Political aspects of Islam
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and other religions
Political aspects of Islam are derived from the Quran, hadith literature, and sunnah (the sayings and living habits of the Islamic prophet Muhammad), history of Islam, and elements of political movements outside Islam. Traditional political concepts in Islam include leadership by elected or selected successors to Muhammad, known as Caliphs in Sunni Islam and Imams in Shia Islam; the importance of following the Islamic law (sharia); the duty of rulers to seek Shura or consultation from their subjects; and the importance of rebuking unjust rulers.
A significant change in the Muslim world was the defeat and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire (1908–1922). In the 19th and 20th century, common Islamic political themes has been resistance to Western imperialism and enforcement of sharia law through democratic or militant struggle. Events such as the defeat of Arab armies in the Six-Day War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and the fall of communism as a viable alternative have increased the appeal of Islamic movements such as Islamism, Islamic fundamentalism, and Islamic democracy, especially in the context of popular dissatisfaction with secularist ruling regimes in the Muslim world.
The origins of Islam as a political movement are to be found in the life and times of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his successors. In 622 CE, in recognition of his claims to prophethood, Muhammad was invited to rule the city of Medina. At the time the local Arab tribes of Aus and Khazraj dominated the town, and were in constant conflict. Medinans considered Muhammad as an impartial outsider who could resolve the conflict. Muhammad and his followers thus moved to Medina, where Muhammad drafted the Constitution of Medina. The laws Muhammad established during his rule, based on the Quran and his own doing, are considered by Muslims to be sharia or Islamic law, which Islamic movements seek to establish in the present day. Muhammad gained a widespread following and an army, and his rule expanded first to the city of Mecca and then spread across the Arabian peninsula through a combination of diplomacy and military conquests.
While the Quran does not dwell on politics, it does make mention of concepts such as "the oppressed" (mustad'afeen), "emigration" (hijra), the "Muslim community" (Ummah), and "fighting" or "struggling" in the way of God (jihād), that can have political implications. A number of Quranic verses (such as 4:98) talk about the mustad'afeen, which can be translated as "those deemed weak", "underdogs", or "the oppressed", how they are put upon by people such as the pharaoh, how God wishes them to be treated justly, and how they should emigrate from the land where they are oppressed (4:99). Abraham was an "emigrant unto my Lord" (29:25). War against unbelievers (Kuffar) is commanded and divine aid promised, although some verses state this may be when unbelievers start the war and treaties may end the war. The Quran also devotes some verses to the proper division of spoils captured in war among the victors. War against internal enemies or "hypocrites" (munāfiḳūn) is also commanded. Some commands did not extend past the life of Muhammad, such as ones to refer quarrels to Allah and Muhammad or not to shout at or raise your voice when talking to Muhammad. Limiting its political teaching is the fact that the Quran does not mention "any formal and continuing structure of authority", only orders to obey Muhammad, and that its themes were of limited use when the success of Islam meant governance of "a vast territory populate mainly peasants, and dominate by cities and states" alien to nomadic life in the desert.
Islamic State of Medina
The Constitution of Medina was drafted by Muhammad. It constituted a formal agreement between Muhammad and all of the significant tribes and families of Yathrib (later known as Medina), including Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Arabian Pagans. This constitution formed the basis of the first Islamic state. The document was drawn up with the explicit concern of bringing to an end the bitter intertribal fighting between the clans of the Aws (Aus) and Khazraj within Medina. To this effect it instituted a number of rights and responsibilities for the Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Pagan communities of Medina, bringing them within the fold of one community—the Ummah.
The precise dating of the Constitution of Medina remains debated but generally scholars agree it was written shortly after the hijra (622 CE). [Note 1] [Note 2] [Note 3] [Note 4] It effectively established the first Islamic state. The Constitution established: the security of the community, religious freedoms, the role of Medina as a haram or sacred place (barring all violence and weapons), the security of women, stable tribal relations within Medina, a tax system for supporting the community in time of conflict, parameters for exogenous political alliances, a system for granting protection of individuals, a judicial system for resolving disputes, and also regulated the paying of blood money (the payment between families or tribes for the slaying of an individual in lieu of lex talionis).
Early Caliphate and political ideals
After the death of Muhammad, his community needed to appoint a new leader, giving rise to the title of caliph ("successor"). Thus, the subsequent Islamic empires were known as Caliphates. Alongside the growth of the Umayyad Caliphate, the major political development within early Islam in this period was the sectarian split between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims; this had its roots in a dispute over the succession of the Caliphate. Sunni Muslims believed the caliphate was elective, and any Muslim might serve as one. Shi'ites, on the other hand, believed the caliphate should be hereditary in the line of Muhammad, and thus all the caliphs, with the exception of Ali, were usurpers. However, the Sunni sect emerged as triumphant in most of the Muslim world, and thus most modern Islamic political movements (with the exception of Iran) are founded in Sunni thought.
Muhammad's closest companions, the four "rightly guided" Caliphs who succeeded him, continued to expand the state to encompass Jerusalem, Ctesiphon, and Damascus, and sending armies as far as the Sindh. The Islamic empire stretched from Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) to the Punjab under the reign of the Umayyad dynasty.
An important Islamic concept concerning the structure of ruling is the Shura, or consultation with people regarding their affairs, which is the duty of rulers mentioned in two verses in the Quran, 3:153, and 42:36. One type of ruler not part of the Islamic ideal was the king, which was disparaged in the Quranic mentions of the Pharaoh, "the prototype of the unjust and tyrannical ruler" (18:70, 79) and elsewhere. (28:34) The phrase Ahl al-Ḥall wa’l-‘Aḳd (Arabic: أهل الحل والعقد, lit. 'those who are qualified to unbind and to bind') was used in order to denote those qualified to appoint or depose a caliph or another ruler on behalf of the Ummah.
Election or appointment
Al-Mawardi, a Muslim jurist of the Shafii school, has written that the caliph should be Qurayshi. Abu Bakr Al-Baqillani, an Ashari Islamic scholar and Maliki lawyer, wrote that the leader of the Muslims simply should be from the majority. Abu Hanifa an-Nu‘man, the founder of the Sunni Hanafi school of fiqh, also wrote that the leader must come from the majority.
Western scholar of Islam, Fred Donner, argues that the standard Arabian practice during the early Caliphates was for the prominent men of a kinship group, or tribe, to gather after a leader's death and elect a leader from amongst themselves, although there was no specified procedure for this shura, or consultative assembly. Candidates were usually from the same lineage as the deceased leader but they were not necessarily his sons. Capable men who would lead well were preferred over an ineffectual direct heir, as there was no basis in the majority Sunni view that the head of state or governor should be chosen based on lineage alone.
Deliberations of the Caliphates, most notably Rashidun Caliphate were not democratic in the modern sense rather, decision-making power lay with a council of notable and trusted companions of Muhammad and representatives of different Arab tribes (most of them selected or elected within their tribes). (see also: Shura).
Traditional Sunni Islamic lawyers agree that shura, loosely translated as 'consultation of the people', is a function of the caliphate. The Majlis ash-Shura advise the caliph. The importance of this is premised by the following verses of the Quran:
"...those who answer the call of their Lord and establish the prayer, and who conduct their affairs by Shura. [are loved by God]"[42:38]
"...consult them (the people) in their affairs. Then when you have taken a decision (from them), put your trust in Allah"[3:159]
The majlis is also the means to elect a new caliph. Al-Mawardi has written that members of the majlis should satisfy three conditions: they must be just, they must have enough knowledge to distinguish a good caliph from a bad one, and must have sufficient wisdom and judgment to select the best caliph. Al-Mawardi also said in emergencies when there is no caliphate and no majlis, the people themselves should create a majlis, select a list of candidates for caliph, then the majlis should select from the list of candidates.[unreliable source?] Some modern interpretations of the role of the Majlis ash-Shura include those by Islamist author Sayyid Qutb and by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, the founder of a transnational political movement devoted to the revival of the Caliphate. In an analysis of the shura chapter of the Quran, Qutb argued Islam requires only that the ruler consult with at least some of the ruled (usually the elite), within the general context of God-made laws that the ruler must execute. Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, writes that Shura is important and part of "the ruling structure" of the Islamic caliphate, "but not one of its pillars," and may be neglected without the Caliphate's rule becoming un-Islamic. However, These interpretations of Shura (by Qutb and al-Nabhani) are not universally accepted and Islamic democrats consider Shura to be an integral part and important pillar of Islamic political system.
Separation of powers
In the early Islamic Caliphate, the head of state, the Caliph, had a position based on the notion of a successor to Muhammad's political authority, who, according to Sunnis, were ideally elected by the people or their representatives, as was the case for the election of Abu Bakar, Uthman and Ali as Caliph. After the Rashidun Caliphs, later Caliphates during the Islamic Golden Age had a much lesser degree of democratic participation, but since "no one was superior to anyone else except on the basis of piety and virtue" in Islam, and following the example of Muhammad, later Islamic rulers often held public consultations with the people in their affairs.
The legislative power of the Caliph (or later, the Sultan) was always restricted by the scholarly class, the ulama, a group regarded as the guardians of Islamic law. Since the law came from the legal scholars, this prevented the Caliph from dictating legal results. Sharia rulings were established as authoritative based on the ijma (consensus) of legal scholars, who theoretically acted as representatives of the Ummah (Muslim community). After law colleges (madrasas) became widespread beginning with the 11th and 12th century CE, a student often had to obtain an ijaza-t al-tadris wa-l-ifta ("license to teach and issue legal opinions") in order to issue legal rulings. In many ways, classical Islamic law functioned like a constitutional law.
Practically, for hundreds of years after Rashidun Caliphate and until the twentieth century, Islamic states followed a system of government based on the coexistence of sultan and ulama following the rules of the sharia. This system resembled to some extent some Western governments in possessing an unwritten constitution (like the United Kingdom), and possessing separate, countervailing branches of government (like the United States) — which provided Separation of powers in governance. While the United States (and some other systems of government) has three branches of government — executive, legislative and judicial — Islamic monarchies had two — the sultan and ulama.
According to professor Olivier Roy this "de facto separation between political power" of sultans and emirs and religious power of the caliph was "created and institutionalized ... as early as the end of the first century of the hegira." The sovereign's religious function was to defend the Muslim community against its enemies, institute the sharia, ensure the public good (maslaha). The state was instrument to enable Muslims to live as good Muslims and Muslims were to obey the sultan if he did so. The legitimacy of the ruler was "symbolized by the right to coin money and to have the Friday prayer (Jumu'ah khutba) said in his name."
Sadakat Kadri argues that a large "degree of deference" was shown to the caliphate by the ulama and this was at least at times "counterproductive". "Although jurists had identified conditions from mental incapacity to blindness that could disqualify a caliph, none had ever dared delineate the powers of the caliphate as an institution." During the Abbasid caliphate:
When Caliph Al-Mutawakkil had been killed in 861, jurists had retroactively validated his murder with a fatwa. Eight years later, they had testified to the lawful abdication of a successor, after he had been dragged from a toilet, beaten unconscious, and thrown into a vault to die. By the middle of the tenth century, judges were solemnly confirming that the onset of blindness had disqualified a caliph, without mentioning that they had just been assembled to witness the gouging of his eyes.
According to Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard University, the legal scholars and jurists lost their control over Islamic law due to the codification of Sharia by the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century:
How the scholars lost their exalted status as keepers of the law is a complex story, but it can be summed up in the adage that partial reforms are sometimes worse than none at all. In the early 19th century, the Ottoman empire responded to military setbacks with an internal reform movement. The most important reform was the attempt to codify Shariah. This Westernizing process, foreign to the Islamic legal tradition, sought to transform Shariah from a body of doctrines and principles to be discovered by the human efforts of the scholars into a set of rules that could be looked up in a book. [...] Once the law existed in codified form, however, the law itself was able to replace the scholars as the source of authority. Codification took from the scholars their all-important claim to have the final say over the content of the law and transferred that power to the state.
Obedience and opposition
According to scholar Moojan Momen, "One of the key statements in the Qur'an around which much of the exegesis" on the issue of what Islamic doctrine says about who is in charge is based on the verse
"O believers! Obey God and obey the Apostle and those who have been given authority [uulaa al-amr] among you" (Qur'an 4:59).
elaborated in a number of sayings attributed to Muhammad. But there are also sayings that put strict limits on the duty of obedience. Two dicta attributed to the Prophet and universally accepted as authentic are indicative. One says, "there is no obedience in sin"; in other words, if the ruler orders something contrary to the divine law, not only is there no duty of obedience, but there is a duty of disobedience. This is more than the right of revolution that appears in Western political thought. It is a duty of revolution, or at least of disobedience and opposition to authority. The other pronouncement, "do not obey a creature against his creator," again clearly limits the authority of the ruler, whatever form of ruler that may be.
However, Ibn Taymiyyah — an important 14th century scholar of the Hanbali school — says in Tafseer for this verse "there is no obedience in sin"; that people should ignore the order of the ruler if it would disobey the divine law and shouldn't use this as excuse for revolution because it will spell Muslims bloods. According to Ibn Taymiyya, the saying, 'Sixty years with an unjust imam is better than one night without a sultan`, was confirmed by experience. He believed that the Quranic injunction to "enjoin good and forbid evil" (al-amr bi-l-maʿrūf wa-n-nahy ʿani-l-munkar, found in Quran 3:104 and Quran 3:110 and other verses) was the duty of every state functionary with charge over other Muslims from the caliph to "the schoolmaster in charge of assessing children's handwriting exercises."
Sharia and governance (siyasa)
Starting from the late medieval period, Sunni fiqh elaborated the doctrine of siyasa shar'iyya, which literally means governance according to sharia, and is sometimes called the political dimension of Islamic law. Its goal was to harmonize Islamic law with the practical demands of statecraft. The doctrine emphasized the religious purpose of political authority and advocated non-formalist application of Islamic law if required by expedience and utilitarian considerations. It first emerged in response to the difficulties raised by the strict procedural requirements of Islamic law. The law rejected circumstantial evidence and insisted on witness testimony, making criminal convictions difficult to obtain in courts presided over by qadis (sharia judges). In response, Islamic jurists permitted greater procedural latitude in limited circumstances, such as adjudicating grievances against state officials in the mazalim courts administered by the ruler's council and application of "corrective" discretionary punishments for petty offenses. However, under the Mamluk sultanate, non-qadi courts expanded their jurisdiction to commercial and family law, running in parallel with sharia courts and dispensing with some formalities prescribed by fiqh. Further developments of the doctrine attempted to resolve this tension between statecraft and jurisprudence. In later times the doctrine has been employed to justify legal changes made by the state in consideration of public interest, as long as they were deemed not to be contrary to sharia. It was, for example, invoked by the Ottoman rulers who promulgated a body of administrative, criminal, and economic laws known as qanun.
In Shia Islam, three attitudes towards rulers predominated — political cooperation with the ruler, political activism challenging the ruler, and aloofness from politics — with "writings of Shi'i ulama through the ages" showing "elements of all three of these attitudes."
Islamic extremism dates back to the early history of Islam with the emergence of the Kharijites in the 7th century CE. The original schism between Kharijites, Sunnis, and Shiʿas among Muslims was disputed over the political and religious succession to the guidance of the Muslim community (Ummah) after the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. From their essentially political position, the Kharijites developed extreme doctrines that set them apart from both mainstream Sunni and Shiʿa Muslims. Shiʿas believe Ali ibn Abi Talib is the true successor to Muhammad, while Sunnis consider Abu Bakr to hold that position. The Kharijites broke away from both the Shiʿas and the Sunnis during the First Fitna (the first Islamic Civil War); they were particularly noted for adopting a radical approach to takfīr (excommunication), whereby they declared both Sunni and Shiʿa Muslims to be either infidels (kuffār) or false Muslims (munāfiḳūn), and therefore deemed them worthy of death for their perceived apostasy (ridda).
The Islamic tradition traces the origin of the Kharijities to the battle between 'Ali and Mu'awiya at Siffin in 657 CE. When 'Ali was faced with a military stalemate and agreed to submit the dispute to arbitration, some of his party withdrew their support from him. "Judgement belongs to God alone" (لاَ حُكْكْ إلَا لِلّهِ) became the slogan of these secessionists. They also called themselves al-Shurat ("the Vendors"), to reflect their willingness to sell their lives in martyrdom.
These original Kharijites opposed both 'Ali and Mu'awiya, and appointed their own leaders. They were decisively defeated by 'Ali, who was in turn assassinated by a Kharijite. Kharijites engaged in guerilla warfare against the Umayyads, but only became a movement to be reckoned with during the Second Fitna (the second Islamic Civil War) when they at one point controlled more territory than any of their rivals. The Kharijites were, in fact, one of the major threats to Ibn al-Zubayr's bid for the caliphate; during this time they controlled Yamama and most of southern Arabia, and captured the oasis town of al-Ta'if.
The Azariqa, considered to be the extreme faction of the Kharijites, controlled parts of western Iran under the Umayyads until they were finally put down in 699 CE. The more moderate Ibadi Kharijites were longer-lived, continuing to wield political power in North and East Africa and in eastern Arabia during the 'Abbasid period. Because of their readiness to declare any opponent as apostate, the extreme Kharijites tended to fragment into small groups. One of the few points that the various Kharijite splinter groups held in common was their view of the caliphate, which differed from other Muslim theories on two points.
- First, they were principled egalitarians, holding that any pious Muslim ("even an Ethiopian slave") can become Caliph and that family or tribal affiliation is inconsequential. The only requirements for leadership are piety and acceptance by the community.
- Second, they agreed that it is the duty of the believers to depose any leader who falls into error. This second principle had profound implications for Kharijite theology. Applying these ideas to the early history of the caliphate, Kharijites only accept Abu Bakr and 'Umar as legitimate caliphs. Of 'Uthman's caliphate they recognize only the first six years as legitimate, and they reject 'Ali altogether.
By the time that Ibn al-Muqaffa' wrote his political treatise early in the 'Abassid period, the Kharijites were no longer a significant political threat, at least in the Islamic heartlands. The memory of the menace they had posed to Muslim unity and of the moral challenge generated by their pious idealism still weighed heavily on Muslim political and religious thought, however. Even if the Kharijites could no longer threaten, their ghosts still had to be answered. The Ibadis are the only Kharijite group to surivive into modern times.
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Reaction to European colonialism
In the 19th century, European colonization of the Muslim world coincided with the French conquest of Algeria (1830), the fall of the Mughal Empire in India (1857), the Russian incursions into the Caucasus (1828) and Central Asia (1830-1895), and ultimately in the 20th century with the defeat and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire (1908–1922), to which the Ottoman officer and Turkish revolutionary statesman Mustafa Kemal Atatürk had an instrumental role in ending and replacing it with the Republic of Turkey, a modern, secular democracy (see Abolition of the Caliphate, Abolition of the Ottoman sultanate, Kemalism, and Secularism in Turkey).
The first Muslim reaction to European colonization was of "peasant and religious", not urban origin. "Charismatic leaders", generally members of the ulama or leaders of religious orders, launched the call for jihad and formed tribal coalitions. Sharia, in defiance of local common law, was imposed to unify tribes. Examples include Abd al-Qadir in Algeria, Muhammad Ahmad in Sudan, Shamil in the Caucasus, the Senussi in Libya and Chad, Mullah-i Lang in Afghanistan, the Akhund of Swat in India, and later, Abd al-Karim in Morocco. All these movements eventually failed "despite spectacular victories such as the massacre of the British army in Afghanistan in 1842 and the taking of Kharoum in 1885."
The second Muslim reaction to European encroachment later in the century and early 20th century was not violent resistance but the adoption of some Western political, social, cultural and technological ways. Members of the urban elite, particularly in Egypt, Iran, and Turkey advocated and practiced "Westernization".
The failure of the attempts at political westernization, according to some, was exemplified by the Tanzimat reorganization of the Ottoman rulers. Sharia was codified into law (which was called the Mecelle) and an elected legislature was established to make law. These steps took away the ulama's role of "discovering" the law and the formerly powerful scholar class weakened and withered into religious functionaries, while the legislature was suspended less than a year after its inauguration and never recovered to replace the Ulama as a separate "branch" of government providing separation of powers. The "paradigm of the executive as a force unchecked by either the sharia of the scholars or the popular authority of an elected legislature became the dominant paradigm in most of the Sunni Muslim world in the 20th century."
Modern political ideal of the Islamic state
In addition to the legitimacy given by medieval scholarly opinion, nostalgia for the days of successful Islamic empires simmered under later Western colonialism. This nostalgia played a major role in the Islamist political ideal of the Islamic state, a state in which Islamic law is preeminent. The Islamist political program is generally to be accomplished by re-shaping the governments of existing Muslim nation-states; but the means of doing this varies greatly across movements and circumstances. Many democratic Islamist movements, such as the Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim Brotherhood, have used the democratic process and focus on votes and coalition-building with other political parties.
Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian Islamist ideologue and prominent figurehead of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, was influential in promoting the Pan-Islamist ideology in the 1960s. When he was executed by the Egyptian government under the regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ayman al-Zawahiri formed the organization Egyptian Islamic Jihad to replace the government with an Islamic state that would reflect Qutb's ideas for the Islamic revival that he yearned for. The Qutbist ideology has been influential on jihadist movements and Islamic terrorists that seek to overthrow secular governments, most notably Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri of al-Qaeda.
Radical Islamic movements such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban embrace the militant Islamist ideology, and were prominent for being part of the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan during the 1980s. Both of the aforementioned militant Islamist groups had a role to play in the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, presenting both "near" and "far" enemies asregional governments and the United States respectively. They also took part in the bombings in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005. The recruits often came from the ranks of jihadists, from Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco.
Compatibility with democracy
General Muslim views
- Advocacy of democratic ideas, often accompanied by a belief that they are compatible with Islam, which can play a public role within a democratic system, as exemplified by many protestors who took part in the Arab Spring uprisings;
- Support for democratic procedures such as elections, combined with religious or moral objections toward some aspects of Western democracy seen as incompatible with sharia, as exemplified by Islamic scholars like Yusuf al-Qaradawi;
- Rejection of democracy as a Western import and advocacy of traditional Islamic institutions, such as shura (consultation) and ijma (consensus), as exemplified by supporters of absolute monarchy and radical Islamist movements;
- Belief that democracy requires restricting religion to private life, held by a minority in the Muslim world.
Polls conducted by Gallup and Pew Research Center in Muslim-majority countries indicate that most Muslims see no contradiction between democratic values and religious principles, desiring neither a theocracy, nor a secular democracy, but rather a political model where democratic institutions and values can coexist with the values and principles of sharia.
Islamic political theories
Muslih and Browers identify three major perspectives on democracy among prominent Muslims thinkers who have sought to develop modern, distinctly Islamic theories of socio-political organization conforming to Islamic values and law:
- The rejectionist Islamic view, elaborated by Muhammad Rashid Rida, Sayyid Qutb and Abul A'la Maududi, condemns imitation of foreign ideas, drawing a distinction between Western democracy and the Islamic doctrine of shura (consultation between ruler and ruled). This perspective, which stresses comprehensive implementation of sharia, was widespread in the 1970s and 1980s among various movements seeking to establish an Islamic state, but its popularity has diminished in recent years.
- The moderate Islamic view stresses the concepts of maslaha (public interest), ʿadl (justice), and shura. Islamic leaders are considered to uphold justice if they promote public interest, as defined through shura. In this view, shura provides the basis for representative government institutions that are similar to Western democracy, but reflect Islamic rather than Western liberal values. Hasan al-Turabi, Rashid al-Ghannushi, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi have advocated different forms of this view.
- The liberal Islamic view is influenced by Muhammad Abduh's emphasis on the role of reason in understanding religion. It stresses democratic principles based on pluralism and freedom of thought. Authors like Fahmi Huwaidi and Tariq al-Bishri have constructed Islamic justifications for full citizenship of non-Muslims in an Islamic state by drawing on early Islamic texts. Others, like Mohammed Arkoun and Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, have justified pluralism and freedom through non-literalist approaches to textual interpretation. Abdolkarim Soroush has argued for a "religious democracy" based on religious thought that is democratic, tolerant, and just. Islamic liberals argue for the necessity of constant reexamination of religious understanding, which can only be done in a democratic context.
20th and 21st centuries
Following World War I, the defeat and dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, and the subsequent abolition of the Caliphate by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (founder of Turkey), many Muslims perceived that the political power of their religion was in retreat. There was also concern that Western ideas and influence were spreading throughout Muslim societies. This led to considerable resentment of the influence of the European powers. The Muslim Brotherhood was created in Egypt as a movement to resist and harry the British.
Between the 1950s and the 1960s, the predominant ideology within the Arab world was pan-Arabism, which de-emphasized religion and encouraged the creation of socialist, secular states based on Arab nationalist ideologies such as Nasserism and Baathism rather than Islam. However, governments based on Arab nationalism have found themselves facing economic stagnation and disorder. Increasingly, the borders of these states were seen as artificial colonial creations - which they were, having literally been drawn on a map by European colonial powers.
Today, many Islamist and Islamic democratic political parties exist in most Muslim-majority countries, alongside numerous insurgent Islamic extremist, militant Islamist, and terrorist movements and organizations. Both of the following terms, Islamic democracy and Islamic fundamentalism, lump together a large variety of political groups with varying aims, histories, ideologies, and backgrounds.
Some common political currents in Islam include:
- Sunni Traditionalism, which accepts traditional commentaries on the Quran, hadith literature, and sunnah, and "takes as its basic principle imitation (taqlid), that is, refusal to innovate", follows one of the four legal schools or Madh'hab (Shafiʽi, Maliki, Hanafi, Hanbali), and may include Sufism. An example of Sufi traditionalism is the Barelvi school in Pakistan.
- Fundamentalist reformism or revivalism, which criticizes the Islamic scholastic tradition, the commentaries, popular religious practices such as visitation to and veneration of the shrines and tombs of Muslim saints, perceived deviations and superstitions; it aims to return to the founding scriptures of Islam. This fundamentalist reformism generally developed in response to a perceived external threat (for example, the influence of Hinduism on Islam). 18th-century examples of fundamentalist Muslim reformers are Shah Waliullah Dehlawi in British India and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the Arabian peninsula, founder of the Islamic doctrine and movement known as Wahhabism. Salafism and Wahhabism worldwide, the Deobandi school in South Asia (mainly Pakistan and Afghanistan), Ahl-i Hadith and Tablighi Jamaat in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Pakistan are modern examples of fundamentalist reformism and revivalism.
- Islamism or political Islam, embracing a return to the sharia or Islamic law but adopting Western terminology such as revolution, ideology, politics, and democracy, and taking a more liberal attitude towards issues like jihad and women's rights. Contemporary examples include the Jamaat-e-Islami, Muslim Brotherhood, Iranian Islamic Revolution, Masyumi party, United Malays National Organisation, Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party and Justice and Development Party (Turkey).
- Liberal and progressive movements within Islam generally define themselves in opposition to Islamist and Islamic fundamentalist political movements, but often embrace many of their anti-imperialist and Islam-inspired liberal reformist elements. Liberal Muslims affirm the promotion of progressive values such as democracy, gender equality, human rights, LGBT rights, women's rights, religious pluralism, interfaith marriage, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and freedom of religion; opposition to theocracy and total rejection of Islamism and Islamic fundamentalism; and a modern view of Islamic theology, ethics, sharia, culture, tradition, and other ritualistic practices in Islam. Liberal Islam emphasizes the re-interpretation of the Islamic scriptures in order to preserve their relevance in the 21st century.
Sunni and Shia differences
According to scholar Vali Nasr, political tendencies of Sunni and Shia Islamic ideology differ, with Sunni Islamic revivalism "in Pakistan and much of the Arab world" being "far from politically revolutionary", while Shia political Islam is strongly influenced by Ruhollah Khomeini and his talk of the oppression of the poor and class war. Sunni revivalism "is rooted in conservative religious impulses and the bazaars, mixing mercantile interests with religious values." ... Khomeini's version of Islamism engaged the poor and spoke of class war.
This Cleavage between fundamentalism as revivalism and fundamentalism as revolution was deep and for a long while coincided closely with the sectarian divide between the Sunnis - the Muslim world's traditional `haves`, concerned more with conservative religiosity - and the Shia - the longtime outsiders,` more drawn to radical dreaming and scheming."
Graham Fuller has also noted that he found "no mainstream Islamist organization (with the exception of [shia] Iran) with radical social views or a revolutionary approach to the social order apart from the imposition of legal justice."
- Islam and secularism
- Islam and war
- Islam Yes, Islamic Party No
- Islamic democracy
- Islamic extremism
- Islamic revival
- List of Islamic democratic political parties
- Modern Islamic philosophy
- Peace in Islamic philosophy
- Political philosophy of the Islamic Golden Age
- Political quietism in Islam
- Transformation of the Ottoman Empire
- W.M. Watt argues that the initial agreement was shortly after the hijra and the document was amended at a later date specifically after the battle of Badr (AH [anno hijra] 2, = AD 624).
- R. B. Serjeant argues that the constitution is in fact eight different treaties which can be dated according to events as they transpired in Medina with the first treaty being written shortly after Muhammad's arrival.  
- Julius Wellhausen argues that the document is a single treaty agreed upon shortly after the hijra, and that it belongs to the first year of Muhammad’s residence in Medina, before the battle of Badr in 2/624. Wellhausen bases this judgement on three considerations; first Muhammad is very diffident about his own position, he accepts the Pagan tribes within the Umma, and maintains the Jewish clans as clients of the Ansars
- Moshe Gil, a skeptic of Islamic history, argues that it was written within five months of Muhammad's arrival in Medina.
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- see same article in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 41 (1978): 18 ff. See also Caetani. Annali dell’Islam, Volume I. Milano: Hoepli, 1905, p.393.
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- Feldman, Noah, Fall and Rise of the Islamic State, Princeton University Press, 2008, p.79
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- Moussalli, Ahmad S. (2012). "Sayyid Qutb: Founder of Radical Islamic Political Ideology". In Akbarzadeh, Shahram (ed.). Routledge Handbook of Political Islam (1st ed.). London and New York: Routledge. pp. 24–26. ISBN 9781138577824. LCCN 2011025970.
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The following sources generally prescribe to the theory that there is a distinct 20th-century movement called Islamism:
- "Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Islam for Jews" Khalid Duran with Abdelwahab Hechiche, The American Jewish Committee and Ktav, 2001
- "The Islamism Debate" Martin Kramer, 1997, which includes the chapter The Mismeasure of Political Islam
- "Liberal Islam: A Sourcebook", Charles Kurzman, Oxford University Press, 1998
- "The Challenge of Fundamentalism: Political Islam and the New World Disorder", Bassam Tibi, Univ. of California Press, 1998
The following sources challenge the notion of an "Islamist movement":
- Edward Said, Orientalism
- Merryl Wyn Davies, Beyond Frontiers: Islam and Contemporary Needs
- G. H. Jansen, Militant Islam, 1980
- Hamid Enyat, Modern Islamic Political Thought
These authors in general locate the issues of Islamic political intolerance and fanaticism not in Islam, but in the generally low level of awareness of Islam's own mechanisms for dealing with these, among modern believers, in part a result of Islam being suppressed prior to modern times.
On democracy in the Middle East, the role of Islamist political parties and the War on Terrorism:
- Ayoob, Mohammed. The Many Faces of Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Muslim World. University of Michigan Press, 2007.
- Blecher, Robert "Free People Will Set the Course of History: Intellectuals, Democracy and American Empire", Middle East Report (March 2003).
- Remarks by the President at the 20th Anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy, United States Chamber of Commerce, Washington, D.C., "President Bush Discusses Freedom in Iraq and Middle East", 6 November 2003.
- Fisk, Robert "What Does Democracy Really Mean In The Middle East? Whatever the West Decides", The Independent, 8 August 2005.
- Gambill, Gary "Jumpstarting Arab Reform: The Bush Administration's Greater Middle East Initiative", Middle East Intelligence Bulletin (Vol. 6, No. 6-7, June/July 2004).
- Gergez, Fawaz "Is Democracy in the Middle East a Pipedream?", Yale Global Online, April 25, 2005.
- Hayajneh, Adnan M. "The U.S. Strategy: Democracy and Internal Stability in the Arab World", Alternatives (Volume 3, No. 2 & 3, Summer/Fall 2004).
- Marina Ottoway, et al., "Democratic Mirage in the Middle East", Carnegie Endowment for Ethics and International Peace, Policy Brief 20 (October 20, 2002).
- Marina Ottoway and Thomas Carothers, "Think Again: Middle East Democracy", Foreign Policy (Nov./Dec. 2004).
- Raja, Masood Ashraf. "Muslim Modernity: Poetics, Politics, and Metaphysics". Gabriele Marranci, ed. Muslim Societies and the Challenge of Secularization: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Aberdeen: Springer, 2010: 99–112.
- Wright, Steven (2007). The United States and Persian Gulf Security: The Foundations of the War on Terror. Ithaca Press. ISBN 978-0-86372-321-6.
- Islam and Politics from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
- Liberal Democracy and Political Islam: The Search for Common Ground
- The Ideology of Terrorism and Violence in Saudi Arabia: Origins, Reasons and Solution
- Evaluating the Islamist movement by Greg Noakes, an American Muslim who works at the Washington Report.
- Muslim scholars face down fanaticism by Aicha Lemsine, an Algerian journalist and author.
- Peter Krogh discuses Islam and politics with John L. Esposito and Mary Jane Deeb on Great Decisions (1994).