The Failure of Sunnite Political Theory and its Recent Welcome About-Turn at Al-Azhar

Empty says, “Abel seems to be saying something like “that’s not how I was ‘brought up’ by the One Who ‘brought me up’”.

amuzesh va parvaresh :: amuzegar va parvardegar:
fitra + (nubuwwa + imama + wilaya / islam + iman + ihsan) = insan

From a Shi’i perspective, the reason is quite simple. Very soon after the passing of the Prophet, with whom be peace, from the material plane, the majority of the Moslem community (ummah) accepted a de facto separation of mosque and state by acquiescing to the rule of the ‘Umayyads. The Shi’a refused to accept this new reality, insisting that as part of God’s Covenant with Man, He was bound to provide for humanity a Divine Guide at all times. Hence, the Shi’a believe that the Imams were meant to rule over the ummah, but that their right was usurped by a community who no longer deserved guidance from above. And as all the Imams were martyred save one, he went into a state of occultation sometime in the middle of the 10th C (946 CE?). That portion of the community who did not have this religious feeling, accepted the trifurcation of the functions of the Imams (who were held to be equivalent to the Prophet himself, save for the Apolstolate function (the bringing of a new Revelation and new Law). And so the trifold functions of Political/ Military Leader, Jurisconsult/ Judge, and Spiritual Guide, which is Shi’a Islam were all the exclusive functions of the Imams (at least until the Occultation), became trifurcated in that part of the community which later came to call itself the Ahl as-Sunna wa’l-Jama’a (or Sunnis for short). This trifurcation of what the Shi’a consider must be the unitary functions of the of the community thus gave rise to the institutions of the Caliphate (Political/ Military rule, and usually secular throughout Sunni history, with its own secular laws and courts, the institution of the fuqaha’ (jurisconsults, as in al-Azhar, and before them, before the Gate of Ijtihad was closed, the founders of the four madhhabs (rites) and their students; and lastly, of course, this trifurcation gave rise to the Sufis, who fulfilled the function of the Spiritual Guide.

OK, having given that brief background, I can now get to your answer. The answer is that because the clerical class in Sunnite Islam accepted (by and large: the exceptions such as Ibn Hanbal and Ibn Taymiyyah underscore the rule, the latter not even being a Sunni, strictus sensus) accepted the secular rule of the caliphs (in a reactionary nod to “might makes right”), and gradually aligned their political views through the centuries with those of the caliph through a system of patronage, the Sunni sect lost, in its religious leadership, the ability independently to form its own political opinions and theories.

This is why, in response to the crisis of modernity and its concomitant cultural imperialism, which threatened and threatens the very heart of Islam, Shi’a Iran was able to produce a Khomeini as the mujadded and muhiyeddin (Renewer and Revivifier of the Religion), whereas al-Azhar and even the Ikhwan (MB) have taken and are taking a back seat to the millions of Egyptians who are daily pouring into the streets in desperation, railing against a system of vassal patronage of a perfidious army, whose head is as numerous and replicating as a hydra.
Imam Khomeini, in one of his defenses of his theory of the Guardianship of the Jurisconsult that stands out in my mind, said that it is quite possible that the Occulted Imam might not reappear on Earth for “another 200,000 years”, by which time, he argued – convincingly, in my view – that Islam would have disappeared entirely from the face of the earth if the Guardians of the Faith, the fuqaha (those with knowledge of the religion) did not act to preserve it.

The Welcome About-Turn

This is very important. It seems our laggard Sunni brethren are finally waking up to their 1400-year old mistake.

زلزله فقهي الازهر درکاخ آل‌سعود
الازهر که پيش تر بر اساس سنت ديرينه فقه اهل سنت و با استناد به روايت مجعول “الحَقُ لِمَن غَلَبَ”، اطاعت از حکام را اعم از عادل و ظالم، اطاعت مشروع و مورد درخواست اسلام معرفي مي کرد در اقدامي بي سابقه، اين بار “مبارزه با حاکمان ظلم و جور” را مبتني بر مباني ديني دانسته و حفظ عقل، دين، اموال و آبروي مسلمين را از طريق فعاليت هاي جهادي مورد توجه قرار داده است.

اثر فتواي الازهر بر قيام مردم عربستان عليه اقليت وهابي
اهميت فتواي الازهر و ميزان تأثيرگذاري احتمالي آن بر فضاي ملتهب کنوني در عربستان را، بايد در ساختار مردم شناختي جامعه اهل تسنن در اين کشور جست وجو کرد. طرفداران فرقه وهابيت به عنوان فرقه غالب و حاکم بر عربستان، تنها بخش کوچکي از مردم اين کشور را تشکيل مي دهند که بر اساس خوش بينانه ترين آمارها مي توان گفت 15 تا 20 درصد از کل مردم اين کشور هستند.

وي فضاي کنوني در عربستان را مملو از خفقان و استبداد مي داند و تأکيد دارد که اوضاع عربستان مانند اوضاع ايران در زمان بعد از سال هاي 1342 هجري شمسي است و وهابيت بشدت سعي مي کند تا قدرت خود را از تلاطم انقلاب هاي مردمي دور نگه دارد.

«با جايگاهي که الازهر در ميان اهل تسنن عربستان سعودي دارد قطعاً با وجود موج بيداري کنوني که در ميان اهل تسنن اين کشور به وجود آمده، اين فتوا مي تواند تأثير زيادي در بيداري مردم عربستان عليه حکومت ديکتاتور آل سعود داشته باشد و بايد روي نص اين فتوا مانور بيشتري داده شود.»

شايد بتوان گفت شفاف ترين موضع گيري ها در زمينه انقلاب قريب الوقوع عربستان سعودي که برگرفته ازواقعيت هاي موجود در اين کشور است، از سوي “راشد الغنوشي” رئيس حزب اکثريت مجلس مؤسسان در تونس و انقلابي مشهور تونسي اتخاذ شده است. وي بتازگي در سخنراني مهمي که در آکادمي سياست هاي خاور نزديک واشنگتن ايراد کرد، گفت که اگر مقامات رياض به مطالبات مردمي در اين کشور تن نداده و قدرت را به مردم واگذار نکنند، بزودي انقلاب در عربستان نيز به وقوع خواهد پيوست بويژه اينکه جوانان سعودي حق ايجاد تغيير در کشور خود را دارند

The gist of the article is that it pointed a new ruling from al-Azhar that basically did a 180 reversal on a matter of central importance in Islamic jurisprudence. Whereas the Shi’a maintained from the start that it was not only allowable but mandatory to resist the rule of unjust tyrants, the Sunnis held, basically, not only that “might is right” (based on the fabricated hadith, “al haqq li man ghalab” = al-Haqq, Truth and Justice, “Right” belongs to (lit. is with) he who dominates, i.e., manages to seize and hold on to the reins of power), but that resistance to “those in power over you” is fitna (seditious rebellion or insurrection), and as such, those who commit this act of fitna MUST be put to death.

(Needless to say, there are many jurisprudential nuances as to the exact circumstances of these positions, both Shi’i and Sunni, so that ‘quietism’ (in the face of obvious tyranny) became the norm within Shi’a jurisprudence, etc. But these are tangents to the main point.)
Upon the death of Imam Hosayn (alayhi salat va salam), there was a small contingent of men who went out to the desert of Karbala on the 7th and 40th days after the massacre and berated themselves in public for not having the spine to be there to support the beloved grandson of the prophet. These were later called the *tawwaabun* or Penitents, from the tri-letteral root ta-wa-ba, to turn (in repentence). I mention this in this context because they were representative of the (proto-Shi’i) minority that underscored the (proto-Sunni) rule. In other words, the majority of the community did not feel this way, preferring instead to just “go with the flow”, even if that flow was Yazidi. Later, as jurisprudence caught up with public sentiment and crystallized, all four Sunni scholars relied on the aforementioned fabricated hadith to justify the populace’s tacit complicity in the face of the Yazidi tyranny and its slaughter of the Prophet’s beloved grandson and his retinue. Incidentally, the azaa-daari (commiseration through mourning) of the Shi’a in the month of Muharram and particularly on Tasuaa and Ashura owes its origins to those Penitents.

Anyway, this disgraceful and cowardly stance taken by the four giant jurisconsults of the Ahl as-Sunna w’al Jama’a (Sunnis) and their respective schools led to a bankruptcy of political theory in Sunnite jurisprudence, which jurisprudential bankruptcy led to an incestuous relationship between the (Sunnite) ‘ulama and the caliphate and the ruling sultans of the day, so much so that in Ottoman times, for example, the sultan or caliph would appoint the mufti, and the mufti would naturally come up with rulings that were in line with the wishes and exigencies of the court (even if they contradicted Koranic and Hadith-derived principles). And if the mufti failed to so rule, he would be replaced with another who did not fail to please. It was a complete shambles, from the very beginning, to the bitter end of neo-colonialism which took the form of rabid Ataturk secularism. It was this difference in Sunnite and Shi’a politico-jurisprudential history that allowed a true giant such as Imam Khomeini (may the peace of God be with him) to rise among the Shi’a and to muster a (relatively) politically independent clerical class so as to rise to confront modernity (and to accept and assimilate it, but on Islam’s *own* terms), and which tragically has doomed our Sunnite brothers to assignation of right to any and all rulers, even if they be the non-Moslem Wahhabi filth and vermin that has poisoned our community (as Irshad has pointed out), or brutish clowns and traitor such as Mubarak and Anwar Sadat before him.

The importance of the article and the fatwa from al- Azhar is that the Sunnite ‘ulama, it seems, have finally woken to the reality so painfully obvious to the rest of us that the question of who rules over our community and the nature of that rule is vital and cannot be left to the wiles of unfettered fate. This, as the headline of the article stated, is a seismic event, and one that I would characterize as off the (Richter) chart. Needless to say, Imam Khomeini and his actualization of the Guardianship of the Jurisconsult has everything to do with this blessed change (as pointed out in Empty’s excellent and informative post).

“Empty”, a US-based commenter on RFI ( had this interesting appendage:

Empty says:
December 15, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Thank you. Did you notice the remarkable parallels between the 6 key points raised by Al-Azhar statement (on Oct. 31, 2011) and what Azghadi highlighted in his speech to the Egyptian delegation in Tehran several months ago? I am translating some excerpts from his (Azghadi’s) speech in Jan/Feb this year (translated/interpreted) that was in the link I had posted for you earlier:

“Question number one: is a revolution without leadership in fact a revolution? Which revolution could overcome obstacles without leadership? In a moment when various sects, because of their differences, might fall into sectarianism and division, who are the decision makers?”
“Question number two: from this point forward, do you think that it would not be possible that each group decides to toot its own horn and say things and divide masses of people into groups that would begin to fight with one another and beat one another up? In any case, who said we planned to create a “Muslim-Christian” in-fighting after the victory? All these are treacheries. They tell you, ‘Palestine is not your concern. You should just think of Egypt.’ If you do not concern yourselves with the matter of Palestine, the Egyptian revolution will collapse. It will deviate from its path very quickly. Egypt’s fate is not separate from Palestine’s fate. Your fate is not separate from those of Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. We are all connected with one another.”
“The next question: the European Union and the US have announced they want to provide a $40-billion ‘help’. To you! Once again, ask yourselves, ask ourselves, who wants to help whom and why? How is it that Obama, England, and EU, which till yesterday were the number one supporters of Mubarak, Bin-Ali, and Yemen rulers, now all of a sudden have develop care and compassion for the revolutions? Are your revolutions for sale? Would you sell your revolution? Would you sell it for $40 billion? What if someone else comes and offers $41 billion? They won’t even give you this $40 billion! They are seducing you to chase after a mirage. They would do things to force the Arab people to regret their revolutions. They would create internal divisions, sectarianism, in-fighting: wars among various Islamic doctrines; wars among various ethnic groups; wars among nations and tribes followed by sanctions to a point that the people of Egypt and Tunisia say: ‘we made a mistake to have had a revolution.’ That is their plan for you!”

“The next question: how are you planning to solve the issue of leadership?”

“The next question: is it possible for a revolution to solve its problems without a responsive [to needs] ideology to [contemporary needs/issues]? A bunch to have extreme nationalistic inclinations; a bunch to be socialists; another bunch to have liberalism tendencies, another group with Islam of Wahhabi kind, the sort of Wahhabi Islam that, yesterday, a lady, with hejab at that, because she got behind the wheels of an automobile to drive, they have called for their followers to run and beat her up. Is it supposed to be Wahhabi Islam, the Al-Saud Islam, to become the rule in the Arab countries? Is there supposed to be the cultural of liberal capitalism in the country? The Western corporations?”

“The next question: has Mubarak collapsed?! I have this question, in your opinion, has the Mubarak regime collapsed? I request that our friends discuss this in their talks. In our opinion, the Mubarak regime has not collapsed yet! Neither has Bin-Ali’s regime! Unless and until a regime has not change, a revolution has not happened! The remove the head of a regime and the entire body is preserved so that they put a new head over that body. They wanted to do this with our revolution, too! America and England announced that Shah could go but someone else should replace him but the regime should remain intact. To change the prime minister! Our people had a slogan, they began to chant: “we say we don’t want the Shah, they change the prime minster. We say we don’t want the donkey, they change the donkey’s attire. Watch out so that in Egypt and Tunisia they are not trying to change the donkey’s attire it and push it back on you.”
So, here is how the story went at the margins of that conference. When in Jan/Feb. the Egyptian and Tunisian delegations came to Iran, they participated in a week-long event. All was going well till Azghadi’s speech (portions are translated/interpreted above). After that speech, a few Egyptians got upset that Azghadi should take the statement about “Mubarak regime still intact” back and officially apologize. Azghadi refused to retract his statement. Some in Iran were not pleased with Azghadi but he said something to the effect that the Egyptians could think and analyze the situation for themselves and if they see the actual evidence rejects what I said, then they could refute it. [Something that I really like about Azghadi is that he doesn’t pull any punches and he does not patronize people just to get them on his side. I think that’s far more respectful of people’s intelligence.] After a few months, a smaller group came back to Iran but this time with a more sober and realistic assessment about the revolution. I am amazed at how the statement from Al-Azhar (nearly 10 months later), discusses item-by-item the points raised by Azghadi:

1. Discusses harmony among various groups, sects, etc.
2. Discusses genuine change/reform as opposed to cursory & superficial changes
3. Forbids sectarian killings
4. Continuation of resistance and elimination of any form of foreign interference
5. Discusses the connection among all Arab and Islamic nations
6. Discusses struggles against moshrek and oppressive rulers


[My rejoinder:] If the points you high-light (of Asghadi’s) are indeed embedded in the al-Azhar fatwa, then the ‘ulama there have come a long way indeed, and there is even more reason for hope and even celebration. An African friend of mine never tires of reminding people of the Shi’a founders of the institution which of course goes back to Fatemid times, and which was named after az-Zahra, the Luminous, may the peace and blessings of God be with her and with her blessed and purified family.
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

(إِنَّا أَعْطَيْنَاكَ الْكَوْثَرَ ﴿١﴾ فَصَلِّ لِرَبِّكَ وَانْحَرْ ﴿٢﴾ إِنَّ شَانِئَكَ هُوَ الْأَبْتَرُ ﴿٣

Posted by Arash Darya-Bandari


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