During our discussion on the hijab at my entry titled, "On the hijab ...", Mr Carty has asked me the following question:
"Is an ideal Islamic state any more possible than the ideal communist society (in real life, communism is a totalitarian nightmare), or the ideal individualist anarchy (in real life, anarchy means rule by gangs of thugs)?
After all, three out of the four Khalifah Rashidun were assassinated... "
Due to the importance of the question, I have decided to answer it in a separate entry. Here is my answer:
You have asked a very pertinent and important question. You may not have noticed it, but the answer to your question lies in the question itself: Communism and individualism are two opposite extremes, and in the middle of these two extremes lies Islam. The ideal Islamic state is the perfect balance between totalitarianism and anarchy. As such, the ideal Islamic state is very much possible, as has been borne out by experiment. The "role-model" Islamic State is, of course, the State of Medina that was ruled by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). The State of Medina was an incredible reality, for, apart from containing all the ingredients of an ideal Islamic state, it also was an incredible success, having survived against all odds. This state was expanded and worked upon by the Khulafa Rashideen, who ensured the guaranteed delivery of human rights to the general population. Afterwards, we have had "near-ideal" Islamic states at various points in history. Cordoba, Cyprus, Baghdad, Samarkand, and Bukhara were all Islamic welfare states at different times in history.
The problem in creating an ideal Islamic state is that forces of totalitarianism and forces of individualism automatically align themselves against the Islamic state, making survival an issue. Thus, any ideal Islamic state will find itself at odds with imperialistic powers from without and anarchic rebellions from within. This creates extreme strain on the nascent Islamic state, which is an otherwise beautifully balanced society. It is no wonder then that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) had to fight several battles during his ten-year stay at Medina. Likewise, the Khulafa Rashideen were constantly engaged in military conflict with the imperialistic Roman and Byzantine empires. They also faced individualistic rebellion from within the Islamic state, which they had to crush with force. It was their engagement with these internal rebellions that led to the assassinations of the Khulafa Rashideen.
It would, however, be cruel to deduce that since three of the four Khulafa Rashideen were assassinated, the ideal Islamic state is "not possible". To understand how monstrous this error is and how great this blunder is, consider the assassination of American president, John Kennedy. I do not intend to compare Kennedy's worth with the Khulafa Rashideen, but one can draw lessons from analogy. Should one deduce that the reforms instituted by Kennedy are "not possible" in today's world because Kennedy was assassinated? Does Kennedy's assassination mean that he was an unpopular ruler? Should Kennedy's assassination be a lesson for us that Kennedy's ideas or ideals were unworthy? The clear answer to all these questions is "No". It turns out that some people have drawn perverse deductions from the assassinations of the Khulafa Rashideen. Foremost among these are the Western "orientalists", who have been spewing propaganda against Islam for the past several centuries. These "orientalists" claim to be specialists in Islam. As such, they are specialists in the art of maligning Islam, specialists in the art of mixing truths with lies, and specialists in the art of throwing dust in people's eyes. God protect us from the evil of the prejudiced historian of Islam.