The wisdom behind the Ijtihad of Sheikh Taqiuddin Al-Nabhani

The following article is an attempt to provide an insight into the reasoning behind the Ijtihad of Sheikh Taqiuddin Al-Nabhani.

The abolition of the Caliphate had thrown the Muslim world into a state of confusion as sponsored despots consolidated their hold in the lands carved by the Western Powers. [1]

Many thinkers and scholars since then have attempted to give the Ummah a goal to aspire to and a direction to move towards.

But among them, there is one who is only known among those who have extensively studied the Politics of the Middle East and Near East.

Sheikh Taqiuddin Al-Nabhani.

Taqiuddin Al-Nabhani is the founder of the Global Islamic Organization, Hizbut Tahrir. Their goal is to re-establish the Khilafah. 

Long story short, Taqiuddin Al-Nabhani engaged in years of activism seeking to unite the Muslims in the struggle to liberate Palestine from the hold the British and later the Western-backed Israeli regime. Faced with failure in every front, he set about to establish an organization solely dedicated to the restoration of the Caliphate.[2]

To this end, he penned several texts where he outlined the method through which Muslims can re-establish the Caliphate.

His method is divided into three stages. [3]

  1. Formation and Culturing: Recruiting core members and training them in the way of Islamic Dawah and Instituting the Islamic way of thinking in them thus turning them into Islamic Personalities. 
  2. Dawah and Interaction: Where trained members gather support and familiarize the Ummah(or in most cases the Ahl Al Hali Wal Aqd) with the Islamic obligations. This is where ideally, key members of societies are made into Islamic Personalities who either join HT or support the cause of HT.
  3. Nusrah: Seeking authority from the Ahl Al Wal Aqd and establishing the State.

Sheikh Taqiuddin argued that only the Caliphate can give Muslims the rallying point in the resistance against Western Powers and their stratagem.

The thing that is seemingly strange about Hizbut Tahrir is that they are attempting to institute a political change without resorting to ballots or bullets. Despite that, they are deemed so dangerous that they are outlawed in almost every Muslim Majority Country they are active in, despite having no connection to terrorism or militancy. [4]

The theoretical threat of Hizbut Tahrir is considered to be on an international level which is why it can be assumed that Muslim Majority governments are instructed by their Western Patrons to act with extreme caution. In many countries, their members are actively jailed—and in many cases put through severe torture.

Hizbut Tahrir doesn’t adopt the Democratic Elections or Armed Revolutions as their method to gain power for a specific reason other than the fact that the two aforementioned methods are not in line with the method of the Prophet Muhammad(ﷺ).

Dependency.

Both Democratic Campaigning and Armed Revolutions require backing and sponsorship from the elites. [5][6][7][8]

And every sponsor has vested interests. And more often than not their interests don’t align with the Islamic movement. Thus leading to a conflict of interest, creating circumstances where compromise becomes inevitable. Otherwise, it escalates to clashes and ultimately dissolution or annihilation. And it is the fear of utter annihilation that drives people to compromise.

Compromise has been the key factor why every Islamic movement has been derailed and/or thwarted for the last century.

Democratic Parties in a Capitalist system remain at the mercy of an elite class whose interests lie in maintaining the wealth in their coffers. Democratic Parties that don’t comply with the interest of the elites either fade into obscurity or are outlawed and dissolved. Or in some cases, they try to sponsor themselves by trying to establish their own sources of funding but ultimately they become the very thing they set out to change.

The same pattern follows in Armed Revolutions. External players have political aims and motives that are about furthering their own influence and by extension, wealth. Armed groups that don’t comply with the interests of their patrons are either isolated and annihilated or they are infiltrated by saboteurs who not only commit atrocities to isolate the group from the popular support but also induce infighting. And in the worst case scenario, a rogue group is introduced into the scene and is covertly backed just to destroy or de-legitimize the Revolution. What happens is the key leaders are killed and the leadership of the Revolution falls into the hand of men who have extreme views.

Recently we witnessed the worst case scenario of what can happen to an Armed Revolution if there are conflicts of interest. And when groups like ISIS come into the equation it doesn’t take long for a revolution to be derailed. ISIS are not the first of their kind. Nor will they be the last.[9] [10]

The failure of armed revolutions aside, we have also been witness to how an Islamic Parties in a democratic system compromised to the point where its Islamic character is barely decipherable. [11][12][13]

The road to failure is paved with compromise.

Let us use an analogy.

Think of how roads are built. Now let’s say instead of using proper materials like Concrete or Gravel in their proper proportions, builders compromised and used sand or low-quality concrete. Or skimps on the appropriate amount of gravel. That road will wear and tear down quickly and it will simply be washed away on the event of flooding.

That’s how political activism is. If a movement doesn’t have strong foundations or commitment to its ethics or morals it will be simply be overwhelmed by the maelstrom of the political intrigues.

And that is exactly why Sheikh Taqiuddin and his successors were adamant about the group not deviating from the adopted method. To this day, HT has neither participated in any democratic elections—other than the Jordanian one in 1956—nor has it ever resorted to armed insurgency. Even in Syria and Palestine, Hizbut Tahrir does not operate as an armed organization.

This is not to say that Hizbut Tahrir will not accept a Caliphate that is established by other means.

In fact, in many cases, Hizbut Tahrir had approached successful Muslims and Islamic movements to offer them advice and/or set them on the correct course.

When Khomeini gained power in Iran, members of HT had approached him and asked him to live up to his promise of establishing an Islamic State.

When Gaddafi claimed to make Libya into a bastion of Islam he was approached by HT members and the principles of an Islamic State was illustrated to him.

When Morsi won a resounding victory at the Egyptian Elections, Hizbut Tahrir was among the first to offer Morsi advice as to how he can consolidate his power.

In every instance, however, their advice was rejected and their suggestions were ignored. And in some cases, HT members were executed.

More recently when ISIS made the claim that it had established the Caliphate. But the truth of the matter is that unlike the prior personalities approached by HT, who at least had some semblance of authority and power, the claims of ISIS are little more than hollow rhetoric. Some members of HT in an attempt to call out their bluff, have stated that they would accept it if they actually met the criteria. 

However, ISIS had proven that it was neither capable of establishing or maintaining any kind of State. Nor was there anything Islamic about their public disposition or their treatment of Muslims and Non-Muslims overall. A senior HT member Mustafa Khayal did try to account ISIS for their atrocities, and like every other Muslim who tried to oppose them, he was killed.

But I have brought an Elephant into the room. I might as well address it. Why would HT members even entertain the Idea of accepting the claim of ISIS?

All things considered, even imagining living in a State run by ISIS seems impossible. It is simply unthinkable.

However, the reality is people tolerate or even glorify regimes that are as bad as ISIS. The regimes of Gaddafi, Saddam and Assad are not any better than ISIS. I would argue they are worse. Gaddafi routinely had people sodomized. Saddam tortured scholars and used chemical weapons on Muslims.

And Assad implemented all of the above on those who have resisted his rule and supported the revolution. Iran, the supposedly Islamic republic fully backed Assad.

Then there is Mohammed Bin Salman whose atrocities in Yemen are cheered on by the Saudi residents.

All this is painting a bleak picture of the Muslim world, right? Let’s head West.

In spite of the atrocities perpetrated by the likes of Assad and Bin Salman, they are recognized as legitimate leaders. Western leaders are willing to sit with these people on the negotiating table and have a civilized discussion.

On their home front, people are quite happy living under the authority US government despite their innumerable war crimes, which includes backing despots like Saddam. Muslims in America were even willing to vote for Hillary Clinton, who is proof that a criminal that operates within the system can never be convicted.

You have liberals and conservatives backing the draconian measures against Muslims which includes Muslims being convicted and imprisoned on trumped-up charges(Aafia Siddiqui. Tariq Ramadan).

Despite their constant sloganeering for “Democracy and Freedom” they don’t actually want the Muslims to choose anything for themselves. They were happy that Morsi was ousted by an autocratic regime. Many were, in fact, happy when the coup attempt against Erdogan was undertaken. For the last Century, they were quite okay with their governments backing despotic regimes in Muslim lands. [14]

But that is to be expected of them. You see, the fact of the matter is they perceive the political autonomy of Muslims as an existential threat. Their paranoia is rooted in fear.

And fear is what drives us to be irrational and unreasonable. To the point where we would even compromise our ideals.

There is are two very thought-provoking quotes in a famous movie.

“When the chips are down these civilized people will eat themselves.”

“Threaten to the kill officers nobody reacts, but threaten to kill the mayor and everyone loses their minds.”

This is why you will see the inconsistency in their principles they espouse and the politics they engage in.

That is why Westerners are okay to operate under Western governments who commit numerous atrocities. That is why there were many Muslims who supported Saddam and Gaddafi and continue to support Assad and Bin Salman. To them, they believe that these personalities are those who keep everything in order and the alternative is anarchy, chaos, and carnage—never mind the carnage their rulers have already unleashed on others.

When it comes to—what they deem to be—the issue of survival they are willing to do anything. No matter what the cost. The cost is just collateral damage. The innocents that are killed are just statistics.

That is human nature.

We like to think that we are rational people. We like to think we are sensible people. But we are not. To be irrational and emotional is to be human. [15]

Human nature is layered between good and evil. Not all good deeds are rational. Not all bad deeds are irrational. [16]

Just as being kind, compassionate and honorable is to be human. Being greedy and corrupt is also to be human.  To have selfish and lustful impulses is to be human.

Which is why I am not going to pretend to be morally immune to the darkness that resides in my heart. I am aware of it and I actively fear it.

There is darkness in all of us. Hatred and Prejudice all stem from it. Hatred and Prejudice form the basis of Irrational Fear. And irrational fear is what drive people towards compromising their ideals.

And if the irrational fear can drive people—who grew up in a sheltered environment—to validate and support the atrocities of their government, imagine the psyche of a man who has lost his family. Imagine a boy who grew up seeing nothing but bloodshed and death. How can one expect them to be aware of the global politics at play? How can one expect him to understand what it means to be merciful when he was never shown any mercy? 

Persistent exposure to brutality makes people callous. We are molded by our circumstances.

Our capacity to me moral is equally balanced by our capacity to be evil.

And that is why human societies fear anarchy and seek to organize themselves because they wish to keep everything in order and protect ourselves.

The Quran and Sunnah were revealed by Allah to us as a means to balance ourselves. To organize ourselves. To redirect our negative impulses into something fruitful and beneficial for the societies at large.

Sheikh Taqiuddin deduced that just as the Quran and Sunnah set the parameters for everything we do in life, the method to establish the Khilafah must be within the Quran and Sunnah. And a true Islamic revival can only be achieved through that.

A road that is built on solid foundations without any compromise can bear the weight of many travelers and can withstand the test of time.

Sheikh Taqiuddin knew how armed movements can be influenced by external forces. He knew how democratic parties are basically shackled by the system they operate in.

And that is why Hizbut Tahrir remains steadfast because its method leaves no room for compromise as it is not dependent on the backing of wealthy elites or patrons.

Their organizational structure leaves very little room for conflict of interest.

And the method of Hizbut Tahrir takes the pitfalls of human nature into consideration. They know very well how humans on an individual level can be victims to their circumstances which is why they place such a strong emphasis on their culturing process and are very cautious about who they appoint in the positions of leadership within their organizational structure.

Their coherence and cohesion stem from the Ijtihad of Sheikh Taqi Uddin.

This is not to say that Hizbut Tahrir has not faced criticism from the Muslims. Whether it is their apparently shallow understanding of politics relevant to the context of certain countries and scenarios or their heavy-handed criticism of certain personalities or their apparent lack of adherence to the Sunnah or them practicing a deviant Aqeedah or even the rude behavior of certain members, the organization has faced a myriad of criticisms. Some of which are warranted. Some of which are just slander.

While Hizbut Tahrir have had their own pitfalls and shortcomings when it comes to the strategic execution as they have not really established any tangible influence in the areas they operate it in, and while they haven’t really built on the foundations laid by Sheikh Taqiuddin, their commitment to their cause and their ethical consistency are to be praised and lauded. That aside, their analysis on many political issues remain a go-to source for many Muslims, their critics notwithstanding.

The Ummah as a whole owes a lot to the wisdom of Sheikh Taqiuddin Al-Nabhani. And in the years to come, more and more people will recognize how far ahead of his time Sheikh Taqiuddin was.

Works Cited

  1. Forget Sykes-Picot. It’s the Treaty of Sèvres That Explains the Modern Middle East. Available at:  https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/08/10/sykes-picot-treaty-of-sevres-modern-turkey-middle-east-borders-turkey/
  2. Sheikh Muhammad Taqiuddin al-Nabhani Available at: http://www.hizb-australia.org/2016/02/sheikh-muhammad-taqiuddin-al-nabhani

  3. The Methodology of Hizb ut-Tahrir For Making Change Available at: http://www.hizb-ut-tahrir.info/info/files/Books-eng/13_The_Methodology_of_HT_for_Change.pdf

  4. https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/hizb-ut-tahrir.htm

  5. Democracy and the Elite https://home.isi.org/democracy-and-elite

  6. Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens Available at: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/perspectives-on-politics/article/testing-theories-of-american-politics-elites-interest-groups-and-average-citizens/62327F513959D0A304D4893B382B992B

  7. Deadly connections: states that sponsor terrorism by Daniel L. Byman.

  8. Trends in Outside Support for Insurgent Movements by Daniel L. Byman.

  9. The Syrian People have been betrayed from all sides. Available at: https://theintercept.com/2017/04/20/the-syrian-people-have-been-betrayed-by-all-sides/

  10. ISIS: Storm or Spawn? https://abdullahalandalusi.com/2014/06/15/isis-in-iraq-storm-or-pawn/

  11. How Tunisia’s Ennahda party turned from its Islamist roots. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/05/23/how-tunisias-ennahda-party-turned-from-their-islamist-roots/

  12. Tunisian Islamists Ennahda move to separate politics, religion. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tunisia-politics-idUSKCN0YB2NO

  13. The Mirage of Islamic Solidarity. Available at: http://www.islamicdiscourseinitiative.com/politics/the-mirage-of-islamic-solidarity/

  14. Post-Colonial Paradigms in Muslim Communities: Part 1. Available at: http://www.islamicdiscourseinitiative.com/politics/post-colonial-paradigms-in-muslim-communities-part-1/

  15. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (Harper; 2008) Available at: http://radio.shabanali.com/predictable.pdf
  16. The Science of Evil. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/07/science/14evil-excerpt.html

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: