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Political Parties: Origins and Norms
Political Issues
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)


A study of history reveals that man, by nature, has always been a gregarious being and just like food and clothing, a social set-up is his indispensable physical need. Therefore, from the earliest days of his creation, he has striven for the formation of a society. His needs induced him to live in a community and the community itself had some requirements. Gradually, the community developed into a civilization and with it came the need for resources. The natural tendency in man to expand and augment these resources together with other wicked inclinations within him led to a state of anarchy and disorder. The only way to protect a community from such turmoil and discord was to organize it under a single leadership. Again, since this leadership, for its own existence and well-being, depended on the support of the masses, things like caste, race, language and ideology were instrumental in forming this support and allegiance. Hence, the result was that the progeny of a single human being was divided into many clans and tribes. Finally, as a result of some social need or the outright internal strength of a group, there emerged a supreme group to which other smaller groups became subservient.

The political history of man is but the tale of a mere repetition of this process. Ibn Khaldūn, the founder of the subject of the philosophy of history, writes in his celebrated treatise ‘The Muqaddamah’:

ثم ان القبيل الواحد وان كانت فيه بيوتات مفترقة وعصبيات متعددة فلا بد من عصبية تكون اقوى من جميعها تغلبها ? تستتبعها وتلتحم جميع العصبيات فيها ? تصير كانها عصبية واحدة كبري والاوقع الافتراق المفضي الى الاختلاف والتنازع

Furthermore, if in a single group there are different families and various sub-groups, it is certain that a single group will emerge which is the strongest in the lot. This group achieves its supremacy over others and demands their obedience. Finally, all groups merge into it and a larger group comes into existence. If this does not happen, the outcome is turmoil which leads to disagreement and dissension.1

 The political parties are actually these groups and to ascertain the strongest among them, the Qur’ān has directed us to follow the principle of: ‘أَمْرُهُمْ شُورَى بَيْنَهُمْ’ (Their system is based on their consultation), and has thereby provided mankind with a peaceful means of transfer of power. History bears witness that when in the Thaqīfah of Banī Sā‘idah the two major groups of the Muslims – the Ansār and the Muhājirūn – had gathered over the issue of the Prophet’s (sws) successor, the Muhājirūn, in accordance with the Prophet’s (sws) directive, were transferred the reins of power since they commanded the confidence and support of the majority of the Arab Muslims. Therefore, it is incorrect to believe that in an Islamic State there is no justification for political parties. However, it must be conceded that some of the parties which at the moment tread this country’s political arena have no basis for exist.

The leaders of some of these parties do not dare to openly invite people towards secular ideologies. However, they have adopted another way to propagate their ideas: They say that religion is a personal affair and as far as a state is concerned, it should have no religion. Previously, the king and his nobles were the final authority and now the parliament should play this role. A majority opinion should decide what is right and what is wrong. Religious laws are relics of the past and are outdated and ill-suited for the requirements of the modern era.

This viewpoint is obviously based on ignorance. Truth is an indivisible whole. If religion is a truth then it is so for both a person and a state. If people who hold this point of view regard it as being contrary to the truth then there should be no discrimination between a state and an individual in this regard. A reality whether divinely revealed or intellectually derived is a reality for all. It addresses both an individual and the collectivity in which he lives. Veracity, justice and honesty are universal and not relative truths. If, for example, a religion directs the individual to observe fasts in a certain month, and directs the state to follow the principle of consultation, enforce collective justice, establish prayers and promulgate a certain penal code, then these are two aspects of the same reality. Both a state and an individual must necessarily adopt it. If it is a truth that man on this earth is a creation of the Almighty and one day he shall be held accountable in front of Him for all his deeds then it is so for an individual as well as for a state. It cannot be correct for one and incorrect for the other.

Similarly, there are leaders of some other parties who at times openly and at times secretly try all what they can to dismember the state of Pakistan and wish that it should be, God forbid, wiped out from the face of the earth. Such horrible campaigns, obviously, are heinous crimes which no Muslim can commit against his country. People who die in such a cause, according to the Prophet (sws), die the death of Jāhiliyyah:

مَنْ كَرِهَ مِنْ أَمِيرِهِ شَيْئًا فَلْيَصْبِرْ فَإِنَّهُ مَنْ خَرَجَ مِنْ السُّلْطَانِ شِبْرًا مَاتَ مِيتَةً جَاهِلِيَّةً (بخاري: رقم ٧٠٥٣)

He who sees something despicable in his ruler should bear it for he who even slightly disassociates himself from the obedience of the sovereign authority and dies in this condition shall die the death of ignorance. (Bukhārī: No. 7053)

Such ignorance cannot be tolerated in an Islamic State. But apart from these parties, other political parties, groups and clans of an Islamic State must, also, follow certain principles and observe certain limits. To quote the Qur’ān:

يَاأَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ(١٣:٤٩)

O Mankind! We have created you from a single [pair] of a male and a female and divided you into nations and tribes that you might get to know each other. The most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is he who fears Him the most. (49:13)

The sociological principles of Islam which are so compactly stated in the above verse need a lot of space for their explanation. Some of these are explained below.

The first thing on which the verse throws light is that although mankind has been created from the same man and woman, yet the nearness in blood relations, association with a country and its customs, common collective needs, harmony in cultural traditions, conformity in behaviour and mental tendencies, collaboration in achieving aims, common targets and many other natural and instinctive needs and sociological requirements have divided mankind into many groups and tribes and prevented them from living as a single collectivity.

Secondly, the real aim behind this division is that various people are able to show and express their characteristics and features and are identified on their basis as separate groups, instead of being lost in the vastness of a single group. Furthermore, if as a result of this identification, some values exist in common, then efforts should be made for mutual cooperation and collaboration to achieve wider collective needs by regarding these values as the principles for such an alliance.

Thirdly, these groups and clans should not become a means for expressing arrogance, pride and vanity and an association with anyone of them should not be regarded as a basis for a person to be on the right path and should also not be regarded a standard for his nobility and righteousness because the most honoured in the sight of Allah are those who fear Him the most and observe the limits set by Him. If these groups instead of being a means of expressing individuality start showing hostility and malice towards each other then they shall not only be deprived of the very utility for which they were actually created, but also become a source of harm and injury for the society.

If in an Islamic State, groups, clans and parties do not exceed these limits and are strong and stable then they serve to check the tyranny and oppression of the rulers and restrain their dictatorial tendencies. They also nurture and nourish alternative leaderships for the country. They are the fountainhead of power for those in authority and their existence ensures the freedom of a society. Dictatorship and monarchy may not tolerate them, but the political system based on consultation envisaged by Islam thoroughly relishes their existence. Islam wants its followers to think and reflect and freely express themselves both through individual and collective means. Though it curtails this freedom, yet it does not totally prohibit it.

(Translated from ‘Burhān’ by Shehzad Saleem)



1. Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddamah, 1st ed., (Beirut: Mu’sassatu’l-A‘lamī), p. 139

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