Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Islam and Communism - Part 1 - The fundamental definitions

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A cursory look at the title of this article might raise eyebrows as the terms seem to be mutually contradictory and exclusive. Furthermore, these two ideological memes were in active conflict with each other about 25 years ago during Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Although funded by USA and CIA for obvious reasons of defeating Communism and inflict a defeat on Soviet Union similar to one inflicted upon USA during "Vietnam War".

However, there are few fundamental attributes in which these two ideologies resemble each other. This article is an attempt to put a perspective on these fundamental similarities.

Rise of Islam Vs Rise of Communism

Communism is the only way of life in those societies which do not produce a surplus of any commodities. This is called as "Primitive Communism" by Karl Marx and Fredreich Engels. In a primitive communist society, all able bodied persons would have engaged in obtaining food, and everyone would share in what was produced by hunting and gathering. There would be almost no private property, other than articles of clothing and similar personal items, because primitive society produced no surplus; what was produced was quickly consumed. The few things that existed for any length of time were held communally. There would have been no state. Thus a primitive society shows all the characteristics of communism.

This description fits well with Pre-Islamic Arabia which by and large comprised of isolated rich mercantile centres along the oases and huge tracts of wastelands occupied by tribesmen of primitive societies. In regions where resources are meagre, the cost of living in terms of energy is ridiculously high. These conditions are thereby ideal for an ideology which standardizes the life of people.

When one reads "The Communist Manifesto" authored by Karl Marx and Fredreich Engels one realises the basic idea of the philosophy is to suggest a course of action for a proletarian revolution to overthrow capitalism and eventually bring into existence a classless and stateless society. Interestingly, similar are the tenets of Islam.

The beauty of Islam lies in its simplicity -
"There is no god but God (allah) and muhammad is his prophet"
This is the "declaration of faith" or "Shahada" which even a small child grasps without difficulty.

Islam is one of the religions which does not have a separate "priestly class". Anyone who can read Arabic can become a "mullah" in principle. Also, there is no formal organization like "Church" in Islam. So everybody is equal when he stands in front of Muhammad (Rasool) and God in principle. Of course this is a custom which is followed more in its breach than in its observance. The reality is starkly contrasting.

Islam and Communism - A social and political ideology

Although communism aims for classless and stateless society wherein everything belongs to everyone, there is a procedure to bring about this change. After all, such a revolutionary change does not come into effect immediately. This is how Marx addresses this problem. The Ten-Point Program enlisted in "The Communist manifesto" should be implemented by a revolutionary government known as "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" which would be a precursor to a stateless and classless society.

While expanding upon this term in a reply to Joseph Weydemeyer, Marx in 1852 wrote,
" In context, the term "dictatorship" denotes a political control (government) by a social class, not by a man (dictator rei gerendae causa) likewise being a system of a class rule, the bourgeoise state is a "dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie". When the workers (proletariat) assume state-power, they become the new ruling class and rule in their own interests, temporarily using State's institution in preventing a bourgeoise counter-revolution".

When we compare these statements with the motive of establishing the "Islamic Caliphate" was to appointment of a representative of Muhammad to bring about dissemination of Islamic ideology and governance and expansion of Islamic state established by Muhammad. The basic administrative system of Dar-al-Islam (The abode of Islam) was laid down in the days of prophet which was shown to him by God himself and which was thoroughly perfected, pure and unadulterated without any need to reform. Caliph Abu Bakr stated in his sermon when he was elected and appointed
"If I order anything that would go against the order of Allah or his Rasool (messenger Muhammad), then do not obey me."
This is considered to be the foundation stone of Caliphate and Political Islam. The perfected political power-structure bequeathed upon Caliphs and Prophet by God himself in which all the believers are equal irrespective of their origin, language, ethnicity, forms the basis of the concept of "Pan-Islamism" or "Ummah".

Spiritually, belief in Allah is not enough to ensure the place in heaven. One has to depend upon Muhammad's favours and his influence on God for entry in heaven. Thus, in Islam for all practical purposes, Muhammad, the Rasool, is supremely powerful figure. Prophet Muhammad will only talk to Allah about a believer if he was a true Muslim. And it is duty of the Islamic state (Caliph - the incumbent representative of God and Prophet) to make sure that all subjects are true Muslims. Just like it is duty of proletariat dictatorship to bring about equality in society by confiscating all the private property and owning everything in the state.

Just like Communism, Islam too failed to move on to next level of class-less and state-less society where everything belongs to Allah and the representative of Allah becomes eventually equal to all the other believers in all aspects. More about it in next part of this series..

Karl Marx had forgotten one basic rule of human nature - Men of Power desire nothing but more power.