Islam ruled Arab states for over a thousand years, firstly under the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, then later the Umayyads, the Abbasids and the Ottomans. Even non-Arab Muslim rulers harnessed the virtues of Islam as much as the Arabs themselves, if not more. Guided by the Holy Quran and the Sunnah [of the Prophet], Kurdish leader Saladin Ayyubi ruled the Muslim Umma and liberated Jerusalem. Similarly, Imad al-Din Mahmoud Zengi was a Turkic leader who championed Islam during his victorious rule [founding the Zengid Dynasty], as did his successors such as Nur al-Din Zengi. In the non-Arab world, Muslim Berber states, the Almoravids and the Almohads championed Islam until colonialism came and abolished the Islamic project.
Afterwards, when colonialism was overcome, power was assumed in most Arab states by ignorant, ruthless and illiterate military leaders, without the people pledging allegiance to them under Islamic Sharia law. As a result, their first declaration after seizing power was to invalidate the law of Islam, and many countries contented themselves with merely celebrating the Prophet Mohamed's birthday, and reciting the Holy Quran during celebrations and on special occasions. Islamic Sharia law was widely abolished as a source of legislation for public life. Other states mixed between conventional and Islamic laws, but failed to completely adapt Islamic Sharia law, thus confining Islam to the mosques. Some leaders even advocated communism, declaring their affiliation to the Kremlin in Moscow. People were divided either for or against these endeavours, but they were all Muslims. Some countries took from Islam only what suited them, or what seemed acceptable to them with regards to the ordinances of family, public rights, punishments, child-care and so on, whilst leaving behind what they did not like.
I often wonder about those military rulers who considered the enforcement of Islamic Sharia law to be a form of backwardness and reactionism, whilst they themselves were so illiterate and backward that some of them only held primary school certificates! After seizing power, the first thing these military leaders would do was promote themselves from the rank of corporal to colonel or lieutenant general, whilst only offering their people repression, suppression, imprisonment, torture and displacement. They even lost their own countries' territory to Israel, yet they claimed to be victorious. They forced ordinary citizens to display posters and statues of themselves [the leader] on every road, lane, street, square, school, playground, cafeteria, restaurant and park. They erected triumphant arches and statues in desolate cities, which ultimately transformed into ruins over time, as a result of neglect, poverty and underdevelopment.
I still do not know why these military leaders hijacked Islam, abolished Islamic Sharia law and replaced it with conventional and man-made constitutions. As the Quran clearly states: “Then is it the judgement of [the time of] ignorance they desire? But who is better than Allah in judgement for a people who are certain [in faith]?” [Surat al-Maeda; Verse 50]. Instead of fighting against Islamic Sharia law, I wish those leaders had occupied themselves with developing their countries, rebuilding their homelands, and reforming their political and economic conditions. Yet, now these countries are among the world’s poorest states, suffering from a proliferation of disease, illiteracy, hunger, imprisonment, humiliation, repression, servitude and destitution. Many of the countries that abolished God's Sharia law are now begging to international organizations, lining up waiting for their aid. The military rulers neither maintained religion nor did they reform their countries, although they tried all conventional constitutions and laws, from French to English law, and even Marxism. Yet despite all these failures, they did not even think of trying to govern in accordance with Islamic Sharia law.
I do not know where these backward military leaders received their education, and what blinded their perceptions and distorted their hearts and minds. I do not know what made them turn their back on Islam, contest Islamic Sharia law, detain religious scholars, humiliate their own people, curtail freedoms, and persecute society’s great thinkers and writers. Saddam Hussein, al-Assad, Gaddafi and other tyrants were all guilty of this.
Why is a country like Israel, an unjust and tyrannical state, proud of what has remained of its distorted Judaic faith and its interpretations of the Torah, whilst some Arabs are not proud of Islam, a religion that has transformed them from mere shepherds into conquerors, reformers, messengers and makers of civilization? Islam has taken the Arabs from darkness into the light, purified them, and prompted them to raise their heads high after they had lowered them in disgrace by worshiping idols and believing in myths. Islam prompted our ancestors to sail far across the world and traverse vast deserts to spread God's message, standing upon the Great Wall of China in the east, and praying in Cordoba in the West!
I urge the Arabs to prevent military rulers from coming to power in Arab states, for they are the cause for every calamity. They are behind all misfortune and only lead to decline, regression, destruction and subordination.
(Dr. al-Qarni is a Saudi-born Islamic preacher and scholar. His article was first published in Asharq Al Awsat on Dec 15,2011)