Islamic statehood a modern idea, not in Quran, scholar claims

Muslim scholar Mustafa Akyol says Islamic statehood a relatively recent concept. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Muslim scholar Mustafa Akyol says Islamic statehood a relatively recent concept. — Picture by Choo Choy May

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 — The concept of an Islamic statehood is a relatively recent creation and was never mentioned in the Quran, Turkish-born scholar Mustafa Akyol said today.

An advocate of political secularism, the journalist who has been a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times told an open forum on Islam here that Islamic statehood is man-made and not divine inspiration as some clerics have suggested.

He cited from Islam’s golden period during the Ottoman empire to support his argument.

“The sultanate did not come from the Quran. The republic did not come from the Quran,” he said, the latter referring to present-day Iran. “These are modern ideas.”

“There seems to be a lot of confusion because God did not define the Islamic state in the Quran. There was no such thing,” Mustafa told a forum organised by local Muslim group Islamic Renaissance Front.

Mustafa said that only political values, rights, security issues were discussed in Islam's holy book, adding that Muslim leaders after Prophet Muhammad had created political structures based on these values.

But, he emphasised, they were never declared as Islamic states.

Malaysia's Islamist opposition party PAS supports the idea of an Islamic statehood.

Its leaders have repeatedly stated that the party remains committed in making multiracial Malaysia an Islamic state despite widespread criticism from both Muslims and non-Muslims.

PAS is also keen to enforce the strict and controversial Shariah penal code in Kelantan despite opposition, claiming Islam ordains the implementation of hudud although many religious scholars have rebutted the argument.

Without referring to PAS, Mustafa said historical evidence shows those who propound the Islamic state concept often do so with one political motive in mind: control.

He said Islam’s intellectuals need genuine reform, claiming much of the religion’s interpretation today is done selectively by those aiming to perpetuate dominance.

Mustafa pointed to the present anti-pluralism movement throughout the Islamic world as evidence.

“I agree that we need reform… we can see that certain interpretations are favoured over the other for dominance,” he said.

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