In late 2005, I wrote an article entitled (A Message to Our Secular Brothers), in which I called on them to study Islam from its sources and through its scholars and intellectuals, and I confirmed them If they did so they would be among its supporters. However, my call was seemingly a "cry in the valley". They still see Islam like the Westerners" view to Christianity in the past centuries, and they viewed it through the western concepts and values.
We have therefore faced their strong attacks whenever we declare our clear attitude towards a certain issue. They even call for exercising more pressure on us so as to make us backpedal on this attitude to the attitude they adopt.
I give these several remarks:
Isn"t the huge material and moral pressures we face at home and outside enough?, who is to benefit from these pressures?
Are we supposed to be ourselves and express our principles and views, or are we supposed to be identically them and express their ideas and views?. Do they want us to do things which we don"t believe in. This will never happen.
What they can only do is to show their opinion about our attitudes, and we have the right to reconsider our attitudes. If our attitudes are based on clear cut texts or a consensus, and if they are religious constants, we stick to them, but if they are Ijtihad issues, we seek the most suitable and adhere to it regardless of secularists" view. This is because we have our source of authority which we respect: the Book of Allah and the Sunna of our messenger (peace be upon him). "And in whatsoever ye differ, the verdict therein belongeth to Allah. Such is my Lord, in Whom I put my trust, and unto Whom I turn (As Shura consultation: verse 10)", " O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the messenger and those of you who are in authority; and if ye have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to Allah and the messenger if ye are (in truth) believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more seemly in the end. (An Nisa women verse 59.
Although their sources of authority are Western ideas and principles, we do not allow ourselves or call for exercising pressures on them to scrap these ideas and principles. We only ask them to listen to our viewpoints and deeply study this Islam that they condemn. We have good faith in them and blame it all on cluelessness and lack of knowledge of Islam.
I actually address serious and respectable researchers and analysts who seek the truth but their problem is that they do not understand us because judging something is a part of its concept. They see only appearances and political positions, and they hear only press statements. As for the reality that includes beliefs, concepts and values, they haven"t deeply understood. This will be made clear later when the issue of interest is discussed.
As for writers who only insult and fake stories out of ill imaginations, and incite to the benefit of an authority or another, we turn away from them according to ordains of Allah H glory be to hi, saying: " And when they hear vanity they withdraw from it and say: Unto us our works and unto you your works. Peace be unto you! We desire not the ignorant (Al Qasas the stories verse 55 ).
The kinds of psychological pressure exercised against us include the overuse of giving us disgraced features, coining cloudy names and terms especially ugly ones for us while good ones are theirs. Therefore, we heard in the socialist era names like: Reactionary and progressive, then we heard moderate and extremist and hawks and doves and opened and closed then an old guard and a new guard and the most recent- but not last- conservative and reformist. The word reformist may have inspired me to write this article.
We had and we still have the ability to coin similar terms for them but we didn"t do this out of decency and respect.
Every one knows that this playing on words aims at covering up facts. For example, the British colonization was calling the Ummah (Nation) Party (its protégée in Egypt ), a moderate during its occupation of Egypt , while it was calling the National Party (the party of late national leader Mostafa Kamel) an extremist. Also, the United States is currently dividing the Arab world into moderate countries- that follow its course and complies with its orders- and extremist countries- that fight its schemes and plots.
Back to the issue of interest (summarized from the book: Interest (Maslahah) regulations in Islamic Sharia- by Dr. Mohamed Said Ramadan Al Bouti), interest means goodness, every thing that results in a benefit, through gaining and gathering like benefits and good things, or through avoidance like excluding harm and pain, worthy to be called interest. Interest is according to Sharia scholars:" The benefit that Allah wants to his slaves, including preserving their religion, lives, minds, offspring and moneys according to a specific arrangement between them".
This means that interest has characteristics which vary between Islamists and secularists. The first characteristic is that secularists" time criteria according to which they measure interests and disinterests are narrow criteria which are limited to life alone, without linking them with the afterlife. They also separate between the public social activity which is determined by their minds and ideas, and the private worshiping activity which is determined by Sharia (divine law), leading to losing the single role-model for all. This is because nothing-according to them-links the society that receives criteria of righteousness and corruption in its works with lawmakers ethics philosophers through a single role model.
On the other hand, the first characteristic of the Islamists is that the time in which the effect of interests and disinterests isn"t restricted to life alone. It includes both life and the afterlife. To explain this, interest is the benefit or the means to it. Any work that yields a benefit for the doer- even if it comes late- is considered a good deed.
The range of late arrival of results differs from one deed to another. It may be delayed for a little time like earning one"s living. It may be delayed for a longer period like planting land to reap the harvest and it may be longer like the one who saves money to meet his needs when his very old. Any deed that may yield a benefit in the future can be considered an interest, so long as there is a strong hope that it will happen. However, the future ends- according to those who aren’t aware of the presence of another life after death- with the end of this very human life. Therefore, we see them that restrict works to the criteria of the worldly life alone, without any hope after death.
As for the meaning of future according to those who truly believe in Allah, it is a full time unit that vastly extends from life till after death.
Allah connects both lives (life and the afterlife) with a strong link, the link of reason and cause. Allah orders his slaves to take the present life as a means for eternal happiness in their afterlife. Allah says:" But seek the abode of the Hereafter in that which Allah hath given thee (Al Qasas the stories: From verse77), and he said:" And whoso desireth the Hereafter and striveth for it with the effort necessary, being a believer; for such, their effort findeth favour (with their Lord)." (Al Israa the Night Journey- verse 19).
The result is that life becomes with all its various worshiping and general social activities a one single unit dominated by Sharia. Allah says:" Say: Lo! my worship and my sacrifice and my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the Worlds. He hath no partner. This am I commanded, and I am first of those who surrender (unto Him). " ( Al Anaam: verses 162, 163).
As for the second characteristic of interest according to the secularists, it is that the interest is assessed by only the amount of material pleasure or benefit whether it is a benefit for the individual alone or for the society at large. Even if the secularists care for moral values, they care for them to achieve material benefits. According to ethics theorists and man-made law makers, the scales of good and evil are eventually revolving around only material values upon which all the world is based, according to them. The value of interest according to Islamists is not restricted to its material pleasure, but is based on the one"s spiritual and physical needs. The body"s need material things is clearly understood.
As for the spiritual need, it is the need to seek to approach the biggest power in the universe (Allah) through worshipping without seeking for this any physical pleasure. It seeks obedience and closeness to the creator of the universe. Allah says: " So set thy purpose (O Muhammad) for religion as a man by nature upright - the nature (framed) of Allah, in which He hath created man " ( AR Room: from verse 30). Alleviating man"s spiritual needs lies in achieving purpose set forth by the messenger of Allah peace be upon him as a proof on the completeness of one"s belief. A clear statement of the requirement to obey the Messenger. Therefore the believer strives to curb his whims and oblige himself to comply with the requirements of the Sharia to alleviate his spiritual needs, even if this seemed to be a U-turn. The proof is that the believer finds himself after a period of steadfastness feeling pleasure and happiness which are superior to bodily pleasures.
There are many legal judgments for alleviating these needs, foremost among which are that the Muslim must fight ills of the heart, like arrogance, spite, proudness, envy and hypocrisy. This is called purifying. Allah says:" Even as We have sent among you a Messenger from among you who recites to you Our communications and purifies you and teaches you the Book and the wisdom and teaches you that which you did not know", (Al Baqarah, the Cow: Verse 151). The aim of this purification is definitely not seeking more material profit or physical pleasure. Allah also ordains worshipping, remembrance of Allah, praise, supererogatory acts of worship and night"s prayer to help the believer in making his self comply with ordains of the sharia and to awaken his conscience to fear Allah in all actions in secret and in public, in addition to the reward in the hereafter which is the harvest of worldly sowing.
As for the third characteristic of interest according to secularists, it is that they see religion as a branch of interest. That"s, religion is made use of as it is effective in implementing aspects their interests. This is actually logical for those who made worldly benefits their top target.
As for the third characteristic of interest according to Islamists, it is that the interest of religion is a priority and basis of all other interests. Any other interest can be sacrificed to protect and keep it. This is one of the basics of Sharia. There is no doubt that Islamic Sharia includes all people"s interests. This is because realizing Allah"s satisfaction and pleasure and living immortally in his heavenly paradise is the greatest of all interests. As laws of humanity dictate that lower interests are at the service of higher interests, some interests may be taken as means to realize other interests. Thus, the man may make use of all interests in his life to realize the greatest of all interests.
While all necessary interests are divided into five arranged interests: Religion, life, mind, offspring and money, thus religion must be necessarily protected even if other lower ones were ignored, like life, for this jihad (holy war) was ordained. Life must be preserved even if the lower ones are ignored, like the mind. Therefore, the one is allowed to redeem his life through drinking wine if he is forced to drink or face death. Offspring must be preserved even if more money is spent. Therefore, it is unacceptable in Islam to use sexual stimulants that fill the society with moral chaos and degeneration regardless of any financial profit.
This arrangement means that: worldly interests are only a branch of the core of religion that orders the human being to be a slave to his Creator Glorified and Exalted be He. This characteristic leads to several matters:
First: Interests must follow the core of religion which consists of clear cut texts and judgements.
Second: Corruption and righteousness in actions are both a result and effect of Sharia judgements on things, including prohibition, permissibility and affirmation.
Third: Ordinary experiences or mental standards should never independently dictate people"s interests. We should never depend on what economists see: that usury must be adopted to activate and develop trade. We should never depend on what some psychologists see: that the intermixing between both sexes without restrictions in society"s facilities refine manners and relieve sexual desires. We should never follow some doctors who say that the pork is not contaminated.
Thus, it is clear that interest according to us has doctrinal and intellectual roots. It isn"t a superficial, mental, time limited and loose view.
This also makes us aware of the clear difference between both theories in origins, even if we agree in branches like issues of freedoms, justice and human rights, even in the last one we agree in general principles, but if we delve into details we find more disagreements. Freedoms, justice and human rights are regulated according to Sharia according to us, while others don’t observe regulations of Sharia and even manners.
I only aimed from this to explain the essence of Islamic reform to our secularist brothers so that they can understand our situation and know the source of our actions and statements. I don"t target any boycott between us and them. We actually extend our hands to cooperate with them in areas of agreement to serve our nation and homeland.
I hope again that secularist brothers study Islam and Sharia from its sources the same as they do with all other theories
* A member of the Muslim Brotherhood Executive Office.