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Legislation in an Islamic State
Political Issues
Dr. Shehzad Saleem


The Qur’ānic directive `The affairs of state of the believers should be run by their mutual consultation' has a very important corollory: In an Islamic state the task of interpreting the Qur’ān and Sunnah and legislating according to it should be a prerogrative of the elected representatives of the state only. An institution constituted without a public mandate has no right, according to the Qur’ān, to carry out this all important task.

An individual in his own capacity, no doubt, has the freedom to accept an interpretation which appeals to his intellect, but the interpretation of the parliament only shall be enforced as the law of the land. A natural outcome for this to materialise is that the members of the parliament must necessarily have a direct access to the Qur’ān and Sunnah, and at the same time have morally sound and dependable characters. But then, it is not difficult to see that such an arrangement is far from being possible. Every political leader cannot be expected to have such a scholarly knowledge of Arabic so as to be able to directly interpret the Qur’ān and Sunnah or have the ability to give an original opinion in matters not covered in the Qur’ān and Sunnah. However, if only religious scholars having these qualities are considered eligible for election in this august body, the whole poise of an Islamic society is severely disturbed. Moreover, such a theocracy is not envisaged by Islam. It is only proper for religious scholars to provide guidance and direction to the political leadership of a country instead of launching themselves into politics for, sorry to say, political affairs can be effectively run only by people who have a knack for them, which invariably religious scholars lack---simply because they are born with an altogether different set of abilities.

In our humble estimation, the only solution to the problem is that a committee of competent religious scholars  should be instituted by an electoral mandate of the parliament. This committee should be entrusted with the task of ascertaining the implications and purport of the Qur’ān and Sunnah in the collective affairs of life. It should also be assigned to formulate the rules for legislation, and to determine the limits beyond which we as Muslims can never exceed. After this the actual task of legislation should be done by the parliament itself keeping in view the ascertained implications, rules and limits. Furthermore, the parliament should be binded to carry out this task in a specific time period.

The following two principles should be clearly spelled out in the basic code of this committee:

Firstly, all differences of opinion shall be resolved by a majority vote. Anyone, within or outside the committee, who disagrees with its final verdict will have all the freedom to rationally express his views, wherever he likes and in whatever form he chooses. However, any protest, evasion or refusal to obey it would be considered a criminal offense.

Secondly, the content of Islam is only that which is endorsed by the Qur’ān and Sunnah, which also incidentally, are the only two sources of it. Whoever considers this to be so can only be appointed in this committee.

An important matter in this regard should be clearly understood. When it is said that all differences of opinion shall be settled by a majority vote it does not mean at all that the opinion which is ultimately accepted shall necessarily be the purport of the Qur’ān and Sunnah. It only means that just to run the affairs of a state an opinion has been enforced until the time a stronger opinion emerges to take its place. This is only a way of settling differences of opinions and is no criterion for the correctness of a viewpoint. Only reasons and arguments decide what is right or wrong, and a majority or a minority opinion has no say in this regard.

It is our firm belief that if those at the helm of our state's affairs sincerely wish to promulgate the Shariah, this mode of legislation will, hopefully, go a long way in not only achieving the objective but also in ridding this society from the menace of religious sectarianism.

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