In an op-ed for Asharq Alawsat, Sherif Ayoub wonders why people call for an “Islamic state” in preference to a Western-style government when that Western-style more closely approaches what an idealized Islamic state should be. He offers some observations…
Opinion: What is “Islamic” statehood?
The resurgence of Islamic thought in the 20th century has served as a call to action by some Muslim leaders, demanding the adherents of the religion, such as myself, work together to supplant the Western-dominated models of statehood in Muslim countries. In fact, it could be argued that the root of the most organized opposition movements in the last century in these countries has been the aspiration for social transformation corresponding to Islamic jurisprudence, rather than the liberal ideals promoted in the West.
However, beyond the euphoria of latest successes of political Islam in bringing Islamic movements to power in the wake of the Arab Spring, this transformation poses challenges for Muslims seeking the truth about the claims that Islamic statehood promises bliss and salvation to the populace. The conundrum, of course, becomes apparent in the contrast between the stature of Islamic Empire in the seventh and eighth centuries, and the less-than-stellar performance of attempts to establish Islamic states in the modern era.
Essentially, two questions present themselves here: first, given that God is omnipotent and will undoubtedly not keep his benevolence from his true followers, how is it that the countries that seek to impose a model of Islamic statehood in the modern era are consistently ranked lower in development indicators than their Western counterparts?
And, second, when one thinks of the achievements of the Islamic Empire, did that success rest more on being Islamic, or on having an effective and functional state that was the most advanced in its time?