Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism

By Azzam S. Tamimi | Go to book overview

5
Civil Society

Tunisian Society

Rachid Ghannouchi maintains that as part of the Islamic Ummah, Tunisia acquired a profound civil sentiment from Islam. He explains that in Tunisia, like in most other parts of the Muslim world, traditional Islamic society was subjected to mutilation first at the hands of the colonialists and then at the hand of the modern territorial state. It is true, he concedes, that the period of ideal Islamic rule, during which the scripture and the will of the people were superior to the will of the ruler and during which power rotated in accordance with the people's choice, did not last long. It is also true, he adds, that imperial models that combined old and new forms of government and theocracy with democracy soon afterward replaced the Prophet's model of government. However, he stresses, the authority of the ruler never exceeded the executive sphere, and legislation remained the sole responsibility of the scholars. The same applied to society's judicial, educational, and cultural institutions. These, together with a large number of independent public institutions, were funded by awqaf (endowment trust), which in turn relied on zakat and sadaqa (alms). In this way, society preserved a high degree of independence from the state. 1 In addition to Ghannouchi, this opinion is now held by a number of contemporary Islamic thinkers. They include Dr. Salim El-Awwa in On the Political System of the Islamic State (1980), Dr. Tawfiq Ash-Shawi in Fiqh Ash-Shura WalIstisharah (1992), and Munir Shafiq in Al-Islam Wa Muwajahat ad-Dawalah al-Hadithah (1992).

Ghannouchi argues that Tunisian civil society remained invariably vivid and intact from the Islamic conquest in the late seventh century until independence in 1956, notwithstanding the fact that danger started creeping in with the advent of French colonialism in 1881. The colonizers embarked on a “modernization” campaign that was met with great resistance by the Tunisian public. For instance, until the French took over, all properties in the pre-colonial era were privately owned. Property was owned by tribes, by families, or by the awqaf. Education, at all levels, was available free of charge and was independent of the government. An individual citizen sought protection in his tribe, his family, his Sufi denomination, or his professional association. The colonialists

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Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Religion and Global Politics *
  • Title Page *
  • Preface v
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Contents *
  • Rachid Ghannouchi *
  • 1 - From Qabis to Paris 3
  • 2 - The Journey to Democracy 30
  • 3 - The Question of Democracy 63
  • 4 - Secularism 105
  • 5 - Civil Society 125
  • 6 - The Territorial State and the New World Order 154
  • 7 - Islamist Obstacles to Democracy 182
  • 8 - Ghannouchi's Detractors 200
  • Conclusion 215
  • Notes 221
  • Bibliography 247
  • Index 259
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