Monday, July 29, 2013

Islam's Plurality: How it Hinders Government.

Person A: "Islam and government do not work well together, look at the failed experiments in the Middle East." 

Person B: "You can't count those countries they aren't following Islam correctly, if only they would follow Islam the way it is supposed to be followed you would see how great Islam can be for a government!"

            That conversation or a similar variation of it has been hashed out hundreds if not thousands of times between Muslims and all other groups of peoples (including other Muslims). What is the problem with this conversation some of you might ask, Person B is 100% correct, we can't judge Islam and government based off of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the other usual suspects in the Middle East. Au contraire my dear reader we can judge Islam and its affiliation with government based off of these countries because countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and so on are products of Islam in some shape or form! 
            My argument is that due to the plurality of Islam and its lack of centralized authority we should not expect to see a successful modern Muslim nation the likes of which many Muslims want to see or claim could be seen if Islam was just followed properly. For the record I understand that Turkey is a Muslim majority nation, but it is (for the time being) a secular state. With that being said let us continue down the path of Muslim plurality and its hindrance of Islamic government. 
            According to various sources, the Muslim population hovers near the 1 Billion persons mark. As most people know, the Middle East is home to many Muslims as is south and central Asia. Of these billion or so Muslims, you have various religious sects, Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Alvei, Ismali, and this is not counting the various different sects that exist on a local or regional levels. Aside from sects, you have yourself different schools or branches of Islam that again differ based on your sect. For example, Sunnis have the Hanbali School and Shia's have the Twelver branch. This all seems very complicated I am sure so here take a look at this chart to see a visual of the picture I am trying to paint.

Do you see the level of complexity found in Islam? This does not bode well for any type of government. Let me explain. What makes a government run properly? Laws. The United States runs (or at least used to run) on a set of written laws (rules and regulations) created by man. These laws govern how the government, states, and citizens are supposed to interact with one another. The Quran also prescribes some rules and regulations for the interaction between men, but there is a small little problem. The Quran is supposedly God's written word, which is the same God who burns people who commit sin by disobeying his laws; therefore people who believe in an afterlife REALLY, REALLY stake their future on following laws ordained by God.  How is this a problem? Well the problem lies in the simple fact that God's word is uncompromisable. Now whether you are religious or not, it is true in Islam that God has the final say, and that God's words cannot be altered. Here is how this creates a problem for a Muslim government. 
            What school will run your country? Which interpretation of Islam will you take as your source of law? These are all important questions because now you are choosing which laws are the true laws of God and which are heretical. For example in Saudi Arabia which embraces a strict interpretation of the  Hanbali Sunni school you have rules that makes life for Shia's and other Muslim minority religious groups quite difficult. Many in Saudi Arabia's ruling religious elite view Shia, Sufis and other Sunnis who do not prescribe to their way of thinking as religious heretics who are not part of the Umaah. This makes running an effective government very difficult since a good portion of your population is discriminated against and deemed as not a member of your community. How are you supposed to grow as a nation when you exclude members of your community based on their religious beliefs?
Person B:  "Reform!! Reform!! We need to Reform Islam!!"
            Wow person B is chalked full of great ideas aren't they? No, they are not. Reforming Islam is simply out of the question for many Muslim because they believe the gates of Ijithad have closed many centuries ago and that all current understandings of Islam and its laws are as good as they are going to get. Therefore reforming Islam is seen as changing God's word. In a Muslim nation, the rules you get are the rules you are stuck with. You can't change the fact that Muslim women can't hold the highest seat in the land because that would be changing God's word. You cannot reform the fact that Shias are sometimes excluded from political and social participation because that would be changing the word of God. This inability to change and reform Islam and its laws hinders the ability to form a strong and effective Muslim government, the one our Person B wants to see emerge. 
Person B: "Hmm but the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) managed to do it!?! If we just go back to the way he did things we can surely create a powerful Muslim nation."
            Person B is partially correct. According to most sources, Muhammad did manage to unite a diverse group of Arabs who ranged in their religious belief under the flag of Islam and managed to conquer all of Arabia before the time of his death. The error many Muslims make is that even if we go to the ways of the prophet it will still fail because you need a prophet. During the time of Muhammad, he was the only source of Islamic interpretation. You want to know what a sura means, go ask Muhammad. You want a ruling on something you do not understand and think might be haram, go ask Muhammad. He was/is the perfect Muslim, nay the perfect Human being. He had a one on one connection with God and was judge, jury and executioner of God's laws. Without a prophet, you can attempt to do things the way he did, but I bet my bottom dollar many people will argue over whether the prophet actually condones an action or not, resulting in the same situation we have above. 
            Without a central authority figure that can deem something Halal or Haram, Muslims are left to their own devices, which as we saw above results in various religious interpretations. 
            The only solution for the Muslim Middle East is to somehow find a way to utilize man made governments that allow you to amend and reform, like the constitution of America for instance and still keep their Muslim faith a part of it. If they cannot figure that out then we can all sit here and watch one failed Islamic nation after another rise and fall through the annals of history.

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