Let’s try again

It looks like yesterday’s article got reduced to another debate on religion — basically whose religion is better; mine or yours? The non-Muslims are quite prepared to accept the fact that Theological States can no longer work while Muslims stubbornly stick to the concept of a Theological State. Maybe this extract from Abdelwahab El-Affendi’s book, “Who needs an Islamic State?” can help clear the air.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

(Page 72-74): It is important to note that traditional Muslim political theory was first developed by the Shi’i movement during its pre-sectarian phase. This is because all authoritative leaders of Muslim opinion tended to join the idealist camp led by Ali, or else to adopt a neutral posture while not hiding their sympathy with Ali. After Muawiya’s victory, leading Muslim thinkers continued to support the rebels who defied despotic political authority in the name of Islamic ideals.

If the two main Shi’i Schools challenged the existing authority on principle, the four main Sunni Schools (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali) were equally critical.

Abu Hanifa (died 767), founder of the Hanifa School, was persecuted by the Abbasid Caliphs for suspected sympathy with Zaidi rebels and for his refusal to take office within the Abbasid regime. 

Malik ibn Anas (died 795) was also harassed by the Abbasids for allegedly assuring rebels that their pledge of allegiance to the Caliph was invalid because it was taken under coercion.

Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi’i (died 819) narrowly escaped execution for his alleged involvement in a rebellion.

The resistance of Ahmad Hanbal (died 855) to the attempts by al-Mamoun to impose a particular doctrine regarding the nature of the Quran caused him much suffering, but finally led to the triumph of his point of view.

The actual experience of the Muslim community, however, forced these thinkers and their successors to adopt a more realistic attitude. In the end, a broad agreement evolved among classical Muslim writers about several issues. They accepted that all regimes since Muawiya did not reflect the ideals of Islam and thus could not be accepted as a model. Such regimes were tolerable only because the alternative was anarchy and civil war.

If a way could be found to replace these regimes without too much bloodshed, then their removal would be a religious duty. Although this could be construed as a vindication of the attitude of the khawarij and other rebels, it is ironic that the futile exploits of the khawarij only reinforced the belief that rebellion was inadvisable, and was not considered as a realistic option.

As a result of this attitude, a schism developed in the Muslim psyche. While Muslims rejected Secularism in principle, they adopted it in practice. A central aspect of the unitary Muslim vision of the State was that the State interacted with the rest of Muslim life. Not only did the State submit to Sharia as interpreted by the community, but it also enriched and redefined Sharia and the spiritual life of the community.

The acts of the Prophet as a statesman and a warrior, as well as those of his lieutenants, appointees and “righteous’ successors were regarded as examples and an indication of what is lawful.

However, with the rejection of the legitimacy of the State in later periods, the community stubbornly refused to accept state interference in ‘spiritual’ matters, or to accord it moral authority in Muslim matters. People submitted their bodies to it, so to speak, but never their souls.

The ulema gave counsel that was not much difference from that ascribed to Jesus: “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”. So Muslims were instructed to obey the rulers, but only where their orders did not lead to sin. However, sin was here narrowly defined, with the usurpation of power and the unlawful disposition of the wealth of the Muslim community seen as no grave sin.

What is this if not Secularism?

1.    The Abbasid period began after the rule of the four ‘rightly guided’ caliphs (Abu Bakar, Omar, Osman and Ali) who succeeded Prophet Muhammad upon his death.
2.    Hanifa, Malik, Shafi’i and Hanbal were the founders of the four Sunni Schools of Islam (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali).
3.    Shi’i is short for Shiatul Ali, which means Party of Ali (a political movement set up to oppose the Abbasids).