In 2010, a study headed by Professor Hossein Askari published the first Islamicity Index – a benchmark to build effective institutions for political, social and economic reform and progress in Muslim countries. The methodology1 was taking quantifiable principles from Islam in various fields2 – Economics, Law & Governance, Human & Political Rights, and International Relations – and checking for compliance within the laws and policies in the countries being looked at.
The results were shocking to Muslims who were paying attention — Ireland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden, and the United Kingdom made up the top 5 nations in the Islamicity Index.
The first Muslim countries, Malaysia and Kuwait, placed 33 and 42 respectively.
Every year since then, the results have not changed significantly — secular nations consistently complied with Islamic principles more than Muslim countries do. In the latest index, Germany, whose population is 40% claims to no religion, placed 11 in the index.
There is criticism, of course, that the index is not an exhaustive collection of Islamic principles, that none of the personal rituals were accorded points (how?) and so on – and they were addressed by Prof Hossein’s team3.
What seems to be clear is that secular democracies perform better than dictatorships and/or theocratic states. Perhaps these secular democracies learnt from their own or regional history of being theocratic states.
But what is happening? How are so-called disbelievers, even agnostics and atheists – who presumably do not read the Qur’an – complying with principles embodied in it? This is the question asked by the Quran Study channel on YouTube.
People in secular countries are not following the Qur’an as we know it, but the guidance that is inspired in them by God (91:7-10). They submit to the intellect, conscience, and permanent values, and in a community, make collective decisions through a consensus of like-minded submitters.
وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا
فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا
قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ زَكَّاهَا
وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنْ دَسَّاهَا
91:7 And the soul and He who proportioned it
91:8 And inspired it with its wickedness and its righteousness
91:9 Successful is he who purifies it
91:10 Failing is he who corrupts it
As a result, they arrive at laws and policies that are consistent with the embedded guidance.
Because the embedded guidance is God-given, as were the Reminders given by the same God through prophets and messengers to all communities (4:163-164), these laws and policies are demonstrably consistent with the Reminders. This results in a high score on the Index and general success of the communities.
Conversely, communities of people who do not fully submit to their internal guidance will arrive at laws and policies that are not consistent with the Reminders, and score low on the index. Is the extent of their deviation indicated by the score? Perhaps.
To quote Wahiduddin Khan,
This divine invocation of humanity is ever-present in the consciousness of all human beings, that is why the Quran is universally understandable—to some on a conscious plane, and to others at the subconscious level.
This reality has been described in the Quran as ‘clear revelations in the hearts of those who have been given knowledge.’ This verse goes on to say that ‘none deny Our revelations save the wrongdoers’ (29:49).
This means that the Divine Reality, explained by the Quran on a conscious plane, pre-exists in man at the level of the subconscious. The message of the Quran is not, therefore, something which is alien to man. It is in fact a verbal expression of that same Divine Reality which is in consonance with man’s own nature and with which he is already familiar.
The Quran explains this by saying that those born in later times were all initially born at the time of the creation of Adam and, at that time, God had directly addressed all these human souls.
This event is thus alluded to in the Quran: ‘[Prophet], when your Lord brought forth the offspring from the loins of the Children of Adam and made them bear witness about themselves, He said, ‘Am I not your Lord?’ and they replied, ‘Yes, we bear witness that You are.’ So you cannot say on the Day of Resurrection, ‘We were not aware of this’ (7:172).
In the following verse, the Quran makes further mention of the dialogue between God and man: ‘Surely We offered Our trust to the heavens and the earth, and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man undertook it. But he has proved a tyrant and a fool’ (33:72).
The Quran, for man, is in essence already known to him, rather than an entirely unknown entity. In reality, the Quran is the unfolding of the human mind.— Introduction to the Translation of the Qur’an by Wahiduddin Khan
I also think that the internal guidance is the protected script mentioned in 5:90, that cannot be changed in any way, but only consciously and deliberately put aside or overruled by external factors – a belief in other books, greed, lust, or other human vices. This, as verse 91:10 tells us, usually results in failure.
More pertinently, I think this represents a state of shirk, as God’s guidance is placed alongside human guidance or even supplanted altogether.
To wrap it up, verse 24:55 succinctly explains the results of the Islamicity Index.
وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنْكُمْ وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَيَسْتَخْلِفَنَّهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ كَمَا اسْتَخْلَفَ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ وَلَيُمَكِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ دِينَهُمُ الَّذِي ارْتَضَىٰ لَهُمْ وَلَيُبَدِّلَنَّهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ خَوْفِهِمْ أَمْنًا ۚ يَعْبُدُونَنِي لَا يُشْرِكُونَ بِي شَيْئًا ۚ وَمَنْ كَفَرَ بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
24:55 God has promised those of you who believe and do righteous deeds, that He will make them successors on earth, as He made those before them successors, and He will establish for them their Way —which He has approved for them — and He will substitute security in place of their fear. They serve Me, never associating anything with Me. But whoever disbelieves after that—these are the sinners.
While it does mention “those who believe” in that verse, it does not pertain to any dogmas and tenets, but to the realization that the entire Universe is operating under the changeless physical laws of One Supreme Authority, thus providing the basis for all science and technology (Shabbir Ahmed, QXP).
So what can Muslims do?
The results of the Islamicity study are a clear sign of using the internal guidance embedded in all of us. This, as the results show, matters – more than belief – in creating a society and nation in-line with Islamic principles. It’s the basis for our interaction with others in our immediate communities, our nation, and the whole world, whereas belief is the basis of our personal and private relationship with God.
Furthermore, this is consistent with Qur’anic guidance:
وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمُ اتَّبِعُوا مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ قَالُوا بَلْ نَتَّبِعُ مَا أَلْفَيْنَا عَلَيْهِ آبَاءَنَا ۗ أَوَلَوْ كَانَ آبَاؤُهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَهْتَدُونَ
2:170 And when it is said to them, “Follow what God has revealed,” they say, “We will follow what we found our ancestors following.” Even if their ancestors understood nothing, and were not guided?
A return to first principles and reexamining the guidance and how it is being understood.
Is our understanding, first of all, coherent with the internal guidance mentioned in the above passages? Secondly, how is that understanding being applied in the real world — have they been modified or changed through time, practices, and applications?
Until we’re prepared to do this, we will forever be papering over cracks and struggle to coexist with others in the modern world.