The trauma of Clerical Theocracy in Europe

THE DARK Ages of Europe

The decline of European civilization, or otherwise known as, ‘The Dark Ages’, is an essential period of history to be understood as it is the precursor for the ‘Age of Renaissance’ in Europe. Figures that eventually became pioneers for the age of enlightenment, championed themes that concern the rational mind as well as factual and empirical studies. The situation was an aftermath of theocratic rule by the Christian Church which remained dominant for long periods of time. To understand how western ideologies began to seep into the Muslim Ummah, it is best that we know the origins of said ideologies beforehand.

What is theocracy?

Theocracy refers to a government that recognizes God/Gods or Deity/Deities as the supreme being/s. A theocratic administration is defined as rendering total control of the administrative systems and affairs to representatives of God (i.e. the Clergy of the Christian Church – known as Rijaluddeen in Arabic).

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “Theocracy is a government that recognizes a God or a Deity as the supreme and divine head of state. For adherents of this ideology, a theocracy is a form of government in which a divine power governs the state, either through humanly representatives/embodiment, or usually, via representatives of religious institutions (such as the Church) that dominate or even replace the role of a government.”

The Cruelty of the Church Clergy

The domination of the Christian Church around the 15th and 18th centuries became a dark period for the people in Europe. Dr Ghalib bin Ali Al-’Awaji, an ulama’ from Saudi Arabia listed down several atrocities of the Christian Church during the time which were considered inhumane and barbaric.

(i) Black listing groups that go against the Church through the decree of ‘Heresy’ (innovators of religion). Any effort to criticise, downgrade and defy the Church will brought to the felony’s corner.

(ii) Organising and implementing a system of worship to the people that encompasses both worldly affairs and the hereafter.

(iii) Making it compulsory to follow the Clergy of the Christian Church as they are the undisputed representatives of God. Going against their word would mean going against God.

(iv) Enacting a policy for worshipping, which can only be done through the Christian Church and not ‘directly’ to God.

(v) Only allowing the Clergy to have the authority to understand the Bible and not common people, despite possessing knowledge and are intelligent.

(vi) The concept of repentance which is done through ‘sacramental confession’ (confessing sins to the church’s priest or clergyman) as the church possesses the absolute power to provide forgiveness through the ordained priest.

(vii) The Church’s absolute power to provide forgiveness, is in reality, a con to reap financial benefits for the Clergy.

(viii) Proclaiming that the people must provide free labour (work with no pay) for one day every week in lands own by the Church. Also, it was made compulsory for the people to pay a tenth of their wages to the Christian Church in the name of religion.

(ix) The Church introduced new terms, of which the meaning and elaboration can only be understood by the Clergy themselves. Also, the Bible cannot be owned nor read by average people. Hence, anyone who read the Bible, his/her elaboration of the book was not recognised.

Reflections and lessons gained

The people of Europe were extremely traumatised with religion, and had lost their trust towards the Clergy of the Christian Church. Their hatred towards the Christian Church was attributed to situations in which the Church could not be criticised, and punishments given by the Church that were deemed too severe and disproportionate. According to record, tens of thousands of academicians/scholars and average people were burnt alive, thousands were hanged while thousands more were tortured with all sorts of ways, especially women.

Due to this reason as well, Europeans today despise Islam as they assume that Islam works in the same way. They would then force the Muslim Ummah to understand and view religion through the narrative that they have built based on the trauma they had experienced. Whereas Islam, never had such negative historical baggage. Finally, the people of Europe rose and built their civilization by forgoing their religion, as in the words of Friederichs Nietzsche, ‘God is dead’. Thus, man began to rise with their own knowledge without the need for God, simultaneously ending the age of Theocracy which led to the beginning of the Homo mensura era (The Era of Man is the measure). This was in sharp contrast with Islam, as the faith champions knowledge and considers it as well as those who dwell in it with high regard.

The image of religion that was carried out in Europe completely denied the capability of the mind to think and understand. The case is completely different in the Islamic world as Islam vehemently recognises the function of the human mind as a tool to understand divine revelation (i.e.; the Quran and Hadith). The irrational hostility of the Christian Church against western scholars have given birth to new ideologies such as Rationalism and Empiricism. Rene Descartes, John Lock, Blaise Pascal dan David Hume are some of the leading figures of these newly founded philosophies.

The concept of worship in Islam is divided into two basic foundations, namely, usul and furu’.1 Islam has designated several specific acts of worship that are compulsory. Islam has also provided several methods in performing said acts of worship, which can be chosen according to the suitability of the situation. This is a stark difference from the Christian Church that forces the people to adhere to everything exactly the way it is with the excuse that they are the commandments of God!

The concept of Clergy in Christianity itself is totally different with the concept of Ulama’ in Islam. Islam does not grant ‘ismah (absolute authority) to the Ulama’, in fact, average people also possess the right to advise them if they have done wrong. Recognition towards people of knowledge in Islam does not give them the right to use religion according their whims and desires. Islam also does not condone acts to degrade or insult those who are not the Ulama’.

Muhammad Qutub in one of his articles, was in staunch opposition of using the term Rijaluddeen in Islam. According to him, only the term Rijal Soliheen (virtuous or pious people) exists in Islam and that these people are bounded by revelation. In other words, Islam is protected from fanaticism or taqdis (sanctification/consecration or ordain) of religious figures as did the West during the Church’s reign. This is because, such practice does not benefit the Ummah. It would not make sense for an individual to declare himself as Rijaluddin while at the same time committing actions that are against the faith.

Equating the Western concept of Clergy with the concept of Ulama’ will repel the Muslims from Islam. People who look at these two concepts from a western perspective are bound to consider them as the same. While in fact, Islam recognises the imperative role that human intellect serves. Aql (consciousness or human intellect) and words derived from it, are mentioned as much as 49 times in the Quran. This is solid evidence that, in Islam, faith and intellect work in tandem. In fact, the proving of Allah’s existence and oneness itself must be rooted in the capability of the human intellect to rationalise and understand.

Europe’s traumatic experience of religion has caused every single matter brought by religion to be rejected, or modified to fit human desires which has also led them to do the same towards Islam and Muslims through Islamophobia. It is a great error when Muslims who are uninformed of this issue, learn Islam through the West. Such an occurrence will eventually lead to gradual relinquishing of the faith itself.

The Quran is not only exclusive to certain groups of people. All Muslims and in fact, non-Muslims have the right to read and study its contents. That is why when contradictions occur in its contents, the Ummah would know. However, only when it comes to interpretation and further exegesis of the Quran, do the Ulama possess the authority.

The most significant conclusion that can be made here is that the phenomenon that befell upon the Christian Church is now happening to Islam. The separation between intellect and revelation/religion. Religion is now seen as irrelevant not because it is against logic, but rather because of the ulama’ who failed in providing relevant explanation to the Ummah, as well as bringing complex narratives and terms, which are then forced onto the Ummah as these are the commandments of God.


(1) Usul is defined as the core values that remain unchanged in Islam and are not subject to interpretation (ijtihad).
(2) Furu’ is defined as branches (i.e. issues that are subject to debate, disagreements and diverse positions).


(1) Al-Mazahib Al Fikriah Al Mu’asirah by Dr Ghalib bin Al-‘Awaji
(3) Mazahib Fikriah Mu’asirah by Muhammad Qutub
(4) Religion and Philosophy by Dr Ramadhan Al-Buti

Lecturer, Department of Da’wah
Kolej Universiti Islam Zukifli Muhammad (KUIZM) – HARAKAHDAILY 15/2/2020


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