Religion and State I

November 1, 2009 at 11:45 pm | Posted in Islam | 6 Comments

It is amazing to see Westerners talk about Islam. It is interesting how they see Islam, from this very Christian perspective, although mostly they are probably atheists. 
Westerners anticipate that there is a modern Islam somewhere, well at least they think, that there should be something like that. And if not than there should be a reformation in Islam like there was one in Christianity and out of this should follow a more modern Islam with a divison between Religion and State.

It shows how little they understand of Islam and even of Christianity and the Reformation.

There is non -political Islam. Islam is politics. All the theological differences you can find in Islam – like the split between the Sunna and the Shi’a – goes back to a political conflict. In detail there was a dissent who should follow as a leader of the Islamic community. But it is important to note: First was a political dissent than with time came the theological differences. The split was not about theological but about political differences. 

The leader of the Islamic community was also its religious leader. Division between religion and state are alien to Islam. From the times of Muhammad to the end of the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent abolishment of the Caliphate by Ataturk the leader was the leader, was the leader was the leader, in all aspects religious and non religious.

On the other hand splits – Schisms – in Christianity were about theological issues. Luther did not rebell about who became Pope but because of dislike of the actions of the Church that he critizised from a theological point of view. (On the other hand the Shi’a did not like that it was not ‘Ali or his descendants that became Caliph. There was no dissent about how people should practice Islam or how the clerics should behave.)
The division of Religion and State comes much easier to Christians. For hundreds of years Christians were persecuted. Christianity was founded as a persecuted creed. Persecuted by the very powers, the rulers. That did not prevent Christianity to just the same after they gained power. On the other hand Islam after it had established itself expanded and was ruling but was not ruled by non-Muslims. In addition in Christianity there was usually a division between the clerics and the rulers. The Church might have sometimes be a very powerfull political player and sometimes a ruler would have made his subordinates to accept his believe. But a division between state and religion is not alien to Chrisitanity.

Christians are from the very beginning used to the fact, that there is a cleric and a political leadership. Would this divison be not there, it would seem alien to Christians. That does however not mean, that the rulers are not Christians and that Christian morals can be found in legal norms after passing through a specific process.
For Muslims it is totally the opposite. They are historically used to the fact that there is no division between political and religious leadership. A division would be alien to them. In addition Islam has a set of rules – the Shari’a, the Islamic law – that deals with very daily matters. Form a Islamic perspective man-made law cannot rule out this divine law.

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  1. i’m guessing that you’re referring to the little discussion we had over at another blog. sorry for not answering for a while.
    i have a couple of questions.
    why would a muslim reformation have to be like luther’s reformation? at least i never said that. it could ( and probably has to be) a far more radical one, questioning core principles of islam. that would be in no way simple, and i bet there’s no one out there thinking it will be done in five years.
    but if you think believing in a reformation of islam is naive, you might think about how naive it is to state that one fourth of the world’s population, among them very many analphabets, cannot change their minds.
    (and our discussion was comments under an article that promoted a book written by an ex-neonazi).
    haven’t many principles in history been “alien” to people? the concept of democracy was “alien” to the people until the american and french revolution (and it took the french a while afterwards to really establish it, didn’t it?) i’m sure the rich people in the middle ages found it was “alien” to the farmers to not be owned by them. etc etc.
    what about atatürk? with all there is to criticise about him and about the current situation in turkey, wasn’t it his goal to establish a secular state in an islamic society and didn’t it work?
    and, of course, the christian reformation was politically motivated. why would the emperor of the “holy roman empire”(of course a gem of a secular state) have tried to inhibit it?
    luther and his followers tried to keep the church from getting too much money and influence. of course, that is political. and of course, the crusades were political. of course, christianity and certain beliefs have a high influence on u.s. politics.
    it’s not stated in the bible, as it is in the koran, that political and religious might should be in one hand, but that doesn’t make the christian religion un-political.
    the church was not “sometimes a very powerfull political player”, but it was the most important political partner to the emperors for centuries. the cleric and the political leadership were woven into each other, and it was probably alien to the people when they were clearly separated.
    and although i see that islam stands out there, it is important to see that all religions have always been used or abused for political goals.
    and the reformation was also about not taking the bible too literally and make it readable for everyone, so everyone can have his own thoughts about it. which would, of course, be good ideas for islam as well.
    i am not one who closes her eyes to islamic violence, and i see that often enough it springs from the middle of a society, but i am idealistic enough to believe in a change there, as more muslims get access to education and thus to the rest of the world.
    in the other blog you also mentioned that many suicide attackers were well-educated. apart from the fact that their families often earned lots of money with their “job”, you would have to define what well-educated means. a scholar of radical islam? well educated in technical fields? for me, education is about getting to know the world, travelling, learning about history, about other ways of life, thus embracing and encouraging critical thinking, and about fostering one’s own talents . in that way, there’s also lots to do in germany and other parts of the world. i really do think that a broad education is the best way to fight radicalism of any kind.
    when i mentioned moderate muslims here in germany, you said they weren’t real muslims. well, that’s an argument of the extremists, too. if a christian doesn’t follow the bible and doesn’t go to church regularly, is he not a “real” christian?

    i would be interested in what you see in the future. war, until one fourth of the population has either been killed or converted?

    • i comment on the topics you mention:

      reformation:
      yes, an islamic reformation would have to be much more radical. and that is the thing. islam is not – like christianity – only about believing in something. if several things ae changed, than it will not be islam anymore. christians on the other hand only have to believe, that is it. they can to that in very private, chrisitanity can be a totally invisible religion. that might be to the fact, that chrisitans where a persecuted creed over the first hundreds of years. islam was not a persecuted religion, it was a conquering religion.
      when christianity spread it integrated into the existing societies, and converted people (very often wuth force) and killed many unbelievers. the leader of the christian movement did not became the new ruler.
      islam conquered and build a new society. (of course christians also conquered land, and they often did so in the name of christianity.)

      things being alien to people:
      it is something totallu different if you are not used to something (to democracy, because you live in a monarchy) than if something is alien to you, meaning something conflicts with you system. if you are part of the islamic system and believe that the quarn comes from allah and the shari’a is the holy law, what would you think if people tell you, that that law is wrong and there should not be a death penalty?!?

      the political character of chrisitanity:
      of course the churche was a political player. put this says everything. it was a political player. meaning there where others too. and it also means, that it was for sure, that another player might win. again: of course christian morals can make their way through a political process. that is purely democratic. but that needs one confession: other opinions are to be accepted (the church did far to often not accept that).
      again: that fact that christians have barely holy laws, that deals with day to day life is heldfull here. there is no holy (christian) law that says, how you have to punish adulter.
      on the other hand: if islam is to act like this, it has to give up the very core of its religion: that it is the only right way. if islam is to accept other ways, it has to admit, that it is not the only way to be and that means relativatings its very message. from a islamic persepective that is or at least comes very closely to apostasy.

      some comments on some specific quotes:

      “i am not one who closes her eyes to islamic violence”

      violence was surely not a topic here. i merely talked about religious issues and historical processes.

      “i am not one who closes her eyes to islamic violence, and i see that often enough it springs from the middle of a society, but i am idealistic enough to believe in a change there, as more muslims get access to education and thus to the rest of the world.”

      that is the thing. for example the muslim brotherhood and other extremeist organisations in egypt had a majority of university graduates. but not from the religious studies but from very wordly studies. mainly engineers and doctors, also lawyers. the same it true for syria.

      “when i mentioned moderate muslims here in germany, you said they weren’t real muslims. well, that’s an argument of the extremists, too. if a christian doesn’t follow the bible and doesn’t go to church regularly, is he not a “real” christian?”

      yes. usually the pious cleric people define those things. if someone wants to know if he is jewish from a jewish perspective he also rather should ask an orthodox rabbi than a reform rabbi.
      as far as i know a christian has to believe in jesus, and that’s it.
      you say they are moderate. what you mean by that, i just that they ignore certain part of islam. they live in a western society where they do not have to fear repression for not doing something. they are born into secularism. they do not live in a islamic system.
      you can also ask a catholic in danmark who is married to a protestant and has not been in a church since he was baptised, what he thinks about secularism and say than that you know a moderate catholic. but that would have nothing to to with a discussion about opus dei and its worldview.

      “i would be interested in what you see in the future. war, until one fourth of the population has either been killed or converted?”

      war is not something new. but i do not see a reform in islam soon. certain people will become secular. but islam will basically stay the same.

  2. haven’t read it all yet, but this is an interesting series on this subject:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/sep/25/therootsofislamicreform

    • true, it sounds interesting. i read the first part so far. and after that i will read the other part with some reservation. the author of that article seems to be well informed, to some point.
      but then on the other hands, he misses a lot. i do not know why.
      he mentions ibn taymiya, and rights about his fatwa concerning the mongols and that it has to do with how some muslims deal with tyranny.
      his conclusion is, that it was ibn taymiya, that introduces some like a Widerstandsrecht.
      but he totally misses on ibn taymiya’s argumentation.
      ibn taymiya’s argument was, that muslims can revolt against the rulers, if the latter do not apply the holy law.
      and that is something totally different than to revolt against somebody who is unjust.

      it also challenges me, that the author can be so irrogant not even to mention with one word the legal school of the shi’a!!!

  3. sorry, pretty busy at the moment.
    about my mentioning violence: i was still half in the discussion we had at spreeblick.
    i do not think that a somewhat changed islam will not be islam anymore. that is what many christians may have thought of luther as well, and there are enough muslims who drink alcohol and are in favour of secular states and accept other beliefs and are still muslims. things like that are exactly what many people would think an islamic reformation would be about. after all, christianity has, after centuries, reformations and wars, reached a point where the bible is not taken literally anymore. and the church was the dominant political player for quite a while.
    and there is no “literal” interpretation of the koran and the haditha. as far as i know, it is far too complicated to allow only one interpretation.
    i don’t really get the point in you saying that something is alien to someone in difference to it being something he/she doesn’t know or isn’t used to.
    and opus dei is to christianity what islam is to islam? i didn’t get that analogy. after all, it is the moderate christians (who ignore rules like prohibition of premarital sex, birth control etc.) who are the masses and who represent “christianity” in a better way than the pope does, don’t they? why shouldn’t the same apply to islam?
    i’ll hopefully be back with more time soon…

    • “i do not think that a somewhat changed islam will not be islam anymore. that is what many christians may have thought of luther as well, and there are enough muslims who drink alcohol and are in favour of secular states and accept other beliefs and are still muslims. things like that are exactly what many people would think an islamic reformation would be about. after all, christianity has, after centuries, reformations and wars, reached a point where the bible is not taken literally anymore. and the church was the dominant political player for quite a while.”

      1. luthers reformation did not change the catholic church. it just put another branch in play.
      as far as i am informed portestants are a minority among christians. by the way: the evangelikans are a branch of protestantism. you probably do not like their extreme understanding of christianity.
      2. it does not matter if the bible of the christians is taken word for word by them. it does not include effective rules for daily life. if is merely a story about their hero, jesus from natsaret.
      3. that brings me to my third point. islam (like judaism) is a very wordly religion. it organizes yout day. islam (again like judaism) tell you what to do from the moment you get up, untill you go to slepp. there are many rules, for many things. f exp what to do after you get up. what to do before you eat, what to eat, what to do after you eat. with whome to interact, how often and when to pray, to go on pilgramage, whom to fight, why to fight and so on.
      now: for a christian all these rules do not exist in this practical sence. he can life in any state get up in the morning and eat without disbeying the rules of hif believe system. in this sense: it is very easy to be a christian (on the other side christianity is the most persecuted religion, it is in many parts of the world very dangerous to be a christian).
      4. it was not that islam became the religion of a state, of a people. islam founded a state, a community. that is very important, if you want to have a state of muslims, that makes a division between the state and islam.
      in a way like having a communist state, but making a division between communism and politics. but more about that later.

      “after all, christianity has, after centuries, reformations and wars, reached a point where the bible is not taken literally anymore. and the church was the dominant political player for quite a while.
      and there is no “literal” interpretation of the koran and the haditha. as far as i know, it is far too complicated to allow only one interpretation.”

      again. of course there are interpretation. there are in sunni islam f exp for different legal schools. islam (like judaism again) has a lot to do with the rules (obligations) what to do and what not to do. and for that stuff you need lawyers. (no wonder it was part of the slogan of the muslim brethren that “islam is our constitution”)
      and: the christian bible is never understood as the word of good. it is a story about the life of whom christians believe was the messias. the quran on the other hand is believed to be the word of god, that muhammad received from him.
      you see, that it is quite a big difference, if someone has to deal with a text written by the followers of a guy that is seen as a hero. or if you have to deal with the word of your god.
      if you god tells you, that you are not allowed to eat pork: how do you interpret, that he did not mean it like that?
      if your god tells you, that you should kill the apostate: how dou you interpret this as not meant as said?
      well, you can say, that the quran is not the word of god. but than you are not muslim! it would just be as if a christian says that jesus was not the son of god.

      “after all, it is the moderate christians (who ignore rules like prohibition of premarital sex, birth control etc.) who are the masses and who represent “christianity” in a better way than the pope does, don’t they? why shouldn’t the same apply to islam?”

      well. i challange, that the chrisitan bible mentions any of these rules, that the moderate christians neglect. as i said. christianity does not organize the non-spiritual life of its followers.
      judaism would have been a much better example.

      now again: christianity it a religion of believe. islam is much more than that. let’s say it is the code of a community (i do not bring judaism as an example, because it has developed much more).
      for example: you are not born as a christian. you only become a christian. and you can easily stop to be a christian. you just have do renounce it. in the middle ages, they (the church) would have burned you for that. although there is NO case in the christian bible which says that you should be punished for that.if you father is a muslim, you are muslim by brith (in judaism it is all about the mother). you are a muslim and there is no way to stop being one (according to islam). in addition: for apostasy islam, the quran has a definite rule: kill the apostate. it is not that some gone mad clerics decided that, no, the basic thext of islam declares that.
      right aftet muhammad died, there were many arabic tribes who refused to pay the charity tax, one of the five pillars of islam. and abu bakr, the first caliphe went on the so called ridda wars. wars against apostates.


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