23 January 2011
Kayfa Nahkum bil-Islam fi Dawlatin Asriyya (How to Rule by Islam in a Modern State?); Ahmed Shawqy al-Fangary; General Egyptian Book Organisation; 2010
The General Egyptian Book Organisation (GEBO) is the largest publishing house in the Middle East. Fully funded by Egyptian government, GEBO is expected to publish books stressing the State’s commitment to civil and citizenship rights. It is by no means GEBO’s role to circulate books adopting Islamist trends or the concepts circulated by the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Yet a book entitled Kayfa Nahkum bil-Islam fi Dawlatin Asriyya (How to Rule by Islam in a Modern State?) by Ahmed Shawqy al-Fangary casts doubts over the role GEBO is assigned to play and whether it has the right to spend public funds in spreading ideas contrary to the State’s orientation. The book has already been printed four times.
In his 257-book, Dr Fangary argues that “Utopia” can be reached on earth under the rule of Islam—as applied under Prophet Mohamed and the four “Rightly Guided” caliphs.
Islam is the answer
In the first chapter, the author criticises ruling regimes in both the Arab and Islamic worlds; be they kingdoms, republics, military or civilian regimes, he says that ultimately they end up as dictatorships dominated by opportunists and deviants. He attributes the decay in the economic, political, military, and social conditions of these societies to the absence of authentic Islamic rule. “There are wide gaps separating light and darkness, mercy and injustice, humiliation and pride, oppression and freedom, poverty and prosperity, and chaos and security. ‘Islam is the answer’ is the most credible slogan to be raised,” the author says.
The question that begs an answer is: how can a State print publication support a motto that it banned in the recent legislative elections?
The author goes on to cite the gains made by trule by Islam. “First and foremost, it implies obeying God’s commands .God said in the Qur’an ‘If any do fail to judge by what Allah hath revealed, they are unbelievers.’ Second, it must be noted that Islam contributed greatly to the progress of humanity. Societies can move forwards by two means: either through science and knowledge as in the case of Western democracies—and our peoples need centuries to reach the status these societies now enjoy; or through adhering to religious faith. If we stick to Islamic teachings it can awaken our people and encourage them to be active. The application of hudud [Islamic punishment] is one of the gains achieved by Islamic rule owing to the firmness and justice it provides. Yet the hudud should be applied after social justice and equality are attained; the only way to combat drugs and alcohol is applying the hudud.”
Dr Fangary argues that rule by Islam would provide the means to resolve all our crises, including intractable ones such as sectarian and ethnic cleavages. Yet he does not elaborate on how these problems will disappear. As for the Palestinian cause, he asserts that Islamic rule is the only way to defeat Israel and retrieve Palestine. “Since Israel is a State based on religious faith, nothing can defeat it but a stronger and more righteous religious faith, the writer says. Again, he does not show us how to liberate Palestine.
The second chapter criticises the theory of Divine Governance formulated by Sayed Qutb on the grounds that it does not recognise democracy. When this theory was applied in Iran under the name of velayat-e faqih, he says, it created the class of mullahs and led to the execution of many people. Dr Fangary dismisses contemporary experiences of Islamic rule on the grounds that the visions have not been well-studied, nor is the sense of justice indispensable for guaranteeing shura (consultation) and equality before the law.
According to Dr Fangary, Islamic rule has three pillars: the ijtihad (individual effort and reasoning in interpreting scripture in the light of current contexts) to find solutions to contemporary problems of different kinds; benefiting from Western systems and models that suit Islamic societies; and dismissing non-verified hadith (the Prophet’s sayings) and those that defame Islam.
In the fourth chapter the author poses 14 questions, then paints a rosy picture in answering them. For instance, he indicates that genuine Islamic rule gives much room for opposition and allows the formation of political parties, as well as accepting entertainment and arts such as musical concerts and ballet (although he does not say whether he approves of ballet costumes). He stresses the rights of women and minorities, and dismisses claims that Christians would pay jizya (head tax on non-Muslims under Islamic rule) or be forced to do anything inconsistent with their religious creed.
In the fifth and last chapter, Dr Fangary offers a model of an Islamic constitution that depends on the Qur’an and Sunna (prophetic tradition). According to this constitution, the president of any Islamic nation should not necessarily hold the nationality of the country. Rather, he has just to be a Muslim. This means that Egypt could have a Malaysian or Pakistani president. Indeed Mohamed Mahdy Akef, the former General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), uttered similar notions a few years ago in the context that it was possible for Egypt to have a Muslim Malaysian or Pakistani president but not a Coptic Egyptian one. In the conclusion, the writer reveals his full commitment to the outlooks of the MB when he says “those who raise the slogan of ‘Islam is the answer’ are the good men of our nation”.
In conclusion, we ask: can there be any explicit publicity or official endorsement of Islamist thought than this book? What was the purpose of the publishing committee at GEBO when it approved its publication? Has GEBO transformed itself into a profit-oriented organisation that releases titles guaranteed to sell well since they flirt with religious sentiments, no matter the content or message they convey?