Islamic Declaration

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The Islamic Declaration (Bosnian: Islamska deklaracija) was written by Alija Izetbegović (1925–2003). Originally published in 1969–70, and republished in 1990 in Sarajevo, SR Bosnia, SFR Yugoslavia; presents his views on Islam and modernization. The treatise tries to conciliate Western-style progress with Islamic tradition[1] and issues a call for "Islamic renewal".[2] The book was later used against him and other pan-Islamists in a trial in Sarajevo in 1983, which resulted in his condemnation to 13 years of penal servitude for an "attack against socialism [and] willingness to build an Islamic State in Bosnia".[citation needed]

In the opinions of historians Noel Malcolm and Ivo Banac from the Bosnian Institute, no plan for the transformation of Bosnia into an Islamic state was included in the book, nor in the political program of Izetbegović's SDA (which he founded in 1990).[3][4][5][6][7][8] Izetbegović himself insisted many times that the statements about the creation of an Islamic state were hypothetical and were not to be the applied to the situation in Bosnia. Regardless, Bosnia's non-Muslim population were unsettled by several of his statements in his writings.[9]

The declaration remains a source of controversy. Serbs, who were opposed to Izetbegović, often quoted the declaration as indicative of an intent to create an Iranian style Muslim republic in Bosnia.[10] Passages from the declaration were frequently quoted by Izetbegović's opponents during the 1990s, who considered it to be an open statement of Islamic fundamentalism.[11] The opinion is shared by some Western authors such as John Schindler.[12] Alija's approval of the Pakistani model was also used to justify Serbian atrocities after the collapse of Yugoslavia.[13] The Declaration designated Pakistan as a model country to be emulated by Muslim revolutionaries worldwide.[14] One of the passages that was in particular picked out by his opponents was, "There can be no peace or coexistence between the Islamic faith and non-Islamic social and political institutions...the state should be an expression of religion and should support its moral concepts."[13]

No modernization without roots in the Qur'an[edit]

The Islamic Declaration is a general treatise upon the relationship between Islam and politics, trying to conciliate Western-style progress with Islamic tradition, and in which an Islamic Bosnia is not mentioned. The main idea is that the Qur'an allows modernization, but that it sets limits. To this end Izetbegović cited Ataturk's Turkey as a negative example of loss of Islamic roots, ending in economic stagnation, and Japan as a positive example, in which retaining most of its own culture proved compatible with modernization and economic growth.[1]

Clerics and modernists[edit]

The theses considers the "Islamic renewal" to be blocked by two forces, the "clerics" and the "modernists". Ulama, the class of learned scholars represent a degenerate Islam, which has turned religion into form without content, while modernists intellectuals try to popularise Westernised culture which is foreign to Islam and the intimate feelings of the broad masses. The Muslims masses therefore, lack the leaders and ideas which would awaken them from their lethargy, and there is a tragic distinction between the intelligentsia and ordinary people. It sees the need as a new brand of Muslim intellectuals, reborn in their own tradition.[15]

Islamic government[edit]

Izetbegović wrote that an Islamic government is not possible except in the context of an Islamic society, which can exist only when the absolute majority of the population is constituted by sincere and practicing Muslims. On this basis, it is impossible to theorize an Islamic government in Bosnia where Muslims, even only by name, are a minority.

The Islamic order can be realized only in the nations in which Muslims represent the majority of the population. Without this social premise, the Islamic order fall to be mere power (for the lack of the second element, the Islamic society) and can revert to tyranny.

One of the passages cited by critics J. Millard Burr and Robert O. Collins against Alija is the passage "Islamic movement must and stary taking power as soon as it is morally and numerically strong enough to do so". Clinton Bennett however states that they the same page however a passage points that they do not the quote the passage on the same page that says "Islamic rebirth is first a revolution in education and only then in politics" or the passage on page 49 that "the Islamic order can only be established in countries where Muslims represent the majority of the population" since "history does not relate any true revolution which came from power...all begin in education and meant in essence a moral summons" (page 53).[16]

Bennett states that while Izetbgović did call for taking power, there is nothing resembling a call for taking extra-constitutional action. Izetbegovic states on page 53 that one tyranny must not be replaced by another.[16]

Other quotes from the book include:

Muslim nations will never accept anything that is explicitly against Islam, because Islam here is not merely a faith and the law, Islam has become love and compassion. One who rises against Islam will reap nothing but hate and resistance.

In perspective, there is but one way out in sight: creation and gathering of a new intelligence which thinks and feels along Islamic lines. This intelligence would then raise the flag of the Islamic order and together with the Muslim masses embark into action to implement this order.

The upbringing of the nation, and especially the mass media – the press, TV and film – should be in the hands of people whose Islamic moral and intellectual authority is undisputed.

Other theses of Izetbegović, which are categorized by some [clarification needed] as belonging to Islamic fundamentalism and others as simple affirmations of orthodox faith", include the belief that an Islamic state should ban alcohol, pornography and prostitution, the vision of Islam not only as a private belief but as public lifestyle with a social and political dimension, and the transcendence of national borders by the brotherhood of the whole Islamic world, the Ummah.[17]

Islamic renewal[edit]

In the treatise, Alija issued a general call for "Islamic renewal" without mentioning Yugoslavia specifically. However he and his supporters were accused by the Communist authorities of reviving the "Young Muslims" organisation and of a conspiracy to set up an "Islamically pure" Bosnia and Herzegovina.[2]

The work as a religious and moral-political essay discusses the predicament of Muslims in the contemporary world. The generating point of departure is that Muslims are in a situation of moral decay and humiliating stagnation. In order to change this condition, it sees return to Qur'an and Islam necessary.[15] The essential premise of the Alija's thinking was necessity for both religious and political revolution. The starting point of the religious transformation will be Islam itself. He however cautioned that Islam is one thing and the historical record of Muslims another. Great damage had been done to Muslim people. He states that the renaissance would follow "from the principles and nature of Islam and not the dismal facts characteristics of Muslim world today". As a first step, he called for a moral revolution to bridge the gap between higher principles of Islam and the "disappointing behaviour of contemporary Muslims". After that, a political reform will follow. The heart of the political revolution will be the democratic excerise of power by the post-reform Muslim-majority.[18]

Izetbegović purportedly did not reject Western civilization in itself, although he criticized what he regarded as the rapid coercive secularization of Turkey under Atatürk. Izetbegović raged against the "so-called progressives, Westernizers and modernizers" who want to implement the same policy in other countries.

Since its foundations Islam engaged, without prejudices, in studying and gathering of knowledge inherited by previous civilizations. We don't understand why today's Islam should take a different approach toward the conquests of the Euro-American civilization, with which it has so many contacts.

In his treatise, Islam between East and West, he reportedly praised Renaissance art, Christian morality, and Anglo-Saxon philosophy and social-democratic traditions.[19]

As to his pan-Islamism, he wrote:

Islam has become love and compassion... He who rises against Islam will reap nothing but hate and resistance... In one of the theses for an Islamic order today we have stated that it is a natural function of the Islamic order to gather all Muslims and Muslim communities throughout the world into one. Under present conditions, this desire means a struggle for creating a great Islamic federation from Morocco to Indonesia, from the tropical Africa to the Central Asia.

Islam and modern day[edit]

Izetbegović's approach to Islamic law seems to be open since he thinks that Muslims do not have to be bound by past interpretations.[16]

There are immutable Islamic principles which define the relationship between man and man, and between man and the community, but there are no fixed Islamic economic, social or political structure handed down once and for all. Islamic sources contain no description of such a system. The way in which Muslims will carry on an economy, organize society and rule in the future will therefore differ from the way in which they carried on an economy, organized society and ruled in the past. Every age and each generation has the task of finding new ways and means of implementing the basic messages of Islam, which are unchanging and eternal, in a world which is changing and eternal.

Non-Islamic institutions[edit]

The treatise considers that for the main principle of Islamic order, the unity of faith and politics, leads among others to the following "first and foremost conclusion":

"There is no peace or coexistence between the Islamic faith and non-Islamic social and political institutions. The failure of these institutions to function and the instability of these regimes in Muslim countries, manifest in frequent changes and coups d'état, is most often the consequence of their a priori opposition to Islam, as the fundamental and foremost feeling of the people in those countries. Claiming its right to order its own world alone, Islam clearly rules out the right and the possibility of the application of any foreign ideology in its own region. There is, therefore, no lay principle, and the state ought to be a reflection of and to support the moral concepts of the religion."[20]

Noel Malcolm states that it only referred to countries where the majority of population was practising Muslim, stating that the "entire discussion of the nature of an Islamic political system is inapplicable to Bosnia.[13] Vjekoslav Perica meanwhile states that it called on Muslims to demand a state of their own, once they became the majority in a country, organized according to Islamic laws and norms.[14]

The Islamic order envisaged in it endeavours to prohibit "alcoholic intoxication of the people", public and secret prostitution, all forms of pornography, casinos, night and dancing clubs as well as other forms of entertainment incompatible with Islamic moral precepts.[20]


The treatise states:

"Islamic order can be realized only in countries in which the Muslims represent the majority of the population. Without this majority, Islamic order is reduced to state power alone (because the other element - Islamic society - is missing) and can turn itself to violence. Non-Muslim minorities within the confines of an Islamic state, provided they are loyal, enjoy religious liberties and all protection. Muslim minorities within the confines of non-Islamic [state] communities, provided their religious liberties, normal life, and development are guaranteed, are loyal to - and obliged to carry out all obligations to - that community, except those that harm Islam and Muslims."[21]

Aleksander Pavkovic states that given the treatise's insistence on introduction of Islamic law, it is not clear whether it envisaged any political participation of non-Muslims in an Islamic state, its application of Islamic legal and moral precepts would obviously restrict non-Muslims' civil rights and liberties.[20]

The republican principle[edit]

Although details of Islamic political organisation are left quite vague, three republican principles of political order are deemed to be essential which are: (1) the electability of the head of the state, (2) the accountability of the head of the state to the people, (3) the obligation of solving communally general and social issues.[citation needed]

"Apart from affairs of property, Islam does not recognize any principle of inheritance, nor any power with absolute prerogative. To recognize the absolute power of Allah means an absolute denial of any other almighty authority (Qur'an 7/3, 12/40). "Any submission of a creature which includes a lack of submission to the Creator is forbidden" (Muhammad, peace be upon him). In the history of the first, and perhaps so far the only authentic Islamic order - the era of the first four caliphs, we can clearly see three essential aspects of the republican principle of power: (1) an elective head of state, (2) the responsibility of the head of state towards the people and (3) the obligation of both to work on public affairs and social matters. The latter is explicitly supported by the Qur'an (3/159, 42/38). The first four rulers in Islamic history were neither kings or emperors. They were chosen by the people. The inherited caliphate was an abandonment of the electoral principle, a clearly defined Islamic political institution."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Banac, Ivo. Bosnian Muslims: From Religious Community to Socialist Nationhood and Post communist Statehood, 1918-1992, pp. 147-148.
  2. ^ a b Ante Čuvalo (2001). The A to Z of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Lanham, Toronto, and Plymouth: Scarecrow Press. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-8108-7647-7. 
  3. ^ *Nikolovski, Kiro. «Come nasce la “dorsale verde”», Limes - Il triangolo dei Balcani, March 1998, pp. 15-27.
  4. ^ *Nava, Massimo. “Il nostro Afghanistan”, Limes Quaderni Speciali April 2001, pp. 177-185.
  5. ^ *Nicolò Carnimeo e Adnan Buturovic, “L'Occidente 'scopre' le cellule terroriste in Bosnia”, Limes Quaderni Speciali April 2001, pp. 141-149.
  6. ^ *Sarzanini, Fiorenza. “Soldi e moschee, Osama avanza nei Balcani”, Corriere della Sera, 8 November 2001; commented by Andrea Ferrario in Notizie Est, n. 500.
  7. ^ *Iucci, Laura. «La Bosnia resta un serbatoio di terroristi», Limes - Il nostro Oriente June 2003, pp. 203-208.
  8. ^ *Mazzola, Maria Grazia. Report on Al Qaeda cells in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ballarò, 13 June 2004; comments by Edin Avdic, “Chi mette la Bosnia in collegamento con il terrorismo?”, Slobodna Bosna, Sarajevo, 15 June 2004 (it. tr. in Notizie Est Balcani n. 743); and by Andrea Rossini, “La Bosnia di Ballarò”, Osservatorio Balcani, 15 June 2004.
  9. ^ Ray Takeyh; Nikolas Gvosdev. "The Receding Shadow of the Prophet: The Rise and Fall of Radical Political Islam". Greenwood Publishing. pp. 87–88. 
  10. ^ "Obituary: Alija Izetbegović". BBC. 19 October 2003. Retrieved 1 January 2010. 
  11. ^ Binder, David (20 October 2003). "Alija Izetbegović, Muslim Who Led Bosnia, Dies at 78". New York Times. 
  12. ^ John R. Schindler, Zenith Press (2007)
  13. ^ a b c Ben Fowkes. "Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict in the Post-Communist World". Springer Science+Business Media. p. 88. 
  14. ^ a b Vjekoslav Perica. "Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in Yugoslav States". Oxford University Press. p. 77. 
  15. ^ a b Ingvar Svanberg, David Westerlund. Islam Outside the Arab World. Routledge. p. 304. 
  16. ^ a b c Clinton Bennet. In Search of Solutions: The Problem of Religion and Conflict. Routledge. p. 122. 
  17. ^ Malcolm, Noel Bosnia: A short history, pp. 219-220.
  18. ^ Raymond William Baker. One Islam, Many Muslim Worlds: Spirituality, Identity, and Resistance across Islamic Lands. Oxford University Press. p. 128. 
  19. ^ Malcolm, Noel. Bosnia: A short history, pp. 221-222.
  20. ^ a b c Aleksandar Pavković. The Fragmentation of Yugoslavia: Nationalism and War in the Balkans. Springer Science+Business Media. 
  21. ^ Brad K. Blitz. War and Change in the Balkans: Nationalism, Conflict and Cooperation. Cambridge University Press. p. 34.