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Civil Society and Islam

Civil Society and Islam

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Published by Peminggir Kota
The answer to the question, “what is good life?” would lead to the concept of ‘civil society’. But, according to Asha Mukherjee, answering this question satisfactorily needs that we first agrees as to what should be counted as good life. He said, “We find that ‘good life’ has an inbuilt two dimensions, the individualistic as well as social.”
The answer to the question, “what is good life?” would lead to the concept of ‘civil society’. But, according to Asha Mukherjee, answering this question satisfactorily needs that we first agrees as to what should be counted as good life. He said, “We find that ‘good life’ has an inbuilt two dimensions, the individualistic as well as social.”

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Published by: Peminggir Kota on Nov 11, 2010
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1
CIVIL SOCIETY AND ISLAM
 Mohammad Fazril Bin Mohd Saleh International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)
INTRODUCTION
A society is a basic unit of human civilization and culture, where these two play a vital role.From time immemorial human beings are tied in social relationship to one another.
1
Nowadays socialstatus has taken on a new dimension according to the needs and requirement of the society. Theprimitive cultures and civilizations are very simple, therefore their society was also simple and now,society becomes more and more complex, apparently its complexity is at its zenith.
Although we live in „civilized‟ world today with electronic wave system, satellite
communications and wonderful devices which are supplying amazing comfort in the terrestrial life,but still we are not in peace. A
s criticized by Sirajul Islam: “
ever imminent war, scarcity of morality,degradation of values, slackening of human rights and so on are peeping in at our doors everymoment 
.”
2
 
Therefore, we feel the need of „civil society‟, so that our 
good life, civilization and culturemay be preserved.Actually, the intention of this paper is to discuss briefly about the civil society, its concept, andIslamic evaluation on it. This paper will firstly look upon the concept of civil society which will bedefined in the light of philosophers, thinkers, and political scientists. Also, there will be a case study of civil society in Indonesia particularly on the period of post-
„new order era‟
. Meanwhile, the Islamicevaluation on the concept of civil society will be the last sub-topic of this term-paper.
THE CONCEPT OF CIVIL SOCIETY
 
The answer to the question, “what is good life?” would lead to the concept of „civil society‟.
3
 But, according to Asha Mukherjee, answering this question satisfactorily needs that we first agrees as
to what should be counted as good life. He said, “
We
 find that „good life‟ has an inbuilt two
1
 
Sirajul Islam, “Civil Society, Solidarity and Social Reformation in The Sufi Perspective”,
Civil Society as Democratic Practice,
edi. byAntonio F. Perez, Semou Pathe Gueye & Fenggang Yang, (USA: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2005), pg. 223,
hereinafter cited as “Civil Society, Solidarity and Social Reformation in The Sufi Perspective”
 
2
 
Ibid.
 
3
 
Asha Mukherjee, “Civil Society: A Transpositional Understanding”,
Civil Society as Democratic Practice,
edi. by Antonio F. Perez,Semou Pathe Gueye & Fenggang Yang, (USA: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2005), pg. 257, hereinafter cited as
“Civil Society: A Transpositional Understanding”
 
 
2
dimensions, the individualistic as well as social
.”
4
Meanwhile, l
ooking on the term „civil society‟ in
the modern perspective, Moten and Islam mentioned that the term is a peculiarly modern conceptwhich was neglected for most of the 20
th
century in the West (particularly in the Western Europe),though it was commonly used in Marxist terminology and some of its derivatives and the term becamepopular in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
5
 
In contemporary academic exploration, „civil society‟ as defined by Cohen and Arato, is
usually defined to refer to the level of governance between the state and the governed.
6
It includes, butis not limited to, non-government organizations involved in service delivery and advocacy activities,charitable organizations, private foundations, professional associations, social movements and activistnetworks. As insisted by Helen James, the key common denominator with all these groups is that they
 be „not for profit‟, and seek to achieve their objectives through non
-violent methods.
7
 Meanwhile for Philip Oxhorn, the civil society expert who focuses his analysis and studies of civil society in Latin America said:
G
iven the concept‟s close association with Western history and 
 political thought, its applicability to other regions such as Latin America is often hotly debated 
.
8
 Therefore, he def 
ined civil society as „the social fabric formed by a multiplicity of self 
-constitutedterritorially and functionally-based units which peacefully coexist and collectively resist subordinationto the state, at the same time that they demand inclusion into n
ational political structure‟.
9
 Even though the concept of civil society has largely flourished from the 18
th
century (in thetime of early modern thought of  
) and onward, but it is not a new concept. Sirajul
Islam proved that the concept of civil society had been expounded in ancient Greece. Plato‟s
 Republic
offers vivid instances of civil society and justice.
10
Even, Socrates also advised eachcitizen to maintain civil laws and principles of the society, because, as a good citizen of a particularstate, it is his moral obligation to obey the law of his state. However, their civil society was basicallyconfined to the political theory.
11
 
In “The Republic”, Plato maintained that government, whether it is
4
 
Ibid.
 
5
Moten and Islam,
Introduction to Political Science 3
rd 
Edition
, (Singapore: Cengage Learning Asia, 2009), pg. 369, hereinafter cited as
Introduction to Political Science 3
rd 
Edition
 
6
Cohen and Arato,
Civil Society and Political Theory 
(London: MIT Press, 1992)
7
 
Helen James, “Civil Society, Religion and Global Governance: The Power and Persuasiveness of Civil Society”,
Civil Society, Religionand Global Governance: Paradigms of Power and Persuasion
, ed. by Helen James (London & NY: Routledge, 2007), pg. 3, hereinafter
cited as “Civil Society, Religion and Global Governance: The Power and Persuasiveness of Civil Society”
 
8
 
Philip Oxhorn, “Citizenship as Consumption or Citizenship as Agency? : The Challenge for Civil society in Latin America”
Civil Society,Religion and Global Governance: Paradigms of Power and Persuasion
, ed. by Helen James (London & NY: Routledge, 2007), pg. 101,hereinafter cited as
“Citizenship as Consumption or Citizenship as Agency? : The Challenge for Civil society in Latin America”
 
9
 
Ibid.
 
10
 
Sirajul Islam, “Civil Society, Solidarity and Social Reformation in The Sufi Perspective”,
Civil Society as Democratic Practice,
pg. 224
11
David Miller,
The Blackwell encyclopedia of Political Thought 
, (London: Blackwell, 1994), pg. 77
 
3
ruled by the king or the military, the people or the tyrant, should treat society in a reasonable way, asan image of the individual and people will be the sole composer of that regime.
12
 
Meanwhile, the „social concept‟ theory developed by Thomas Hobbes is basically signifies the
associations
of the people which is the necessary part of the civil society. In his book “
 Leviathan
”, hesaid: “human beings in the state o
f nature are determined by the necessity of the mechanics of theirbodies to pursue their own good, even at the expense of others and cannot be blamed for pursuing that
to which nature impels them.”
13
According to him, human beings come together because they needeach other to be complete, also for the social conditions necessary to bring out happiness andfulfillment.
14
 Afterward, Hegel, Toqueville, Marx, and Gramsci, all spoke about civil society in the politicalor economical sense.
15
 Hegelgave rise to a modernliberalunderstanding of the concept of civil society as a form of marketsociety as opposed to institutions of modernnation state.
16
He consideredcivil society as a separate realm, a "system of needs", that stood for the satisfaction of individualinterests and private property. Hence, he used the German term "
burgerliche Gesellschaft 
" to denotecivil society as "civilian society". Then,Alexis de Tocquevilleput weight on the system of civilianand political associations as a counterbalance to both liberal individualism and centralization of thestate. Hence, Hegel's perception of social reality was followed in general by Tocqueville whodistinguished betweenpolitical societyand civil society.
17
 
Meanwhile, for Karl Marx, civil society was the
where productive forces and social
relations were taking place, whereas political society was the'superstructure'.
18
Agreeing with the link between capitalism and civil society, Marx held that the latter represents the interests of thebourgeoisie. Therefore, the state as superstructure also represents the interests of the dominant class;under capitalism, it maintains the domination of the bourgeoisie.
19
Hence, Marx rejected the positiverole of state put forth by Hegel. Marx argued that the state cannot be a neutral problem solver. Rather,he depicted the state as the defender of the interests of the bourgeoisie. He considered the state andcivil society as the executive arms of the bourgeoisie; therefore, both should wither away.
20
 
12
 
Sirajul Islam, “Civil Society, Solidarity and Social Reformation in The Sufi Perspective”,
Civil Society as Democratic Practice,
pg. 225
13
Michael Goldman (ed.),
 Journal of Teaching Philosophy 
(USA: Miami University, 1997), ed. 20:2, June, pg. 122
14
 
Ibid.
 
15
 
Sirajul Islam, “Civil Society, Solidarity and Social Reformation in The Sufi Perspective”,
Civil Society as Democratic Practice,
pg. 225
16
Zaleski, Pawel, "Tocqueville on Civilian Society. A Romantic Vision of the Dichotomic Structure of Social Reality",
 Archiv fur Begriffsgeschichte
(Germany: Felix Meiner Verlag, 2008), pg. 50
17
 
Ibid.
 
18
 
Ibid.
 
19
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/civil_society
20
 
Ibid.
 

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