The Glorious Revolution of 1688, upon which our modern constitutional monarchy is based, is rooted in the example the Deists and Protestant Mahometans of Britain took from what they called “the Islamic Republic of Muhammad (s).”
That revolution ushered in the notion of limited constitutional government, with an Executive bound by law and the will of parliament. No longer was the king to be God’s representative. whose will was equal to the Will of God.
Written in the context of the “War on Terror” and the use of anti-Muslim rhetoric to promote conservative political agendas, Garcia in “Islam and the Enlightenment 1670-1840,” wrote that “Islamic republicanism is a term that describes how radical Protestants in eighteenth-century England self-consciously recast Islam in constitutional-nationalist terms, and in this book I argue for this action’s crucial significance.”
Indeed: “This book thus challenges anachronistic postcolonial readings that project a dichotomy between a superior Christian Occident and an inferior Islamic Orient onto the early modern period.” (p.1-3)
The depth of the influence of Islamic examples is undeniable and they transformed the English speaking world. “From the late seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century, Islamic republicanism captivated the radical Anglo-Protestant imagination and redefined reformed orthodoxy in England, North America, and the transatlantic world, only to be silenced by the anti-Islamic sentiment that gripped Victorian culture after the 1857 Indian Mutiny.” (p.12)
The Tories, supporters of the divine right claimant James II and enemies of a limited constitutional monarchy, claimed the supporters of reform Whigs and Protestant Radicals, were “… accomplices in a Hungarian conspiracy against church and state, exposing the constitutional principle of a limited Protestant monarchy as founded on Islamic innovation rather than Christian tradition.”
The Hungarians in question were the Protestants around Count Teckeley who fought on the side of the Ottomans against the Hapsburgs of Austria in defence of freedom of religion.
Even Edmund Burke, often quoted by conservatives today because of his opposition to the French Revolution, was a proponent of the government of the Mughals, under Islamic law.
Seeking to impeach governor-general Warren Hastings for his imposition of arbitrary and tyrannical rule on India, using the excuse that he was just following Mughal precedents, Burke presented a different picture.
He challenged the accepted stereotypes of ‘oriental despotism’ and declared that India was a nation protected by the long constitutional rule of ‘Mahometan Government.’
In his speech on 16 Feb 1788, just after the settlement on Sydney Cove, he said:
“‘Mahometan Government’ is to name a Government by law. It is a law enforced by stronger sanctions than any law that can bind a European Sovereign, exclusive of the Grand Seignior. The law is given by God, and it has the double sanction of law and religion, with which the Prince is no more to dispense than anyone else. And, if any man will produce the Khoran to me, and will but shew me one text in it that authorises in any degree an arbitrary power in the Government, I will declare that I have read that book and been conversant in the affairs of Asia to a degree in vain. There is no such syllable in it; but on the contrary, against oppressors by name every letter of the law is fulminated.” (Garcia p.93)
Awareness amongst the Muslim community of the tremendous contribution made by the world of Islam to our modern constitutional government, incorporating the rule of law and the example of religious toleration once unknown to Europe, has diminished with the decline in scholarship. It will not always be thus.
Garcia, Humberto. Islam and the English Enlightenment 1670-1840. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore. 2012