header image
HOME arrow RESEARCH ARTICLES arrow Politics and Reform arrow Politics arrow Islam and the Secular State
Islam and the Secular State PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 25
PoorBest 
Written by Louay Safi   
May 12, 2001 at 09:00 PM
Article Index
Islam and the Secular State
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6

 

Third, the Islamic political system adopted the principle of religious tolerance based on freedom of belief for all the members of the society. It conceded to the Jews the right to act according to the principles and rulings in which they believed: “The Jews of Banu Auf are one community with the believers. The Jews have their religion and the Muslims theirs.” The Compact emphasized the fundamentality of cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslims in establishing justice and defending of Madinah against foreign aggression. “The Jews must bear their expenses and the Muslims their expenses. Each must help the other against anyone who attacks the people of this Compact. They must seek mutual advice and consultation.” It prohibited the Muslims form doing injustice to the Jews or retaliating for their Muslim brothers against the followers of the Jewish religion without adhering to the principles of truth and goodness. “To the Jew who follow us belongs help and equality. He shall not be wronged nor shall his enemies be aided.”[12]

 

Fourth, the Compact stipulated that the social and political activities in the new system must be subject to a set of universal values and standards that treat all people equally. Sovereignty in the society would not rest with the rulers, or any particular group, but with the law founded on the basis of justice and goodness, maintaining the dignity of all. The Compact emphasized repeatedly and frequently the fundamentality of justice, goodness, and righteousness, and condemned in different expressions injustice and tyranny. “They would redeem their prisoners with kindness and justice common among the believers,” the Compact stated. “The God-conscious believers shall be against the rebellious, and against those who seek to spread injustice, sin, enmity, or corruption among the believers, the hand of every person shall be against him even if he be a son of one of them,” it proclaimed.[13]

 

Fifth, The Compact introduced a number of political rights to be enjoyed by the individuals of the Madinan State, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, such as (1) the obligation to help the oppressed, (2) outlawing guilt by association which was commonly practiced by pre-Islamic Arab tribes: “A person is not liable for his ally’s misdeeds;” (3) freedom of belief: “The Jews have their religion and the Muslims have theirs;” and (4) freedom of movement from and to Madinah: “Whoever will go out is safe, and whoever will stay in Madinah is safe except those who wronged (others), or committed sin.”[14]

 

 

RELIGION AND THE STATE IN HISTORICAL MUSLIM SOCIETY

Adhering to the guidance of revelation, the Ummah has respected the principle of religious plurality and cultural diversity during the significant part of its long history. The successive governments since the Rashidun period have preserved the freedom of faith and allowed non-Muslim minorities not only to practice their religious rituals and proclaim their beliefs, but also to implement their religious laws according to an autonomous administrative system.16 Likewise, the Ummah as a whole has respected the doctrinal plurality with both its conceptual and legal dimensions. It has resisted every attempt to drag the political power to take side with partisan groups, or to prefer one ideological group to another. It has also insisted on downsizing the role of the state and restricting its functions to a limited sphere.

 

Any one who undertakes to study the political history of Islam would soon realize that all political practices, which violated the principle of religious freedom and plurality, were an exception to the rule. For instance, the efforts of the Caliph al-Mamoon to impose doctrinal uniformity in accordance with the Mu’tazili interpretations, and to use his political authority to support one of the parties involved in doctrinal disputes, were condemned by the ulama and the majority of the Ummah. His efforts to achieve doctrinal homogeneity through suppression and force eventually clashed with the will of the Ummah, which refused to solve doctrinal and theoretical problems by the sword. This compelled Al-Wathiq Billah, the third caliph after al-Mamoon to give up the role assumed by his predecessors and abandon their oppressive measures.

 

Obviously, Muslims have historically recognized that the main objective of establishing a political system is to create the general conditions that allow the people to realize their duties as moral agents of the divine will (Khulafa), not to impose the teachings of Islam by force. We, therefore, ascribe the emergence of organizations working to compel the Ummah to follow a narrow interpretation, and calling for the use of the political power to make people obedient to the Islamic norms, to the habit of confusing the role and objectives of the Ummah with the role and objectives of the state. While the Ummah aims to build the Islamic identity, to provide an atmosphere conducive to spiritual and mental development of the individual, and to grant him or her the opportunity to realize his or her role and aims of life within the general framework of the law, the state makes efforts to coordinate the Ummah’s activities with the aim to employ the natural and human potentials and possibilities to overcome the political and economic problems and obstacles that hinder the Ummah’s development.

 

Differentiating between the general and particular in the Shariah and distinguishing between the responsibilities of the Ummah and the state, is a necessity if we want to avoid the transformation of political power into a device for advancing particular interests, and ensure that state agencies and institutions do not arrest intellectual and social progress, or obstruct the spiritual, conceptual, and organizational developments of society.

 

DIFFERENTIATING CIVIL SOCIETY AND THE STATE

Historically, legislative functions in Muslim society were not restricted to state institutions. Rather there was a wide range of legislations related to juristic efforts at both the moral and legal levels. Since the major part of legislation relating to transactional and contractual relations among individuals is attached to the juristic legislative bodies, the judicial tasks may be connected directly with the Ummah, not with the state. The differentiation between civil society and the state can only be maintained by dividing the process of legislation into distinct areas that reflect both the geographical and normative differentiation of the political society


Quotable




The Qur'anic Narrative
The Qur'anic Narrative


Leading with Compassion
Leading with Compassion



Palestine
Palestine



tensions-and-transitions.gif 
Tensions and Transitions
in the Muslim World



peace.gif
Peace and the Limits of War


Challenge-of-Modernity
The Challenge of Modernity 


Blaming

Blaming Islam


images/stories/foundation.jpg
Foundation of Knowledge



Creative Commons License