Politics by definition are ‘activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power’. The term is subject to interpretation and could also be defined as ‘activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organization.’ Politics essentially gives people a platform to display their beliefs, whatever it may be.
As Muslims, politics should not be taboo. In fact, we should be trying to be political and standing up for the many injustices occurring in the Ummah. Politics may be viewed as something negative because we may disagree with political parties or those in power, and this could be what puts us off from being ‘political’. However, we should not let this shape the discourse of how we view politics. If we dislike the way things are run, surely, we should be trying our hand at helping change the status quo. Islam applies to all aspects of our life – politics, science, theology, human rights – you name it. We are called upon to stand up for justice and to do what is morally right within the boundaries of Islam.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا كُونُوا قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاءَ لِلَّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالْأَقْرَبِينَ ۚ إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقِيرًا فَاللَّهُ أَوْلَىٰ بِهِمَا ۖ فَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا الْهَوَىٰ أَن تَعْدِلُوا ۚ وَإِن تَلْوُوا أَوْ تُعْرِضُوا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا
O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted. (Sahih International)
Our religion is dynamic in all aspects and it’s time we acknowledge that Islam calls us to do so much more than ritual worship. It’s time we stop being passive individuals in society. We should acknowledge that the situations we come across in our day-to-day lives can be political – the crisis in Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma and many other countries where Muslims face oppression, the value of some lives over others, people being stared at on the street for wearing a hijab or having a long beard, are all very real political issues.
Our relationship with power and thus politics begins from a very young age. As we grow up we become well acquainted with the concepts and its use in practice. Power can change people for the worse, but it can also change people for the better, we need to stop allowing ourselves from intrinsically assuming all those ‘in power’ are corrupt. Power is necessary to affect change at the end of the day, and given that Muslims are called upon to affect positive change we should not shy away from doing exactly that. A part of the reason why some Muslims shy away from both power and politics could be because we become so afraid of our nafs becoming a bad force within us, and our intentions not being sincere that we don’t allow ourselves to become a force for good that we can be, so we suffer and the world suffers.
We don’t have to become politicians to promote positive change. We can carry on with our day-to-day lives whilst also actively promoting good. For example, we can lobby governments, organise events to inform people, and a lot more. What is important is that we don’t become complacent about what is happening around us. As Muslims, we believe in the day of judgement, and on that day, we will be standing on our own and held accountable on all that we did and did not do.
We can learn from the aforementioned ayah in the Quran that justice should be firmly instilled within us, it is not only the responsibility of governments and courts. It is as if we are all waiting for someone to come fix all the wrongs of this world – this is not only a complacent approach but this is not how we are taught to view the world around us. Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W), the Messenger of Allah, our role model, was the epitome of justice. The teachings of the Quran and Prophet Muhammad (SAW) should encourage us to become informed, proactive and concerned about the world around us. We need to take small but consistent steps in doing this, here are a few things you could possibly consider taking on board:
Just like how charity begins at home so does justice. Do we favour those close to us? Do we wrongfully accuse other people? Do we unjustly defend those who have wronged? These are questions we need to address. We can only change the condition around us once we change the condition within ourselves.
Follow trusted news sources, activists, bloggers and other influencers. If not daily, then try and keep up with what’s happening around the world once or twice every week. The next time your friends or colleagues at work discuss ‘political’ issues you no longer have to shy away from it, you can inform them about your outlook and what you think of the situation.
It has become common practice to shun the work of activists and other legitimate organisations on social media. I’m sure these social media influencers are doing so much more than we could to educate those around them, so it’s not our place to discourage or discredit the work of others.
If you’re an influential person it is highly likely that you have a significant following, so why not take the opportunity to bring light to pressing issues? This does not necessarily have to be on social media, it could also be done through regular conversations with people. If you’re influential it is highly likely that they will be taking you seriously.
No, it’s not ‘uncool’ to be ‘political’. Being political does not mean that one’s always altruistic, in fact, one can be the absolute opposite and only care about their personal gains in politics (which is what we commonly associate politics with). However, Islam teaches us that we must always be kind and just to those around us, even if our personal inclinations may be against it. So yes, start caring about the world around you and see how much of a difference it can make.
Too many children, women and men of the Ummah bear the brunt of devastating conflicts happening around the world and they still remain resilient, wilful and faithful through it all. The very least we could do is educate ourselves. Our obligation to justice applies to all aspects of our lives and it’s time we act upon it.
Ashfath Ifham is a Sri Lankan undergraduate student at Cardiff University studying Economics and Politics and regularly participates in grassroots charity work and fundraising.