Partisan Groups and Movements
Excerpts from the book, The Moral Foundations of Islamic Civilization by Shaykh Bilal Philips
In the beginning of the twentieth century movements and groups arose calling to the return of Islamic rule in Muslim lands and to the reformation of Muslim beliefs and practices. Among the political movements were those of Hasan al-Bannaa (d. 1949), founder of the Ikhwaan Muslimoon movement in Egypt and Sayyid, Abul-A’laa Mawdudi (1903-1979), founder of the Jama‘at Islami movement in India. Both of these movements called for the establishment of an Islamic state to replace the existing colonial or neo-colonial administrations. Consequently, they both came into conflict with the rulers of their areas. One of the members of the Ikhwaan, Jamaal ‘Abdun-Naasir, seized control of the government and systematically rounded up members of the movement and tortured and executed many of them in order to crush it. The Ikhwaan was then forced underground, and became a secret society which developed a structure similar to communist cells in order to continue to operate. Oaths of allegiance were required of all members and the call for Islamic State evolved into a recruitment drive for members. Many of them entered a dangerous realm, declaring the Muslim rulers disbelievers, due to the fact that they did not rule according to what Allaah revealed, and many others even called for revolt against the rulers, an action strictly prohibited by the Prophet (s). They neglected the rectification of issues of ‘aqeedah and others, deserving first priority, and made their focus the establishment of an Islaamic state. Very little efforts were made to correct beliefs and practices as collecting members became the chief priority. Controversial issues of beliefs and practices were seen as divisive and, as such, were deliberately avoided. Their members who fled to the West to avoid persecution and further their academic studies set up student organizations like F.O.S.I.S. and M.S.A. and I.S.N.A. through which members continued to be recruited.
Another movement arose in India during this period which prided itself in being totally apolitical. Maulana Muhammad Ilyas founded what came to be known as the Tabligh Movement. Its main focus was on bringing Muslims back to the mosques which had become empty over the years of Colonial rule. In order to appeal to the general masses, its founder combined the practices of the major sufi sects of the continent in its inner teachings. Travel to different locations to invite Muslims was added to its outer practices. However, those traveling to give the “da’wah” are mostly ignorant people, while the Prophet (s) used to send out scholars to teach the people and call them to Islaam. And when he sent them, he did not instruct them to spend a few days, weeks, or months in a masjid, nor did he instruct them to call people to come to the masjid then invite them to go out and give da’wah with the group. Rather, he instructed that they live among the people until they learned their religion, and ordered them to call to the correct ‘aqeedah first and foremost. And they were not to call to anything else until the people understood laa ilaaha illallaah, as is evident in the hadeeth of his sending Mu‘aath ibn Jabal as well as others. And the Tabligh’s fixed numbers of days and months to travel have no basis in the Sunnah or the practice of the Sahaabah. Yet its apolitical stance has enabled it to spread to all corners of the Muslim world without resistance from Muslim or non-Muslim governments. However, very little effort is made to correct the beliefs and practices of its members and its main text, Tablighi Nisab, is filled with inauthentic material. The tradition of Taqleed remained alive in all of these movements as avoiding it facilitated recruitment of followers.
Parallel to the previously mentioned movements, another set of movements evolved from the tradition of the earlier reformers who opposed Taqleed and called to a return to the Qur’aan and Sunnah as they were understood by the Prophet’s companions and the early generations of righteous scholars. These groups are generally referred to as the Salafee movements. In Egypt the Ansaar us-Sunnah movement was founded by Shaykh Haamid al-Fiqhee, ‘Abdur-Rahmaan al-Wakeel and ‘Abdur-Razzaaq Hamzah and in India the Ahli Hadith movement was formally established by Shaykh Thanaa’ullaah al-Amritsaree. (Although in time the latter too developed hizbee elements). The Salafee groups focused on the correction of Muslim beliefs and practices as a prerequisite for change. They opposed the factionalist attitudes which developed in the political movements as well as a negative attitude towards knowledge and innovated practices which had developed in the Tabligh movement. In the second half of the twentieth century the great Hadeeth scholar of our era, Naasir ad-Deen al-Albaanee, picked up the banner of Islamic Revival in Syria as did Shaykh Ibn Baaz and Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen in Saudi Arabia, completely free from any form of hizbiyyah. In Yemen, one of Shaykh Naasirud-Deen’s students, Shaykh Muqbil ibn Haadee continued the call to reform of beliefs and practices.
The ugly head of Hizbiyyah (factionalism), which had plagued Muslims through the misinterpretation of the math’habs, again reared its head in the political and apolitical movements of the twentieth century. These groups shared the common characteristic of fundamentally calling people to ‘their’ organization and to avoid others. The have ameers to whom the followers pledge oaths of allegiance which should only be given to the true leader of all Muslims. They all contain bits and pieces of what Muslims need, however, they are lacking the most fundamental component which is ‘Aqeedah (correct beliefs). Muslims do need to revive Islamic government and the caliphate and they do need to get Muslims back to the mosques. But the focus must be on ‘aqeedah, first and foremost. Gathering for the sake of overthrowing foreign rule in Algeria in the Fifties did not bring Islamic rule into place because the communist elements among the Muslim forces hijacked the ‘revolution’. In Afghanistan Muslim groups came together to combat the threat of communism, but after Russian forces were expelled and the communist regime overthrown, the Muslim groups turned on each other. In Egypt the Ikhwaan have tried to resurface under a political cover, patiently trying to work its way in through the political process. However, the next generation of youths, due to their lack of knowledge and upbringing were no longer prepared to wait. As far as they were concerned, the Islamic revival was taking place in Iran, the Islaamic state was being established now. Many from the Ikhwaan gave oaths of allegiance to Khomeini as the caliph. New offshoots from the Ikhwaan appeared under the names of Takfeer wal-Hijrah, Jamaa’atul-Jihaad, and al-Jamaa’ah al-Islaamiyyah with members prepared to seize power immediately. In these groups a philosophy of violence evolved which was justified by declaring all Muslim rulers to be disbelievers as well as all those who worked in state institutions… These failures are a result of their lack of focus on ‘aqeedah and their adopting a methodology which contradicts that of the Prophet (s) and his companions.
The only solution to the current dilemma facing Muslims is to return to the true roots of Islamic civilization and culture. The way lies in rediscovering the correct sources of Islamic knowledge and the correct methodology of interpreting it. There is no other way. As Imaam Maalik said, “The latter part of this nation will not be able to reform itself successfully except by using what reformed its early part.” Prophet Muhammad (r) informed his followers that the Muslim nation would split up into 73 different sects, 72 of which lead to hell and only one leading to paradise. Then he clarified that the path to paradise was the path he was on and his companions were on. That is what is known as the way of the Salaf…