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ON POLITICAL ISLAM (2)
OpinionON POLITICAL ISLAM (2)

1 a. According to Ayyubi ‘a certain element of equilibrium and balance is presumed among three powers’ (the caliph, the ulama and the judges) in the legal process in the Islamic State (Nazih N. Ayubi, Political Islam, Religion and Politics in the Arab World, 1991: 22-3). The caliph acts ‘as guardian of the community and the faith’, while ‘the ulama or religious scholars involved in the function of rendering religio-legal advice’. Ayubi maintains that at various times the ulama had enjoyed ‘a certain degree of autonomy vis-à-vis the ruler’ (1991: 33). He adds that the autonomy of the ulama was limited. He further argues that, in comparison with the political elites, the ulama enjoyed ‘a relatively high degree of symbolic autonomy, but only minimal organisational autonomy’ (1991: 34).

Ruud Peters argues that Ayubi suggests a too simplistic relationship between de state (the ruler) and the producers of ideas (the ulama) and generalises too much. According to Peters, Ayubi maintains that the ulama were subordinate to the Sultan and they were paid by the state and consequently were dependent on the Islamic principles and what they write about them. Peters is of the opinion that although the ulama were dependent on the state, because they mostly had two jobs, their dependence was not direct. The ulama were not a pure mouthpiece for the state, but often they had to legitimise the political system. Having this kind of authority means that they enjoyed some kind of independence of the state.

1 b. Ayubi is of the opinion that Islam does not possess ‘a theory of politics and the State’. He points out that ‘political Islam’ is a new invention, a modern phenomenon that ‘does not represent a ‘going back’ to any situation that existed in the past or to any theory that was formulated in the past’ (1991: 3). It is ‘the doctrine and/or movement which contends that Islam possesses a theory of politics and the State’ (1991: ix). But ‘the original Islamic sources (the Quran and the Hadith) have very little to say on matters of government and the State’ (1991: 1-2). There was, however, a close link between religion and politics. In other words there was ‘a certain fusion between religion and politics throughout the history of the Islamic State’ (1991: 3). In the past religion was used to give ‘a religious legitimacy to political power’. In other words, the politics was Islamised- ‘Islamised politics’. According to political Islam, religion and politics cannot be separated, but it wants to reverse the order within the link between religion and politics. In place of using religion to legitimise the activities of the state, the political islamists want to use Islam to resist the political power. In other words, ‘they are seeking the politicisation of a particular vision of religion that they have in mind’ (Ayubi 1991: 3) - ‘politicised Islam’. Historically, this is new regarding the relations between religion and politics: not legitimising, but challenging the state. Writing about ‘the historical origin of the convergence between religion and politics’ that was ‘the increasing necessity for imposing various types of tax on the Muslims themselves’ Ayubi points out that
‘Religion and politics were thus brought together in the historical Islamic State by way of the State appropriating religion (...) Political Islam now reverses the historical process - it claims ‘generic’ Islam for the protest movements, leaving to the state the more difficult task of qualifying and justifying its own ‘version’ of Islam.’ (1991: 5).

2. The Muslim Brotherhood was the first fundamentalist organization in Egypt, which was established in 1928. Its leader was Hasan al-Banna. The development of political Islam in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular passed through several stages that were characterised by the used tactics or methods. In the 1930s political Islam was not yet politically crystallized. In the first phase of its development the Muslim Brotherhood was mainly a missionary (al-da’wa) organization. It was mainly engaged in spreading the Islamic call. In course of time it became more politicised. In the 1940s it became a mass organization and a political force to be reckoned with. After the Second World War the Muslim Brotherhood was engaged in jihad (‘exertion, striving or struggling by all means, including military ones’ [Ayubi 1991: 254]).

In the 1950s the Muslim Brotherhood became more aggressive and there came physical exercises. In the beginning of the ‘revolution’ in Egypt there was cooperation between ‘the Free officers’ and the Muslim Brothers under the leadership of Sayyid Qutb. The Muslim Brotherhood was close to participation in government and to infiltrate the state, but it did not realize (Ayubi 1991: 138). After the attempted assassination on Nasser there began the second phase in which the followers of al-da’wa split with the advocates of jihad who were influenced by the ideas of Sayyid Qutb. In the 1960s Sayyid Qutb called for jihad against political leaders who were not prepared to introduce an islamic system in Egypt (Roel Meijer, Tussen jihad, missie en partijpolitiek, Soera December 1997).

Under Sadat the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood were released from prison at the beginning of the 1970s. Then, under the leadership of Umar Tilmissani, there began the third phase in the development of political Islam in Egypt, namely al-hizbiyya or party politics - participation in the parliamentary system. But there were differences between the mainstream Islamic fundamentalism and the neo-fundamentalists or ‘neo-Ikhwanist’ groups who oppose al-hizbiyya. After the assassination of Sadat in September 1981 the whole leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood was arrested and the relations between the state and political islamists deteriorated. In the course of years, under Mubarak, relations between the state and the Muslim Brotherhood were again normalised. Although the Muslim Brotherhood was not officially legalized, it took part in various elections through coalitions with recognised political parties.

But in the 1990s, according to Roel Meijer, this trend was, however, reversed: The Muslim Brotherhood finds the leaders of its third generation in jail, its political alliance threatened and its party headquarters closed down. According to Meijer, the elections of 1987 marked the turning point in the relationship with the state. The Muslim Brotherhood won a substantial number of seats in parliament and made inroads in the professional organizations. It turned the labour Party into an Islamic party. By all these the Muslim Brotherhood antagonised the state.

Only the Muslim Brotherhood does not represent political Islam. There are other groups that could be called as the ‘neo-fundamentalists’. ‘ (...) They have a more militant ideological outlook, and believe in the necessity of challenging the whole existing order (...)’ (Ayubi 1991: 73). Al- Takfir w’al-Hijra (‘excommunication and emigration’) is one of the most widely publicised of these groups. Al-Jihad (struggle or crusade) is another neo-fundamentalist group that is, according to Ayubi, currently of more importance. Al-Jihad is ‘more oriented towards organised action, and rather than withdrawing from contemporary society’. Ideologically, all the neo-fundamentalist groups believe that religion cannot be separated from politics, and the shar’a must be applied immediately and by force if appropriate (1991: 79-80).

There is also generation gap in the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The first generation (the old guard) has still the leadership of the movement in its hands. In January 1996 the younger generation of the Brotherhood founded a new party, called Hizb al-Wasat and applied for recognition, but in vain.

The development of political Islam in Jordan followed a different path in comparison with Egypt. The Hashemite rulers of Jordan ‘have increasingly followed policy of cooperation with, and cooptation of, the ulama, and have striven to appear as the sponsors of an intellectual and cultural Islamic tradition’ (Ayubi 1991: 94). According to Ayubi, the Muslim Brothers from Egypt and Palestine were active in Jordan in the second half of the thirties. In 1953, the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood was publicly declared. In the period between 1954 and 1967 the Muslim Brothers in Jordan, contrary to what happened in Egypt, enjoyed a relative degree of freedom. In contrast with the Egyptian case, the Muslim Brotherhood was a legal movement in Jordan. It became ‘in effect an essential component of the Hashemite regime’, while the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was in bitter conflict with the Egyptian state. The Muslim Brotherhood managed to penetrate the Jordanian state by middle of a tacit coalition with the Jordanian monarchy (Meijer). On the other hand, it meant that the state was able to control the movement. The monarchy and the Muslim Brotherhood used each other against their internal and external adversaries. Until 1956 the Muslim Brotherhood operated as a charitable society. In the elections of October 1956 it was allowed to participate as a political party. In 1957 martial law was established and political parties were banned, the Muslim Brotherhood included. The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan became once more a social organisation. This period lasted till the late 1970s.

The 1970s witnessed the Islamic revival and the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood became openly active again. In the elections of November 1989 the Muslim Brotherhood was very successful (Meijer). The Muslim Brotherhood was even represented in a new cabinet that was announced on 1 January 1991. Before the elections of 1993 the Muslim Brotherhood ‘embraced the principle of hizbiyya openly by establishing the Islamic Action Front’ (Meijer December 1997: 18). In Egypt there was never a legal political mass party. The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan participated directly as a political party in various parliamentary elections, whereas the Egyptian Muslim Brothers were denied the right of direct participation in the elections.

Both in Egypt and Jordan ‘the tacit agreement’ between the state and the Muslim Brotherhood was ‘also directed against the radical Islamic movement’. The most important militant movement that challenges the monarchy and the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan is the Islamic Liberation Party that was established in Jerusalem in 1953. ‘(...) It is unique among Islamic movements in declaring itself openly as ‘a political party whose principle is Islam and whose activity is politics’ (...) It aims at re-establishing the Islamic caliphate as a unitary, not a federated, State for all Muslims in the world (Ayubi 1991: 97).

As in Egypt, the Islamic movement in Jordan has infiltrated civil society. The younger generation members established strong positions in the professional organisations (Meijer December 1997: 16).

While the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan is lead by a new generation of leaders who have little to do with the radical past that was as a whole scanty, in Egypt the first generation of leaders still are in power (Meijer December 1997: 35). There was a close cooperation between the Muslim Brotherhood and the monarchy in Jordan and as a reaction to this there manifested themselves ‘legal oppositional Islamic currents’ ‘since the 1980s outside the Brotherhood as independents’. There exist similarities between them and the members of Hizb al-Wasat and the third generation members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. They both belong to the younger generation of Islamists and are both clearly visible for their presence in the elite professional organizations and are both subjected to harsh state repression in the 1990s Meijer). (In answering this question I also made use of Meijer’s paper ‘From al-da’wa to al-hizbiyya: Mainstream Islamic movements in Egypt, Jordan and Palestine in the 1990s).

3.There exist different views with regard to the relationship between Islam, nationalism (the nation-state) and internationalism/ transnationalism among political islamists. One of the matters in dispute is whether nationalism is compatible with Islam or not. Those who argue that there can be no compatibility of Islam with nationalism or the nation-state advocate for a unitary state for all muslims - a pan-Islamic state. They could be called as ‘internationalist/transnationalist political islamists’. The ones who see no incompatibility of Islam with the nation-state strive to establish an Islamic state within the national boundaries. The relationship between Islam, the nation-state and internationalism is, among other things, the question of human rulership or absolute rulership of God. Who has the sovereignty: God or the human being?
According to those who advocate that the muslims must be loyal to umma and not to the state argue that the most of muslims refuse the idea of the nation-state. As far as they are concerned, the interests of the umma stand above everything else. The counter-argument is that the idea of territorial pluralism (the nation-state) is accepted by muslims. In the modern period, the people everywhere in ‘Islamic world’ will to establish nation-states. There arose a system of nation-states, which nobody can escape from, and arising of a system runs counter to the umma ideology (Peter van der Veen). Da’wa, yes, but the interests of the state, especially the economic interests come first. The pure Islamic foreign policy is not possible, since the foreign policy is conducted by means of secular state system. There is nationalization or privatization of Islam as religion. Da’wa forms a part of the foreign policy, but not to propagate umma, but for the benefit of the so-called national interests and the religious solidarity is subordinated to those interests. International organizations of the ‘Islamic countries’ pretend that the umma is the aim, yet the interest of the state is the most important thing (Paul Aarts). As far as the state-to-state relations are concerned, the ‘Islamic internationalism’ or ‘Islamic supranationalism’ is still weak.

Eickelman and Piscatori maintain that ‘the compatibility of Islam and nationalism is beyond doubt’. There exists ‘de facto pluralism’ which ‘explains why pan-Islamic political integration has been minimal’. There were several factors, which limited ‘the prospects for pan-Islamic integration’. There were already ‘forceful divisions among Muslim political entities’ by the time of abolishment of the caliphate by the Turkish state in March 1924. Most of the Islamist groups have not called for the restoration of the caliphate’ but, rather ‘seek to establish an Islamic state or Islamic order within their own national societies’. The Islamic Liberation Party that was established in Jerusalem in 1952 (according to Ayubi in 1953) has been a major exception to this pattern. The leader of this party, Taqi al-Din al-Nabahani, called for ‘the creation of one Islamic state’ and ‘the restitution of the caliphate’ (1996: 138). ‘(...) It aims at re-establishing the Islamic caliphate as a unitary, not a federated, State for all Muslims in the world (...)’ (Ayubi 1991: 97).

The question of sovereignty is a major or perhaps the major matter in dispute in political Islam. With the question of sovereignty, the importance of the ideological role played by the Pakistani Abu al-A’la al-Mawdudi forcefully enters into discussion. Mawdudi was one of the most important ideologues of Islamic transnationalism. He advocated of establishing one pan-Islamic state. What Mawdudi wanted was ‘not a Muslim State but an Islamic State’. He argues that an Islamic State (‘i.e. that Islam is both religion and politics’) is ‘an ‘ideological State’, that should be run only by those who believe in the ideology on which it is based [the Quran and the Sunna] and in the Divine Law which it is assigned to administer’ (Mawdudi in Ayubi 1991: 128). That is why he propagated strongly ‘against nationalism and democracy’. In his view, nationalism was a non-Islamic influence. Mawdudi’s key concept was the total sovereignty and rulership of God- the concept of God’s hakimiyya. In order to establish the Kingdom of God on earth, the kingdom of man must be destroyed. In the past, religion was used to legitimate the regime, but, now, religion is used to challenge the state. It is a revolt against human rulership in order to establish the total and absolute sovereignty and rulership of God. The main thrust of the ideas of Mawdudi (and of Sayyid Qutb’s) ‘(...) revolves around adherence to the principle of ‘God’s absolute rulership’ (al-hakimiyya l’illah) and a belief in the total pagan ignorance (jahiliyya) of all contemporary governments caused by their failure to apply this principle and to enforce the application of religious law (shari’a) (...)’ (Ayubi 1991: 66). In Mawdudi’s view ‘the Muslim’s belonging and allegiance should be to his religion alone. Any patriotic or nationalist loyalty is therefore regarded as pagan’ (‘Abd al-Jawwad Yasin paraphrased in Ayubi 1991: 145). The ideas of Mawdudi, especially the one concerning modern jahiliyya had influenced several fundamentalist groups all over the ‘Muslim world’ and became ‘ a major source of the doctrine of political Islam’ (Ayubi 1991: 129). Qutb was one of the most influential fundamentalist thinkers who were influenced by the ideas of Mawdudi. It must be concluded that Mawdudi’s ideological contribution to the emergence of the ‘Muslim transnationalism’ has been enormous.

4. Ayubi points out that there is an emerging ‘alternative ‘Islamic’ network of banks, companies and social services’ in the Arab world, but ‘this network can be described as ‘Islamic’ only in a very tenuous sense’. That is why he writes affirmatively about Samir Amir’s view with regard to an ‘Islamic political economy’ that ‘there is no essentialist ‘Islamic political economy’ that one can speak of regardless of historical contingencies or social forces’ (1991: 199). Writing about traditional Islamic politics, Ayubi argues that, since the original Islamic sources (the Quran and the Hadith) contain very little on politics, it was ‘shaped less by Islam as a belief system (.) and more by the nature of the modes of production and the economic requirements and cultural traditions of the territories that eventually formed the Islamic dominion’ (1991: 30). The character of the dominant mode of production, beginning with ‘Umar, in Ayubi’s view, was ‘tributary’ and lasted for many centuries. Ayubi points out that ‘ ’Umar made a strategic decision in ordering that the [conquered] land would become public property, ‘leased’ to those who cultivated it in return for tribute (kharaj)’ (1991: 31). Ayubi writes
‘The resulting constellation of modes of production (articulated with each other in different ways at different places) was largely control-based: the State had a fairly direct control over the producers (initially farmers but increasingly merchants and artisans and a few miners as well). The relations of production - but specifically the relations of distribution - were decided politically (and militarily) rather than ‘technically’ and economically’ (1991: 31).
It should be concluded that there existed no Islamic political economy that was supposedly contained in the original Islamic sources. Ayubi, however, speaks of a ‘parallel economy’. The so-called Islamic banks, companies and social services, according to Ayubi, should be regarded more as part of a powerful parallel economy than as part of the ‘Islamic revival’ (1991: 195)

Ayubi is not of the opinion that the radical Islamic organizations have been engaged in establishing economic enterprises in any big and organised way: ‘(...) Rather, it is the rising native mercantile bourgeoisie that has stretched its hand to the Islamic movement in order to impart to itself a certain element of religious legitimacy (...)’ (1991: 193). Regarding the practices of the so-called Islamic banks he argues that ‘these banks can be described as ‘Islamic’ only in a very broad and generalised sense’ (1991: 183). He emphasizes that there was nothing ‘Islamic’ about ‘the origins of the Islamic banking formula’. The idea originated from ‘the local development of cooperative/savings banks that were established in the Egyptian countryside (...) in the sixties’ (Ayubi 1991: 179). Some ‘Islamic’ banks get round ‘the perceived Islamic prohibition of riba (usury)’ (1991: 178) and ‘other prohibited dealings’ by delegating ‘the job of investing in international markets to conventional banks that act on their behalf’ (1991: 183). In discussing the question of interest which is ‘prohibited because it is a positive, predetermined return on capital’, Ayubi draws the attention to the fact that ‘the main bulk of Arab surplus funds’ is ‘ ’placed’ at Western interest-paying financial institutions, which in turn extended interest-taking credits to Third World countries - with Arab countries alone suffering an external indebtedness of $136 billion in 1984 (...)’ (1991: 179). He maintains that ‘the Islamic banks which are part of the mainstream phenomenon of ‘petro-Islam’ and, as such, are closely linked to the world capitalist order’ (1991: 195). ‘The larger Islamic banks (...) belong more closely to the ‘corporate international bourgeoisie’ ‘ (1991: 199).

The so-called Islamic ‘money utilisation companies’ represent ‘an ascending local capitalism with an Islamic face, rather than the economic wing of a growing Islamic fundamentalist movement’. It does not, however, mean that members of the Islamic movement have not played a role in these companies. For example, members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are also active within the ‘parallel economy’ (Ayubi 1991: 73). The Islamic revival in the 1970s and 1980s had its impact on the rise of the so-called Islamic companies. In spite of the religious rhetoric ‘these companies are more a part of the parallel economy than they are a part of the Islamic revival: they are part of a native mercantile capitalism which, because of its origins and experience, is likely to be culturally conservative and therefore, incidentally, inclined to be sympathetic to the Islamic tradition (...)’ (1991: 191). The money utilisation companies ‘are mainly an outcome of the spillovers (outside the Gulf) of the petroleum phenomenon’ (1991: 195). (The owners of these companies worked or lived abroad, usually in the Gulf countries).

Ayubi maintains that the ‘Islamic’ social services too are a part of a parallel capitalist economy or ‘capitalism with an Islamic face’ (1991: 198). In his view, together with the larger money utilisation companies, ‘some of the large commercially-run hospitals and schools represent the movement of a rising native commercial bourgeoisie’ (1991: 199).

In Ayubi’s conception of an ‘Islamic political economy’, it is obvious that Islam provides the ideological costume for a rising capitalist private sector with an ‘Islamic face’. It could be said that, just as Calvinism provided the ideological costume for the rising bourgeoisie in Western Europe in the past, now, Sunnism provides the ideological costume for the rising ‘Islamic bourgeoisie’ in the ‘Islamic world’.

A.H.Yalaz
1998