The poetry of the Pakistani poet Iqbal (much more poignant in the original Urdu) comes to mind:
"Because the mulla has the freedom to prostrate in India
The fool believes that Islam is free..."
To negate the need for a state that ensures the application of Islam in all areas of life with such a reductionist notion of Islamic practice is little more than breath-taking, akin to arguing a capitalist could comfortably practice capitalism in a communist state.
The Muslim identity does not comprise a limited set of individualistic personal rituals - it is an entire way of living, embracing the personal, the social and the divine. Salat is not meant to be a personal matter but a social matter, performed in a congregational, in an institution free from surveillance and suspicion, with an independent leadership free from state indoctrination and intimidation, that allows social activities beyond near-meaningless ritual, where community activities freely occur rather than ideologically sanctioned ones, where relationships with society exist to convey rather than to contain Islam.
The Qur'anic verses don't ask us to simply "pray" but "Establish prayer..." (2:43). The former imperative such as the prophetic command, "Pray as you see me pray" (Bukhari) would oblige performance of the ritual. However the former request is much broader in meaning and scope, requiring the collective to embrace all of the social dimensions of prayers. This would require ensuring the establishment and maintenance of places of prayer, creating processes to educate about the prayers, accounting those who do not pray, punishing those who insult or belittle prayers, appointing and remunerating those who lead the prayers, ensuring businesses cease trading during Friday prayers, providing workers the rights to pray, implementing judicial processes to preserve these rights, ensuring taxes are collected to fund all of this and so on.
Without all this the prayer becomes a shadow of what it should be and we accordingly downgrade our expectations towards it, in turn, becoming a shadow of who we should be.
A Caliphate is essential to give shape to a society as Allah ordained where we not only live our lives as atomised individuals, but instantiate both the individual and collective dimensions of prayer, fasting and giving of alms as well as all the other dimensions we find in revelation. Also ensuring the associated institutions, culture, norms and laws are in place to facilitate these and remove impediments that may arise. Sociologists and social psychologists are in agreement that societies, their institutions, laws, norms, cultures and institutions have a significant bearing on our thought, emotion and behaviour, the Russian psychologist Vygotsky famously claiming we are created outside in.
Western societies permeate secular and nationalistic ideologies - liberal, neoliberal, conservative, feminist, social democratic and other ideologies competing to give it its post-modern orientation. As Muslims we, like everyone else, are made to conform to them.
The institutions we have created, operate in a similar secular framework, which have over time been forced to conform or close - "Islamic" schools now teach ideological values producing children with secular identities and values in the drive to integrate; mosques are being reduced to the equivalent of apolitical vacuous churches where unthinking dogma and ritual proliferate; whilst "Islamic" charities are increasingly becoming little different to global corporates, with glitzy marketing campaigns making us feel increasingly guilty whilst prohibited from doing anything about the socio-political and economic causes of poverty, suffering and ignorance.
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