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Defining the Islamic State
by Seyed Javad
03 March 2002 03:23 UTC
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In this article, one of the Contemporary Muslim thinkers define what an Islamic State is:


From: "Muzaffar Iqbal"
To: "Muzaffar Iqbal"
Subject: quantum note for friday march 1
Date: Sat, 2 Mar 2002 20:06:16 -0700
Friday March 01, 2002-- Zilhaj 16,1422 A.H.
Defining the Islamic State
Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
The writer is a freelance columnist
How would a contemporary Islamic state differ from non-Islamic states? Who
would rule this state and how? What would it be like to live in such a
state? What would such a state do with the enormous gap between the
economic, scientific and technological status of Muslims and non-Muslims?
These are some of the questions that need clear answers before any such
state can come into existence. These are also the questions which should
have been answered by Pakistan's Islamic parties in this election year, if
they are serious.
Muslims believe that the Qur’an and Sunnah are two living sources that are
as relevant today as they were fourteen hundred years ago when they were
first revealed. They also believe that these twin sources contain all the
guiding principles that are needed by them now. At least this is the
position of the normative Islamic tradition and it is held by all Muslims
who have their spiritual and intellectual roots in the Islamic tradition.
The real question, then, is how to translate the guiding principles found in
these two sources into a practical model that will work in our times. This
is the task and challenge that Muslims have been actively pursuing for more
than a century, after waking up from their slumber, they found themselves
colonized and realized that something has to be done. The most immediate
challenge was to get rid of the colonizing powers. But in the very struggle
for independence, there was something fundamentally wrong: no where in the
Muslim world did people realize that this struggle for independence has to
be based on Islam and not on nationalism.
This wrong footing was exactly what the French and the British colonizers
had hoped for. They had actively sought to create an intellectual northern
alliance, which would call for a western-style government and demand
independence on the model of Britain and France. And when the native
resources had been drenched and the cost of maintaining direct control on
the colonies was becoming more than what they were willing to pay, the
colonizers departed leaving behind the firm grip of an administrative,
educational and ruling structure so that it could be governed through remote
Thus, Muslims in their own traditional lands were randomly divided into
contemporary states, each governed by a system which ensured their
continuous enslavement. For centuries, these people had lived in mutual
reliance, though not always in harmony. Between Hijaz and the great steppes
of Central Asia, there was a vast territory that was and still remains the
home of Muslims. But then it was linked together through a chain of great
cities which were also centers of learning. And while certain rulers at
certain times brought huge armies against other Muslim rulers, the Hajj and
trade caravans traversed the Silk Route and continued to serve as the most
important vehicle for the flow of ideas and goods.
All of this was shattered with the occupation of Muslim lands by Europeans.
And none of this was restored after their departure. This is a fundamental
point that needs to be understood in no uncertain terms. The nation states
that have emerged in the post World War II era are inherently incapable of
independent existence; this is also an economic impossibility. Thus no
amount of reform would make it possible for these countries to be
self-sufficient and truly independent states with enough human and material
resources to be free of IMF bondage. One cannot make a circle out of a
square, no matter how one bangs it around.
Given these fact, what is the route to real independence and an honorable
existence? How can Muslims regain control of their destinies? How can they
live a life that is not defined and dictated by the new Great Axis of Evil:
the United States of America, Britain and Israel? This is the question on
which all Muslim intellectuals and thinkers need to focus. The
post-September 11 events had hijacked all efforts from this most important
task faced by Muslims; it is time to return to it.
Those who think that they can achieve this by forming some kind of
underground network that kidnaps reporters and kills them are clearly
working against this cause. Likewise, those who wish to take up arms against
their own rulers, create nothing but chaos. Similarly, those who are busy in
propagating a made in America version of Islam are also playing with fire.
Islam, let us reiterate, is not merely a private affair that takes up public
face on Fridays; Islam is a living tradition, defined by an all-encompassing
code. Indeed, Allah has called Himself, al-Muheet, the all encompassing.
So, the task before Muslims is really clear. They need to devise a practical
strategy to regain control of their destiny as a community of believers. The
defining factor for their existence is neither sectarian, nor tribal or
national identity, but an identity based on the Qur’an. This is the
unambiguous position of the Qur’an itself. It declares in no uncertain terms
that Allah has made different communities and the best of communities is the
one which holds on to the rope of Allah. This is the community of believers:
"You are the best community that has been sent forth to mankind [in that]
you enjoin right and forbid wrong and have faith in Allah" (Q. 3:110).
In this task of regaining freedom, the very first thing to be understood is
that Islam cannot be imposed by somehow gaining hold of the government and
bringing out bands of militia. This is not the way of Islam. The struggle of
so-called Islamic political parties to win elections and form governments to
implement Islam is doomed. And so are those who demand imposition of Islam
by state decrees. True, there are some injections of Islamic Law (the
Shariah) that require state legislation. But most of Islam does not require
state laws for its implementation.
An Islamic state emerges; it is not established. An Islamic state comes into
existence through the most natural of ways, it is not a state that is
established by decrees. An Islamic state is the end result of a long process
of education, cultivation of Islamic ethos in private as well as public
life. An Islamic state is like a beautiful tree that comes into existence
because someone once planted a seed. An Islamic state is defined by the
character of its inhabitants, not by the writ of law.
The character of the inhabitants of an Islamic state is the defining factor
for the Islamic state. Given the current conditions of the Muslim world, the
greatest missing element in the emergence of an Islamic state is none other
than this defining factor. And this is what requires the greatest attention
of all those who wish to establish an Islamic state.
In the simplest of terms, an Islamic state is a state in which the prime
goal of the inhabitants of the land is to be a model of the Qur’anic
teachings. These are the people with whom Allah is pleased and who are
pleased with Allah, as the Qur’an tells us. This is the only route to an
Islamic state. Its most important constituent is none other than the men,
women and children who live in it.
Thus, any organization, political or non-political, which wants to
contribute toward the emergence of an Islamic state, need to concentrate on
its most important building block: individual human beings. But how? What
are the ways to do so? The answer must be sought in another question: How
did the Prophet of Islam do it? And that is the topic for the next column.
Center for Islam and Science

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