Nasser Hamdadouche

Nasser Hamdadouche

No society throughout human history has been without the religious phenomenon and the innate need for religion. This is expressed through the public, individual, and collective display of religiosity, known as the social existence of religion. Ancient societies, since the Stone Age, have lived according to religious beliefs, practiced worship rituals, and created a vast religious heritage, reaching the level of religious myths that governed the behavior of individuals, societies, and civilizations. Humans have an inherent religious nature, as stated in the noble hadith: "Every child is born with a true faith of Islam; then his parents convert him to Judaism or Christianity or Magianism,…" Just as individuals have an innate need for religion, there is also a collective need for it as institutions.

Although the emergence of religious institutions is much later than the appearance of religion and religious manifestations—meaning that the institutionalization of religion is not as ancient as religion itself—it became evident in simple places of worship. It then evolved and took on more civilized forms, such as mosques, churches, religious houses, and religious groups. This means that the appearance and development of religious institutions are linked to the development of human civil life, that is, the development of history itself. This has led to their quantitative and qualitative increase, especially in conservative societies. The religious institution has taken on an official history of appearance, emerging as an institution with a role, influence, and authority, reaching the level of the highest reference and supreme religious authority in society.

Some Arab and Islamic Regimes Have Not Hidden the Nationalization and Monopolization of Religion by Employing Official Religious Institutions

Although concepts often suffer from epistemological issues, including differences and lack of consensus on their comprehensive and exclusive definitions, the term "religious institution" in our Arab and Islamic world can be summarized to encompass its structure, importance, and function. It refers to the organized and official religious body with specific and permanent tasks and functions, such as the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Endowments, Zakat and Hajj, universities, zawiyas (Sufi lodges), Quranic schools, and fatwa and religious guidance bodies, which play cultural, social, and spiritual roles, even if they overlap in tasks and functions with some non-religious institutions. Consequently, they occupy a central and pivotal place in the lives of people and states due to their soft influence on public life.

Here, we are talking about the religious institution, which often refers to official institutions, not non-governmental religious institutions such as charitable associations, volunteer organizations, and religious parties. This raises the issue of their true roles between the process of the nation’s civilizational revival and the secular containment by the state.

Despite the overwhelming wave of secularism that swept the world, especially after the rational revolution against the church in the West, and despite the flood of some contemporary ideologies and secular philosophies, the demand for "religion" in political and public life has been renewed. Its renewed role in political crafting and societal influence has reemerged, with modernity not lasting long against it.

Despite strenuous attempts to make the modern state a state of citizenship, to impose the logic of its ideological neutrality, and to remove it from religious conflicts, elevating it to the level of a non-ideological institutional civil state, official political use of religion has appeared. Secularism has been employed as a tool by the state to control religion, causing some regimes to use the "religious shield" as one of the pillars of despotism through the religious institution and directed religious thought to legitimize power religiously and morally. Thus, some regimes in Arab and Islamic countries have not hidden the nationalization and monopolization of religion by employing official religious institutions, such as controlling mosques and zawiyas to direct and control their religious influence.

.. Some regimes have skillfully employed traditional religious institutions to counter the civilizational political project of Islam.

 In recent decades, religiously flavored policies have emerged in some ostensibly secular countries, known as the opportunistic exploitation of religion. This reflects an illegitimate relationship between authority and religion, exploiting religion without genuinely adopting its methodology, behavior, law, and truth. Religion is invoked each time to legitimize the ruler and ensure religious loyalty to him, exploiting religious and national sentiments to cement blind acceptance of state authority over individuals and societies.

Despotic regimes have masterfully employed traditional religious institutions to counter the civilizational revivalist political project of Islam through claims of "renewing religious discourse," re-examining religious texts, reviewing the heritage of Islamic jurisprudence, and even nationalizing and monopolizing official religious institutions. They have diluted educational, pedagogical, and media systems, stripping them of any fundamental or identity-related dimension under the guise of combating "terrorism" and drying up the sources of extremism. The champion of freedom and enemy of despotism, Imam Abdul Rahman al-Kawakibi, rightly exposed such justificatory roles of the ruler in the name of religion: "Despotism in politics is born out of or accompanies despotism in religion."

However, a reflection on the pages of Islamic history, despite the unfortunate phenomenon of court scholars and ruler-worshipping clerics, reveals a clear truth: the makers of civilization and those who maintained the vitality of the ummah were not the political authorities. History has recorded dark pages about some of its princes who were closer to corruption, decadence, dictatorship, and absolute monarchy, marking the glaring constitutional crisis of Islamic civilization after the Rightly Guided Caliphate.

Despite these lamentable manifestations of the corruption of kings and princes, there was a societal engagement within the depths of the ummah that preserved hope by tipping the scales in favor of civilizational action over political corruption. It was the society that stood guard over identity and values, and the influence of what is today called religious and societal institutions was stronger than that of the state in organizing peoples and guiding the ummah. The crafting of civilization was not penned by rulers but began in the depths of society, liberating the human conscience, will, thought, and behavior through ijtihad (independent reasoning), creativity, and renewal at the societal level, not at the level of authority.

The religious institution needs self-criticism and genuine review in order to restructure and enhance its roles

Even during moments of separation between politics and civilization, the religious institutions were compelled to bear the burden of civilizational effectiveness. Their fuel was scholars, thinkers, judges, moral supervisors, creators, writers, intellectuals, and others who influenced reality without waiting for authorization from the ruler.

This was evident in the spread of Quranic schools, religious education, the authority of fatwas, the mission of mosques, the fields of endowments, the role of zakat, and the manifestations of social solidarity and various forms of volunteering. These represented brilliant aspects of Islamic civilization and embodied independent and effective cooperative institutional entities. The theoretical divine preservation of identity and values in society, as stated in the verse: "Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur'an and indeed, We will be its guardian" (Al-Hijr: 9), was combined with their practical preservation through the duty of enjoining good and forbidding evil, performed independently through organized institutional and civilizational action, as mentioned in the verse: "And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful" (Aal Imran: 104).

Between this historical revivalist role of the religious institution and its containment in modern times, it needs self-criticism and genuine review to restructure and elevate its roles to genuinely revive and bear the trust of religion, free from authoritative exploitation and bureaucratic containment policies. Dealing with both its official and popular levels with full independence and sovereignty preserves its civilizational role for the benefit of the ummah, making religion beneficial to humanity. It should not isolate religion in mere ritualistic practices, detached from engaging with the major issues of contemporary life. The mission of creating a purposeful human being is the sacred and civilizational duty of this religious institution, which it must fulfill sincerely for Allah. The harmony with the human renaissance and the civilizational role of religion depends on its historical and ethical responsibility.


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The economic blockade is undoubtedly one of the most inhumane tools used in conflicts, and the history of struggle is full of instances where it was used with extreme harshness. The polytheists used it against the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) from the early days of the Makkan call, displaying brutality and atrocity without regard for the sanctity of blood, kinship, or neighborhood. This blockade in Makkah’s valleys was extremely painful and lasted for a full three years.

In the “Zad al-Ma'ad” book by Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya, it is mentioned: “When the Quraysh saw the increasing influence of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), they unanimously agreed to a pact against Banu Hashim and Banu Muttalib: not to buy from them, not to marry from them, not to speak to them, and not to sit with them until they hand over the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) to them. They documented this agreement in a scroll, which they hung in the Kaaba. The Prophet (peace be upon him) and those with him were confined in the Shi'b Abi Talib (Valley of Abi Talib) in the seventh year after prophethood, enduring severe restrictions. They were cut off from sustenance and resources for about three years. The blockade was so intense that the cries of their children could be heard from outside.”



Gaza Blockade

The statements made by the representative of the Zionist entity in the International Court of Justice in January regarding the criminal liability for this oppressive blockade on the Gaza Strip as an attempt to evade international law obligations provoked the world’s public opinion. He accused Egypt, saying, “It is responsible for preventing the entry of humanitarian and relief aid into the Gaza Strip from the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing.” His resort to implicating Egypt in this crime was unnecessary but was due to the real threat felt by the Zionist entity. South Africa succeeded in dragging it for the first time in its history to such a public global trial, conducted with precision, professionalism, and objectivity, exposing the entity before the world.

Gaza’s blockade is a complete crime, condemned morally and legally, and must be broken by mobilizing the Ummah

According to international law, Gaza, under Zionist occupation, is still subjected to a land, air, and sea blockade, along with strict control on the entry of humanitarian aid through its six crossings, previously open for trade. In 2022 alone, over $4.7 billion flowed to Gaza for the sake of “Israeli” trade and industry.

The Zionist enemy and its allies often believe in the ruthless use of the blockade as a weapon that will achieve their alleged goals. However, the natural result has been and will remain entirely the opposite, fueling anger, resentment, and resistance and igniting feelings of revenge. The siege on land, sea, and air has been relentless since 2006, following Hamas' electoral victory and the formation of the National Unity Government. This siege is one of the direct reasons leading to the outbreak of the “Al-Aqsa Flood” battle on October 7, 2023, baring strategic implications threatening Israel's existence and its affiliated regimes. Reality has proven that the siege has only enhanced the evolution, superiority, and triumph of the resistance, while the Palestinian people have demonstrated resilience, endurance, and support for the resistance.

The Gaza blockade is a fully-fledged crime, condemned by all humanitarian, ethical, religious, and legal standards, demanding the mobilization of the nation to break it, including:

1- The Role of the Ummah’s Scholars in Shaping Awareness:

There is no surprise in the Zionist enemy's blockade of the Gaza Strip, as it is part of a religious, existential, and fatal war. However, the major crime lies in the blockade being imposed by those close in kinship: nationality, Arabism, and religion. It represents a dangerous alignment with the Zionist enemy and genuine participation in this crime. Allah the Almighty says, “O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you - then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.” (Al-Ma'idah: 51). This requires the mobilization of the Ummah’s scholars to shape public opinion in the Arab, Islamic, and humanitarian spheres against this blockade. They should do so by judging it under Islamic law, considering that religion is a governing and influential reference in the perception and behavior of Muslims towards this cause. It is not permissible for a Muslim to betray, abandon, or surrender their Muslim brethren to their enemy.


2- The Role of Legal Professionals in Classifying this Blockade as a War Crime and a Genocide:

The United Nations, its envoys, and numerous human rights and humanitarian organizations have affirmed that the Gaza Strip is under siege and subject to occupation. Although the law of armed conflicts regulates the state of war occupation, known in jurisprudence as the “law of war occupation,” imposing obligations on the occupying state and considering their violation a war crime aimed at protecting civilian inhabitants and civilian objects in the occupied territory. However, since 2006, this blockade has led to the worst humanitarian catastrophe in modern times. For example, the World Health Organization recorded between 2008 and 2021 the deaths of 839 Palestinians who were prevented from leaving Gaza for medical treatment. Experts estimate that the number of deaths from diseases and hunger due to the blockade may be twice as many as those from combat and airstrikes.

A group of doctors in the “British Medical Journal” highlighted the health implications of the ongoing violence resulting from the continuous blockade, warning of a serious risk of genocide against the Palestinians.

Human rights advocates and legal professionals must push for the prosecution of the Zionist enemy in international courts, forcing them to abide by it

Furthermore, the siege on Gaza was further brutalized and intensified on October 9, 2023, when the brutal “Israeli” Minister of Defense, Gallant, declared that “Israel” is imposing a complete blockade on Gaza—no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel—everything is shut down. This statement placed 2.3 million people in a geographic area of 365,000 square kilometers at the mercy of thousands of bombs and missiles, a blatant violation of the rules of international humanitarian law. The blockade is considered an illegal form of collective punishment, prohibited by the Geneva Convention on International Law in Protocol III in Article 87, Protocol IV in Article 33, and its Additional Protocol in Article 50, as well as Rule 103 of customary international humanitarian law.

This legal characterization and identification of criminal liability for the blockade impose a duty on human rights advocates and legal professionals worldwide to push for the prosecution of the Zionist enemy in international courts, forcing them to abide by it.


3- The Role of Public Opinion in Pressuring Governments:

There are several means by which public opinion can exert pressure on governments to push for lifting the blockade, including the strength of political parties, the vitality of civil society, the momentum of popular marches and demonstrations, the effectiveness of economic boycott campaigns, and shaping public opinion through media outlets and various social media channels. All of these means are tools that serve their respective purposes. Supporting a fellow Muslim and lifting injustice from them is a religious duty, and whatever is necessary to fulfill this duty is obligatory. As stated in the Quran, “And if they seek help of you for the religion, then you must help.” (Al-Anfal: 72)

The entire Ummah is urgently called upon to act effectively to lift this criminal blockade on the Gaza Strip, halting the destructive war machine against the vulnerable Palestinian people. Allah the Almighty says, “And what is [the matter] with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and [for] the oppressed among men, women, and children who say, 'Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper?'” (An-Nisa’: 75)



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