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On Avoiding Hunger Revolts (PART I)


On Avoiding Hunger Revolts (PART I)


Was published in Arabic in February 13, 2016

Translated by Ahmed Fathy



He said to me: You have frightened us with your article "The Enormity of Hunger Revolts", and you have not offered any solutions.

I said to him: We have tackled the solution several times in many books and articles.

He said: Some claim that they are theoretical inapplicable solutions.

I said: On the contrary, they are practical solutions, applied successfully elsewhere.

He said: Please do not talk about the West and its experience; you have written before that the French Revolution led to many decades of instability and massacres in France.

I said: True. Even Europe had to spend about three centuries of struggle and unrest that included local, regional, and international wars until it has reached democratic stability.

He said: Do not repeat words here about European reform, then. We demand a solution within our Arab history related to our culture and religion.

I said: The reform solution we call for since more than 30 years is Quranism: the return to the Quran is the solution.

He said: Leave theoretical solutions aside, please!

I said: Any solution begins with a theory. What matters here is the applicability.

He said: Your slogan "the return to the Quran is the solution", is it applicable?

I said: Yes, and it was applied once with great success.

He said: Does the application during Prophet Muhammad's lifetime in Yathreb suit our modern conditions and times in the Arab world?

I said: Of course; the Quran is applicable in all times and locations.

He said: Then why the so-called companions of the Prophet engaged into civil strife once Muhammad died. They had the Quran, did not they?

I said: The Quran is applicable in all times and locations if there are people who would apply its teachings. The problem does not lie in the Quran itself – Heaven forbid! – but in people themselves. God did not give us Islam in the Quran along with armed angels to coerce people to apply it and punish those who do not. The Quran is a test to all people; would they believe and apply it or would they deny it in terms of faith and behavior and replace its teachings with man-made ones. In short, would they ignore it or not. God tells us about the Last Day; the Judgment Day, when all people's faiths will be judged. The so-called companions committed the crimes of conquests, and hence the crime of civil wars ensued. Within Islam, such history, or indeed any history, is NOT a source of legislation. The demeanor of the so-called companions is a source of legislation in the man-made creeds of the Muhammadans whose forefathers fabricated hadiths and fiqh and historical accounts. Quranists believe that the Quran is the sole and only source of legislation in Islam for true Muslims who do not believe in any discourse in Islam but the Quran.

He said: I absolutely agree. Let us focus here on our point. How come the application of the Quran by Muhammad in Yathreb suits our age? You have written that creativity in applying sharia legislations is to be done within tools of every age. You have quoted this verse to assert your view: "And prepare against them all the power you can muster…" (8:60). You have written that the tools of our age differ from the tools of the 7th century in Arabia: swords and arms.

I said: Means and tools differ from one age to the other. We talk about reform using Quranic values applied by Muhammad within tools and means of his age. The tools of our modern age are easier to use and apply. For instance, we have explained the shura (direct democratic consultation) concept of Islam within the Quran in a book published here on our website. Muhammad applied shura with simple tools of his age; he used to gather all men and women of Yathreb in social public meetings. This we read in the last verses of the Quranic Chapter 24. In such meetings, experts in different fields were consulted. This included discussion and questioning; every expert was responsible for his/her domain or field. God is the only One that can never be questioned: "He will not be questioned about what He does, but they will be questioned." (21:23). This shura of direct democracy and consultation cannot be hard to apply in our modern age of internet and other tools of communication, if there is real will in applying shura. Thus, democracy as a tool of reform is applicable, despite differences in conditions. As for the Quranic values of Islam, we need to apply them also using tools of our age; Muhammad applied them using tools of his era. The link here is the source of legislation; it is one: the Quran alone.

He said: Let us talk about all Quranic values of Islam, not democracy alone.

I said: Conditions of the Yathreb city-state were worse than Arab world conditions now. The modern human culture now is that of human rights and democracy and means of communications. There are several local and international organizations worldwide whose mission is to defend human rights. These were never available in the Yathreb city-state of Islam. This city-state was an oasis of democracy, justice, human rights, and absolute freedom of religion, amidst Middle-Ages tyranny in Arabia and the neighboring empires. Yathreb was surrounded by enemies in the desert around it led by the Qorayish tribesmen. Yathreb could have been attacked anytime from any direction. Its inhabitants had to defend themselves by militarily facing their enemies outside its borders. Let us remember that Jewish tribes lived on the same borders, and early Muslims made them hold pacts of peace, breached later on by these Jewish tribes. Inside Yathreb, there was fearful group of enemies: the hypocrites who conspired against the burgeoning city-state and the new creed followers. Let alone those who kept their old faith but were peaceful; they were lazy enough as never to participate in defending the city. Some of them spied on early Muslims for the sake of Qorayish. There were of course also true believers who never relented. Hence, the Yathreb society was diversified in terms of faith and loyalty to the city-state. Another challenge presented itself.

He said: What was it?

I said: This city-state used to open its gates to whoever immigrated to it. Belonging to it stipulated living inside it, where one enjoyed reciprocal peace, safety, and security. All believers had to immigrate to it. This was a real challenge; anyone could claim to be a new convert but intended to act as a spy or a fifth column, conniving with the hypocrites.

He said: How did the city-state face such danger?

I said: By testing all male and female immigrants in terms of security, not testing their faith and conscience. Absolute freedom off religion was allowed in Yathreb; all people declared their faiths freely. Peaceful behavior was the only condition to join the city-state. "O you who believe! When believing women come to you emigrating, test them. God is Aware of their faith. And if you find them to be faithful, do not send them back to the unbelievers. They are not lawful for them, nor are they lawful for them…" (60:10). Hence, Yathreb was an oasis of democracy, justice, peace, and human rights amidst an atmosphere of tyranny, injustice, oppression, and religious persecution.

He said: Tell me briefly how what you have just told me is linked to Egyptian conditions and the imminent hunger revolts.

I said: Briefly, security challenges – local, regional, and outsider ones – that faced Yathreb at the time were never dealt with with tyranny, though tyranny was the dominant feature at the time. Rather, Islamic higher values in the Quran (especially peace, justice, and freedom of religion) were the tools used to face tyranny, right?

He said: You tell me!

I said: Leader of the city-state of Yathreb was Prophet Muhammad. Despite his receiving the divine revelation, he was never a tyrant. He applied shura. All inhabitants of Yathreb were the source of all authorities. He never tormented or persecuted anyone; he tried all the time to win people's hearts and loyalty because they were the source of authorities: "It is by of grace from God that you were gentle with them. Had you been harsh, hardhearted, they would have dispersed from around you. So pardon them, and ask forgiveness for them, and consult them in the conduct of affairs. And when you make a decision, put your trust in God; God loves the trusting." (3:159). This verse shows that Muhammad was never a tyrant; all tyrants are harsh and hard-hearted in the past and in the present, everywhere. If people were to disperse from around him, he would have to face religious persecution of Qorayish again. Inhabitants of Yathreb were the source of power and authority, then. They were consulted in decisions, forgiven, pardoned, and listened to. God tells him to trust in Him when applying their pieces of advice.

He said: You mean to tell me that all inhabitants, believer or not, hypocrites or not, were the source of authority and power, right?

I said: Of course, fro this is the culture of citizenry in Islam. All peaceful persons are our brethren. Islamic citizenship includes absolute religious freedom and liberty of expression and opposition, as long as persons are peaceful in demeanor; i.e., they do not fight against believers or coerce others in matters of personal opinions, politics or religion. That was how even hypocrites enjoyed absolute religious freedom and liberty of expression and opposition in Yathreb. We have written a lot about these facts.

He said: These are too many details! Make your answer brief, please!

I said: The nation of Yathreb was the only source of all types of authorities. This Islamic value was applied by Muhammad under his leadership. He never used tyrannical means and coercion dominant in the culture of 7th century Arabia. Tyrants always justify their tyranny by claiming that they are facing inside and outside dangers. Many tyrants invent internal and external dangers to frighten nations and justify their tyranny. Some other tyrants subdivide nations into majority vs. minority, while accusing the minority of treason to increase loyalty of the majority and control the minority. Muhammad faced real dangers that threatened to wipe out Yathreb. He never used tyrannical means to rule. On the contrary, in modern times, tyrants and dictators deify themselves and claim to receive divine revelations! Divine revelation in the Quran guided Muhammad sometimes, but he was commanded also to apply shura in all social, political, and military matters. This is akin to direct democracy in the West.

He said: You mean to tell me that Muhammad did not use internal and external dangers as a pretext to use tyrannical means of rule by claiming that tyranny was used to achieve security; rather, he faced such dangers by more freedom in political and religious domains to Yathreb inhabitants.

I said: Of course; the Islamic culture of citizenry makes all citizens participants in rule on equal footing with one another. Hence, one's home in Islam is not merely the land in which we live; rather, it means equality and justice among all (male-female and rich-poor) citizens. For instance, if in a given nation there are one million citizens, then every one of them shares one millionth share of homeland. Citizens vary in wealth according to their endeavors, of course. All citizens who are unable to work must find social solidarity and aid. Freedom of religion is to be absolute; political and civil liberties are for all citizens within laws. All citizens have equal rights in justice and in safety and security. Thus, every citizen feels that the country is his/hers. Belonging to it is real, not a mere motto void of meaning. Such Islamic values in the Quran helped Muhammad to defend his city-state against all dangers. He even defeated Qorayish and saw shortly before his death people of Arabia converted to Islam in groups.                                               

He said: If this was true, why civil strife occurred after his death?!

I said: God tells Muhammad in the Quran: "And you see the people entering God's religion in multitudes." (110:2). This means that he saw with his eyes people preferring peace (in Arabic: Salam) the meaning of Islam. Muhammad never knew the hearts and consciences of others, and if they were true believers or not. God is the Only One who knows this. Muhammad saw before his death all tribes entering into peace and the end of wars by applying values of equality, justice, and citizenship. Once he died, things changed for the worse.  Qorayish appointed Abou Bakr as ruler and imposed taxes in the form of obligatory zakat, which is to be paid voluntarily to the poor, not to rulers. Arabs had the right to revolt against Abou Bakr. He crushed this revolt. Later on, conquests of neighboring lands began to distract Arabs from the notion of civil wars and to form an empire that worked for the interest of Qorayish.

He said: How is this history linked to the current conditions of Egypt in avoiding a possible hunger revolt?!

I said: I am tired because of you now! Let us continue our talk tomorrow.      

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