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salim

Is democracy compatible with the teachings of Isla

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A legitmate question by a guest, on some other thread but thought it deserved a seperate one by it's own.

 

Is democracy compatible with the teachings of Islam?

 

Before answering please give adequate thought to the details.

 

Modern democracy is a social agreement amoung people to create a government that serves the common interests of all, protects the weak from persecution, and abides by the concensus will of its citizens. By definition, modern democracy is the law of man and is required to adapt to the changing desires of its citizens. The primary task of a democratic government is to assist each and every (law abiding) member of society in their pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. In the original contract between people and governemnt there will be guarantees of rights and freedoms. It is the government's responsibility to protect its citizens from other nations, groups, organizations, or individuals who wish to deny these rights to any living person within its territory or seeks to displace the concesus social contract.

 

It is implicitly understood that the governemnt and all of its possessions belong to the people and that the people may, through popular mandate, repeal the government's powers at any time. Additionally, it is further understood that if the

citizenry is comprised of multiple ethnic groups then each group will have to accept the existence and beliefs of the other as valid and make no effort to destroy or harm them except in self defense.

 

 

So, again,

 

Is Islam compatible with modern democracy?

Does the Koran allow people to adopt and follow man made social contracts as a form of governance?

 

 

Here is my reply:

Is democracy compatible with the teachings of Islam?

 

Yes and NO.. Depends on which version of Islam that you asked about.. Just like any other social concept such as the democracy that you have defined, there are many versions of Islam, ..

Greeks, Lincoln ,Saddam , Castro , Hitler, Khomeini, Stalin and others had completely different ways of understanding Democracy. As does Islam

 

Before answering please give adequate thought to the details.

 

Please find my comment impeded

 

Modern democracy is a social agreement among people to create a government

 

 

Islam agrees to this and asks for it .. It is called Bayaa in Islam . Where people are asked to choose a ruling system. The basic teachings of Quran and the Prophet didn't talk about a strict way to follow but to put it upon people to choose " Amrukom Shura Bainakum".. When Prophet Mohamed died, he never asked people to follow a certain path in creating a governing system. Early Muslims chose to go with a central system that is based on electing a head to manage their affairs.

 

 

that serves the common interests of all, protects the weak from persecution, and abides by the concensus will of its citizens.

 

That person , KHalifa as they called him, was supposed to rule under supervision of people and Islamic justice system which among other basic rights should assure the full protection of the weak.

 

By definition, modern democracy is the law of man and is required to adapt to the changing desires of its citizens.

And that what Islamic teachings were instructing.. The fourth Khalifa , Ali, used to say " Don't force your next generations to follow your habits, They have different experiences and knowledge" ..

However, this was gradually changed with the Tyrant Khalifs taking over the rights of Muslims to choose.. This divergence from Islamic teachings was fully implemented by the First Omaia rulers, Maaweya, who forced people to choose His son Yazid despite their will. This was not only political, it also had its implication within the religious teachings.. Amawees penetrated the Scholar system and proposed and encouraged new ideologies that praise the ruler as the only representative of the will of the Ummah. Early Khalif's , such as Abo baker and Umer, did some similar thing through imposing certain person or a group of persons on people. However, Prophet Mohamed never went through such an expeience but preferred to let the Umma "people " have their say.

 

In Islam , everything is permitted as long as there is no prohibitions by Quran or Prophet.. Those prohibitions are mainly to address the moral issues.. Similar to today's , new constitutions that are allowed to set any rule not to be conflicting with the basic morals.

 

The above mechanism of a sole ruler might be well extended by some , and here iswhere you might find different answers to your main question by Muslim Scholars..

 

 

The primary task of a democratic government is to assist each and every (law abiding) member of society in their pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. In the original contract between people and government there will be guarantees of rights and freedoms. It is the government's responsibility to protect its citizens from other nations, groups, organizations, or individuals who wish to deny these rights to any living person within its territory or seeks to displace the concesus social contract.

 

 

Islam teachings fully agree with this..

 

 

 

 

It is implicitly understood that the government and all of its possessions belong to the people and that the people may, through popular mandate, repeal the government's powers at any time.

 

 

In their Bayaa to first Khlaef, he pledged to serve them but they have full rights to withdraw Bayaa if they find him not complying with the agreed obligations. That was fourteen centuries ago. However later on, after the new doctrine of Amaweed took over, people lost their rights to choose or to deny their approval. Something that became part of most Sunni doctrines till today . Within Shia doctrine , it might make no difference. The only difference is that Shias consider the Imam Medi " Shia messiah" as the only eligible to" religiously" rule, something to happen prior to day of judgment.. Which practically means that the ruling system should be chosen by the people .

In a meeting with Ayatoula Systani, as example of amoderate Muslim scholar, he thought that it is possible to appoint "elect" a non mulsim or a woman, if the people choose to do so.. That is on the basis of hiring him/her to manage their affairs.

 

Additionally, it is further understood that if the citizenry is comprised of multiple ethnic groups then each group will have to accept the existence and beliefs of the other as valid and make no effort to destroy or harm them except in self defense.

 

 

Islam was the first teachings in human history that fully implemented and called for this.. However, there might have been incidents where this was misplaced by some tyrants rulers , not only against non-muslims but against Muslims with different view as well.

 

So, again,

Is Islam compatible with modern democracy?

Does the Koran allow people to adopt and follow man made social contracts as a form of governance?

 

 

What do you think? For a religion that considers every aspect of life as a social contract .. In Islam , even marriage is a social contract not a religious sacred relationship.

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Guest Guest

Thank you very much for answering. I appreciate you taking the time. Somehow, I see the question of democracy vs. Islam as the single most important question facing the mid-east. But I have not found anywhere that it is being discussed. I value and respect your opinion greatly and hope that others will offer their views as well.

 

It sounds as if Islam is a religion of democracy but has been corrupted by individuals seeking power. Same thing happened to Christianity during the period of the crusades. A painful time for all. (Ironically, it was the infusion of Muslim values and mid-east thought by returning crusaders that ultimately lead to the renaissance and freed Europe from their religious tyranny).

 

 

Salim (Sep 28, 2004):

"In Islam , every thing is permitted as far as there is no prohibitions by Quran or Prophet.. Those prohibitions are mainly to address the moral issues.. Similar to today's , new constitutions are allowed to set any rule but not to be conflicting with the basic morals. "

 

 

That could be a problem both ideologically and economically. Both problems flow from the concept that "all individuals are equal". To incorporate a rule at the constitutional level that the government must not conflict with one specific set of moral beliefs means that all opinions are not equal.

 

1) This prejudices the government to view the opinions of non-muslims as of less value. Which creates an environment where the life of a non-muslim may become devalued as well. As such, tying government to religion at the constitutional level plants the seeds of dissent, oppression, and rebellion.

 

Even worse ....

2) Any limitation upon freedom of belief will undermine the economy of the whole. The west prospers because it encourages freedom of thought. This swirling mix of multiple religions and cultures creates new ideas and innovations. It is these very innovations that fuel the economies of the west and has given them the industry and technology to rise-up out of the third world. I find it doubtful that any nation whose constitution incorporates any form of ethnic prejudice will be able to successfully compete economically, artistically, or intellectually. Other nation states will always be in advance of them.

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Guest wrote,

(Ironically, it was the infusion of Muslim values and mid-east thought by returning crusaders that ultimately lead to the renaissance and freed Europe from their ..)

 

That is a historical fact.. Those who might be skeptical of it , are recommended to read a well known book A History of God by westren historian Karen Armstrong. Having in mind that the book was published during the Iran Islamic revolution and had been "blessed" politically by some pro Saudi anti Shia institutions. I have my concerns about the author's depth of coverage to parts of the ideology of Shia sect of Islam.

 

 

That could be a problem both ideologically and economically. Both problems flow from the concept that "all individuals are equal". To incorporate a rule at the constitutional level that the government must not conflict with one specific set of moral beliefs means that all opinions are not equal.

 

Seems to me that your concerns are mixing two different subjects :

Do Islam teachings conflict with Democracy? and

Does an Islamic STATE conflict with Democracy?

 

what I meant by moral issues is not those that are related to beliefs, I meant basic morals that any civilized constitution would be based on. e.g. To Steal, To kill.

 

I don't find any phrase in Quran or the Prophet's agreed-upon Sira that would contridict with " all individuals are equal".. Indeed Islam was the first ideology that I know of in human history that emphasized such call and considered it as its main slogan beside the other main ones. Perhaps that might be the reason that the first people who announced belief, were a women "His wife" and a young man "ALI". Not to mention all those poor people and slaves , white and black, Arab and non Arab, who might have found in its teachings a solution to their social sufferings.

 

Islam doesn't discriminate among people based on belief or race or tribe. This is a very clear message by the Prophet: " Lakum denakum wa lea denee" means: You have the right to follow your religion and I have the right to follow mine .

Some might argue that this is only applicable to the people of Jewish and Christain faith. However, the Prophet historically showed otherwise. When Muslims tookover Mecca , the Prophet gave amnesty to all atheist Meccans based on one condition, to get into their homes or Abo Sufian's!. He never asked them to convert to Islam as a condition for amnesty. Some of these Meccans were the brutal killers of the Prophet most loved Muslims. Such killers were Abo Sufian's wife , Hind and her slave Habashi who killed his uncle Hamza and ate his liver.!.

Moreover, the Prophet didn't accept to change the staff "Saden" of Kaaba .. Who were from the Bani Shaiba family, not yet Muslims.

 

Having said that, Muslims in later periods of Khelefas didn't follow such conduct. History reported massacres committed by Muslims to those who didn't accept converting to Islam.. Your great example and comparison to Crossaders is very sounding here.

History also mentioned a lot of incidents where some early Muslims were acting differently than what the Quran had asked... Hind's son, the Amawee's Khalif Maaweya,used to treat those who are non Arabs as second class citizens and he ordered to have their bodies stamped in order to keep them from moving other cities and to keep working for the Khaliefa.. Such brutality was in clear violation to Islamic teachings. He didn't even allow them to convert into Islam. He did this because he wrongly believed that Islam is for Arabs only and also because he wanted to collect tax "KHuraj" from them that usually applied to non muslims in return for not participating in the army..

 

As for the Islamic State reference ,please let it be clear that there is no reference in Quran or agreed-upon Sira on such concept of an Islamic State.. All those states that called itself Islamic were not more than governments that tried to rule based on some understanding of Islamic teachings. As I already mentioned , there is no specifics by the Quaran and the Prophet about the proper way of ruling people, other than having people choose what suits them best. And on this very Islamic criteria, you find Ayatoula Systani judge that the only legitemate goverment in Iraq today is the the directly elected one. Some might claim that this is politically driven by Alsytani because the Shia sect is a majority in Iraq.. They need to remmeber that Alsystani is not a political figure and he is just developing his judgment based on his understanding of the Islamic teachings. For a figure like Syatani , spending his long career as a man of faith , it is much less likely that he would come up with a a Fatwa that would contradict his religious beliefs, especially when such judgment is not buying him political power.

 

After the death of the Prophet , early Muslims faced two concerns:

-Who is responsible of collecting and distributing charity "Zaka" that is supposed to be collectecd from Muslims and distributed fairly among the poor and the needy.

 

-How to manage the emerging city state style community both politically and religiously..

 

Indeed here where the main division of Islamic sects came into existence.

The majority of Medina Muslims went to elect a head of the community to replace the Prophet in his management of the people's affairs. That position was extended by some who thought that this new position should have a religious authority as well was the case with the Prophet. They called the position "Khalifa, the successor of the Prophet"..

Ali and his companions, later called "Shiat Ali, or Shia", were against such mix of authority for two main reasons. First, The Prophet was appointed By Allah and no one can can be a successor of his authority by election. Second, and that is what current Shias believe in, Ali was appointed by the Prophet to play the religious role "Imam" part and no one is eligible to play it in his place.

Other Muslims outside Medina also rejected such mix, but for different reasons. They were refusing to give charity to some Medina appointed Khalif as part of their Islamic exercises, some even threatened to retreat from Islam.

 

That incident marked the first case where Muslims implemented some system and called it Islamic. Indeed It was just another creative invention by early Muslims to solve new problems that were not dealt with in the original teachings.. Because it is just a human invention "Ejtihad" and not a divine one , Shias till today are considering all such governments as just political with no religious authorities to follow. Shias also believe that such State is not possible without having an appointed Imam "One of the their Imams that end at Almehdi, around 700 A.C.".

Sunni sects have a different belief, they believe that the newly created governing system is legitimate and the authority of Early Muslims "Sahaaba" is part of the autority of the Prophet and their judgments should be followed. A belief that was encouraged by all tyrant Khalefas through the Islamic States history because of its compliance with the legitimization of their absolute power ! Something that concorently made Shias pay a very high price in their struggle to keep up with their belief.

 

That was the case with Shias till early Nineteenth century, where a Shia scholar appeared in Najaf "Ayatolah Alansary" who thought that it possible that a religious leader "Walee Alfaqeh" could inherit some authorities of the Imam Mehdi and "religiously" govern people. That belief got some steam when Ayatolah Khoumani who was a strong believer in this, emerged to power. The majority of Shia scholars around the world, though, don't agree with this new development on their faith and some go as far as calling Khumaini followers Omaree Shia! In reffrence to Khaliefa Omar whom they believed is behind the invention of Khelafa position..

 

Having said that, and in relation to your question, I don't thing that what is called an Islamic State would by nature be fully democratic though it might be by faith!..

It was not , and Islam didn't clearly call for it..

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Guest guest again

Salim, I tried to digest your information but never quite understood how it related to the best future course. I am trying to think in terms of a democracy that lasts for many centuries.

 

I also think that I failed to properly express myself. If the constitution of a nation incorporates a set of morals and values then the nation itself is tacitly constrained from freedom of thought and implies that dissenting opinions are neither tolerated nor discussed. In terms of actual laws, there will be no difference if it is done in the constitution itself or through legislative actions. But, we are a race of imperfect humans and the society will be made up of us imperfect humans.

 

The real implications of putting it at the constitutional level only take shape when you consider both human nature and the reality of globalization. The world is an exceptionally competitive place and even the slightest disadvantage will result in stunted economic growth. Individuals within a nation must not be given even the slightest excuse for discrimination against another group or it will impede the free flow of thought. In today's world, free flow of thought is the source of innovation. To be without this risks creating an economy that can never achieve parity with other nations. If the government's primary task is to assist it's citizens in their pursuit of life, liberty, justice, happiness - then the economy is an essential component.

 

I guess my question is - - is it required that a basic set of morals be rigidly specified in the constitution? Would the Koran allow the constitution to be a broad organizational framework that does not define morality? And instead allows the legal and judicial systems determine matters of morality? The difference is subtle, but in today's global economy even the tiny things become large.

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Salim, I tried to digest your information but never quite understood how it related to the best future course.

I am trying to think in terms of a democracy that lasts for many centuries.

I also think that I failed to properly express myself. If the constitution of a nation incorporates a set of morals and values then the nation itself is tacitly constrained from freedom of thought and implies that dissenting opinions are neither tolerated nor discussed.

 

It seems to me that you have another two different concerns:

1- In the constitution, should a reference to a theology or a set of moral concepts becomes a constrain that blocks the democratic process?

2- Would any Islamic teachings reference , in specific, conflict such process?

 

As for the second concern/question, I think I already had my point to it very clearly .. The answer depends on which version of Islam.. The Amouwee's version is for sure conflicting the process.. Which is the one that is followed today by most radical Islamic groups. Those groups who believe that their way of understanding is the only correct one and it should be imposed on all citizens.

 

Regarding the first concern: Theoretically , your concern is valid. however, practically it is not. Let me give some relatively successful democratic examples

The American, The Israeli, The Iranian ..

The American:, which I would consider as one of the most successful in western hemisphere. However, there is a clear violation to your statement. For example,The reference of one indivisable God that Americans pledge to, is a clear violation to the belief of atheists. Nevertheless, it never turned to be a real obstacle in the process of evolution of the American constitution .

 

 

 

The Israeli: The most successful to the middle east standards, yet the reference to the religious rights of any Jews to return to Palestine is a complete violation to other Christian and muslims citizens, who might not believe in this concept.

 

 

 

The Iranian: One of the most successful to the Islamic experience standards, despite the concept of absolute religous authority of "Wali Faqeh" .

 

 

 

Such discrepancies had never blocked these three democracies from flourishing and becoming good exercises for democratic system.

Other new born democracies should not be of exception. Over perfection might be a killing recipe.

 

 

It should not be a matter if the constitution is based on some moral values , the matter is if these values are blocking others that don't believe in them , in excersing their right of belief and conduct. In the new Iraq , the government is formed with a minister of an atheist group minority "Yazidi" faith .It is happening for the first time in an Islamic majority country.. This didn't stop Alsystani, as example of moderate Muslim scholar, from blessing such government.

 

 

 

I fully agree with you that the constitution/state shouldn't differentiate between any two citizens.. At least that is what "The prophet's version" of Islam had taught .. BTW , Imam Ali, the fourth Khalefa, was the one who created the judicial system that is separated from Political authorities.. He was the first to stand in front of a Judge confronting a Christian citizen that had filed a case against the Khalifa.

 

 

I guess my question is - - is it required that a basic set of morals be rigidly specified in the constitution? Would the Koran allow the constitution to be a broad organizational framework that does not define morality? And instead allows the legal and judicial systems determine matters of morality? The difference is subtle, but in today's global economy even the tiny things become large.

 

 

If we are talking the way the prophet and Quran taught, then it is clearly NO. Adding to this, such a rigid specification is not possible In Iraq, for very simple reason.. What might be correct for Sunni, might not be for Shia.. It is better to leave it to the the broad way the Iraqi interim law specified "Any law need to comply to those Islamic teachings that are agreed upon ALL Muslims" .

When it comes to those "Agreed-upon" by ALL Muslims, you might be surprised to find them very few that moslty comply with any free democratic constitution, with very minor expectations!! Those expections thatneed to be carefully handeled..

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Guest Guest_guest

Thank you so much for your wisdom. A door has opened in my mind. I do not know if it is fact or fantasy, but it places much of the turmoil in your region within a framework that is understandable to me. It would be as follows:

 

The turmoil in the mid-east is caused simply because Arabs are not living as God intended. God gave man free will, free thought, and the ability to speak. I do not think God intended for that to be prevented. Extremism rose up to provide answers as to why Arabs are not living the life Allah intended. The answer they provide is that moral and spiritual purity is the way to achieve life as intended. But in reality, the answer is much simpler. God did not intend for government or church to take away that which he had given. The answer is for leaders to give back that which they have stolen.

 

Your words make sense to me. I now think that Islam may be better equipped to support democracy than Christianity. Christianity is a King oriented system of beliefs. The transition from Kings to democracy took several hundred years and a lot of really bad wars. Let us hope that Islam does better.

 

By the way - one nation indivisible under God means that the nation is indivisible. It could be any God.

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Thank you so much for your wisdom. A door has opened in my mind.

Appreciating your complement

I do not know if it is fact or fantasy, but it places much of the turmoil in your region within a framework that is understandable to me. It would be as follows:

The turmoil in the mid-east is caused simply because Arabs are not living as God intended.

I would like to put it as "Not as the Prophet and the Quaran intended"

 

God gave man free will, free thought, and the ability to speak. I do not think God intended for that to be prevented.

That is the message that easily be found through phrases of Quran.. "Ala yaaklun: means don'yt they mind" ," Ala yetsfkaroon, means :don't they think"

 

Extremism rose up to provide answers as to why Arabs are not living the life Allah intended.
Indeed they rose up to tell Moslims what they think Alla intended, and to force them to follow that "only" correct version of intention. Not to " WHY" Arabs are not.. ". They thought that all Muslims suffering is becuase they are not following that unique right version..

The answer they provide is that moral and spiritual purity is the way to achieve life as intended.

They believe that their version should strictly be followed, the morality and spirituality are a matter of ALLA's orders.. Nothing to do with people might accept or note.

But in reality, the answer is much simpler. God did not intend for government or church to take away that which he had given. The answer is for leaders to give back that which they have stolen.
History had a lot to proof this..

 

Your words make sense to me. I now think that Islam may be better equipped to support democracy than Christianity.

 

 

Again which version of Islam and which of Christianity..

 

The transition from Kings to democracy took several hundred years and a lot of really bad wars. Let us hope that Islam does better.

Seems till now Christains did better.. After fourteen centuries of Tyrany took over , Muslims are still not being able to develop their own path to freedom which was the main message of the Prophet .

 

By the way - one nation indivisible under God means that the nation is indivisible. It could be any God

 

 

Thanks much for the comment.. Unfortunetly, that would make no difference for those who don't beleive in GOD !

The early American constitution allowed voting rights for whites only.. The current one disallow polygamy , dispite the believe of about 5% of population of Moslim Americans who believe in the right of men of having more than one wife.. I am not calling for though . !!

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Guest sadok

A similar thread on

http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/

 

Sadok wrote

 

An intersting debate about Islam and democracy is on

http://baghdadee.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=238

 

I think that there are two issues to be discussed here

-Is Islam considered as a religion from the westren theological point of view?

- Is there any teaching in Islam that blocking Moslims from excersising Democracy as per the westren terms?

 

My understanding of the both above questions is no..

In Islam the religious Patriotic herarichy is an imposed one by the political system.. There is no teaching in Quran that asked for such system.. Islam is a pure personal system of thought that set a relation between a Muslim and his god directly without a religious middel man.. There is no such position in Islam that is equivalant to a church man.. What Muslim call as Shikh , is not a religious position but more like scholar who had a better chance to learn about the teachings, however there is no any restrictions of following him as a representative of the religion as in Cathlic chrestianity.

 

As for the other question. It might be enough to say that the first successor to Prophet Mohamed was ellected by Muslims rather than appointed by the prophet.. It was the later Khalif who invented a new rule of appointing a successer and for political reasons.A mong all related phrases of Quran, it asking Muslims to have their decisions through voting.. It never set a strict rule for such voting though.. That is why some traditionist Salafees today claim that democracy with popular voting is a non Islamic. They thought appointing by religious leaders is the Islamic way.. On the other side, you find most moderate religious scholars to consider the popular voting is the only legitamate mechanism, as the case with Alsystani demnd in the iraqi example.

 

So in order to answer this great question we need to know which version of Islam we are talking about.. There are many as the case with others.

sadok | Email | Homepage | 01.10.05 - 5:49 pm | #

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Sleepless wrote,

Sadok,

 

"Islam is a pure personal system of thought that set a relation between a Muslim and his god directly without a religious middel man"

 

Does Islam simply mean - submission to Allah, with 5 pillars of support-alms, fasting, hajj, prayer and shahada? I am trying to understand as it seems you are saying that different religious laws have been created by man under the name of Islam and therefore there are many versions. Is this correct? How does the Quran fit in then? Are the teaching of the Quran separate from Islamic law?

Sleepless in Chicago | Email | Homepage | 01.10.05 - 10:04 pm | #

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Guest sadok

Sleepless wrote

"Does Islam simply mean - submission to Allah, with 5 pillars of support-alms, fasting, hajj, prayer and shahada? "

 

That is a question that might need a seperet post! Yes what I ment was that many of the known Shria laws are implemented by Muslims later after the death of the prophet. If you follow carefully the role of Prophet teachings as per the Quran, you might trace a very clear message that these teachings arenot to be forced on people but to educate them about.. This policy was the core of a big debate after the death of the prophet..

Today , most Islam versions thought that Islam include the "Amer be maroof wa Nahee an al munker" the call for good and the block of bad.. The question is about the mechanisms of such actions..

Having a conflict between some Islamic teachings and current democratic codes , should not make Islam as anti democratic.. The lack of Jeferson's constitution to include Women in voting, doesn't make it as such.

The question is if Islam is a constitution of rule? History tells us that it is not..

That is a nother long discussion that I would pass to some friend on Baghdadee blog

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Guest sadok

The prophet didn't appoint a succer after his death.

Muslims were the first known nation that had a public ellection to choose the first Khalif. Zarqawee need to educate him self before talking about Islam. It is the later Khalifs who invented the appointment of successors.

Democracy is not a westren imported concept.

There is a phrase in Koran says "People are the only to decide about their affairs" "Amrahoum Shura baihahum"

Zarqawee chose the wrong place , wrong people to talk too. He might miss what Iraqis are.

Iraq is the Shia place who had kept their version of islam isolated away from the influences of tyrent Khalif's political impurifications. Irqis are the most stubren people in ME.

Just today I was on the phone with some family members, they are scared to death but they all decided to vote!

Let us wait and see who will win this battel:

The sord or the blood?

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Guest Guest

Many months ago I asked if democracy was compatible with Islam. The members of this forum gave knowledgeable and insightful answers and I left with a deep respect for Islam. I would like to ask for your guidance again.

 

I don't think democracy is the answer for Iraq because I don't think lack of democracy is the problem. The problem is dissent. More specifically, the problem is how the government and mosques handle people who question them.

 

Ever since the printing press, dissent has been able to spread rapidly. Rulers like Saddam responded to dissent with crushing oppression. In the west, dissent is not a problem. Quite the contrary, it is one of our greatest assets. It is through dissent that we invent new ideas and find new ways to solve old problems. It is not clean. It is not pretty. Teenagers are always offensive as they test the limits of their parents. But it works. We even have a saying that "dissent is the truest form of patriotism".

 

You can't expect to un-invent the printing press, telephone, radio, television, or the internet. And you can't expect for new people not to be born. So you're left with two choices. Oppression or dissent. Is there a third option?

 

So my question would be -

Is it possible for an Islamic state to coexist with people who openly question it? If so, how?

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Very intersting post by a young Iraqi blogger .Ali

http://afreeiraqi.blogspot.com/2005/04/ask...difference.html

 

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Asking few questions makes a difference.

There's a change of mentality that started to occur in Iraq even before the 9th of April, but toppling Saddam marked a surge in the change process that made it transfere into an active form and spread wider than before.

 

I think one of the main problems in Arab-Muslim communities is that the vast majority from the illiterate to even highly educated people do not ask enough questions. On the other hand, I've noticed (mainly through blogging ) that westerns in general and Americans in particular always have so many questions to ask and rarely settle with one point of view and accept it as the truth.

 

But an important question here is, why Arabs and Muslims do not care a lot about searching for answers?

In my mind there are two major reasons; one comes from Islam and one comes from Arab traditions. For Muslims, like most religious people anywhere there's a general belief that all questions have been answered already, and I think that the main difference here between west and east is just the fact that religious people form a higher percentage of the population in the Arab Muslim world than they do in the west.

 

In Islam the Sunnis have always had all the answers in the Koran and Hadeeth and all you have to do is dig them out, although "some will always remain unrevealed until judgment day". For the She'at, it's the Koran and the heritage of Mohammed and his dynasty down to the twelfth Imam, Al Mehdi.

Every time western scientists announce a scientific discovery, Muslim scholars kill themselves searching for a verse in the Koran that can be twisted to match it and then say, "Hey, we had it all the time and we didn't know!" and we have books and TV shows dedicated for showing how all these great inventions were mentioned in a way in the Koran, but we just didn't care to search harder!

 

'True Muslims' believe that Mohammed knew *everything*, and I've argued with many friends of mine many times about this point. I asked if they thought Mohammed knew how to manufacture a computer or to build space shuttle for example, and the answer was "absolutely". But he could not reveal all his knowledge to the people at that time because they wouldn't have understood it.

 

This makes one wonders why he was given such a useless knowledge in the first place! Most Muslims don't bother to answer this question and just think that Mohammed is perfect (which by the way is NOT mentioned anywhere in the Koran) and therefore he must know everything.

 

I asked if Mohammed knew the future and again I got the same answer. But what then makes God superior to Mohammed? The answer was a faked Hadeeth that does not address the question but it does state that Mohammed had this ability. And questioning that Hadeeth would be unacceptable for most Muslims because the Hadeeth is a basic corner of today's' belief for most Muslims and they simply can't imagine themselves abandoning it.

 

So all questions were answered already including the ones that have not been asked yet, so what's the point of seeking knowledge from another source! They don't know 1/million of what Mohammed and his descendants had and these not here to ask them. But they did left us what can give us some answers.

 

That's why those who study Islam are called scientists, and in some sects like Wahabism they're considered the only scientists. You hear the word scholars describing these people but the literal AND the actual translation (from Muslims point of view) would be "scientists".

 

This is why most Muslims' search in other fields of knowledge like medicine was always a 'blind' one in my mind. Because it did not improve or alter these researchers general understanding of life as a whole. I know many fellow Iraqi physicians, and very good ones in fact, who their knowledge did not make them any less superstitious or any more rational in their lives than illiterate people.

 

As for Arabs, they have too much pride in themselves and their traditions that makes it difficult for them to ask for others' help.

 

Anyhow, something happened in Iraq over the past years that I only noticed when I looked more into the Arab street and then I saw how much we have truly moved ahead of them.

Now the religious beliefs have not been shaken or dismissed but still what happened made their effect much less than it was before and I know that inside most Iraqis, those beliefs are not as holy and unquestionable as they were before. They may not admit it or even notice it but it shows in the way they have changed their atittude towards many issues.

 

In my trip to Jordan last September I had some casual conversations with people their and I tried to find out if what we see on Arab TVs is actually representative of how average Arabs think.

Well, they 'surprised' me with how much they know and how much they want to tell me about Iraq! They had everything figured out and had no place for any questions except for things like prices of goods, and even that they knew it was all "very expensive" and wouldn't believe anyone who tells them otherwise.

 

In Iraq these days such mentality can be found among Sadrists and Ba'athists while the majority of Iraqis have more questions than answers. On most of the times I was in a political discussion with friends or even strangers we seemed to race each other to say, "What do you think will happen? Will this thing or that work? Who do you think is behind this issue and why?" and such questions. We all seemed to search for a better understanding by scanning others' opinions than to just impose our facts.

 

I believe this change started before the war when Iraqis started to lose trust in their leadership, even the 'trust' of the helpless who is afraid to question or can't see a hope in doing that. I look at the invasion of Kuwait as the start point for such a change.

 

I see Iraq at that time, like most Arab/Muslim nations now, like a ship led by a blind deaf and brutal sailor that managed to keep the ship safe by the fact that all ships with real sailors managed to avoid hitting his ship while he was leading the ship without having any course or plan depending only on his intuition.

 

Unless a disaster happened, passengers would not even dare to complain. Most of them actually trusted the sailor out of fear, helplessness and because everyone said he was smart and they could not believe that such a strong calm elegantly dressed person had no clue what he was doing. He must have a plan, any plan as it simply can't be possible that someone reached the top without having some worthy qualifications.

 

But in Iraq the disaster happened and the passengers discovered that their sailor was actually a blind deaf and stupid piece of shit, and many of them revolted. And while he managed to crush the revolt he could not control their minds anymore. They saw his truth and this made them scared and worried about their future in this ship. Many decide to leave it before it finally sinks. Those who couldn't or didn't want to for one reason or another started to look for answers, and they looked outside their ship.

 

Before that time we used to get our news from the Iraqi media mainly. After that, the vast majority of Iraqis started to listen to Monte Carlo radio, BBC and VOA to try and find out what's going to happen to them. Even Ba'athists and Arab nationalists were doing that, as they realized that their fate was going to be decided outside Iraq by powers that have decided not to avoid a conflict with the mad leader anymore and were just waiting for the right moment to get rid of him once and for all.

 

After Saddam was toppled most Iraqis took a sigh of relief, "Now finally someone sane is going to run things here". They did think of America as a sane power totally replacing a mad one, at least for a while. I say they were relieved not just because they got rid of Saddam, as that meant incridible joy not relief. But It's been also a relief because it was scary to think that your fate is in the hands of an insane man while you can't do anything and you're not even used to such a huge responsibility.

 

But the Americans did not want to replace Saddam. They did not want to run things the way they wanted without sharing the responsibility with the people, even if they thought their management could fix things and even if this was for a transitional phase.

An iron evil fist was gone but it was not replaced by an "iron good fist" as many Iraqis wished, and things collapsed in a place that has been ruled with extreme force for decades when people were given freedom.

 

This is one of the main reasons why many Iraqis were and still are disappointed with America. No, these Iraqis do not hate America as most like to think, they're just disappointed with her for not fitting the image they had in their minds; the just tyrant that should've taken full responsibility for some time until they could find their own just tyrant who would make their life much better without forcing them to share a burden and a responsibility they never thought it was among their duties as citizens.

 

In the same sense, many Iraqis looked for the January elections to bring the long awaited Iraqi savior even if it meant many saviors not just one. They saw the advantage of multiple leaders/democacry and welcomed it but did not expect that these leaders would have so many differences and find a huge difficulty in agreeing on a common major goal.

 

Thus, Iraqis are brought back again to the same point where they have to ask questions and keep an eye on events. And with time and through these changes, it has become obvious to an increasing number of Iraqis that they can never go back to that idle state were they left everything to whoever in charge and instead they're gradually seeing how important their role in making their lives better, and I have no doubt that soon most Iraqis will find that not only they have a role they should play but that this role is in fact the main one.

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