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Bai'yah, The Basis for Organization of a Revivalist Party in Islam

Introduction

The present booklet is a revised and edited version of a lecture on the subject of Baiy‘ah, delivered in English by Dr. Israr Ahmad, Ameer of Tanzeem-e-Islami. The lecture was originally delivered in August 1995, in Elgin, Illinois (USA). It was first published in the October-December 1996 issue of The Qur’anic Horizons, and now it is being presented in the form of a booklet.

Dr. Israr Ahmad (b. 1932) is well-known as a scholar and teacher of the Holy Qur’an. He firmly believes that the pathetic and wretched condition of the Muslim Ummah today is a punishment from Almighty Allah (SWT), the cause being the dereliction of individual and collective duties on the part of the Muslims. The only way to salvation, therefore, is for the Muslims to repent with the true spirit of repentance, and to strive for the fulfillment of all their Divinely ordained obligations. The Muslims not only need to practice Islam in their individual lives, but it is also their duty to spread and propagate the teachings of Islam throughout the world, and to struggle for the establishment of Islam as a socio-political order so that justice and peace can reign supreme.

Today in the Muslim world, we find that most of the Islamic movements have taken either to the bullet or to the ballet. Dr. Israr Ahmad, on the other hand, refers to the following saying of Imam Malik (RA): “The latter part of this community will not be reformed except by following the same process through which its initial part was reformed.” He argues that the lack of success on the part of various Islamic movements is actually due to their deviation, in one way or another, from the way of the Prophet (SAW). Dr. Israr Ahmad has no doubt in his mind that the revival and establishment of Islam will be possible only by adopting the methodology of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). As derived from the study of the Seerah, the methodology of the Prophet (SAW) involved the following stages: Calling people towards the light of Iman, Organizing those who respond into a cohesive force, Training them with respect to spiritual and moral purification and discipline, Passive Resistance in the face of persecution and oppression, Challenge and Active Resistance at the appropriate moment, and finally Armed Conflict. Dr. Israr Ahmad has spelled out the details of these phases and their application in modern times in his numerous lectures and writings. He has emphasized that the revitalization of true faith by means of the Qur’an is an essential prerequisite for Islamic renaissance. Concerning the final step, he believes that the evolution of social thought since the time of the Prophet (SAW) implies that, in our times, a non-violent mass movement can supplant a bilateral armed conflict, the latter not being feasible in the contemporary world. He argues that it is now possible to bring about positive and fundamental changes in Muslim societies by means of popular movements — consisting of peaceful agitation and leading to civil disobedience, if required — while strictly refraining from all sorts of violence. The struggle to revive and re-establish Islam, however, requires a disciplined organization.

According to Dr. Israr Ahmad, the Western constitutional and democratic model works satisfactorily as the basis of organizational structure for community work, institution building, and da‘wah work. However, he argues that this model is not suitable for the purpose of establishing a truly revivalist party. Further, Dr. Israr Ahmad also points out that the organizational model we find in the Seerah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is based on baiy‘ah (pledge of allegiance). The Prophet (SAW) was a Messenger of Almighty Allah (SWT) and every command from him had to be followed; the reason he took baiy‘ah from the Companions (RAA), therefore, was only to leave a model for his Ummah. The Caliphs after him continued the same system, and after them almost all of the revivalist movements have adopted the same system of baiy‘ah for the purpose of organization. In the Western constitutional and democratic model, a number of people who want to achieve the same goals get together and form an organization in which the majority vote is decisive. In the system based on baiy‘ah, on the other hand, one person gives a call that he is going to initiate the struggle for the revival and establishment of the Deen of Allah (SWT); he then invites people to join him in this cause (Cf., Surah Al-Saff 61:14). In such a system, the leader (or ameer) is required to consult with his associates (or rufaqa) but is not bound by the majority decision (Cf., Surah Aal-e-Imran 3:159). The only difference is that while each and every command given by the Prophet (SAW) had to be followed, the leader of a revivalist party can be obeyed not in an absolute sense but only within the bounds of the Shari‘ah (i.e., fil Mar‘uf).

Dr. Israr Ahmad has made it clear elsewhere that no revivalist party can claim for itself the status of Al-Jama‘ah, a term applicable only to the collective organization of the entire Muslim Ummah under a single leader or ameer. Although ideal from the Islamic perspective, this unified state of the Muslim Ummah does not exist in the real world. Dr. Israr Ahmad believes that the internal discipline of a revivalist party that is working to re-establish Islam should be based on the Islamic ideal of “listening and obeying” to the ameer, a discipline that can only be achieved by following the Prophetic model of baiy‘ah. He is firmly of the opinion that an amorphous (and anonymous!) body of Islamic workers, scattered all over the world and without a well-defined leadership, hardly merits the expression “the Islamic movement.” It is at best a hypothetical entity.  Going beyond “creating a New Civilization of Islam,” Dr. Israr Ahmad is aiming at a concentrated, centralized, and concerted effort to establish Islamic socio-politico order in toto, initially in Pakistan and then in other states.  For this he is following the prophetic model of organization in the form of bai’yah and well-disciplined party structure.

Dr. Ahmed Afzaal

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Dr. Israr Ahmad

Dr. Israr Ahmad

Dr. Israr Ahmad was born on April 26, 1932 in Hisar (a district of East Punjab, now a part of Haryana) in India, the second son of a government servant. He graduated from King Edward Medical College (Lahore) in 1954 and later received his Master's degree in Islamic Studies from the University of Karachi in 1965. He has widely traveled abroad and the audio and video tapes of his Qur'anic discourses in Urdu and English languages have circulated in thousands throughout the world.
Dr. Israr Ahmad

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