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A Religion Is Not Judged By Its Political History

By: Dr. Shadee Elmasry


“It lasted 30 years then everyone was fighting again.”


This is a common critique of the Companions’ khilafa. It’s just a way to dismiss the Sharia as a source of guidance. Its main error is this assumption that Islam promises some utopia. Rather, the Quran and Hadith tell us often that conflict is inevitable, and that human greed and Satanic plots will never truly disappear in this life. But they can be decreased and managed.


On its face, there was literally one truly significant internal battle (Siffin), making the image that the umma plummeted back into war to be a complete lie. But more importantly, the claimants miss the point of religion completely. The main goal of Messengers is to bring iman to the people. To bring a religious structure to personal life and social interactions. And this was undoubtedly accomplished. The lands the Companions entered remained Muslim and never threw off the cloak of iman or Sharia. They went from a ruling minority to a majority slowly over time (about three centuries), showing that people’s conviction developed naturally and organically, not by force from the state.


As for the political body, it is a major priority in Islam for sure, but it is a means to an end, not the end itself. The Prophet ﷺ forewarned that the Quran and the Sultan would split, “so go with the Quran.”* And he warned in many hadiths that the rulers would eventually become corrupt (Sahih Muslim) and that one day there may not even be an imam, a ruler (Bukhari & Muslim).


A religion is not judged by its political history, but by the guidance, it is able to provide people, their families, and communities throughout the ages, in good times and in bad times; in victory and in defeat.



*A slightly weak narration from Tabarani and Ishaq but whose meanings are upheld as sound.

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