When the three friends began their meeting, Michael and Rajiv noticed the presence of some sounds interfering with Yousef's voice. When they asked him what the noise was that was causing the interference, he told them that it came from the news on TV and asked them to give him a few minutes until it ended. Shortly after, Yousef hastily said:
Yousef: I must apologize, so please forgive me. I’m sure you folks realize the importance of listening to the news these days, especially for me! Are you following what is happening in my country these days?
Rajiv: Yes, it is exciting news. The events are occurring very rapidly and successively.
Michael: Perhaps the most prominent event that caught my attention is the rise of the so-called Islamists and their attempt to transform the state system to an Islamic one... It's rather annoying.
Yousef: And what's so annoying about it?
Michael: Humanity has already experienced the era of religious states, and it has been proven to be useless. It was a bitter experience to say the least. The epoch of religious states has been over since the Middle Ages.
Yousef: But what do you mean by the religious state, could you please explain this to me?
Michael: It's the state where the ruling class is of clerics, who claim to speak in the name of God. One of the most prominent risks in a religious state is that it confiscates the truth, in the name of God. This is due to the fact that they claim to speak in the name of God and attribute the quality of infallibility and holiness to themselves. Then the claim of rulers follows; that any objection against them is an objection against God, and they aren't called to account nor questioned about their actions.
Yousef: Unfortunately, there is a cultural confusion that has caused this misconception about an Islamic state. I agree with you about rejecting the form of state that you've just mentioned, the so-called theocracy. Theocracy, however, is a system of government that derives its influence and power (not just its legislation and regulations) from religion. If Europe had suffered from this system of being governed by the church in the Middle Ages, Islam did not know this form of state and certainly does not approve of it. There is no rule which is legislated by the clerics in Islam, but rather these rules are applied by human beings who sometimes err and may even cause harm, and they are held accountable and punished for this or dismissed if necessary. The important difference here is that the reference for the Islamic state is Islam, and it is applied by human beings to whom no holiness is attached. There is no ruler in Islam who claims that he derives his legitimacy and authority from divine authority, rather he must be delegated by the nation to rule that nation.
In addition to that, the experience of the Islamic world in relation to the Islamic state was a successful experience, resulting in a prosperous and advanced state in its time; unlike the experience of the religious state in Europe.
Rajiv: Now we know the difference between the Islamic state and the religious state, but what is the difference between the Islamic state and the non-religious state?
Yousef: There are significant and substantial differences. What I'm concerned about here though, is the basis of the difference which lies between the Islamic and the secular concept of the universe, life and human beings. The system of the state in Islam stems from an Islamic perspective in which there is consistency between religion and life, and forms an integrated system in which a Muslim lives, and in which the roles of the individual, the nation and the state all integrate with each other.
In order to achieve this integration, we have to understand what our true place in the kingdom of God is. And If we admit that it is God who created us, it is natural that we shouldn't have any problem with doing what pleases Him. Furthermore if we admit that this earth and the heavens are His property alone, we should recognize that it is not right to implement except what He wills in His kingdom. And if we admit that God alone is the one who supports us, and He alone blesses us with sustenance, surely we shall come to know that our only position is to worship Him. If God is our ruler and the ruler of all that is in this world, there is no real place for us in this worl but to be in full obedience and submission to Him.
Michael: But, what forces us to again put into practice an experience that has adversities and points of objections connected to it?! Human beings can decide for themselves how to live, what brings happiness to them, and what is the appropriate way to organize their lives, then after that there is nothing that stops them from correcting themselves and developing their experiences.
Yousef: The truth of the matter lies in the question: Is man eligible to rule or legislate or be the one who lays down the rulings? We know that if someone attempts to operate a device which he doesn't know anything about, he will damage it. For example, if one drives a car but he doesn't know how to drive, we know what inevitably will be the consequence of this recklessness. If we consider that this is the case for a small machine made of iron, which is impossible to run without the correct knowledge, then how will it be possible for people, who have many complex aspects and issues in their lives, as well as dealings that have countless aspects, with a multitude of obstacles and dilemmas, people who don’t know anything about themselves, let alone others, how can they be able to operate this complex human system by themselves?
Another issue is that there is no way for justice to prevail except if the one who takes the responsibility of laying down the system of life for humans views all humans as being equal members of humanity. Only he who is above all personal interests and doesn't seek any gains from any specific individual, family, class, nation or country, only he is able to decide the rights due to all of them. Justice can never be established on earth except through this way.
Moreover, man is never free from personal purposes and self-interests. This human weakness is inherent in every human being. Just consider political leaders, religious leaders of the Brahmins, popes, heads of misguided Sufi groups, people with power and money, and you'll find that they forcibly single out special rights and privileges for themselves. Consequently, all that is under their authority and their influence concerning laws and legislations gives them rights which aren't afforded to the general public. They twist and turn these laws and legislations to serve their best interests, in various ways, and make people through the media imagine that this is how things should be. Taking all that into consideration, is it then possible to establish the foundations of a just state and a balanced society in a society dominated by such people?!
Concerning the powerful nations which have enslaved other nations through the use of their powers, which law or system enforced by such powerful nations doesn't have selfishness running in its veins? Would it be possible that such people are able to found humane systems and legislations based on principles of rights and justice?
Rajiv: But, Mr. Yousef, what do you do in a state where religious minorities who believe in other religions besides Islam live? We in India, for example, have hundreds of religious minorities. When you make Islam the reference of legislation in the state, you force these minorities to accept a religion other than their own.
Yousef: It's good that you reminded me of this matter! There are three points I would like to make clear in this regard:
First, I'm surprised that you object to a non-Muslim living under the authority of an Islamic state despite the fact that his religion does not have a particular legislation that has to be established, (i.e. he is not asked to act differently from what his religion dictates) …but you force a Muslim to obey regulations contrary to his religion and to accept the legislations that violate his faith when living in a secular state, even though his religion clearly does not allow him to perform these acts!!
The second point is that making Islamic legislation the reference in the state doesn't mean non-Muslims are forced to embrace Islam; but in fact this is an objection which can be made against secular systems, as they force religion to be limited to only personal beliefs and emotional feelings, although Islam is not limited to such a realm. Islam for Muslims is comprised of rituals and legislations (i.e. a system and law) and a civilizational reference. As for the non-Muslim (which has no set legislation which he has to follow), he can consider Islam as a civilizational reference and submit to its regulations and laws, without becoming involved with any of its beliefs and rituals, just as you advocate the possibility of applying liberalism or socialism in societies where these systems didn't arise, and on adherents of different religions and sects.
Thirdly, that the establishment of a state with an Islamic reference does not mean that the rights of minorities are forgotten or that they are oppressed, or that rulers intervene in the regulations of the minorities’ own religions. Islam guarantees the rights of minorities and does not mind that they resort to their own religions concerning their personal matters.
Michael: But we now live in an era different from that in which Islam emerged and in which the experience of its state was applied, and if these efforts were successful they would be considered as a step backwards. A backward step! You want from us to restrain our thoughts and to stop at conditions that are no longer acceptable today, nor are logical to the new way of life!
You, for instance, still insist on the prohibition of usury, which is an economic necessity that is indispensable in any modern state.
Yousef: My friend, what you've said in this example and in other examples are based on axioms which are not true, and which are formed by a specific perception about the form of the state and the global system which we live in, after it forcefully imposed itself on us as a fait accompli. It also neglects the many negative effects from which humanity suffered after coupling the economic system with usury.
It is true that Islam prohibits usury, but it is not true that usury is an economic necessity.
Prominent capitalists and monopolists of the world advocate usury. They mislead the world by presenting it as a necessary need, while it is in fact a need only in their world of capitalism. However, prominent economists in the capitalist West condemn the system of usury and say that it will inevitable lead, over the generations, to the occurrence of economic and financial crises and the subsequent social problems, because of the concentration of wealth in the hands of a small group of people and of gradually denying it to the public. And we only have to look at the recent mortgage debt crisis and the subsequent disasters and international crises, and before that many crises of which the most famous is the Great Depression in the thirties of the last century... to realize the magnitude of the tragedy.
One of the miracles of the Islamic system is that it had forbidden usury and monopoly – the two pillars of capitalism – even before the advent of capitalism by nearly a thousand years. My dear friend, the Islamic state is not only an Islamic legislative necessity, but it is also a necessity for mankind.