Religion and politics: A misunderstood relationship
Sayyed Fadlullah:The problem of religion is that it has become torn between those who
want to hold it as hostage to impose terrorism on it from the inside
and those who want to impose terrorism on it from the outside. Thus,
religious men should act on all political and cultural levels to save
religion from the hands of extremists in the East and in the West
before those who still believe that it provides a path for salvation
could be misled.
in his weekly seminar the following question: What is the Islamic position towards politics? Could a believer, especially
a cleric, interfere in politics without compromising his religious
Authority, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah, said:
Many people tend to
reiterate that politics has nothing to do with religion, and
that "clerics have no right to interfere in politics"
as it will lead them to deviate… Such presumptions are based
on two elements: the first is the Western common notion that
considers religion as a personal relationship between man and
his God that is restricted to worship and not to worldly affairs
which are the focus of politics.
The second stems
from the negative view of politics that considers it to be
involving lying, deceit and cheating… Politics, especially
real politics, involves Machiavellian tactics that Islam
denounces resorting to, especially by clerics who should be
honest and truthful.
But the Islamic
concept of politics is a different matter.
As for the Western
concept, Islam rejects its underpinnings, since religion is
based in all its history on justice in all affairs of life. This
justice obviously involves issues of government, and governing
as well as all political relations, both domestic and foreign.
cannot be achieved except through politics, that means that the
nation should be active in political participation, supervision,
electing rulers, trying them and impeaching them if need be, as
well as rejecting others.
In this respect,
internal and foreign relations are crucial factors that affect
the future of the nation. All this could make the participation
in politics a religious obligation, being the means of ensuring
that justice is upheld.
As for the common
nation that politics is not ethical as it could involve
confronting a lie with another lie, and an unethical practice by
a similar one, thus deviating from ethical idealism and the
spiritual values of religion… This notion might be refuted by
the fact that Islamic ethics is based on the supreme interest of
man. If an ethical value contradicts with this interest, then
the supreme interest has the priority. For example: lying in
Islam is a negative value that is prohibited, but if reform on
reconciliation or doing good in general depends on lying, then
it becomes a positive value. Similarly, if saying the truth
means unveiling the nation's vital secrets, then lying is an
commitment does not mean that one could not be realistic in
politics, for he would continue to be idealistic in the goals he
is serving... Ethics was meant to serve man and not the other
As for the
interference of a cleric in politics that could be used for
personal benefit, and the inability to stand against him as one
would be standing against the holy, we say that Islam does not
make a cleric a holy man whose ideas cannot be discussed.
He is but a man who
could be either right or wrong in understanding religion, and,
as such, he could be criticized like anybody else. He and the
others have to accept this.
Religion has it
values, ethics and laws that are based on protecting man from
himself and from others to establish universal justice…
Therefore, it has a right to interfere in politics to establish
this justice. Nonetheless, every man has the right to discuss
any personal religious judgment and criticize those who have
There is no body
who is too holy so as to be above criticism, suspicion or above
Thus religion will
not turn into a barrier that hinders political life, but part of
the solution, as it provides solutions to the worldly problems
based on spiritual values.
But, the problem
religion faces nowadays lies on those who imposed themselves on
it, and were falsely presented as its spokesmen to distort its
image and realize what its enemies have sought: to fight it in
the name of fighting terrorism. The problem of religion is that
it has become torn between those who want to hold it as hostage
to impose terrorism on it from the inside and those who want to
impose terrorism on it from the outside. Thus, religious men
should act on all political and cultural levels to save religion
from the hands of extremists in the East and in the West before
those who still believe that it provides a path for salvation
could be misled.