Is it appropriate to use the phrase Political Islam?

The Details of the Question

Is it appropriate to use the phrase Political Islam?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The phrase "Political Islam" is wrong; it is wrong in terms of concept, not grammar; it has no equivalent; for, there is only one Islam; its Book, Prophet and members are certain.

The basic resources of knowledge and decrees of Islam have been interpreted by scholars for centuries and the members of Islam act based on one or some of them and try to live like Muslims.

That there is one Islam does not make it necessary for the interpretations and practices to be of only one kind. There are madhhabs that are based on different interpretations in terms of both faith and deeds (acts that are in compliance with Islam’s rules of worshipping and life system). There are differences among the members of the same madhhab in terms of full or partial practice; however, these differences  were not given names as “different Islams”; for instance, phrases like Maturidi’s Islam, Ash'ari’s Islam, Shafii’s Islam, righteous people’s Islam and sinners’ Islam were not used.

Islam does not describe only worshipping and afterlife; it also imposes some rules that believers have to obey in this worldly life and gives orders.

Acting upon this, nobody says “worshipping’s Islam” and “law’s Islam” by meaning the field of law.

Islam has orders and prohibitions related to politics too; it is not possible to separate Islam from politics as theory and belief. Some Muslims want political life to be arranged and applied according to Islam; and if they organize and work for it, it is not appropriate to call them "political Muslims" and their religion "political Islam".

There is only one Islam; some Muslims want to or can apply all of it while others can apply some of it. If it is necessary to give a name, it is not done by dividing Islam, or by diversifying it; it is done based on whether the application is complete or incomplete and whether it is based on this or that interpretation.

Those who make up the term “political Islam” use it to for different Muslim groups at different times, their organizations and activities. In recent past, they used political Islam for Hizbullah, Hizbuttahrir and Muslim Brotherhood. Now, they use it for al-Qaeda.If their religion is political Islam, what is the name of the religion of other Muslims? Is it non-political Islam? If it is so, what does it mean? Does it mean an Islam that includes no rule, order and decree about politics? Is there such an Islam? If the answer is “moderate, laic, secular Islam”, is it not “a political interpretation”? That is, there are two interpretations about the political aspect of Islam:

1. Islamic system (political system peculiar to Islam)

2. Contemporary political system "approved to Islam" emerging as a result of reconciliation of Islam with contemporary political systems.

Note that both are political and are based on the interpretation of Islam.

There are some people who scream, "Political Islam is dead! Long live moderate Islam!" and there are some people who write articles and books in order to base these screams but this statement expresses what is demanded not what has happened in my opinion. Roy, who wrote the book “Failure of Political Islam” acted upon the example of Iran and tried to prove that this ideology died; however, the thing that failed was Roy's prophecy, not Islam, which was practiced in Iran also with its political aspect - according to them.

There is nothing like "Political Islam", which they wrongly call; how will it fail? What exists is Islam, which also includes a political dimension.

We can express it more clearly as follows:

Muslims cannot bargain with religion and say, "this part belongs to you and that part belongs to me". A Muslim is a person "who surrenders".

He surrenders to what?

He surrenders to Allah's order, will and consent. Allah orders us to perform prayers and fasting but He also prohibits interest, fornication, obscenity, bribery, oppression and tyranny.

A person who surrenders to Allah as a Muslim surrenders to Him without bargaining with his whole life, without dividing the rules of the religion, as much as he can. It is not possible to be a Muslim at home and a non-Muslim in the public realm. A Muslim’s main duty is to prevent the formation of a situation that is contrary to Islam (we can also say contrary to human rights and ethics) in the public realm; if he is not strong enough to do it, he lives as a Muslim in his private and public life without touching others; and if he cannot do so, he practices as much of it as  he can; and he will be forgiven for what he cannot do - because it is beyond his power. Since this is Islam, to mention a different Islam by saying "political, moderate, laic, etc." means to try to cover the sun with something and it is not possible.


Hayrettin Karaman (Prof. Dr.)

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