Islamic Declaration (Bosnian: Islamska deklaracija) is an Islamist
essay written by
Alija Izetbegović (1925–2003), first published in
1969–70, and republished in 1990 in Sarajevo, SFR Yugoslavia. It
presents his views on
Islam and modernization. The treatise tries to
conciliate Western-style progress with Islamic tradition and issues a
call for "Islamic renewal". The work was later used against him and
other pan-Islamists in a 1983 trial in Sarajevo, which resulted in a
prison sentence of 14 years, but release after two years.
The declaration remains a source of controversy. Primarily, the Serbs,
but overall, the Serbian and Croatian leaderships during the breakup
of Yugoslavia, accused Izetbegović and his Party of Democratic Action
Islamic fundamentalism and seeking to establish an Islamic
2.1 No modernization without roots in the Qur'an
2.1.1 Clerics and modernists
2.2 The Islamic order
2.3 Islamic government
2.4 Islamic renewal
Islam and modern day
2.5 Non-Islamic institutions
2.7 The republican principle
3 Aftermath and legacy
7 External links
Islamic Declaration is described by John V. A. Fine as a
'theoretical' work on the question on whether
Islam and an Islamic
state could exist in a modern world, and by Kjell Magnusson as "in
terms of genre ... a religious and moral-political essay ... discusses
the predicament of
Islam and Muslims in the contemporary world".
Banac describes it as trying to conciliate Western-style progress with
Islamic tradition. The work advocates "Islamic renewal" or
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No modernization without roots in the Qur'an
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
Japan as a positive example, in which retaining most
of its own culture proved compatible with modernization and economic
Clerics and modernists
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.
The Islamic order
Alija describes his envisioned Islamic order thus:
To the question, "What is a Muslim society?" our answer is a community
made up of Muslims, and we consider that this answer says it all, or
nearly so. The meaning of this definition is that there is no
institutional, social or legal system that can exist separately from
people who are its actors, of which we could say, "This is an Islamic
system." No system is Islamic or Islamic per se. It is only so based
on the people who make it.
He views the Islamic movement as moral rather than political, and
defines it is an ideological avant-garde:
Only individuals who have been tested and trained, gathered together
in a sound, homogeneous organization, can win the struggle for the
Islamic order and the complete reconstruction of Islamic society. This
organization bears no resemblance to a political party from the
arsenal of a Western democracy; it is a movement founded on Islamic
ideology, with clear criteria of moral and ideological belonging.
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
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 start
taking power as soon as it is morally and numerically strong enough to
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).
Bennett states that while Izetbgović did call for taking power, there
is nothing resembling a call for taking extra-constitutional action.
Izetbegović states on page 53 that one tyranny must not be replaced
Other quotes from the book include:
Muslim nations will never accept anything that is explicitly against
Islam here is not merely a faith and the law,
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
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.
The work discusses the difficult situation of Muslims in the
contemporary world, that of "moral decay and humiliating stagnation",
which should be thwarted with the necessary returning to the Qur'an
and Islam. Izetbegović argumented that there was a necessity for
both religious and political revolution. The declaration explicitly
states, "religious renewal has a clear priority". The starting point
of the religious transformation will be
He cautioned that
Islam is one thing and the historical record of
Muslims another. Great damage had been done to Muslim people. He
stated 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.
Izetbegović purportedly did not reject Western civilization in
itself, although he criticized what he regarded as the rapid coercive
Turkey under Atatürk. Izetbegović raged against
the "so-called progressives, Westernizers and modernizers" who want to
implement the same policy in other countries.
Islam scrutinized and collected without prejudice all the
knowledge left by previous civilizations. We see no reason why today's
Islam should have a different approach towards the gains of the
Euro-American civilization, to which it is contiguous along so long a
In his treatise,
Islam between East and West, he reportedly praised
Christian morality, and
Anglo-Saxon philosophy and
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
Izetbegović's approach to Islamic law seems to be open since he
thinks that Muslims do not have to be bound by past
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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
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.
The republican principle
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.
"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
Aftermath and legacy
Bosniak nationalism and Party of Democratic Action
Alija Izetbegović and
Omer Behmen were arrested in
April 1983 and tried before a
Sarajevo court for a variety of charges
called "offences as principally hostile activity inspired by Muslim
nationalism, association for purposes of hostile activity and hostile
propaganda", along with ten other Bosniak activists. Izetbegović was
sentenced to 14 years, then five, but was released from prison
after serving two years. The charge was "attack against socialism
[and] willingness to build an Islamic State in Bosnia". All were
pardoned by 1988.
Prior to 1990, the book was distributed secretly. The book was
reissued in 1990 by a publishing company owned by Serbian nationalist
politician Vojislav Šešelj. It was handed out to the troops of
Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian
The eruption of the war strengthened Bosnian Muslim identity. In
1993, "Bosniak" was adopted by the Bosnian Muslim leadership as the
name of the Bosnian Muslim nationality. A Bosnian Muslim state was
proposed during the war when plans for the partition of Bosnia and
Herzegovina were made. It would either be established as one of three
ethnic states in a loose confederation, or as an independent
"Muslim state" in the area controlled by the Bosnian Army, as proposed
by Islamists. The
Dayton Agreement (November–December 1995)
ended the war and created the federal republic of Bosnia and
Herzegovina (BiH), made up of two entities, the Bosniak and
Croat-inhabited Federation of
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH), and the
Republika Srpska (RS). Propaganda texts appeared in
1996, after the war, calling for a Bosniak state. Secular Bosniaks
have warned that a partition of the state would lead their people to
Islamic fundamentalism. There has been proposals of secession of
RS, as well as its abolition. The proposed creation of a Croat entity
would de facto lead to a "Bosniak entity".
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.
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. In the eyes of the Serbs, Izetbegović
wanted to transform
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina into an Islamic state.
The Serbian and Croatian leaderships in 1991–92 accused the SDA and
Islamic fundamentalism and seeking to establish an
Islamic state. Some Western authors and analysts support this
opinion, such as John Schindler and Leslie S. Lebl. Most
Western commentators ignored or dismissed the content, assuming it was
attacked by the Yugoslav government for simply being
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina was never mentioned explicitly in the text.
In the opinions of historians
Noel Malcolm and
Ivo Banac from the
Bosnian Institute, no plan for the transformation of Bosnia and
Herzegovina into an
Islamic state was included in the book, nor in the
political program of Izetbegović's SDA (which he founded in
1990). John V. A. Fine noted that the SDA leadership was at
that time secular, and the small number of very religious Muslims had
no role in politics in 1992. 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.
Izetbegović's approval of the Pakistani model was also used to
justify Serbian atrocities after the collapse of Yugoslavia. The
Pakistan as a model country to be emulated by
Muslim revolutionaries worldwide. 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."
Leslie S. Lebl notes the Islamist ideology in the work, relevant for
Bosnian politics and society, citing examples:
the Islamic order posits two fundamental assumptions: an Islamic
society and Islamic governance. ... An Islamic society without an
Islamic authority is incomplete and without power; Islamic governance
without an Islamic society is either utopia or violence (p. 26)
There can be neither peace nor coexistence between the Islamic
religion and non-Islamic social and political institutions (p. 30)
... the Islamic movement should and can start to take over power as
soon as it is morally and numerically strong enough to be able to
overturn not only the existing non-Islamic government, but also to
build up a new Islamic one. ... (p. 56)
^ a b c Fine 2002, p. 14.
^ Magnusson 2012, p. 304.
^ a b Banac 1996, pp. 147-148.
^ Baker 2015, p. 130, Magnusson 2012, p. 305
^ Magnusson 2012.
^ a b c d Bougare 2017, p. 96.
^ a b c Clinton Bennet. In Search of Solutions: The Problem of
Religion and Conflict. Routledge. p. 122.
^ Malcolm 1996, pp. 219-20.
^ Magnusson 2012, pp. 304–305.
^ a b Baker 2015, p. 128.
^ Malcolm 1996, pp. 221-222.
^ a b c Aleksandar Pavković. The Fragmentation of Yugoslavia:
Nationalism and War in the Balkans. Springer Science+Business Media.
^ a b c Ben Fowkes. "Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict in the
Post-Communist World". Springer Science+Business Media.
^ a b Vjekoslav Perica. "Balkan Idols: Religion and Nationalism in
Yugoslav States". Oxford University Press. p. 77.
^ Brad K. Blitz. War and Change in the Balkans: Nationalism, Conflict
and Cooperation. Cambridge University Press. p. 34.
^ Aleksandar Pavković. The Fragmentation of Yugoslavia: Nationalism
and War in the Balkans. Springer Science+Business Media.
^ a b c Burg & Shoup 2015, p. 67.
^ a b Lebl 2014, p. 21.
^ a b c Lebl 2014, p. 22.
^ Lebl 2014, pp. 22, 53, Schindler 2007, p. 63
^ a b Motyl 2001, pp. 57.
^ Kostić 2007, p. 78.
^ Velikonja 2003, p. 278.
^ FBIS Daily Report: East Europe. The Service. 1996. p. 20.
^ Timothy Garton Ash (2000). History of the present: essays, sketches
and despatches from Europe in the 1990s. Penguin. p. 374.
^ "Obituary: Alija Izetbegović". BBC. 19 October 2003. Retrieved 1
^ Binder, David (20 October 2003). "Alija Izetbegović, Muslim Who Led
Bosnia, Dies at 78". New York Times.
^ Schindler 2007.
^ Lebl 2014.
^ Banac 1996, p. 167, Fine 2002, p. 14
^ Malcolm 1996.
^ Banac 1996, pp. 167–.
^ Ray Takeyh; Nikolas Gvosdev. "The Receding Shadow of the Prophet:
The Rise and Fall of Radical Political Islam". Greenwood Publishing.
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