I recently attended a Juma’a prayer in Toronto, where the speaker’s Khutba was suppose to be about ‘Izza in Islam. I was quite dismayed when the Khutba on the 'izza in Islam quickly turned into a political rally. It is quite unfortunate that the 'izza of Islam has deteriorated in the eyes of so many Muslims including the speaker to a simple political message. It is clearly a reflection of the state that Muslims are in today.
I certainly wouldn’t mind if the speaker and others who share his beliefs promoted political activism as a civic duty. You can argue that as Canadians, it is our right and obligation to elect our political representatives. However, even citizens have the right to abstain from voting. Of course, the place for such a message would not be on the minbar of Rasool Allah (peace be upon him).
I am in no way against the preservation of Muslims’ rights in this country or any other country. However, I do not believe that voting is the only viable option for Muslims. As a matter of fact, there are much better alternatives that, if studied and given the proper effort as the issue of elections is, can have a bigger impact on the lives of Muslims. These options include, but are not limited to, strong lobby groups, highly skilled lawyers in constitutional issues, and proper use of the media.
However, the subject of this article is not "the civic obligation". The issue at hand is the decision by the speaker to brand the issue of voting and elections as a religious “obligation”; i.e. Wajib or Fard. Without providing any strong proofs from Shariah, the speaker is actually making Tashree'a (تشريع) in this Deen. Imam Shafi’ey said “whoever changes the ruling of a general to a specific, then he has made Tashree’a”. If changing the context of ruling from general to specific is Tashree’a, how about making up an obligation altogether? This is a very dangerous territory to be in as Tashree'a is the sole right of Allah SWT alone; "Is it not His to create and to govern?" (أَلاَ لَهُ الْخَلْقُ وَالأَمْرُ).
The speaker’s message that "Muslims have a religious and civic obligation to vote in Canadian elections" is misguided and has no basis in Quran or Sunnah. He provided the following evidences to support his argument:
- (وَلِلَّهِ الْعِزَّةُ وَلِرَسُولِهِ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ) “But honour belongs to Allah and His Messenger, and to the Believers;” (63:8).
Comments: the speaker’s conclusion that this verse implies that Muslims must have political power is absurd. This verse was revealed about Abdullah ibn Ubay ibn Salool, the head of hypocrites in Madina. The verse was revealed when he said that he would drive Prophet Mohammad PBUH out of Madina. Allah revealed that power and strength belongs to Allah, His messenger and the believers who follow him, but the hypocrites do not comprehend that. How can someone claim that by putting the affairs of Muslims in the hands of non-believers is strengthening and empowering Muslims? Is it an obligation on Muslims to empower a secular system of law? Allah says:
وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ لِمَا تَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُكُمُ الْكَذِبَ هَـذَا حَلاَلٌ وَهَـذَا حَرَامٌ لِّتَفْتَرُواْ عَلَى اللّهِ الْكَذِبَ
"But say not - for any false thing that your tongues may put forth - "This is lawful, and this is forbidden," so as to ascribe false things to Allah." (16:116)
- “The Believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice regular charity..." (9:71).
وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاء بَعْضٍ يَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُقِيمُونَ الصَّلاَةَ وَيُؤْتُونَ الزَّكَاةَ
Comments: the speaker omitted the rest of the verse: "and obey Allah and His Messenger" (وَيُطِيعُونَ اللّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ ). He omitted the end of the verse in order to suggest that 'enjoining good and forbidding evil' is more important than prayer and fasting because it came before it in the verse. However the end of the verse is the most important part, because without it, the first three commands are meaningless. Hence, the order doesn’t matter because the most important order came last. Furthermore, in the Arabic language, the use of the letter “و” (and) implies no specific order.
We are commanded by Allah to obey Him and His messenger in all our affairs. One cannot claim that Muslims have a religious duty to vote without providing valid proof from Quran and Sunnah. This proof has to be based on the correct interpretations of Quran and Hadith by righteous scholars. It cannot be based on desires or what one "thinks" is right.
Furthermore, the speaker’s logic in interpreting Quran is flawed. Your interpreted "enjoining good and forbidding evil" as the modern-day equivalent of "activism". "Enjoining good and forbidding evil" is an obligation in Islam that is governed by specific conditions and rules just like prayers or fasting. The speaker can refer to books of Fiqh about the rulings regarding “enjoining good and forbidding evil”. It cannot be reduced to the mere meaning of activism to justify political participation.
The irony is that in the same speech, the speaker forbade other Muslims from actually practicing their true duty of "enjoining good and forbidding evil”. In his Khutba, the speaker said that those who say: "this is a secular country and therefore we should not vote", should leave us alone. Subhana Allah, who gave him the authority to deny Muslims their God-given right to refute his arguments? Is it only acceptable when it serves his desires in promoting political participation, but not acceptable otherwise?
- The Hadith "A strong believer more beloved to Allah than a weak Muslim".
Comments: You said that the strength that is intended in the Hadith is not only individual strength, but also collective strength that is not only physical, but it can be spiritual or social, or political. I agree with the speaker about the conclusion based on other proofs, but this Hadith does not in itself give this meaning. However, political power and strength is important as long as it conforms to the commands of Allah SWT. The fact of the matter is, political participation in a non-Muslim society does not conform to the commands of Allah SWT and there are many proofs against it (this article is not the place to present them). But for argument sake, let's say that the Fatwas about voting are correct, at best voting is considered permissible (according to these Fatwas). So where does the speaker find evidence to make it obligatory?
In this next section, I will show the weaknesses in the arguments that lead the speaker to believe that political activism is a religious obligation. He raised the following examples as clear examples of why Muslims must elect representatives in order to protect themselves:
- France's ban on Hijab
- France's law that requires a license to have a public prayer
- An 1800's Canadian law that forbade Native Indians from praying in a certain way because it offends Christians.
All of the examples above fall short of proving the argument.
- The fact is that Muslims are a minority in Canada even if, as the speaker mentioned, our population doubles every ten years. Our concentration is in metropolitans, meaning that the number of seats in those metropolises will always limit our influence.
- The fact is that Muslims are very diverse when it comes to social, political, and economical issues. It would be next to impossible to mobilize every Muslim to vote for one party. Indeed, one can get the majority of a congregation in a Mosque or Islamic Centre to vote for one candidate, but it's very difficult to mobilize them all to one party. The proof of this is that the speaker’s organization unofficially endorses NDP, while another Islamic organization endorses and runs candidates for the Liberal party. At the end of the day, the Muslim vote will be divided in a distribution very similar to those of the Canadian public at large. Hence, losing any political impact on the election’s outcome.
- The ban on Hijab in France and Germany is a reaction to the critical mass that Muslims enjoy in that country (as you mentioned, Muslims have a higher percentage of population in France than any other Western nation). France's motivation is to protect its secular system from Muslims. It is not an issue of political representation; it is an issue of Creed. France is the birthplace of secularism and the increased number of religious symbols in its society is a threat to their Creed of secularism.
- The same argument can be made to their law about requiring licenses to host a public prayer. In the United States, a law was passed to prevent prayers in schools. Another law is under review to ban the word of God from their constitution. These are all measures to protect secularism that no political representation can resolve.
- As for the Canadian law in the 1800's that banned Native Indians from prayer in a certain manner because it was offensive to Christians, this kind of law and others like it is a law that can be challenged under the Canadian constitution. So I would argue that we need better lawyers, not politicians.
It is a fact that politicians play the public for their votes. They are only your friends when elections time looms. You fail to recognize that in the United States, even though Muslims and a large majority of Arabs voted for George W. Bush, it did not prevent his government from making the U.S. Patriot Act a law. It did not protect thousands of American Muslims from being detained with absolutely no charges or proofs. Furthermore, recently Britain and France moved to instate laws that would limit Muslim representatives from running for office. Is the speaker familiar with headlines such as “No place for French Muslims on party list” and “British Labour Blocks Muslim Candidates”?
These headlines are a direct consequence of greater Muslim visibility in Europe and America where Muslims are reaching critical masses. Secular governments do not like strong Muslim voices, as is apparent in our own Islamic countries that are supported by Western powers. In secular societies, governments can and will suspend democracy to attain their goals. They will protect their secularism and interests at all costs. The sooner we recognize this, the better we can equip ourselves and our children with facing these challenges. This is the challenge of the Jahiliya in the modern era.
Lastly, the speaker published an article entitled "Canadian Muslims' new political muscle" that was published in the Globe and Mail on April 15, 2004. In his article, he said:
"Traditionally, Muslims integrated well into almost every country where they settled. They married into local populations, befriended citizens and indigenous peoples and collectively proved themselves an asset. The evidence is there, throughout the societies of Spain, Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran, Egypt, India and in northern and sub-Saharan Africa."
What does integration have to do with political participation? Integration is a completely different subject all together (you can read my article on Integration that is posted on this website). However, the speaker implies that integration equals political participation. But what he failed to realize, is that the time period that he’s describing was under and an Islamic government and laws, not a secular system. It is the same flawed reasoning that deduces the participation of Muslims in secular politics from the integration of Muslims with natives of local populations under Islamic Rule.
Previous to this paragraph, the speaker wrote:
"The ghetto mentality, be it geographical, social, or political, was never part of early Muslim history."
What exactly did he mean by a "ghetto mentality"? Did he mean those who reject his ‘religious!’ call to participate in secular politics and work with and for its anti-Islamic laws? Or did he mean those who will not answer his call unless he provides a valid proof from Quran and Sunnah (which of course he can't)?
Allah SWT mentioned that among the signs of the hypocrites
الَّذِينَ يَتَّخِذُونَ الْكَافِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاء مِن دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَيَبْتَغُونَ عِندَهُمُ الْعِزَّةَ فَإِنَّ العِزَّةَ لِلّهِ جَمِيعًا
"those who take for allegiances with Unbelievers rather than Believers:
is it the 'Izza (empowerment) that they seek from them? Nay all 'Izza is with Allah" (4:139).
So be weary of being counted amongst the hypocrites.
The speaker so passionately asked in his Khutba if he had delivered his message. He so eagerly demanded everyone to acknowledge that he delivered his message. Indeed, I bear-witness that he delivered his message: a misleading message of ignorance. I understand that as humans, it is not easy for us to acknowledge that so much of effort was lost to a wrong cause. But this is the result of not considering the evidence from Quran and Sunnah beforehand. I remind the speaker and all those who adopt an opinion before considering the evidence from Quran and Sunnah that it is better to recognize the truth than to continue in falsehood (الرجوع للحق خير من التماد في الباطل). Allah SWT decreed that He accepts the repentance of a Muslim so long as his soul remains in his body. It is never too late. I pray that the speaker will sincerely consider these words and that he will think about the day when we all shall stand in front of Allah SWT alone. I also pray to Allah SWT to guide all Muslims to the teachings of Quran and correct Sunnah and to be critical of such arguments until the irrefutable proof is presented.
وآخر دعوانا أن الحمد لله رب العالمين
(Note: I emailed the speaker on the same day that he delivery his Khutba, with the same message in this article. However, I received no reply).