Monday, August 16, 2010

Alexis de Tocqueville on Islam

"Muhammad brought down from heaven and put into the Koran not religious doctrines only, but political maxims, criminal and civil laws, and scientific theories. The Gospels, on the other hand, deal only with the general relations between man and God and between man and man. Beyond that, they teach nothing and do not oblige people to believe anything. That alone, among a thousand reasons, is enough to show that Islam will not be able to hold its power long in ages of enlightenment and democracy, while Christianity is destined to reign in such ages, as in all other." 

Tocqueville compares Islam and Christianity and highlights the fact that Christianity is merely a religion which is capable of surviving political upheavals. He brilliantly points out that Islam on the other hand is a political philosophy which would not be able to survive the challenges of modernity and enlightenment. In hindsight this is exactly what is going on presently. Muslims have never recovered from the blow that was delivered by the renaissance in the west. Rational and secular political movements over took the centuries old political customs presented by Islam. For Muslims, this has led to a stagnant political culture. They are driven more towards their religion as a source of comfort, but the political stagnancy of the philosophy has deteriorated them as individuals. Not a single Muslim country, apart from a few (turkey) are capable of rational decision making. Muslim politics is driven by centuries old emotions, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for political discourse to focus on important issues. Harsh Islamic "Hudood Ordinance" in Pakistan practically treated women as slaves. A woman who was raped had to produce four witnesses or face jail sentence for illegal sex. Decision making was done in the same old traditional format that was presented in the 7th century. Many legal and criminal laws have been stagnant since then in the Muslim world. Islam is often marketed as a way of life, but the biggest problem with Islam is that it is a way of life and that way of life has remained unchanged. Progress is therefore alien when it comes to Muslim thought.

There is therefore a need for a reformation within Islam which should focus on the separation of "Islam the religion" from "Islam the political philosophy". Syed Qutb, Maududi and Bannah need to revise their thinking. The ground might be ripe, as Muslims face more and more ridicule because of their beliefs.

Some notable scholars of Islam like Tarek Fatah are leading the effort for change within Islam. Here is a youtube link for the case being made against the Islamic state by Tarek Fatah.

Allama Muhammad Iqbal also wrote extensively on furthering and freeing islamic political thought and jurisprudence via "ijma". A follow up post would highlight his efforts on the subject.

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