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Islamic Ideology (18 Mar 2015 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Is Islam Secular?

  

By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam

18 March, 2015

My article “Who is a Muslim in the Quran?” established the secular benchmark applicable to all mankind for being considered not a `Kafir’. It left the question of “Who is a Muslim” almost unanswered beyond establishing the most basic requirement for all of mankind to be even considered a good human being as distinct from a “Kafir”. If a Muslim does not satisfy the secular benchmark, then he is a Kafir for the Whole world. What faith he then professes with his mouth and what he practices as part of his faith, is then mere hypocrisy.

The General Unchanging Universal Principles in the Quran are easily identifiable as these are not modified or constrained by any stated conditions. These principles are not constrained by implied conditions either, since no verse in the Quran contradicts these Principles. Any minor issue in understanding any verse can be resolved with reference to the General Principles.

The Quranic verses provide the necessary context wherever context is important. Once we follow this approach, every verse becomes easy to understand without resorting to secondary sources and it then becomes impossible to "interpret" departing from the clear meaning.

In my 4 part article “Who is a Kafir in the Quran?” I have brought out that the Quran deals with:

1. The secular, the worldly or the temporal dimension and

2. The Spiritual dimension

What is purely the Spiritual Dimension is outside the pail of both punishment in this world and coercive interference. The Quran prescribes no punishment for the “Rejecters of Faith” as long as they are peaceful. No punishment in this world is prescribed in the Quran for blasphemy unless accompanied by inciting violence, enmity, strife or causing public disorder. The punishment then is not for blasphemy but for the crimes in the temporal dimension. Apostasy is also not punishable in this world unless accompanied by treason. It is treason that is punishable and not apostasy. This rule has however been perverted to equate apostasy with treason where apostasy itself implies treason. This is a clear perversion of the message of the Quran.

(5:33) The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter; (34) Except for those who repent before they fall into your power: in that case, know that Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

Waging war against Allah and his messenger is not simple blasphemy or apostasy but a deliberate, concerted and obviously hostile attempt to create mischief through the land. The punishment varies from exile to execution depending upon the seriousness of the crime and the person can be even let off if he recants.

The Secular dimension is common to the "believer" as well as the "non-believer" and applies without making any distinction on the basis of faith.

The separation of the State and the “Clergy” is both possible and desirable following the Quran. It was but natural that the last Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was leader in both the spheres. However, the Quran does not in any way require that these remain merged. On the contrary, since the Quran demands that the believer deal justly even with those against whom there was once enmity and even if such justice is against oneself, and is also clearly against any compulsion in religious or spiritual matters and for allowing the peaceful “rejecter of faith” to live unhindered and in peace, such justice is possible only by separating the spiritual or the religious from the secular.

Once the verses of the Quran are understood in terms of the two separate and distinct dimensions, the domain of the clergy then gets clearly demarcated and the only instrument open to him to achieve his objectives is persuasion. The temporal dimension belongs to the State and the responsibilities of the State clearly require an exclusive focus on temporal matters alone.

It is when a separation is not maintained that both the ruler and the clergy corrupt the message of the Quran to exercise illegitimate coercive power over the people. The charge of either apostasy or blasphemy, with the obvious religious overtones, can arouse irrational frenzy and have been found most convenient for misuse by both the groups. This would not have happened, if the early Muslims had clearly segregated the secular part of the Quran from the spiritual. The result is that today, a Muslim is spiritually weak and in worldly or material terms, at the bottom of the heap. A Muslim having become a Kafir can never prosper in this World or the next.

All the four imams of Sunni Islam suffered persecution as well as imprisonment for their views at the hands of the ruler. The arms of the scholar/clergy were twisted for political ends. The quid pro was giving temporal powers to the clergy without responsibility using which he could become a nuisance for those who did not pay him obeisance. It is in such an environment that the Islamic theology was corrupted by both the groups and the religious minorities suffered at the hands of both the State and the Clergy and justice suffered.

The Quran clearly stands for justice for all irrespective of faith and is explicitly against any coercion in matters of faith. Neither does it believe in using instruments of state power to advance faith. It believes in using instruments of power only to defend the faith and fight oppression against its own people or against other people. The oppression need not necessarily be religious persecution or oppression.

In the temporal dimension, the Quran prescribes only the Hudood punishments or punishments for transgressing the limits set by Allah such as:

1.       A hundred lashes for a proven case of adultery with four reliable simultaneous witnesses and eighty lashes for the false witness. Even this law has been corrupted in its implementation

2.       Cutting of hand for theft. The Quran does not specify the requirements for evidence and the severity of the crime for this punishment. It is upto the state depending upon the conditions, to make it applicable to the rarest of rare case or even make it inapplicable in times of drought etc or when there is extreme poverty and deprivation.

3.       Death for murder where the closest kin of the deceased can pardon the convict with or without receiving compensation.

There is no other Shariat law of the Quran applicable to all. Only adultery is not a punishable crime in other societies/cultures but the requirement for proof for this crime in Islam is so stringent that only those who flaunt their licentious behaviour can get into trouble. Beheadings for death is not prescribed nor is public flogging. These are merely carried over as practices from the seventh century.

In personal matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance, the Shariat laws are applicable only to the Muslims. Marriage is only a social contract and like any other contract, the terms can be negotiated and mutually agreed between the parties. In the absence of specific terms the default terms are as per the Quran. The laws of inheritance also provide the manner of distribution of inheritance to the heirs of a Muslim who dies intestate. Otherwise a Muslim can leave a will covering all of his wealth or only a part of it or distribute his property as per his wish during his lifetime. The part of his wealth for which a Muslim does not leave behind a will is distributed as per the law of inheritance in the Quran.  

There is no provision in the Quran for moral policing or even for coercing one’s own child in matters of religion. The Quran says that Noah’s son was a disbeliever, Lut’s wife was a disbeliever, Abraham’s father was a disbeliever but there is no verse which even hints that the Prophets used any form of coercion on these people to make them conform. On the other hand, Lut did not divorce his wife, Noah and Abraham found it difficult even to distance themselves from their son/father and continued to pray for them even when their “Kufr” was confirmed and the Prophets were informed that they would not “believe”.

The separation of the State and the “Clergy” is both possible and desirable and failure to do so corrupts both the spiritual and the temporal worlds of the Muslims leaving them in the condition that they find themselves in today – feeble spiritually and at the bottom of the heap in worldly matters.

Now to answer the question “Is Islam Secular?” well Islam is very much a religion but it recognizes the rights of all and stands firmly and unequivocally for complete and absolute justice in temporal matters between the people irrespective of the faith they profess. It places a duty to defend the faith only if someone is engaged in a “war” against the faith. Complete and absolute justice in matters pertaining to this world can only be achieved by segregating the affairs of the State from that of the “clergy”. 

Related Articles:

Who is a Muslim in the Quran?

http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-ideology/who-is-a-muslim-in-the-quran?/d/101862

Who is a Kafir in the Quran? (Part 4) Defining Kufr

http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-pluralism/who-is-a-kafir-in-the-quran?-(part-4)-defining-kufr/d/101695

The Concept of Unity in the Quran While Celebrating Diversity

http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-pluralism/the-concept-of-unity-in-the-quran-while-celebrating-diversity/d/98947

Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com. The author initially used a pseudonym "Observer" for this article.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-ideology/is-islam-secular?/d/102003

 




TOTAL COMMENTS:-   19


  • Dear Curious Traveler,

    There are the four madhabs and the Muqallids or those who follow  one of these madhabs strictly. The Muqallids believe in taqlid or strictly following the precedence established in every matter. By consensus they consider the madhab frozen in the 10th century with no scope for further changes or for further ijtehad or fresh thinking.

    In contrast, the ghair Muqallids do not follow any of the madhabs and rely on their understanding of the Quran.

    The Muqallids are resististant to any change as part of their DNA even if some of the precedents established are outrageous.
      
    Classical shariat law  is the work of man frozen in the 10th century and not divine. The laws were added as Islam grew and came in contact with other civilizations. The Laws relating to apostasy, blasphemy, stoning to death for adultery etc are not found in the Quran but in Deuteronomy. While our imams do not say that their laws are based on  Deuteronomy they say they base these  on the ahadith which were  also written/complied in the 9th century. The ahadith may have a solitary reference of someone who may have been punished for treason combined with apostasy and such a solitary example which is really of treason and not apostasy was made the reason for a law on apostasy. Such exceptions have been made the rule and given a "divine" status and the gates for ijtehad and fresh thinking also closed.

    If any reform or changes have to come in Islamic societies, people must give up blind Taqlid. Let us conform where it makes sense and open the doors once again on ijtehad or fresh thinking.

    As far as laws are concerned, it would be a good idea to make a fresh start with just the bare minimum 3 hudood laws where actually only the laws relating  to adultery and murder are fixed but the one relating to theft can be defined with amputation only for the rarest of rare cases.
      

    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/10/2015 8:55:20 PM



  • I like the drive towards essentializing Islamic law into the bare requirements. It allows for a more flexible society.

    This is just an idea but I would love to see a madthab "school of thought" that applies this idea on a broad scale. In other words, the main methodology would be to reject hadith that restrict the law (including all punishments not mentioned in the Qur'an so NO apostasy punishment) but we accept every hadith that is either neutral or expansive (i.e. the famous hadith “Avoid the maximum penalty hudud on the account of ambiguity - shubuhat")

    If anybody wants "reformed" sharia, this is probably how you're going to do it. And it doesn't require rejecting hadith wholesale.
    By Curious Traveler - 4/10/2015 12:55:41 PM



  • Curious Traveler,

    Please feel free to ask as many questions as you wish. Your questions show a knowledge of the Quran as well as a desire to explore. Such questions are very helpful to all.

    Thanks for your interest and I welcome more questions if you wish to sak

    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/8/2015 11:17:43 PM



  • 1. The hudood punishment of 100 lashes for adultery is mandatory. The requirement is four simultaneous eye witnesses. If the crime alleged is not proved for lack of reliable evidence by 4 witnesses, those alleged are punished with 80 lashes each and their evidence in future is also subject to doubt.

    Self confession of the crime/sin of adultery was discouraged.

    2. Hudood punishment  of amputation of hand for theft is not mandatory and discretion is given to the state to legislate necessary laws with amputation of hand being the maximum punishment. It was suspended in the time of Hazrat Umar when there were drought conditions. 

    3. For Murder, the maximum is death but the next of kin and forgive with or without receiving compensation.

    Besides these three, the State is free to frame more criminal and civil laws.


    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/8/2015 11:14:57 PM



  • To: Respected Muslim Readers @ New Age Islam

     

    As-Salaam Alay-Kum

     

    Keep a close watch on the rebuttals of the new commentator, “Curious Traveler.

     

    New Age Islam forum invites every Tom, Dick and Harry to participate. Therefore, without knowing the background of any commentator, let’s see what sort of debate takes place.

     

    One thing that also interests me is exactly the question raised by the unknown traveler too. It is as follows:

     

    “Are you saying that public flogging is a practice from the 7th century?”

     

    Very sincerely yours,

     

    Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia

     

      mohammedrafiqlodhia

    http://www.wethemoderatemuslims.com

    http://www.readingisliving.com


    By Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia - 4/8/2015 8:00:50 PM



  • Sorry about the double-post.

    But what is your opinion of Surah Al-Maidah, particularly verses 44-48. In these verses, Allah seems to be stating that Muslims who don't judge (yahkum) by the Qur'an are kafireen. Is this a context-specific event?

    By Curious Traveler - 4/8/2015 6:25:50 PM



  • "There is no other Shariat law of the Quran applicable to all. Only adultery is not a punishable crime in other societies/cultures but the requirement for proof for this crime in Islam is so stringent that only those who flaunt their licentious behaviour can get into trouble. Beheadings for death is not prescribed nor is public flogging. These are merely carried over as practices from the seventh century."

    Okay, this interests me. Are you saying that public flogging is a practice from the 7th century?

    Does the Qur'an mandate flogging or is the punishment "secularizable"?  I know several countries still criminalize adultery but they've relegated it a fine.

    By Curious Traveler - 4/8/2015 1:26:41 PM



  • Dear Curious Traveler,

    If you read the article carefully, it says:

    What is purely the Spiritual Dimension is outside the pail of both punishment in this world and coercive interference. The Quran prescribes no punishment for the “Rejecters of Faith” as long as they are peaceful. No punishment in this world is prescribed in the Quran for blasphemy unless accompanied by inciting violence, enmity, strife or causing public disorder. The punishment then is not for blasphemy but for the crimes in the temporal dimension. Apostasy is also not punishable in this world unless accompanied by treason. It is treason that is punishable and not apostasy. This rule has however been perverted to equate apostasy with treason where apostasy itself implies treason. This is a clear perversion of the message of the Quran.

    The hudud punishments are for crimes in the temporal dimension and these are:

    1. Murder
    2. Theft
    3. Adultery

    There is no other Shariat law of the Quran applicable to all. Only adultery is not a punishable crime in other societies/cultures but the requirement for proof for this crime in Islam is so stringent that only those who flaunt their licentious behaviour can get into trouble. Beheadings for death is not prescribed nor is public flogging. These are merely carried over as practices from the seventh century.

    In personal matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance, the Shariat laws are applicable only to the Muslims.



    By Naseer Ahmed - 4/8/2015 1:03:17 PM



  • I like this article's premise that the Qur'an separates the temporal and spiritual sphere.

    Just one question. How should we consider Hudood punishments? If the Qur'an truly mandates the separation of church and state, why does it seem to allow the state to punish for church (spiritual) crimes?

    This question is not meant to stump you. I want to find an answer too, so I am brainstorming.

    By Curious Traveler - 4/8/2015 11:51:41 AM



  • Justice is always secular and the duty of the State is to render justice to its people:

    (4:58) Allah doth command you to render back your Trusts to those to whom they are due; And when ye judge between man and man, that ye judge with justice: Verily how excellent is the teaching which He giveth you! For Allah is He Who heareth and seeth all things.

    (4:135) O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.

    (5:8) O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.

    (6:181) Of those We have created are people who direct (others) with truth. And dispense justice therewith.

    (16:90) Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that ye may receive admonition.

    (34:25) Say: "Ye shall not be questioned as to our sins, nor shall we be questioned as to what ye do."(26) Say: "Our Lord will gather us together and will in the end decide the matter between us (and you) in truth and justice: and He is the one to decide, the One Who knows all."



    By Observer - 3/19/2015 1:37:06 PM



  • Observer is right. There is no incompatibility between Islam and secularism. Muslims should be the champions of separation of the state from the religious establishment.  Islamist gunmen who killed 20 civilians yesterday in a Tunis museum because they want Tunisia to have an Islamic government are the true enemies of Islam. Islam is being falsely represented by these thugs as an enemy of democracy, secularism, free speech, non-violent political practices and progress. The outrage that the Muslim world should experience against such Islamists is not nearly as strong as it should be.
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/19/2015 12:50:00 PM



  • Dear Aiman,

    The meaning of secular: of or relating to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal:

    The Quran covers the temporal, the worldly or the secular dimension as well as the spiritual or the religious dimension and expects a Muslim to seek what is good for him in this world and what is good for him in the hereafter. There is no hereafter for those who do not live a life in this temporal world.

    The temporal world is inhabited by those who call themselves Muslim and those who do not call themselves Muslim. The Quranic definition of a Muslim and Islam is broad based and as I have brought out in my article “Who is a kafir?” the secular definition of “kafir” that is applied by the Quran to all mankind is:

    1. A person who hinders other people  from following their religion

    2. Those who wage war against others for no other reason other than their faith.

    3. Those who mock and ridicule the religion of other People

    4. Those who do not honour their agreements or respect ties of kinship or the rights of others.

     

    This definition covers the Muslims also and by this definition the extremists are demonstrably kafir and many other Muslims also are kafir but not so obviously and many “Non-Muslims” are not “kafir”.

    As far as Hoqooq-Al-Ebad are concerned the rules are both clear and secular. These apply to people of all faiths equally. The clear rights of a citizen are:

     

    1. Right to follow one's faith unhindered as long as one remains peaceful.

    2. Right to life and property

    3. Rights emanating from agreements, norms of civil society and just laws of the land

    4. Right to justice from the ruler.

     

    Islam is as secular as a Religion can be and for an Islamic society to achieve the ideal, the segregation of the State and the “Clergy” is essential. This separation does not imply lack of religiosity but on the other hand it is essential to attain the desirable level of detachment from religious affiliations and prejudices when dealing with others. This detachment is very much a requirement for every Muslim to succeed both in this world and the hereafter and to avoid dying a kafir even though he was born a Muslim.

     


    By Observer - 3/19/2015 9:40:01 AM



  • The article begins with a question "Is Islam Secular" and ends by concluding that it is very much a religion which places an obligation on the State to defend the faith. The faith however is not just the faith of the followers of Muhammad (pbuh) alone but the faith of all those who believe in a God who is the sole Creator and Cherisher of the Universe.

    (22:40) ... Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid his (cause);- for verily Allah is full of Strength, Exalted in Might, (able to enforce His Will).

    This article is built upon the previous articles cited in which the secular and religious definitions of "kafir" has been meticulously derived from the Quran as well as the separation of the temporal or secular dimension from the spiritual or the religious.

    That the Quran grants absolute freedom of conscience and religion is also covered in the articles cited.

    Also, the fact that the Quran believes in complete and absolute justice in the worldly or temporal matters between the people irrespective of the faith that they profess and that this is the primary duty of the State to ensure is beyond doubt.

    The article does not state that the separation of the State from the "Clergy" is mandated by the Quran. It only states "The separation of the State and the “Clergy” is both possible and desirable following the Quran. It was but natural that the last Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was leader in both the spheres. However, the Quran does not in any way require that these remain merged. On the contrary, since the Quran demands that the believer deal justly even with those against whom there was once enmity and even if such justice is against oneself, and is also clearly against any compulsion in religious or spiritual matters and for allowing the peaceful “rejecter of faith” to live unhindered and in peace, such justice is possible only by separating the spiritual or the religious from the secular."
     
    Look at Pakistan where the State believes its responsibility extends to the religious or spiritual dimension. It has passed Blasphemy laws that are  communal and violate the spirit and letter of the Quran as well as basic human rights. The State indulges in Takfir and passes a law declaring the influential and successful Ahmediyas a non-Muslim minority leaving alone the backward and not so influential Mahdavis with similar beliefs alone. The State has failed to protect the rights, life and property of the minorities and brought upon itself a situation where its very existence is today threatened. Where does Takfir stop? It now extends to the Shias and then will include those who visit the shrines and the State will either standby and watch helplessly or aid the Takfiris for political ends.
     
    The article started with a question but did not conclude with saying that Islam is secular but by saying that it upholds the values of secularism.

    By Observer - 3/19/2015 2:00:00 AM



  • Perhaps instead of calling Islam secular, we should  call it "inclusive" or "egalitarian".
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/19/2015 1:08:28 AM



  • A government is called secular when it recognises the religious laws of all the communities living under it. If the Islamic government applies its laws on the followers of other religions, it cannot be called secular. So relevant verses from the Quran that say that the ahl-e-kitab should follow what has been revealed to them and  Muslims should follow what has been given to them should have been mentioned. But that was not done. If Islamic laws are applied to other communities, it would be akin to imposing a uniform civil code based on Islamic laws as the Hindutva forces insist in India on a uniform civil code based on Hinduism.
    By ahmad - 3/18/2015 11:57:43 PM



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