This hits at something one suspects is of massive importance; and yet, at the same time potentially occludes even more. Nowadays, its easy to buy into the notion that the Brotherhood and/or Salfasts, “jihadis”, wahhabists or whatnot are an essential reflection of Islam and its capacity for politics. But if we see an echo of the essential here, it may be in the relatively indeterminate notion of a “civil society organisation”.
Karen Armstrong's fascinating reflections on Islam in The History of God focus on a critical and fundamental embrace of social justice and compassion in response to the cultural, economic and political contours of Mecca prior to Muhammad’s recitation. It may be the case that this element of social justice and just politics resounds more strongly in Islam than in the other great monotheistic faiths. Perhaps it is fitting, then, that Aristotelian scholarship - with a related ethics shining even in texts apparently far removed - was preserved, augmented and passed on through Maimonides to Aquinas via al-Kindi, al-Farabi, Avicenna and Averroes.
And yet many of us stare at Islam with an enmity or casual disgust which is hard to square with its contribution to the very notion of a rational political science, not to mention the notion of any special science whatsoever. And these modern “exemplars” of Islam, though they claim orthodoxy in various modes, appear to suffice for a categorical rejection vis a vis “functioning democracy” - even though in one sense this view buys a central thesis of our would be “fundamentalists” (that they essentially represent Islam and its telos), begs the question in assuming we know the real meaning of functional democracy, and conveniently ignores that these modern, “fundamentalist” faces are long conditioned by ugly encounters with Western imperialism.
Nonetheless, it appears that in regarding any form of Islam we must appreciate a face of a civil society organization. Perhaps it speaks of freedom in a way that can’t be fathomed up against a frame where freedom and determinism are contraposed as a problem, where, rather, rite and immersion in a fabric woven with the eyes of others ironically rebounds with the breeding of spontaneity and grace. But regardless of whether we focus on the reflections of an essential idea or dig into the varieties of the empirical manifold Islam presents, it would never follow that its ends are necessarily contrary to the ergon of a polity.