We are very grateful to Dr. Asad Zaman – one of Pakistan’s most erudite social analysts and a committed Islamic activist – for responding to our appeal to the Tablighi Jama’at to support Pakistan’s Islamic parties in the 2018 elections. His paper – which we reproduce on full in this website – is full of some excellent ideas and very valuable insights.
We believe that this paper can serve as a basis for cementing unity among Islamic forces – the muzaki, the mudarris, the mubaligh, the political activists and the mujahedeen – in the Islamic world. If even some of these ideas are implemented it will be a great step forward for the Tablighi Jama’at and for the Islamic movement in general.
Our response consists of two parts. First we briefly summarize Dr. Asad Zaman’s arguments. This paper is written in a scholarly diction which reduces its accessibility to common readers like us if Dr. Asad Zaman permits, we can also arrange for its translation into Urdu (an Arabic translation is also needed but we cannot do that).
Secondly, we develop a critique of Dr. Asad Zaman’s argument indicating what in our view are several crucial ‘errors of omission’. We believe these ‘errors of omission’ can easily be addressed and that doing so will enhance the contribution of Dr. Asad Zaman’s thought to the promotion of Islamic unity.
- Asad Zaman’s Argument
The most profound impact of the Prophet (SAW)’s work was the moral transformation of a mass of individuals in a jahili society through “training”. In modernity the dominance of Western models has debased individuality and the most important task today is to strengthen the faith of the Muslim masses through tabligh. Other methods adopted to “promote Islamic ways” have all failed.
Neither the ‘evolutionary’ nor the ‘revolutionary’ approach is effective in replacing ‘the ways of the West’. ‘Evolutionarists’ do not recognize that the ‘existing Western system’ is not ethically neutral1. It promotes greed and lust and jealousy. Reforming ‘Western’ institutions cannot overcome this value no neutrality or the systemic coherence of the “Western ways”.
Revolutionaries have not succeeded in building an ideal Islamic society – post revolutionary societies remain unjust and alienated. We cannot build ‘models’ of ideal Islamic institutions either on the basis of Western prototypes or prototypes taken from Islamic history because ‘modern times are so different’. Building such ‘models’ require what can best be described as ‘taqleedi ijtihad’ – retaining the Islamic spirit within socio-economic institution while addressing modern need.
These new institutions must be built on grounds that ‘are currently unopposed’ ‘not the ones where we face opposition’. ‘There is no need to make a revolution. If we change ourselves ‘internally’ Allah (SWT) will change the system miraculously.
But despite this faith in miraculous social transformation Dr. Asad Zaman then goes on to advocate a series of institutional interventions, he regards as necessary. These changes must be achieved voluntarily not by force. Dr. Zaman’s ‘ideal Islamic model’ is Quakerish – in that ‘it will not interfere with the Western system’ at least in the initial stages. As Willliam Morris and Proudhoun believed socialist institution building would inspire mass socialist consciousness so Dr. Asad Zaman hopes that ‘creation of a living Islamic social model will be the most powerful invitation” (to Islam).
All organizational structures – especially economic ones – must be modelled on that of the Jama’at -e-Tabligh where thousands of ‘muqims’ and ‘rozana’ workers constantly perform unpaid organizational work. Islamic economic organizations must articulate the values of equality, co-operation, social responsibility and community embeddedness. Current human resource management literature would endorse all this as well as Dr. Asad Zaman’s emphasis on the need to avoid class conflict. “There is no need to destroy institutions or to seize power (for) there are solutions in areas that are not contested”.
The Islamic state will appear unintentionally and miraculously at the level of the Ummah there is no need for political jihad. Jihad bin nafs is sufficient for this purpose.
The system of ‘mushawarat’ practiced in the Tablighi Jama’at should be extended universally. This will produce a system of community level Islamic governance based on the Masjid which will not be politically or legally contested. The scope of the activity of the mosque is to be significantly expanded, especially with respect to the promotion of justice at the community level.
Briefly Dr. Asad Zaman argues:
- That promoting individual moral transformation is of central importance in the Islamic struggle.
- That this cannot be achieved by the reformist and revolutionary parties and these parties are eventually dysfunctional because:
- They cannot impose/ infuse the Islamic spirit in ‘Western ways’.
- They cannot create an ideal Islamic model society because such a ‘model’ can only emerge through mysterious processes.
- This miraculous transformation is the partial outcome of taqleedi ijtihad.
- There is uncontested socio-political space within the national and global capitalist system for the practice of such taqleedi ijtihad.
- This taqleedi ijtihad must initially focus on institutionalizing mosque governance processes at the community level.
We strongly endorse Dr. Asad Zaman’s contention that achieving individual moral transformation is the raison d’etre of the Islamic struggle – on this everything else depends for our goal in life is the achievement of Shahadat individually and the building of an Islamic society and Islamic state are only means to this end. We believe that the Tabligh Jama’at like the Dawat-e-Islami and the Sufiya and the Ulema are doing a splendid job in promoting Islamic spirituality and that the work of the entire multi-dimensional Islamic movement must focus on the essential task.
We argue that the work of the reformists, the revolutionaries the mubaligheen, the sufiyah and the Ulema are complementary not substitutive. Thus our leading reformist party – the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam is doing a splendid job in defending our madrassah curricula from imperialist interpellation. Our main revolutionary group – the Jamat-e-Dawa has for decades voluntarily shouldered the task of supporting the Kashmiri jihad. The need is not to discredit the work of some Islamic group and idealize one’s own. The need is to coordinate the multitudous ….Islamic work and to regard with equal concern and respect all Islamic groups and their struggles.
We do not believe in articulating ideal models – Islamic epistemology provides no grounds for succumbing to this neo-classical paradigmatic fetish. The purpose of the Islamic struggle is the attainment of access to paradise through Shahadat. It is not an attempt to build heaven on earth. According to Sahih Hadith even Imam Mahdi’s rule will last for just one year after six years of continuous jihad. As Ludwing Wittgenstein had said “Truth and justice are not of this world. If truth and justice exist they exist beyond it” – i.e. in the hearafter.
We argue that the establishment of Islamic society was not a miraculous event. It required Saraya and Ghazwat – the Prophet (SAW) undertook jihad every year after he reached Madina, that is why the original seerah narrations are known as maghazi. The establishment of an all-encompassing Islamic society (incorporating both system and lifeworld) crucially depended upon the establishment of an Islamic state – that is why the Prophet (SAW) undertook Hijrah – and its consolidation through jihad. Thus both persuasion and the use of force (the organization of power) are required for the establishment of an Islamic society. Indeed there is no evidence of any ejtihad in the time of the Prophet (SAW) – when it was not needed or in the reign of Syedina Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him). Our first mujtahid is Syedna Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) and taqleedi ijtihad was institutionalized in the form of fiqh well after the consolidation of Islamic state power. The fuqaha depended upon the power of the Sultan – the Shadow of God – for the development of our Islamic society through enforcement of their rulings and legitimated contracts. Without state power Islamic social forms can never achieve systemic hegemony. If Islam’s social being does not possess political power it will remain a marginalized initiative at the fringes of a hegemonic jahili social order.
This becomes clear when we examine the political evolution of capitalist order – first in the Italian city states, then in the Netherlands, Britain, France, Germany, America, Russia, China and throughout the colonized world. The de-Christianization of European society always required the seizure of power by capitalist (i.e. liberal or nationalist or socialist) governing elites which developed a capitalist regulatory system, centred on the rule of law of capital (human rights) to order social transactions in the family, the market, the education system and civil society in general. Capitalist institutions did not emerge spontaneously and unintentionally, as Menger and Weiser and Hayek and Nozick presume. They are all artifacts of capitalist statecraft. That is why Michel Foucault calls capitalism a system of power/knowledge. Capitalism rules through freedom but as Deluze recognizes it necessarily territorializes. It forces people to be free for people do not naturally chose freedom. it “punishes and disciplines” (Foucault’s words) those who do not choose freedom as an end in itself (the abideen). This process of disciplining/punishing non-capitalist social being (abideen) is today contextualized by America’s war of terror. Terrorism is a state project created by America. It began with the slaughter of eighty million Red Indian by America and is continuing with the slaughter by America of Philippines, Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Latinos, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Syrians, Yeminis, Malian, Somalians etc. American forces guarantee capitalist hegemony throughout the world. It has milatang basis in about 200 countries and its forces roam the world in search of new victims to sacrifice at the alter of the demon – freedom.
Capitalist order – in its liberal, nationalist and socialist manifestations – has always been red in tooth and claw throughout its history. Liberal capitalist order has sought to massacre, plunder and deconstruct all non-capitalist societies they have encountered. They have appointed satraps throughout the world to ensure capitalist rule through the development of national and global regulatory systems which reach into all aspects of social life. These regulatory practices force us to be free. American power ensures the hegemony of these regulatory territorialization.
Dr. Asad Zaman presents no evidence for his view that there are uncontested spaces for occupation by Islamic social initiatives. The mosque and the madrassah and the Ummah – which Dr. Asad Zaman considers to be such spaces – are all under imperialist attack. The imperialist satraps, who rule the Ummah have – with the exception of Iran and the mezzanine states – become willing tools in the American war of terror. The recently concluded US-Arab Islamic moot provides current evidence. Regulatory discipline – social, epistemological, institutional – is being imposed on the mosques and madrassahs through the implementation of far reaching global strategic social planning. The vast majority of the Ulema have been cowed into silence or most regrettably into vociferous support for imperialist satraps.
Locke’s doctrine of tolerance stipulates that tolerance is a tool for the flourishing of freedom – dissent which threatens the rule of the law of capital (or as Rousseau says the Will of All which violates the General Will) must be suppressed – thus Locke explicitly excluded Red Indians, Muslims and Catholics from his conception of representative government.
The rule of capital (what Adam Smith called ‘commerce’) is not gentle. It is blood thirsty, vicious and rapacious social. Initiatives of mosques and madrassahs will be tolerated only if they are seen as not undermining the capitalist rule of law. Otherwise they will be stamped out most brutally and ferociously. Already Tablighi activity is banned throughout Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Egypt. Preparation for attacking the Tablighi Jama’at are well under way and the accusation that it harbors “terrorists” is being made with increasing frequency in the international press.
The Tablighi Jama’at is a pacifist organization. But the initiatives for strengthening….the mosque that Dr. Asad Zaman suggests are aimed at augmenting the power and authority of organized Islamic workers at the community level and beyond. It is conservatively estimated that there are about 450,000 full time members of all orthodox groups (including Madrassahs, khanqahs, imam bargahs, religious brotherhoods, Islamic political parties) in Pakistan. If sectarian (Shia-Sunni, Deobandi-Bralvi) disunity is overcome, this is an immense ideological force for mobilizing and leading the masses. Will imperialism tolerate its social organization and empowerment?
It will do so under two conditions:
- If imperialism estimates that such social organization can be absorbed within capitalist order so that our empowered Islamic cadres become agents of capitalist rule providing Islamic legitimation for the rule of law of capital.
- Or if capitalist order unravels and is subjected to entropy so that its ability to discipline and punish is gradually decreased.
While (a) is a threat (b) is an opportunity. Capitalist order is being weakened systematically. Economic crises occur with increasing regularity. Capitalist corruption is spreading. The political system has become part of the entertainment industry. The ability of capitalist elites to discipline and punish is eroding both at the national and the global level. America has not conclusively won any major war since 1945. Today it is shy of disciplining Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Peru, North Korea and Iran. Inter-imperialist collaboration – between America, Europe Russia and China – seems increasingly unlikely. National capitalist structures of authority are disintegrating and global regulatory mechanisms are under threat….(periodically by the Trump regime and by BREXIT).
Empowering Islamic workers at the community or any other level requires weakening capitalist order. this has been done effectively by our largest political party – Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Islam which has through the parliamentary process effectively restricted imperialist penetration of our madrassah system and skillfully diverted imperialist attacks on our mosques.
Participation in the electoral process is not fard (obligatory) but the Ulema have consensually endorsed it as halal. It is one capitalist instrument – among many – which can be used to deconstruct capitalist order. A strong Islamic presence within the legislature can serve as an effective shield for protecting the gradual bulding up of the social power of the mosque and enlarging its authority at the local level. The parliamentary process legitimates state regulation and this legitimation process can be manipulated to serve mosque based empowerment.
By abstaining from political dialogue and from the electoral process the Tabligh abandons the most viable empowerment process in Pakistan. It contributes to the consolidation of capitalist power – of the rule of law of capital – as it implicitly legitimates the capitalist state regulation of society. The vast majority of its associates pay taxes, obey capitalist laws and tolerate social ‘munksr’. Many of its associates are influenced by secular political discourse and vote for secular parties. Abstaining from the electoral process is abandonment of the project to socially empower Islamic institutions and activities on the basis of unrealistic and unjustified view that this will occur miraculously.
We therefore appeal to the Tablighi Jama’at and all other Islamic social groups to actively campaign for the Islamic parties which will Insha Allah unitedly contest the 2018 election. The Tablighi Jama’at and Dawat-e-Islamic are our most important mass movements. Without their support Islamic activities cannot be materialized at the mass level nor can the parliamentary process be used to defend expansion in the social authority of Islamic institutions.
Such support is also vitally necessary because the Islamic political parties – especially the Jama’at-e-Islami – are rapidly secularizing by adopting a Modernity oriented social democratic political agenda. Islamic political parties are being instrumentalized to serve capitalist order. This will lead to the complete disappearance of Islamic force in Pakistan. The Tabligh and the Dawah have the responsibility of preventing this catastrophe and to check the secularist and modernist trend within the Islamic political movement and to force it to realize that our political/electoral struggle is not for the establishment of capitalist justice but for the achievement of Shahadat.
As Islamic political workers we are desperately in need of your support, guidance and leadership.
اے بھائی اگر تم ساتھ نہ دو
تو ہم سے اکیلے کیا ہو گا
Empowering masjid based institutions at the community level is vitally essential and if the Tablighi Jama’at accepts Dr. Asad Zaman’s proposal it will take a major step towards consolidating its social role and cementing Islamic unity at the community level.