I was exposed to the environment of Islamic movements back in my years of studying in the United Kingdom. In a country where freedom of speech is assured, societies, organisations and movements strive in the UK (some maybe too free and too unrestrained that extreme ideologies also admittedly exist). As an eager youth wanting to get involved I quickly adapted myself to one of these, as the particular movement I was with was aligning itself with the idea of educating Islam as a way of life, that the universal message of Islam is to be propagated and shared to all, regardless of nations and races.
I identified myself with this movement, went to its educational classes and discussions, even helped organising its events and inviting new members. One could say I devoted my time to its cause (on top of my other priority which was to get a degree).
At that time that there were quite a few organisations which were active – Majlis Syura Muslimun (MSM), Hizbul Islami (Hizbi), ABIM, Kelab UMNO UK, just to name a few which were linked with Malaysians. There were also non-Malaysian-specific organisations such as the FOSIS (Federation of Studient Islamic Societies), and Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) whose activities were also participated by Malaysians. While there were many opportunities for those who wanted to participate, realistically a person could only devote to one should he or she wished to get involved more seriously.
One particular day I was asked by one senior member in private: “Will you leave this organisation for something which is better?”
Honestly this particular question stumped me, and I could not give a quick reply. Will I leave this organisation after all the hard work the organisation and its senior members had given and had educated me? Will I leave this organisation after the many years I had proudly born its flag and its message? Will I leave this organisation after I have gone through the process of examining and choosing (from the many organisations and societies around), that this was THE organisation for me? After these years of believing that this organisation is the BEST in terms of putting the message of Islam into practice, in terms of its methodologies and ways of inviting others (da’wah)?
Only after a long, long thought, did I give the brother my answer.
What answer I gave is not of the interest of this writing. Nor is what happened after that ‘test’. What is important however was the pertinence and importance of that seemingly small event, of which I only realised after quite a while.
Islam urges its followers to learn and to follow the religion. But Islam does not teach blind following of any person, sect or organisation.
While the belief of a person or the visions of an organisation may change, Islam and its principles will always be the same.
No person (or organisation) is infallible, but Islam and the message of God will stay true. Allah says in the Qur’an, the meaning of which: “Verily it is We Who have sent down the Qur’an and surely We will guard it.” (TMQ 15:9)
One of the great companions Sayyidina Ali had said: “Do not seek to know the truth according to other people. Rather first come to know the truth — and only then will you recognise its people.” [A saying attributed to Ali ibn Abi Talib, quoted here as cited by Al-Imam Al-Ghazzali in his work Munqidh min al-Dalal]
So if my allegiance was to a person or to an organisation, this allegiance would only hold if that person or organisation would keep to the true teachings. But if my allegiance is to Islam, I know that Islam is true and will remain true.
The moment my organisational leaders say something which is against the teaching, I will not hesitate to correct them. The moment my organisation goes to a different direction, I will not hesitate to leave.
Thus by understanding this, there should be:
- No blind following or allegiance to a person or a group or a party.
- No-one being afraid to speak against a leader who is at error, even though that might cost him a position (including that of a Deputy Prime Minister)
- No such motto as: “I am forever with this party (a good example in Malay is ‘UMNO Dulu, Kini dan Selamanya’)”
- No vilifying of those who wish to leave a group when they feel they no longer share the group’s ideologies or direction (such as those leaving PAS and forming the ‘Gerakan Harapan Baru’ movement)
The question was put to me 17 years ago. I am now a member of a different organisation (but which adopts exactly the same principles as that which I joined back in the UK). I don’t wish to write names here of as the names are not important, but the message is.
I wish more of the sincere workers of Islam could adopt the same understanding (not necessarily by joining my current organisation), see beyond the partisan and organisational boundaries, leaving behind the vilification and name-calling, and focussing on our core and shared agenda, such as spreading the message of Islam, working towards a compassionate society, and calling for a just, transparent government.
Each worker of an Islamic organisation should be able to answer the very question that was put to me, “Am I willing to leave this organisation for something which is better?”
And to answer this, he or she should ask, “Am I standing by the truth, or am I standing by my group?”