It is He who has sent His Messenger with Guidance and the Religion of Truth in order that He shows its superiority over all other religion, even if the idolaters detest it.
[Qur’an, 9:33 and 61:9]
Courtesy of Sunni Sister, I came across this article by Imam Zaid Shakir, which asserts that Islam is a religion, not an ideology. To the extent that Islam should not be reduced to only a political ideology, I agree with Imam Zaid, but I respectfully disagree with his contention that the Qur’anic verse quoted above is meant to be taken in a purely religious (meaning spiritual) sense and not in a political sense. To be sure, the word used in the sacred verse is diyn, which means system for conducting life and not merely system of belief and ritual worship. The very definition of the word diyn implies that Islam is a spiritual code as well as a political system. We can therefore conclude that the verse is saying that the purpose of Messengership is twofold:
1. Establishing supremacy of Islam’s spiritual code over all other spiritual systems
2. Establishing political supremacy of Islam over all other political systems
Indeed, this verse forms the most forceful and incontrovertible evidence in favor of the notion that a political renaissance in Islam is inevitable. One cannot undermine one meaning of the verse in favor of the other since both meanings are included in the verse. The worldly and the otherworldly are concepts that find their endorsement from the Qur’an and Sunnah, and both are important in their own right:
Give us a beautiful life in this world and a beautiful life in the Hereafter, and save us from the torment of the Fire. (Qur’an, 2:201; also a favorite prayer with the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him)
The Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, did get the best of both worlds. And if you are one of the skeptics and cynics, then allow me to repeat the words of a non-Muslim that I posted a few days ago:
[Muhammad] was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.
It is no coincidence that the Prophets and Messengers were immensely successful political personalities who challenged the exploitative leaders of their times and invariably succeeded against them in this world. For example, Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, challenged the exploitative leadership of the Pharoah. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, challenged the Quraysh and then the Byzantine and Persian Empires. Thus the prophetic mission is twofold: first, it is to deliver the Pristine Message; second, it is to deliver the people from oppression and exploitation.
Some people suggest in ignorant piety, “Oh well, they were the Prophets”, meaning that we cannot aspire to achieve similar results. Well, such defeatist piety is uncalled for in the Qur’an:
Indeed in the Messenger of God [Muhammad] you have a beautiful example to follow (Qur’an, 33:21)
The ideal political figure is thus the Prophet, peace be upon him, and the ideal Islamic State is the state established by the Prophet, peace be upon him. We will include the three-decade period of the Khulafa Rashideen under the banner of “ideal Islamic state” as is evident from the following hadiths:
The Khilafah in my Ummah will be for 30 years. (Tirmizi)
The Prophetic Khilafah will last for 30 years, then God will give it to whom He wills. (Abu Dawood)
It is incumbent upon you to follow my Sunnah and the Sunnah of my Righteously Guided Caliphs. (Abu Dawood)
Thus the first 40 years of the Islamic State (comprising of 10 years of State of Medina and 30 years of the Khilafa Rashidun) form the ideal period, while the subsequent 1,387 years form the less-than-ideal period. This less-than-ideal period has not been an even one. There have been relatively stable periods and sometimes the road has been rather bumpy, but it is a fact that 1200 of the past 1400 years have been marked by the political supremacy of Islam (notwithstanding the erratic behavior of some Muslim rulers). There are only two periods of time when Islam temporarily ceased to be a world power in political terms. The first of these two periods was a 52-year period from 1252 AD to 1304 AD when the Mongols swept through the Muslim empire and committed the bloodiest genocide of all time. The second period is the current period that could be said to start from 1914 AD when the Ottoman Empire disintegrated in World War I. This second period has also been marred by genocides (and we’ve talked about this in detail before). The common denominator in these two epochs is that Muslims took to dwelling on sectarian differences rather than dwelling on their non-sectarian similarities. Sectarianism and discrimination are the Muslim’s Achilles’ heel and have always been, and will always be, exploited by the enemy. We can conclude that while Almighty God’s promise to give political supremacy to His Diyn holds true, it is subject to the condition that we do not hold contempt for each other. This is the primary reason for the failure of many ostensibly Islamic parties, organizations, and movements (exceptions notwithstanding). God says,
Indeed, the party of God will dominate (Qur’an, 5:56)
This provides the answer to the question so many people ask, namely, “Has Islam failed to deliver?” The answer is that it is not Islam that has failed to deliver (it has delivered for more than a millennium!); rather, it is the lack of self-confidence (i.e. faith) that has failed to deliver. After all, contempt and faith are mutually exclusive terms.
They ask us whether Islam is more practical than communism, capitalism, fascism, individualism, and terrorism. My response is that Islam as a vibrant political power reigned supreme for a whole millennium. Which “ism” has this track record? As regards whether Islam is practicable in today’s world, I find no fundamental difference in today’s world and Ottoman Empire’s world (or for that matter, any other Empire’s world) that makes Islam less practicable, except our own complexes and insecurities. To sum up, Islam is the divine recipe for all times, whether you like it or not – wa lau karehal mushrikoon (and even if it is to the chagrin of the mushriks!).