Dr Abdul Wahid of Hizb ut-Tahrir says Muslims shouldn’t be pledging allegiance to the king or celebrating the monarchy. Rather, we should be mourning its victims at home and abroad.
Charles Mountbatten was proclaimed King by the Privy Council on September 10, 2022. So why the lavish ceremony this week?
The coronation is a formal religious ceremony and the King will be honoured by the Establishment, who will pledge their allegiance (give bay’ah) to him. Yet whilst we shouldn’t mock a religious ceremony, there is a need for an independent-minded Islamic critique of this event – in particular because what we are currently offered is little more than propaganda by mainstream media.
Around £100 million will be spent on this celebration, to bind the general public to the nation state because it seems that is more important than alleviating food poverty in modern Britain.
The coronation contradictions are too numerous to mention.
Aside from anointing a king with “holy oil” in arguably one of the least religious countries in the world, one wonders how many of the congregation – who will sing the coronation anthem that recalls when “Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon king,” – actually believes in the God they will ask to save the king!
Moreover, the gap between the theory of an egalitarian democratic society and the reality of what the coronation represents – i.e. a privileged establishment maintaining its superiority over the rest – is huge.
In terms of declining support for the monarchy the overall picture is not good given that amongst 18-24 year olds only 32% back the monarchy (although even this group only has 38% who prefer an elected head of state, with 30% undecided).
Although poll evidence suggests there is more support for the current system than an elected head of state, this may have more to do with a contempt for politicians rather than active support for the institution.
The Royal Family was once held up to be the role model to aspire to. Now the myth and mystery has gone – with Charles embroiled in financial scandal, after adultery and divorce; Andrew embroiled in sexual scandal; and the rift between Harry and rest.
The family looks like many other dysfunctional families that have fallen victim to secular, capitalist, liberal values … only they are richer!
But the monarchy survives because no one relishes a future President Sunak, Truss or Johnson!
Islam and monarchy
My understanding is that Islam doesn’t do kings. Kings are above the law – even in constitutional monarchies like Britain.
But in Islam no one is above the law – not even the Khaleefah; unlike in the nation state, which has elevated itself to a godlike status in that it is the ultimate authority.
Monarchy is a system which elevates one family to a special status, usually because one of their ancestors usurped power by force. A poet once said: “Steal a little and they throw you in jail. Steal a lot and they make you a king.” Charles is the descendent of the guy who stole a lot so they made him the king.
Islam also doesn’t privilege certain families above others.
But in Britain, the King is Sovereign – although, that is delegated to Parliament and the government. He is the head of the two established churches of England and Scotland. He is above the law of the church and secular state in worldly terms.
And in Islam we believe that Sovereignty is for Allah Alone.
We recite the dhikr “Lā ilāha illā Allāh, waḥdahu lā sharīka lahu, lahul mulk” perhaps without considering the meaning: “There is no god except Allah. He is One. He has no partners. Sovereignty is for Him alone.”
Allah tells us in the Quran: “Say O Allah, Master of the dominion, You grant dominion to whomever You will and You strip dominion from whomever you will, and You honour whomever you will and You humiliate whomever you will; in Your hand is all goodness. You are indeed All-Powerful over everything.” (3:26).
In the Islamic understanding, anyone with authority (rightly or wrongly) has had it bestowed upon them by Allah. But it is not a divine right – they will be accounted accordingly by Him but also must be held accountable to the law of Allah by the people.
The oath of allegiance
During the coronation we are told that people will be invited to say: “I swear that I will pay true allegiance to your majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.”
An oath sworn before Allah is a heavy matter for any believing Muslim. It is beyond belief that any Muslim would want to make this oath.
On the other hand, pledges (bay’ah) to a legitimate Khaleefah is a well-documented matter in Islamic jurisprudence.
Allah, the Most High, tells us in the Quran:
“You who believe, obey Allah and the Messenger, and those in authority among you. If you are in dispute over any matter, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you truly believe in Allah and the Last Day: that is better and fairer in the end.” (4:59)
Obedience to a legitimate Islamic ruler is always conditional upon obedience to Allah and His Messenger. Sayiduna Abu Bakr al Siddiq, may Allah be pleased with him, said when taking the pledge of allegiance as the first Khaleefah: “Obey me as long as I obey Allah and His Messenger. If I do not then there is no obedience upon you!”
There is no such condition in pledging loyalty to Charles in this proposed oath.
What’s wrong with enjoying the day?
That said, most people will welcome an extra day off work, to spend time with family. But the coronation is not a benign event about bunting and street parties. The monarchy is intimately intertwined with the state. It is a soft power tool – at home and abroad – that pushes an image of Britain that is often false.
At home, the British Establishment has sought to aggressively assimilate Muslims into subservience to the state. On the other hand the king will swear that he “will seek to foster an environment in which people of all faiths may live freely.”
The state punches its victims with the government hand, and pacifies them with the king’s hand. The government does the dirty work, while the monarchy applies the air freshener.
Abroad the British state has a shameful history: crusades, slavery; invasion; occupation; colonialism; the fragmentation of the Muslim world and elsewhere.
We shouldn’t be celebrating monarchy. We should be mourning its victims!
Dr Abdul Wahid is currently the Chairman of the UK Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He has been published on the websites of Foreign Affairs, Open Democracy, the Times Higher Educational Supplement and Prospect Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @AbdulWahidHT.