By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
The general concept of Religion is that of an organised institution of religion. That to say it has a mother-Church. It has Apocryphal Dogma, a Hierarchy of Clergy and Priests- the professional and elite operatives of the particular theology. This group among Muslims is designated as “Scholars”. Many religions have personality cult and reverential iconic centre at which the religion is headquartered.
When such an institution takes control of the governance of a country, it is commonly known as Theocracy, and often no other system or ism is tolerated in it, thus giving it an insular appearance.
The term, Islam in its common usage in the world is seen and observed as having all the trappings of a religion as given above. Therefore for all intent and purposes it must be a ‘Religion’, that is to say, ‘if it quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck, it must be a duck’! Hence governance in Islam’s name and under its various factions, such as Shia-Islam and Sunni-Islam etc must be Theocratic.
Looking at what the Muslim people world over project Islam with their practices, whether in politics or other activities, this observation and its conclusion cannot be refuted! In a few places some practices, handed down from other religions, are also seen as downright pagan and primitive by today’s standards! It is difficult therefore to argue that Islam as practiced is not a particular religion.
The existence of sects and denominations, and also spurious documents and books, demonstrate the contradictions. For those who profess to follow Quran as being the source-Book of Islam the two glaring examples of contradictions are highlighted:-
- The injunction to the Muslim community as a whole is expressed in these words to the messenger as the addressee in Quran 6-159- “As for those who divide the Deen (code) given to you and break up into sects, you are not to keep any relations with them …
- The dependence on Apocrypha, the spurious documents compiled centuries after, often taking precedence over Quran, is expressed as a disappointment, 2-79-“then woe to people who write these books with their own hands and then say: this is from God, to traffic with it for miserable price”. This is however cheekily countered by those who profit immensely from them, say that the benefit gained are by no means miserable so they are doing Quran’s bidding to make maximum gains!
If one is a Believer –momin and of the principle parameters of belief-iman as given in it at the very beginning, vis:-
· Chapter One- Fateha, ‘The Opening’- is a plea by those seeking guidance from a Supreme Being, to the righteous path. The guidance is not sought from another source, human or of human manufacture but only from the Book in question, the book of Code, which it says was completed during his life time as given in verse 5-4.
· Chapter Two, the beginning of the main body of the Book in response to the plea, assures the seeker of guidance that this is the Book for guidance. It then proceeds to establish certain parameters as essential requirements for those who Believe mominoon. Those who then advance in their search through the text, find that at numerous places it stresses that the principles of guidance cannot be obtained from any other source but the Book itself:
The verse 10-35 is one of the most argumentative in this context and says—“of your associates is there any that can give guidance towards truth? Say-“it is God who gives guidance. Is then He (God) Who gives guidance to the truth more worthy to be followed or he (the human guide) who finds not guidance himself unless he be guided? What is the matter with you? How do you judge?”
This and other such verses establish that the Book having admitted the Believers, and they having committed to the parameters, reject any human and spurious sources from the curriculum of guidance.
Verse 45-6; -such are the ‘revelation of God which WE rehearse to you in truth. In which Hadis (Apocrypha) besides the revelations of God would they then believe in?
“there are people who take for obedience others besides God…2-165”,
thus establishing the principle of no Religion, no Church and no Clerical hierarchy, and elite class in the qualifying process is accepted in its system of belief.
It assures the Believers that the Book’s basis is knowledge, unknown as yet as well as known to human kind, and the establishment of social code of righteous behaviour and economic system, on the principle of wealth distribution. Pluralism; in the form of Belief in the revelation upon the addressee Messenger “and those who have gone before”; thousands of them, as they were given the same message, though since corrupted.
Here it is important to note that the Belief is called for ‘in the revelations-the Message’ given to humanity and not the cult of the person-Messengers as practiced today.
And finally, the warning is given that mankind is accountable for its actions. It assures them that; 2-5 -they are on true guidance from their Lord and they are the ones who will prosper” if they followed the Code.
Politically speaking, the general command for the Civil Society is to run its affairs in “consultation”. The quantum is not given. It is left to the society in this case to establish a suitable method and number of people involved in the process of consultation for the moment. The final decision on the matter is to be taken by the ‘head’ within the parameters of guidance given in the book.
The Book warns that the majority is not necessarily the right criterion. To this effect the verse 3-159 “…and consult them in affairs of the moment. Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in God….” The criterion is the ‘right and wrong’ and not the majority, though a larger support is said to be a blessing 17-6.
The only book of reference here is the Quran; for the simple reason that those who pass themselves as Believers - momin- and as Muslims profess that this Book is the only source of Islam, the common Code ad-Deen - for the social interaction of individuals and governance of nation. Clear emphases are given in it, for righteousness of acts; in ALL spheres of human endeavour. Activities that produce beneficial out-comes all round for mankind as a whole, for progress and prosperity being the essential requirement: 20-12, and he who works deeds of righteousness and believes, will have no fear of harm nor of any curtailment of what is due to him!
Difficulties arise and it must be acknowledged here that Islam, and the Deen are Arabic words which gives rise to understandable limitation of translation as ‘Religion and Dogma’ in English language. Or for that matter translated in any other language.
For mankind has never been without a religion. Religion governed its affairs for the purpose of attaining a favourable position in the eyes of some higher authority. Therefore ‘religion’ is the only word available to describe Islam, particularly when seen as being practiced by Muslims. The idea of a “universal Code” of morality and ethics, to regulate human life was, and is a complex proposition.
Therefore, a community of people branding itself as “Muslim” have with their practices added to the perception and negative reputation that Islam is just a particular form of religion – madhab; an Arabic word which does not appear in the Book-- has all the facets of religion. Though contrary to the teaching of the Book. Yet Muslims vehemently insist that they believe in the Code-the Deen –as given in Quran!
The Code covers both the individual and collective aspects of morality and ethics. “The leaders” are themselves members of civil society and have no immunity or exemptions from it on the basis of leadership, and are answerable for their actions as individuals and as leaders. This principle of accountability is the cornerstone of the Code. It is what forms the ‘National Character’ of Muslims as a community, with which others judge it! Hence the coinage of the term Islamism, to differentiate it from all the other isms and systems!
As argued here, Islam is not a religion, therefore the statement that Church and State are separate’’ does not apply. The universal code does not differentiate between morality and ethics as applied to political and non-political elements of human endeavours.
The only external quote that seems appropriate here is a couplet from Iqbal’s poetry which sums it all:
جلالِ پادشاہی ہو کہ جمہوری تماشاہو
جدا ہو دِين سياست سے تو رہ جاتی ہے چنگيزی
جدا ہو دِين سياست سے تو رہ جاتی ہے چنگيزی
Jalaal-e-padshahi hoe keh jamhuree tamashaa hoe;
judaa hoe deen siyaasat say toe reh jaati hai changezee!
Be it the majesty of the Monarchy or the theatre of Democracy---Separate the ‘Code- Deen’ from politics, what remains is mob-rule (of the kind of the Mongol hordes)!
A regular contributor to New Age Islam, Rashid Samnakay is an Indian-origin Engineer (Retd.) based in Australia for over forty years.