The state as the necessary evil
It is high time that practicing Muslims realize and acknowledge that the state, like money and the nafs al-ammarah (the commanding self), is a necessary evil.
Anarchy is not an option in our highly populated, interdependent and over-sophisticated societies, and we cannot go back to the Rousseauean utopian state of nature where humans live without any political organization. Thus, we have to live with the fact that we do not have any better option than a state to have orderly societies. But that is all. The state is not sacred, it is not noble, it is not virtuous. On the contrary, it is a necessary but highly dangerous weapon or tool, such as nuclear power plants. But it must be very capably supervised, monitored, checked and balanced. Political history shows that states have harmed their own peoples, intentionally and unintentionally, for all sorts of reasons.
Many pious people, philosophers, prophets, ulama, opinion leaders and so on have suffered at the hands of oppressive rulers. Benign, pro-peace, pro-diversity, ethical states have been the exception rather than the rule. Muslims, especially Islamists, must give up on their utopian idea of one day establishing the heavenly "City of God" on earth. Just look around the Muslim world and see how our practicing Muslim sisters and brothers have become corrupt, unethical, impious, arrogant, selfish, impatient, impolite, unjust and authoritarian after coming to power.
Practicing Muslims must realize that the best Islamic government is one that respects humans and their freedoms. It is one that is not corrupt, but fully accountable and transparent. It is one that does not enrich politicians and their relatives; on the contrary, it is one where they make sacrifices by living austere and humble lives.
The best Islamic state is one in which everyone is treated with the same respect by the state, officials and politicians that non-Muslims and the like enjoyed under the Prophet and the first four caliphs. The best Islamic state is one whose leaders have the humility, poverty, justice and politeness of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his four caliphs.
Yazid was also a caliph and he would talk about God, the Prophet, Islam, unbelievers et cetera every day. He even conquered lands for Islam. Does all this make his rule good, heavenly and Islamic? Just think -- why do we never name our children Yazid? It is almost a swear word.
Practicing Muslims must realize that we will never have the Prophet and his companions back, so we must stick to the almost universal basic principles of good government and good governance instead of wasting our time on the empty rhetoric of the Islamic state.
Let us forget the dream of the sacred state and instead focus on sacred values like justice, honesty, respecting everyone regardless of their creed or lifestyle, the transparency and accountability of the state, checks and balances, humility, politeness, patience, prudence, self-sacrifice, respecting the people's decisions, protecting minorities and their rights and so on.
If we prioritize this real content rather than rhetoric and appearances and insist that our politicians cherish all these, then all systems, regardless of the regime type, will be Islamic systems.