It is soothing for us when others agree and support our views, but our situation as Global Citizens, calls for proactively seeking to persuade those who disagree with us and to encourage each other to develop and act on specific strategies to address the problematic issues we identify. I am not claiming to know or address the many problems societies are facing today, but for this blog, and its broader project on the Future of Sharia, here is my call for debate:
“The State cannot be Islamic, and Sharia norms lose their Islamic quality when enforced by the political will of the state. The law of the state is always the product of human understanding and choice simply because there is no other way for Muslims to know the meaning and application of the Quran and Sunna except through human reason and judgment. The state may be good or bad, but it is never religious. State law may be good or bad, but it is never Sharia.”
Do you agree or disagree, and why?
If you agree, how will you advance this view– if you don’t advance it, who will do that for you?
If you disagree, what is the alternative you propose?
Let me briefly explain in bullet points for emphasis:
- The secular state is necessary for all societies, and it is an Islamic imperative (faridah) because it is required for being honestly Muslim by conviction and choice. By the secular state I mean one that is neutral, not hostile or indifferent, to religion. I am neither calling for a secular society, nor for importing a so-called “western” model of secularism.
- There is no single, monolithic model of western secularism. None of the major western states of Italy, France, Germany, United Kingdom and the United States qualifies as secular by each other’s standards. At the same time, non-western models of secularism like that of India are as successful as any of the western models. India is the home of the third, if not second, largest Muslim population in the world today.
- I am opposed to French secularity (laïcité) because the state in that model seeks to control religion instead of being neutral. The purpose of my support of a secular state is for its neutrality regarding all religions which enables me to be Muslim by conviction and choice, the only way to be a Muslim.
- I am categorically opposed to the fallacy of an Islamic state and the pretense of enforcing Sharia as the law of the state. The claim of an Islamic state to enforce Sharia as the law of the state is a post-colonial hoaxer (bid‘ah) which is based on the European model of the nation-state and positive law, and totally inconsistent with historical Islamic traditions.
- There is no agreed upon criteria for what it means for the state to be “Islamic” and no independent non-political way for evaluating that quality in any state. Since the states of Iran and Saudi Arabia, and now also the emerging Islamic State (ISIS), are diametrically opposed to each other, they cannot all be Islamic if that quality means anything. Which, if any of them, is Islamic and how can we verify its quality as an Islamic state over time?
For detailed analysis and documentation for these propositions, please see my book, Islam and the Secular State (Harvard University Press, 2008), and the articles and book chapters, videos, etc. which can be downloaded free of charge from this website.
A word to our contributors who prefer to use pseudo names, instead of their real names or identifying information:
You are welcome to do so provided that the Editor (Professor An-Na‘im) holds your true names and identifying information in strict confidence. The Editor is unable to approve anonymous contributions, but happy to accept pseudo names, especially when there is concern for the safety and wellbeing of contributors, as long as the Editor has the author’s true name and identifying information to keep for our records.
 The final and conclusive divine revelation, according to Muslim belief, received by the Prophet Muhammed and conveyed to humanity.
 Traditions of the Prophet Muhammed, as exemplar of Islam.
 Required religious obligation on every individual Muslim.
 Illegitimate innovation that is unjustified from an Islamic point of view.