Question 1: Democracy or Theocracy?
Whether Islam is incompatible with democracy. It certainly is not. The Qur’an lays emphasis on what it calls shura’ (consultation) . Even the messenger of Allah is required to consult his people in worldly matters and Muslims are required to consult each other in their secular affairs. Now it is true that such consultation and modern day representative democracy may not be exactly similar. However, the idea of modern democracy and the Qur’anic injunction to consult people is the same in spirit.
New institutions are continually developing and human societies, depending on their worldly experiences, continually change and refine these institutions. The Qur’anic text not only gives us the concept of shura’ (democratic consultation) but cannot be said to support even remotely the ideas of dictatorship and authoritarianism.
In the contemporary world the concept of shura’ should mean democratic process and the constitution of proper democratic institutions – for which elections are a necessary requirement. In Islam no authority forcibly constituted, or acquired by power of swords or arms, can have any legitimacy whatsoever.
The institution of monarchy or military dictatorship did not exist during the time of the Prophet. They are subsequent developments and were legitimized by the ‘Ulama in order to prevent anarchy.
Thus the absence of democracy in Muslim countries is by means on account of Islamic teachings or the incompatibility of democracy with Islam but due to a host of factors: political, historical and cultural. The imperialist powers, first of Europe and then of the United States, have also played their role. The early Islamic democracy breathed its last within thirty years of the Holy Prophet’s death. The institution of monarchy crept in under Roman influence. It is important to note that the capital of Islam had shifted from Medina to Kufa in Iraq and then to Damascus in Syria, once part of the Roman Empire. Mu-‘awiyah who seized power without the consent of the Muslims operated from Damascus and adopted Roman monarchical ways. Thus deeper historical and cultural influences must be taken into account in order to understand the political institutions in many Muslim countries today. American and British interests also play their role in shaping the power structures in these countries. In many Islamic countries including the Saudi Arabia and Egypt there is a deep longing among the people for democracy and popular government but it is frustrated by the heavy hand of authoritarian rule. It is not Islam that stands in the way of establishing democracy in these countries. It is powerful vested interests – both internal and external – that are preventing democracy from being established.
Another question relates to the separation of state and religion. Muslims generally believe that it is not possible to separate Islam and the state. This belief has acquired almost doctrinal status among Muslims. However, it has no such doctrinal position in the Qur’an. In fact it has been pointed out that the Qur’an does not even mention the concept of the state, only the concept of a just society. There was no state in Arabia at the time that Islam appeared and the Prophet laid down a bare framework of administration for the newly emerging society. There was no paid police, army or bureaucracy during his time.
The analysis by Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, is sometimes dead-on. Esposito and Mogahed believe that a Muslim who thinks that 9/11 was three-quarters justified or half-justified is still a ‘moderate.’ This allows them to leap to the conclusion that terrorism in the name of Islam is just… well, an aberration, like violent crime in America.”
Muslims can build democratic society provided they treat Islam as a matter of personal, private belief and not as a political ideology that seeks to monopolies the pubic space and regulate every aspect of individual and community life.
Answer To Question II : Muslim Next Door
“Most Americans don’t know Muslims personally”. Ms. Ali-Karamali has written a wonderfully personal and accessible account of Islam and her life as a Muslim-American in The Muslim Next Door. The author is a thoroughly modern American woman who also happens to be a devoted Muslim as well as a holder of an advanced degree in Islamic jurisprudence. In addition to relating her own life growing up and raising a Muslim family in the United States, Ms. Ali-Karamali explains her faith and its traditions in a manner that will be thoroughly engaging, entertaining and, most of all, illuminating for non-Muslim readers. The book serves as a wonderful antidote to the prevailing myopic media view focusing on Islamist extremists to the exclusion of the vast majority of Muslims who share the same joys, worries and hopes of people everywhere. So yes it is possible for someone to be a Muslim and love Shakespeare, Star Trek, Thanksgiving dinners, and musicals like Singing in the Rain.
While all Muslims share certain beliefs and practices, there is a rich diversity to the faith. Many of these differences are inconsequential, but others have profound implications. The legitimacy of the use of violence is one such topic. Ali-Karamali does not strive to convert us to any religion. Instead, she shows us the chaos unleashed in societies where ingrained and unexplored cultural and religious beliefs collide.
Westerners need to learn more about the history and culture of those times. To this end, she includes some of the most inflammatory ideas people often believe are condoned by the Qur’an. When Muhammad’s revelations “came down” in the seventh century, the culture of the time was brutal and in need of change. The Qur’an, she says, uses a “modus operandi of gradual elimination of undesirable practices.” For example, “it accepts slavery, but discourages it, constrains it with rules and conditions, and urges slave owners to free their slaves.”
She notes that Islam is repeatedly misnamed “Mohammedanism.” That “implies that we worship Muhammad or, at the very least, that Islam was named after Muhammad. Houston Smith, a scholar of religious studies, analogizes the non-Muslim use of ‘Mohammedanism’ to a labeling of Christianity as ‘St. Paulism.’ . . . Christianity is not centered around St. Paul. Similarly, Islam is not centered around Muhammad.”
Ali-Karamali was inspired to write by her belief that the world’s view of Islam was not evolving into greater understanding, but rather was regressing to an unexamined hatred born when the Turks captured Jerusalem 1,400 years ago and nurtured by the many wars that followed. That hatred was recently exacerbated by the 9/11 disaster. She argues vehemently that the 9/11 terrorists were not following Islamic beliefs, although like fanatics of all sorts they used religion as their excuse for that attack. Ali-Karamali says Islam is no more violent than any other religion.
But writers and reporters alone are not entirely to blame. Few Americans understand the difficulty of accurate translation from Arabic to English, which holds special problems for westerners. At the time of 9/11, she says, there were almost no Arabic speakers in any American government position.
America’s attitudes toward race and gender have admittedly improved over our lifetime, but not without strife. We still have a long way to go. And into this world of struggle over differences, the 9/11 catastrophe has brought another challenge, another chance to learn and grow.
Answer To Question V: Does Islam promotes violence ?
With the tragic events of 9/11, the Western world was desperately grasping to understand a religion they knew precious little about. With all the questions swirling around the true nature of Islam, none has been asked more than this: Does Islam promote violence?
To avoid misunderstanding, the issue needs to be understood and treated within the context of the Islamic community and its history. Like Christianity, Islam is a diverse and complex religion. There are currently more than one billion Muslims in the world and Islam is found in every part of the globe. It would be foolish to believe that all these people think and behave in exactly the same way. While all Muslims share certain beliefs and practices, there is a rich diversity to the faith. Many of these differences are inconsequential, but others have profound implications. The legitimacy of the use of violence is one such topic.
One of the critical areas of debate among Muslims that dates back to the earliest days of the faith concerns how Muslims should relate to non-Muslims. In more recent times, the question of the relationship with the Western world, particularly the United States, has often been the focus of attention. Many Muslims are open to and embrace ideas and influence from the West while others have been more cautious in their response. Some of this is due to the difficult circumstances many Muslim lands had to tolerate during periods of European colonization. It is also partly the result of the conservative nature of Islam. This is in no way meant to be a pejorative label. It simply refers to the fact that there is a tendency in Islam to look back to the time of the prophet Muhammad and the early community as a model to emulate. Lifestyles and ways of thinking that are perceived as not in agreement with that prophetic ideal are often viewed cautiously. There is a very broad range of opinions within the Muslim community regarding how best to relate to the Western world. Most Muslims prefer to interact with non-Muslims in a spirit of tolerance and dialogue. Some even believe Islam needs to change and adapt itself to become more like the West. A very small number of Muslims believe that violence and confrontation are the only proper response in the face of what they consider to be Western aggression. It is absolutely vital that non-Muslims avoid making generalizations about Islam when members of this last group engage in terrorist activities under the guise of Islam.
A few selected verses from the Qur’an are often misquoted to perpetuate the myth that Islam promotes violence. The matter is further complicated by the manner in which many non-Muslims understand the term jihad. It is quite ironic that virtually all non-Arabic speakers know at least this one word in the language but very few of them know its proper definition. For the Muslim, the term jihad denotes a complex concept that does not simply mean “holy war.” The word comes from an Arabic root whose primary sense refers to the act of putting forth effort to achieve some objective. Interestingly, the term jihad appears only four times in the Qur’an, although it does turn up more frequently in other important Islamic sources like the traditions about the prophet Muhammad. Approximately forty words coming from the same Arabic root are found in the Qur’an, and a study of them indicates they can be grouped under two main headings. The first group comprises words that refer to the effort each person must exert in order to live his or her life as a good Muslim and avoid the temptation to sin.
The second set of words refers to a different kind of striving and describes the effort that must be put forth to expand the Islamic community. It is critical that we keep in mind the original context of these latter passages when we interpret them. These two sets of meanings form the basis of a distinction within Islam between greater jihad and lesser jihad. Greater jihad is a duty required of all Muslims as they constantly strive to avoid evil and remain devoted to their faith. Lesser jihad is more limited in nature and refers to the effort that must sometimes be exerted to defend Islam. This effort can, on occasion, include war, but the Qur’an and other Islamic sources insist that war is only proper when it is a defensive response to an attack, and other criteria have been met.
It is important to note that the four occurrences of the word in the Qur’an refer to greater jihad, not lesser. Similarly, we should keep in mind that the term “holy war” never appears in the pages of Islam’s sacred text. Non-Muslims should therefore avoid giving this key concept a distorted meaning that equates it with violence and bloodshed.
How Westerners and Muslims View Each Other, <http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?PageID=830>
Council on American- Islamic Relations (CAIR), <http://www.cair.com/Home.aspx>
Muslim Next Door, <http://www.muslimnextdoor.com/>
Islamic resources, <www.islamicresourceonline.org/files/qv.html>
Does Islam promote violence?, <http://www.opposingviews.com/questions/does-islam-promote-violence>
More information on jihad, <http://jihadwatch.org/archives/022718.php>
Cite this Islam and media
Islam and media. (2016, Oct 27). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/islam-and-media/