We begin in the name of God, always acknowledging that God is the Ultimate, the One and Only; and that Muhammad was the final Prophet, sent as a mercy and a liberation unto humankind. Everything that takes human beings to the direction of the merciful; to the direction of the compassionate; a step further towards enlightenment; towards liberation and self-determination, IS Islam and IS the Islamic project.
Islam did not come to teach human beings a set of rituals among the many ritualistic practices of many different systems of faith in the world. The Islamic rituals are intricately tied to the Islamic objectives, and the Islamic objectives are always to instill enlightenment, liberation, mercy, compassion and justice among human beings.
Somewhere along this path, Muslims have allowed themselves to be very confused about the purpose of their faith and in fact, about the point and purpose of the religion itself. God tells us very clearly: Do not incline towards those who are unjust. Do not surrender to those who are unjust. Do not incline towards injustice and do not surrender to the reality of injustice. The Prophet, commenting upon a verse in Surah Hud, said, "Whoever prays for an unjust ruler has indeed prayed that God be disobeyed on this earth." It is just as if this person wants God to be disobeyed upon this earth. The meaning is so clear. Injustice, tyranny, and suffering in all its forms are an affront to divinity. Every time a human being is robbed of their rights and left suffering, God is disobeyed and God is offended.
Somewhere along the path, we somehow started to imagine that God is about cosmetics; that whether women are allowed to uncover their hair is what will please or displease God, while forgetting a society plagued by injustices, plagued by inequities and plagued by unfairness. That is the greatest offense to God.
The reason that Islam was the final message is precisely because it is the message of taking people from darkness to light. “Darkness to light” has to have a meaning that intuitively appeals to people. If one asks what “darkness to light” means and we respond, "Well, the darkness is for women to have their hair uncovered and the light is to have women cover their hair," people will look at us and say, "Really?” Intuitively, we would have never thought that “darkness to light” would have to do with cosmetics; with whether women cover their hair or not.
Whether we admit it or not, we know that when we speak about “darkness to light,” we are speaking about the emotions that all of us as human beings can relate to. We know that feeling secure and safe is “light” and feeling insecure and afraid is “darkness.” We know that if we live in a society in which we have the right to self-determination - to decide upon our own fate and our own affairs - that that is light, and to be denied that choice is darkness.
We know intuitively that if we live in a society where one can speak their mind and not fear the consequences, that that is light, as we also know that if one must keep silent and pretend to be something they are not, that that is darkness. Intuitively, we know what is darkness and what is light. That is precisely why so many of those who pretend not to know - so many of those who support tyrannical, despotic, authoritarian regimes for others - when it comes to their own personal life, want to emigrate from countries of darkness to countries of light.
That is precisely why so many of those who support the rulers of Saudi Arabia go out of their way to make a life in the West. So many of those who support the rulers of the Emirates make sure they own homes in America or Europe and travel there regularly, so that when the time comes, they can live away from tyranny and away from ugliness. So many of those who support the Sisi government in Egypt go out of their way to make sure that they and their children have American, Canadian or British citizenship. I have known supporters of El-Sisi that will come to the United States at the beginning of their pregnancy just so they can give birth to their child in the U.S., so that their child may receive American citizenship.
This speaks volumes about darkness and light. Human beings can argue and can create all types of false constructs to perpetuate lies that no one truly believes, including themselves. Human beings can perpetuate the lie that somehow, injustice, oppression and tyranny are compatible with Islam. But when we look at the decisions they made for themselves, we can very clearly see that even they intuitively know that the societies they support are societies of darkness and that they do not care enough about Islam. That is why they are willing to associate Islam with darkness, not light.
I say this because we are at such an odd phase. If you want Islam to be the religion that indeed takes people out of darkness to light; if you want Islam to be about something other than cosmetics; if you claim Islam is about what is beautiful, what is compassionate, what is merciful; if you say Islam is about self-determination, liberation, equity, justice; if you say all of these things in this day and age, you immediately become a suspect. Immediately, they will pin you as a supporter of political Islam, or as a member of the Muslim brotherhood.
Look at the irony of these accusations. For decades, since colonialism, Muslims were taunted by colonial forces about their supposed despotic tradition. Muslims were consistently taught that our tradition is a tradition of despotism, and there is nothing in our history but despotism. But if we study and if we read, we would discover something very interesting.
Every time Muslims have tried to play by the rules of democracy, whether in the revolution in Iran, The Mosaddegh Revolution, or the constitutional revolution in Iraq in the 1930s, or the constitutional revolution in Syria around the same time, or the constitutional revolution in Egypt at the beginning of the 20th century; every single time, colonial powers intervened to deny Muslims the right to self-determination, and to tell them, "No, democracy is not for you. You should live in despotism because despotism is your fate."
When Muslims in the 1980s tried to run elections in Algeria, the French used the military to instigate a coup and deny Muslims the right to participate in a democracy. When Muslims did the same thing in Egypt, the Emirates, Britain, Saudi Arabia and the United States again used the Egyptian Military to institute a coup. When Muslims did the same thing in Tunisia, it again brought on another coup. So you are told that your tradition is ugly, despotic and dark, but every time you have tried to rise out of darkness and give effect to the light, that right is taken away from you and you are told your fate belongs to darkness.
How many of us remember that this game was even played out about the Hijaz? That British intelligence used to support Sharif Hussein, the ruler of the Hijaz, and used to give him 100,000 pounds a year so that he could rebel against the Ottoman empire. But when Sharif Hussein refused to sign a treaty with the British agreeing to Syria becoming a French colony and agreeing to the establishment of Israel in Palestine, British intelligence then supported Al-Saud to overthrow Sharif Hussein.
How many of us remember that in the 1920s, when Al-Saud invaded the Hijaz, they massacred the inhabitants of the Hijaz, and did so with British weapons and British support? How many of us remember that in the 1920s, the entire Muslim world begged Al-Saud to put a stop to the destruction of the shrines, graves and homes of the Companions and the Prophet? But it was British and American will that handed the Hijaz over to Al-Saud.
How many of us remember that initially Al-Saud said, "We are nothing but caretakers of the Hijaz, but the fate of the Hijaz will be determined by the Muslim Ummah." But again, in the typical paradigm of colonialism, the British told Al-Saud that he should involve no other Muslim party in the decision, and that he should simply annex the Hijaz to the Najdi Dynasty that he had created, denying Muslims yet again, the right to self-determination. Yet again, the right to self-determination.
Do you know why Muslims squabble over petty things, engaging in brainless arguments on social media? It is because they have not enjoyed the intoxicating taste of self-determination. When a human being has the power, has the thought, has the moral awareness to be cognizant of the right to self-determination, it changes your entire being. But instead, we use political Islam, Muslim brotherhood, terrorism, al-Qaeda, to terrify Muslims into never daring to think about their right to self-determination.
So now, after 20 years, we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. I still remember my conversations with American diplomats, "Oh, we are there to teach the Afghans and Iraqis democracy." Twenty years later, have we taught the Iraqis democracy? Have we taught the Afghans democracy? We have destroyed whatever infrastructure they had. We have eradicated whatever social ties existed. We have entered the paradigms of corruption, selfishness and self-interest in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Have we allowed them the right to self-determination? Have we taught them anything about democracy?
So many people are shocked that the Afghan Government that we supported and spent close to a trillion dollars on collapsed so quickly. I am not at all surprised because I have seen the way American money works in other countries. It has corrupted the Egyptian military and made the Egyptian military nothing but a parasitical institution, feeding off the body of Egypt. Wherever American money goes, it creates a parasitical class of corrupt bureaucrats that live to pocket American money, so the collapse was entirely predictable.
The people who worked with us never thought about Afghanistan, never thought about Islam. The people who worked with us never cared about Afghanistan and never cared about Islam. They only care about one thing: the American dollar and its miracles. And so, the Taliban took over. Many think that this, somehow, was an oversight or a mistake on our part and in my humble opinion, it was not at all. In terms of natural resources, Afghanistan is one of the richest countries in the world. Afghanistan is a country that suffers from dire poverty, but they have natural resources that could make it wealthier than Saudi Arabia.
When we established the corrupt government that stayed in power for 20 years, the only thing the US cared about - and that Britain and France cared about - is that they can do whatever they want with their people, as long as we have access to the natural resources for dirt cheap prices. And when the Taliban came to power, we made the same deal with the Taliban.
Go ahead, make Islam look like absolute darkness. Go ahead, terrify people. Go ahead, abuse women and we will pretend like we are offended. Kill Shi'a Muslims, and we will pretend like we are outraged. Deny women the right to an education, and we will pretend like this is unconscionable. The Taliban plays a very important role - they affirm Islam as the religion of darkness. They terrify people. They support and feed Islamophobes all around the world. We are happy that the Taliban rules Afghanistan, as long as we have the same contracts, so that we can exploit the natural resources of Afghanistan for practically nothing. This is how the game is played.
We did not exercise our right to self-determination when Palestine became Israel. We did not exercise our right to self-determination when the Khilafah was abolished. We did not exercise our right to self-determination when El-Sham became Syria and Lebanon, and when Lebanon became something that no one can make sense of. A country of fiefdoms; a Durzi fiefdom, a Maronite fiefdom, a Shi'i fiefdom, a Sunni fiefdom, as the French occupiers wanted it. We did not exercise our right to self-determination when the Hejaz became part of Saudi Arabia, and all of the Islamic historical sites were destroyed, and the rich culture of the Hejaz was eradicated.
We did not exercise our right to self determination when the military overthrew the elected government of Algeria. We did not exercise our right to self determination when the military overthrew the elected government in Egypt. We did not exercise our right to self determination when the elected government in Tunisia was overthrown. We did not exercise our right to self-determination when Iraq was occupied. We did not exercise our right to self-determination when Afghanistan was occupied.
We did not exercise our right to self-determination when the corrupt government in Afghanistan allowed access to the invaluable raw material that exists in Afghanistan for dirt cheap, so that Western industry can continue manufacturing whatever it manufactures and sell it back to Muslims for a hundred times the price. We did not exercise our right to self-determination when the Taliban was allowed to take over the country and do whatever to women or minorities. But the one thing that is untouchable are the contracts with Western governments, the ones that give access to the invaluable raw material that Afghanistan is rich with.
This is precisely the type of talk that they call “political Islam,” because this is precisely the type of talk they do not want you to hear. They want you dumb, ignorant, stupid and unaware. Only God knows when will Muslims wake up. When will Muslims actually start to read their own history? When will Muslims start caring about an education? Yes, they are doctors and engineers, but they are like donkeys carrying books. They are doctors, engineers and computer scientists making plenty of money for themselves and their families, but at the same time, they are dumb, ignorant and unaware. This is exactly the darkness that Islam came to take us out of.