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A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Democracy and Shura

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dark-wolf-226x300The slogan ”Islamic democracy” has been coined and attributed to Umar ibnul Khattab (ra), the second Khaleefah, and even to Muhammad (saw). It is said that consultation, or ”Shura,” is a fundamental aspect of Islamic governance, and that it is, in reality, democratic. However, those who describe democracy as being Shura, have dressed the proverbial ”wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Once some light has been cast onto the reality of Shura and democracy, the wolf will be unmasked. Firstly, let us look at the similarities.

Similarities between Shura and Democracy

Democracy entails ruling by the majority opinion. This is in terms of legislation through the parliament and the execution of ruling through a government, which acts (in theory at least) for the majority.

Shura is the verbal noun of the verb ‘’shawara,” or consulted. It means seeking an opinion from the one who is consulted. The Khaleefah or any lawful authority can undertake the Shura. Allah (swt) said to His Prophet (saw) in the Qur’an:

”And do consult them in the matter…” [ Ale-Imran: 159].

Abu Hurairah (ra) said, ”I have not seen anyone more willing to consult others then the Messenger of Allah (saw) in the consultation of his companions.”

Both Shura and democracy involve seeking an opinion from people. This is the only similarity.

Can we now say that democracy is Shura ? Could we even say that democracy is Islamic? The answer to both these questions is no. If the wolf has four legs just like the sheep, then are they the same? If the wolf is a warm-blooded mammal like the sheep, should they be kept together? Again, the answer is no! The wolf pup goes to its own mother for milk. Now imagine a newborn lamb that also drinks milk. Would it be wise to view any source of milk as its loving mother? The wolf and the sheep are proof that a similarity between any two things does not prove that these two things are the same.

To say that democracy is Shura, or that it is not Shura, requires a comprehensive understanding of both realities. Then we can see if they are indeed the same. We will see, in fact, that they differ in some fundamental issues. The differences are of such a nature that for the Muslims to drink from the milk of democracy would entail deviation from Islam.

In democracy, the majority opinion is always binding. However, in reality, opinions are of three types. Islam’s verdict on Shura is different for each of these three types of opinion.

1) Shura is never considered in matters of legislation.

2) The expert opinion is taken, regardless of the majority or minority, in matters where an intellectual judgement is required about some subject.

3) The majority opinion is taken for matters of action only.

Let us examine the first point:

1) Shura is never considered in matters of legislation.

The opinions of people hold no value in the matters of halal and haram because it is Allah (swt) who has decided these matters for us in the Book and the Sunnah. Allah (swt) warned about deviation from His Book:

”Therefore fear not men but fear me and sell not my verses for a miserable price. And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the disbelievers” [ Al-Ma’idah: 44].

The ruler is specifically warned not to follow people’s opinions in matters of revelation:

”Rule between them by that which Allah has revealed to you, and do not follow their vain desires” [ Al-Ma’idah: 49].

Democracy is built upon following man’s vain desires, without any restriction from the Creator. Democracy gives man the right to decide that sodomy is a crime, or that it is a respectable activity that our children should be encouraged to respect and practice. Democracy, therefore, is not simply a Western name for the Islamic principle of Shura!

The Prophet (saw) clearly refused to consider the people sovereign. On one occasion, the noble Sahabah were concerned about the treaty of Hudaybiyah, before Allah’s (swt) word on the matter had been clarified to them. They expressed their opinions very strongly to the Prophet (saw), because they thought that this treaty would humiliate the Muslims. Nevertheless, he (saw) rejected the opinions of all the Sahabah in order to sign the treaty of Hudaybiyah in obedience to the command of Allah (swt).

Sometimes the Khaleefah may not be certain what Allah’s (swt) rule is on a matter, and Ijtihad may be required. In such a situation, the Khaleefah may consult people of knowledge. This type of consultation is considered next.

2) The expert opinion is taken, regardless of the majority or minority, in matters where an intellectual judgement is required about some subject.

Umar b. Al-Khattab (ra) consulted the Muslims regarding the newly conquered lands of Iraq, whether they should be divided amongst the Muslims as booty, or left in the hands of its people subject to payment of Kharaj. Bilal (ra), Abdur Rahman (ra) and Az-Zubayr (ra) thought that the land should be divided in the same way that the Prophet (saw) divided the land of Khaybar as booty. Umar, however, made Ijtihad upon some ayat in Surah al Hashr to deduce that the land should be Kharaji land. Once Umar heard the views and was convinced with his own Ijtihad in preference to that of the majority, he rejected all other opinions and followed his own expert understanding of the text. During Umar’s Khilafah, he consulted the Sahabah on many issues related to understanding the rules of Islam for new situations, and he adopted the strongest opinion and never the majority opinion. The general consensus of the Sahabah upon this makes it clear that the Khaleefah can consult until he finds the strongest opinion. It is the Khaleefah who decides which is correct and no one else.

The Prophet (saw) followed the opinion of a single expert, Habab bin Munthir (ra), over the selection of the place of the Battle of Badr. It was narrated in the Seerah of Ibnu Hisham that, ”when he (saw) camped at the near side of the water of Badr, Al-Habab b. Al-Munthir was not happy with this place. He said to the Messenger (saw), ‘O Messenger of Allah! Did Allah make you camp in this place where we can’t depart from it, or is it the opinion of war and strategy?’ He (saw) said, ‘It is rather the opinion of war and strategy.’ Al Habab b. al-Munthir said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, this is not the (right) place. Move the people till we come to the side of the water near to the people (enemy), we camp there..’ The Messenger (saw) said, ‘You gave the right opinion.”’ Here, the Prophet (saw) followed the opinion of a single expert without asking for the majority view.

When a correct judgement on a subject, whether technical or Shari’ah, is required it is the correct opinion and not the majority that is followed. Only one man, the Khaleefah, has the right to decide which is correct. The ayah of consultation continues:

”…When you decided (azamta), put your trust in Allah” [ Al-‘Imran: 159].

This indicates that the final decision is with ruler and not with the people. This is because the verb ”to decide” used in the text is ”azamta” which means you (singular) decided. If the decision had been for the people then the verb would have been in the form ”azamtum” meaning you (plural). Again, it is seen that Shura and democracy are not the same.

3) The majority opinion is taken for matters of action only.

There are many choices the Khaleefah can make between actions that are Mubah (permissible). To invest in schools or hospitals, to appoint this man or that man, to build a motorway through cornfields on the east side of a town or to build it through pastureland to the west, are some examples. It is natural for people to differ when faced with a simple choice between two actions. A technical study would not come up with a judgement that leads to only one right course of action. In such a case, a choice needs to be made which will be subjective to each person. The Khaleefah can consult the people, and this is recommended but not obligatory according to Islam. The Prophet (saw) decided many matters like this himself, but he also consulted the people such as in the consultation before the Battle of Uhud. The Mushrikeen came to attack the Muslims that day, and the Prophet (saw) and the more prominent Sahabah wanted to fight from inside the city of Madina. However, the majority of the people wanted to go outside to fight the enemy. The Prophet (saw) led the army out from Madinah into the battle in accordance with the wishes of the majority.

Conclusion

In the democratic system of ruling, man has the absolute right to do as he pleases. This is decided by the majority opinion. Democracy is Kufr because that would be to place man above his Creator! Shura ”consultation” is not an absolute right of the people. The Khaleefah can consult with the people only in permissible matters (”Mubaah”). We have seen that the majority is accepted only if the matter is one of action and not some specialist subject. If an opinion, such as a strategy of war is needed, then the experts in this field are consulted, even if only one. This is because the ”correct” opinion is sought, and the majority opinion has no worth here.

The difference between democracy and Shura is like the difference between water and fire. We should remember the words of the Prophet (saw) narrated by Muslim and Bukhari about the final hour, ”When Dajjal will appear he will have water and fire with him. The thing which the people may consider as water will actually be fire; and the thing which the people may consider as fire, will be the cool and sweet water.”

May Allah (swt) protect us from the fire.

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Hazrat ali رضی-اللہ-تعالٰی-عنہ intellectualism

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Hazrat Ali, also known as Imam Ali, was a prominent figure in Islamic history, known for his wisdom, intellectual prowess, and contributions to various fields. His intellectualism is often revered and celebrated among Muslims and scholars alike. Here are some aspects of Hazrat Ali’s intellectualism:

  1. Knowledge and Education: Hazrat Ali was raised in the household of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), where he had the opportunity to acquire knowledge directly from the Prophet. He was known for his exceptional memory and deep understanding of the Quran and Hadith (sayings and actions of the Prophet). His commitment to learning is evident in various narrations where he emphasizes the importance of acquiring knowledge.
  2. Philosophical Wisdom: Hazrat Ali is renowned for his profound philosophical insights. His sermons and letters contain valuable teachings on ethics, morality, justice, and the nature of human existence. His intellectual contributions to Islamic philosophy have had a lasting impact, and his sayings are often quoted for guidance on leading a righteous life.
  3. Legal and Judicial Acumen: Hazrat Ali served as the fourth Caliph of Islam and played a crucial role in the development of Islamic jurisprudence. His judgments and legal decisions are considered exemplary, reflecting a deep understanding of Islamic law (Sharia). His collection of legal pronouncements, known as the Nahj al-Balagha (Peak of Eloquence), is considered a masterpiece of Arabic literature and a source of guidance for Muslims.
  4. Political Wisdom: As a leader, Hazrat Ali faced complex political challenges. His governance was marked by a commitment to justice, equality, and the welfare of the people. His letters and speeches provide insights into the principles of just governance and the responsibilities of a leader towards the well-being of the community.
  5. Spiritual and Mystical Insights: Hazrat Ali was not only a political and intellectual figure but also a deeply spiritual one. His mystical insights and devotion to God are evident in his prayers and supplications. His teachings on self-discipline, piety, and the pursuit of spiritual knowledge continue to inspire Muslims seeking a deeper understanding of their faith.

In summary, Hazrat Ali’s intellectualism is multifaceted, encompassing religious knowledge, philosophy, law, politics, and spirituality. His contributions have left a lasting legacy, and his teachings continue to be a source of inspiration for those seeking intellectual and moral guidance within the Islamic tradition.

Hazrat Ali, known for his wisdom and eloquence, has left behind a treasure trove of insightful quotes that cover various aspects of life, spirituality, justice, and morality. Here are some authentic quotes attributed to Hazrat Ali:

  1. “Silence is the best reply to a fool.”
  2. “Your remedy is within you, but you do not sense it. Your sickness is from you, but you do not perceive it.”
  3. “Patience is of two kinds: patience over what pains you, and patience against what you covet.”
  4. “He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, and he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere.”
  5. “A fool’s mind is at the mercy of his tongue and a wise man’s tongue is under the control of his mind.”
  6. “Knowledge enlivens the soul.”
  7. “He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, and he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere.”
  8. “The disease of the heart is worse than the disease of the body.”
  9. “He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, and he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere.”
  10. “People are slaves to this world, and as long as they live favorable circumstances, they are loyal to religious principles.”
  11. “Your remedy is within you, but you do not sense it. Your sickness is from you, but you do not perceive it.”
  12. “The tongue is like a lion. If you let it loose, it will wound someone.”
  13. “Live amongst people in such a manner that if you die, they weep over you, and if you are alive, they crave for your company.”
  14. “He who does not have forbearance, has nothing.”
  15. “He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, and he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere.”

These quotes reflect Hazrat Ali’s deep insights into human nature, morality, and the principles of righteous living. His words continue to resonate with people seeking guidance and wisdom.

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2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami Post-Scenario in Japan

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Japan, on Friday 11th March, 2011 has experienced the worst ever earthquake disaster in its modern history. It was followed by a deadly tsunami leading to massive destruction in the northern part of the country. The earthquake was caused by a 9.0-magnitudeundersea megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan . The epicenter was approximately 72 km east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku, with the hypocenter at an underwater depth of approximately 32 km. On 1 April 2011, the Japanese government officially named this disaster resulting from the earthquake and tsunami as the “Great Eastern Japan Earthquake” with the duration of almost 6 minutes. It’s the fifth biggest earthquake ever recorded. It’s certainly the biggest to hit Japan for at least 140 years. The earthquake moved largest island of Japan, Honshu to 2.4 m (7.9 ft) east and shifted the Earth on its axis by almost 10 cm (3.9 in).

The earthquake triggered extremely destructive tsunami waves of up to 37.9 metres that struck Japan minutes after the quake. .Tsunami warnings were issued and evacuations ordered along Japan’s Pacific coast and at least 20 other countries, including the entire Pacific coast of the Americas soon after it hit Japan. The earthquake and tsunami caused extensive and severe life and structural damage in Japan, approximately 12,175 deaths, 2,858 injured and 15, 48 missing people have been confirmed. Many electrical generators were taken down, and at least three nuclear reactors suffered explosions after cooling system failure which resulted in build up of hydrogen gas within their outer containment buildings. Almost eleven nuclear reactors at The Fukushima I, Fukushima II, Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant and were automatically shut down following the earthquake.

At Fukushima I and II tsunami waves overtopped seawalls and destroyed diesel backup power systems, leading to two large explosions and radioactive leakage at Fukushima I. Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency reported that radiation levels inside the plant were up to 1,000 times normal levels and that radiation levels outside the plant were up to 8 times normal levels. A state of emergency was declared at the Fukushima II nuclear power plant. Soil has been badly contaminated and radioactive cesium and iodine have also been detected in some places near Fukushima. Food products have also been contaminated by the radioactive matter in several places near the plants. The Fujinuma irrigation dam in Sukagawa ruptured, causing flooding and washing away of homes. The north-eastern ports of Hachinohe, Sendai, Ishinomaki and Onahama were destroyed, while Chiba port (which serves the hydrocarbon industry) and Japan’s ninth-largest container port at Kashima have been slightly affected. Japan’s transport and communication networks have suffered severe disruptions. Cosmo Oil Company JX Nippon Oil & Energy, were also set ablaze by the quake. The earthquake has changed the entire picture of Japan into a wrecked, naturally disastrous and a causality afflicted country.

The aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami included both a humanitarian crisis and a major social and economic impact. The tsunami resulted in over 300,000 refugees in the Tōhoku region, and shortages of food, water, shelter, medicine and fuel for survivors. In response the Japanese government mobilized the Self-Defence Forces; it has specifically requested teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, United Kingdom, and United States for search and rescue operations. China has offered roughly $150,000 in aid to Japan for recovery and also sent its rescue team which is a positive step in improvement of relations between the two countries. According to Japan’s foreign ministry, 116 countries and 28 international organizations had offered assistance in the form of rescue teams, aid shipments and financial help to Japan.

The Japanese Prime Minister had immediately set up an emergency task force to respond to the disaster. Rescue and Relief operations were started. Post-disaster measures and disaster management teams were introduced. Aid organizations both in Japan and worldwide have responded, with the Japanese Red Cross reporting $490 million in donations. Russia had also send a special radiation treatment vessel to help dispose of contaminated water from a Japanese nuclear power plant crippled by this massive earthquake and tsunami on Japanese demand. The US troops almost 40,000 military personnel had been stationed across the country who played key role in the post tsunami clean up.

The drastic economic impact included both immediate problems, with industrial production suspended in many factories, and the longer term issue of the cost of rebuilding which had been estimated at ¥10 trillion ($122 billion). Early estimates placed insured losses from the earthquake alone at US$14.5 to $34.6 billion. Japan’s government said the cost of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeast could reach $309 billion, making it the world’s most expensive natural disaster on record. The Bank of Japan offered ¥15 trillion (US$183 billion) to the banking system in an effort to normalize market conditions and to uplift the economic losses.

Even after almost a month now the economic and social situation is worst there. The country is still under slow process of recovery to get out of this natural calamity. Japan’s traditional pride in self-reliance doesn’t adapt easily to accepting foreign aid and help. It needs shrewd strategy to deal with the constructive use of foreign aid and physical assistance in order to speed up its recovery measures. To bring Japan back to its prior condition, this time and patience taking huge catastrophe, requires a gradual rehabilitation and reconstruction process. Although full recovery or pre-2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami situation is not possible still hopes are high seeing Japan to be back to its normal routine life once again and to carry on with its status of being an “Asian Tiger”, the third largest economy and being among the most developed nations of the world even in the post-2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami scenario.

AYMEN IJAZ
ISLAMABAD

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The Real Outcome of the Recent Pak-US Official Visits

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Obama & Zardari

US vice President, Joseph Biden recent visit to Pakistan was a matter of great concern for the entire nation, media and our US-led government, which is strongly believed to be acting like a puppet in US hands after its failure to resolve the issue of military insurgency and continuous drone attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan. It was a shrewd and tactful move on the part of the USA as the trust deficit between Pak-US relations continues to increase after the Indo-US nuclear deal, Obama’s visit to India and his endorsing India to become a permanent member of Security Council. Infact all these policies point directly towards its deep-rooted strategic interests and inclination towards India. The simple logic or reason behind all this is America’s fear of China and security threat from Pakistan. In the upcoming years it is not likely to be Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s Pakistan who can possibly become a safe haven for the terrorists and its previous Pro Taliban policy still haunts the Americans. USA alleges Pakistan’s ISI being supportive to these extremist elements and considers its nuclear arsenals being unsafe. Out of this fear, Biden has announced in his few days back visit to Afghanistan that USA forces would continue to stay and expected gradual withdrawal, starting this summer of US troops, can be postponed if Afghanistan wants, in order to prevent civil war and to fully eliminate the terrorists from its land.

America’s security depends greatly on Pakistan so it is bound to establish good ties with Pakistan and this surprise visit was another goodwill gesture out of courtesy and more likely out of its own self interest. In his visit, Joe Biden tried to clarify the misconceptions that prevail in Pakistan about US intentions and actions. He appreciated Pakistan’s fight against terrorism and reiterated US support to democracy in Pakistan and its stability. Biden assured that the new US administration would support Pakistan’s efforts to counter terrorism, religious radicalism and to meet its developmental needs and capacity building. He also expressed his condolence over assassination of Governor Salman Taseer. He assured Pakistan that no US boot will tread on Pakistani soil and there will be no violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,”

Our President Asif Ali Zardari recently also visited USA to attend the memorial services of Pak-Afghan envoy Richard Holbrook. There was no ceremonial welcome, no state banquet, and no joint presser, not even an opening statement on his arrival. No one is really quite sure what Zardari had hoped to accomplish, by meeting the US President and the state secretary Hillary Clinton as the two countries are battling an enormous trust deficit despite public protestations of cooperation in combating terrorism. The two leaders renewed pledges of cooperation over the aspects of the US-Pakistan strategic partnership, including mutual commitment to economic reform, support for good governance, democracy and joint efforts against terrorism. The discussion focused on shared efforts to fight terrorism, resolve the issue of blasphemy law and to promote regional stability, specifically on the importance of cooperating towards a peaceful and stable outcome in Afghanistan. However, Washington is not ready to pay any heed over the Kashmir issue and the real outcome of these two visits seems quite bleak for Pakistan, giving us neither new hopes for betterment nor any positive prospects for the future.

The years of US policies toward Pakistan based on financial allurements and conventional weaponry have done little to induce any change. Despite all these assurances, Pakistani nation is now skeptical of US motives having bad experiences in the past like drone strikes on Pakistani border areas, failure of Kerry Lugar bill and inadequate US material and financial aid for the war on terror and in crucial times of floods. These two visits are another deceptive picture by USA to allure Pakistan towards itself, after foreseeing Pakistan’s growing diplomatic and economic cooperation with China in December. No matter how much USA assures Pakistan of its staunch support, the atmosphere of misperceptions and doubts continue to hail around the country and America can never win the hearts and minds of Pakistani people through its fake assurances, callous policies and political/ military tactics as the two sides have a long way to go to overcome their significant differences. As it is well said that assurance cannot be bought but achieved only through mutual trust, cooperation and it requires time and experience.

AYMEN IJAZ
ISLAMABAD

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