Political aspect of the Muslims and those that adhere to the Muslim faith are derived from the Qur’an or Koran. The sayings and the everyday living habits of the people that follow Islam come directly from these sacred writings that were supposedly given to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel and by the god Allah himself.
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The Muslim religion is a religion that has existed for over fourteen centuries and currently exists in many different parts of the globe. Because of these reasons many diverse political movements in many different forms and contexts have used the flag or banner of the Muslim faith to lend legitimacy to a particular cause or reason. As such, many aspects of Muslim or Islamic political views are subject to abundant contention and disagreements between the differing interpretations of the Koranic writings. These differing thoughts have become particularly divisive between conservative Muslims and liberal movements within the Muslim political sphere. At this point in time, the Muslim faith is considered to be the third largest faith in the world, because of this fact they can carry vast amounts of influence throughout the globe both, politically, and economically.
Muslim or Islamic political parties currently exist in practically every democracy throughout the globe that has a Muslim majority. The controversial term islamofascism has also been used frequently by many non- Muslim groups to describe the political, religious, and economical philosophies of various militant Muslim groups. This term lumps together a huge variety of assorted groups which many Muslims object to. Individuals who adhere to Islam and modern Islamic philosophy have attempted to explain to non-Muslims and Muslims alike some of their actual view in some detail.
Individuals who consider themselves Islamist claim that the origins of the Muslim religion as a political movement are to be located in the life and times of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. According to the writings of the Koran in the year 622 Common Era (CE), in recognition of his claims to prophet hood, Muhammad was invited to rule the city of Medina.
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At this time the local Arab tribes dominated the city and were in continual conflict with one another. These same Arab tribesmen saw Muhammad as a person from outside of the city, and as such impartial. For these reasons Muhammad and his followers moved to Medina where he drafted what was called the Medina Charter. This document made Muhammad the ruler of the city and also recognized him as the prophet of the god Allah.
After the death of Muhammad the followers of the Muslim faith needed to appoint a new leader, giving rise to the title of the Caliph which means successor. Thus the subsequent Muslim empires were to be called Caliphates (Feldman, Noah, 2008).
This Muslim empire that was expanded by the caliphs would eventually encompass the areas known as Al-Andalus (Spain) to Persia, which is modern day Iran. These conquering Muslim armies took with them the systems of sharia laws and courts to their new military camps and cities, and also built mosques and schools to educate the local youths into the traditions of Islam.
Western scholars and experts on Muslims, such as Fred Donner state that the typical Muslim practice during the early years of the Caliphates was for the important individuals of a tribe or kinship group to assemble together for the determination of new leadership. At these consultative assembly, candidates usually from the same tribe or lineage as the deceased leader would be proposed as the new successor. These would be capable men who would lead well, and in many instances were preferred over an ineffectual direct heir. Various scholars tend to argue that for hundreds of years until the nineteenth and twentieth century, Muslin states followed a system of governing themselves which was based on the coexistence of sultan and the rule of sharia law.
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This Arabic system of government resembled to a certain extent some European governments in possessing an unwritten constitution like the United Kingdom, and having separate branches of government like the United States which provided for the separation of power in governances. While the American republic and some other forms of government have three branches of governing themselves, which are the executive, the judicial, and the legislative, Islamic governments only had two, these are the sultan and sharia law. A symbol of how successful this system of government has become is in the current popularity of the Muslim movement which seeks to restore the Muslim state (Lewis, Bernard, 1995).
There are many Muslims throughout the globe that argue that the Muslim religion does not separate religion from the state, and that’s because their form of government is based on their Koran, there is no need for this particular procedure in their government. Various non-Muslim scholars argue that a “defacto separation between political power of sultans and the religious power of the caliphs was formed and placed into an institution as early as the end of the first century. Political experts’ state that what has been lacking in the Muslim world is political thought regarding the autonomy of the state; no positive law was developed outside that of sharia law.
The sovereign’s main function at this point was to defend the Muslim community against enemies, to implement sharia law, and to ensure for the welfare of the public. It was the responsibility of the state to ensure that the public lived as good Muslims and Muslims were to obey the sultan without question.
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The legitimizing of a Muslim ruler was based and also symbolized by the rulers’ right to coin money and to have the all important Friday prayer said in the rulers’ name. According to some Muslim scholars one of the key statements in the Qur’an (Koran) around which much Muslim doctrine says about who is in charge is based on a verse in the Koran regarding the need to obey all human authority who are obeying the writings of the prophet.
In the nineteenth century European encroachment on the Muslim world resulted with the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The first major European power to arrive into the sphere of territories which were under Muslim influence were the French who arrived in Algeria in 1830. The Muslim reaction to this encroachment was to launch an all out jihad, or holy war against the French. Various Muslim tribes joined together to form coalitions and sharia law in defiance of local common law was imposed to unify these tribes. Despite many Muslim military victories over the Europeans they failed to decisively turn them back and the European encroachment continued.
Another important Muslim reaction to European encroachment late in the nineteenth century and the twentieth century was to utilize non-violent resistance along with the adoption of some European political, social, cultural and technological methods. Members of the Muslim elite, especially those in Egypt, Iran, and Turkey emphasized what they called the modernization and westernization of these countries. This Muslim failure at westernization was paramount in the Ottoman Empire where an attempt to implement western style laws was stifled, when sharia was codified into law and an elected legislature was established to implement and make new policy according to sharia law.
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Modern Muslim political thought has become a strictly non-evangelical form of thinking. Modern Muslim politicians are born out of the struggle against European colonialism and the war on terrorism. Muslim resistance organizations can be seen as similar to other forms of resistance movements, such as the Latin American struggle against U.S. imperialism. In this instance Muslim political thought falls within the scope of internationalism which has many faces. The continuing Muslim effort to change their viewed perception by the rest of the world continues to be an all encompassing effort on their part The Latin American struggles have been reported in several international magazines and likewise the Muslim struggle has been reported in these same periodicals and also in the magazine Islamic Internationalist, where they continue to get the full attention of the world (Fuller, Graham E. 2003).
Fuller, Graham E., The future of Political Islam (2003) p.26
Feldman, Noah, Fall and Rise of the Islamic State, Princeton University Press, 2008.p.2
Lewis, Bernard, The Middle East, A brief history of the last 2000 years, Touchstone, 1995, p.139