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The Islamic Political Law (1)
Political Issues
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

In the recent past a lot has been said about the Islamic political law as enunciated in the Qur’ān and Sunnah. Since our view about some of its clauses is different from the general view, we present here our interpretation of the law.

Basic Principle

The basic principle upon which Islam has based its political law is that in the affairs of a state God and his Prophet (sws) are the final authority. The head of an Islamic state and even the members of its parliament have no right whatsoever to have a ruling in matters decreed by the Book of God or the Sunnah of the Prophet (phuh). Their commandments can only be obeyed after obeying God and his Prophet (sws), and if they do not overrule or exceed the limits adjudicated by these authorities. Therefore, in an Islamic State no law can be enacted contrary to the Qur’ān and Sunnah or one which does not take into consideration the guidance provided by them. The believers indeed have a right to disagree with those in authority, but they can have no disagreement with God and His Prophet (sws). In fact, if such a situation arises even with those in authority, the decision must be made in the light of the Qur’ān and Sunnah. The Qur’ān says:

“Obey God and the Prophet and those of you who are in authority, and if you disagree among yourselves in any matter, refer it to god and the Prophet if you are believers in Allah and the Last Day. This is better and more seemly as regards the consequences.” (4:59)

If at any time the people charged with authority deny this principle then according to the Qur’ān this is outright kufr, which can only be perpetrated by a zaalim or faasiqh. The Qur’ān says:

“And those who do not decide according to the law revealed by God are kaafirs.” (5:44)

In this situation, the believers have a right to disobey their rulers and if possible, to strive for their removal from the position of authority they hold. Ub’Ādah-Bin-Saamit has reported the following tradition of the Prophet (sws):

“The Prophet of God said: You can only refuse their submission if you witness outright kufr in any matter from them, in which you have a clear evidence from God.” (Muslim : Kitaab-ul-Amaara)

It is, therefore, clear that this is a basic principle and if a state does not adhere to it, it cannot be called an Islamic State in any sense of the word. It follows from this that it is necessary for the believers to establish an institution in their state to which they can turn to ascertain the injunctions of God and His Prophet (sws) in all the collective affairs of life and to resolve any disagreement which may arise in this regard.

The Objectives of a State

A state founded on the above principle will, according to this law, have the objectives of establishing the system of prayers and zakat and to patronize and further whatever God and His Prophet (sws) regard as virtuous and to forbid whatever they regard as evil. The Qur’ān says:

“(These believers are those who), if We grant them authority in this land, will establish regular prayers and pay zakat and enjoin what is virtuous and forbid what is evil.” (22:41)

The fact that, like any other state, an Islamic State has the responsibility to strive for the welfare and prosperity of its people, to maintain peace and defend its frontiers is understood. What is being actually stressed is that the above verse spells out what may be regarded as the primary and distinctive objectives for which an Islamic State is created. It should in no way neglect these foremost obligations and should in fact direct all its efforts to achieve them. This will enable all the believers to hold steadfast to Islamic teachings and be in a position to duly bear witness to the religion of truth upon other nations of the world, which according to the Qur’ān is the main objective behind the creation of the Muslim Ummah:

“You are the best Ummah that has been raised up for mankind [to bear witness to the religion of truth upon them]. You enjoin what is virtuous and forbid what is evil and really believe in God.” (3:110)

It is for this objective for which the believers have been directed to establish their collective system in a manner in which all rights and obligations can be fulfilled in an appropriate way, and all judgements between people should be passed with justice. According to the Qur’ān:

“God commands you to hand back trusts to their rightful owners and to always pass judgement upon men with fairness. Verily this is from God an excellent admonition. For God is He who hears and sees all things.” (4:58)

The System of Government

The system of government of an Islamic State is based upon the Qur’ānic verse:

“Their affairs of state are run by their mutual consultation.” (42:38)

The extensive meaning this short verse encompasses and the guidance obtained from it about the political set up envisaged by Islam need a detailed discussion which follows.

Diversity in the Word Amr

The word amr has many meanings in Arabic. Someone who has an appreciation for a language knows that for all such words the correct meaning is determined by the context in which they are used. Before we ascertain its appropriate meaning in the above verse we will examine its various connotations in Arabic.

In Yazeed Bin Al-Jaham Al-Halaali’s following couplet it means ‘to urge’ or ‘to advise’:

Laqad ‘amarat bilbukhli ‘ummu mohammadee
Fa qultu laha: huththee ‘alal bukhli ‘ahmadaa 

(“Ummi-Mohammad urged me to be stingy, so I said to her: if you must urge someone to be stingy then let it be your son.”)

Amar-Bin-Dhubai’ah-Al-Raqqaashee uses it in exactly the same way we use ‘matters’ for our general affairs of life:

‘alaa liyaqul man shaa’a ‘innamaa
Yulaamul fata feemastataa’a minal ‘amree

(“Let anyone say what he likes, for a young man can only be reproached in matters which are under his control.”)

In Abu-Sakhar-Al-Huzalee’s following couplet it denotes ‘commandments and authority’:

‘amaa wallazee ‘abkaa wa adh haka wallazee
‘amaata wa ‘ahyaa wallazi amruhul ‘amroo

(“Listen! By Him Who made us weep and laugh, who gave death and life and whose commandments, are the real commandments.”)

Safiyya-Binti-Abdul-Muttalib uses it in a way in which together with ‘commandments and authority’ it connotes ‘affairs of state’:

‘alaa man mublighun ‘anna Quraishan
Fafeemal ‘amru feenaa wal eemaaroo

(“Hark ! who will deliver our message to the Quraish that as they do not accept our social position, so they should tell us that why are the affairs of state in our hands and why are we considered worthy of consultation?”)

In the Qur’ān also it has been used in all these meanings and in all instances the meaning it actually implies is determined by the context in which it has been used. It is quite evident that in this verse it has been used in the meaning of ‘collective affairs’. The depth in its meaning of ‘commandment’ has in fact incorporated this meaning in it. When the word commandment becomes related to people then it prescribes certain limits for itself and establishes certain limits and regulations. In such cases it implies both the decrees which pertain to political authority and the collective affairs of a society. A little deliberation shows that the English word ‘system’ conveys the same meaning.

Since the Qur’ān has not specified it by any adjective, so all aspects of a system must be considered included in its connotation. In fact, all affairs of a state like the municipal affairs, national and provincial affairs, political and social injunctions, rules of legislation, delegation and revocation of powers, dismissal and appointment of officials, interpretation of Islam for the collective affairs of life, all will come under the principle laid down in this verse. In fact, no area or department under an Islamic Government can be beyond the jurisdiction of this principle.

(Translated from Ghamidi’s “Meezaan”)

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