STATE AND RELIGION
In The Perspective of Muslim History
HASSAN JAFAR ZAIDI
IDARA MUTALIA TAREEKH, LAHORE
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State and Religion in the Perspective of Muslims History Our History and Its Myths The Role of Historiography in the Promotion of Religious Extremism
Pakistan has been going through the ordeal of religious extremism and terrorism for the last one decade. Apart from the Talibans, Afghani or Punjabi or else, a sizable Pakistani middle class and the so called educated elite is living under the illusion of revival of an Islamic State rooted in what they believe to be the dictates of Shariah i.e. the religious laws and rules of governance. During Zia era, a regimented attempt was made to impose such an illusory State. It has led the country to the edge of the precipice where we stand today in terms of sectarian killings, suicide bombings, militant intolerance, facing drone attacks and isolation as a terrorist state in the comity of nations. The mirage of establishment of a religious state is rooted in what is termed as revival of “our glorious past” when, presumably, the state was subordinate to Shariah laws. This issue required an in depth objective study. Hassan Jafar Zaidi has revisited the history with scientific and objective approach to find out the relationship between State and Religion in the perspective of Muslim History. He has also exposed the myths and fallacies overshadowing our mindset of nostalgia and religious revivalism. He has written articles and delivered lectures at different forums in Pakistan and abroad. This booklet includes three articles that would enlighten the readers in getting away with the myths built on false notions rather than facts of history. Khalid Mehboob, Idara Mutalia Tareekh, Lahore
State and Religion in The Perspective of Muslim’s History
God did not create state. Man evolved and created state in the shapes and forms suited to him according to growth of means of production and the level of organization required to manage the relationships of production and maintain equilibrium in a particular society. The state has not existed from all eternity. There have been societies, which have managed without it, which had no notion of the state or state power. At a definite stage of economic development, which necessarily involved the cleavage of society into classes, the state became a necessity because of this cleavage. Religions, whether evolved terrestrially, or descended heavenly, remained associated in one form or the other with this institution of keeping balance in the society, called state. And this has been true for all religions and for all forms and shapes of states evolved so far. History took a historical turn on 9/11/2001. A discriminatory stigma was associated with Muslims in terms of their religion and their states, as if they were the only creatures on the face of this earth that combined
6 their faith with governmental system. Western powers and their media portrayed Muslims and their countries as source of terror. Protagonists of so-called “War on terror” created an Islamophobia by making a case against them on the grounds that: Muslims believe in unity of religion & state i.e. a theocratic state If Muslims were given a free hand, they would impose a “Taliban” like religious extremist state authority on the entire “civilised” world. Interestingly enough, during the cold-war era the same protagonists patronised the following: the ideology of unity of state & religion in Islam as bulwark for the containment of “anti-God” communism: the concept of “Islamistan” was propounded by Anglo-American Imperialism that culminated in Baghdad pact (CENTO) the monarchs, despots & dictators who used the same ideology to consolidate their rule. whole host of religious extremist / terrorist organisations to promote the same ideology and crush liberal/progressive democratic forces in the name of Islamic Revivalism Islamic Jihad, Pan-Islamism & Model Islamic State of their brand At the same time, many of the innocent Muslims, especially the educated lower middle classes fell prey to
7 these revivalists in believing that Muslims could outgrow their problems if they could revive the following as existed in their glorious past; Islamic System of Government Islamic Unity or Pan-Islamism Islamic Jihad Islamic Character of Medieval Muslims Let us look at the history and see if the image portrayed by the West or the urge of revivalism amongst some sections of Muslims bear historical testimony or it is just a fallacy. Before the advent of Islam, there existed two political orders in the human societies across the entire globe. One: the dynastic monarchy in the areas where agrarian revolution had successfully taken roots, especially in the river valleys, and advance means of production generated ample surplus wealth that needed higher order of organization of state authority. Two: the tribal political order in the deficit areas, barren deserts or jungles with backward means of production capable of producing just enough to keep themselves and their community, and did not produce any significant surplus, so there was little room for exploitation or a royal authority or a state authority; so practically there existed no state except that they had a loose tribal confederacy. One was advanced compared to the second in terms of level of organization, civilization and wealth. Both the systems were product of
8 socio-economic evolution of mankind on this planet, and were never derived from any scripture or a holy book. The societies living under the same type of socioeconomic order, yet in different parts of the world, practiced and believed in different faiths. The god-kings of Nile valley, the Pharaohs; and the god-kings of Ganges valley, the Ramah and the Krishna; the god-kings of Euphrates valley, the Assyria; and the prophet-kings of biblical Palestine; all formed different sets of beliefs, yet the political order they followed was hereditary dynastic monarchy. The cults worshipped in China, South-East Asia, Iran, Assyria, Greece, and Roman Empire regions were different, but the political order practiced in these societies was again, a dynastic monarchical order. The conclusion is very simple: the believers in different religions and cults, living under similar stage of socioeconomic development of agrarian based economy and trade, had employed similar tools of governance to keep a balance in that socio-economic order. It further leads us to a very important corollary that any political order or system that could be supra religion or creed or faith, would be termed as secular system. Therefore the prevalent political order of ancient and medieval era, the system of dynastic monarchy running the different kingdoms and empires, was a secular system independent of religion, creed and faith. However, the office of clergy, again irrespective of religion, was part of the
9 administrative structure with varying degree of power, yet subservient to the king or emperor. For the second type i.e. the tribal political order, we find that statehood was not evolved yet. There the tribe was a State, and tribal chiefs and elders would run their affairs. Inter-tribe agreements or disagreements and fights were just like what would transpire between the states. A loose tribal confederacy provided a functional arrangement between the tribes to maintain a balance in that society which was based on deficit or subsistent socio-economic order. Some of such societies were known to or surrounded by the so-called civilized world and had some kind of interaction with it. More commonly known were the Arabs, yet confined within the peninsula, North African Berbers or moors, Mongols of Gobi desert, and Tartars and Afghans of central Asia. However many of them were still not known to the civilized world i.e. those in Americas, Australia and Sub-Saharan Africa. But interestingly the political system was run by similar traditions of inter-tribal pacts, tribal assemblies (named Jirga in Afghans). The tribesmen in Americas or subSaharan Kalahari Desert would believe in different cults yet they shared in the manners of running their political affairs. The cults worshipped by Arabs, Mongols, Australians, Tartars and Afghans were entirely different and unknown to each other, but their political traits were quite common. We again draw the same conclusion, that
10 the second prevailing political order of that era, the tribal order, was also independent of beliefs and faiths in cults, thus secular in nature, and rooted in the socio-economic stage of development. In early 7th century AD, when Prophet Muhammad proclaimed his prophet-hood in Makkah, the political order in the Arabian Peninsula was predominantly of the second type i.e. the tribal order based on deficit underdeveloped economy with little agriculture due to lack of water resources and scattered population in the vast arid desert. There existed no state or states except some small ones on the periphery of peninsula mainly on its coastline. The oldest and the well-known amongst them were in Yemen, owing to some agriculture and maritime trade. Some Yemeni tribes, as a result of trade between Yemen and Syria, got settled in the Northern end of peninsula bordering Iraq, and established two principalities called Heera and Ghassan. These were sort of buffer states between Byzantine and Iran. Another small principality was recently established by Kinda tribe on the Eastern coastline. The rest of the mainland Arabia was without any state authority; the cities of Makkah, Madinah (Yathrib) and Taif had no kings or rulers nor had allegiance to any neighboring empire to have their governors there. Arab peninsula was divided into two regions, the arid area of the north and the rain-fed area of the south: north was Bedouine and South (called Yemen) was settled
11 state under Jews, Christians and Iranians. In the 6th century, with the outbreak of international wars between Byzantine and Iran and the weakening of major powers that controlled the south, the region began to disintegrate and experienced a breakdown of its political and economic structure. At the same time, Makkah emerged as a new economic and social force in Arabia. Its geographical position on the spice route, halfway between Yathrib (Madinah) and Najran, the strongholds of Judaism and Christianity, respectively, made Makkah a caravan station and a holy city at the same time. The house constructed by Abraham and Ismail, enjoyed great following and sanctity amongst Arab tribes. The religious life was based on idolatry and polytheism; the object of worship was a trio of goddesses, al-Lat, al- Uzza, and Manat, considered to be daughters of Allah and placed around the sacred house of Allah. There was no state:Tribal customs prevailed with following features: Jirga sort of a consultation; inter-tribe agreements; Bayiat (Bayiah) i.e. striking hand on hand to confirm the commitment either for trade or resolution of political or social issues, it could be compared with the tradition of manumission in Europe, a secular tradition having its roots in the primitive body language. These prevalent customs and traditions were known as Urf. Engels used a term of “gentile constitution” for similar set
12 of traditions that prevailed before the origins of statehood. Some instances of the kind of political constitution that existed in and around Makkah can be traced from the sources of early Muslim historians like Ibn-i-Hisham who based his source mainly on Ibn-i-Is’haq. Regarding the early inhabitants of Makkah we find that in one part lived Bani Jurham and descendants of Prophet Ismail (Bani Ismail) and in the other lived Bani Qatoora. Jurham would collect the10th part (Ushar) from those who would enter from their side and Qatoora the same from their side. Once fight broke out between the two tribes, and Bani Qatoora were defeated, yet all branches of the two tribes held an assembly (Jirga) and the supremacy of Bani Jurham was recognized, the management of affairs of house of God (Kaaba) was acceded to them. The tradition or Urf of tribal assembly (Jirga) settled this issue. After sometimes, in-house fighting got rampant between Bani Jurham on tributes collected for Kaaba; another tribe Bani Khoza’a took advantage of the situation, attacked on Bani Jurham, defeated and ousted them from Makkah. The management of Kaaba went under Khoza’a. The decision in this case came by fighting. Some time past and Qussiy Bin Kulaab of Quraish, son-inlaw of Bani Khoza’a claimed inheritance after the death of his father-in-law; the dispute resulted in fight between Quraish and Khoza’a; then a moderator (Hakam) was
13 appointed; the decision was taken in favor of Qussiye, the founder of Quraish supremacy on the management of Kaabah (Tawwalliyat), including the services of water and food for pilgrims (Siqayyah and Rifadah), organizing consultation (Nadawah) and the flag (Liwa) bearing. Qussiy built a room near Kaaba called Nadwah for consultations. During 6th century AD, Hashim and Umayyiah, both descendants of Qussiye, stood up head-on against each other; the decision through moderator (Hakam) resolved the issue in favor of Hashim. Sometimes later, again conflict irrupted between Abdul Muttalib-bin-Hashim and Harab-bin-Umayyiah; decision again by a moderator (Hakam) in favor of Abdul Muttalib. Until early 7th century AD same tribal traditions held sway. State could not be evolved because means of production did not develop much; Abbas Bin Abdul Muttalib was Muttawalli (custodian) of Kaaba at the time of prophet’s declaration of prophet-hood. There was no ruler of Makkah or Madinah or Taif or Arabian Peninsula.The system of inter-tribe pacts or agreements was in place. Some instances of such pacts entered between the tribes of Makkah at the advent of 7 th century were: pact of Muteebiyn between the branches of Bani Abd-i- Munaf against Bani Abd Aldar; and a similar treaty between Bani Abd Aldar against Bani Abd Munaf; another famous treaty called Half-al-Fazool to help any
14 oppressed against the oppressor and redress the grievances. At the time of reconstruction of Kaaba, the dispute as to who would fix the sacred black stone Hajar Al Aswad was resolved by consultation between tribal elders of Quraish and the decision was made by the Prophet Muhammed. During his own lifetime, the Prophet followed the existent norms ‘Urf’ of tribal order in his day-to-day politics. During his earlier period in Makkah, he made secret pacts Bayiat Aqaba 1st and 2nd with tribal elders of Madinah who were inviting him to migrate to Madinah. Then after migration (Hijra) to Madinah, when Islam was going to grasp strong roots, he made a pact Mithaq-iMadinah with the Jews & the tribes, irrespective of Muslims and non-Muslims, living around Madinah which, in fact, was a united front of most of the forces concentrated in and around Madinah, against Quraish of Makkah It was secular in essence wherein Muslims, Jews and other non-Muslims had a political binding only; no religious binding.He conducted Bayiat-i- Ridhwan, an oath of allegiance, before the peace agreement of Hudaibiya. After the victory of Makkah and Taif, most of Hijaz responded to his call for Islam, yet the Prophet did not establish any state or state institutions, neither in Madinah, nor in Hijaz. Only a kind of central authority emerged in the person of Prophet which was a sort of transition from primitive tribal order to sort of chiefdom.
15 Sometimes there was an advisory council as well, but there was no bureaucracy of professional administrators. The government was essentially just the person of Prophet with his team of counselors i.e. the companions (Sahabas). The great revolution that Prophet brought in, was unification of the Arab tribes despite great diversity between them, and he could achieve it by his great quality of liberal, pragmatic and magnanimous attitude, having no narrow prejudices, reflected in the pact with non-Muslims in Madinah (Mithaq Madinah); pact for peace at Hudaibia; general amnesty to all his adversaries at the time of conquest of Makkah and later-on, his magnanimous distribution of booty to the family of Abu Sufiyan after the victory of battle of Hunain. Death of Prophet raised the issue of succession; according to broader belief he did not appoint his successor and left the matter to prevailing ‘Urf’ i.e. the prevailing tradition or constitution of gentile, whereas one section i.e. the Shiites believe that he nominated Ali as his successor, which again was a tribal norm. However his close companion Abu Baker succeeded him through consultation of tribal elders and Bayiat in Saqifah was conducted under the prevailing tradition and customs (Urf). Succession of Abu Baker by Omar through nomination was also another prevailing tradition. Succession of Omar by Othman through a committee (Shura) of six senior chiefs was also one of the prevailing
16 tribal traditions. Finally the succession of Othman by Ali was the result of an armed rebellion, a tribal tradition of settling matters by force and siege. The conflict between Ali and Muawiya led to bloody battles of Jamal and Siffin, which ultimately culminated into appointing moderators (Hakam): Musa Ashari and Amr-bin Aas on behalf of each respectively. Resolving matters through moderators (Hakam) was also a tribal tradition that was in practice amongst Arab tribes since centuries. The initial period of Puritan Successor (Khilafat-e-Rashida), considered as the role model by Muslims, did not define a new and definite political system that presumably could be understood as derived from Islamic scriptures, rather the system of tribal constitution ‘Urf’ that prevailed for centuries amongst Arabs was followed. And this tribal political constitution was secular in nature in the sense that it had common traits with those tribal societies, which were passing through the similar stage of socio-economic development in other parts of the world. The Prophet of Islam and his immediate successors did not introduce a religious or theocratic state authority. During the era of immediate successors, one decisive factor that laid down the basis of qualitative change was the conquest of vast areas spread over thousands of miles from North Africa to Central Asia, comprising of very rich and fertile river valleys having accumulated the surplus wealth of many centuries, in
17 some cases thousands of years; where the people had lived under dynastic monarchies for several centuries e.g. Egypt, Byzantine and Iran. The occupation of these areas and the induction of surplus wealth collected from there upset the socio-economic balance of tribal society leading to political disorder. Struggle between the two lines erupted; one in favor of prevalent tribal order of equality and simplicity: the other to adopt monarchy of Byzantine & Iran. This contradiction crystallized during Othman era that led to armed rebellion and martyrdom of Othman, who failed to resolve this contradiction either way. The rebels pursued the first line: that of retaining the prevalent tribal order of equality and simplicity. The succession of Ali under pressure of rebels precipitated the crisis that caused great divide resulting into the bloody battles of Jamal and Siffin between Ali and Muawiya: the former was supported by the rebels whereas the later pursued the second line of going in for the monarchical order. When Ali entered into political dialogue with Muawiya, through moderators, the extremist element of the upholders of first-line, gathered around Ali, also turned against him; they were given the name Khawarij i.e. the rebels. Ali had to fight against them in the battle of Nehrawan and defeated them, but later on, they plotted against him and assassinated him. After that, Amir Muawiya consolidated monarchy and nominated his son Yezid as his crown prince. The tragedy of Kerbala, the martyrdom of Hussain son of Ali at the hands of armies of
18 Yezid led to the final sway of monarchical order in the Muslim society. The foundations of Ummaiyad dynasty, the first of its kind in Muslims were laid down. The center of power shifted from Madinah, the center of the first line of political order, to Damascus, the winter capital of Byzantine Empire and then to Baghdad, the areas that remained under monarchies for the last many centuries. The transition from tribal political order, having no state structure, to the prevalent monarchical state system, both secular in nature, has been described lucidly by a medieval Muslim sociologist, thinker and historian, Abdul Rehman Ibn-e-Khaldoon, coming from Tunisia in 15th century AD. In his renowned Epilogue to History, he writes about the caliphate of Puritans (Rashidah); “Its function was just to bind the people to abide by the Shariyah (religious laws) and they could never imagine about the kind of government that existed in the countries of infidels at that time…Those senior Caliphs had nothing to do with the kind of that royal type of government. One reason was their piety and religion; and secondly their Arabic Bedouinism kept them away from the luxury because the Arabs of those times were far away from luxury and worldly pleasures”. He further says,” After them, from Muawiya on, the chauvinism (Asabiyah) of the Arabs approached its final goal, royal authority. The restraining influence of religion had weakened. The restraining influence of government and group was needed.” (The Epilogue)
19 Ibn-e-Khaldoon at another place in the same Epilogue elaborates on this issue further: “During the reign of Caliph Omer, Amir Muawiya was governor of Syria and he lived in the palace of Byzantine emperor who used it as his winter capital. Also he would wear precious royal robes and dine in the golden crockery. It was brought to the notice of Caliph Omer who censured Muawiya on his life style. But Muawiya defended on the grounds that the province he has been given to govern had remained under royal rule for centuries and could only be controlled if he would live like Romans. He also needed to show his grandeur to the neighbouring Byzantine Empire to overawe them and subjugate them. Omer accepted the argument.” (The Prologue) On adopting hereditary monarchy by Ummayyiads, he says, “They cannot be blamed because they gave preference to their own sons and brothers, in that respect departing from the Sunnah (tradition) of the first four caliphs. Their situation was different from that of the (four) caliphs, who lived in a time when royal authority as such did not yet exist, and the (sole) restraining influence was religious. Thus, everybody had his restraining influence in himself.” (The Prologue) On the transition of Arabs into royal order, he elucidates, “The Arabs, then, enslaved the people of the former dynasties and employed them in their occupations and their household needs. From among them, they
20 selected skilled masters of the various crafts, and were in turn taught by them to handle, master, and develop them for themselves. In addition, the circumstances of the Arabs' life widened and became more diversified. Thus, they reached the limit in this respect. They entered the stage of urban culture, of luxury and refinement in food, drink, clothing, building, weapons, bedding (carpets), household goods, music, and all other commodities and furnishings. The same (perfection they showed) on their gala days, banquets, and wedding nights. In this respect, they surpassed the limit.” (The Prologue) Once Arabs adopted the system new to them, they transformed their customs accordingly. Ibn-e-Khaldoon says, “The oath of allegiance that is common at present is the royal Persian custom of greeting kings by kissing the earth (in front of them), or their hand, their foot, or the lower hem of their garment….it has become so general that it has become customary and has replaced the handshake which was originally used, because shaking hands with everybody meant that the ruler lowered himself and made himself cheap, things that are detrimental to leadership and the dignity of the royal position.” (The Prologue) Thus the Muslims adapted to the contemporary state structure available at that juncture of human history, and was being practiced all over the world by followers of different religions and creeds. Muslim dynasties prevailed
21 for about 1300 years over an area spread from Spain to Bengal irrespective of sectarian cleavage of Sunni, Shia, Wahabi, Ashaari, Motazzilaite etc., the well known amongst them are: the Ummayyiads, the Abbasids, the Ummayyiads in Spain, the Fatamids, the Mamaleek of Egypt, the Ottoman Turks, the Safawids and the Qachars of Iran, the Sultans and the Mughal of India. No Faqih (interpreter of religious code), Muhaddis (interpreter of traditions), Mufassir (interpreter of The Quran) or any religious scholar ever declared monarchy as un-Islamic; they accepted it as the prevailing system of governance, recited his name in the holy sermon (Khutba) of the ruler who succeeded by force or by will. Until the fall of Ottoman Empire (Khilafat-i-Osmania), the monarchies prevailed and still exist to-date in many Muslim states. In the pyramid of authority, the religious scholars had no control or authority upon the kings or emperors. The religious scholars were appointed at lower ladder of bureaucracy as Judge (Qadhi or Mufti) and Teacher (Mudarris) to teach the sons of royal family or nobility. The king or royal family was not answerable to Qadhi for any killings or wrong doings he would commit during power struggle or for consolidation of power. Qadhi would recite the name in the sermons (Khutba) of whosoever would get success in capturing the power at the time of power struggle, without considering the character of the ruler if
22 he was Islamic or practicing all religious rites or not. The mystic saints kept themselves away from the royal courts; they had mass base and the doors of their monasteries (khanqah) were always open for everybody without considering his/her religion, cast, colour or creed. Two religious currents prevailed amongst the religious leaders (1) Tariqat or Tariqah (mystic way) of Soofi saints, (2) Shariah (religious law) of Mullahs. The mainstream Muslims was followers of saints rather than Mullahs. Since the ruler was Muslim, the Muslims were privileged over the non-Muslims; yet most of the successful and stable rulers were those who gave share to non-Muslims in power. Akber the great Mughal emperor of India and many more like him can be counted in that genre. Mullahs would play instrumental role sometimes on behalf of one faction or the other in the power struggle when the non-Muslims or Muslims of opposite sects were given share in the power. Sheikh Ahmed Sirhindi stood up on behalf of Sunni Turks (Tooranis) against Akber who employed Iranian Shiites and local Hindus in his administration. The division of state and religion in two compartments is reflected by medieval Muslim historians, who never looked at their history as “Islamic History”. To them it was the history of kings and emperors like any other king or emperor. They never ascribe any of their compilation to the synonym of “Islamic History” or
23 “History of Islam”? Allama Mohammad Bin Jareer Al-Tabri, a great name among the historians of early periods and known as Imam-ul Mowarikheen, named his voluminous compilation as “Tarikh-ul-Ummam- wal-Mulook” meaning “the history of the nations and the kings”. Though he covered about three hundred years of the history of only the Muslims yet he did not name it as “Islamic History”, given the fact that he was also the interpreter (Mufassir) of The Quran and he compiled his interpretation (Tafsir) as a separate book. The name he attributed to his history book indicates that, to his mind, the Muslims were not one nation but comprised of a number of nations bearing their identity based on their tribe, race or region; similarly the Muslim kings and emperors were just “the rulers (Mulooks)” identical to the other rulers of the world belonging to different religions. Another great name, AlBaladhari, who compiled all the expansions and conquests of Muslims on the vast lands from Spain to Sindh during early three centuries, entitled his compilation as “Futuh-ulBuldan” which meant “conquests of the lands”; he did not choose to put it as “Futuh-ul-Islam” i.e. the conquests of Islam. Mullah Mohammad Umar Al-Waqidi, a very prominent name among the renowned early Muslim historians, labeled all his compilations after the names of the lands conquered or the persoanalities; some of the names are “Futuhat-ul-Iraq”, “Futuhat-ul-Shaam” and “Kitab-ul-Maghazi-Al-Nabbawiyyah” etc. His secretary
24 Mohammad Ibn Saad compiled all his works under the title of “Tabaqat-al-Kabeer” or “Tabaqat-al-Kubra” which earned the fame later on as “Tabaqaat Ibn Saad”. In Arabic, Tabaqaat means classifications or categories; as Ibn Saad portrayed the historical figures under different categories or classes, hence the name. Another great historian, Al-Masoodi, titled his famous compilation of history as “Murooj-ul-Zahab-wal-Muaadin-ul-Jawahir-fiTarikh” meaning “the meadows of gold, and mines of gems in the history”: what a secular beautiful name. Another famous historian Ibn Athir compiled his multi volume works on history of Muslims under a very simple name “Al-Kamil-fi-Tarikh”, which means “the complete history”. Abdul Rehman Ibn Khaldoon, a great historian and first know sociologist of the world, who not only compiled the history but formulated the philosophy of history in his famous prologue (Muqaddimah) of his compilation, entitled his works as “Kitab-ul-Iber-wa-Diwanul-Mubtada-wal-Khabar-fi-Ayyam-il-Arab-wal-Ajam-walBerber” which can be translated as “the book of narration and compilation of subjects and predicates of the periods of Arabs, Ajems (non-Arabs) and Barbarians (north Africans)”: more down to earth to describe the tribal, racial, and regional nature of the history of Muslims. Another prominent name is that of Abul Fida Ibn Kathir, famous not only for his work on history but also for his interpretation (Tafsir) of The Quran; he named his book on
25 history as “Al-Bidayya-wal-Nihayya” that is “the beginning and the end”: a simple secular name. Jalal-ud-Din Al-Siyuti labeled his works as “Tarikh-ul-Khulafaa”, meaning “the history of Caliphs”, yet did not qualify them as caliphs of Islam. A famous historiographer of North Africa and Spain, Alllama Al-Maqqari, entitled his compilation as “Nafha-ulTeeb” that is “the breeze of fragrance”: yet a beautiful secular name. Another rich source of history is Ahmad AliAl-Khatib’s “Tarikh-i-Baghdad” i.e. “the history of Baghdad”. Similarly a huge source of information is provided in the multi volume works of Ibn Asaaker who named his compilation as “Tarikh al-Kabir” or “Tarikh Damishq al-Kabir” meaning “a large history of Damascus”. Another interesting name comes from Ibn-i- Miskweh, who titled his famous source on history as “Tajaareeb ulUmmem” meaning “the experiences of nations”, which speaks of itself how secular his approach was towards the history. Ibn-i-Khalikaan, an authentic and very rich source on history in general and literary history in particular, termed his compilation as “Wifiyat-ul-Aaiyyaan” which means “obituaries of the renowned”. The nomenclature of these titles is a very strong indicative of the fact that, in their glorious medieval period, religion and state never overlapped. In fact religion was a private affair; and state or monarchy was a secular institution. There is lot of confusion and intellectual chaos spread by the Western media regarding Islamic Jihad. All
26 Muslim conquests of the areas under the so called infidels were led by the political heads of states or emerging states and those expeditions were similar to such conquests as of any stronger rulers or adventurers invading on neighboring weaker states. It was never just the religion that acted as the driving force for these invasions. Ibn-Khaldoon formulates that there had been the three motivating forces behind these invasions: religion, booty and tribal chauvinism. The expeditions in the name of Jihad organized and led by stray groups like Al-Qaedah was never a feature of medieval Muslim history. The concept of Holy War against infidels or such Muslims dubbed as infidels on sectarian grounds launched by a section or faction of Muslims recruited from all over the world, never existed during so-called glorious Muslim history except for two instances; Khawarij and Qarantah. The Khawarij claimed Khurooj-Fi-Sabeel-Allah (rebellion in the name of Allah) as their creed, and considered all of their opponents as infidels and believed that their murder was legitimate; they had no state; they failed and gradually got extinct by the 9th century AD, but after having done lots of damages to Muslims at large. Qaramtah had similar traits as of Khawarij; they emerged by the beginning of 10th century AD and succeeded to establish temporary governments in Bahrain, Yeman, Multan and Sind; they also met ultimate failure having done lots of damages to Muslims and got extinct by 13th century AD. Both Khawarij and Qaramtah
27 were never approved by the mainstream Muslims. Ibn Khaldoon’s formulation about those who launch movements in the name of religion to capture power during medieval era was: “They are mentally deranged people…cannot get power by ordinary means. So they try it through religion and cannot assess the damage and loss of lives they ultimately face in the end”. (The Prologue) In the entire medieval Muslim history, there could be only two occasions, when some kind of so-called Jihad might have been justified. First; when hordes of Crusaders’ from Europe launched invasions on Palestine, Syria and Egypt, that lasted for about two hundred years, 12th and 13th century AD. Yet we find that though, to the Crusaders it was a religious Holy War, but to the Muslims it was a simple war, who defended against it like an ordinary invasion from outsiders. Any war could be qualified as Jihad only if the Caliph declares it as Jihad and issue a general decree (Fatwa) to the Muslims to participate in it. The Abbasid Caliph sitting in Baghdad, in the backyard of crusades, never issued a call for Jihad to the Muslim world to stand up against Crusaders. He neither himself participated nor sent any armies to take part in the defence or liberation of Jerusalem. Even the Muslim historians, who recorded the chronicles of crusades later on, never described them as Jihad. Three great historians, Ibn-e-Khaldoon, Ibn-i-Athir and Abul- Fida-Ibn-i-Kathir, in their chronicles use the term Haroob-Ul-Afrang meaning
28 as “wars of Europeans”. The defending Muslim rulers of Egypt, Syria and Palestine, initially Fatamids, then Zangis and Ayubids and finally Mamaleek, fought against Crusades as an ordinary defensive ‘war’ against invaders, and not as Jihad. The second event was the thrust of Tartars’ hordes under Gengiz Khan on Central Asia in the 13 th century AD. The role of Caliph in Baghdad was partisan; he, instead of issuing call for Jihad, actually invited Gengiz Khan to invade upon Muhammad Khawarizm Shah, the emperor of the biggest Central Asian Muslim state at that time. None of the rulers of other Muslim states sided with Khawarizm Shah, and no call for Jihad against Tartars was issued from any quarter. Sectarian conflict was rampant in every city under invasion. No Muslim Sultan including Altamash of Delhi or Nasiruddin Qibacha of Multan, support Jalal-udDin Khawarizm Shah against the armies of Gengiz. Most of the Muslim states of Central Asia and Middle East, and all major cities including Baghdad were decimated by Tartars. The revivalist movements in 19th and 20th century resulted in reaction to the occupation, and direct or indirect control of vast lands of Muslim populations by the Western colonialists. During cold war era, the same Western imperialists exploited these revivalist movements and patronized them to encircle Communism; and after its fall in 1991, they abandoned them and started to use them as a bogey of danger to West and Western civilization, to
29 push forward their agenda of occupation of energy resources and establish hegemony on the world at large. From this analysis, we can draw the following conclusions: State, political system and system of government is a product of socio-economic evolution of mankind and has never been based on religion Muslims: so long as they remained in Arabian Peninsula, they followed prevailing tribal norms so far as state and politics was concerned. These tribal norms were not peculiar to Arabs; these existed wherever in the world there were and still are tribal societies and backward means of production. In religious domain a new dynamic religion emerged that united all Arab pagans under the concept of one God and it expanded very fast in vast areas of the world of medieval times. When Muslims conquered those areas where empires existed for the last two to three thousand years, they adopted the same system of state that existed there and then remained in that system even after the Bourgeois Industrial Revolution Muslim rulers and masses did not do anything different than what the rulers and masses of followers of other religions did in their history. As their history goes, the Muslims have been adoptive to the changing realities all along their history and they would like to go with the current
30 systems of states and governance and have no religious inhibition in their way Muslims always had a softer face in their practice of religion; it was hardened by world imperialists by patronizing extremist elements during cold war period. World imperialism kept most of the Muslim lands under their colonial regimes, and have developed such an imperialist order that Muslim masses might be prevented to adopt modern democratic states. World imperialists are patronizing all dictators and reactionary forces to hinder the road of democracy for Muslims.
(The author delivered his lecture in Conway Hall, London on January 7, 2007)
Our History and Its Myths
Excerpted and translated by Ali Hashmi
The political and ideological dilemmas faced by Pakistanis today are linked intimately to our reading of history. Some myths about this include: 1. If only we could implement, once again, the pure Islamic governments that existed in our golden past, we would solve all the problems facing our nation. 2. If all the Muslims of the world, exhibiting the unity and fraternity of our golden past, were to unite under the banner of faith, we would cure all the ills of the Islamic world today. 3. ‘Jihad’ can rid the world of infidels and ensure the supremacy of our faith. 4. The personal character and ethics of Muslims of our glory days were pristine and only by returning to those values can we rise to eminence in the world again. A recap of events over the last 150 years demonstrates the utter bankruptcy of these beliefs.
32 During the Cold war, American Imperialism used resurgent Islamic movements as a useful tool and then turned these same movements into a new enemy when, after the cold war, the demands of Empire required a new enemy. The bogus ‘War on Terror’ against ‘Islamic Fundamentalism’ has been used, very effectively, to scare the world and particularly the American people into accepting the American Empire’s new wars of aggression which have turned America into the biggest practitioner of state terrorism in the world. The new ‘War’ served the purpose of securing vast oil and natural gas deposits in strategic regions where American troops are now stationed and huge new military bases have been built. Those who fought in America’s wars against the ‘God-less’ Soviet Union assumed that they were fighting for ‘democracy’ and self-determination to make the world safer for their brethren in faith. However, circumstances changed and the Soviet Union, due to various internal and external contradictions, dissolved. Hence, the ‘Evil Empire’ disappeared from the world. Starting with the exodus of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan till about September 11,2001, for 12 years, different Islamic factions waged jihad, not against enemies of Islam but against each other while America and large multinational corporations were busy shaping the new world according to their agendas. According to Michael Moore’s film ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’, the ‘Al-Qaeda’ network blossomed under the noses of American security forces until the tragedy of 9/11. The administration of George W. Bush used this as a pretext to launch their new ‘War on Terror’ and ‘Muslim’ and ‘Islam' became symbols of
33 terrorism. Imperial war was renamed ‘Clash of Civilizations’. From Indonesia to Morocco, dozens of Muslim countries have been the target of this aggression. Hundreds of thousands of young people in those countries have become cannon fodder for this ‘jihad’ and an equal number of innocent bystanders have perished. The IranIraq war claimed over half a million lives and many times that number has since perished in Gulf wars I and II and the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Any serious student of history has to wonder whether the world was a more violent place in the time of the ‘evil’ Soviet Union or now. Car bombings, suicide bombings, aerial bombardments, army invasions, the massacre of civilians and destruction of property, from forests to mountains, rivers to deserts, a sea of fire and blood is upon mankind. Islam’s holiest places, Makkah, Medina, Karbala, Najaf, none has been spared. During the Cold war, except for the festering sore of Palestine, Muslim countries were never in this condition. The ‘Evil’ Soviet Union’s presence guaranteed at least a modicum of peace.
Islamic Revivalist Movements:
The manipulation of Islamic revivalist movements by American Imperialism is not a new phenomenon. The last 250 years provide ample evidence of this. In the waning years of the 19th century when the existing Muslim empires began to disintegrate, many revivalist movements erupted, initially educational and reformative, later militant. In the Indian subcontinent, Shah Waliullah (1703-
34 1762) initiated an educational reform movement, which later morphed into a militant fundamentalist movement under the leadership of Sayyed Ahmed Shaheed Barelvi (1786-1831). This was originally a revolt by farmers of Eastern Bengal against their English landlords which he redirected towards the Sikh rulers of the Punjab. His movement recruited young Muslim men from Bihar and Bengal for jihad and eventually sent them a thousand miles away to Peshawar where they began their agitation against the government of Ranjit Singh. According to W.W. Hunter, this movement had the indirect support of the British since, on their way to Peshawar, they had to pass through British administered Bengal, Bihar, UP and CP. When Muslim men in the employ of the British asked for long leaves of absence, it was well known where they were headed. Sayyed Ahmad's movement met with initial success and they succeeded in capturing some areas around Peshawar which was governed by Ranjit Singh. However, Ahmad attempted to implement a Taliban style fundamentalist Islamic government in those areas which ran counter to the centuries long traditional governance structures of the local tribes. One of those, the Yusufzai rebelled against them. In 1831, the French generals of Ranjit Singh, with the help of some of the local tribes ambushed Sayyed Ahmad's forces near Balakot and killed him, his trusted lieutenant Sayyed Ismail, the grandson of Shah Waliullah and hundreds of his followers. Sayyed Ahmad's 'army' fragmented and thousands of Bengali and Bihari youth perished in its aftermath, most never again returning to their homes.
35 Sayyed Abul Ala Maududi, (1903-1979), a prominent revivalist Muslim leader and founder of the Jama'at-e-Islami said that it was no secret when these men set out for their jihad that the real power in Hindustan was not the Sikhs but the English. The only way, according to Maududi, to struggle for an 'Islamic revolution' was to oppose the British. Maududi professes surprise as to how such an elementary fact was misunderstood by the leaders of this movement. A dispassionate analysis of this movement underlines the obvious beneficiaries of this movement: the British. The armed struggle of poor Muslim peasants in the Bengal was misdirected elsewhere and its effect in the Bengal declined considerably. The British wanted to destabilize Ranjit Singh's government since he had appointed French Generals in his army. Another beneficiary was Ranjit Singh who, after reestablishing his rule over Peshawar, appointed Hari Singh Nalwa, who received this appellation after reportedly killing a tiger with his bare hands, the first non-Muslim governor of Peshawar. Because of his brutality he was also famous as "the man with the terror of whose name Afghan mothers used to quiet their fretful children". Thus this movement fatally weakened both the struggle of the Afghans for autonomy from the Sikhs as well as the farmers of Bengal struggling against the British. Later, Sir Syed Ahmad's Aligarh movement encouraged modern scientific education for the Muslims of India to break the stranglehold of the Mullahs and helped in creating the educated layer of Indian Muslims who helped
36 modernize India and were later instrumental in the creation of Pakistan. Another jihadi movement which lured ordinary Muslims out of their homes and to their deaths in far flung places was the Khilafat movement. In 1920 after Sultan Mehmet VI signed the Treaty of Sevres and abdicated the vast lands of the former Ottoman Empire to the victors of World War I, the secretary of the Jamiat Ulema Hind, Maulvi Abdul Bari declared all of India to be 'Dar-ul-Harb' ('House of War') and declared that all true Muslims should migrate elsewhere. This rather incredible pronouncement was endorsed by the Indian Nationalist Ali brothers, Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali as well as another prominent Muslim leader, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Under the influence of this pronouncement, 18000 Muslims from Sindh and the Northwest Frontier province began a migration to Afghanistan. However, they were blocked from entering this 'Dar-ul-Islam' by the Muslim Afghan government and turned back to their homes. Thousands perished from disease and starvation particularly the elderly, women and children. The road from Kabul to Peshawar is dotted with numerous unmarked graves, the last resting places of these unfortunate souls led astray by their religious 'leaders'. Some managed to reach Turkey and were also turned back after the abolition of the Ottoman Empire. It is worth remembering that the Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah never supported this lunacy. His hero was not the Sultan of Turkey but the secular Nationalist, Mustafa Kemal 'Ata-Turk' who in 1924 abolished the Caliphate and wrote a secular constitution
37 legally separating state and religion. This was the model the Quaid used in the teeth of religious opposition from Ulema to wrest the new state of Pakistan from the British. Thus Sayyed Ahmad Barelvi's fundamentalist movement damaged the interests of Muslims in India while Sir Sayyed Ahmed's secular Aligarh movement strengthened them. The religious Khilafat movement damaged them while Jinnah's progressive leadership resulted in the establishment of the first Muslim majority state in Western India. In recent history, the so-called Afghan ‘Jihad’ is another example of how unsuspecting Muslim youths from all over the world, especially Pakistan, were lured to their deaths by religious leaders with the connivance of unscrupulous politicians. By the end of the 1970s, Afghanistan had become the forefront of the ‘Cold War’ between America and the USSR. Pakistan, whose leaders had declared the country a virtual colony of America ever since its inception, was front and center in this fight. Its military dictator at the time, Zia-ul-Haq, who had the dubious honor of being the country’s leader when its first elected prime minister was hanged in a politically charged trial, declared the fight in Afghanistan a ‘jihad’ or Holy War. America and its allies poured money and arms into Pakistan and the opium trade became a major source of funding for the war. The US National Security Advisor at the time, Zbigniew Brzezinski, came to Peshawar to distribute aid to the jihadist groups. In subsequent years, he revealed that CIA support for the mujahidin had started before the 1979 Soviet invasion and was meant to entice the Soviets into, as he put it, their version of Vietnam. He
38 referred to this as the "Afghan Trap" and viewed the end of the Soviet empire as worth the cost of strengthening militant Islamic group. The media in the West duly fell in line and wasted no ink in extolling the exploits, real or imagined of the ‘mujahidin’. In some cases, entire battles were staged for the benefit of the Western media and shown endlessly on news networks in the West to influence public opinion. The number of battles supposedly ‘won’ by the mujahidin would have been more than enough to conquer Afghanistan many times over. Militant religious groups in Pakistan benefited as well. Religious leaders who were hard pressed to even afford bicycles were now running around in expensive new cars and trucks. With the active support of the Zia regime, militant religious groups spread like weeds all over the country. The mountains of foreign arms and weaponry enriched the generals in charge beyond their wildest dreams. These same generals encouraged and supported the opium trade and grew rich off it. However, the same cannot be said for the simple Muslims who rallied to the call from places like Morocco, Algiers, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. In addition, thousands of young men from the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan joined the jihad. In 1989, after the withdrawal of the Soviet Army, these groups could not agree on a government. In spite of having sworn oaths of cooperation at the Ka’aba in Makkah, they were soon at each other’s throats and for 12 years, until 2001, waged blood thirsty war, not against the infidels, but each other. Interestingly, this too, was named ‘jihad’, a war in which Muslims were content to slaughter
39 other Muslims. After the tragedy of 9/11, America once again jumped into the fray, this time openly with its full military might. From Kabul to Kandahar to Tora Bora, thousands of people were killed or maimed by American aerial bombardment. Many ‘jihadis’ (the former ‘Mujahidin’) were killed or fled for their lives across the border back to Pakistan. Thousands of young men from religious schools or ‘Madrassahs’ who had been indoctrinated and then thrust into the jihad came home. They were mostly children of land less peasants or poor farmers. Now they had no education and no jobs or skills except fighting. In the last 200 years, in the Indian sub-continent, these are just three examples with similar results. Religious groups, ignorant of ground realities and international politics have, many times, led innocent followers to their deaths for senseless reasons. Other examples could be quoted: 1. The Khaksar movement, led by Allama Inayatullah Mashriqui who organized an army of volunteers armed with spades to conquer India. It was eventually disbanded by the Pakistan government after its leader had been jailed numerous times. 2. The Anti-Qadiani (or Ahmadiyya) movement which targeted followers of this sect from 1953 till 1974. Many people were hounded out of jobs and forced to flee the country, some were murdered. 3. In East Pakistan, 1971, immigrant Muslims from Bihar formed militant organizations called ‘Al-Badr’ and ‘Al-Shams’ under the supervision of the
40 Pakistan Army. In addition to serving as informants against native Bengali Muslims, they also fought alongside the Army. After the fall of Dacca and the formation Bangladesh, they were prosecuted by the new state. Some managed to reach (West) Pakistan and many of those still live in squalid refugee camps almost thirty years later. 4. In 1977, a coalition of religious parties in league with the opposition declared the recent re-election of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto a fraud and declared their mission to be the implementation of an ‘Islamic’ government. The resulting unrest brought the Army to power once again and Bhutto was later tried on trumped up charges and executed. General Zia, in order to cloak his dictatorship in legitimacy, declared an Islamic government his goal and provided money, arms and political support to all kinds of militant religious groups. They also served as a ‘battering ram’ against the scattered, remaining workers’ organizations, unions and political parties that had survived the onslaught of the Bhutto years. This fanning of religious flames eventually destroyed the social and ethnic harmony prevalent in society for hundreds of years and each sect gave birth to its own armed organizations laced with the latest weapons funneled through the Army. The Zia government with the aid of the Saudis armed and financed some of these groups while the Iranian government supported and armed others. Sunni mosques and Shiite Imam-Bargahs (places of
41 worship) were increasingly targeted for bombings and became effectively off limits for ordinary Muslims. Prominent leaders from both sides, Sunni and Shia have been assassinated and there is no end in sight. Now the mayhem has been extended to Christian religious places and their associated schools and universities. While there has been no ‘propagation of Islam’, countless valuable lives have been lost including highly educated professionals like doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers and bankers. The latest atrocities are the ‘suicide bombings’ which target everyone without remorse or forethought. People have been brain washed to such an extent that they are willing to blow themselves up and kill dozens of people in the belief that this will earn them an automatic place in heaven.
Our Misreading of History
Why do ordinary Muslims allow themselves to become a part of these barbaric schemes? What are the ideologies that attract them to such extremes? Some are convinced of the truth of these stories while others are not sure what to believe. All of this springs from our misreading of our history which we venerate and study as a religious text. We even refer to it as ‘Islamic’ history rather than a history of Muslims. Nowhere is the history of America or Europe referred to as ‘Christian’ history or the history of India as ‘Hindu’ history. The history of a people, a land or its rulers cannot accurately be called its religious
42 history. The simple reason is that history describes the struggle for power or political supremacy between groups and is thus referred to as a history of that region or people. When the followers of one religion or belief system struggle against each other, politically or militarily, for supremacy, resources and power, this cannot be termed ‘religious history’; it is, in fact, the political history of that religion or belief system. Religion is a Divine matter and professes to be eternal while states, governments and political systems rise, fall, form and break apart in different eras. Let us now objectively examine some fallacies.
1. Islamic System of Governance
This is a term that has never been defined. The basic elements of a system of governance include how a government should be set up, how it should be run, how its powers should be defined and distributed, and lastly, perhaps most importantly, how should it be changed. Let us look at the political history of Muslims and see if we can find the answer to these questions. Let us take a look at what kind of government existed in Muslim lands from antiquity up till the zenith of the Islamic empire. The state has not always existed in human history. Humans lived for hundreds of thousands of years without any semblance of what we today consider states. Ancient humans lived in hunter-gatherer societies that migrated according to supplies of food and shelter. In these groups, there was nothing extra to store or own. All of the tribes’
43 members spent all their time either hunting for food or looking for shelter. Everyone worked and the few meager tools that existed belonged to the tribe as a whole. There was no concept of ‘private property’ since there was no property to own. Once permanent human settlements appeared along river valleys and surplus wealth began to be produced i.e. food and resources above and beyond the immediate need of the tribe, there arose the problem of who ‘owned’ this surplus and how it was to the stored and distributed. Those who claimed ownership of this wealth became the dominant class or layer in society and it was to protect their interests that the system of hereditary Monarchy was invented with the Monarch claimed to be a direct descendant of whichever god the population worshipped. The initial centers of these Kingdoms were the valleys neighboring the great rivers Nile, Euphrates and Tigris about 5500 years ago. Around the same time or perhaps a little later, Kingdoms appeared in China and India. Later still they arose in South and Central America, then Greece, Rome and Persia. They evolved from city states which coalesced to form Kingdoms which later aggregated into Empires. Alexander ‘the Great’ of Macedon was one of the first emperors joined later by Ashoka in India and then the Roman Empire. In these Kingdoms, society was stratified into the Royal family and its descendants at the top of the pyramid, then generals and high ranking soldiers, then artisans and skilled merchants as an ancient ‘middle class’ and the rest of the populace at the bottom. In contrast, there were the lands that were devoid of natural resources and consisted mainly of deserts or
44 forests. Resources for production of food and shelter (such as grain and cattle) were limited. The inhabitants of these lands lived in tribes organized according to family descent. Each tribe was a miniature version of a state and each member of a tribe owed loyalty only to his or her own tribe. Tribal elders and leaders looked after the matters of the tribe and dealt with other tribes just as one state would with another. Treaties and alliances were formed, wars were fought followed by peace and new treaties. Friedrich Engels terms this a ‘tribal confederacy’. Neither one of these systems of governance were formed from religious principles. They arose out of the existing economic and social relations of the time. More advanced civilizations and their Kingdoms professed many different faiths. The Emperors of India, Persia, China, South America, Rome etc. claimed different religions but their social and economic evolution to Empires was very similar due to their growing out of similar conditions in fertile river valleys. This can be considered the ‘secular’ system of the time. The other system prevalent at the time was those of economically deficient areas which had no central state to speak of but a system of tribal confederacies. This too was not based on any religion. The Mongols of the Gobi desert, the Berbers of North Africa, the forest dwelling tribes of Sub-Saharan Africa, the Turks and Afghans of Central Asia or the as yet unknown Indian tribes of North America all followed this loosely organized confederation system held together not by a religion or belief system but by their existing economic and social conditions of existence.
45 Upon the emergence of Islam as an organized religion in the 7th century AD the known world was divided into two regions on the basis of their cultural development. The more highly evolved regions based in the above mentioned fertile river valleys rich in natural resources which had seen the rise and fall of many kingdoms and civilizations and regions that were resource deficient and thus less evolved in their societal development consisting of nomadic tribes living in deserts and forests in which the state, government etc. had not come into existence yet. The Arabian Peninsula was amongst these resource deficient regions and there existed here a tribal society since times immemorial without any kind of formal government or state. On its fringes there were pockets of settlements where a nominal government existed and these included Yemen and Hadhramauth in the south where a hereditary monarchy had existed for some time allied with the rulers of ‘Habesha’ (present day Ethiopia and Eritrea) or with the Persian or Byzantine Empires. However, none of these governments had exerted any noticeable influence on the vast hinterland of the peninsula consisting of the Nejd, Nefud and the Hejaz. A short time before the Prophet Muhammad proclaimed his message, there existed several small states on the borders of Iraq, Syria and Bahrain that served as ‘buffer states’ between the Persian and Byzantine Roman Empires. Other than these small governments on its coasts or borders, the vast majority of the peninsula consisted of a loosely organized tribal confederacy. Makkah, Taif and Yathrib (present day Medina) were small settlements or villages also without
46 any kind of formal government. The elder of a tribe was its leader but the village or settlement had no formal leader. Individuals were recognized by their tribe and they owed their loyalty to the tribe, not to a village or community. Blood relations were vastly more important than where a person was from. Tribes living in these resource poor lands did not need a system of formal government since every tribe was a mini-government in itself with the tribal elder its chief whose word was law. If there were matters that involved more than one tribe, they were negotiated and settled according to centuries old traditions. Wars and skirmishes were fought for resources including wells, oases, trade and caravan routes and the offerings made by pilgrims to the Ka’aba during the annual ‘Hajj’. After a skirmish, tribal gatherings were called and new treaties signed which remained in force till someone violated it and the fighting would begin anew until another treaty was negotiated or one tribe or faction emerged victorious by force of arms. Agreements and treaties were considered sacrosanct and inviolable and would be concluded with men hitting hand upon hand and women agreeing verbally. This was called a ‘beyyat’ and to break this pact was considered abhorrent. This could be considered the ‘secular’ political system of the time, based on traditions rather than religion. Each time there would be a dispute, the matter would be decided either by force of arms or, if none of the foes were strong enough to impose their will, by tribal councils. At the time of the proclamation of Islam by the Prophet, the keeper of the Ka’aba was his uncle, Abd’al Mutlib. However, from times immemorial, there was no
47 formal ‘government’ or ‘state’ in existence. The tribal system existed according to its traditions and customs passed down from generation to generation. In all of the Hejaz there was no organized government nor any kings or rulers strong enough to compel anyone to do their bidding. Each tribe was headed by an elder or leader accepted as such by all tribal members. He received this rank either by virtue of being born in a rich family or because he was the oldest or wisest member of the tribe. He negotiated and settled all matters on behalf of the tribe. Every tribe had its own customs and traditions, some unique, some in common with other tribes. Each tribe also had a ‘hakam’ who served as a judge in matters of dispute between members of the same tribe. Various scholars have pointed out that Islam never rejected the tribal customs and traditions of the time. Some were incorporated into the new religion, some were eliminated and others changed. The Quran and the Hadith (the traditions of the Prophet) stress the importance of obeying the Prophet as a messenger, not a king or monarch. He himself never claimed kingship for himself. There were no courts of law and while people obeyed the Prophet in matters of religion, for worldly matters they were free to consult anyone they chose including someone not of their religion. Prior to migrating to Medina, the Prophet had concluded an agreement with the ‘Ansars’ of Medina on the traditional ‘beyyat’. Other treaties with the Quraish of Makkah and later with other tribes were also on the principles of ‘beyyat’.
48 Naturally then, when the question of succession to the Prophet arose after his death, there was no guidance in either the Quran or any examples from his life. His companions had no choice but to use their own judgment and they did so, according to centuries old customs. His closest companions gathered in a traditional tribal council and everyone presented their arguments in favor or against their preferred candidate. Eventually, Abu Bakar, one of the Prophet’s closest friends, an early convert to Islam and the Prophet’s father in law was chosen as the leader and all those gathered swore a ‘beyyat’ on his hand. In Arabic terminology, ‘beyyat’ has been described as sealing an oath by hitting hand upon hand. This tradition was present in some European tribes as well and may have its roots in the body language used by ancient humans before the development of speech. Thus it is an early ‘secular’ tradition. The second Islamic caliphate was decided by nomination, also according to tradition. The third was decided by a ‘shoora’ or council. The transition between the third and fourth caliphate was carried out by force by rebels from various provinces of the nascent empire who gathered in Medina, confined Osman, the Umayyad caliph to his house and later murdered him. This was the norm in tribal society when succession could not be decided by negotiations and happened frequently in many parts of the world including those with established monarchies. Later, when negotiations broke down between the fourth caliph, Ali and the Emir of Syria, a neutral arbiter was appointed to resolve the dispute, another established tradition.
49 Thus we see that in the first 30-40 years of Islam while the center of power remained the Arabian Peninsula, all disputes were effectively resolved according to the pre-existing tribal traditions and customs. Once the empire expanded to include those areas, though, which had been under hereditary monarchies and kingdoms for thousands of years, the center of power too shifted, first to Damascus (Syria) then to Baghdad (Iraq) and. accordingly, tribal customs were abandoned to be replaced by the system of hereditary monarchies prevalent in those areas. This transition was far from smooth. The assassination of both Osman, the third caliph and Ali, the fourth which led to the massacre of Karbala where Husain, Ali’s son and Muhammad’s grandson was slaughtered with members of his family including women and children by the Umayyad caliph’s forces led to the first great schism in Islam between the Sunni and the Shi’a and only then was the transition completed to a hereditary monarchy. The political system thus derived was not modeled on a divine text. It was formed over thousands of years as humans progressed through their social evolution based on their existing material and social conditions. The tribal system of the Arabs was prevalent in much the same form in many tribes all over the world. The Berbers of North Africa as well as the Mongols and Tartars followed more or less the same traditions. Even today, in Afghanistan, the North West Frontier province, Baluchistan and parts of Southern Punjab where tribal traditions have strong roots, local ‘jirgas’ or councils have much more influence than government institutions. Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406)
50 documents that the responsibilities of the caliph were limited to enforcing the ‘sharia’ or religious edicts. There was no concept of kingship or governance such as existed in the kingdoms of the times. One reason for this was the teachings of the religion itself which stressed simplicity and thrift. The more basic reason was the tribal, nomadic system of the Arabs who were simply unfamiliar with any manner of luxury or opulence. When Caliph Umar, the second Caliph and a close confidant of the prophet appointed Muawiya as governor of Syria, Muawiya took up residence in the palaces vacated by the Byzantine rulers. When Umar expressed his disapproval, Muawiya’s response was that he ruled in areas neighboring the Byzantine Empire and needed to maintain a royal lifestyle to impress their envoys and ambassadors. Umar accepted this argument. Ibn Khaldun writes that when the Arabs expanded their circle of conquests to include areas formerly under the rule of the Persian and Byzantine empires, they learned the customs and traditions of nationhood from the citizens of those areas and eventually adopted them. Hereditary monarchies were the prevalent ‘secular’ system of governance at the time and had developed independently of religious beliefs in ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia, India and China. It centered on the great river valleys of the time including the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates (Babylon and Assyria), Danube, Oxus (‘Amu Darya’), Indus, Ganges and Jamuna, Brahmaputra, Mekong etc. The government of the Pharoahs of Egypt, the ancient kings of Greece, the Roman Empire, the Assyrians, the Persian Empires of antiquity, the Ashoka kingdom in India
51 and the Emperors of China, all of these were hereditary monarchies which had existed thousands of years before Islam was proclaimed in Arabia. Humans, therefore, had vast experience with monarchies and this was the most advanced system of governance developed thus far in all of human history. Thus, when the Arabs conquered the lands of Syria, Egypt, North Africa, Andalusia, Persia, Western Asia and the Indus Valley which had all been governed by hereditary monarchies for thousands of years, they adopted this secular system as their own. Syria and Egypt were then under the rule of the Byzantine Roman Empire while Iraq and Iran were ruled by the Persian Empire. The people in these regions had been living under hereditary monarchies for centuries and could only pledge allegiance to their new Arab rulers following the customs and traditions of their forefathers in which the opulence, luxury and glory of the monarchy were required to incite obedience. The Umayyads adapted this system rapidly and began to govern a vast empire stretching from North Africa to West Asia. The seat of power moved from Medina to Damascus which was the capital of the Byzantine Roman Empire. Later Baghdad, Cairo, Cordoba, Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad, Bokhara Samarqand, Kabul, Herat and Delhi all remained under their rule. In all these areas, Muslim rulers adopted the same hereditary monarchical system which their Christian, Hindu and Buddhist counterparts had utilized in Europe, India and China regardless of religion or nation. Over almost 1300 years till the early 20th century, dozens of Muslim kingdoms rose and fell from Spain to Indonesia, all monarchies in which religious beliefs were separate from
52 systems of governance. The rulers of the time familiarized themselves with existing customs and traditions intimately, and were thus able to rule for hundreds of years. All Muslim rulers, whether Arabs or non-Arabs, followed this method and this era is considered the golden age of Muslim rule. Thus a system of government develops independently of religious beliefs and is based on human cultural evolution which is a continuous process. In the beginning, Muslims lived in a tribal confederacy in the Arabian Peninsula because society had only evolved until that stage. Later, they formed hereditary monarchies following the lead of the governments before them and this too, continued for centuries. Religion and governance were kept separate and even religious leaders or ‘ulema’ never struggled for political power. Some even opposed their rulers but never on the basis of declaring their rule ‘un-Islamic’. With the Industrial Revolution in Europe, the next evolution of politics came to the fore. The fall of the Eastern Empires began with the bourgeois revolutions of the West, especially the French Revolution which laid the foundations of democratic values and institutions, elected governments, political parties, human rights and women’s liberation. The forerunner of this change was the Enlightenment movement in Europe which swept aside old ideas and ushered in new scientific and technological achievements with the help of which, Europe was able to subdue the decaying kingdoms of Asia and the Middle East. The Mughal Empire, the Persian Empire and the Ottomans, all collapsed like a house of cards. Millions of
53 Muslims became European subjects not because their rulers had abandoned ‘Islamic’ values but because they clung to their outdated beliefs, refused to embrace science and technology and rejected democratic ideas and institutions. Amongst Asian Empires, China, Korea and Taiwan as well as Muslim Malaysia embraced these ideas and joined the ranks of developed nations. Today, most ‘Muslim’ countries are subjects of Western powers and their people in general and their intelligentsia in particular struggle against confusion: between tradition and modernity, between East and West, between an ‘Islamic’ system and a democratic one and in their confusion become susceptible to all manner of extremist ideologies.
2. Islamic Brotherhood or the ‘Muslim Ummah’
Another intellectual fallacy that we are prey to, is that Muslims in the past were united as one nation and if only we could replicate that unity, we would be triumphant. This has led to the fantasy of the ‘Muslim Ummah’. Human history is witness to the fact that unity is always based on mutual advantage, not on ideology and similarly with enmity, which is always the result of clashing material interests. If we were to study the history of Islam and Muslims from the time of the prophet till now objectively, we would see that people and nations that consider themselves ‘Muslim’ have never been united. This has been the case with all religions. Muslim brotherhood and unity are attractive concepts in principle but have never existed in practice. The Prophet made a point of emphasizing the fraternal nature of relations
54 between Muslims, Arabs and non-Arabs, black or white, rich or poor but this did not make those differences disappear. Tribal rivalries and enmities dated back thousands of years and could not be eliminated by Islam’s teachings. These rivalries were to surface time and again starting during the life of the Prophet. They persisted during the rule of the first two caliphs and would arise again and again but were suppressed, partly because the vast lands of Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Iran were falling under the rule of the new religion along with their unimaginable wealth and bounties. However, by the time of Osman, the third caliph, these enmities re-emerged with a vengeance and both Osman and the fourth caliph, Ali was murdered by Muslim rebels. This was followed by more battles and finally the tragedy of Karbala where the Prophet’s grandson and his small party of men, women and children were massacred by the army of the Caliph. Once the Umayyads became rulers, the tribal rivalries between them and the Banu Hashim, the tribe of the caliph burst forth with the same ferocity as in the time of the ‘Jahiliyya’, the pre-Islamic period. The 90 years of the rule of the Umayyads saw hundreds of skirmishes between rival Muslim armies with eleven major battles that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands. This included Karbala and armed invasions of Medina (once) and Makkah (twice) by Umayyad armies, one of which rained rocks and flaming arrows on the Ka’aba until it collapsed. Thousands of Muslims in the holy cities were massacred. Similar campaigns were carried out in Spain, Yemen, Egypt and Syria. Several Umayyad caliphs were murdered by their followers, Yazid III’s grave was dug
55 up and his corpse crucified by fellow Muslims. Prominent generals of the era including Muhammad Bin Qasim were tortured and assassinated on the orders of the Caliph. Qasim’s son committed suicide for fear of murder. The descendants of the massacre of Karbala were hunted down and killed. This was the ‘brotherhood’ of the Ummah in the time of the glory of the Arabs when the empire was expanding from North Africa to Western Asia and into Sindh. The rise of the non-Arab Abbasids was a reaction to the ferocity of the Umayyads and once in power, they hunted down the remnants of Umayyad rule mercilessly. The graves of Umayyad caliphs were dug up, their corpses burnt and the ashes scattered. With the advent of a separate Umayyad government in ‘Al-Andalus’ (Spain), the ‘Ummah’ split into two and then into three with the formation of the Fatimid kingdom in North Africa. The time of the Abbasids can be divided into two broad periods, one in which the caliph had control over his territories and another in which he was a powerless figurehead, his power and influence confined to Baghdad and its immediate environs. Even in the former, revolts occurred with regularity and there was no unity based on religion. There were numerous fault lines in the Ummah during the rule of the Abbasids including that between the Umayyads and the Abbasids, those between the Abbasids and the ‘Ahle-beyt’, those between Arabs and non-Arabs and the internal conflicts amongst the Abbasid rulers themselves. All of these conflicts led to internecine violence and bloodshed between Muslim nations and
56 communities including between families in the case of the last one. The succession struggles between Abbasids caliphs were fierce and often blood thirsty with family members having no compunction in murdering others in order to ensure their access to the throne and its riches. In addition, beginning with the assassination of the fourth caliph, Ali, sectarian struggles in the burgeoning Muslim Empire were a regular feature. These involved the ‘Shia-e-Ali’ (‘Partisans’ of Ali), today commonly known as the Shi’a or Shiites. This was followed in subsequent years and centuries by the formation of dozens of sects including the Asha’arites (‘traditionalists’), the Mutazilites (‘rationalists’), the four sects of the Sunnis: Hanafi, Sha’afi, Maliki and Hanbali, and numerous others. Whichever school of thought gained ascendancy with the rulers of the time (based on whether they were willing and able to legitimize their rule) were given a free hand in persecuting and hunting down the followers of rival sects. In addition, the tribal rivalries of the Arabs followed wherever they went and there were numerous battles all over the empire between rival clans that pre-dated Islam. There were regular revolts within the Empire as well with governors and rulers of various provinces and territories declaring themselves sovereign followed by invasions and massacres. The various Muslim empires including the Abbasids and the Fatimids also were regularly at daggers drawn. Both Empires called themselves Islamic and the rulers of both declared themselves the Caliphs and true descendants of the Prophet. The Hashshashin from which the word assassin is thought to originate, was the Arabic designation of the Nizari branch of the Ismā'īlī Shia
57 Muslims during the Middle Ages. The Nizari, or Hashshashin, as they were designated by their enemies, split from the Fatimid Isma'ili Empire following a dispute regarding the succession of their spiritual and political leader the Fatimid Caliph Ma'ad al-Mustansir Billah. They helped assassinate numerous officials in the Seljuk Turk governments and are even reputed to have been responsible for the murder of Shahab-ud-Din Ghori, the founder of the first Muslim government in the Indian subcontinent. Many Abbasid caliphs were arrested, imprisoned, tortured mercilessly and murdered by their Muslim ‘brethren’. Mahmud of Ghazni and the aforementioned Shahabuddin Ghori are considered two ‘heroes’ of Islam in the sub-continent. Both, at one time or another, formed treaties and pacts with Hindi rajas and Christian rulers to further their territorial ambitions. This, in brief, was the 500 year period (approximately 755 AD to 1258) of the ‘Golden Age’ of Islam under the Abbasids. This period saw the rule of 37 Caliphs of whom 14 were murdered by Muslims. However, this period also saw the zenith of Muslim achievements in learning and culture. The shining stars of literature, poetry, philosophy, mathematics, chemistry and medicine amongst Muslim scholars are too numerous to count and many are still revered in the West today. As described, there was no sign of any ‘Muslim’ unity or brotherhood anywhere. The reason for this ascendance was that the forces of orthodoxy, traditionally fiercely opposed to learning and experimentation were weak while the trends that promoted knowledge and its learning like the rationalist Mutazilites were stronger and had the support
58 of the rulers of the time, if only temporarily. One the traditionalist sects reasserted themselves, the light of learning dimmed quickly to be replaced by an emphasis on orthodoxy and fundamentalism. Thus, when the Mongol invasion came with the sack of Baghdad by Hulagu Khan in 1258, every Muslim principality from Baghdad to Khorasan was wracked by internal dissension and sectarian tensions. Every sect was mortal enemy to another and would often collude with the Mongols to surrender the city or fort to allow the Mongols to destroy the followers of rival sects. In reality, the invaders would usually spare no one. A new political landscape appeared in the world of Islam after the fall of Baghdad. The Mongol conquerors gradually turned to the new faith and new centers of power and governments appeared including the Mamluks in Egypt, Syria and Yemen, the Ottomans in Turkey and Anatolia, the Timurids in West Asia and Iran, the Delhi Sultanate in India and many others. All of them remained at odds with each other and fought many bloody campaigns against rivals. Timur, the founder of the Timurid dynasty (also known as ‘Tamerlane’ or ‘Timur the lame’) waged numerous ferocious campaigns against the Delhi sultans and the Ottomans at one time invading Delhi and massacring its inhabitants so mercilessly that for years, Delhi was a ghost city. The Sunni-Shia divide was a constant source of conflict between the Ottomans and the Safavids of Persia. Thousands of Muslims were killed in their battles. Within the Ottoman Empire, the struggle for succession usually meant that whoever ascended the throne would first have their brothers and close relatives killed to leave no claimants to their throne. No religious
59 leader ever condemned such acts. After hundreds of years, the only difference was that possible successors were imprisoned instead of being killed. During wars between Iranians, Afghans and Turks, building towers of human skulls from the corpses of the conquered was the usual custom. In India as well, the Northern kings were Sunni while those from the Deccan were Shi’a and forever at each other’s throats. Every Mughal emperor ascended to the throne after imprisoning or murdering his father and brothers. Religious unity was a pipe dream since even amongst blood relatives, there was no honor or mercy. At one time, there were no less than ten kingdoms in India from Punjab to Bengal. The Mughal Emperor Akbar, a staunch secularist and religious liberal was the first one to unite them under one banner. Even in his administration though, religious sectarianism was rife. There was no sign of any ‘Islamic’ religious harmony or unity although the arts, music, painting, poetry and architecture all flourished thus proving, again, that cultural progress and development has no connection to religious harmony. This overview of the history of Muslims is enough to demonstrate that unity is never based on religion or ideology nor is religious harmony a prerequisite for progress. Unity is always based on shared material interests, whether between oppressors or the oppressed. Today, millions around the world are united in their condemnation of American Imperialism and aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan and protests are held in ‘non-Muslim’ Europe, America, Japan and Korea. This is in stark contrast to the governments and official policies of ‘Muslim’ governments who support America’s actions. Under these
60 conditions, the natural allies of the people of Muslim countries are not the governments but the ordinary people living in the countries mentioned above who face the same conditions of exploitation and injustice at home.
Another historical fallacy posits that Muslims have abandoned ‘Jihad’ (literally ‘striving (in the way of Allah)’) and if we would only return to this noble endeavor, we could return to the ‘glory days’ of Islam. This fallacy has persuaded countless hundreds of thousands of Muslim youth to leave their homes to go too far off places where Muslims are involved in any armed struggles to join them. While their passion is laudable, the involvement of people who are foreign to a struggle often complicates and hinders matters rather than helping including conflicts with those they are supposedly there to assist. The Afghan jihad against the Russians is a case in point where people from all over the world including Arabs, Pakistanis, Somalis and many others showed up to join the ‘jihad’. Once the Soviets left, their internal conflicts came to the fore resulting in a horrific civil war that claimed thousands of lives and wrecked what was left of Afghanistan. A rare example of the type of ‘jihad’ described above in Muslim history is the Kharijites (literally "Those who Went Out") a general term embracing various Muslims who, while initially supporting the caliphate of the fourth and final "Rightly Guided" caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib, later rejected him. They first emerged in the late 7 th century AD, concentrated in today's southern Iraq, and are
61 distinct from the Sunnis and Shiites. Religiously they were strict traditionalists. The high point of the Kharijites' influence was in the years 690-730 around Basra in south Iraq, which was always a center of Sunni theology. Kharijite ideology was a popular creed for rebels against the officially Sunni Caliphate, inspiring breakaway states and rebellions throughout the ‘Maghrib’ and sometimes elsewhere. They considered the smallest sin to be reason to brand other Muslims as ‘kafir’ (infidel) and proclaimed proudly that all non-Kharijites were inhabitants of ‘Dar-ulHarb’ and the massacre of their women and children was religiously sanctioned. This, of course, is similar to our current jihadists who proclaim every sect except their own infidels, who tore apart Kabul and Afghanistan with their infighting after the Soviet withdrawal and are now busy doing the same in Pakistan. The Kharijites were a powerful force in the Umayyad era and revolted many times but could never gain political power due to their intransigent beliefs and eventually faded out under the Abbasids. Ibn Khaldun has mentioned several individuals in history who rallied their followers to begin a ‘jihad’ for religious supremacy. He is of the opinion that those who proffer these beliefs in the name of religion are either lunatics who need proper treatment or should be prosecuted for rebellion and sedition. Most, he believes, are rogues who covet political power under the guise of religion and adopt these tactics as a reaction against obtaining power legitimately. The truth is that in the history of Islam, there have been only two occasions where the concept of Jihad was applicable. One was the Crusades and the other, the
62 Mongol invasions. As we have seen though, never during those times did the ‘Ummah’ unite as one to fight the invaders nor was ‘Jihad’ ever proclaimed. The Fatimids, the Mamluks, Salahudin Ayubi (‘Saladin’) and other Muslim rulers resisted the Crusades on their own but not once did other Muslim kingdoms come to their aid nor was a ‘jihad’ ever proclaimed. The Mongol invasions were different still. Here, the prevailing Muslim kings actually invited the Mongols to attack their rivals and in some cases assisted them. In the Muslim cities sacked by the Mongols, religious sects were constantly fighting and would often vie with each other to see who could assist the invaders. Later, Muslims joined the Mongol armies in large numbers and helped sack Baghdad. Thus, even in the ‘golden age’ of Islam, every king fought their own wars, sometimes against other Muslim kings to defend their throne other times to enlarge their empires. The kind of ‘jihad’ espoused by Syed Ahmad Barelvi or the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden has been vanishingly rare in Islamic history practiced only by extremist sects like the Kharijites and Ibn Khaldun’s views on them seem accurate.
4. Muslim ‘Character’ in the ‘Golden Age’
Another historical fallacy that is widely propagated is that Muslim rulers and commanders in the ‘Golden Age of Islam’ were paragons of virtue and purity, like the prophets, and if only we would emulate their character, we would be triumphant. In fact, this myth has been sustained and nurtured by fundamentalist Mullahs who
63 ruled side by side with the kings and emperors of old and still chafe at their loss of influence once monarchies were replaced by elected governments. In fact, if we study our history as history and not as a religious text, we will see that those we venerate as beyond human failings were, in fact, humans with virtues and faults, the same as the vast majority of Muslims today. Muslim historians including Ibn Khaldun have described these qualities of rulers of the past quite objectively. In Baghdad during Abbasid rule, courts and preachers had declared alcohol legal and alcohol, dancing and carousing was quite prevalent in most Muslim kingdoms including the Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Ottoman, Seljuk and others. In fact, many caliphs of those eras died of alcohol related illness. Historians of the middle ages have written in detail about the political intrigues, the internecine bloodshed, the opulence of their courts and their dissolute lifestyles contradicting the laws of the ‘Shariah’ and no one has accused them of maligning ‘Islam’. Their writings clearly demonstrate that most of these rulers were not religiously observant. They drank, enjoyed wine, women and music, had vast harems filled with women and sometimes young men and boys and yet, the religious leaders of the time sang their praises and declared allegiance to the king the same as allegiance to God. In turn, they were awarded pensions, stipends and all kinds of monetary support from the rulers and were an integral part of the machinery of the state. None of them declared this arrangement ‘Un-Islamic’ or spoke out against it. It was in the 19th and 20th century, once traditional Muslim kingdoms began to disintegrate against the rise of
64 the Industrial powers that Islamic revivalist movements rose up to declare that the character of Muslims of the past was pure and the reason for their ascendancy was that they followed religions teaching strictly and without question, that they were united in ‘Islamic Brotherhood’, that they were ‘above’ ethnic, linguistic or regional loyalties, that they were never greedy or treacherous, that they never drank or lived in opulence or womanized etc. Of course the real reason for preaching these fantasies was that with the decline of the Muslim kingdoms and the rise of political governments, the influence of religious leaders had also declined along with their sources of money and support from the state. One way that they tried to obfuscate this issue was to begin referring to history as ‘Islamic history’ or ‘history of Islam’ and to turn the study of history into religious texts. The declining feudal landlords, aided by Western powers, were eager to assist in this charade. Religious ‘leaders’, to deceive ordinary people began presenting the history of Islamic Kingdoms as ‘Islamic history’ and blind worship of past glories was part of this deception. In the sub-continent, the leaders of the Deobandi and Nadwah sects were at the forefront of this effort starting from Shibli Nomani through Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Maududi. Later, the ‘Islamic’ novels of Nasim Hejazi, M. Aslam etc. enlarged and popularized this charade. This popularization of nostalgia and fantasy led to ordinary Muslims thinking of Generals and Kings of the past as somehow more than mortals. Poets and artists contributed to this phenomenon with Allama Mohammad
65 Iqbal’s poetry at the forefront in painting Islam’s past glories in unrealistically vivid colors and adding to the confusion and nostalgia of ordinary Muslims. Part of this was a reaction to Hindu fundamentalists presenting their past Kings and rulers as gods and goddesses. However, this wave of reaction could never address the real life problems of India’s Muslims. That task was left to the modernist, pro-education Aligarh movement of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan which attempted to slash the mental chains that bound Muslims to imaginary past glories. Sir Syed criticized hereditary monarchies in the strongest terms. Syed Ameer Ali, the Indian Muslim jurist, scholar and author wrote a history of the golden period of Muslim history but called it ‘History of the Saracens’ instead of ‘Islamic History’. Muhammad Husain Azad, the author of the masterpiece ‘Aab-e-Hayat’ and considered one of the best Urdu prose writers in his ‘Darbar-e-Akbari’ forcefully rebuffed the criticisms of reactionaries and presented history as separate from religious ideology. The interesting thing is that Muslim historians of the middle Ages who composed works to rival those of Herodotus of Greece, the ‘Father of History’, and Josephus, the first century Jewish historian never associated history with religious ideology. They examined the history of the Kings, Generals and courtiers of their time thru the lens of the monarchical system of governance, never confusing it with religious ideology. None of them called their historical works ‘Islamic History’ or ‘History of Islam. Foremost among them was Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabri (838-923 AD) who named his seminal work ‘Tarikh-al-Umum Ma-al-Maluk’ or ‘History of
66 Nations and Kings’. Ibn Khaldun (732-808 AD) called his monumental history ‘Kitab-ul-Ibar’ (full title “"Book of Evidence, Record of Beginnings and Events from the Days of the Arabs, Persians and Berbers and their Powerful Contemporaries"). There are countless other historical narratives by Muslim scholars that never professed to be ‘Islamic’ or ‘Muslim’ history. These authors never stretched the truths to portray Kings or Rulers as unrealistically religious and they took care to separate history from theology. If some of the subjects of their books truly were moral and virtuous people, they were described as such but it was rare to find kings or courtiers in these ranks. These historians never shirked from pointing out the political struggles, the court intrigues, the internecine bloodshed and massacre of innocents, the luxury and opulence of the court including drinking, womanizing and homosexuality, all associated with the governments of their day. This was how power and wealth were obtained and kept and everyone knew that, therefore, historians felt no need to be apologetic about it. Muslim historians of today feel the need to either erase large periods of this history from their accounts or to describe it apologetically while painting the rulers of the day in the best light as virtuous and incorruptible. In addition, a political campaign to conquer new lands and subjugate people of other areas is presented as their quest to spread the ‘light of Islam’ rather than to add new territories and subjects to their empires. The inevitable massacres of innocents, the enslaving of countless women and children and the looting and bloodshed associated with these campaigns is either
67 glossed over or justified in the name of religion. None of the historians of the past felt the need to justify any of these atrocities because they were the norm in the prevailing systems of exploitative monarchies. NonMuslim conquerors behaved the same way in their military campaigns. The Industrial revolution and its global and far reaching social and political effects have forced reactionary Muslim historians to attempt revisions of history to try and convince people that a return to the days of those exploitative monarchies would be a desirable goal. They have declared separation of religion and governance as heresy while it is a historical fact that Muslim monarchs in the ‘golden age’ of Islam practiced strict separation of the two. These clumsy attempts to implement a distorted version of the systems of governance prevalent in the Middle Ages today are futile in the extreme. As far as virtue or morality are concerned, there is no shortage of virtuous, moral and religious people today. A people’s ascendance or their decline is never connected to their religiosity or lack thereof. This was as true in those days as it is now. Muslims have been attempting to ‘reform’ themselves along religious lines for over 150 years while our actual position in the world continues to decline. Any temporary improvements in that decline have been because of movements that stressed education and modernity and a break with the past. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s Aligarh movement is one example as is the secular leadership of Mohammad Ali Jinnah who managed to carve out a state in the teeth of Muslim
68 religious opposition. The corrupt and exploitative policies of Pakistani rulers after his early death rapidly exhausted any possibilities that the new state had, forcing those same rulers to rely on the same religious leaders who opposed the formation of Pakistan in the first place. This has led to a steady and inexorable decline which continues to this day. If we were to study Muslim history as history instead of a religious text and study the leaders, rulers and reformers of our past as fallible humans as historians in the past have done, instead of as super-humans, we could plan a course for the future. It is only then that we can determine concrete goals instead of forever chasing phantoms in the past. The success of Muslim rulers of the past depended on how skillfully and efficiently they negotiated the existing social, economic and political realities of their day without confusing religion and politics. In contrast, we have not even begun to understand, let alone resolve our social and economic problems. The result of obsessive focus on religion is a poisonous inter-religious sectarianism that is consuming our societies from within. The Industrial revolution has ripped apart the social values of the agricultural past and if we are to progress, it will require a concerted struggle against hereditary monarchical governance, social and class inequality, feudal values and religious reaction. This requires adherence to democratic political values, institutionalization of these values at all government and non-government levels, guarantees of basic human rights and freedom of speech and expression and a firm commitment to modern scientific and artistic
69 values. Only on these bases can societies and governments be designed that will allow us to progress. In contrast, a yearning for the imaginary values that never existed in our golden past can only lead us further down the road to ruin. In summary, ‘Islamic government’ is an abstract concept. Systems of governance are built on the foundations of material and social conditions and this is true of Muslim governments in the past as well which included initially tribal confederacies and then hereditary monarchies. With the advent of the Industrial revolution and its associated democratic values, Muslim nations, instead of welcoming those changes chose to turn backwards towards an imaginary golden past and cling to the outmoded values it represents. Currently existing ‘Islamic governments’ present us with three alternatives: 1. The Saudi Arabian model of hereditary monarchy, 2. Afghanistan’s ‘Taliban’ model which is a futile attempt to impose the tribal confederacy structure of ancient Arabia and 3. The theocratic ‘Velayet-e-Faqih’ (‘Guardianship of the Jurists’) model prevalent in Iran which is similar to a monarchy except that religious leaders are in direct charge of the government. Every other Muslim country today is ruled by a military or semi-military government where the rights of ordinary citizens are severely curtailed. None of these systems of governance is adequate for the 21st century. The unity of the ‘Ummah’ is also an abstract concept. Alliances and treaties are based on material economic and social interests. The onslaught of the American Empire with its allies on Muslim and non-Muslim countries alike with the massacre of untold millions has enraged ordinary people the world over, Muslims and
70 non-Muslims. In fact, ‘non-Muslim’ nations are more active and engaged against this threat. Thus the ordinary people of both Muslim and non-Muslim nations are natural allies against this common enemy, regardless of their religion, race or ethnicity. Instead of supporting the rogues who engage in religious rhetoric to send countless thousands to their deaths in far off lands, if the same people were to be galvanized to form a united front against international exploiters, it would be much more beneficial. Lastly, as far as virtuous ‘character’ is concerned, there is no dearth of moral or virtuous people today. In fact, as a proportion of the general population, there are many million more well intentioned and moral people in the world today, Muslim and non-Muslim than existed in the supposed golden past. Instead of wasting our time and energy on such non-issues, we should be concentrating on breaking free of the historical fallacies of the past to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
(Excerpted and Translated from ‘Hamari Tareekh Fehmi Aur Hamara Fikri-O-Siyaasi Bohraan’ by Hassan Jafar Zaidi, first published in Urdu monthly Adb-e-Lateef, Lahore, February, 2009)
The Role of Historiography in the Promotion of Religious Extremism
There is a growing trend of studying and writing the history as religious literature: it has gone extensively rampant to a dangerous level for the last few decades, reflecting extremism by itself, yet serving as an instrument to promote religious extremism in all its kinds and forms. That approach towards history writing and reading, was originated by the end of 19th and early 20th century. The political history of medieval Muslim kings and emperors, and their respective states and empires, was termed as “Islamic History” or “The History of Islam”. The religion and history were amalgamated to form an integral whole: the Muslim invaders, warriors, and conquerors were painted as heroes of Islam; a kind of religious sanctity was attached to their names; they were classified as religious cults and were portrayed as models for the revival of Islam. The protagonists of Islamic revivalism brought forth the
72 concept that the Muslims of medieval period in general and the heroes in particular, strictly adhered to the orthodox religious teachings; the Islamic Order was in force; the society reflected the true spirit of Islamic moral code; the golden principles of tolerance, equality, brotherhood and justice, as taught by Islam, prevailed at all levels in letter and spirit; and such presumptions formed the basis of the rise and glory of Muslims of that period. Further extending the hypothesis, the revivalists attributed the decline of Muslims to the hypothetical fact that the Muslims abandoned the practice of true Islam; degenerated their exemplary Islamic character; abolished the Islamic order; gave up the moral and ethical code of Islam; Muslim brotherhood and equality also vanished in the society etc. etc., thus leading to anarchy, chaos and final decline. Advancing this thesis further, the revivalists raised the slogan that if the model “Islamic Order” of the medieval period was revived and if the “Islamic moral code” was put again to practice, which, in their opinion, had been the pride of medieval Muslims, they could again emerge as a rising force and re-attain their lost dominance on the world. The Islamic revivalists and Mullahs in Pakistan went a step
73 further to propound the slogan that Pakistan, as they interpreted, was brought into being as a laboratory to experiment the “Islamic Order”, therefore if the supremacy of Mullahs was recognized in the power structure or the power was handed over to the religious parties, allowing them to launch their model “Islamic Order” and “Islamic moral code”, then Pakistan would not only lead the Muslim Ummah but would also hold sway on the entire world. The foregoing logic of revivalists dragged the simpleton Muslims to the trap of nostalgia and they were lost in the blind alleys of their imaginary past to search for their better future. As none of the roads to the bright future crossed through these blind alleys, the followers of Islamic revivalism could achieve nothing but self-annihilation, catastrophic failures and disillusionments. During the last 25 years, particularly during the period of military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, the nostalgia was whipped up in Pakistan, under the auspices of state institutions and authority, to such a high degree that it turned out to be a kind of religious narcissism, culminating into its logical end: the religious extremism, violence and terrorism. Military junta of Zia regime and the ISI promoted the nostalgia to curb
74 political freedom of the people and thrust their fascist political agenda upon the people against their will. American imperialism and its European allies, in the wake of socialist revolution of Afghanistan and the presence of Soviet troops there in the 80s, sponsored the promotion of religious extremism and lunacy in the name of Afghan Jihad; Western media projected those zealot Jihadis as freedom fighters, and inflated their “achievements” as defeating a super power USSR. At the same time, the Iranian Islamic revolution also whipped up lunatic religious zeal amongst the Shiites in Pakistan. The overall religious lunacy gave rise to the extreme religious terrorist organizations like Sipah –i-Sahaba, Tehrik-i-Nafaz Fiqh Jafaria, Lashkar-i-Jhangavi, Sipah-i-Mohammad, Jaish-iMoahammad etc., and its climax was Taliban movement in Afghanistan in the 90s. Sectarianism and terrorism engulfed the country: the places of worship, the mosques, the Imambargahs, the churches, even the graveyards were no longer the safe havens; volley of bullets of religious terror would follow you everywhere. The religious extremists, in the name of Islam, portrayed their idealistic model of “Islamic Order” and “Islamic Jihad” that, in their
75 opinion, prevailed during the medieval period as they had read or heard about it in the so called “Islamic History” written by the Islamic revivalists. To brain wash and mislead the innocent youth, they used the idealistic “Islamic History” written as religious literature by the Mullahs and religious revivalists of the recent past. The misguided youth got alienated from the ground realities of modern world and identified themselves with some idealistic characters of remote past, painted as heroes in the history books of revivalists, that prompted them to jump intrepidly in the blaze of Nimrood. That extreme lunacy led the same youth to believe that a fellow Muslim, if he did not belong to their sect, too was an infidel (Kafir); therefore the war between Kufar and Islam soon turned out to be the civil war between Muslims themselves. The infidel (Kafir) Soviet troops did not kill the Muslims during their presence in Afghanistan as much as the Muslims killed Muslims there; the scale of devastation of cities and townships at the hands of Muslims was far higher than what was faced at the hands of the Soviet troops; also the recent mass destruction and killings resulting from the US bombing is not comparable to that of the Soviets who had mostly
76 stayed away from the population centres. What have the Muslims gained out of indulging in a war between the two super powers? Mass destruction, devastation, killings, and humiliation at the hands of both the super powers! Both Islam and Muslims were driven to a downtrodden position. It is high time we look back and reconsider our conduct and attitude that had led us go astray in the idealistic imaginary past, far away from the present day living realities, modern challenges, and what was demanded of in the 21st century. What lies in the root of this attitude is the concept of history mingled with faith; naming the political history of despotic regimes of Muslims of medieval period as “Islamic History” or “The History of Islam” and attaching religious sanctity and holiness to it. Whereas the history of Europe and Americas is not termed as the “History of Christianity”; the history of Hindu rulers (Rajas and Maharajas) of India is not named as the “History of Hinduism”; the history of Buddhist rulers of India, China, Japan and the Far East is not called the “History of Buddhism” or “History of Taoism”; similarly the ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian and Iranian histories are not named after the respective mythologies.
77 The “History of Church” and the history of Christian rulers of Europe are treated and written as separate subjects. But why would I quote the examples of others: why I should not refer straight to the history of Muslims. Let us pass on to the history books written by the great medieval Muslim historians during the period of about twelve hundred years running through the era of Muslim empires. Did they ascribe any of their compilation to the synonym of “Islamic History” or “History of Islam”? Allama Mohammad Bin Jareer Al-Tabri, a great name among the historians of early periods and known as Imam-ul Mowarikheen, named his voluminous compilation as “Tarikh-ul-Ummam- walMulook” meaning “the history of the nations and the kings”. Though he covered about three hundred years of the history of only the Muslims yet he did not name it as ‘Islamic History”, given the fact that he was also the interpreter (Mufassir) of The Quran and he compiled his interpretation (Tafsir) as a separate book. The name he attributed to his history book indicates that, to his mind, the Muslims were not one nation but comprised of a number of nations bearing their identity based on their tribe, race or region; similarly the Muslim kings and emperors were just
78 “the rulers (Mulooks)” identical to the other rulers of the world belonging to different religions. Another great name, Al-Baladhari, who compiled all the expansions and conquests of Muslims on the vast lands from Spain to Sindh during early three centuries, entitled his compilation as “Futuh-ul-Buldan” which meant “conquests of the lands”; he did not choose to put it as “Futuh-ul-Islam” i.e. the conquests of Islam. Mullah Mohammad Umar AlWaqidi, a very prominent name among the renowned early Muslim historians, labelled all his compilations after the names of the lands conquered or the personalities; some of the names are “Futuhat-ul-Iraq”, “Futuhat-ul-Shaam” and “Kitab-ul-Maghazi-Al-Nabbawiyyah” etc. His secretary Mohammad Ibn Saad compiled all his works under the title of “Tabaqat-al-Kabeer” or “Tabaqat-al-Kubra” which earned the fame later on as “Tabaqaat Ibn Saad”. In Arabic, Tabaqaat means classifications or categories; as Ibn Saad portrayed the historical figures under different categories or classes, hence the name. Another great historian, Al-Masoodi, titled his famous compilation of history as “Murooj-ul-Zahab-wal-Muaadin-ul-Jawahir-fiTarikh” meaning “the meadows of gold, and mines of gems
79 in the history”: what a secular beautiful name. Another famous historian Ibn Athir compiled his multi volume works on history of Muslims under a very simple name “Al-Kamil-fi-Tarikh”, that means “the complete history”. Abdul Rehman Ibn Khaldoon, a great historian and first know sociologist of the world, who not only compiled the history but formulated the philosophy of history in his famous preamble (Muqaddimah) of his compilation, entitled his works as “Kitab-ul-Iber-wa-Diwan-ul-
Mubtada-wal-Khabar-fi-Ayyam-il-Arab-wal-Ajam-walBerber” which can be translated as “the book of narration and compilation of subjects and predicates of the periods of Arabs, Ajems (non-Arabs) and Barbarians (north Africans)”: more down to earth to describe the tribal, racial, and regional nature of the history of Muslims. Another prominent name is that of Abul Fida Ibn Kathir, famous not only for his work on history but also for his interpretation (Tafsir) of The Quran; he named his book on history as “Al-Bidayya-wal-Nihayya” that is “the beginning and the end”: a simple secular name. Jalal-ud-Din Al-Siyuti labelled his works as “Tarikh-ul-Khulafaa”, meaning “the history of Caliphs”, yet did not qualify them as caliphs of
80 Islam. A famous historiographer of North Africa and Spain, Alllama Al-Maqqari, entitled his compilation as “Nafha-ulTeeb” that is “the breeze of fragrance”: yet a beautiful secular name. Another rich source of history is Ahmad AliAl-Khatib’s “Tarikh-i-Baghdad” i.e. “the history of Baghdad”. Similarly a huge source of information is provided in the multi volume works of Ibn Asaaker who named his compilation as “Tarikh al-Kabir” or “Tarikh Damishq al-Kabir” meaning “a large history of Damascus”. Another interesting name comes from Ibn-i- Miskweh, who titled his famous source on history as “Tajaareeb ulUmmem” meaning “the experiences of nations”, which speaks of itself how secular his approach was towards the history. Ibn-i-Khalikaan, an authentic and very rich source on history in general and literary history in particular, termed his compilation as “Wifiyat-ul-Aaiyyaan” which means “obituaries of the renowned”. These are just the few names that I have counted, which are the most authentic sources and enjoy consensus of almost all the Muslim sects and schools, at least in regard to the history of Muslim rulers of medieval period. There is a long list of many more sources and compilations of medieval Muslim historians
81 which bear similar kind of secular or non-religious nomenclature without qualifying the names with “Islam” or “Islamic”. In the Subcontinent, the medieval Muslim historians who compiled the history of the Muslim rulers, the kings, and the emperors, also did not qualify that history to be “Islamic”. The major source regarding the conquests of Mohammad Bin Qasim in Sindh, commonly known as “Chach Namah”, was termed by medieval historians as “Fatah Namah Sindh”: the name given to it by its Persian translator Ali Koofi. An important treatise written during Mehmood Ghazanavi’s period was “Kiatab ul Hind” or “the Indica” by Abu Rehan Al-Bairuni; it was a book on the sociology of the subcontinent. One of the early historians who came from central Asia was Qazi Minhajud-Din Siraj: he compiled his accounts starting from the Adam and the Eve; went through all the prophets and the caliphs briefly; covered in detail the times of Mehmood of Ghazna, Shihab-ud-Din of Ghour and the Slave dynasty; named his compilation as “Tabaqat-i-Nasiri” i.e. the chronicles after the name of Sultan Nasir-ud-Din
Mehmood, the king in whose times Minhaj compiled his
82 works. That too was a tradition that the historian would compile his past and contemporary history and attribute it to the name of his contemporary king or emperor; some important ones for instance are “Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi”, “Tarikh-i-Mubarak Shahi”, “Makhzan-i-Afghani-Tarikh-iKhan-Jehani”, “Humayon-Nama”, “Tabaqat-i-Akbari”, “Akbar Namah”, “Iqbal Nama–i-Jehangiri”, “Shahjehan Namah”, and “Maasir-i- Alamgiri” etc. However even the chronicles which had not been attributed to the
contemporary rulers were not qualified with Islam or Islamic phrases. Mullah Abdul Qadir Badayuni, who was Qazi of Mughal emperor Akbar and covertly opposed his liberal policy of total reconciliation (Sulah-i- Kul); compiled annals from the times of Mehmood Ghaznavi to the times of Akbar; named his works as “Muntakhib-utTawareekh” meaning “the selected annals”. Another saga of the glorious Mughal period is “Muntakhab-ul-Lubab” meaning “the selected quintessence” by Mohammad Hashim Khafi Khan. Among the last ones, Ghulam Hussain Tabatabai has covered the period of fall of Mughal Empire in his narration known as “Siyar-ul-Muta’akhireen”, meaning “the biographies of the later (Mughals)”. Some of
83 the history books bear the names after the names of the respective compilers e.g. “Tareekh-i-Farishta”,“Tareekh-iMaasoomi” etc. None of the medieval Muslim historians of the subcontinent depicted the period of glory as “the glory of Islam”, nor they attributed the decline as “the decline of Islam”. The medieval Muslim historians had a secular approach about their description and narration of the events, too. They took history as political history and put forth the conflicts between the ruling classes as a matter of power politics. In their compilations, they brought out political discords and controversies between the rulers and the rulers-to-be, the kings and the princes, the governors and the ministers; with all available details of their political vengeance, palace intrigues, deceit, treachery, pretence, despotic killings; murders of their political rivals using different and novel tortuous means of cruelty, brutality, malice and vindictiveness which were assumed as accepted norms of the prevailing despotic political system of medieval era. They were straightforward in sketching the moral or immoral character of the ruling elite; their good points; and what could be termed as bad points including
84 debauchery, sodomy, drinking, and so many other acts prohibited under Islamic Law (Shariah). Nobody ever blamed them for character assassination of the apex leadership of “Islam” of the glorious Muslim period, nor was their writings declared as sacrilegious or anti-Islam. In fact they put forth, without any reservation, whatever they could dig out from the annals of the past and what they had observed in their contemporary age. They also didn’t feel apologetic about narrating those hard facts because what they described of the despotic rulers’ quest to snatch power and consolidate it, was considered to be the accepted norm and was consistent with the prevailing morality and politics of the contemporary despotic era; the world was unaware of any other system of politics, governance, and morality, than the monarchy, despotism, feudalism and tribalism. Hence according to the accounts of medieval historians, most of the Ummayyads, Abbasids, Fatamids. Andalussis, and Ottoman caliphs and their contemporary Muslim kings and emperors, with few exceptions, indulged in either kind of act or habit that was prohibited by Shariah; most of them consumed wine, arranged private concerts of dance and music, staffed their Harams with slave girls and concubines
85 (most of the Abbasid caliphs were born by the slave girls); some of them practiced sodomy: however, despite all of the prohibited, illegitimate and illicit acts, the clerics of faith (Ulama-i-Din) recited the names of those rulers in the holy sermons and considered allegiance and loyalty to them as mandatory principle of Islam. The rulers would in turn shower huge sums in the way of stipends, salaries and awards upon them; the offices of education and judiciary remained with these clerics; thus they were part of the state structure as a vital tool of the prevailing dynastic despotic monarchical order of that period. None of those clerics ever declared that monarchical order of governance was unIslamic, nor anyone of them ever launched a movement of promulgation of Islam as “complete code of life”. Apart from their personal moral delinquencies, those autocratic rulers followed the accepted norms of the prevailing order of despotism and tyranny to eliminate their rivals through worst kind of punishments leading to death; killing ruthlessly even the infants who could be the probable claimant of the crown; sparing not even the pregnant women who could give birth to a potential rival; large scale massacres, rapine and pillage of towns and cities, were
86 recognized by all as vital components of customary order of the day. Religion, faith and even blood relations bore no meanings so far as the quest for power was concerned. The forces of material interest had always been dominating upon the abstract ideologies and beliefs, not only in the past but in the present as well. All acts of tyranny and torture perpetrated to fulfil the quest for power were conventional according to the despotic political system and morality, current during that era all over the world irrespective of the religion, nationality, colour, cast or creed of the rulers. There was no other political or governmental system known to the world till that time. From the nomenclature adopted by the medieval Muslim historians covering the Muslim periods in the Arab lands, non-Arab lands (Ajem), Africa, Spain and India, and what had been illustrated in their accounts and narratives, we can reasonably conclude the following: 1Religion and state were taken for granted as separate entities during the glorious medieval era of Muslims. 2During the period of Khialfat-i-Rashidah (orthodox Caliphs), the prevailing tribal (Bedouin) Jirga styled
87 political order prevailed, which was in practice in the tribal society of Arabian Peninsula even before the advent of Islam. There existed no state, as such, in the Arabian Peninsula before Islam. In fact it was a tribal-confederacy, if I put it using Engels thesis of origins of State. As a result of widespread and rapid victories over the areas under Roman and Iranian empire during Khialfat-i-Rashidah, there occurred a transition from tribal Jirga styled political order to prevailing established monarchy styled state order. 3- After the period of Khialfat-i-Rashidah (orthodox Caliphs), all Muslim Caliphs, Sultans, kings, and emperors practiced their contemporary dynastic monarchical system of politics and governance. They never practiced so called “Islami Nizam” (Islamic order) that was practiced during Khialfat-iRashidah, and that being a Bedouin political system of tribal confederacy, could not be applied on the areas where monarchy rule prevailed for the last hundreds of years before Islam.
88 4- The dynastic monarchical system was the prevailing secular system of governance of that era all over the world; it was, in fact, in force since centuries before Islam by the rulers belonging to different religions and faiths; hence not only the Muslim rulers adapted to that system yet it was practiced by their contemporary rulers in other lands too. The dynastic system of monarchy was in force in Egypt, Greece, Rome, Babylon, Mesopotamia, Assyria, Iran, India, and China for the last about two and a half millennium before Islam and even after, continued to prevail as the sole recognized system of governance all over the world for about twelve centuries i.e. up to the European Industrial Revolution. 5During the peak of the Muslim glorious period of monarchies, ranging well over twelve hundred years, a whole host of renowned religious scholars (Ulema and Aimas) of Fiqh, Hadith and Tafsir, the Judges (Qadhis) and mystics (Soofia), lived through that era; some of them were of the stature that almost all Muslims were, and still are, the followers
89 (Muqallideen) of either of them; yet none of them ever proclaimed the prevailing dynastic monarchy as un-Islamic, nor they ever launched a movement of revival of true Islamic political order (Islami Nizam). That concludes that they recognized the principle of separation of state and religion by adhering to the authority of their contemporary secular dynastic monarchical system. Having reached these conclusions based on the historiography of medieval Muslim historians, we find that the medieval tradition of historiography withered away and a new era of Muslim revivalists emerged during 19th and 20th century in almost all Muslim societies. However our focus would now remain on the subcontinent. During the period of Mughal decline, the Muslim ruling classes, devoid of modern sensibility, got indulged in pleasure seeking delinquencies; whereas a section of Hindus, under the leadership of persons like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, had already taken to the path of enlightenment and modern sensibility; the Hindus, after obtaining the position of comprador of the British colonialist, had started to acquire and assimilate the modern sciences and fields of knowledge
90 emerging in the West. At the same time Muslim scholars like Shah Wali Ullah and his son Shah Abdul Aziz, in the name of reformism, were writing books campaigning against Shia-ism and the traditions of mysticism being
practiced for the last as many centuries in India as the Muslim rule lasted there. The result was that both Shiite and Sunni Ulemas used the history for religious arguments and the ties of history with faith were strengthened. A fundamentalist movement called Wahabi movement
emerged as a Jihadi movement under the leadership of Syed Ahmad Shaheed and Ismail Shaheed, which soon failed to achieve a lasting goal at military and political fronts, just the way the recent Taliban movement has failed in Afghanistan. At that time too, the English gave tacit approval to Syed Ahmed for recruiting the Jihadi squads of Muslim youth from Bengal and other areas under their control for the sake of destabilizing the Sikh rule in Punjab; these Jihadis had established a base area around Peshawar in the North-West and were giving tough fight to the Sikh regime. After the fall of Sikh regime when the Wahabi squads continued their armed activities under the leadership of Inayat Ali and Willayat Ali of Bihar and their targets
91 then were the British, they had to face a brutal thrust from the British till they were finally crushed. At the same time, the last trace of the so-called Mughal crown had already been brought to its end, after the failure of the war of independence of 1857 Getting frustrated on the Jihad front, the religious revivalists found their refuge in religious schools (Madarissahs), and centres of producing the literature, to disseminate their ideology; thus the schools of Deoband and Nadwah emerged as their main centres. That was where the revivalist tradition of history writing took its present shape, entirely contrary to the medievalist tradition of Muslim historians of the age of Muslim glory. The revivalists painted the glorious medieval era of Muslim monarchies as “Islamic History” or “The History of Islam” and reproduced it as religious literature. The degenerate Muslim feudal aristocracy patronized the revivalists and, wherever it suited to their interests, the Western colonialists also tacitly backed them. Originating from Shibli Noamani, Syed Sulaiman Nadavi and Abulkalam Azad, the revivalist tradition passed through to Akbar Shah Najibabadi, Aslam Jairajpuri, Rais Ahmad Jaafari and Abul Aala Moudoodi
92 etc. who ornamented history writing with flamboyant vocabulary, verbosity, and rhetoric; thus rendered history into a religious sermon or kind of fairy tales or tell-tale stories; it was quite contrary to the style of medievalist historians who concentrated on gathering and enumerating the facts and the details of the events as a reporter or news recorder. Shibli, Nadvi, and Abul Kalam laid the foundations of a style that addressed to the emotions of the readers rather than their intellect or thought process, and that formed a model for the later historians as a short cut to cheap popularity. Therefore almost all the history works written during the last century or so, either for a common reader or for the curriculum was nothing but distortion of facts coated with rhetoric, verbosity and religious phraseology. The revivalist historians tried to digress from a sizable bulk of the historical facts that could not be rationalized in the framework of modern morality and polity. If at all they mentioned some undesirable facts, they tried to qualify them with apologetic explanations and rationalizations. Mostly what they brought out, comprised the long-drawn-out narrations of some popular anecdotes, which could portray the Muslim rulers and invaders angelic
93 and righteous; or they elevated their characters narrating the events of their bravery and victory achieving domination upon the non-Muslims, mixed with religious idioms of emotions and sensations for their zeal and courage; trying to prove that neither booty nor material gains or expansion was their aim; that their sole objective was establishing the supremacy of Deen and Islam; and that they accomplished success due to their upright Islamic character. They highlighted their gallantry and chivalry towards the defeated non-Muslims: these gallant heroes, in their accounts, never committed any atrocity against the subjugated populace; no rapine and pillage of the conquered lands was ever seen happening at their hands; they never looted the subdued population nor made any slaves of the children and women of the inhabitants of the occupied territory. Such was never the description recorded by any medievalist historian who would never paint the rulers and their victories in that parlance nor would characterize them as Islamic; he would provide all the details of the loot, atrocity, rapine and pillage at the hands of the victorious armies of Muslim rulers without any note of apology. He would not need to put a note of apology, as
94 all that he described was consistent with the prevailing customs and accepted norms of the medieval despotism. Similar description would have been brought out by him, had the defeated ones were fellow Muslims and the scale of atrocity and brutality been the same as with non-Muslims, because the conquered ones were to be treated by the conqueror according to the same rules of prevailing despotism irrespective of religion or faith of the subjugated. What the Islamic revivalists Shibli, Nadvi, Azad and the ilk introduced as the style of writing “Islamic History”, was further enamelled by the Islamic fiction writers: a series of “Islamic historic romantic novels” were written by the genre of Islamic novelists like Rais Ahmad Jaafari, Naseem Hijazi and M. Aslam. They mixed religious lunacy with nostalgia in a manner that a common reader would take the so-called “Islamic heroes” as religious cults. More so, they penetrated to the heart of a common reader to deepen the indoctrination to the effect that all what was achieved by those Islamic heroes was due to their profound depth of religious character, zeal and fervour, and if the same religious character, zeal and fervour were revived amongst the Muslims, they could
95 regain their supremacy from Granada to the Red Fort of Delhi. Our national poet, Allama Iqbal, also gave fillip to the same indoctrination through some of his poetry;
seemingly he also did not study the original sources of history like Tabari, Ibn-i-Athir, Baladhari and Ibn-iKhaldun etc. He also drew his knowledge of history from the writers like Shibli, Nadvi, Abul Kalam Azad and the ilk; on that basis he integrated the revival of Muslims with the religious zeal and passion, instead of integrating with modern forces of progress and enlightenment; he promoted the concept of an orthodox superhuman (Mard-i-Momin) who could jump upon in the battlefield even without a sword (Be-Taigh). The central idea of his poems Shikwah and Jawab-i-Shikwah also points to the same conclusion that the medieval Muslim was an orthodox superhuman (Mard-i-Momin) whereas the present- day Muslim has gone far away from the faith and has been blinded with the glare of Western thoughts. He finds the road to progress through the idealistic medieval orthodoxy. S.M. Ikram, a historian of liberal right, puts forth in the preface of his book Rood-i-Kauthar as follows“…. Let us look at the events and the personalities in their true
96 perspective whether we may or may not satisfy our national self-adoration. This principle has been contradicted since the introduction of the style of history writing originated by Shibli’s Mazameen-i-Aalamgiri. As a matter of fact that was the natural reaction to the opening of floodgates of misinformation and fallacious propaganda against the history of Islamic India and the religion of Islam by the Western institutions of learning. But was that the path of national reformation? Can we, by adopting that path and having viewed the historical events through a colourful haze, draw those benefits out of the study of history that are understood to be prolific in this area of learning? I am certain that this is neither the historian way of looking at things nor it serves any of our national interests. If our ultimate passion is just to please our national ego, then, what if you just read the historical romances of M. Asalm and Nasim Hijazi to fulfil that obligation. Writing and studying history can be productive only if its rules and conventions are upheld and the principle of “truth is supreme to obedience” (Rasti Balaey Ta’at Ast) is considered supreme….” The defensive and apologetic outlook espoused by the Islamic revivalists, as exposed by
97 S. M. Ikram, puts us behind a “colourful haze”, the term he rightly used for it, and this is the same colourful haze that gives birth to the religious extremism. Hindu Muslim contradiction in the subcontinent was also one of the prime causes behind the nostalgic poetry and historiography of Islamic revivalists. In fact the Hindu revivalists associated the history of subcontinent with their religion, and assigning sanctity to their ancient and medieval rulers; painted them as their religious and national heroes. Muslims too had to counteract in the same coin. But that wave of idolization of the past did not help to thwart the challenges faced by the Muslims of the subcontinent. The way out to their grave problems was discovered by the modernist current initiated by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Syed Amir Ali, and Nawab Latif, which was steered ahead to its culmination by Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The Aligarh movement and other contemporary modernist movements spearheaded to liberate Muslims from the heavy shackles of nostalgia hanging around their necks and the stumbling block of dead weight of history-worship tied to their feet; and integrated them with the modern forces of current era to let them leap forward to find a bright future
98 lying ahead. Sir Syed criticized the delinquency of medieval hereditary Muslim feudal ruling class. Syed Amir Ali compiled the history of glorious period of Muslims but did not name it as the “Islamic History”; he titled it as “The History of Saracens”. Similarly Maulana Mohammad Hussain Azad, another lieutenant of Sir Syed, in his book Darbar-i-Akbari, brought forth the strong rejoinder to the criticism of revivalists on the golden era of Akbar, and presented the history alienated from the faith. After the emergence of Pakistan, the Islamic revivalists, however, kept up the same style of
historiography as founded by Shibli, Nadavi and Abul Kalam Azad i.e. the history sanctified as part of faith. The novels written under the same tradition by Rais Ahmad Jafari, M. Aslam and Naseem Hijazi, and the films and dramas on radio, TV and stage, based on those novels or the scripts of the same theme, got abundant promotion and popularity under official and unofficial patronage. People started to believe that that was the actual history; they assimilated it with their religious zeal and lunacy, and ingrained it deep into their emotional belief and perception as an integral part of their divine faith. More interestingly,
99 the Islamic revivalists portrayed the Pakistan movement and the history of establishment of Pakistan as if it was a religious revivalist movement; whereas the fact was that almost all the religious parties were the arch opponents of the founding of Pakistan, including Jamiat-ul-Ulmai Hind, Jamaat-i-Islami, Khaksar Tehrik, All India Momin
Conference, All India Shia Conference, Majlis Ahrar etc. The ruling classes of Pakistan, faced with huge but not insurmountable internal and external problems including poverty, illiteracy, backwardness, provincial autonomy, a hostile neighbour and the world imperialism etc., failed to resolve any of these in the interest of the people; they brought into play Islam to divert the attention of the people from the core issues to perpetuate and consolidate their personal rule, mostly acquired illegitimately, thus provided official patronage to promote the revivalist theory of Pakistan movement as a religious movement directed, in their opinion, to its sole objective of achieving a laboratory for Islamic order. Some prominent books brought forward by the official circles included, but not limited to, The Emergence of Pakistan by Choudhary Mohammad Ali and The Struggle for Pakistan by Dr. Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi;
100 both the writers held the positions of minister in the central cabinet, while Ch. Mohammad Ali had risen to the office of Prime Minister and had been known to have authored the constitution of 1956. Though in those early history books, the religious aspects of the Pakistan movement were highlighted as dominating the economic and political aspects, yet it was not portrayed as a movement of religious bigotry or lunacy. Later on Dr. Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi, in an attempt to reinforce his so-called “Pakistan Ideology” (Nazariya-i- Pakistan), wrote another book on the emergence of Islamic civilization in the subcontinent titled as “The Muslim Community of the Indo Pak Subcontinent”. S. M. Ikram, yet another historian of the same genre of liberal right, wrote his trilogy named Aab-i-Kauthar, Roodi-Kauthar and Mouj-i-Kauthar, taking account of the history of the Muslim civilization in the subcontinent as a lake, symbolized by the metaphor Kauthar, a lake of holy sweet water in the paradise, characterizing it through three consecutive ages: the initial stage as still water symbolizing the early Muslim sway; the second stage as a flowing water symbolizing the rise to its zenith and then the fall of the Muslim power; and the third stage as the tide of Muslim
101 mass movements leading to the creation of Pakistan. He was a liberal right- leaning historian of Ayub Khan’s era: yet despite his outlook of taking history as part of religious phenomenon, he is opposed to the Islamic romantic fiction writings of Naseem Hijazi and M. Aslam. Another guy of the same genre, Altaf Gohar, the official ideologue of Ayub’s regime, compiled Twenty Years of Pakistan to mark the so-called decade of reforms of Ayub Khan’s dictatorial rule; he also presented similar thoughts in the section relating to Pakistan movement. On the subject of fall of Dacca and the foundation of Bangladesh, a lot has been written by the Islamic revivalists, trying to find its root causes in the defiance of Islamic order and so called Pakistan ideology by the people of Pakistan, and the intrigues of the Hindus and the Jews. Always posted on important official positions, Dr. Safdar Mehmood, from the same genre of Islamic revivalist historians, wrote many books to promote that standpoint. In all his tell tales, what could not find some place worth mentioning, in the context of main causes of their separation, were the real political, economic, social and cultural issues faced by the Bengali masses starting
102 immediately after the foundation of Pakistan and followed by repeated humiliations at the hands of ruling classes of West Pakistan. A straight and simple issue of political, economic, and cultural autonomy; looked through the glasses of religion, faith, and ideology, promoted the religious extremism among the people of Western part i.e. the present Pakistan. In the elections of 1970, the only known fairest elections in our political history, the overwhelming majority of the people of both wings of the then Pakistan, rejected the rightist and the religious parties; however, the irony turned the table; Bhutto regime, the product of those elections, was soon hijacked by the Mullahs under the leadership of his cabinet minister, Kausar Niazi. Since declaring the Ahmadis a minority in 1974, till knuckling under the pressure of PNA movement by accepting their religious demands in 1977, that so called people’s regime also digressed from the mandate of the people by promoting the religious extremism. Though the objectives of the establishment of the History Commission and the department of Pakistan Studies in Quaid –i-Azam University were understood to reorient the prevailing
103 outlook by replacing the obscurantist and revivalist approach towards historiography with the people’s progressive outlook based on realism, but that could not be achieved due to the sway soon gained by the feudalism and Mullahism in that regime. Hence, the hitherto prevailed revivalist tradition of history writing perpetuated and nothing got changed. Zia-ul-Haq, in order to consolidate and perpetuate his dictatorial regime in a country that was founded on the basis of liberal concepts of Muslim Nationalism laid down by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, employed religious revivalism as an instrument in its crudest form and to the most dangerous limit of extremism: consequently, for him, writing “Islamic History” as religious literature was quintessential to fit his designs. Therefore in his period, what was presented in the name of history of Muslims, ranging from the level of school curriculum to the level of digests and fashion magazines, crossed far beyond manifold than what Nasim Hijazi and M. Aslam had shaped. The fictions in the so-called digests, on the one hand, promoted superstition, obscurantism, horror, and detective fiction; on the other hand, portrayed
104 the “Islamic Heroes” as supernatural characters. The readers of such fictions fell prey to a false romantic religious lunacy and narcissism. During the same period, the Services Book Club of Armed Forces published Abul Aala Maudoodi’s commentary Tafheem-ul-Quran: it was supplied in all the libraries of armed forces and distributed among all the officers. Promotion of Maudoodi’s revivalist and fundamentalist thoughts was sponsored officially, given though the undeniable fact of history that Moudoodi was the arch opponent of Pakistan movement. On the other hand, the Tafseer-i-Ahmadi of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the torchbearer of knowledge and enlightenment for the Muslims of subcontinent and known as the first founder of Pakistan movement, was never considered worthy of notice by any official or unofficial circle. During 60’s, the Majlise-Taraqqi-e-Adab Lahore, published the anthologies of essays and papers of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, but these were never reprinted during the last 40 years. Study of history in the curriculum was also introduced as religious literature. The origins of Pakistan movement was related to Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi (Mujaddid Alf-i-Thani) who was, in fact, the arch opponent
105 of Akbar’s policy of total reconciliation which was a policy of accommodating Tooranis, Iranis and Hindus, all of them, in the power structure that laid down the foundations and erected the edifice of Mughal Empire in the subcontinent. As a matter of fact, Sheikh Ahmad Sirhindi was representing the vested interest of only one faction of Muslim aristocracy i.e. the Tooranis who were against giving any share to Iranis and Hindus in the power hierarchy. Hence Sheikh Ahmad issued religious decree (Fatawa), proclaiming the Shiites (the Iranis) as nonbelievers (Kafirs). That led to the fact that, by declaring Sheikh Ahmad Sirhandi as the founder of Pakistan movement, the Islamic revivalists laid the basis of sectarian hatred in the curriculum of the very foundations of Pakistan movement. After that, Shah Wali Ullah, Shah Abdul Aziz, Faraidhi Movement and Wahabi Movement, were portrayed as religious fundamentalist movements, isolated from the contemporary political, economic, social and cultural factors. That way the Pakistan movement was associated with the religious fundamentalism. Then a meagre mention of Sir Syed ‘s Aligarh movement; because it carried such a heavy weight that it could not be ignored; was included as a
106 chapter highlighting only its educational aspects, yet ignoring its progressive aspects of enlightenment that
would have imparted the students with his and his colleagues’ scientific ideas, liberal thoughts, and literary values based on nature. The objective of the foundation of Muslim League in 1906 has also been described, right from the day of its founding, as the achievement of a separate country for Muslims of the subcontinent, serving as a laboratory for Islamic System. Khilafat Movenet is also linked to the Pakistan movement, though Gandhi took over the leadership of that movement and the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah never took part in any of the activities or meetings of that movement. The Quaid-i-Azam considered Kamal Ataturk, instead of Ottoman Khalifah, his hero and recommended his daughter to read Grey Wolf, the biography of Kamal Ataturk. The presidential address of Allama Iqbal in the Allahabad session of Muslim League in 1930 has also been distorted in all the textbooks and history books written by the revivalists. In fact, in his address, the Allama did not demand for all the Muslims of the subcontinent, rather he demanded for only the Muslims of the North West of India,
107 an autonomous state as a province within the federal framework of a united India with a common centre: Bengal was excluded and not mentioned even. His proposed state in North West India was part of a united defence system of India, as he described it; and he quoted in that regard the example of common armies of Hindus and Muslims in the era of Mughal emperor Akbar, fighting jointly shoulder to shoulder against the invaders from North. Similarly the Lahore Resolution of 1940 is also distorted and the demand of different federal “states” constituting geographical units of Muslim majority provinces in North West and North East is never brought out. The cabinet Mission Plan of 1946 is also side-tracked, though Muslim League accepted it despite the fact that it was a plan in which the demand for Pakistan was rejected and a grouping scheme of federating zones was proposed by the British Cabinet and transfer of power was going to take place under that arrangement. The Muslim League leadership agreed to stay in the united Indian framework under the Cabinet Mission Plan and the Quaid-i-Azam struggled hard to get that plan through. He preferred the proposed zonal scheme compared to partition of India and strived to convince the British authorities till
108 early 1947 not to abandon that plan, who were knuckling under the pressure of Indian National Congress to partition and create a Pakistan that the Quaid had always termed as “moth eaten non-viable Pakistan”. And when it was eventually coming into being, he accepted the Partition Award of June 3, 1947, with a heavy heart, as he never wanted the partition of Bengal and Punjab envisaged in that award. These undivided provinces, as demanded by the League in all its resolutions in and after March 1940, either as part of a separate entity or forming part of a zonal scheme within the united Indian framework, constituted a sizable number of non-Muslims who would have enjoyed a considerable weight in the body politic of Pakistan; consequently theocracy would never have been possible in any form in that country as demanded by the League but was never awarded. None of the Muslim League resolutions demanded Pakistan as a country meant for the Muslims of the entire Indian subcontinent nor it was ever demanded as a “laboratory of the Islamic Order”. The Partition Award of 1947 did not include any provision for the migration of the Muslims of India towards Pakistan for the sake of their “ideology”. Quaid-i-Azam strongly
109 opposed any kind of migration across the borders: he never used the term “ideological state” for Pakistan in any of his speech or writing. During the last twenty-five years i.e. since the Zia period, a number of generations have grown up studying the idealist history; every line of which props up short sightedness, intolerance, and bigotry. In the wake of the events followed by the incidents of September 11, 2001, the forces of 21st century have opened our eyes to the harsh reality of the wide gap between our idealist imaginary religious narcissism and the existent, concrete, real world. If we look forward to determine the path to our future, then, instead of looking back to an idealistic past, we will have to focus on the hard realities of our present and the future; we are left with no choice but to give up running after the hallucinations; fix a concrete goal; get rid of nostalgia and fulfil what is required of the current forces of modern age. Following conclusions have been drawn summing up the discussion in this paper that may help us as the guidelines to straighten our approach of study of history to its correct direction.
110 1The political history of Muslims should be studied as a part of world history of normal human beings: the ruling classes or the nobility, the ministers and the caliphs, who had been involved in the warfare and palace intrigues of power struggle and played all the tactics of prevailing despotic political system, be treated as human beings the same way as the medieval Muslim historians always treated them in their accounts. 2The religion (Deen) should be understood to be separate from the politics and government affairs, as the Muslim rulers of medieval period understood while they practiced their contemporary secular system of hereditary monarchy without involving in any debate of “Islamic” or “un-Islamic” about it, and that played instrumental role in their glorious rise. We should adopt our contemporary secular systems of democratic politics for governance and liberal moral code for social order, based on the current forces of modern era. 3So far as the religious piety is concerned, the number of pious and devout Muslims that existed
111 during the medieval glorious period, exists almost by the same ratio even today. The rise or domination of Muslims, or to be more precise, their success in establishing big empires during medieval period had nothing to do with their religious piety or devoutness; many of those empire builders were not so pious. Likewise, their fall or destruction of their empires had no relationship with their irreligious or unorthodox attitudes, as many of the rulers during the fall of those empires were good Muslims too. Neither piety was associated with their glorious past, nor unorthodoxy or casual attitude towards religion has any relationship with their existing plight. 4The political and moral systems of medieval hereditary feudal monarchy were not drawn from Islam; consequently no attempt should be made to save those decadent systems in the name of Islam. The European industrial revolution drastically changed all the medieval values and systems. Therefore we should not reject the new secular democratic system and liberal moral values
112 pronouncing as un-Islamic or Western; rather we should adopt them whole-heartedly political and as our moral
prevailing systems. 5-
The greatest lesson drawn from the scientific study of the period of rise of Muslims is that the prevailing contemporary order and the current trends should be recognized as the guiding principles for redemption.