by Ali Sina
Are non-Muslim countries more Islamic than Muslim countries? That is what Hossein Askari, an Iranian-born professor of International Business and International Affairs at George Washington University, believes. Askari says Ireland “leads the world in Islamic values as Muslim states lag.” After studying 208 countries and territories he found that the top countries in both economic achievement and social values are Ireland, Demark, Luxembourg and New Zealand. Britain also ranks in the top ten. The first Muslim-majority nation is Malaysia ranking at 33, while the only other state in the top 50 is Kuwait at 48.
Askari then concluded that the Quran’s teachings are better represented in non-Muslim societies than in Islamic countries, which, he believes, have failed to embrace the values of their own faith in politics, business, law and society.
Askari said Muslim countries use religion as an instrument of state control. “We must emphasize that many countries that profess Islam and are called Islamic are unjust, corrupt, and underdeveloped and are in fact not ‘Islamic’ by any stretch of the imagination,” Askari asserted.
“Looking at an index of Economic Islamicity, or how closely the policies and achievements of countries reflect Islamic economic teachings – Ireland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Singapore, Finland, Norway, and Belgium round up the first 10.” Askari added.
If a country, society, or community displays characteristics such as unelected, corrupt, oppressive, and unjust rulers, inequality before the law, unequal opportunities for human development, absence of freedom of choice (including that of religion), opulence alongside poverty, force, and aggression as the instruments of conflict resolution as opposed to dialogue and reconciliation, and, above all, the prevalence of injustice of any kind, it is prima facie evidence that it is not an Islamic community.
If Askari were right the solution would be simple. To get rid of corruption, oppression injustice and inequality in Islamic countries, which according to Askari are not Islamic values, we could encourage Muslims to leave Islam and follow the lead of non-Muslim countries. It appears that the more a country is Islamic the more it lacks “Islamic values.” Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan that are more Islamic are also more oppressive.
But of course Askari is wrong. In Islam the unbelievers are not equal to believers. “Is he, then, who is a believer like one who is disobedient? They are not equal.” (Q. 32:18) In Islam men excel over women. (Q. 4:34)
Also Islam honors the institution of slavery. (Q 33:50, 23:5) Dawud reports a hadith (14:2692) of a slave of Ibn Umar who ran away to the enemy and when Muslims overpowered them Muhammad returned him to Ibn Umar. Dawud says that this slave was not distributed (as a part of booty) among the rest of the captives who were also reduced to slaves.
As for freedom of religion, the Quran says “No religion other than Islam will be accepted from anyone.” (Q. 3:85) The argument that Islam is tolerant because the verse 2:256 says there is no compulsion in religion is a fallacy. This verse has nothing to do with tolerance. According to Islamic sources, the Jews of Medina had adopted and raised the orphaned children of Arabs and these children had embraced Judaism. When Muhammad expelled the Jews from their city the relatives of these children (now adults) wanted to prevent them leaving but in loyalty to their adopted parents they preferred to go. The matter was brought to Muhammad who said, if they want to go let them go, “there is no compulsion in religion.” Of course if they wanted to stay they had to convert to Islam.
Askari’s argument that the prevalence of corruption, oppression and injustice in a society is prima facie evidence that it is not Islamic is absurd. Governments are either democratic or dictatorial. Corruption and oppression are more likely in dictatorships. In democracies, people have the power to remove corrupt governments, unless they are so ignorant that they are easily deceived, which is not the fault of democracy. In democracy, laws are made by people. Islam does not recognize the laws made by people. The laws are made by God and the ruler, as the executioner of divine law, is not accountable to the people. And as long as he adhered to the Islamic law no one is allowed to criticize or oppose him, even if he is unjust.
Muhammad said, “If Allah has on Earth a caliph who flays your back and takes your property, obey him; otherwise die holding onto the stump of a tree.” [Dawud 35: 4232] So much for freedom and justice!
The 18th century Muslim scholar Shah Waliullah on the Obediene of the Caliph wrote,
The Prophet has said: “Hearing and obeying is an obligation of every Muslim, whether he likes the command or dislikes it, as long as he is not commanded to commit a sin. If he is commanded to commit a sin, then he absolved of the obligation to hear and obey.” [Sahih Muslim.](I say): Since an imam is installed for two kinds of public weal, by which religious and political affairs are regulated, and since the Prophet was sent for their sake, and the imam is the Prophet’s deputy and an executor of his mission, therefore, obedience to the imam is indeed obedience to the Prophet. And disobedience to him would be tantamount to disobedience of the Prophet except when he commands to commit a sin. For then it would be evident that obedience to him is no longer in obedience to God, and in that event, he would cease to be a deputy of God’s Prophet. This is why the Prophet said: “Whoever follows an amir, he indeed follows me, and whoever disobeys an amir, he indeed disobeys me” [Sahih Muslim]. [Shah Wali Allah, Selection from Hujjat Allah al-Balighah, English Translation, 2006, pp. 116-117]
As for economics, something Khomeini said, “is for the donkey,” Islam has very little to offer. Bukahri (3:39:541) reports Muhammad saying, “There is no house in which these (agricultural) equipment enters except that Allah will cause humiliation to enter it.” The reason Muhammad disparaged agriculture is because he wanted to encourage his companions to earn their living through jihad. He said that is the best bargain and he who strives hard for Allah’s cause with their wealth and in persons will reap the rewards. (Q. 6:11)
The irony is that Muslims can see something is wrong with their societies, but can’t see its cause. Western countries are not prospering because they have embraced Islamic values. How delusional is this thinking? They are prospering because they drew a clear line between religion and state, and have embraced secularism. Muslims can’t do such a thing. Islam is more than a religion. It is primarily a political system. It is totalitarian as it controls all aspects of the life of the believer. Muhammad was not just a prophet but also a dictator. His successors also ruled with undisputed authority.
If Islamic countries are dictatorial, unjust, oppressive and backwards we should look for the cause of it in the values that they espouse. Their failure is evident even to them. But instead of acknowledging the problem they keep digging their heads deeper in the sands of denial. Isn’t it time to wake up?
Ali Sina is the author of Understanding Muhammad and working on his new book The Life of Muhammad under the Light of Reason, a comprehensive review of the Life of the Prophet of Islam.
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