A sincere open letter to Russell Brand
Russell Brand: ‘I’ve never voted, never will’
I very much enjoyed your interview with Jeremy Paxman, it was honest and more importantly it was required. I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment that democracy as a system has failed to solve the basic problems of mankind. It is in pursuit of representing an alternative vision for the world that I write you this open letter. In your interview with Paxman you made some interesting observations and I would like to examine them and present an alternative that I believe in, to you.
Destruction of the planet
“All the earth is a place of worshipping for you” The Prophet Muhammad Sal’alahu alayhi wa sallam (salutations and peace be upon him: hereafter abbreviated to SAWS) [Sahih Bukhari]
In your interview you mentioned that the planet was being destroyed by corporations who want to profiteer of the abundant resources we, the inhabitants, have been blessed with. Islam holds the planet as sacred, a most divine creation of God, a place of worship which should be respected and taken care of. In the Quran Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala (most high and glorious is He: hereafter abbreviated to SWT) continually reminds the reader of the grandiosity of the planet and challenges him to reflect on it.
On top of this Allah SWT has given ownership of the planets resources to all mankind and not to corporations. The Prophet SAWS said “The people are partners in three things: water, pastures and fire.” [Abu Dawud]. Islam grants the people ownership of the basics to live; water – the essence of life, pastures – providing food in order to eat and fire – i.e gas, coal and oil to be provided to the people.
Poverty and economic oppression
“The son of Adam has no better right than that he would have a house wherein he may live, a piece of clothe whereby he may hide his nakedness and a piece of bread and some water.” The Prophet Muhammad SAWS [Tirmidhi]
Most people, as I do, can relate to the crushing dearth of poverty that you endured whilst growing up. Crony capitalism punishes the poor for being poor, and rewards the rich for being rich. In your interview you mentioned tax havens and huge income disparity. Islam solves this problem by doing two simple things; switching to the gold standard so you don’t get inflated and fictitious levels of wealth and taxing wealth so the poor aren’t overburdened with taxes and the wealth of the rich gets circulated, preventing economic disparity.
As mentioned in the hadeeth above, Islam guarantees every man three rights; that he should have shelter, clothing and food. These are the essentials, not a maximum. They are a benchmark which if reached does not mean that the ruler deserves praise or becomes complacent, in fact it is something that is to be built upon. The second Caliph of Islam, Umar ibn al-Khattab, was famous for once remarking that he could not relax until the roads in Iraq were built (he was in Medina) for fear that he may be accountable to Allah SWT even if a goat were to fall over because of an unpaved path.
Umar was famously incredibly conscientious with the states wealth which he was entrusted with. So much so that he would not even use a candle that was provided to him so he could attend to matters of the state on his own personal affairs.
“Whosoever sees an evil let him stop it with his hand…” The Prophet Muhammad SAWS [Sahih Muslim]
I think you went to great lengths to show that democracy does not represent the layman, or as you called them – the underclass. You made the observation that the corridors of government were in effect an old boys club, almost exclusively for rich elites.
I want to share with you two examples of what enfranchisement means in Islam.
The first being that of the first caliph, Abu Bakr. When he first came to power he asked a crowd of people if they would account him, a Bedouin – a man considered as so commonplace that his name was not recorded in this narration – stood up and said that he would account him. To which Abu Bakr then replied, as long as the nation had people like that Bedouin, it would never fail.
The second example is of Umar ibn al-Khattab who once in a public meeting tried to cap the dowry entitled to women, at this a woman stood up and said ‘how can Umar cap the dowry when Allah SWT and His Messenger SAWS did not cap it?’ to which Umar responded ‘Umar is wrong, and this woman is right’.
That is what enfranchisement should look like, a people having direct accountability of their rulers. You see Islam not only gives the people the right to account their rulers, it actively encourages them to account them. It has institutions and methods of ensuring that those rights aren’t stripped away or the people ignored.
A true alternative
“Drawn not to the shadow on the wall, but to the source of light itself”
In your previous interviews you’ve dissected the society we live in and especially celebrity culture. You’ve spoken about the spurious nature of the customs and paradigms we create for ourselves. In a sense, you said that this society is like those people who observe the shadows on the wall and make that their reality; not knowing that there is a real world beyond those shadows. But constricted by the shackles of the paradigms that this society creates for us, we never see beyond those shadows. So we continue to grasp at and strut up the fictitious concepts that make our society turn, and we become lost in the turning.
Islam does provide an alternative system, a system that does everything you were discussing in your interview with Paxman and draws one to the source of light rather than focus on shadows. I haven’t done it an ounce of the justice that it deserves and urge you to get in touch with us at Siyasah Press so that we can discuss further. I don’t think I need to tell you to be wary of media hyperbole and the obloquy, so this is me not telling you to be wary of media hyperbole and obloquy. I sincerely hope that you do get in touch; you can email us at – email@example.com – we would also be happy to buy you a coffee or a nice chicken tikka marsala.
Watch: Newsnight – Paxman vs Brand full interview here [Warning – Contains strong language]
Note: Hadith – Prophetic sayings of Muhammad (peace be upon him)