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Islam and Politics ( 11 Apr 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Islam and Secularism: Checking the conduct of the rulers, curbing their greed for power



Researched and Compiled By Adis Duderija, New Age Islam

The following is a compilation of views by various Muslim scholars on the question of ‘compatibility’ (or otherwise) between Islam and Secularism.

Asghar Ali Engineer

In Asghar Engineer „Islam and Secularism“, in ed. Ibrahim Abu Rabi’,  The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006) ,338-345.

-makes the point that  one must make a distinction between what are the  theological and what are historical aspects of  the claim that politics and religion cannot be separated. Adds that the concept of religion and politics cannot be separated is more historical than theological.

-Argues that   the Qur’an does not give any concept of the state but only of society and that it  is concerned with morality rather than polity.

- The basis of the Quran and the Islamic society (not state) are an upright conduct, justice, truth, benevolence, and compassion, and human dignity, p.339

-argues that the view that religion cannot be separated from politics in Islam is due to this primary concern with these Islamic values.


’’ It was thought by early Islamic Ulema and jurists that if religion was separated from politics, the rulers would totally neglect these fundamental Islamic values and would behave in a manner which would only satisfy their greed for power. In fact in those days there was no concept of secularism as a philosophy of humanism. The Ulema were afraid that if religion and politics were separated there would be absolutely no check on the conduct of the rulers. In fact, one does not find clear articulation to this effect (that religion cannot be separated from politics in Islam) in any early Islamic source. This formulation itself is of nineteenth-century origin when colonial powers began to impose secular laws in Islamic countries, i.e. the laws which were not basically derived from Shari‘ah. “, p.339

-Sacral and secular should not be treated as two poles or antagonistic contradiction but rather as complimentary, p.342

-argues that if secularism is interpreted as an atheistic philosophy, no believer in religion would accept it, let alone a believer in Islam and that it is not necessary to challenge Islamic  beliefs in the name of secularism. Secularism should be taken in a political rather than a philosophical sense. Secularism in a political sense creates social and political space for all religious communities. p.342

-Islam is not incompatible with secularism if secularism does not mean rejection of religious faith., p.344

From Yudian Wahyudi, „Hasan Hanafi on Salafism and Secularism“, in ed. Ibrahim Abu Rabi'i, the Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 257-271.

Hasan Hanafi

-The opposition of Salafism and secularism is a false dualism, just as are those of religion and state, religion and science, authenticity and contemporaneity, God and nature, God and man, soul and body, world and afterlife, and man and woman. The West had to face these superficial definitions in its journey to modernity because the more it promoted modernism, the more it found impossible the task of reconciling church and state, religion and reason, faith and science, Aristotle and nature., 257-258.

-argues that Salafis would be surprised at the extent to which Islamic law is secular, given its foundation in human life and reality, and its concern to protect the public interest.

-the word secular (wad. ‘ı) is not a monopoly of the secularists, nor are the words intellect, science, nature, progress, man, rights, duties, and citizens.

- The secularists, by imitating the West, lost all hope of winning support from the Salafis. The secularists, in the eyes of the Salafis, supported Westernization models, while calling for a disconnection from heritage. Through this, they became the representatives of Western civilization.

-Salafism was able to outdo secularism by taking over its traditional role of defending the weak against the powerful, supporting authenticity against Westernization, giving priority to “self ” over “other,” and defending the self against the dangers that might threaten it, as in the phase of liberation from colonialism., 258-259.

-Secularism, i.e. Muslim secularists, on the other hand, can be seen as more Islamic for believing in progress as the essence of the cosmos and the law of life, and for holding the principle that “the present is better than the past.”,259

From Muhammad Abed AL Jabir, Democracy, Human Rights and Law in Islamic Thought (I.B. Tauris,2008)

Al Jabri

-defines secularism as separation of religion from state, p.48

Origins of Secularism in Arab World

- considers that secularism in the French sense of laicisme  that was translated into Arabic with the term al 'almaniya  in a society where people are Muslims, is neither justified nor legitimate, nor does it have any significance because it grew out of the western Christian experience and the French revelation ,p. 54


-concept of secularism emerged  in the part of the Arab  world ( Greater Syria)  in the mid 19th century  and  grew out of the desire for independence from Ottoman rule mainly by Christian Arab intellectuals from Syria so it was closely related to concept of Arab nationalism and was not intended to set aside either Islam or religion from society but was essentially opposition to ottoman rule,p.54-55.

Why Word Secularism Is Not Appropriate In Arab/Muslim Context

-considers that Arab thought is required to review and scrutinize its concepts, in order to make them expressive of the real needs. Forms the view that Arabs  should remove the term ‘secularism’ from the dictionary of Arab thought and replace it with two words: ‘democracy’ and ‘rationality’.


’’Only these two terms express the real needs of Arab society, as ‘democracy’ means protecting the rights of individuals and groups, while ‘rationality’ means exercising politics according to reason and its logical and moral criteria, and not in accordance with whims, fanaticism and capricious moods.“, p.56

Islam And Secularism Not Mutually Exclusive

-Considers that neither democracy nor rationality implies, in any way, the exclusion of Islam.  Islam should be considered a basic element of Arab existence: spiritual Islam for the Muslim Arabs and cultural Islam for all the Arabs, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The Arab nationalistic thought should be rebuilt on the dual principles of democracy and rationality, not secularism, as well as on observing the rightful position of Islam, both in theory and practice. p.56

-he distinguishes between secularism, which separates religion from the state, on the one hand, and the presence of Islam as al Shariah  and ethics in a society where the majority are Muslims, on the other hand. Secularism in the latter case is a meaningless term, because it does not correspond with reality or perform a positive function

Why It Is Necessary To Avoid Politicisation of Religion

-What a Muslim society needs, in the absence of a religious organization, is to separate religion from politics, namely, to avoid the exploitation of religion for political purposes, as religion represents what is constant and absolute, while politics represents what is relative and changeable. - Politics is motivated by personal or group interests, while religion must be above all this; otherwise it will lose its essence and spirit.

-Politics thrives on disagreement, wherever it may arise. Hence, politics is nearest to the art of managing disagreement more than anything else. Management or administration here means managing the existing disagreement or trying to create a new one. Hence, connecting religion with politics, on any level, will necessarily introduce the germ of disagreement into religion. When the disagreement in religion has a political base, it will necessarily lead to sectarianism, then to civil war.,p.57-58

On Western Secularism, Human Rights and Muslim Equivalent

-considers that the concept of  ‘secularism’ of human rights in modern European thought did not mean to dispense with religion as such, but simply to be liberated from the authority of the Church and its rituals.

-considers that the rationality of human rights was built by reliance on reason alone, without it being against religion, but against the understanding imposed by the Church and collateral rituals. Forms the view that this is also possible in Islam on the basis of principles such as al aql, al fitrah and al shura., p.193

In Barbara De Poli ,“Muslim Thinkers and the Debate on Secularism and Laicite“, in ed. Gabrielle Marranci, Muslim Societies and the Challenge of Secularization: An Interdisciplinary Approach, ( Dordrecht: Springer,2010),31-46.

Ali Abd Al Raziq's Views on Caliphate and Secularism

- Islam and the Foundations of Power’ (Al-Islâm wa usûl al-hukm), published in Cairo in 1925,AL Raziq who was   an Ulema and qâdî of al-Azhar, considers that the doctrine of the necessity of the caliphate was itself a political imposition, consecrated by the Ulema of the classical period in order to condescend to the ruling power.

-the caliphate has no religious foundation and is not justified either in the Qur’an or in the Sunna, nor is it present in the consensus of the community

-the nature of Prophet’s Sunna and his legacy was only religious  and politics was very peripheral to it.

Quote ( Barbara De Polli on Al Raziq)

’’The prophetic and political functions in Muhammad were in fact disjoined and if he had truly meant for Islam to be a political state enterprise, he would have left precise indications on the organisation of its government‘‘., p.35

-According to ‘Abd al-Râziq, that with Prophet's death  Muhammad could only be followed by a secular (lâ dînî, non-religious) government, and the Muslims were free to give themselves the temporal governments that were the most suitable to their epochs and needs.

-assigned to Shari’a to the primarily spiritual domain:


’’All the articles of faith and the rules of behaviour introduced by the Islamic religion, including the rules of public morality and the system of sanctions, form a legislative reality of purely religious order, directed towards God and towards the search for salvation in the afterlife’ ( Ali Abdel Raziq, Al-Islâm wa usûl al-hukm, Cairo, 1925, 138)., p.35-36

Mohamed Cerif Ferjani

- Tunisian political analyst Mohamed-Cérif Ferjani, a founding member of the Tunisian branch of Amnesty International,  in Islamisme, laïcité et droits de l’homme (1991: 304)  defends the idea of laïcité as a ‘superior moral value that refuses to accept the differences between human beings as the basis of their beliefs’;

Fouad Zakariya

 -sees in laïcité a ‘historical, social and political necessity’ (1991: 13, 41) ;

 Mohamed Charfi

 - the Tunisian law professor, president of the League of Human Rights and minister of Education from 1989 to 1994, who, in order to build a laïcité like the French one, goes as far as proposing the establishment of a sort of Islamic Church with authority that is exclusively spiritual, that may govern religious aspects autonomously from political ones (Charfi 1998: 192–202) .,p.37

- The Moroccan philosopher Abdou Filali-Ansary is translator of Islam and the Foundations of Power by ‘Abd al-Râziq into French and author of L’Islam est-il hostile à la laïcité? , in which he posits that there are no Islamic proscriptions against laïcité that are founded upon the Texts,p.37

 -similar positions have been adopted by Abderrahim Lamchichi and by the Syrian political analyst Burhan Ghalioun. The latter, from a more moderate and critical position, opposes a French-style laicism – that when identified with anti-Islamism ‘can provoke among practicing Muslims a virulent anti-laicism and by its very nature makes every attempt to reach consensus on such a question impossible’ (Ghalioun 1998: 144)  – but admits that ‘the recognition of its own space, safe from every political interference, and that of the State especially, can only permit Islam to find its purity once again, its identity, its internal equilibrium, the reassurance of spiritual renewal’ (Ibid., 200).,p.37

In Göran Larson, „Yusuf Al Qaradawi and tariq Ramadan on Secularisation: Differences and Similarities“in ed. Gabrielle Marranci, Muslim Societies and the Challenge of Sucularization: An Interdisciplinary Approach, ( London: Springer,2010), 47- 65.

On Y. Qaradawi

-quotes that Yusuf Qaradawi in his book How Imported Solutions Disastrously Affected our Ummah (‘Al-Hulul al-Mustawradah wa Kayfa Janat ‘alaa Ummatina’) says the following :

’’Secularism may be accepted in a Christian society but it can never enjoy a general acceptance in an Islamic society. Christianity is devoid of a Shariah or a comprehensive system of life to which its adherents should be committed‘‘. (Al-Qaradawi 1983: 121) , p.51

- quotes Qaradawi, that „Islam is a comprehensive system of worship (‘Ibadah) and legislation (Shari’ah), which is not true of Christianity“(Al-Qaradawi 1983: 121). Consequently, those people who accept a division between religion and the state and follow the path of secularisation are merely advocating atheism (ilhad) and a rejection of Islam. To embrace this ideology is to work against Islam and is an open ‘denial of the divine guidance and a rejection of Allah’s injunctions’ (Al-Qaradawi 1983: 121). For al-Qaradawi, it is essential to stress that the Shari’ah is valid for all periods and that the rise of so-called ‘modern society’ has not rendered Islamic laws or the guidance of Allah out of date. It is also blasphemous to think that people know better than Allah (this conclusion is based on al-Qaradawi’s reading of sura 2:140). To stress human reason above divine law is contrary to the essence of Islam. Al-Qaradawi concludes that to accept secularism is ‘downright riddah’ (ridda sarih), i.e. apostasy from Islam (Al-Qaradawi 1983: 122). Believers should rather aim for a middle way (in Arabic wasatiyya) that enables Muslims to be Muslims without ecoming extremists or secularists. For Yusuf Qaradawi secularism is an example of rejection that will only make Muslims lose their religion. p.52

On Tariq Ramadan

Ramadan argues that Muslims should have no problem in making a distinction between the private and the public. He says:

’’Contrary to the widely held idea, Muslims have no particular problem with the principle of distinguishing the various orders of things, even within their sources, because they find these distinctions articulated in the first works of categorization of orders carried out by the Ulema as early as the eight to ninth centuries‘‘. (Ramadan 2004: 145) ,p.55 from Nader Hashmi, Islam, Secularism and Liberal Democracy ( Oxford: Oxford University press,2009)

On Historical Context Affecting Concept of Secularism In Muslim World

-Nilufer Gole observes that contrary to the Western experience with secularism, in the

Middle East, secularism “is not neutral and power-free.”  The authoritarianism of the colonial and postcolonial state, along with its secularizing policies, has made it an active and biased participant in the modern political history of Muslim societies. It has accumulated a track record, a list of failed policies and also a list of victims. Far from being neutral and democratic, the secular postcolonial state in Muslim societies and the elites that support it have generally bolstered authoritarianism rather than political liberty. “,p.140

- In his famous lectures on “Islamic Government,” delivered while in exile in Najaf, Iraq, Ayatollah Khomeini observed:

’’This slogan of the separation of religion and politics and the demand that Islamic scholars not intervene in social and political affairs has been formulated and propagated by the imperialists; it is only the irreligious who repeat them. Were religion and politics separate in the time of the Prophet. . . .Did there exist, on one side, a group of clerics, and opposite it, a group of politicians and leaders? . . . These slogans and claims have been advanced by the imperialists and their political agents in order to prevent religion from ordering the affairs of this world and shaping Muslim society, and at the same time to create a rift between the scholars of Islam, on the one hand, and the masses and those struggling for freedom and independence, on the other. They have thus been able to gain dominance over our people and plunder our resources, for such has always been their ultimate goal.

Munir Shafiq,

 -a Palestinian Islamist, writes in his essay “Secularism and the Arab-Muslim Condition” that “the trend in Islamic history, which disrupted the relationship between religion and the state (and thus brought an end to the model of the [seventh-century] Rightly Guided Caliphate), bore the seeds of secularism in government.” In modern times it has been these “seeds of secularism [that have] germinated to produce despotism, injustice, immorality, misuse of public wealth, persecution of minorities and instigation of tribal and ethnic conflicts.”

 Abdelwahab Elmessiri

- writes about how secular humanism in Europe and North America “has been dealt an almost deadly blow by two world wars, environmental disasters, the increase of some negative social phenomena (crime, suicide, pornography, teenage pregnancy, etc.).”On the other side of the ColdWar divide, he observes, the “socialist illusion lies dead in the ashes of the Soviet Union and [with] its obituary writ large by the syndicates or organized crime that control many Russian cities.” All of these “ravages of secularism are now evident and its total reality is clearer than ever.”

 Yusuf Qaradawi

-  has written that “secularism may be accepted in a Christian society but it can never enjoy a general acceptance in a Muslim society. . . . Secularism among Muslims is atheism and a rejection of Islam.”

-Muhammad Imarah

“Secularism is not our preference for an option to progress,” he told a Beirut conference on Islam and Arab nationalism. “Those among us who are committed to secularism . . . are consciously or unconsciously imitators.” 

-in his book al- Almaniyya wa Nahdatuna al-Haditha (Secularism and Our Modern Renaissance) he contrasts a utopian vision of Islam with a dystopian view of secularism, which he describes as an appealing yet flawed ideological system. He concludes that Islam is a superior alternative to secularism in large part because it is concerned with social justice and the public interest, while secularism is utilitarian and focuses on the narrow self-interest of individuals. , p.145

Syed Naquib al-Attas

- in  Islam, Secularism and the Philosophy of the Future, writes that Islam totally rejects any application to itself of the concepts secular, or secularization or secularism as as they are totally  alien to it in every respect. al-Attas argued that the very nature of Islam and Christianity are different, so that secularism could develop in one and not the other. He cited the absence of a revealed law in Christianity to explain why it was prone to secularization, unlike Islam, which is grounded in the Shariah and thus represents a more complete and self-sufficient system of belief. , .145-146

-Nader Hashimi considers that Fathullah Gulen subscribes to the definition of secularism which is defined as essentially an attitude of the state , that stae cannot define religion or pursue religious policy and that secularism in general is not in opposition to religion,p.157.

-Hashimi cites Nurkolich Majid on secularisation:

By “secularization” is not meant the application of secularism, because “secularism” is the name for an ideology, a new closed worldview which functions very much like a new religion. What is meant here [by secularization] are all forms of “liberating development.” . . . So, by “secularization” one does not mean the application of secularism and the transformation of Muslims into secularists. What is intended is the “temporalising” of values which are in fact worldly, and the freeing of the Umma [Muslim community] from the tendency to spiritualize them.

From Shabbir Akhtar, The Qur'an and the Secular Mind,(New York: Routledge,2007)

On Definition of Secularism

-defines original secularism as „the rejection of ecclesiastical and sacerdotal authority and a corresponding assertion and empowerment of the private individual conscience at the expense of the former“. p.94

- argues that

  ’’Inchoate secularism was destined, after its marriage with liberal humanist ideals of social justice and equality, to evolve into a utopian model for political pluralism, an accompaniment and embodiment of secular democracy. Secularism also contains: a theory of our origins, a philosophy of history, and a social science according to which religious belief is a powerful illusion satisfying deep human wishes, not a simple intellectual error. Finally, secularism contains one epistemology of modern humanism according to which we may uphold an absolutism of scientific method while affirming the impossibility of achieving any final state of certain knowledge. All forms of secularism reject the authority of revelation while upholding the integrity and authority of unaided human reason. The eventual emancipation of public opinion from the antique shackles of religious mystery is, secular humanists conclude, the philosophical foundation of western democratic polities‘‘.,p.94

’’Secularism is, philosophically, a theory of the proper limits of human knowledge and contains an attendant method. Sociologically, as secularization, it is a social process of history. Finally, as secularity, it is a state of culture, including intellectual culture, characterized by discernible and alterable features, sustained by determinable social and political currents‘‘. p.94

How Muslim View Secularism

’’Owing to the clarity and certainty of the Quran’s message, new generations of Muslims remain convinced of the truth of Islam. Secularism is seen as a proof of our need for religion, not an objection to it. All Muslims, with the exception of those who have adopted western attitudes and views, often without sustained reflection, are indifferent to the secular sceptical verdict on religion. Even secularized Muslims are only ritually unobservant, not necessarily agnostic or atheist. Devout Muslims see the world of secular culture as a western colonial construct, a carefully crafted sinful chaos where divine norms are mocked as silly and infantile

by godless European nations. Modern society is viewed as an environment created by Europeans with the express aim of violating God’s laws. ‘‘,p.94

From Masud, Muhammad Khalid, "The Construction and Deconstruction of Secularism as an Ideology of Contemporary Muslim Thought," Asian Journal of Social Science, 33(2005), 363-383.

Maududi on Secularism

- argues that Mawdudi defined Islam as “a systematic order (Nizam), founded on solid principles”.

-The basic premise of Islamic ideology was the sovereignty of God, which meant that the authority of legislation does not belong to humans, who cannot amend it.

- He defines secularism as la Diniyyat (absence of religion). He supports democracy but subjects it to divine rule. According to him, an “Islamic State is not La Dini Jamhuriyyat (secular democracy); sovereignty does not belong to the people”.

He coined the term “theo-democracy” (Ilahi Jamhuri hukumat) for the type of democracy in an Islamic state. p.370

- secularism, because it calls for some basic changes in this Islamic  ideology, poses itself as a counter ideology, which is why secularism and Islam stand opposed to each other; Islam is din and secularism is la din (no religion)., p.371.

Qaradawi on Secularism

-Qaradawi defines Secularism as la Dini (irreligious or not religious) and Dunyawi (this worldly), with the same terms that Maududi used (Qaradawi, 1997:49).  He clarifies that “The division between Dini (religious) and Ghair Dini (non-religious) is un-Islamic, rather Western in origin”.

- It is important to note that he uses the terms la Dini and Ghair Dini, “not-religious” and “non-religious” respectively, in the same meaning. For Qaradawi, “Secularism is antithetical to Islam. It has never succeeded in Muslim societies”., p.372

- Maulana Maududi defined secularism as Ilhad (atheism) but Qaradawi disagrees with this description in some of his writings. He explains that “Ilhad means denying the existence of God . . . but as far as secularism is concerned it is not necessary to deny God. The secularists in the West did not deny God. They only denied church’s right to interfere in matters of science and in daily life. Their objective was only this: religion which existed in the form of church and clergy must not be allowed to interfere

in government, politics, economics, education, culture and social aspects of life” (Qaradawi, 1997:76). He does not, however, endorse the idea of separation between religious and worldly affairs: “Islam is different; it cannot accept this division”. Since secularism calls for this separation, it leads to Kufr. A secularist, according to Qaradawi, must be punished for apostasy.

Thus, although it is not atheism for Qaradawi, secularism is like a religion opposed to Islam. Opting for secularism is similar to abandoning Islam and converting to another religion. p.372

- He clarifies that acceptance of secularism means an abandonment of Sharia, and a denial of divine guidance, which means a denial of God. A call for secularism among Muslims is akin to atheism and a rejection of Islam; it is downright apostasy (Qaradawi, http://www.,p.372.

-Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas

-Al-Attas argues that “The term ‘secular’ has dual connotation: time and location; now and this world. The concept secular refers to the condition of the world existing at a particular time or period or age” (Attas, 1993:16)

-Secularization, according to Attas, is Man’s deliverance first from religion and then from metaphysical control over reason and language. Like Qaradawi, Attas maintains that while secularism is possible to conceive in Christianity, it is not the same in Islam. He argues that  the roots of secularization are not founded  in Biblical faith, but in the interpretation of Biblical faith by Western man.

-he forms the view that in Islam, it is not  possible to even think of secularism. The nearest equivalent to the concept of secularism is connoted by the Qur'anic concept al-hayat al-dunya, which is frequently downgraded in Islamic teachings.,p.373-374.

- Attas distinguishes between secularization and secularism. Secularization implies a continuing, open-ended process in which values and worldviews are continually revised in accordance with “evolutionary” changes in history. Secularism, like religion, connotes a closed worldview with an absolute set of values embedded within  an ultimate historical purpose that has a final significance for men. Secularism is an ideology.

-Attas both finds secularism and secularization totally opposed to Islam.

He asserts in this context:

 “Not only is secularization as a whole the expression of an utterly un-Islamic Worldview, it is also set against Islam and Islam totally rejects the explicit and implicit manifestation and ultimate significance of secularization, and the Muslim must therefore vigorously repulse it wherever it is found among them and in their minds, for it is a deadly poison to true faith (Iman)” (Attas, 1993:16), p.374.

Rashid Ghannushi,

-distinguishes between different forms and concepts of secularism — 1. Those who seek to separate religion and politics and 2, those who seek to control or exclude religion from public life.

-asserts that North African governments have practised pseudo secularism in seeking to control religious symbols and institutions, and monopolize the right to interpret and implement Islam.

-Ghannushi also distinguishes between Anglo Saxon notions of secularism, which do not see a necessary conflict between the religious and the civil, and the French Revolution’s legacy in which secularism becomes absolute and marginalizes religion. He argues that Muslims are able to borrow aspects of Western liberal notions of civil society. He emphasizes, however, that civil society should not be based on a secularism that marginalizes or suppresses religion (Esposito, 2001:116– 117) .,p.376.

Muhammad Iqubal

- Discussing separation of religion and politics or church and state, Iqubal explains that “in Islam the spiritual and the temporal are not two distinct domains . . . In Islam it is the same reality which appears as Church looked at from one point of view and state from another” (Iqubal, 1986:122). Iqubal disagrees with the view of secularism that maintains an absolute distinction between the temporal and spiritual; the distinction is not real, it appears only because of different perspectives. Iqubal disagreed with those who advocated this separation in absolute terms. He distinguished between the European and Muslim perspectives on secularism. He wrote, “Nor is the idea of separation of Church and State alien to Islam. The doctrine of the Major Occultation of the Imam in a sense effected this separation long ago in Shi’a Persia. The Islamic idea of the division of the religious and political functions of the State must not be confounded with the European idea of the separation of Church and State. The former is only a division of functions . . . the latter is based on the metaphysical dualism of spirit and matter”. He added, “Islam was, from the very beginning, a civil society with laws civil in their nature though believed to be revelational in origin . . .” (Iqubal, 1976:47–48), p.377

- Iqbal’s construction of secularism begins with an emphasis on unity of religion and politics but with a focus on social, political and legal reforms. Secularism, in his philosophy, refers to the negation of the authority of the church and shifting it to the state and from Ulema to the people. P.377-378

Fazl ur Rahman

- distinguishes between the European and Muslim perceptions of secularism. According to him, the Western scholars view Muslim reforms as similar to Reformism in Christianity. They cannot understand that reform in religious matters does not necessarily mean secularism. p.378

“In the West, however, there is a pervasive confusion with regard to the concept of secularism in Islamic Society. . . . [The Westerners] tend to think, along with Muslim conservatives, that changes induced into the content of the Shari’a constitute secularism (Rahman, 1970:331), p.379.

From Kate, Zebiri, “Muslim Anti-Secularist Discourse in the Context of Muslim-Christian Relations" Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 9 (1998): 47-64.

On Shabbir Akhtar

- argues that Shabbir Akhtar considers that the political dimension was intrinsic to Islam and the Prophet from the beginning (Akhtar 1991 , 17-21). Akhtar also  asserts that Islam 'recognizes no distinction between the religious and the political', and explains that it „seeks to absorb political community in the larger desire to sanctify it“ (Ibid, pp. 33, 30). Akhtar believes that it is essential for any religion to engage with political power not just for reasons of moral responsibility, but also for reasons of survival (Ibid, p. 84).,p.51

ON S.H. Nasr

- Nasr usually speaks of secularism as 'everything whose origin is merely human and therefore non-divine, and whose metaphysical basis lies in this ontological hiatus between man and God' (Nasr, 1981a, 8). 

-considers that one of its most significant aspects of secularisation is what he terms 'the de sacralisation of knowledge', whereby knowledge is compartmentalized into different disciplines and separated from spiritual values (Nasr 1993 , 212, and 1981 b passim).,p.53.

Mohammed Ben-Yunusa

- Mohammed Ben-Yunusa of the Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria concedes that 'secularism is intentionally ethical and morally positive in conception', and that it is appropriate and beneficial for Western nations, where it was a reaction to certain historical factors and a natural culmination of them. However, he sees it as 'only a Western solution to a Western problem', and therefore not applicable in the same way in an Islamic context.

-claims that:

'Islam makes legitimate secular claims whereas secularism does not advance any extra-secular pretensions.... The secular cannot have a separate existence in an essentially Islamic civilization' (Ben-Yunusa 1995 , 84-5).,p.55

Ziauddin Sardar

- considers that  secularism emerged in  specifically Western context but now threatens to engulf the rest of the world. It is becoming 'a universal fatal disease that is crippling our [i.e. religious believers] very being'. Among its major characteristics are 'imperialistic tendencies, dehumanization, domination, and meaninglessness' (Sardar 1991 , 56, 61).,p.55

Al Messiri

- Abdel Wahhab Al Messiri (or Elmessiri), defines secularism or secularization as 'a process of separation, not of religion and state but of values and the world' (Messiri 1993 , 4). In his view the main agent of secularization is 'the infamous nation-state' which is an invention of Western man (ibid. 7).

-considers that the nation  state now encroaches on people's private lives, especially via the media, so that secularism has indeed become all-pervasive, 'a comprehensive world outlook that operates on all levels of reality ... an underlying and overarching paradigm' (Elmessiri 1996 , 139) Al Messiri emphasizes the rationalisation  aspects of secularization, wherein the drive for efficiency results in a compartmentalization of life and a divorce of ethics from the social, economic and political spheres.,p.36.

- He sees secularism as essentially materialism failing to discriminate between the contingent and the transcendent and that it tends to deify false absolutes, such as humankind or the nation-state (Messiri 1993, 3-11).., p.56

Adbelmajid Charfi

- The Tunisian scholar Abdelmajid Charfi has argued that secularization is a universal phenomenon, even if it has so far affected the West more than Muslim countries. He acknowledges that there are important subjective elements to secularization, such as the marginalization of religion not just in public life but also in all aspects of culture, so that people increasingly live their lives without reference to religion. , p.58

-Charfi believes that certain elements of Islam are in fact conducive to secularization. These include its insistence on the absolute transcendence of God and the rationality of the Shari'a, which was based on clearly understood principles with an emphasis on human welfare. ,p.58

-He points out that even in the highest point of Islamic civilization, many areas of intellectual and cultural activity, such as poetry, mathematics and medicine, did not necessarily or even usually submit to religious norms. Ibn Khaldun is cited as an example of a scholar who remained a committed Muslim but formulated positive sociological laws on an empirical basis, without reference to theological considerations., p.58

From Smita A. Rahman, „Secularism and modernity: alienation and the renewal of values in political Islam“, Journal of Islamic Law and Culture, 11 (2009): 38–51

Saba Mahmood

- Saba Mahmood has written, “Secularism has sought not so much to banish religion from the public domain but to reshape the form it takes, the subjectivities it endorses, and the epistemological claims it can make.” , p.42

Rifa Tahtawi

- Rifa Tahtawi, sought to resolve the secular challenge by suggesting that Islam itself was more open to rational thought than Christianity and Judaism and that the conflict between reason and religion that marked the secular divide in Europe need not arise in the Arab world. Islam was hospitable to critical inquiry and he suggested:

there was not much difference, he suggested, between the principles of Islamic law and those principles of ‘natural law’ on which the codes of modern Europe were based. This suggested that Islamic law could be reinterpreted in the direction of conformity with modern needs. , p.42

Muhammad Abduh

-For him there existed  the danger of a division of society into two spheres without a real link—a sphere, always diminishing, in which the laws and moral principles of Islam ruled, and another, always growing, in which principles derived by human reason from considerations of worldly utility held sway. In other words, the danger came from an increasing secularization of a society, which by its essence could never be wholly secularized.

-For ‘Abduh, the secular challenge  threatened to divide not only laws from morals, and reason from religion, but it threatened a distinctive Islamic cultural identity with its imperialist ambitions and its construction of liberal subjectivity ,p.43

Sayyed Qutb

-Qutb argued that the Islamic world was losing its distinctive identity by attempting to implement wholesale reform from the West. , p.44

-he wrote that secularism, in particular, did not translate in the Islamic world because a secularist view of religion, as severed from “the bonds of society and the problems of life, and political or economic theory”, was simply not intelligible in a society whose foundations rested on the harmonious union of religion and politics and whose classical model of leadership was that of the virtuous rule, who fused deep spirituality with political skill.  , p.44

-for Qutb, the challenge of secularism was not just the exclusion of religion from public life, but a disavowal of the Islamic tradition with which it was incompatible. For Qutb, secularism was also the consequence of a particular historical perspective— the experience of Christianity in Europe.,p,44

-Qutb’s major work, Milestones, published near the end of his life, took a much harsher approach to the question of secular reform. Secularism was no longer dismissed as the product of a particular Western history that could not be applied in an Islamic context for which it was unsuitable; it was now characterized as a bankrupt doctrine that was responsible for the modern problems of inequality, corruption, violence and injustice.,p.45

-For Qutb, the central premise of secularism violated the natural harmony that the Shari‘a enacted and there could be no convergence between the two,p.48.

From Sindre Bangstad, ’’Secularism and Islam in the work of Talal Asad‘‘ , Anthropological Theory, 9 ( 2009): 188 -208

Talal Asad on secularism and secular

- ‘In my view the secular is neither singular in origin nor stable in its historical identity, although it works through a series of particular oppositions’, notes Asad in Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity (2003: 25). ‘The “religious” and the “secular” are not essentially fixed categories’, he continues (p. 25)., p.188

- ‘Secularism as a political doctrine arose in modern Euro-America’ (p. 1). Secularism may have ‘many origins’, for Asad,  the most ‘useful’ story of secularism begins with the 16th-century wars of religion (Asad, 2006b : 497), in the aftermath of which Western Christendom adopted the ‘cuius regio, eius religio principle’ in an attempt to solve the political problems of Western Christian society in early modernity (Asad, 2003: 2), 189.

- The separation of religion from power  for Asad is ultimately  ‘a modern Western norm, the product of a unique post-Reformation history’ (Asad, 1993a : 28). For Asad, ‘the secular’ is conceptually prior to the doctrine of secularism (Asad, 2003: 16).

-The secular, in Asad’s rendering, refers to ‘a variety of concepts, practices and sensibilities’ which over time have come together ‘to form “the secular”’ (p. 16). ‘The secular’ for Asad ‘is neither continuous with the religious that supposedly preceded it’, ‘nor a simple break from it’; it is ‘a concept that brings together certain behaviours, knowledges and sensibilities in modern life’ (p. 25). Changes in concepts reflect changes in practices (p. 25). Religion and the secular are closely linked in thought and in the way that they have emerged historically (p. 22). For Asad, there is a clear distinction between the epistemological category of the secular and the political doctrine of secularism (Asad, 2006a: 228)., p. 190

- For Asad, secularism ‘is an enactment by which a political medium (representation of citizenship) redefines and transcends particular and differentiating practices of the self that are articulated through class, gender and religion’ (Asad, 2003: 5, emphasis in original). Secularism presupposes a particular construction of religion based on Protestant Christian understandings of religion as disembodied and individual faith (cf. Asad, 1993a: 45), inner states rather than outward practice, and a particular distribution of pain which tries to curb the ‘inhuman excesses of what it identifies as “religion”’ (Asad, 2006b: 508).,p.190

- Secularism is not so much about a differentiation between religious and secular spheres or about the generation of toleration as it is about the sovereign power of the modern nation-state (Asad, 2006b p. 508), p.191

From Najjar, Fauzi M.,”The debate on Islam and secularism in Egypt”, Arab Studies Quarterly, 18, (1996),1-21.

-according to Muhammad al-Ghazali, a leading Egyptian theologian,  "As separation of religion and state, secularism is unadulterated Kufr." 

-The Saudi Arabian Directorate of Ifta', Preaching and Guidance, has issued a directive decreeing that whoever believes that there is a guidance (Huda) more perfect than that of the Prophet, or that someone else's rule is better than his . . . is a kafir. It lists a number of specific tenets which would be regarded as a serious departure from the precepts of Islam, punishable according to Islamic law: The belief that ( 1) institutions and laws enacted by human beings are superior to the Shari'a; ( 2) Islam has been the cause of the backwardness of Muslims; ( 3) Islam is not applicable in the 20th Century; ( 4) Islam is limited to one's relation with God, and has nothing to do with the daily affairs of life; ( 5) the application of the Hudood (legal punishments decreed by God) is incongruous with the modern age; and ( 6) it is permissible not to rule according to what God has revealed. It concluded whoever allows what God has prohibited is a kafir. 

- In the words of Tariq al-Bishri, "secularism and Islam cannot agree except by means of talfiq [combining the doctrines of more than one school, i.e., falsification], or by each turning away from its true meaning."

Muhammad Imara on secularism

- In his effort to demonstrate that secularism is either inimical, extrinsic or inappropriate to Islam, Imara, focuses on certain basic differences between the two ideologies: ( 1) Whereas Islam gives priority to public interest, even over a religious text, and sanctions what the Muslim community considers good and beneficial in its worldly affairs, Western secularism is utilitarian, with self-interest as its primary value. ( 2) It is true that secular society stands for change and innovation (tajdad), but so does Islam; its endorsement of progress knows no limit. Why then, he wonders, should Muslims look to secularism for inspiration? ( 3) Lack of interest in the supernatural and emphasis on human reason is another distinguishing feature of secularism. Well, Islam's partiality to reason and rationality is quite clear, certain and decisive. The Qur'an, which is a supernatural miracle, enjoins the use of reason in interpreting its verses. ( 4) Secular society is indifferent to traditional values and conservative tendencies. Islam, on the other hand, distinguishes between reactionary values that are inimical to progress and development, and those which play a positive role in the life of society, rejecting the former and accepting the latter, even if they were ancestral and traditional. The criterion is the public interest. In conclusion, Imara categorically declares that Muslims have no need for secularism, if they are true Muslims (pp. 12-18).

-Muslim secularists are rebuked by Imara for holding that Islam is only a spiritual message and has nothing to do with state, politics and power. "Those of us who choose secularism, or those who strive to establish a religious state are, consciously or unconsciously, imitators of the encroaching Western civilization. They are an offense to the Islamic religion." Secularism, Imara concludes, is not ". . . our way to progress . . . . . Our way to progress lies in the full knowledge of Islam's true position, which rejects secularism as it rejects the clerical and religious authority and state as they were known in the West" (p. 31).

-Ahmad Abd al-Mu'ti Hijazi on secularism

- argues that secularism is not incompatible with the "essence of Islam." Secularism, as he defines it, "means that man is the master of his earthly fate, and that reason is his primary means to controlling his destiny, and achieving progress for himself and for mankind. Freedom is the condition of a rational human existence." Stressing that a liberated mind can apprehend this world, and that knowledge is the only way to progress, Hijazi says that a distinction must be made between religious and natural sciences, between the work of the clergy or jurists and that of the statesman and ruler, between what produces happiness on earth and what guarantees happiness in the hereafter. Consequently, he suggests that Arab secularists can defend their secularism "not only by its indispensability for progress, democracy, liberation of thought and reason, and the assimilation of the culture of the age, but also by its compatibility with the essence of Islam, which glorifies human life, rejects priesthood, encourages ijtihad, and makes the public interest the guiding principle of investigation and choice."

 Mahmud Amin al-'Alim, -a leftist Egyptian writer and leading secularist.

Asserting that there is no contradiction between secularism and faith, he says: "The contradiction is between secularism and the Islamist understanding of religion: a fanatic religious thought marked by rigidity, literalism, unhistoricalness, narrow-minded absolutism and a condescending sense of superiority." Secularism, he adds, "does not mean losing one's identity, humanity, spiritual and cultural depth or national peculiarity . . . It is an outlook, a process, and a method, embodying the essential features of man's humanity, and expressing his physical and spiritual ambition to overcome all obstacles which stand in the way of his advancement, happiness and prosperity."

From John L. Esposito and John Voll, Makers of Contemporary Islam,( Oxford: Oxford  University Press,2001), 54-67.

Maryam Jameelah

-believes that modernization means westernisation which, in turn, implies evolution, relativism and secularism, p.60.

-considers that there is an inherent contradiction between Islam and western secularism, p.66.

From John L. Esposito and Azzam Tamimi, Islam and Secularism in the Middle East ( London: C. Hurst and Co,2000)

Azzam Tamimi, “The Origins of Arab Secularism”, in ed. John L. Esposito and Azzam Tamimi, Islam and Secularism in the Middle East ( London: C. Hurst and Co,2000), 13-29

-defines secularism as dunawiyya rather than ‘almaniyya and considers that it came from the West alongside concepts such as modernity, westernisation and modernisation within the context of colonialism, p.12

-considers that secularism and its related concepts have been used in the Middle East  for purposes of marginalising Islam, excluding Islam from form the process of restructuring society during the colonial and postcolonial eras, severing cultural roots and its objective was to sever the present and future from the past completely, p.12

- considers that the concept of secularism is unique to Europe and its Christian reform movements, p.13

Pervez Mansoor, “Desacralising Secularism”, in ed. John L. Esposito and Azzam Tamimi, Islam and Secularism in the Middle East ( London: C. Hurst and Co,2000), 81-97.

-considers that secularism as philosophical  doctrine cannot be separated from the theory and practice of secular power and that as a praxis of statecraft secularism  subordinates all religious and moral claims to its own version of truth,p.81.

From Fuad Zakariyya, Myth and Reality in the Contemporary Islamist Movement,(London, Pluto Press,2005)

-  In his Myth and Reality in the Contemporary Islamist Movement refutes Islamist criticism against secularism in the Arab world.

- Zakariyya argues that Islamists are intentionally trying to confuse the core meaning of “secularism”., p.23

-arguing against the Islamists idea that secularism only applies to Christianity and the western historical experiences he asserts that  the factors leading to the emergence of secularism in Europe can be found in the  Muslim world as well  such as strong  religious authority and religion's general orientation toward comprehensiveness .“

- refutes the idea of the opponents of secularism who think that religion was against science in Europe, while the Islamic civilization never persecutes science and an attitude of tolerance and mutual understanding has been established in Islam by   referring to the trial of al-Mu‘tazilah, Ibn Rushd, Suhrawardī (1154-1191), and al-Hallāj (858-922), and also the ban of the books of Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, and Karl Marx as examples., p.36.

- Thirdly, Zakariyya disagrees that secularism is only linked with the special social conditions at the end of the Middle Ages which have no equivalents in Islamic history. He argues that “the Middle Ages” are a mode of thinking rather than a period of time, and “as a mode of thinking, the Middle Ages could recur anywhere, and has many equivalents at present. People who conduct their lives on the basis of possessing the absolute truth, who are not open to debate or who keep quoting the sacred texts possess the medieval mentality even though they live at the dawn of the twenty-first century.”  So Islam needs secularism just as it emerged in Europe at the end of the Middle Ages.

- Zakariyya considers secularism as a continuation of Islamic tradition, for what secularism advocates are rationalism, criticism, logic, and intellectual independence, all of which have forged a part of the legacy of Islam and could be found in al-Mu‘tazilah, al-Fārābī (870-950), Ibn Rushd, and Ibn al-Haytham (965-1039).,p.41