1924 is a symbolic event for a good many given that it was the moment in which political power was ceded by force from the hands of Muslims. As a consequence Muslims in the East lost the ability to maintain their political sovereignty and then the vibrancy of Islamic thought, the intellectual life was surrendered. The response of some Muslims to this situation was to act on the desire to regain the notion of comprehensiveness of Islamic life in practice and thought and this gave birth to revivalist efforts. In effect, political reality did not remain passive to the desire but struck at revivalism and the desire for comprehensiveness was restricted by the immediate demands of life, by necessity. So the desire for comprehensiveness was forced into an agenda to seize the political organ of State so as to steer society from above and reinstate comprehensiveness. Comprehensiveness then became synomous with politicism and neglect set in collapsing taleem and tarbiyyah into self study and activism.
Two notions became important and symbolic of the struggle for poltical power and of the will to power: “khilafa” and “Islamic State.” With Communism and Capitalism engaged in a dialectical battle over the world, the geopolitical climate of the world gave birth the Islamist and armed with the two ideas of Khilafa and Islamic state he stood as the counter to the Capitalist and the Communist. But the notion of Islamist ought have been contained, specific to social demands and time and place but instead it grew to replace the original revivalist tendency of Islamic Movement and consequentially fixed movement on things political. “Comprehensiveness” under the Islamist became identified with harnessing power and Islamic State even Islamic revival fell to the side and knowledge became sidelined giving way to fikr (ideology).
The idea that the problems of the Ummah are solved through a political victory for the Muslims is really the notion that the will to power is the driving force behind all things and a disregard for the taleem and tarbiyyah necessary for a mature Islamic life and Muslim identity. If we look at the historical event of the murder of Sadat in Egypt the fallacy of the will to power manifested there since after his removal by force no sign golden age was ushered in in fact the Islamist ushered in an age of the rule of the heavy hand by resorting to violence as a way of change. The secular State thereafter turned against Islamic revival and worked to extend the colonial efforts to destroy Islamic learning and its institutions weakening the endowment system that supporting learning and scholarship, the scholar became the slave of the dollar and power. A new front on the war on Islam was opened up wherein the secular State fought the Islamist who represented the politcal will of the Ummah and both entered into a blood bath that is stil felt today.
The Islamist a product of the Cold War dynamics crossed over from the desire for revival into the field of politics and then armed struggle and then was checked by a lack of power. In this context the Islamic movement was caught in struggle for the will to power and limited by a vision shaped by ideology and centrist notion and as a result lost its revivalist bent. Translating theory into practice showed difficulty revivalist rhetoric was substituted by essentialist rhetoric (fixed on power) and self study produced contempt for scholarship. Taleem and tarbiyyah the cornerstones of revival effort and literacy faded from the center of Muslim life replaced by shallow self study and the lusftful will to power. The Islamic Movement once a revivalist platform became the field of Western educated doctors and engineers, etc., self taught, and self proclaimed specialists in Islam loosing a clear sense of reference but oriented by ideology.
The problem with a marriage of the will to power with frozen thought (ideology) is that it justifies reinstating in the Umma the Pharoah complex, the love of power and sidelines the dynamism of the Qur’an. Authority (Hakimiyyah) is understood as political in this context and “Revelation” is subjected to being a justification for a politics of the Islamist whereas authority is for the Qur’an and its aims (Maqasid al Qur’an). This is the reason Islamic education was never a self study effort in fact self study never birthed a movement rooted in ijtihad which was the aim of the Islamic movement early on that is to reinstate ijtihad but rather it killed the importance of scholarship and replaced refined and rigorous thinking with an unrefined pragmatism which unto date produced no long term positive results. Ali (r) took the Khawarij to task on this note and challenged their notion of Hakimiyyah and illustrated that the Book and scholarship go hand in hand.
The once vibrant, refined, scholarly, spiritual and involved Islamic Movement under the Islamist was turned into a club for political aspiration, and a the will to power and upward mobility guided by an evangelist-fortune 500 ethos so concern for revival was marginalized. Reforming the logic of the contemporary Islamic movement demands firstly a critical analysis of what movement has become and what it orignally was and then there is a need to call to change (islah), this needs for people to look deep into themselves and aim at sincerity that action is sound. Further there is need for Movement to return back to the principles and spirit of revival, knowledge and purification so that thought is grounded and knowledge is rooted in revelation. In this light perhaps we can recapture “the Qur’an” from being just a symbol of political power and allow it to stand in its position of centrality giving radiance and guidance to the soul, life, thought, feeling and action. Movement in its inception breathed life into the world of men who desired comprehensiveness, it spearheaded change because it itself was open to the demands of change, commanded by the Qur’an it was open to being guided by scholars of rank who steered the process of transformation on varying levels and then socio-politcal circumstances changed its course and force blunted its sharp stance. The logic of Islamic Movement is the logic of revival as the mujadideen understood it not self styled cultured professionals. What we need is to educate the Islamist in the reality of knowledge and revival, and regain comprehensiveness by way of learning and purification rescuing it from being narrowed to a political discourse so that it truly holistic and relevant to life.
-Wa Allahu Musat’an
i.e. We need to teach Islam to the Islamists.