Article by Ahmad Mohammad Kani, a Sudanese academic at Ahmedu Bello University, Nigeria, responding to the suspension of the Muslim Institute World Seminars in 1987. Published in Crescent International, March 16-31, 1987. Reprinted in Issues in the Islamic movement, vol. 7, 1987 (1405-06), pp. 174-175.
It is significant that although Dr Kalim Siddiqui seems to be patient regarding the evolution of a global Islamic movement to respond to the challenges of our time at social, political and economic levels, he seems to be in a hurry with respect to producing an Islamic alternative in terms of seminars, symposia and publications. A cursory look at the world seminars held by the Muslim Institute in London from 1982 shows clearly that there is a well-articulated philosophy behind them. The seminars were directed at the most sensitive areas to have agitated the Muslim intellectuals for a long time. There was serious discussion in terms of papers and contributions from the floor from different Islamic schools of thought, which made these seminars unique and rich in terms of their overall contribution.
The recent seminars have attempted to answer serious questions that have concerned the Ummah since the colonial days. The concept and nature of the Islamic State and the politics associated with it were seriously debated in these seminars, as was the Islamic Revolution in Iran, which is considered by many people as an embodiment of the hopes and aspirations of the Ummah. Nationalism, which blurred the vision of many Muslim thinkers, especially in the Arab world, and its impact on the Muslim world, was among the serious topics examined by the participants in the seminars.
In organizing such seminars, Dr Kalim Siddiqui might have been influenced by certain factors, chief among which is the fact that until now no serious and systematic research had been carried out either collectively or individually throughout the Muslim world to uncover the socio-political ailments of the Muslim Ummah, especially during and after the colonial epochs. He might have also realized that, with few exceptions, the response of our intellectuals to the colonial domination was either reformist, conformist or at best apologetic. To him the Muslim political thought during the colonial days was conditioned and moulded by the western political perception of ‘democracy,’ liberalism, constitutionalism, and more recently ‘socialism.’ He might have concluded that one of the major impediments to the achievement of positive results against the colonial and neo-colonial political onslaught is the general belief among many Muslim leaders and intellectuals that the ideals of the Ummah could he achieved within the context of western political thought.
Dr Kalim did not hide his disenchantment with the ‘achievements’ of the two most important Islamic movements in our contemporary history, that is the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen movement in Egypt, Jordan and the Sudan, and the Jama’at e lslami in Pakistan. His ‘harsh’ but sincere criticism of the two movements earned him many enemies among the leadership and the ‘rank and file’ of the two movements. His critics have forgotten one basic fact, that his ‘detached’ assessment of the two movements, far from being destructive, emanates from his conviction that unless the truth is sifted from the heaps of sentiment and emotion which characterize the thinking of the leadership of the movements, the Muslim Ummah will continue to drift in the wilderness of subservience and subordination and its identity will be lost in the dominant materialist perspectives of western imperialism.
The prevailing ‘no victor, no vanquished’ situation in Egypt and Pakistan has proved Dr Kalim Siddiqui’s position to be right. The hopes of the Muslim masses in these two and other countries to live an Islamic life were frustrated by the imperialist design to accommodate the leadership of these movements within the subservient mode of political behaviour which serves first and foremost the interests of western imperialism.
The Islamic Revolution in Iran, with its committed leadership of the ulama, has gone a long way to fulfil one of the political dreams of Dr Siddiqui. In this case, it is the ulama, generally considered by the westernized elite as reactionary and out of touch with reality, who came forward to lead the Ummah. Their efficient handling of the political and diplomatic manoeuvres and their ability to outwit the intrigues of the west have surprised both their followers and their foes. Dr Kalim Siddiqui’s unshakable faith in the leading role of the ulama to the exclusion of the westernized and secularized Muslim intellectuals has been ‘nostalgically’ repeated by him in almost all the seminars organized by the Muslim Institute and in many of his ideological tracts. Recent developments in Iran and the spectacular victory of the forces of Islam against those of kufr could not be attributed to any human factor but to the muttuqi leadership of the ulama.
Perhaps the single most important achievement of the Muslim Institute in London has been to bring together ulama, intellectuals, mujahideen, journalists and Islamic workers from both Sunni and Shi’i background to discuss specific issues which engage the thinking of the Muslim Ummah. The publications of the proceedings of these seminars will go a long way to fill the vacuum as far as ‘rational’ Islamic political thought is concerned. We are looking forward to attending more seminars, workshops and symposia organized by the dedicated team of this small but formidable Muslim institute in London. Dr Siddiqui, I am sure, is not exhausted. The loss of these seminars will be felt in all parts of the world. Let us hope that the Muslim Institute will find new resources to resume the seminar programme.
Crescent International, March 16-31, 1987.