The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State :: My Take
The rise of ISIS and the meaningless butchering of the Yazidis left a very strong impression on me. I wanted to know as to what was motivating these people to kill. What was it that attracted thousands of people from all over the world to come here and fight for a Muslim state. What was it that was attracting them. Why is it that killing, pillaging and murdering are not seeming like crimes to these people? I wanted answers for these questions and wanted to understand the ideology that was driving these people to do all the stuff that they are doing.
I know about Tarek Fatah from twitter and I always found his thoughts to be rebellious and intriguing. When I found that he wrote a book on this subject. I wanted to read it. There were some awesome speeches at the book launch and that too contributed to the curiosity. The only thing that made me postpone buying of the book was its price. It costs about Rs.700 and I kept postponing the purchase of the book. I bought it a few days ago and here is the review of the book.
The book has 3 parts (i) The Illusion (ii) The Genesis (iii) The Consequences.
The author starts with the countries that call themselves “Islamic states/republics” in the first section. He starts with the execution of Bhutto in Pakistan and then Taha in Sudan. he speaks about the acts of self-professed Islamists and the dangers that lie within. Then he speaks about organizations like Jamaat-e-Islami and the Muslim Brotherhood. He speaks as to how the creation of Islamic state is not there in the five pillars of Islam. Then he takes us on a world tour of Islamic Republics and countries. As we move from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia come back to Iran and then leave for Palestine we see as to how most of these states have oppressive regimes and the misguided zeal of a few has made them turn into Islamic nations and that spelled doom for many people in these countries.
I loved his section on Iran, I loved the insights he gave here. Here a revolution was hijacked by a man and people who participated in the movement wholeheartedly felt cheated. They wanted something and got something else. It was sad to see the state of affairs in that country.
In the second section, we go the genesis of the idea of Islamic State. At the center of the idea of the Islamic state, is the desire of going back to the golden era (Muslims consider it so) of the rightly guided caliphs. There have been 4 rightly guided caliphs in all and they governed Ummah for some 20-30 years. All the people who are propagating the Islamic state want to recreate that era and bring back the golden age for Muslims. The author brings to light as to how 3 out of these 4 Caliphs were murdered and how there was trouble and dissent while they were in power. He tries to highlight the fact that the political systems that were in place in that era were not the best ones and they had many chinks in the armor. The author takes us through the history as to how wars and succession feuds rocked the Caliphate.
He takes through the rule of Ummayyids and the way the Caliphs of that era tried to kill the Prophet’s family. Then we see as to how these Ummayyids were overthrown by Abbasids. The way the entire family was wiped off at a dinner table was shocking, the accounts of rationalists in Islam, the schools of Islamic thought and the building of Baghdad were amazing. Throughout the narrative, the author keeps telling us about the decisions were taken and the way they were either beneficial/detrimental for the Ummah. These insights are indeed priceless.
The support for the rationalists and the progress that was achieved in Baghdad were indeed amazing for me. I felt that the support given to rationalists and the relaxation of rigorous Islamic laws contributed heavily to the progress of Islam and the Caliphate in those years. The Cordoba and Islam in Spain were also represented very well. Again the message that we get is that everything would be on the progressive note in the state of Islam, however, the moment it is an Islamic State you lose out.
As we read about the demise of the Abbasid empire and move on to the third section of the book that deals with the Consequences of the misguided zeal and priorities of the Islamists. We see essays that delve deep into the subjects like Sharia, Hijab , Jihad and the Islamic agenda in the west. It was shocking to read about the truths behind sharia laws and the ways and means in which Islamists always wanted to wrest control in the institutions in the western world. The moderates in Canada fought with the Islamists and ensured that Sharia was not implemented in Canada. The way this was described needs a special mention. It is indeed heartening to know that the moderates stood their ground and won the argument.
The amount of research that went into this book is amazing. Your head would weigh slightly heavy after consuming the information given in the book. This is not a book that you would read in a single sitting or so. You would want to read a chapter, sit back and reflect on the contents that you have read and create your opinions on it. You would learn a great deal about Islamists and the way the Quranic teachings were interpreted in way that was detrimental to the humanity.
The best part of the book is that it does not criticize Islam as such. It is against the Islamists who want to control the world with their ideology. This is a unique thing as many people who denounce Islamists also end up criticizing the religion. That sort of behavior would make such writing out of bounds for a practicing Muslim. What Tarek Fatah has done is great in this context as he tries to expose the expansionist claims of some of the Ulema and is trying for a transformation from inside. If there is one force that can put an end to the war in the name of Islam it must come from the moderate adherents of it. The west is getting its fundamentals wrong by saying that terror has no religion. We ought to remember that these people claim that they are trying to establish an Islamic State. There is religion involved in this. These guys are going with a wrong interpretation and that must be set right. It is not just about the gun wielding terrorists but also about soft spoken sponsors of theirs. So what we need is a reformation of sorts here. If we count on external forces to do this we would never be successful. The change must come from within, there are Muslims who are fighting this war for the reformation. Our job is to strengthen them. This book if used well might be a good beginning point for that.
You can buy the book here.