Ukraine and the Unending Crisis of Capitalist Aggression
At the end of February, nearly 4 months of bottled tensions between Russia and the NATO member-countries exploded into a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Now, several days into the conflict, Russia is deeply entrenched in Ukraine, and has even managed to hold a major city, but there is no clear path to victory. The war has isolated Russia from much of the world. The Germans have stalled their major energy partnership with Russia, the Nord Stream 2, rounds of stiff sanctions have been placed on the country, and even relatively neutral countries like Finland and Sweden have seen a huge increase in popular support for NATO membership.
We have also seen intensive coverage of the invasion, with an almost unanimous support of Ukrainian resistance against Russian occupation. Ukrainian fighters, even those involved in suicide attacks, have been declared heroes, and the media is adamant in saluting their courage.
What are the geopolitical dynamics at play here? And what does it mean for the Ummah?
Understanding the game
Although the battles will be fought on Ukrainian soil, in reality it is a conflict between Russia and NATO member-countries, and specifically the United States. NATO is a military alliance that was formed to block Soviet expansion into Europe and extended America’s influence over the continent. After the fall of the Soviet Union, multiple American presidents gave Russia assurances that there would be no Eastern expansion of the military alliance.
These assurances were not honored, and multiple Eastern European countries have joined NATO in the subsequent years. Russia has repeatedly made its discomfort known. The fact that this would lead to hostility from Russia was pointed out by Obama’s and Bush’s defense secretary Robert Gates.
Ukraine is key to Russia on many fronts. For example, Russia finds its food security in basic commodities that protect it from the fluctuations of its relations with the West within the fertile lands of Ukraine. With that being said, the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, is clearly a megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur. He has repeatedly delegitimized the Ukrainian government, and treated the heads of state of Turkey, Germany, France, and the European Union in general with contempt.
It is clear that he sees himself as the leader of a superpower, when in fact, he is the leader of a regional power with many enemies.
The US, knowing this, signaled to the Russians that they would not militarily intervene in Ukraine. President Biden claimed that a partial invasion of Ukraine would not be as bad as a full-blown one. This was interpreted by Russia as a green light to invade. In reality, however, it was a trap. As the days go on, it becomes increasingly clear that this will yield much loss of blood and treasure for the Russians.
The US, on the other hand, will gain more regional allies as NATO becomes increasingly popular in Europe, and will find new markets for its energy sales in Europe who will no longer trade with the Russians. It also sets a deterrent for China, who will now have to consider its own plans to invade Taiwan.
The value of life
Understanding the game at play also allows us to internalize a key point. At no point in this conflict have the people of Ukraine, or the idea of national sovereignty mattered to either Russia or the United States. After all, these are the same Russians who unleashed untargeted carnage from the skies in Syria. And this is the same United States that violated the national sovereignty of Iraq and Afghanistan, massacring hundreds of thousands.
We cannot take the word of these elite who justified endless brutality in the Muslim lands, and who vilified, criminalized, or tortured anyone who resisted their imperial designs. For them, the value of life and the price of dignity are political calculations. The only lives that matter are those that align with their selfish interests.
So, when we hear the Capitalist political and media elite urging us to stand for the people of Ukraine, and pay tribute to their bravery, it must be clear to us what is going on. The
Capitalist West or Capitalist East do not value life. Indeed, there is no honor among these butchers!
The vitality of power
Capitalism, the central ideology of the current world order, is a corrupt system of dominance. Its core belief and driving force is that of self-interest, in which those who are born with the most wealth, talent or connections assert their will and dominance to improve their material conditions. This applies to individuals, economic actors, but also to nations.
Nations with power devour the resources of less powerful nations and impose their will upon them.
Decisions about war are made not to resist injustice, or spread guidance, but to maintain the undisturbed flow of Capital from the weaker nations to the stronger ones, and to impose obedience on anyone who may have an alternative vision for society.
Under the yoke of this brutal system, Muslims must come to terms with a basic fact: our deliberate weakness is sinful. To ignore the reality that the Ummah does not have a political leadership that is willing to utilize the vast talent, resources and numbers of the Muslim lands to defend the interests of Islam is sinful.
In the absence of a state that is willing to unite the Muslims, and implement Islam’s complete guidance for our economic, social, and political problems, we cannot stop the suffering of the ummah everywhere. We cannot solve the deep problems of poverty, corruption, and social strife that are endemic in the Muslim lands.
As our Beloved Messenger (saw) tells us:
“Verily the Imam is but a shield from behind which the people fight and by which they protect themselves.” [Muslim]
Hafidh Ibn Hajar comments on this hadith that the Imam does not only protect Muslim for external enemies, but from the abuses of other Muslims as well. And we cannot fulfill our purpose of being the beacon of light and guidance to the rest of the world:
“You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah” [TMQ 3:110]
The importance of adopting a leadership mindset.
It should be clear from this that Muslims cannot expect our interests to be fairly represented in Capitalist media.
We cannot expect our wellbeing to be advocated for in Capitalist international institutions like NATO or the UN.
Rather, these are institutions committed to maintaining global Capitalism, a system of life that actively resists any notion of Divine guidance in favor of freedom, individualism, and materialism.
Instead, we must recognize that our state of weakness is not acceptable and must focus on gaining independence from the Capitalist system. This is the same work that RasulAllah (saw) and the sahabah (ra) did in Makkah to achieve the victory as an autonomous state in Madinah.
However, to get there the sahabah (ra) had a leadership mentality. They did not accept their status as second-class citizens in Makkah.
The answer is: we must empower ourselves. To remain divided, unfocused, and merely reactive to the actions and agendas of others is sinful and inconsistent with the sunnah of RasulAllah (saw).
The events in Ukraine have proven without a shadow of a doubt the intellectual bankruptcy of the current world order. What should the Ukrainians do? Moving towards NATO has incited this war with Russia. The Russians had to invade to protect themselves. But submitting to Russia is also not an option. This is the consequence of Muslims being absent from the geopolitical arena: it leaves human beings without any real options.
Consequently, a vision and a cause of this magnitude is what will allow us as Muslims to rise above the provocations and smears of the Capitalist media and will empower us to engage with confidence and strength with the people of the world, whose lives are being wrecked by the petty struggles for power and wealth caused by the Capitalist elite.
For theirs is a system in which the powerful and rich devour the weak and dispossessed, and ours is a system that is revealed to, in the words of the freed slave Rabi bin Amr (ra) to Rustam, the Persian general:
“…deliver you from worshiping the creation to worshiping the Creator of the creation and to deliver you from the constriction of this world to the vastness of this world and the afterlife and from the oppression of the religions to the justice of Islam. Allah Azza wa jal has sent us to save you from worshiping each other.”
These words are an excellent summary of the leadership mindset that we must adopt as the Muslim Ummah and to broadcast it to the world, with the help of Allah (swt). May Allah (swt) grant victory to the Ummah and through this victory provide hope and relief to all of humanity.
“And obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not dispute and [thus] lose courage and [then] your strength would depart; and be patient. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” [TMQ 8:46]