It is hard to disagree with the main arguments of Abdullahi an-Na’im’s impeccable book: a healthy religious life requires a secular state, even as political life may remain infused with the religious values of the population. And the historical examples provide added credence to the point. An Islamic state as such never existed historically, even though pre-modern states cannot be regarded as secular in the contemporary sense of the word. But there has never been a state in Islamic history that fused entirely religious and political authority after Muhammad, and it is far from obvious that Muhammad’s own Medina community constituted a state or was meant as a model for any state. [...]Read the rest of A secular state must deliver.
Mohammed A. Bamyeh is Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author, most recently, of Of Death and Dominion: The Existential Foundations of Governance (Northwestern University Press, 2007) and The Ends of Globalization (University of Minnesota Press, 2000. 2nd printing, 2002). His latest book, Anarchy and Civil Society, is currently forthcoming from Rowan & Littlefield.