Separation of Church and State: In the West and Under Sharia

No explicit basis exists for separating the secular from the religious in Islam. Here are the facts.

BY Immanuel Al-Manteeqi · @Al_Manteeqi | August 17, 2016

In the contemporary West, there is separation of church and state, a clear demarcation between the religious sphere and the secular sphere.

However, this separation of the two spheres was not always present. The Catholic Church, for example, exercised a considerable influence in matters of state for centuries in the past. The Enlightenment period in Europe–culminating in the French revolution–ultimately led to laïcité, the unfettering of religion and state in the West.

The intelligentsia rebelled against what they took to be the unhealthy superstitions of Christianity and its injection into affairs of state. Some Christian intellectuals, fearing this separation, actually argued that nascent Christianity had a solid basis for the separation within its holy source texts—viz., Jesus of Nazareth’s famous statements : “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21), and “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). In sum, what crystallized over time is the idea and practice of the separation of church and state.

Today, the predominant idea in Western countries is that the state should not be an arm of religious institutions, nor should religious institutions be arms of the state. Religious and state authorities are now viewed as autonomous entities which should operate in separate spheres.

The motivation for this idea, which proliferated as a result of the Enlightenment, is quite simple: it is necessary to keep the state from unjustly discriminating against people on the basis of religion, and to keep the state from meddling in the affairs of religion.

The innumerable wars fought on the basis of religion (which, to be fair, have historically been less numerous and less bloody than those fought for other reasons) are testament to the tendency that people have to unjustly discriminate against others on the mere basis of religion.

So the idea of the separation of church and state is founded upon a rational reflection on fear that, if religious bodies ever seize the power of the state,  they will use this power to advance their favored religious agendas to the chagrin of those with different religious or non-religious perspectives.

A preventive measure against this unjust discrimination is enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The Founding Fathers did not did not want people to be persecuted on the basis of their religious beliefs, nor did they want the State to unjustly discriminate on the basis or pretext of religion. They rightly saw that no truly liberal democracy could be built in the presence and exercise of such discrimination.

Indeed, when James Madison sent Thomas Jefferson, who was then in Paris, a copy of the proposed Constitution , Jefferson replied by stating that that he did not like “the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion.” Because of the latent sectarian tendency in man, the Founding Fathers did not want religious tests to be applied to holders of public office. They expressed this belief in what has come to be known as the “No Religious Test Clause” of the U.S. Constitution (Article VI, clause three), which states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Furthermore, the United States and many other Western countries do not allow for parallel legal systems. Here in the United States the Constitution reigns supreme. Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states the following:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby [emphasis added].

This article, in conjunction with the First Amendment, implies that no religious law within the territories of the U.S. shall ever supersede the law of the land, which is secular and non-religious. In other words, in the United States, the laws of the United States, which are to be secular, reign supreme. Hence, it can be readily inferred that the Constitution of the United States does not allow for the existence of parallel legal systems, religious or otherwise, that contradict its legal precepts.


Under Sharia, There is no Separation Between Mosque and State

By stark contrast, in Islamic Sharia there is no such tradition, nor such separation between “mosque and state.”

When ordinary westerners think of religious houses of worship, they generally think of places ringing with sermons filled with religious piety—they do not think of centers where political positions are strongly voiced.

But mosques have historically been places where political issues are discussed. This is because under Islamic law, i.e., Sharia, the political sphere is totally subsumed under the religious sphere. There is nothing that is allowed to exist outside the hegemony of God’s law.

As Sayyid Qutb (1906–1966), the leading theoretician of the Muslim Brotherhood states quite clearly, “it is an obligation for people to make the Sharia of God that which rules every aspect of every affair of this life.”[1] The idea of the separation of church and state is, for the most part, a distinctly post-enlightenment and Western notion.

The moderness of the concept of separating religion and state and its foreignness to Islam was a point that was heavily stressed by twentieth-century Muslim-revivalist thinkers who vociferously resisted the proliferation of Western and secular ideas amongst the Muslim populace.

Muḥammad Hasan ʿAmāra, one such prominent twentieth-century Muslim revivalist, wrote a whole book entitled, al-Islām wa al-Sīyāsa: al-Radd ʿala Shubuhāt al-‘Almānīyīn (Islam and Politics: A Response to the Heresies of the Secularists), which was given a favorable introduction by Gād al-Ḥaq Alī Gād al-Ḥaq (the grand imam of al-Azhar University from 1982 to 1996).[2]

In this work, Muḥammad ʿAmāra emphatically criticizes the idea behind separating affairs of state from religion, stating that “secularism is a school of thought of modern Western Civilization.”[3] Amara here implies that since secularism is a modern Western concept, it is therefore not compatible with Islam. Indeed, throughout the history of Islam, mainstream Muslims have rarely understood their religion to be an individualistic and pietistic faith, but rather an architectonic system of thought that encompasses all walks of life—including the political.

The vast majority of Muslims throughout history have believed that the state should conduct its affairs with recourse to Islam.

When Muslim Brotherhood member and former Egyptian President Muḥammad Morsī stood in front of a fired-up crowd in Egypt and took an oath before them and God

that regardless of the actual text [of the Egyptian Constitution], God willing, the text will truly reflect the Sharīʿa , and that [the Egyptian people] will not accept the constitution if it does not reflect the true meaning of the Islamic Sharīʿa [4]

he was not acting in an unprecedented manner. On the contrary, he was acting in accordance with the mainstream Islamic tradition that has existed for about fourteen-hundred years. As Abul ‘Ala Maudūdi, another prominent twentieth-century Muslim-revivalist thinker, states:

An Islamist state must in all respects be founded on the law laid down by God through His Prophet. The government which runs such a state will be entitled to obedience in its capacity as a political agency set up to enforce the laws of God and only in so far as it acts in that capacity.[5]

In al-Islām wa al-Siyāsa, Muḥammad ʿAmāra appeals to a number of Qur’ānic verses to justify the position, encapsulated by Maudūdi above, that any legitimate legislation must be grounded in Islam and the Sharia. The following are some of the Qur’ānic verses that Muḥammad ʿAmāra marshals:

Q 4:58-9: Allah doth command you to render back your Trusts to those to whom they are due; And when ye judge between man and man, that ye judge with justice: Verily how excellent is the teaching which He giveth you! For Allah is He Who heareth and seeth all things. O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination.

Q 4:65: But no, by the Lord, they can have no (real) Faith, until they make thee judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against Thy decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction.

Q 42:10 Whatever it be wherein ye differ, the decision thereof is with Allah: such is Allah my Lord: In Him I trust, and to Him I turn.

The first two verses cited above (Q 4:59-9) are verses that are frequently cited as proof that in Islam there is no separation between dīn and dawla (religion and state).

Indeed, Ibn Taymīyyah (1263 – 1328), a darling of Islamists the world over and one of the greatest theoreticians of the Salafī strain of thought, wrote a whole treatise grounded on these two verses, which he interchangeably names the verses of al-umarā’ (the commanders) and wilāt al-umūr (the guardians of affairs).[6] These two verses seem to be saying that the ultimate arbiter of one’s affairs should be God and his messenger Muḥammad.

In his treatise on these verses, Ibn Taymīyyah states that it is the opinion of the ulema that Q 4:58 speaks of the rulers’ obligations to the ruled, and Q 4:59 speaks of the ruled’s obligation to the rulers. The latter verse, Ibn Taymīyyah says, mandates that the ruled obey their rulers unless the rulers disobey God—viz., the Sharia.[7]

In this, he is in agreement with the position expressed by Maudūdi above. Muhammad ʿAmāra explains Q 4:59 by stating that

the Qur’ān here confirms the Islamicness of the (legal) source of the Islamic state, and it confirms the rule of divine Sharīʿa in various political quarters.[8]

A few verses later in Q 4:65 we read that no one has faith (in Islam) until he lets God—which is here ostensibly the laws of God—to arbitrate their disputes. The recent translator of the Quran A.J. Droge, in the introduction to chapter four of the Qur’ān (sūrat al-nīsa), notes that in the chapter “the Prophet is put forward as God’s representative and the supreme arbiter of all disputes.”[9]

The next verse under consideration, Q 42:10, is a verse that wears its meaning on its sleeve: all disputes between parties are to be decided by Allah. Ibn Kathīr (c. 1300 – 1373), one of the most renowned commentators on the Qur’ān in the Muslim world, states there that this ordinance is a “general [prescription] for all things”—i.e., every dispute that parties have should be decided in reference to what God has revealed through Muhammad.<[10] But clearly this can only be possible in a society where the law is ultimately rooted in Islam. After all, people who live in secular societies, even Muslims in secular societies, do not arbitrate all of their disputes by appealing to Islamic law—Sharia.

The above four Qur’ānic verses are frequently appealed to in justifying the proposition that in Islam religion and matters of state are inseparable. The mainstream Islamic tradition views Muḥammad as being “the supreme arbiter of all disputes.”

As ʿabd al-Rāziq al-Sanhūrī (1895–1971), a prominent twentieth-century and Western-educated Egyptian Muslim jurist who played an important role in the drafting of the Iraqi and Egyptian legal codes in 1949 and 1951, respectively, states: “Islam is dīn wa dawla­.”[11] That Islam is dīn wa dawla­ is now a prominent Arabic and Muslim aphorism that means that Islam is both religion and state.


The above Qur’ānic prescriptions are also supported by what is found in Ibn Isḥāq’s Sīrat Rasūl Allāh, our earliest and best source on the life of Muḥammad.

The Qur’ān describes Muḥammad as a good example for mankind (Q 33:21), and later Islamic tradition praises Muḥammad as al-insān al-kāmil (the perfect man). In the so-called “Farewell Address” or “Last Sermon” of Muḥammad, preserved in the Sīra, he tells his followers that he is leaving behind them two things that if they follow they will never be led astray: “the book of God” (the Qur’ān) and “the practice of his prophet” (i.e., the sunna).[12]

The sunna is “the way” of Muḥammad —i.e., the actions that Muḥammad performed, and which are traditionally held by Muslims to have been partially preserved in the relatively early sīra, hadīth, and tafsīr literature.

The important point to note here is that it is incumbent upon all Muslims to follow Muḥammad ‘s way of life or sunna. All of these data, along with the fact that Muḥammad was both a political head of state as well as a religious leader who, at the end of his life, ruled most of the Arabian peninsula, are strong evidence that there is no separation of dīn and dowla in Islam. After all, how could there be if the seal of the prophets (Q 33:40), the good example to all mankind (Q 33:21), and the perfect man (al-insān al-kamil), did not separate the two spheres? Muslims, of course, must emulate Muhammad. That he did not separate the religion and the state can be gleaned from Sīrat Rasūl Allāh, penned by Ibn Isḥāq, and our earliest and best source for the life of Muḥammad.

When, according to Sīrat Rasūl Allāh, Muḥammad  and his emigrant followers (muhājirūn) emigrated from Mecca to Medina (which was then called Yathrib) in 622 A.D., he instituted a political charter with the people of Yathrib. This came to be known as al-Ṣahīfa (the Constitution of Medina) and it marked the beginning of Muḥammad ‘s ascendency to political power.

The Constitution of Medina is a document that is generally agreed upon by even Islamicists of skeptical proclivities to be genuine. The agreement specified Muḥammad as the leader of the partakers of the Constitution (i.e., the muhājirūn and anṣār ; the anṣār being the people who “helped” or welcomed Muḥammad  in Medina). The Constitution of Medina, reproduced in full in Ibn Isḥaq’s Sīra,[13] is an important document because it shows that from the very beginning of Islam politics and religion were intertwined. Evidence of this is that the document states the following

Whenever you differ about a matter it must be referred to God and to Muḥammad… If any dispute or controversy likely to cause trouble should arise it must be referred to God and to Muḥammad, the apostle of God.[14]

Here we see clearly that the first polity that Muḥammad set up was a theocratic one, where God rules through Muḥammad. We can infer that disputes were decided in accordance with religious principles that were “revealed” to Muḥammad.

Indeed, the main parties to this Medinan Constitution were spoken of as religious groups—the “believers” (al-mu’minūn) who “formed a community (umma) to the exclusion of all men,” and the Jews (some of whom, e.g., the Jews of  Banu ‘Auf, are explicitly stated to be “one community with the believers.”)[15]

So according to Ibn Isḥaq’s Sīra, the first political system that Muḥammad set up was one where God ruled through him, and where the main parties of the polity were defined by their religion. Hence, we find, in the earliest biography of Muḥammad, that disputes should be handled by recourse to God and Muḥammad. It is consonant with what we find in the Qur’ānic verses taught above.


Further evidence that Sharia teaches that there is no separation of “mosque and state” comes from the history of the first four “rightly guided” caliphs.[16]

As noted above, Muḥammad was both a prophet and a statesman. His immediate successors were the four rightly guided caliphs. Though they did not inherit from him the charism of prophethood, they were nevertheless supposed to be the guardians of the Islamic religion. A caliph at least as early as the third caliph Uthman Ibn Affan (r. 644 – 656) was called khalīfat Allāh (deputy of God), clearly implying that he was considered to be endowed with religious as well as political authority.[17]

In addition, a caliph was also called amīr al-mu’minīn, i.e., the commander of the believers, further evidence that the caliphal role was wedded to the Islamic religion. The caliph acted as the protector of religion and state (dīn wa dowla). Indeed, Patricia Crone, the late and renowned scholar of Islam who taught at Oxford, Cambridge, and the Institute for Advanced Study, states that “the Caliphate clearly did fuse religion and politics from the start [emphasis added].”[18]

Only caliphs, for example, were granted with the power to declare offensive jihad, because only they were taken to have the proper religious authority to do so (jihad being a religious “holy” war).[19] And under Sharia the caliphate is a necessity.

As the prolific Shāfi’ī scholar Ibn Hajar al-Haytamī (1504-1567) states in his commentary on al-Nawawī’s (1233–1277) Minhāj al-Ṭālibīn, “the investiture of someone from the Islamic community (Umma) able to fulfill the duties of the Caliphate is obligatory by scholarly consensus [emphasis added].[20] In addition, Ibn Qudāma (1147 – 1223) states in his al-Mughnī, one of the most authoritative Hanbalī legal manuals, that the imamate, i.e. the caliphate, is obligatory (wājib).[21]

Therefore, we can surmise that the first four “rightly guided” caliphs of the Islamic umma played both a religious and political role. And this is significant because many Muslims the world over try to emulate the life of seventh and early eighth-century Muslims—including, preeminently, the caliphs—due to traditions that state that the best generations were those of Muḥammad, his companions (al-ṣaḥāba), and the followers of the companions (al-tābīʿūn).

As we have seen above, there is good reason for positing that, under Sharia, there is no separation between the Islamic religion and politics. Indeed, as Bernard Lewis notes, there is not even a word to separate the secular from the religious in classical Arabic.

Islam is not, as is commonly supposed, a religion like Christianity where you have a solid basis for the separation of Church and state in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was not, contrary to scholars as early as Heinrich Reimarus (1729 – 1814), a political or revolutionary figure—politics was not the forte of the historical Jesus. Indeed, he is famous for calling upon people to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.”[22]

No such explicit basis exists for separating the secular sphere from the religious in Islam. As the Saudi sheikh Muḥammad Ṣālih al-Munajid states in a fatwa (legal opinion) on his prominent website, IslamQA.com, politics is not something that can be isolated from Islam, and there is no difference in Islam between politics and religion (“la farq fī al-Islām bayna al-siyāsa wa al-dīn“).

It is worth noting that  in the fourteen-hundred year history of Islam, there have been Muslim thinkers who challenged the predominant view that the Islamic religion is irreparably linked to politics. That being said, there have been a few occasions where reformist-minded Muslim thinkers arise—mostly in modern times.

However, these thinkers are almost invariably shunned and persecuted by the greater community of ulema (Muslim scholars). For example, in the early twentieth century one Alī ʿAbd al-Rāziq, an Azhari graduate and Egyptian judge in Alexandria, wrote a book entitled “al-Islām wa usūl al-hukum” (Islam and the Foundation of Ruling), wherein he argued that Muḥammad was only a religious leader, not a political leader, and that therefore there should be no caliphate in the Islamic community. Not surprisingly, Abd al-Raziq was summarily denounced as a court consisting of twenty-five senior ulema from al-Azhar university found him guilty of heresy and of “conduct unbecoming of a religious scholar.” He was stripped of his academic qualifications and subsequently emigrated to Paris.[23]

The reason for this animosity against reformers like Alī ʿAbd al-Rāziq, who later somehow “repented” of his ways according to Muḥammad ʿAmāra,[24] is that for all intents and purposes, the ulema are vehemently opposed to the idea of separating religion and state, firmly believing that in Islam the two spheres are inextricably intertwined.

The idea that there is no separation of religion and state in Islam or under Sharia is succinctly put by Gerhard Bowering, Professor of Islamic Studies at Yale University, in his introduction to a 2015 Princeton anthology of Islamic Politics:

The foundations of Islam neither allow for distinctions between spiritual and temporal, ecclesiastical and civil, or religious and secular categories, nor envisage the same duality of authority accepted in Western political thought as standard, such as God and Caesar, church and state, and clergy and laity. Over the centuries, Islamic forms of state and government, power and authority, and rule and loyalty have exhibited great diversity. Although they were all based on the premise of a unity of religion and state…In contrast to the West, the respective realms of religion and state are intimately intertwined in Islam and subject to a process of fluid negotiation; the concepts of authority and duty overshadow those of freedom and the rights of the individual. Islamic political thought deals not only with matters of government, politics, and the state, but also addresses questions of acceptable behavior and ethics of both the ruler and the ruled before God. Islamic political thought cannot be measured by Western criteria and standards of political theory. It must be understood from within its own tradition, characterized by a vibrant integration of the secular and sacred in obedience to God and His Prophet.[25]

This is consonant with what the Center for Security Policy’s Team B Report concluded in stating that “Islam and western-style democracy can never co-exist in harmony.”[26]

The fact of the matter is that Islamic law (i.e., Sharia) is simply incompatible with Western laws. It is definitely incompatible with, for example, the clause of the First Amendment that states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” As Robert Houghwout Jackson, United States Attorney General (1940-41), an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (1941-54), and Chief United States Prosecutor at the Nuremburg War Crimes Trial (1945-46) states:

In any broad sense, Islamic law offers the American lawyer a study in dramatic contrasts. Even casual acquaintance and superficial knowledge—all that most of us at bench or bar will be able to acquire—reveal that its striking features relative to our law are not likenesses but inconsistencies, not similarities but contrarieties. In its source, its scope and its sanctions, the law of the Middle East is the antithesis of Western law.[27]

The late Islamicist Majīd Khaddūrī, a scholar with intimate acquaintance and profound knowledge of Islamic law, states in a preface to one of his influential books that

Islam, emerging in the seventh century as a conquering nation with world domination as its ultimate aim, refused to recognize legal systems other than its own [emphasis added].[28]

In today’s politically correct climate, it would be unthinkable for someone of Justice Jackson’s stature in the U.S. legal system to make the above pronouncements so forcefully and blatantly. The fact is that under Sharia, the state should pass laws respecting an establishment of religion, particularly the Islamic religion, to the chagrin of others.Line-Divider-1

The Prospect of Reform: Separating Dīn and Dawla in Islam

As suggested above, the lengthy history of Islam reveals only very few thinkers who  dared to advocate the idea that din was to be separated from dawla.

Indeed, the preponderance of  evidence from the early Muslim sources indicate that there seems to be relatively good justification for thinking that, in Islam, there is no separation of religion and state, and that a state should rule by the Sharia or Islamic law.

But while this may be true on a theoretical and prescriptive level, it has not always been true on a practical level. In practice, many Muslims states have incorporated foreign laws into their legal systems, such that they are not based exclusively on Islamic principles. One need only look at the Ottoman penal code called Kanun-i Ceraim of 1840, a legal code which was produced independently of religious institutions and it incorporated French legal ideas.[29]

Even Saudi Arabia, whose constitution is proudly proclaimed to be the Qur’ān and the prophetic sunna (way of Muḥammad) has incorporated some non-Islamic laws (e.g., articles from the Ottoman Commercial Code of 1880). And although ʿabd al-Rāziq al-Sanhūrī was a devout Muslim believer in that Islam is dīn and dawla, his drafts of the Egyptian and Iraqi legal codes, though containing overtly Islamic elements, are manifestly influenced by European legal precepts.[30]

There may be room for Muslims to attempt to reform Islam and separate it from politics. However, while anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, can study and make pronouncements on Islam, it is up to Muslims themselves to work for reform.

Reform is not something that can be imposed from without. Perhaps the realities of living in an ever-increasing and globalizing world will force practicalities to take precedence over theoretical precepts, just as they have sometimes done so in the past.

That being said, as we have seen from the sad case of Alī ʿAbd al-Rāziq, we can be under no illusion that it will be easy for Muslim reformers to convince their co-religionists of a more fundamentalist bent that dīn should be separated from dowla in Islam.

There is a widespread sentiment amongst the Muslim populace that the Sharia cannot be straight-jacketed in order to conform with “secular” western principles.

As the most influential Sunni-Muslim cleric today and the Muslim Brotherhood’s leading jurisprudent Yusuf al-Qaradawi states,

the Sharia cannot be amended to conform to changing human values and standards. Rather, it is the absolute norm to which all human values and conduct must conform.[31]

A large percentage of Muslims would agree with al-Qaradawi’s statement here. The push for Islamic reform will be an up-hill battle. Even under Egyptian President ʿAbd al-Fatāh al-Sīsī, Muslim reformists like Islam al-Buhayrī have been imprisoned for vociferously speaking out for reform and for staunchly condemning the many violent prescriptions found in the earliest Islamic source texts.

But there is not much of an alternative to Muslim reform—traditional Sharia is something that is incompatible with modernity.

Muslims who do not want to abandon their religion must figure out a way to interpret it in a manner that is consonant with—and not inimical to—the great values that undergird Western civilization in general, and the laws and Constitution of the United States of America in particular.


[1] Sayyid Qutb, Maʿālim fī al-Ṭarīq, 6th reprint (Beirūt; Cairo: Dar al-Shurūq, 1979), 47.

[2] Al-Azhar University, founded in the late tenth century, has for centuries been the seat of Sunni learning. It is the most influential Muslim body in the Sunni world.

[3] Muḥammad ʿAmāra, al-Islām wa al-Sīyāsa: al-Radd ʿala Shubuhāt al-‘Almānīyīn, (Cairo: Maktabat al-Shurūq al-Dowlīya, 2008), 28.

[4] “The Final speech – President Muhammad Morsi – English” YouTube video, 2:32, posted by “ Islam Elmasry,” July 7, 2013.

[5] Abul ʿAla Maudūdi, as quoted in Montgomery Watt, Islamic Fundamentalism and Modernity (London; New York: Routledge, 1988), 91.

[6] These verses have also been so labeled as such by other Muslim thinkers subsequent to Ibn Taymīyyah. See Ibn Taymīyyah, al-Sīyāsa al-Sharīʿa fi iṣlaḥ al-Rāʿi wa al-Raʿīya, ed. Ali ibn Muhammad al-Imrān (Dar alim al-fowā’id: Mecca, 2008).

[7] Ibid., 5.

[8] Muḥammad ʿAmāra, al-Islam wa al-Sīyāsa: al-Radd ʿala Shubuhāt al-‘Almānīyīn, 40.

[9] A.J. Droge, trans., The Qur’ān: A New Annotated Translation (Croydon: Equinox Publishing, 2013), 47. Droge’s translation is, in my opinion, the best English translation of the Qur’ān currently available. It is unique in that it departs from the practice of other translators of interpreting the Qur’ān through the lens of later Islamic tradition, a tradition which was penned down some generations after the Qur’ān was first written. The problem with the traditional methodology is that, as Droge mentions, it is like relying heavily on the commentaries of Origen of Alexandria (184/185 – 253/254) to translate the New Testament. Hardly any New Testament scholar would favor such an approach. Furthermore, the translator here is free of pietistic or apologetic intentions, something which plagues many English translations of the Qur’ān. In the introduction to his translation, Droge states that “reverence may be a religious virtue, but it should not be a scholarly one (p. xii).”

[10] Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qur’ān al-Adhīm (vol.7), ed. Samī bin Muḥammad al-Salāma (Riyādh: Dar al-Ṭayiba, 1999), 193. The tafsīr of Ibn Kathīr is definitely one of the two most widely read tafāsīr in the Muslim world, perhaps second only to Al-Ṭabarī’s commentary.  In the publisher’s note to an English translation, Darusalām, the Saudi-based publishing house, states that Ibn Kathīr’s tafsīr “is the most popular interpretation of the Qur’ān in the Arabic language, and the majority of Muslims consider it to be the best source based on Qur’ān and sunna.” See Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr (Abridged), Second ed., Vol. 1, trans. Jalal Abu Raub et al. (Riyadh: Darussalam, 2003), 5.

[11] As quoted in Muḥammad ʿAmāra, al-Islām wa al-Sīyāsa: al-Radd ʿala Shubuhāt al-‘Almānīyīn, 31.

[12] ʿAbd al-Malik Ibn Hishām, Muḥammad Ibn Isḥāq, and Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Isḥāq’s Sīrat Rasūl Allāh (Karachi; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 651.

[13] It interesting that the first work written after Ibn Ishaq’s Sira that contains an unabridged version of the Constitution of Medina appears in the Prophet’s biography by Muḥammad b. Abī Bakr Ibn Sayyid Al-Nās (d. 734/1333–1334), almost six centuries after Ibn Ishaq wrote the Sīra. See Nöldeke, T, F. Schwally, G. Bergsträsser and O. Pretzl, The History of the Qur’ān, trans., ed. Wolfgang H. Behn (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2013), 322-3.

[14] ʻAbd al-Malik Ibn Hishām, Muḥammad Ibn Isḥāq, and Alfred Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, 232-3.

[15] Ibid., 231-3. This is consistent with the Qur’ānic proclivity to define people primarily by religious groups.

[16] The four “rightly guided” caliphs, all companions of Muhammad, were Abu Bakr al-Ṣiddīq (r. 632-4), Umar Ibn al-Khattāb (r. 634-44), Uthman ibn Affān (r. 644-56), and Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (r. 656-61).

[17] Patricia Crone, Martin Hinds, God’s Caliph: Religious Authority in the First Centuries of Islam (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 5.

[18] Patricia Crone and Martin Hinds, God’s Caliph, 115.

[19] David Cook, Understanding Jihad (Berkeley; Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2005), 6.

[20] As quoted in Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misrī, The Reliance of the Traveler (Umdat al-Sālik), trans. Nuh Ha Mim Keller (Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications, 1997), Book O (Justice), sec. 25.0-1, 638. This is not present in the original Arabic version of Umdat As-Sālik. But the translator, Nuh Ha Mim Keller, found it necessary to add a section on the caliphate because “the caliphate is both obligatory in itself and the necessary precondition for hundreds of rulings (books k through o) established by Allah Most High to govern and guide Islamic community life (ibid.).” It is important to note that scholarly consensus or ijma‘ is one of the principle foundations of Islamic law (particularly Sunni-Islamic law). In Muslim jurisprudence, if the ulema (Muslim scholars) have arrived at a consensus concerning some issue, then it is obligatory on the Muslim to follow the consensus. This principle of ijma’ ultimately has as its basis multiple aḥādīth where Muhammad effectively states that his umma (nation) will not agree on an error.

[21] Ibn Qudāma, al-Mughnī, vol.14, eds. ʿAbd al-Fatāh Muhammad al-Hilu and ʿAbdallāh bin ʿAbd al-Muhsin al-Turkī (Cairo: Dār ʿĀlim al-Kutub, 1997), 5.

[22] From a critical-historical perspective, these words were very likely uttered by Jesus of Nazareth. Indeed, even the Jesus Seminar, a group of very liberal scholars, highlight this verse in red in their translation of the Gospels—meaning that they “would include this item unequivocally in the database for determining who Jesus was.” See Robert Funk, Roy Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say? The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus (New York: Harper One, 1993) 36, 236.

[23] Montgomery Watt, Islamic Fundamentalism and Modernity, 31.

[24] Muḥammad ʿAmāra, al-Islam wa al-Sīyāsa: al-Radd ʿala Shubuhāt al-‘Almānīyīn, 101.

[25] Gerhard Bowering, ed., Islamic Political Thought: an Introduction (Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2015), 4.

[26] William G. Boykin, Harry E. Soyster, et. al., Shariah, The Threat to America: An Exercise in Competitive Analysis, Report of Team B II (Washington D.C.: The Center for Security Policy, 2010), 43.

[27] Robert Houghwout Jackson, Forward to Law in the Middle East, eds. Majid Khadduri and Herbert J. Liebesny, (Washington: The Middle East Institute), 1955, vi.

[28] Majīd Khaddurī, War and Peace in Islam (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1955), vii.

[29] Montgomery Watt,  Islamic Fundamentalism and Modernity, 35.

[30] ʿAbd al-Rāziq al-Sanhūrī has dual doctorates in law and political science from the University of Lyon, after all.

[31] William G. Boykin, Harry E. Soyster, et. al., Shariah, The Threat to America, 43.



Truces & Dual Messages

Under Islamic law, the maintenance of a peaceful status quo cannot serve as the basis for a truce when the milestones favor Islamic success in Jihad.

Taqiyya, Trust & Debating Shariah

According to Islamic law, one of the areas in which lying is permitted, and sometimes required, is where it will be advantageous in dealings with attempts to gain the submission of non-believers.


Child Brides in Germany

Sharia treats girls as marriageable at very young ages, following the example of Muhammad himself.


Muhammad “History’s First Feminist”??

An article claims that Muhammad was history's first feminist. Let's look at a few examples of why this is a silly thing to say.


Domestic Violence and Sharia, the UK versus Saudi Arabia

The UK's system of sharia courts seems to be undermining the criminal law against domestic violence among British Muslims, while the Saudis introduce a new innovation in whipping.