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The Responsibility of the 'Ulama, the Umara, and the Ummah

These are trying times. Fingers of accusations are pointed on adherents of Islām for acts of terrorism that they may have very little to do with. Having no unified voice or representation, Muslims are in no position to defend against these accusations. In all other situations "one is innocent until proven guilty" but in this situation until we can prove our innocence Muslims are guilty. So this seems like a no win situation if we occupy ourselves with this unwarranted defense and spend all our thoughts and energy on this insurmountable task. However, if we look at the edges of this dark cloud, it has a bright silver lining. Never in the history of humanity has a totally alien population of this magnitude become interested in Islām so spontaneously . There is a hunger to know what this alien religion is all about. It makes no difference if one encounters a grocery store clerk or a professor in an ivy league college, their eyes are two marks of interrogation. Not all of them are hostile either, in fact most are expressing more sympathy than they have ever shown before. As the war in Afghanistan takes more favorable turns for the US government, the pictures of destruction and death may get past the present censorship and reach ordinary people. Once they can see how uneven this confrontation between a "super power" and a "third class" army was and how the Taliban, in spite of the overwhelming odds against them, favored death to shameful deals, unlike some of the other Muslim rulers, the awe-inspiring strength that true belief in Islām bestowed upon such materially poor people will attract even more attention from all quarters of humanity.

This is not the first time the Muslims have faced such trials. When the Khilafat-e-Usmania (Ottoman Empire) fell, the feeling of loss felt by Muslims at that time is hard to imagine. Iqbal the poet of Islām, while writing about the tremendous awareness of Islām worldwide subsequent to that horrendous murder of Turks consoled the Muslims thus in his poem Tulu-e-Islām (Rise of Islām):

What does it matter if a mountain of grief has befallen the Usmanians.
Is it not that thousand of stars must extinguish before the dawn advents.

The results of that sacrifice is the "freedom" that all Muslim lands are enjoying today. Presently we have to substitute Afghanis instead of Usmanians in that stanza. So it reads thus:

What does it matter if a mountain of grief has befallen the Afghanis.
Is it not that thousand of stars must extinguish before the dawn advents.

The situation is not much different. A new advent of Islām is at hand. Maybe this awakening will in reality free the Muslim lands.

The Taliban have done their duty. What is our responsibility? What kind of an example are we to set? What is our share in this glorious struggle between kufr and Islām?

Many of us look towards the Ulema (scholars) in order to better comprehend how to approach issues dealing with the accusation of terrorism and how well to present Islām to the seekers of truth in these most opportune times. There are many who are discharging their duty with distinction and utmost sacrifice. They have fully justified their title as the seekers of knowledge and the inheritors of the prophets. May Allāh accept their sacrifice and reward them abundantly. There are others who instead of raising the banner of truth, stand side-by-side with the treacherous Muslim rulers to justify all sorts of transgressions against innocent Muslims, while others twist the Islāmic evidences to please the Kuffar and still others are hiding their heads in the sand, hoping that the storm will blow over quickly and then they can carry on with their leadership as usual.

They need to realize that truth cannot be defeated. "And say: 'Truth has come and falsehood has perished. Surely falsehood is ever bound to perish'"(17:81). They must not overlook Allāh's warning: "Confound not truth with falsehood, nor knowingly conceal the truth."(2:42). Those among the Ulema who are discharging their rightful duty deserve the honor that Allāh bestows on the Ulema. "Those truly fear Allah among His Servants who are scholars."(35:28)

The Umara (rulers) are in far worse shape than some of the Ulema. The Ummah (nation) is thus left to fend for itself.

As in all matters concerning the affairs of Muslims our guide is the Qur'ān, the Sunnah and the example of our righteous and pious predecessors to judge the best of courses.

When the Prophet of Allāh () was once asked who were the best of the people, he answered that they were the Ulema and the Umara. He was then asked who were the worst of the people, he responded the Ulema and the Umara. What is it that makes these two groups either the best of people or the worst? It is either they tell the truth and implement it or they hide the truth and neglect to implement it. Allāh warned the Jews who would distort their scripture for similar ends. "O People of the Book! Why confound ye truth with falsehood and knowingly conceal the truth?" (3:71). The Prophet of Allāh () emphasized the importance of siding with the truth by saying, "The best form of Jihad is the Word of Truth in front of a tyrant ruler."

The practice of our righteous predecessors shows to what extent one has to go to ensure that truth and falsehood is well differentiated.

Imam Malik (may Allāh have mercy on him), because he gave a fatwa about forced pledges, that was against the desires of the ruler, when he was being dragged through the streets exclaimed, "Know who I am! I am Malik Ibn e Anas (raa) and the pledge that is taken through force is invalid, is invalid, is invalid".

Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (may Allāh have mercy on him) preferred prison over giving in to the desire of the ruler and mix truth with falsehood. When his uncle, for fear of punishment for him, asked him to say with his tongue what he did not accept in his heart, he responded, "If the Alim (scholar) stays silent in the face of falsehood when will the truth become manifest."

Imam Abu Hanifa (may Allāh have mercy on him) accepted severe punishment at the hands of Mansoor rather then join hands with a tyrant ruler.

What would these a'imma (plural of Imam) do in the present situation to defend the truth? They would surely follow the guidance of Muhammad , "Whosoever among you sees an evil (Munkar) then let him change it with his hand, if he is not able to do so then with his tongue, if he is not able to do so then let him hate it in his heart and this is the lowest level of imaan." So let us also follow their example if we wish to succeed in this world and be treated honorably by Allāh in the next. This demands that we seek knowledge of Islām and practice it in our daily life constantly, only then we will be able to uphold the truth in a befitting manner, and present it to those who seek it.

The responsibility for all this rests on the shoulders of the Ulema, the Umara and the Ummah respectively. Let us not waste the opportunity that the sacrifice of Afghanis has provided.


Published: November 2001


Last modified 08/12/05 09:25 AM - Iqra - ISSN #1062-2756