Islam - More than just prayers and pilgrimage
In the 1950s, Armenian-American investigative journalist John Roy Carlson travelled to Egypt with the intention of tracking down various Nazi war criminals who had sought asylum in the country following World War II. During his stay in Cairo, he experienced many aspects of Islam and everyday Muslim life, including its rampant antisemitism.
But one of the most profound insights Carlson gained during his journey followed a conversation with Aboul Saud, a “pleasant, English-speaking member of the Arab League Office”. With immense pride, Saud said to him:
You might describe Mohammedanism as a religious form of State Socialism. The Qur’an gives the state the right to nationalize industry, distribute land, or expropriate property. It grants the ruler of the state unlimited powers, so long as he does not go against the Qur’an. The Qur’an is our personal as well as political constitution.
Carlson concluded based on his conversations with Saud and other Egyptian Muslims that Islam is “not only an authoritarian religion, but also both a political creed and a way of life encompassing the sum total of a Muslim's temporal and spiritual existence.”
Writing in 1960, Sayyid Abul A’la Maududi (d.1979), one of the most important Muslim revivalist thinkers of the twentieth century, confirmed this view:
A state of this sort [i.e. an Islamic state] cannot evidently restrict the scope of its activities. Its approach is universal and all-embracing. Its sphere of activity is coextensive with the whole of human life. It seeks to mould every aspect of life and activity in consonance with its moral norms and programme of social reform. In such a state no one can regard any field of his affairs as personal and private. Considered from this aspect the Islamic state bears a kind of resemblance to the Fascist and Communist states.
The key aspect of Islam which prompted Saud and Maududi to compare it to other forms of totalitarian governance (which would cause apologists to call non-Muslims “Islamophobes” if they said the same thing) is its attempt to subject absolutely everything, including a believer’s private life and personal habits, as well as politics and the running of a state, to divine regulation and control, through its sacred law, sharia.
This desire for “Big Brother”-like social and political control is acknowledged by Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, an influential Pakistani professor of Islamic law in the Faculty of Sharia and Law of Islamabad. Nyazee writes that “Islam, it is generally acknowledged, is a ‘complete way of life’”, with the following defining characteristics:
No other sovereign or authority is acceptable to the Muslim, unless it guarantees the application of these laws [sharia] in their entirety. Any other legal system, howsoever attractive it may appear on the surface, is alien for Muslims and is not likely to succeed in the solution of their problems; it would be doomed from the start…A comprehensive application of these laws, which flow directly or indirectly from the decrees (ahkam) of Allah, would mean that they should regulate every area of life, from politics to private transactions, from criminal justice to the laws of traffic, from ritual to international law, and from the laws of taxation and finance to embezzlement and white collar crimes.
The mainstream acceptance of this view is confirmed in the writings of the American Muslim leader Faisal Abdul Rauf, who was the man behind the now-abandoned plan to build a gigantic mosque within the destruction zone of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York. In his 1999 book Islam: A Sacred Law – What Every Muslim Should Know About Sharia, Rauf argues that sharia should be assimilated into the American legal system, and states:
[S]ince Sharia is understood as a law with God at its center, it is not possible in principle to limit the Sharia to some aspects of human life and leave out others…The Sharia thus covers every field of law – public and private, national and international – together with enormous amounts of material that Westerners would not regard as law at all, because the basis of the Sharia is the worship of, and obedience to, God through good works and moral behavior. Following the Sacred Law thus defines the Muslim’s belief in God.
This image of Islam as a “complete way of life” that controls everything and leaves nothing to human intuition is regularly cited by Muslims as a positive aspect of the religion when seeking to win new converts. We should therefore view Islam not just as a religion (although it undoubtedly is), but also as a fascist political system - and treat it accordingly.