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On the idea of a successful Islamic state in today’s world

I was wondering what sort of government structure is endorsed in Islam. I’ve heard much talk of the ‘ideal’ Islamic State, with the enforcement of the Shariah Law throughout the land (essentially, a Theocracy, the likes of which we saw in Afghanistan and still see in Iran). However, i’ve found some important arguments against such a form of government in the Western media which provides several practical reasons due to which a theocracy would be doomed to fail.
Some further thought-provoking arguments that a friend of mine in the US put forth are as follows:
In the US, one of our fundamental liberties is Freedom of Religion. There are literally dozens of different kinds of religions; just within Christian sects I am sure there are twenty or thirty different churches, each of which interprets the Bible very differently.There are an increasing number of Eastern Religious groups too: Sikhs, Muslims, and Buddhists, among others.
I did not realize the true value of this freedom until I began studying the Middle East. Why can’t Jews and Christians and Muslims share Jerusalem? Why have millions of people died as that proud city has changed hands so many times in history? My opinion: because none of the occupying groups is truly tolerant of an alternative religion. As each has controlled Jerusalem, they have mandated that people of other religions convert, leave, or face consequences.
It is a basic right to believe whatever you believe, without government sanction or hindrance, and that is why I believe that all theocracies are doomed to fail eventually. Likewise, nations that forbid free exercise of religion, like China, are also doomed to fail. People will seek their guiding spirit, or God, or Allah, or whatever you wish to call it, in their own way, and this cannot be controlled, because it is so personal. We think of anyone mandating a religious belief as a kind of thought-police, and as a matter of fee expression, that just won’t be acceptable here.
I am not, for instance, a Muslim, but I support you in following that path. Frankly, I am not terribly religious at all, and I have often felt that if religion did not exist, there would be many fewer wars. Throughout history, people have faced persecution for their beliefs all over the globe; indeed they do today. It is too bad we cannot be more reverant of the individual’s desire to seek God in whatever way he feels inspired to do so.( I’d like to say here, that the US is not making war on Iraq because they are Muslim. While I don’t agree with the reasons given for war,none of them involve that kind of argument.)
So what I’d like to ask you is: where exactly do we stand? Is there a fixed formula for govt structure given in Islam, or are we left to figure out the best structure on our own? Is democracy acceptable in Islam, and why or why not? What is wrong with having a secular state if the rights of all the various religious groups are upheld?? I know that history gives us a solid example of a theocratic State of Islam, under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and that did work out very well. But considering the situation today, when we don’t have such an ideal leader as the Holy Prophet (PBUH), when we have such a great lack of true tolerance, and when the Western nations uphold the concept of a democratic state, what should we do now? How should we answer their (the non-Muslims’) concerns?


One of the reasons why you feel inclined to accept a secular state more than a religious one is that the examples of the so-called religious states that we have seen in the recent times are not very impressive. However, Islam is based on Quran and sunnah and not on the model of this or that contemporary Muslim state.
In an ideal Islamic state, people will have the right to believe in and practice whatever religion they feel comfortable with. In fact their religious rights shall be protected just as the religious rights of the Muslims. Their places of worship shall be protected just as ours. The Quran says:
“Had not Allah repelled some people by the might of others, the monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which Allah’s praise is daily celebrated, would have been utterly demolished. Allah will certainly help those who help His cause; most surely Allah is Mighty, Powerful.” (22:40)
The reason why I would demand an Islamic state is that I have accepted the entire Quran as the word of God. I read in it injunctions that are applicable on my individual life and there are others that are applicable on the society. Although I will most certainly look at the circumstances before asking for the enforcement of these injunctions that have to do with the society, I will not ignore my God’s injunctions because they run contrary to the desires of human rights activists. It is a part of my belief that God Almighty is more intelligent than us and that He knows everything. I can’t imagine how humans can come up with a law that is superior to God’s. However, I must emphasize that the state would enforce Islamic shariah only when i) Muslims are in a majority and ii) proper arrangements have been made to make the environment conducive for implementing the shariah.
I find it very strange how fasting mentioned in the Quran should be considered okay for a Muslim but hundred lashes for adulterers mentioned in the same book should not. If both are from God, both have to be valid for me. The only difference is that one injunction is applicable on me as individual while the other one is for the society to implement. To a secular minded person, both injunctions are from a religion that doesn’t come from God and therefore both are unreasonable. However, if fasting helps an individual in getting satisfaction, he/she should not be stopped from doing it, but since hundred lashes are a public law, it should not be allowed to have any role in our society. To them, since Quran is not the book of God, it is unacceptable that it should have any role in influencing the public law. To a Muslim, the two injunctions are the same as far as their significance is concerned, but different only in the sense that the public law is only enforceable when the situation is conducive. This condition too is accepted because the Quran itself gives us reasons to believe that that’s how it should be done.
I hope I have answered your question, but do ask more if you think I haven’t clarified some point.