It is a misconception that the Amawi and the Ottoman Empire, who used the teachings of Islam for the purpose of sovereignty, were examples of an Islamic government! Neither they nor the sovereignties of today are Islamic governments. Perhaps they may be referred to as the sovereignties of Muslims, or the sovereignties of those who have accepted the teachings of religion. But religion can never be used as a tool for reigning and ruling over others!
Muhammad (saw) was the Rasul and the final Nabi of Allah who expounded the religion referred to as Islam. He was not a sultan or a dictator! His mission was to reveal the reality of Allah, who is far from the limitation of the concept of a god, and to teach the people the optimum way of living based on the Sunnatullah. He simply taught and offered the truth. That the people around him approached him with questions does not place him in the seat of a sultan or make him a president.
Religion isn’t for governments; it is not a system of governance. In fact governments have nothing to do with religion; a government cannot have a religion and vice versa. Governments are establishments that exist to uphold and maintain the general health and wellbeing of the people. They are bound to treat their citizens with equality and without discrimination. They have no right to pressure or force anyone into any belief and must respect the beliefs of the people, whatever they may be. Governments must support and protect the oppressed; otherwise the sighs and laments of the oppressed will eventually bring them down.
Religion is ‘offered’ to the people, this should be understood well. An offer is not an enforcement.
The government governs people with laws. Laws by which if you don’t abide you will be punished. Religion on the other hand is a system that shows you what to do in order to achieve an optimal outcome. It informs you of the consequences of doing or not doing certain things. But whether the person chooses to do or not do is entirely up to the individual, none has the jurisdiction to impose and enforce this upon him.
Religion makes an offer. Governments make orders and demands.
If religion is placed in the place of a government then the verse “There is no compulsion in (acceptance of) the religion (the system and order of Allah; sunnatullah)!”will lose its meaning. For then religion will no longer be an invitation but instead an enforcement.
The purpose of religion is to inform the people on how to attain an eternal life of bliss and happiness. A government is an establishment of a number of intelligent and powerful people based on the understanding and the conditions of the current times.
Religion informs people of the universal truths of the system in which they’re living in terms of their present and future gain and benefit. Governments herd the people in the direction of the thoughts and opinions of its founders and constituents! Big difference… Regardless of which country a person lives in, he or she can only apply and practice their religion to the extent of their knowledge and their lifestyle circumstances.
There’s no place for exalting or degrading anyone based on their religious virtues or practices in Islam. Religion is a private matter and it is every individuals right to protect their privacy however they like.
And nobody should have the right to govern a country to impose their own beliefs and opinions over the people. No government can have the right to meddle with the private matters of the people; if it does then it is a dictatorship.
As for how we should understand and evaluate religion…
If a person accepts that Muhammad (saw) was the Rasul and the final Nabi of Allah and the Quran was revealed to him as the Truth, by the One referenced as Allah, then this person is called a Muslim. If a person accepts a section of the Quran and does not accept another section then this person would be denying all of the Quran, since all of it is from the same source. But if one evaluates and lives by a section but fails to live by another section then this person is not considered to be a non-Muslim. The priority and indeed the criteria for being a Muslim is to accept that Muhammad (saw) was the Rasul and the final Nabi of Allah, who revealed the absolute truths to humanity.