Islam is a “total way of life”. Allah has provided guidance in all areas of life, from personal cleanliness to the business rules, structure and politics of society. Islam can never be separated from social, political or economic life, since religion provides a moral guide for every action a person undertakes. The first act of faith is to strive to implement the will of God in private and public life.
Muslims see that they themselves, and the world around them, must submit totally to God and to their will. In addition, they know that this concept of His government must be established on earth to create a just society. Like Jews and Christians before them, Muslims have been called to a covenant relationship with God, making them a community of believers that should serve as an example to other nations by creating a moral social order. God says to the Muslim world nation:
“You are the best community raised for mankind, enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong…” (Quran 3:110)
Throughout history, being Muslim means not only belonging to a religious community of believers, but also living under Islamic law. Because Islamic law is considered an extension of the absolute sovereignty of God.
God is the absolute sovereign in Islam and, therefore, is the only Lord of heaven and earth. Just as He is the Lord of the physical universe, for true Muslim believers, God is the Giver of the law for every area of human life. Just as He is the Master of the physical world, God is the Ruler of the affairs of men in Islamic doctrine. Thus, God is the supreme Lawgiver, the Absolute Judge and the Lawgiver who distinguishes the right from the wrong.
Just as the physical world inevitably submits to its Lord by following the ‘natural’ laws of the universe, human beings must submit to the moral and religious teachings of their Lord, the One who distinguishes right from wrong for them. In other words, only God has the authority to make laws, determine acts of worship, decide morals and establish standards of interaction and human behavior. This is because,
“His is the Creation and the Command” (Qur’an 7:54)
Many Muslim-majority countries believe that Islam to have a great influence on politics. Most in Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt, their laws should strictly follow the Quran, while majorities or pluralities in Tunisia and Turkey claim that their laws should at least respect the values and principles of Islam. Opinions in Lebanon are divided into sectarian lines.
Majorities in most countries also say that Islam currently plays an important role in the political life of their country, and most of the time it is positive. The feeling that religion has an influence on politics has increased considerably in Egypt over the past year. Jordan is the only country in which a majority (63%) says that Islam has a small role in politics, most of them claiming that this lack of Islamic influence is a bad thing for their country.
Since the origins of Pakistan as the homeland of the Muslims of British India in 1947, Islam has been the only common thread to create a national identity in a state divided by ethnic, provincial, cultural, religious, class and linguistic lines.
Civil and military leaders have used Islam to gain legitimacy for their government and as tools of state policy, strengthening the role of religious parties in politics and society.
Since the 1980s, after Pakistan’s participation in arming the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan and the continued support of the Pakistani army to Islamist militants, Islam has taken a radical turn in Pakistan. Today, Pakistan has become a center of global jihad and the main refuge for Taliban fighters at war with US-led forces.
Pakistan is also facing its own instability and violence as militant groups turn to the state. The assassination of the Punjab governor and the minority minister in 2011 has heightened concerns about the threat posed by religious extremism. On May 1, 2011, the assassination of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden by US forces in a Pakistani village has raised new concerns about reprisal attacks in Pakistan by Islamist terrorist groups.
Pakistan has also used militant Islamist groups to wage war against India in Kashmir. Since September 11, Pakistan’s alliance with the United States in the war in Afghanistan has led many of these groups to turn against the Pakistani state. However, according to experts, the military continues to support some militant groups as strategic assets in India and Afghanistan.
The vision of an Islamic state and the purpose of its political authority is to implement the divine law. Therefore, the ideal Islamic state is a community governed by the Law revealed by God. This does not imply that such a state is necessarily a theocracy under the direct rule of the sages of religion, nor is it an autocracy that confers absolute power on the ruler.
The function of the Islamic state is to provide security and order so that Muslims can carry out their religious as well as mundane duties. The caliph is the guardian of faith and community.
The ulema (religious scholars) do not control their role so much, but improve it because they provide religious and legal advice. It also appoints judges who settle disputes in accordance with Islamic law. There is a certain level of flexibility with regard to the governance system and its establishment in Islam, however, religion must be fully implemented in the state and society.
The writer is a freelance columnist based in Quetta. He can be reached at: Asadhussainma@yahoo.com