Malaysians love teh-tarik sessions. I had one earlier and what a teh-tarik session it was. As usual, a Malaysian teh-tarik sessions will always meander into exchanging notes about what is happening in the country or into some thoughtful discussion. This one meandered into discussing whether our system allows for real reforms and the birth of true leaders who can bring the people to true peace and happiness. Hmm….
I began to wonder too. Being a Muslim, I hold the Prophets as role models. Reading the Quran, one finds that each of the prophets mentioned therein had to deal with several issues confronting their society – idolatry of sorts, oppression, profiteering, injustice, ignorance, propaganda of lies, destruction of mother earth, etc. In all their endeavours, the Prophets had one thing in mind – serve ONLY God and associate not anyone or anything with God. That was their platform, their manifesto and their guide.
Take Prophet Moses, for example. He was raised in the palace. The Pharoah was his adopted brother. But he saw that his own people were being oppressed by the Pharoah. Did he stay on and hope to change the fate of his people from within the palace? He didn’t. He did not work within the system to change the system. He had to leave the palace and come back with the message to Pharoah – serve only God. Had Pharoah understood this, he would have stopped oppressing the people. It is important to note that Moses did not raise up a rebellious group of people like robin hood to violently fight Pharoah. No. He went to Pharoah’s palace with Aaron for a debate which Phaoaroh and his VIPs lost. Pharoah became a sore loser and decided to hound Moses and his people. Pharoah was the government of the day, He had might. He had the system behind him. It was God’s guidance, Moses’s steadfast faith in God and the persistence of the people that saved them. What would have happened if Moses had been pragmatic and “tried to change within the palace? But this "pragmatism" was not allowed by God for change to occur.
Prophet Shuaib was considered mad by his own people when he spoke up against profiteering in business and cheating.
To the Madyan people We sent Shu'aib, one of their own brethren: he said:
"O my people! worship God; Ye have no other god but Him. Now hath come unto
you a clear (Sign) from your Lord! Give just measure and weight, nor withhold from
the people the things that are their due; and do no mischief on the earth after it has been set in order: that will be best for you, if ye have Faith. (007.085)
It appears that Shuaib was against threats against people’s choice of faith. Obviously, the majority then appears to believe differently then him and some others.
"And squat not on every road, breathing threats, hindering from the path of
God those who believe in Him, and seeking in it something crooked; But remember
how ye were little, and He gave you increase. And hold in your mind's eye what was
the end of those who did mischief. 007.086
Shuaib was risking being driven out of his city for trying to reform the business malpractices of his day. What were the leaders, the economists and businessmen of his day doing? They gave him an ultimatum which he could not accept.
The leaders, the arrogant party among his people, said: "O Shu'aib! we shall
certainly drive thee out of our city - (thee) and those who believe with thee; or else ye (thou and they) shall have to return to our ways and religion." He said: "What! even though we do detest (them)? 007.088
Again, the question pops in my mind – Shuaib obviously didn’t do the pragmatic thing did he? He did not say :” never mind, this is the world. We have to cari makan. Religion is religion and world is world”. Neither did he join the leaders of the day.
Prophet Abraham was no different. He was a compassionate man (see 11:75) and non-violent. He had foresight and enlightenment which his own father never had. He pleaded with his father to serve only ONE God. And his father threatened to stone him if Abraham does not go away. The Quran says that Abraham is a good model for Muslims to follow. Once again, Abraham did not follow the belief of his father, which appeared to be mainstream. He was not pragmatic and stay put where he was compromising his beliefs. Again, even this Prophet never resorted to aggression.
There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with
him, when they said to their people: "We are clear of you and of whatever ye worship
besides God: we have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity
and hatred for ever,- unless ye believe in God and Him alone": But not when
Abraham said to his father: "I will pray for forgiveness for thee, though I have no
power (to get) aught on thy behalf from God." (They prayed): "Our Lord! in Thee do
we trust, and to Thee do we turn in repentance: to Thee is (our) Final Goal. 060.004
Abraham was indeed a model, devoutly obedient to God, (and) true in Faith,
and he joined not gods with God: 016.120
I can go on giving examples after examples of Prophets from the Quran and hope they reacted in their society. The prophet Lut was saddened and disliked the sexual practices of his hedonistic society then. He even offered his daughters to correct the anomaly. He did not resort to aggression and he never compromised his belief in ONE God.
The prophet Muhammad too had to pay a heavy price in terms of worldly struggle simply because of his one message of believing in ONE God. History tells us that he was offered positions and wealth to forsake his belief. But he refused to be pragmatic until he was compelled to leave the town of his birth. He too did not stay back to join any organization or political party in Mecca to change their ways.
What has prophets got to do with leadership, you may ask. Well, aren’t they models? Are we just supposed to relegate them to “religious figures” only?
And We made them leaders, guiding (men) by Our Command, and We sent
them inspiration to do good deeds, to establish solaa’, and to practice zaka; and they constantly served Us (and Us only). 021.073
It seems to me, none of the prophets joined any political party to affect change. In fact, it seems to me they never forced anyone to accept what they were conveying. They were merely conveying and had complete trust in God that when the truth prevails, falsehood will perish. Those who followed, followed. Those who did not, did not. They had only one master – God.
In the light of the above, maybe I can now answer what my friends have been asking me for so long – why haven’t I aspired to affect change through politics? Why haven’t I aspired to rise up the political ladder? Right or wrong, I am not convinced that true change can ever be affected through politics under the current system prevailing. There is simply too much vested interest, too much arrogance, too much compromising, too much god-like attempts in vain. Sure, everyone will swarm around you like flies when you are in power and sing songs of glory, but when you are out, you will drown like Pharoah. I am only talking of myself and my concerns. My view may be wrong. Of course others may have their vision of the noble contributions they can make through politics or through current organizations.
And the following verses worry me too:
And we made them (but) leaders inviting to the Fire; and on the Day of
Judgment no help shall they find. 028.041
(The followers shall cry to the misleaders:) "Nay, ye (too)! No welcome for
you! It is ye who have brought this upon us! Now evil is (this) place to stay in!" 038.060
They will say: "Our Lord! whoever brought this upon us,- Add to him a
double Penalty in the Fire!" 038.061
And they will say: "What has happened to us that we see not men whom we
used to number among the bad ones? 038.062
"Did we treat them (as such) in ridicule, or have (our) eyes failed to perceive
And it seems the people get the leaders they deserve:
Truly that is just and fitting,- the mutual recriminations of the People of the
Thus have We placed leaders in every town, its wicked men, to plot (and
burrow) therein: but they only plot against their own souls, and they perceive it not 006.123
For now, I think I shall, God willing, focus on being a Rapera, if God gives me the strength. Salam.