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Religious States

Religious States


This lesson will offer information on religious states.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this tutorial on religious states. We're going to look at some religions and some countries around the world where religion and state go hand in hand. Where religion is the state.

Let's take a look for a minute at theocracy. Theocracy is a form of government in which God rules the state. And of course, if you think about that this is really an impossibility.

Because God, of course, doesn't have any hands and feet. God doesn't have a military. God doesn't have a bureaucracy in which to rule the state. So when we speak about theocracy, what we really mean is that there are officials who are regarded as being under divine command.

So government is bound by the dictates of religious tradition. The rules in place in the religion are actually the laws of the country. Let's take a look at two different forms of theocracy. In some forms of theocracy, there's a direct rule by religious leaders. So the clerics of the religion are actually running the country.

And then there's another case in which there are two arms-- an administrative hierarchy and a religious hierarchy. And the two are functioning side by side.

Let's take a look at the theocracies that are in the world today. Vatican City in Italy is the last of what is left of the Papal States, which is headed by the Pope. So this is a little independent city-state in Rome that is actually headed by the Pope. It's very small but it is an autonomous Catholic city-state in Italy.

Next, the Islamic states which are governed by Sharia, which is law that is inspired by the Qur'an. So Sharia law is an interpretation of the Qur'an for the governance of a country. Here is a list of countries in the world today that are Islamic theocracies. Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Oman, and Iran.

Some of these are in the Middle East. Some of them are in Central Asia. Mauritania and the Sudan in Africa. These are countries that are run by Islamic law. The situations in each of these countries is different. And it would really require quite a lot of explanation go through each one of them.

But what they all have in common is that they have rules in place for ensuring that Islam law or Sharia is followed. So many times, the laws can be vetoed if they're regarded as not being compliant with Islam. Elections, if they have elections, the candidates can be disqualified if they're viewed as not being sufficiently Islamic. There is a tight control over freedom of expression and association. So there's no civil society that would be able to contradict anything in Islam.

And usually very heavily restrictions on the role of women in society. So frequently, separate facilities for the genders. Women are not allowed in public by themselves. They frequently have to have a male escort. Sometimes in some of these countries, women are not allowed to drive cars and things like that.

So all these countries are examples of Islamic theocracies. Most of the theocracies in the world today are Muslim. But we did mention one Christian example of Vatican City.

Religious officials are viewed as divinely guided or inspired. We talked about two different kinds of theocracy. One where the religious leaders are actually governing the country. And another form in which there is a separate administrative hierarchy that is subordinate to the religious authority. Or in which the religious authority has a kind of oversight over the administrative arm.

We discussed various different modern theocracies, including the Vatican State and various countries that practice Sharia law. Sharia law, we said is a code of ethics and moral conduct that informs the law of the state. Which depends to a great deal on the country in which the Sharia law is being practiced, as to do the degree of severity or the degree the adherence to fundamentalist Islam. Theocracy, we could say is simply government by religious authority.

Terms to Know

In Islam, the religious code of ethics and moral conduct that informs the law of the state, to a greater or lesser extent depending on the country


Government by religious leaders and/or according to religious principles.