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17. Understanding Islam
SECTION TWO: UNDERSTANDING ISLAMIC BELIEFS AND PRACTICES

CHAPTER FIVE: ISLAMIC UTOPIA


Although a discussion of other Muslim beliefs is largely outside the scope of this book, one other area merits a mention here in this tiny chapter: the concept of Islamic Utopia.

Almost every philosophy or religion has some concept of the perfect society, and Islam is no different. In every other religion and philosophy, however, such a perfect society is a future goal to aim at, work towards, or progress to achieve. This is not the case in Islam; the perfect Islamic society has already existed during the first generation of Islam. Mohammed stated this thus:

“The best amongst you people are my contemporaries [i.e., the present (my) century (generation)] and then those who come after them [i.e., the next century (generation)].” (Sahih Bukhari).

Having the concept of the perfect society in Islam in the past as opposed to the future might explain why we see more and more Muslims trying to relive the past in its exact detail, whether in the way they dress, how they look, what kind of society they should have, how to govern such a society and so on. This has been tried several times by certain Islamic groups, or by a country such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Sudan and so on; every time it doesn’t result in the perfect society, they say it must mean we didn’t get it exactly right, let us find out what we forgot. This leads to even more regression to the extent that for some Muslims, living in a “perfect society” means to live exactly the same way as seventh century Arabia, with an accompanying reluctance to embrace a modern way of life.

If we look at the appearance of Islamic groups and states claiming to follow Islam over the last hundred years since the fall of the Ottoman Sultanate in 1922, we see a trend where each one is more radical than the one before. Thus there has been an increase both in violence among political Islamic groups in the last hundred years in an attempt to more closely emulate the practices of Mohammed, and an increase in the number of Muslims who want to establish Sharia (Islamic law) throughout the world.

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