By Ismail Ali Ismail (Geeldoon)
“Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects” Will Rogers
This article arose out of Hassan M. Abukar’s excellent article, “Umal And Faisal: Clash of The Titans” and the comments that followed (Wardheernews.com, September 21, 201), and is informed by the equally excellent article of Liban Ahmed, “Religious Polarization Amongst Somalis” (wardheernews.com, September 27, 2016. The topic of this article was put before a panel of three Somali professionals who were debating another topic before a Somali audience. Their replies were in no uncertain terms in support of secular governance and away from religion, and they sounded sacrilegious. That was captured in a YouTube, which has since gone viral. As a result, many Somali clerics were up in arms and were vociferous in their condemnation of two of the three professionals for what they had said.
Will Rogers was obviously right when he said: “Everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects”. Faisal and Mohammed Abdi stepped out of their purview by pronouncing themselves most emphatically on a most sensitive subject, which Nuraddin Farah was prudent to avoid discussing (thanks to Hassan M Abukar for that). Faisal sounded that he was rejecting Islam altogether, although he immediately blurted out some words that seemed to qualify his rejection.
Mohammed Abdi plunged deeper in the mud by adding that ‘the Americans’ (he did not say ‘founding fathers’) separated State and Religion (he did not say, ‘Church and State’), and that we (Somalis) should follow their example since they are more knowledgeable, more experienced, and wiser. The clerics, and Somalis in general, were incensed because that sounded as if what the Americans did was superior to what God had ordained. I have discussed in my book (“Governance: The Scourge and Hope of Somalia”) why the separation between Church and State, but not between Mosque and State. The Churched governed: the Mosque never did. A politician answering that same question would have sounded so sanctimonious as to embrace enthusiastic support to the application of religion to everything. But Faisal Roble and Mohammed Abdi did not, unlike Nuraddin, weigh their words, having, I think, caught by surprise, and did not, apparently, realize the reverberations and repercussions of their utterances. These are two good people I know and respect; and, as far as I know, neither is irreligious.
However, I am writing this article in an effort to answer the same question to a wider group of people who may wish to have another viewpoint on the matter.
The Somali Clerics
Somali clerics are by and large making the same mistakes that many educated, westernized Somalis make. They are wading in difficult fields they are not familiar with when they pontificate on issues of state affairs and politics. Some of them even gave a religious explanation for the current conflict between Kenya and Somalia on the delineation of their maritime borders. They tend to weigh in matters that clearly lie outside their purview, not realizing that by doing so they run the risk of making themselves irrelevant, especially when some of them contend that Democracy, party politics, structures of Western polity are all un-Islamic, and even illicit. But they are not recommending Dictatorship either. Nor can the Somali men of the cloth tell us what Islamic polity should look like in today’s complex conditions of our world! This is because they do not know what different political systems, structures, and dynamics are, and how government works or should work.
As a matter of fact many of those clerics who preach sanctimoniously every day the adoption of Islamic rule do not even know Islam’s contribution to learning and human civilization, Islam’s occupation of and achievements in Spain over many centuries. Some of them have never heard of the Omayyads and the Abbasids . Their intellectual horizons are limited and they are thoroughly incapable of giving us authoritative religious positions on the burning issues of the day such as birth control, autopsy, euthanasia, payment of interest in an inflationary economy, and many others. Yet, they are too quick to denounce and condemn people who do not agree with their interpretations of the Qur’an, and we all see fatwas flying left and right. But whose fatwa is right? By what right can any cleric issue a fatwa? And who has the duty to implement them? Without an effective government and a central council on religious affairs we are in for a big confusion and discord. We are even subjected to watching the ugly sight of religious ‘scholars’ insulting each other through the social media. I have even seen some of their Arab counterparts do the same. The great tragedy ensuing from all this is putting Islamic Rule in an unfavorable light which leads young people to reject it. Isn’t this a disservice to Islam?
By Ismail Ali Ismail (Geeldoon)
Ismail Ali Ismail (Geeldoon), is an author and political analyst, who writes about politics and governance. Mr. Geeldoon is a regular contributor of WardheerNews and the author of the book, Governance: The Scourge and Hope of Somalia. Now retired, he was a senior civil servant in Somalia and, later, a senior professional staff-member of the United Nations. He now resides in Virginia, USA.
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