Muslims In Power
I thank you for your letter and your timely question. It is a relevant question and we must answer in a satisfactory manner. Let me point out that your question begins with three false assumptions: (1) Saudi Arabia is a model of Islamic government, (2) Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan and other Muslim majority countries have mainly Islamic systems in place, and (3) Islamic history is not relevant as a proof of Islamic government.
These assumptions must be thrown out before I answer your question.
Saudi Arabia is a kingdom, which means the king is the sovereign, whereas in the Islamic system Allah is the Sovereign. Saudi Arabia could be an "Islamic" kingdom only if the king submits to Allah's rule and he confines himself to signing rules and regulations which do not contradict the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Such rules and regulations would be written with due consultation with the people of knowledge. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has served Muslims very well during the last one hundred years. Some examples are:
(a) spending over 70 billion dollars for building facilities for pilgrims and Hajj, which has become a lot easier than it was fifty years ago,
(b) hundreds of billions of dollars were spent on infrastructure and the job was done very well,
(c) bringing prosperity to a majority of its citizens and in the process hundreds of billions were poured into almost all Muslim majority countries as well as other Third World countries,
(d) created positive environment for the Muslims living in the kingdom to live as Muslims,
(e) many aspects of the Shari'ah are the law of the land,
(f) Saudis have given economic aid to all Muslim majority countries of the world,
(g) Saudis have given billions of dollars over the last several decades for building of mosques and Islamic centers in all countries of the world from the poorest countries in Africa to the most prosperous countries like Sweden and the U.S.A.
However, on the negative side:
(a) Saudi financial system remains interest based as their laws forbid the establishment of interest-free banking in the country (Qur'an 2:275-280),
(b) mutual consultation, that is, Majlis Ash-Shura, is a travesty (Qur'an 42:38, 2:233 and 3:159) and it appears to be only tokenism,
(c) violates the Islamic principle of free mobility of Muslims into, inside and going out of the kingdom,
(d) violates Islamic prohibition of taking non-Muslims as awlia (protectors), as Europeans and Americans are deeply involved in the security and defensive system of the kingdom (Qur'an 5:51-53 and 3:28),
(e) the kingdom invests heavily in the lands of enemies of Islam who continue to blackmail, yet the kingdom does nothing to protect itself from this blackmail,
(f) the Saudi justice system is not rooted in justice but favors Saudi citizens while foreign workers and foreign investors from the Third World countries are discriminated against (I have personally been a victim of the Saudi System of Injustice), and
(g) Allah has forbidden spendthrift and wasteful spending (Qur'an 17:26-27) and calls spendthrift people the brethren of Shaytan, yet Saudi life is a spendthrift life and the leadership is leading in it.
This shows that Saudi Arabia may have more Islamic laws implemented than any other Muslim majority country yet it is far from being an ideal Islamic state.
Despite the deficiencies of Saudi Arabia there is not a single Muslim majority country that comes closer to Saudi Arabia in implementing Islamic laws. Naturally, other Muslim countries may have some family Islamic laws implemented but they are either secular or worse, that is, anti-Islamic. Naturally, none of the Muslim majority countries is even remotely Islamic in their political, economic and socials systems as the Islamic model.
The examples of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and other Muslim majority countries are irrelevant. The Taliban is a poor example of Islamization of the society because they never had a free hand in establishing Islam. From day one they had to fight wars for their mere existence and foreign conspiracies to sabotage them never ceased. The system was established by young students who were in their 20s and 30s with no political experience. Even the U.S. that was established by mature politicians was not a perfect country, as it did not give women's rights of property ownership, slavery was allowed to continue, religious freedom was non existent, disliked minorities such as Irish, Italian, Chinese, American Indians and others did not have full human rights. It took 200 years of constitutional amendments and a host of laws to fix those problems. How does anyone expect the young Taliban to fix everything within five years? This is hypocrisy and a double standard.
On the other hand Saudi Arabia has implemented the Qur'anic injunction of keeping the land free of the filth of the Shirk (associationism or making partners with Allah) as we find in the Qur'an verse 9:28. This verse may apply only to the Inviolable place in Makkah but the protection was extended to Madinah during the period of Nuruddin Zangi and all governments since his time have honored the rule. Jazirat Al-Arab, the Arabian Peninsula, was protected from establishing any other religion than Islam, the rule was honored by all governments throughout 14 centuries of Islam and all Muslims should support it. It means that the Arabian Peninsula is an exception in this area rather than the rule.
History provides precedence, and the evidence of implementation of Islam that contradicted the Qur'an, the Sunnah and the precedence of Rightly Guided Caliphs (Khulafa Ar-Rashideen) is unislamic, even if many Muslim rulers may have practiced and implemented it wrongly. Whereas any practice of Muslim rulers of the past may be used as precedence of being Islamic if it did not contradict the above given sources. The history of Muslim civilization is the correct example for us to use as to what is Islamic and what is unislamic in the politics, economics, jurisprudence and social life of the Muslims. We cannot explain the Islamic system without referring to the precedence established by the early predecessors until it got corrupted in the later times. Analogies are our friends and we must use them when talking to the people. We should ask the critics of the Islamic system where preaching of other religions is prohibited if the U.S. government would allow a committed communist to preach his ideology to the American people within the boundaries of this country? The answer would be an emphatic NO! Similarly, Islam for a Muslim majority country is a political-religious-social-economic system and it would not allow any other system to be established. In the U.S. there is freedom of thought and communists are allowed to live here but not to preach. Similarly, Islam would allow non-Muslims to live as minorities protected by the state.
Islam for Muslims as minorities is not a complete system but a religion. We have plenty of precedence for it. During the time of the Prophet, Muslims migrated to Habasha (modern Ethiopia) where they did not preach nor did they try to subvert or establish an Islamic system. In the later periods Muslims traveled to Africa, Southeast Asia and China and lived happily as minorities. Some places Islam spread, they became Muslim majority countries and Islamic laws for the Muslims were established without subjecting non-Muslims to those laws. Islam operates at two levels: (1) Islam as a complete ideology and a system in Muslim majority countries, and (2) Islam as a religion like any other religion without any political overtones in those countries where Muslims are a minority.
After refuting your assumptions we can look at what an Islamic rule may look like.
(1) Under an Islamic rule people of other religions have complete freedom to practice their religion, establish their places of worship and their institutions to teach their religion to their children.
(2) Islamic system goes one step further by allowing non-Muslims to establish their own judicial courts to try their own civil cases, render and implement their judgments upon the people of their faith. Note that such permission is not given to the Muslims living in Europe or the Americas, now or earlier in history.
Naturally, if Muslims have an upper hand in America they will look for precedence in Islamic rule and would follow it. Islam does not encourage dealing with hypothetical situations, therefore, it is not appropriate for us to discuss the details. As it is said, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Let us not complicate our lives by discussing worthless details. Let us not live in a fools paradise because only 2% of the population should be happy to live in peace with their neighbors and the government in a lawful manner. The discussion of theoretical questions are not encouraged in Islam.
The first step is to gain some political influence so that we can have leverage in elections. Secondly, we must have some economic muscle; we need a large number of Muslim philanthropists who will help us in the establishment of all kinds of institutions, including many think tanks who prepare policy papers and provide them to the politicians. Thirdly, we need to have an outreach program for education of the masses so that we may change public opinion from anti to pro-Islam and pro-Muslim by removing all traces of Islamophobia (compare with anti-Semitism, a dirty word). We need to work hard for making Islamophobia a dirty allegation against anyone who speaks against Islam and Muslims. Fourthly, we need to convey the message of Islam, facilitate entry of non-Muslims into Islam and their proper education so that they become Islamic workers made in America. The dominance of Muslims in this country may be a nice dream but this would be a dream of Sheikh Chilli (a simpleton).
I would like to present to you a few historical examples of Muslim treatment of their non-Muslim population. These set the precedent to follow when an Islamic government is reestablished anywhere in the world. Allah has promised that it will happen when we deserve this gift from Allah (Qur'an 24:55) and the Islamic world will be the Super Power once again. At this time we are far from it and we should not live in such a dream but be practical in dealing with the current disgrace of the Muslim Ummah (Qur'an 2:85).
(1) The Golden Age of Judaism was Arab Spain according to Jewish historians.
(2) The Silver Age of Judaism was Muslim Persia (modern Iraq and Iran) according to Jewish historians. The Golden and Silver Ages of Judaism were not during the period of Jewish rule in Judea and Samaria nor under the Babylonian rulers nor under the Romans and Greeks nor in Europe under the Catholics. It was under Islamic rule.
(3) The seat of the Orthodox Church was Constantinople (modern Istanbul) before Muslim armies conquered it, it remained the seat of the same church throughout Muslim rule, and it remains its seat after the Khilafa was destroyed by the treacherous anti-Islam forces of the world through conspiracies and treason.
(4) Christian churches, Jewish synagogues and places of worship of other religions are found by the millions throughout Muslim majority countries without interruption and disruption of their business. Rare attacks are bloated out of proportion by the anti-Islam media to make Muslims appear intolerant and spread hate against Islam. Any attack is rooted in the search of agents of foreign powers who are conspiring against the host country; such elements hide behind religion, churches and synagogues. These attacks are political not religiously motivated.
(5) Whenever the Jews faced persecution and pogroms in Europe they fled for safety towards the south or the east, that is, North African Muslim lands or Turkish lands where they found humanitarian help, refuge and prosperity.
(6) In the year 70 C.E. the Roman General Titus removed all Jews from Palestine and issued a decree that they should never be allowed to enter the land. All subsequent rulers including the Christians honored the decree until 638 C.E. In that year Umar ibn Al-Khattab conquered Jerusalem and honored the request of the Jews to come for pilgrimage to Jerusalem and later he permitted the establishing of a synagogue outside of Haram Al-Sharif and the reestablishment a small colony of the Jews in Jerusalem.
(7) In the 10th century C.E. the Fatimi ruler Al-Hakim of Egypt destroyed churches and synagogues in Jerusalem, persecuted them and destroyed their properties. He was thrown out by some members of his own family. They apologized to the Christians and the Jews, rehabilitated them to a better position than before, rebuilt their Churches and Synagogues and returned them in a lot better shape than before.
(8) During the period of Banu Umayyah (Umayyad dynasty) the Christians were converting to Islam in droves. It bothered the Caliph and he set up an inquiry to find if these people were not forced to convert to Islam. The commission investigated and reported to him that there was no compulsion or coercion involved.
(9) Muslims ruled Spain for almost eight centuries yet remained a minority. When Christians came back in power the Inquisition courts were set up and Muslims were forced to renounce Islam, convert to Catholicism or be killed or exiled.
(10) Muslims ruled all islands in the Mediterranean Sea for almost ten centuries yet remained a minority, consequently they were forced to renounce Islam or be killed or exiled.
(11) Muslims ruled entire East Europe including Greece for hundreds of years yet remained a minority and lost. The most recent ethnic cleansing we have seen in the Balkans was within the last decade.
(12) Muslims ruled India in parts or in its entirety for almost ten centuries yet remained a minority and now they are facing persecutions, systematic pogroms and worse.
(13) When crusaders conquered Jerusalem they killed almost all Muslims, Jews and a majority of non-Catholic Christians. When Muslims re-conquered the same city after 88 years under the leadership of Sultan Salahuddin Al-Ayyubi all non-Muslims were protected and their places of worship and institutions were also protected. There was no revenge to be taken for what had happened 88 years earlier. Compare it with the treatment of Muslims in Bosnia, Kosova and India in our time.
There is a lot more that I can write but this should be enough for you to present to non-Muslim audiences who ask you questions rooted in their ignorance, prejudice, fear and hate. Their motivation is to attack Islam and Muslims and they know that the Muslims are just as ignorant as they themselves are. I talk to non-Muslim audiences frequently, including Christian scholars and professors, but I rarely get such questions. If I do, they receive it from me and they would never dare ask such question to another Muslim. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves and stand up for Islam and Muslims.
I can not give you specific references because I am writing from the top of my head. Finding references will take some time but then, you can find them yourself which will be a good exercise. Look up the history books. For example:
1. THE PREACHING OF ISLAM by Sir Thomas Arnold, 1896 (reprinted several times).
2. A HISTORY OF THE JEWS by Solomon Grazel
3. HISTORY OF THE ARABS by Philip K. Hitti, 10th editon 1970.
4. HISTORY OF Islam by Masudul Hasan, 2 volumes, 1987
Dr. M. Amir Ali, Ph.D.