Les quatre saisons
We are accustomed to reading books which present information, ideas and arguments systematically and coherently. So when we embark on the study of the Quran, we expect that this book too will revolve around a definite subject, that the subject matter of the book will be clearly defined at the beginning and will then be neatly divided into sections and chapters, after which discussion will proceed in a logical sequence. We likewise expect a separate and systematic arrangement of instruction and guidance for each of the various aspects of human life.
However, as soon as we open the Quran we encounter a hitherto completely unfamiliar genre of literature. We notice that it embodies precepts of belief and conduct, moral directives, legal prescriptions, exhortation and admonition, censure and condemnation of evildoers, warning to deniers of the Truth, good tidings and words of consolation and good cheer to those who have suffered for the sake of God, arguments and corroborative evidence in support of its basic message, allusions to anecdotes from the past and to signs of God visible in the universe. Moreover, these myriad subjects alternate without any apparent system; quite unlike the books to which we are accustomed, the Quran deals with the same subject over and over again, each time anchored in a different phraseology.
The reader also encounters abrupt transitions between one subject matter and another. Audience and speaker constantly change as the message is directed now to one and now to another group of people. There is no trace of the familiar division into chapters and sections. Likewise, the treatment of different subjects is unique. If an historical subject is raised, the narrative does not follow the pattern familiar in historical accounts. In discussions of philosophical or metaphysical questions, we miss the familiar expressions and terminology of formal logic and philosophy. Cultural and political matters, or questions pertaining to man’s social and economic life, are discussed in a way very different from that usual in works of social sciences. Juristic principles and legal injunctions are elucidated, but quite differently from the manner of conventional works. When we come across an ethical instruction, we find its form differs entirely from that to be found elsewhere in the literature of ethics.
The reader may find all this so foreign to his notion of what a book should be that he may become so confused as to feel that the Quran is a rump of incoherent and unsystematic writing, comprising nothing but a random conglomeration of comments of varying lengths set together arbitrarily. Hostile critics use this as a basis for their criticism, while those more favourably inclined resort to far-fetched explanations, or else conclude that the Quran consists of unrelated elements, thus making it amenable to all kinds of interpretation, even interpretation quite opposed to the intent of God Who revealed the Book.
What kind of book, then, is the Quran?
In what manner was it revealed?
What underlies its arrangement?
What is its subject?
What is its true purpose?
What is the central theme to which its multifarious topics are intrinsically related?
What kind of reasoning and style does it adopt in elucidating its central theme?
If we could obtain clear, lucid answers to these and other related questions we might avoid some dangerous pitfalls, thus making it easier to reflect upon and to grasp the meaning and purpose of the Quranic verses. If we begin studying the Quran in the expectation of reading a book on religion we shall find it hard, since our notions of religion and of a book are naturally circumscribed by our range of experience. We need, therefore, to be told in advance that this Book is unique in the manner of its composition, in its theme and in its contents and arrangement.
The student of the Quran should grasp, from the outset, the fundamental claims that the Quran makes for itself. Whether one ultimately decides to believe in the Quran or not, one must recognize the fundamental statements made by the Quran and by the man to whom it was revealed, the Prophet Muhammad, to be starting point of one’s study.
These claims are:
The Lord of Creation, the Creator and Sovereign of the entire universe, created man on Earth (which is merely a part of His boundless realm). He also endowed man with the capacity for cognition, reflection and understanding, with the ability to distinguish between good and evil, with the freedom of choice and volition, and with the power to exercise his latent potentialities. God bestowed upon man a kind of autonomy and appointed him His viceregent.
Although man enjoys this status, God made it abundantly plain to him that He Alone is man’s Lord and Sovereign, even as He is the Lord and Sovereign of the whole universe. Man was told that he was not entitled to consider himself independent and that only God was entitled to claim absolute obedience, service and worship. It was also made clear to man that life in this world, for which he had been placed and invested with a certain honour and authority, was in fact a temporary term, and was meant to test him; that after the end of this earthly life man must return to God, Who will judge him on the basis of his deeds, declaring who has succeeded and who has failed.
The right way for man is to regard God as his only Sovereign and purpose of worship and adoration, to follow the guidance revealed by God, to live in this world in the consciousness that earthly life is merely a period of trial, and to keep himself concentrated with the ultimate objective – success in God’s final judgement.
Every other way is wrong.
It was also explained to man that if he chose to adopt the right way of life – and in this choice he was free – he would enjoy peace and contentment in this world and be assigned, on his return to God, the abode of eternal bliss and happiness known as Paradise. Should man follow any other way – and he was free to do so – he would experience the evil effects of corruption and disorder in the life of this world and be consigned to eternal grief and torment when he crossed the borders of the present world and arrived in the Hereafter.
Having explained all this, the Lord of the Universe placed man on earth and communicated to Adam and Eve, the first human beings to live on earth, the guidance which they and their offspring were required to follow. These first human beings were not born in a state of ignorance and darkness. On the contrary, they began their life in the broad daylight of Divine Guidance. They had intimate knowledge of reality and the Law which they were to follow was communicated to them. Their way of life consisted of obedience to God and they taught their children to live in obedience to Him.
In the course of time, however, humans gradually deviated from this true way of life and began to follow various erroneous ways. They allowed true guidance to be lost through heedlessness and negligence and sometimes, even deliberately, distorted it out of evil perversity. They associated with God a number of beings, human and non-human, real as well as imaginary, and adored them as deities. They adulterated the God-given knowledge of reality, with all kinds of fanciful ideals, superstitions and philosophical concepts, thereby giving birth to innumerable religions. They disregarded or distorted the sound and equitable principles of individual morality and of collective conduct and made their own laws in accordance with their base desires and prejudices. As a result, the world became filled with wrong and injustice.
It was inconsistent with the limited autonomy conferred upon man by God that He should exercise His overwhelming power and compel man to righteousness. It was also inconsistent with the fact that God had granted a term to the human species in which to show their worth that He should afflict men with catastrophic destruction as soon as they showed signs of rebellion. Moreover, God has undertaken from the beginning of creation that true guidance would be made available to man throughout the term granted to him and that this guidance would be available in a manner consistent with man’s autonomy. To fulfil this self-assumed responsibility God chose to appoint those human beings whose faith in Him was outstanding and who followed the way pleasing to Him. God chose these people to be His envoys. He had His message communicated to them, honoured them with an intimate knowledge of reality, provided them with the true laws of life and entrusted them with the task of recalling man to the original path from which he had strayed.
These Prophets were sent to different people in different lands and over a period of time covering thousands and thousands of years. They all had the same religion; the one originally revealed to man as the right way for him. All of them followed the same guidance; those principles of morality and collective life prescribed for man at the very outset of his existence. All these Prophets had the same mission – to call man to this true religion and subsequently to organize all who accepted this message into a community which would be bound by the Law of God, which would strive to establish its observance and would seek to prevent its violation. All the Prophets fulfilled their missions creditably in their own time. However, there were always many who refused to accept their guidance and consequently those who did accept it and became a Muslim (that is, a group pf people committed to obey the true guidance of God as revealed to His Prophets; here the word “Muslim” is not used in the sense of followers of the last Messenger of God, Muhammad, but in the wider sense, meaning all those who, at various eons, both before and after the advent of the Last Prophet, committed themselves to live in submission to God) community gradually degenerated, causing the Divine Guidance either to be lost, distorted or adulterated.
At last the Lord of the Universe sent Muhammad to Arabia and entrusted him with the same mission that He had entrusted to the earlier Prophets. This last Messenger of God addressed the followers of the earlier Prophets (who had by this time deviated from their original teachings) as well as the rest of humanity. The mission of each Prophet was to call mankind to the right way of life, to communicate God’s true guidance afresh and to organise into one community all who responded to his mission and accepted the guidance entrusted to him. Such a community was to be dedicated to the two-fold task of moulding its own life in accordance with God’s guidance and striving for the reform of the world.
If we remember these basic facts about the Quran it becomes very easy to grasp its true subject, its central theme and the objective it strives to achieve. Insofar as it seeks to explain the ultimate causes of man’s success or failure the subject of the Book is MAN.
Its central theme is that concepts relating to God, the universe and man which have emanated from man’s own limited knowledge run counter to reality. The same applies to concepts which have been either woven by man’s intellectual fancies or which have evolved through man’s obsession with animal desires. The ways of life which rest on these false foundations are both contrary to reality and ruinous for man. The essence of true knowledge is that which God revealed to man when He appointed him His viceregent. Hence, the way of life which is in accordance with reality and conducive to human good is that which we have characterized above as the ‘the right way’. The true purpose of the Book is to call people to this ‘right way’ and to ILLUMINATE God’s true guidance, which has often been lost either through man’s negligence and heedlessness or distorted by his wicked perversity.
If we study the Quran with these facts in mind it is bound to strike us that the Quran does not deviate one iota from its main subject, its central theme and its basic objective. All the various themes occuring in the Quran are related to the central theme; just as beads of different sizes and colour may be strung together to form a necklace. The Quran speaks of the structure of the heavens and the earth and of man, refers to the signs of reality in the various phenomena of the universe, relates anecdotes of bygone nations, criticizes the beliefs, morals and deeds of different peoples, elucidates supernatural truths and discusses many other things besides. All this the Quran does, not in order to provide instruction in physics, history, philosophy or any other particular branch of knowledge, but rather to remove the misconceptions people have about reality and to make that reality manifest to them.
It emphasizes that the various ways men follow, which are not in conformity with reality, are essentially false, and full of harmful consequences for mankind. It calls on men to shun all such ways and to follow instead the way which both conforms to reality and yields the best practical results. This is why the Quran mentions everything only to the extent and in the manner necessary for the purposes it seeks to serve. The Quran confines itself to essentials thereby omitting any irrelevant details. Thus, all its contents consistently revolve around this call.
Likewise, it is not possible fully to appreciate either the style of the Quran, the order underlying the arrangement of its verses or the diversity of the subjects treated in it, without fully understanding the manner in which it was revealed.
The Quran, as we have noted earlier, is not a book in the conventional sense of the term. God did not compose and entrust it in one piece to Muhammad so that he could spread its message and call people to adopt an attitude to life consonant with its teachings. Nor is the Quran one of those books which discusses their subjects and main themes in the conventional manner. Its arrangement differs from that of ordinary books and its style is correspondingly different. The nature of this Book is that God chose a man in Makkah to serve as His Messenger and asked him to preach His message, starting in his own city and with his own tribe. At this initial stage, instructions were confined to what was necessary at this particular juncture of the mission. Three themes in particular stand out:
Directives were given to the Prophet on how he should prepare himself for his great MISSION and how he should begin working for the fulfilment of his task.
A fundamental knowledge of reality was furnished and misconceptions commonly held by people in that regard – misconceptions which gave rise to wrong orientations in life – were removed.
People were exhorted to adopt the right attitude towards life. Moreover, the Quran also elucidated those fundamental principles which, if followed, lead to man’s success and happiness.
In keeping with the character of the mission at this stage the early revelations generally consisted of short verses, couched in language of uncommon grace and power, and clothed in a literary style suited to the taste and temperament of the people to whom they were originally addressed, and whose hearts they were meant to uplift. The rhythm, melody and vitality of these verses drew rapt attention, and such was their stylistic grace and charm that people began to recite them involuntarily.
The local colour of these early messages is conspicuous, for while the truths they contained were universal, the arguments and illustrations used to elucidate them were drawn from the immediate environment familiar to the first listeners. Allusions were made to their history and traditions and to the visible traces of the past which had crept into the beliefs, and into the moral and social life of Arabia. All this was calculated to enhance the appeal the MESSAGE held for its immediate audience. This early stage lasted for four or five years, during which the following reactions to the Prophet’s message manifested themselves:
A few people responded to the call and agreed to join the community, committed of their own volition, and to submit to the Will of God.
Many people reacted with hostility, either out of ignorance or egotism or due to chauvinistic attachment to the ancient way of life of their forefathers.
The call of the Prophet, however, did not remain confined to Makkah or to the Quraysh. It began to meet with favourable response beyond the borders of that city and among other tribes.
The next stage of the mission was marked by a hard, energetic struggle between the Islamic movement and the age-old Ignorance (denoting all those world-views and ways of life which are based on the rejection or disregard of the heavenly guidance which is communicated to mankind through the Prophets and Messengers of God; the attitude of treating human life – either wholly or partly – as independent of the directives revealed by God) of Arabia. Not only were the Makkans and the Quraysh bent upon preserving their inherited way of life, they were also firmly resolved to suppress the new movement by force. They stopped at nothing in the pursuit of this objective. They resorted to false propaganda; they spread doubt and suspicion and used subtle, malicious insinuations to sow distrust in people’s minds. They tried to prevent people from listening to the message of the Prophet. They perpetrated savage cruelties on those who embraced Islam. They subjected them to economic and social boycott, and persecuted them to such an extent that on two occasions a number of them were forced to leave home and emigrate to Abyssinia, and finally they had to emigrate to Madinah.
In spite of this strong and growing resistance and opposition, the Islamic movement continued to spread. There was hardly a family left in Makkah one of whose members at least had not embraced Islam. Indeed, the violence and bitterness of the enemies of Islam was due to the fact that their own kith and kin – brothers, nephews, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers-in-law and so on – had not only embraced Islam, but were even ready to sacrifice their lives for its sake. Their resistance, therefore, brought them into conflict with their own nearest and dearest. Moreover, those who had forsaken the age-old Ignorance of Arabia included many who were outstanding members of their Society. After embracing Islam, they became so remarkable for their moral uprightness, their veracity and their purity of character that the world could hardly fail to notice the superiority of the message which was attracting people of such qualities.
During the Prophet’s long and arduous struggle God continued to inspire him with revelations possessing at once the smooth, natural flow of a RIVER, the violent FORCE of a flood and the overpowering effect of a fierce FIRE. These messages instructed the believers in their basic duties, imbued in them a sense of community and belonging, exhorted them to piety, moral excellence and purity of character, taught them how to preach the true faith, sustained their spirit by promises of success and Paradise in the Hereafter, aroused them to struggle in the cause of God with patience, fortitude and high spirits, and filled their hearts with such zeal and enthusiasm that they were prepared to endure every sacrifice, brave every hardship and face every adversity.
At the same time, those either bent on opposition, or who had deviated from the right way, or who had immersed themselves in frivolity and wickedness, were warned by having their attentions called to the tragic ends of nations with whose fates they were familiar. They were asked to draw lessons from the ruins of those localities through which they passed every day in the course of their wanderings. Evidence for the unity of God and for the existence of the After-life was pointed to in signs visible to their own eyes and within the range of their ordinary experience. The weaknesses inherent in polytheism, the vanity of man’s ambition to become independent even of God, the folly of denying the After-life, the perversity of blind adherence to the ways of one’s ancestors regardless of right or wrong, were all fully elucidated with the help of arguments cogent enough to illuminate the minds and hearts of the audience.
Moreover, every misgiving was removed, a reasonable answer was provided to every objection, all confusion and perplexity was cleared up, and Ignorance was besieged from all sides till its irrationality was totally exposed. Along with all this went the warning of the WRATH of God. The people were reminded of the horrors of Doomsday and the tormenting punishment of Hell. They were also censured for their moral corruption, for their erroneous ways of life, for their clinging to the ways of Ignorance, for their opposition to Truth and their persecution of the believers. Furthermore, these messages enunciated those fundamental principles of morality and collective life on which all sound and healthy civilisations enjoying God’s approval had always rested.
This stage was unfolded in several phases. In each phase, the preaching of the message assumed ever-wider proportions, as the struggle for the cause of Islam and opposition to it became increasingly intense and severe, and as the believers encountered people of varying outlooks and beliefs. All these factors had the effect of increasing the variety of the topics treated in the messages revealed.
Modèle, déviations et réponse islamique
The contemporary discourse on Islam in general addresses issues relating to Islamic governance, role of religion and religious scholars, the status and role of women in power-sharing and non-Muslim minorities in the Islamic political order. Historical analyses of such issues undertaken by both Western Orientalists and Muslim scholars are tainted by an obvious cultural background. Some of the classical Western studies still influence the intellectual pursuits of later writers. William Muir’s “The Caliphate, its Rise, Decline and Fall” (1915), betraying the nineteenth century Christian bias, remains a source for many such misgivings, thus avoid considering Thomas Arnold’s “The Caliphate” (1924) because it negates the notion that the caliphate was a Muslim counterpart to papacy. Julius Wellhausen’s “The Arab Kingdom and its Fall” (1927) is still a source of inspiration for many Western students of early Islamic history. Most of the research work follows the traditional Orientalist agenda, looking into the emergence of Islamic culture and civilisation portrayed as the Arab thirst for power and empire building. Some like Shaban’s “Islamic History a New Interpretation” (1999) pursue a tribal and ethnic interpretation of the rise of Islam. Philip K. Hitti’s “History of the Arabs” (1937), though a comprehensive effort to discern the wide impact of Islam in space-time, failed to rise above the basic misconception of interpreting Islam as Arab history and culture. Consequently, Islam’s ascendance, in most of the Orientalist works, is viewed as the rise of Arab power.
Arabisation is projected as the dominant character of Islamic civilisation.
The fact is that Islam did not emerge as a movement for Arabisation. On the contrary, the revolutionary message of the Quran and Sunnah challenged, contested, and Islamised the traditional tribal culture. The Quran substituted tribalism and nationalism with a moral base.
We created you all from a male and a female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may know ONE another. Verily the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most Allah-fearing of you. (49:13)
The Prophet reaffirmed the same in his last sermon. While referring to the above Quranic verse, he condemned ethnic, racial, linguistic, and geographical nationalism.
Transcending the inherent Arab ideology of tribal nationalism, the new principle, introduced by his Revelation is the unity of humans based on ethical values and behaviour, that is, consciousness of Allah. Consequently, whoever excels in ethical behaviour is superior to others irrespective of colour, race or ethnicity.
This transformation of the Arabs into a colour blind, classless, and internationalist Muslim community or a GLOBALISED HUMANITY is often overlooked by Western writers when they converse about Islam as an Arab phenomenon, and the Prophet as an Arabian prophet and statesman.
The Prophetic model of governance is part of the revelatory role in structuring a morality-based civilisation, which the Muslims established as an ideal for later institutional development. The concept of the sacred realm and the secular, a dualism in space-time, has been a foreign idea in the Islamic vision of life. The term secular in its modern political sense, first used in the English language towards the middle of the sixteenth century, denoted the doctrine that God or divine guidance and providence, has no role in public policy and management of the people’s affair.
The separation between religion and state has been essentially a Christian concept and not necessarily a fruit of modernity. Lewis’ view on this aspect of Christianity is right when he says:
“The founder of Christianity lead his followers to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things which are God’s, and for centuries Christianity grew and developed as a religion of downtrodden until Caesar himself became a Christian and inaugurated a series of changes by which the new faith captured the Roman Empire and some would add was captured by it. The founder of Islam was his own Constantine and founded his own empire. He did not therefore create – or need to create – a church. The dichotomy or regnum and sacerdotium so critical in the history of western Christendom had no equivalent in Islam”.
In the same proceedings, Lewis refers to a comment made by Imam Khomeini “Islam is politics or it is nothing”. He further elaborates the de jure and de facto position of integration of these two aspects in the Islamic history:
“In the Islamic state, as ideally conceived and as it is indeed exerted from medieval through to Ottoman times almost into the nineteenth century, there could be no conflict between Pope and Emperor; in classical Middle Eastern Islam, the two mighty powers which these two represented were one and the same, and the caliph was the embodiment of both”.
The function of scholars throughout the Islamic history has not been like that of the Christian clerics but of knowledgeable persons who with their rational and scientific approach interpret the Quran and Sunnah and offer their views based on these two sources. They do not share in divinity nor are supposed to be innocent or immune from error. There is no possibility of their role as mediators between a common follower of Islam and his Allah. They do not carry any ecclesiastical authority. The scholars and jurists are not clergy in the strict sense of the term.
Nevertheless, governance is a core issue addressed by Islam in its Scripture as well as in the Prophet’s noble example. “The first question that arose on Muhammad’s death was whether any state should survive it at all”. The later history and the ongoing discourse on caliphate and monarchy show how crucial this question has been.
Contrary to the tradition in Arabian and in other contemporary civilisations, like the Roman Christian world, Muslim India, and Persia, Islam came forward, for the first time in the history of humanity, with a social structure founded on religion rather than lineage. “ALLAH is the personification of STATE SUPREMACY. His Prophet is His legitimate viceregent and supreme ruler on earth. As such, Muhammad, in addition to his spiritual function, exercised the same temporal authority that any chief of state might exercise”.
Thus not only at the historic but also at the conceptual level consensus exists on the integration of spiritual, religious and temporal functions of the Prophet. This consensus is established by all classical Muslim scholars as well as modern-day Muslim thinkers of all shades including the leadership which is the caliph, the supreme leader, or the imam of the Muslim community after the Prophet.
Realisation of state, integration and unification of otherwise two separate institution enjoys therefore a consensual position in the past fifteen centuries of Islam. The twentieth-century scholar Imam Khomeini in his DOCTRINE of Vilayat-ul-Faqih, the 1969 lectures in Najaf, makes this point clear. Later in his book “Islamic GOVERNMENT”, he confirmed that Islam as a religion must include a governmental system.
“The separation of religion from government and its relegation to a system of worship and ritual is completely alien to the spirit and teachings of Islam, a perversion perpetuated and reinforced by imperialism and U.S. agents in order to subjugate and exploit the lands of Islam”.
The translation of Imam Khomeini’s concept of an Islamic state into the Iranian model, in terms of its impact, is no less important than the creation of Pakistan in 1947 as a de jure Islamic state. Iqbal, Jinnah and Mawdudi shared together in their dream and vision of Pakistan as a -premier Islamic state-
“This Dominion which represents the fulfillment in a certain measure, of the cherished goal of 100 million Muslims of this subcontinent came into existence on August 14, 1947. Pakistan is the premier Islamic state and fifth largest in the world”.
This has been declared specifically by the founder of the country Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The founder was clear about the nature of the new state. He repeatedly mentioned that the state would be directed by the principles of Islamic social justice, fair play and consultation.
“It is my belief that our salvation lies in following the golden rules of conduct set for us by our great law-giver the Prophet of Islam. Let us lay the foundation of our democracy on the basis of truly Islamic ideals and principles. Our Almighty has taught us that our decision in the affairs of the state shall be guided by discussion and consultation (42:38)”, the divine guidance of the Shariah (“stated that he would not understand a section of the people who deliberately wanted to create mischief and made propaganda that the Constitution of Pakistan would not be made on the basis of the Shariah. The Quaid-i-Azam said the Islamic principles today are as applicable to life as they were thirteen hundred years ago”) and the Prophetic model. He invited experts to help the state in the realisation of this goal. While inaugurating the State Bank of Pakistan, he specifically asked the bank officials to work out an economic model based on Islamic social justice so that we free ourselves of Western capitalism, which is known for its exploitation and inequity causing a widening gap between the poor and the rich.
“I shall watch with keenness the work of your research organisation in evolving practices comparable with Islamic ideals of social and economic life. The economic system of the west has created almost insolvable problems for humanity and to many of us it appears that only a miracle can save it from disaster that is now facing the world. The adoption of Western economic theory and practice will not help us in achieving our goal of creating a happy and contented people. We must workout our destiny in our own way and present to the world an Islamic economic system based on truthful concepts such as equality of mankind and social justice. We will as such be fulfilling our mission as Muslims in giving humanity that message of peace which alone can save it and secure its welfare, happiness and prosperity.
To bring Pakistan on the world map was indeed a gigantic task accomplished by the father of the nation Muhammad Ali Jinnah. But to develop a blueprint of an Islamic political system and spell out a scheme for the transformation of this new state into an Islamic republic was a task of a different kind that only Iqbal or Mawdudi could have taken up. Wilfred Smith realising the enormity of the task makes a very perceptive comment:
“Pakistan came into being as already an Islamic state not because its form was ideal but because, in so far as, its dynamic was idealist. To set up an Islamic state therefore was the beginning not the end of an adventure. To achieve an Islamic state was to attain not a form but a process.
For the Westernised intellectuals steeped in a secular-liberal tradition, Islam as the ideology of state was a utopia. Utopian goals, in their view, reflect nostalgia for re-establishing a once existing but no more relevant golden age of the past; as such they reject the existence of an Islamic polity in the Quran.
Ideology, in their understanding, has a rhetoric of its own, which is simultaneously rational and emotive. It is assumed that ideology, as it is defined, tries to motivate people, mobilise and forge them into one single force and as such generates an authoritarian tendency, which they say is self-evident truth. To them Pakistan as an ideal Islamic state is just a slogan, an utopia and an unachievable goal.
A major confusion, perhaps, of the Westernised secular mindset is that it regards Islam, like other world religions, a set of certain rituals, ceremonies, festivals and dogmas. In the backdrop of the decline of Christianity as a political force in the West and subsequent rise of rationalism, scientism, logical positivism, modernism, liberalism and post-modernism, they feel uncomfortable in accepting Islam as state ideology. Their belief in the dualism of sacred and profane makes it difficult for them to accept the unified approach of Islam in which state and religion are not two separate entities but two sides of the same coin representing on organic unity.
The newly created society and state in Pakistan necessitated loud thinking to crystallise its own understanding of the basic issues yet to be defined in its constitution as objectives of state and society. The founding father could only provide in his over a dozen post-August 11, 1947, statements, policy guidelines, and directives on the Islamic character of the future political order in the country. Development of specific details was a task for the academicians, scholars, legislators, and intellectuals of the country.
The three Abrahamic faiths share the role of religion in state. Judaism feels proud of the political role played by the Old Testament prophets David and Solomon, who symbolise the integration of the so-called secular and religious functions and authority. Later, Judaism as a minority faith and culture also learnt how to survive, interact and influence the majority faith, culture and political power. Zionism consequently played a decisive role in the formulation of policies in Europe, the United States, and a major player in the state of Israel. The strategic role of the Jews as a minority pressure group in the United States and in Europe does not call for elaboration. It is quite at home in developing a working relationship with the centers of power, may those be religious or secular at the global level.
Christianity in its different phases in history has suffered from an inherent dilemma of church and state. At times, the Church was an embodiment of the Divine as much as the Civil Authority. Itself a victim of persecutions, prior to the Christianisation of Roman Empire, soon it claimed validity of its faith, and was unwilling to accommodate other deities or the public rites associated with the Roman culture. With the extension of support given by Emperor Constantine (280-337 C.E.), Christian Church became an institutionalised wing of Roman government. The emperor enjoyed broad responsibility of ensuring the unity of faith and directing the imperial resources towards essentially religious ends. Among the early ideologues, Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) encountered the ever-increasing role of state. The dilemma of Christianity, however, mirrors in the compromise of Saint Augustine’s principled position that state should strictly confine itself to protection of peaceful persons from religiously motivated attacks along with his own opinion that armies of the Roman state should suppress and persecute heresy.
The collapse of Roman Empire in the West exposed Christianity to new challenges. Christian Church as the major source for trans-European political, cultural and spiritual unity, without a political authority had to evolve its own institutional role. Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) viewed secular political power responsible for promotion of virtue and justice among its subjects irrespective of their religious commitment. At the same time, he also considered secular government responsible for promotion and diffusion of the true religion of Rome, a goal, which only a true Christian ruler could achieve.
The sixteenth-century reformation heralded by Martin Luther (1483-1546) also highlighted the role of state as an agent of confessional enforcement, in a state of affairs where Catholicism and Protestantism were having perpetual clash and conflict. In was in this age of religious intolerance and persecution that Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) and John Locke (1632-1704) advocated for tolerance, freedom of views and religion neutral role vis-à-vis state. In North America, George Washington (1732-1799) and John Adams (1735-1826) recognised the role of religion in dissemination of morality and virtue yet their emphasis remained on freedom of the individual and freedom for established churches. First amendment (1789) stated: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Thomas Jefferson used the phrase “separation of church and state” for the first time in his letter to Connecticut Baptists in 1802. The ground reality, however, remains that every dollar bill printed by the so-called secular United States carries a creedal statement “in God we believe”. With its pride in secularism, the secular U.S. has exempted religious institutions from taxation, and legislature pays chaplains from tax money, which very much circumscribes the dictum of separation between state and religion.
As a continuation of the Abrahamic tradition, Islam scripturally, historically, and conceptually defined itself as a natural middle path for humanity. The Quran repeatedly refers to Islam as “the natural religion” and the final messenger of Allah, Muhammad, as one sent to humanity. Nevertheless, it recognises the right of others to live by their own doctrines, creeds and faiths and principles of tolerance and abstaining from force in matters related to choice of religion.
Referring to Allah’s POWER, AUTHORITY and GUIDANCE the Quran uses a comprehensive, term حكم (authority, sovereignty, legal and political power) for Allah the Exalted. All authority to govern belongs to Allah, He has commanded that you serve none but Him, this is the manifest religion and way of life. (12:40)
The term SOVEREIGNTY here connotes more than its political and legal dimensions. It complements the fundamental principle of Oneness, Singularity and Transcendence of Allah; therefore Allah’s authority and power is not in the mosque, the sacred place alone, in fact, Islam does not envision a separation between sacred or holy space and time and an unholy or secular and profane space and time.
When the Quran declares This day I have perfected your religion for you and have given you My bounty in full measure and have been pleased to assign for you Islam as your way of life (5:3) this completion does not stand for the rituals alone. It refers to religion’s relevance with state, society, individual as well as the whole of humanity.
Historically the Messenger of Allah combined the functions of prophet, statesman, judge, and military commander. His successors also combined in their conduct the political, religious, civil and legal roles. However, after around forty years of the Prophet’s death, a significant shift in the political arena exposed the Muslim community to apparently an aberration, and a deviation through the introduction of hereditary succession. This began with the first Umayyad ruler Muawiyah, when he nominated his son Yazid as his successor.
This issue has attracted attention of the Muslim political thinkers, jurists and theologians throughout the past fifteen centuries. In the recent history of the Muslim Ummah, particularly with the decline and disintegration of the symbolic Ottoman Caliphate (1924) Muslim intellectuals deliberated on the concept of caliphate, its need, viability and legitimacy in the context of the dynamics of an Islamic state.
Egyptian scholar Ali Abdul Raziq (1888-1966) questioned the scriptural foundations of not only caliphate but also of an Islamic political system. Rashid Rida (1865-1935) came up with a historical approach calling for the revival of caliphate. Indian scholar Abu’l Kalam Azad (1888-1958) also addressed the issue at a historical level. The fall of the caliphate and the systematic secularisation of state in Turkey was not a normal event. Muhammad Rashid Rida considered the realisation of an Arab Caliphate or State indispensable for maintaining temporal and spiritual authority, thus illustrated the title Caliphate as Grand Imamate. During this period other Muslim scholars came with notions such as “Islam and its State” a mixture of religion and state, attributed to Abdul Razzaq al Sanhuri (1895-1971). In this intellectual climate perhaps the most comprehensive and persuasive discussion on Islamic political order, conceptual and historical, was offered by Mawdudi (1903-1979) in his several academic treaties.
The political response of the Muslim Ummah in South Asia against the British imperialism was diverse. Territorial nationalism, conceptualising Muslims and Hindus as one nation, came from none but the Rector of Deoband Hussain Ahmad Madani (1879-1957). It was contested by Allama Iqbal (1872-1938), Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) and Sayyid Mawdudi. Allama Iqbal, who once praised the Himalayas and traced his Brahmin origin, publicly rejected Madani’s views and advocated the two-nation theory. Jinnah emerged as the key champion of the two-nation theory and this vision was supported by renowned Islamic scholars, specifically Shabbir Ahmad Uthmani (1887-1949), Sayyid Sulayman Nadvi (1884-1953) and Abu Ala Mawdudi (1903-1979). In order to articulate the concept of Muslims and Hindus as two nations, Mawdudi’s book “The Question of Nationality” (1938) was widely circulated by the Muslim League’s leadership in order to support and validate its political and ideological stand of two-nation theory, from an academic and Islamic legal viewpoint.
A logical corollary of the emergent situation was to renew the concept of Islamic society and state in a futuristic context. Mawdudi wrote a series of articles later published in a book entitled “Muslims and the current political struggle” in order to help Muslims understand the issues involved that are affecting their identity and political destiny. The complexity of the issue called for more than one person to address it. Nevertheless, if we look critically, perhaps, most of the academic works of Sayyid Mawdudi were in one way or another a systematic response to this socio-political challenge that the Muslim Ummah encountered after the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate and the freedom struggle from British rule in India.
Mawdudi’s concept of the Islamic state has two equally important dimensions. A powerful and lucid academic discourse based on solid objective and scientific research spelling out the contours of an Islamic political order. Second, a systematic effort to look into the history of the Muslim Ummah, discussing the arrangement needed so as to develop a profound understanding of the ground realities of the Ummah’s intellectual, ethical, social, and political crisis. His interpretation of Islam as a complete way of life leads him to draw from the Quran and the Sunnah the principles of polity and society.
While addressing the issue of the caliphate and kingship, its historical development and impact on the Muslim society, he did not confine his discourse to a historical résumé. His treatment of the issue cannot be separated from the intellectual crisis in which he found the Muslim Ummah in the twentieth century. The Muslim world particularly countries like Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Yemen and Iran in the second half of the twentieth century were struggling to discover their Islamic roots. Army dictatorships substituted the overseas colonisers in several Muslims countries. People contested their legitimacy in most of these countries. The yearning of the Muslims masses for the revival of the caliphate and for building their political system on the pattern of Caliphate called for a fresh look on the issue.