• Category Category: S
  • View View: 138
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

SADR, MUHAMMAD BAQIR AL- (March 1, 1935 – April 9, 1980), innovative and influential Iraqi Islamic thinker and political leader. “An important figure not only in Iraq but in the life of the Shi’i world, and indeed in the Muslim world as a whole” (Albert Hourani), Muhammad Bagir al-Sadr was both a prominent scholar of Islamic law and its contemporary applications and a political leader whose writ transcended his native country to reach Iran and the rest of the Middle East.

Thought. Muhammad Bagir al-Sadr’s production is probably the most varied for a Muslim author of the twentieth century. Sadr wrote books on philosophy, Qur’anic interpretation, logic, education, constitutional law, economics, interest-free banking, as well as more traditional works of usul al -fiqh (principles of Islamic jurisprudence), compilations of devotional rites, commentaries on prayers, and historical investigations into early Sunni-Shi’! controversies.

As an innovative thinker on the issue of the desired shape and structure of a contemporary Muslim society, his most important work, which established his fame early on in his career, is a book on Islamic economics, which was published in two volumes in 1959-1961. This book, Iqtisddund (Our Economics), probably remains the most scholarly twentieth-century study of Islamic economics as an alternative ideological system to capitalism and communism.

Methodologically, in Iqtisaduna, Sadr acknowledges that there is no scientific discipline in Islam which can be identified as economics and that the main elements in the approach to an Islamic economy must be derived from what he calls “the legal superstructure.” The resultant process leads to the well-known operation of ijtihad, which is understood by Sadr in its wider definition as an intellectual endeavor into the law and jurisprudence of classical Islam and is consequently acknowledged as an exercise which is prone to human error. For Sadr, “Islamic economics is not a science” and will only stand as an original and serious discipline after a long process of legal discovery. Only after this research can one speak of an original Islamic discipline of economics, in which the moral imperative derived from the law is clear but in which, also, there is a difficult and patient scholarly investigation into the riches of the classical fiqh (jurisprudence) tradition.

From a substantive point of view, Sadr introduces in Iqtisddund a detailed critique of Marxist socialism and Western capitalism before proceeding with the presentation of his alternative system. Because of the particular strength of communist ideology in Iraq at the time Iqtisddund was composed, the book is devoted primarily to refuting various brands of Marxist socialism. Against capitalism, Sadr’s arguments rest on the usual criticism of the hollowness of the concept of liberty when applied to unequal parties in economic exchange. Against socialism, Sadr develops a long-winded and informed argument demonstrating the fallacies of Marxist periodization of history, its overemphasis on the class struggle, and its unrealistic prescriptions against the basic (and natural) instincts of economic self-interest in mankind. Then, Islamic economics as a discipline is introduced by a series of principles, mostly of a methodological nature, which the author follows with a dirigiste (i.e., involving extensive state intervention) and generally egalitarian reading of the concept of property in a predominantly agricultural context.

Without going into the intricacies of his theory of landed property, Sadr’s thesis can be presented as a call for the state’s systematic intervention to ensure that land ownership depends as directly as possible on the actual laborer who works on it. The central concept of labor in Iqtisaduna, requires an interventionist and welfarist operation of the ruler (called in that book waft alamr), who combines two tools to redress “the social balance”: one is the guidance of legal principles of property which connect ownership of land and means of production with labor; the other is “need,” and the state is free, according to Sadr, to fill in the discretionary area with adequate measures in order to suppress what Sadr did not shy from calling, on the eve of the Iranian Revolution two decades later, “the exploitation of man by man.”

Beyond these general principles, Sadr elaborately develops the guiding rules to property within the frame of what he calls “distribution in the phase that precedes production.” Both in this phase and in the actual productive process, the most original dimension of Igtisadund appears in the method of discovering Islamic economics. By quoting classical jurists of the -fiqh tradition, Sadr engages the field with the most serious such investigation among Muslim authors in the twentieth century, by basing it on the legal books of a millenniumold legal tradition. [See Property.]

The detour through classical law is also Sadr’s path to a lengthy treatise on Islamic banking. Here again, he is a forerunner in a field which has become, a decade after his Interest-Free Bank was published in 1969, fashionable and controversial. Islamic finance is premised on a narrow interpretation of the ban on ribd (a word which for Sadr means interest), which has led Islamic banks to create operations allowing access to their coffers by depositors, in return for the bank’s pooling these resources for investment operations that do not bear a predetermined and fixed rate of return.

The system devised by Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr needs to be appraised against the common practice of present-day Islamic institutions. If a deposit invested by an Islamic bank in a successful venture is profitable, the depositor and the bank (as entrepreneur) will share the profit according to a predetermined rate-for example, a 50-50 or 6o-4o split. But the endeavor can also be a total failure, eating up the deposit as capital. In this case, under the classical contract of muddrabah, which is also known as commenda, or partnership for profit and loss, the depositor has no recourse against the bank in normal circumstances.

Under classical Islamic law, mudarabah operates as a two-party contract, with the agent-entrepreneur endeavoring to make money entrusted to him by the owner of capital. The operations of a modern Western bank, in contradistinction, involve as a matter of course three parties: the depositors, the bank, and the borrowers. The answers of present-day Islamic banks, although based in theory on the idea of muddrabah, have to square the original two-party contract of muddrabah with three parties. They sever the tripartite relationship by fictitiously considering the operation to consist of a double contract entered into by the bank on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the depositor and the borrower as separate parties. In the first contract, the depositor would be the owner of capital, and the bank the agent-entrepreneur. In the second contract, the bank would be the owner of capital, and the borrower the agent-entrepreneur.

Sadr has a more original and elaborate scheme in his book, Interest-Free Bank: he considers that the bank is actually only a mediator to a single muddrabah contract between the pool of depositors and the pool of entrepreneurs. He goes on to elaborate on the rights and duties of each of the three parties and to provide interesting, if not altogether convincing, arithmetic formulas to assess the rate of profit and the resulting shares in the profits and losses of the three parties to the operation.

Beyond the rearrangements of contracts to avoid interest, the problem facing theoreticians and practitioners of Islamic banking can be summed up in the crucial question, can a bank refuse to tie itself down to a fixed interest rate offered to its depositors while guaranteeing the safety of these deposits? For presentday Islamic banks, the answer is generally negative. Guarantees on deposits cannot be offered, as the bank operates on the basis of a partnership for profit and loss. Sadr, in the main, partakes of this idea, although he seems to be inclined, in a treatise written ten years after his Interest-Free Bank, to acknowledge the necessity of preserving the depositor’s capital, even if the venture it is used for is lost. [See Banks and Banking; Interest.]

A third area of innovation in Sadr’s thought is related to the concept of an Islamic state: how would the constitution of such a state be conceived in theory and practice? Here, the influence of Sadr on the Iranian Revolution was remarkable, and there is an identifiable thread from his 1979 treatise on the subject to the constitution passed in the Islamic Republic of Iran a few months later.

The thrust of Sadr’s idea appears in a two-tier separation of powers and in the Iranian Constitution: onto the traditional separation of powers between the three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial powers) was grafted an Islamic scheme which is derived from a combination of Shi’i features of scholarship and the representation of the Platonic figure of the philosopher-king in the form of a jurist. The guardian of the city became the classical fagih (a jurisprudent), hence the concept of wilayat al -faqih (guardianship of the jurisconsult), which Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989) had adumbrated in his Najaf classes of 1970 and which was brought into a more-precise constilution two decades later, “the exploitation of man by man.”

Beyond these general principles, Sadr elaborately develops the guiding rules to property within the frame of what he calls “distribution in the phase that precedes production.” Both in this phase and in the actual productive process, the most original dimension of Iqtisa-duna appears in the method of discovering Islamic economics. By quoting classical jurists of the fiqh tradition, Sadr engages the field with the most serious such investigation among Muslim authors in the twentieth century, by basing it on the legal books of a millenniumold legal tradition. [See Property.]

The detour through classical law is also Sadr’s path to a lengthy treatise on Islamic banking. Here again, he is a forerunner in a field which has become, a decade after his Interest-Free Bank was published in 1969, fashionable and controversial. Islamic finance is premised on a narrow interpretation of the ban on ribs (a word which for Sadr means interest), which has led Islamic banks to create operations allowing access to their coffers by depositors, in return for the bank’s pooling these resources for investment operations that do not bear a predetermined and fixed rate of return.

The system devised by Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr needs to be appraised against the common practice of present-day Islamic institutions. If a deposit invested by an Islamic bank in a successful venture is profitable, the depositor and the bank (as entrepreneur) will share the profit according to a predetermined rate-for example, a 50-50 or 6o-4o split. But the endeavor can also be a total failure, eating up the deposit as capital. In this case, under the classical contract of muddrabah, which is also known as commenda, or partnership for profit and loss, the depositor has no recourse against the bank in normal circumstances.

Under classical Islamic law, muddrabah operates as a two-party contract, with the agent-entrepreneur endeavoring to make money entrusted to him by the owner of capital. The operations of a modern Western bank, in contradistinction, involve as a matter of course three parties: the depositors, the bank, and the borrowers. The answers of present-day Islamic banks, although based in theory on the idea of muddrabah, have to square the original two-party contract of muddrabah with three parties. They sever the tripartite relationship by fictitiously considering the operation to consist of a double contract entered into by the bank on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the depositor and the borrower as separate parties. In the first contract, the depositor would be the owner of capital, and the bank the agent-entrepreneur. In the second contract, the bank would be the owner of capital, and the borrower the agent-entrepreneur.

Sadr has a more original and elaborate scheme in his book, Interest-Free Bank: he considers that the bank is actually only a mediator to a single muddrabah contract between the pool of depositors and the pool of entrepreneurs. He goes on to elaborate on the rights and duties of each of the three parties and to provide interesting, if not altogether convincing, arithmetic formulas to assess the rate of profit and the resulting shares in the profits and losses of the three parties to the operation.

Beyond the rearrangements of contracts to avoid interest, the problem facing theoreticians and practitioners of Islamic banking can be summed up in the crucial question, can a bank refuse to tie itself down to a fixed interest rate offered to its depositors while guaranteeing the safety of these deposits? For presentday Islamic banks, the answer is generally negative. Guarantees on deposits cannot be offered, as the bank operates on the basis of a partnership for profit and loss. Sadr, in the main, partakes of this idea, although he seems to be inclined, in a treatise written ten years after his Interest-Free Bank, to acknowledge the necessity of preserving the depositor’s capital, even if the venture it is used for is lost.

A third area of innovation in Sadr’s thought is related to the concept of an Islamic state: how would the constitution of such a state be conceived in theory and practice? Here, the influence of Sadr on the Iranian Revolution was remarkable, and there is an identifiable thread from his 1979 treatise on the subject to the constitution passed in the Islamic Republic of Iran a few months later.

The thrust of Sadr’s idea appears in a two-tier separation of powers and in the Iranian Constitution: onto the traditional separation of powers between the three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial powers) was grafted an Islamic scheme which is derived from a combination of Shi’i features of scholarship and the representation of the Platonic figure of the philosopher-king in the form of a jurist. The guardian of the city became the classical fagih (a jurisprudent), hence the concept of wilayat al fagih (guardianship of the jurisconsult), which Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989) had adumbrated in his Najaf classes of 1970 and which was brought into a more-precise constitutional rendering by Sadr in 1979. As for the Shi’i imprint, it was obvious in the remodeling of the elaborate marja`iyah system in modern Shi’i society, which recognizes a power of guidance at large to the most learned jurists of the tradition. These are called marja’s (lit., “reference”) represented by the top mujtahids (those who practice ijtihdd, or `ulama’ [scholars]) in the clerical system known for this reason as marja’iyah. In the Western world, the better-known word which stands for marja` is ayatollah (Ar., dyat allah).

But whether in Sadr’s system or in the Iranian Constitution, the power of the ayatollahs was brought into the Islamic state alongside more Western-type offices, such as a president and parliamentarians who are elected under universal suffrage. The Iranian system has struggled with the two-tier separation of powers since its inception, although the inevitable tug-of-war had been best described, on the eve of the revolution, by Muhammad Bagir al-Sadr.

Political Leadership. Considering the influence of his ideas in the Shi’i milieu at large, it is not surprising to see the title of Sadr in 1980 turning into the “Khomeini of Iraq.” The sobriquet came as the result of a slow assertion of his leadership, first on the scholarly level and then directly on the political scene.

Sadr, who was born in 1935, showed early signs of intellectual superiority. His father, who died when he was very young, was, like his older brother and uncles, versed in traditional legal scholarship. Sadr grew up in the southern Holy City of Najaf in an Iraqi world which was witnessing a combination of mistrust toward a system perceived as corrupt and prone to Western influence and domination and a sharp rise in radical doctrines, most remarkably Ba’thism and communism.

It is against the tidal wave of communism that the `ulama’ of Najaf, Sadr’s seniors, were most exercised when the monarchy was overturned in 1958. But it was the Bath party which proved to be their most terrible nemesis. Sadr had countered the communist appeal by trying to expound a rational Islamic system, including such arcane topics as philosophy, banking, and economics. His more-direct political appeal can be traced back to the early and mid-1960s, in small circles of militant `ulama’ who proved extremely influential across the Shi’i world in the 1980s. With the accession of the Bath party of Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr and Saddam Hussein to power in the summer of 1968, the relatively sheltered world of the schools of law and `ulama’ in Najaf came directly under attack by a massive system of absolute repression which was combined with an increased “Sunnization” of the regime in Baghdad. Then started a cycle of repression which culminated, inside Iraq in 1980, in the execution of Sadr and his sister and, outside Iraq, in an all-out war against Iran.

The development of the antagonism between Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad and Muhammad Bagir al-Sadr’s Najaf between 1968 and 1980, has yet to be fully chronicled, but the occasion of `Ashura’ (the yearly mourning day for the martyred Imam Husayn in 68o) proved often to be violent. Especially in 1974 and in 1977, and more abruptly after the accession of Khomeini to power in February 1979, the antagonism flared up in full-fledged rioting. It was reported that already during the 1977 riots, the security agents of the Ba’thist government would question those detained about their relationship with Sadr. Later, after Sadr was clearly turning into a major threat to the government, the rulers of Iraq moved directly to curb his activities and influence.

Sadr was arrested several times through the 1970s, but in June 1979, as he was reportedly getting ready to lead an Iraqi delegation to congratulate Khomeini in Tehran, he was forbidden to leave his home in Najaf. The tension continued to rise, until grenade attacks against leading Ba’thists in Baghdad led to the removal of Sadr from Najaf on the evening of 5 April 1980, He and his sister Bint al-Huda were taken to Baghdad, where it is believed that they were killed on 8 April.

In the last years of his life, Sadr had tried to take advantage of the Shi’i network to strengthen his appeal, but the organization was not sufficiently and effectively structured, and the government had been alerted by the success of the Iranian precedent. But his death marked the real beginning for the dissemination of his influence across the Middle East, in the midst of a confrontation between Tehran and Baghdad which turned into the bloodiest war in the Middle East of the twentieth century.

In Iran, both the debates on constitutional law and economics and banking saw the mark of Sadr’s reasoning. In Iraq, Pakistan, and Lebanon, the Najaf network of Sadr’s companions and students produced several leaders to whom the Shi’i community looked up. But the intellectual influence of Sadr can also be seen in other areas of the Middle East, where his thought was received despite the skepticism of a Sunni world toward Shi’i legal scholarship. In Egypt and Jordan, his books were taught in universities, and critical works were published. In Algeria, where the Islamic movement lacked an original thinker to rest its views on, Iqtisaduna’s concepts could be found in the literature of the Front Islamique du Salut (FIS).

It is, however, in Iraq that Sadr will be remembered first and foremost. For a few days after the Gulf War, in March 1991, as Najaf was freed from Ba’thist rule, Sadr’s pictures were paraded in his native city. The government of Saddam Hussein regained brutal control immediately afterward. But whatever the future of central rule in Baghdad, it is only a matter of time before Sadr gains the respect of all Iraqis for a legacy with which they may or may not agree from an ideological point of view, but which can only be acknowledged as formidable in modern Islamic thought.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Works by Sadr

Iqtisaduna (1959-1961). New rev. ed. Beirut, 1398/1977. Available in English as Our Economics, 4 vols. (“Tehran, 1982-1984), but a better translation of the most important sections of the text was serialized as “The Islamic Economy, I-VII,” in the Shi’i journal Al-Sirat from 1981-1985.

Khildfat al-Insdn wa Shahadat al-Anbiya’ and Lamhah Fiqhiyah Tamhidiyah `an Mashru` Dustur al–Jumhuriyah al-Islamiyah fi Iran. Beirut, 1979. Constitutional pamphlets.

Falsafatund (1959). loth ed. Beirut, 1400/1980. Translated by Shams Inati as Our Philosophy. London, 1987.

Al-Majmu’ah al-Kdmilah li-Mu’allafat al-Sayyid Muhammad Bagir alSadr. 15 vols. Beirut, 1980-. Sadr’s collected works.

Al Bank al-La-Ribawi ft al Islam (1969). 8th ed. Beirut, 1403/1983. Sadr’s book on the structure of an interest-free bank.

Works on Sadr

Mallat, Chibli. The Renewal of Islamic Law: Muhammad Baqer asSadr, Najaf, and the Shi`i International. Cambridge, 1993

Rieck, Andreas, trans. Unsere Wirtschaft: Eine Gekiirzte Kommentierte Ubersetzung des Buches Iqtisaduna. German edition of Iqtisaduna, which includes a good introduction by Rieck.

CHIBLI MALLAT

 

 

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/sadr-muhammad-baqir-al/
Author:

  • writerPosted On: July 22, 2017
  • livePublished articles: 746

Most Recent Articles from S Category:

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Translate »