While I won’t speak on the politics of the Arab Middle East, or Turkey, it’s the last part of that sentence I find interesting. Pipes makes the inference that anyone who prefers “Islamic Laws” for the country in which they live (in his articles case, radical Islamists) are people who advocate replacing Democratically instituted Constitutional Laws with Quranic Laws.

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Sidestepping the crazy Islamists for a second (mainly learn quran online , but not limited to Wahhabi’s and Salafi’s), let’s assume that Pipes is speaking about any and all Muslims here. Again, is he inferring that anyone who believes in a system of laws based on Islamically ideal principles are actively looking to replace Constitutional laws with Islamic laws? Does he think that there is nothing similar or compatible about Western Democratic rule of law and Islamic rule of law?

I would argue that any true Islamic country, whether democracy, theocracy, or theomocracy*, would not only require a constitution, but would need one to remain in accordance with the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). I’m not sure if Daniel Pipes doesn’t know, or forgot when writing that article, but history agrees that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had established a social contract (and isn’t that what a constitution essentially is?) for the citizens of Medina after he was invited to Medina in 622CE.

The Skinny Towards the end of the 5th century, Jewish tribes of Yathrib* lost control of the city to two incoming Arab tribes from Yemen, the Banu Aus and Banu Khazraj. The opposing Arabs and Jews warred for 120 years. After the wars, the Jewish population lost and were subjected to become Clients of the Arab tribes. The Jewish tribes soon began a revolt that culminated with the Battle of Bu’ath in 620 C.E. This war involved all the clans and tribes in Yathrib. After the war, both sides agreed they needed a single authority to arbitrate conflicts if they were to ever maintain longstanding peace. In 620CE, a delegation from the 12 most important clans of Medina went to Mecca to invite Muhammad as the neutral party needed to serve as chief arbitrator for the city. Muhammad accepted, and in 622 the entire Muslim population of Mecca, followed by Muhammad (pbuh), emigrated in what became known as the Hijrah.

Upon his arrival in Medina, one of the first orders of business was to establish a social contract that would settle longstanding tribal grievances and unite the people of Medina into a federation bound by a common ethical standard. This contract became known as the Constitution of Medina. It delegated the rights and duties of all citizens and the nature of the relationships of different tribes in the community. The community was defined from a religious perspective, but also substantially preserved the legal forms of the old Arab tribes. Effectively, it established the first Islamic state.

Sohail H. Hashmi gave a great description when he wrote in his article Cultivating an Islamic Liberal Ethos, Building an Islamic Civil Society, “the basis of the first Islamic civil society was literally a social contract. The so-called Constitution of Medina spelled out the mutual rights and obligations of all members of the Muslim society. It did not obliterate tribal identities; it superseded this tribalism with the umma, the community of the faithful. What made the formerly fractious tribes of Medina and their newly arrived guests from Mecca into a community was their acceptance of a common ethical standard, the still unfolding ‘Qur’anic revelation, and the supreme authority of Muhammad. The precise role that Muhammad occupied in this society is still debated by Muslim scholars. What is clear is that the Prophet did not seek to eliminate previous tribal authority. His role seems to have been that of ultimate arbiter of any social disputes that may have arisen in that society.