Obedience in Totalitarian Regimes

Obedience is an essential part of the structure of radical groups. Unconditional acceptance and obedience are the primary concepts that define the relationship between leaders and followers in these groups, and when they assume a position of power in a country, they impose this type of relationship on people. According to their understanding, when someone becomes a leader, they should be elevated above ordinary citizens and often be given a godlike status. In the history of Islam, many narrations were made about this, including the famous saying,The king is the shadow of God on earth.

The practice of sanctifying and worshipping rulers dates back thousands of years before Islam. In various autocratic systems, such as those in ancient Iran and Egypt, kings and powerful people were given the status of gods. Religions were heavily influenced by the politics of the day, as evidenced by the many political reflections in theological concepts. For example, God was defined and described in the form of a king, or the power and status of a tyrant ruler was attributed to God; such as being unquestioned, unaccountable, having an unlimited mercy, swift and unpredictable punishments, and not adhering to any law, as He Himself is the embodiment of the law. Many of the theological descriptions about God are based on the experience that the people of this region had in relation to their kings and rulers.

The literature that emerged under authoritarian regimes gradually entered public culture and, during the period known as the era of codification in Islamic civilization, some of this literature found its way into religious texts and was included in books as hadiths attributed to the Prophet of Islam. This literature placed particular emphasis on the importance of listening to and obeying leaders, even in the face of their oppression, and suggested that one should only gently advise the ruler if possible. Of course, the rival groups of the ruling system were also forced to use the same weapon, and they created narratives about the virtue of rising up against oppressive rulers and accepting the risk of death and becoming martyrs. This cycle of violence, perpetuated by both sides, was rooted in the stalemate created by authoritarian systems, and there was no other way to break it except through violence. However, without a theory to permanently solve the issue, another tyranny would be established anew.

In a democratic system, rulers are no longer seen as divinely sanctioned and instead gain their legitimacy from the people. Instead of obedience, laws and regulations are followed. This is one of the major distinctions between democracy and religious tyranny, as rulers in a democracy must be accountable to the people and obey the law.