Islamic Book PDF The Role of Colonization on the Political System of the Muslim World

The Role of Colonization
on the Political System of
the Muslim World
دور الاستعمار ف نلظام لسيايس للعالم
[ إ�ل�ي – English[ website
موقع دين الإسلام
2013 – 1434
The Quran and the Sunnah have been the guide of Muslim
political and moral activism throughout the centuries. The
example of how the Prophet Muhammad and his companions led
their lives and developed the first Muslim community serves as a
blueprint for an Islamically guided and socially just state and
More than a prophet, the Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy
and blessings of God be upon him, was the founder of a state. In
the era of the Prophet Muhammad and his successors, all Muslims
belonged to a single community whose unity was based upon the
interconnection of religion and the state, where faith and politics
were inseparable. Islam expanded from what is now Saudi Arabia
across North Africa, through the Middle East and into Asia and
Europe. Historically, Islam has been the religious ideology for the
foundation of a variety of Muslim states, including the great
Islamic empires: Umayyad (661–750), Abbasid (750–1258),
Ottoman (1281– 1924), Safavid (1501–1722), and Mughal (1526–
1857). In each of these empires and other sultanate states, Islam
was the basis of the state’s legal, political, educational, economic,
and social institutions.
By the 11th century the Islamic world was under attack by the
Turks and the Mongols. They were not conquered by Islam;
rather, they entered the Islamic world as conquerors and converted
to Islam over the following centuries.
Over the last two centuries the Islamic world has been under
another transformation from the West. The Europeans who came
in the 19th and 20th centuries to militarily colonize the Muslim
world did not convert like the Turks and Mongols. For the first
time, Muslims were politically subjugated by the European
empires of Russia, Holland, Britain, and France.
The 20th century was marked by two dominant themes:
European colonialism and the Muslim struggle for independence.
The legacy of colonialism remains alive today. Colonialism
altered the geographical map of the Muslim world. It drew the
boundaries and appointed leaders over the Muslim countries.
After WWII, the French were in West and North Africa, Lebanon,
and Syria; the British in Palestine, Iraq, Arabian Gulf, the Indian
Subcontinent, Malaya, and Brunei; and the Dutch in Indonesia. It
replaced the educational, legal, and economic institutions and
challenged the Muslim faith. Colonial officers and Christian
missionaries became the soldiers of European expansion and
imperialism. Christianity was seen by the colonialists as
inherently superior to Islam and its culture. This attitude can be
seen in the statement of Lord Cromer, the British counsel in Cairo
from 1883-1907, “…as a social system, Islam has been a complete
failure. Islam keeps women in a position of inferiority…it permits
slavery…its general tendency is intolerance towards other
European colonialism replaced Muslim self rule under Islamic
Law, which had been in existence from the time of the Prophet
Muhammad, by their European lords. The colonialists were
modern Crusaders – Christian warriors going out of their way to
uproot Islam. The French spoke of their battle of the cross against
the crescent. The only difference was that the Europeans came,
this time, not with cavalry and swords, but with an army of
Christian missionaries and missionary institutions like schools,
hospitals, and churches, many of which remain in Muslim
countries to this day. The French seized the Jami’ Masjid of
Algiers and turned it into the cathedral of Saint-Philippe with the
French flag and cross on the minaret, symbolizing Christian
domination. 1
The Muslim world’s centuries of long struggle with Western
colonial rule was followed by authoritarian regimes installed by
European powers. The absence of stable states has led many to
ask whether there is something about Islam that is antithetical to
civil society and rule of law. The answer to this question lies more
in history and politics than in religion. Modern Muslim states are
only several decades old and they were carved out by European
powers to serve Western interests.
In South Asia, the British divided the Indian subcontinent into
India and Pakistan, giving portions of the Muslim-majority state of
Kashmir to each of them. The conflicts that resulted from these
actions have led to the deaths of millions in the communal warfare

1 Some of the early imperialist policies of the colonial powers carried not only
economic, but religious and cultural agendas. The French, for example, sought to
replace Islamic culture with their own by, among other measures, imposing controls
on Islamic courts and suppressing many Muslim institutions. After transforming
the Grand Mosque of Algiers into the Cathedral of Saint-Philippe, for example, the
archbishop of Algiers announced a missionary plan to “save” Muslims from “the
vices of their original religion generative of sloth, divorce, polygamy, theft,
agrarian communism, fanaticism and even cannibalism.” Azim A. Nanji, ed., The
Muslim Almanac (Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1996), p. 123; Arthur Goldschmidt
Jr., A Concise History of the Middle East, 3rd ed. (Boulder, Colo.:Westview Press,
1988), p. 231; John L. Esposito, The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality?, 3rd ed.
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 50; Fawaz A. Gerges, America and
Political Islam: Clash of Cultures or Clash of Interests? (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1999).
between Hindus and Muslims, the civil war between East and
West Pakistan that led to the creation of Bangladesh, and conflicts
in Kashmir over Indian rule that persist to the present day. In the
Middle East, the French created modern Lebanon from portions of
Syria, and the British set the borders for Iraq and Kuwait and
created a new entity called Jordan. They also created a new
country called Israel, ousting non-Jewish locals and taking land
once belonging to Christians and Muslims and surrendering it to a
foreign Jewish authority. Such arbitrary borders fed ethnic,
regional, and religious conflicts including the Lebanese Civil War
between Christians and Muslims, the occupation of Lebanon by
Syria, the Gulf War, which resulted from Saddam Hussein’s claim
to Kuwaiti territory, and the Israel-Palestinian conflict which need
no further explanation.
Political and economic models were borrowed from the West
to replace the Islamic political and economic systems after
independence from colonial rulers in the mid-twentieth century,
creating overcrowded cities lacking social support systems, high
unemployment, government corruption, and a growing gap
between rich and poor. Rather than leading to a better quality of
life, Westernization led to the breakdown of traditional family,
religious, and social values. Many Muslims blame Western
models of political and economic development as the sources of
moral decline and spiritual malaise.
Unelected governments, whose leaders are kings, military or
ex-military officers, rule the majority of countries in the Muslim
world. State power is heavily reliant on security forces, police,
and military, and where freedoms of assembly, speech, and press
are severely limited. Many Muslim states operate within a culture
of authoritarianism that is opposed to civil society and a free press.
In addition to influencing those who came to power in
emerging modern Muslim nation-states, Europe, and later
America, forged close alliances with authoritarian regimes,
tolerating or supporting their non democratic ways in exchange
for, or to ensure, Western access to oil and other resources.
When people ask themselves why the Muslim world is
distraught with violence and unrest, the answer can surely be
found in the colonial interference, both past and present, in the
region. Therefore, any future success depends upon returning to a
society which is governed by the principles of the people who live
in it, one in which all its affairs are governed by Islam.