It is better to be a Fish that rules an ocean, than a Swan that rules a swamp

One of the symptoms of the problem currently facing the Muslim world, is that Muslims constantly try to undermine other Muslims attempting to do good works. The reason for this is because people have accepted a state of doing nothing – so anyone who attempts to do something for the cause of Islam is perceived as self-aggrandising, power-seeking or arrogant.

The reason for this perception, is that a Society governed by higher Ideas and Ideals collapsed centuries ago due to the gradual erosion of thinking caused by excessive luxuries, comfort and success. Islamic civilisation reached its peak in 16th century, and was ultimately defeated by victory itself. After the gradual economic and technological decline, any last vestiges of Islamic revival was further erased by Western colonialism and its systematic destruction or the former education systems in occupied Muslim lands. After the withdrawal of colonial forces, they left behind Muslim Societies in a state of anarchy, or jahilliyah, in which thinking is superficial and shallow, and therefore people only could understand the world through conspiracy theories and superstition. The only currency in society became reputation (or ‘honour’) and fear, and therefore people fight and kill eachother and perpetrate horrific acts of revenge for ‘respect’, and only fearsome tyrants can rule (and only trust their own families in positions of power), and the primary motivation of people is self-interest.

An anarchy is not somewhere where there is no government or order, because humans will always order themselves. Real anarchy is a society that exists with no higher goals other than survival.

The problem in the Muslim world is not the lack of noble or brave individuals who work for causes higher than themselves, the problem is the jealousy of the individuals of that society, who are incapable of understanding that people may do things for causes greater than themselves, and so when they see someone trying to excel, or who try to raise up society according to high ideals, the shallow minded people project their own motivations onto that person, and claim that the person must be arrogant for ‘daring’ to distinguish themselves above the lethargic inert ‘norm’ of that society.

So if Salahudeen arose today, he would be locked up by Muslim society today as an ‘extremist’, and Ibn Khaldun, who wrote that the best form of government is based upon revelation (a Khilafah), would be accused of being an ideologue of Islamism, and the Mahdi would be accused of being a power seeking tyrant.

The revival of the Muslim world cannot come from hoping that a righteous individual will somehow be able to rule over Muslims, for an unguided shallow people cannot be guided merely by having a righteous ruler. As Allah (swt) said to Muhammed (saaw):

‘Indeed, We sent down to you the Book for the people in truth. So whoever is guided – it is for [the benefit of] his soul; and whoever goes astray only goes astray to its detriment. And you are not a wakeel [disposer of their affairs] over them [Quran 39:41]

What Shallow minded people of such societies don’t realise, is that by keeping good people down, their own condition will not improve, and will in fact get worse. And as events happen, they’ll realise their society would become more and more impoverished, and they will be viewed with less and less respect by people of other societies.

The Prophet (Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam) said:”A time will come when nothing will be left in the minds of the people from the Qur’an except its calligraphy and from Islam except its name. People who call themselves Muslims will be the furthest from Islam. Mosques would be filled but empty from guidance. The Ulema (scholars) of that time are the worst under the heavens. From them, the elements of division and misguidance are spewed and unto them, will return.” – Reported by Tabarani, Dailamy and Al-Hakam

What raised up the West in power, was not the correctness of their ideas, but the fact they united behind those ideas – even if those ideas are demonstrably irrational and full of contradictions. The same is true with how poor Tsarist Russia transformed into a power that rivaled the USA, despite the fact that Communism is even more flawed than Western Capitalism.

The street sweeper in America has more respect shown to them when they travel (and can access more countries without a visa) with their American passport, than a rich businessman from many Muslim countries receive or get. The Prime Minister of Britain holds more power and respect internationally than the richest Gulf Sheikh or leader, despite his wealth being only a fraction of the amount owned by the latter.

The revival of the Muslim world can only come from Muslim society raising the level of its thinking, and appointing over them the higher ideals and ideas of Islam to be their exclusive criteria, goal and purpose of that society. In this manner, it is Allah (swt) which, in effect, becomes the Wakeel over the affairs of the Muslims. For the only way for Muslims to give up self-interest and their mutual rivalry, is for them to collectively agree to give up their interests to higher interest than their own.

Ultimately, it is those who undermine their fellows in Islam and prevent them from achieving anything, actually are the ones who keep themselves down too. For what is better? A fish that’s part of large united school (swarm) that dominates an ocean, or a lonely swan that rules a swamp? In the end, it is better to be a fish that rules an ocean, than a swan that rules a swamp.

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Categories: Reflections, Revival Thought (Al Nahda)

5 replies

  1. You carry on brother. The test of the striver is from within, not outside. He has to bear with patience, wisdom and humbleness. This makes him look to the Power that has made all.

    May Allah give us all Istiqamah

  2. You can’t say “If so-and-so were alive today he would be” in the manner that the author has. To do so has only rhetorical jargon value and little else. To be factual you have to parallel the variables of their time period. So to make his statements factual you would have to do the following:

    1) If Salah al-Deen were alive today, considering the rules of engagement and warfare in his time, and the fact that he frequently defied them for the more humanitarian options, he would have NO PARALLEL in the modern world due to NO RULER OR MILITARY LEADER in the world today defying the rules of engagement for more humanitarian alternatives on the level he did.

    He would be renowned as a hero by friend and foe alike…as he was back then.

    2) If Ibn Khaldun were alive today, considering how progressive his sociological and political acumen was while addressing traditional religious ideas, he would have a parallel in Tariq Ramadan who is seen as a noteworthy and admirable academic who is undoubtedly hated by some. And while Tariq Ramadan is accused by his critics as being an Islamist he is hardly seen as an extremist ideologue. He is for the most part acknowledged as an academic.

    Therefore, Ibn Khaldun would be seen as a religiously oriented sociological and political academic with Islamist tendencies….as he was back then.

    3) Had the author acquainted himself with the Ashrat al-Sa`ah more adequately, he would know that one of the signs of al-Mahdi is that he will REFUSE and resist leadership. The people will clamor to him yet his humility and sincerity will make him a reluctant hero. So, like the example of Salah al-Deen, he would have NO PARALLEL in the modern world due to NO RULER OR MILITARY LEADER in the world today due to his dislike for power which will be akin to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Khulafa’ Rashidun. There are numerous other signs of al-Mahdi, such as him distributing the wealth of the nation so freely that the poor will say “We’ve had enough” that make the claim he will be “accused of being a power seeking tyrant” completely fallacious.

    The danger is that the statement “If the Mahdi arose today, he would be seen as a terrorist” and other statements like it have always been a common mantra of Jihadi groups. The case of Morsi just exemplifies my point of society needing to change first from the bottom up before you can dream about a top down change. You can impose a just Islamic leader but if the people are corrupt they will just overthrow him. There’s no questioning that.

    So, in conclusion, if you want to resurrect the dead (or send future figures back to the the past, as al-Mahdi), then you have to do so without all the flagrant logical fallacies and false equivalences such as have been cited above.

    • Salam brother Shibli Zaman,

      Thank you for your criticism, I do appreciate people examining my claims critically, something we need a lot more of in the Muslim world. I’d like to point out however, some fallacies and assumptions in your counter-arguments.

      You say ‘You can’t say “If so-and-so were alive today he would be” in the manner that the author has. To do so has only rhetorical jargon value and little else. To be factual you have to parallel the variables of their time period’.

      Yes and no. Yes, you have to consider what the individual represented to their society in their own time, but you do not have to parallel the society’s reception of these people with our own. Ibn Khaldun lived in a society where every accepted the idea that government is best ruled by divine law under a Caliphate. Now, many Muslims do not believe so, and the governments that exist today in the Muslim world actively persecuted any who advocate so. I feel you have actually made non-factual parallels, and combined them with a greater assumption than I have made. For I only compared the MESSAGE of these people (which we have in accounts and prophesies). I did not seek to compare their full personality with someone equivalent in our time, since we’d have to know everything about them to make an exact comparison, which history (and prophesy) do not provide. We do not need to make a comparison to someone in our time, because the argument was about the message of these people, who arose as individuals in the current Muslim world.

      1) You say ‘If Salah al-Deen were alive today, considering the rules of engagement and warfare in his time, and the fact that he frequently defied them for the more humanitarian options, he would have NO PARALLEL in the modern world’

      However, I did not refer to Salahadeen as a military commander of an established army, but rather to what would be considered if he arose in the Muslim world today without any power, yet preaching the same message he preached during the Crusades. He argued that Muslims should unite and rise up to fight invaders. In this, you’ve proved my point, when you said that the arguments I used sound like the ‘common mantra of Jihadi groups’. That is exactly what people would say about Salahadeen if he was merely an individual (not having been given command of an army) and who preached the same things he did centuries ago.

      2) You say: ‘If Ibn Khaldun were alive today, considering how progressive his sociological and political acumen was while addressing traditional religious ideas, he would have a parallel in Tariq Ramadan’. That’s quite an assumption. However, I highly doubt it could be valid, considering Tariq Ramadan does not subscribe to the idea of government by divine law and Caliphate – ideas Ibn Khaldun said were obligations and undisputed. If Ibn Khaldun were alive today, writing THE SAME books, he would most certainly be called ‘an Islamist’, as certainly as anyone who currently repeats his arguments, but do not possess the privilege of his name and deceased state to avoid stigma. You’ll certainly find the current argument is, ‘Ibn Khaldun was a product of his times, so not an Islamist, but if you repeat his ideas now, you’re an Islamist’. Therefore, I can say confidently, that if Ibn Khaldun were alive today, he would be considered an Islamist – unless you can prove that he would’ve retracted his ideas on the obligation of Sharia government and Caliphate.

      As for quoting the detractors of Tariq Ramadan. Yes, he has been called an ‘Islamist’, but not due to his statements mostly, but rather by ‘counter-jihad’ conspiracy theorists who accuse him of ‘stealth Islamism’ behind his apparently Liberal veneer.

      3) You said ‘Had the author acquainted himself with the Ashrat al-Sa`ah more adequately, he would know that one of the signs of al-Mahdi is that he will REFUSE and resist leadership. The people will clamor to him yet his humility and sincerity will make him a reluctant hero’.

      Do you really believe that it could only be that I am acquainted with the signs of the last hour that I made my statement about how the Mahdi would be treated if he was alive today? Allow me to explain how that doesn’t follow. If a person was reluctant to be a leader, how would he get power? I argued that if these individuals arose in Muslim society – as individuals – they would be powerless and dismissed by current Muslim society. Even if the followers of the mahdi were power brokers and forced him to attain leadership, what would jahil people say? Would they know what happened behind closed doors? Would they believe the reports that the leader, who currently rules over them, was forced into that position? Reports I might add, conveyed to them by the Mahdi’s own supporters. No. Jahil people would claim that the Mahdi’s reluctance was merely a charade, and that he conspired with his supporters to engineer his ascent to power and portray him as ‘the reluctant leader’.

      We already have a current case of someone claiming to be a reluctant leader – President Sisi of Egypt! Of course, we know he wasn’t so reluctant, but my point is, how would the public know or receive the Mahdi? Sisi is popular because he panders to the people’s existing ideas and culture. But assuming the Mahdi would be rigidly Islamic and principled, a people who do not live by such ideals may reject the Mahdi. That being said, we assume that the power brokers of Muslim society as it is today, would even give the real Mahdi the power he needs to rule. All that would probably happen, is that the Mahdi would be reluctant to rule, and his powerless supporters would be dismissed as sycophants to a ‘secretly power hungry tyrant in waiting’ (like the others).

      Your counter-argument and advice to me on how to use ‘parallels’ actually requires far more assumptions and speculations than my simple examination of what if these individuals merely repeated their message today. So my use of these hypothetical examples is valid, because I take only what is known (and pertinent) about each example (i.e. the message and goals of these individuals), and illustrate how such messages and goals would be received today. And before you argue ‘but if these people were righteous, the people would see it and follow them’, this is a fallacy, as the Prophet’s (saaw) own tribe rejected him not due to his behaviour or character (which they had previously highly respected), but due to his message, which they couldn’t accept due to their shallow mindsets. In essence, my hypothetical examples were to demonstrate that.

      In the comment where you said: ‘The case of Morsi just exemplifies my point of society needing to change first from the bottom up before you can dream about a top down change. You can impose a just Islamic leader but if the people are corrupt they will just overthrow him. There’s no questioning that.’

      That was precisely the point of my article, the people can’t receive good leaders, because of a problem in the mindset. The purpose of the article was to address this mindset – one of the problems of which, is how Muslims mutually undermine eachother. And in response to that, I argued that Muslims should understand that the success of one of us, is the success of all.

      Thank you for your critique however, I’m sure people here have learned more for it, than if you hadn’t.

  3. Masha Allah akhy,you always deep on your analysis and dissection of real issues affecting this ummah.May Allah azza wa jal continue to guide you and honor you with hikma.

  4. Asalamu alaikum Abdullah al Andalusi,

    Yes I agree that the Jahil people would oppose Imam Mahdi. There are hadith that mention sufyani tribe will try to kill Mahdi and people of bani kalb will try to take power.

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