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Church and State in Islam
Publication date: 2003-01-03

The issue of Church and State in Islam.

One cannot stop being amazed at the astounding ignorance and arrogance of people who aspire to be Leaders of Nations and Mankind.

Much of this is due to a presumption that one's own views, customs and traditions are valid for all Mankind.

An interesting example of this phenomenon is the current preoccupation by European and American experts and politicians with the issue of “Church and State in Islam”. A British expert on Immigration and Islam sees “the refusal of Islam to acknowledge the separation between church and state” as one of the unacceptable features of Islam. And a French politician proposes to establish a “French Church of Islam”.

To begin with, there is no centralized hierarchical organisation in Islam, that would be an equivalent to the Church of England, or the Roman Catholic Church.

In Islam religious authorities are just religious scholars who have established reputation for their wisdom and high level of learning.

Nothing prevents any individual Muslim to be his own highest religious authority, if he has sufficient knowledge and understanding of the Qur'an. The reason that most Muslims choose to follow religious scholars, rather than their own guidance is because few of them have sufficient knowledge. It is the same reason as most people choose to hire professional lawyers, rather than to present their own cases in courts. Contrary to some popular beliefs, lawyers have no authority, they just present their clients cases in the light of the existing laws. It is laws that have the authority, not the lawyers.

The only real and final authority in Islam is the Qur'an, a book containing the revelations received by the Prophet.

Individual mosques, which can be just a room in an ordinary house, which a group of people uses for prayers, or a large purpose built mosque, are just buildings where Muslims hold prayers and listen to lectures and sermons of religious scholars. The people who look after the mosques have neither governmental nor religious authority. Some mosques are held in special respect due to their antiquity and association with the Prophet or other historical personalities, but again they are just buildings, not “seats of religious or secular power”.

So the concept of a Church (with a big “C”), like in the Church of England, or the Roman Catholic Church, simply does not exist in Islam.

Moreover in most Muslim countries governments are not headed by Muslim scholars. They are headed by either elected politicians, or hereditary monarchs, or military dictators.

And the phrase “Muslims countries” does not necessarily imply that the majority of the population of such countries or their governments are believing Muslims, it merely means that the predominant culture of these countries has been influenced by Islam. For example Turkey, often called a Muslim country, for the major part of the 20th century had militantly secular anti‐Islamic governments, determined to eradicate all Islamic traits from the Turkish social, cultural and political life.

Religious courts administering the Shari'ah law are established only in a few Muslim countries, but they are independent of the governments of these countries.

So the concept of “the separation between Church and State in Islam”, or the idea of establishing a “Church of Islam” are totally meaningless.

Just because the issue of separation between Church and State exists in the mainstream Christian denominations, it does not mean that such issue exists in Islam. The present preoccupation with this issue by political experts and politicians is just another example of their incompetence.

Those politicians who see Islam as a problem, are confusing Islam with the hostile reaction of people with ethnic Muslim background to the crimes committed by the American and European governments against the people of Palestine, Afghanistan, Chechnya and other ethnically Muslim countries. This is a “political”, not religious issue. And the cause of this hostility is not Islam, but the politics and policies of the American and European governments themselves.

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