Reading through the Qur’anic-based life history of our enlightening and educating Prophet (pbuh) we learn that the decisions he made alongside the unequivocal instructions of the Qur’anic ayats on quite a few occasions were made in conjunction with the heartfelt opinion(s) of his Muhajireen and Ansar confidants. There was a type of good-natured “give-and-take” between him (pbuh) and his keen adherents.
One of the standout examples of this earnest dynamic occurred in what is known as the Day of Hudaibiyah. On that day when the committed combat ready Muslims were geared up to enter a mushrik-controlled Makkah seeking a visitation of al-Bayt al-Haram, the Quraishi chiefs of Makkah made an offer to the Prophet (pbuh) that would result in the Islamic forces receding from their positions and falling short of entering Makkah. Thus, the Prophetically-intended access to al-Bayt al-Haram would be called off.
This Quraishi offer was not favored by many battle-ready Muslims. The Prophet (pbuh) was intent on accepting the offer. Some of the honest and frank companions were worried about the Prophet (pbuh) “caving in” to the Quraishi proposal.
This sense of anxiety was affectionately and candidly expressed to the Prophet (pbuh) by ‘Umar who said: “Why should we [the committed Muslims] stoop to a law standard at the expense of our Deen?” It appears that ‘Umar had breached the cordiality common to the companions’ relationship with the Prophet (pbuh). He (pbuh) was annoyed – not because he doubted ‘Umar’s sincerity but because ‘Umar’s impulsive response was “out of order”. This is when Allah’s dear Prophet (pbuh) responded saying: “I am Allah’s messenger and His discerning dependent.”
At this point all those present sensed that this Prophetic decision was beyond being a matter of Shura [conjoint consultation] or compromise. This must be a matter that the Prophet (pbuh) has been instructed from on high to agree to. Without any further discussion, the lifelong companions of Allah’s choice Prophet (pbuh) expressed their regret, asked for forgiveness, and found solace in their dear Prophet (pbuh) and his inspirational decision. This occurrence and case in point is captured by the following ayats:
We have in fact conferred upon you [Muhammad] a manifest [impending military] breakthrough…. - Al-Fath: 1-10
This dynamic of Shura between the Prophet (pbuh) and his loyal companions should become common information and public knowledge for us today after so many centuries of omission and oversight. The few examples cited in this column and the previous one should firmly establish the point that governance by the Prophet (pbuh) involved the immersion of his faithful and trustworthy companions in an interactive societal decision-making process. Allah (swt) and the Prophet (pbuh) were meant to be the general reference for some of the tasks that challenge the committed Muslims on their worldly journey unto the Akhirah [the ultimate and definitive life].
People’s freedoms are tested within the definitions and meanings that were revealed by Allah (swt) and explained by His Prophet (pbuh) that are summed up by truth and justice, legitimacy and social justice, equality and equity. The Qur’an and the Prophet (pbuh) dwell in our conscience so much so that what is general does not conflict with what is particular. As a demonstration of this Allah (swt) says:
Surely, Allah demands justice, and aptness [of endeavors], and openhandedness toward the nearest and dearest; and He prohibits depravity and self-evident social vice and belligerence; He exhorts you [conscientiously] so that you might remain mindful [of these urgings] - Al-Nahl: 90
This ayat raises our Islamic awareness to bring to fruition three “states of affair” requirements and to take out three “status quo” degeneracies. The first task is to identify each of these three sets. After that to begin the common cooperative and collaborative Qur’anic/Prophetic collective effort which leaves for us a space that can only be filled with our shared good will and ensuing closing of ranks.
In today’s fluctuations of Islamic movements, parties, and organizations there has to be a shared acknowledgement that the Prophet (pbuh) did not set in stone a “one size fits all theocracy”. He (pbuh) demonstrated this by leaving the choice of his successor to the refined collective conscience of his true and tried followers. If it was intended for the Muslim ummah to have a heavenly-designated leader after the Prophet (pbuh), it would have been unmistakably and clearly revealed in the Qur’an or at the very minimum the Prophet (pbuh) would have issued a written directive to that effect.
In the many statements that he (pbuh) expressed about Imam ‘Ali to the best of our understanding, was nominating and recommending Imam ‘Ali to the Muhajireen and Ansar—and by extension the rest of the committed Muslims—as the most qualified leader of the Muslims after the Prophet (pbuh) passes on. The Prophet (pbuh) was not imposing on the committed Muslims who their leader should be. That is a decision they themselves must agree upon.
The Prophet (pbuh) also made favorable and positive remarks about other companions from the Muhajireen and the Ansar. But, still, there was no specific Qur’anic order or precise Prophetic command to appoint any particular person to succeed the Prophet (pbuh) as leader of the Muslims. If Islam was/is a theocracy (as sneaky orientalists and silly Muslims think), the whole affair would have been clearly and scripturally settled for the first generation of Muslims and for all subsequent generations until the end of time.
Another course of action and guiding principle set by our righteous Prophet (pbuh) is the bay‘at [pledge of loyalty]. This bay‘at precedent and practice institutionalized by, for, and beginning with the Prophet (pbuh) himself—in and of itself—deflates and discredits any claim that Islam is a theocracy and Islamic rulers are theocrats. Even the popular mobilization of the committed Muslims to go out and encounter the mushrik Makkans at Badr was not “an order or command” from the Prophet (pbuh); this was done as a matter of the committed Muslims themselves voluntarily and willingly responding to the divine incentives of jihad and qital fi sabil-Illah [on a course of action to Allah].
Remember, the Ansar pledge of loyalty to the Prophet (pbuh) was that he (pbuh) would not impose/press them into combat responsibilities. The Ansar themselves volunteered at the time of the bay‘at to protect him (pbuh) if he is threatened and endangered. When the battle of Badr was looming it was the Prophet (pbuh) who conferred with his loyal companions on how to respond to an imminent military attack coming from the mobilized Makkan mushriks who were on a military journey to al-Madinah to crush Islamic self-determination and the Prophet’s leadership.
The Prophet (pbuh) waited for the Muhajireen and Ansar to deliberate and decide on an appropriate response to the encroaching Makkan offensive. The Prophet (pbuh) did not proceed to the battlefield until the Ansar public figures said to him: “If you [O Muhammad] were to have us traverse with you the ocean, we would certainly do so.” When the Prophet (pbuh) was ascertained by the Ansar of their determination to carry “the military load and responsibilities”, he moved on to what became the battle of Badr.
Another incident that tells us that Islamic governance is known for its grassroots involvement and populist decision-making and not for being a theocratic system was demonstrated during the Huydaybiah standoff. The Quraish deliberately circulated a false report that ‘Uthman who the Prophet (pbuh) had sent as his envoy to Quraish, was assassinated in Makkah. There was no way the Prophet (pbuh) and the committed Muslims with him would know whether that rumor was true or false. So, they all redoubled their word of honor to the Prophet (pbuh) saying in effect that they were now ready for taking on Quraish and its forces. Had the Prophet (pbuh) been a theocrat and Islamic governance a theocracy, the forthcoming pledge to the Prophet (pbuh) by the Muhajireen and Ansar would have been inconsequential. This Prophet-to-people and people-to-Prophet decision-making dynamic is enshrined in the following ayat:
Indeed, those who pledge their allegiance to you [O Muhammad] are in fact pledging their allegiance to Allah: Allah’s hand [power and force] soars higher than their hands [abilities and facilities]… - al-Fath: 10
It is reported that one individual, al-Jedd ibn Qays refused to pledge allegiance. He stood out as a munafiq. But as far as we know he was not dismissed from the Islamic force, was not court-martialed and was not accused of high treason. We also encounter in Surat al-Tawbah those three Muslims who deceitfully exempted themselves from military service and how they were excommunicated from Islamic society until they “socially suffocated” and then were amnestied and forgiven by Allah (swt). (Surat al-Tawbah: 118).
This tells us that military service in an Islamic order is voluntary and Muslim citizens are left to their conscience to reveal who they truly are; i.e. in an Islamic social polite society freedom—free of physical harm to self and society—is what makes it possible to expose those who are true to their intentional pledge to Allah and His Prophet as well as to expose those who are unfaithful and fake to Allah and His Prophet.
But what do they think – they who attribute their own lying inventions to Allah – [what do they think will happen to them] on the Day of Resurrection? Behold, Allah is indeed limitless in His bounty given to people – but most of them are ungrateful – Yunus: 60.