Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Imām al-Ghazzālī on Commanding and Forbidding Rulers

Ghazzālī begins his fourth and final chapter [of his book on commanding the right and forbidding the wrong in the Iḥyā'] by referring back to his earlier discussion of the levels (darajāt) of performance. Where the wrongdoer is a ruler, there is no problem with the first two levels, namely informing and exhorting; but individual subjects may not have recourse to the use of force or violence, since this leads to disorder (fitna) and to consequences worse than the original wrong. What of harsh language - expressions such as 'You tyrant (ẓālim)! You who have no fear of God!'? If its use brings harm to others, it is not permitted; but if one fears only for oneself, it is permitted, and indeed commendable. Thus the early Muslims would expose themselves to such risks, knowing that to be killed in such a case was martyrdom. Ghazzālī now quotes a series of seventeen anecdotes to illustrate their courage and plain speaking. This is how things used to be; today, alas, the scholars are silent, of if they do speak out, they are ineffectual, all because of their love of the things of this world.
-Michael Cook, Commanding the Right and Forbidding the Wrong in Islamic Thought, (New York: Cambridge UP, 2000), 446.