Sahib Mustaqim Bleher argues that the utopia of an Islamic future requires conceptualising Islamic solutions to the political, military and economic woes the world faces.
Most textbooks on Islam tell us that Islam is a way of life. The briefest of reality checks will tell us that Muslims’ way of life is today shaped by a plethora of other influences with Islam as an add-on. This apparent discrepancy has relegated the notion of true Islam into either the past as a praised, but lost historic example from the days of the prophet and his companions or into the future as a utopian dream of a return to the golden age “when the Mahdi comes”. Neither offers much solace or hope for the Muslim struggling with the here and now.
In trying to re-establish Islam as a living concept, we need to deal with paradigms. The concept remains true, but the paradigms change. Paradigms are patterns or models of how things are, theoretical frameworks within which we operate. They are derived from concepts. One definition of paradigm is that of a framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology commonly accepted by members of a specific community. Both concepts and paradigms are therefore ways of making sense of the world around us. Concepts deal with the larger picture and paradigms with the interactions within a given framework. To benefit us, the two must agree, which is exactly the problem of why Islam does not “fit in” in the globalised society around us no matter how hard we try to adapt.
My analysis postulates that we are trying to hold on to an Islamic paradigm whilst having willingly surrendered to non-Islamic (secular) concepts. Examples for these are heliocentricity, relativism or evolution. We inertly resent some of their teachings, because they challenge the divine origin and destiny of all that is, and that is exactly what they intend to do. Yet we have become unable to assess their merits and shortcomings since we have accepted “science” as the benchmark of truth, adding a little bit of “Islamisation” at the frills, instead of measuring its claims against the yardstick of revelation.
Given the technological advantage of the Dajjal system, a confrontation is futile for the time being, although its downfall will likely be due to its over- reliance on technology.
Qur’an: The likeness of those who adopt protectors besides Allah is that of the spider adopting a dwelling, and the most feeble of dwellings is the dwelling (web) of the spider if they only knew. (29:41)
In the meantime, withdrawal and preparation, as advised to the Children of Israel during the time of Musa (Moses) and as practised in Daru-l-Arqam during the time of the time of our prophet, is needed.
Qur’an: And We revealed to Musa (Moses) and his brother: dedicate houses in Egypt for your people and make them a prayer location and keep up prayer and give good news to the believers. (10:87)
Hadith: A time will soon come when the best property of a Muslim will be sheep which he will take on the top of mountains and the places of rainfall (valleys) so as to flee with his religion from afflictions. (Sahih al-Bukhari)
Having been disarmed, dispossessed of land and deprived of sound Islamic education, it is difficult for the Muslim Ummah to find its feet. Some individuals or groups may be more fortunate in being able to limit the effects of the system around them, especially those living in rural areas, however for most Muslims living in cities this is extremely difficult. Since our scholars, mostly bought or blindfolded, have let us down, we need to rely on our own resources and mutual support. In attempting to do so, paradoxically, we depend on the very structures provided by the system which we are trying to evade or escape: the internet, smart phones, digital payment methods etc. Alternatives such as barter trading, are limited to a locality. Resolving this contradiction appears an almost impossible task and must be given high priority. Meanwhile, the available system must be used to equip individuals and groups with sound materials of guidance in the sense of “survival kits”.
Using the analogy of building construction for the edifice of Islam, it is always easier to maintain an existing building than to erect a new one, but there may come a time where, due to neglect or environmental impacts, maintenance is no longer a feasible option due to, let’s say, the roof having collapsed or the walls having caved in and bramble taken over the formerly inhabited space. As long as there remains a solid foundation, however, re-building remains possible and also affords the opportunity to adapt to new requirements, doing away with obsolete features and introducing new relevant conveniences. To do so, however, a knowledgeable labour force is required, from the architect via the structural engineer to the builders and fitters. In addition, planning permission may be required.
This is the situation we find ourselves in; the foundations of Islam remain strong, but the knowledge base and pool of competent individuals to involve in the building project is weak. And we are governed by authorities who would not like to grant permission for such a project to be underway.
The first requirement, therefore, is that of a site survey, followed by drawing up plans, and both may require training in order to be accomplished successfully. In Surah 29 (al-Ankabut), Allah mentions the three pillars of the pyramidal society:
Qur’an: And Qarun (Korah) and Pharaoh and Haman… (29:39)
representing the economic, political/military and educational/religious pillars on which the society is built. Like a three-legged stool, all three need to be in place for it not to fall, and the order given in this ayah suggests that the economic control is the most powerful in the arsenal of Pharaoh’s society, followed by the military and then the ideological. The strongest control in today’s secular society is exerted through the interest-based economy which grants private, unelected bodies to issue the people’s money supply without having to put up any collateral. This power is protected by the police and military and further re- enforced by the education system and media.
In Surah 40 (Ghafir), however, the order is altered:
Qur’an: And We sent Musa (Moses) with Our signs and a clear authority.
To Pharaoh and Haman and Qarun… (40:23-24)
suggesting that when reforming a society, the political and ideological/educational environment may need to be addressed first before being able to also alter the economic model. An alternative economy probably cannot be sustained in a vacuum or in a hostile political environment.
Muslims, therefore, need to first counter the coercive effect of the dominant oppressive political system and remove themselves from the reach of its enforcement power (police/military), then start the process of re- education, followed by re-organising their economy or basis on which they transact with each other.
Where the dominant system does not have global reach, developing a parallel society is a viable alternative to the prevalent order. Ideas can be exchanged over a distance, the practicalities of a functioning community, however, require localisation. This poses a real problem in that when resources are pooled into a specific location and it begins to grow and prosper, it will inevitably be noticed and attacked without having the means to defend itself.
The development of an alternative society thus largely depends on the collapse of the dominant system. Being built on shaky foundations
Qur’an: Those who consume interest will not stand other than the one whom the devil has struck with madness… (2:275)
it is ultimately bound to implode and self-destruct. It does not require a degree in economics to understand the parasitical and cancerous nature of interest, which will inevitably take down the host it lives off: They lend you what they haven’t got (since they have given themselves the right to create money out of nothing, for nobody realistically has more wealth than all the governments or nations of the world combined, all of them being in debt). Then they compel you at penalty of losing whatever else you have to pay it back with an add-on from what you haven’t got (since you are denied the option to create money out of nothing). Where is the extra amount going to come from unless you lose all that you own or borrow more, in order to repay an earlier loan, which is what most people do nowadays. After all, if you had spare money to pay the interest, you wouldn’t have had to borrow in the first place.
Qur’an: …Allah has permitted trade and forbidden interest. So when someone receives admonition from his Lord and stops, what is in the past remains his, and his affairs belong to Allah, and those who persist are inmates of the fire, where they will remain.
Allah destroys interest and gives increase to charity, and Allah does not love anyone ungrateful and sinful. (275-276)
However, like a fish flapping violently out of water, those holding the strings of power will not go quietly. There will eventually be a power vacuum, but the period until then will most likely prove the most challenging for any attempts at rebuilding a sound Muslim community.
In the intervening time, Muslims must work to rid themselves of false beliefs and concepts in order to become more reliant on Allah, as well as free themselves of control and support mechanisms which prevent them from being independent in order to become more self-reliant.
Qur’an: If Allah helps you, then nobody can overcome you, and if He abandons you, then who is there to help you afterwards? And on Allah let the believers rely. (3:160)
This effort must be undertaken from as many angles as possible.
Qur’an: And he (Jacob) said: oh my children, do not enter from a single gate but enter from different gates, and I will not benefit you in any way against Allah, for the judgement is only for Allah, on Him I have relied, and on Him let all those rely who want to rely on something. (12:67)
In education, revealed knowledge must once more take centre-stage and become the source of research instead of a mere citation supporting theories derived from elsewhere. It must be matched with empirical knowledge from observing the world around us. The rational conclusions drawn using logical reasoning must not contradict either. Since mankind has been deceived for generations, separating truth from falsehood has become an enormous challenge.
In economy, the debt- and interest-based exploitative system must be replaced with a charitable system of mutual support. For decades already, Muslims have tried to compete in the market place of financial instruments and derivatives, looking for novel legalistic interpretations to make the haram halal, such as alleged Islamic mortgages which are usually more expensive than others available from high street banks. If standard mortgages are taking advantage of the need of the poor, then “Islamic mortgages” do so to an even greater degree by charging them even more overall. The prophet of Islam was not sent as a lawyer or accountant, he was sent with justice. An economic or financial model which is not just is not Islamic, no matter how fancy the construct and how many fatwahs were bought in its favour.
There has been much talk of returning to gold and precious metals as the only acceptable currency for Muslims. This is a fallacy, leaving aside the fact that most of the reserves of gold and precious metals are most certainly not owned by Muslims and a return to the “gold standard” would thus create a new dependency. Traditionally, any commodity could serve as money, in other words as a measure of value, as long as it was different by nature from the very item traded in a transaction. Thus, we are not allowed to sell dates for dates at a profit, but you could sell dates for barley and barley for bricks. There is no valid Islamic objection to using artificial currencies as measures of value provided they are not interest-based and are backed by a government or a sufficiently large community. Whilst they have no intrinsic value, neither do sea shells. The key to maintaining a non- exploitative economy is to separate the various functions of items serving as “money”: commodity, store of value and measure of value.
In politics, there needs to be as much decentralisation and autonomy as possible, with mutual alliances for the purpose of organising infrastructure and defence. State actors must once more become the servants of the people, not their masters.
At present, we try to stand on a stool with three wobbly legs and it is no wonder that we feel the ground shake under our very feet. Cut the legs off, however, and we fall unless we have first built a new stool on stable legs to step onto. This task, at times, seems an impossible one. Unless attempted, however, we will go down with the system on which we so heavily rely once it collapses.
Recent events have shown us the power that, in spite of its inherent vulnerabilities, the dominant system exercises over the individual. People can be ordered to stay in their homes for extended periods of time, they can be forcefully medicated, they have their freedoms of movement, assembly, speech – all allegedly inviolable human rights – removed. They have their energy and food supply interrupted and their communications and movement monitored and curtailed at any time and are generally at the mercy of policies over which they have no influence at all, notwithstanding the pretence of democracy.
Growing your own food might be feasible if you own land, for most people residing in cities it is not an option. For communication we rely on the devices which are simultaneously used to monitor and control us. We earn our livelihoods by being paid in an interest-based currency which can be devalued at any time. We spend it on unhealthy food and useless “luxury” items. Overall, we place our trust less in Allah and mostly into the kufr system which impresses us with both its real and perceived achievements. We have fallen for its propaganda whole-heartedly. How then to extricate ourselves from the web in which we are caught without entering free-fall as soon as the “safety net” has been removed?
Finding answers to those questions will mark the beginning of a true Islamic revival. An important point to remember is that Islam is not just for Muslims. Non- Muslims not entirely duped by the system struggle just as much as we do, maybe more, because they do not have a firm belief system to hold onto. Assisting them to extricate themselves from the trappings of modern slavery is the best way of opening their eyes to the truth of Islam. An “Islam” where Muslims merely try to save their own skin is contrary to the teachings of the Qur’an and the prophetic example.
A sound analysis of a problem or correct diagnosis of a disease is a mandatory requirement prior to prescribing a course of treatment. It does not mean that a treatment is readily available or even that a cure exists or will be found. Yet, once a problem is known, solutions tend to present themselves over time. I have no doubt that after a final show of fireworks the technology on which the current global empire is built will collapse, since this dynasty is already in its final stages of decadence, run by people used to its luxuries but lacking both the mettle and the knowledge of its earlier pioneers. I am also convinced that the Mahdi, the latter-day saviour and final leader of the Muslim Ummah, will make his debut in a period of less than a generation from now. What is required of us is to be prepared to both recognise and follow him when he does so, and the above thoughts and observations are intended as a means of preparation to this end. For whilst it is true that a battle cannot be fought without a leader, a leader is no use without competent followers. Wishing for change is not adequate; we have to do our part in bringing it about.
The above are extracts from ‘Conceptual Islam: Escaping False Paradigms’ by Sahib Mustaqim Bleher. He was a founder member of the Islamic Party of Britain and served as its general secretary and education spokesman as well as editor of the party magazine ‘Common Sense’. He is a professor of applied linguistics and translation and works as a commercial translator and interpreter through his own translation company in the UK. He is a member of Chartered Institute of Linguists and of the Chartered Institute of Journalists in the UK. Amongst his work are the adaptations of the Qur’an translations of Muhammad Pickthall and Yusuf Ali into modern English and his own Qur’an translation into “plain English”, all published by IDCI in Birmingham.