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Hizb ut-Tahrir strongly opposes gradual and ‘soft’ approaches to implementing Islam, as real changes are only possible through uncompromising radical actions; otherwise, it would mean that “Allāh has sent something impractical that has to be made practical by Muslims” (Mayer 2004: 14). Hizb ut-Tahrir often refers to historical events depicting the success of radical changes, like the rise of communism and, more importantly, the life of the Prophet Muḥammad, which was full of drastic measures. However, the notion of radicalism in the Party’s ideology means achieving radical change within the existing order of the Muslim world without resorting to violence. As of 2017, “the Method” of Hizb ut-Tahrir outlined online included the statement that Party members “consider that Islamic law forbids violence or armed struggle against the regime as a method to reestablish the Islamic State” however the most recent update of this website in 2020 gives some indication of when taking up arms is in the Party’s purview, that is, in the case of jihād, discussed below (Hizb ut-Tahrir n.d. a).

Instead of advocating the forceful seizure of the State, it rather opts for peaceful methods to attract more members. The Party pays keen attention to the education, both religious and secular, as the daʿwa (preaching) and intellectual debates require a sophisticated knowledge to recruit new members on both grassroots and higher levels and get wider outreach (Zahid 2014: 4). Also, Hizb ut-Tahrir finds it important to win over the minds of members of the military, as they are capable of carrying out peaceful coups when the right moment arrives (Zahid 2014: 4). The amalgam of passion for the Caliphate and competence in religious questions makes their ideas highly attractive and distinguishes it from other religious movements criticised for superficial knowledge.

For the Party, Islam as a universal religion is based on proper ideas (fikra) and methods (ṭarīqa), and no other inventions are needed to justify this divine combination (al-Nabhani cited in Osman 2012:95). In this regard, the Party is unwilling to cooperate with other Islamic organizations, viewing their errors as misunderstandings of the basic tenets of Islam. Al-Nabhānī emphasised that other parties had unclear ideas that were often influenced by modern concepts and undefined methods (Baran 2004: 19). Additionally, members of other parties responsible for change were often disorganised and incoherent in their actions. To resolve these problems, the Party argued that the best approach was demonstrated by the Prophet himself, and during the golden age of Islam under the rule of the four righteous Caliphs. Thus, Hizb ut-Tahrir does not claim originality in its plan of action for Caliphate building. Rather, by adopting the three-staged program of the Prophet Muḥammad, the Party anticipates the same divinely-inspired success that was attained more than a thousand years ago (Baran 2004: 20).

First Stage: Culturing

The first stage involves recruiting and developing intellectually candidates “to produce people who believe in the idea and the method of the Party, so that they form the Party group” (Hizb ut-Tahrir n.d. a). Hizb ut-Tahrir reminds its recruits about the patience and individual approach demonstrated by the Prophet during his preaching activities, as well as his tireless efforts to educate his community of believers. After the potential member initially accepts the Party’s basic ideas, the process of more nuanced teaching on an individual basis about their ideas and methods begins. According to Baran “by the end of the first stage, the HT member is ideologically, theologically and spiritually prepared to deal with any hardship that may befall him or her by being certain that this is God’s path” (2004: 21). This part is considered important for the growth of the group, capable of spreading its ideas to others.

During the first stage potential Party followers get an education in study circles called ḥalaqathat replicates the historical Islamic study method (Azad 2017: 10). The method is still widely used in the Islamic world when students sit in a circle on the floor in the mosque or teacher’s home. Ḥalaqas cover different topics related to Islam, moreover, since Islam is considered by members as a complete way of life all other ‘non-religious’ subjects are also relevant for study. In ḥalaqasfollowers listen to al-Nabhānī’s basic ideas, by reading his main books or listening to the teacher’s lections about his ideas. All lectures have a heavy focus on the idea of the revival of the Caliphate infused with the criticism of the modern systems. New recruits in the initial stage of the study are not allowed to question the Party goals and are expected to comprehend the ideas through hard study and practical work (finding new members and practice of Islam) (Azad 2017: 11).

Second Stage: Interacting with the Muslim Umma

At this stage, the Party continues to introduce its ideas to the larger Muslim population so that they implement its ideology in life. It is described as:

The collective culturing of the masses of the Ummah with the thoughts and the rules of Islam which the Hizb had adopted, through lessons, lectures, and talks in the mosques, centres and common gathering places, and through the press, books and leaflets. This was done in order to create a common awareness within the Ummah and to interact with her.

Hizb ut-Tahrir n.d. a

Here the Party operates more decisively, and openly propagates ideas that create conflict between the umma and ruling regimes (Khamidov 2005: 7). Again, this is inspired by a key event in Islamic history, when the Prophet Muḥammad raised his umma, composed of people from different nations and social classes, to resist the corrupt regime of the Quraysh tribe in Mecca. On the way to uniting all Muslims into single umma, the Party is rather flexible in its approach to other interpretations of Islam practiced by different Muslims.

Third Stage: Establishment of the Islamic State

According to Hizb ut-Tahrir, the final stage will eventually come after the whole ummaembraces the Party’s ideology (Khamidov 2005: 7). However, the work of the Party does not stop on this stage, because only after the entire world comes under the rule of Islam can the Party claim that its mission is completed. At present, the Party can be considered to be at the second stage (Baran 2004: 21). Initially, al-Nabhānī set an ambitious thirteen-year timeframe for accomplishing these stages, which was later extended to thirty years (International Crisis Group 2003: 3). When this period proved to be unrealistic as well, the Party claimed that it will patiently continue its tireless efforts for the order of God to be established on earth as long as needed (Hizb ut-Tahrir n.d. a).

Attitude to Violence and Jihād

It is widely reported that Hizb ut-Tahrir rejects violence as a method to achieve its aim, and extensively uses primarily propaganda tools (Khamidov 2005: 4; Karagiannis and McCauley 2006: 315; Stuart and Ahmed 2009: 18). In taking such a position, Hizb ut-Tahrir also regards itself as pursuing the path of the Prophet Muḥammad, who “limited his struggle for the establishment of the Islamic State to intellectual and political work. He established this Islamic state without resorting to violence” (Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain 2007), and instead looked for support from other tribes and relied on his followers. Hizb ut-Tahrir adopted such an approach in the concept of nusra, which means looking for assistance from outside (Karagiannis and McCauley 2006: 326). It seems that, in order to avoid violence, the ideal scenario for the Party would be a peaceful coup d’état undertaken by military forces, that in turn would hand over power to the Party (Karagiannis and McCauley 2006: 326). This is why it is so important for Hizb ut-Tahrir to gain the nusra from the military block.

Despite their harsh criticism of US policy in the Middle East, Party members have never been involved in acts of violence (Safi 2015). Acts of terrorism committed by other Islamic groups evoke the Party’s official condemnation and serve to accentuate their ideological and methodological distance from such organizations. The Party has argued that jihadist terrorism is counter-productive to their goal. Furthermore, even if conditions were to make jihād a valid option, the killing of innocent civilians is unacceptable (Hizb ut-Tahrir 2014). For example, in relation to the Caliphate pronounced by ISIS, the Party claimed it to be “islamically illegitimate” (Hizb ut-Tahrir 2014) due to the purely militaristic character of ISIS and a number of other Islamic factors which ISIS violated when established a Caliphate. Regarding Al-Baghdadi’s proclamations against the Iraqi government Hizb ut-Tahrir has described his words as “empty speech without substance” (Al Jazeera 2014). Indonesia is an interesting case of the counter terrorist achievements of Hizb ut-Tahrir when some former members of violent Islamic organizations denounced violence and joined the Party (Osman 2012: 98). As a demonstration of its allegiance to non-violent means, the Party often brings up the example of the peaceful resistance of its own members from Central Asia who are under close surveillance from security services and often end up imprisoned or even tortured to death.

However, many experts consider the Party’s relation to political violence as more nuanced than it appears at first glance. Emmanuel Karagiannis and Clark McCauley (2006: 328) provide two ways of describing the Party’s ideology on violence: “the first is to say that they have been committed to non-violence for fifty years. The second is to say that they have been waiting fifty years for the right moment to begin violent struggle.” For Mohamed Osman (2012: 98), “Hizb ut-Tahrir’s general non-violent position does not mean that the party is avowedly non-violent at all times.”

The Party’s envisioning of the concept of jihādmay provide more clarity on the question of violence. Jihād in Islam is a complex concept, basically meaning that it is the religious duty of Muslims to struggle in the way of God (Shah 2013: 344). This struggle has two aspects: first, inner struggle against one’s own ego, one’s harmful desires, and resistance to the temptations that corrupt the soul. In the Islamic tradition, this version of non-violent jihād turned inward is often referred to as the greater jihād, since mastering the self is considered more difficult than engaging in a physical struggle. The second aspect of jihād, also referred to as ‘lesser jihād’, is warfare against the enemies of Islam, which can take the form of offensive or defensive struggle. Defensive jihād is usually set in motion when Muslim territories are occupied by foreign invaders, while offensive jihād is warfare launched by Muslims to expand Islamic rule to other territories.

For the Party, it is obligatory for every Muslim to fight if their lands are invaded and occupied, regardless of whether or not the Caliphate has been established (Abedin 2005). As such, for the Party, fighting against foreign occupiers in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan is considered to be defensive jihād. Focusing on this distinction, it can be said that there might exist a fragile border between defensive and offensive jihād, as the first may easily turn into the second under specific social and political circumstances (Ahmed and Stuart 2009: 22).

If the Party resorts primarily to peaceful means for the revival of the Caliphate, then the potentially ‘violent’ part of jihād may be launched later after the establishment of the Caliphate, since this model of expanding the Caliphate is acceptable in Islam. This model of expanding or offensive jihād is detailed in the Party’s publication, The Inevitability of the Clash of Civilizations (2002), in which, along with calls for the intellectual struggle against Western culture, the Islamic legitimacy of offensive warfare is emphasised as well. The Party argues that the Muslims with their dīn(faith) and civilization on one side, and Christians with their capitalistic worldview on the other side, were always clashing with each other:

The clash of civilizations as an inevitable matter. It existed in the past, exists now and will remain until the clash ends shortly before the Hour, since it does not come except upon the worst of creation. Do not be deceived, O Muslims, by the callers to the dialogue who place their heads in the sand and condone humiliation and defeat. Make the preparations required for the conflict, since the Capitalist Western civilization has knocked you down militarily, politically and economically.

Hizb ut-Tahrir 2002: 62

Yet, the Party stresses that they cannot legitimately launch an offensive jihād, as it is the prerogative of the Caliph only (Karagiannis and McCauley 2006: 325). Thus, until his Caliphate is established, the Party continues its intellectual struggle to persuade Muslims and non-Muslims about the righteousness of their aims.

As for criticism of the notion of offensive jihād, the Party responds that it is legitimate for every nation state to declare war under certain conditions (Hizb ut-Tahrir 2002: 25). For example, they state online:

The fact that the Party does not use material power to defend itself or as a weapon against the rulers is of no relevance to the subject of jihād, because jihād has to continue till the Day of Judgement. So whenever the disbelieving enemies attack an Islamic country it becomes compulsory on its Muslim citizens to repel the enemy. The members of Hizb ut-Tahrir in that country are a part of the Muslims and it is obligatory upon them as it is upon other Muslims, in their capacity as Muslims, to fight the enemy and repel them. Whenever there is a Muslim amīr who declares jihād to enhance the Word of Allāh (swt) and mobilises the people to do that, the members of Hizb ut-Tahrir will respond in their capacity as Muslims in the country where the general call to arms was proclaimed.

Hizb ut-Tahrir n.d. a

The Party also refers to the unlawful acts of the US and the state of Israel against Muslims under the guise of democracy building. Thus the Caliphate as a legitimate Muslim state has even more justification, given that it is concerned with bringing global justice under Islam. In recent times, against the background of the growing religious terrorism in the world and severe persecution of Hizb ut-Tahir members in some countries, the Party’s ‘classical’ perception of violence is being strained. Thus, the official web sites in general try to stand by al-Nabhānī’s vision of violence, and official leaders preach divine punishment. However, on the individual level, some voices welcoming violent acts can be traced in the online social media. Some experts also claim that the Party acts as a gateway for jihāditerrorism (Baran 2004: 11; Stuart and Ahmed 2010: 143), and that non-involvement in acts of violence does not mean that the Party does not contribute to it through its own ideology that may inspire some ‘violent jihadists’.

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