Summary of Religion and State Panel: “The ideal state serves its people”

By: Shirin Nouh

On Sunday, June 3, ICSC hosted a panel discussion during its regular Sunday program on “Religion and State.” Dr. Maher Hathout and Dr. Aslam Abdullah were the panelists with Mr. Salam Al-Marayati as the moderator.  What an informative session! In case you missed it here are the highlights:

In an effort to better understand the relationship between religion and state, both Dr. Hathout and Dr. Abdullah expressed that in today’s world, Muslim political groups are not serving  the Islamic principles.  They are striving to control the masses by misinterpreting and exploiting certain verses of the Quran to follow and serve those in power, withoug having the benefit of the masses in mind.  The liberating verse in Sura Shura, verse 38 that says: “Those who respond to their Lord, and establish regular prayer; who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation; who spend out of what we bestow on them for sustentenance” was misinterpreted to became the one to justify the monopoly of power.
So what is an ideal State?  The panelists agreed that the state should serve the people by providing them with means and opportunities to have a better life.  The state must not impose and forcefully apply the Shariah  i.e. enforce the dress code, because that would, in effect, limit the person’s freedom.  Of course, the Shariah lays the laws, and there are certain red lines that should never be crossed.  However, it does not give the power to impose those laws by force. It is the individual’s reponsibility to use their free will to practice those laws based on the options given to them.  Of course, there are consequence for actions that inflict harm on the society both in this world and in the Hereafter. One should voice strongly against those actions but take caution not to be judgemental, discriminatory, or condemning.
In conclusion, the main goal of those in power and authority should be to provide indiviuals with the appropriate nourishment to allow their physical, their soul, and their intellect to reach its full capacity.   An Islamic state should be pointing the masses towards:
1.  Justice, not oppression
2.  Freedom, not coercion
3.  Service, not control
4.  Nourishment and development of the physical and spiritual aspects of the individuals
5.  Equality and fairness
6.  And safety and security

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