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Response: Are political parties like DAP, Umno a berhala?

I read with interest the article written by Anas Zubedy entitled Are political parties like DAP, Umno a berhala? that was published by FMT a few weeks ago. The article was referring to a tweet that I sent quoting an ayat from the Quran. The problem with twitter is that due to the short messages, certain issues cannot be explained fully or as clearly. I am therefore grateful for this opportunity to discuss the question raised by Anas in his letter to the FMT through a medium which allows lengthier discourses.

First it has to be clarified that the ayat 3 of Az-Zumar was raised in connection with the debate on the use of the word ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims. This was a discussion which Anas may or may not have been following originally. I posted the ayat as proof that the Meccan idolaters also used the word ‘Allah’ as the Quran quoted them as saying,
“We worship them for no other reason than that they bring us nearer to God.”
This meant that the main object of worship of the Meccan idolaters was Allah and the idols were mere go betweens.

Given that explanation it is ridiculous for anyone to then say that non-Muslims cannot use the word Allah as the Quran itself proves otherwise. Of course such practice of appointing go betweens between man and Allah and ascribing to them some form of divinity to these go betweens is rejected by Islam.

This then was the original context of the discussion for which the ayat was referred. Anas came in by posing a question as to whether political parties can also become ‘idols’. Realising this was a new issue I did not want to delve into it too much and made a response as follows:

Khalid: Yup unless they specify that the Quran and Sunnah are their guiding principles. Those using other guides may be a berhala.

Anas: Specification or practice? And r u saying d DAP is a berhala if u follow them coz they specify otherwise?

Seeing the discussion going away from the original intention, I chose not to pursue the matter. It would take a few more tweets than what I was ready to do at that time to clarify the issue.

It is important to note that I used the word ‘may’ and not ‘is’ or ‘has become’ a berhala or idol or object of worship. Whether it becomes a ‘berhala’ or not depends on the individual member and how he or she understands their relationship with the party.

When does something become a ‘berhala’ or an ‘idol’ an object of worship in the eyes of the scholars of ‘Tauhid’ or ‘Unity of God’ in Islam? This question is quite easily answered by referring to another ayat in the Quran, i.e. from Chapter At-Taubah ayat 31 which means,
“They (The Christians) have taken their priests and their monks as gods besides Allah and also the Messiah son of Maryam (is taken as a god besides Allah)…..”
As this ayat was being read by the Prophet (SAW), Adi Bin Hatim who was present stood up and objected. Adi Bin Hatim was then a Christian and he said that it is not true that the Christians take their priests and monks as gods besides Allah. To this objection the Prophet then responded that “they make the lawful unlawful (halal becomes haram) and the unlawful lawful (haram becomes halal) and you obey them. You therefore take them as gods besides Allah”.

In this context it is agreed by all Islamic scholars that in Islam, the authority which decides what is lawful and unlawful, good or bad is the sole right of Allah. To ascribe this authority to anyone else is equivalent to giving them a share in godhood. Of course this pertains to those issues which are specifically mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah. For those items on which they are silent then it is taken to be allowed or lawful unless there exists a text which makes it or something similar to it unlawful.

When answering Anas’s question I was careful to use the word ‘may’. I am sure that the word ‘may’ is understood to mean a possibility not a necessity. Therefore it only applies in a situation when a member of any political party allows the party to decide for it all issues including that which has been decided by God. Assigning to the party the authority to decide in preference to what God has decided would then make the party a false idol or god.

I am sure that unlike PAS members, those Muslims who join the other political parties do not relate their religion with their politics as closely as PAS members do. There exists a separation between the two and the pursuit of their religious ideals, including those political in nature, are striven for through the party, albeit a secular party, which is willing to accept all arguments on the strength of rational and not religious, argument.

For those individual Muslims who choose this path, i.e. working in a ‘secular’ party and seeking to influence it to conform to certain religious ideals through rational argumentation, their final reference should still be the Quran and Sunnah. In this circumstance they have not elevated the position of the party to the status of an idol or berhala.

For PAS, whose justification for existence is Islamic politics; then all policies and decisions are to be guided by four main sources. These are the Quran, the Sunnah, the ijma’ or consensus of jurists and qiyas which is the practice of analogy. This is clearly stipulated in the party’s constitution. All debates and arguments then take on a ‘religious’ nature as the main references would be these sources. In such a situation, for PAS to be a ‘berhala’ is unlikely for it tries to put into practice obedience to God’s instruction in all decisions and policies. It therefore acknowledges God’s sovereignty in all issues by first referring to the Quran and Sunnah and when it is not found therein the ijma’ will then be referred and the practice of analogy used.

Nonetheless, it has to be clarified that this does not make the party free from error or ‘maksum’. Any Islamic jurist would be keen to clarify that such decisions although derived from sacred sources would still be an opinion and subject to human shortcomings. It is however, an effort to interpret and implement what is contained in the holy books guided at the same time by the opinions of the previous jurists and the proven methodology of analogy or qiyas.

At the same time it has also to be understood that issues which are ‘qatii’ or confirmed in nature where opinion does not have a say are few and far between. In most cases certain principles and objectives are clearly defined and the way these are to be achieved can be discussed and debated as they fall under the realm of opinion.

The uniqueness of Islamic law or jurisprudence is the belief that no one speaks for God as God has spoken in the Quran and through the practices of the Prophet (PBUH) which is the Sunnah. The challenge then is to derive a ruling consistent with both these fundamental sources while taking into consideration the current circumstances and it is to this end that PAS strives.

WaLlahu 'Alam


Grand Marquis said…
When your judgement for right and wrong is simply based on the political party, isn't that similar to making political party as berhala? For example, a person who is from your political party alliance was caught on many instances that will cast major doubt in his character and yet he remains innocent simply because he is from your political party alliance.

But at the same time, someone is deemed guilty simply because he is on the opposite side of your political alliance even though the accusation is based on some vague hearsay by some doubtful character.

YB, easy say then done. The more you speak about Islam, the more you reveal your own hypocrisy.

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