Wednesday, February 18, 2004

"Islam & Voting"

Sunday, 27th April 2003 - Glasgow
Talk translated real-time by Dr. Z. Abdel-Hady.
Summary transcribed by S. Saeed - responsible for any

Shaykh Rachid Al-Ghannouchi: Leader of Islamic
Movement in Tunisia, exiled in the UK for some time. A
leading Muslim thinker and author of many books on
Islamic civilisation and politics.

The Importance of Unity
Part of worship is to be concerned with the issues of
the Muslim Ummah. As the Prophet (SAW) said, "He who
is not concerned about the Muslims is not one of

This concern is both on the small scale (e.g. building
mosques, schools, marriages, feeding poor.) and on the
large, wider scale - Islam is the deen of jamâ'ah
(collectiveness). "Hold fast to the rope of Allah
together, and be not divided." [Aal 'Imran 3:103]

We cannot apply Islam without jamâ'ah - it gives us
strength and the ability to work. There is a
difference between an individual mentality and a
jamâ'ah mentality. Many problems are solved through

There is a popular saying: "The human being is a
social creature by nature." And the Prophet (SAW) left
his legacy saying, "Jamâ'ah is binding on you.truly
the wolf preys on the straying sheep."

This is one Ummah that worships one Lord and faces one
Qiblah. It returns to same source of Qur'an and Sunnah
and fasts in one month, etc. This is what we are
talking about when we say: "Al-Jamâ'ah" - the Nation
of Believers. This one is what is mentioned in Qur'an
and Sunnah - we do not refer here to any one small
Islamic group.

This is why we must think to the future as Muslim
minorities in non-Muslim states. Islam began in Makkah
as a minority, then spread, built a state and gained

Muslim Minorities in the West
We are here in Western countries as a minority
jamâ'ah, but not in authority to rule and govern. Even
where we are in large numbers, i.e. certain cities, we
are still too small to take rule. Even in India,
Muslims number 200 million but are still a minority
without power, and even smaller numbers exist in UK
cities like Glasgow.

After Al-Andalus [Islamic Spain] fell, a Muslim
minority stayed. There are two scholarly opinions on
them. Some said those there should leave and not
remain in those countries, because their deen might be
in threat. Others said they can stay as long as they
can give da'wah [invite to Islam].

Imam an-Nawawi said "Dâr al-Islâm" (the land of Islam)
is not necessarily a place ruled by Muslims, but any
place where Muslims can practise their religious
duties without restrictions or persecution.

The aim of Islam's early conquests was not to force
Islam onto people, but rather to give freedom for
people to choose their deen, free them from
dictatorships and persecution - giving them the right
to choose. Muslims in the West are in open lands in
which they can perform their religious duties.

The Islamic ruling on modern Western lands does not
classify them as the "Land of War" (Dâr al-harb) since
we are secure in our practice of the deen. Scholars
say that it is permissible to live here, others say it
is recommended.

The West has faced many revolutions and destruction
between Christian sects etc. - however, Islam came as
a mercy for mankind, to open these lands and give
people freedom to choose their religion and perform
their worship freely according to their beliefs. Now,
in the West, we have freedom of worship and Muslims
can build mosques, and practise their religion. The
same applies for other faiths.

Now the important issue is not of opening lands, but
of opening minds. We have a duty to spread the message
of Islam, by organising ourselves and gaining whatever
is necessary to be effective in the West. These lands
are open lands in which we can spread the da'wah and
give people what they need to open their minds.

Some Misguided Notions
Some people lacking in knowledge of Islam say it is
harâm even to live in these countries, let alone take
part in their politics and work in their system.

They take some ahâdîth out of context and ignore their
circumstances. Two examples:

"I am not responsible for one who lives among the

"Do not take the mushaf [copy of Qur'an] into the land
of kuffar."

Very often, our attitude to the statements of the
Prophet (SAW) must be simply "We hear and we obey". In
certain circumstances, however, when he spoke as the
leader of that Islamic state, we recognise that the
context could be different.

Regarding the first hadîth, the Prophet (SAW) said it
at a time when the disbelievers were committing open
aggression and had killed some of the callers sent to
them by the Prophet. Also, at that time, the hijrah
(migration) to Madinah was an obligatory matter, so
Muslims who were staying among the disbelievers were
responsible for their own safety. There was no hijrah
after the conquest of Makkah, and the whole Arabian
Peninsula became Muslim soon after.

Also, some commands were given by the Prophet as a
military commander. On the occasion of the Battle of
Badr, between the Muslims and the Makkan Quraysh, he
ordered the Muslims to camp in one particular area.
One Companion asked him whether the command was based
on revelation or whether it was from the Prophet's own
judgement. When he replied the latter, the Companion
advised a different place, and the Prophet accepted
that suggestion.

Sometimes he (SAW) gave a ruling as a judge, where he
could be right or wrong (except where revelation came
from Allah).

Some things in the Sunnah are due to something the
Prophet (SAW) personally loved, e.g. how he dressed,
ate etc. - but these do not affect our own duties.

Regarding the second hadîth quoted, we note that in
fact the Prophet (SAW) sent a messenger to the King of
Persia, who killed the messenger. They had no respect
for these human ambassadors, so how could they be
expected to respect the Qur'an? Nowadays, we have
freedom of religion in Western states.

Both these statements of the Holy Prophet (SAW)
referred to a time when there was no rule of law and
Muslims among the disbelievers were in danger. This is
not relevant to our present situation.

The Present Reality
The Muslim minority in the Western world is not a
small one, but consists of many millions - what do we
suggest that they do? What is the interest or benefit
in their migrating away? One of the great achievements
for Islam in the 20th century is its diffusion in
every part of the world.

Zionists and others have tried to control the West and
its people's minds. Now that Muslims have started to
become effective, Zionists would wish more than ever
to get rid of us. An ignorant person is one who gives
the enemies exactly what they desire, even though he
has a good intention.

Hijrah today is not from land of disbelievers to
Muslim lands, but now in the other direction! People
wish to go where there is freedom and justice and live
in such a state.

Islam in the West is a fact: we number over 50
million. Our existence is not just in number, but more
noteworthy than that. Immigration, childbirth and
conversion are the three main means by which Islam is
growing in Western lands.

Islam is not an immigrant religion, but part of the
society. We speak of French Muslims, British Muslims,
and so on. Also, we have a generation of Muslims
brought up in the West and without any other
nationality. We must think of their issues, and not
treat them as immigrants.

In these lands, Islam is the second religion in terms
of number after Protestants. However, if we consider
the people applying and practising Islam, this is more
than those among the Christians. Islam, in this sense,
is the premier religion in the West.

There are people compiling statistics on numbers
attending Church on Sundays, which could be less than
a million. If we compare this with the number
attending Friday prayers, we find it can exceed that
easily. If we compare between the ages of the
respective devotees, we find that the church-goers are
mainly old and retired. In the mosques, there are many
people and mainly among the youth. The future is with
these youths, and we see in the future that churches
will become mosques by the will of the people,
certainly not by force. This is the nature of life,
where the disused will become used for a better

Enemies: Within and Without
After analysing these facts, do we look at how to
improve this presence, or at how to protect its very
existence? I feel that our very existence here in the
West could be under threat.

For example, in countries such as Belgium, Spain and
France, Islam has been recognised, whereas in some
others it has not. Could it be that those who have a
vested interest in Islamophobia will succeed in their
work? The greatest threat is from the Zionists, who
have been trying to control the West, e.g. media,
spreading lies about Islam as dangerous, oppressive,

Unfortunately, some misguided Muslim groups are being
a tool for them, saying, for example, that democracy
is harâm, as are demonstrating and voting. These
people can do more damage to the Muslims than even our
enemies. We must be very frank with them in order to
counteract these false claims.

The enemies of Islam will always try to bring the
extremists into the limelight, showcasing them in the
media with plenty of time and frequency. On the other
hand, the balanced Muslims of the Middle Way are
virtually left out of the media.

Now, the campaign to make people vote will anger the
Zionists more, since they know that the main feature
of democratic society is changing the public opinion,
bringing change to society, reaching and affecting
more people.

The Way Forward
Our existence could still be in danger because of
people's plotting and our own brothers' misguided
work. So what can we do?

We must avoid extreme and violent ways of working, and
the people who propagate them. There are two images we
could present - either that Islam is a violent and
dangerous religion, or in its true form as a mercy,
bringing justice and perfection for mankind.

We must shun that first, false image of Islam, and
avoid violent solutions, even for apparently good
causes. It is not a priority for Muslims here to make
jihâd in other countries - we must strive first to
stablise and improve our presence here in the West
. It
is like a small plantation that must be nurtured, or
else it will die or be destroyed.

The second priority is to be open and be included in
wider society, not to be too introverted
. We must be
active and affect other people.

The third priority is to see how to benefit Islam and
Muslims worldwide.

We need to devise the best methods. One path is to
provide and improve mosques, teachers etc. - and this
is needed - but to solve bigger issues, we must have
an impact on the structure, the government of the
society. In this democratic system, there are ways to
achieve what we need, while not impacting negatively
on ourselves. Unfortunately, some misguided Muslims
were the stimulus for the very negative Terrorism Act,
which allows the Government to detain people
indefinitely and remove people's nationality, etc.

Participation in Elections
We must seek to make positive change, and a primary
way of doing so is by elections. We need to ask: is
this allowed in Islam? We must always raise this
question before taking any action. Can we take part in
a non-Muslim government?

The principle is that we must establish Allah's law,
the Sharî'ah. But if we are unable, do we do nothing,
or do we do what we can? The Prophet (SAW) said in
this regard:

"Whoever among you witnesses an evil, then let him
change it with his hand. If he is unable, then with
his tongue. And if he is unable, then with his heart,
and that is the weakest of faith."

And Allah (SWT) says: "So fear Allah as much as you

If we can change the whole system, then we must. But
if we can just change one law among 10 000, then that
is still good. We should not disregard any thing,
however small.

There are two notable examples from our sources about
how Muslims have participated in political systems.
Prophets could be simply callers to Islam, or they
were sometimes rulers. Yûsuf ('AS) came up with a plan
to save Egypt and the surrounding nations from the
impending drought and famine, so he accepted to be
part of the Pharaoh's system and apply Sharî'ah in the
limited area he could - the economic sphere. This was
only one part of the whole system, but he did whatever
he could. [See Sûrah 12] This is why Muslims should
make whatever (even limited) change they can within
their societies.

The other example is of the Negus, to whom the Prophet
(SAW) sent some Companions as refugees, saying he was
"a just ruler". After the Muslims' interactions there,
that ruler became Muslim. After six years of the state
in Madînah, he wanted to emigrate there to be a normal
Muslim citizen. The Prophet (SAW) said he should stay
as the ruler of the non-Muslim land in order to
prevent an unjust ruler from coming in his place.

This shows that we can be ministers, ambassadors, etc.
This goes back to the Sharî'ah principle of the
interest of the Muslims - they can form a special
Muslim party or be part of an existing party. All this
must be done within the boundaries of Islam and
scrutinising the interests and potential problems
together at every stage of progression.

Past and Future
We have seen many experiences, e.g. in Bosnia,
Macedonia and Sri Lanka, where they have Islamic
parties. In others, e.g. India, Muslims are part of
the National Congress. In UK, there is an Islamic
Party, getting 5000 votes in Bradford out of 100 000
Muslims. We can form lobbying groups, which will seek
our demands regarding Kashmir or Palestine for
example, or what we need in schools, mosques, etc.

We must have a united front or else we will be an
ineffective and uninfluential minority. We must unite
our numbers, resources, and power. We must then choose
the best methods - form our own party, join others, or
stick to lobbying those who will be influential for us
in one area or for a limited time. This is all from
what is known as as-Siyaasat ash-Shar'iyyah - what the
Ummah needs, examining the maslahah and mafsadah
(benefits and harms).

Muslims nowadays look at the Ummah and see all the
harms facing it. There is a man named Dr. Aziz who
studied Muslim minorities and found that they have
more psychological problems, e.g. depression, than
others, due to the state around them and Muslim blood
being shed everywhere.

We must not look only at the negative side, but also
the positive. Despair is not accepted by Allah of the
believer. Even someone who is terminally ill should be
hopeful of Allah's mercy, as He (SWT) has full power
over all things. If someone lost his wealth, Allah can
restore it if He wills. We must hope and trust in Him,
as the Dunya is a place of troubles, and the Akhirah
is a place of rest.

If we look around in the present situation with the
eyes of Qur'an and Sunnah, there is hope everywhere.
Allah promised victory for this Deen and this Ummah.
The Prophet (SAW) said: "There is not a house on earth
in which Islam will not enter," and "Allah gathered
the whole earth, its east and its west, and Islam
covered all of it."

These promises and others were made while the Muslims
were a mere dot on the map, whereas now we are
everywhere. We see even the great countries like
America crumbling because they have little to offer
except force.

There are now two options for Muslims: turn to Islam
or seek other, man-made solutions. Wherever there are
elections in the Muslim world, on every level -
student, local governmental or national - people
choose Islam. More women are choosing hijâb, people
are turning to Allah. Our spring is coming, and "Allah
is victorious over His matter" [Sûrah Yûsuf].


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