Popes, Pirs and Politics-Notes


Notes from the event:

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf:

No one knows what it is like to be in authority until they find themselves in such a position.

One great thing about Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah is that he has experience in this area, having been head of some councils and positions of authority in his country in the past. Mauritania is the probably the most likeliest Muslim country where democracy can work, having recently had elections in which women could vote too. Unlike in most Muslim countries, the people of Mauritania can discuss and criticize their leaders/governments; its a national pass time (lol) and they wont be handcuffed and taken away.

Freedom of speech in the West’s understanding really only means two things- 1) the freedom to criticize religion and 2) the freedom to criticize political leadership.

Aristotle in his book “The Politics” addresses the question of what a state is for. He defines a state as an association of people where people work together and this association had a purpose= Happiness. “Happiness” according to Aristotle has two components:

1) External Happiness- were material goods enabled people to be happy outwardly

2) Internal Happiness- were individuals are happy/content with themself; having peace of mind.

Aristotle believed that we had a purpose. In modern societies we have lost sight of our purpose because we have become consumers, hedonistic, no longer about satisfying the need (Bentham); something John S Mills followed and agreed with saying ” its better to be a dissatisfied human than a satisfied pig.”

Aristotle recognized three types of authority:

1) A Monarchy-Where one person rules but it is not selfish rule. He rules with the best interest of the people but this authority could be perverted and a monarchy could turn into a tyranny and we have examples of that today in the world.

2) Aristocracy- where it is the rule of the best, the meritocrat who look out for the interest of the people. However this could be perverted so that it results in a small minority who become interested in gaining wealth for themselves. Here, Shaykh Hamza compared this type of authority with our modern day cooperate companies and organizations- whose interests do they work for?

3) then we have the Proletariat- known as democracy in its corrupted form;the Greek word Demos meaning the rule of the mob,where the lowest elements of society take over.

Looking at the our Prophetic tradition, we see that the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) established a small city state during his time and he practiced shura; where the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) empowered his people to think for themselves by asking them for their opinions. An example is when Mu’adh ibn Jabal (ra) was being sent to another land to spread Islam and the Prophet(sallallahu alayhi wasalam) asked how he would rule were he to become a judge. Mu’adh (ra) replied that he would rule by the Book of Allah to which the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasalam) asked what he would do if the situation he was faced with could not be solved by the Quran? Mu’ad replied that he would then refer to the sunnah. The Prophet(sallallahu alayhi wasalam) then asked what he would do if he could not find an answer in his(sallallahu alayhi wasalam)sunnah to which Mu’ad replied that he would use his independent intellect and thought in reaching an answer.

Thus we see that much of the Shariah rulings are from ijtihad; the human endeavor to understand what the ruling is. That is why all scholars end their fatwa with “Allahu’alim”, Allah knows best.

The prophet(sallallahu alayhi wasalam) said “both my life and death is good for you”-How can his death be good for us? If the Prophet(sallallahu alayhi wasalam) had lived longer, revelation would have continued and we would have more rulings and this would have overwhelmed us.

Turning to the call made by some of establishing an Islamic state in order to preserve Islam, Shaykh Hamza mentioned Imam Laqani’s thoughts that the need for an Imam/Caliph is not a rukn of our religion- it is not absolutely necessary to have a caliph in order for religion to survive and for believers to practise their deen.

The prophet(sallallahu alayhi wasalam) warned that towards the end of time evil will exist, where people like ourselves will call to the fire.“What should we do in those times?” a companion asked. “Cling to the jamat and the imam” the Prophet(sallallahu alayhi wasalam) replied. “What if there is no jamat or imam?”, “then avoid all groups and cling to your religion even if you have to bite the root of a tree”– advise for us today; every situation was covered in the early times of Islam.

Shaykh Hamza continued to say that we do believe in a state/caliph-we have hukms, how else can you got to war without a government/leader? You can’t. History shows that Muslims can live in secular countries. Andalusia is an example of a Muslim minority living in a non Muslim country. When they asked scholars whether they should remain there or leave, some scholars said that they could remain as long as they were not persecuted and could practise their religion.

People who argue that a caliph is needed for religion are misguided-they have not studied the basics of our religion.

We have every right to participate in the political process; we have a legitimate voice .

We cannot attack an individual for following a different yet valid opinion- different shuyukh will have different opinions and there is nothing wrong with that. Ours is a nuanced religion; not black and white.

How should we interact with out sacred texts? If you want to go to war, you’ll find something in the Quran to support you, likewise, if you want peace, you’ll find something in the Quran to support you- we should not approach our sources with self interest. It’s all about niyyah and ikhlas- we should go to the Quran for guidance; it is a common good for us all.

Shaykh Hamza began to conclude by saying that our societies have broken down, we see political and social crises. Societies are where people work together, working together with non Muslims too.

Islam is a vast religion and calling for a state is much more complex- we don’t need slogans such as “Islam is the solution!”; we need enlightened leadership.

We’ve never had more opportunities than other minority Muslim communities in the West. If we don’t take up these opportunities now our future generations will lament.

Shaykh bin Bayyah was not feeling well and so spoke briefly and I only made a few notes.

The idea of a religion and state is a religious, political and historical problem.

Historically, we find that there had been ruling by some type of Divine authority and people accepted it based on that. It was a sacred type of government-it was not seen as religion and a state. Later, we see that religion was not at the forefront but religious leaders existed behind political leaders until now where we have secularism-seperation from religion altogether.

The basis of a caliphate is justice. Justice is not limited to Muslims.We can unite with others in shared values.

We should engage in religious circles for spiritual salvation and we can engage with the governments we are under (this has rules of its own). The secret for success= there shouldn’t be conflict between these two. This doesn’t mean that we won’t agree with everything and have issues,but this should not be a reason to cause conflict- conflict is opposed to our religion. Shaykh bin Bayyah ended with a most important yet basic piece of advice- teach your children their religion.


I’m likely to have made mistakes in the above notes, so please correct me.

Islam channel will show an exclusive interview with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on June 17th in which he talks about his latest publication “ The Creed of Imam Tahawi”(of which I got a signed copy at the event 😀 )


~ by usma on 15, June, 2007.

3 Responses to “Popes, Pirs and Politics-Notes”

  1. Thanks for the notes. I was there too although I arrived late after being lost for nearly two hours in Central London. I’d nearly given up and decided to turn back when I saw a bus heading in the direction I needed to be and so I followed it! I was destined to be there! I arrived a couple of minutes after Shaykh Hamza started speaking although I was convinced I’d missed the talk by now. Thank God these events never start on time! I also got a signed copy of the book 😀

  2. Salaam Sidi, I was at the talk but, i did not make notes. This is exactly what I needed. mAY Allah reward you. I was wondering if I could copy your notes and pass them on to others.


  3. […] Channel and radio stations during Ramadhan. London has also been so blessed to have Shuyukh such as Shaykh Hamza and Imam Zaid visit from the U.S visit on a number of occasions, and of course we have our very own […]

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