Zaid Shakir


 Before intelligently beginning a discussion of the "political process" we would be well served by defining that process. Put succinctly, the political process is the process by which public policy is made. By public policy we mean decisions emanating from governmental institutions, or the individual representatives of those institutions, which affect most members of the society under the control of that government, either directly or indirectly. Many institutions, groups and individuals are involved in this process. The relationships between these actors unfold on many different levels. Even the most untrained observer will readily note that the political process, especially here in the United States, is extremely complex and involved.

Owing to the complexity of the American political process, it would be extremely difficult for an alert Muslim to issue either a blanket condemnation or approval of a Muslim involving himself in that process. Any given aspect of that process would have to be analyzed individually in order to ascertain with any degree of accuracy its compatibility with Islamic principles and practices. Despite this fact, many Muslims engage in a headlong rush to either uncritically involve themselves in politics, oftentimes priding themselves in their political maturity and sophistication; while others rush with equal enthusiasm to condemn such involvement, usually basing their decision on overly simplistic arguments.

The purpose of this paper is to avoid either of these two extremes. While not outright condemning involvement in the political process in this country, we urge extreme caution and consideration before Muslims engage themselves in it. Our caution emanates from the considerations which are listed below. Some of our arguments are rational ('aqlii) while others are religious (deenii).


The Rational Arguments

Fractionalization and Absolutist Political Agendas

  One of the definitive features of the American political system is its factionalized nature. Countless groups, each articulating its distinct interest, exist in the American polity. One of the virtues of the American political system, and the constitution which lies at its heart, has been its ability to simultaneously encourage and control these factions. As outlined by James Madison in his brilliant essay which has become famous as the tenth Federalist Paper, the principle way of controlling these factions is through encouraging the proliferation of their number, a step achieved by extending the size of the polity 1  while at the same time severely limiting the size of the national legislature. This was accomplished by the establishment of a single national legislature to take the place of the original thirteen.

 As countless groups have to push for the creation of public policy through a small number of representatives, the likelihood of any one group completely controlling any one representative, or a bloc of representatives, is rare. They have to share him/her with numerous other groups. Even when a faction's control over a particular representative is more total, any policy this representative proposes has to be approved by other representatives controlled to greater or lesser degrees by other groups. 

One of the greatest results of this scheme has been the elimination of the possibility that an extreme or absolutist political policy or agenda could be imposed on the entire Union. The advocates of extremist positions have to engage in a series of compromises if they are to become part of a large enough coalition to have their issues and interests addressed by the system. After these compromises, their position on a particular issue would no longer be considered extreme. This scheme has had a tremendous impact on both the nature of American politics and the American political culture.

Politics in America has been characterized, more so than in any other polity, by compromise and coalition building. This fact is vividly illustrated during presidential elections as each party constructs its platform. The party's platform is merely a statement which attempts to attract the support of as many factions or interest groups as possible. Any group supporting the platform knows that it cannot possibly have all items of its agenda accepted by the party, as it inevitably would alienate other potential supporters of that party, hence it compromises in order to have a part of its agenda represented.

 This reality has significantly affected the political culture of America. Extremist ideas and absolutist political agendas have been distanced from the political process as their adherents realize the likelihood of these agendas or ideas being enacted into policy is virtually nonexistent. Systemically acceptable ideas and agendas are pushed to the center, and the parameters of political debate become narrowed to such an extent that the ideological space between contending policies becomes virtually nonexistent in most instances. Because ideas or agendas which differ from those located at the political center have virtually no appeal to the overwhelming majority of the electorate, nor to their political representatives, their adherents are pushed to further compromise or to drop out of the process altogether. As many groups come to see that the choice between Democrats and Republicans is really a non-choice, as each party sharpens its appeal to the center, they are choosing the latter option dropping out. 

The relevant point for Muslims is that Islam presents an absolutist political agenda, or one which doesn't lend itself to compromise, nor to coalition building. The Islamic world view presents the world as a place where there is a struggle between forces which are diametrically opposed to each other. The befriended of Allah oppose the dupes of Satan. Truth opposes falsehood. Allah's true din challenges the false beliefs and systems innovated by man. The Qur'an gives no indication that a compromise is possible between these forces. 2 One should consider the nature of the following verses:

 "Those who believe fight in the way of Allah; those who disbelieve fight in the way of false dieties (At Taaghuut).

 Therefore, fight you altogether the dupes of Satan, verily the scheme of Satan is weak. "(Al Qur'an, 4:76) 

"Say, truth has come and falsehood perishes, verily falsehood is bound to perish!" (Al Qur'an, 17:81) 

"It is He who sent His Messenger with guidance and the Religion of Truth that it may show itself superior to all religion , even though the idolators hate it." (Al Qur'an, 61:9) 

"Allah is the supporting friend of those who believe, He brings them forth from darkness into light. As for those who disbelieve, their patrons are the false gods, they lead them from light into darkness. These are the companions of the Hellfire, they will dwell therein forever. "(Al Qur'an, 2:257) 

"Say, are the blind equal with the seeing? Or is darkness equal with light? Or have they made partners unto Allah who have created as He has created and then these creations appear the same to them (causing them confusion)? Say, it is Allah who has created everything and He is the the One, the Compelling." (Al Qur'an, 13:16) 

The world view encouraged by these verses was clearly demonstrated in the life of Prophet Muhammad. When presented by the Quraish with a political compromise which would have accepted a watered down version of Islam and a ruling coalition between the Prophet and the non Muslims, he uttered his famous response:

 "If you were to place the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, I won't turn back in this affair until Allah makes it triumph or I die in its path"' (Seerah Ibm Hishaam) 

As is well known, the Prophet and His companions were to suffer tremendous hardship because of this uncompromising stand. They suffered persecution, exile, social and economic boycotts and numerous other hardships. All of these things are consistent with what was endured by the Messengers of Allah and their followers in every epoch. Still they patiently endured these things rather than involve themselves in the ungodly systems they were opposing. Steadfastness in enduring these hardships is also one of the crucial features of the Islamic personality. Allah says in His noble book:

 "We will surely test you with something of fear, and hunger, and loss of wealth, and lives, and the fruits of our labor. Therefore, give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere." (Al-Qur'an, 2:155) 

The avoidance of these difficulties is one of the principal motivations pushing Muslims in this country to involve themselves in the political process, a process whose primary raison d'etre is to maximize the material benefits attained by groups contending over scarce resources. This raises very critical issues for Muslims.

 Utilitarianism vs. Principled Idealism

 If the principal raison d’etre of the secular political system is to resolve conflicts between groups competing for scarce resources, then the participation of those groups in most instances will take place in a climate dominated by a utilitarian philosophical outlook. Every group is trying to maximize its "happiness" and minimize its “suffering.” Involvement in politics is justified if it maximizes the benefits (the greatest happiness principle in classical utilitarian formulation) attainable by a particular group.

 A simple costs/benefits analysis will serve to judge the feasibility of a particular policy, or the feasibility of a group pursuing its adoption. Morality and ideological principles become irrelevant in such a scheme. Muslims may think that Islam can insulate them from the negative effects accruing from involvement in a process dominated by such an orientation. However, the political history of America  a history which has seen politics stripped of any moral or ideological pretenses doesn't augur well for politically active Muslims. This is because the raison d'etre of the Muslim community is the uncompromising advancement of a moral and ethical ideal. The central concept at the heart of this ideal, Tawheed (Unity and Uniqueness), epitomizes its uncompromising nature. Any secular political system, especially a highly bureaucratized one, works to eliminate morality and ideological principles from the agenda of any group trying to achieve its goals through that system. 

If one doubts the efficacy of this conclusion, consider the fate of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union ceased to be a communist state because ideology ceased to be a political consideration. During the Gorbachev years policy was increasingly based on utilitarian considerations. If a policy worked, it was endorsed whether or not it was consistent with communist ideological formulations. In most instances communism was merely reinterpreted to account for the divergent policy.

   Principled ideological considerations had become a hindrance to political and economic advancement. This reality made the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union inevitable.  At the opportune time it was totally discarded. Perceptive ana­lysts such as Daniel Bell predicted this demise as early as the 1950s. In the clash between communism and the bureaucratic state both individual communists (Stalins, Trotskys and Lenins gave way to Gorbachevs and Yeltsins) and the com­munist system itself were transformed. An identical ideological transformation has been occurring in the Muslim world as Muslims try to advance the Islamic ideal in the social political context of the modern nation state.

 It remains to be seen if there can be a merger or successful interaction between the absolutist, moral and principled agenda of Islam and the amoral political system of the western secular state. However, if developments in the Muslim world, where the interaction between Islam and the nation-state has led to the virtual destruction of Islam, are an accurate indication of things to come here in America, may Allah help us all. 

Implications of Political Involvement for Muslims in America

 Intensive Muslim involvement in the political system of this country wouldn't be without a price. Effective functioning in the political system requires tremendous financial and human resources. Effectively marshalling these resources would inevitably affect the ability of Muslims to engage in other projects. Community building would be seriously affected by the drain of fiscal resources, and by the energy diverted away from community building and related activities. The nature of political work is such that the best organizers and most intellectually dynamic individuals would be lost to the community. The sheer magnitude of an effort to become effectively involved in the political process would completely overwhelm other aspects of the Muslims' agenda. 

Like all processes the political process serves as an agent of socialization. The deeper the Muslim involvement in that process, the greater the likelihood of the western bureaucratic personality type superceding the development of a true Islamic personality. Rationality would inevitably overwhelm revelation. When confronted with a situation which required the adoption of an irrational decision for the sake of upholding divine injunctions, the Muslim would find himself at a loss. Furthermore, the anthropological uniqueness of the Muslims would surely be lost as they plummeted deeper into a system where their very success depends on their ability to think, look and act like their fellow travellers. 

Entanglement in politics would also severely limit the ability of the Muslims to engage in radical extrasystemic political action. Once a commitment is made to advance one's cause by working within the system, it would be virtually impossible to subsequently rebel against that system, or to even challenge its legitimacy. The elimination of an extrasystemic option would be disastrous to Muslims if we consider that every major Muslim political gain in modern history has been achieved through extrasystemic political action. To reinforce this point we will mention a few examples. 

1) Massive demonstrations and a civil disobedience campaign led by the Islamic Renaissance Party led to the end of hardline communist rule in TaJikstan: 1992. 

2) Possibility of Islamic rule in Afghanistan has been made possible by a more than twelve‑year long armed struggle: 1980 -1992.

3) The fledgling Islamic regime in the Sudan came to power as the result of a coup:1989. 

4) The Islamic Republic of Iran was established in the aftermath of a major revolution: 1977 -1979. 

5) The defense of Masjid Al Aqsa has been the result of an unending series of strikes, demonstrations and vigils carried out primarily by the Palestinians living in the Old City in Jerusalem: 1967 - Present.  

6) The Liberation of Algeria from French control was achieved through an armed insurrection motivated primarily by Islam: 1954 -1962.

7) The Pathan areas of the Peshawar valley in what was to become Pakistan pined their autonomy from the British as the result of a massive civil disobedience campaign: 1930 -1933. 

8) The end of the British Protectorate in Egypt came about as the result of an extended campaign of strikes and civil disobedience led by Saad Zaghlul and the Wafd: 1919 -1922.

Contrary to these successes, Islamic involvement in the political process in the Muslim world has been a frustrating and unfulfilling experience. Again we will site a few examples to illustrate the depth of that futility. 

1) Islamist participation in the Algerian political process was suspended by a veiled coup: 1992.

 2) Islamist involvement in the Jordanian government failed to prevent Jordan's entry into direct negotiations with Israel, leading to the end of that involvement: 1991 -1992.

3) Islamist involvement in the 1983 Sudanese government was summarily ended by Numeiri: 1985.

 4) Varying degrees of Muslim Brotherhood involvement in the government of Egypt throughout the 1970's was ended by Sadat: 1981.

5) The involvement of the Islamist Milli Selamet Party in successive Turkish governments throughout the 1970s was ended by a coup: 1980. 

6) The involvement of Jamaati Islami in the Pakistani government throughout the 1980s led to a major change in the revolutionary character of that organization, and came to an end with the electoral victory of Benazir Bhutto: 1989. 

7) Muslim Brotherhood involvement in the Free Officers Egyptian government was crushed by Naasir- 1954.

These and similar events all have to be examined critically in order to accurately understand their full implications. However one thing is clear. The hopes, ambitious and sacrifices of the Muslims involved in these efforts went unfulfilled. In some instances years of work was undone in a single day. As long as any political system is controlled by unIslamic forces similar events are bound to occur, even here in the United States, should Muslims become more politically active. The obvious question is: "Could the resources, both human and material, utilized in such efforts have been better spent?" This is a question which we should endeavor to answer a priori. 

The Religious Argument.

 Whoever Rules (Judges) by Other than What Allah has Revealed They are Nonbelievers...Oppressors... Transgressors.

 One of the consequences of the secularization of western society has been the rejection of the role of religion in politics, economics, law, or any aspect of government. Muslims know that such secularization is unacceptable in Islamic society. However, we should be aware that Allah has also made this secularization forbidden among the Jews and Christians! He says in His Noble Book:

 "We have sent down the Torah, in it is guidance and light. By it judged the

Jews through the Prophets who submitted in Islam, the Rabbis, and the Jurists:

they were entrusted with the preservation of Allah's Book, and they were witnesses unto it. Therefore do not fear men, rather fear Me, and don't sell my signs for an insignificant price. 

"Whoever doesn't judge by what Allah has revealed, verily they are nonbelievers." (Al Qur'an, 5:44)

 "Let the people of the Gospel rule (judge) by what Allah has revealed in it. Whoever doesn't rule on the basis of what Allah has revealed they are rebel­lious transgressors." (Al Qur'an, 5:47)

Ibni Mas'uud  and Al Hasan say concerning Allah's saying "Whoever doesn't rule (judge) on the basis of what Allah has revealed they are nonbelievers... oppressors.. rebellious transgressors", "that it is general and concerns anyone who doesn't rule (judge) by what Allah has revealed: be they Muslims, Jews, or Nonbelievers." As the Christians and Jews of this country have rejected the divine law and created their own secular system of rule, the legal and political system of America is sinful and constitutes open rebellion against Allah. 

For a Muslim to join with the Jews and Christians in this system is to join them in their rebellion against Allah. Allah explicitly orders against this:

"Cooperate in righteousness and piety, and don't cooperate in sin and transgression." (Al-Qur'an, 5:2) 

 Ibni Katheer says concerning this verse: "Allah orders His servants, the believers, with cooperation in doing what is right, this is righteousness; and leaving that which is wrong, this is piety. He forbids them from helping each other in falsehood, and cooperating in sin and forbidden matters." (Tafseer Ibni Katheer) 

Muslims should consider well their actions as we attempt to implement Islam in this country. Jews and Christians, have rejected both the guidance of Allah and His admonitions to them that they return to the path of divine guidance. Are we to be the Muslims who fulfill the Prophet's a prediction that we would follow them in their ways step by step? We should ask ourselves, "Are our actions guided by the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet, or are we following our own inclinations, implementing our own shortsighted agendas?"

The argument presented above is cautionary and not definitive as a logical question would be: "What if Muslims use an unIslamic system to obtain an Islamically acceptable ruling or policy?" This issue is dealt with in detail in the context of the following discussion. 

Al Walaa' (Befriending for Support) Wal Baraa' (Disavowal) 

As discussed above one of the definitive features of the American political system is its encouragement of factionalization. Because of the existence of numerous crosscutting factions, it is impossible for any one group, acting alone, to obtain from governmental institutions an absolute policy, or one which reflects their total desires on any particular issue. This is especially true if the issue to be resolved, or the interest to be attained, violates the general societal consensus as to the acceptable limits of political demands and rewards. For these reasons it is essential for any group or political faction to engage in both compromise and coalition building if it is to even begin to attain its political interests.

 This coalitional imperative is augmented by the fact that nationally Muslims have virtually no direct or Muslim representation in the governmental institutions most intricately involved in the creation of public policy, namely the Congress, the White House and high level executive ministries, and the Supreme Court. Therefore, the focus of Muslim political action will inevitably involve seeking the aid of others in order to achieve policies which bring some benefit to Muslims. Those others are inevitably Jews, Christians or nonbelievers. This situation is replicated at both the state and local levels. 

This being the case, Muslims engaging in the political process have to inevitably consider the Islamic concepts of Al Walaa' (befriending to seek support) and Al Baraa' (disavowal). The implication of these ideas is that in most circumstances, it is forbidden to seek the aid of nonbelievers to achieve an Islamic objective. Furthermore, it is an Islamic obliga­tion to not only reject the aid of certain parties, but to consciously distance one­ self from those parties. The evidences from Qur'an and Sunnah on these issues are extremely numerous. However, we will limit ourselves to the ones most   relevant to our position here in America. Allah the Most High says in His Glorious Book: "Oh! You who believe, don't be­friend the Jews and the Christians seeking their support, they are supporting friends of one another. Whoever from among you turns to them for friendship and support, he is of them; and Allah doesn't guide wrongdoing, oppressive people. You seek those in whose hearts is a disease (hypocrisy and doubt), rushing to them (for support), saying we fear some calamity might befall us. Perhaps Allah will bring about the victory, or a command from Himself, and they (those who doubted) will become repentent of the desire (for help and assistance) which they held in their souls. Those who believe will say, 

"Are these the ones who swore their strongest oaths to Allah that they were with you." Their deeds will be lost and they will become great losers. Oh! you who believe, if any from among you turns back on His deen then Allah will bring a people whom He will  love and they will love Him. They will be humble before the believers, mighty against the nonbelievers. They will fight in the Way of Allah and they won't fear the criticism of those who criticize. This is the grace of Allah which He bestows on whoever He pleases. And Allah is most expansive in His bounties, All Knowing. Rather your supporting friends are Allah, His Messenger, and the believers those who establish regular prayer, pay the Zakah and bow down humbly in worship. And whoever turns to Allah, His Messengers and the believers for support, verily they are the Party of Allah. They will be victorious!" (Al Qur'an, 5:51 56) 

These verses contain critical lessons for Muslims in America at this juncture of our communal development, as they were revealed when the first community of believers was at a very critical stage. In those early days of Islam, in the unfolding struggle between Islam and its enemies, those hypocrites of dubious faith, led by Abdullah bin Ubey, were anxious to seek the aid of the Jews, fearing that the Muslims would lose the battle between Islam and kufr, thereby exposing themselves to loss. At this juncture, Allah warned the Muslims against seeking the aid of the Jews and the Christians. Furthermore, He warned that whoever sought support from these groups was in their camp. 

This lesson is critical for Muslims as many of us believe that Muslims are so weak that we will never (or at least not in the near future) on our own accord be able to either vanquish our enemies or bring benefit to ourselves. Allah reminded those early Muslims, and He reminds us, that the victory and help comes from Him, and not those we seek help from. He says, "...perhaps Allah will bring about the victory, or a command from Himself." This makes it clear to us that even if we are deprived of some benefit by not seeking the help of the Jews and Christians, it is best to do without that thing until Allah chooses to bestow it upon us. Their path and ours is sincere patience, sabr jameel. This latter lesson is crucial especially when many Muslims who are eager to engage in the political process justify their action on the grounds that by so doing they can bring tangible, benefits to the Muslim community.   

   In these verses Allah declares that it is a disease in the heart which pushes one to seek the support of the non believers: "You see those in whose hearts is a disease rushing to them seeking support..." Elsewhere in His Book He challenges their very faith as He says

"If only they believed in Allah and the Prophet, and that which has been revealed unto him, they wouldn't take them (the unbelievers) as their supporting friends" (Al Qur'an, 5:8 1 ).

 This idea of seeking the help of the kuffar, Jews and Christians, negating one's iman (belief), is reinforced by the subsequent verses from Suratul Maaidah (5:54‑55). In verse 54 Allah says:, "Oh! you who believe, whoever amongst you turns back on his deen (becomes a murtadd) Allah will bring a people whom He will love, and they will love Him..." He then goes on to say in Verse 55: "Rather your supporting friends are Allah, His Messenger and the believers...", rebuking those who turned to the Jews and Christians for support. He subsequently declares that these are the ones who will succeed: "...they are the Party of Allah. They will be victorious."

Having reminded the believers that their supporting friends are Allah, His Messenger and the believers, He mentions that these are the true sources of their strength when He says: 

"Strength and dignity belong to Allah, His Messenger and the believers. However, the hypocrites realize it not" (Al Qur'an, 63:8).  

As for those who are deluded into seeking strength from the nonbelievers, Allah reminds them: 

'Those who take the nonbelievers as their supporting friends other than the believers, do they seek strength and power from them? Rather unto Allah is all strength and power" (Al Qur'an, 4:139). 

Elsewhere in His Noble Book He reminds those who seek support from their idols: "Those whom you call on other than Him (Allah), they are unable to help you, nor can they help themselves." (Al Qur'an, 7:197)

If we consider this issue from another angle, most if not all of the non Muslims occupying positions of power and influence in the American political system are avowed secularists deeply committed lo their kafir system. Furthermore, no one can argue that they have all implicitly or explicitly rejected Islam as a viable political alternative. This fact again has tremendous bearing on our relationship with them. Allah instructs us: 

"Oh! you who believe, don't take your fathers and brothers as your supporting friends if they love kufr over iman. Whoever turns to them for support from amongst you verily they are wrong doing oppressors." (Al Qur'an, 9:23) 

The point to note here is that those whose support is being rejected in this verse are the closest of blood relatives to the believers, namely their fathers and brothers. In the first years of Islam, there was a time  immediately after the Hijra when the Prophet and those with him were forbidden from either seeking or providing political and strategic support to a group of their fellow believers! Allah says in Sura Anfaal .

”as for those who believe and haven't yet migrated, you owe no duty of support to them until they mi­grate..." (Al Qur'an, 8:72).  

As for those who had believed and migrated Allah says: 

"Verily those who have believed, migrated, and fought with their wealth and lives in the way of Allah; as well as those who have sheltered and helped them, they are supporting friends of each other" (Al Qur'an, 8:72).  

In the following verse Allah summarizes the importance of Al Walaa' for the ummah. Here the Most High declares:

 "The non-believers are each others support­ing friends. Unless you do it (support one another, and disavow help from the non-believers) there will be tremendous tumult, op­pression and corruption in the earth." (Al Qur'an, 8:73) 

This verse makes clear that the safety and well being of the Muslims is directly proportionate to their help and support for one another, and their disavowal of the nonbelievers. This is because our failure to support our fellow Muslims weakens Islam, and our seeking support from the non‑Muslims strengthens them by lending our forces to augment theirs, and by giving our tacit endorsement to their ungodly system. If we consider the state of Islam and Muslims today, we see many sincere and growing efforts to maximize the Muslims' ability to lobby, petition and otherwise seek the support of non‑Muslims. When we compare these efforts with the virtually nonexistent organized efforts of Muslims to systematically overcome the divisions and enmity existing in our ummah, we can understand why the threat mentioned by Allah has been fulfilled against us, "...Unless you do it, there will be tremendous tumult, oppression and corruption in the Earth!" 

Cautionary Note: In cases where the Muslims fear the wickedness of the kuffaar, or they fear some grave harm from them, it is permissible to befriend them to seek their support. Allah says in His Glorious Book: 

"Let not the Believers take the non Muslims as their supporting friends *instead of the Believers. Whosoever does that has disassociated Himself from Allah; unless you are guarding yourselves against them .. (Al Qur'an, 3:28)."

  Hence, it is not proper for Muslims to accuse their brothers and sisters in Bosnia, whose situation is extremely desperate and grave, of violating Islamic principles by seeking help from the United States and Europe. As this verse makes clear, the prohibition doesn't apply in such desperate cases.

 We must also caution that the above verses should not be used by Muslims to justify harsh, or disrespectful treatment of nonantagonistic nonMuslims in our everyday interpersonal relations. Allah clearly instructs us:

 "Allah forbids you not concerning those who have not fought you nor driven you from your homes that you deal with them with righteousness and justice. Verily Allah loves those who are just (Al-Qur'an, 60:8)."

 We should reiterate, however, that this verse deals strictly with interpersonal relations, and not political and strategic matters.

 lbraheem's Disavowal of His People 

Reading the above discussion in our time when Muslims are far removed from an Islamic sociopolitical consciousness, one may conclude that these words embody a fanatical, narrowminded stance. For those who would argue thus we present the story of Ibraheem's disavowal of his people. Allah relates this monumental event in Suratul Mumtahanah. It reads thus:

 Verily there is for you an excellent example in lbraheern and those with him when they said to their people:

  "We disassociate ourselves from you, and from that which you worship other than Allah: we have rejected you, and there has appeared between us and you enmity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone' " (Al Qur'an, 60:4)  

These are not the words of a hard hearted fanatic, nor of a bitter and frustrated malcontent. These are the words of a noble Messenger of Allah who The Most High describes in the following telling words:

  "Verily Ibraheem was most tenderhearted, most forbearing" (Al Qur'an, 9:114)

Despite these characteristics, when his struggle with his people came down to cooperating with them in their rebellion, or disavowing them, he chose the latter course. Allah gives this course of action the ultimate endorsement by declaring it to be "a most excellent example" for all believers until the day the Qur'an is lifted from the pages of the mushaf. 

Notes The Arabic word WaIii is usually translated "protecting friend." The associated noun  Walaa' is usually rendered "'friendship and protection." I have chosen to use the word "support" in my translation of these terms. This latter word is more consistent with the full implications ofthe original Arabic terms, according to the meanings eluciated by the relevant Tafseer literature. The term "protection" is too narrow as it excludes a wide range of actions which are associated with the original terms. These include providing political, strategic and material help. The term support can accommodate all of these actions as well as protection.

 The Way Forward          

Political action is not limited to those methods which are traditionally employed within the governmental system to affect the policy formation process  voting, lobbying, petitioning, bribing, litigation, etc. Under the right circumstances extrasystermic action,  ranging from noncooperation tactics to guerrilla war  can bring about favorable policies from a governmental system, or even lead to the eradication of that system. The challenge for us as Muslims in America is to examine the entire range of our political options and then collectively construct a political strategy most consistent with the Qur'an, the Sunnah, the Seerah, our human and material resources, and the unique political environment of this country. 

In constructing such a strategy our goals must be clearly defined. This is a simple matter as the goal which the ummah has been commissioned to pursue has already been defined by Allah the establishment of the deen of Allah on earth. Allah tells us in unambiguous terms:

"And, fight them on until there is no more.Shirk (fitnah), and Religion is for Allah (alone)." (Al Qur'an, 2:193)

"It is He who has sent His Messenger with Guidance and the Religion of Truth that it may triumph over all other religions and Allah is sufficient as a Witness." (Al Qur'an, 48:28)

"They desire to extinguish the light of Allah (His deen) with their mouths, Allah will complete His light (make it victorious), even though. the non-believers; hate it." (Al Qur'an, 60:8) 

The achievement of this goal comes about ultimately through divine intervention. In other words Muslims must struggle ceaselessly for its attainment, and at a certain point in time, according to His wisdom, Allah gives us the victory. As Muslims we must never lose sight of the, ultimate goal. Defining and working to implement process goals or "activities which must be accomplished in order to have a reasonable chance of success (in reaching one's ultimate goals)" 5 must be the priority for Muslims wishing to see the victory of Islam in this country. 

Instead of focusing their energies on process goals consistent with the ultimate goal of establishing Allah's deen in this country, many Muslims are entering the political process to work for the attainment of lesser goals. These goals include everything from opposite side of the street parking to official Muslim holidays. While these things may be laudable, if they are not clearly linked as process-goals to the attainment of the ultimate goal, or if an ultimate goal is never defined, they amount to substitutes for that higher goal, and an indirect admission by their advocates that the ultimate goal is unattainable. This process is known as goal displacement. 6 

Concentrating on clearly. defined process goals can help to avoid the dangers of preemption, where "a group's demands are adopted into the program of those in power without the legitimacy of the group itself being accepted;"7 and cooptation, where a group's leaders are brought into the existing system without the system changing to accommodate the group's ultimate goals. Attaining process‑goals, which should be the priority of Muslims in this country, would include among other things, engaging in political education campaigns based on Qur'an and Sunnah; development of a core group committed to the ultimate goal ‑the establishment of Islam and Shariah in America; deciding a priori what are the tactics which will be utilized in the effort to attain that goal; building an appropriate organization to push for the attainment of the ultimate goal.

One of the greatest defects of uncritical Muslim involvement in the political process is that political involvement, the means, is transformed into the end. Success in registering to vote, lobbying a government official, or waging a successful petition campaign becomes confused with or takes the place of success in implementing Islam in this country. Much work has to be done in educating, unifying, and organizing Muslims before we can reasonably expect to successfully engage in any political project ‑systemic or nonsystemic. Furthermore, national and local political strategies have to be developed. In some areas Muslims of all backgrounds are encouraged to register to vote and to get involved in politics, of times with no idea or instruction as to the strategic objective of this involvement. In many instances no strategic planning has even taken place in advance of the call to mobilize. Off charge the Muslims in the words of a Russian poet, "swashbuckling with a flimsy sword." 

Developing a series of immediate and intermediate achievement goals can help to bring about the changes which are necessary for the attainment of the ultimate goal. Distinguishing between varying types of goals helps to prevent a confusion between ends and means. The ultimate goal must always remain the end and the process and intermediate goals the means to achieve that end.  

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1. Madison was arguing for the abandonment of the Confederacy and replacing it with a much larger federated union which included all of the original thirteen independent states, each with its own legislature. The new union would have a single national legislature. 

2. Far from advancing a dualistic world view the central concept in Islam is the idea of Tawheed, the oneness and uniqueness of Allah. The world didn't originate from two opposing forces whose struggle is the central theme in history, rather it originates from the singular decree and command of Allah. The idea of Tawheed is the dominant force in Allah's creation, as this creation is a unified whole, where varying, oft times opposing, forces run their course according to the term which Allah has fixed for them. This assigning to all created things an individual fixed term negates the possibility of a Manicheanistic dualism being the motivating force in creation.  

5 Ralph E. Crow et al., Arab Nonviolent Political Struggle in the Middle East (Boulder, Co.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1990) pp. 116‑117.

6 Crow, p. 117.

7 Crow, p. 117.


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