Nouri al-Maliki on the Dawa Party and the quest for self-review

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A handout picture released by the official website of the Center for Preserving and Publishing the Works of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and taken on December 10, 2010, shows him meeting with Iraq's Vice President Nouri al-Maliki (R) at his office in Tehran on November 10, 2014. AFP/Khamenei.IR

By: Nouri Kamal al-Maliki

Published Wednesday, November 19, 2014

From the few months that preceded the fall of the former Baathist regime in 2003 to date, the Islamic Dawa [Call] Party has been living an exceptional historical circumstance at all levels. This continues to cause confusion in the ranks of the Dawa Party members, particularly when it comes to political and organizational performance.

Dealing with this situation requires appropriate intellectual and doctrinal adjustments, and a review of the non-constant tenets, methods, and attitudes of the Dawa Party’s thinking, in a way that would help our blessed Dawa be more compatible with its core principles and fundamentals in faith, intellect, politics, and organization, as well as the requirements of reality. But first, we must pause and elaborate on the nature of the Dawa, its theses, and its foundations on the one hand; and the reality that the Dawa lives in on the other.

The Dawa Party – as we can infer from its principles – is an Islamist organization seeking change and to build a believing, righteous, and conscientious community that can move the entire nation in the direction of fulfilling the goals of Islamic law, at the level of the individual, group, and nation. The Islamic Dawa Party does not deviate from its founding doctrinal and intellectual principles, which are core values that represent its raison d'être.

This is while taking into account the fact that Sharia has opened the door to legislators to renew Islamic ideas where change is permissible, and renew methods and approaches accordingly. In other words, the tools and methods of the Dawa Party are places where change, renewal, and developments are possible, in a way that would be compatible with the requirements of time and place, new developments, and emerging issues, though not in a way that would deviate from the purposes and connotations of Islamic law.

Hence, the nature of the Islamic Dawa Party, its theses, and its philosophy remain constant, regardless of time and place, while its methods, approaches, and intellectual products can vary, especially in relation to our political, social, cultural, and security realities as they have stood since April 2003. Persisting on Dawa’s theses does not mean rigidity when it comes to ideas that are open to change, flexible approaches, and means of action, while renewal and change does not mean intellectual chaos or abandoning Islamic law and intellectual constants.

It is no secret to Dawa members and the nation that the unprecedented developments that accompanied the march of the party when it was in power, were something that the Dawa was not prepared for, intellectually, doctrinally, politically, organizationally, as well as at the security level. This led to an incomplete vision among some Dawa members, and forced other members to deal on a day-to-day basis with events and developments as they came, whether actively or reactively, without prior strategic planning.

The most important entry point and driver of the review we desire is perpetual self-accountability. This is an authentic Islamic principle that the Islamic Dawa Party enshrined and placed at the heart of its methodology, with a view to assess its reality, discover its mistakes, and correct its path. In addition, objective accountability as an approach encompasses both individuals in the party, the party as a whole, and the party’s supporters.

For the self to act as its own mirror and hold itself accountable is the prerequisite for any review and readjustment. Accountability is a duty, and not just something permissible and desirable, but it can only come through a cohesive and sober intellectual structure aware of its Islamic obligations, which it fulfills boldly without fear from skeptics, doubters, or gloaters. Given the commitment of the Islamic Dawa Party to its intellectual bedrock, doctrinal foundations, and Islamic law-based approach, our commitment to the core principles of Islamic action is the basis of our identity and affiliation.

No doubt, trust in God and in oneself, as well as boldness and courage, are the foundations that any group must stand upon when it declares its intention to hold itself accountable, review its positions, and renew its ideas. It is people who have something to fear who will have qualms about self-review, and who will suppress any bid – in their ranks – that calls for accountability and renewal. But since its inception, the Islamic Dawa Party continued to stand on those basic foundations, which are the source of its power, strength, and continuity, God willing.

While renewal in the ideas of the Dawa and its methods is the result of accountability and review, it is again not just a permissible or desired act, but also a duty in many instances. Indeed, it is one of the fundamentals of reform, rationalization, and correction. Renewal is a divine, universal, and legislative law imposed by successive developments and problematic questions, and the emergence of gaps in the legislation process. These must be plugged in line with the requirements of modernity, in a way that responds to the challenges facing the Dawa and its members.

Some observers might raise questions about the timing of this talk about self-review. They might ask: Where was the Dawa in the past 11 years? In this regard, I don’t want to be in the position of someone defending a crucial measure that the members of the Dawa and I should have promoted, planned, and implemented years ago. But I will say it for the sake of history, and very truthfully:
We have implemented self-reviews in more than one place and occasion, especially during our conferences, though it was less than we would have desired. We, as members of the Dawa, regardless of our partisan and governmental posts, continue to be strongly preoccupied with the challenges of the political process, for which we have bore the brunt since 2005 and to date.

Despite all these pressures, which continue to consume our time and energy, we have not been idling, as some might imagine, but we continued working in accordance to our vision of priorities, and put the most important ahead of the less important, to ward off evil from the nation and fulfill its interests. After 2003, the priority was to preserve Iraq and cement its new foundations, and rid the homeland from the clutches of racism and sectarianism that had dug into all its joints for hundreds of years. The priority was the success of the political process, defeating the threat of terrorism, and rebuilding the armed forces, to protect our people from the wholesale targeting of its political, cultural, social, and economic security and its livelihood, and to end the occupation.

If there is an objective and realistic critique of how much the Dawa members have fulfilled these tasks and their successes and failures, then the doors of the Dawa are open to constructive criticism and correction. This criticism is even part of the project for self-review and reconstruction.

The idea of self-review continued to interact in our ranks since 2007, but much of it has remained confined to paper, because of the enormous pressure of government work. Hence, the idea is nothing new. To be sure, we have always been aware of its necessity, because it is a fundamental part of the Dawa’s principles, as a doctrinal movement, cohesive party, and a large and exceptional organization. However, the opportunity arising from our departure from leading the government has eased some of the burdens of executive action, giving us some time to revive those ideas, reformulate them, and write them down. We shall declare their basic features now.

The goals and means of the review

The goals of the review and its means are closely linked to its necessities and motives explained earlier. Here, we outline some of the most important of these goals:

1.) Sticking to the principles and constants of the Dawa, and renewing its ideas. The priorities of this aspect include injecting more regenerative ideas in the public and private literature of the Dawa, especially in relation to the topics we must work on elaborating with focus and depth in our political theory, such as the relationship between the Dawa and the state, the political system, and the authorities, and the participation of the Dawa in the government of a non-islamic state, and what this entails in terms of a regenerative reinforcement of the notions of the homeland, citizenship, and patriotism, and the modern state we seek to build on every level – legal, political, economic, cultural, and social.

2.) Adhering to the ethics of the Dawa. These ethics were set forth by Dawa’s theses, and were put to practice by the first members of the Dawa and its martyrs. They are derived from Islamic ethical theory as presented to us by the Messenger of Allah and his blessed House. We must therefore emphasize the fact that the Dawa is a model for a righteous, believing, honest, aware, and sacrificing community, where the Dawa member is a model for the believing, righteous, aware, strong, and honest person. This model should be reflected in the conduct of the Dawa in society and the state, and the conduct of the Dawa members within the organization, and the society and the state. This model becomes a symbol to be emulated, admired, and appreciated.

3.) Emphasizing the idea that power is a means not an end for the Dawa. In this regard, the Dawa and Dawa members must resolve the problem of the relationship between the Dawa and the government, on the basis that the latter is a means to promote the just principles of the Islamic Call. Among the basics of the theories of the Call developed by the martyred Imam Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr are the subjects of political action, the state, and power, as tools to achieve the goals of Islamic law, and not a goal by themselves. Thus, all of these means in whose framework the Dawa members act or which they adhere to, must be seen as a great responsibility before God, through which Dawa members fulfill their religious commitments in the service of the faith and the nation, no matter what post they hold in the state and government. When talking about the goals of the Islamic law and its objectives, perhaps opponents might summon some distorted and egregious models claiming to implement Islamic law, which our Islamic history and our present in the Middle East are rife with, when in reality these have nothing to do with Islam. The Islamic Dawa, when speaking of seeking the adjudication of Islam, means the bright, civilized image that Islam has set for the purposes of the state in their humanitarian, ethical, and beneficial aspects. We will have a detailed discussion about this in the near future.

Since the principles of self-review, accountability, and renewal are among the fundamentals of the Dawa, their effectiveness will not stop at achieving what is possible now, but will continue to expand as long as the Dawa shines its light on the nation, God willing.

Nouri Kamal al-Maliki is the secretary general of the Iraqi Islamic Dawa Party, a former prime minister of Iraq and its current vice president.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar English's editorial policy. If you would like to submit a thoughtful response to one of our opinion pieces, send your contribution to our submissions editor.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Incredible...I wonder how Al Akhbar could publish such a thing...this is one of the best hollow, empty piece of bureaucratic "newspeak" I ever read. Replace Dawa party with Communist party, Sharia law with Leninism and Islamic principles with Marxist principles and you could think that you were reading Nikitin editorial in Pravda during Stalin rule....

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