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The case against Hizb ut Tehrir

Published Jun 11, 2012 06:18pm

Founded in 1953, in Jerusalem by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, Hizb ut Tehrir considers itself to be the largest political party in the Muslim world. This is in spite of the fact that they do not believe in democracy and do not contest in elections. Despite its non-violent methods, Hizb ut Tehrir today is a dangerous entity. Hizb has made inroads in the elite educational institutions of Pakistan and UK.

The infiltration of armed forces is also a major part of their agenda. Due to involvement in subversive activities, Hizb has been banned in most countries including Pakistan. The agenda and propaganda of Hizb ut Tehrir is very alluring for an ambitious youth that form about 45 per cent of this country’s population. Based upon my reading, understanding and interactions with Hizb ut tehrir over the last 4 years, I want to point out some of the logical fallacies in the narrative of HT (Hizb ut Tehrir):

1. They want to form a caliphate for the Muslim Ummah. 2. They favor transfer of power through a military route. 3. They want to implement sharia across the caliphate. 4. According to their ‘constitution’, Arabic would be the language of the Caliphate. 5. They believe that a global Jewish conspiracy that is obstructing the path of formation of the caliphate. 6. They want the ‘liberation’ of Palestine. 7. They take inspiration form Syed Qutb’s book, Milestones.

First things first. The historical narrative, on which the ideology of Hizb ut Tehrir (and for that matter, Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda, JI and similar organisations) is based, is deeply flawed. The narrative is a mixture of historical fiction and historical revisionism. According to that narrative, the reign of the pious Caliphs (Khulafa-e-Rashideen) was the brightest time in Muslim history and there was peace and prosperity all around. After those pious caliphs, the reign of Banu Umayya and Banu Abbas is also considered very superior, as Muslim scientists and scholar and philosophers reached the pinnacles of their respective fields in that duration. It is believed that till the dissolution of the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924, Muslims of the world were ‘spiritually’ if not physically ruled by the Caliph and since then, there has been a downfall for the Muslim ‘Ummah’.

While this version of history is not exactly true, it is used as a rallying call for the Muslims to ‘regain’ the former glories and ‘unite’ under one government again. A careful examination of this view reveals that

1. The reign of four pious caliphs was not without trouble. After all, three of them were killed by other Muslims. If the golden period of our history involves assassinations of three of the most revered companions of the Prophet (PBUH), why would we want to revive those days? Secondly, as opposed to the narrative explained above, the method of selection of the Caliph and the way of ruling was different for all four caliphs. It was not a uniform ‘system of government’ as is claimed by Hizb ut Tehrir. Which ‘system of government’ do they want to impose and why?

2. During the Banu Umayya period only, there were at least 70 different major battles among Muslims. In one instance, even the Holy Kaaba was bombarded with stones and was razed to the ground during war. Hundreds of companions (Sahaba) of Prophet (PBUH) were murdered by Muslim Rulers. The scientific advances were mostly done during the times of a sect known as Mu’tazila, and it is not surprising that they were eliminated later by being labeled heretics.

3. Since the assassination of Hazrat Usman (R.A), the third pious Caliph, there has been no ‘central’ Muslim government. At the height of Muslim power (in 4th century A.H), there were 15 different independent Muslim states apart from the Baghdad Caliphate. Thus, the assumption that ‘all Muslims should unite once again’ is simply a utopian premise.

4. The notion of political Islam, i.e. implementation of Islam as a political system does not find its origin in the traditional sources of Islamic Jurisprudence i.e. Quran and Hadees. This idea was not propagated by the pious Caliphs or by the leaders of the four major schools of Islamic Jurisprudence. It was initiated by two different people with similar thought. The pioneers of political Islam were Syed Qutb from Egypt and Abu al Aala Maududi from India. Tarek Fatah in his book, “Chasing a Mirage: The tragic illusion of an Islmic State” explained the different between Islam and Islamism/Political Islam,

What Islamists seek and what Muslims desire are two separate objectives, sometimes overlapping, but clearly distinct. While the former seek an “Islamic State,” the latter merely desires a “state of Islam.” One state requires a theocracy, the other a state of spirituality.

The phrase “state of Islam” defines the condition of a Muslim in how he or she imbibes the values of Islam to govern personal life and uses faith as a moral compass. In contrast, the “Islamic State” is a political entity: a state, caliphate, sultanate, kingdom, or country that uses Islam as a tool to govern society and control its citizenry. At times, these two objectives overlap each other, but most often, they clash. Islamists obsessed with the establishment of the Islamic State have ridden roughshod over Quranic principles and the Prophet’s message of equality.

However, Muslims who have striven to achieve a state of Islam have invariably stepped away from using Islam to chase political power, opting instead for intellectual and pious pursuits.

Since the first caliphate in Medina in the 7th century, clerics have continually reminded Muslims that their mission on Earth — to spread Islam — is impossible without the establishment of an Islamic State. Such edicts by caliphs and imams have gathered near-universal acceptance despite the fact that neither the Quran nor the Prophet asked Muslims to establish such a state. In fact, the five pillars of Islam, which form a Muslim’s covenant with the Creator, do not even hint at the creation of an Islamic State.”

I would also like to point out that there have been efforts from Muslim Intellectuals including Egypt’s Ali Abdel al-Razik and our own Allama Iqbal against the idea of ‘Political Islam’. In the last 60 years, implementation of ‘Sharia’ has been tried in several countries including Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan but it has never worked.

5. Let’s have a look at an excerpt from the aforementioned book ‘Milestones’ which was banned as soon as it was published in Egypt:

Mankind today is on the brink of a precipice. Humanity is threatened not only by nuclear annihilation but also by the absence of values. The West has lost its vitality, and Marxism has failed. At this crucial and bewildering juncture, the turn of Islam and the Muslim community has arrived. But before Islam can lead, it must regenerate itself. The world is divided into two camps, Islam and jahiliyya, the period of ignorance and barbarity that existed before the divine message of the Prophet Mohammed.

Jahiliyya encompasses all of modern life: manners, morals, art, literature, and law, even much of what passed as Islamic culture. Only a complete rejection of rationalism and Western values offered the slim hope of the redemption of Islam. This is the choice: pure, primitive Islam or the doom of mankind.

The Muslim community has long ago vanished from existence. It is crushed under the weight of those false laws and teachings which are not even remotely related to the Islamic teachings. Humanity cannot be saved unless Muslims recapture the glory of their earliest and purest expression. We need to initiate the movement of Islamic revival in some Muslim country. There should be a vanguard which sets out with this determination and then keeps walking the path. The time has come for a Muslim to give his head in order to proclaim the birth of the Islamic movement”.

6. Arabic as national language?

The promise of making Arabic as the national language of the proposed Khilafah is not just utopian, it’s stupid as well. At least Pakistan has had problems in the past regarding the issue of imposition of a “foreign language” as the favored one and as a consequence, the country was split into two. According to census figures from 1951, Bangla was the spoken language of 54.6 per cent Pakistanis, Punjabi was spoken by 28.4 and Urdu by 7.2 per cent of the populace. This did not stop the UP/CP migrant class from asserting that Urdu be made the only official language of Pakistan. Right now, hardly 1 per cent of the Pakistani population even understands Arabic, how can HT even think about implementing it as the national language?

7. Jewish Conspiracy

In 1951, Syed Qutb, one of the people who inspired Hizb, wrote an essay that clearly defined his view of the Jewish world. Titled “Our Fight against the Jews”, the essay was later included in a collection published in Saudi Arabia in 1970. The Saudi booklet bore the same title as Qutb’s essay and was widely circulated in the Arab world, where it became the defining text of the Islamist view of Jews.

The 1970 Saudi version linked Qutb’s work with the discredited Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Qutb’s essay is pockmarked with footnotes by the Saudi Editor, who used The Protocols to prove Qutb’s allegations against the Jews. For the editor, as for many contemporary Islamic authors, The Protocols were confirmation of anti-Jewish ideas rooted in Islamic tradition.

In his essay, Qutb not only dwelled on the nature of the Jew and the supposed Jewish goal of destroying Islam, he presented a simple answer to this challenge: Muslims must defeat the Jews. He wrote, “The Jews will be satisfied only with the destruction of this religion (Islam).” He depicted the Jews as the inevitable enemies of Islam and the creation of the state of Israel as the manifestation of Jewish revenge against Muslims for their humiliation in Medina 14 centuries earlier.

The rhetoric of Hizb ut Tehrir follows the usual anti-Semitism that runs deep through the minds of Arabs and Muslims around the world. Israel and the Jews are no angels either but there remains a certain irony that is being forgotten by Hizb ut Tehrir. The last time Jews gained a respectable position in a foreign society, it was in Andalusia (modern day Spain) under the Muslim Rulers. When they were expelled from there, they were given refuge by the Ottoman Caliphs.

8. Palestine

The propaganda of Hizb about Palestine starts from the atrocities committed by Israeli forces against the innocent Palestinians and finishes with the cry of formation of a Khilafah which can recapture the Palestinian territories.

The propaganda does not hint at The Peel Commission plan of 1937 when the Arabs gave up almost 80 per cent of Palestine in rejecting the Peel Commission Report or to the response of Palestinian Arab leaders towards The UN General Assembly Partition Plan of 1947. Similarly, there is no mention of the antics of the Mufti of Palestine, Hajj al Husayni who was one of the advisors of Hitler and was pivotal in formation of a Muslim division in SS known as “East Turkestan Armed Formation”. What about the 10 per cent Muslim population of Israel?

9. Treason

HT is a party openly calling for a military coup, admitting that its members recruit officers in the armed forces, yet no legal action has been taken on this conspiracy. On top of that they call the armed forces to make Ata abu Rashta, a Palestinian, the Caliph of Pakistan. Thus, they are trying to stage a coup to make a person who is not a Pakistani national as the dictator of Pakistan and they justify it by saying that they are not bound by the Laws of the land. Following the arrest of Brig. Ali Khan, numerous high-ranked members of HT have been imprisoned including their spokesperson, Naveed Butt. None of the members has been tried yet according to article 6 of the constitution, which means high treason.

Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan defines high treason as,

1.Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.

2. Any person aiding or abetting [or collaborating] the acts mentioned in clause shall likewise be guilty of high treason.

Based on this definition and the activities of HT in Pakistan, it is strongly recommended that their leaders should be tried in courts according to the aforementioned laws. This should be accompanied by efforts to identify and debrief the active members of HT as part of their rehabilitation.

Further readings 1. Hamari Taareekh Fehmi by Hasan Jaafar Zaidi 2. After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Sunni-Shia split in Islam by Lesley Hazelton 3. Chasing the Mirage: The tragic Illusion of an Islamic State by Tarek Fatah 4. The Jew is not my Enemy by Tarek Fatah 5. The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright 6. The System of Islam (Nidham ul Islam) by Taqiuddin an-Nabahani 7. Hizbut Tahrir in Pakistan: Discourse and Impact by Muhammad Amir Rana 8. The Hizb ut-Tahrir threat by Muhammad Amir Rana


The writer is a medical student with an interest in History, Political Economy and Literature and blogs here. You can follow him @abdulmajeedabid.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.