Chapter 3: Government and the Ruler
It was briefly mentioned in the previous chapter how the early history of Islam was formed and what the attitude towards it was in the later years. This attitude was reflected in the entire Sunni jurisprudential and theological structure and political thought. A brief introduction is necessary before entering the new discussion.
We have already said that the Shi‘ites and the Sunnis, despite their basic common principles, have two different jurisprudential and theological structures and have founded two different psychosocial structures in their followers. In order to clarify how the religious movements in these two realms were and are formed and what factors and foundations they are influenced by, one has to clarify how these two systems are and how they were formed throughout history. What is most important, in the meanwhile, is what principles the political thought of these two schools are based on and influenced by because the sociopolitical and even the intellectual and cultural movements of these two are inevitably influenced by these characteristics. Unless these characteristics are known and its results and consequences are valuated, the religious movements of these two sects will not be identified properly, whether those that took place in the past or those that exist today.
We said that one of the most important principles that has formed the political thought of the two is their perception and interpretation of the early history of Islam. The Sunni perception of this part of history is different from its reality.
The second principle is the way Sunnis believe in the ruler simply because he is a ruler, i.e. without considering what occurred in the early history of Islam and the way it is perceived in the tradition. One has to see what their opinion is about the ruler and how this opinion is and may be reflected in their political thought. Finally, the third principle is that what was important to Sunni scholars, jurisprudents and theologians in connection with the government and its legality has been security rather than justice. They were concerned about security and the power that could provide and guarantee it rather than about justice or, for example, a precise implementation of the religious rules and the traditions of the Prophet (S) as they were in force at the time of the Prophet (S) himself. The Shi‘ite opinion in the last two issues is different from the Sunni one. This difference is reflected in the history of the religious and social movements of the followers of these two schools.
It is the people’s love of and desire for justice that is the cause of political and social movements. Shi‘ism, since the beginning of its history, was concerned about and emphasized the concept of justice and a strict implementation of the religious rules and defended and tried to realize the same as its mission while, according to Sunnism, the issue of justice has the second or even the third priority. What was and is important to them is merely having power and authority, in the shodow of which security can indeed be achieved. We will discuss each of these points here.
We said in the previous chapter that the basic and primary factor in the development of the Sunni attitude towards the early history of Islam was Mu‘awiyah’s actions. His rivalry with and hostility to ‘Ali’s personality and position1 and his attempt to isolate his supporters, all of whom were his ideological opponents, led him to command to its governors to publicly curse ‘Ali while forging sayings for others about virtues similar to those of ‘Ali and to propagate them, which they did.
For many reasons, cursing ‘Ali did not and could not last for a long time. One important reason was the virtues that had been forged for others. How could the others have such virtues while ‘Ali, who was at least a person like them and a caliph, had the opposites of those virtues so as to be cursed?2 If they could even make the people have such beliefs, then the mass of the people would have beliefs similar to those of the Rebels and would indeed approach them while this was hated by the ruling system, both the Umayyad and the ‘Abbasid, because the Rebels were their great enemies. Nevertheless, the second action had its influence and took the early history of Islam and the Muslims of the time to a high status, equal to that of Islam. Indeed, other than Mu‘awiyah’s plan, there were other factors in the meanwhile that would help consolidate and continue such an opinion, which we will deal with later.
The caliphs coming after the Senior Caliphs, both the Umayyad and the ‘Abbasid, and the other persons who appeared in the history of Islam as caliphs and their caliphate was accepted by the people, such as the Mamluk caliphs in Egypt or the sultans of the second period in the Ottoman empire, in order to consolidate their position, needed to attach a religious status to themselves and to make the people accept this. The best means was to give a religious status, not to themselves, but to the position they were in so as to legalize themselves and make themselves accepted. In order to do this, they had to raise the position of the caliphs after the Prophet (S) and introduce their caliphate as a divine and religious position while further highlighting the supporters of the caliphs and the caliphate. In general, they had to give a religious definition to and sanctify the history of those times because, this way, their position of caliphate would be religiously necessary, and this would include the status on which they relied.3
In fact, the Umayyad caliphs were not so willing to be identified as caliphs because they neither needed this nor was their Bedouin, pre-Islamic, negligent and reckless nature consistant with such formalities. However, the ‘Abbasid could not remain on the scene without relying on it. Although their being in power for more than five hundred years was for a major part formal and apparent, yet it continued by resorting to such titles and, for many reasons, they developed the current that Mu‘awiyah had founded. Although many of Mu‘awiyah’s policies and, in general, those of the Umayyad were denied in the ‘Abbasid era, this was one of the exceptions that was approved because the holy and divine respect to the caliphs after the Prophet (S) directly helped sanctify the concept and system of caliphate and the one who was in charge of it.4
The other factor that reinforced such a view was the need to confront Shi‘ites and the Rebels. The most important opponents of the caliphs, both Umayyad and ‘Abbasid, during the first two or even three centuries, were the Shi‘ites. Both of them had a critical attitude towards the early history of Islam. The Shi‘ite view is well-known, in which they considered it to be a period like the other parts of the history of Islam, without any difference or distinction. However, the Rebels approved of the first part of the period of the Senior Caliphs, which lasted to mid-‘Uthmanite period, while deemed the second part as polytheism and deserting the religion. In addition, their perception of the first part was not similar to that of the others and was different in certain ways. They were pigheaded people that were not willing to consider any individual or period as holy. It was only this period that they approved of without rejection.5
Now, one of the ways to confront these two groups in the public opinion of the Muslims was to say that they did not accept the early history of Islam. To achieve this goal, the best way was to praise it as much as possible. The more important and religiously more valuable and divine this period became with the mass of the people, it was better possible to disarm the opponents. One of the most important populist pretexts they had was that they said to their opponents that you, who are considering us unjust and are opposing us, lack any legality because you do not respect or believe in the early history of Islam and its characters.6
This accusation was especially effective against Shi‘ites and was long used as the best propaganda tool against them. Many cases can be found in the past in which they suppressed the opposition at the early stage by using this means although this means has not been abandoned yet and is widely used especially by the Sa‘udis and their colleagues and sympathetic thinkers. They wickedly present such a picture of early Islam that nullifies any critical attitude in advance. They try to highlight this in order to isolate Shi‘ites and present them as abominable and to suppress any reformist movement under such claims because the reformist and revolutionary movements within the Sunni world in general have a critical attitude towards the early history of Islam and, principally, the history of Islam. When this attitude and way of thinking is questioned, those who believe in it will be doubted and this is what is desired by their opponents.7
In fact, it was these two political factors that increasingly reinforced the religious and divine aspect of the early period. The post-Mu‘awiyah caliphs needed it for many reasons and emphasized it. The need remained as long as there was caliphate, i.e. practically to the early present century. After that, it was needed by those in power who considered themselves as benevolent descendants.
In the meanwhile, other actions were also taken that further strengthened this current, in which Mu‘awiyah still had the primary role. To defend his legality and truth, Mu‘awiyah resorted to another policy, which was very successful and contributed in sanctifying the image of the early history with the Muslims. He wanted to establish a relationship between himself and his truth and the first caliphs and their truth, especially Abu Bakr. However, as long as ‘Ali (‘a) was alive, this was not effective and ‘Ali did not allow such misuse. ‘Ali’s outstanding personality and his unique position and past and his being appointed as caliph by the majority of the people were the biggest impediment to use such means. However, when Imam ‘Ali (‘a) was martyred and Imam Hasan (‘a) became the leader, it was possible to use it. We had better hear the story from Mu‘awiyah himself.
In response to a letter from Imam Hasan (‘a), in which the issue of peace and stopping the war had been set forth, Mu‘awiyah wrote, “…when this nation disagreed on your virtues and past and your closeness to the Prophet (S) and your position in Islam and among the Muslims, they were not ignorant. They saw it better that the Qurayshis would be leaders because of their relationship with the Prophet. The senior members of the Quraysh, the Helpers, etc. from among them said, ‘Let’s choose as leader one from among Quraysh whose Islam is older, who is more knowledgeable about and friendlier to God and who is more powerful in God’s affairs’, and they chose Abu Bakr.
This was the decision of the men of wisdom, religious and virtues and those of the nation who were aware… If the Muslims had seen one among you who was able to do that, they would have not hesitated. They would have done what they thought was fit for Islam and the Muslims… The story of me and you is like that of you and Abu Bakr after the Prophet (S) passed away. If I saw you more fit to the affair of the nation, I would do what you are inviting me to. However, you know that I am more experienced as a ruler and am an elder man of politics and am older than you are. Therefore, it would be more appropriate for you to do what you expect me to do and for you to accept to obey me…”8
While saying these, Mu‘awiyah tries to resort to the same reasons for legalizing himself with which Abu Bakr had been legally appointed and tries to pretend that his story is like that of Abu Bakr, by saying that the same criteria that applied for legally appointing Abu Bakr applies to him too, so much so that even Imam Hasan (‘a) has to obey him.
In this regard, Mahmud Subhi says, “This letter of Mu‘awiyah is the first theological interpretation of the supporters of Sunnism and consensus on the issue of caliphate in general and that of allegiance to Abu Bakr in particular. While ascending the power, Mu‘awiyah could achieve theological and ideological victory and, through this, he could express the beliefs of Sunni Muslims in general… He used this opportunity to undertake the defense of the caliphs and the senior Companions, thus giving religious acceptance to his claim in caliphate and cleverly setting forth his own claim in the form of defending Abu Bakr. According to this interpretation, he did not usurp the power and did not impose himself on the nation. His position was like that of Abu Bakr. He was more capable in administering the affairs and a better politician and more experienced and aged in dealing with various affairs. Thus, his claim of avenging ‘Uthman while ‘Ali (‘a) was in charge turned into a more dangerous, effective and acceptable ideology that responded to his requests for becoming the caliph and stabilizing his position.” 9
The result is that, other than the factors already mentioned, that led Mu‘awiyah to give a religious stature to the early history of Islam and its characters in order to isolate his opponents, on top of them, Shi‘ites, and break down the position of ‘Ali in the public opinion, there were other factors that encouraged him to do this. His confrontation with Imam ‘Ali and his followers, whether during ‘Ali’s life or after, could not succeed without relying on this historical period. He needed it and made use of it cleverly and for various reasons, and such uses later found a high place in the Sunni jurisprudential and theological structure, especially in the issues of imamate and caliphate. Doubtless, if the main rival of Mu‘awiyah had been someone other than Imam ‘Ali, or a person other than one like Mu‘awiyah stood against ‘Ali, the history of those days would have been formed otherwise and most probably the Sunni jurisprudential and theological structure would have had major differences with its presence structure.
Other than the mentioned factors, which were mainly political, there were two other factors that helped this current, which we will mention below.
The first factor was the need to respond to various religious, jurisprudential and theological problems, especially jurisprudential ones, which the Muslims faced from late or even mid first century [AH], for which there were no clear answers in the Prophet’s (S) tradition. They had to find solutions to such problems, and one of the best solutions was to consider the early history of Islam equal to Islam itself rather than looking for answers only in the Prophet’s (S) tradition. This was quite a natural thing to happen.
The Islamic society in the Prophet’s (S) period was a closed and limited society with few needs and problems. Any new problem would be set forth to the Prophet (S) himself. The conditions changed after the rapid expansion of Islam, especially after the important early conquests ended, the religious passion was settled and the society calmed down in mid first century [AH]. The problem was not that the society had grown in size. The qualitative complexity due to the quantitative development was far more and was increasingly complex. The tribes, cultures, philosophies, sects and religions were covered by the new power, which had religious claims. Such a gathering would entail numerous problems that required answers which had to be explicit, pragmatic and not merely theoretical because the society had to be administered with the same answers. These were actually laws that gave order to and systematized the society.
Meanwhile, the problem was that only a small fraction of these new problems were directly answered in the Prophet’s (S) tradition.10 These questions were new subjects and, at that time, neither existed theoretically nor practical. However, they now required theoretical as well as practical responses. In the meanwhile, they had to give religious respect and recognition to a period that extended beyond the Prophet’s (S) life, and the latter included the period of the Senior Caliphs.
In an impartial and realistic estimate, one has to say that they were right to do so because, if there is only one part of the history of Islam that has to be recognized because of its apparent similarities to the Prophet’s (S) period, it is exactly the same, especially since this period was agreed on and respected by the majority of Muslims while the subsequent periods were not so. As a result, this period was considered as the continuation of the Prophet’s (S) tradition and contributed in responding to the numerous questions that had arisen, especially considering that in those days the jurisprudential expertise had not yet developed as methodologically as it later did. So, in every case, they had to refer to the explicit decrees.11
However, Shi‘ites basically did not face such a problem. In their belief, the sayings and deeds of the Infallible Imams were like the Prophet’s (S) tradition. This belief had neither been imposed by a historical necessity nor by any other factor. The natural and logical consequence was their belief in the principle of imamate the way they understood and interpreted it. Thus, the religious tradition according to them continued to the year 260 AH, which was the year of the death of Imam ‘Askari (‘a). This rich and various tradition, being the outcome of responding to various issues that had been set forth during 273 years since the Prophet’s (S) mission, plus the period of the imamate to the beginning of the minor and also its emphasis on the principle of ijtihad (religious expertise and authority) and determining its fundamentals and limits, basically removed the need for things that were urgently needed by Sunnis.
The second factor was emotional as well as religious. Basically, human beings psychologically and affectively tend to love whatever that is somehow related to the object or individual they are interested in, whether it is real or an illusion or unreal. It will just suffice for him to suppose that there is such a relation. This factor was much stronger and more effective in older times than it is now. The modern man is more unfocused intellectually and affectively. As a result, the depth and duration of his love is less and shorter. However, in the past, if someone loved an object or person, he would be attracted to it/him entirely and the stronger the attraction, the stronger would be the love of his dependents and any characteristic that he attached to his beloved one, would be attached to his dependents as well.
During the history of Islam, the Prophet (S) was always the most popular and the most sacred person. The most beautiful and most mystical descriptions were applied to him, especially by the Sufis who were pioneers in doing so. Naturally, the charisma of such an attractive person would be extended to his surrounding people. This was a natural human trend. It was impossible for one to love the Prophet (S) and not be attracted to his dependents. Here the problem was not who the dependents were and how they lived. The issue was that they surrounded the Prophet.
The Sufis and the Muslims in general during the history thus looked at the Prophet (S) and early Islam. In their view, it was the best period because it contained the Prophet (S) and those individuals were the best because they lived with the Prophet (S). This is indeed true but its meaning and limits should be defined. It is true that the Prophet’s (S) period was specially respected because the Prophet lived in that period and it is true that the people surrounding the Prophet (S) were fortunate to experience the Prophet’s presence, but this did not entail the conclusion that the era of the Companions is the best period because of closeness to the Prophet (S) or, for example, Islam has to be identified with its help, and the Companions’ being fortunate to experience the Prophet’s (S) presence does not mean that they were, in practice, committed Muslims.12
Nevertheless, this psychological mechanism extended the Prophet’s (S) sacredness to the Companions and the Companions’ time, and all of them were encircled by a halo of divinity. This in turn gave special sacredness to the current whose goal was to give special religious credit to early Islam. The question why the Shi‘ites were not affected by this state and mechanism has a special reason. They always loved the Prophet (S), like the other Muslims did, and considered him to be the best person. However, because of sayings, which are entirely valid to them, they loved a special group rather than the entire Companions. If there had not been such sayings, they would have extended the Prophet’s (S) sacredness and position to the others as well, because this is human nature.
It would be appropriate here to mention an example and what value and position, according to the Muslims of the later periods, experiencing the Prophet’s (S) presence had and how it became the most important and the most definitive criterion to judge the religious and spiritual qualifications of individuals.
While criticizing Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, who believed that there may be other individuals among the people of the later times more virtuous than the Companions, based on the saying, “My nation is like rain. One does not know if the beginning or the end is better.” Ibn Hajr says, “This is a very rate theory which is not conformed by the Sayings.” Then, he sets forth his own theory by thus quoting a story from Ibn Mubarak, “This point is also approved by ‘Abdullah Bin Mubarak, who is well-known in the sciences and jurisprudence. He was asked which one of Mu‘awiyah or ‘Umar Bin ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz were better. He said in response, ‘I swear by God that a dust in the nostril of Mu‘awiyah’s horse while besides the Prophet (S) is far better than a hundred people like ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz.’ By saying this, he wanted to say the honor of accompanying the Prophet (S) and seeing him and being seen by him is a value that cannot be equaled by any action or honor.”13
Doubtless, all this was much influenced by politics. It should be admitted, however, that the Muslims grew with such a way of thinking and their mentalities and personalities were formed based on this, apart from the fact that they had to present a theological system compatible and homogeneous with a system that had been contradictory from within.
Principally, any true believer, no matter what he believes in, religion or else, tends to find his beliefs in a coherent and harmonious system without contradiction. This is one of his basic needs. The point is not that he has to do so in order to present his beliefs to the others or to defend the same. More important than this is his internal needs that will remain unfulfilled without such an attempt and practice. The peace of the human mind as to his beliefs is indebted to their harmony and homogeneity. An important part of one’s intellectual and scientific attempts, whether in the realm of religion, thought or science, is merely systematizing and coordinating one’s beliefs. This is mainly due to the same internal need.
An example of such an attempt can be found in the theory where it concerns the early Islamic Companions and personalities, “The best people in this nation and in all the nations after the Prophets (S) is Abu Bakr, then ‘Umar, then ‘Uthman and then ‘Ali (‘a). This was heard from the Prophet (S) and shall not be denied. The best of the people after these are Talhah, Zubayr, Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas, Sa‘id Ibn Zayd, ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf and Abu Ubaydah Jarrah. All of these had the capacity to be caliphs. The best of the people after them are the Prophet’s Companions, the century in which the Prophet was appointed by God as prophet, the early Immigrants, the Helpers and those who prayed towards both of the Two Qiblahs. After them, the best of people are those who accompanied the Prophet (S), whether one day, one month, one year, less or more. We ask God to bless them and recount their virtues and ignore their mistakes and do not remember any of them other than for their virtues…”14
The result is that the above and the other factors as a whole gave a special religious position and sanctity to early Islam, the Prophet’s Companions and the Senior Caliphs in the eyes of Sunnis and there is not anyone among them who doubts these. This is a principle on which they have consensus. More importantly, they comprehend and interpret Islam in its light, so much so that one can say, without having this in mind, one cannot comprehend their understanding of Islam. Islam in its entirety, from jurisprudence and analysis and history to theology, philosophy and mysticism, especially where it relates to political and religious discussions probably has the most differences in terms of how Sunnis and Shi‘ites comprehend it.
It is exactly at this point that Shi‘ites and Sunnis can understand each other less and less because they do not notice that their beliefs and theories are based on two different intellectual, philosophical, theological and historical foundations and systems. Consequently, they come across problems in their discussions, talks and mutual understanding and assistance. Any of them views the beliefs of the other through his own religious view and, therefore, does not understand him and has expectations contrary to the other’s principles and fundamentals.
This is not a theoretical problem; it is a tangible reality. Unless the Shi‘ites and the Sunnis have full knowledge of the characteristics of the intellectual and doctrinal systems of each other and from where their obligations originate, they will not be able to talk to each other or to reach a useful and effective understanding or cooperation. As we said, this is truer about political and religious issues. It was because of this reason that we presented this discussion more elaborately.15
Now let’s see what the consequences of such beliefs are, i.e. what their doctrinal, psychological, social and political outcomes are. Here, we will mention only two important results of it, which is of special importance in connection with the present discussion.
We said that the early period of Islam is of special importance to Sunnis. However, the issue is that these periods are full of differences, tensions and conflicts, especially among the senior Companions. Many of the Promised Ten [‘Asharah Mubashshirah], whose high religious rank was not at all doubted, draw swords on each other. Now, how can this period and these individuals be of a high religious rank while at the same time stand up against each other and shed each other’s blood? Here, it is not the question of individuals; it is rather the question of criteria and rules. The problem is what the criteria are for judging the truth or falsehood and, basically, what the truth and falsehood is, how one has to live and what his stance should be in order to be on the right side. Apart from this, does he have to fight the falsehood or not and, if so, which is the falsehood and what is the criterion to judge it?
The fact is that they could not find a satisfactory answer. Therefore, they resorted to justifications and interpretations that would be too long to mention here. However, what mattered was that such a problem left its effect on Sunni psychological and doctrinal structure, i.e., since the problem had not been solved—and could not be considering its hypotheses—they tried to leave its similar examples unsolved. In other words, the final solution was that, since the problem has no answer, one must not try to solve it, so much so that some people considered any such attempt as prohibited and irreligious. The principle was that they had to remain silent towards it and be content to the virtues that had been quoted in this respect, and not even examine the truth or falsehood of such accounts.
However, the point was that silence towards this issue resulted in silence towards other similar issues. It is exactly from this that one can see the traces of such silence on the ideological and psychological structure of the Sunnis, which deeply affected the formation of their sociopolitical and religious history.
As an example, consider the words of Ibn Hanbal quoted here, “Ibn Hanbal revered all the Companions of the Prophet (S) and did not say anything about them other than their virtues. It was exactly because of this that, despite admitting that ‘Ali’s caliphate was legal and right, he did not say even a word in criticizing Mu‘awiyah, as he also did not say anything about the Siffin and Jamal wars, in which many of the Companions were killed. All of this was in order not to say a word to blame the Companions… To him, the companions were of an equal rank and he said nothing but nice things about them. He used to say, ‘Mu‘awiyah, ‘Amru ibn al-‘As and Abu Musa Ash‘ari are among those about whom God has said in the Qur’an, ‘One can see signs of prostration on their face.’”16
Also one of the analysis of the book As-Sanah by Ibn Hanbal thus says in his analysis, “If you see somebody arguing the deeds of the Companions and talks sarcastically about them, know that he is a man of caprice because the Prophet (S) said, ‘When there is a mention of my Companions, hesitate’. This is because the Prophet knew that they would make mistakes after his death, but he did not treat them but nicely and said, ‘Let go of my Companions. Do not talk but nicely about them and do not mention any of the mistakes that they did…’ Know that the one who questions the conduct of the Prophet’s (S) Companions, in fact he questions the Prophet (S) himself and tormenting him in his grave.”17
Ibn Juzzi, the well-known jurisprudent and theologian of the 8th century A.H., gives the same advice more explicitly, “Concerning the conflict between ‘Ali (‘a) and Mu‘awiyah, you had better not deal with it, remember them as good people and interpret what happened, in the best way possible because this is an issue of ijtihad (religious judgment). However, ‘Ali and his followers were on the right side because they judged and made the right judgment and will be rewarded but Mu‘awiyah and his advocates judged wrongly and are excused. What we have to do is to respect and love these two and the other Companions.”18 Numerous other such examples can be given.
Nevertheless, their perception of the early Islam currents and events led them to the conclusion and rather made them believe that there can be no two Muslims who can contradict or argue against and oppose each other while one is absolutely right and the other absolutely wrong. They especially emphasized that, in the conflict between two Muslims, if they are Muslims, i.e. they have the qualifications and meet the criteria that can define them as Muslims, it is certain that none of them can be wrong. Here the problem is not who is on the right side. What matters is that there is no wrong side in this. It seems as if they admitted implicitly that the truth of the parties is relative in such circumstances rather than absolute because, when there is no falsehood, then either party has to have a degree of truth on its side.
This mentality and this way of thinking on their part is so strong and deeply rooted that many of them hesitated and chose to be silent on the issue of ‘Ashura. If there are some who fail to do so, it is because of certain reasons that they consider as valid, i.e. they resort to certain sayings from the Prophet (S) on the virtues of Imam Husayn (‘a) and to other sayings that explicitly or implicitly mention ‘Ashura to say Husayn was right and Yazid wrong. It means that, without considering such sayings, they cannot judge even this case in order to say who was wrong and who was right. Why is this so? The answer is the same reasons that were mentioned. It also has other jurisprudential and theological reasons.
Let’s put it more clearly. If we ignore all the sayings that are directly or indirectly related to the story of ‘Ashura and the position of the Prophet’s (S) Family and the Pure Five [khamsih-ye tayyibah] and the vices of the Umayyad, the Sunni religious structure in its entirety and the resulting religious and doctrinal psychology is so that they will hesitate on such an apparent and clear issue as that of ‘Ashura. And they did so. Because of the reasons and criteria that they had accepted, they could not say which one was right and which wrong, and failed to say why it was so.
The strange thing is that some even go beyond this and condemn Imam Husayn (‘a) in their own view according to religious and jurisprudential criteria and acquit and support Yazid. Abu Bakr Bin al-‘Arabi and his fellow thinkers, whether in the past or in the present, are among them. He openly praises Yazid and considers rising to be a mistake. He says, “He did not accept the advice of the most knowledgeable person of his time, ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas, and deviated from the opinion of the Shaykh of the Companions, ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar. He sought the end at the beginning and the truth in the deviated way. While caliphate was lost by his brother, who was accompanied by a large army and the senior men of the tribe, how could he return it with the help of the rabble of Kufah? The senior Companions disapproved of what he wanted to do. He should have obeyed what his ancestor said, “Corruption and disturbance will soon rise. Then, you shall kill the one who wants to create discord among this ummah while it is united, no matter who he is.” Husayn had to show further patience and to pledge allegiance to Yazid. It was not Yazid and his governor, ‘Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad who killed him. Those killed him who asked him to go to Kufah and then gave him to the rabble of Kufah.”19
Here it is not important what the purpose and motivation of Ibn al-‘Arabi is in such criticism from a sympathetic religious stance. More important is that his words are ultimately compatible with the accepted Sunni jurisprudential and theological principles. In fact, it is the dignity of Imam Husayn (‘a) and corruption of Yazid that stops such an explicit expression of opinion by Sunni clerics in general. In other words, the secondary necessities had a greater share in their disagreement with Ibn ‘Arabi than difference in the primary fundamentals. If there is a difference here, it is secondary and probably pertinent to the past rather than principal and fundamental.20
It is exactly because of this reason that many Sunni scholars had hesitated and have chosen to be silent in this respect. Now one has to see why they hesitated. Why did many Sunni clerics hesitate in condemning Yazid and some of them principally consider it to be the wrong thing to do? The fact is that some of those who hesitate or prohibit such condemnation were not people who would give up the afterworld for this world and express such opinions to the pleasure of the rulers. Some of them basically expressed such an opinion when it was contrary to the public opinion or even the ruling power, yet they insisted on their opinion as a religious duty. In the conflict between their jurisprudential and theological fundamentals and the secondary obligations resulting from validating the sayings regarding Imam Husayn’s (‘a) dignity and the vices of Yazid or even the sayings that directly or indirectly mentioned the story of ‘Ashura and the innocent martyrdom of the Imam, they chose to be silent. In such circumstances, the right way was caution and caution meant hesitation and silence.21
Anyhow, the answer has to be sought in the same cautious religious psychology that was the product of sanctifying the early history of Islam and its characters.
It has to be mentioned that Shi‘ites and Sunnis, despite some similarities, differ in their applications and, to some extent, concept of caution, whether doctrinal cautions that relate to the principles of the beliefs or the jurisprudential cautions that concern practical orders. This shall be further elaborated on later. When the general certain principle is that all those characters are holy and even at the same level religiously or spiritually while they may have fought each other, commitment to such a principle would lead one to caution in his later judgments. This would be a crippling caution that would not let them judge an incident where both parties are well-known, such as that of ‘Ashura, and they would prefer to hesitate on this and equally acquit the parties while stopping the exploration or judgment by others as a religious duty and in order to call to the good and stop the bad.
For example, Mahmud Subhi thus talks about the theological and ideological consequences of Imam Husayn’s (‘a) martyrdom among Sunnis who, in his words, would rather choose intermediate and indirect solutions, “The Sunni reaction to Imam Husayn’s (‘a) martyrdom was very difficult and painful because any attempt to find an intermediate solution that would be favorable to Sunnis based on which they could approve of the Imam’s uprisings and express friendship to his enemies would fail. It was the story of ‘Ashura that made such an attempt fail.” Then, he goes on to mention some evidence about his theory.22
The story of such a way of thinking is as old as Islam itself. It has always been, now is and will later be an issue. There is almost no great Sunni cleric who did not say a word about this. Ibn Abi’l-Hadid quotes such views under different titles in the different parts of his book, which is in fact a great encyclopedia of all that relates to early Islam. An important part of the last volume of his book is dedicated to such discussions. It would be appropriate here to mention the theory of Ghazali on the Companions and then Yazid. He is selected here because of his comprehensiveness, his scientific credibility, his public acceptance, his piety and his waiver of this world’s benefits, so that it would not be presumed that such words are because of ignorance or for serving the rulers of the time or for public acceptance.23
Expressing how our belief about the Companions should be, he says, “Take the middle path rather than any of the extremes in this respect and know that, in this respect, you can be suspicious or make sarcastic remarks about a Muslim on no realistic basic, then you will be a liar, or you can have good intentions about a Muslim and avoid being bitter to him without your lack of suspicion being realistic. In the meanwhile, an error accompanied by good intentions about a Muslim is closer to the right path than blaming him. For example, if someone avoids cursing Lucifer, Abu Jahl or Abu Lahab or any other mean person during his life, such avoidance will not harm him. However, if one is sarcastic to an innocent Muslim, he has put himself in hell.”24 Such a think is also said by Imam al-Haramayn Juwayni more elaborately, which is quoted by Ibn Abi’l-Hadid in the 20th volume of his book.
In his most elaborate and reputable book Ihya’ al-‘Ulum, Ghazali discusses if it is allowed to curse Yazid or not, which is summarized as follows, “Cursing Yazid and his likes is not jurisprudentially permissible. So long as it is not certain that Yazid ordered the killing of Imam Husayn (‘a) and was content to this and so long as his belief in Islam is certain, it is not permissible to curse him because, according to authentic documents and sayings of the Prophet, cursing a Muslim is forbidden.”25
What is all this the result of? It is the result of what has been said already, i.e. a national and logical result of the doctrinal and psychological structure that was initially formed on such a basis. The problem is not what the external factors are. The problem is what kind of thought and mentality we use when setting out to know them. Such a mentality and thought also views and evaluates the story of ‘Ashura according to their own standards and criteria. This is a natural current.
It is interesting that such a view is so acceptable and certain to some Sunni clergies that they have expressed doubts about the sayings that directly mention the event of ‘Ashura and the vices of Yazid. It is certain that a group of them were hired by the sultans and preached for them, and they still are doing so. However, there were certain of them that really thought and believed so.26
We see that how far the psychological backgrounds and the mental and doctrinal structures of the followers of these two schools differ, at least in this part. In one, the mental structure has been formed so that it loses the power to judge differently two Muslims or two groups of Muslims that have stood up to fight each other while, in the other, the intellectual and psychological structure is so that it can make only differing judgments, i.e. it can consider one side to be the absolute truth while the other to be the absolute falsehood. Certainly, this fine and at the same time critical and important difference will create two different social and cultural backgrounds for sociopolitical developments.
The strength and severity of revolutionary passion in a society that, while confronting harsh events, considers a group to be of the Husyan-type and the opposite group as of the Yazid-type are certainly much different than the revolutionary passion of a society according to which the history, or at least the history of Islam, is neither absolutely Yazidi nor absolutely Husyani (if he assumes that Yazid was absolutely wrong and Husyan was absolutely right). Here, it is not a talk about which of them is a good thought and which a bad one. What we mean is to express the characteristics of each of them. They have different spirits and mentalities and they look at issues differently.
Therefore, they can understand each other with difficulty because of having two different views about a single issue; two views that are based on absolutely different preliminaries. If a Sunni can probably comprehend a Shi‘ite on these issues and can understand historical and political currents the way the Shi‘ite does, it is because he has adopted a Shi‘ite mentality and a Shi‘ite spirit rather than because he has been able to view issues like a Shi‘ite by having the spirit, mentality and psychology of his own and his school. What Ba‘inah says about Shi‘ites is also true. They cannot look at the historical and social events like a Sunni. Their mental and doctrinal structures are different and, naturally, they cannot view and evaluate issues similarly.27
If there are individuals among Sunnis today, especially their youth, who have a view close to that of Shi‘ites and have even adopted a view like them, it is because of the influence of factors other than their beliefs and religious and historical heritage on their psychological, intellectual and doctrinal structures. The course of economic, social and cultural developments in some Muslim countries has been so as to create in the youth and students a psychology to understand issues and currents differently. The more rapid and deeper the amount of developments has been and the more traditional and complex the society was, the stronger and more inclusive this characteristic has been.
In the same manner, the higher the revolutionary potential in a country, the more frequent such a state has been because a necessary element of being revolutionary and having revolutionary thoughts, especially among the youth, is to have a dialectic understanding of the history and the present situation. Since the economic, social, political and intellectual moves and developments in the Third World and in the Muslim World in the last two to three decades have contributed to the growth, development and deepening of such a tendency and thought, such spirits and conditions have also been created.
Right now we stop explaining this point because a necessary condition for being revolutionary, where it relates to the mass of the people and not, for example, the elite and cultured individuals who have revolutionary tendencies despite the depth of their thought and their extensive knowledge and experience, is the ability to perceive things dialectically.
This discussion can be studied theoretically as well as historically and socially, similarly to the attitude of Shi‘ites and Sunnis in the past decades towards Marxism, which has dialectics as the basis of its philosophy, and the differences they had and the causes of these differences, and also the study of the quality of the effects of the developments of the recent period in creating a spirit and situation among Shi‘ites and Sunnis.28
Because of the importance of this recent issue, it is necessary to quote some of the more serious parts of the book Ma‘alim fi’t-Tariq, which is the most important and effective intellectual guide of the defiant Sunni generation in the present century. As we will see, their attitude and that of Shi‘ites and especially the revolutionary Shi‘ites in the present century are similar to each other because of their dialectical understanding of the ongoing currents.
That is to say that the mask of Islam and the appearances of the religion do not prevent them from forming definite sound judgments about the illegality of those wearing such masks and those who are pretentious. However, they have achieved this point through a way different from the way Shi‘ites achieved it, whether in the past or contemporary times.
According to Shi‘ites, who have inherited the heritage of the Infallible Imams, this is one of the primary evident principles. Principally, one of the primary goals of the Imams during their lives was to remove the mask of those who misused the religion, sought power or were ignorant. However, according to what was said, Sunnis could not do so because their beliefs, thoughts and mentalities grew in a way that they could not act or even judge so.
Therefore, when the sociopolitical, intellectual and religious pressures of the recent decades made some Sunni thinkers seek a solution and made the revolutionary religious youth listen to, support and even follow them, they had to solve this problem from another point and to remain indifferent to the beliefs, thoughts and mentalities of their ancestors and contemporaries who thought otherwise. Although this in turn created new problems, it opened a new way.
A careful consideration of the following sentences shows how different the analytical method, way of evaluation, concept of Islam, the goals and finally the prevailing spirit are different from the Sunni religious experience and jurisprudential and theological heritage throughout the history.
“Nowadays, we are in an age of ignorance similar to the pre-Islamic ignorance or rather darker than that. All that is around us is ignorance… The conceptions and beliefs of the people, their habits and imitations, the sources of their culture, their arts and literature, their laws and regulations, even much of what we consider as Islamic culture, Islamic sources, Islamic philosophy and Islamic thought is ignorance… All of them are products of this ignorance…!”
“We have to liberate ourselves from the ignorant society and the ignorant conceptions, imitations and leadership… and especially in our times… our duty is not to converse with the ignorant society and to accept his friendship because, with this quality, which is the quality of ignorance, conversation is impossible. Our duty is to create a change within ourselves based on which we can evolve the society. The first duty is to change the reality of this society. Our duty is to change the foundation of this ignorance reality. It is a fact that is essentially against the Islamic way and method and, with force and pressure, it impeded our living according to what God has asked us.”29
“Islam does not recognize more than two types of society. One is the ignorant society and the other the Islamic society. The Islamic society is the society in which Islam has been realized in all the dimensions of belief and workshop, the shari‘ah and the system, manners and morals. The ignorant society is the society in which Islam is not practiced, neither in the beliefs or conceptions of Islam nor in its values and rules nor in its system and laws nor in its manners and morals. The Islamic society is not the society that consists of individuals who call themselves Muslims, in which the shari‘ah is not the law, no matter if they say their prayers, fast, go on hajj or not. The Islamic society is not the society in which the members of the society devise an Islam of their own which was not provided by the Prophet and which they call the “developed Islam” [islam-e mutatawwir].”
“The ignorant society may have different forms. It may be a society in which they deny God and interpret the history materially and dialectically and in which a social system is realized that is named ‘scientific socialism’. It may also be a society that does not deny God but which limits God only to the heavens and deprives Him from the earth. They neither submit to His laws nor to his stable values. It allows the people to worship God in churches and mosques but does not allow them require the rule of the religious laws in their material lives. It thus denies the divinity of God or suspends it while the Qur’an says explicitly, ‘It is He who is worshiped in the sky and is worshiped on the earth.’ Therefore, such a society is not one of God’s religion because God says, ‘He has ordered you not to worship but Him. This is the solid and sound religion.’ Such a society will be an ignorant one although they worship God… The Islamic society is the only progressive society and the ignorant societies, with the different forms of ignorance, are retarded societies. This great truth has to be clarified.”30
“Islam does not accept partnership with ignorance, neither in terms of conceptions nor in the conditions and grounds that entail such conceptions. Either Islam or ignorance; there is no middle choice, half of which is Islam and the other half ignorance, and which will be accepted by Islam and with which Islam will be content… Islam’s view is clear in that the true path is one and it cannot be multiple in number, and that all that is other than that is misleading. These two cannot be covered by each other’s dress or be mixed with each other. The order is either that of God or that of ignorance. The law is either God’s law or it is caprice. There are frequent verses of the Qur’an on this, ‘And judge them according to what God revealed and do not follow their whims. Fear them may they not lead you to disturbance on some of what God has revealed to you…’ These are only two and there is no third one to them. Either accepting God’s message and that of the Prophet or obeying one’s whims…”31
“Providing the ground for the rule of God’s divine laws on the earth and destroying human rule and that of the human laws, depriving from power those who have assumed it and returning it to God… will not be attained only by propaganda and preaching because the authoritarian despots and those who have assumed God’s power will not give up power by propaganda and advice. If they did, the prophets would easily be able to establish God’s religion on the earth while this is contrary to what history shows. The history of this religion is like that of the other religions.”
“This public notification for liberation of ‘man’ on the “earth” from any power that is other than God’s and to the effect that divinity only belongs to Him is not a theoretical, philosophical or passive notification. It is a dynamic, real and active one, one that seeks to realize God’s law on the earth and practically release the servants to make them God’s servants… therefore, besides ‘expression’, there shall be ‘dynamism’ as well… so as to deal with ‘reality’ in all its dimensions.”32
The above sentences are quoted from Sayyid Qutb’s book, which, despite becoming a bit lengthy, we mentioned due to the importance they had for clarifying this and the other discussions. The fact is that the doctrinal, intellectual and political fundamentals of the present Islamic movement will not be known within the Sunni territory, unless this book is well studied and understood. It is interesting that, even the revolutionary thinkers that did not share his ideas are also somehow affected by this book. They began where he began and more or less with the same method. Their difference is rather in the different sources and accepting the priority of the sources not any other factor.
The basic cause of this current is not, for example, the vastness of Qutb or the untainted grandeur of his thought. Undoubtedly, he is a creative and pure thinker. The problem is that, the welcome given to him, more than being due to his personality and thought, is due to the fact that so far no one has been able to set forth Islamic political and revolutionary thoughts from any other point without denying the sanctity of the early period, i.e. the period of the Senior Caliphs—while he strongly criticizes Mu‘awiyah and the Umayyad as well as the subsequent periods and, in certain cases, even ‘Uthman. He embarked on a way that the others have to take, unless another way is opened.33
Since the book was published, there have been many people who opposed and criticized it on various religious or non-religious grounds. However, despite all these, the book is still the most reliable and inspiring part of the Islamic sources for Muslim youth who were led by the rapid and deep developments of the recent decades towards revolutionary and armed activities and tendencies while also seeking the answer within Islam. The vast welcome that Qutb received from the youth, especially this book of his, was due to the lack of revolutionary Islamic thoughts in the Sunni society and basically in the Sunni history. The need to such thoughts is a serious real need that requires an answer while no one but him has a word to say on this. It is natural that others are rushing towards him.
Apart from this, how Qutb or any other committed believer thinker could create a crack in this lofty damn and demand an answer from the collection of principles or even its constituents directly or indirectly and in conflict with the appropriate necessary response. If this damn is still to be maintained as it was and is not to be collapsed by historical critique, then what way there will be other than the one resorted to by Qutb or similar ways in order to provide an answer?
Muslim critics in general have criticized him for his considering the Muslim society as an ignorant one and also as a battlefield. However, they have not been taking into account under what intellectual or doctrinal pressure arising from the real needs of today’s generation he has done so. The principle, according to him and his fellow thinkers and followers, was to find an answer, and it is still so. Therefore, what other way could he take to achieve his intended purpose? His desired purpose was “to write an instruction for the pioneers of the Islamic movement to tell them how to begin taking an action and how to rise to fight the ignorance that is deeply-rooted throughout the entire territory; pioneers who are in need of the signs of the way—Ma‘alim at-Tariq—signs with whose help they can find out about their mission, duty and goal as well as the beginning point of this long journey… and to find out where to approach the people and where to get away from them; to know the characteristics of the ignorance and to know how to talk to the ignorant people of the time in the language of Islam and on what issues to address them…”34
In an impartial estimate, one has to say that, considering the doctrinal limitations, pressures and necessities under which he lived and thought, Qutb was successful as a whole. His critics either failed to take into account his theological limitations and obligations or ignored the pressures or necessities that he faced.
Here we do not mean to study and evaluate Qutb’s theories. Rather, we want to describe how Sunni jurisprudence and theology and the subsequent intellectual and doctrinal structure react to the severe sociopolitical and cultural currents and with what considerations. As Sayyid Qutb was a living example of such a committed and religious while at the same time revolutionary attitude, we studied some of his views and which point he began his revolutionary Islamic thought and why he chose this point. For him to prove the religious necessity and obligation to deny the ruling system of his society, he had to begin from this point and to organize his ideology by relying on that.35
We study the second consequence, which has similarities to and common points with the first consequence independently since the quality of its affects on the history and the present circumstances is different from the consequences of the first.
A natural and logical result of accepting the religious credibility and the divine stature of the early period, despite all its numerous internal contradictions, was blaming historical and religious critiques, i.e. accepting, without any research or investigation, that the Muslims of this period were all outstanding and good and each performed their duty and are, therefore, rewarded by paradise and we are not in a position to question what they did. A direct result of such a belief was a form of spiritual, psychological and theological conservatism against the Prophet’s (S) Companions.
However, when such a spirit was created, it was not limited to the Companions and their time and, rather, covered the entire history of Islam while this was in contradiction with the spirit of research and study of the religious qualifications of individuals and whether they were right or wrong or whether they publicized the truth or falsehood. We called this historical critique.
A Shi‘ite would not be subject to such a dilemma because he had a critical approach towards early Islam and had the same attitude towards the entire history of Islam while criticizing the early Muslims as strongly and baldly as he criticized those deviating from the path of Islam. Therefore, it would not be difficult for him to criticize, for example, Yazid, Marwan, ‘Abdu’l-Malik, Hisham, Mansur, Harun, Mutawakkil or Hajjaj or Ibn Ziyad or even the bad jurisprudents or reporters of sayings or scholars because of what they did.
The interesting point is that the issue goes far beyond this to them because, in their view, the criterion is truth and falsehood and, therefore, they can evaluate the Shi‘ites themselves with the same criterion. The problem is not that people in power such as Yazid, Mansur or Mutawakkil are criticized. More important than that is that a person such as Shah ‘Abbas is criticized. Not only he, but all the Shi‘ites kings, whether Deylami, Saffavid, Afsharid, Zandi or Qajarid are criticized.
As it has already been mentioned, in such cases, the only critical factor is not the perception of these two schools towards early Islam, yet it is one of the most important and effective factors with them. It is impossible for a Sunni to criticize, with a religious purpose, a king equal to Shah ‘Abbas among Sunnis. This is the point. Today, the society is open and anyone can say a word and give an opinion. A writer or even a university student can question all the sacred aspects of the religion. However, no religious or committed person, despite the open atmosphere, can go beyond the religious limits and rules in which he believes and to doubt the religious grounds provided from them. Nevertheless, the point is that no committed believer Sunni can explicitly criticize a character equal to or even lower in rank than Shah ‘Abbas. It would be an opposition to their jurisprudential and theological fundamentals and the consensus they have reached.36
What was said has many effects and consequences. The problem is not just its jurisprudential and theological outcome. Its historical, social, cultural and political consequences, especially in the contemporary time, are far more important and critical. The concept of history is different with us and them, be it religious, national or tribal or clan-based. History in its nature, and here we mean the history of Islam, is of special value and importance to them that cannot and must not be ignored. However, it is basically not so among Shi‘ites. According to a Sunni, quite contrary to a Shi‘ite, the history of Islam, if not a sacred one, cannot be criticized either. Although Sunnis in general tend to consider their past sacred, humane and glorious, if there is a group that does not think so, at least it does not criticize it from a religious stance and does not consider it to be the story of oppressions, violations, and whims and irreligious acts of the caliphs, sultans and rulers.37
Nevertheless, according to them and from the humane point of view, if it is not worthy of respect and pride, it cannot be condemned either. In the same manner, their historical understanding is far stronger than that of ours. Those who condemn the history in advance cannot give any value to it. Since they follow their religious taste not to see the negative points of history, they consider it as a set of glorious and prideful events and acts. This history is the history of their religion; the history of their glorious deeds and prideful acts. It is the history of their conquests and jihads, the history of their valor and manly acts, of their scholars and scientists, poets and artists, glorious culture and civilization and, finally, the history of their magnificent powerful caliphs and sultans and even the history and mythology of the One Thousand and One Night, of those who symbolized the power, glory and stature of Islam and Muslims.38
However, because of the psychological drive in them, consider it negative rather than positive points and, naturally, they not only do not like it, but escape from it as well. This is true even about their own history, i.e. the history of the Shi‘ite sultans and dynasties. In their opinion, this history is one of oppressions, murders and bloodsheds; it is the history of tyranny and despotism, irreligiousness and disbelief, hypocrisy and flattery and, finally, that of the unknown victims who were crushed by the beasts and buried at the foot of the high palaces of the powerful and the rich. One views the history through its glory while the other through its justice and religiousness and we can at least say that one has chosen such a rule, rightly or wrongly, in his subconscious and tries to exaggerate in what he is sensitive to and to show the past the way he likes to.39
We can see how different these two images are. It is not to say which one is real or closer to reality or both are equally far from reality. It is to say that the two ways of viewing renders two different sets of results, the most important being that there is more continuation and establishment in the Sunni history than in the Shi‘ite one—i.e. the history of independent Shi‘ite dynasties and powers. The former never deny the past while the latter generally do so. The former consider the present as the continuation of the past while the latter consider the present to be the denial of the past. Even in the severest forms of Islamic revolutionary movements, one cannot find a movement the basis of whose work is the absolute denial of the past. It is difficult to find an example here whose goals do not include denial of the past.40
A comprehensive expression of the results of these two attitudes requires being provided separately. This relates to such important issues as the Islamic identity and nationality, cultural identity and independence, historical backing and heritage, independent identity and social developments, all of which are among the most urgent and basic problems of the day affecting the Muslims. In order to find answers to these questions, one has to study the issue carefully and analytically.
Indeed, some changes have occurred in Shi‘ism as in Sunnism. Although many Sunnis even in the modern times look at their past in the same manner, the number of those who deal with it critically is not small. The pressure of the necessities of modern life and the expansion of rationalism and criticism has been more powerful and critical than such beliefs.
The fact that such an attitude has not been changed effectively by such necessities is due to other obligations that are the products of modern times. In an age when everyone had to define and determine their own historical heritage and cultural identity, the Muslims and especially the Arabs had to make themselves known. They had to rely on it so as to avoid the constant humiliation of the westerners.
Naturally, under such pressure and painful conditions, not only they had to insist on the prideful elements of their civilization and culture and deny the manifestations of its weakness, the more important thing was that they basically did not see anything other than its weak points. The point was not for them to deny the weak points. Basically, such points would not attract their attention. If there was not such a point, the attitude and way of thought inherited from the old times would be totally eliminated or at least would be less important than it is now and the Arab World would live in intellectual and cultural conditions far different from what it now has.41
It would be appropriate now to quote from Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm by ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq, where he criticizes the past, including the early Islamic period and that of the following caliphs. Although, from this point of view, he is not in a position similar to that of Sayyid Qutb, he is one of the most important and deepest pioneers of enlightened thinking in this respect and one of the most effective and influential figures in this respect although, for certain reasons, his reputation does not equal his intellectual influence.
There are sociopolitical reasons for this. The ruling politics of Egypt during Nasir and before that and the politics ruling the entire Arab World at that time and even for the time being was emphasizing Arab nationalism and propagating and sanctifying it. The Nasiris and Arab leftists welcomed ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq since he fought part of the old traditions, especially the ones that were reactionary in their view. However, they did not like his criticisms of the past history and heritage. Their goal was to make this past seem as beautiful, glorious and humane as possible. Therefore, they opposed him and his fellow thinkers.42
Socially, during his life ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq did not have much chance of influence and progress. Because of his books, the religious groups, who constituted the majority, had a feeling of rancor about him. Even the religious and revolutionary youth of the following periods, who had thoughts and beliefs strongly opposite to those of the religious people of the time of the writing of the book, disliked him, because he believed that religion and politics are separate and should be separate. Otherwise, it would be politics that would put religion at its service rather than vice versa. Therefore, the two must be separate. Such a theory was contrary to the beliefs and ideals of the young people as to the realities and needs of their time.43
Because of these reasons, he could not find a social and intellectual position that would suit him. However, it is not important how influential he was and why he was that influential. The important thing is that he set forth theories that, both because of their truth and their harmony and agreement with the modern requirements were more likely to be influential in a way that would without doubt be more extensive and critical in the future. However, less the Arab fanaticism becomes for glorifying the past, his historical attitude and that of his fellow thinkers would be welcomed more.
What was said about ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq is just intended for clarifying the position of his attitude and his historical views. The purpose is to reflect on his words in order to clarify the thought of historical critique among Sunnis where it relates to their ideological foundations.
“Undoubtedly, one has to say that the basis of caliphate has always consisted of violence and domination. History does not remember any caliph, unless his name is accompanied by horrible armed forces surrounding him, a violent force that supports him and drawn swords that guard him. It would not be an exaggeration to say that any single ring of caliphate has a sign of violence and domination. Yes, what is known as caliphate stands but on human heads and is established only on necks. What is known as the crown is not alive other than by taking lives and is not powerful other than with the power it takes away from the others. It does not have any glory other than the one given to it by the others, like the night which will make the day shorter if it is made longer and its glory is from the sparkling of the swords and the fire of the fights.”44
“The zeal to protect the property made the king support his throne against anything that was likely to shake it or disgrace it or reduce its sanctity. Therefore, it was natural for the king to be violent and to evilly shed blood while getting control over one who tried to disobey him. Therefore, it was natural that he would be the sworn enemy of any discussion, even the scientific one; discussions that, in his view, might damage the columns of his throne or expose it to a risk although it might be a risk far away. It is from this point that the sultanate puts pressure on the freedom of science and the centers of education…”45
“The tangible fact that is approved by reason as well as by history, whether in the past or in the present history, is that the maintenance of religious appearance and acts does not just depend on the type of government that is called caliphate neither by jurisprudents nor to those whom the people call the caliphs. The fact is that the global expediency of the Muslims does not depend on it either… Rather, one has to say that caliphate has always been and still is a disgrace for Islam and Muslims. It has been the source of any evil and corruption…”46
“Islam, as you know it, was a high invitation that God made for the happiness and salvation of the people of this world, including easterners and westerners, Arabs and non-Arabs, men and women, the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant. It is a single religion that God intended on communicating to man and to cover the other parts as well. Islam was not an Arabic call or an Arabic unity or an Arabic religion. Islam did not give superiority to one nation over another, to one language over another, to one land over another, to one time over another or to one generation over another, unless according to piety.”47
“If you look carefully at the backgrounds resulting in the allegiance with Abu Bakr and his caliphate, you will find out that it was a political allegiance, had all the characteristics of the government in contemporary times and was obtained by relying on power and the sword.”48
“Perhaps some of those whom Abu Bakr fought did not want to give up religion and become infidels on the ground of not paying the zakat. The problem was that they had not accepted Abu Bakr like some of the senior Muslims and it was natural that they would not pay zakat to him since they did not recognize him so as to obey him. Whenever one carefully examines all that the history recounts about the rebels against Abu Bakr, whom were called the apostates, and contemplates their fights, which were known as the Rejection War, one feels how much of history is dark and oppressive. However, there is always a ray of the light of truth in the dark of history, which will one day catch the attention of the scholars. May they find the truth through that way.”49
“From early Islamic times, there was an assumption among Muslims that the caliphate is a religious position and regency on behalf of the Prophet. This was to the benefit of the kings, who propagated this mistake so as to obtain shields for the protection of their thrones, to be supported against the rebels. They still do so in different ways—there are so many such ways if the seeker pays due attention to them—so as to make the people believe that obeying the caliphs is obeying God and rebelling against them is rebelling against God.”
“However, the subsequent caliphs were not satisfied with this and were not satisfied with what Abu Bakr was satisfied with and did not show anger on what made him angry, and called the sultan God’s caliph on the earth… Then, other religious discussions were added to caliphate and were made part of the belief in unity. A Muslim would learn that besides the attributes of God and his Prophet and these were induced to him as the Two Testimonies were induced to him. This was the crime of the kings and their oppression against the Muslims. They misled and blinded them. They hid the new ways by resorting to the religion and they cheated them and limited their wisdom in the name of the religion… They even limited their religious understanding, closed their eyes and deprived them from the other doors of science that somehow related to caliphate…”50
“Was there a reason other than the love of caliphate and the eruption of power that made Yazid shed the clean blood of Husayn, the son of the Prophet’s daughter? Was there a reason other than this which gave Yazid domination over the first capital of the first caliphate, the city of the Prophet, which he disgraced? Was there a reason other than this that made ‘Abdu’l-Malik disgrace God’s house? Was there a reason other than this that made Abu’l-‘Abbas thirst for and shed blood? Thus, the ‘Abbasids were made subject to murder and some of them rebelled against the other…”51
Such an attitude and analysis cannot be found in the past as part of the causes, some of which were mentioned. This is the result of the developments and the necessities of the recent century and, as you see, has been made very similar to the historical perception and the method of analysis of Shi‘ites. This is a current that will go forward despite the many impediments on its way.52
Here, part of the first discussion is ended, which is why the Shi‘ite and the Sunni perceptions of early Islamic history are different and how such a difference was created and what were its origins and what were the results and consequents in the entire religious thought and mentality of the two and how it affected the intellectual, psychological and doctrinal structures of these two. This was the first foundation in the development of the political thought of these two. Now let’s examine the second principle, i.e. how the two look at the ruler in the sense of the ruler proper.
For the time being, I set aside the Shi‘ite view in this respect because the readers are sufficiently familiar with it. We have to see what the Sunni view is about the ruler and what it has been affected by and what effects and consequences it had in practice.
The fact is that, despite some consensus in principle among Sunnis throughout the history in this respect, the issue is not clear in all its aspects. The reason for this is also clear because this is a religious problem which, at the same time, had much friction with the political rule while those in power constantly required the religion and put pressure on it so as for the latter to recognize it, that is to say, the religion had to take a form that could respond to their wishes and desires. Perhaps no other part of religion has been so much under different types of pressure in all aspects and was never exploited so much.
Consequently, the references concerning this subject are also abundant as well as various and rather scattered and contradictory. The book Kanz al-A‘mal, which is in fact a big classified encyclopedia of Sunni tradition sayings, quotes about 400 sayings only in Kitab al-‘Imarah, which directly deals with this issue. This is a small part of the sayings available in this respect because the great part of the sayings that can be used deal with it indirectly and are not mentioned in this book.53
Without consideration to the study of the series of documents and the men of the sayings, indeed according to the Sunni rather than the Shi‘ite criteria, and by considering the subject in question and the variety and contradiction between them, it can easily be discovered that they have been subject to active forgery. Although there have been few scholars and sayings scholars who let themselves criticize these texts, this seems evident at first sight while, considering the involvement of politics; one has to say that this is also natural.
The fact that hardly anyone has dared to make such criticism is important in itself because the various issues concerning this subject have been so much subject to consensus and agreement throughout history and especially after the final defeat of the Mu‘tazilites and the taking of power by the Ash‘arites that there has principally been no question regarding the truth or falsehood of the primary references. The issue was not anymore the question whether the texts were valid according to the existing principles of statesmanship or wisdom. The issue was that any attempt to reach a different interpretation or expression was condemned in advance since it would break up the consensus of the jurisprudents, theologians and sayings scholars.
There was another problem in the meanwhile, which was the fear of accusations, especially by scholars who were directly or indirectly supported and approved by the rulers because any investigation in this respect would result in the decline of the ruler’s position and acceptability. What practically existed was the final limit of the theory that was likely to be set forth on the position of the ruler per se and in order to consolidate his position. Thus, any new attempt could not further reinforce their position and would probably help weaken them. When the thought was accepted as a principle that merely resorting to violent means and force would legalize the position of one who resorted to them by using the force of the sword and by shedding blood, therefore obeying him would be legal and any rising against him would be prohibited religiously, then here would remain no room for further strengthening to be achieved by further adjustment and collection and interpretation of the texts. Because of this, neither the ruling body would like such discussions and investigations nor their accompanying scholars. These two and other factors kept this discussion unpurified and un-criticized.
An important person who, in the middle of the third decade of the present century and simultaneously with the final fall of the Ottoman caliphate, interpreted and analyzed this problem otherwise was ‘Ali ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq, the author of the book Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm, which at that time aroused a turmoil throughout the Muslim World, especially in the Arab World. He indirectly dealt with the discussion of caliphate and its historical and religious position and the subject of its religious necessity. In those days, with the fall of the Ottoman caliphate, this attracted a great deal of attention. He discussed imamate and the government by providing rejecting arguments.
The turmoil that was created by the book showed how far Sunni beliefs in such cases are un-criticizable and un-arguable. The fact is that such rows, more than—in the words of ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq’s opponents—showing the antireligious or anti-Islamic tendencies of the author or, for example, his infidelity or apostasy, show the Sunni hypersensitivity to discussions that he had criticized and analyzed. Otherwise, there were many writers at that time who doubted even the principal issues of Islam while none of them met with such severe and full-fledged reactions. It went so far that it was said, “Since the printing industry entered our countries, no book has been printed that aroused so much turmoil and evil as that aroused by ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq’s.”54
Prior to entering this discussion, there is a point to be noted. It is that, according to Sunnis, the government means an Islamic and religious government. Its attributes are one thing and the ruler and his qualifications are another thing. These two are two separate categories despite their internal relation and have been formed under the effect of two different series of factors.
Their view of the government is affected by the Qur’an, the Prophet’s (S) tradition and probably the heritage of the Companions. However, their view of the ruler is mainly or rather entirely affected by the historical and political situation and conditions in the first days and their later periods to early ‘Abbasid period. In clearer words, their understanding of the government is affected by the theoretical fundamentals of Islam and their understanding of the ruler per se is affected by historical realities. It might be appropriate to say that they are idealistic concerning the government while realistic about the ruler. In their view, there is no relationship between the two—quite the opposite to that of Shi‘ites—and they are of two different categories and have to be looked at differently.55
Now we have to see why it was so. Islam is a vast inclusive religion. It is a religion as well as a government, worship, law and politics. These characteristics are based on the essence of Islam as a religion. A Muslim, like a believer in any other religion, has to believe in Islam in its entirety. Because of this, the non-worshipping parts cannot be ignored. A Muslim cannot be a Muslim while forgetting these parts. If he does not wish to or cannot practice them, he cannot believe in them and be committed to them because this is contradictory to the truth of his beliefs.
However, this is one side of the issue. These are theoretical considerations that will be otherwise in practice, as they were. It is true that Islam is a religion as well as a government and it is the application of the Qur’an as well as the tradition. However, one has to see which ruler is to have control of the government and what the Qur’an and the tradition say in this respect and whether what these two say is the same as what was realized or perhaps the issue was realized otherwise, and also what the change was, why it occurred and what was its end result.
This is one of the most sensitive points where the Shi‘ite understanding and the Sunni understanding of Islam, politics, imamate and government differ strongly. The understanding by the two of the religious and worldly attributes of Islam is not different. Both believe that the worldly laws of Islam constitute part of Islam and that one has to believe in and be committed to them. Both equally believe in the necessity of Islamic government, indeed according to the relevant conditions, and they do not think much differently on the details. Their basic difference is in their view of the ruler rather than the government. According to Sunnis, the ruler is a category that is practically separate from the theory of government and all that relates to it. In the Shi‘ite view, these two are absolutely interdependent and correlated.56
In order to clarify this point, we have to take a look at the view of the two about imamate and guardianship. There, the question is not who is the Prophet’s (S) imam and guardian. The problem does not begin there. According to Shi‘ism, the problem is not basically that of the imam or guardian. The problem is the imamate and guardianship. The problem is not the person, it is the position. The problem is what position the imamate and guardianship have and, according to them, who can be the imam or guardian. In their view, the imam and caliph is one who has the qualifications for such a position. First the position is defined and delimited and then the qualified person is specified.57
This requires further explanation although this may lead us astray from the main discussion. However, there is no way but to further talk about it in order to clarify that which is of the utmost importance for a better understanding of this discussion.
What Shi‘ites say concerning the Prophet’s (S) guardianship and caliphate is not that the Prophet (S) appointed ‘Ali (‘a) as his successor and repeatedly emphasized it. More important than that is that basically their understanding of the issue is of special depth and extensiveness and has special attributes. In other words, the talk is not about the person and who should succeed the Prophet (S). Rather, it is mainly what the concept of the Prophet’s (S) succession is and what dimensions and attributes it has. Also, according to all of the dimensions and attributes, who can and must be appointed to this position.
The fact is that Shi‘ites, because of numerous logical and historical reasons, attach special importance to the caliphate and guardianship after the Prophet (S) and believe that it is far more important, more sensitive and more critical than political leadership in its common sense. As the leader of the Muslims, the Prophet (S) was not an ordinary leader who just had power. As a result, his successor in the position of leadership cannot be an ordinary person who just had the responsibility of politically leading the people. This is, in the first place, due to the unique characteristics of Islam.
As we said, Islam is a religion which is both a religion and a government; faith as well as politics and government. The two are connected to, dependent on and integral to each other. The Prophet’s (S) way of leadership in Medina is the best example for this. As the political leader of the society in Medina, the Prophet (S) sought to lead the society according to the teachings and orders of the Qur’an. The issue was administering the society according to the precepts of Islam rather than merely administering the people. The principle was to run the people’s affairs justly and to make the laws of Islam rule over all individual and social aspects of the people’s life. This is possible if the leader of the society has moral and spiritual merits accompanied by science and insight in religious affairs. The Prophet (S) was the best and the most perfect application of such characteristics.
The problem is who can and must succeed such leadership, who can both administer the society and seek to realize the Islamic orders in all individual and collective aspects of the people’s lives. In clearer terms, he has to have the power to administer the society within the principles and laws of Islam and without violating the same. If someone is only in charge of the political affairs of the society, does this mean that he has even the minimum qualifications?
If we accept that the Prophet (S) was worthier than a political leader in leading the people, his successor has to have qualifications and a position higher than that of a political leader. If we accept that the administration of the society according to the laws of Islam and of the Qur’an is a duty, then in all times and not just in the time of the Prophet (S), the Prophet’s (S) successor has to have the scholastic power and religious insight for carrying out such a duty. Finally, if we accept that the leader of the Islamic society that seeks to realize the orders and ideals of Islam has to have certain characteristics of spirituality and piety and be a manifestation of virtues that he seeks to realize, then certainly this principle is truer about the one who must take power after the Prophet (S).
Therefore, caliphate and guardianship of the Prophet or, in other words, the principle of imamate is of special importance to Shi‘ites. More than being about the successor and who he should be, the problem is about the subject, dimensions and concept of succession and whether one can or has to be in such a position.
It is true that the Shi‘ite belief about Imam ‘Ali’s (‘a) immediate caliphate is, in the first place, due to the explicit and repeated orders and emphases of the Prophet (S) regarding his succession, it should also be added that, since ‘Ali (‘a) has to be the immediate caliph after the Prophet (S) because he, more than anyone else has the qualifications and characteristics that are required for such a position. According to Shi‘ites, the reason why the Prophet (S) appointed ‘Ali (‘a) as his successor was his unique characteristics, that made him worthier than anyone else for that position. Such merits and qualifications made him worthy of the position. The Prophet’s selection and recommendations were a practical approval of this fact.
In brief, according to Shi‘ism, imamate and caliphate, before being about an individual, is about the position. First the position is defined and delimited and then the person to be in the position. An imam is one who has the qualifications needed for being in the position of imamate. It is not that there is a merit to imamate or caliphate, whose meaning is perceived in the light of the characteristics that the imams or caliphs had.58
However, according to Sunnism, it is the other way round. First, the person is determined and the position is defined according to his characteristics. First, the guardian and caliph are determined and then guardianship and caliphate are defined. Their view of the ruler is affected by this principle. They recognize what occurred and then define and delimit the conditions, characteristics and powers of the ruler.
According to what was said, it can briefly be said that, “The Shi‘ite and Sunni views of the government and politics and, in general, the non-worship laws of Islam, since they return to the same sources, are more or less similar. If there are differences, they are in details rather than in the principles, and it relates to their criteria in criticizing and studying the tradition since the two have different criteria in verifying the validity of sayings attributed to the Prophet. However, the views of the two concerning the ruler and his characteristics are very different. The Sunni view in this regard is recognizing the rulers that had the power in the previous centuries. Such recognition, through time, shaped and improved their jurisprudential and theological foundations in this respect. However, Shi‘ites view the problem essentially different. Their view of the ruler arises from their view of the principle of ruling as it was in the hands of the Prophet (S) and then was or had to be transferred to his successors. According to them, this ruling is one of the characteristics of prophethood and the Prophet’s mission. Since imamate and guardianship are somehow the continuation of prophethood and are in a position equal to that, the same type of ruling is applied. This continuation does not contradict the end of prophethood in Islam, which is a principle of Islam. It is exactly from this point that their thought about the ruler and his conditions, characteristics and powers is shaped and developed. From such an angle, what occurred in the early centuries lacked legality and, naturally, cannot be a criterion for discovering the rules and conditions that are to be taken into account in determining the ruler’s qualifications.
It would be appropriate to mention the Rebels here. Contrary to Sunnis and because of psychological, tribal and social reasons, they denied the status quo and then organized their view about the ruler and his qualifications based on such denial. The denial of the status quo by Shi‘ites had ideological reasons while the ideology of the Rebels was born out of the status quo.
Nevertheless, the discussion was that the view of Sunnis concerning the ruler was not that relevant to their view of the government. Their thought about the government and that the society has to be run according to the precepts and laws of Islam was affected by the Qur’an and the tradition while it was affected by historical facts regarding the ruler and his characteristics.
The beginning of this dualistic attitude towards this problem goes back to before the Prophet’s (S) death, after which, nobody doubted that the religious precepts had to govern the society. It was known and agreed on according to which laws and rules the society had to be run. However, concerning the ruler that had to be selected as caliph, the issue was not so clear. What was important and practically existed was that the society had to be run and an individual had to be selected to that position. When Abu Bakr was selected as caliph, he received general allegiance not because he had a certain characteristic or qualification that they had defined for the ruler. According to them, the issue was far more practical and urgent or rather regular than such reflections or controversies. A number swore allegiance to him and the others followed them without delay.
Abu Bakr’s caliphate and rule was accepted as a reality. If the people had pledged allegiance to someone else, his caliphate and rule would have been accepted as a reality. What established the caliphate for the first caliph was that a number pledged allegiance and the others said that they would follow the former. It is interesting that, in response to the repeated calls by Fatimah Zahra (‘a), who asked them not to forget the Prophet’s (S) recommendations and to administer the truth through the right path, they said, “You should have taken action sooner. We have pledged our allegiance, the issue is settled. If you had come to us earlier, we might have pledged allegiance to you.”59
Now let’s see what the final result was. The Prophet (S) has a position of his own as the ruler and sovereign. The position as the religious legislator, the policy-maker and the political leader was accepted by all, and this was a religious acceptance. After the Prophet, the power was put in the hands of Abu Bakr. The people of that time did not attach any religious respect to him either before or after his caliphate. In their opinion, he was a person like the other Immigrants and Helpers. However, the important point is that, allegiance to him prepared the ground for a thought that was later established as a principle of Sunni thought concerning the ruler and his qualifications. This requires further explanation.
The first people who pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr were very small in number. It was mainly their allegiance that stimulated the others to swear allegiance, i.e. the others said, “We will swear allegiance because they did, and this means accepting the reality.”, which means recognizing him since recognizing him was a reality.
Although the story was not so tangible concerning the second and the third caliphs, the truth of the matter about them was like this as well. Abu Bakr appointed ‘Umar, i.e. recognized his caliphate and succession, and the others followed him. ‘Abdu’r-Rahman ibn ‘Awf, on behalf of the six-man council, recognized ‘Uthman, and the people accepted this. However, the story of ‘Ali’s (‘a) selection as caliph was different. It was the large masses of the people who swore allegiance to him with much insistence.
What is important in the meanwhile is that the seed of obeying the ruler because his rule is a reality was planted at the time of the Senior Caliphs. Although this seed sprouted later when the Umayyad took power, taking a meaning and dimensions far different than what it practically meant at the time of the Senior Caliphs. At this time, the religious and sacred aspects of this part of the history was extended and received wide acceptance and the more or less unanimously achieved religious acceptance of it largely contributed to this.
As we said, the final improvement of this way of thought occurred during the Umayyad period and the person of Mu‘awiyah had an essential share in this. After his power was established, he tried hard to make caliphate hereditary in his clan. This was unprecedented until that time. Despite some important opposition, he was the final victor and the caliphate became hereditary. From then on, transfer of power followed a mechanism that was beyond or rather independent of the will of the Muslims. The question was not what the people want and say or what the religious rules relating to the ruler were according to by which to appoint the caliph. This was the fact and it was very difficult and to some people of that time impossible to change it. They considered it very difficult and were not willing to do it because it required doing things they did not like and were not willing to do as it required a great deal of distress and devotion.60
Thus, the reality won over beliefs, ideals and rules because the principle was accepting the reality although the reality that was later recognized was totally different from the one that had been initially accepted and the mechanism of appointing the caliph and the general qualifications for it and the limits of his powers were totally different from what existed at the time of the Senior Caliphs. As a result, the ruler was acceptable and had to be obeyed solely on the grounds that he had the power, even if he did not have the least qualifications or he took power by force and violence or oppression and violated the limits of the shari‘ah and became corrupt.61
As an example, the well-known jurisprudent and judge, Ibn Jama‘ah says, “The third way through which compulsory allegiance is made is the force of a powerful person. Then, if a time is void of a qualified imam to take the position and a powerful person establishes his control over the people by using force and military force and without the people’s allegiance or without being the successor to one to whom the people had pledged allegiance, he has to be obeyed… so that the Muslims’ affairs are put in order and unified and ignorance and corruption will not impede this flow.” He then adds, “If someone becomes the imam by means of force and then another person rises up and defeats the previous person, the previous person will be deposed and the new person will be the imam, which is according to what we said about the expedience of the Muslims and the need to maintain unity among them. It was because of this that Ibn ‘Umar said on the episode of Harrah, ‘We are with the one who wins.’”62
Naturally, the ruling system was not indifferent in the meanwhile and it would not be logical for it to be so. Such a way of thinking was satisfactory and even ideal for it and it tried to support it by the Qur’an, sayings and stories, jurisprudence, history, theology and philosophy, and it did so. Since it was in harmony with the spirit of the people and their historical and cultural background and the sociopolitical developments of their time, it was widely accepted. As further dealing with this and also how forgery and distortion were involved in the meantime would make us deviate from the main discussion, we give it up and suffice to make two points.63
Now we have to see what the problem was of those in power in those days. They wanted to make the people obey the ruler merely on the account that his power and rule were a reality. The Umayyad practically did not want anything more than this. As we have already mentioned, they were not so willing to be given a religious stature. They neither required it nor liked it. Even if they made use of religious motivations, it was to reinforce their worldly power not to consolidate their religious position as the caliph of the Muslims—quite contrary to the ‘Abbasid caliphs, who were willing to define themselves a religious position and stature, in whose light to consolidate their worldly power.64
What factor could be put at the service of such a goal and to make the people obey them unconditionally? Considering the psychological, cultural and historical backgrounds, the best means was to resort to fatalism. The pre-Islamic Arabs had an unalterable belief in fate. They believed that the human life and fate are beyond his will and control and that the ups and downs of life are due to predetermined causes, in which human beings have no role.
As was common among the Bedouins, this thought was perfectly accepted among the people of Mecca and the Quraysh. Basically, their idolatry can be comprehended and analyzed in such a relationship. Therefore, they believed in various deities and they made sacrifices to them while believing that they had a role in their lives. Any event that occurred from their birth time to their death, be it the birth of a boy or girl, drought, trade and profit, victory or defeat in war, disabling diseases or poverty, they considered to be the direct result of the same deity while they did not define any role for human decision in this regard.65
Principally, dualism, polytheism and belief in various deities and idols are contradictory to the belief in human freedom and responsibility. Human freedom would not make sense in a world in which the fates of any part of it is controlled by an independent metaphysical force. Man can be said to be free if he is the architect of his own fate, at least to a certain extent. Otherwise, if the fates and events of one’s life are controlled by independent deities, it will not make sense to talk about freedom.
Nevertheless, fatalism and determinism were the prevailing thought in the pre-Islamic Arabian society, which was strongly criticized by the Qur’an as it resulted in internal human deterioration. The criticisms followed several goals. Firstly, they sought to eliminate this unrealistic untrue thought, which was a foolish delusion of the pre-Islamic Arabs thinking of the world as having several deities. Secondly, they thought to revive the human conscience and the personal sense of responsibility in individuals who did not think of themselves as having any will. On the same basis, they would submit to any mean or evil act and, as opposed to their internal pressures, they approached the fictitious gods to attain salvation rather than by reforming their selves.
When one’s happiness or misery is not controlled by his own actions and are referred only to the will of the gods and goddesses, naturally no one will try to reform himself in order to achieve happiness and everyone will resort to the same idols or, in their own words, interceders. Finally, the criticisms sought to collapse the doctrinal and intellectual foundations of the superiority of the chosen nobility which was ruthless, materialistic and evil. In the ignorant pre-Islamic society of those days, what consolidated the ruling nobility was not the power of the sword. It was, rather, the deterministic superstitions.
The society of Arabia then was too tribal and dispersed to be made obedient by the force of the sword. The stature and position of the corrupt ruthless powerful people of that time arose from the people’s ignorance and dogmatism rather than their weakness or inability. It was exactly because of this that they were the most revengeful enemies of the Prophet (S) to the last moment and would not bow to the Prophet. When they converted to Islam because of fear or greed, they constantly sought to take revenge and, finally, they did so under the protection of the Umayyad.
The fact is that perceiving and accepting monotheism, in the sense that it is understood in divine religions, especially Islam, although it is an inherent and conscientious ability, requires a minimum of intellectual and rational growth. One who is incapable of this cannot simply accept and comprehend that everything is controlled by God and that, what man considers to be the effective factors, are all the material and non-material means and tools of this great world, which were entirely created by God and obey Him. It is to be said that the ignorant pre-Islamic Arabs lacked such intellectual and rational abilities. Their biological, social, historical and cultural backgrounds were distant from the developments that would entail such growth.
As we have said, they did not even have a clear understanding of the concept of causality although they were perhaps familiar with it yet were unable to discover the relations between different factors. This was because of the absolute commonality of the superstitions and fortunetelling among them at the most obtuse level. Indeed, any tribe and nation has superstitions of its own but what was common among the pre-Islamic Arabs was more than superstitions. More than being due to factors that would result in seeking and loving superstitions, which was generally due to idiocy, lunacy and not using the rational forces rather than the suppressed or unsuppressed spiritual and psychological needs. It would be appropriate here to quote part of the precise description of Ahmad Amin on “the intellectual life of the pre-Islamic Arabs”.
“The pre-Islamic Arabs were not able to establish a proper relationship between cause and effect. If somebody was sick and in pain, they would consider it to be incurable. Although they somehow knew there was a relationship between the illness and the drug, the relationship was not clear to them. They just knew that the tribal habit was to use such a drug for such pain. That was the most of their understanding. Therefore, it would not be strange for them to believe that the chief’s blood would cure a dog or that the cause of a human disease is an evil spirit that has entered his body and the spirit has to be rejected in order to cure the person. When they feared that somebody might go mad, they would apply the waste matters and bones of a dead body on him. There are many such examples. None of these things, so long as the tribal chief did them, were questioned or denied because people refuse to do such things if they are really looking for the causes of the diseases while the pre-Islamic Arabs had not yet attained such a level of development.”
“The same inability to have a causative understanding of affairs accounts for the absolute commonality of superstitions and myths among the pre-Islamic Arabs and the reason literary books are full of such myths and superstitions… This was why they resorted to fortunetelling in order to study the events of the past and of the future.”
“It is true that in any tribe or society, however civilized and developed they might be, there are people who believe in superstitions, but Arab literary books indicate that such beliefs were believed by the people in general rather than by certain individuals, and that fortunetelling and the like have been recognized by all the tribes of that time although, in a couplet of pre-Islamic Arab poetry, an example of astral discussions or a story with high thoughts indicating the causative relations might be found. However, even in these cases, one cannot find deep thought or a clear analysis.”66
Amin quotes a story from Sirah by Ibn Hisham, “One of the tribes of Thaqif were terrified by the fall of the stars—i.e. meteors. They went to a person in their tribe who was known as ‘Amru ibn Umayyah, who was from Bani ‘Alaj. He was the most clever and deep-thinking of the Arabs. They told him, ‘O’ ‘Amru, did you not see what happened in the sky because of the fall of the stars?’ He said, ‘I did.’, and then added, ‘If those of the stars fell with whose help the people find the directions on land and in the sea and the seasons of summer and winter are identified by them and the people’s lives depend on them, I swear by God that it means the end of the world and the destruction of the creatures. If stars other than these fell and the former remained in place, it means a fate that God has determined for the creatures. Which of them fell?’”67
The strange thing is that such things are still believed by some Arabs today, indeed by those who have maintained and been brought up according to their old heritage. They still breathe and think in such atmospheres. A while ago, newspapers wrote that the great Mufti of Arabia, Sheikh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Baz has taken a devil out of an Arab and he converted him to Islam .68
What is considerable among these is that the most reputable and influential cleric of a country or even of a religious branch, i.e. Wahhabism, which deems that it is the only branch whose Islam is pure and, like the original Islam, is beneficent and away from additions and superstitions and forged items, thinks like this in our time and takes direct action to exorcise the devil and then calls it to Islam and the latter accepts it. More importantly, the newspapers of this country write it without the least doubt, while they so strongly believe in it and in their own beliefs they would not hesitate even to mock and be harsh to others.
Nevertheless, a proper sympathetic understanding of the intellectual and mental characteristics of pre-Islamic Arabs is of key importance in understanding this and many other discussions, we had better quote another part of Amin’s description, although it would be a bit lengthy.
“An Arab’s attitude towards the world is not general and all-inclusive, like that of a Greek. In their first philosophical attempts, the Greeks looked at the world in a comprehensive and all-inclusive manner. They would ask, ‘How did this world come to existence? In my view, this world is a set of changes and developments. Is there a single stable basis beyond all this change and development? If there is, is it water, air or fire? My feeling is that all the components are interrelated like the components of a single object and that they follow fixed laws. What is the system and how was it formed and from what?
A Greek would ask himself these and similar questions and this would form the basis of his philosophy, all of which was the result of his general outlook. However, an Arab, whether before or after Islam, would not look at the world in this way. He would look around himself and, if something caught his attention, he would run to it and he would be inspired by a great deal of poetry, wisdom and proverbs and would say something in its description.
He did not have a perfect inclusive outlook. He could not analyze its causes and effects. More importantly, when encountering an object, he would not see it in its entirety. For example, when he stood before a tree, he would not see it as a whole. He would pay attention to some of its components, like the straightness of the stem or the beauty of the branches. The entirety of a garden would not catch his attention and his mind would not take an image of it like a photograph taken by a camera. He was like a honeybee that flies from one flower to another and sucks some juice from any of them. These are the mental and rational characteristics of an Arab, which accounts for the defect as well as the beauty of Arab literature, even during the Islamic period.” 69
Shahrestani puts this in another way, “There were few Arab philosophers and their philosophy consisted of sudden and self-motivated thoughts… The intellectual activities of Arabs and Indians were similar to each other. Their goal was to know the properties of objects and the dominating feature of their thought was essence and nature. The intellectual activities of Iranians and Romans were similar as well. Their goal was to study the quality of objects and the dominating feature of their thought was acquisition and attempt.”70 After quoting this, Amin adds that many orientalists such as Shahrestani thought that the Arab outlook on the world was not general and inclusive and principally could not look at this world in that way.
Naturally, fatalism would grow and progress in such an atmosphere. It is not necessary for anyone to contribute to its promotion. In such a background, chiefly no thought other than fatalistic thoughts had a chance to progress. The mentality and the psychological structure of the people is such that bows to anything that is not supported by reason because there is practically no rational or analytical activity going on. This is because of the final victory of the Ash‘arites, the Traditionists and the supporters of determinism and condemnation of reason. The problem, more than having political causes, had social, psychological, cultural and educational causes. They achieved victory at a time when the political rule had been weakened and dispersed. Their final victory was not acquired with the support of the ruling power, religious domination or propaganda. Ultimately, it was the determinist-thinking and determinist society, rather than the rulers promoting determinism, which defeated the supporters of reason and freedom.
At the same time, however, this does not mean that the pre-Islamic determinism had certain well-defined principles and existed as a philosophical and theological school, like the one we witness in the later centuries. It was public belief and had a wide influence, in a way that the psychological and doctrinal and even sociopolitical structure of the Arabs had been developed under its influence. It has to be added, indeed, that this belief and way of thinking was for a while overshadowed by the suspenseful as well as hopeful sociopolitical conditions of the days when Islam was taking power and its power was extending. However, when the world conquests of Islam were on the fall and the other tribes and nations were included within the new empire, the ground was prepared for its further appearance, especially since the newly converted Muslims had much experience and well-developed systematized thoughts and beliefs in this respect, all of which coincided with the period of domination of Mu‘awiyah. It is at this point that the story begins seriously, as there was a ground for it.71
The situation was quiet and the conquests had ended. There also had been the heavy and difficult-to-accept experience of the time of ‘Uthman and ‘Ali and the clashes between the Muslims. Meanwhile, the Peoples of the Book and the various sects had found an opportunity to find their position in the new system in order to promote their beliefs. More importantly, when Mu‘awiyah and the Umayyad took power, the best background was prepared for the reviving of the pre-Islamic Ignorant heritage as the Bedouin and their Ignorant nature was strongly sympathetic with the pre-Islamic period while they also needed it for continuing their domination and the mass of the Arab people in that time liked and even loved it.72
As if the ground was prepared, from every respect, for the reviving of the Ignorant heritage, especially for fatalism and determinism. It happened in practice. This conquering thought stepped forward and covered the entire society. This was indeed approved and supported by the ruling system. Even if there had not been the well-thought and systematic support of Mu‘awiyah and the Umayyad, this thought would still have opened a place for itself considering the conditions of that period. However, when the support was added, it became dominant in all aspects. Worse than anything else was that it was under the mask of the religion and the Qur’an, for which forgeries, distortions and new interpretations were applied on Islam and the Qur’an in order to give them an image that would approve the principle of determinism. The problem was not, anymore, whether the thought was approved by the Qur’an. More important than that was that they said Islam and the Qur’an were nothing other than that.73
Now we have to see what they wanted and why they propagated this thought so strongly. We have already mentioned that they required the people to be obedient and quiet. They wanted the people to follow them, not to criticize or object to them, not to say ‘Why did you do this? Why did you do that?’, not to say, ‘Why are you oppressive? Why are you violating the religion?’, not to say, ‘Why do you violate God’s limits? Why do you not punish the violators?’, not to say, ‘Why do you plunder the public treasury and spend it for your personal desires? Why do you not stop the recklessness of your governors?’ They wanted to be absolute in what they did and to rule without any impediment. Their Bedouin Ignorant nature, wealth, unlimited facilities and power, limitless lechery, lack of capacity, mean personalities and the tendency to saturate themselves in all ways did not let them think other than about their whims and wishes. Those whose fathers would be more than satisfied by several camel loads and would envy such a thing were now on top of the greatest empire. Naturally, what they did and expected irrationally was quite expectable.74
How could the ruler, be it the caliph, his province governors or governors, rule freely? The religious precepts as well as the people who believed in the precepts would limit him. This could not be countered. The Islamic society was not the pre-Islamic ignorant society without laws or rules. Islam existed and they could not deny it explicitly because this would result in their own denial. They could ignore the laws but could not deny its principle.
The best solution, which would neither result in the denial of Islam nor impede their freedom, power and lechery, would be one that would encourage determinism and say that man is a forced being without a will that does not and cannot have a role in determining his destiny. The events of his life are controlled by God and what happens to the human being are from Him and his will. The same pre-Islamic deterministic thought was encouraged in an Islamic rendering, with the difference being that various deities were replaced by God.75
According to this interpretation, what occurs to man is beyond his will and is from the absolute will of God Almighty, be it from the nature or from the ruler or caliph or other people. The important point is this last one, i.e. what is from the ruler is the same as God’s decision which is realized through the ruler and, therefore, is unchangeable and unobjectionable. Also the very existence of the ruler is a God’s decision and cannot be changed. He exists because God wants him to exist, and he has power because God wants him to have power.76
For example, consider these words of Mansur, the second ‘Abbasid caliph, addressed to the people in one of his trips to Mecca, “O’, people! I am God’s sultan on the earth. I rule you with His help, approval and inspiration. I am his treasurer and act based on what He wants and distribute with his permission. God has given me the lock to his treasury. He will open it to you when He so wishes and will lock it when He wishes to lock it. So, go to God and on this day that he will bestow on you what he told in his book and ask for it, about which He said, “Now I completed my religion on you and perfected my blessing on you and chose Islam as your religion.” Ask him to aid me on the right path and inspire me to be kind and good to you and open me to give away to you your portions fairly.”77
Another example is what Mu‘awiyah said. The book Aghrad as-Siyasah fi I‘rad ar-Riasah, which is full of such examples, thus quotes him, “We kings are like the time. He whose hand we get will rise and he whom we put below will be inferior.” Then, the author, as an explanation and approval of Mu‘awiyah’s words, says, “These words indicate his high character and the ultimate point of his nobility while being a king under God’s approval. In fact, kings are God’s substitutes and caliphs and their orders on the people’s property will be effective. One who wants to get to a noble rank has to see it as a duty to obey the king.”78
In Nazariyyat al-Imamah, Mahmud Subhi thus explains Mu‘awiyah’s policy, “In order to consolidate the columns of his government he merely use force and material power. He also made use of the religious beliefs. He told the people that there had been a difference between him and ‘Ali as to caliphate. Therefore, they left it to God to decide and God chose him before ‘Ali and selected him as caliph. In the same manner, when he wanted to make the people of Hijaz pledge alleiance to his son, Yazid, he told them that his selection as caliph is a predetermined decision of God and the people have no choice in it. It was thus nearly settled in the Muslims’ minds that whatever the caliph wants and orders, even if it contradicts God’s orders, is a predetermined decision of God and He has decided to make it happen to his people.
During his emirate at the time of ‘Uthman, Mu‘awiyah explicitly said that the assets at the public treasury belonged to God rather than to Muslims. He meant to keep them for himself. In a like manner, he made use of the ideology of divine determination and the religious right of the kings in order to found and consolidate his rule. This was the worst change possible in the religious policy of Muslims because he wanted to exploit the religion for his power and to make the believers follow the ruler’s whims.”79
Mu‘awiyah’s propaganda and that of his successors succeeded for numerous reasons, many of which had social, mental and historical backgrounds and were rooted in the psychological structure of the people of that time and not merely to his actions and propaganda. The people saw and evaluated the issues and currents the same way that he and his likes wanted. An example of such a way of thinking can be seen in the theory that Hasan Basri told Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. Interestingly, he was more liberal and bolder than his contemporary jurisprudents and sayings scholars>, so much so that the Mu‘tazilites consider him one of their own because he rose up against the deterministic thought of his time. In this respect, he has made some correspondence with ‘Abdu’l-Malik and Hajjaj himself, in which he rejects their invoking some verses of the Qur’an to prove their deterministic theory.80
He is even one who criticized Mu‘awiyah on various occasions because of what he did.81 However, despite all these, he prevented the people from fighting against Hajjaj, who committed any crime, saying, “Do not fight him because he is God’s punishment. Therefore, you cannot turn away God’s punishment with your swords. If he is God’s calamity, then be patient to such calamity so that God will rule between you and him because God is the best ruler.”82 This was while he considered Hajjaj to be the worst of God’s people and said about him, “If any nation brings forth the worst and the most evil of them and we take forth Hajjaj, we will be the winner in such a competition.”83
It would be appropriate to mention some examples here. After the bloody episode of ‘Ashura, when Imam Husayn’s family was taken to Ibn Ziyad as captives, there were exchanges of words between Ibn Ziyad and Zaynab and Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, which are considerable in respect of this discussion. Ibn Ziyad pointed to Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin, and asking who he was. They said he was ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn. “Was it not ‘Ali ibn al-Husyan whom God killed.” Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin said, “I had a brother who was also named ‘Ali ibn al-Husayn, whom the army killed”. Ibn Ziyad said, “Rather say God killed him.” The Imam read the verse “God kills the people when their time comes.” Ibn Ziyad was angry and said, “Do you dare respond to and deny me? Behead him.” Indeed, things happened and the order was not performed.84
A similar discussion took place in Yazid’s court. Yazid addressed the Imam, saying, “Praise to God who killed your father.” Imam said, “God’s curse on him who killed my father.” Hearing this, Yazid ordered his death, but this was not performed. After a short time, he ordered that Imam be taken to him. He began cutting the chain that was on Imam’s neck, while reading this verse, “The troubles that the people have are because of the wrong things they do while God forgives many of them.” The Imam said, “You are wrong to think this verse is about us. What is about us is that, ‘The calamity will affect you, whether calamities to you or your soul or the things that happen to you from outside, unless they are written in the heavenly scripture. Do not regret and do not be happy for what has happened to you.’” 85
Is it not true that the only thing the two wanted to say was that what happened to Imam Husyan and his companions was done by God rather than by the ruler and that the ruler was only a means for the realization of God’s will? That is to say, it was not Yazid or Ibn Ziyad or their army who killed Imam Husyan but it was God who killed them. And why did God do so? It was the result of their own actions and they deserved such punishment. Here this was important for fully acquitting the ruler, as if no responsibility was to be attached to him and all returned to God.
The ruler would thus have unlimited power and immunity because all his actions were the manifestation of God’s will and, therefore, could not be changed or objected to. This was the Umayyad interpretation because they neither had to deny the principle of the religion nor failure to make such denial would limit them. They wanted power and unlimited freedom in action rather than religious justification or the like. All this was obtained in the light of such interpretation.
The Umayyad principally thought, lived, ruled and made propaganda on such basis. Their caliphate is full of such examples. When Mu‘awiyah died, Yazid wrote to the governor of Medina, “Mu‘awiyah was one of God’s people. God dignified him and made him His successor and entrusted the people’s affairs to him and gave him power and mastery.”86 Similarly, in response to those who objected to the crown princedom of his son, Yazid, Mu‘awiyah said, “This kingdom and sultanate is God’s and He will give it to anyone He wants. God has chosen Yazid as crown prince and you are not in a position to object to it. No one has power over it.”87
Their governors would talk and make propaganda in a like manner. One day, Ibn Ziyad said to the people, “O’ people, we are your chiefs and it is us who protect you from affliction. We rule with the power that God has given us and we give you from the things He has bestowed on us while we will treat you fairly. Then try to obey, cooperate with and give advice to us so as to deserve our justice.”88 A more developed example of such a way of thinking, to which many elements of the Qur’an and sayings are attached, can be found in the elaborate will of Yazid ibn ‘Abdu’l-Malik for the crown princedom of his two sons.89
Based on such a way of thinking, a great deal of sayings were forged to the effect that what is done by the ruler is the same as God’s wish. “Let the ruler do what he wants because, if he does good deed, he will be awarded and you shall be grateful and, if he does bad deed, he will be responsible for his own sins and you shall be patient. If the ruler does a religiously undesirable thing to you, be patient towards him and do not violate your allegiance to him because one who does this will die as if he died before Islam.” They went so far as to claim that the Prophet (S) had said, “There will be rulers who will not follow my directions and my method and will have a devil’s heart in a human body.” “What should we do towards them?”, the Prophet was asked. “Listen to and obey his orders even if he lashes you and takes your belongings.”, said the Prophet (S). Finally, they said that the Prophet said, “Obey any emir as obeying him will be like obeying me.” As an example, refer to the chapter “Kitab Al-Imarah”, of the book Kanz al-‘Ummal. Interestingly, most sayings quoted in this respect contain similar points.90
As we said, the main motivation of forging such sayings was the deterministic thought and the thought that the ruler himself and his actions are the actions of God. However, those in power were apparently not satisfied and did not think of it as sufficient for stabilizing their position. Therefore, they forged many sayings to the effect that breaking one’s allegiance in any form was religiously prohibited. If somebody has not pledged allegiance to an emir, he will die as if before Islam. “Pray behind any emir, good or bad, just or roué, and follow his orders. Do not say a bad thing about them, as cursing them is cursing me. If they delay saying the prayer, follow them without objection. Never think of standing up against the ruler as one who does this has abandoned the religion. Behead the one who stands up against the ruler. Kill the one who violates the Muslims’ customs. It behooves you to obey the emir in any situation, whether you are satisfied or have reservations for doing so. Do not fight them for power. The tribe who wishes to weaken the sultan will be weakened by God in this world. One who calls the people to himself while there is an emir, may God, his angels and his people curse him and you shall kill such a person.91
This was the story of the deterministic propaganda of the Umayyad. They wanted to put the ruler in a position that was not harmed by criticisms. The fact is that they succeeded in doing so. They worked so hard and invested so much to this end that it was later said that, “It is the Umayyad who support and promote determinism and the Alavites who claim and promote justice and monotheism.” The Infallible Imams stood, as much as they could, against the blind crippling and stagnating determinism and fought it. However, because of the reasons that were mentioned, this thought opened a position for itself and had a share in forming the Sunni thought about the ruler. Indeed, this does not mean that Sunnis later accepted their deterministic interpretation. Yet, this is true to a certain extent, but the point was that their attitude towards the ruler grew and was accepted under the effect of such thought.92
Although this series of sayings was not directly related to the subject of determinism that was promoted and supported by the Umayyad, it was a consequence thereof and for reinforcing and strengthening it. Sayings to the effect that the divine will was carried out through the ruler’s commands and actions actually put the ruler in an invulnerable and un-criticizable position without the need to assume a religious position for him. Sayings to the effect that it was necessary to obey the ruler and prohibited to break allegiance with and rise up against him in fact served the same un-criticizable position.
The great Sunni jurisprudents, sayings scholars and theologians viewed the ruler from this same point of view and defined and evaluated the necessity of obeying him and the prohibition of opposing him and the limits of his powers on the same basis. The gist of their argument was that the ruler per se without considering who he is and how he took power and what he believed in and how he acts was legal and had to be obeyed because his presence and power was a reality and this is God’s wish as He realized it as a fact.93
Although there have been people among the outstanding jurisprudents, theologians and scholars whose views of the ruler was not so, i.e., for example, they defined certain conditions for him such as practicing the religion and justice, being brave, knowledge of politics, tactfulness, being from the Quraysh tribe and even ijtihad (religious expertise). However, firstly they were a minority and, secondly, they disappeared through time and their thought was consequently forgotten, as the Mu‘tazilites faded away and their thoughts and beliefs were overshadowed by the dogmatic beliefs of the Ash‘arites and their predecessors. This group of jurisprudents and theologians, like their fellow liberal thinkers, i.e. the Mu‘tazilites, shone for a while in the first centuries and in the flourishing period of rationalism of the Islamic civilization and then faded away for ever. The important thing is that their thoughts did not receive any attention either in their own time or in the following periods, and did not change into an independent jurisprudential and theological or possibly sociopolitical current and did not penetrate the structure of Sunni socio-religious thought. What ruled and created flows was the public thought that shaped Islam and is still active despite all changes and developments.
Another factor in this regard was the thought that emerged from mid-Umayyad period and grew and extended rapidly, i.e. the thoughts of suspensionism [murajja’ah].94 Why this thought was created and extended is an independent question itself. However, what is certain is that the Umayyads welcomed it very much and worked hard to promote and exploit it.95
Suspensionism was in fact a reaction to the strict thought of the Rebels, who said that even the doers of minor sins were infidels and had to be killed. Such strictness resulted in a form of laxity, believing that one’s deeds do not harm one’s faith96 and that one cannot judge the good or bad personalities of individuals according to their behavior and deeds. What was important was the individual’s faith, but what he did neither mattered nor could one judge the individuals in this world based on that. This was some form of religious and doctrinal justification for any dissipation and breaking of the rules. Therefore, it was desirable to the reckless people, who constituted a vast portion in that time while it was consistent with the pre-Islamic ignorance heritage, which was still in place and had an unrivalled domination.97
One of the characteristics of the Ignorance period was the people’s hate of and escaping from any limit, law and rule. The Ignorance culture was a free culture that would not accept laws. More importantly, it was a culture of laxity and especially lechery. The conditions of those days required such a culture and the available evidence confirms this. Islam was in contradiction with this culture in all its aspects. Although Islam made important changes, the culture that had brought up its children according to its own characteristics and value system was too powerful, influential and lasting to retreat from its rival this soon, although it was not at the same time so strong as to deny it and rule again. However, it could wear the mask of religion and continue its life, and it did so.98
The lustful nature of the Arabs and their unwillingness to accept obligations and limitations, the vast facilities and endless wealth of the conquered lands, the beautiful female slaves and the large number of boy slaves,99 getting familiar with means of pleasure which had never been imaginable to Arabs, all together created conditions in which the people looked for a justification to resort to, which would reduce their internal pressures and the pressures of their conscience and would provide a religious way to take pleasure. The fact is that the willingness of the people to reckless pleasure at the time of the Umayyad was not weaker than that of the Umayyad themselves. As an example, see the book Al-Aghani.100
The ignorant nature, the strong psychological desire and the sociocultural conditions required the thought of suspensionism. Therefore, when it came to the fore, many of the people rushed towards it. This was indeed desirable to the Umayyads because of two reasons. Firstly, it was in harmony with their desires and whims and, when the people adopted a lecherous life and broke the religious and moral limits, then no one could criticize them for the same reasons. Secondly, the principle that one’s deeds do not affect one’s faith immunized them as they could resort to it to say that if the ruler or his governors, who were often more corrupt and reckless than themselves, practiced a corrupt life, drank wine and violated the limits, it did not matter. What mattered was the faith, which was not affected by the deeds. The deeds not only do not exclude him from the realm of the religion, but do not reduce his faith and spiritual position. They could thus disarm their critics before the public opinion as they said that one would lose their faith and piety by doing such things and would be disqualified for being a ruler.101
Nevertheless, this thought was supported and encouraged by the Umayyads and played an important role, at least during the Umayyad period, in legalizing the ruler, thus securing his position against any harm or criticism. As we have already said, there were also other factors involved, which we will not mention here.
- 1. Ibn Abi’l-Hadid says that a group of the Umayyad said to Mu‘awiyah, “O’, Commander of the Faithful, you achieved what you wanted. Why do you not stop cursing this man—‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. He answered, “I swear by God, I will not stop until the minors grow up with it, the adults get old on it, and no narrator mentions any virtue of his.” An-Nass wa’l-Ijtihad, p. 499, quoted from Sharh Ibn Abi’l-Hadid, vol. 1, p. 463. Compare with what Abu Ja‘far Iskafi said, “If God had not paid special attention to this man—Imam ‘Ali—no saying would have remained now about his virtues because of the actions of the Umayyad and Marwan.” For more examples, see Sharh Ibn Abi’l-Hadid, vol. 4, pp. 56-116.
- 2. Goldziher says that the Umayyad gave priority to the Feast Prayer over the regular prayer so that the people would hear what they said before dispersing. Then he adds, “The people would leave the mosque after the prayer in order not to hear the sermons, which involved cursing ‘Ali.” Goldziher, Muslim Studies, vol. 2, p. 51.
- 3. In this regard, especially refer to Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm, which well analyzes and criticizes this current. pp. 113-36, 180-2.
- 4. Contrary to the ‘Abbasid, the Umayyad neither needed the religion nor pretended to believe in it. Their upbringing, psychology and temperament were rather Bedouin and of the pre-Islamic Ignorance type and they comported themselves accordingly. Their politics was more like that of a tribal chief than a caliph or a sultan of a great empire, which brought about their rapid fall. Mu‘awiyah cared more than the others about the appearances, saying to the Kufis, “My goal is ruling you not forcing you to say prayers or pay zakat (religious tax) because I know that you will do so.” Al-Umawiyyun wa’l-Khilafah, p. 13. ‘Abdu’l-Malik said openly, “O’, people, come to the right path and give up whims, avoid dispersion and do not constantly call us to the method of the early Immigrants while you do not know what their method and actions were…” Al-Umawiyyun wa’l-Khilafah, p. 122.
However, the ‘Abbasids were not like that. They pretended to be religious and to practice the shari‘ah as much as they could. “The caliphate of the ‘Abbasid caliphs, especially in the early period, had a religious appearance so as to make them grand with the people. This was stronger in Mansur’s time because, in his time, there were many people who rose up against the ‘Abbasid caliphate…” Mabadi Nizam al-Hukm fi’l-Islam, p. 584. This is an example of the Arabic and ignorant fanaticism of the Umayyad, “The Umayyad detested pledging allegiance to one whose mother had been a female slave.” Tarikh Ibn ‘Asakir, vol. 5, p. 205.
Ibn Abi’l-Hadid says, “It was well-known among the Umayyad that their last caliph would be one whose mother is a female slave. Therefore, they did not give caliphate to such a person. If they were to do so, Muslimah ibn ‘Abdu’l-Malik had priority over anyone else.” Sharh Ibn Abi’l-Hadid, vol. 7, p. 157. Also see Al-Umawiyyun wa’l-Khilafah, p. 45, Fajr al-Islam, p. 91.
The ‘Abbasid method was precisely contrary to this. Not only would the ‘Abbasids marry the liberated slaves, from 800 A.D. onwards, there was no caliph who was born to a mother that was a free woman. G.F. Grunebaum, Classical Islam, p. 80; Goldziher, Muslim Studies, vol. 2, pp. 38-88. Concerning the ‘Abbasid and the Umayyad politics, see the same book, pp. 80-9.
- 5. Al-Bayan wa’t-Tabyin, vol. 2, p. 102-3.
- 6. An example of condemnation of the Shi‘ites because of their criticism of early Islamic history can be found in Barbahari’s Sharh as-Sunnah. Tabaqat al-Hanabilah, vol. 2, pp. 18-45.
- 7. Tahawwul wa Thubat, pp. 87-100.
- 8. Nazariyyah al-Imamah ladi ash-Shi‘ah al-Ithna-‘ashariyyah.
- 9. Ibid., p. 321.
- 10. For example, Miqrizi, who is one of the best-informed people on the history, culture and events of early Islam and the following centuries, rejects any phrase or narration from the Prophet (S) that involves a question by the Companions from the Prophet on such subjects as fate, God’s attributes or similar verses and considers them to be fake, saying that the Companions’ questions from the Prophet (S) had been only about worships and how to perform them. Miqrizi, Khutat, vol. 4, p. 180. A critique of this view can be found in An-Nazm al-Islamiyyah, pp. 74-7.
- 11. A‘lam al-Mawqi‘in, vol. 4, pp. 118-56, which provides a full discussion on the necessity of following the Companions and the Followers, and also see Turath al-Khulafa’ ar-Rashidin, pp. 14-5. In ibn Hanbal’s Sharh as-Sanah, Barbahari says about the need to follow the Companions, “Know that the religion is imitation, an imitation of the Prophet’s companions… The Prophet told his Companions, ‘Those of you who outlive me will witness many differences. I warn you not to get involved in new affairs because that will be misleading. It behooves you to follow my tradition and that of the Senior Caliphs.’” Quoted from Tabaqat al-Hanabilah, vol. 2, p. 29.
Somewhere else, he says, “Let God dominates your self. Follow the Companions and be their true descendant and imitate them because the religion is imitation, an imitation of the Prophet (S) and the Companions. One who accepts them will not make mistakes. Therefore, imitate them and be comfortable and do not violate this…” Ibid., p. 39. Somewhere else, he says more explicitly, “If you heard a man being sarcastic about the Prophet (S) and the Companions and not accepting them or denying some of the news relating to the Prophet (S), doubt his Islam. He is an irreligious person with a foul mouth as he is sarcastic about the Prophet (S) and his Companions. We know God, the Prophet (S), the Qur’an, the good and evil, the world and the afterworld according to what remained from the past.” Then he adds, “The Qur’an needs the tradition more than the tradition needs the Qur’an.” Ibid., p. 25.
- 12. Al-Fatawi al-Hadithah, p. 305, about ‘Abdullah ibn Mubarak, who expressed such a theory, and his personality and characteristics. See Al-Islam bayna’l-‘Ulama wa’l-Hukkam, pp. 228-9.
- 13. Tabaqat al-Hanabilah, vol. 2, p. 21.
- 14. Concerning this theory and that there were hypocrites and corrupt people indeed among the Prophet’s (S) Companions and they were even cursed by the Prophet (S), see Al-Milal wa’n-Nihal, Subhani, pp. 191-228, and also An-Nass wa’l-Ijtihad, pp. 519-25, and especially the lively discussion by Muhammad al-Tijani in this respect in Thumma Ihtadayt, pp. 77-122, and Adwa’ ‘ala as-Sunnah al-Muhammadiyyah, p. 329, 356-63.
- 15. Especially see Al-Fasl fi’l-Milal wa’l-Ahwa’ wa’n-Nihal, vol. 4, p. 94, and Al-Fusul al-Muhimmah fi Ta’lif al-Ummah, especially pp. 7-60, and Thumma Ihtadayta, pp. 41-4.
- 16. Al-A’immah al-Arba‘ah, vol. 4, p. 117.
- 17. Tabaqat al-Hanabilah, vol. 2, pp. 35-7. Cf. Al-‘Awasim min al-Qawasim fi’dh-Dhab ‘an Sunnah Abi’l-Qasim, vol. 3, pp. 23-230.
- 18. Al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyyah, p. 18.
- 19. Al-‘Awasim min al-Qawasim, pp. 231-2. Mahmud Subhi says in respect of the sharp criticism by Ibn ‘Arabi and his likes, “Despite the fact that the theory of those looking at the appearances and the predecessors regarding Imam Husayn originated in the religious beliefs, the fact is that their view was not merely religious. Most of them were from Syria, like Ibn Taymiyyah, or from Andalusia, like Ibn Hazm or Ibn ‘Arabi, and their theories were not void of tribal elements or Umayyad fanaticism. Principally, their views had been formed in conflict with the views of the Shi‘ites… and whereas the martyrdom of Imam Husayn was one of the basic sources of Shi‘ite belief and the continuation of the various branches of Shi‘ism were indebted to it, blaming the event or showing it as unimportant or attributing the crime to the Kufis was an attempt to ruin the image of Shi‘ism.” Nazariyyah al-Imamah, p. 337.
- 20. Concerning the other criticisms of Imam Husain, see Nazariyyah al-Imamah, pp. 338-9.
- 21. The strange thing is that Ibn Hanbal, quoting Ibn ‘Arabi, just by relying on what he says from Yazid, considers him to be a highly respected person of a high position so much so that in his book, Kitab az-Zuhd, names him among the pious people, the Companions and the Followers. Find the elaboration in Al-‘Awasim min al-Qawasim, pp. 232-3. Concerning defending Yazid, with a religious motivation at that, see also the footnotes of Muhibb ad-Din Khatib on the same book, pp. 227-8. Concerning defending Mu‘awiyah’s action in appointing Yazid as crown prince, see also his footnotes in the same book, pp. 215-6.
- 22. Nazariyyah al-Imamah ladi ash-Shi‘ah al-Ithna-‘ashariyyah, pp. 347-8.
- 23. Sharh Ibn Abi’l-Hadid, vol. 2, pp. 8-35.
- 24. Al-Iqtisad fi’l-I‘tiqad, pp. 203-5; the theories of Imam al-Haramayn Juwayni in Sharh Ibn Abi’l-Hadid, vol. 20, pp.10-12. The critique of his views, which is one of the best and most impartial critiques, can be found Ibid., pp. 13-34.
- 25. Ayyuha’l-Walad, Persian translation, p. 30, quoting from Ghazalinameh, pp. 419-36. Ghazali’s argument saying “Because, according to the sayings of the Prophet and other proper documents, it is prohibited to curse Muslims” is explained with better arguments and more comprehensively by his master, Imam al-Haramayn. See Sharh Ibn Abi’l-Hadid, vol. 20, p. 11.
- 26. Concerning the views of the advocates and opponents of cursing Yazid and the sayings for each and the arguments of the two parties, see Ibn al-Jawzi’s Ar-Radd ‘ala’l-Muta‘assib al-‘Anid, which is one of the best and the well-documented books.
- 27. The historical views and perceptions of Shi‘ites and Sunnis were different from the very beginning. The difference was limited in the past mainly to the early history of Islam while nowadays it encompasses the entire history of Islam and rather the history in its general sense. Concerning the difference of the views and perceptions of the early history of Islam, compare Al-‘Awasim min al-Qawasim and the introduction and footnotes of Muhibb ad-Din Khatib on the same with, for example, An-Nass wa’l-Ijtihad, and Al-Ghadir, especially vols. 4, 6, 7.
However, now a development has occurred, in the sense that the historical perception of Sunni intellectuals, especially to the early history of Islam has become closer to that of Shi‘ites for certain reasons. The first reason is the reduced religious fanaticism; the second is their approach towards the new rules of historical critique.
Perhaps the best representative of this group is Taha Husayn in his book Al-Fitnah al-Kubra, in which his views and analyses both in the first and the second volumes are close and rather in agreement with Shi‘ite views on many issues although the Late Amini in Al-Ghadir, vol. 9, pp. 251-4, and Anwar al-Jundi in Mu’allifat fi’l-Mizan, pp. 6-19, criticize this book. Nevertheless, numerous other examples like his can be provided. For example, see Andisheh-ye Siyasi dar Islam-e Mu’asir (Political Thought in Contemporary Islam), pp. 308-32, where it explains the method of study and analysis of contemporary Sunni writers about the episode of ‘Ashura.
However, there are still many among the religious scholars as well as intellectuals who follow the fanatic method of the predecessors. For example, see the footnotes of Muhammad Hamid al-Faqi, the editor of the book Iqtida’ as-Sirat al-Mustaqim by Ibn Taymiyyah, who also heads the group Ansar as-Sunnah al-Muhammadiyyah, especially pp. 165-6, and the book Al-Tarikh al-Islami wa Fikr al-Qarn al-‘Ishrin, especially the introduction and pp. 87-106, authored by Faruq ‘Umar, who is an intellectual.
- 28. Maqime Rodinron, Marqiom and the Muslim World, pp. 34-59, 194-203.
- 29. Ma‘alim at-Tariq, pp. 17-19.
- 30. Ibid., pp. 105-6.
- 31. Ibid., pp. 149-50.
- 32. Ibid., pp. 60-1.
- 33. Shaykh Sabki, the head of the Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, says about Qutb’s book, “Although at first glance the book Ma‘alim fi’t-Tariq may seem a work that has relied on Islam, but its incendiary method and its disastrous results on the young people and readers with insufficient information on Islam is disgusting one.” “Describing any period other than the one close to the Prophet’s time as a period of Ignorance is an act of infidelity.” Payambar wa Fir‘un (The Prophet and the Pharaoh), p. 62.
Concerning the criticisms of other critics, see Ibid., pp. 63-71. In this regard, see especially Ra’id al-Fikr al-Islami al-Mu‘asir by Yusuf al-‘Azm, pp. 305-9. Also Sayyid Qutb: Khulasah Hayatih wa Minhajih fi’l-Harikah, pp. 215-20 on those who have criticized or defended Qutb on religious grounds. See Sayyid Qutb: Al-Adib an-Naqid by ‘Abdullah ‘Awad al-Khass, pp. 325-9.
- 34. Ma‘alim fi’t-Tariq, p. 9.
- 35. To find out in brief about the situation and conditions in which Qutb wrote the book Ma‘alim fi’t-Tariq and about a summary of the views of his supporters and opponents, see Sayyid Qutb: Al-Adib an-Naqid, pp. 325-9.
- 36. For example, Sabki said in criticizing Qutb, “Qutb uses the concept of God’s orders the way the Rebels used it, so as to call the Muslims to opposition to any worldly rule.” He adds, “On the contrary, the Qur’an has ordered the Muslims to obey the ruler and the ruler has to rule his people with justice. In addition, most of the leaders in Islamic countries are good people.” Payambar wa Fir‘un (The Prophet and the Pharaoh), p. 62.
See also Ash-Shi‘ah wa’l-Hakimun, p. 7; Al-Fikr as-Siyasi ash-Shi‘i, p. 269.
- 37. The best example of this historical perception is provided in Al-‘Awasim min al-Qawasim, and the contemporary footnotes by Muhibb ad-Din Khatib on the same book. Interestingly, even Ibn ‘Arabi strongly criticizes historians such as Ibn Qutaybah, Mas‘udi and even an individual such as Mubarrid who, in his words, have revealed many untold parts of the history, Al-‘Awasim min al-Qawasim, pp. 248-9.
He strongly criticizes Ibn Qutaybah and his book Al-Imamah wa’s-Siyasah, and considers him to be a Shi‘ite while he is not a Shi‘ite at all. The best reason is the book Ta’wil Mukhtalif al-Hadith, especially pp. 70-3. He and his likes would like to have a grand history without contradictions and do not like to depict it otherwise. Therefore, among the historians, he only likes Tabari and considers him to be more reliable, so much as to think that one does not have to listen to anyone other than Tabari. Ibid., p. 248.
Muhibb ad-Din Khatib defends Ibn ‘Arabi’s views more strongly. This can be depicted from his footnotes. For example, he does not attribute Al-Imamah wa’s-Siyasah to Ibn Qutaybah and considers Mas‘udi to be a Shi‘ite and says that Mubarrid has tendencies like that of the Rebels. In this regard, see Tahawwul wa Thubat, pp. 121-214.
- 38. Sunnis view the history optimistically, especially where it concerns Islam and the Muslims. They see themselves as the inheritors of this valuable and proud heritage and would react strongly to anyone who means to deny or underestimates them. For example, see the various rejections written on the book Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm, from Khidr Husayn to Diya’ ad-Din ar-Ris, all of whom have strongly criticized his critical, or in their words, pessimistic attitude towards the history. See especially Al-Islam wa’l-Khilafah fi’l-‘Aṣr al-Ḥadith, pp. 250-92, and Muhammad ‘Amarah’s introduction to Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm, pp. 71-94.
It is interesting that this optimistic view of the history was warmly welcomed among the Sunnis of the new period, especially the new generation of intellectuals. They returned to their history and past for many reasons, the most important ones of which were awareness of their identity, constant humiliation before the West, the westerners’ admitting the grand value of the Islamic heritage, the need to have a jumping point to enter the modern world and, finally, the connection of these discussions to the policies of those in power. For example, see Al-Tarikh al-Islami wa Fikr al-Qarn al-‘Ishrin.
However, this time it was not like in the past to look at it positively. The point was to show it as proud and grand and to believe this and to make the others believe it also. The purpose was not to discover the past because the discovery had been already made. The purpose was to prove the grandeur. This entailed numerous intellectual, ideological and idealistic disorders. They could not know anymore who they were and are and what abilities and problems they have and what they want and what they should want.
Grunebaum thus quotes Gibb, one of the greatest contemporary Arab studies scholars about these disorderly intellectual and mental conditions, “In 1942, Gibb said with sorrow, ‘So far, I have not seen even a single book written in a European language in which an Arab, from any group, seeks to help the European student find out about the roots of the Arabic culture. Apart from this, I have not so far seen any book in the Arabic language that can clearly analyze the meaning of Arabic culture for Arabs themselves.’” Then he adds, “This can be generalized to non-Arabs and their failure to introduce and interpret their culture for themselves and for the westerners.”
This is still true and it seems that it will remain true for years to come… Such religious, political and cultural goals are an impediment to attain a research intended to interpret the Islamic civilization. Whenever the Middle Eastern Muslims want to talk about their past or about the West, their judgment is political in the first place.”
G.E. von Grunebaum, Islam, 1949, pp. 185-6; also see Tahawwul wa Thubat, pp. 173-99.
- 39. Principally, one of the most important and rather emotional and popular subjects in contemporary Shi‘ite religious literature, at least in Iran, is criticizing those in power, so much so that the writers and intellectuals in recent decades consider it as one of their duties.
- 40. As an example, compare the historical continuity within the Iranian and Ottoman territories in the last five centuries.
- 41. To find out about the Arab intellectual developments in relation to the sociopolitical developments of the contemporary era, see Tahawwul wa Thubat, pp. 32-58, 174-82; and also the article Modernization of Islam and the Theory of Borrowing a Culture in the book, G.E. von Grunebaum, Islam, 1949, pp. 185-6.
- 42. Concerning the leftist welcome of ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq’s book and also that of the liberals, see Al-Islam wa’l-Khilafah fi’l-‘Aṣr al-Ḥadith, pp. 9-21. They described it as ‘an incendiary book’, having made a ‘fire that has not been put out yet.’, ‘the most important Islamic book in Egypt’s political history’, ‘the most important Islamic book’, ‘The big crisis begins.’, ‘scientist against the king’, ‘the great trial of a scholar accused of infidelity’, ‘The king has risen up against a lonely helpless scholar.’
In view of the developments that the Muslim World and the Arab World went through in the 80’s, the book, or at least what is provided in it, will be further contemplated and welcomed in the future as it has been reprinted several times in recent years. This is an unprecedented current.
- 43. For example, see Nizam al-Islam by Muhammad al-Mubarak, pp. 5-29, and also Ma‘alim al-Khilafah al-Islamiyyah, especially pp. 71-83.
- 44. Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm, p. 129.
- 45. Ibid., p. 132.
- 46. Ibid., p. 136.
- 47. Ibid., p. 168.
- 48. Ibid., p. 175.
- 49. Ibid., p. 178. The rightness of Abu Bakr’s fight by determining religious tax is so unanimously agreed on by Sunnis that they have defined numerous jurisprudential precepts for it. See Fiqh as-Sunnah, by al-Sayyid Sabiq, vol. 1, pp. 287-93.
- 50. Ibid., p. 181. Even those who did not accept the religious and rational necessity of caliphate admitted its necessity because of the consensus of the Muslims. See An-Nazm al-Islamiyyah, pp. 280-93, in which Arnold’s views are criticized.
- 51. Ibid., p. 131.
- 52. See Al-‘Aqidah wa’th-Thawrah.
- 53. Kanz al-‘Ummal, 6, pp. 4-89.
- 54. Al-Islam wa’l-Khilafah fi’l-‘Aṣr al-Ḥadith, p. 31.
Despite the uproar aroused by Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm, especially in religious circles, the author’s thoughts were welcomed and accepted by some religious scholars, among whom were ‘Abdu’l-Hamid Mutawalli. He did not deny the legality of the caliphate system, like ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq did, and rather believed that establishing such a system would put the Islamic ummah in difficulty and indeed the shari‘ah has prevented difficulty.
Apart from this, establishing this system is an impossible thing to do. It even has to be said that the Islam had not advised any specific system. He finally concluded that caliphate is not from Islam and is not related to it. Ma‘alim al-Khilafah fi’l-Fikr as-Siyasi al-Islami, pp. 74-5, quoting from Mutawalli’s book, Mabadi Nizam al-Hukm fi’l-Islam, pp. 548-50.
- 55. Whereas the political and governmental concepts and principally whatever that relates to imamate and caliphate are historical facts of early Islam in the opinion of Sunnis, and it can even be said that such concepts and definitions are not but theorizing the events of those times—which were considered as important as the religion and the Prophet’s tradition—are far more non-idealistic and realistic and conservative, so much as if they do not submit other than to the existing reality and are not willing to disturb the present situation to achieve a more desirable one. They insist so much on this that they consider taking such an action unauthorized and illegal.
The principle is that the present situation, though not ideal, is in the final analysis better than any change and has to be maintained. This, in their view, would be to the benefit of the people both in this world and in the afterworld. In this respect, see Al-Mawaqif, pp. 396-7, where it rejects the theory of those who resort to the ‘no loss’ rule to nullify the need to have a sultan or to obey him. The rejection of the author of Mawaqif is the best and shortest expression of Sunni political thought. In this respect, see A‘lam al-Mawqi‘in, 3, pp. 3-7, and especially As-Siyasat ash-Shar‘iyyah, pp. 3-17.
There were people in the meanwhile who, with full commitment to the principle, recommended social reforms if they were quiet and not disastrous, headed by Ibn Taymiyyah. Somewhere in his book, he says that the goal is the rule of the religion and this is proven by the Qur’anic verses and the religious tradition. He says, “Then, if the goal is this, one has to see which of the candidates is best suitable for realizing this goal and then choose him as the ruler.” Ibid., p. 24.
There will be many results to such a point of view. When the purpose was maintaining the status quo and reforming it so long as this does not result in a general change or probably political development, naturally the rules for recognizing the good and bad and what one has to do and not to do will change entirely. The criterion will be the existing reality rather than ideas behind it, which for example originate from or at least are inspired by the religious ideology.
Consider what Ibn Hanbal has said, as quoted by Ibn Taymiyyah, “Ibn Hanbal was asked about two men both of whom are army generals. One is a powerful roué while the other is weak and benevolent. Which of them has to go on with jihad?” He said in response, “The one who is a roué and powerful, his power is for Muslims while his bad attributes are for himself while the one who is benevolent but weak, his good attitudes are for himself while his weakness are for Muslims. Then, one has to go to jihad with the powerful roué.” Then he justifies and supplements his response by resorting to a saying from the Prophet (S), “The Prophet (S) said, “God approves this religion with roués…” p. 17.
Again, Ibn Taymiyyah says, “A great scholar was asked, ‘If for the position of a judge, there is only a corrupt wise person and a religious ignorant person, which one has a higher priority?’. He said, ‘If, due to domination of corruption, a religious person is more in demand, then the latter has priority but if, due to the complexity of legal problems, an expert is needed, the former.’” Then he adds, “As it is permissible to give lead to individuals who do not have all the qualifications if they are the best of the people, it is therefore compulsory to cooperate with them and to try to improve the conditions until what the people are looking for is realized…”, pp. 20-1.
He also says somewhere else, “Cooperation is of two types, one for the good and piety, such as cooperation for jihad, for administering punishments and rights; this is the type of cooperation that was ordered by God and His Prophet and one who, fearing that he might be doing the wrong thing, fails to do them, has failed to do a compulsory duty, assuming that he is pious while it is likely that fear and laxity may be mistaken for scrupulosity as both constitute omitting an action.
The second type of cooperation is sin and oppression, like contributing in shedding some blood or taking a respected property or beating someone who does not deserve to be beaten, and the like. This is the type of cooperation that was prohibited by God and His Prophet.”, p. 42.
Based on such an attitude, he perceives and interprets social disorders otherwise. He does not consider the sultan to be the source of corruption, attributing part of this to the people. His view is not merely political, it is sociocultural as well. The title of Chapter 3 of his book As-Siyasah ash-Shar‘iyyah is ‘On the Oppression of Governors and of the People’. Somewhere on pages 38-42, he says, “Much oppression is done by the governors and the people. They take what is not allowed and prohibit what is necessary to be done. Sometimes soldiers and farmers treat each other unjustly. Some people refuse to go on a jihad and the governors hold as treasury God’s property, which is not to be held as treasury…”, pp. 38-9.
The fact is that this way of thinking has a long history. He says, “Once a group of Kufi people went to ‘Umar to complain about the governor, Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas. He said, ‘O’ people, who of you, the Kufi people will suffice me and make me assured? If I appoint a pious person on them, they make him unable and say, ‘You have appointed a weak person as governor.’ If I appoint them a powerful person, they will mislead him and make him a traitor and say, ‘You have appointed a roué as governor.’
” Mughayrah ibn Shu‘bah was among the attendants and said, “O’, the Commander of the Faithful, the weak pious person is pious for himself and weak for you while the powerful roué is powerful for you and a roué for himself.” ‘Umar said, “You said the right thing. You are the powerful roué then go to them.”, and he appointed him as governor of Kufah, ‘Umar ibn Khattab by ‘Abdu’l-Karim al-Khatib, p. 276. Concerning Mughayrah’s personality and characteristics, see Sharh Ibn Abi’l-Hadid, vol. 20, pp. 8-10.
Many similar examples can be found in ‘Umar’s time. One of the best examples is reinstating Mu‘awiyah as governor of Syria and ‘Amr ibn al-‘As as governor of Egypt, both of whom were criticized by ‘Umar and ‘Umar was angry because of their conducts. However, he did not depose them because of the same reason. Ibid., pp. 272, 277. An example of such a way of thinking can be found in the words of Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. See Aghrad as-Siyasah fi I‘rad ar-Riyasah by ‘Ali ibn Muhammad Samarqandi, p. 285, and also in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah, vol. 2, p. 36.
It will be too lengthy to provide the full explanation of this last point and the jurisprudential, theological and historical roots as well as its results and consequences in the next periods and in the contemporary times and its basic role in shaping the Sunni religious structure and the religious psychology of the scholars and regular people.
We only intend to mention the very important and at the same time fine and sensitive points that create a large difference between the Shi‘ite and Sunni religious structures and religious psychology as well as in their social and political developments. This difference can still be seen despite the great and fundamental developments of the recent decades. The difference will be more distinguishable with the future reduction in seeking political developments in Sunni territories, which will in any case take place for various reasons.
Gibb, Studies on the Civilization of Islam, pp. 141-66.
- 56. Concerning the theory of the government and the characteristics of the governor and the relation of these two in the Sunni opinion, see Min Usul al-Fikr as-Siyasi al-Islami, pp. 359-89, and also Nizam al-Islam, especially pp. 11-50, Khasa’is at-Tashri‘ al-Islami fi’s-Siyasah wa’l-Hkm by Fathi al-Durayni, pp. 263-319.
- 57. Concerning the Shi‘ite views of imamate and imam, see one of Imam ‘Ali’s (‘a) sermons on the subject. Sharh Ibn Abi’l-Hadid, vol. 8, p. 263.
- 58. For example, see Al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah, Abu Ya‘la, pp. 19-25, part of which says, “Caliphate is attained with force and domination and allegiance is not needed.” “One wins with the power of the sword and calls himself the Commander of the Faithful, then one who believes in God and in the Day of Judgment shall not disobey him and refuse to consider him as imam, no matter if he is good or bad.”
Then he adds, “The prayer leading belongs to one who wins domination.” And quotes Ibn ‘Umar, who, in the horrible episode of Harrah—which in Yazid’s time resulted in the slaughter of the people and Followers and sexual violations—said his prayers behind the governors and, in response to the objectors, said, “We are with the victor.” Ibid., p. 23.
A better and clearer example can be found in the words of Ibn Hanbal; Al-A’immah al-Arba‘ah, vol. 4, pp. 119-20.
- 59. Al-Imamah wa’s-Siyasah, vol. 1, p. 12. Anothr example is the words of Bashir ibn Sa‘d Ansari, who after hearing ‘Ali’s (‘a) speech on the Prophet’s (S) family to the effect that they were worthier of caliphate, said, “O’ ‘Ali, if the Helpers had heard this before pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr, they would have never disagreed with you.” Ibid., p. 12.
“If the caliph becomes corrupt, he will not be deposed. Hanafite jurisprudents have adopted this opinion. Justice is not a qualification for one to become caliph. A corrupt person can be caliph although this is not desirable.” ‘Abdu’l-Karim al-Buka’ says, “I saw ten of the Prophet’s Companions, all of whom said prayers while standing behind unjust imams.”, Ma‘alim al-Khilafah al-Islamiyyah, pp. 306-7.
- 60. It is one of the best examples of explicit criticism of Imam Husayn by an uncommitted tyrant-serving scholar of his time and rather all times. Tuhaf al-‘Uqul, pp. 171-2.
- 61. Min Usul al-Fikr as-Siyasi al-Islami, pp. 438-44.
- 62. Quoted from Al-Khilafah wa’l-Imamah by ‘Abdu’l-Karim al-Khatib, pp. 303.
- 63. Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm well analyzes this story, especially pp. 168-82.
- 64. Goldziher well explains the effects of the actions of the ‘Abbasids in forming the jurisprudential and theological and traditional structures of Muslims and in consolidating their position.
Goldziher, Muslim Studies, vol. 2, pp. 75-7.
- 65. Concerning the concept of causality and principally the rational life of Arabs, see Fajr al-Islam, pp. 30-49.
- 66. Fajr al-Islam, p. 39.
- 67. Ibid., quoted from Sirah ibn Hisham.
- 68. As-Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah bayn Ahli’l-‘Iqd wa Ahli’l-Hadith, p. 95. This book, wich is written by one of the greatest and best-known scholars, is one of the best examples showing the difference of perception in the interpretation of the writer and his fellow thinkers and supporters about Islam and the perception and interpretation of the early and Wahhabi scholars about this religion.
The book is more important from this point of view than from the point of view of its contents. In addition, the author tells the story of his argument with one of the Sa‘udi students about the prohibition or permission of music and about which types are prohibited while teaching at ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz University in Mecca, “…then I told him seriously, ‘Islam is not a climatic religion that belongs to you or so that you are the only people to understand or interpret it. You have strict limited Bedouin jurisprudence and when you put this jurisprudent and Islam in the same place and introduce them as inseparable, you will reduce the value of Islam and make the people run away from it. This is a great injustice to the mission and way of Islam…’”, pp. 75-6.
- 69. Fajr al-Islam, pp. 41-2.
- 70. Ibid., p. 43, quoted from Al-Milal wa’n-Nihal by Shahrestani.
- 71. Concerning the strong effective influence of the Jewish and Christian clerics and especially those who converted to Islam, on the thoughts and beliefs of the early Muslims, see Al-Milal wa’n-Nihal, Subhani, pp. 71-96. Concerning Mu‘awiyah’s love of mythology and his supporting its promotion, see Murawwij adh-Dhahab, vol. 3, p. 39.
The fact is that the simplistic mind and culture of the early Arabs and the numerous questions that had been aroused in their minds with the coming of Islam and their contacts with the other tribes and nations, and their sensitive and inquiring nature along with the respect they had for the clerics of the Book People since the pre-Islamic Ignorance period, provided the ground in the best way for the influence of the clerics of the Book People on the Muslims.
When Ibn Khaldun talks about analyses of the Qur’an, he cleverly mentions and emphasizes this point, which we quote here completely because of its importance, “A narrative analysis is documented with the works and stories quoted by the early scholars, consisting of studying the abrogating and the abrogated and the reasons for revelation and the purposes of the verses. In order to know all of these, there is no way other than quoting from the Companions and the Followers. The earlier people have gathered complete collections in this respect.
However, their books and quotations consist of acceptable and unacceptable elements, since the Arab tribes were not People of the Books and knowledge. Rather, they had been overcome by Bedouin habits of illiteracy and, when they intended to learn about issues that are sought by human nature, such as the development of phenomena, the beginning of the creation and the mysteries of existence, they would ask those who had been People of the Books before them, which consisted of the believers in the Torah among the Jews and those of the Christians who followed their religion. The followers of the Torah lived among Arabs at that time and were Bedouins like them and were not aware of such subjects other than for what the People of the Books in general knew.
Most followers of the Torah were Humayranis that had converted to Judaism who, when converting to Islam, had the same knowledge and dependence on religious orders which were not to be cautiously considered, such as the beginning of the creation and what related to predictions and the like. This group consisted of the Ka‘b al-Ahbar, Wahab bin Munabbah, ‘Abdullah bin Salam and their likes. Therefore, analyses for such purposes became full of the stories and quotations that they knew while these were not among the issues that related to the precepts so as to make enquiries as to reaching proofs for practicing them.
And the analysts were negligent about them and filled analysis books with such stories while the roots of these, as we mentioned, are the Bedouin Torah followers, and what they quote is not based on research and awareness. Nevertheless, the entire members of the group became well-known and attained a high rank both in the religion and in the Muslim nation. Therefore, their quotations were accepted in those days…” Ibn Khaldun, Introduction, Persian translation, vol. 2, pp. 891-2, and especially Goldziher, Muslim Studies, vol. 2, pp. 152-9.
- 72. For instance, when some of the Prophet’s (S) Companions asked what do you talk about when you get together, they replied, “We read poems and recount stories of the pre-Islamic Ignorance period.” Fajr al-Islam, p. 95. This indicated now strongly the early Muslims liked their pre-Islamic Ignorance heritage. Many similar examples can be provided.
- 73. To find examples in this regard, see Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Kitab as-Sunnah, p. 143. This is an example, “‘Amru ibn Muhammad recounts, ‘I was with Salim bin ‘Abdullah when a man came to ask, ‘Is it fate to comit adultery?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ The man asked, ‘Will I be punished for it?’ He threw him a grit.’”, As-Sunnah, p. 143.
- 74. In his various sermons, Imam ‘Ali mentions the very hard biological and living conditions of the Ignorant Arabs. For example, see Imam’s sermon in which after the selection of ‘Uthman, as quoted by Kanz al-‘Ummal, vol. 5, p. 718, he considers Arabs to be the poorest people in terms of living conditions and the way they dressed. Also see another sermon of the Imam, in which he points this out; Al-Gharat, 1, p. 302.
- 75. The religion of determinism was formed in the time of Mu‘awiyah and caliphs of Bani Marwan. Bab Dhikr al-Mu‘tazilah on determinism of the Umayyads and their poetry, see Al-Umawiyyun wa’l-Khilafah, pp. 27-47.
- 76. One of the best people to describe this movement is ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq, “The Muslims in general and the Islamic clerics generally believe that the caliph gets his government and power from God. In the following phrases, you will see that they have defined the caliph as God’s shadow and Mansur thinks that he was God’s sultan on the earth. This theory was expressed by clerics and poets since the early centuries. They believed that it is constantly God who selects the caliph and gives him caliphate… so much so that they sometimes put the caliph in a position along God’s or close to His, like the poet of this poem, ‘What you want rather than what the fate wants will happen. Rule as if you are the only almighty…’”, Al-Islam wa Usul al-Hukm, pp. 117-8. Also pp. 113-20, especially see the very good argument of Hasan Hanafi in this respect in Min al-‘Aqidah ila’th-Thawrah, vol. 1, pp. 21-9.
- 77. ‘Uyun al-Akhbar, vol. 2, p. 247.
- 78. Aghrad as-Siyasah fi I‘rad ar-Riyasah, p. 271.
- 79. Nazariyyat al-Imamah, p. 334.
- 80. Concerning that the Mu‘tazilites consider Hasan Basri as one of their own, see Ahmad bin Yahya bin Murtada, Bab Dhikr al-Mu‘tazilah, pp. 12-15. Concerning his letters to ‘Abdu’l-Malik and Hajjaj, see Ibid., pp. 12-14, and also Al-Umawiyyun wa’l-Khilafah, p. 36.
- 81. Concerning Hasan Basri’s critique of Mu‘awiyah, see Tabaqat by ibn Sa‘d, 1, p. 119.
- 82. For his discouraging the people from fighting Hajjaj and his argument, see Ash-Shi‘ah wa’l-Ḥakimun, p. 26.
- 83. Concerning his description of Hajjaj, see Al-A’immah al-Arba‘ah, 1, p. 257.
- 84. The elaborate account of the story can be found in ‘Abdu’r-Razzaq Muqrim, Maqtal al-Husayn, pp. 422-3, and Muntahi al-Amal, lithography, vol. 1, p. 362.
- 85. The elaborate account of the story can be found in Maqtal al-Husain, p. 452, and Muntahi al-Amal, vol. 1, p. 357.
- 86. Al-Imamah wa’s-Siyasah, vol. 1, p. 203.
- 87. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 191.
- 88. Tarikh-e Tabari, 5, p. 220.
- 89. Al-Umawiyyun wa’l-Khilafah, pp. 26-8.
- 90. Kanz al-‘Ummal, 6, pp. 4-89.
- 91. Ibid., pp. 39-47.
- 92. In the Umayyad period, other than through the Infallible Imams and the Shi‘ites, there was scattered opposition to the blind crippling determinism of those days, generally by independent freethinkers who opposed the ruling system ideologically because of intellectual, political and religious reasons. Ghaylan Damashqi, who, along with two of his fellow thinkers, was later killed by Hisham, is among such people. For more examples, especially see Bab Dhikr al-Mu‘tazilah, pp. 5-23.
“Ghaylan criticized the Umayyad very much because he did not accept their view of the caliphate. He stood against their oppression and opposed them openly because of their opposition to the Book and the Tradition. He would talk about their appointing corrupt people in top positions and their agents treating the people unjustly. It is well known that Hisham ordered his murder and he was cut to bits because he had not accepted that Hisham was God’s caliph and had resisted his possession of the Muslims’ properties, calling the people of Armenia to make a revolution against him”; Al-Umawiyyun wa’l-Khilafah, p. 176.
Concerning Ghaylan and his personality, thoughts, actions and end, see Al-Milal wa’n-Nihal, p. 127, especially Bab Dhikr al-Mu‘tazilah, pp. 15-17, which provides an account of his brave protest to the lavish spendings by the Umayyads, “He asked ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz to put him in charge of selling the treasury to compensate for any injustice, and he did so. He put the wealth in anauction, including a pair of furry socks worth 30,000 dirhms. He shouted, “Who is there to say these are the imams for guiding while, with this much wealth, people still starve to death?”, Ibid., p. 16.
Interestingly, Ghaylan was subject of much attention in his own time as well. It is well-known that Hasan Basri, when seeing him during a hajj ceremony, said about him, “Do you see this person? I swear by God he is the sign of God for you the people of Syria.” Bab Dhikr al-Mu‘tazilah, p. 15.
- 93. For example, see the views of Ibn Hanbal in this regard, Al-A’immah al-Arba‘ah, vol. 4, pp. 119-20, and also Ibn Jawzi, Manaqib al-Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, especially pp. 429-62.
- 94. Postponing/suspending judgment on whether someone is a believer or not [translator].
- 95. The suspensionists say, “If a person has faith, sin does not harm him as if someone is an infidel, his obedience will not make him profit. Some of their sects believed that faith consists of knowledge of God and humbleness towards Him, that kindness is in the heart and, if somebody has these attributes, he is a faithful person and will not be harmed by abandoning the religious duties and committing sins and will not be punished for the same.” Al-Fikr as-Siyasi ash-Shi‘i, p. 61, quoted from part 8 of Sharh Mawaqif.
- 96. Concerning the Heretics (Zandiqs) and the licentious, see Husayn ‘Atwan, Al-Zandaqah wa’sh-Shu‘ubiyyah fi’l-‘Asr al-‘Abbasi al-Awwal.
- 97. For further information on the suspensionists and the sociocultural background in which they appeared, see An-Nazm al-Islamiyyah, pp. 143-9 and Fajr al-Islam, pp. 279-82. To find sayings blaming them and the fatalists, see Ahmad ibn Hanbal, As-Sunnah.
- 98. Regarding the cultural characteristics of the pre-Islamic Ignorant culture, see Fajr al-Islam, pp. 1-66, and, best of all, Mu‘allaqat Saba‘, translated by ‘Abdu’l-Muhammad Ayati, especially pp. 11-21.
- 99. A man from among the children of the Immigrants said, “The sons of these non-Arabs are as if they have dug a tunnel out of the paradise while our children are like the blackened firewood of furnaces.” ‘Uyun al-Akhbar, vol. 4, p. 40.
- 100. Other than the book Al-Aghani, for example see Abu Nawas’s Divan. The strange thing is that music was so common in Medina that the Kufis said sarcastically about them, “Jurisprudence has to be learned in Kufah with the Hanafites. Medina is the city of music.”
For example, refer to the syllabic poems of the Kufis. Al-A’immah al-Arba‘ah, pp. 2, 9-10. Indeed, music was promoted in Mecca and Medina in Yazid’s time. Fajr al-Islam, p. 81. Interestingly, one like Barbahari, who is a great Hanbalite and, therefore, emotionally attached to Mecca and Medina, thus quotes from ‘Abdullah ibn Mubarak and advises others to do this, “Do not take anything of heresy from the Kufis, of bullying from Syrians, of fatalism from Basris, of suspensionism from Khurasanians, of grammar from Meccans and of music from Medinans.” Then, he adds, “Do not take these from them.” Tabaqat al-Hanabilah, p. 7.
- 101. The fact is that the corruption of the Umayyads and their governors was so extensive that they could not continue their rule by resorting to ways that could acceptably acquit and justify them and their actions—such as suspensionism. We provide two examples here.
Yazid ibn ‘Abdu’l-Malik, the son of Yazid ibn Mu‘awiyah’s daughter, and the successor of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz, was a very lecherous and capricious person. He had two female servants by the names of Habbabah and Salamah, whom he loved very much. First Salamah and after that, which is said to be 17 days afterwards, Habbabah died. Yet, Yazid did not bury Habbabah for a few days. The others blamed him and he finally buried her. But after a while he exhumed her to see her again. Ma’athir al-Inaqah fi Ma‘alim al-Khilafah, pp. 145-6.
The author of Al-Aghani recounts that Harith bin Khalid Makhzumi was appointed by ‘Abdullah ibn Marwan as governor of Mecca. Harith loved ‘A’ishah, Talhah’s daughter. ‘A’ishah sent a message to Harith for him to delay the prayer until she finished a ritual circumambulation. Harith ordered the muezzins to delay the prayer until ‘A’ishah finished circumambulation. The hajj pilgrims took this as an unacceptable move until ‘Abdullah deposed him. Fajr al-Islam, p. 82, quoted from Aghani, 3, p. 103. See also the vivid description of Abu Hamzah Khariji about Yazid ibn ‘Abdu’l-Malik in a sermon of his in Mecca. He gives an account of his corrupt personality, lechery and lavish spendings and his adventures with Habbabah and Salamah. Al-Bayan wa’t-Tabyin, vol. 2, p. 101.
The al-Aghani’s report of the corruption of the Umayyad and ‘Abbasid caliphs is so disgraceful that Sunni fanatics have denied the book and the claims of its author. From among the predecessors, see Al-‘Awasim min al-Qawasim, pp. 49-251, and, from among the contemporaries, see Mu’allifat fi’l-Mizan, pp. 100-3.