The images of jubilant crowds in Tahrir Square following the election of Dr Mohamed Morsi are an understandable reaction; given that this the most open election in the history of modern Egypt.
There can be little doubt that by electing him, the people of Egypt have continued a trend – seen before in Tunisia, Morocco and elsewhere – of voting in candidates who were known for their Islamic background and who had campaigned over many years for Islamic policies and governance. To that extent, this is a welcome sign of support for Islam in the Muslim world.
Dr Morsi would surely have known that his words would appeal to the Islamic people of Egypt when he echoed the first speech of the first Caliph of Islam, Sayyiduna Abu Bakr as-Siddiq (ra), in his victory speech when he said, “as long as I obey God in your affairs. If I don’t do so, and I disobey God and I do not adhere to what I promised, you are not obliged to obey me”. He rightly paid tribute to the brave people of Egypt, especially the martyrs, and in doing so reminded us of the heavy weight of expectation on him.
So, at this critical juncture, it is important to look at the challenges awaiting Egypt under its new President. Whilst Dr Morsi mentioned some obvious challenges in his speech – such as needing to unite the population – it is worth considering the following points, which are no small matters:
1. The new President, unlike his predecessors, has no real power. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] have appointed many powers to themselves, along with allowing the judiciary to dissolve parliament and trying to dominate by influencing the writing of the new constitution.
2. It must be recognized that a man of upright and moral character is not the same as a state that is just and righteous. Egypt is still the same state, but with a new President; and this new President will find it hard to fulfill his much needed pledge that the ‘revolution will continue until it realises all its objectives’ now that his office has been neutered, and if he works in such a way so as to keep SCAF or America happy.
3. Dr Morsi restated his desire to be faithful to Islam saying “that I will never betray Allah in your affairs, or disobey Him in the affairs of my nation”. Yet this statement is almost impossible to reconcile with other statements in his speech. For example, to say “we will respect the international treaties and conventions we signed” would be incompatible with obedience and loyalty to Allah if it included the Camp David Accord, as well as some other treaties and conventions.
To really show his loyalty to Allah, His Messenger (saw) and his people, Dr Morsi would have to set Egypt on a path independent of American interests; he would work to absolutely remove the blockade and sanctions on Gaza; he would work to end the disastrous capitalist casino economy and establish a real economy to bring jobs and prosperity; he would free up capital by ending the haemorrhage of wealth by ending debt interest payments; and he would only be satisfied with a real Islamic constitution to bring justice to Egypt.
4. Slogans such as ‘social justice, freedom and human dignity’ for all citizens would be welcomed by many, as well as promises to ‘establish justice and righteousness’. But the challenge for the Islamic politician is to show how the laws of the Shar’iah, derived from Quran and Sunnah, secure these goals – and do so better than any other system.
The challenge for Dr Morsi is to resist the pressures from Western colonial governments and the secular military leadership, who each serve their own interests, yet who would all portray Islamic government, based on Quran & Sunnah alone, as ‘extremist’. We have seen Islamic politicians in power before, such as in Turkey – which also has a secular army that ensures that Islam is not referred to in government.
What Egypt really needs is the application of the Islamic system of government. The challenge for Dr Morsi is how to make that a reality, so that neither Allah, His Messenger nor the Muslims are betrayed in this matter of ruling.
We pray that Allah guides us and guides Dr Morsi so that he avoids making the same mistakes as his predecessors, in Turkey, Sudan and in Egypt – or indeed for that matter in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where secular constitutions bear the superficial slogans of Islam.
He has laid out the standard by which people will surely hold him to account. If the people whose Islamic sentiments he appealed to in the electoral campaign and victory speech pick up on some of the contradictory messages mentioned so far, they should surely scrutinize his term in office very closely from his first day – as the best traditions of Islam demand.