Islam should speak for the new constitution

ERGÜN YILDIRIM,  Sunday 09:25, 31 January 2016
Constitutions are a very important topic within contemporary discussions of Islamic thought. This discussion, starting with the initiatives of Tunisian Hayreddin Pasha, continues until today. Tunisian Hayreddin Pasha was the grand vizier to Sultan Abdülhamid II, who started modernization in Islam. Ahmet Cevdet Pasha is another pioneer of the pursuit for a new constitution within Islam. He too, was a grand vizier to Sultan Abdülhamid II. He did not get along well with Tunisian Hayreddin Pasha. However, he was a pioneer of a new constitution that integrates with Islam in modern times. He crowned this with the Mecelle, an Ottoman code of civil law. The Mecelle is a great piece of work in terms of the relationship between Islam and modern law. It is a shaping of Islam which embraces the problems of contemporary times and takes a constitutional form. On the other hand, it is the resolution of tradition and modern constitution. The Mecelle is a constitutional experience that feeds off historical and theological depths and embraces contemporary developments. Therefore, it continues to be a resource for Islamic societies. Beyond being a pure constitutional text, it has become a source for the state, politics, the individual, law, justice et cetera.

The constitution has always been an important issue for Muslim intellectuals in terms of societal developments, freedoms and Islam's representation in political fields. For example, Hassan al Banna continued to emphasize the constitution. Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood, and defended a constitutional management thesis, which was one of the most important pillars of the political movement. He mobilized awareness such as “the Quran is our constitution” and made this an issue, as the representation of Islam in the political field was discriminated against. However, he generally advocated the existence of a political management with constitutional order. He argued that this should be formed in agreement with Islam and gain inspiration from Islam.

Rached Ghannouchi, co-founder of the Ennahda Movement, is another important intellectual who advocated the agreement of Islam with a constitutional order. He argued that a constitutional order was of vital importance for governments to be distanced from arbitrary practices, and for the rights of Muslims to be protected. The political changes experienced in Tunisia today are influenced by Ghannouchi's approaches.

The relationship between Islam and the constitution still conserves its timeliness. How can Islam contribute to the founding of a constitution with its legacy, resources and spirit? What kind of a constitution can we ask for from an Islamic perspective? We are going through a time in which Turkey is trying to found a new constitution. Muslims with an Islamic worldview have to ask these questions. They have to offer new concepts, perspectives and realities that contain Islamic thought during the making of a new constitution. Islam has passed a mute period. Therefore, Muslims need to speak up as a new constitution is being made and offer their ideas and proposals.

The discussion and interpretation of making a new constitution in Turkey in relation to the knowledge of Islamic thought will also attribute the matter to our historical hinterland. Societies becoming hopeful looking at Turkey, will experience a sense of belonging within this pursuit. Hence, Turkey will not only be a country that discusses a constitution in Anatolia, but will become a country that speaks and makes headway in all Islamic societies.

Islamic thought is dynamic; it flows, speaks, discusses and gives life to society. Therefore, it cannot be confined within books, eras or certain groups like the ulama, or Islamic scholars, and theologians. It can reveal this in the making of a new constitution. Thus, still, dull and static puddles and movements and people will mobilize. Those who speak through books will speak to the society. The book will come down to the society. Literalist and dogmatic Islamic thought will assume the responsibility of the people. Dear Islamic thinkers, theologians, fuqaha, or Islamic jurists, and Islamic philosophers, where are you all? What can you offer Islam during the making of a new constitution that feeds from our national and historical resources? Where will Islam stand within the government of politicians having religious identities, during the making of a constitution? Where are your constitution books? Why aren't you in an intellectual uprising?

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