Islamic Iran needs to avoid the errors of other Islamic movements, current and historic
Being an Islamic state is not easy. We know this from the history of the first Islamic state founded by our revered Prophet (saw). That state – with its Islamic groundwork and Qur’anic political orientation – survived for only a relatively short time, the the epoch of al-khulafa’ al-rashideen. After that it began to founder; the model of social altruism and a leadership in the service of the people – exemplified by the rule of the khulafa’ – gave way to recusant nationalists and tribal irredentists led by the Umayyad dynasty and the rest of the monarchies that followed, from Baghdad to Istanbul and from Cairo to Tehran.
Quite apart from the centuries of Sunni-Shi‘i conflict, the degradation of power has taken a severe toll on practically all our “heads of state” from “his majesty” Mu‘awiyah to “his majesty” Fahd. We do not expect these types of rulers to meet Islamic standards of governance; they are outside our pale. But in today’s world there is a global Islamic movement that aspires to model itself along the lines of the Prophet’sseerah and sunnah. This Islamic movement has raised the expectations of the Muslim peoples and fired their imaginations with enthusiasm and hope for a modern, forward-looking Islamic state that will live up to the standards of the Prophet’s generation of unselfish leaders and confident and ethical political pioneers.
The global Islamic movement, however, has faltered as some of it constituent parts have failed to fulfil this expected prospect. The result is that there are “Islamists” who have achieved degrees of power in their countries but have turned out, in practice, to be nearer to the Mu‘awiyah-Fahd axis than to the line of the Messenger (saw) and the model he established in in Madinah. Examples include the “Islamists” inTurkey, who have minimised their Islamic orientation in order to achieve power and operate within an aggressively secular political system or the opportunistic type of “Islamists” in Afghanistan, along with a variety of “Islamists” who are now waiting their turn to be ushered into office through the “democratic” processes orchestrated by Washington. The result is a delegitimization of the Islamic movement by the accepted leaders of the Islamic movement themselves. How are Muslim leaders supposed to feel about an “Islamic” leader from Turkey who goes to “Israel” and shakes hands with a war-criminal like Sharon? This scenario is likely to be repeated time again as other “Islamist” figures are permitted to take political positions in their own countries provided they agree to “bury the hatchet” with the zionist state. The immaturity and failures of these types of Islamists, particularly their desperation to achieve power on any terms, is jeopardizing the genuine, popular jihad to achieve genuine Islamic political orders in Muslim countries. It is barely credible that we have small-minded officials and leaders in the worldwide Islamic movement who are willing do whatever it takes to convince the zionist-imperialist alliance of their “moderation” and “maturity”.
In the Islamic State in Iran, we also have people with similar attitudes, but thank Allah such capitulationists have not succeeded in coming to power. In Iran, we do find officials and even “representatives” who have spent precious years trying to establish a ‘dialogue of civilizations’, carried away by the false assumption that the European and American nation-states are open-minded, multicultural and liberal enough to exchange ideas and impressions with Islamic scholars and thinkers. So why aren’t these same officials of the Islamic State in Iran equally keen on a “dialogue of civilizations” with the Chinese, the Japanese, or Ethiopians? It appears that, like their “Islamist” colleagues in Turkey,Indonesia and Afghanistan, these overly trusting officials have no reliance on Allah, and no confidence in themselves and the company of committed Muslims. This fundamental failure within the governmental bodies of Iran, particularly the ministry of foreign affairs, is threatening to result in terrible consequences. We now have, in Iraq of all places, a contingent of copy-cat diplomats who have come out of their local Islamic movement and are, like their peers in Kabul and Istanbul, willing to walk the American line all the way to Tel Aviv. Who in today’s Iraq, from within its diplomatic and political circles, has the courage to tell the occupation forces to leave the Iraqi people alone?
The contrast with the situation in Iran could hardly be more obvious. There, Muslims went to the polls and elected a president, their sizeable participation and their choice of president suggesting that the Muslim people in Iran still have their hand on the political pulse of their country and the world around them. What remains to be seen is whether the newly-elected president, working in tandem with the Islamic movement, will be able to steer the Islamic Republic in the right direction, however anxious and willing he may be to do so. There is a pressing need for the foot-soldiers of Iran’s Islamic movement to assume their historical responsibilities. Sixteen years have passed since the death of the Imam (ra), and we have seen the re-emergence of “nationalism” and “sectarianism” under Iran’s Islamic umbrella. The diplomatic corps of the Iranian foreign ministry often appear more interested in winning over Iranian Jews, and winning back Iranian Zoroastrians, and linking up with other “Shi‘is” around the world, than in living up to the Imam’s legacy of Islamic commitment and service to the mustad'afin of the world, however dificult that may be.
The errors and deviations of Islamic Iran in the past sixteen years are an invaluable lesson for all Muslims elsewhere, whose Islamic movements are still at a pre-Revolutionary stage. We should all learn from the power-eager Islamists in the global Islamic movement and from the “burnt out” officials in the Islamic State of Iran, that Mu‘awiyah was not simply a person; he was a state of mind. He embodied and demonstrated precisely the same instincts of political opportunism, nationalism and tribalism that are seen in the misguided positions and policies of some of today’s ‘Islamic’ leaders.
Mu‘awiyah in Damascus did not want to be bothered with a Persian Muslim, an Egyptian Muslim or an African Muslim. Practically speaking, as far as he was concerned, there was no room for such “outsiders” to contribute to the functional body politic of the Ummayyad “khilafah”; the nationalism of the Arabs could not countenance it. He is thus recognised in history as the first ruler to have broken from the criteria of the Qur’an and the standards of the Sunnah. Today, some politicians, diplomats and functionaries inTehran do not want to be bothered with the issues of Arab Muslims, Pakistani Muslims or African Muslims. Practically speaking, they would prefer that such “outsiders” do not interfere with the body politic of the Iranian Islamic State; the nationalism of the Persians cannot countenance it.
This is liable to go down in history as the issue on which the first modern attempt at Islamic governmental revival shed its revolutionary Islamic character and proved itself unable to stay the Islamic course, and to sustain a jihad in the manner of the Prophet (saw) and his grandson, Imam Husain ibn Ali (ra).
The Islamic Uprising in Iran a quarter of a century ago is too important and too special for Muslims to simply watch it wander from its original and true course. We remember all too clearly the impact this breakthrough had on Muslims everywhere. For the first time in modern history, Muslims had risen against a corrupt government and its imperialist and zionist sponsors, and were able to take control of their own country, and begin to show the rest of us how things should be done.
Of course, the road forward was not likely to be smooth. The sponsors of the Pahlavi regime could not be expected to sit and watch a people shape their own future on the basis of their Islamic faith and commitment. Throughout the last 25 years, America and Israel have been working to bring the Islamic government in Iran to its knees, with the support of their Western allies, Iran’s pro-Western neighbours and even supporters within Iran. Iran’s borders amount to some 8,000 kilometers; American troops are now based across six thousand kilometers of this border. This grim scenario has been gradually built over 25 years, and has passed almost unnoticed by most Muslims, and even most Iranians. There has never been any cessation of hostilities between the followers of the line of Imam Khomeini (r.a.), who refuse to compromise when it comes to the independence and sovereignty of the Islamic state, and the numerous other interests wanting to shape the state on their terms.
Part of our object in this new column is to look at some of the gaps that have developed since the passing of Imam Khomeini (r.a.), many of which are rooted in earlier events, and how these gaps have caused serious problems about which we can no longer remain silent. But before we walk into this sensitive area, one point needs to be made absolutely clear. This is that none of the points we make are intended to express any criticism of Imam Sayyid Ali Khamenei, the successor to Imam Khomeini (r.a.) as Rahbar of the Islamic State. Many of the points we make will be highlighting natural processes in the evolution of post-Revolutionary state and society. Others will indeed involve criticism of errors and failures in Iran, mainly on the part of those who have been responsible for aspects of Iranian government and policy at the executive level. It was inevitable that such errors and failures should emerge over a quarter of a century in an unprecedented and highly-pressured historical situation; unfortunately they have contributed greatly to what many now see as the Islamic experiment’s current stagnation.
Sometimes frank statements of truth can be bitter pills to swallow; we hope no-one will consider this column to be too bitter a pill. We say what we say only to express our honest understanding of the issues. If we are correct, we appeal earnestly to Allah to accept our humble words to our humble readers. If not, we request Allah’s forgiveness and correction from anyone able to do so; without, we hope, descending into personal issues or hidden agendas. Ameen.