Traditional political concepts in Islam include leadership by successors to the Prophet known as Caliphs, (Imamate for Shia); the importance of following Islamic law or Sharia; the duty of rulers to seek Shura or consultation from their subjects; and the importance of rebuking unjust rulers but not encouraging rebellion against them. A sea change in the Islamic world was the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate in 1924, which some believed meant an end to the Islamic state both in "symbolic and practice terms".
In the 19th and 20th century a common theme has been resistance to Western imperialism, particularly the British Empire, and sometimes the racist policies that discriminated against some Muslims. The defeat of Arab armies in the Six Day War, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of communism as a viable alternative with the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War has increased the appeal of Islamism and Islamic fundamentalist movements, especially in the context of undemocratic and corrupt regimes all across the Muslim world.
The provocative term Islamofascism has also been coined by some non-Muslims to describe the political and religious philosophies of some militant Islamic groups. Both terms lump together a large variety of groups with varying histories and contexts. The articles on militant Islamic groups, Islamic parties and modern Islamic philosophy explain some of their actual views in detail.
After death of Muhammad, his community needed to appoint a new leader, giving rise to the title Caliph, meaning "successor". Thus the subsequent Islamic empires were known as Caliphates. Alongside the growth of the Umayyad empire, the major political development within Islam in this period was the sectarian split between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims; this had its roots in a dispute over the succession of the Caliphate. Sunni Muslims believed the caliphate was elective, and any member of the Prophet's tribe, Quraysh, might serve as one. Shi'ites, on the other hand, believed the caliphate should be hereditary in the line of the Prophet, and thus all the caliphs, with the exception of only Ali and of his son Hasan, were usurpers. However, the Sunni sect emerged as triumphant in most of the Muslim world, and thus most modern Islamic political movements (with the exception of Iran) are founded in Sunni thought.
Muhammad's closest companions, the four "rightly guided" Caliphs who succeeded him, continued to expand the state to encompass Jerusalem, Ctesiphon, and Damascus, and sending armies as far as the Sindh The Islamic empire stretched from Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) to Persia under the reign of the Umayyad dynasty. The conquering Arab armies took the system of Sharia laws and courts to their new military camps and cities, and built mosques for Friday jam'at (community prayers) as well as Madrasahs to educate local Muslim youth. These institutions resulted in the development of a class of ulema (classical Islamic scholars) who could serve as qadis (Sharia-court judges), imams of mosques and madrasah teachers. These classical scholars and jurists all owed their livelihood to the expansionary Islamic empire. Not surprisingly, these ulema gave legal and religious sanction to militarist interpretations of jihad. The political terminology of the Islamic state was all the product of this period. Thus, medieval legal terms such as khalifa, sharia, fiqh, maddhab, jizya, and dhimmi all remain part of modern Islamic vocabulary.
Since the scholarly and legal traditions of the ulema were well-established by the time of the Abbasids, the later Middle Eastern empires and kingdoms (including the Ayyubid, Seljuk, Fatimid, Mamluk and Mongol) had little impact on modern Islamist political ideals.
One Islamic concept concerning the structure of ruling is shura, or consultation, which is the duty of rulers mentioned in two verses in the Quran, 3:153, and 42:36, and contrasted by Muslims with arbitrary personal rule. It is mentioned by Islamic traditionalists, commentators, and contemporary writers but is not commanded by Islamic law only recommended.
One type of ruler not part of the Islamic ideal was the king, which was disparaged in Quran's mentions of the Pharaoh, "the prototye of the unjust and tyrannical ruler" (18:70, 79) and elsewhere. (28:34)Electing or appointing a Caliph
Fred Donner, in his book The Early Islamic Conquests (1981), argues that the standard Arabian practice during the early Caliphates was for the prominent men of a kinship group, or tribe, to gather after a leader's death and elect a leader from amongst themselves, although there was no specified procedure for this shura, or consultative assembly. Candidates were usually from the same lineage as the deceased leader, but they were not necessarily his sons. Capable men who would lead well were preferred over an ineffectual direct heir, as there was no basis in the majority Sunni view that the head of state or governor should be chosen based on lineage alone. Al-Mawardi has written that the caliph should be Qurayshi. Abu Bakr Al-Baqillani has said that the leader of the Muslims simply should be from the majority. Abu Hanifa an-Nu‘man also wrote that the leader must come from the majority.Majlis ash-Shura
Traditional Sunni Islamic lawyers agree that shura, loosely translated as 'consultation of the people', is a function of the caliphate. The Majlis ash-Shura advise the caliph. The importance of this is premised by the following verses of the Qur'an:
The majlis is also the means to elect a new caliph. Al-Mawardi has written that members of the majlis should satisfy three conditions: they must be just, they must have enough knowledge to distinguish a good caliph from a bad one, and must have sufficient wisdom and judgment to select the best caliph. Al-Mawardi also said in emergencies when there is no caliphate and no majlis, the people themselves should create a majlis, select a list of candidates for caliph, then the majlis should select from the list of candidates. Some modern interpretations of the role of the Majlis ash-Shura include those by Islamist author Sayyid Qutb and by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, the founder of a transnational political movement devoted to the revival of the Caliphate. In an analysis of the shura chapter of the Qur'an, Qutb argued Islam requires only that the ruler consult with at least some of the ruled (usually the elite), within the general context of God-made laws that the ruler must execute. Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, writes that Shura is important and part of the "the ruling structure" of the Islamic caliphate, "but not one of its pillars," and may be neglected without the Caliphate's rule becoming unIslamic. Non-Muslims may serve in the majlis, though they may not vote or serve as an official.
One scholar argues that for hundreds of years until the twentieth century, Islamic states followed a system of government based on the coexistence of sultan and ulama following the rules of the sharia law. This system resembled to some extent some Western governments in possessing an unwritten constitution (like the United Kingdom), and possessing separate branches of government - two not three, the sultan and ulama - which provided Separation of powers in governance. A symbol of the success of this system is the current popularity of the Islamist movement which seeks to restore the Islamist state. Accountability of rulers
Sunni Islamic lawyers have commented on when it is permissible to disobey, impeach or remove rulers in the Caliphate. This is usually when the rulers are not meeting public responsibilities obliged upon them under Islam. Al-Mawardi said that if the rulers meet their Islamic responsibilities to the public, the people must obey their laws, but if they become either unjust or severely ineffective then the Caliph or ruler must be impeached via the Majlis ash-Shura. Similarly Al-Baghdadi believed that if the rulers do not uphold justice, the ummah via the majlis should give warning to them, and if unheeded then the Caliph can be impeached. Al-Juwayni argued that Islam is the goal of the ummah, so any ruler that deviates from this goal must be impeached. Al-Ghazali believed that oppression by a caliph is enough for impeachment. Rather than just relying on impeachment, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani obliged rebellion upon the people if the caliph began to act with no regard for Islamic law. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani said that to ignore such a situation is haraam, and those who cannot revolt inside the caliphate should launch a struggle from outside. Al-Asqalani used two ayahs from the Qur'an to justify this:
Islamic lawyers commented that when the rulers refuse to step down via successful impeachment through the Majlis, becoming dictators through the support of a corrupt army, if the majority agree they have the option to launch a revolution against them. Many noted that this option is only exercised after factoring in the potential cost of life.Rule of law
Various Islamic lawyers do however place multiple conditions, and stipulations e.g. the poor cannot be penalised for stealing out of poverty, before executing such a law, making it very difficult to reach such a stage. It is well known during a time of drought in the Rashidun caliphate period, capital punishments were suspended until the effects of the drought passed.
Islamic jurists later formulated the concept of the rule of law, the equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary law of the land, where no person is above the law and where officials and private citizens are under a duty to obey the same law. A Qadi (Islamic judge) was also not allowed to discriminate on the grounds of religion, race, colour, kinship or prejudice. There were also a number of cases where Caliphs had to appear before judges as they prepared to take their verdict.
According to Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard University, the legal scholars and jurists who once upheld the rule of law were replaced by a law governed by the state due to the codification of Sharia by the Ottoman Empire in the early 19th century:
The first Muslim reaction to European encroachment was of "peasant and religious", not urban origin. "Charismatic leaders", generally members of the ulama or leaders of religious orders, launched the call for jihad and formed tribal coalitions. Sharia in defiance of local common law was imposed to unify tribes. Examples include Abd al-Qadir in Algeria, the Mahdi in Sudan, Shamil in the Caucasus, the Senussi in Libya and in Chad, Mullah-i Lang in Afghanistan, the Akhund of Swat in India, and later, Abd al-Karim in Morocco. All these movements eventually failed "despite spectacular victories such as the destruction of the British army in Afghanistan in 1842 and the taking of Kharoum in 1885."
The second Muslim reaction to European encroachment later in the century and early 20th century was not violent resistance but the adoption of some Western political, social, cultural and technological ways. Members of the urban elite, particularly in Egypt, Iran, and Turkey advocated and practiced "Westernization".
The failure of the attempts at political westernization, according to some, was exemplified by the Tanzimat reorganization of the Ottoman rulers. Sharia was codified into law (which was called the Mecelle) and an elected legislature was established to make law. These steps took away the Ulama's role of "discovering" the law and the formerly powerful scholar class weakened and withered into religious functionaries, while the legislature was suspended less than a year after its inauguration and never recovered to replaced the Ulama as a separate "branch" of government providing Separation of powers. The "paradigm of the executive as a force unchecked by either the sharia of the scholars or the popular authority of an elected legislature became the dominant paradigm in most of the Sunni Muslim world in the twentieth century."
In the face of the tremendous poverty, corruption and disillusionment with conventional politics, the political ideal of the Islamic state has been criticized by many espousing liberal movements within Islam and for example by Ziauddin Sardar, as being utopian and not offering real solutions.
Any Arab tendency to anti-Semitism was drastically magnified after World War II when Israel was created, at literally the crossroads of all traditional Arab lands. The fact that the promise made to Arabs had been broken, while that to Jews had been kept, was often ascribed to racism. A religious focus for rhetoric became more common, and more mullahs became involved in politics. The Palestinian Diaspora stressed social structures in Arab states, which expelled many Jews. Zionism was identified as the opponent, and some argued a coherent Islamism was required as a response.
However, Islam was still not the dominant trend in resisting colonialism or even Zionism. During the 1960s, the predominant ideology within the Arab world was pan-Arabism which deemphasized religion and emphasized the creation of socialist, secular states based on Arab nationalism rather than Islam. However, governments based on Arab nationalism have found themselves facing economic stagnation and disorder. Increasingly, the borders of these states were seen as artificial colonial creations - which they were, having literally been drawn on a map by European colonial powers.
from Cairo to Tehran, the crowds that in the 1950s demonstrated under the red or national flag now march beneath the green banner. The targets are the same: foreign banks, nightclubs, local governments accused of complacency toward the West. The continuity is apparent not only in these targets but also the participants: the same individuals who followed Nasser or Marx in the 1960s are Islamists today.
United Nations cooperation was pivotal in this view - as was cooperation with secular forces and allies. The agenda of secular and Islamist movements during this period was all but indistinguishable. However, some rural movements were finding progress made here to be symbolic and unsatisfactory. In 1979 the political situation drastically changed, with Egypt making peace with Israel, the Iranian Revolution, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan - all three events had wide-ranging effects on how Islam was perceived as a political phenomenon.
To understand this, consider the variety of attitudes Muslims with a fervent belief in Islam as a universal solution to political problems, took to the events of the 1980s and the 1990s:
One persistent theme that both proponents and opponents of Islam as a political movement note is that Muslims are actively persecuted by the West and other foreigners. This view is of course not distinguishable from a critique of imperialism including oil imperialism, since many Muslim nations are sitting on relatively vast oil reserves. Colonialism is often identified as the force which is 'against Islam', and seems to neatly encompass British Empire experiences as well as those of modern times - the long Ottoman domination being more or less forgotten.
However, there are many overt similarities. Those militants who follow a version of sharia based on the classical fiqh ("jurisprudence") as interpreted by local ulema ("jurists"), were the most prominent of several competing trends in modern Islamic philosophy in the 1970s and 1980s. It was at this time that they became visible - and a concern - to the West, as they challenged the modernist dictators that the West had generally put trust in.
See militant Islam for a detailed review of some modern movements that are often labeled Islamist by their opponents. This article is only about the reactive definition of the West, leading to the label. Trends which led to this are summarized by Ziauddin Sardar.
There was also pressure against secular socialism in the Islamic World, and especially in Iraq, Syria and Iran, until the Iranian Revolution of 1979 proved it could well be counter-productive and lead to a backlash that put regimes in place that would be hostile to the Western, secular, world.
As part of this war, they claim, literally every political interpretation of Islam, from classical fiqh to Marxist to such moderate views as those of Dr. Shakir, are all being classified as part of one "enemy" movement.
Another profound bias of such classifications is that it is quite rare to include nominally Christian or Jewish or Buddhist guerillas in any analysis of those faiths' views of politics, but quite common if it is Islam under discussion—and likely being criticized.
When Russia joined the Council of the Islamic Conference in 2003, it emphasized that it had a long history of successful co-existence with Muslims, and a large integrated population of Muslims (few of which are in any sense Islamist). President Vladimir Putin, despite a long and bloody confrontation with rebels in Chechnya, offered to act as a bridge or neutral broker in dealings between Muslims and NATO, the EU and USA. This was a quite different rhetoric, a more pragmatic one likely reflecting the reality that the ex-Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan had substantial Islamic political movements - similar to those in Turkey and Pakistan, relatively modern in tone and willing to participate in the US War on Terrorism to some degree, although not as direct combatants.
Some analysts believe that the old Cold War battlelines have been redrawn, with Russia choosing new allies - those with a record of success in forcing US withdrawals from strategic territories (Beirut, Somalia and - depending on interpretation - Afghanistan and Iraq) with Muslim populations. In this view, the old Marxist alliance against colonialism is the dominant rhetoric.
Others accept the Russian pledge as sincere, and believe that Islamist movements of all stripes will eventually come to accommodation with domestic secular forces, and Islam as a global anti-corruption, anti-colonialism, and anti-racism movement, less focused on Zionism and Palestine. George W. Bush for instance has noted the real need as economic development in Muslim countries, to break the cycle of poverty that tends to feed into extremist movements. In Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey and Iraq, the Bush administration has worked closely with nominally Islamic forces and ruling political parties in government. It denies intensely that it is involved in a War on Islam. However, polls of Muslim nations indicate these denials are not trusted. Any accommodation will not be quick in coming.
The following sources generally prescribe to the theory that there is a distinct 20th century movement called Islamism that exists independently of Jewish/Christian observers and motivations:
However, the following sources very strongly challenge that assertion:
These authors in general locate the issues of Islamic political intolerance and fanaticism not in Islam, but in the generally low level of awareness of Islam's own mechanisms for dealing with these, among modern believers, in part a result of Islam being suppressed prior to modern times.
Democracy in the Middle East, the role of Islamist political parties, and the war on terrorism: