Islamic Socialist Figures To Remember

السلام عليكم

According to Islamic tradition, the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during the month of Ramadan. The revelation of the Quran occurred over a period of 23 years, with the first verses being revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the cave of Hira near Mecca, during the month of Ramadan in the year 610 CE. The holy month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, during which Muslims fast from dawn until sunset, abstaining from food, drink, and other physical needs as a means of purifying the soul and developing self-discipline, compassion, and generosity. 

Many of the tenets observed during the holy month are exemplified in the political ideologies of socialism and communism. While socialism and Ramadan may not seem directly related, there are some parallels between the two concepts. Socialism is based on the principle of social equality and seeks to ensure that all members of society have access to basic needs such as food, healthcare, and education. Similarly, Ramadan emphasizes the importance of compassion, generosity, and caring for the less fortunate members of society.

Is Islam compatible with the ideologies of socialism and communism?

This question has been fiercely debated amongst the ummah for decades. Here are a few Islamic scholars and figures who agree that they are compatible.

Muammar Gaddafi

Muammar Gaddafi was a Libyan revolutionary leader who ruled the country from 1969 until his death in 2011. He was born into a Bedouin family in a tent near Sirte, Libya, in 1942. Gaddafi was an intelligent and ambitious young man who was deeply committed to his country’s independence and the welfare of his people.

Gaddafi’s government invested heavily in infrastructure projects, education, and healthcare, and he was widely respected for his efforts to improve the lives of ordinary Libyans. He also championed pan-Africanism and supported the liberation struggles of other African nations, earning him the nickname “King of Kings” among African leaders.

Here are a few quotes from Gaddafi on Islam and socialism:

  • “Long before communist thinkers called for social reform, the Qur’an demanded of its adherents that they stand by the poor and struggling classes of society.”
  • “Socialism is inspired by the teaching of Islam, and is found in essence in the Qur’an. This is not to say that socialism came into being after Islam, but rather that it is basically a just system which the Qur’an describes and urges people to follow.”

Ahmed Sékou Touré

Sekou Touré was an important figure in the Pan-African movement and in the struggle for the liberation of Africa. He was the first President of Guinea, leading the People’s Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) as they successfully struggled for Guinea’s independence from France. Touré also played a significant role in supporting independence movements in other African countries, including  that of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) led by Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, that of the PAIGC led by Amilcar Cabral in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, and that of the led Congolese Nationalist Movement (MNC) led by Patrice Lumumba. On Islam and socialism, Sekou Touré once said:

“One justifies socialism, the collective possession of all natural goods; God is against individualism. God is light, whereas individualism extols darkness. God does not like women to be oppressed, and so from the beginning, he made his descendants of two beings instead of one. God does not want the absolute power of a single man; therefore, it takes two beings to give birth to one being. It means that society precedes the individual, that this individual, to perpetuate himself, must accept an association to give birth to another individual. God who created all things is against injustice against the appropriation by a minority of what he has created: all men on earth are free and equal. One must not exploit the other. On the contrary, all must benefit from all the natural resources that are God’s gifts to mankind. Everyone must enjoy the fruits of his own labor.”

Mustafa al-Siba’i

Mustafa al-Siba’i was an Egyptian Islamic scholar, author, and prominent figure in the Islamic revival movement of the 20th century. He was born in 1915 and passed away in 1996. Al-Siba’i was known for his critical approach to Islamic studies and his focus on social justice and political reform within the Islamic framework.

In his book, “The Socialism of Islam” (1959), al-Siba’i explored the idea that Islam is inherently socialist in its economic and social principles. He argued that Islamic teachings promote the concept of social equality, communal ownership, and the distribution of wealth among all members of society, rather than just a select few. According to al-Siba’i, the Islamic concept of zakat, or charitable giving, is one of the primary means of promoting economic equality and social welfare in Islamic societies. He believed that zakat should be collected by the state and distributed to those in need, including the poor, the elderly, and the disabled. He also argued that the Islamic prohibition of usury and exploitation of labor reflected a socialist ethos, as it prevents the accumulation of wealth by a small group of people at the expense of the wider community.

Ali Shariati

A prominent Iranian intellectual, Ali Shariati believed in the compatibility of Islam and Marxism. He argued that the principles of social justice, equality, and resistance to oppression found in both Islam and Marxism could be synthesized to create a socialist-Islamic model. He advocated for a “Red Shiism” that blended the revolutionary and egalitarian spirit of Islam with Marxist and anti-imperialist ideas.

Shariati’s speeches and writings inspired a generation of Iranian students and intellectuals, who saw in his ideas a way to challenge the oppressive and corrupt regime of the Shah and to create a more just and equitable society. His ideas on the need for social justice and the importance of resistance to oppression were particularly resonant with many Iranians who were struggling to overcome poverty, inequality, and political repression.

Abdul Rahman Al-Kawakibi

Abdul Rahman Al-Kawakibi was a Syrian writer and thinker who lived in the late 19th century. He is known for his contributions to the development of Arab nationalism and his advocacy for political and social reforms in the Ottoman Empire.

Al-Kawakibi believed that Islam offered a comprehensive vision of society and governance that was based on principles of justice, equality, and compassion. He argued that the Islamic tradition offered a model of social and economic organization that was compatible with the socialist ideals of collective ownership of the means of production and the elimination of economic inequality.

Al-Kawakibi was critical of the capitalist system, which he saw as exploitative and oppressive, and he advocated for the establishment of a socialist system that would be based on Islamic principles. He believed that the Islamic tradition offered a framework for the creation of a just and equitable society that would value the common good over individual self-interests

Overall, Al-Kawakibi’s ideas on Islam and socialism were influential in shaping the political and intellectual discourse of the Arab world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and they continue to inspire debates about the compatibility of Islam and socialism in the modern era.

Tariq Ali

Ali is a Pakistani-British writer, activist, and historian who has been a vocal supporter of socialism and communism throughout his career. He has written extensively about the intersection of Marxism and Islam and has argued that socialist principles are compatible with Islamic values of social justice and equality.

Here are a few quotes from Tariq Ali on Islam and communism:

  • “The notion that communism is somehow inherently atheistic is a fallacy. Marx and Engels saw religion as an expression of social and economic conditions, not as a mystical realm that was beyond the reach of human inquiry.”
  • “Islam and communism have much in common: both are egalitarian, both stress the importance of social justice, both emphasize the importance of community over individualism.”
  • “Islam is not inherently reactionary, nor is communism inherently atheistic. Both are complex ideologies that have evolved over time, and both have the potential to be powerful forces for social change.”
  • “The struggle for socialism and the struggle for Islamic reform are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they can be complementary, each reinforcing the other in the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.”

Overall, Tariq Ali’s perspective is that Islam and communism are both ideologies that seek to create a more just and equitable society, and that it is potential for these two worldviews to work together in pursuit of this common goal.

Mustafa Lutfi al-Manfaluti

Mustafa Lutfi al-Manfaluti was an Egyptian writer and intellectual who lived from 1876 to 1924. He was a prominent figure in the Egyptian nationalist movement and was a vocal advocate for socialism and communism.

Al-Manfaluti was born in the village of Manfalut in Upper Egypt, and received his early education in Islamic schools. He later moved to Cairo to attend university, where he became involved in the nationalist movement and began to develop his socialist and communist ideas.

Al-Manfaluti wrote extensively on the topic of socialism and Islam, and his ideas had a significant influence on the Egyptian nationalist movement. He was a member of the Socialist Party of Egypt and played an important role in the 1919 Egyptian Revolution, which sought to end British colonial rule in Egypt.

Here are a few quotes from Mustafa Lutfi al-Manfaluti:

  • “The Islamic religion has a socialist basis, and it is the task of the socialists to uncover it and put it into practice.”
  • “The capitalists exploit the workers and peasants, while the socialists seek to liberate them from this exploitation and create a more just society.”
  • “The goal of socialism is to create a society in which all people have equal rights and opportunities, regardless of their social class or background.”
  • “The capitalists have created a system that benefits only a few at the expense of the many. Socialism seeks to overthrow this system and create a society in which the wealth and resources of the country are shared equally among all people.”
  • “The struggle for socialism is a struggle for the liberation of humanity from the chains of capitalism and oppression.”

Overall, Mustafa Lutfi al-Manfaluti’s quotes reflect his belief that socialism and Islam are compatible, and that socialism is the best way to create a more just and equitable society for all people. His ideas had a significant impact on the Egyptian nationalist movement, and continue to be influential in the Arab world today.

Abdullah Ocalan

Abdullah Ocalan is a Kurdish Marxist Leninist political leader who has been a prominent figure in the Kurdish liberation movement for decades. He is also the founder and former leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy and independence in Turkey.

Ocalan has written extensively on a range of topics, including Islam and communism. Here are a few quotes from him on this topic:

  • “I do not see any contradiction between Islam and socialism. Islam calls for social justice and equality, and socialism seeks to achieve those same goals.”
  • “Both Islam and socialism are based on the principles of equality, justice, and freedom. They both seek to create a society in which all people are treated with respect and dignity.”
  • “Islam and socialism are not incompatible. In fact, they complement each other, and together they can help to build a better world.”
  • “The essence of Islam is social justice, and the essence of socialism is also social justice. They are two sides of the same coin.”

Overall, Ocalan’s perspective is that Islam and socialism are not mutually exclusive, but rather can be combined in pursuit of a more just and equitable society. He sees both ideologies as complementary and believes that they have the potential to work together to create a better world for all people.

Samira Khalil

Samira Khalil was a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist feminist activist, who was involved in the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). Here are a few quotes from her:

  • “The liberation of women is not a luxury, but a necessity for the revolution, for the construction of a socialist society.”
  • “Our struggle is not only against Zionism but also against capitalism and imperialism.”
  • “In order to build a socialist society, we must first liberate our minds from all forms of oppression and exploitation.”
  • “The PFLP is not only a nationalist movement but also a socialist movement that seeks to build a just and egalitarian society.”

Overall, Samira Khalil’s perspective was that socialism and Islam were not mutually exclusive and that the principles of both could be applied to the Palestinian liberation struggle. She believed that the liberation of women was essential for building a socialist society and that the struggle against Zionism was also a struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

For further inquiry, you can read

  1. Mustafa al-Siba’i’s “The Socialism of Islam”: al-Siba’i, Mustafa. “The Socialism of Islam.” International Publishers, 1980.
  2. Ali Shariati’s ideas on Islam and Marxism: Shariati, Ali. “On the Sociology of Islam.” Mizan Press, 1981.
  3. Abdul Rahman Al-Kawakibi’s ideas on socialism and Islam: Al-Kawakibi, Abdul Rahman. “Umm Al-Qura.” Dar al-Andalus, 1991.
  4. Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr’s ideas on Islam and socialism: Al-Sadr, Muhammad Baqir. “Iqtisaduna.” Islamic Seminary Publications, 1992.

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Tristan Graham is Pan Africanist author from Jamaica. His debut book "The Thoughts Of An Unchained Mind" details his various areas of study. Tristan is also only 20 years old and is member of AAPRP and the Left Alliance for National Democracy and Socialism (Jamaica).