28 November 2023

Joining organizations that fight against injustices and corruption in our societies is a great Sunnah, says Islamic scholar Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar.

Instead of being armchair critics and complaining about the wrongs in our country, we should instead stand up and channel our frustrations in such a way that it brings about positive changes, an influential Islamic scholar told Al-Qalam.

In an interview this week, Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar offered “modest advice as to how we as conscious Muslims and responsible South African citizens should respond to this grim reality” that was facing us today.

He pointed out that social analysts as well as ordinary South African citizens concur that we are living through one of the most difficult periods in our country’s history in terms of crime and corruption that is eating away at the moral fabric of society.

Sadly, he said most people choose to become armchair critics rather than do something about the things that were wrong in our country.

“Too many South Africans are so-called armchair critics and indulge in whining and complaining about the things that are going wrong in our country. Our apathy and cynicism render us accomplices in the malaise of our society and we become part of a narrative of hopelessness.

“At this critical juncture in the history of our country we need to channel our frustrations with the decadent trends and corruption in our society in constructive ways that will bring about the positive changes that we all desire,” the Imam said.


In line with Qur’anic teachings, Imam Omar proposed ways in which “we as South Africans should respond positively and judiciously to the challenges facing our country in this New Year 2023”.

He said we need to become responsible and active citizens so that those in power can be held accountable for their political and moral mandates.

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“But how exactly are we to do this? From an Islamic perspective, democracy does not merely mean casting one’s vote for this or that political party every five years. “The Islamic concept of shura or mutual consultation as articulated in the Qur’an in Surah al-Shura, Chapter 42 verse 38, and exemplified in the practice of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), is closer to the modern notion of participatory democracy.

“Participatory democracy holds that the critical motor of social change does not lie in the support for this or that political party, but rather in holding politicians and political parties accountable for their actions by strengthening our civic associations and community organizations.”

Imam Omar pointed out that the Islamic ethic of Shura demands that Muslims become active citizens who contribute to the building of consultative and transparent social institutions and community organizations.

“By embracing the Islamic ethic of Shura and participatory democracy we strengthen our society’s capacity to root out corruption, to stem the tide of violence and crime and to better address the needs of the poor and marginalized”.

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“Another way to make our voices heard – and strengthen civil society – is by joining our community organizations. This is the only real guarantee for a healthy democracy. Moreover, joining organisations whose primary aim is the promotion of human dignity and socio-economic justice is a great sunnah of the Prophet (pbuh) exemplified in his joining of the Hilf al-Fudul (the Pact of the Virtuous) when he was only 20 years old.

“The Prophet’s membership of a civic organization called the Hilf al-Fudul represents the high importance Islamic Ethics accords to the joining of organizations that promotes communal action for rooting out injustices and corruption in our societies,” he added.

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