The communist ideology is in direct opposition with any religion as it clearly opposes the practice of religion and the existence of God. Nevertheless, neither of those practiced religions has resisted communism more than the Islamic states have at the time when communism was flourishing in different countries around the world.
The fact that most states with a majority of Muslim population (even though some may be declared as secular states) attach great significance to the Islamic-inspired law (sheriah) explains why Islamic states always combated communist regimes particularly because living by the sheriah means living by religion. Denying the existence of God to a people who use God’s evaluation of right and wrong to lead their lives is equivalent to depriving them from any reason to live for. One Islamic argumentation about why certain things should be done is simply the fear of God.
Hence, it cannot function if every spiritual explanation of human life is denied. From an Islamic point of view communism reduces the importance of humans to their physical capability for labor which is in opposition with the Islamic concentration on the spiritual life. A potential explanation about how Islamic teachings denounce the importance of human physicality is the requirement that women cover their body completely and men do so partially. By covering up one’s physique, the emphasis on the importance of the spiritual is enhanced.
That is also applicable as a metaphor to explain the prominence of the afterlife over the present life. Therefore, it is absurd to change the Islamic ideology where one would claim that the materialistic values are all that matter, particularly since Islamic dogmas and practices are difficult to bend. The sheriah is conservative and absolute and there can be no negotiations, hence communism could have never succeeded to overthrow it. Islamic principles may well protect it from communist rule, however when it comes to totalitarian regimes it is more vulnerable to fall in.
Totalitarian rulers can easily succeed in the Islamic world justifying their rule with the duty to protect Islam. Emphasizing the importance of sheriah and jihad and especially interpreting them in own ways can allow totalitarian regimes in the Muslim world to take the toll. Such is the example of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Initially, they were the romantic fighters who had the mission to drive the communists away. Later they came into power attempting to control every aspect of human life always “in the name of Islam. A couple of years later the United States together with its allies attempt to install democracy in Afghanistan and are still over-watching it. ). People were happy to see these regimes go away, simply because they [regimes] did not provide the basic needs of the citizens which had nothing to do with religion. However, the Islamic states of the Middle East were not so thrilled to see democracy come through the door, either. Some democratic principles – better said, Western understanding and values of democracy — that are imposed on them seem to contradict with the traditional, familiar and preferred way of functioning as a state.
For instance, as we observe in news, the Afghan parliament attempts to interfere in the daily lives of its citizens. A ridiculous policy (from a Western perspective) says that husbands are allowed to require intercourse with their wives every forth day, unless medical issues prevent the wife from engaging into it. It is important to mention that the policy was passed in democratic means. Hence, it is evident that the understanding and application of democracy in the Islamic World differs from that of the West. Yet, some of them are learning the western notion of democracy as well.
The day after the policy was passed a few women had the courage to protest in the streets of Kabul. However, they were soon attacked by other women who called them immoral and rebellious. The disobeying of these women is just a minor problem which the Islamic states associate with Western hegemony. It has actually spoiled some of their people and is imposing undesired rules. What is worse, for the most part, they feel threatened from the West, particularly since there is already a long and painful historical memory of Western occupation in the Islamic world.
Evidently, it seems that either communism or democracy could not work in combination with the original significance of Muslim law – which is not supposed to be separate from the affairs of the state. The sheriah has clear principles about every aspect of human life, be it justice, taxation or leadership. Neither does it necessarily call for dictators because of its absolute intolerance toward communism and a partial denunciation of democracy (because they deprecate the traditional). Islam is a religion where only one truth is valid and absolute. Although the phenomenon of aving One Absolute is accepted in all religions, yet in Islam it is more profound. The reason for this is “the belief in direct verbal inspiration and the immutability of Koranic truth” (Tibi 29). Also, the fact that Islam is the last religion that was revealed puts full stop on the future “religious development”(Tibi 29). Arabic is considered to be the language of Islam as Koran was revealed in it. Moreover, Arabic is a language of Islamic law (sheriah), which is more “instructive” rather than “expressive”. Precisely this feature differentiates Islamic law from European.
Sheriah is the strictest part of Islam and requires obeying its all principles. Perhaps these aspects are the ones that make Islam so special and different from the rest of the religions. However, to understand Islam better and its main contradictions with communism one realizes that the general perception of the religion is not enough. The analysis of Islam from different perspectives is needed. Historically, the creation of Islam starts with 7th century A. D. At that time all the prophets believed in one God and considered themselves to be His messengers.
However, Prophet Mohammad was the last messenger of God and he [the prophet] directed all Muslims with the revelation of Holy Koran. Before Prophet Mohammad’s birth, the Arabs believed in different Gods. Despite the fact that they believed in the unity of God, Arab people were convinced that God gave certain duties to goddesses, idols. For that reason they had 360 idols to worship. They were ignorant nomadic people who depended only on cattle. Even small conflicts about water or horses could end with massacre of thousands of people. They had neither government nor the laws.
It was Prophet Mohammad whose birth in 570 A. D. dramatically changed the life of nomadic Arabs. In his early years the Prophet was known as an honest and trustworthy person in Makkah. Nevertheless, once he received revelations from God, Mohammad started believing that He was the one. As this idea absolutely contradicted the belief of nomads, Prophet Mohammad was prosecuted and almost killed. Due to social isolation and deteriorated living conditions, he decided to move to another city which in the future becomes one of the holy paces for Islam – Medina.
The number of his followers was increasing swiftly and he was doing his best to prevent a conflict. He died in 632 A. D. at the age of 63 in Medina. People could not believe that he was dead; some were still waiting for him. After the death of Prophet Mohammad, the only person who could lead all these people was Abu Bakr. He was a devoted and honorable man and hence was chosen as the first Caliph (leader) of Muslims. Later, Abu Bakr with all Muslims succeeded to conquer 22 hundreds thousands miles of area. As he was loyal to the principles of equality, justice, and peace, many people accepted Islam.
Very soon, Islam was dominating half of the world. However, along with all practiced religions, different forms of government started to develop. They [forms of government] began to control the states with its both positive and negative aspects. Thus religions had to cooperate with those newly created regimes and sometimes their alliance was not very successful. One example of those failed relationships was Islam and communism. The tension between the two was based on many contradictions that hindered their co-existence. When communism took over in Islamic states, Muslims had to practice their religion secretly.
They were forbidden to express their spiritual beliefs. Praying five times a day, going to mosques, fasting openly, celebrating religious holidays became an impossible dream for Muslims. Everything was being done to obliterate all traditions and rituals that Muslims were so devoted to. Nevertheless, the fact that Islam was and still is one of the strongest religions remained unchanged even under the communist regime. Communism denied the existence of God, banned practice of Islam, thus failed very soon. Yet, what was communism?
Communism is a “branch of socialism” (Pandey), where the bottom line is the equality of all people. The principle of equality is attained by distributing the same amount of wealth to all members of society, thus preventing one from prevailing another. The history of communism dates back to 1848 and starts flourishing in different parts of the world. Different academics and philosophers had different opinions about this particular regime. Some believed that communism was a key to the happy life, while others considered it [communism] as a “Utopian idealism” (Pandey) which was impossible to achieve.
Followers of the communism also believed that they could declare an open war to their opposition. The first eruption of this regime starts with the Russian Revolution, also known as Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The provisional government is replaced by Bolsheviks who consider themselves as professional revolutionaries, led by Vladimir Lenin. Lenin, an eminent politician, plays a crucial role in the history of Russian communism. After his death, the leader of the communist party and the whole USSR becomes Joseph Stalin.
In its respect, all fifteen Soviet Republics and other independent states that were hugely influenced by Russians winded up in communist regime. Many things changed since then and people silently obeyed the rules. However, there was one big change that destabilized all communist societies in the world – the prohibition of religions. Even back in the history people always worshiped either God or idols; they always had a faith inside. With communism they were deprived from this faith as it is always hard when one does not have something to believe or hold on.
It was particularly challenging for Muslim communities as Islam’s sheriah requires constant practice of religion and worship to unique Allah. Orlaud Armstrong in his book “Religion can conquer communism” vividly illustrates the correlation between religion and communism: “Religion is the enemy of dictatorial control, identified with freedom of conscience, with liberty to think, to plan, to debate, to decide, to act freely in conformity to law established by government with the consent of the governed. Those freedoms simply cannot exist under Marxist communism. ”
In 1959 with issued directives Communist authorities were given a power to eliminate all religions in USSR. In order to successfully complete their mission communists came up with “seven year plan”. Its main objective was to install atheism courses in all schools with energetic teachers and leaders, thus abolishing all “religious sentiments” (Armstrong 20). “Seven year plan” functioned for many years in USSR. However, closer communists were approaching 1990s, less power and control they were possessing over millions of people. Different factors were reducing the power of communism.
Once rebellions began there was no way back to keep everything in order. USSR collapsed; fifteen post-soviet republics declared their independence and communism fell. Nowadays different scholars publish books, print articles and constantly debate over this question: could religion conquer communism? “Religion is commonly regarded as consisting of a person’s relation to God or to gods or spirits. ” Hence, when a society is separated from this relation the life itself becomes more and more strenuous. People forget about moral values because they simply lose faith.
As communism denies God, it also gets more challenging for authorities to control the situation and force things that people usually consider to be immoral. In a nutshell, Islam and communism expel one another. Muslim community will prefer Islamic religion to the despotic regime and the communist party will always oppose the practice of Islam. Fortunately, throughout the history we could see that Islam was able to conquer communism despite many different obstacles. The basis of this success was the strong and faithful Muslim community. Muslims did not want to give up their religion just because of a dictatorial regime.
Hidden practices and prayers of Islam eventually paid off. Communism fell and the society was free to express its spiritual beliefs and everybody returned back to their respective religions. Even the despotic officials failed to destroy the faith that people had. After analyzing the communist ideology versus religion and the parallel between them, I can conclude that the Islamic religion took over communism. Islam and communism could not work together and the reason of the failure is bilateral. First, the communism denies the existence of God and opposes to any practice of religion.
Religion in its respect cannot be experienced in this form of society. However, the core reason of Islam’s victory was the strong sheriah and devoted Muslim community. Islam’s tendency toward its own traditions, rules and laws made it impossible to cooperate with communist regime. Simultaneously, the communist regime could only collaborate with the society where atheism prevailed. The contradictions were too tense and evident to ignore. As communism was not very successful and promising in other aspects of social life it was quite easy to make a right choice.
Moreover, Islamic states wanted back their religion. Communism failed; their goal was accomplished.
Works Cited West, Charles “Communism and the Theologians” 1958 Tibi, Bassam “Islam between Culture and Politics” 2001 Manji, Irshad “The trouble with Islam” 2003 Armstrong O. K. and Armstrong Marjorie “Religion can conquer communism” 1972 Hakim, Salman “Religion of Islam (History)” 2009. Web. 21 Nov. 2010. Pandey, Kundan “History of Communism” 1 May. 2010. Web. 21 Nov. 2010. Britannica Online Encyclopedia “History and Society” Web. 21 Nov. 2010.