Before dealing with the main topic, it is necessary to mention a few important points to clarify the discussion:
1-Since the religion of Islam is universal and comprehensive encompassing everyone, every place and every time until the Day of Judgment, Islam undoubtedly has a government during the twelfth Imams occultation as well.
Late Allamah Tabatabai says: Quran has not called on people to establish a government and a political authority rather it has considered government establishment as an essential and necessary issue which does not need to be called to and recommended. What the Quran calls people to is their unity and consensus on the axis of religion.
Therefore removing Islam from the social and political arenas and turning it into a personal and reclusive religion leads to deviation of religion and separating it from its true reality. Each Islamic country throughout the world has a type of ruling system which is either republic or monarchic or dictatorial. This diversity denotes that some of them are not religious because Islam has not offered various types of rule and the only legitimate type of ruling system is a religious and divine rule.
2- A religious system is one that has recognized the all-inclusive authority of religion in political arena and society management; government and its institutions see themselves responsible before the teachings of the religion and try to take religion into account in ratification of laws and regulation of social relations. They also aim to be inspired by religion in every aspect of ruling and consider jurisprudential frameworks and religious values and standards.
3-In a religious system, leadership and management of the society are tools for religion. Therefore such a ruling system will not have objectives different from those of religion; the government does not have independent value, and the standard to estimate its value is how much it has been influential to implement the objectives of the religion.
4-Democracy is the government of people by the people for the people. It is usually implemented through electing parliament members and establishing national parliament. The government is in the hand of the majority of the voters who are eligible to vote.
Democracy is the best form of government. Theocracy is versus democracy. In a divine system, the leader is appointed and disqualified by God and people have to obey Him. During the period of prophets they were the rulers chosen by God. Subsequent to their era, the twelve Shiite Imams had the same responsibility. During twelfth Imams occultation, this responsibility has been relegated to qualified and just religious authorities who are capable of managing the society.
5-Unlike materialistic schools, Islam has greatly and extraordinarily valued mans status and position. Islam says mans blood is respected; his honor is respected; his corpse is respected.
Human has an independent personality but has a mission and some responsibilities; God keeps the trust.
What has been said are examples of a mans value in Islamic and quranic viewpoint. Where in the world man is valued to such a degree? In World War I ten million people and in World War II one hundred million people were killed or amputated. World leaders did not cry over this huge loss rather they called it the result of fatalism and human nature.
Islam values humans so much that it considers killing a single human being tantamount to killing the entire humanity.
Is such a respect to humanity in countries that claim to be advocating human rights and human value? How many times have colonialists fanned the flames of wars to their interests and caused destruction and massacres? Why some western countries like France who claim to be civilized, democratic, liberal and supportive of human rights restrict Islamic dress code for Muslim women in their country?
Why are Palestinians oppressed, sent into exile, many of them killed every day and many of them detained in dungeons but none of western countries protest? Is this really upholding the human dignity?
Did not we witness thousands of Muslims massacred by Serbians in recent years? Werent they Europeans?
Dont we witness people (men and women, children and elderly etc.) murdered in Iraq and Afghanistan by Americans? Arent they humans to be treated and valued as humans?
Havent we witnessed Africans enslaved by so-called civilized western countries up to recent years? Dont we see Muslims being restricted and despised every day in the US and Europe?
Unfortunately nowadays scientific, economic, military and healthcare advancements in some western countries have dazzled us and that is why we cant see how far they are from humanity and human values. These advancements are a cover for their mistakes and sins.
Now it is prudent to discuss about Islamic civilization:
The advent of Islam took place in the land of Hijaz in Saudi Arabia which has been one of the most underdeveloped parts of the world. Islam was revealed a time which was called the age of ignorance.
After the era of Prophet Muhammads prophecy the age of caliphate started and continued until twelfth century during which the Islamic world enjoyed the most glorious civilization especially in the third, fourth and fifth centuries when unique scientists tried to produce science and technology making outstanding contributions to humanity of which Farabi, Abu Rehan, Avicenna, Khaja Nasiruddin Tousi can been mentioned and whose works had been taught and were considered as scientific references.
As reported in historical sources, during this period there is no record of progress, development and scientific production in Europe; rather dictatorship and exploitation prevailed throughout Europe.
The eighth to the eleventh centuries have been called the Golden Age of Islam. Western scientists do not recognize a civilizational and cultural culmination for Islamic world and confess that while West and Europe were entangled in Middle Age mindset the Islamic world and Iran had the brightest civilizations.
The new huge and mindboggling European civilization dominating the whole world has adopted many concepts from glorious Islamic civilization more than any other civilization as confessed and stated by fair and impartial western scholars.
For example Gustav Loboun says: Some feel ashamed to confess that a pagan ethnic group (who later converted to Islam) caused Christian Europe to move out of barbarianism and therefore they hide it. These Muslims ethical influence led those barbarian ethnic groups of Europe who tossed the Roman Empire into humanity. These Muslims intellectual influence also opened the gates of sciences, technology and philosophy to them who were totally unaware. They were our (the Europeans) instructors for 600 years.
But what is the reason behind the backwardness of Islamic societies?
To answer this question, only some of the most important reason will be briefly mentioned:
1- Not following Islams commands after Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] but for a short period.
2- Internal wars and military conflicts within the territories of Islamic world and Iran as well as destructive attacks on Islamic civilization and Islamic countries such as Mongols attacks, Umayyad and Abbasid wars. Obviously the scientific production that became possible for some parts of the Islamic world and the scientific endeavors that were made by scholars such as Avicenna and Farabi were owing to security and peace.
3-Lack of unity and intellectual solidarity within the geographical borders of the Islamic world
4-The advent of colonialism in its different forms which ransacked the wealth of Islamic countries and weakened the local culture in Islamic countries and imposed their consumerism on these countries and consequently they used human resources of these countries for their own interests.
5-Forgetting the revolutionary and correctional message of Islam formed during the age of the Prophet [PBUH] such as unity, justice, culture and seeking science and knowledge.
During the whole fourteen centuries the existing governments did not practically support Islam and Islamic culture and message.
6-Despotism and incompetence of some rulers of Islamic countries
In the wake of the victory of Islamic revolution of Iran, the backwardness trend in Iran was stopped and despite the destructive measures of the enemies Iranian youth managed to pick themselves up and return to their true identity and are trying to compensate years of backwardness. Therefore every day we are witnessing Iranian youth making great achievements in different arenas; although there are some shortcomings, Iran is moving forward more strongly than ever before through the efforts of our scientists and scholars.
What the term rushd in Quran 2:256 means:
Rushd literally means to reach and arrive at a reality versus ghayy which means deviation from reality and distancing from the truth.
Therefore in this verse rushd does not mean progress and development and it has nothing to do with Muslims progress or backwardness.
Mazaheri, Points about WelayateFaqih and Religious Ruling, p.20-22, Basaer Publications, Razavi print, third print, 2000
Tabatabae, Seyyed Muhammad Hussein, al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Quran, vol.3, p.144, DarulKotobelEslamiya, Tehran, 1963
See: JavadiAmoli, Abdollah, The Relation between Religion and World, p.20, Asra Publications Center, first print, 2003
Vaezi, Ahmad, Islamic Ruling, p.30-31, Compilation and Publication of Hawza Texts Office, Samir Publications, first print, Qom, 2002
JavadiAmoli, Abdollah, The Relation between Religion and World, p.22, Asra Publications Center, first print, 2003
Javadi Amoli, Abdollah, The Relation between Religion and World, p.25, Asra Publications Center, first print, 2003
Rabbani Golpayegani, Ali, Religion and Government, p.25, Publication Center of Islamic Culture and Thought Research Center, third print, 2003
Rabbani Golpayegani, Ali, Religion and Government, p.27, Publication Center of Islamic Culture and Thought Research Center, third print, 2003
Sobhani, Jafar, Perfect Humans Image in Quran, p.300-307, Publication Center of Islamic Propagation office of Qom Hawza, ninth print, 2007
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Will Dorantte, History of Civilization, vol.4, p.815, Elmi and Farhangi Publications, fourth print, 1995
Samih, Atefuz-Zin, Roots of Muslims Weakness and Backwardness, translated by Rajabi, Mahmood and Kamalinia, p.41-68, first print, Hejrat, Qom
Alamdari, Kazem, Why Iran had remained backward and west advanced, vol.1, p.293-363, Tosee Publications, seventh print, Tehran, 2003
MakaremShirazi, Nasser, Nemoone Quran Interpretation, vol.2, p.204, DarulKotobelEslamiya, eighteenth print, Tehran, 1987