BUILDING MUSLIM POWER
Dr. Ahmad Shafaat
In this world where God has for a determined time allowed oppression and evil to exist along side with justice and righteousness it is often necessary for individuals and nations to defend themselves. This self-defense necessarily requires some type of power (or quwwah). If everyone in this world were a just and righteous person human beings would live together in perfect peace and harmony and there would be no need for anyone to build and use power. But that is not the way God willed this world to be. Consequently, in this world the building and sometimes the use of power is unavoidable.
Today Muslims everywhere are subjected to gross oppression but generally they are unable to defend themselves successfully. They have been dispossessed of their lands as in Palestine, or denied the control of the lands in which they are in majority as in Kashmir, or denied independence as in Chechnya or prevented from governing their countries even after winning a free and fair election, as in Algeria. If sometimes there is some kind of reprieve against the more powerful enemies, as in Bosnia and Kosovo, it results from chance combination of circumstances when foreign powers find to their advantage to come to Muslims at the brink of destruction. It is clear from all this that the need for Muslims everywhere to build the necessary power to defend themselves has never been greater. Therefore, an urgent quiestion for Muslims to think about is, What does Islam teaches us about power and about the means of acquiring it. This article deals with this question in very brief and basic terms.
The first thing that Islam teaches us about power is that it ultimately belongs to God Almighty. If anyone else has any power it is only because God has temporarily given it to him:
Say, Lord of all dominion (mulk). You grant dominion whom you will and you take away dominion from whom you will. You exalt whom you will and you abase whom you will. In your hand is all good and surely you are able to do all things (3:26).
The oppressors often behave as if their power is theirs to keep for ever and as if there is none who can bring them to justice but this is an allusion which will be destroyed at least on the day of judgment:
…And to God (alone) belongs the dominion (mulk) of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them. He creates what he will and God is able to do all things (5:17).
And among people there are those who take besides God rival (deities) loving them with a love that should be given to God (alone). Those who have (true) faith, they love God with the greatest intensity. If only the transgressors knew (what they will know) when they will see the punishment, that all power (quwwah) belongs to God alone …(2:165).
But the truth that power really belongs only to God will be seen not just in the hereafter. This truth has also been demonstrated in history:
Do they not travel in the land and then see the end of those who were before them and they were so much greater than they in power? And God is not such that anything in the heavens or in the earth can foil him. Lo! He possesses knowledge and power.
The simple but profound truth that power really belongs to God is not something that the unbelievers need to learn. It is also something that the believers need to always keep in mind, both in times of weakness and in times of strength. In times of weakness it should teach us patience and steadfastness in obedience to God and in times of strength it should teach us humility and constraint in the use of power.
There are four types of power that human beings can possess with God's leave and which Islam encourages us to acquire:
1) Power of iman or faith
2) Power of knowledge and understanding
3) Military power
4) Economic power
Power of Iman or Faith. Faith gives us the light by which we can see what needs to be done and how. It gives us the inner strength to persist patiently and make necessary sacrifices. It enables us to use power responsibly, wisely and therefore more effectively. Above all, it brings the help of God and whatever strength we possess is increased. The Holy Qur'an says:
And [the prophet Hud said], O my people! Seek forgiveness of your Lord and then turn to him in repentance; he will send down on you rain in abundance and add strength (quwwah) to your strength (quwwah). Do not turn away as sinners (11:52).
Thus turning to God in repentance, seeking his forgiveness, brings prosperity and an increase in strength or quwwah. This principle is stated in the words of the earlier prophet Hud (may peace be upon him) but the following verses address directly the faithful and steadfast followers of the Prophet Muhammad (whom God blesses, glorifies and loves):
If there be of you twenty steadfast they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you hundred steadfast they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, for they (the disbelievers) are a people who do not understand (8:65).
Now has God lightened your burden, for he knows that there is weakness in you. So if there be of you a steadfast hundred they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a thousand, they shall overcome two thousand by the permission of God. And God is with the steadfast (8:66).
Thus faith can increase the effective power of a people by two to ten times depending on the strength of the faith.
Power of knowledge and understanding. In one of the verses quoted above (8:65) the Holy Qur'an says that believers can overcome ten times bigger force of the disbelievers because the disbelievers "are a people who do not understand." This means that lack of understanding leads to weakness while understanding leads to strength.
This understanding should be thought of in general terms and include knowledge of science and technology and of what is happening in the world around us as well as knowledge of moral and spiritual truths.
Military power. The Qur'an says:
Make ready for them whatever you can of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby you may dismay the enemy of God and your enemy, and others beside them whom you do not know but God knows. Whatever you spend in the way of God it will be repaid to you in full, and you will not be wronged (8:60).
This verse commands Muslims to make ready to the best of their ability the type of force that will deter aggression against them by known and unknown enemies. Obviously, in our age this commandment can only be fulfilled if we do our best to acquire or build the most powerful weapons that other nations possess, which in turn requires us to acquire and develop the best possible knowledge of science and technology.
Economic power. In the last verse quoted above, after commanding the Muslims to make ready military force, the Quran says:
Whatever you spend in the way of God it will be repaid to you in full, and you will not be wronged (8:60).
This takes for granted the obvious fact that before there can be military force there has to be economic wealth, part of which may be spent for building a military force or for developing the scientific and technological knowledge needed for building a military force. Of course, economic wealth is useful not just for building adequate military strength but also in other ways, e.g. in political defense of Muslim causes.
When we think of power we must think of its all four types or sources: faith, knowledge, wealth and arms. These four sources are like four pillars that support our overall power. If even one of the four weakens, our power can be seriously reduced.
Because of the complexities of the modern age, adequate power cannot be built overnight. It will require a lot of hard work to improve our faith, to build our businesses, to produce a suitable number of scientists, engineers and experts in various fields of learning and to build our armed forces.
There are some pious Muslims who think that we should work mainly on our iman (faith) and the rest will follow. This is a dangerous thought because this world does not allow us the luxury of putting of the building of economic and military power till a sufficiently large proportion of Muslims can reach an adequate state of faith. We must work simultaneously on building all four types of power.
In building and maintaining power an important role is played by efficient organization in all efforts involving more than a few persons. This can be achieved within three broad principles given by the Qur'an:
1) Participation of the people involved through a consultation process (shura) suitable for the type of task an organization is engaged in (Qur'an 42:38).
2) Avoiding waste (israf) of every type of resource (Qur'an 7:31, 17:26-27, 25:67 etc).
3) Acceptance of the authority of those who are given some responsibility (`ata'a ul al-`amr) by a due process when the authority is exercised to carry out the responsibility (Qur'an 4:59).
4) Accountability of all people involved no matter what is their position, with convenient procedures for relieving persons from their responsibilities in case of incompetence, misuse of authority, and serious violation of rules (4:135, 5:8, 9:71 etc).