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How Politics Shape Religion?  

There are several reasons under the retrogression of a community, a mass, or an individual. The political intervention to religion is only one of these reasons. Mohammed Abed al-Jabri, one of the most erudite intellectuals raised by the Islamic world recently, states: “When politics intervene at a level of religious faith, it occurs in the field of fanaticism faith, and when it intervenes at a level of sharia/law, it occurs in the field of sharia/law.”

Unfortunately, both of them has happened during the 16-year reign of AKP (Justice and Development Party) in Turkey, and they still continue to happen.

The Stance of the Directorate of Religious Affairs is Obvious

The television programs, comments, and news published by the media organizations, which are controlled by the Erdogan Government, both black and white and visually are a testament to this. The actions of the Directorate of Religious Affairs of Turkey is another important testament towards showing the fact that religion is being directed by politics. The writings and speeches of the Faculty of Theology, which is already a haven for the party and state muftis, are widely known by everybody.

Al-Jabri underlines the fact that the political life plays the biggest role towards the emergence of Abu Mansur al-Maturidi and Abu al-Hasan al-Ashʿari, who rather take a centerline stance compared to Zahiri, Salafi, Jabriya, Mutazila, and their cults in his giant four-volume work called “Arab-Islamic Philosophy A Contemporary Critique”, where he analyzes the wisdom of Arabic Islam within the context of separating the political, cultural, and the formation of the moral wisdom. In other words, the political incidents of the era are fundamental towards the formation of the ideas, which appears for many people to be verbal, philosophical and also Sufi discussions and debates. Even the two opposite ideologies, which made history with statements like “Quran is a creature” or “it isn’t a creature”, are slogans produced by not the verbal opinions, but the political opinions and attitudes. Besides, such political attitudes were the primary reason for some of the scholars to be questioned, tortured, and arrested in order to infuse the “Quran is a creature” discipline of Mutazila by the Abbasid Caliphate Al-Ma’mun during the Mihna era incidents started in 833, and these incidents are nothing more than the reflection of the fanaticism into the sharia in the field of faith.

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The effects of the Jamal, Siffin, al-Harrah, Nahrawan, and Karbala incidents

This fanaticism is behind the incessant cruelties which took place during the Omayyad and subsequently Abbasid periods. Unfortunately, the social trauma occurred from the incidents, which happened during the first years of Islam and deserve to be called civil wars, such as Jamal, Siffin, al-Harrah, Nahrawan, and Karbala produced the dual-fanaticism we are trying to explain.

Was it only this? Not at all; political oppression, meaning the caliphate turning into the sultanate within the doctrine characterization is an important output of this process. This is one of the most important reasons for the nonproduction of the political philosophy and management model, which was supposed to be built upon the basis of the Quran and the practice of The Prophet (PBUH) as the leader of the state. The process, which started with the “caliphate, imamate” discussions, were heated up so much, it eventually ended up with hadith fabrication, despite the hadith which reads “Whoever tells lies about me deliberately, let him take his place in Hell.”

Think about it; having The Prophet (PBUH) speak about his political position. How terrifying! But these incidents had happened and true to life. This is fanaticism. Therefore, the examples I have mentioned in the beginning of the article should not be considered excessive. This mentality will produce the same results everywhere in the world. And if there is a receiver… And if there is encouragement.

Why is religion related with this?

You might ask the following question; all of these actually concern politics in the last analysis, why is religion related at all? Religion is right in the center. In essence, the discussions, which are political according to the nature and the extent, are being carried out under the roof of religion, thus politics get involved with religion and shape it. The difference between our Prophet’s (PBUH) prophethood and his title as the head of state is not being distinguished, and cannot be distinguished. And since the ones who manage to distinguish do not want to lose the power, they interpret Quran and The Prophet (PBUH) according to their interests. The role of the ulama, who chose to be the scholars of the Sultans, is incontestable within this context.

Could we say this is an intervention of ideology towards theology, or giving shape to it? Sure. We could even say more; the intervention of ideology to law. If you look at it from a different perspective, just the contrary would also be correct; the intervention of theology to ideology and law, or the intervention of law to ideology and theology. In essence, there is a dialectic relationship between them. In fact, the relationship between these three had existed during the revelation of Quran. It also has been existing for 14 centuries until today; it exists today, and it will exist tomorrow. There is no escape from it. In fact, this is as it should be. There isn’t any other way around for time, place, and declamation to people, and cannot be. As long as the coefficients remain stable.

So, what is the solution?

There is no short-term solution for this. Long-term efforts are needed. Therefore, I would not be surprised about the incidents I said I was not surprised about, if I encounter ten different examples in a day. As a matter of fact, the day I was writing this article, there were two news emerged in social media. The first one was about the party iftar in the mosque. The second was about a TV program, where they were commenting that Quran refers to Erdogan, and attributing the verses “For indeed, with hardship will be ease.” to him, who manages to get out of every problem about losing the power in the country. Groups who had seen their leaders originated from the main stream Islamic ideology, perish the thought, as a prophet or god existed in the past, and it still exists today.

If only an extensive study would be carried out for the sake of Turkish wisdom, just like the late Mohammed Abed al-Jabri carried out for Arabic wisdom. Many common points would be revealed since the Turkish people encountered with Islam. Therefore, half of the way is already covered thanks to the works of al-Jabri.

What will this study bring us?

First of all, we will have the possibility of better understanding Turkey, from Karakhanidswith to Seljuk, from Ottoman to the republic era Turkey, and especially the discourses and actions of AKP, the party in power for the last 16 years, with regards to intellectual background. Second, we will embrace the possibility to build the base of the mentality to resolve the problems, which originates from this mentality, by adding our experiences gained from the Western democracy.

Otherwise, “That’s life, it is inevitable.” Not 16 years, even if 160 years pass and somebody else would rule instead of AKP, nothing is going to change in terms of the outcome. The things we have been living through throughout the history are the evidences of what we are going to live through. Needless to say, if the mentality shall not change.

Dr. Ahmet Ahmet Kurucan is an author and a leading  scholar focusing Islamic Law.  

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Dr. Ahmet Kurucan is a an author and scholar focusing on Islamic Studies and Law.

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