A Core Element Within The Madinan Model of Islam
Abdullah Luongo Cape Town, South Africa
In 1331 during the dynamic rule of the Khalifah Orhan Ghazi the town of Iznik, which had been part of the Byzantine Empire until it was captured by his father Osman Ghazi in 1302, became the new Muslim capital. It was in Iznik that we see the first Imarat established by the Khalifah. Significantly, a second Imarat was later built in the same city, this time by Nilufer Hatun, the wife of Orhan Gazi, setting an important precedent that continued with other great women in Islam.
The Imarats were urban centres that provided care for both the elderly and the poor, as well as many other social services beneficial to the general population. While these two Imarets were built by the ruler and his influential wife, the creating of an Imarat is not a function of Government. The building up of towns, roads, health clinics, public baths, hospitals and schools were undertaken as ‘charitable’ works for the sake of Allah by all those who could do so. This tradition was adopted by the Ottomans from a deep and powerful Sunnah of the Rasulullah, sallallahu alayhi wa sallim. A gift of sadaqah would be used to build the initial facilities that comprise an Imarat, which often would have begun with a mosque next to which was built a market. These markets were sometimes circumscribed open spaces, but soon developed into large covered halls or bazaars for trading.
Adjoining the Mosque and Market, a school (madrassah), medical clinic or soup kitchen for the poor were added. The operating costs for these facilities were generally funded by Awqaf, i.e., a rental property whose income would be specifically allocated for the up-keep and running costs of the Imarat or a designated part of it. This could be a particular orchard, a tract of agricultural land or an apartment building, each of which would provide proceeds to fund a specific facility or service within the Imaret, such as maintaining the Market, running a hostel for traders who came from other towns and would receive three days free accommodation (which we recognise as a noble Sunnah), or a soup kitchen or bath house. The making of a property into a waqf was established by the Rasul, sallallahu alayhi wa sallim, and his companions, the Sahaba, copied him. It was Sayyidina Umar, radiallahu anhu, who established the first traveller’s lodge in Madinah with three days as his guest, confirming the ‘practice’ of the Rasul, sallallahu alayhi wa sallim.
Along with the du’a of a son or daughter for their dead parent and also the beneficial books that a scholar or Shaykh leaves behind after their death, a waqf continues to bring benefit to the one who established it as long as it continues in use. Therefore, we see the spread of Islam occurring in new territories, by means of da’wa and jihad and building Imarats. The whole of Sarajevo was built as an Imarat. By the sixteenth century, during the period of Sultan Mehmet, the number of Imarats, and awqaf that sprang-up around them for their support, was in the thousands. The overwhelming majority were established by ordinary Muslims, while the Sultans and their families continued to set a good example by building new Imarats themselves.
The social benefits that resulted from this noble sunna were numerous. The person who bequeathed the waqf would appoint a chief administrator that would receive a regular payment for carrying out that task. A great number of other jobs were created within the communities as the Imarats grew. New Imarats were established as Islam spread and the great Muslim cities expanded. Within any of these Imarats vast numbers of waqafs would be functioning, creating every manner of work for people.
The Mosque is an essential part of any Imarat, as is the Market. The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said: ‘The Market is like the Mosque‘. They both must be free of access, without any fee to enter or special privileges. The Mosque is always to be kept physically clean, well lit in the evenings and the toilet and wudu areas carefully maintained to preserves hygiene and good health. Likewise, the Market must be clean and free of corruption, that is usury, cheating or giving short measure of any sort. Around these two great sadaqahs that were given to the people of Madinah by their Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, all the social welfare of a Muslim society revolves. From primary schools to universities, from public parks to libraries, from health-care clinics to hospitals (that included operating theatres and also mental health centers that employed psychiatric techniques using music and the sounds of running water and listening to the recitation of Qur’an), the Imarats flourished throughout the Ottoman Dawla right up to the beginning of the twentieth century
It should be clear to all of us that the Madinan Model, of which the Imarats are a core element, gifted to us by our Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, is separate and entirely different from the machinery of the fiscal State, with its large and too often corrupt bureaucracies, its census taking – taxation structure and the inevitable debts that all State governments must incur on behalf of their citizens, sometimes even before they are born. The so-called rich nations, with their preferred currencies, will, for the moment, stay one step ahead of their astronomical debt, as the ‘speculative economy’ of stocks, futures, bonds and currency trading spirals out of control into a vast numerical universe of billions and trillions. Enron, Anderson and Myrell Lynch (let me add WorldCom and Xerox since I first wrote this paper) are just a few out of thousands of bubbles that can and will pop. The so called poorer nations, whose currencies are marginalised, will always be that one step behind despite the lie of being told you should work harder and clean up corruption to secure investment. The modern fiscal State is fueled by usury, the Madinian Model prohibits it.
The Imarats and the whole Madinan Model relate to the ‘real economy’ as opposed to the speculative one. Allah says in His Noble Qur’an that He has permitted trade and has forbidden usury. It is the kufar that say that they are one and the same. We do not attack the state, its machinery or even its fuel supply -which could be identified as the flow of usury (riba) into the system. Our aim is to obey Allah and his Messenger. The Rasul, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, has brought us the highest spiritual path leading to knowledge of Allah, and it is contained within the social and economic patterning that is the Deen of Islam. This is higher and above everything else. It is simply the best! Attacking a false system only harms you. Remember even the intelligent kufar know their system is sick and breeds social disease. Getting out from underneath a collapsing building is common sense. Criticizing something while we are caught in its web, and, furthermore, are, by our daily economic transactions, part of what makes that web strong and powerful, is neither wise nor prudent. Yet we know that this web is like the house of the spider, and what house is flimsier than the spider’s house? The putting back in place, step by step, of the modalities of Islam: having an Amir, minting the Islamic Gold Dinar and the Silver Dirham, the correct payment of Zakah which we know is taken by the authority of an Amir, and not given like other sadaqah, and establishing Imarats and awqaf, will allow us to separate from kufr, step by step, and by Allah! make a new kind of society.
In South Africa the Government is trying to operate within the frame that is dictated for them, as all governments function as an interface between a hidden or obscure financial oligarchy and the general public. Many of the leaders here are far better than those found elsewhere in the world, most notably our President. The establishing of Imarats here in South Africa, particularly in areas blighted by poverty and lack of opportunity, can only be a constructive help to the Government, and, moreover, a means by which we Muslims can make a positive impact on the place we live. For us it is the gaining of the ‘pleasure of Allah,’ while for the others it will bring new possibilities and growth and I believe we can say hope for a better life for those that enter the Deen of Islam. Insh’Allah.
NO POWER AND NO STRENGTH BUT WITH ALLAH.
This is all part of the work of the MURABITUN. It requires a new beginning, it will require some ‘Spring cleaning’ and above all love of Allah and His Rasul. So we sing the diwans of our Shaykhs, the famous Burdah that many of you know and our other dhikrs. This is our nourishment, and while it is extra (na’wafil), it gives us energy and inspiration to do what Allah has commanded. How else could we take on this great task? Has’buna lahu wa ni’ma wakeel. This was the dhikr of Sayyidina Ibrahim, peace be upon him. Allah is the Doer. We desire to be those people by whose hands Allah’s Deen is established in this time. Therefore, you can say that we are people of tariqah whose business is to re-establish Allah’s Shari’ah. Only then will we have a just and healthy society to raise our families and build our future.