day of Judgement.
Honesty and trust were key principles which Rasulullah (SAWA) maintained on all levels, and we see this being consistently applied in the distribution of public funds, strategic positions, spoils of war, and everything else. There are plenty of examples that we can explore to this effect.
Next week we will delve deeper into the second aspect associated with the political ethics of Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), which is his commitment to covenants and agreements.
MILAD-UN-NABI IS THE BEST OPPORTUNITY FOR UNITY
Today being the 8th Rabi-ul-Awwal marks the martyrdom of the 11th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Hassan al-Askari (a.s). This great Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s) lived most of his life in Samarra, Iraq under the surveillance of the rulers and was eventually poisoned in the same way as the Imams before him, for resisting oppression, injustice and the illegitimate, corrupt leadership at the time.
May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant us the Taufiq to follow the path of His Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and the purified Ahlul Bait (a.s).
In the week ahead we have the all-important celebrations of the birth of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), for which we have a series of programs lined up. Milad-un-Nabi offers us the opportunity to review our relationship and renew our commitment to our Rasul (SAWA). This series of Jumuah lectures has this objective.
I cannot sufficiently emphasize that if Rasulullah (SAWA) were to be physically with us today, his most important command would be the UNITY of this fragmented Ummah. The personality and love of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) is the most common foundation amongst us all. It therefore serves as the basis to bring us all together on one platform to face the enemies of Islam.
I hope and prayer that these days of Milad and the birth of our Rasul (SAWA) will bring us this most precious favour and gift of Unity. We have so much synergies to leverage from being One Ummah, and what I mean by One Ummah is not to disregard our differences or change our Madhhab or compromise on our Aqeedah (ideology).
We can be united and protect our principles, our faith and values and ideologies which our different schools describe and prescribe. We have much more in common than which we differ upon, and this should therefore bring us together.
Most importantly, as I said, our love, commitment and relationship to the most beloved of Almighty Allah (SWT) serves as the formula for achieving this Unity.
THE HEART CONTINUES TO BLEED FOR NIGERIA AND PALESTINE
Once again, I have committed myself to remind in every Friday’s Jumuah Khutbah, about the state of the Muslim Ummah of Rasulullah (SAWA), suffering in Nigeria and the injustice committed against these oppressed people by the merciless hands of the Nigerian army. The leadership and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria remain imprisoned and tortured, while no justice is provided to them.
Indeed, in Palestine, where the heart of this Muslim Ummah continues to bleed, we have seen the spike in violence and killing in Gaza. At the same time, Alhamdu Lillah, we have the resistance stand up proudly in the face of this Zionist aggression, reminding the Zionist enemy that their indiscriminate aggression and merciless killing will be met with a very strong response.
May Almighty Allah (SWT) grant them victory over these oppressive, worst people on the earth by the name of Zionists. May Almighty Allah (SWT) protect this Ummah from disunity and grant them the Taufiq to be united in facing the enemies of Islam instead of challenging each other with fatwas of kufr.
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