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Savadi on Religion and the State

The following paper was delivered by Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Ali Savadi at our 2016 meeting. A pdf version can be found in the papers section of the website.

In the Name of God

The Relation between Religion and the State

Mohammad Ali Savadi

Abstract: a religion-based state is a system based on religious beliefs and values. Its objective should be to create a favorable environment for the growth of moral virtues, based on faith and piety and to struggle against all forms of vice and corruption; the abolition of all forms of undesirable discrimination and the provision of equitable opportunities for all, in both the material and the intellectual spheres; securing the multifarious rights of all citizens – both women and men- and providing legal protection for all, as well as the equality of all before the law; the expansion and strengthening of religious brotherhood and public cooperation among all the people; the elimination of all forms of despotism and autocracy and all attempts to monopolize power; the complete elimination of imperialism and the prevention of foreign influence. In addition, it must ensure political and social freedoms within the framework of the law; the participation of the entire people in determining their political, economic, social, and cultural destiny; the planning of a correct and just economic system, in accordance with religious criteria, in order to create welfare, eliminate poverty, and abolish all forms of deprivation with respect to food, housing, work, health care, and the provision of social insurance for all; framing the foreign policy of the country on the basis of religious criteria, fraternal commitment to all believers, and unsparing support to the freedom fighters of the world and negation of all forms of oppression, both the infliction of and the submission to it, and of dominance, both its imposition and its acceptance.

Keywords: religion, state, religion-based state, monotheism, justice.



The Religious Bases and Principles

What do I mean by religion?

A revealed religion is a set of statements and teachings concerning man’s beliefs and values, prescriptive or recommended actions, humanities, education and man’s needs based on reliable revelation and reliable rational reasoning or other reliable proofs. In the contradiction between the expedience and interests of individual and society, according to situation and based on the compulsory rule of considering more important one, sometimes the individual’s rights are prior to society’s rights and vice versa.

The Bases and Principles of religious state’s theory

There are several bases and principles, which the most important ones consist of:

  1. Monotheism: the origin of all political rights of states and humanity is God’s absolute sovereignty. This is based on the divine natural disposition of man. The natural disposition is irreducible and stable.
  2. Justice: the believers in the revealed religions must deal justly with other believers who have not oppressed them. They always must observe social (or international) justice in their relations with all, even the belligerent arrogant states or groups (that are fighting believers or are looking for an opportunity.)
  3. Legitimacy and acceptability: the legitimacy of a religion-based state is from God and its acceptability is from people; the acceptability is a pillar of the legitimacy.
  4. Overall development: in the course of nations’ overall development, the fundamental consideration should be fulfillment of the material needs of man, not accumulation of wealth and maximization of profit. The economy is not an end in itself, but only a means.
  5. Emergence of capacities: providing the means needed for the emergence of the various creative capacities of the citizens. The state should furnish all citizens with equal and appropriate opportunities, to provide them with work, and to satisfy their essential needs, so that the course of their progress may be assured.


The Role of Religion

Under a revealed religion-based state, all civil, penal financial, economic, administrative, cultural, military, political, and other laws and regulations must be based on religious criteria. This principle applies absolutely and generally to all articles of a religion-based constitution as well as to all other laws and regulations. For example, the investigation of individuals’ beliefs is forbidden (illegal), and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief. Also in order to preserve secrecy of communication, the government should prevented from inspecting letters and the failing to deliver them, from recording and disclosing telephone conversations, disclosing of telegraphic and telex communications, from censorship, or the willful failure to transmit communications, eavesdropping, and all forms of covert investigation, except as provided by law.

The characteristics of a religion-based state  

Being Law-based and rational: first of all, it has to be noted that a revealed religion-based state should be a law-based state; and the origin of law is God’s absolute and exclusive sovereignty and nation’s self-determination. God Himself has made man and nation master of his own social destiny, and no one can deprive them of this divine right. In addition, the policies of a religion-based state should be based on the epistemological origin of religion, meaning consolidation of rationalization and revelation.

Observance of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and cooperation: the necessary base of peaceful relation among nations is mutual respect. In addition, peaceful coexistence and universal cooperation are necessary conditions for improvement of goodly life.

Following the model of the holy Prophets’ lives: following the tradition of the messengers of God is the guarantee of mundane and otherworldly salvation of adherent nations. Because the sending of the holy Prophets on their divine mission, was done in order to make people take into consideration their common natural disposition, as the last word and in order to be safe from the misleading media of the domineering powers.

Universality: its mission territory is the spiritual life of all human beings and societies.

Observance of international treaties and esteemed peace: It should be committed and faithful to bilateral or multilateral covenants with other states and observes all covenants that are not against humanity’s interests.

The only guarantee of peaceful solution of the international quarrels is administration of justice; making truly just peace and avoiding any kind of aggression; observing requirements of human beings’ natural disposition – the acceptable, objective and permanent covenant among nations- and accepting the arbitration that is based on right and justice.

In addition, the only state of acceptable peace – the most valuable and fundamental man’s need – is readiness of both sides for peaceful and honourable coexistence and observance of rights and respect of each other, not acceptance of surrendering or lowliness by oppressed before the war seekers who demolish human honour. The only way of encountering such aggressive states is war.

Guarding the dignity of man: God creates man honourable. The exalted dignity and value of man, and his freedom coupled with responsibility before God, in which equity, justice, political, economic, social, and cultural independence and national solidarity are secured.

Strengthening preventive defence: The state should not only avoid transgressing against any other nation, but should also adjudicate the human law of defensive war. It must develop its preventive power, with the most progressive defensive achievements. It must openly renounce the arrogant conspiracies, and defend the spiritual and human rights of human beings and societies— especially the rights of the poor and weak.

Administering spiritual and material strategies: its diplomacy should be based at least on two following components:

  1. cultural convergence: it should cooperate with other states, including the disbeliever states – which do not have any bad background, are willing to have human relations- and contribute and play active role in international affairs. The true axis of peaceful coexistence and continuation of commercial-political relations among states are innate-human common principles, comprehensive justice, kindliness, generous help, equal treatment and fulfilment of commitments. Just interaction with other states— which do not create any concern— is necessary, and God approves of good done to other states, and to the poor of other societies.
  2. economic-political agreements: it should be responsible for dealing with different states and nations through enacting more and more bilateral economic relations and entering into more and more multi-lateral agreements.

Differences between Religious State and Secular State  

The main origin of secularism, secular theories and methods is the denial by scholars and intellectuals of the role of man’s divine natural disposition and the right understanding of religion. Therefore, since they do not have a true comprehension of man, society and history, they always swayed by the inevitable and continuous change of scientific theories and intellectual fashions, which are neither universal, nor global.

The secret of so many types of materialist and relativist theories regarding man’s happiness, reality, justice, ethics, spirituality, etc. is man’s separation from the revelatory and transcendent reason. The only common and reliable bases for all just internal and external relations of the polities are man’s natural disposition and the true understanding of religion, virtuous disciplines of knowledge, not the power-based media or UN.

Of course, neither “might is right” nor the pragmatist and utilitarian approach to truth can protect security and the rights of individuals and nations in a just way.

While secular philosophies and sciences or liberalism emphasize individual freedom, religion emphasizes man’ perfection. While the first one relies on relativism and pluralism, religion emphasizes fixed and permanent principles and values. In addition, there are usually many commonalities, both believe in man’s dignity, proximity, solidarity, unity, self-determination, peaceful coexistence, security, cooperation, good rulership, spirituality, rationality… But they differ in definition and the way of creating harmony among the above-mentioned components. If we can uproot the extremism from the both sides, we will witness a peaceful world which has maximum freedom, political participation, coordination, development, perfection… During history three false powers (political, economic and religious) have had close cooperation and coordination to misuse religion and people’s ignorance in order to keep or increase their illegal interests. Unfortunately even the elite cannot know the true religion which was sent by God through the holy prophets and what the false powers introduced as religion. If we know that all the prophets came to unite all parts of humanity, we can never accept any type of relation between compulsion, imposition, violence, extremism or terrorism and any religion. If we know the logic of recognizing the difference between the true understanding of religion and the false ones, we never see any problem for creating a peaceful world with maximum freedom, rationality and spirituality, while using the holy Prophets’ teachings.

For example, in a developmental study, a thinker’s reliance on a systemic paradigm including sound end, convincing argument, authentic revelation, and speculative and practical reason immunizes him against the various types of deviation and fallacy. The reliability of logical rules is guarded by the prevention of interference from imagination and fancy in reasoning. Logic prevents us from using ambiguous expressions instead of clear expressions and provides the ground for enough exactness to prevent us from committing fallacies. If the revelatory knowledge and the rational knowledge, have been understood in harmony with each other, they would be seen to be in coherence with fixed and everlasting innate knowledge. But of course pragmatist or utilitarian approaches to knowledge, or ideas based on the interests of the ruling arrogant powers, can neither create comprehensive, flourishing, continuous development nor observes the rights of the deprived and the oppressed.

In addition, now definitely all human achievements must be utilized by new generations, just as Western civilization borrowed heavily from the Islamic world, which in turn had been enriched in its golden age by Persian and Greek culture. Our religious thinking is bound to evolve.

Religion-based State Responsibilities            

A religion-based state should secure and preserve freedom, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of the country. It should not permit any individual, group, or authority to infringe in the slightest way upon the political, cultural, economic and military independence or the territorial integrity of the country under the pretext of exercising freedom. Similarly, it should not permit any authority to abrogate legitimate freedoms, not even by enacting laws and regulations for that purpose, under the pretext of preserving the independence and territorial integrity of the country. It should formulate its general policies with a view to cultivating the friendship and unity of all human beings, and it must constantly strive to bring about the political, economic, and cultural unity of the whole world. It should treat human beings in conformity with ethical norms and the principles of justice and equity, respecting their rights. This principle applies to all who refrain from engaging in conspiracy or activity against a revealed religion.

The government must ensure the rights of women in all respects. During history women suffered the greater oppression, therefore government must create a favorable environment for the growth of woman’s personality and the restoration of their rights, both the material and intellectual; protect mothers, particularly during pregnancy and child-rearing, and protect children without guardians and establish competent courts to protect and preserve the family.

Since women play a pioneering social role and becomes the fellow struggler of man in all vital areas of life, like the momentous and precious role of motherhood, rearing committed human beings, they should not be regarded as an object or instrument in the service of promoting consumerism and exploitation. Given the weighty responsibilities that woman thus assumes, she is accorded in religion great value and nobility.

In addition, since the family is the fundamental unit of society and the main center for the growth and edification of human being, all laws, regulations, and pertinent programs must tend to facilitate the formation of a family, and to safeguard its sanctity and the stability of family relations on the basis of the law and the ethics of a revealed religion.

Guarding and taking into consideration the expedience of the international community, its foreign political interactions with other countries should directed to humanity’ good. It should encounter other’s bad action with nice reaction. In addition, every kind betrayal or thimblerig, by a religious state, in its all relations with other political units, is forbidden.

It should make use of mediation and diplomatic means. Intermediation must always be based on justice-oriented and calmative peace, and leads to taking the right of the oppressed from the oppressor, not merely encouraging the oppressed one to ignore his right and submitting an imposed and tragic compromise.

It should make just use of all permissible tools, in the framework of religion to improve and strengthen its relations with other political units, according to different time-space situations.

It should take advantage of different effectual styles of negotiation- through establishing agent’s office, mutual visitation, and active participation in regional and international organizations.

In addition, it can make use of signing treaties- to the tools of public diplomacy (government, national radio and TV, specialized journals, hosting international matches and rewards …).

Moreover, it can use cultural diplomacy (taking advantage of education in the direction of correcting thinking and man’s attitude, cultural interchange programmes, regular administration of exhibitions, workshops, gatherings, in the destination countries), on the part of constructive, leading and inspiring interaction and maximum consolidation settlement its relations with others.

It must avoid oppressing others. It must negate the imposed hegemonic domination, not accepting any hegemony. It must provide grounds for peaceful coexistence, the national and human interests of the nations, and pave ground for more and more justice in the international scene.

Also a religious state calls all monotheists to the guidelines of monotheism and their “Book” and all atheists to the common human principles.

Foreign Policy of a Religion-based State                          

It is based on rejecting all forms of domination— both its exertion or submission to it— preserving the country’s independence in all respects and its territorial integrity, defending the rights of nonaligned states from hegemonic superpowers, and maintaining mutually peaceful relations with all non-belligerent States.

A revealed religion-based state has as its ideal human felicity throughout human society, and considers the attainment of independence, freedom, and rule of justice and truth to be the right of all people of the world. Accordingly, while scrupulously refraining from all forms of interference in the internal affairs of other nations, it supports the just struggles of freedom fighters against oppressors in every corner of the globe.

It must take advantage of public diplomacy, clear, true and responsibility-creator informing and notifying, the best way of removing misunderstanding among nations, accepted and desirable interaction and also co-increasing existent capacities among nations and humanitarian and nonprofit cooperation.

Conclusion: it is clear that such a government represents the fulfillment of the political ideal of a people, taking an organized form in order to initiate the process of intellectual and cultural development towards God. That is, in religion the authority primarily belongs to God and then to the people with whom God is pleased. The aim of government is to foster the growth of nation in such a way that it progresses towards the establishment of a Divine order. This goal cannot be attained without the active and broad participation of all segments of international community in the process of international development.

With due attention to this goal, religion provides the basis of such participation by all members of the international community at all stages of the political decision-making process on which the destiny of the countries depends. In this way during the course of human development towards perfection, each political unit will itself be involved in, and responsible for the growth, advancement, and leadership of international community. Precisely in this lies the realization of the holy government upon earth.

The main requirement for having such authority is justice and deep acquaintance with religious texts and reason. Reason is a source, tool and judge, and at the same time can help us to define the proper method for understanding the texts of religion. In is now clear how important reason, justice and piety are for religion. A religion-based state establishes economic-political relations with all countries, which really believe in mutual respect and just relations. And to solve discrepancies it makes use of its whole potential and actual capacities and the initiatives that are free from threat, degradation and discrimination.

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