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State and Government
Political Issues
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)


State and government are two separate entities. In the terminology of political science, a state signifies the political organization of a society, while a government refers to those in authority; they are responsible for running and managing the affairs of the state. Consider first the state. The types of state which have as yet emerged are primarily three:

First, the state founded in the Arabian Peninsula. The Almighty made it specific for His own self after He Himself had ascertained its boundaries. Thus, at His behest, the universal centre of His worship and preaching was set up in Arabia, and at the end of the seventh century AD it was declared through Muhammad (sws): لا يجتمع فيها دينان (no non-Muslim can become its citizen till the Day of Judgement).1 Earlier, the same status was enjoyed by Palestine for centuries. The addressees of Islam and the Islamic shari‘ah here too are individuals in their various capacities. However, if for such a state it is said that its religion is Islam and only Islam shall reign in it, then this statement is very comprehensible on all grounds. It cannot be objected to.

Second, the states whose boundaries were determined by their conquerors. They would govern them by making their inhabitants subservient to them. In such states, the religion of the royal family or that of the ruler would be considered as the religion of the state. Whether their birth was legitimate or illegitimate, if these states are dubbed as Muslim or Christian or Communist states, then this too cannot be regarded as incomprehensible.

Third, the nation-states of the modern era whose boundaries are ascertained by international treaties and which become a source of nationhood themselves for their citizens as soon as they come into existence. Thus in spite of having commonality or diversity in colour, ancestry, language and culture they call themselves Egyptians, Americans, Afghans and Pakistanis and express their nationhood in this respect. No one is superior or subservient here. All, in fact, are regarded as equal citizens in all respects and in this capacity participate in the affairs of the state.

About the third type of states I had written2 that they can have no religion. Pakistan is an example of such a state. Everyone knows that it was not created by a divine decree like Arabia which can only belong to Muslims nor did Muslims after conquering it make its non-Muslim inhabitants subservient to them nor did these inhabitants become the citizens of this state by virtue of a pact with the Muslims. They have remained the inhabitants of this land for centuries the way Muslims have and just as this state belongs to Muslims it also belongs to non-Muslims. India was not divided on the basis that one part of it will belong to the Muslims and the other part to Hindus and people of other religions will be subservient to them. The principle of this division was that areas of British India in which Muslims exist in majority were to be made a separate country and the rulers of the principalities would have the liberty to either remain free or become part of India or Pakistan regardless of whether their public had a majority of Muslims or of Hindus or of any other religious denomination. If, on the authority of the majority, such a state is regarded as a Muslim or a Christian or a Hindu one, then this will be mere coercion and oppression which cannot be endorsed by any person who has been directed by his Lord to adhere to justice at all costs and to bear testimony to the truth, even if this testimony goes against his own people. It is essential that now this testimony in favour of the non-Muslims of Pakistan be penned down in historical records. This is actually an evidence of the same fact which the founder of Pakistan, Quaid i Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah explained while addressing the Constituent Assembly on 11 August 1947. He had declared:

You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State. As you know, history shows that in England, conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. The people of England in course of time had to face the realities of the situation and had to discharge the responsibilities and burdens placed upon them by the government of their country and they went through that fire step by step. Today, you might say with justice that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not exist; what exists now is that every man is a citizen, an equal citizen of Great Britain and they are all members of the Nation.

Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.3


A question that can be raised on this is: does Islam acknowledge such a state? I had tried to answer this question by saying that Islam addresses the rulers of a society.4 If they are Muslims, then they are the real addressees of Islam’s directives related to the collectivity. Islam has not given any directive to turn a state into an Islamic state. Thus its followers can live as citizens in such nation-states and as a nation on the basis of nationhood the way they currently live in many states. Nothing in this is against Islam and the Islamic shari‘ah.

This is my stance regarding the nation-states of these times.

Consider next the government. Only two statements endorsed by knowledge and reason can be given about it: first, the rulers of a state will be chosen by the Almighty, and second, they will be chosen by the inhabitants. After the termination of the institution of prophethood the first of the above options is not possible. Only the second one remains. Its essential consequence is that the majority has the right to rule. If Muslims have this majority and if on its basis they become the rulers of a state, then it is their democratic and human right that if their religion has given them a directive regarding the collectivity, then they should follow it and also decide all matters of the followers of this religion in accordance with the shari‘ah revealed by God through His last prophet. It is precisely this that the Quaid e Azam implied when he spoke of Islam, Islamic civilization and the Islamic shari‘ah.

The relationship of the shari‘ah with the nation-states of today is of the nature just described. I had endeavoured to put across this understanding.5 Thus, in accordance with this understanding, I had also presented a comprehensive list of directives of the shari‘ah that relate to collectivity. I had also written that Muslims have been given these directives with the warning that those who do not accept the verdicts of the Book of God after acknowledging it will be regarded as wrongdoers (zalim), defiant (fasiq) and disbelievers (kafir) on the Day of Judgedment. Men of learning can differ with the list I have compiled and also alter it. However, if even after understanding this difference between state and government and after viewing this list they claim that I have confined the shari‘ah to an individual or negated all directives that relate to the spheres of politics, economics and the social set-up and they are also not feigning ignorance, then I dare say that they have not understood at all my musings on this topic


(Translated by Dr Shehzad Saleem)











1. Abu ‘Abdullah Malik ibn Anas, Mu’atta’, vol. 2 (Cairo: Dar ihya’ al-turath al-‘arabi, n.d.), 892, (no. 1584).

2. Reference is to my article: Islam and the State: A Counter Narrative.


4. Reference is to my article: Islam and the State: A Counter Narrative.

5. Reference is to my article: Islam and the State: A Counter Narrative.


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