What To Take Away From The Egyptian Revolution

From Muslimology | By Dawud Israel

Egypt In Pictures: {Guardian.co.uk}

What can we learn from the Egyptian Revolution? Well the short answer as to what to take away is just how much determined Muslims are capable of, even this late in the hour. I think this has opened everybody’s eyes that despite how weak our sense of self-worth has become we still have a spark in us. The giant has awoken. Our eyes have been opened to the reality of what we can achieve. And I think that is the biggest thing to come out of all this: dignity. It says that we are not just the neglected subjects of an American hegemony, nor are we just the enemies of Israel, nor are we just angry, but we are people and we are not limited by the simplistic outlook of ideology. I think that is exactly the sort of mentality that is needed to revive Islam today because it speaks to living Islam and that is what Islamic rule is about - it is not just about dying for Islam, but living it. It speaks of a courage and calm calculation that is remarkable to see spring into action.

There have been some weak statements from Hamza Yusuf's recent Sandala blog post, Imam Zaid's 'Game Over, We Win?' post and others, that really disappoint in terms of leadership and action. I don’t think we should be looking at Islamic scholarship for leadership in this regard anymore since they have their own issues to deal with and their hands are tied. I will say of course there is still speculation about the USA backing ElBaradei and the fact that this whole revolution is orchestrated by activists who were trained by the USA and that's something worth reading up on - so we should be taking it all with a grain of salt.

There is also a sort of resentment among Muslims that "this isn’t an Islamic revolution" and that it should be or else its a discredit or disloyal to Islam. Islamic political parties have a history of being unsuccessful in government and often just end up attracting trouble and violence. The Muslim Brotherhood I think realizes it can’t offer much and even if it were to come into power, it would be paralyzed and unable to help the Egyptian people, so that it would be better for them to back down somewhat and play it smart. It is naive to think that just because a group is an “Islamic” political party that it has some gold badge from God, when in reality they are just ordinary folk and can make mistakes. Allah doesn’t need an Islamic party to work though. I think this revolution is actually how it should be: most of the people are Muslim so what more do people want? People are praying in the face of water cannons, which is much more “islamic” than shooting off firearms and thumping Qur'ans, right? People are being responsible for their government, there is a civic responsibility there and real courage. They have the courage to correct what is wrong amongst themselves so I imagine it will bear fruit. God doesn’t punish people for trying.

Rebelling Against Ones Political Leader in Hadith?

There is the usual pattering of discussion saying that good Muslims should not rebel against their leaders. I think that is hogwash in this instance. Yes there are hadith that mention that, with the idea being to choose the better of two evils, to reduce bloodshed and chaos, but in this case, Mubarak is the cause of greater bloodshed. It’s safe to say there is more good in this protest than in not protesting. The lesser of two evils is protesting, and there is lots of good that has come out of this protest: organization and camaraderie in keeping the streets safe, protecting the museum of Christians and Muslims protecting each other when they pray - and that is how it should be in true Islamic values. And there is really no going back so its wishful thinking to think this can all just stop, and the only ones telling people to give - in are usually old people who don’t know any better, government thugs or people who are loyal to a certain Arab monarch.

The New Knowhow

If you are not following what is happening on a micro-scale, I suggest you should at the very least, take notes on how activism is operating in Egypt and online. If you don’t have a Twitter account, think about getting one. The major aspect of this revolution is that social media has facilitated the organization and speedy movement of information. Twitter and Facebook have conveyed information but also given the next steps of providing instant commentary on speeches and developments, the criticism, the new ideas, the inspiration from all around the world, the global solidarity are all part of this. Its the new way to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, foot-to-foot with your brothers in Islam. But some creative ideas have come out of this - Google helped Egyptians convey information using an international phone number in the event of the internet blackout and other Internet anonymizer services have been operational. There is also the use of open source documents listing the missing that is circulating.

There is a lot of innovation going on and I can’t summarize it all here, but its important to note all this because its a learning experience. We learn things from one revolution and carry it over into another revolution. I don’t need to really comment on how it might be hard to see a revolution happening this successfully, this quickly, in countries that have little access to Internet. The grass-roots mobilization provides a rubric for other countries and makes one think that if they are capable of this much in a few days, how much more are they capable of?

MUXLIM VIEWERS: Watch {Aljazeera's video of police hosing praying Muslims}

Muslims in the West

I think there is a lot to be said in this incidence about where Muslims are in the West. A number of things came to light. There is little Western Muslims can do in this event and little Islam can do for them politically. "Islam in the West" has become a victim of circumstance and really impotent and suffocated from helping our brothers. That is a harsh reality to face.

What we did see was Maajid Nawaz, a secular-bent Muslim who is all around hated by British Muslims, who turned out to have connections to the proposed transition Egyptian government because of the time he spent in Egyptian prisons when he was a radical. That says something about keeping good relations amongst all stripes and colours of Muslims. Islam as a political ideology is more often than not an insult to the religion, because it concentrates Islam amongst a few, which is unfair, distorted, and creates a resentment and victim mentality, rather than spreading Islam out amongst the masses, which is the empowering reality we see in Egypt today. We need to pause and rethink. We can operate as plain, old normal people do, right? Perhaps we can do more that way than we can by waving a shahadah flag.

We should realize that there is information and knowhow in the West that we can convey abroad via the Internet. Just because we can’t do much in terms of money and physical support doesn’t mean we can’t do anything at all. We can do lots via dua and a lot more intellectually via the web. There are books and articles on political activism in the West and techniques that can be shared abroad via the web. This is something that cannot and should not be ignored.

Intergenerational Divide and Cultural Patterns

The revolution in Egypt is carried out by the youth and that says something about the global, intergenerational divide that we are witnessing between a generation that came out of colonial rule, and a generation that never experienced colonial rule which has been reawakened to Islam - but wants to go further in their lives than just the local mosque. Bani Israel disobeyed Musa 'alayhi salam because they had a slave mentality, and Allah commanded them to wander the desert for 40 years, a period of time in which the old generation of slaves died and a new mentality took its place, one that would lead to political leadership and autonomy for Bani Israel. We are seeing a similar situation today.

A few other things I noticed: There seems to be a small divide among Muslims - some of the more indigenous, African American brothers are ignoring Egypt, whereas the immigrants whether they are Egyptian or not are watching closely, and I think that leaves something to be desired about closer brotherhood though I would give everybody the benefit of the doubt. Also the fact some Egyptians do not want to get rid of Mubarak because they see him as a grandfather figure, a war-hero and feel guilty kicking him out, really says something about how we venerate elders and how too much veneration can hurt us. It says something about the weakness of patriarchy in Muslim countries. And lastly, am I the only one who is reminded of masjid tyrants and the politics at the local masjid in all this?

Read more on current affairs, spirituality and American Muslims on Muslimology


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