In his book "Rethinking Political Islam" issued by Oxford University, in 2017, Shadi Hamid - one of the most profound scholars of Islamic movements after the Arab Spring - quotes Sheikh Rashid Ghannouchi as saying, "The worst thing that happens to Islamists is That people love them before they come to power, and then hate them after they come to power.”
The significant decline in the electoral performance of some Islamic parties in recent years indicates that this "worst" has actually become possible.
What is the problem of Islamic parties in the Arab world?
Why is its popularity declining?
Did it fail or did it fail?
Does the electoral decline mean the end of political Islamic movements?
Or does it indicate the existence of structural and strategic dilemmas that can be reformed and changed?
This article seeks to answer some of these questions that concern all Arabs and Muslims today.
The political destinies of Islam are not linked to a particular movement or party, and that what has been termed in imitation of the Western term “political Islam” is a deeply rooted phenomenon in Arab societies, and it is a phenomenon that remains as long as these societies remain Muslim societies, contrary to what the celebrants of the end of “political Islam” the missionaries go to. The era of "post-Islamism" in the Arab world.
The reasons for the decline of Islamic parties are complex, some of which are due to objective restrictions, and some are due to inertia.
Among the objective restrictions are the bloody eradication campaigns at the hands of repressive regimes, the unfair competition from fascist and undemocratic secular forces, and the international position hostile to the Islamic identity.
Among the aspects of inertia: neglecting the moral balance by lax commitment to the declared principles, political idiocy in front of the cunning of the deep state, political and strategic miscalculation, and leadership misery that wastes opportunities and possibilities.
But I will begin with an important theoretical statement, which is that the political destinies of Islam are not linked to a specific movement or party, and that what has been termed in imitation of the Western term “political Islam” is a phenomenon deeply rooted in Arab societies, and it is a phenomenon that remains as long as these societies remain Muslim societies. Contrary to what celebrates the end of "political Islam" and heralds the "post-Islamic" era in the Arab world go.
The reason for the solidity of this phenomenon and its defiance of time is not the good performance of the current Islamic political forces - which lack a lot of strategic sense and awareness of the world of politics and world politics - but the matter is due to the nature of the Islamic religion itself and its foundational model that is resistant to distortion and change.
Religions differ in their structure and foundational models. The foundational model presented by Buddha or Christ, peace be upon him, with their words and actions, is not similar to the foundational model presented by Muhammad, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, with his words and actions.
The Prophet of Islam, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, did not live his life in celibacy and trembling, as Buddha did.
His message was not limited to moving consciences away from the obligation of the power of the state and the law, as was the case in the message of Christ, peace be upon him.
Rather, Muhammad, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, came with a message that makes political and military action that serves truth and justice a good deed and worship of God Almighty, like prayer and fasting are equal.
Ibn Taymiyyah paid attention to this meaning, so he wrote, “The guardianship of the one who adopts it as a religion by which he draws close to God, and performs the duty according to his ability, is one of the best righteous deeds.”
(Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmoo' al-Fatawa).
Muhammad, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, was not afflicted by the mighty waves of life, as many ascetics over the long history of mankind have afflicted, and he was not satisfied with moving the consciences from afar, as many reformers and preachers did. An integrated moral, legislative and political curriculum that combines the authority of conscience, the authority of society, and the authority of the state.
Islam would not stop at the authority of conscience only, and neglect the authority of society and the authority of the state, because it is a realistic religion that deals with human beings, not angels.
This is what the Noble Qur’an referred to in the saying of God Almighty, “Say: If there were angels on earth walking in peace, We would have sent down to them from heaven an Angel and a Messenger” (Surat Al-Isra, verse 95).
Muhammad, may God’s prayers and peace be upon him, lived a life full of conflict, in which he faced the density and oppression of matter with the power of spirit and matter together, and defeated brute force with the authority of truth and force together, and curbed injustice with the bridle of the Book and the sword together.
Therefore, politics has been in the depth of the message of Islam since its birth, starting with the establishment of the state in Medina after the emigration, and then what followed that foundational step after that of the rule of princes, the appointment of judges, the management of armies, correspondence with kings, the implementation of penalties, the signing of treaties, and the disposal of money The public is entitled to his rights, and the management of the public interests of the group...etc.
This practical political tradition is unparalleled in Buddhism and Christianity, for example, and it is an authentic part of the prophetic statement of the meanings of revelation as an applied statement, and an essential aspect of his life that God Almighty commanded the believers to follow.
With this spaciousness and realism, Islam was not merely inspiring a new faith and a new meaning of life, nor just a spiritual and moral awakening. It was also - besides all that - a perpetual political movement, a political principle organizing the affairs of society, a resounding voice aligned with the oppressed against the oppressor, and insisting on fairness to the ruled. from the ruler.
I have succeeded in consolidating the values of Islam and its political rulings, through the texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah, in my book “The Constitutional Crisis in Islamic Civilization”.
The success or failure of an Islamic party does not change anything from the nature of the Islamic religion, and the failure of a government, party or political force to the values of Islam does not affect the comprehensiveness of the message of Islam, and people’s attachment to its founding model, and their inspiration in their quest to achieve a life of justice, dignity and freedom.
Whenever the mourners gathered to mourn “political Islam” and the missionaries announced its end, it rose from the ashes and came back stronger than it was before.
The joy of the “post-Islamic” phase and the preaching of that is premature today, and perhaps its companions will end in disappointment, as happened to them in the past.
Even if the current Islamic parties and movements end in failure, other Islamic forces will replace them, because the phenomenon of “political Islam” is an expression of the reality of popular sentiment, and the reality of the relationship between religion and public affairs in the religion of Islam and its founding model inspired by Muslims.
After setting things straight from this initial angle, we can evaluate the decline of Islamic parties in the Arab world.
I will summarize this in a few things:
First: The Arab Spring was an unexpected meeting between the Islamists to exercise power. The people did not have the ability or the will to assume the affairs of power and governance on the day the Arab Spring revolutions erupted. Rather, the aspiring masses threw them into a rupture with the authoritarian regimes to the political primacy.
Although the Islamists participated in power before the Arab Spring - in Yemen and Jordan, for example - their assumption of power at the height of the conflict between revolutions and counter-revolutions, and at the moment of rising public expectations, was a dangerous risk.
It was better for the Islamists to deal with the matter in a more modest and less pretentious manner, and not to be tempted by what Shadi Hamid called “the seduction of power” in his book titled with this title.
Second: The power that the Islamists assumed after the Arab Spring was not real. Martyr President Mohamed Morsi did not have the strategic decision in the Egyptian state, which was the first honestly elected president in its history. Rather, the strategic decision was in the hands of the army leaders, their extensions from the secular elites, and their international backers. .
The Islamists who took over the presidency or the parliament in Morocco and Tunisia did not possess the constitutional powers and authorities that their electoral victory qualified them for. Rather, the strategic decision in Morocco was always in the hands of the king. In it, the powers of Ennahda leaders are emptied of their content, forcing it to choose between its party gains and the gains of the Tunisian revolution.
Third: The Islamists agreed to be implicated in a nominal authority, which they bear the burden of, and do not have control over, in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco, and it turned out that this was a strategic mistake, for which they paid dearly.
They did not take away the constitutional powers granted to them by the people through advocacy and calculated risk, nor did they give up and resign from them voluntarily, and returned the matter to the people, to avoid bearing the moral cost of those positions devoid of any real authority.
So the Tabi’i Imam Amer al-Shaabi’s statement about the contribution of some jurists to a failed revolution against al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, “This is a fitnah in which we were not righteous and pious, nor strong immorality” was confirmed by them.
If the Islamists had a strategic sense and tactical flexibility, they would have taken away the powers granted to them by the people, or had voluntarily relinquished the illusory power in their hands, as soon as it became clear that it was merely a moral burden on them.
Fourth: Some Islamic movements, especially in the Arab Maghreb, abandoned the legitimacy of purity in favor of the legitimacy of performance, so they lost both laws.
The attractiveness of the Islamic parties was - and still is - their clinging to the values of their societies, their defense of Islamic identity and constants, and their advising moral stance against internal tyranny and external enslavement.
But the fear of some of these movements of losing their meager political gains made the survival instinct control them, at the expense of principles and constants, and they thought that they would compensate for moral purity with good economic and social performance, and forgot that they did not have the powers to do so at all, so the matter ended with their loss on both fronts: the moral purity front. and performance.
Perhaps the Moroccan Justice and Development Party’s involvement in political misdeeds that contradict all the Islamic principles on which the party was founded, such as normalization with Israel, support for French education at the expense of the Arab, and the licensing of Indian cannabis (hashish) is the most eloquent expression of this moral laxity with a heavy political cost.
It remains fair to say that Abdelilah Benkirane succeeded in a level of balance between royal and elected power in Morocco, which his successor, Saad Eddin Othmani, did not succeed in.
Benkirane's populism, his ability to maneuver, and his simple, funny language benefited his party a lot, as did his constant attack on corrupt politicians whom he calls "crocodiles", and his tacit criticism of the king sometimes... All of these things kept Moroccan Islamists under the leadership of Benkirane at a distance between them and the sins of the deep state. in the minds of the general public.
This indicates that the party leadership style may have an important impact in determining the fate of Islamic parties. If the leadership is charismatic and strong, it can maintain a balance between the prevailing forces and the emerging powers. But when the leadership is weak and weak, it is subject to the logic of the prevailing forces, so the Islamic forces lose their balance. Ethical and social.
And when the Moroccan Justice and Development Party (PJD) neglected its charismatic leaders in favor of a weak bureaucratic academic leader who does not have a political imagination, and does not dare to maneuver against the tricks of the “Makhzan” the balance was disturbed, and the party paid a heavy price for that, after it engaged in the policy of relying on the consent of the deep state, and representing the will of the Moroccan state. King, more than relying on the consent of society and the representation of the will of the people.
Thus, the Moroccan experience ended in taming the Justice and Development Party and containing it completely at the hands of the “Makhzen” and swallowing it in the bowels of the deep state, in the same way that Moroccan political forces were tamed and swallowed up before, such as the Istiqlal Party and the Socialist Union.
The pride prevailing among the Maghreb Islamic movements, and their broad claims that they are fundamentally different from the “Brotherhood” groups in the Arab Mashreq, and that they are more aware than the Eastern “Brotherhood” of the political game, did not help.
That bragging was just a cover for wrongdoing of another kind.
The strategy of the “maximum limit” adopted by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, through which they fell into the trap of running for the presidency before things were ripe for that, and led them to crash into the wall of the Egyptian reality that is accustomed to tyranny, was matched by the “minimum” strategy adopted by the Maghreb movements, which ended with the complete taming of these movements. And stripping it of its moral message, which is the source of its attraction, while depriving it of any real powers, and preventing it from achieving that a practical achievement compensates for what it lost of its moral capital.
This path began with the taming of the “Brothers” of Algeria at the hands of the putschist soldiers in the 1990s, and then continued to be generalized after that in Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya.
Despite this great shortcoming and the clear failure in the performance of the Islamic political forces in governance, the Arab secular forces are much worse off than the Islamic ones. Secularism has been allowed to rule many countries for many decades, and they have failed miserably in the battle for development, and the battle for freedom and the battle for identity were not among their priorities in the first place.
As for the Islamic movements, they have succeeded in the battle of identity and freedom, and they were an impenetrable shield for the identity of their societies from loss, loss of self-confidence, and alienation from their civilizational inheritances.
The Islamic movements were the greatest lever of the Arab Spring revolutions, and therefore the hell of regional and international eradication focused on them alone.
Criticism is also focused on it, because people hope for it what they do not hope for in secular forces.
But the Islamic movements are still unable to achieve in the battle of development whenever they take power or participate in it.
Perhaps the greatest dangers facing Islamic movements and parties today are two things: The first is the low ceiling that some of these movements and parties have begun to accept, until their mere survival has become a sign of success and proof of the achievement of the political and civilized project!
Today, some of these movements are almost emerging from their Islamic skin without need or fruit, and their moral capital is being eroded in countries where everyone derives their legitimacy from Islam: honesty or hypocrisy.
The second is the weakness of the strategic sense, which means continuing the policies of emotion, improvisation and reactions, and staying in a cycle of circular ups and downs, without serious accumulation or qualitative penetration.
The movements of reform and renewal sometimes need someone to reform and renew them, and the Islamic movements today need a profound change, to become more strategic and aware of the world of politics and world politics.
It is not enough for some Islamists today to justify that Islamic parties have not failed on their own, but rather their opponents have failed at home and abroad. They have forgotten that the ease of failure is failure, and the ease of containment is weakness, and that politics is a defense and a power struggle, not mere sermons and good intentions.Keywords: