But al-Sibai’s “Ulama and Politics” is most remarkable — as its title implies — for articulating a triumphal Sunni version of Ayatollah Khomeini’s modern conception (in his Islamic Government, 1970, translated here, pp. 27ff) of a theocratic Shiite Muslim polity, wilayat al-faqih, “the rule of the jurist.” Al-Sibai’s essay concludes with a rhetorical question, followed by his prescriptive admonition:
…[P]eople still ask: “Why are the Muslim unfortunate?” By God’s name, they did not become unfortunate until the day the gap widened between the condition of the ulama then [i.e., during Islam’s 8th-14th centuries, as noted above] and their condition today! I don’t deny that in some Islamic countries there are worthy people among the ulama, who have begum recently to embark on taking their place in the leadership, but they are too few…[S]o long as many leaders lack an absolute devotion to Islam and a great spirit with evidence of leadership attributes; and so long as matters are in this situation, all our ulama are duty bound to sense their great responsibility and move forward with devotion and determination until the hall of parliament is filled with them and the branches of government are in their hands. They must have the same status as that which they conceded formerly, and which was snatched up by those who proved catastrophic to Islam and helpful to its enemies, whether intentionally or through ignorance.
If the ulama of the early generations were lead by those whom we described to you, when Islam was strong, exalted, and flourishing, how much more bound are the ulama of today to follow in their footsteps, when Islam is in a state of disintegration, suffering, and challenge. Indeed this is one of the hopes of youth, and I view it as easy to attain if we seek it when we are true to Allah. Let our ulama appear as did their predecessors of yore…and may they be released from their lusts as were their forbears; then they will find support and reinforcement from Allah and from the Muslim nation who will crown their heads with wreathes of victory.
…submitted to the faculty of Sharia at Azhar University in the year 1949; based on it I achieved my doctorate in Fiqh [Islamic jurisprudence], Usool [the “science” concerned with the comprehensive evidentiary basis for Islamic jurisprudence], and the History of Islamic Legislation.
“The Sunna and Its Role in Islamic Legislation” argued that Islam’s most sacred texts, the Koran and the six canonical hadith collections, as further explicated in the Sharia, Islam’s divine law, formed the legislative basis for the ulama-redolent parliamentary government al-Sibai outlined in “Ulama and Politics”. Re-published with an updated (at least through 1956) Preface, the main thesis of al-Sibai’s most extensive and candid political work, written, as translator Faisal ibn Muhammad Shafeeq observes, for the “truth-seeking Muslim,” is accompanied, organically, by al-Sibai’s repeated excursions into paranoid anti-Western and conspiratorial Islamic Jew-hating diatribes — a concurrent disturbing, if sometimes inadvertently comical narrative.
Al-Sibai’s central argument — rooted in mainstream, classical Islam — is put forth plainly, in general, specific, and operational terms. He reiterates the overarching Muslim belief in Islam as a holistic, or more aptly, given its permanently conjoined political aspects, totalitarian system, derived from the canonical — and infallible — sources, in particular the Brotherhood’s sine qua non [p. 246]“Koran as state constitution”:
As Muslims, we believe that the world has no choice — if happiness and peace are to be achieved — except to return to Allah’s pure and pristine teachings, which are free of distortion and change. The message of Islam is the culmination of those teachings, for it provides a system of laws that are suitable for every epoch and that fulfill the needs of man in all places and times.
The Sharia of Islam — with its primary sources along with derived rulings of its scholars and Imams — is vast in its scope of teachings and laws, supplying a ruling for every occurrence and a solution for every problem.
The sources of Islamic legislation are preserved: they are known and trusted by Muslims. For the most part, the Qur’an — the first source of Islamic legislation — consists of general and universal rulings and legislations. On the other hand, the Sunnah explains those principles, branching off from universal principles into specific issues, a reality that is known to all who have sufficient background in the Sunnah. An inevitable result, then, is that the scholars of Islam must rely — and have relied — on the Sunnah for gaining knowledge.
Allah revealed the Qur’an to His Messenger as guidance for righteous people, as a constitution for Muslims, and as a remedy for the hearts of those whom Allah wills to cure. It comprises many of the aims for which Allah sent His Messenger — in it are legislations, manners, exhortations, stories, (declarations of tawheed (Islamic Monotheism), promises of reward, and warnings of punishment. It is positively authentic as a whole as well as in its detailed verses. So whoever doubts in a verse or a word or in a letter of the Qur’an, is not a Muslim. The most important duty of the Islamic scholar is to acquaint himself with Allah’s laws and rulings that are found in His Book.
Just as Muslims need to know Allah’s Book, they need to know what the Prophet clarified regarding it. One cannot correctly understand the Qur’an or know what Allah means in many verses except by referring to the Messenger of Allah, to whom Allah revealed His Book, so that he could explain to people that which was revealed to them from their Lord. With the exception of deviant groups, Muslims from the past and present agree that the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah — comprising of his sayings, deeds and approvals — is one of the binding sources of legislation in Islam, which every Muslim needs in order to know what is lawful and what is prohibited.
Al-Sibai’s illustration of how this canonical text-based governing system is integrated fits Palgrave’s timeless, evocative late 19th century description of the “Pantheism of Force” engendered by Allah, “this tremendous Autocrat,” confirmed “word for word” by the “witness tongue” of the Koran and the hadith. The obligate result begets “slaves” — al-Sibai’s own term — trapped in a liberty-crushing, totalitarian Islamic theocracy, where hurriyya, Arabic for “freedom,” but meaning “perfect slavery to Allah,” represents the transmogrified antithesis of the Western conception of freedom:
The Noble Qur’an encompasses the fundamentals of Islam and the general principles of Islamic legislations, some of which are clearly spelled out and others that are left for the Messenger of Allah to clarify. As long as Allah sent his Messenger to clarify the rulings of Islam to Muslims and made it compulsory for them to follow him, his clarification on those rulings is a clarification on the Qur’an. And as such, the rulings of the Sharia — from the Qur’an and the Sunnah and from the subsidiary to them, ijma (consensus) and qiyas (analogy) — are in reality rulings from Allah’s Book, either directly or in derivation. Therefore these is no contradiction between the validity of the Sunnah as an Islamic proof and the Qur’an being an exposition of all matters. Imam Shafii (d. 820; founder of the Shafiite school of Islamic jurisprudence) said, “No new matter befalls one in Allah’s Religion except that Allah’s Book contains a guideline, showing the way to guidance in it.”
[Quoting Koran 16:44] “And We have also sent down unto you (O Muhammad) the reminder and the advice (the Qur’an), that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought.” [Quoting Koran 16:89] “And We have sent down to you the Book (the Qur’an) as an exposition of everything…” In different ways Allah clarified to His slaves matters through which they worship him:
1. There are matters that vAllah directly mentioned in the Qur’an—for instance compulsory deeds, such as the Prayer, zakat [alms giving], Fasting, and Hajj; or for example, Allah forbade wicked deeds, those that are evident and those that are hidden. He clearly mentioned in the Qur’an that fornication and alcohol are forbidden as well as eating the meat of an animal that died naturally (i.e., that was not slaughtered), or eating blood, or pork. He outlined the obligatory elements of the ablution, as well as many other matters that He clarified directly.
2. Then there are deeds that Allah mentio0ned to be compulsory in the Qur’an but explained how they performed through the speech of the Prophet—for example, the number of units in the different prayers, the details of zakat, and other obligatory deeds that are revealed in the Qur’an.
3. In some matters, the Prophet initiated legislation that Allah did not directly mention in the Qur’an. Yet Allah did make obedience of His Messenger compulsory in His Book. Whoever then takes from the Messenger of Allah has accepted Allah’s command.
4. In yet other matters, Allah made His slaves strive to seek out a ruling, and He tests their obedience in those matters just as He tests their obedience in other matters that He made compulsory upon them.
Al-Sibai’s defense of this traditional Islamic totalitarian system is peppered with vituperative, paranoid attacks on “Western Orientalists,” particularly “Jewish Orientalists,” and Jews in general. The author’s introduction states, for example:
…Islam today…faces attacks from Orientalists, missionaries (of other faiths), and others whose sole purpose is to destroy the solid foundation of Islamic legislation.
He elaborates on this paranoid theme with Jew-hating invective, “validated” by alleged face to face rhetorical victories over “Jewish Orientalists” (although al-Sibai curiously omits any specific details of the substance of these debates or how they were resolved in his favor), and a conspiratorial antisemitic motif from Sunni Islam’s early historiography:
A prime example of how the enemy attempts to destroy Islam is to raise doubts about the authentic Prophetic Sunnah, which the vast majority of Muslims accept and follow, and which is the foundation of Islamic law, a law that is unparalleled among the nations for its vastness and comprehensiveness, but also for its permanence as an applicable set of laws…[That] the overall plot against Islam…existed and still exists is not conjured up by the imagination; it is, on the contrary, an established fact. Jewish Orientalists and others of their ilk evince many salient aspects of that plot in their writings…
A few years ago, a conference took place in Lahore, Pakistan, the purpose of which was to study issues pertaining to Islam. Muslim scholars from different countries attended the conference, and a number of Orientalists attended it as well…The most fanatical and ignorant of those who attended was the Canadian Orientalist, [William Cantwell] Smith — who perhaps is a Jew.
I visited many European universities in 1956, when I had a chance to meet with them [i.e., Orientalists] in person and to discuss with them their views…In the University of Leyden [Leiden], in Holland, I met the Jewish Orientalist, Josef [Joseph] Schacht, who in those days, was the flag-bearer of [Ignaz] Goldziher’s message, a message that is wrought with distortions, misrepresentations, and twisting of facts, behind which he aimed at bringing down the foundation of Islamic legislation.
In the first century of Islam it was the cunning Jew, Abdullah ibn Saba, who plotted against Islam…
Al-Sibai’s conspiratorial antisemitic zeal made him oblivious to the basic facts that William Cantwell Smith was an ordained Presbyterian minister, and Joseph Schacht was a non-Jew, raised in a German Catholic household. While Ignaz Goldziher (d. 1921) was Jewish, he was also a consummate, meticulous, and objective scholar—attributes shared by Schacht. Moreover, Goldziher and Schacht sought to characterize, dispassionately, the factual basis of the foundations and evolution of Islamic legislation. Seeking only to understand, not “bring down” those foundations, and trained as rational Western scholars — linguists and historians — Goldziher and Schacht merely refused to be forced to accept the pious Muslim narrative which imbued the individual building blocks. Goldziher, Schacht, and Smith each approached their scholarly analyses of Islam with respectful deference, al-Sibai’s mischaracterization being nothing more than an angry simulacram of that demonstrable reality.
The reference by al-Sibai to Abdullah ibn Saba frames his modern, conspiratorial Jew-hatred within a traditional Sunni Islamic context, invoking a profoundly anti-Jewish motif described in early Muslim historiography (for example, by al-Tabari, d. 923). Abdullah ibn Saba was an alleged renegade Yemenite Jew, and founder of the heterodox Shi’ite sect. He is held responsible — identified as a Jew — for promoting the Shi’ite “heresy” and fomenting the rebellion and internal strife associated with this primary breach in Islam’s “political innocence”, culminating in the assassination of the third Rightly Guided Caliph Uthman, and the bitter, lasting legacy of Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian strife.
Finally, al-Sibai makes two additional comments in these “anti-Orientalist” diatribes which corroborate his totalitarian, hegemonic aspirations:
Today every Muslim country has agencies to detect and then foil any attempt of political or military uprising from its citizens. Why cannot similar agencies be used to detect and then foil attempts against Islam, both from without and from within?
The day will come, inshallah [Allah wiling], when the tables will be turned and we will study Western heritage, producing criticism of their religion, their sciences, and their civilization. At that time, our children and grandchildren will use the same principles of criticism that Western scholars themselves in vented, in order to study Western civilization, and in order to show the decadence and disintegration of Western society.
Quo Vadis Syrian Muslim Brotherhood? Listen in Arabic (and Ask Wafa Sultan)
Six decades later, on June 11, 2012, expressing sentiments entirely consistent with al-Sibai’s Weltanschaaung, Muhammad Riyadh Al-Shaqfa, current general guide of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, opined that “liberation” of the Golan Heights was a “right,” while precluding any Brotherhood recognition of Israel’s existence as a sovereign state.
Al-Shaqfa’s candid remarks pierced the façade of the Syrian Brotherhood’s March 25, 2012 “Pledge and Charter,” which claimed the movement would foster a “democratic, pluralistic” post-Assad Syrian state, “committed to human rights” for “all citizens regardless of their ethnicity, faith, school of thought, or [political] orientation.” Even Bassam Ishaq, identified as a Christian opposed to the Assad regime who had worked with the Brotherhood within the SNC acknowledged (in a Reuters report published May 6, 2012, less than two months after the Charter was issued), that despite obstacles:
If they [the Syrian Brotherhood] get a chance to seize power by themselves they will do it, but they realize that it will be difficult in country where 30 percent of the population are ethnic or religious minorities.
Seven years ago, the perspicacious and remarkably bold Syrian expatriate psychiatrist Wafa Sultan, in a June 5, 2005 essay published at the reformist website www.annaqed.com (with the self-explanatory title, “The Muslim Brotherhood: Who Are They Trying to Fool?”, translated here), pondered:
I look at the expression used by the Muslim Brotherhood…“to establish a pluralistic, democratic society that honors all people regardless of religion or sect.” I stop at this sentence and ask myself: Has something changed in the basic principles of the [Muslim] Brotherhood to make us believe that they have changed their attitude? Or is what they are adopting now nothing but a big lie required by current political exigencies, both international and domestic—as the folk saying goes “act like a weakling until you are strong.”?
Sultan demanded a mea culpa (still not forthcoming) for the Brotherhood’s bloody rampages in Syria, which were not at all confined to Assad regime targets:
The crimes which they committed on the basis of their principles are still fresh in our memory, and the innocent blood which they spilled is still in our hearts. In the most recent statement which they issued following their conference, they attempted to wash their hands clean of the terrorist acts in Syria at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s and to pin it on a splinter group which, as they claim, adopted violence as a means to achieve its goals. However, slips of the tongue – if theirs was really a slip of the tongue – always reveal what is in the heart, and especially the heart of a hypocrite. In that statement, they said: “The Muslim Brotherhood organization has nothing to do with this splinter-group that used violence against the pillars of the regime.” Against the pillars of the regime?! Was Muhammad Al-Fadil, who was assassinated by these criminals, one of the pillars of the regime, or was he one of the pillars of the Faculty of Law at Damascus University?! Was Dr. Yusef Al-Yusef, whose body they riddled with bullet in front of the medical school at the University of Aleppo while shouting “Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar” – was he one of the pillars of the regime, or an ophthalmologist who didn’t have anything whatsoever to do with the regime?…Were the students in the artillery school, who were attacked by their commander, First Lt. Ibrahim Al-Yusef, and within seconds turned 200 of them into [a collection] of scattered limbs…were all these pillars of the regime? And if they were, as the Muslim Brotherhood claimed in their statement, then why do they disown that “splinter group,” rather than taking it in? Aren’t they themselves against the regime?
Wafa Sultan — as is her unique wont — further questioned the Brotherhood’s willingness to renounce its own totalitarian Islamic supremacism, just as she denounced the brutal secular despotism of the Baathist Assad dynasty. She concluded by warning what the Brotherhood’s unreformed Sharia supremacist vision augured for Syrian society — an even more oppressive society:
What has changed in the Brotherhood’s basic principles to make us believe that they have changed their positions? Have they adopted a new book other than their old books, in which they found justifications for their acts? Are they now praying to a deity other than the one whose name they called when shouting “Allahu Akbar” while shooting down the country’s best and brightest from among the scholars of science and law, for the sole reason that they belonged to groups that did not embrace their basic beliefs and principles?
Do they now believe in verses other than those that incite them to fight those who do not believe in their book and their Prophet, so that they [now] demand to respect the beliefs and freedoms of the other? Have they changed their view about “those who have incurred Allah’s wrath” [i.e., the Jews from Koran 1:7, and its exegesis] and “those who have gone astray,” [i.e., the Christians, also from Koran 1:7, and its exegesis] such that they are capable of building a pluralistic democratic society with respect for everyone?… Are they going to desist from accusing others of being apostates, while threatening to kill them, making them divorce their wives,  or deporting them? Has the woman become, in their understanding, a human being deserving of having her rights and wishes respected, and one that cannot be beaten up merely because a deranged, crazy husband suspects that she is not performing her conjugal duties according to his taste?
We cannot deny the Muslim Brothers their Syrian nationality, nor do we want to, just as they cannot deny other Syrians their nationality, even though they want to. However, the coming stage requires of them, just as it requires of us, that they should enter the new Syria on the basis of sincere belief in this nationality, and not on the basis of beliefs and ideas which are morally illegitimate and which have long [been discredited]. Our religious or sectarian affiliation is no criterion for good citizenship. Love of Syria and respect for all Syrians, regardless of religious affiliation, is the only criterion. Can the Muslim Brotherhood and others who have been sullied by their shameful terrorist past – are they willing to abide by this criterion?… Do they have the courage to openly declare their new beliefs and apologize for their past so that we won’t need to dig up their past? They are calling [now] for a pluralistic, democratic society ruled by the principles of justice and equality. On what basis are they going to build this society?…Have they changed their fundamental beliefs? Why don’t they give an answer to this question?…They used to commit crimes [and then] escape to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, or Jordan [in order to find] a safe haven, and now they are planning to return from these safe havens to the scene of their crimes to participate in building a democratic pluralistic society based on justice and equality?!…
The Syrian people are exhausted from the oppression and despotism of the [Baath] regime which has borne down on them for more than 40 years. We suffered a great calamity when the Assad family and their band seized power in Syria, but we will suffer an even greater calamity if, when we get rid of this band, we find ourselves face to face with the Muslim Brotherhood – “God forbid.” Are the [Syrian] opposition and secular and democratic parties, both in Syria and overseas—are they aware of this truth? Will they be able to thwart the Muslim Brotherhood’s plan to corrupt the new Syria? Assad’s monopoly on power was a violation of the rights of the people and has led us to a miserable life; however, we do not want to replace it with something even worse.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her subordinate State Department advisers and minions have recklessly eschewed Wafa Sultan’s June 2005 wise, experience-based tocsin of looming calamity. The Clinton State Department also apparently never learned, or chose to ignore, the frank, unchanged truths conveyed in the State Department’s own December, 1947 assessment of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Ms. Clinton’s likely replacement as Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry, judging from his own uninformed statements about the parent Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, will not change America’s delusive and dangerous empowerment of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood as “policy.” Tragically, America seems hell bent on midwiving a post-Assad Muslim Botherhood-ruled Syria.