OPINION / SPEECHES

EGYPT AND THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM BY RAASHIED GALANT

Date Posted: August 04, 2013

By RAASHIED GALANT

Email: info@uhuruspirit.org




The dust will not settle soon from the politics of the coup in Egypt. It is now the textbook case of how to fail at transitioning to democracy. Much like South Africa is the textbook case of how to succeed at transitioning to democracy. And after its failed experiment with democracy, Egypt is now again transitioning into something else, albeit something familiar - military rule.

For the people then who cheered on this military coup – the rebels, the occupiers, the protesters, the democrats, the entrenched elites and the secularists – it was a matter of better the devil you know, than the one you don't know. And in here is an elephant in the room confronting the world, but much more starkly, the Muslim Ummah.

Despite all the politics around the coup, what was that devil confronting the Egyptians that they so much despised and nipped in the bud? It was the Ikhwaanul Muslimeen. And here now I do not mean the Muslim Brotherhood in its politicised manifestation as the Freedom and Justice Party, but in a generalised sense of governing-Islam. That is, a Muslim party espousing Sharia and holding sway over governance, political institutions and the rule of law. This is not about Muslims (individuals) in power or politics, but about a Muslim party espousing Sharia (which is what the Ikhwaan is fundamentally about) being in power.

In both a macro-sense, holding sway formally over countries and Kingdoms, and in a micro-sense, controlling formally or by force territories, cities, villages, suburbs, and even families; Muslim power in this century is despicable and horrendous. At the macro-level, it is governing-Islam or the trendy #politicalislam or #islamism hash tags. At the micro-level it is simply Muslim power. In Muslim-majority Egypt, it was the spectre of governing-Islam that was nipped in the bud.

There are no adjectives to describe some of the acts against humanity - against communities and their cultures and heritage, against people young and old, women and young girls, non-Muslim communities as well as differing Muslim communities - that Muslim power has perpetrated in large swathes of the Earth over just the past few years alone. The most reprehensible of these are committed by forces who are not governing, but simply in power. The militia, rebels, outlaws, village councils, clerics, or social movements who hold sway over many supporters or soldiers. Their acts are committed in the name of Islam, on the foundation of the Quran or Sunnah, and almost always in the robes and context of pious Islam. It is the testimony about this, that confronts the Muslim Ummah now.

As for governing-Islam and where in the many countries it exists today, it is replete with infringements in varying degrees of intensity against dignity, equality, security, individual freedom and of course human rights. Justice in many instances in these countries are cut short for women, minorities, non-Muslims or differing Muslims. To say that Muslim power in this century is in a rotten malaise is a very kind way of drawing attention to the elephant I am speaking about here. For the Muslim Ummah, our very testimony that there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger, is up for contestation. It is not at stake, since yes there is no danger in that being lost.

But what is it then that we are really going to testify about when we are before this God whom we say is God? The thing is, we have to decide now what it is we are going to testify about when we get there. As Muslims well believe, God has made covenants with different nations and people over the years, and as an Ummah we certainly have a covenant with God on reciting Laa ielaa ha iellalaa Muhammad rasoolloelaa. And we have been exhorted in our covenant to testify to Justice, to practice good and forbid wrong. Muslim power as it manifests today violates all of this in many different ways.

That the Quran expressly permits us to bear arms and engage in warfare, means that the Ummah will always have within it grounds to germinate the seeds of rebellion against tyranny and in defence of justice and the oppressed. This is well-nigh the very purpose of the covenant with Allah, since what would the world look like if not for tamarrod? But for every refrain to violence in the Quran, and there are indeed several, it is trumped by exhortations to not transgress limits, to show justice, mercy, compassion or to forgive. Even if it is a great enmity that confronts you:

O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do. [ Maida [5] - 8]

And fight in the Way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah likes not the transgressors. [Baqarah [2] - 190]

In this globalised age, we can no longer be confused about justice and violations of this. And yes, much like pious Islam in the centres of Muslim power is beset by contradictions, hypocrisy, corruption, and even decadence, so too is it the case in other centres of power – be it liberal democracy, neo-colonial dictatorships or communist/socialist enclaves who “piously” seek to uphold the principles they champion, and where many injustices are also committed under their watch. But it is an aside that neither justifies nor detracts from the severity of the infractions committed under Muslim power. Because in point of fact, the Quran fails to justify any sort of injustice against people; nor does it permit the coercion of matters of faith onto people, nor does it provide immunity against committing evil and mischief on this earth. It provides recourse though, for those who believe, to the mercy and forgiveness of sins by the Almighty. But if it is to that expressly that Muslim perpetrators yearn by way of spiritually assuaging their ghastly deeds, then they are well aware too of the very sins and injustices they commit and which they may seek forgiveness for, and which every other Muslim then is required to testify against and eradicate from this earth where it is found.

I do not want Muslim power over me. I want my constitution, of my country, South Africa. And I shall be a Muslim under that Constitution, because it respects and protects my right to choose this lifestyle, and it is precisely that – a lifestyle choice.

And in choosing this lifestyle, I shall respect other people’s right to worship and believe in whom and whatever they like. Why, because:

To you be your religion, and to me my religion. [Kafirun [109] - 6]

And when they hear Al-Laghw (dirty, false, evil vain talk), they withdraw from it and say: "To us our deeds, and to you your deeds. Peace be to you. We seek not the ignorant." [Qasas [28] – 55] And I shall not denigrate or dispute with others in their faith and practice, because

So unto this (religion of Islam, alone and this Qur'an) then invite (people), and Istaqim [(i.e. stand firm and straight on Islamic Monotheism by performing all that is ordained by Allah (good deeds, etc.), and by abstaining from all that is forbidden by Allah (sins and evil deeds, etc.)], as you are commanded, and follow not their desires but say: "I believe in whatsoever Allah has sent down of the Book [all the holy Books, this Qur'an and the Books of the old from the Taurat (Torah), or the Injeel (Gospel) or the Pages of Ibrahim (Abraham)] and I am commanded to do justice among you, Allah is our Lord and your Lord. For us our deeds and for you your deeds. There is no dispute between us and you. Allah will assemble us (all), and to Him is the final return. [Shura [42] – 15]

And I shall not venture to impose my lifestyle on others nor restrict others from making their own lifestyle choices even where it may contradict boundaries I have set for myself. Why, because:

There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower. [Baqarah [2] – 256]

He who obeys the Messenger (Muhammad ), has indeed obeyed Allah, but he who turns away, then we have not sent you (O Muhammad ) as a watcher over them. [Nisa [4] – 80]

And what is forbidden for me to consume, is not forbidden to others, for it applies only to the believers and not to all mankind

O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), gambling, Al-Ansab , and Al-Azlam (arrows for seeking luck or decision) are an abomination of Shaitan's (Satan) handiwork. So avoid (strictly all) that (abomination) in order that you may be successful . [Maida [5] - 90]

O you who believe! Eat not Riba (usury) doubled and multiplied, but fear Allah that you may be successful. [Al-Imran [3] – 130]

O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah and give up what remains (due to you) from Riba (usury) (from now onward), if you are (really) believers. [Baqara (2) – 278]

And while Allah promises a great chastisement for those who reject the Quran and the prophet, I have no right to exert any chastisement or punishment for unbelief, because that is only the prerogative of God.

Not for you (O Muhammad , but for Allah) is the decision; whether He turns in mercy to (pardons) them or punishes them; verily, they are the Zalimun (polytheists, disobedients, and wrong-doers, etc.).

And to Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. He forgives whom He wills, and punishes whom He wills. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. [Al-Imran [2] - 128-129]

And say: "The truth is from your Lord." Then whosoever wills, let him believe, and whosoever wills, let him disbelieve. [Kahf [17] – 29]

And where a believer may transgress, omit or sin against their own personal belief, even if they be my very own kith and kin, I shall pursue no chastisement of them in the belief or fear that their sin shall taint my honour or reckoning with God. Why, because

And no bearer of burdens shall bear another's burden, and if one heavily laden calls another to (bear) his load, nothing of it will be lifted even though he be near of kin. You (O Muhammad ) can warn only those who fear their Lord unseen, and perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat). And he who purifies himself (from all kinds of sins), then he purifies only for the benefit of his ownself. And to Allah is the (final) Return (of all). [Fatir [35] – 18]

If you disbelieve, then verily, Allah is not in need of you, He likes not disbelief for His slaves. And if you are grateful (by being believers), He is pleased therewith for you. No bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another. Then to your Lord is your return, so He will inform you what you used to do. Verily, He is the All-Knower of that which is in (men's) breasts. [Zumar [39] – 7]

And the end shall not justify the means, for where I confront evil, it must be with something better

Repel evil with that which is better. We are Best-Acquainted with the things they utter. [Mu’minun [23] – 96]

The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e. Allah ordered the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly), then verily! he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend. [Fussilat [41] – 34]

And so I shall be Muslim and live in peace and harmony with my countrymen, practicing patience and tolerance with my neighbours, acquaintances and friends. And in being so Muslim, I reject and renounce this notion of an Islamic Emirate or Caliphate because (1) those who do espouse and aspire to this have transgressed bounds and caused mischief in their lands, and Allah does not like those who transgress bounds and cause mischief; and (2) because there is no proof that this is any way a part of my covenant with my Lord; and finally (3) because I want this Constitution of my country.

And I testify that this, our Constitution, is the means through which to uphold and realise the rights to dignity, equality, freedom and security of all the peoples of this land. What could be unrighteous about wanting that for my countrymen? I wish it too for the people of Egypt. They have been a country and a nation literally thousands of years before even a semblance of South Africa was concocted. May they finally, after all these thousands of years, get a constitution that provides no overlord – be it a party or a dictator - over the Egyptians.

Raashied Galant, a South African activist and journalist, currently works as a development communication specialist. He also worked as the head of media at the Gender Advocacy Programme based in Cape Town.



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