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SPIRITUALITY VERSUS POLITICS

According to the Qur’an, spirituality should be everyone’s primary concern, and politics, or political power, should take second place. This order of priority is made very clear in the Qur’an. For example, in the chapter Al-Saff (Ranks), the Qur’an says: He will give you another blessing which you desire:  help from God and imminent victory. Give good tidings to believers! (61:13)

This Qur’anic verse explicitly mentions that politics, or political power, has only a secondary status in the believer’s life. According to Qur’anic teachings, spirituality is a vast subject, covering almost all the non-political affairs of life. Believers must therefore make every effort to attain spirituality while relegating politics to a subsidiary role.

According to the Qur’anic scheme, one’s principal endeavor should be to lead a spiritual life and then try to spread the spiritual message to others. According to Qur’anic teaching, a believer must adopt spirituality as his goal. He should shape his life by adhering to spiritual principles and applying spiritual norms in all aspects of his personal life. Drawing the line between what is spiritual and what is purely political is essential and it should be borne in mind that spirituality is a target that is achievable in every situation, provided you are sincere and determined to achieve spirituality.  It needs only one thing—and that is willpower. This goal must be attained regardless of whether conditions are favorable or unfavorable.

But the case of political power is quite different. As compared to spirituality, politics is a bilateral or a multilateral issue. There are always two parties and a number of political rivals. So, if you want to make political gains, you have to overwhelm the other party or rivals. This means that confrontation is inherently a part of politics: without confrontation, there is no politics. But confrontation breeds hatred and sometimes leads to violence. Indeed, having a political target is quite against the Qur’anic spirit.

According to the Qur’anic scheme, one’s principal endeavor should be to lead a spiritual life and then try to spread the spiritual message to others. One may engage in spiritual activities, provided they are strictly non-political. According to Qur’anic teaching, the real part of a believer’s life is spirituality, while politics is quite subsidiary. This means that spirituality is required in every situation, at every stage in life, but politics is required only when the situation calls for it. If there is a society that is ready for its affairs to be administered according to Islamic teachings, then believers can go into politics. In other words, spirituality is a matter of the individual’s choice, while politics comes into the picture only when society is prepared for this, i.e. when society itself wants to be governed according to Islamic teachings.

As far as social or national affairs are concerned, their management or governance must be determined by democratic means, through free and fair elections. Spirituality and politics must both refrain from encroaching upon others’ fields. The goal of spirituality is to gain a seat in the eternal Paradise, in the world hereafter, while politics is basically a worldly affair. It is for society to adopt a political system by its own decision.

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