By : Prof Dato’ Dr Hashim Kamali
I welcome the publication of this volume, titled The Ulema-State Alliance: A Cause of Authoritarianism and Underdevelopment in the Muslim World, and translated by Muthanna Saari.
The relationship between religion and state or religion and politics has always animated debates in the Muslim world. On the one hand, the reverence of Prophet Muhammad as the first Islamic state leader and prophet in the history of Islam seems to have raised questions as to how a modern society should be governed. On the other hand, the separation of religion and state is thought to be essential in modern days since there is no longer a divine leader, as in the case of the Prophet. Modern society needs to have a true sense of how their present-day life is lived as long as the core Islamic principles are followed. To expect change is in line with the renowned Islamic legal maxim that “it is irrefutable that rulings change in accordance with the change of time” (la yunkaru taghir al-ahkam bi-taghir al-azman).
The doctrine of twin brothers (al-din wa’l-mulk taw’aman) came to the fore following a huge crisis over the “Abbasid Revival” (920-932) in which the caliph reclaimed their political authority, which was earlier wrestled from the army chiefs as God’s representative on earth. The doctrine was emphasised to consolidate religious and political authorities in the hand of Caliph because no kingdom survived without religion and law, and no religion functioned without a kingdom and control.
No wonder that the concept of separation of powers, as proposed by Baron Montesquieu, is widely regarded as a practical and efficient in the contemporary nation-state. The underlying tenet of separation of powers lies in preventing the concentration of all power in a unitary organ of state. Centralisation of powers and authority, either in political or religious sphere deemed to have constrained people’s agency in pursuing their political life commensurable to their reasoning and not necessarily as a religious dogma.
In this writing, Prof Ahmet T Kuru has elaborated the connection of Islam and Christianity with the state in great detail. His command of history and broad references from traditional religious sources (turath) makes this book very meaningful. Historically, it turns out that scholars and intellectual classes are among the main actors due to the important role they play in the rise and fall of states.
In his attentive analysis of the constitutional and economic variations in the Muslim world, Prof Ahmet has scrupulously analysed, categorised and identified the current state of Muslim-majority countries. He singles out that the juxtaposition of the ulema-state alliance with rentier economies is causing authoritarian regimes to be firmly placed. The future of the Muslim world is thus made to present considerable challenges. Various factors closely related to the current practices of rentier economies and democratisation shall be the determining factor in overturning the underdevelopment and authoritarianism that have held the state of the Muslim world for the past decades. Rentier economies that currently dominate the Muslim world are not based on innovation and entrepreneurial deployments of economic resources and manipulate the scarcity of assets for immediate gain.
It also fosters unproductiveness, perpetuates inequalities, and disproportionately favours the wealthy.
For the Muslim world to achieve progress in the present day, its deep historical roots should not only serve as reminiscences to be proud of and glorified. Instead, what is more important is the ability and courage for self-reflection and soul-searching for Muslims to spearhead crucially needed reform to alleviate the deprivation and precariousness that they hitherto encountered. In this regard, a structural reform towards open, meritocratic and competitive system as expounded in Prof Ahmet’s writing is precisely what is needed.
Mohammad Hashim Kamali is the founding Chairman and CEO of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS). He studied in England from 1969 to 1976 and obtained an LLM and a PhD in Law from the University of London. Kamali was Professor of Islamic Jurisprudence at the International Islamic University Malaysia, and also Dean of ISTAC from 1985 to 2007. Kamali has addressed over 130 national and international conferences, and he has published 17 books and over 140 academic articles.