DR. ZAFARUL ISLAM KHAN, editor of the English-language fortnightly, The Milli Gazette, is a former president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat. He is an Islamic scholar who studied at Al-Azhar and holds a doctorate in Islamic Studies from the University of Manchester. Besides authoring and translating over 40 books in Arabic and English, he has contributed eight articles to the Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden). For decades he has been actively involved in projecting the causes of the Muslim Ummah. In an interview with SHAFAQUE ALAM he asserts that though Islam has the potentiality to become the next alternative system, Muslims have failed to offer viable models of social, political and economic alternatives based on Islamic teachings. Excerpts:
Does Islam enjoy the potentiality to become the next alternative system of the world?
Islam has all the potentiality to become the alternative system; if not for the rest of the world then at least for the Muslim World which is represented by the OIC – an organisation of 58 countries. But it is sad that Muslims have failed to offer viable models of social, political and economic alternatives that Islam offers to solve world’s practical problems.
Can Islamic banking be an alternative?
In the economic sphere, despite all the talk, Muslims have failed to offer a workable economic model. Islamic banking is nothing but a kind of big fraud played on innocent Muslims, at a time when ordinary banks are offering same services in more comprehensive ways. New Islamic-looking terminologies are used by the so-called “Islamic banks” while beneficiaries of the Islamic banks are the rich people who get a new window to invest their accumulated wealth while ordinary Muslims are in no way benefited by this so-called Islamic Banking.
Where do we stand in the political sphere?
In the political sphere, apart from Iran’s constrained and limited Islamic democracy, there is no Islamic political system apart from the mediaeval dictatorships which masqueradeas democracy while the actual rulers are individuals, families and elites which in order to survive become subservient to foreign powers and resort to maximum repression against their own people.
Does the rot lie in our social system?
In the realm of social system, Muslim societies are yet to evolve into classless egalitarian polities and what we have today is a very class-based economic structure in which the political and economic power is usurped by a few. Then there are others masquerading as “Muslims” in Islamic countries who think that chopping of hands and necks is Islam.
Do you agree with the justice delivery system of Muslim countries?
The countries should make sincere efforts to evolve egalitarian and justice-based societies where needs of all will be met and only then the stage of implementing Islamic hudood will come. Chopping of hands and necks before establishing a just society where needs of ordinary citizens are met is not Islam. Ideals of Islamic principles must be applied first in order to eradicate the ills faced by a human society. Social justice, job guarantee, facilitation of marriage, etc. should be ensured. After taking care of such basic needs, if someone is still guilty of violating the laws, he should definitely be given severe punishment.
What are the weaknesses of Muslims?
Islam’s worldwide supremacy ended with the advent of colonial era and since then many changes have taken place worldwide in political and economic fields. Today, Western countries are constantly evolving, correcting and providing new models while Muslims are stagnant. All that Muslims make is empty claims while we have miserably failed to offer working models based on Islamic teachings. Our claims are negated by our behaviour at all levels, as individuals and states.
Are Muslims equipped to implement Islam or not?
Frankly speaking, at present Muslims are not equipped to implement Islam. The very reason is that no working models exist today and also because the Muslim masses are powerless. A few individuals, families and clans decide what is best for them. What is needed is political will of the ruling classes to go beyond clichés and start with real implementation of Islamic ideals and principles, especially in the political and economic spheres.
Will such a workable era emerge in coming days?
In today’s world, I am sure that sooner or later a new era will emerge. It is possible that this could emerge in Iran where political will exists but the polity is not able to experiment freely due to severe internal and external threats to its very survival. This has forced it to cling to authoritarian structures to a lesser degree from what is found in other Muslim countries. Despite this observation, I must add that Iran continues its march on the path of a humane Islamic polity with maximum popular participation in the political process. Yet, this effort is limited due to external and internal threats to the very survival of the system.