Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Somalia's Famine Is The Ultimate Sin

By Mshari Al-Zaydi
The people of Somalia are being ravaged by famine. Women and children are having trouble finding even a morsel of bread to eat, whilst all the while the country’s jihadist youth are preoccupying themselves with ensuring that the length and colour of robes worn by men and women are compatible with the provisions of Islam. The greatest sin of all is to watch your own people starve to death and instead of doing anything about this, waste time examining the kinds of robes that people are wearing, and the length of men’s beard.
The main responsibility of anyone in power is to wisely manage society’s affairs and everyday life. Justice should prevail amongst all citizens, and everybody should be able to make a decent living. This is the primary duty of any ruler, the rest is just details.
The ruling Somali Islamic Courts Union has responded to the major crisis that is affecting much of the country today by denying its very existence, comprehensively rejecting the reports of famine. Perhaps they mean that the situation has not reached the point of utter destruction, or maybe they want to deny the possibility of such “divine” retribution occurring during their era of “righteous” rule.
What is happening in Somalia opens the door for us to talk about the general imbalance and weakness that is governing the culture and mind-set of many political religious groups and their supporters in our region, particularly with regards to their dreams of establishing an Islamic society, and their view of implementing a correct Islamic model. This is something that has led to the widespread chaos that we are seeing across the Muslim world.
Ever since the start of the modern era – which saw the advent of colonialism and the rise of the nation state – there has been a stubborn delusion that has besieged every intellectual attempt to create a modern, developmental and civil discourse that would serve as a theoretical pillar for the establishment of a contemporary state. The gist of this delusion is that the ideal Islamic model has been lost to history, and that we must restore this to its full glory, as was the case in the past. The establishment of this perfect Islamic model would then result in paradise on earth, and the return of [religious] legitimacy.
It was this delusion that was behind the establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood organization, the mother of all politicized Islamist movements, as well as all of its off-shoots including groups that practice religious violence, such as Al Qaeda. All of those Islamist movements revolve around one pivotal idea, namely restoring this “lost” model and establishing a legitimate Islamic State. The only difference between different Islamist movements and groups is the means that they will utilize to achieve this objective, in addition to some of the details relating to this desired “Islamic state.”
Why is this delusion so harmful? Indeed, why is it a delusion in the first place? In reality, it is a delusion because no single perfect model [of an Islamic state] has ever been established on the ground! What they say about this “lost paradise” is nothing but wishful thinking that was falsely added to our history and culture. Anybody reading Muslim history, and the biographies of our forefathers, will see that they too complained of the loss of this “pure model [of an Islamic state]” and dreamt of change.
It is a harmful delusion because it draws attention away from the real questions that ought to be raised about development and backwardness, and the features of a successful state, and a state’s actual responsibilities [to the people]. We see political activity, intelligence, and even youthful zeal, being wasted on meaningless questions that do not produce any real answers, only glowing embers and ash that are blown away by the wind.
The Muslim people’s problem lies in their inability to handle worldly affairs. The world is the place where we live and where we suffer. It is the spoils over which we fight each other and the place where we live out our lives.
Anybody who wants to be a good Muslim ruler must not occupy themselves with the length of robes worm by men and women, and whether this is religiously permissible or not. Instead of worrying about the garments that cover the body, they must instead worry about what nourishes and sustains the body, and provide people with a reasonable hope for life.
-This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 01/07/2011
-Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism as well as Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page Editor, where he also contributes a weekly column. Has worked for the local Saudi press occupying several posts at Al -Madina newspaper amongst others

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