WHY IS THIS ABSOLUTE MONARCHY, BASED ON IBADISM
A GOOD EXAMPLE FOR ALL MUSLIM COUNTRIES TO FOLLOW ?
This exotic country, located on Arabic Peninsula with the 5000 years old history and the best preserved archaeological sites is not just a great tourist destination for real adventures but also a successful model of Muslim state which is always in progress.
Not many people are familiar with Oman as they are with information about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE or Yemen. The reason for the secret image of the sultanate of Oman we should probably find in the fact that this is a peaceful place, with no incidents and no opportunities which could be demolish the harmonic structure of the Omani society at all. Maybe that is because we are talking here about the absolute monarchy which means that the hereditary leader of the country is the Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, the one with the longest power in the Middle East but also the one who has developed Oman as a high-income economy and made it to be ranked on the 59th place as the most peaceful country according to the Global Peace Index. The natural resources based on oil helped the Sultan to constantly improve the economical atmosphere and to turn Oman into one paradise for those who want to work and live peacefully. The absolute power of the Sultan Qaboos means there is no check and balances and the whole political power is concentrated in this Sultan, who is also chief of staff of the armed forces, Minister of Defence, Minister of Foreign Affairs and chairman of the Central Bank. He makes all decisions and even if he consults others, it is based on personal opinions which profiles highly personalized system. That also often means the absence of any democracy so people were protesting a lot in the last 10 years. He is not accused as an oppressive ruler but there were significant breaking of human rights. Evidently, he considered some of the requests of opponents and established the Consultative Council, which plays only an advisory role in government. But, from time to time, depending on public mood, he gives the more power to the mentioned Council and somehow make opponents again silent. The possibility for this kind of mixture of mild and aggressive cooperation comes from the good economical base and one relatively free society, at least free from the religious extremism.However, the sultanate is not immune on abuse of political power by the Sultan or his people. First of all, everything is under control. Especially media. The journalists are monitored and every kind of public speech or movement is observed, allowed or forbidden by the Sultan or his authorities. There is no such a thing as human rights and even if they exists in some form, they are not respected and they mean nothing. The depth of influence of the Sultanate in the private lives of people could be easily seen in the point that the Sultanate must give permission for the marriage between Omani and foreign citizen. That doesn’t mean that marriage will be allowed, sometimes it is even punished by financial fine.The level of absence of human rights is equal to the level of absence of some serious extremism and even terrorism.
On the another side, the education in Oman is on the top of national priorities. It is interesting to mention that the Sultan opened more than 1000 public schools and more than 40 institutions of higher education, showing us that social capital and human development is the crucial foundation of this sultanate, which is based on Shar’ah Law:“The religion of the State is Islam and the Islamic Sharia is the basis of legislation”. However, the Shar’iah Law is implemented mainly in family law matters but often is a background for commercial and legal activities. The question what is interesting for all of us now is the following:how is possible that this sultanate is a peaceful zone with the implementation of Shar’ah Law? We all know what does mean the absolute power of the Islamic law as Shari’ah Law by itself. The current examples are KSA and I.R.I. What about Oman then? Maybe the answer is hidden in the special form of Omani’s Islam- so called IBADISM.
Ibadism is a specific sect of Islam, what is neither Sunni nor Shi‘i. They are something in between but also sui generis. Some would define them as the most tolerant Muslims who are totally different from conservative Sunni and radical Shi’i. This is a school of Islam, dominant in Oman and also in Algeria, Tunisia and some part of the East Africa. This movement has its ancient beginnings, maybe in the period of 20 years after Prophet Mohammed death, where was the struggle among groups who have different views and interpretations of the Qur’an. Ibadism is based on ibadat which means a prayer and it rather unites the importance of peaceful pure life than conflicts and military way of leading the religion. They are followers of Abd -Allah ibn Ibad, their puritanical nature of understanding Islam and demanding that the Islamic leadership should be generated from the pure spiritual and personal qualities and that imam with political and religious authority must be approved by a council of prominent shaykhs. During the early history, Ibadi were against the third caliph and everything he proposed. They believed that Islam lost its pure values and merged into different greedy denominations. For other Muslims, Ibadi were and they still are the followers of heretical Islamic knowledge. Except they keep their mosques in very modest style and they choose reasonable discussion and moral dignity above any confrontation or forced ideology, Ibadis are very tolerant highly orthodox Muslim Puritans:”Ibadis have always expressed the attitude of inviting people and giving them a chance to understand the views of the Ibadis, and waiting for them to decide their attitude first. They always made it clear that they would fight their opponents only when the latter attacked them first.”
There are four ways of Ibadi islam and also the options for Shari’ah Law to be carried out.These are:
- Manifestation (zuhur)-the freedom of Ibadi community to proclaim its own imam.
- Defence (difa) – possibility for Ibadi community to defend itself from outer attack
- The sacrifice of one’s life (Shira)- believers must fight and never give up
- Secrecy (kitman)-hidding religion from those who oppress
According to some data from 2015, about 45% of Omani are Ibadis while Omani choosing Sunni Islam is nearly about 50%. The remaining 5% are Shia Muslims, Hindus, and Christians.It is almost a challenge to analyze how the inter religious cooperation is so successful in the sultanate of Oman, generated from this form of Islam and founded on Shari’ah Law?! Because the sultanate protects the religious freedom:“The basic law protects the right to practice religious rites on condition that doing so does not disrupt public order, and, in practice, the government generally enforced these protections. The basic law declares that Islam is the state religion and that Sharia is the basis of legislation. It also prohibits discrimination based on religion.” What i found encouraging is that Oman doesn’t not punish apostasy and doesn’t consider it as any criminal or civil offense. The religious freedom is guaranteed and implemented. The Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs (MERA) is responsible for taking care of active or passive religious organisations:“Non-Muslim communities are allowed to practice their beliefs without interference only on land specifically donated by the sultan for the purpose of collective worship. In 2006 the MERA issued a legally-binding circular to non-Muslim religious leaders and diplomatic missions reaffirming an individual’s right to practice his or her own religious activities according to his or her values, customs, and traditions. The circular also states that gatherings of a religious nature are not allowed in private homes or in any location other than government-approved OMAN 4 houses of worship; however, the government did not actively enforce the prohibition” The religious expression is very opened and none disturbs none.It is almost like an utopia. Everyone worships his God and there is no war. But there is also no kind of any extremism due the fact that the Sultan encourages in the public religious freedoms and cooperation among them and also denies the possibility for growing any kind of radicalized Islam in Oman. This sultanate is implementing Shari’ah law but it is more than surprising to see the score from human rights observers: no death penalty since 2001. What that is telling to us? The Sultan still handles good the security and social risks and doesn’t allow to Islam to turn into political ideology which could ruin all what he has built for years. The positive result in Global Terrorism Index 2015 released recently by the Economics and Peace Institute is a great sign of Omani’s good political curse in Persian Golf region. They have some kind of successful outstanding Middle East foreign policy. They use diplomacy and moderate approach instead of silent support of Salafism and further radicalization of Oman. That is why there is no any Omani registered as a fighter in the Islamic terrorism and also no any recorded terrorism incident in this sultanate.Jeffrey A. Lefebvre states this phenomena perfectly:“Agreeable disagreement with friends and peaceful compromise with enemies would appear to be consistent with Ibadi thought in the conduct of foreign policy.” It is a triumphantly made cocktail of religious freedoms, different nations, absolute power, moderate Islam, and zero tolerance for any extremism. In 2008, Oman announced a special law which punishes anyone related to terrorism or sectarianism and ordered to be jailed for a minimum of 10 years. This is exactly how it should be managed from up to down when it comes to the potential growth of terrorism. Omani break it in its weak roots. No time for developing. However, no social climate for tensions among different streams because even if it occurs, they are aware that anyone will be punished equally for promoting the feelings of hatred.
The sultanate of Oman is not the perfect state because there is no perfect state. The sultanate of Oman is the perfect Muslim state. It is developed and with educated and economically satisfied people who can not be abused into empty indoctrination promises. Oman is based on Shari’ah Law but this law has no role to punish and kill but to implement the pure justice as Ibadi Islam sees it. Under this law, there are many established churches and temples and people are free to follow their believes with no fear. The official religion is Islam but this Islam doesn’t suppress other religions but also protects them like umbrella protects from the rain. The religious diversity sheltered by Shari’ah law system works the best way it can and keeps the danger of extremism and intolerance so far away.
So, the next time when we hear that some Islamists cry for their Islam and its cruel nature, we should remind them about the sultanate of Oman. Beautiful, traditional Muslim country, even with Shari’ah Law but united in diversity of all other religions which made one remarkable shield against the evil presence of Islamic radicalism, extremism and terrorism. OMAN made it happen.
Who wants-find a way. Who doesn’t want-find an excuse. Old good saying.