Islam and Constitutional Democracy

Dr. Morgan Job has questioned our continuing failure, as Muslims, to establish constitutional democracy in the Muslim world (Conference on Constitutional Reform, November 28th 2004). But modern political democracy originated in modern secular western civilization, and required the adoption of political secularism as the basis for the establishment of polity and state. Political secularism, however, like all other applications of secularism, denied religion any significant role in the public order. This, in turn, facilitated the decline of religion and of absolute moral values, and has led, around the world, to the emergence of ever-changing materialistic values and, eventually, to an essentially godless way of life.

Let us recall that when the British colonized countries such as India they found Muslims with a political culture derived basically from Islam. British colonial rule imposed European political secularism ‘at the point of the sword’ as the alternative to Islam. Both Hindus and Muslims eventually challenged the new European religion of ‘secularism’, and sought to restore and preserve their own indigenous political culture. This led eventually, and alarmingly so for the British, to an ominous political alliance of Muslims and Hindus in what was called the Khilafat Movement — a struggle to preserve the institution of the Islamic Caliphate located at the very heart of Muslim political culture. Gandhi himself forged the alliance with the Muslim Khilafat Movement since he, also, wanted to restore (for Hindus) indigenous Hindu political culture and a Hindu model of a state.

The Khilafat Movement threatened to topple the entire system of European political secularism and constitutional democracy that the colonial West was forcing upon the non-white world. And so a British strategy was devised, in collaboration with Mustafa Kamal’s newly emerging secular Republic of Turkey, to abolish the Turkish Caliphate and, in so doing, to sabotage and to bring about the collapse of the Khilafat Movement with its alarming Hindu-Muslim alliance.

The strategy succeeded. The Caliphate was abolished in Turkey in March 1924. By the end of that same year the old Indian Muslim leadership, comprised of men who knew and lived Islam, went into irreversible decline. They were replaced by the secularly inclined ‘All India Muslim League’, led by men who hardly knew or lived Islam. They presided over the cleverly disguised passage from Islam as the basis of political culture, to the new European political secularism. It was deceptively empowered by way of religious nationalism, and emerged as a curious creature named ‘Muslim nationalism’. The passage from the one to the other was so cleverly disguised that it is still not discernible to many Muslims in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The turbulent history of European constitutional democracy in the Muslim world cannot be understood without a recognition of the fundamental change in political culture from Islam to the European model of political secularism. Indeed the passage from the one to the other has not as yet been accomplished in any final way, even in Pakistan or Turkey. Time and again the religious beliefs of the Muslim peoples in Africa, the Arab world, South and South-East Asia, etc., have impacted on politics in such wise that the West has been forced to continuously resort to devious means, including brute force and barbarism in present-day Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan, to thwart the effort to restore Islam as the basis of polity.



Will Muslim society be secularized, and secular constitutional democracy finally established in the Muslim world? Or, will destiny witness the restoration indeginous Muslim political culture and the Islamic model of a state (Khilafat)? Before we attempt to answer that fascinating question which lies at the very heart of political discourse on contemporary international affairs, let us briefly describe the Khilafat or the (Sunni) Islamic model of polity and state.

It would surely surprise some of our readers to learn that Islam has never claimed to be a new religion. Rather it has consistently proclaimed that it is the original religion of Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and Jesus (peace and blessings of Allah be upon them all). It was therefore natural that Prophet Muhammad (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) should have preserved in the Islamic State of Madina the essential model of a polity and state that was established by the Prophet-Kings, David and Solomon (‘alaihima al-Salam) in the Holy State of Israel. What was that model?

Firstly, political culture in Holy Israel tolerated no secular separation of politics from religion. In both David and Solomon, the religious/spiritual head of the community (i.e., the Prophet), was also, himself, king or head of state. Secondly, the polity and state recognized God as Sovereign (al-Malik), and to Him belonged the Kingdom (al-Mulk), and hence Holy Israel was the Kingdom of God on earth. Thirdly, God’s authority and law were both supreme in this model of a state.

In the secular European model, on the other hand, sovereignty was taken away from God and vested in the polity and state. That was blasphemy (Shirk). God was further stripped of supreme authority and law and these, also, were vested in the people and the state, and were institutionalized in secular government (administration, judiciary and legislature). That, also, was blasphemy (Shirk). The people not only assumed supreme authority and installed their own man-made law as supreme law, they even went on, and recklessly so, to make legally permissible that which God Himself had prohibited. Such was the case, for example, with the divine prohibition of ‘lending money on interest’, gambling and lottery. The Qur’an has described all these efforts to ‘play God’ as blasphemy (Shirk), which is the one sin that Allah Most High has warned that He would never forgive. I guess that someone would respond by accusing God of being fundamentalist.

When a people turn away from God, as they most certainly do in political secularism and in the secular state, the Qur’an has warned that they would eventually forget Him and would pay the price of forgetting themselves (i.e., their human status). Their conduct would eventually become worse than that of wild beasts. Prophet Muhammad prophesied that they would eventually “engage in sexual intercourse in public like donkeys”. Trinidad’s Carnival confirms, year after year, that mainstream society in this ‘progressive’ country is heading down that road and is already approaching the fulfillment of the prophecy of preference for sex in public.

The Islamic Khilafat differs in no way whatsoever from the model of the Holy State of Israel except that Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet/head of state, was recognized as servant of Allah rather than king! Prophet Muhammad has prophesied that the Islamic Khilafat would be restored at that time when Jesus (‘alaihi al-Salam) returns. We may not have to wait more than a few decades to witness the return of Jesus and the restoration of the Islamic model of a state (Khilafat). My book ‘Jerusalem in the Qur’an’ has explained the subject.