Solomonic wisdom needed to establish Separation of Mosque-Church-Synagogue and State

By Zia H Shah MD

Fresco of the Judgment of Solomon (Courtesy: Wikipedia)

The Judgment of Solomon refers to a story from the Hebrew Bible in which King Solomon of Israel ruled between two women both claiming to be the mother of a child. It has become a metaphor referring to a wise judge who uses a stratagem to determine the truth, tricking the parties into revealing their true feelings. Specifically, the judge pretends that he will destroy the subject matter of a dispute, rather than allowing either disputing party to win at the expense of the other.

The story is recounted in 1Kings 3:16-28. Two young women who lived in the same house and who both had an infant son came to Solomon for a judgement. One of the women claimed that the other, after accidentally smothering her own son while sleeping, had exchanged the two children to make it appear that the living child was hers. The other woman denied this and so both women claimed to be the mother of the living son and said that the dead boy belonged to the other.

After some deliberation, King Solomon called for a sword to be brought before him. He declared that there is only one fair solution: the live son must be split in two, each woman receiving half of the child. Upon hearing this terrible verdict, the boy’s true mother cried out, “Please, My Lord, give her the live child—do not kill him!” However, the liar, in her bitter jealousy, exclaimed, “It shall be neither mine nor yours—divide it!” Solomon instantly gave the live baby to the real mother, realizing that the true mother’s instincts were to protect her child, while the liar revealed that she did not truly love the child. The reputation of the king greatly increased when all the people of Israel heard of this wise judgment.

However, in Judaism, in the time of Solomon in the seventh century BC, there was no distinction between the sacred and the profane.  This lack of separation of the Temple and State or Synagogue and State in Judaism should become fairly apparent from a quick reading of some of the verses of the Old Testament.  If any one doubts this premise, let me suggest the reading of a short article Violence in the Bible and Jihad in the Quran.  King David was a ruler and his son Solomon was not only a king, a prophet, a writer but also a judge as depicted in the picture above.  Unlike Judea our planet has changed into a pluralistic society, a global village, with a population of seven billion, which is constantly buzzing with interaction. Two billion Christians are interacting with 1.5 billion Muslims, a billion Hindus, half a billion Buddhists and 15 million Jews, in discussion forums, social media and chat rooms.  Not to mention millions of agnostics and atheists among their ranks, some enjoying listening to Christmas carols and others not knowing what carols mean.  Yet each religious person is carrying a world view, which in some if not many ways, denies the world view of others, so something got to give.  All countries are signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which enshrines the human dignity and religious freedom of all of us, but almost all countries are violating these rights in some sense by maintaining certain laws that favor the religion of the majority.  So, let me now catalog a few of these violations in different countries of the world.

Right wing political parties in almost all countries, including India and USA, are claiming special rights or a metaphorical first born child, for religious majorities, even in the sphere of governance and state. All the political movements to introduce Sharia laws, the Cairo declaration and the blasphemy laws in the so called Muslim countries are prime examples of similar violation or lack of Solomonic wisdom.  The mention in the constitutions of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, putting the unknown understanding of the Quran above the agreed upon constitution, is only a time bomb in the hands of the zealots to be exploited at a suitable time.  Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India has introduce anti-conversion legislation in several states, according to U.S.-based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC).  Laws against denying holocaust are in a way thought police, denying freedom to think and recent discussion of Naqba laws are immediate examples from Israel.  Holocaust denial laws also exist in Christian countries.  Whether USA can elect the first Mormon President, after 200 years of her history may be tested in the present election cycle.  Each religious group is calling for the right of her child and declaring the metaphorical children of other religious groups illegitimate.

The matters of personal sphere such as marriage and divorce come under the jurisdiction of the religious tribunal system, in several countries, including in Israel and India and that may be reasonable.  However, in our global village it will post the natural question, how long can polygamy be denied to the people of Utah, if the Indian and Israeli model is correct?  Scores of such questions have risen with the coming together of humanity from different traditions and they invariably relate to the spheres of influence of religion and state.  Another provocative question that I may mention here is whether it is reasonable to question Islam and put it on trial, every time a Muslim does something wrong and not extend the same treatment to Judaism, Christianity or atheism?

Epilogue

How would Solomon have threatened all these proclaimed children by different religious groups to restore universality and sanity in our global village? This is the billion dollar question!  I have no doubt that each one of us needs Solomonic wisdom to first understand for ourselves and then establish Separation of Mosque-Church-Synagogue and State in our countries and religious societies, this requires flexibility of thought relevant to our present day ground realities.

Each one of us needs to order a Solomonic sword and cut the reality in our minds into two, one is the sphere of influence of our religion and other of state, wherein we need to coexist with fellow humans coming from all different religions, who want equal human rights and human dignity.  The sphere of religion needs to be as separate from the sphere of state or government as possible.  However, both spheres will influence each other as there is no denying that many of our so called secular laws have come from Islamic and Judea-Christian traditions.  We can draw inspirations from our scriptures about social, financial, judicial and other institutions of our state but they can be implemented only through the civic process and not merely on religious authority, while respecting human equality shrined in many constitutions and especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I as a loyal citizen of USA, hereby declare that for the purposes of my public life, the constitution of USA would take precedence over my private understanding of any scripture, as I swore allegiance to the constitution, when I became a citizen of USA and before that when I indirectly swore allegiance to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.   How can each one of you do something similar? How can you change your world view to ensure Separation of Mosque-Church-Synagogue and State and in so doing recognize equal human dignity of each and every citizen of planet earth?  And of course the Hindu and the Buddhist temples and the ivory towers of atheist elite need to be separated from state, as well!  What can the agnostics and atheists do to ensure this vision and not be guided by the prejudices of the religion of their birth and social group?  I believe those who will side with universal human dignity are like the real mother in the story of Solomon, but, what about those who fall prey to the prejudices of their religious upbringing or groups, for one reason or the other? Are they more akin to the false mother?  You be the judge!

About the Author: Zia Shah wants to show the West that there is a third theological option, other than Christianity and atheism, namely Islam as understood by Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.  Shah also aspires to establish separation of Church and State in all countries of the world and believes wars between ‘Science’ and  ‘Religion’ can be avoided by defining a domain called ‘Metaphysics.’  He believes that Science and Metaphysics are a litmus test for the greater accuracy of the Holy Quran compared to the Bible.  In these pursuits he has authored almost 400 articles, many have been published in peer reviewed journals and most are linked here and some are linked in the Muslim Times.

18 Comments

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  1. ziahshah

    One of the worst violations of Separation of Church and State

    Pentagon suspends course after study materials posted online suggested that Mecca and Medina may have to be obliterated
    Quoting from Guardian UK:

    A course for US military officers has been teaching that America’s enemy is Islam in general and suggesting that the country might ultimately have to obliterate the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina without regard for civilian deaths, following second world war precedents of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima.

    The Pentagon suspended the course in late April when a student objected to the material. The FBI also changed some agent training last year after discovering that it, too, was critical of Islam.

    The teaching in the military course was counter to repeated assertions by US officials over the past decade that America is at war against Islamic extremists, not the religion itself.

    “They hate everything you stand for and will never coexist with you, unless you submit,” the instructor, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Dooley, said in a presentation last July for the course at Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. The college, for professional military members, teaches mid-level officers and government civilians on subjects related to planning and executing war.

    Dooley also presumed, for the purposes of his theoretical war plan, that the Geneva conventions that set standards of armed conflict, are “no longer relevant”.

    He adds: “This would leave open the option once again of taking war to a civilian population wherever necessary (the historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki being applicable to the Mecca and Medina destruction decision point).”

    His war plan suggests possible outcomes such as “Saudi Arabia threatened with starvation … Islam reduced to cult status”.

    A copy of the presentation was obtained and posted online by Wired.com’s Danger Room blog. The college did not respond to the Associated Press’ requests for copies of the documents, but a Pentagon spokesman authenticated the documents. Dooley still works for the college, but is no longer teaching, said the joint chiefs of staff chairman, General Martin Dempsey. Dooley has refused to comment.

    A military service record summary provided by army human resources at Fort Knox, Kentucky, shows that Dooley was commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation from the US military academy at West Point, New York, in May 1994. He has served tours in Germany, Bosnia, Kuwait and Iraq. He has numerous awards including a Bronze Star medal, the fourth-highest US combat award.

    In what he termed a model for a campaign to force a transformation of Islam, Dooley called for “a direct ideological and philosophical confrontation with Islam”, with the presumption that Islam is an ideology rather than just a religion.

    He further asserted that Islam has already declared war on the west, and the US specifically.

    “It is therefore illogical” to continue with the current US strategy, which Dooley said presumes there is a way of finding common ground with Islamic religious leaders, without “waging near total war”.

    The course on Islam had been taught since 2004, but was not part of the required core curriculum. It was offered five times a year, with about 20 students each time.

    Though Dooley has been teaching at the college since August 2010, it was unclear when he took on that particular class, called Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism.

    The joint staff suspended the course after it had received a student complaint, and within days Dempsey ordered all service branches to review their training to ensure other courses do not use anti-Islamic material.

    On Thursday, Dempsey said the material in the Norfolk course was counter to American “appreciation for religious freedom and cultural awareness”.

    “It was just totally objectionable, against our values, and it wasn’t academically sound,” Dempsey said. “This wasn’t about … pushing back on liberal thought; this was objectionable, academically irresponsible.”

    In his July 2011 presentation on “counterjihad”, Dooley asserted that the rise of what he called a “military Islam/Islamist resurgence” compels the US to consider extreme measures, “unconstrained by fears of political incorrectness”.

    He described his purpose as generating “dynamic discussion and thought”, while noting that his ideas and proposals are not official US government policy and cannot be found in any current official defence department documents.

    A Pentagon inquiry is seeking to determine whether someone above the professor’s level is supposed to approve course materials and whether that approval process was followed in this case, said Colonel Dave Lapan, a spokesman for Dempsey.

    The problem of negative portrayals of Islam in federal government is not new. A six-month review the FBI launched into agent training material uncovered 876 offensive or inaccurate pages that had been used in 392 presentations, including a PowerPoint slide that said the bureau can sometimes bend or suspend the law in counterterror investigations.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/may/11/us-military-course-islam-enemy

  2. ziahshah

    We are glad that FBI takes measures to root out extremists among their ranks.

    Having said that, people proposing any extreme measures against Mecca may want to also read all the commentaries of the chapter 105 of the Holy Quran, named Al-Fil.

    Any offensive against the House of All-Mighty God changes the war against terrorism, Islam or Saudi Arabia into a war against All-Mighty and Muslims will not need to be a party, following in the tradition of the grandfather of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, when the army of Abraha had the audacity to attack the House of All-Mighty!

  3. Mubaschir Inayet

    Seems as if Ahmediyya Jamaat prefers to keep Mosque and State separate. Fine.

    What verses of the Quran (and Quran alone) do they refer to when they believe that Islamic law and State should be kept apart.

    Thanks.

  4. ziahshah

    Mubaschir Inayet please find a few verses here and one can make a more detailed catalog and commentary on these and related verses:

    There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong; so whosoever refuses to be led by those who transgress, and believes in Allah, has surely grasped a strong handle which knows no breaking. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Al Quran 2:257)

    O ye who believe! be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is aware of what you do. (Al Quran 5:9)

    Indeed, Allah commands you to make over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between men, you judge with justice. And surely excellent is that with which Allah admonishes you! Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. O ye who believe! obey Allah, and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority among you. And if you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger if you are believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is best and most commendable in the end. (Al Quran 4:59-60)

    Surely, the Believers, and the Jews, and the Christians and the Sabians — whichever party from among these truly believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds — shall have their reward with their Lord, and no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve. (Al Quran 2:63)

    In the verse about wine, the Holy Quran has given us the guiding principle, how to judge things:

    They ask thee concerning wine and the game of hazard. Say: ‘In both there is great sin and also some advantages for men; but their sin is greater than their advantage.’

    We can certainly draw inspiration about our laws from the Holy Quran and should, but, judge them after assessing their utilitarian values, their benefit should out weigh the harm. We should implement our laws, as they are in the Western world, through rational and due civic process, not forcing it on unwilling populations.

    The Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, advised that we should acquire knowledge even if we have to go to China and a word of wisdom is lost property of a believer.

    I believe, we should submit to God, but, also realize that He wants us to use our God given intelligence also.

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