Friday, 19 November 2010

Where is your evidence for holding demonstrations?

We are all familiar with the characteristic expression of the self-righteous groups (evidence-brigade): “brother we follow Quran and Sunnah, not ration”. Thus implying, unless the evidence is explicitly stated or concurs with their interpretation, it is not valid, and you are classed as a deviant who is halfway up the apostasy road. During the previous general election, these self-righteous groups were engaged in the usual inquisition, demanding textual evidence which permit the tax-paying and law-abiding Muslim citizens of UK to vote. I do not want to discuss the subject of voting, but rather how they approach the subject of evidence: which tantamount to - either you accept our interpretation or else you have no evidence. They will pass their ‘fatwa’ - you are not following Quran and Sunnah but ration, as if they do not employ their mind, which in some sense is probably true!

The reality is – everyone including the evidence-brigade employs ration in construing their arguments, they do that by interpreting the evidences in various ways, and make various kinds of analogy, extrapolation and deduction, as one would struggle to find literal evidence on voting or the numerous activities that they (evidence-brigade) do, be it holding grand conferences or the regular demonstrations outside the embassies of various Muslim governments. 

It is challenging to make these people see the contradiction in their argument, as they are guilty of what they accuse others of in terms of evidence; in order to fulfil this challenge I decided to turn the table and ask them, what precise evidence permits you to demonstrate against the Muslim governments here in the UK. The answer comes immediately: “it’s simple my dear brother, the Prophet (saw) permitted his companions to demonstrate in Makkah outside the Kaba, so we demonstrate against the Muslim governments here in the UK”. How does this evidence give a legal permit to demonstrate against the Muslim governments whilst residing in a distant non-Muslim country? Note the following points in relation to the above evidence cited:

  • The first obviously discrepancy is the demonstration in Mecca was against the non-Muslim government, but the evidence-brigade in the UK are demonstrating against the Muslim governments.

  • One can argue the evidence of the demonstration held in Mecca indicates that it can only be done against the regime where one resides. The Prophet could have also demonstrated against the other tribes in Arabia, but he (saw) did not organise any such demonstration, the only one he permitted was against the local tribes of Mecca. Thus, based on that evidence, if you live in the UK, you should demonstrate against the British government. Moreover, like the government of Mecca, the government of the UK is a non-Muslim government.

  • In Mecca the Prophet’s position was weak, subsequently he moved to Medina and established the Islamic State which grew strong, still no demonstrations were organised or held there against the government of Mecca, even though he had ample reasons to do so.

  • Using the literalist approach one can say the evidence is restricted to demonstrating only in Mecca, applicable only for a similar situation where the people have resorted back to idolatry.

  • Since we need to draw evidence from similar circumstances, we will liken the first Islamic State of Medina to the Muslim majority countries of today. The Muslims living under the authority of non-Muslims outside the state of Medina could be equated to the Muslims living in the West. Are there any evidences of the companions residing in the non-Muslim areas resorting demonstrations against another tribe, in another location? Negative.

Then the evidence-brigade bring the next piece of evidence, that it is a right and a duty to speak out against the tyrants, giving example of Hamza (ra), the uncle of the Prophet who spoke out against the tyrants of Mecca. Leaving aside that Hamza (ra) addressed a non-Muslim tyrant, the evidence once again shows that such activities should confine to the local area; moreover the Muslims who migrated to Abyssinia did not demonstrate against the leaders of Mecca. They simply lived their lives in a peaceful manner, under the authority of Negus, the Abyssinian king. Therefore, some people could argue demonstration is a form of innovation (bidda).

The only way you can use those evidences as justification for holding demonstration is by giving a liberal interpretation that the Prophet sanctioned demonstrations against any rulers in any part of the world, and ignore the fact that the demonstrations were only held against local non-Muslim rulers. Other evidences may also corroborate this position, but still you are using your ration and extending the scope of those evidences. The point is, whether it is voting or holding demonstration, neither case you have literal evidence, they are built on certain rationalisation of the textual evidences. Will these self-righteous groups see this fundamental point that nobody has a monopoly over textual evidences? Therefore, do not exhibit so much arrogance, we all follow Quran and Sunnah to the best of our ability and employ our ration, but it is just that you (evidence-brigade) need to recognise this.

Moreover, the puritanical attitude displayed by the evidence-brigade towards voting is perplexing. Why are they are so zealous about voting? The answer is it supports a non-Islamic system. In that case, by greater reason you should show the same attitude towards other forms of contribution that upholds the system even more. Yet, why are they so happy to continue to live and make far greater contribution to this society in other ways.
Note the following axiom. If you are going to live in any society as a law abiding and tax-paying citizen, your contribution is inevitable and as long as you continue to reside in that way, you will be contributing in numerous ways, which will be much greater than voting. If the argument is you should not be supporting the non-Islamic system, then you must be actively involved in trying to change the system or prepare to migrate. A more balanced and sensible approach takes into account our inability or weakness, thus we live peacefully like the Muslim migrants did in Abyssinia and concurrently work to improve our situation within the framework, as best we can. Therefore, our participation is not endorsement of the system but recognising the real world: we are all willing participants. Just think of the daily contribution that we are all making to this country and how we use all the facets of this society.

Yamin Zakaria (
London, UK

Published on 19 November 2010

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