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South African Elections: Lessons from Islamic Governance


umm Abdillah, Radio Islam Programming – 2014.04.16


As we gear up for the 2014 South African general elections on 7 May to elect a new National Assembly as well as new provincial legislatures,Moulana Zunaid Jassat reminds us of the end objectives of leadership and governance.


Any talk of elections, especially democratic elections draws attention and focus toward leadership, governance and its different models. If we look at our first model, that of our Nabi (S) and the four Khulafa Rashidun (rad) after Nabi Muhammad (S), we’ll find they were inspired by Wahi, by Allah. This forms the basis of our shariah today and is applicable till the day of Qiyamah.


Subsequently, Amirs or leaders, be they Amir Muaawiyah (rad) or Amir Umar bin Abdul Aziz (ra) were elected on the basis of piety. Their understanding of leadership was to best serve Deen and then their communities.


Look at the examples of Umar ‘bin Abdul Aziz (r) who was called the 5th Caliph. Imaam Ahmad (ra) called him the Mujaddid of the Century who came to revive the Deen, and he is the only one throughout the course of Islamic history to whom this title has been universally accepted.


It has been mentioned that no sooner than Sulayman ibn Abdel-Malik was buried, Umar bin Abdul Aziz heard a clanging noise and inquired its source. He was told they were the horse-carts used especially for the Caliphs. He said: “Take them away and bring me my own animal which I normally ride. I am just a man among the Muslims.” He proceeded till he reached the mosque, ascended the mimbar and said:


“O people there is no (Divine) Book after the Qur’an and there is no prophet after Muhammad (S). I swear by Allah that I am not a judge; however, I carry out what I was ordered to do. I am no innovator; however, I am a follower. I am no better than any one of you, but I am the one who is carrying the heaviest load amongst you; and I was inflicted with this without my opinion being taken in this matter; and without me asking for it; and without being consulted. I have decided to release you from the allegiance you have given me; so pick for yourself someone other than me.” People then resounded in one voice: “We choose you O Amir of the Believers.” He then said: “O people, whoever obeys Allah Ta‘ala then it is an obligation to obey him, and whoever disobeys Him, then he is not to be obeyed. So obey me as long as I obey Allah – and if I would disobey Him then you are not obligated to obey me.”


Al-Laith (ra) narrated: “When Umar bin Abdul Aziz became Caliph he started with himself and family and then the people of his household and he took their extra possessions and counted their wealth as mazhaalim (acts of injustices that needed to be restored). He moved out of the palace and built a small house with two rooms. He freed his slaves and returned any wealth and property that he had attained due to privileges to the Bait Al-Maal.”


Umar Ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz (r) understood the true meaning of being a politician. He understood that politics meant taking care of the affairs of his people. This responsibility is what made him cry for hours on end and restrict himself to the simplest life that was filled with remembrance of Allah, death and the Hereafter. He went to these great personal lengths so that he would be able to undertake the heavy burdens that his responsibilities demanded. He didn’t want Shaytaan to find any way in to tempt him. This signifies an approach that all those who have taken on great responsibilities should seek, especially leadership posts.


As for seeking leadership positions and wanting to become involved in politics let us look at the example of Yusuf (AS) when he told the emperor of Egypt: “Now that you have faith in me oh king, entrust me with the granaries and the storehouses of the land and with the treasuries of the realm. You shall find me trustworthy and capable of guarding the interests of the kingdom and knowing how to manage and administer affairs astutely.”


Yusuf (AS) knew that he would be able to discern the rightful recipients of the grain most justly, compared to others.


We can look at another example in Abdullah ibn Zubair (rad). He never sought the post of leadership, but he stayed in Makkah, holding on to governance to save his people from tyranny.


As for us, sometimes we have to determine what will allow us to continue enjoying the privileges and security we have in this land and make a decision to vote and involve ourselves on that basis, per the dictates of the times. There is no global Caliphate today, no Jihad to wage that will set aright affairs, as was done in the distant past, neither is this type of talk a good reflection of the contract of peace we have with our people, in our country. Via an informed vote we make a decision as to who or what will allow us to live as free, beneficial and practicing Muslims.

“Don’t touch me on my X” – Yawar Baig warns us not to follow the Indian example


Radio Islam’s umm Abdillah chatted to Yawar Baig about South African Muslim’s and their sense of entitlement; our over-ostentatious masajid; keeping the seats of governance warm by not squandering our apartheid legacy; voter apathy; and not following in the footsteps of India by dividing the Muslim vote.

Mirza Yawar Baig is no stranger to the South African Muslim audience. Founder of Yawar Baig & Associates, the International Speaker, Life coach, Corporate Consultant and prolific author is passionate about change and it shows. In a recent visit to South Africa, the India-born polyglot addressed the waning influence and extent of involvement of Muslims in government and politics. He presents the case for greater activism in the political process for both leadership and the general citizenry. His core message: Don’t lose what you already have.

He cites the example of India where strategically wrong decisions led to abiding hostility and squandering the gains of the Freedom Struggle. He cites among other reasons for this:

· Overall Muslim apathy led to filling the vacuum of Muslim seats in Parliament by those hostile to Islam.
· Divided voting lead to a lost advantage.
· No strategic long-term focus, game plan or action.
· Internal conflicts leading to collective weakness.

He offers as immediate strategy:

· Retain and build on the legacy of the Freedom Struggle, not squander it away.
· Be perceived as highly beneficial, even an essential part of society, not just the bling factor.
· Building and strengthening bridges with the current government, who are here to stay by most estimates.
· Participate in politics as workers, because only workers one day become decision makers, and this is our life insurance premium. Set up trust funds for future politicians if they feel civil service pays too little. Try as a community to understand the difference between investment and expenditure.
· Consolidate our vote – then demand attention to our needs based on our vote.
· Start spending on primary health care, food sufficiency, education andhousing.
· Open our Muslim schools to black children and pay for their education.
· Create a Department of Islamic Studies in every university with your person as the Chair.
· Treat our employees fairly and respectfully.

umm Abdillah:

One could ask to begin with what makes you an authority on such matters?

India is a failed state beset with the highest levels of corruption. In a recent poll 96% of Indians said corruption was holding their country back, and 92% thought it has got worse in the past five years. According to Transparency International, an organisation that tracks corruption, 54% of Indians say they’ve paid a bribe in the last year. Illegal party funding is at the heart of corruption. Parties have arms-length treasurers who act as their bankers. Those handling bribes take a cut for themselves. Privatisation and public-private partnerships have become common, and so prone to manipulation. The offshore assets of Indian residents held in global banks are between $100 billion and $150 billion and yet her majority populace grovels in poverty.

And yet here you are telling us not to divide our vote, show thanks to the ANC government by joining them and supporting them for what they’ve done to augment our Freedom of Religion, and if I understand you correctly, ensure they stay in power? The parallels between corruption in the ANC-led government and Congress (in India) are blatant if not terrifying! And our alternative the DA – well, they carry a flimsy shadow of the BJP in India for their support of Israel and in that they were the former driving force of apartheid.

Muslims in India have always perceived the BJP as an anti-Muslim party because they espouse Hindutva, an ideology that regards India as a Hindu nation, and Muslims and Christians as populations to be violently suppressed or assimilated into the nation, or else expunged as foreign elements.

Now, conveniently, the BJP has avoided harping on the Hindutva agenda. Circumstantially, as Muslims are apprehensive of a BJP victory, as are South African Muslims hesitant to vote for the DA, given their far-reaching neocon hues.

Yawar Baig:

To answer the first question: 16 years in Corporate General Management, 28 years in Training & Organizational Development and membership at the Center for Conflict Resolution & Human Security India and the Indian Society for Applied Behavioural Science, including my travels to South Africa for the last 8 years, sometimes twice in one year, has given me intimate insight into the South African Muslim situation, struggle and psyche.

Secondly, I’m not campaigning for the ANC. I’m saying that SA Muslims need to understand what happens if you divide your vote. Appreciate what your current government has done for you and is prepared to do for you, a mere 2% of the population. And more so, I’m saying participate in politics because only those who participate in the process can participate in the decisions. In a democracy the only thing that counts, is the vote.

In India people believe in karma – that their lives in poverty and squalor are because of the sins of their past lives. However here in South Africa it’s different. You Muslims are seen as a highly visible, enviable, resource rich, ostentatious, insensitive, inward looking and a non-beneficial minority. Further, you are any propagandist’s dream – a soft target to provide fuel that can be used to further his or her own ends. Has it already been forgotten by our entitled cushy-lifestyle Muslim dreamers, the Phumlani Mfeka’s of SA, claiming that South Africans of Indian origin are racist and have no right to citizenship and property in South Africa? Have we already forgotten the Mazibuye African Forum that wants Indians to be excluded from affirmative action and black economic empowerment programmes? Who will save you from these forums and ideologies if not your strong ties with the ruling party and an ability to influence their decisions where they matter in your best interests?

As for the potholes and the Nkandla-gates and Etolls? Well, I’m not condoning them. This is a direct result of entitlement within government too. Something that you have to be part of to root out!

Let’s look at the Indian example today:

Roughly 13% of India’s 814 million voters are Muslims. Muslims are vulnerable and confused as they brace for the most important election in independent India.

It’s a measure of Muslim helplessness that to stop the Bharatiya Janata Party from grabbing power they have no option but to vote for the Congress Party, although Congress-ruled states have witnessed some of the worst anti-Muslim violence in living memory — Kokrajhar 2012 (Assam), Gopalgarh 2011 (Rajasthan), Mumbai 1992-93 (Maharashtra), Bhagalpur 1989 (Bihar) and Hashimpura 1987 (Uttar Pradesh).

Financial scandals are an albatross around the Congress neck much to the delight of the BJP; its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, constantly harps on the ill-begotten wealth of Congress leaders.

I’m saying avoid all this. Don’t squander the legacy of your past as dynamic Muslims who struggled and fought to have the freedoms you have today. Keep the seats of parliament warm where your predecessors are leaving or have left. Don’t let it become like India where we squandered our influence and vote, thereby having no say, nor protection today.

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