Report on the MI seminar on the Islamic Revolution in Iran (1984)

Published in Crescent International, September 1-15, 1984. Reprinted in Issues in the Islamic movement, vol. 5, 1984-85 (1404-05), pp. 27-32.

Imam Khomeini is leader of the Ummah, says world seminar

The image of a world engaged in a global conflict between Islam and kufr, in which the Muslims are led by the Islamic Revolution in Iran, was brought into sharp focus at a world seminar held in London from August 8-11, 1984. In this global confrontation the Islamic Revolution itself represents the first victory of Islam over kufr. The power of kufr in the world is represented by the two superpowers, their European allies, Israel, India, South Africa and the multinational corporations.

In his inaugural address on August 8, Dr Kalim Siddiqui, director of the Muslim Institute, went further than he has gone before. He assigned all the Muslim nation-States and their post-colonial regimes to the ‘house of kufr’. He added: ‘The nation States are an insufficient foundation on which to begin to rebuild the house of Islam. They are a creation and an arm of the conspiracy of kufr to ensure that the power of Islam and the Ummah is permanently subdued, broken, and eventually destroyed.’

The tone of the argument set by Dr Siddiqui received powerful endorsement by such eminent ulama as Shaikh As’ad Al-Tamimi, the former imam of the Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, who now lives in exile in Amman. The Muslim Institute had assembled a most impressive body of ulama and scholars, from all over the world and representing all schools of thought in Islam, for its third World Seminar in three years. This year’s seminar had met to consider the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Dr Siddiqui pointed out that this was the first time a world seminar had been called to formulate the response of the Ummah to the Islamic Revolution.

On the central issue the final resolution adopted by the seminar was clear and unambiguous. It said:

‘The revolution in Iran is Islamic because it is rooted in and inspired by the Qur’an and Sunnah. The Muslim people of Iran have engaged in jihad and willingly accepted shahadah in the way of Allah. This has enabled them to emerge victorious for Islam against all forms of kufr. This seminar supports the people of Iran in their continuous struggle to consolidate the Revolution and the Islamic State, and in their jihad against the global power of kufr.’

A theme to which the seminar returned again and again was that of leadership. Speaker after speaker from the platform and from the floor insisted that without centralized leadership under one man there could be no unity. Just as the Muslim Ummah was a single global Ummah, there could only be one global Islamic movement and only one leader of all Muslims. When the question was put directly to Shaikh As’ad Al-Tamimi with reference to the position of Imam Khomeini, his answer was forthright; ‘lmam Khomeini is the only possible leader of the Ummah and the Islamic movement we have today,’ he said. The hall exploded into cries of Allah-u Akbar. The fact, though not as yet universally recognized by all Muslims, that the Ummah now has a single imam is itself a Revolution.

For a major world seminar held outside Iran to recognize this fact is positively lifting the history of Islam to a higher level than it has attained for more than a thousand years. This is how the issue was put in the seminar resolutions:

‘The Islamic Revolution in Iran has once again concentrated the attention of the Ummah on the importance of leadership. Such leadership should be from among the ulama who are courageous, just and prepared to make sacrifices. At the present time this leadership is best represented by Imam Khomeini, who is also most naturally suited to lead the Islamic Revolution of the world.’

The leadership issue dominated discussions in a committee that considered the impact of the Islamic Revolution on the Islamic movement. This committee was headed by Muhammad al-Asi, imam of the Washington Islamic Centre. It included many brothers of lkhwan and Jama’at background from Egypt and Pakistan. The document prepared by the committee and later adopted by the seminar said:

‘The Islamic movement as a matter of necessity must have one leader. Before the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, there were many organizations that claimed in aim and aspiration to be part of the Islamic movement. With the advent of the Revolution in Iran, a leadership and a sense of direction is given to the Islamic movement. The Islamic Revolution has exposed the true nature of these so called Islamic organizations The other organizations and individuals which were hitherto regarded as part of the Islamic movement have either to accept the leadership and the sense of direction given by the Islamic movement in Iran or regard themselves as being outside the Islamic move ment.’

The war that has come to be known as the ‘Iran-Iraq war’ or the ‘Gulf war’ also occupied the attention of the seminar and its committees. But here the perception of the war was different. It was just another theatre of the continuous conflict between Islam and kufr. This conflict will not be resolved quickly, nor is there any need to seek quick ‘peace’ or ‘settlement’. The seminar resolution on the war was forthright:

‘In the opinion of this seminar the war imposed upon the Islamic State of Iran is a war waged by kufr against Islam. In this war Saddam Husain’s Ba’athist regime is supported by both superpowers, their Arab client regimes, and other centres of kufr and nifaq in the world.’

Shaikh As‘ad Al-Tamimi was clear that Saddam was a kafir and that Arab nationalism was an integral part of kufr. ‘This war was started by Michele Aflaq, the founder of the Ba’ath Party,’ said the Shaikh.

Dr Siddiqui pointed out that if we were going to remake the world this would be resisted by the established order. ‘The Ummah will have to fight every inch of the way. In this situation peace does not suit us,’ he said.

Another theme that occupied the attention of the seminar was the place of the Muslim masses in the Islamic movement. Speaker after speaker referred to the power of the Muslim masses as invincible. The seminar resolution put the point thus:

‘The Islamic Revolution in Iran has demonstrated conclusively that the Muslim masses of the world can overthrow the dominance of a superpower without the help of the other superpower and that the idea of ‘Neither East, nor West’ is the greatest liberating force.’

Among the five lrani scholars at the seminar was Maulana lshaq Madani, a Sunni alim who is a member of the Majlis [the Iranian parliament]. He pointed out the hypocrisy of those who sought to speak for Irani Sunnis. These people, said Maulana Madani, say nothing when Sunnis are massacred in Palestine, Afghanistan and other parts of the world. ‘In Iran we live in complete freedom in an Islamic State. Our fiqh is respected, our masajid and madrassahs are respected, and we take part in all matters of State. There is no discrimination. In Sunni areas Sunni imams are appointed to lead juma prayers and the Shi’i brothers pray with us.’ Maulana Madani said that the centuries of prejudice represented a major barrier in the understanding of the Islamic Revolution.

This view was strongly supported by a number of Pakistani ulama who had recently gone to Iran privately to see the conditions for themselves. Their spokesman, Maulana Sulaiman Tahir, told the seminar of their findings. He said that the simplicity, accessibility and modesty of the officials in Iran was in sharp contrast to the arrogance of the officer class in such countries as Pakistan. He said he had also visited the prisons in Iran. In the Islamic prisons the prison officers were more like teachers and the prisoners were like students. The prisoners were given intensive education in Islam before their release. The unity of the Ummah in Iran, Maulana Tahir said, was expressed every Friday with massive congregations. He contrasted the juma prayers in Iran with the fragmentary, small congregations held in even small mosques in other countries. Imams of juma in Iran were the most influential ulama. In Tehran the imam is none other than the President of the Islamic State. In other countries the imams were the least influential people of the area, whose knowledge was even more restricted.

Inevitably the subject of ‘Islamization’ policies of some secular rulers came under discussion. It was raised from the floor by Dr Qamar Wahid, who teaches at Sind University in Pakistan. Dr Kalim Siddiqui said that no part of Islam can be established or implemented by rulers who came to power through secular means and without the support of the Islamic movement and the Muslim masses. He said that rulers whose regimes were in any way subservient to one or more of the superpowers, receiving military or economic aid, could not possibly claim to be ’Islamic leaders’ as well. Their Islam was a kind of ‘American lslam’ which was subservient and submissive. Islam cannot be subservient or submissive and no ‘Islamic State’ could seek protection from a superpower or other kuffar or the allies of kufr.

Dr Siddiqui said that the officially-launched ‘Islamization’ measures of the military regimes in Pakistan and Sudan were in fact attempts to prevent the assertion of the political power of Islam. Some hudood were applied in such a way as to present Islam as basically unjust and an ally of the status quo. In Pakistan the whole concept of zakat was distorted by collecting it from interest-bearing bank accounts. Dr Siddiqui pointed out that Islam was the complete truth and could only be implement ed by an Islamic movement led by an imam and the ulama, and supported by the Muslim masses.

The method of the Islamic Revolution was repeatedly emphasised by many speakers. There was complete unanimity that no ‘democratic’ method will lead to Islam. It was agreed that this western political influence had to be rejected by the Islamic movement. It was generally agreed that most, if not all, regimes in Muslim countries will resist the Islamic movement by force. This will mean that the Muslim masses will also have to use force to remove the present rulers as the people of Iran have had to do so. The seminar resolution said:

‘The Islamic Revolution in Iran has once again demonstrated that jihad and shahadah are the primary methods of Islam for confronting the power or kufr; once the Ummah, or any part of it, engages in jihad and Muslims do not fear shahadah, they can overcome the technological and numerical superiority of kufr.’

The seminar also took the view that the Islamic Revolution in Iran has given new confidence to the oppressed Muslim masses and set a new standard for the Islamic movement everywhere.

The seminar attracted more than 300 participants, 120 of them from outside Britain. They contributed 38 papers in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and English. Together with the seminar on the Islamic Revolution, the Muslim Institute also had an exhibition on the three holy cities of Islam: Makkah, Medina and Jerusalem.

Crescent International, August 16-31, 1984.