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Government: Islam as a Source of Legitimacy Essay

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Updated: Mar 16th, 2020

Introduction

Across the world, religions have a significant influence on regimes. Islam is one of the religions that influence political regimes in Arab countries. Islam is a religion that is dominant in the Middle East and among Arabs in diverse countries. The fundamentals beliefs of Islam are that Allah is the creator of the universe and the prophet Mohammad is His messenger.

Such beliefs contrast that of Christians, who trust in God as the creator of the universe and Jesus as the savior of humanity from condemnation as sinners.

Owing to the diversity of religions, Western countries and the Middle Eastern countries, which are dominated by Christians and Muslims, respectively, have different views of religions. According to Hashemi, while Western countries view religions as a source of illegitimacy, the Middle Eastern counties, particularly the Islamic countries, perceive Islam as source legitimacy (1).

The differences in perceptions explain why the constitution of the Western countries separates religion and state, whereas the Islamic countries integrate Islam and state. In this view, this essay examines Islam as a source of legitimacy and illegitimacy among Arab regimes.

Islam as a Source of Legitimacy

Among Arab regimes, Islam is a source of legitimacy because Islamic countries have constitutions that regard Islamic doctrines and laws. Islam has a significant influence on Arab regimes because leaders use Islamic doctrines and laws as pillars of their regimes. Since Islamic doctrines and laws dictate the lifestyles of people, Islamic countries adopt and use them in formulating laws and regulations that govern people.

Hashemi argues that Muslims believe in Shariah law as the foundation of regimes because it is a traditional Islamic law, which provides a platform for religious leaders to influence political regimes (2).

In this view, Shariah laws link Islamic religion to the political regime and thus legitimize it as a regime that supports and respects Islamic doctrines and laws. A survey conducted among Islamic adherents in 39 countries indicated that they want Islamic doctrines and laws to govern their lives, societies, and politics. Hence, the survey shows that Islam legitimizes Arab regimes in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Islam is a dominant religion is Arab countries in which people consider it as a true religion. The doctrines and beliefs of Islam form the basis of hadith, the Islamic traditions as taught by the prophet Muhammad. These doctrines and beliefs guide people on a daily basis because they define religious practices that Muslims must adhere so that they can live holy lives, which are in accordance with Islam.

Since citizens of Arab countries are virtually Muslims, they support Islamic leaders because they understand Islamic religion and can advance doctrines and beliefs that the Quran stipulates. Muslims abhor secularism and liberal democracy since they perceive that they go against their religious beliefs and doctrines (Hashemi 8).

Muslims hold that secularism and liberal democracy violate their beliefs and doctrines because they offer excessive freedom to humans, and thus generates apostasy. Apostasy is a serious religious offense in which offenders are liable for death punishment. In the prevention of apostasy, which Muslims believe to emanate from the Western countries, religious and political leaders collaborate in the preservation of hadith, the Islamic traditions among Muslims.

Therefore, Islam is a source of legitimacy among Arab regimes because it dictates their religious and political stance. Essentially, political leaders use Islam in wielding their political powers within and beyond their jurisdictions.

As Islamic states do not support Western democracy, they have adopted monarchy is the best form of governance as monarchies have divine to rule and discharge their leadership according to the dictates of the Quran and Shariah laws. Given that Muslims believe monarchies emanate from the lineage of the prophet Muhammad, they accord them great respect and support and thus form the basis of legitimization of Arab regimes ruled by monarchies.

Fundamentally, Muslims view ‘Western democracy’ as a form of democracy that is against their beliefs and doctrines as the Quran enshrines. El-Fadl states that the foundation of democracy is on the belief systems and values that people hold in a given society and thus Islamic beliefs should form the basis of democracy among Arab countries (7).

Hence, the nature of democracy that Arab states practice is unique because it has a base on Islamic beliefs and doctrines, which contrast that of the Western states.

The Islamic regimes that came into power following uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia depict the power of religion in determining the nature of leaders and legitimizing their rule against secular and liberal ideologies of the Western countries. Moreover, the long-standing monarchical traditions of the United Arab Emirates depict the legitimacy of Islam in stabilizing Arab countries and promoting their growth and development.

Since diverse cultures and religions exist across the world, Islam is now a form of identity that differentiates Muslims from other people. Islam has become a source of identity that transcends religious, racial, and political dimensions. As secularized nations such as Iran, Syria, and Egypt oppressed Muslims, Islam “became a source of refuge and a marker of identity for many Arabs and Muslims” (7).

The oppressed Muslims sought refuge in their religion because it protects and supports them against foreign ideologies that seek to destroy their beliefs and doctrines.

Consequently, the struggle between secular and religious factions in Arab countries compelled Muslims to reconstruct their religious identity is political circles so that they can fight for their rights. Eventually, Muslims have managed to construct the identity in both political and religious circles and thus have legitimized the existence of Arab regimes.

Islam as a Source of Illegitimacy

Although Islam is a source of legitimacy, the misuse of its beliefs and doctrines in violation of human rights has become a source of illegitimacy. Islamic leaders enter into powerful positions using legitimate Islamic beliefs and doctrines, which Muslims support. However, when they are in power, they tend to abuse their positions by performing illegitimate actions that degrade humanity.

According to El-Fadl, Islamic leaders, who apply dictatorial leadership, use Shariah laws selfishly in defense of their illegitimate actions that are not constitutional (15). Dictatorial leaders usually limit the rights of their subjects such as freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of worship.

Moreover, dictatorial leaders stay in power for a very long period, and therefore, deny other potential leaders their rights of taking leadership positions and contribute to their nations. In this view, Islam becomes illegitimate because it supports dictatorship.

Islam has also become a source of illegitimacy because it creates unstable nations, which are prone to upheavals and protests. As Islam supports the existence of the monarchy, citizens have used upheavals and protests as a means of ousting leaders, who have stayed in power for a long period or are dictators.

Hashemi states that the revolutions of Egypt, Tunisia, and Syria are examples of revolts, which depict Islamic regimes as illegitimate (8). Moreover, the existence warring factions of Islam such as Sunni and Shia portray illegitimacy of Islam in causing upheavals and protests in peaceful states.

The existence of terrorists among Islamic nations makes Islam as a source of illegitimacy. Some Islamic nations openly support terrorism or harbor terrorists, yet they threaten the lives of other people across the world. Owing to the prevalence of terrorism and terrorism in the Islamic countries, Western countries have perceived Islam as a source of terror and thus illegitimate religion (Hagghammer 712).

Despite the fact that terrorism is against the teaching of the Quran, extremists and terrorists have hijacked Islam as an intolerant religion that does not respect human rights. Terror movements such as Saudi Jihadist movement, Al-Qaeda support terrorist activities in the Middle East and across the world (Hagghammer 706). Hence, in the view of terrorism and extremism, Islam has become a source of illegitimacy.

Conclusion

Islam is a dominant religion in the world that has marked influence on the lives of people from diverse races and culture. Given its power to influence people, Islam has a source of legitimacy and illegitimacy in modern society.

Islam has become a source of legitimacy because it regards Islamic doctrines and laws as indispensable in the development of Islamic nations because they regard Allah and Prophet Muhammad. In this view, Islam has positive impacts on the lives of Muslims and other religions. However, Islam has become a source of illegitimacy because it supports dictatorial regimes, causes upheavals, and supports terrorism.

Works Cited

El-Fadl, Khaled. “Islam and the Challenge of Democratic Commitment.” Fordham International Law Journal 27.1 (2003): 1-70. Print.

Hagghammer, Thomas. “Islamist violence and regime stability in Saudi Arabia.” International Affairs 84.4 (2008): 701-715. Print.

Hashemi, Nader. “Rethinking religion and political legitimacy across the Islam–West divide.” Philosophy & Social Criticism 40.4-5 (2014): 1-9. Print.

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