Many ignorant people, including non-Muslims, think a liberal approach in life contradicts with the religion of Islam.
However, liberalism does not have anything to do with man’s religious beliefs or relations with God as it actually organizes people’s relations with each other and guarantees that people practice their individual freedom as long as they do not violate the law or disrespect other’s freedoms.
An individual’s freedom ends where another man’s freedom begins. Of course, it’s the law that specifies the limits of freedoms. The legislative authority is in charge of issuing laws while the executive authority is in charge of justly implementing them on everyone. All this harmonizes with the purposes of Islam’s sharia and does not contradict with them.
The question here is why do Islamized people and those influenced by them insist that a liberal approach contradicts with Islam? It’s because Islamized movements control the social arena and frequently state that anyone who disagrees with political Islam movements disagrees with Islam. This is not true at all. What liberalism and social justice completely disagrees with is “priesthood” – in the case of Islam that would be for the latter to turn into an arbitrary political power where clerics organize men’s relations and assign themselves as guardians over them.
This is something which political Islam groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, actually call for. Needless to say that Islam rejects priesthood and infallibility, whether of man or woman. Imam Malik said: “All of us, except for the prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, have opinions which others can disagree with and respond to.” This means that Islam guarantees the freedom of opinion and the freedom to refute someone’s opinion and it’s not monopolized by this or that preacher.
Those Islamized clerics are therefore not defending religion but their own personal interests. Political Islam groups have worked hard to eliminate all ideological movements that disagree with them under the excuse that the latter disagree with Islam although they actually just oppose their political plans.
These groups also claimed that Islam is a religion and a policy and that clerics are tantamount to church priests during the Middle Ages and thus can decide what’s acceptable and what’s not in terms of religious affairs as well as social and political ones.
If one reads the history of the dawn of Islam, he will clearly point out that Islam’s fixed principles which do not change regardless of time and place are only worship-related affairs while worldly matters, particularly those related to the society, economics and politics, change as circumstances do.
There is no worldly approach which proved its success in the current era like the liberal approach did. Facts confirm without a shadow of doubt that the liberal approach made western and eastern countries excel and achieve all their current successes in providing security, economic welfare and co-existence among their different social components and in encouraging individuals to produce and create. It’s through liberalism that they provided power which strengthened their homelands. Therefore, the truth as proven by experiment and as suggested by evidence stipulates that liberalism is the solution.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Mohammed Al Shaikh is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah newspaper. He tweets @alshaikhmhmd.