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Raissouni: Religious Scholars Should Participate in Gov’ts, Parliaments
Raissouni: Religious Scholars Should Participate in Gov’ts, Parliaments
Dr. Ahmed Raissouni, the former chairman of Moroccan Tawheed and Islah Movement, and a current member of its executive bureau, said that the political experience of Islamists is not convincing.Raissouni, a current prominent Moroccan scholar, said that the Islamic world hs been witnessing for decades the so called "Islamic Renaissance" (al-Sahwa al-Islamiyya).
Friday, November 24,2006 00:00
by Al Hassan Al Sarat, Aljazeera Aljazeera.com

Dr. Ahmed Raissouni, the former chairman of Moroccan Tawheed and Islah Movement, and a current member of its executive bureau, said that the political experience of Islamists is not convincing.

Raissouni, a current prominent Moroccan scholar, said that the Islamic world hs been witnessing for decades the so called "Islamic Renaissance" (al-Sahwa al-Islamiyya). "and is witnessing an increasing return of scholars . He confirmed that " the Renaissance itself is a product of the efforts of the scholars, and it gives back their positions" .

Concerning the role of scholars in Morocco, Raissouni said "there are many religious scholars, and the institutions spawning the religious scholars are still working; however, they have been sidelined and their roles have been minimized since independence".

He added that " there has been a policy that deliberately shut down and gradually paralysed these institutions", and that " all the country’s public policy makers, since independence, are involved in making this state".

Dr. Ahmed Raissouni, we would like to ask you about the position of the religious scholars in the Arab and Muslim World between yesterday and today, why do we notice a deterioration of their position?

In the Name of Allah, the Benificent, the Merciful, the clear and normal position of the scholars in any Muslim community is the role of leadership; this is very natural, because those scholars are specialized in the Islamic sciences, jurisprudence, culture and civilization; they act as a an Islamic reference that every Muslim relies on.

When any ordinary Muslim wants to learn his religion and seeks to know a rule in his Sharia and creed, he will go directly to a religious scholar; even if he has books, he also goes to scholars as long as they are specialized in this matter as they can explain the ordains of religion.

This gives the scholars a leading role in all Muslim communities; and this is the position of the scholars throughout all ages.
It is true that there has often occurred rivalries and conflicts between scholars and people ruling the ociety, specially when there is a separation between Quran and the rule; otherwise, the normal position is that scholars are rulers and the rulers are scholars; but when Quran and rule are separated, there occurs a kind of competition to lead people and the nation.

In general, with or without a rival, the scholars are always in the leading position, backing the rulers, disagreeing with them, or being in harmony and cooperation with them. This situation has continued till the modern age.

This position started to retreat due to many factors the most prominent of which is is the colonization and its cultural, educational and political effects, although the position of the scholars is still respected; if not in reality, then it is still respected inside the hearts of people.

In the current status quo and along the Islamic world map including Muslim communities and minorities in the West and the East, is there a pioneering role for the scholars nowadays?

The position of the religious scholars witnessed, in mid 20th century and shortly after it, its worst periods and states, because colonialism reached the peak of its influence and domination and spawned its aides, intellectuals and supporters; however, we have been witnessing, decades ago the so called Islamic Renaissance, which is definitely accompanied by a similar return to religious scholars.

The Renaissance is itself a product of the efforts of the religious scholars, and it brings back their position, because the last decades witnessed an increasing return of religious scholars. In Iran, for example the religious scholars were persecuted and exiled and bound to their Hawzas or in exile; however, in the late 1970s and early 1980s they controlled every thing in the country.

The influence of the religious scholars is expanding and retaining its power and vitality, whether in mainly Shiite countries, like Iraq and Iran in addition to Lebanon or in mainly Sunni countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal and Somalia, and all other Arab and Islamic countries like Egypt, Yemen and Sudan and Saudi Arabia; the general trend in last decades is an increasing growth of religious scholars.

For example, the religious Shiite and Sunni scholars have been, in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime and with more freedom of movement, leading the political, social and cultural movements. In Lebanon, despite its current private position, there is an increasingly effective role which is still going on till this moment.

You said that the religious scholars assume cultural, political and social positions in several Islamic countries, why don’t they assume leadership in countries like Tunisia and Morocco, for instance?

Actually, the situations are different. I have spoken about the general trend of the situations, but this is different. It is true that Morocco and Tunisia are cases that can’t be talked about with a kind of privacy.

In Tunisia, we can say that the role and establishment of the religious scholars have been totally eradicated; some of them traveled sporadically through countries and live in exiles in European and Arab countries; some of them are home-bound, dying one after another, the sources of bringing up and graduating the religious scholars, specially Al-Zaytoonah University, were shut down; this university turned into a plant for spawning secularists and ideologists who work with the regime with an irreligious interpretation of religion, something closer to excluding and fighting it. This is the situation in Tunisia.

As for the situation in Morocco, there are many religious scholars and the institutions spawning the religious scholars are still working; however, they have been sidelined and their roles were minimized since independence. We know that, before independence during the times of the national movement and struggle and resistance, the religious scholars were the leaders and theorists resisters as well; however, after independence was attained, they were gradually marginalized. We know that a number of religious scholars assumed ministerial posts, and even the posts of governors, and many positions at the beginning of the independence.

But the wheel of secularization, Frenchification and westernization, that ran quickly after the independence more than it was before independence, led eventually to excluding these religious; they have been holding their conferences under the association of Moroccan scholars, in which they have been issuing statements and demands and stances; but nowadays in the last years, even these conferences no longer exist, along with the conferences of the association of scholars graduating from Al Hosneya Hadith house, and the association of Sus religious scholars, and others.

That is, even the religious scholars, as associations or intellectuals, have no longer any collective presence. Of course, there has been a policy that deliberately shut down and gradually paralysed these institutions, till we eventually see the religious scholars as individuals and nothing more.
You have said that there is a policy that fights religious scholars; who is the one to blame for this policy?

Of course, this is policy which is not declared. Therefore, it is difficult to blame a specific authority or a specific decision. However, it is certain that all the country’s public policy makers, since independence, are involved in making this state.
It is natural that they become fed up with the influence and views of the religious scholars. The religious scholars, regardless of their political stances, are still having an Islamic platform that has well-known judgements, legislations, belief, culture and manners; even if they coped with the official attitudes, they are still distinguished by these features.
While the general trend of the state moved, with its components and leaders, towards the so called modernism, a European secularist French-hued modernism, it is a model with which the religious scholars can’t cope with, so, they were gradually excluded using many methods, even after marginalizing and excluding them, we reached the level of shutting down their institutions which had some kind of superficial independence; this is our current state of affairs.
But, as I said before, this does not deny that there individuals religious scholars along with the educational institutions spawning these religious scholars. Individually, there are religious scholars in mosques and in universities and they have their personal activities, writings and their lectures and the society’s need for them; the society generally leans towards them .

This general Islamic Renaissance all over the world grew and increased due to society’s need for religious scholars; the more the society needs and demands them, the more the religious scholars return gradually. But they return now as individuals, not as institutions that can act as their mouthpieces in terms of actionrelation with the ruler should be kept regardless of the problems, deviations or suspicions.. This is what is adopted by most religious scholars, and is, according to my point of view, the best option for those using it well.
There is another opposite group of scholars, the group that stands beside the ruler in any position he is in, as it needs the ruler and the ruler needs it. This group was and is still among us.

Of course, the middle group that accounts for most religious scholars is the path that can actually bring back the religious scholars to their positions and bring back their position to them; I think that the religious scholars in Morocco and other countries should get involved in such a public activity. The public activity may be parties, elections, state-run societies or institutions or media organizations.
The religious scholars should not detach themselves and they shouldn’t stop short of teaching their knowledge because this is their duty, honor and destiny; they should join all the nation’s public facilities and fields without exception. Even in the countries adopting resistance, the religious scholars should join the resistance and meet the resistance requirements.
Religious scholars should participate in governments and parliaments and every thing; they should join all outlets and fields; this will take place gradually because the doors will not be easily opened to them.

What is your opinion about the ongoing debate around the political participation of the Islamists?

Frankly speaking, the experiment of the Islamists is not, in most cases, completely good. I think that the experiment of the Shiites in Iran and Lebanon is the best experience of Islamists’ participation in a political activity.
In the Sunni world, there are more hurdles and more passivities whether in, for example, Sudan, Afghanistan’s Taliban Movement, and even Algeria’s model; it is true that all these experiences, the Sunni more than the Shiite, faced blockades and campaigns of distortion using all methods.
However, I am speaking about the Islamic performance and I think that there have been obvious defects. I think that the main reason is that there is no preparedness for this, running without a readiness or with a rate which isn’t equal to the preparation. I say repeatedly in several occasions that the Islamic movements produced masses of of supporters, fighters and resisters but they produced a little knowledge, experience and efficiency for exercising politics and rule.

Some Islamic movements participated with these masses, equipped with a little knowledge, including Sharia, as they had unsettled academic and juristic problems for which they had no answer, relying on the old traditional and nearly useless answers.
However, taking into consideration that the negative side in the Islamic participation is not attributed to fairness, sacrifice commitment or faithfulness, but it is attributed to knowledge and experience, something rectifiable, while other matters are unrectifiable because if the movements or parties start a path of deviation, they won’t return but they continue.
If the disorder is academic, i.e. attributed to skill and experience, this can be corrected in the second phase or years later; therefore, the disadvantages in the Islamic movement are rectifiable in the course of time. In addition to this, many of the stumbles and challenges that the Islamic movements faced in the rule, are attributed to external factors; therefore, they can’t be blamed for this.

A lecture entitled" The scholars are the heirs of the prophets" scheduled to be given by you, has been announced, but it wasn’t delivered and was canceled, why?

This lecture- scheduled to be delivered in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities in Rabat, is part of the annual program of the association of Islamic study graduates, and it was approved several months ago. What happened was that some of those defending backwardness intervened and exercised pressures that led to canceling- or to be more specific banning-the lecture. This is the first of my lectures to be canceled,  although it was a purely academic lecture in the university and faculty which I belong to.

tags: Religious / Scholars / Moroccan / Tawheed / Islah / Islamic Renaissance / Renaissance
Posted in Interviews  
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