Reflections on Islam, Liberty and Development
By Hwaa Irfan
The most daunting factor in all of this is that we truly believe there is no alternative – nothing superior and that we are born to be controlled by the greed and hunger for power by the few, and such belief can only dissipate our life force on all levels of existence. It is this belief that probably led me to “Islam, Liberty and Development” by Mohammad Khatami of Iran to understand more why it is that far too many cannot see beyond what has been. It is purely coincidental that this book was bought at a time when the values that it argues for are the very same values that a 12,000-strong protest at the Durban Climate Talks, COP17 calls for, for the book was published in South Africa. It is also coincidental that this book was at a time when the West is cutting its nose to spite its face by which I mean cutting of all economic relations for Iran in order to reorganize the world resources.
Freedom and Development
“The legitimacy of concepts such as collective decision-making, reconciliation, and the supremacy of the public interest was upheld by the behaviour of the prophet himself, and to some extent by the Caliphs who succeeded him, especially by Imam ‘Ali. A new horizon dawned over people. Had it been allowed to continue, it could have spurred serious thinking, and the Islamic community would have undoubtedly had a different destiny. But sadly, the dark shadow of tyranny began to dominate Muslims. Even more sadly, effort was put into passing this tyranny off as the pillar of the new way of life. The autocratic form of policy grew into a legacy, a relic that led to the decline and degradation of the civilization.
“In such an atmosphere reflection about subjects’ political destiny was stifled, and the only thinker who managed to dedicate deep thought to philosophy, politics, and civic discourse was Farabi, the founder of Islamic philosophy, with whom the idea begins and terminates at the same time. After him, thought left the sphere of secular affairs, and because of the dominance of despotism and its consequences, deep investigation became focused strictly on esoteric and metaphysical phenomena, and we see that despite the advancement of knowledge about the supernatural, philosophical thinking on politics, society, and different social spheres became almost entirely dormant.”
One of the yearnings in the hearts of some members from the societies of which the “Arab Spring’ has sprung is the strong desire for good leadership with religious values that can be applied to everyday life – therefore someone who is trustworthy and truly represents the people. This was felt when the Turkish Prime Minister Ergodan visited Egypt in the year of the Arab Spring, 2011, at a time when the Arab Spring touched the lives of Palestinians adding light to the torch of freedom, liberty and humanity. Erdogan represented to the Egyptian youth strong leadership, without compromising the very dignity they were defending, and so their dissatisfaction with SCAF and its interim government grew as recent weeks witnessed what to the youth was a sell out of their dignity in regards to Israel and the Palestinian issue.
Whether such a desire can be met in their lifetime is another question, but experience tends to give up hope all too easily, for over hundreds of years we have become entrained by a limited Islam bereft of its 360° of liberty physically, spiritually and economically. Instead we have learnt to accept from a limited reductionist system of Islam, and when our needs are unmet refer to the reductionist system of capitalist democracy even when it is crumbling under the illusion that it still has the ability to provide our daily bread, butter, and wage slavery.
The most daunting factor in all of this is that we truly believe there is no alternative – nothing superior and that we are born to be controlled by the greed and hunger for power by the few, and such belief can only dissipate our life force on all levels of existence. The human spirit rises, but so used to being entrained to believe that a system will provide without our participation in the running of it, it by nature becomes corrupt because there is nothing to say “Stop.” As Muslims, like most people of faith, we assume a religious and/or spiritual superiority without realizing that we too are committing the same sin that is why Allah (SWT) cannot change a condition until we change it for ourselves, because it demands our conscious participation for the greater good.