Religiously Policing, Policizing and Politicizing
One only needs to hear the name of Jami-a-Hafsa today to get the pictorial of young women and men armed with sticks parading in the streets around Lal Masjid trying to implement the rite of the religion or so it is said. The latest in this the declaration that a “Shariat” Court, a parallel legal system is to be established as referred to our very own Capitan here and the Dawn.
Where this so called ‘policing’ by the students has extended to shops and households in and around the G-6/7 area, the students are now standing on the crossroads warning women drivers to stop doing so or they may face dire consequences. Some of the stick wielding techniques employed by these students reminds me of what I have seen of the ‘religious police’ or ‘mutawwa’ system in place in Saudi Arabia where this is permissible under the strict code of Wahabi Islam that is dominant in the state. However, the point to note here is that the system is in line with the system of governance in the State itself rather than running parallel to it.
My issue and perhaps, the issue of most people would be that an oppressive approach where a few individuals believing themselves to have the divine right to correct and force their impression of religion without the concept of individual free will based on knowledge rather than the intent behind the aggression which seems to be the formulation of an Islamic State.
Not meaning to offend anyone, here is my limited understanding of political systems in Islam. Implementing the laws of God necessitates the role of man who is given the position of God’s vicegerent or representative on earth. This much is agreed upon. The debate arises between a perceived clash between democracy and Islamic systems. Those who argue against the compatibility of Islam and democracy usually begin by saying that a democracy gives sovereignty or power of rule to the people, while Islam gives sovereignty or power of rule to God, which would not allow for a “government by the people.” In other words, these skeptics believe that the opposite of democracy in relation to a religious political system must be theocracy, meaning the rule of God on earth by a religious authority or class. However, this argument presupposes that there is a single religious authority or class within the Islamic tradition that has special access to God’s will and therefore has the right and power to impose divine will on the land. This is where the argument fails in relation to Islam, because the Islamic tradition, at least in the majority Sunni teaching, does not recognize a pope-like figure, nor does it preach the establishment of a religious class that has special access to divine will.
In fact, to the contrary, it can be argued that the Qur’an warns against the establishment of a religious class. The Qur’an says that past religious communities took their religious leaders [for their lords beside God] (At-Tawbah 9:31) and accuses many in the religious class of Jews and Christians of stealing people’s wealth and turning people [away from the path of God] (At-Tawbah 9:34). Furthermore, Muslims believe that after Prophet Muhammad there is no one who has direct access to God’s will, and therefore no one person or group has the legitimacy or authority to claim a pope- or priesthood-like status in the Muslim community.
In Islam, legitimacy of any power or institution is derived mainly from people’s acceptance of this legitimacy. In other words, one can’t gain legitimacy as a ruler unless people agree to this, not to have it imposed on them. Whenever a comparison is made between Islam and anything else, we need to remember that Islam is not a man-made idea. Islam is a God-ordained way of life, and as such it reflects the infinite divine wisdom, which is absolutely infallible. With this kind of understanding, Islam, as reflected in the word of God and the sayings of the Prophet–which he also received by way of revelation–present the ultimate truth, with the understanding that humans with all their wisdom and intellect are still fallible to the vices of a common man.
So where then does this class of clerics and their students fall, in terms of a religious class? Do the ends justify the means? Is their understanding of a social and moral code of life supported by testimony in the form of “Ajma'” and “Ijtihaad” whereby the perspectives and understandings of a fair number of representatives of all sects and people within the nation have been understood and catered for in order to remove misunderstandings?