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European View (2007) 6:4148 DOI 10.

1007/s12290-007-0004-8 ARTICLE

The challenge of a single Muslim authority in Europe


Mustafa Ceric

Published online: 12 January 2008 Centre for European Studies 2007

Abstract A single Muslim authority is slowly developing in Europe today. The author discusses the preconditions for such an authority and the advantages it might bring both to Muslims and to Europe as a whole. Keywords Europe Theological foundations Single Muslim authority Islam

Introduction Authority is real, is ever present among humans and is indispensable for the training and educating of humanity. It is exercised in many ways and in many degrees. It has to justify itself not merely by the exercise of power and by the ruder kinds of penalty; it has also to meet the demands of human reason, to satisfy the requirements of the human conscience and to prove itself the guide, the counselor and the friend of humanity. The will must nd in it purpose, guidance and energy; the heart must nd in it something to stir the emotions, to win the affections and to arouse the higher passions of love and desire. And the intelligence must nd in it truth, principles and reality [7, p. 254]. This article has been written as a particular response to the question of Muslim authority in Europe. The question is this: what is the foundation of Muslim authority in Europe with respect to Muslim faith, morals and civil life? Of course, it is not possible to go into all the details relevant to this question in an article, but it is possible to open a discussion about theological foundations, historical description and a Muslim social contract, which may make the case for a single Muslim authority in Europe.

M. Ceric (&) BiH Islamic Community Rijaset, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

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The theological foundations There are three basic theological foundations of Muslim authority: the aqdah, the sharah and the ima mah. They correspond to Muslim faith,1 morals and civil life. The word aqdah means to knit, knot, tie or fasten with a knot. Theologically, it designates the Muslim creed [23], doctrine and the personal article of faith declared in the formula of the personal confession, the shaha dah: I confess that there is no God but Allah and I confess that Muhammad is Allahs Messenger.2 This confession is the personal commitment of every Muslim in any place at any time. It is a Muslims personal identity through his or her continuity of memory: it is always there in his or her heart. And it is his or her authority in personal feelings about God and about faith as a universal principle of the God-human relationship. The second theological foundation of Muslim authority is the sharah. Literally, the sharah means water hole, drinking place or approach to a water hole. The word sharah is common to Arabic-speaking people of the Middle East and designates a prophetic religion in its totality, as is evident in such phrases as sharah Mu sa , sharah alMash (the law/religion of Moses or the Messiah) [20, p. 321]. Thus, the sharah is more than a personal commitment and more than the continuity of memory as personal identity. The sharah is the communal commitment and the community identity that is the continuation of the collective memory. It is the continuity of memory of the Noahide covenant, which is Gods perpetual relationship with mankind after its near destruction in the Flood [13, p. 34]3 and the Sinaitic covenant, which is Gods Ten Commandments revealed to Moses at Mount Sinai.4 In the sharah as their Weltanschauung, Muslims have their covenant with God, a covenant that is the same in content if not in form as the previous covenant contained in the Old Testament of Moses and the New Testament of Jesus. I cite here an extensive quotation from the Holy Quran in order to show that there is common ground in the idea of the authority of the covenant among the three Abrahamic traditionsJudaism, Christianity and Islamas God Almighty says to the Prophet Muhammad:

By faith we mean Gods gift of personal belief; by morals we mean a persons inner understanding of the difference between good and evil, right and wrong; and by religion we mean theology as the study of God and his relation to the world especially by analysis of the origin and teachings of an organized religious community (See Websters New Collegiate Dictionary, 1981, s.v. theology). Thus, morality implies some kind of religiosity, but religiosity is not necessarily consistent with morality.

2 The Arabic version of the Shahdah is Ashhadu an l ilhe illallah wa ashhadu anna Muhammdan rasulullah. 3

I have found very useful Novaks distinction between a covenant as a perpetual relationship between two parties, the terms of which are not negotiated and wherein the violation of covenantal stipulations does not terminate the covenant; and a contract which is not perpetual, which can be negotiated and which can be terminated. See Novak [13, pp. 3134]. It is interesting to note here a reection from a contemporary American politician about the importance of the old story of Gods covenant: The Cartesian approach to the human story allows us to believe that we are separate from the earth, entitled to view it as nothing more than an inanimate collection of resources that we can exploit however we like; and this fundamental misperception has led us to our current crisis The old story of Gods covenant with both the earth and humankind, and its assignment to human beings of the role of good stewards and faithful servants, wasbefore it was misinterpreted and twisted in the service of the Cartesian world viewa powerful, noble and just explanation of who we are in relation to Gods earth [5, p. 218].

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49. And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, conrming the Law that had come before him. We sent him the Gospel. Therein was guidance and light, and conrmation of the Law that had come before him. A guidance and an admonition to those who fear God. 50. Let the people of the Gospel judge by what God hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what God hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel. 51. To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, conrming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety. So judge between them by what God hath revealed, and follow not their vain desire, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have We prescribed a Law and an Open Way. If God had so willed, He would have made you a single People, but (his Plan is) to test in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God. It is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute (Q. 5:4951).5 Hence, this Islamic covenant, the sharah, is perpetual, it is not negotiable and it is not terminable. It is perpetual because it is Gods innite (azal) word in the past; it is not negotiable because it has a power to enforce obedience; and it is not terminable because it is innite (abad) into the future. The qh (Islamic applied law) is not the sharah. Rather, it is a particular understanding of the sharah. Thus, the qh (understanding) of the shariah of a particular person or group is not perpetual, it is negotiable and it is terminable. The sharah is the perpetual principle on the basis of which each and every generation of Muslims has the right and the duty to make judgments about good and evil, right and wrong, in the context of its time and space in accordance with its own experience. Hence, the sharah is the Muslims authority in morals,6 coupled with the authority in faith, the shaha dah. So far we have discussed what might be called the transcendental aspect of Islamic authority, i.e., faith as Gods gift to a human being and the covenant as Gods commitment to a human community. The third theological foundation of Islamic authority, the ima mah, which has to do with Islamic authority in civil life, is more immanent than transcendent in the sense that it refers to human authority that functions with the help of divinely created faith and morality. The word ima mah suggests the notion of leading people in a certain direction, as does, for instance, a prayer leaderthe Ima m, the Muslim preacher [1]. But the concept of the ima mah in the sense of the immanent authority in civil life has enormous signicance in the context of the history of Islam. In fact, the question of the imamate as the supreme leadership of the universal Muslim umma [21, p. 859] after the death of the Prophet is the central issue of the current situation not only in the Muslim centre, but also in the Muslim periphery, Europe included. I have designated the imamate as the third theological foundation of Islamic authority in civil life because it is a part of Islamic judicial theory as well. The imamate is a human product based on personal faith, established by collective moral commitments and maintained by political power. It is a historical process that can go in different directions, some of which may be in sharp contradiction to the faith and morals of Islam. These contradictions of the imamate are realities contrary to the moral ideals of the shariah law. It is because of the dialectic of these historical realities and the moral ideals of the imamate that Muslim history as a whole is moving in one or the other direction. But because of, or
5 6

Quranic citations are from The Holy Quran, translation and commentary by A. Yusuf Ali. See 14 for an interesting comparison of the Sharah with the American Constitution.

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despite this, it is the undeniable right and duty of a Muslim to carry out his or her noble moral values wherever he or she lives and to nd individual and collective well-being in a state and society that promotes social justice. Thus, the imamate is a Muslims authority in civil life to the extent that intelligence nds in it truth, principle, and reality.

Historical description It is in the problem of the historical description of the imamate as the legitimate Muslim authority that I see the greatest challenge to establishing a European Muslim imamate as a way of institutionalising Islam in Europe. But before we come to that issue, let us examine the historical overview of authority in Islam of Dabashi [3]. In his book Dabashi has brought to our attention the charismatic and post-charismatic periods in Muslim history, based on Max Webers assessment of that phenomenon. He tells us that in the period following the Prophet Muhammads charismatic authority, three main notions of authority emerged: the Sunnite doctrine of the authority of the routinisation of the (original) charisma; the Shiite doctrine of the authority of the perpetuation of the charisma; and the Kharijite doctrine of the authority of the dissemination of the charisma.7 This typology of post-charismatic Muslim history helps us to understand the current crisis of global Muslim leadership. It seems nothing has changed since the time of the rst Caliph, Abu Bakr (according to the Sunnites), or the rst Imam, Ali (according to the Shiites).8 Nor is the rebellious mind of the Kharijites as entirely defeated as was once thought.9 Historically, the Sunnite doctrine of the authority of the routinisation of Prophet Muhammads charisma (risa lah) has dominated Muslim history because it has been able to justify itself not merely by the exercise of power [but also] to meet the demands of human reason, to satisfy the requirements of the human conscience, and to prove itself the guide [7, p. 252]. However, the Sunni institution of the Caliphate did not survive because it lost the vigour of its Islamic religious identity. Instead, Sunnite political thought has been greatly inuenced by ideologies of racial, national and secular identity [8, p. 937]. On the other hand, the Shiite doctrine of the authority of the perpetuation of the charisma, although not predominant in mainstream Muslim history, has not only survived, but also expanded its inuence through the Imam Khomeinis revolution in 1979. In the meantime, the world has been reminded of the old political radicalism of the Kharijites, who seem now to be more radical than their original mentors. But there is no single solution to Muslim authority, not only in Europe, but also with respect to global Muslim leadership. There cannot be the Sunnite authority of routinisation without the Shiite authority of the perpetuation of charisma. And there cannot be the Shiite authority of the perpetuation without the Sunnite authority of the routinisation of the charisma. Otherwise, both the Sunnite and the Shiite doctrines of authority will be replaced by the Kharijite doctrine of the authority of the dissemination of the charisma. There is nothing wrong with bringing the Sunnite and Shiite concepts of authority together with the objective of creating a global Muslim authority that is capable of coping with the challenges of Muslim integration in the contemporary world. It is too risky for the
7

Although the concept of charisma is Christian, Dabashi has succeeded in convincing us that it can be helpful in explaining some aspects of Muslim sociology as well [3, pp. 4749]. See also Glassman and Swatos [4]. For more on the Shiite concept of authority see [2, 12]. On the origin, development and doctrine of the Kharijites, see [9, p. 1074].

8 9

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Muslim global community to be left at the mercy of Kharijite political thought, which might lead Muslims to undesired isolation. There is therefore no reason for the Shiite not to accept the logic of the Muslim majority, in the sense of the reality of Muslim history, which is not perfect because it is human, not divine. Of course, it is, for the time being, utopian to think that a single Sunnite-Shiite global authority is possible, but I see no other way forward for future Muslim generations than to come together to fuse the intellectual and spiritual energy of these two main branches of Islam into one acceptable global Muslim authority. Europe or the West in general, is a good place for such a dream. It is here in Europe that Muslims have the opportunity to experience the power and beauty of universal Islam. It is here that Muslims can appreciate the importance of familial bonds and community solidarity in a civil society in which things are ordained in accordance with the State (which) is an ethical institutionfor the good of the community, and in the interests of the higher values. Authority and loyalty must go hand in hand in every State which is worthy of the name [7, p. 252].

The Muslim social contract With this general assumption of the state as an ethical institution we may proceed to the notion of the Muslim social contract in European democratic society, which is open to agreement between its equal members who have the prior human rights of the citizens of that society [13, p. 1]. Let me repeat here what I have already stated in my Declaration of European Muslims.10 Europe is neither da ru-l-isla m, the house of Islam, nor da ru-l-harb, the house of war. Europe is da ru-l-sulh ru-l-sulh, the house of social contract.11 The land of Europe is da because it is possible to live in accordance with Islam in the context of the social contract, the principles that free and rational persons concerned to further their own interests would accept in an initial position of equality as dening the fundamental terms of their association [16, p. 11]. It is not difcult to prove that the idea of a contract, social or otherwise, is a legitimate one. There are many doctrinal and historical documents that support the concept of sulh (peace, [re]conciliation, settlement, accord and contract) as the opposite of harb (war, warfare, ght, combat, etc.). The very idea of Islam is peace with God, with His Messenger and with the rule of law: God does call to the House of Peace ... (Q. 10:25). The servants of al-Rahma n are those who walk on the earth with humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, Peace! (Q. 25:63). It is in the spirit of these Quranic verses that the Prophet Muhammad made treaties with the Bedouins at al-Hudaybiyya, with Jews and Christians at al-Madinah, and with the neighboring kings of Abyssinia, Persia and Byzantium. The rightful caliphs have faithfully followed the example of the Prophet and, in turn, they have been followed by good Muslim rulers throughout the history of Islam as well. This historical fact of the social contract, which began with Muslim goodwill towards other nations and religions, has been well documented by Hamidullah [6]. As we have said, we have no difculty in proving the validity of the theory of contract because we can condently claim that it is a genuine part of Islamic doctrine and history.

10 11

Available on the website of the Islamic community in Bosnia-Herzegovina: www.rijaset.ba. See [17].

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Our difculty lies, however, in the lack of a genuine concept of the social contract that could be applied in the context of a European environment and that would guarantee the status of Islam as a way of life and of Muslims as citizens of Europe. First, Muslims have to understand Europe as a house of peace, not a house of war. Second, Muslims have to be clear that their minimum claim is to be free from social interference in their cultural life and that their maximum claim is for social recognition because of their positive contribution to the common good of European society as a whole. And thirdly, Muslims have to establish a single Muslim authority that can speak for both Islam as a world religion and Muslims as good citizens of Europe. We should add that a contract is based on the dictates of reason, whereas a covenant is based on the will of the heart; that is, faith. Therefore, we dene the Muslim as a person with an allegiance to God as an act of the will of his or her heart (faith); and we dene the citizen as a person with a duty to the state as an act of the dictates of his or her reason. Through the covenant persons give their heart to God and receive inner security; through the contract they give their reason to the state and receive social security as inhabitants of a city or town. Citizens are entitled to the rights and privileges of free persons, they are members of a state, native or naturalised persons who owe loyalty to a government and are entitled to protection from it for their life, religion, freedom, property and dignity. It is estimated that approximately 30 million Muslims live in Europe today. They comprise three different groups: indigenous Muslims; emigrant Muslims; and native Muslims. Indigenous Muslims are those who have a long historical background in Europe, such as the Muslims of Bosnia [10, 11], Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Bulgaria and so on. Emigrant Muslims are those who have migrated to Europe as either students or workers and have settled permanently in all the Member States of the European Union. Native Muslims are the children of Muslim emigrants parents as well as those Europeans who have recently entered Islam. All these groups have one thing in common Islam. They differ, however, in their experience and expectations of life. Indigenous Muslims carry the burden of history on their backs and expect to be supported in their struggle for religious and cultural continuity in Europe. Emigrant Muslims are making the effort to establish themselves in Europe and expect to overcome the status of strangers in Europe. And native and converted European Muslims struggle to preserve their Islamic identity in a challenging European political, economic and cultural environment and expect that somebody will tell them how to be proud of their faith and their European heritage.12 What is to be done so that the shared values of Islam can become a common ground for all Muslims in Europe? It is now time that we seriously consider a way to institutionalise the presence both of Islam as a universal religion and Muslims as global citizens. It is clear to everyone that for the representation of Islam and Muslims to exist only on a voluntary level in Europe would be misleading inasmuch as it would be contrary to Muslim dignity and European peace. It is not enough that Europe recognises the presence of Islam on its territory. Muslims deserve more than that. They deserve that their presence be legalised in the sense of creating a political and economic climate in which European Muslims can represent themselves through the institutions that should have both governmental support and public acceptance. Muslims in Europe need a single Muslim authority for two ontological and two historical reasons:
12

For more on Islam and Muslims in Europe, see [15, 18, 19, 22].

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The ontological reasons: (1) The divine origin of the Quran is the reason why the divine call for the covenant with humans is perpetual, not negotiable and not terminable; humans need to learn how to keep their promise to God at all times and in all places. The personal confession of faith (the shaha dah) and the collective moral commitment (the sharah) must nd expression in the practical function of leadership (the ima mah) as the human way of discipline and loyalty to the common good of civil society.

(2)

The historical reasons: (1) A Muslim social contract in Europe is the best way for the Muslim community to safeguard its historical place in the European democratic societies, which are committed to the rule of law and the protection of the human rights of their citizens who, in turn, must accept the duty to work for the good of the society in an orderly and organised way. Muslims in Europe should meet this historic challenge to change long-standing Muslim patterns tribal, ethnic and national conceptions of Islam which are not functional in todays global world. Instead, the Muslims in Europe have an historic chance to create a new version of the global imamate, one that is based on universal Islamic identity.

(2)

Conclusion To sum up, this article has argued that the ontological justication for a single Muslim authority in Europe can be found in the idea of covenant, and it is the responsibility of Muslims to further elaborate on this notion. The historical vindication for a single Muslim authority in Europe can be found in the notion of contract, the responsibility of Europe or the State of Europe to satisfy the requirements of the human conscience, and to prove itself the guide, the counselor, the friend of man. The recent move of the Republic of Germany towards organising Muslims into the Islamic Conference has shown how important it is that Muslims in Europe feel that they are also hosts here, not only guests. Hence, despite the fact that both the Muslim community and European society feel the need for a single Muslim authority, it is still unrealistic to imagine that such an idea will be realized soon. The reason is that the Muslim community is not yet mature enough to undertake such a project because of the lack of inter-Muslim trust and the fear of losing its cultural autonomy. As for European society, it is also still too immature to comprehend the signicance of a single Muslim authority for the sake of overall European peace and security. Nevertheless, the process towards the creation of a single Muslim authority in Europe is already underway, moving forward slowly but surely despite those Muslims who do not like the strong social discipline that would come with the regulation of the Muslim community outside of the main lands of Islam. Despite the European political establishment, which still believes that the question of Islam and Muslims in Europe is a temporary issue, a single Muslim authority in Europe will come sooner or later because of need by young European Muslims who are capable of seeing their Islamic identity as prior to their national

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or ethnic identities, and who are comfortable with their European identity co-existing with their Islamic upbringing. References
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Mustafa Ceric, PhD is the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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