"Siyasa" in Arabic, denotes the managament/organisation of affairs. At its essence, the political is the work to influence, mould, organise, manage the affairs of people in any society as reflected in the following hadith:
Narrated Abu Hurayra (ra): The Prophet (saw) said, "The Tribe of Israel, were politically managed by the prophets.Whenever a prophet died, or was killed, another would be sent to replace him. But after me, there will be no more prophets; rather, there will be khulafah who will be many in number." The people asked, "O Messenger of Allah! What do you order us concerning them?" He (saw) said, "Obey the one who will be given the pledge of allegiance first. Fulfil their (i.e. the caliphs) rights, for Allah will ask them about (any shortcoming) in ruling." (Bukhari)
Governance is the most explicit and primary agent of this, but that does not tie politics to it. Individuals and groups undertaking activism or advocacy are engaged in political work. Enjoining the good, forbidding evil is political work. Accounting the rulers or leaders is political work, etc. Anything that seeks to influence and mould a given set of communal or societal affairs in a certain way is political.
Thus, any worldview/ideology/religion that seeks to influence, mould, organise the world in a certain way is political.
Claiming Islam is a political tradition is to say it seeks to influence and organise the world in a certain way i.e., according to the dictates of the revelation. And this is an essential and defining attribute, unlike say the fact that Islam covers the economic, social, legal, governance aspects of life.
Politics is primarily concerned with looking after the affairs of a Qawm or Ummah. This is the work of the anbiyah
As a bear minimum, every Muslim should be concerned about the affairs of the Ummah.
Muslims around the world are One Ummah akin to a human body. The ummah must call to live under the authority of Islam and must become carrier of this call so that we can establish the Khilafah. This is what politics is primarily about before the establishment of the Khilafah.
Once Khilafat is established, there will politicians that will be actively managing the affairs of the people (under the authority of the Khaleef) while the rest of the Ummah would be meticulously accounting the complete set up of Khilafah. Ummah will not allow anything in Khilafah that is not from Islam.
This is what we mean by politics, inshaAllah.
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