Sunday, 24 May 2020

Islam is not a Political Ideology

In the Name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful

A Muslim brother, Moin Khan Chouhan, posted a link in the comment section to an article on my blog inviting me to examine another website which promotes the idea of Islam being a political religion (

On the home page of this website is an image of Ruhollah Khomeini and the following quote of his: "When anyone studies a little or pays a little attention to the rules of Islamic government, Islamic politics, Islamic society and Islamic economy he will realize that Islam is a very political religion. Anyone who will say that religion is separate from politics is a fool; he does not know Islam or politics."

In general, I agree with this quotation in the sense that Islam is indeed a very political religion, but that does not necessarily mean Islam is a political ideology or even that there is no room for political difference and dissent within the Muslim community or that Muslims, in their individual capacity, are not free to formulate their own political views independently.

But this particular website, in promoting Khomeini, the so-called "Islamic Revolution", the modern-day "Islamic" Republic of Iran (which it claims is the only Islamic country in the world today), presents an extremely warped and false image and conception of our Religion which I feel is my duty to refute.

At the outset, let me make it clear that being an orthodox Sunni Muslim, this debate on whether Islam is a political ideology or not is essentially an important aspect of the age old Sunni-Shi'i controversy regarding the nature of the Imamate and the succession to the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alaihi wasallam). The website itself defines the Imamate as "political leadership", though this is not accurate because it is not necessary, in my view, that the Imam of the Muslims be their political leader ipso factoIn Shi'ism, on the other hand, Islam is at its very core a political message. So it is only natural for many if not most of the Shi'a to subscribe to the idea that Islam is a political ideology which requires the establishment of an Islamic state under the leadership of an Imam, or, according to Khomeini's novel wilayat al-faqih theory of Islamic governance, under the leadership of a representative of the Imam, namely, the qualified mujtahid jurist. And on another level, this discussion transcends the Sunni-Shi'i controversy because there are many non-Shi'i thinkers (most who would self-identify as Sunnis) who likewise advocate the idea that Islam is a political ideology which requires the establishment of a state - but these non-Shi'i thinkers such as Mawdudi, Sayyid Qutb, Nabahani, Dr. Israr Ahmad and others, were in fact breaking with the teachings of orthodox Sunnism and their interpretation was colored by a heavy influence and mixture of the ideas of Shi'ism and Kharijism, as well as modern, materialist, revolutionary European ideologies, most notably Marxism.

A common denominator among all political "Islamic" ideologies, movements and thinkers is the presumption, taken for granted, that colonialism and by extension neocolonialism, is a great, harmful evil. Among them is a general aversion to the British in particular, and at present, to the phenomenon of American imperialism and expansionism. The perception among them is that in order for Islam to be appropriately revived the Muslim Umma must be politically independent and powerful.

It is quite telling that the website begins its article entitled "Why Muslims Need Political Islam?" with three quotations from three respective disbelievers; Plato, Ross Perot and Donald Trump! The summary of these quotations is that it is necessary for the good to enter the field of politics for if they do not society shall be governed by the bad and the ugly.

The website claims that the reason the pagans of Mecca initially resisted the Islamic call and ministry of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was "because the call to Islam which Prophet presented was not only merely a call to change our personal selves but also a call to change our political, economic, social, military, epistemic and cultural existence." Such a claim is nothing short of blatant historical revisionism that is totally unsubstantiated and a distortion of the facts. The truth is when the Prophet (peace be upon him) put the message of his Prophesy before the pagans of Mecca, it did not even contain within it a political, economic, social, military or cultural dimension! It was purely a call to worship Allah alone and to break the idols. The pagans resisted this call because they were not willing to leave their idolatry. Overall, the actual political, economic, social, military, cultural and legal teachings of Islam were not even revealed until much later, in the Medinese phase of the Prophet's ministry. For thirteen years, the greater part of the Prophet's overall ministry, the Prophet (peace be upon him) merely called to the worship of Allah alone and some basic but profound moral teachings mainly connected to concern for the vulnerable and weak segments of society. It was a call absolutely bereft of any politically ideological element.

To be continued (in sha Allah)

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