Islam – The Recovery
Faced with the horror of the Sh‘ia massacre of the Syrian Muslim population, coupled with the frozen inaction of the Muslim peoples of Turkey and the Arabian Peninsula, with the shame of the Palestinians not man enough to admit defeat and half converted to Shi‘ism, and with the Arabs claiming Wahhabism while chained to dollars for petrol – surely it is time to review where in all this stands the Divinely ordained Deen of Islam, and to rediscover what in fact it is.
In order to see clearly it is necessary to go back in time and recognise the click by click mechanisms which have redefined Islam into being this distorted current reality, or ir-reality.
When I entered Islam in the early sixties of the last century, socialism gripped the Arabs with a frenzy. The evil Ba‘athist regimes were born from the dominating world of Nasser in Egypt. In London the Azhari Shaykhs told me that Zakat was a personal gift of 2½% of one’s income, given yearly! The Saudis informed me that Islam was ‘Kitab wa Sunna’. This doctrine meant that the Muslim had the Book of Allah and a personal code of behaviour, based on the private civic practice of the Prophetic record. The Saudis even staged a big Conference defining Islam, called ‘The Mosque Message’. The proper Islam, they told us, did not tolerate Sufism since the Sufis were backward people who worshipped at the tombs of dead saints. Then there were the ‘modernists’. The Jama‘at al-Islamiyya was based around a highly anti-intellectual ethos of direct engagement in local Indian and Arab politics. The Muslim Brotherhood – no mention of sisterhood – ran a secretive movement which basically denounced everybody yet remained tolerated in Arabia. They founded their doctrines on an out-and-out abolition of Madh-habs (divisive!) and an adherence to Afghani, Rashid Reda and Abdu. No text book of theirs preceded these, their models. They not only accepted capitalism but their leaders were the first to embrace Islamic Banking, along with the Jama‘at. Islamic Banking itself was designed and, at great expense, invented and spread by Goldman Sachs’ C.E.O.. With Afghani one of the key activists of modernism, the future road to Shi‘a deviation lay open – Afghani’s real name, of course, was Irani, he was Shi‘a, not Muslim. Nasser, to get access to Iranian oil, had hosted a Cairo Conference which declared Shi‘ism to be a Fifth Madh-hab of Islam, Jaf‘ari.
I asked the director of the Paris Mosque, a shrewd and eccentric scholar, to explain to me the origin of the Ikhwan. Puffing on his jewelled narghile, he smiled. “Remember,” he said, “I am still alive. The French colonial state wanted me dead and the marxist Algerian state wanted me dead. Staying alive is a science! About the Ikhwan – there are two schools of thought. One is that they were the product of the British secret service to defeat Nasser and the other is that they were the instrument of Nasser to defeat Farouk and take power. Before power Nasser used the Ikhwan, once in power he persecuted them.” So which theory is correct, I naively asked? He smiled and puffed his water-pipe.
The underlying dialectic of mid-century was that pure Islam was ‘Kitab wa Sunna’, a position which effectively eliminated ‘Madh-hab’, versus the post-Reda Ikhwan position which declared that Islamic governance meant that the State, in its Western historical identity, i.e. Europe and America, would function under Islamic Law. Remember that the abolition of Madh-hab implied the non-validity of a legal tradition. Indian ‘ulama insisted that Madh-hab could not simply be dismissed and as a result the Arabian ‘ulama declared the Wahhabis to be Hanbali, itself a contradiction in terms. They insisted that Ibn Hanbal was really a muhaddith not a legalist!
Before returning to the beginnings of Arab shame in the modern age one should survey the historical wave patterns of the previous century.
It can now be said that the fall of the Osmanli Dawlet was never the result of a military defeat. The so-called modernisation of Turkey, the Tanzimat, historically stood for the transfer from gold-based currency to paper notes for the masses and the banking system to be used by the State in all its fiduciary arrangements. The bankers in the last phase of Osmanli rule were highly honoured. The head of the Camondo Bank was given a State funeral. When, precisely by their manipulation of capital, the Empire collapsed, they simply walked away to set up shop in Egypt and Europe. Not one banker proposed even a capitalist road to recovery for the State – a lesson European States are now learning. The Osmanli Dawlet, it can now be clearly stated, was destroyed by capitalism. Mustafa Kemal declared, “I took their gold and gave them a bank.” Banking and dictatorship and modern Turkey was born.
The Mughal Empire which flourished under the brilliant system of Haraj and Zakat taxation, the Zamindar pattern, was brought down by the fiduciary contracts of the East India Company and its final transformation into Empire status. The gold and silver Mughal currency was replaced by the paper Rupee, turning its formerly wealthy peoples into helpless poverty.
When the socialist government of Britain withdrew from India they used as Viceroy the coward Mountbatten, who had abandoned a sinking ship in the War, leaving his sailors to drown. Mountbatten had married into the family of Sir Ernest Cassel, the jewish banker who had invented the Bank of Egypt! Edwina Mountbatten’s affair with Nehru gave all the details of Partition to the Hindu camp, assuring the annexation of Muslim Kashmir to India.
The Partition of India is the first division of territory by population and not land. The historical claim of the Muslims should have been Mughal based. Delhi, Agra, Lucknow had an ongoing cultural and historical reality. The English had deposed the Sultan, stripped his sons naked and shot them at point blank range, then flung the Emperor Bahadur Shah into a Burmese cellar prison to die, untried and unsentenced. The arrival of the political class in divided India was the departing curse of socialist Britain. A Shi‘a was president of Muslim Pakistan, and an atheist was head of the multi-god Hindus!
Thus, we can now confirm two important facts. Neither the Osmanli Dawlet nor the Mughal Empire was ever defeated militarily. Kemalism was a coup d’état achieved in the bankruptcy following the forced exile of Sultan Abdulhamid Khan II. Britain under the flag of Empire seized India by simple coup d’état.
Each of these violent transitions was preceded by the total fragmentation of the society’s trade and fiduciary system. This was achieved by two practices. The abolition of an intrinsic value metals currency and the imposition of paper money. The introduction of usury into every transaction. What was named ‘development’ and ‘modernisation’ was, in fact, devaluation (from the real value to numerical value) and usury (increase in the exchange).
In Makkah I saw a newspaper advertisement which showed a young Arab boy sitting with his grandfather. Underneath was the caption: “You see, my boy, in my day we used to carry gold coins. This was very dangerous so we stopped that and in its place we made printed money with the value written on it. Then, your father deemed that too was dangerous. So, in place of the actual money we have made a small plastic gold card with your number on it – and your wealth is stored away in the bank. So now you will have a gold card, but your wealth will be safe!”
The sufferings of the Muslim world after World War II stem from our failure to see that the conquest of Muslim lands was not based on political dominance but by the imposition of the capitalist/usury system of debt-based, that is loaned, paper receipts for money called bank notes. Paper currency was capitalism’s true weapon of mass destruction.
It is only now when the inexorable logic of a system based on increase in the exchange, which implies endless growth, has reached its end limits, that we can at last recognise the instrument of deception. That is to say, now that the deception is finally hitting the kuffar populations as it once enslaved us.
What the post-WW2 generation of Muslims saw was the political theatre of power exchange – and it was enthralling. Farouk overthrown – Nasser in power. Sanussi replaced by a military regime headed by a young Colonel. Iraq taken by a nationalist Saddam backed by the U.S.A.. Bhutto assassinated – first one then several! Backstage, of course, was the oligarchic struggle to maintain a hold on the oil-rich Middle East.
In all this the role of the Muslims – seen as power pawns – hid the defining and re-defining of Islam away from its historical anchorage.
It is important to follow the stages of the reconstruction of Islamic teachings by in turn de-constructing the key elements.
Arabia. The Wahhabi movement grew in an awakening of Arab tribalism opposed to Osmanli rule. Cleansing Islam of its Osmanli sophistication and culture became defined as a return to desert origins. The Salaf. Of course Islam is not a product of the desert. It is the fruit of a city. Madinah al-Munawwara. Hence the historical unease of Wahhabis in Madinah.
The ‘purifying’ movement forged itself in a militant grouping, ‘The Ikhwan’ – the tribal Saudis used them to activate their tribal ambitions and open greed to seize the new oil-fields of the desert.
Up north, the Egyptian ‘ulama, highly influenced by Europe and its colonial presence in the country, in turn wanted free of British control already imposed on the prior Osmanli system under the Albanian King Farouk. The reforming triumvirate were Reda, Abdu and the Shi‘a Afghani, who pretended Islam. Their programme was to achieve independence, i.e. self-rule, using a streamlined system that implied a break with ‘historical’ Islam and the emergence of a new, rational Islam based on the pragmatism of political power. Finish – the Madh-habs. Adopt the Western State model. Rescuing Islam meant a political take-over. They wanted the Palace. The market could take care of itself and a nationalised bank would ‘clean’ the money. Sir Ernest Cassel was the creator of the Bank of Egypt. The bank was never their concern. Already a parallelism can be seen between the Wahhabis and the Egyptian modernists. Both wanted the abolition of Madh-habs. Both wanted to govern their own affair. The Ikhwan in Arabia – the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen in Egypt. The former were anti-Shi‘a – the latter soft on Shi‘ism thanks to Afghani. Significantly, for those who imagined Islam was a political entity, both groups were betrayed through politics. Ibn Saud used the Wahhabis to take power but then turned on them, slaughtering their leaders. Then Nasser in Egypt, having used the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen in his moves to power, once installed, knowing their ambition was political, in turn persecuted them.
The Wahhabis were reduced to puritanism, once sidelined by Ibn Saud who, meeting with Roosevelt on an American warship in 1945, became a puppet of the American imperial programme.
This left the Egyptian Ikhwan, tainted by Shi‘a doctrines, to whip themselves, victims and martyrs dreaming of one day breaking free. They have, since that day, always been defeated.
The Saudi Ikhwan withdrew to plot in secret to sabotage the Saudi regime and restore the salaf version of events. The Saudi rebel, bin Laden’s first strike was against the U.S. base, Dhahran, in Arabia. His last was the eccentric destruction of two New York skyscrapers. It was never an Islamic event. It was the internationalisation of Arab tribal warfare.
If the Arab Ikhwan chose terror, the Egyptian Ikhwan chose election. The day they took their political Islam to the electorate they displaced Allah’s power and ceded to humanist power. If they accepted being voted IN then they accepted being voted OUT. Thus, it could not be the Deen of Islam as our scholars had understood from its inception. As the Ikhwan terror ended in a safe-house outside Islamabad, the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen ended in Tahrir Square when the Ikhwan betrayed the masses. The Ikhwan were in the Parliament – the Muslimeen were in Tahrir Square!
The Arabian puppet regime of Aramco, the oil company, fronted by the family of Saud, clung to their personalised ‘Islam’ – Kitab wa Sunna. A collected Zakat had been abolished. Wahhabism had been reduced to a simple anti-Sufi doctrine. A Wahhabi ‘alim who declared Shi‘a to be kuffar was promptly jailed. He had disturbed the Saudi Shi‘a living around the eastern oil fields.
In all this where did the Sufis stand? The Sufis had experienced two corruptions, for if the Shari‘at is eroded, the Haqiqat is distorted. The weakness of the Sufis had two aspects. In one, two true doctrines were turned upside down. Sufism was presented as Ma‘rifatullah and its Futuwwah was hidden. True Sufism IS Futuwwah and its secret is Ma‘rifah. Thus Sufis openly talked Ma‘rifah and did not guide to Futuwwah. The Tasawwuf of Imam Junaid raised up Futuwwah, and to teach Ma‘rifah in his words he “shut seven doors on seven doors.”
The other disaster was the Shi‘afication of Sufism. I mean by that the claim to silsilah passed from the batin to the dhahir, sons of Sufi shaykhs claiming inheritance as if it were heritable, thus physical. Traditionally among the Sufis title passing to another generation is defined as ‘the exception that proves the rule’. In Tasawwuf silsilah is a ruhani affair. This second disaster did confirm the critique of the Wahhabis. There was tomb worship – not to be confused with the legitimate visiting of the dead according to the hadith directives.
In terms of the ‘Aqida – let us then see the two Ikhwani deviations. They were to dominate the Sadat/Mubarak years and the later Saudi.
The Ikhwan in Egypt after Nasser had their eyes fixed firmly on political power. Their key text was no longer the uneducated ramblings of Sayyid Qutb but rather al-Kattani’s ‘Tartib al-Idariyya’ which with strong erudition had gathered recensions from the Prophetic period and then claimed that therein lay the blueprint of Islamic politics. However, in placing the model over Western State practice he seemed to offer as true model the teetotal capitalism of Herbert Hoover.
So the Egyptians turned the Deen of Islam into a political philosophy which the West renamed as such – Islamism, along with communism and capitalism. In the new Islamist language they took a word from its historical context and set it over their programme of power aspiration. They said they wanted – the Shari‘at. To the kuffar, and, alas, uneducated Muslims, this meant – well, here is one perception of it by a United Nations agent, Jean Ziegler: “What do the Islamists propose? The Shari‘at! The hands of thieves cut. Adulterous wives stoned. Women’s social status reduced. Democracy refused. Intellectual regression.” That is the view from the street. In Parliament it is Ikhwani ministers snoozing under the approving eye of the military and driving home in limos.
Against ‘Shari’at’ was offered the Saudi dry-cleaned Wahhabism – personal monotheism – ‘Kitab wa Sunna’. No dangerous talk of Zakat on oil, and the oil exchanged for dollars. Oh! And anti-Sufi. What – between them – had been obliterated? The Deen itself. Both groups had called for the abolition of the Madh-habs. But the issue was not disagreement over extra raka‘ats on Jumu‘a, it was very deep – the Deen itself!
Why? Because the Madh-habs in themselves encapsulate the two vital matters of Islam.
What are its two vital matters? They are announced in our dual Shahadah.
Under ‘La ilaha illallah’ we subsume all the laws of ‘Ibada. Salat. Zakat. Sawm. Hajj, and a correct ‘Aqida, assuring a pure Tawhid. Avoidance of shirk.
Under ‘Muhammad, Rasul Allah’ we subsume all social intercourse. This is dominated by the prohibitions and strictures of the market. All the rules of buying and selling. The permissible models of trade agreements. Avoidance of usury.
This permits us to say that Islam, having no political imperatives, is itself a dual system of Divine worship and permitted trade, contracts, and instruments of exchange. In short, worship and markets.
It could be said that the Saudi terrorist got the right target, the World Trade Centre, but being ignorant of Islam, used the wrong weapons using the wrong currency! All he achieved was a persecution of innocent Muslims and an enriched, double strength capitalist ‘trade’ centre. It is not, to us, trade, but rather monopoly.
After World War One when the notorious arms-dealer Zaharoff retired to run the Monte Carlo Casino he was asked by a lady gambler how she could win. He replied, “Madam, I cannot tell you how to win. I can only tell you how not to lose. Do not play!”
There can be no just capitalism. Now it has been demonstrated to the whole world that it cannot be reformed or rescued. The logic of its mathematic has revealed it as irrational. If you play – you lose. Your freedom. Your livelihood. Your wealth and health. Your home – the planet.
We have entered the new age of the dismantling and collapse of capitalism. If capitalism is the Titanic – the Muslims will be in the lifeboats.
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