At the moment, all the eyes rest on Libya not for the exceptionality of its triumph over a long serving dictator but that of what could be the character of government in Libya after Colonel Muammar Al-Qathafi, and that of what role Islam might be playing in the making of a new Libya.
Islam has always been in the centre of social and political discourse globally, more so after the occurrence of 9/11 September. It is already in debate in USA whether to allow Sharia as the source of law in the rare case of legal grievances for the Muslim minority. Libya is no exception.
The traditional western concept of secularism rejects religion as its antithesis. By that reasoning, there seems to be no place for Islam in the secular and democratic state of Libya.
No religion can be secular in the sense the word secularism is understood in the west. Its basis has been anti-religion.
The emergence of the secular state in Europe occurred due to the fanaticism and intolerance of the clergy.
It began with the revolt of Martin Luther against the prevailing religious dogma, which finally resulted, in the challenge by the kings to the supremacy of the Pope and the division of authority between the Church and the State leading to an anti-religious concept of secularism.
Out of this arose the humanistic movement in Europe, which was spearheaded by Petrarch in Italy, Erasmus in Holland and Francis Bacon in Britain.
Thus Europe witnessed the emergence of enlightenment in the seventeenth century. Nation became more important than religion and the broad humanistic rather than narrow religious approach became the dominant factor in the affairs of State.
This, in brief, is the glimpse of the emergence of the secular State in the Christian world.
On the contrary, Islam came into birth at a time when all of Arabia was going through the dark age of moral, social and political decadence.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), born in 570 AD, and inspired by divinity, used Islam as a tool to reform various social evils existing during the time such as polytheism, superstition and ignorance. He stood against barbarian customs, social injustice and gender inequality.
While medieval Europe was in decay, Islamic culture was blossoming. Realistically, Renaissance in Europe was the result of its contact with Islam. Bernard Lewis said: ‘for many centuries the world of Islam was in the forefront of human civilization.’
‘It was the best social and political order the time could offer….it was the broadest, freshest and clearest political idea’, remarked H. G. Wells in Outline of History.
In the current scenario of political development in Libya, the common people see in Islam an opportunity to stand against the evils of autocracy that pervaded for over four decade as once Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did to get rid of ills in the society.
Islam offers them the rights to fight brutality and injustice in the way secular and democratic principles allowed Europeans and others to stand against.
The common people in Libya are very humble. Intellectually, they were kept aloof from such concepts as ‘secularism’ and ‘democracy’, for the former system of education did not allow the liberty to engage in such scholarship.
They did not study the ideals of democracy and the rule of governance in the writings of Desecrates, Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Kant but in the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), in the character of his immediate predecessors and in the broodings of such Arab scholars as Al-Farabi, Al-Ghazzali, Ibn Khaldun and so on.
Islam provides solutions to a wide range of problems concerning humanity. It is not a religion as the conventional sense of the word stands for ‘unfounded beliefs’. It is a way of life.
Foucault argues, “Islam…which is not simply a religion, but an entire way of life, an adherence to a history and civilization”.
Islamic principles go hand in hand with modern democratic ideals of the contemporary age. It does not contradict the progressive values as regards the rights of women, freedom to worship and equality of justice.
The last sermon delivered on Ninth Day of Dhul-Hijja, 10 A.H. (632 CE) by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is remarkable to note: ‘All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab: also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.’
The Libyan population predominantly Muslims have fought against the cruel system with utmost religious zeal spearheading the slogan ’Allah-o-Akbar’ (God is Great) throughout the revolution to awaken the sleeping soul of the common masses.
To them, Islam is not merely a spiritual exercise in seclusion but a remedy to the dreadful consequence of totalitarianism.
Islamic revolutionaries in Libya have so far behaved with responsibility and with a sense of balanced judgment. Theirs is a well organized group that is dedicated to democratic pluralism.
The vision of Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the interim leader of National Transitional Council rightly places the vision of Islam in the making of a new Libya. “We are seeking to establish a state government by law and welfare, and Sharia, Islamic Law, should be the main source of law”.
The westerner’s apprehension to the wish of the Libyan people in Islamic law for the governance of a modern state has an answer in the following words of Mikhail Gorbachev:
“It would be a mistake to see Islam as a destructive force…Islamic doctrines strongly advocate social justice and peace. An Islam that emphasizes those values can have great potential”. (February 15, 2011, The New York Times).
Islam as a liberating force recasts the same role in history as that of Reformation in Europe.
Published in print: The Tripoli Post, December 10-16, 2011, Libya
Categories: Democracy in Libya