Islamic Government" - An
By T.O. Shanavas
In many Muslim majority nations, monarchies, brutal military, dictators or
religious extremists force free people to confess and practice a
government-approved version of faith that they call Islam. These self-righteous
terrorists and tyrants want to subdue Muslims and non-Muslims alike. These
enemies of freedom use their handpicked Imams to issue fatwas to validate their
tyranny. Unfortunately, most of these Imams' values, and fatwas that have never
been subjected to the scrutiny of a free press, are accepted as truly Islamic
values in many Muslim societies. Under many such regimes, women cannot drive,
own a business, or even acquire the most rudimentary education. In countries
such as Saudi Arabia, religious police whip and herd the common people like
camels into mosques during prayer time. When women become victims of torture and
honor killing in the name of Islam, these Imams, kings and generals ignore or
declare these atrocities to be isolated incidents. They claim that Islam and
Muslims are protected under their "just" rule.
Muslims are quick to condemn non-Muslim societies for their human right
violations. However, they are often silent when it comes to the abuse of
innocent women and other members of Muslim society. In such a sad state of
Muslim society, many Muslims blindly dream of a utopian "Islamic government", in
much the same way as Christians anticipate the "Kingdom of God." Unfortunately,
this idea of "Islamic government" is a myth created by the power-hungry to
subdue Muslims and non-Muslims alike to benefit exclusively those who rule. The
Qur'an unambiguously exposes the tyrants' forgery of Islam.
The Qur'an states: "Say (Muhammad, it is) truth from the Lord of you all.
Whosoever will, let him believe and whosoever will, let him disbelieve" (Qur'an
18: 29) "And so, [O Prophet,] exhort them; thy task is only to exhort: thou
cannot compel them to believe."(Qur'an: 21-22). "O Prophet.!…Thy duty is not
more than to deliver the message; and the reckoning is Ours." (Qur'an 13:40).
These verses teach that an atmosphere of safety and liberty is an absolute
necessity to the development of faith in the heart. These verses demand that
Muslims guarantee freedom and safety for all. Moreover, the "reckoning" belongs
to God only. Therefore, if a governments or an Imams' Fatwas demand public
obedience and submission, such an enforced, outward appearance of obedience is
not faith. Tyrants have no means to know what is in the heart of the individual
thus subdued. When a government enforces religion, the control is over the body
not over the soul. The Qur'an rejects such tyranny over the body: "It is not
your meat or blood that reach Allah: It is the fealty of your heart that reaches
Him" (Qur'an 22:37). Similarly, the Qur’an condemns and rejects the prayers of
those Muslims who pray but refrain from the moral duties: “Have you seen him who
denies the Day of Judgment? It is he who pushes the orphan away; and does not
induce others to feed the needy; Woe to those who pray; but who are oblivious of
their duties; who dissimilate and withhold things of common use from others.”
(The Qur’an 107:1-7).
The Qur'an states: "We sent down the Torah which contains guidance and
light…Later, in the train of Prophets We send Jesus, son of Mary, confirming the
Torah which has been sent down before him, and gave him the Gospel containing
guidance and light. …Unto to you [O Muhammad] this writ (Koran) and a way and a
pattern of life, confirming what were revealed before…Unto everyone of you have
We appointed a different law and way of life. And if God had so willed He could
surely have you all made one single community professing one faith. But He
wished to try you and test you. So try to excel in good deeds" (Qur'an:
Therefore, the very existence of different kinds of faith and religion
contesting one another in acts of good work is the will of God. Hence, freedom
without the enforcement of conformity in religious matters is Islamic. The
so-called Islamic governments of the self-righteous violate Qur'anic principles
and tyrannize people of all faith including Muslims.
Allah told the Prophet (s): "…Fear not people, but fear Me (God)…" (Qur'an
5:44). Therefore, the Prophet (s) declared that human beings are free and
individually accountable to God only. He preached freedom of faith. He struggled
to establish a free society. Prophet Muhammad (s) functioned democratically at
the request of the citizens of Medina. The Prophet (s) never forced a decision
upon his community even when he believed that the majority decision on a
particular secular matter was a mistake, as happened in the case of the disaster
at the battle of Uhud. He and a minority of the citizens of Medina argued for
the fortification of the city of Medina and planned to fight the Meccan army
from within. Yet, he agreed to go along with the wishes of the majority of his
followers to fight the Meccan army in open field instead of fighting from
fortified Medina, even though he truly believed that the strategy of the
majority was wrong. He upheld the democratic principles even when there was
maximum danger to the community. This incident is an example illustrating that
Islam demands Democracy, and not tyranny by Imams, Kings, self-appointed
presidents, and military generals. Following the footsteps of Prophet (s), all
Muslims must ardently and peacefully struggle to establish a free society.
Everyone is equal and free. If any one wants to be a believer, let him/her be.
If anyone wants to be an apostate let him/her be safe to live the life of an
Government is a tool to maintain communal policy. Within the framework of a
democratic government, the policy of a community is generated by communal
consensus. The concept of communal consensus, though valuable in establishing
communal parameters, becomes irrelevant in the assessment of an individual's
soul on " The Day of Judgment." What is critical in the Islamic context is
faith. Faith is an exclusively personal and private experience. We embrace faith
individually just as we confront our death individually. An Iranian Muslim
philosopher, Souroush, correctly said that we have communal actions but not
communal faith. We can express faith in public but the core of the faith is
mysteriously private. The preeminence of Islamic faith is for the Hereafter
where people are to be judged individually: "Everyone of them will come before
Him all alone on the Day of Resurrection. Surely, Ar-Rahman will show love for
those who believe and do right." [Qur'an 19:95-96]. In Islam, there is no
concept of Original Sin to blight the goodness inherent in mankind; therefore,
the prime criterion on the Day of Judgment is the cumulative action of the
individual. The officials of a government can have faith and religious values,
yet Allah (sw) judges the individual not for what the community has sanctioned
as ethical, but for what the individual has chosen as honorable action. One
individual cannot bear the sole responsibility for a communal decision. So on
the Day of Judgment, a communal policy does not outweigh one's actions
determined in the course of free will.
The function of government is enforcement. Therefore, the concept of so-called
Islamic government is an oxymoron because the Qur'an is against any form of
compulsion or enforcement of a particular religion. The Qur'an proclaims: "No
compulsion is there in religion, for rectitude is henceforth distinct from
perversity…" [Qur'an 2:256]., however, the closed minds of many contemporary
Muslims at large cannot gasp this straightforward and simple message.
A community can have Islamic values. The community values do not come from the
simple pronouncement of fatwas by Imams, but after comprehensive free discussion
of all fatwas and opinions in a free press, without coercion and intimidation.
Such open discussion and decision-making by the community are important Islamic
tenets because Allah asked the Prophet (s) "…And seek their [i.e., people's]
counsel in all matters of public concern…" [Qur'an 3:159].
Mistakes are possible when humans make decisions. However, the Compassionate God
states: "There is no sin upon you for what mistakes you commit unintentionally,
but there is sin in what your hearts have intended." [Qur'an 33:5] Unintentional
mistakes happen less frequently when the mind is exposed to free press, public
dialogue, and reason. Prophet taught: "Allah has not created any thing better
than reason." Any Muslim who opposes a free press, public debate, and reasoning
commits a sin knowingly because he/she refuses to listen to the merit or demerit
of an opposing point of view.
The Quraish of Mecca rejected the Prophet (s) because they refused to listen to
reason. Muslims must reject this paradigm that pervades within Muslim
communities. We must free ourselves from the concept of enforced forms of
outward Islam that demand conformity and submission by force. We must reject
totalitarianism and monarchies that want to rule our bodies. We must let liberal
democracy with the safeguard of a free press rule our "meat and blood" and let
faith rule our heart and let our hearts and minds fly freely until truth based
in reason pervades the earth so that there may be liberty and justice for all.
Unlike the enforced, distorted Islam of tyrants and terrorists, faith chosen
freely without coercion and without forced conformity is the genuine faith. In a
world where faith freely chosen fills the heart, the true religious spirit may
come alive vibrantly to establish the ideal society where all people may partake
of that precious freedom called choice. Early Muslim history corroborates this
fact. Muslims helped Jews to create their Golden Age and helped liberate
Christians from the tyranny of the Roman church. Muslim philosophy and science
promoted the Enlightenment and Renaissance of Europe. Muslims also developed
experimental science. In those days, Muslims educated anyone who came our way
without force-feeding our faith. Now we have governments that have taken control
of our body claiming to send our "meat and blood" to God while Muslims have to
beg from non-Muslim societies for their daily bread to keep their body alive.
Islam will remain a dream and a theory with no practical value until faith rules
the hearts and liberal democracy with an accountable free press rules human
"blood and meat."
I agree with Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter of Laura Ingall (of "Little House on
the Prairie" fame) and author of The Discovery of Freedom. She said that in
principle the American struggle against authority is only a different version of
the struggle against authority of the Prophet. The democratic paradigm draws
inspiration from the Qur'anic axiom that human beings are free under God. The
American constitution reflects this as it states: "Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press." In America, hearts
can choose their faith at the individual level. In this great nation, everyone
is free to believe or disbelieve in the Day of Judgment when free human spirits
face God for their individual acts and faith, not for governmental or communal
American Muslims must struggle along with the rest of Americans against any
threat from external or internal forces that endanger our re-discovered freedom.
We must struggle for a better America without abridging freedom. America may not
be the perfect utopia of Christians or Muslims, or of anybody else, but it is
the most resilient nation in the contemporary world. Muslim Americans joining
hands with the rest of Americans, without impinging on the freedom of others,
must strive to make America a greater nation that it is now. The free Muslims of
America know that America and American freedom must be protected and preserved
at any cost if Muslims want to practice Islam as each Muslim understands it, not
as authoritarians such as monarchs or religious bigots choose to enforce it.
Finally, I thank Allah (sw) for creating America where my faith rules my heart
and liberal democracy rules my "meat and blood" without enforcement to conform
my Islamic practices to anyone else's Islam or vice versa.
May God Bless America and help us make it better and freer nation.