[PT 7.

3 (2006) 337-350]

Political Theology (print) ISSN 1462-317X Political Theology (online) ISSN 1473-1719

ISLAM: ISSUES OF POLITICAL AUTHORITY AND PLURALISM Mona Siddiqui
Dept. of Theology and Religious Studies University of Glasgow G12 8QQ Scotland msi@arts.gla.ac.uk

ABSTRACT
Islam and the Muslim world are very much part of the current discussions on religion and global politics. This article looks at some of the more general debates about the gradual rise of Islam in the public and political consciousness. It is not a systematic analysis of Islamic political systems or political thought nor a discussion about key thinkers of the last century. It does, however, provide a glimpse into diverse views about leadership and governance in early and more recent Islamic history. The article concentrates more on Sunni Islam though the author is well aware that this is not the normative tradition in some parts of the Muslim world. Within the context of this diversity, it looks at issues of religious diversity and how they fit into current debates about inter-religious dialogue and pluralism.

Islam and Recent Global Events

The current definition of religion is the product of a particular history in which religion is a distinct sphere of life.1 It is one where religion is understood as a self-contained unit of social life, which can be detached and made distinct from the social order.2 Since 9/11 it has become a common assumption amongst many scholars, public bodies and the media that religion has resurfaced in public life as a force to be reckoned with. It is as if religion has only recently pushed its way forward from the private realm to be part of the public psyche against all odds, demanding recognition in society and in politics. But religion or religious faith broadly understood in the world’s major traditions never was simply a private issue. It is simply that in the West, over the last thirty years or so,
1. Bernard Lewis, Islam and the West (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 28–29. 2. Talal Asad, Genealogies of Religion: Disciplines and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 27–30.
© Equinox Publishing Ltd 2006, Unit 6, The Village, 101 Amies Street, London SW11 2JW.

would win the day if American military might did not take steps to curb what they perceived as a real and global threat. which even if practised by a few.338 Political Theology we had become accustomed to measuring religious belief by certain visible criteria such as attendance at churches. politics and society. Though the usefulness and relevance of such phrases such as the “clash of civilizations” or “Islam and the West” all of which fundamentally express a false bipolarity between Muslims and Westerners should be strongly contested. North America. This trend was unproblematic for it seemed to fit the liberal democracies of western Europe. In the case of Islam. October 15. The October 15th edition of Newsweek captured this concern vividly in its cover: “Why they hate us—the roots of Islamic rage and what we can do about it. more precisely an anti-American force. namely Islam. As Robert 3.” Newsweek. was largely within private space and thus not so visible. still broadly but officially Christian. it was equated along with other factors as signs of an increasing secularization in society—a rapid fall in observation of formal religion. at the centre of conflict and debate. . The “us” is the West. 2001. A sharp distinction between the two worlds is not intended but the article draws attention to a general discourse which pits the Muslim world against the West. What September 11th managed to do was convince many onlookers that religious expression could quite easily be equated with religious fanaticism.”3 The “they” refers specifically to Osama Bin Laden and his circle but warns also of million of Muslims who admire his anti-American ideology. it had been on a gradual rise for many years. as many observers have noted. different religions were and have been on the rise over the past few decades in almost every part of the world except in western Europe—in South America. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2006. Fareed Zakaria. the impact of religions other than Christianity was not quite as relevant in our social structures for they belonged to the culture and ideologue of the other. Buddhist Asia. However. Religion did not re-appear suddenly after 9/11. however different. and as this attendance declined. of course. Yet. but also the political aftermath that have kept religion. In this assessment. the other whose religious allegiance. Muslim fanaticism was an anti-western expression. “The Politics of Rage. with America lying at the heart of this cultural entity. Despite this observation. Hindu India. these concepts have again been revived because of the 9/11 attacks and continue to lie at the basis of so much discussion on faith. even if they do not agree with his terrorist methods. Pakistan and other Muslim countries and. number of church weddings etc. the major shift has been that 9/11 has pushed religious discourse to the level of political discourse in the western world. it was not simply the nature of the attacks themselves.

A quick recap will highlight what is meant by the events and images around Islam that have shaped much of the public discourse. al-Qaeda and its affiliates. began to be applied to Islam and its adherents.” paper presented at The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Institute on Religion and World Affairs. not fundamentally as a theological imperative.4 The discussions are often exacerbated by the simple fact that at a political and popular level.Siddiqui Islam: Issues of Political Authority and Pluralism 339 Hefner writes. September 17. which adhered to Christian doctrine based on a literal interpretation of the Bible. Washington. in their collaboration with the Taliban. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2006. 2003. mass of people sharing a faith that seemed to go against the very principles of what the western world stood for. some apathy reigned for religious affiliation which was not associated with the turbulent images that one saw or read about. “Muslim Politics and US Policies: Prospects for Pluralism and Democracy in the Muslim World. Notions of jihad (martyrdom) and hijab (veiling) became synonymous with Islam. If religious pluralism is promoted here. there 4. it is promoted as a social and ethical virtue. 8–9. Robert Hefner. The surprising element in all this is that over the last thirty years or so. the Christian world has become synonymous with the western world where religion and politics are seen to be separate. . From the post-Enlightenment period. This could be perceived as a good thing if the explanation was that the western world accepted Islam on its soil but in fact the western world at least at a popular level was largely indifferent to the Muslims living on its soil— they formed part of a migratory community that had brought a religion with them. parochials who had emerged from one of the most regressive states in the Muslim world. there has effectively been so little knowledge of Islam as a faith and as a cultural force in the West for so long. and the Muslim community was perceived as a monolith. Muslim culture and Muslim politics have become a major concern within local and global politics. in one swoop. a religion which was certainly not a threat but rather a largely uncontested attribute of a large proportion of the immigrants. Furthermore. DC. The term “fundamentalist. middle-class and well-educated. Since the Iranian revolution of 1979. had given radical Islam a new image and local extremists a disproportionate influence. Indeed this is even more curious when one reflects that it is precisely these images that have been the major insight for many into the Muslim world. despite the fairly violent images associated with Islam or Muslim countries. There was no mention then that this word had crossed over from the description of a late nineteenth-century trans-denominational Protestant movement from the American south.” hitherto foreign to the Islamic world. the evolutionary product of good democracies.

The language that was describing events was paltry and inadequate but there was not enough time. American and western intervention also alerted the Muslim world and the international community to global interdependence. lost in the political rhetoric. Again. following the publication of The Satanic Verses in 1988. all that mattered was that the grievance had to be projected. This was again evident in the Balkan crisis when Europe saw what many defined as a war of religions on its own soil for the first time in decades. to inquire into the nature of Muslim communities nor Islam as a faith. The word fatwa bounced off in all directions. The few words that the media had picked up for them encapsulated the Muslim world and the realization that the Muslim presence in Europe was not a recent phenomenon but had a much richer and varied past stood in stark contrast to the new reality where the Islamic faith and Muslims were encroaching further and further onto the © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2006. Ethnic cleansing was a much debated term and Muslims again saw themselves as a global entity desperate in their political weakness. wretched and united in their sympathies towards their fellow coreligionists. less violence and less authoritarian and unilateral action. nor for that matter inclination. It did not matter that the word was being misused even abused. not a death penalty. the publishers Penguin facing threats and. again brought dramatic images of Islam on to our screens when the world saw books being burnt. the zeal and passion of those who wanted to kill Rushdie meant that Islam came with the most violent images and extreme language. it could pave the way for better political understanding. Television reports flashed images of Bosnian Muslim lying slaughtered and once again the Muslim world watched. tried to explain and saw itself cornered. hijacked by the media which failed to understand that fatwa was only a legal opinion. The Rushdie Affair.340 Political Theology was little or no recognition of the fact that the reforms and revolutions that were taking place in Muslim countries were being spearheaded by the urban elite. the global consciousness of a new Islamic term fatwa (opinion of a jurist-scholar on an ethical or legal matter). Muslims dying in clashes. The Gulf war highlighted the perennial problem that western political debate has with the Islamic world which is that so much of the Arab world is ruled by dictatorships and that were there to be any semblance of democracy anywhere in the Arab world. most importantly. unable to comprehend. . and by the Muslim masses both Sunni and Shi’i who were not concerned with religious debate or legalities but only punitive action against the blasphemer. those very people who had distinguished themselves through western education and carried their hopes and aspirations with them to Muslim lands.

Muslim communities are themselves often reluctant to engage in the complex social debates. 2001 awoke Americans along with the rest of the world to the simple fact that global communications meant that the attack on the twin towers was being watched in secret caves as well as on television screens in the most technologically advanced cities of the world. and the subsequent rules by the © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2006. outside the political clamour. to his Prophet and to those “charged with authority upon you” (Q 4:59) which was taken to mean by some exegetes to mean those with knowledge and righteousness who would lead the Muslim community forward. the idea of political institutions and political authority. came not from the Qur’an as from the experience of the faithful in the early Medinan communities. irrespective of political and social practice. It is true that the Qur’an speaks of obedience to God. that are crucial to the progress. It also brought in the most dramatic way a new concept of terror that was again equated however cautiously with Islam and more specifically with Muslim politics. even in the post-Prophetic period. Yet. Thus. if we look to the text of the Qur’an itself. Conversely. . What Kind of Political Rule? The perception among many people is that the political structure of the vast majority of Muslim countries is based on some scriptural or traditional principles. was nonetheless going to be attacked. the period of the conquests and expansion of Islam. in terms of administering peoples and resources and legislating a socio-political order. The more recent invasion of Iraq brings us up to date with this tortuous process through which it has become apparent to many that our awareness of the Muslim world in some way is not only superficial but that our assessments often initiate a distorted and emotive reaction. Quite how to engage with Islam has become a problem not only through political correctness but quite simply because the faith comes with the politics and the politics appears to be riddled with problems including theological issues.Siddiqui Islam: Issues of Political Authority and Pluralism 341 international political and thereby ideological arenas of western societies and cultures. cohesion and development of Muslim life and thought in the West. in real terms what it meant was that a rural and ravaged land that had Muslim believers. The subsequent war in Afghanistan was pitched as a war against terrorism and though most of us knew that terrorism knew no language nor faith but exerted itself through the silent but extreme discontent of a few. The events of September 11. by responding predominantly to the global interpretations that are set upon them and that seem to define them.

The Qur’an may well speak of submission to God and life of faith but in no way draws out any description of contemporary ideas of theocracy. It is as if prophets are sent from the heavenly courts so that there is direct connection between them and God. the words siyasa (governance) and nizam (political order) are actually absent from the Qur’an with the idea of all kingdom and dominion either terrestrial or celestial belonging to God as the supreme arbiter—al-hakim. it has always been a community’s disobedience that has led to its destruction and demise. political authority was very much an organic growth with no direct prescription from the Qur’an. however. his son-in law and cousin. There is. In fact the Sunni-Shi’i split is the first time in early Islam in which an alternative political vision was presented.342 Political Theology caliphs. however. Ultimately. IX (New York: State University of New York Press. the Qur’an itself does not point directly to any institution of the caliphate into which the title subsequently evolved. the highest moral standards must apply. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2006. Sunnism solidified around 800 AD claiming that authority and orthodoxy lay in 5. contested by the Shi’is who claim that the prophet had designated ‘Ali. But the precise nature of the relationship between correct rule and Divine will remains elusive in the Qur’an. Intertwined in all this. as his rightful heir before his death. mean that either Sunnism or Shi’ism had at that stage developed fully a distinct vision of leadership. the title adopted to designate the head of Muslim polity. there is a strong recurrent theme in the Qur’an that man also has the duty of meting out justice. . Nevertheless. 192–98. Although the word caliph. is the concept that man has a certain covenant with God which is to attain social and moral prosperity and this he can only do in obedience to Divine will and prophetic guidance. The Prophet Muhammed had not left any particular instructions about governance prior to his death in 632 and Abu Bakr’s eventual success to leadership seems to have resulted from general support and acclamation of those closest to him. Ismail K Poonawal. democracy or monarchy. Furthermore. What it does do is lay out very much two essential themes—that God is the final arbiter of all human affairs and that obedience to God’s prophets has been an historical imperative for the well-being of communities. the affirmation that God teaches and bestows knowledge upon whomsoever with a more general exhortation to all men.5 This is. and in arbitration and ending conflict. namely ‘Ali and Umar. It does not. The History of al-Tabari. ed. “Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good and enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong” (Q 3:104). however. however. 1990). vol.. is mentioned in the Qur’an.

was not the most important protector of the Prophet’s legacy. Shi’ism. which remains a significant minority of the whole Muslim tradition. The real source of unity was the broad agreement of the community on certain ideals and principles—ideals and principles that found their finest expression in the institutions of Islamic law. under the patronage of the Abbasids. their frustration with ‘Ali’s rule. but the role of the imam as the spiritual leader has remained central to Shi’i thought and devotion. As Daniel Brown writes: Al-Mawardi knew that it was not the caliph who maintained the unity of the Islamic world in the face of its apparent political disintegration. lay its authority in its imams. 7. had written his celebrated Ahkam al-Sultaniyya (Ordinances of Government). “The scholars are the heirs of the Prophet. all became issues for which they were prepared to create political turmoil and sacrifice their own lives. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2006. The religious scholars under the generic definition of ‘ulema were keen to be left to 6. Despite the rapid and rich spread of Islam during the time of the first two dynasties of Islam. Ummayads and the Abbasids. innovation and a general deviation from God’s will. the first political expression of “correct leadership” came in early Islam with the zeal of the Kharijites. despite this schism. The caliph as it turned out. Daniel Brown. on its part. their own rigorous moral codes and principles of egalitarianism and their contempt for the early Ummayad community in which they saw waywardness. Yet.6 Shi’ism.Siddiqui Islam: Issues of Political Authority and Pluralism 343 Prophetic precedent and the consensus of the community. who were seen as having superhuman qualities as God’s representatives on earth. subsequently split into various schools of thought around the nature and person of imam. 114. whose origins are traced to the Battle of Siffin in 657 AD. were keen to ensure that religious debate did not become politicized and that they did not end up becoming puppets of the rulers. the idea of caliphal rule as being the appropriate form of rule in Islam had not been outlined in any systematic way. This in turn created the general impression that state and religion were intertwined and that Muslim clergy were central to Muslim political rule.”7 Muslim jurists of the medieval period who were responsible for the elaboration of the shari’a through the expansive legal works of fiqh. Mawardi wrote at a time when the caliphate had been reduced to little more than a figurehead but what was important to maintain was the principle of the caliphate. . 2004). A New Introduction to Islam (Oxford: Blackwell. It was this mix of both political and theological processes which brought Khomeini to power under his theory of vilayat-I faqih. that the details of caliphal government and administration reflect a sophisticated political theory. It was not until Abu al-Hasan al-Mawardi (974–1058 AD). Their belief in the Qur’an and Sunna as the only authorities. rather as the tradition so eloquently testifies.

The rise of certain Islamisms within the historical framework of the Iranian revolution or the Taliban rule in Afghanistan has created a false impression that religion and the state are inseparable entities in the Muslim world. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2006. Intellectuals who wish to promote a revisioning of civil society with respect to education. often find that their words are drowned out in the din of such rhetoric. which ends up polarizing opinion or arousing emotional outbursts. Fiqh. pluralism etc.ssrc.” available at http://www. but their writings were not meant to form any coded legislation for the basis of an Islamic state. Farish Noor.org/sept11/essays/noor. economics. from the pilgrimage to dietary laws. Some of the jurists enjoyed the ruler’s patronage but their elitist position as religious scholars to whom the rulers could turn for advice has in fact remained in many parts of the Muslim world till this day. was still a human attempt to elaborate what might be God’s will and though it may have outlined ethical norms using the various tools at hand including scripture. . mullahs or public religious figures. no formal clergy or religious hierarchy ever developed as a social or political force. contrary to much popular thinking. Indeed. Real debate often becomes stifled in the process. This absence of a clerical order is one reason why contemporary scholars. But religious scholars did not govern and rule nor do they govern and rule today.8 In fact this has become a predicament for many Muslims at both a popular and scholarly level—how to address the pseudo-authoritative nature of many pronouncements made by so-called clerics whether they be imams. This was a period which saw the rise of Muslim activism in influential figures such as Syed Qutb. a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood and 8.htm. Many Muslim countries were free from western rule but their own governments were little more than authoritarian dictatorships where talk of free elections and democracy carried little meaning in reality.344 Political Theology expound God’s law on all matters from prayer to marriage. Their literary freedom and creative output were strengthened by the fact that in Sunni Islam at least. Some of the tensions of today have arisen from the vestiges of the postcolonial period of the 1940s onward. a feeling of impotence had set in. “The Evolution of ‘Jihad’ in Islamist Political Discourse: How a Plastic Concept became Harder. though a pious endeavour. such as Farish Noor. say the plasticity of religious discourse allows a concept such as jihad to be hijacked by all those who proclaim to be self-appointed defenders of Islamic orthodoxy. most Muslim societies are deeply divided over just who is qualified to speak as a religious authority and how seriously to take the pronouncements of individual scholars. it never ceased to be a fluid expression of the Divine will.

Issues of Pluralism Both for Islam and Christianity many of the challenges of the present are essentially about the challenges of what is loosely known as modernity. Religion became a refuge and a context for civil debate. mosques and madrasas grew. preachers. The debate is not that modernity should be viewed as antithetical to traditional religion or that cultural and sociological modernism is in itself a problem. Across neighbourhoods. who tried to © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2006.Siddiqui Islam: Issues of Political Authority and Pluralism 345 Abul ala-Maududi (1903–1978). But my concern with the religious and the secular is that these two positions should not be seen in opposition to each other as very often they traverse each other’s boundaries. I am aware that modernity has for the most part assumed a different understanding between the Muslim world which felt it most acutely through the colonial impact and the Christian West which embraced the challenges of modernity within the context of the Enlightenment. This new mobilization of Islam transported itself into the Muslim communities of the West as well. Social and cultural transformation meant that where the state could not provide the needs of the new masses. the creator of the Jamaat-I Islami party on the Indian subcontinent. and also bring very different approaches to our most complex human concerns. not to create political visions or to be used as a political or radical tool. Muslim societies are facing an intellectual impasse because they are failing to use the juridical process of the classical tradition which allows for new rulings in new circumstances in order for the faith to stay relevant and meaningfully alive. and religious terminology often presented the sharp contrast between the ideal Islamic society and contemporary societies. Despite the activism of leading thinkers in the middle of the twentieth century. There was more inexpensive literature available on Islam. . veiling and debates about veiling increased as did the discourse on gender in general. Modernity may be viewed in multiple ways.” the phrase at the heart of Alasdair MacIntyre’s works. people turned to alternative providers of public services in health and education. the writings of Hasan al-Turabi and Rachid al-Ghannushi point to the fundamental problem in Muslim thinking—the “epistemological crisis. It gradually became more visible. leading in the 1980s and 1990s to widespread growth of Muslim groups and youth movements. The important mobilizing factor of Islam at this stage was for the sake of improving society. More recently. but that the challenge of modernity lies in keeping alive a meaningful interface between the Divine and the secular. but it is also true that to some extent modernity has presented itself to each faith in historically different ways.

“Verily those who believe. Though this may appear an almost jaded phrase. . the constant theme that resonates amongst contemporary political and religious debates is whether Islam is compatible with western notions of democracy and pluralism. At a general level. “If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah). how one perceives past revelations in relation to the Qur’an. Diversity of views was the inevitable consequence arising from various passages of the Qur’an itself which constantly alludes to the religions of past and contemporary peoples. whoever believes in God and the last day and does good. how one perceives life with non-Muslims at a socio-legal level. Generally speaking. has argued with some passion about the variety of discourses that shaped early Muslim thought and practice vis-à-vis non-Muslims. Brill. these are the sorts of passages that have led to much of the debate about issues of religious pluralism. There is the well-recorded Prophetic hadith. 162. Passages such as the following: “He has laid down for you the religion which he enjoined upon Noah. “Had we willed we would have made you all one” (Q 11:118). In his Islamic Roots of Democratic Pluralism. and which We revealed to you. social and political. and lays excessive burdens on him. The Muslim faith grew within a context where Jews and Christians were already established religious communities. ed. J. believing in one God with their own scriptures. these passages can and have been interpreted in a variety of ways depending on how one understands the word and concept Islam. thereby acknowledging the existence and coexistence of Islam and other faiths. “On the Day of Judgement.346 Political Theology revitalize Islam as a comprehensive living reality in the modern age. Ahmad b. Abdulaziz Sachedina. they shall have their reward from their Lord” (Q 2:62).”9 For some. I myself will act as the accuser of any person who oppresses a person under the protection (dhimma) of Islam. Islam and modernity are really compatible. this type of hadith and the legal literature which 9. and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost” (Q 3:85). M. and which We enjoined upon Abraham. the constant tension that remains is whether beyond the call for Islamic mobilization. Futuh al-buldan. Moses and Jesus” (Q 42:13).Yahya al-Baladhuri. exclusivism and personal salvation. Goeje (Leiden: E. and those who are Jews and Christians and the Sabeans.J. The impact is thus theological. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2006. That both Jews and Christians were given the status of dhimmi (protected citizens) under Muslim rule is well recorded. 1886). never will it be accepted of him. the prolific scholar. notably religious pluralism. “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (Q 2:256).

as well as inter-religious diversity in the name of a common humanity. 2003). the status of dhimmi was in reality little more than the status of a secondclass citizen. It should be a construct and order which forces us to challenge each other and confront our inner prejudices vis-à-vis the other. However we choose to understand pluralism.10 This in turn led to the conviction that the Qur’an as God’s last revelation superseded former revelations. Yohanan Friedmann. it cannot be denied that Muslims must by virtue of what is said in the Qur’an be open to the existence of other faiths. What has often emerged as a central discussion from such settings is the concept of contemporary civil societies where diversity demands that religious freedom is not just expressed by the individual 10. The message of compassion. But for others. Many liberal scholars argue that the broader ethical spirit of the Qur’an continues to be ignored. 20. Tolerance and Coercion in Islam (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. But acknowledging the right of the religious other to co-exist is not what is meant by the ethical thrust of religious pluralism in contemporary debates. . Despite the political and theological variations of how Muslim rulers and societies accepted other faith communities. has become subservient to the more particular verses in the Qur’an which reflect the demands of that particular historical context. as well as hermeneutical tools for solving some of the ethical dilemmas of the modern age. real pluralism demands that the Muslim world must be accepting at a social and theological level. of intra. In his excellent study of these and related issues. Johanan Friedmann discusses the popularity of notions such as tahrif which allowed for recognition of Jewish and Christian scriptures but which maintained that the corruption of the texts in the hands of the adherents meant that they no longer reflected God’s original will. tolerated but unable to exercise equal rights. How did this square with the Qur’anic verses where Jews and Christians are also believers and people to whom God has sent books and Prophets? What did this say about the laws and ways of these communities of believers who also believed in God but did not embrace the universal message of Islam? Early Islamic sources point to a variety of debate on such issues especially as there is no one thinking on such matters based on the Qur’an itself. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2006.Siddiqui Islam: Issues of Political Authority and Pluralism 347 debated the rights of the non-Muslims reflects the Muslim world’s social and theological acceptance of those of other faiths. and was not just a message to a community but a universal message for all time. Pluralism should at the very least be about a commitment to one other at the level of a shared humanity. justice and kindness as intrinsic elements for peaceful coexistence. ethically speaking.

by the voices traditionally silent. . by the repressed. by the frightened. Without restoring the principle of coexistence so clearly established in early Muslim society. The Qur’anic verse. as a western discourse. at times demands that we. not just the fraternity of Muslims. “Had God willed he would have made you all one. law and obligation bound people to one another is not an adequate resource though it will always be seen as an ideal point of reference from which to extract certain principles. compare and contrast value systems and different lifestyles so that we can dialogue towards building more universal values and beliefs. challenge and blessing on earth. is to ensure that our societies accept all the challenges of pluralism.348 Political Theology but given to the individual by the state. different forms of pluralism have always been part of religious and legal discourse in Islam. national and global level. The imperative on us is how we free ourselves from dogmatism and prejudice and be allowed to interpret the Qur’an in such a way that translates meaningfully with human diversity at a local. Diversity is not inherently a good thing but cultural diversity allows us to. The ummah must be the brotherhood of all people. The difference is that the human rights discourse has increasingly become the dominant global discourse © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2006. Even remembering the Prophetic state in Medina as the first example of civil society where duty. to be guided by the experts. then. The fundamental obligation on us all. by the poor and marginalized. without promoting inclusivism both as a theological imperative and as a civic duty. Conclusion Today.” must translate into a revisioning of society where Muslim communities can truly accept that religious diversity may possibly be God’s will. it cannot be denied that many parts of the Muslim world view pluralism as a difficult innovation of modernity. For Muslims and Islamic states. compassionate and constructive players who can synchronize legitimate and transparent ways to work to realize a civic consciousness that is visionary and not just reactionary. this is about remembering that the pluralism on which Islam flourished as a civilization is no longer sufficient for the multiple religious and secular discourses of our contemporary world. religious and secular. by the sick who can identify the problems of inequality and injustice around the globe and to be honest. In actual fact. Muslims will only ever see themselves as superior in society or as victims in society. This does not just mean intra-faith or inter-religious discourse but dialogue with a whole array of institutions and organizations which challenges us to look from within our own faiths at the problems of today.

concepts of justice and equality are creating the contexts for political and civic reform. Sadri and A. and which needs to be encouraged and revived in contemporary times.Siddiqui Islam: Issues of Political Authority and Pluralism 349 and Muslim citizens need to recognize that civil liberties within political structures that acknowledge diversity and show respect for different beliefs and values do not dilute the faith of the believer. The complex individual structures can be seen in Indonesia. “Muslim Politics. then the perception that Muslim societies have bought the “hardware” of democracy. division of powers and the doctrine of checks and balances are established in order to prevent accumulation of power that might lead to such Godly claims. It was this rich dialectic that ensued from difference of belief and practice. not simply a reaction to present-day politics. If democracy comes in different forms. Reason. 12. we often feel frustrated that the international agendas that often determine how religious language is being perceived. 2000). create very little understanding of what some of the deeper realities are within the different faith traditions.”11 The political landscape of the Muslim world is varied. If this does not happen.12 In our increasingly heterogeneous societies. Abdulkarim Soroush. The real struggle therefore lies within Muslim societies between those conservative and liberal voices who contest through their own theological standpoints the essence and realities of democratic cultures. Sadri (Oxford: Oxford University Press. This is especially true in politics and government where limiting the power of the state. As this struggle continues. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2006. but not the “software. . 64. technology. western governments do not have 11.” i. As the Iranian dissident Abdulkarim Soroush says: “religion forbids us from assuming a Godlike character. the rule of law. from the variety of contribution to civic life. M. i. and trans. human rights etc. where the drive for more democratic structures resulted in toppling Suharto in 1998 even though bitter ethno-religious violence has subsequently slowed down the democratic process. The ultimate onus on the diaspora Muslim communities in the West is to ensure that their contribution to and participation in the wider society creates the right legacy for generations to come.” 4.. 9. whatever the tensions around current political thinking. ed. religious language is being used as a tool for opening up communication between faiths and cultures. then it also comes in different vernacular.e. As scholars of religion.e. as well as attempting to synthesize some kind of mainstream dialogue within a faith. Freedom and Democracy in Islam. Hefner. In Turkey and Iran. will continue to damage real efforts to advance more open and less repressive political rule. ideas of liberalism. education and economics. that coloured so much of the intellectual history of Islam..

Leiden: E. “The Politics of Rage. 1993. 1993. September 17. al-Baladhuri. October 15. “Muslim Politics and US Policies: Prospects for Pluralism and Democracy in the Muslim World. IX. A. Goeje. Friedmann. 2001. Oxford: Oxford University Press. F. The History of al-Tabari. DC. Genealogies of Religion: Disciplines and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. “The Evolution of ‘Jihad’ in Islamist Political Discourse: How a Plastic Concept became Harder. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.” Paper presented at The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Institute on Religion and World Affairs.” http://www. T.” Newsweek. Ed. Reason. K.ssrc. ed. Hefner. A. Freedom and Democracy in Islam. 2000. M. they must themselves recognize that in this globalized world they face the ethical imperative to remain constructively engaged with this struggle. Islam and the West.htm Poonawal. R. Oxford: Blackwell. New York: State University of New York Press. Y. and trans.J. Mona Siddiqui is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Divinity and Religious Studies at Glasgow University and Director of the Centre for the Study of Islam. Soroush. Sadri. 1990. 1886. F. Brown. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lewis. As many of them are engaged with the politics of Muslim countries. vol. D. Zakaria. 2004. . J. Sadri and A. I. Tolerance and Coercion in Islam. b. Futuh al-buldan.350 Political Theology the option of being passive bystanders. BIBLIOGRAPHY Asad. Ed. M. B. Brill. 2003. Washington. A New Introduction to Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. © Equinox Publishing Ltd 2006. Y.org/sept11/essays/noor. 2003. Noor.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful