How far we Muslims have fallen from the standards that were set by our predecessors? The depth of our fall becoming increasingly unfathomable.
It is said that at the time of Umar bin Khattab (579 CE – 644 CE), the second Caliph of the Muslims, Umar’s wife sent the envoy of Byzantine with a gift for the Byzantinian emperor’s wife. It was a phial of perfume. Her gesture was appreciated by the first lady who reciprocated, giving a pearl necklace in return. When Umar (RA) got to know about it, he took the necklace and gave all but one pearl to his wife while the necklace was given to the treasury. The pearl was given to her for taking the initiative and also the value of that one pearl was equivalent to the value of the original gift she sent.
Umar set the bar for diplomatic relations for others to follow. By diffrentiating between what is state affair and what is personal business, he isolated whatever constituted a “conflict of interest”. He fully realized that that had it been some other lady ( not holding the position of Caliph’s wife), the gift may not have been returned but equally he also recognized the need for amicable diplomatic ties.
In contrast let us look at rulers in the Muslim world today. While monarchs around the world have crumbled and a republican edifice reflects the mood of the world, our rulers are hell bent on reversing the trend. They use the vehicle of democracy only as a cover to propagate what can only be classified as psuedo -dynasty. A case in point is Nawaz Sharif, a prime minister who spends more time looking at daily soap operas (Mera Sultan) on TV and political sitcoms (Mazaaq Raat and Hasb –e-Hal) than presiding the chambers he was elected for.
Pakistan’s premier is a person renowned for being from a family with great business acumen. He was mistakenly deemed by the public to be the best to understand the nitty gritty of running a country, not once but thrice. What has always followed is a relentless deluge of chaos, flooding the already weak state institutions and systems.
The PM is certainly not known for his wit and to describe his intellect in a respectful manner one would have to stretch the word mediocre to the territory of imbecile. Unlike the predecessors (Umar the caliph) that he and his party members so fondly quote, he has no clue of what conflict of interest means.
It is known of giant multinational corporations to interfere, intervene and exercise their muscles over politicians. What is unheard of is placing the directors of these corporations on the steering wheel of a country. This is exactly what has been done to Pakistan, the country is being run by business conglomerates . It was inevitable that rampant profiteering would follow suit and it has. Pakistan is crippled with and energy crisis of an unprecedented scale. At a time when the oil prices have fallen around the world as there is too much of it, an artificial shortage has been created in the country to ratchet up the profits.
It is known about Umar (RA) that even when his life was threatened he never asked for additional security. He knew that the risk to his life is part and parcel of the position he holds. Juxtapose that with Mr Sharif, the democratically elected leader who has 12000 policemen deployed for his family’s security alone. All that in a country steeped in debt and people in dire need of policing.
Umar (RA) once famously reproached a Qazi (judge) while he was summoned to the court in medina. The caliph of the time did not appreciate the gesture by the Qazi, who stood up in his respect. “This is the first injustice you have done to the plantiff,” said Omar, addressing the judge. Compare that to leaders of today who not only enjoy immunity but also crave powers to grant amnesty to others.
Such is the stark contrast between values of Muslim rulers that are taught and the ones that hold the office today, that it inevitably creates frustration. It naturally leads people to depart from retaining faith in their existing systems. And for many idealists, the theories of Hizbut Tahreer -a banned organization in many countries for its stance against democracy-begin to make more sense. For many zealots, ISIS is the answer.
The bottom line is that the leaders of the Muslim world need to be reminded of the values that were set by their predecessors. The only way to produce this leadership is through a grassroot movement that launches itself through education and consolidates itself through welfare. Only through patience, rigorous work and hard graft will we ensure leaders of the ilk that we deserve.