The separation of religion and government, as it has been historically understood in the U.S., does not exist in Islam. Islam is an all-encompassing religion, and this includes spiritual matters along with what Westerners have traditionally considered legal matters. The Quran instructs its people on how to pray as well as how to plan for inheritance, punish criminals and fight a war.
Avoiding Eurocentric Thinking
The entire concept of the separation of church and state began in the predominantly Christian West. Such events that helped the U.S. build a wall between church and state, such as the Reformation and the Enlightenment, did not occur in the Muslim world. With this in mind, the reader should consider that the "separation of mosque and state" is a Western concept in Muslim clothing.
While Christians scholars have spent years perfecting theology, Muslim scholars have put the same effort into perfecting the Sharia — or, Islamic law. Sharia has two categories: "Ibadat," which is worship of God, and "Mu'amalat," which is social interaction, community relations and government. Westerners would consider the former concept to be religion and the latter concept to be civics, but for Muslims, the two are intertwined, and both are addressed by the Quran.
The Quran as Both Constitution and Scripture
The Quran is divided into Meccan and Medinan surahs; surah means division. The Meccan surahs are inspired by Muhammad's early career amid persecution in Mecca, and the Medinan surahs are inspired by his time as head of state in Medina. Surah 82, verse 13 of the Quran, which is from the Meccan period, states: "Indeed, the righteous will be in pleasure." This verse is just as sacred as one that deals with inheritance or other seemingly mundane subjects.
Muhammad's model community was a true theocracy, a form of government in which the divine rules the law. Muhammad had duties as a prophet and as a head of state, but he went to the same source — to God — to deal with both. Surah 5, verse 92 of the Quran tells the people to obey both God and The Messenger. Because Muhammad was a head of state with a divine decree, this made a separation between mosque and state both impossible and undesirable.
The Rightly-Guided Caliphs and Modern Governments
The first four successors to Muhammad are considered the "rightly-guided caliphs" by Muslims, and their authority was at least partially based on religion. After Ali, the fourth caliph, the divine authority of heads of state began to wither. Currently, the role of religion is very diverse in the governments of the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia considers the Quran to be its constitution, but many other countries in the Muslim world have constitutions. According to the website of the Council of Foreign Relations, a 2010 Pew Poll in the Muslim World indicated that there is strong support for Islam in politics, but also a majority who desire democracy.
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