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Are Muslims living in Muslim-majority countries required to turn their countries into Islamic governments with enforced Sharia law? Or are they allowed to have secular governments even in Muslim-majority countries?

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4 Answers 4

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Yes it is obligatory on Muslims to rule according to Islamic laws. This is stated with the Quran:

وأن احكم بينهم بما أنزل الله ولا تتبع أهواءهم

And judge between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their inclinations

Quran 5:49

And there is a stern condemnation about those who do not judge according to Islamic rules, which means that it is obligatory command.

ومن لم يحكم بما أنزل الله فأولئك هم الكافرون

And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed - then it is those who are the disbelievers.

Quran 5:44

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The question seems simple, but there's a few layers to this that need to be unpacked before it can really be answered.

In general, people are judged according to their own actions:

  1. The ruler of the state is obligated to judge according to what Allah has revealed. This has nothing to do with whether the state is Muslim-majority or not; even a Muslim ruler of a secular state would not have any authority to forbid what Allah has permitted or permit what Allah has forbidden.

  2. The citizens of the state are not responsible for the actions of its leader. They are, however, still required to enjoin good and forbid evil, which means that when possible Muslims should warn their leaders when they do judge in ignorance of Allah's laws. The citizens are also still obligated to follow the laws of Islam: If living under an unjust leader prevents them from fulfilling their Islamic obligations they should take actions to remedy that. This doesn't necessarily mean overthrowing the government, it could simply mean practicing one's religion in secret or emigrating to a different country.

  3. Even in a Shariah-based government, non-Muslims are not necessarily bound by the same rules as Muslims. There are multiple schools of thought in Islamic law, with many differences of opinion in interpreting and applying the Shariah, as well as how and when non-Muslims in a Muslim state are permitted to judge and rule according to their own laws.

Allah does not place burdens on anyone beyond what they can bear, and it is hardly in any individual's power to overthrow an entire existing government system and implement their own, and especially not when one is already labouring under said system.

In certain cases it may be considered a communal obligation to remove an unjust ruler who harms their own citizens in order to implement a just system. But a communal obligation requires first a strong cohesive Muslim community, not just a "Muslim majority".

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A Muslim who is in charge of legislation is not obliged to make Sharia legislation the stately law, which is applied to all people living in the territory.

This practice not to impose Islamic Sharia on all inhabitants is in line with the practice of Muhammad who allowed Jews and Christians to exerce judgement according to Halacha (Sharia on the base of Jewish fiqh)

He is obliged

  • not to forbid what is obligated
  • not to impose what is forbidden

This is expected from any Muslim, also in a state where there is no Muslim majority.

Stately law may

  • not forsee stately prosecution for not fulfilling what is prescribed according to Sharia.
  • regulate or forbid something that needs regulation in modern society where Sharia has no clear position.

Stately legislation cannot define Sharia. Sharia cannot be changed in a legislation process.

According to Sharia fiqh, Sharia fiqh has to be applied to all Muslim inhabitants. The state needs a process for the appointment of authorities who are in charge of it.

(Position according to Hanafi and Maliki fiqh)

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Bangladesh is a majority muslim country - 90% - and has a secular consitution. This is in part because of a long British rule they have come to believe in the separation of powers in religion and the state. In fact, this seperation is followed education as well with a separate religious madrasah system alongside the 'secular' schooling system.

Nevertheless, there is a close relationship between Islam and the state in Bangladesh.

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    This does nothing to answer the question asked. This is "Muslim practice" and doesn't reflect the teaching of Islam.
    – Medi1Saif
    Sep 23 at 10:48
  • @Medi1Saif: I think examples are useful. Is there a single "islamic" teaching? When I look into there are many, many factions. Mutazillites, the Falsafa, the Asharites to name just a few. Sep 23 at 10:53
  • Yes there is and it is explained by UmH!
    – Medi1Saif
    Sep 23 at 10:56
  • @Medi1Saif: Really, there is no mention of a "state" but of "judgement". This can mean many things. Sep 23 at 10:58
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    @mozibur ullah Is the practise of 21st century Bangladesh considered an evidence in the principles of Islamic jurisprudence?
    – Maalik
    Sep 23 at 23:07

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