© Muhammad Haniff Hassan, April 2003
Islam requires that Muslims learn from what is happening around them through observation (taddabur) and thinking (tafakkur).
And one of the biggest event at present is the American invasion of Iraq. It is certainly not something we should allow to pass without taking heeds of its learning points.
For peace loving Muslims, one of the greatest learning points is that of respect for systems and rules that have been universally agreed on.
Just as we are debating the injustice of American forces invading Iraq despite not receiving the mandate of the United Nations, then similarly Muslims should observe and respect these same principles with regards to other international, regional or local issues.
Muslims should not take any unilateral actions that could affect the international community without due regards for the international systems in place as well as the views of the world communities who are stakeholders in the issue. Otherwise Muslims would have wronged themselves and contradicted their own principles in the Iraq issues.
Our conviction that we are in the right, that our belief is the truth, that Allah is the All Mighty and that we have the strength to act on our own do not give us the license to act without regards for the system and regulations that have been put in place, or the opinions of the more rational Muslims. If Muslims were to behave as such then they will be as guilty as the Americans today.
Respect for international systems and laws, is something that has been in place in Islam. The Messenger (pbuh) once wrote letters to the leaders of various countries calling them to Islam. As it was the custom at the time for letters to be stamped, he was advised to stamp his insignia on the letters. Realising that letters that were not stamped would be ignored, the prophet used his ring on which was written ‘Muhammad the Messenger of Allah’ as his official stamp.
The late Sa’id Hawwa said in his book Al-Asas Fi As-Sunnah, saw this action as an indication of the need to respect the international protocol.
In the discipline of Usul Fiqh that deals with the principles by which rules of laws are promulgated, we will find that the past scholars recognised culture, tradition, international conventions and such as part of the considerations in making their decisions. Hence the concept of ‘Al-‘Adatu muhkamah’ meaning that culture determines the rule of laws as long as they do not go against the principles of Islam.
When a rule that is logical and beneficial has been put in place and agreed upon by the general public, then it is incumbent for all to abide by it as Islam is a religion that upholds justice.
The Messenger was party to a pact called the Hilf Al-Fudhul. This pact was created to uphold justice for an Arab from Yemen who gave a loan to an Arab from a Quraisy tribe. When it was time for the loan to be settled, the Quraisy refused to pay up on the pretext that he was more superior than the Yemenite. The aggrieved party then went up to a hill and asked for justice. Some of the leaders from the other Quraisy tribes felt embarrassed by the injustice and formed a pact to support the Yemenite and others like him who have been unfairly treated. This pact, known as Hilf Al-Fudhul, gained the support of the Messenger although he has not been appointed a prophet then.
But the prophet asserted, “If I were called again, I would surely answer the call.”
At an organizational level, there is a lesson on the importance of systems and order in ensuring balance and curtailing injustice by anyone. The danger of “absolute power, corrupts absolutely” could become a reality without the systems and order in place.
Hence Islamic organisations have to create systems and orders for their management and operations. There should be less reliance on the individuals. And the systems and order have to be observed despite any adjustment difficulties.
If we object to the violation of laws by the Americans, we should refrain from infringing any systems in place within our organisations.
Orderliness is very much emphasised in Islam. Many of our obligations will be null and void such as ablution and solat if they are performed not in the appropriate order.