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Islam and the Political System in Our Society
Political Issues
Dr. Shehzad Saleem


On the one hand, the Islamic form of government is an aristocracy in that the individuals who comprise the government are elected on the basis of their piety and political acumen and, on the other hand, it is a democracy in that they are elected and have to run their state affairs on the basis of consultation among them.

The Qur’ān says: ‘The affairs of state of the believers are run by consultation among them’ (42:38). Keeping in view linguistic considerations, it is evident from this Qur’ānic injunction that a concensus or majority opinion of the Muslims can in no way be overruled. The Qur’ān has not said: ‘The believers are consulted in their affairs’, it has, on the contrary, declared: ‘Their affairs of state are run by consultation among them’.

The style and pattern of the verse demands that an Islamic government should be established through the consultation of the believers, continue to exist on this basis and should cease to exist without it. It should conduct its affairs, in all cases, on the basis of a concensus or majority opinion of the believers.

In compliance with the above mentioned Qur’ānic injunction, the Prophet (sws) adopted the procedure that: Firstly, Muslims shall be consulted in the affairs of state through their leaders in whom they profess confidence. Secondly, among the various parties or groups present in an Islamic State, only that party shall assume its political authority which enjoys the confidence of the majority.

It is evident from this that the real essence of democracy definitely exists in an Islamic Political System; however, there are certain evils present in the prevailing concept of the democracies of today, which are contrary to the teachings of Islam.

The first evil in this concept is that in the state affairs, it bestows the final authority on the masses. On the contrary, the fundamental principle on which Islam has based its political law is that in the affairs of state God and His Prophet (sws) are the final authority. The head of an Islamic state and even the members of the parliament have no right whatsoever to have a ruling in matters decreed by the Qur’ān and Sunnah. The believers have a right to disagree with those in authority and indeed also have the right to ascertain the real purports of the Sharī‘ah and discuss how to carry out the directives of the Qur’ān and Sunnah, 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: ‘If you disagree among yourselves in any matter, refer it to God and the Prophet’ (4:59).

The second evil in it is that greed for an office in the government has become so desirable a trait that even the pious feel no aversion to it. It has now become a tradition for people to come forward and present their names for various posts, go about proclaiming their qualities and services in streets and employ other means to allure the public. In Islamic ethics, this shameless attitude is not permissible at all. The Prophet (sws) is said to have said:

Do not seek a post. If it is granted to you because of your desire, you shall [find yourself being] handed over to it and if it is granted to you without your desire, the Almighty shall help you. (Muslim, Kitāb-al-Imārah)

The third evil in the concept is that a general acknowledgement is given to the fact that the people should vote for whatever is in the party’s interest, even if their conscience considers it against the truth. Quite evidently, this attitude cannot be tolerated in a religion which says that the whole Muslim Ummah has been instituted to bear witness to the truth and whose followers have pledged a covenant at the hands of the Prophet (sws) that they would always say what is right disregarding ‘the reproaches of a reproacher’.

The fourth evil in it is that money has become the decisive factor in the election campaigns that take place in this system. Therefore, only people who are able to spend lavishly in these campaigns, however little they might know about Islam, however much they may lack in wisdom and intellect and however low they may be in character, reach the parliament. Islam on the contrary, as every one knows, stresses that only people who are pious and noble, worthy and competent should assume political authority. It totally disapproves that money should rule the realm of politics in place of intellect and morality.

These are the evils which plague a democratic order. In their presence everything but Islam can be enforced in the country. The whole set-up must be reformed and rehabilitated to achieve the supremacy of Islam. The following steps, in our consideration, must be taken:


1. It should be very clearly written down in the constitution of our country that the Qur’ān and Sunnah are the supreme law of the state to which our parliament and constitution itself must submit.

2. For the interpretation of the Qur’ān and Sunnah, a committee of competent religious scholars should be instituted by a direct electoral mandate of the parliament.

It should be clearly spelled out in the basic code of this committee that 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, should undertake this task of interpretation.

3. It should be declared that the enforcement of Tawhīd (monotheism), refutation of Shirk (associating others in the Being, Attributes or Rights of Allah), establishment of prayers and zakāh, enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil are the primary obligations of the state and as such should always remain in consideration of its rulers.

4. Like the departments of ‘police’ and ‘armed forces’, a department to discharge the obligation of Amar bi-al-ma ‘rūf wa nahī ‘an-al-munkar (urging what is good, forbidding what is evil) under specified limits, vested with proper legal authority should be established under the system.

5. The affairs of the state should be run by the consultation of only those who establish regular prayers, and if eligible, pay zakāh to the Bayt-al-māl, and the only basis of their appointment in the Shūrāh (parliament) should be their wisdom and piety, intellect and sagacity which distinguish them from others.

6. A restriction should be imposed on the standard of livingof those in authority (the ūl-al-amar) that it must not exceed that of a common man.

7. The centre of every administrative unit of the state should be a Jāmi‘Masjid, and the division of these units should be such that one Jāmi‘Masjid should suffice for one unit.

Within each unit, all the administrative offices and courts should be instituted adjacent to this Jāmi‘Masjid.

The state capital together with the provincial capitals should have a central Jāmi‘Masjid.

The address of the Friday prayers should be delivered only by the head of state and only he should lead these prayers in the central Jāmi‘Masjid of the capital. The provincial governors should be entrusted with this job in the central Jāmi‘Masjids of the provinces, while the representatives of the government should perform this duty in the Jāmi‘Masjids of the various administrative units.

The Friday prayers should be prohibited in all mosques except the above ones.

Mosques should be supervised by the government itself.

Every religious scholar should be allowed to deliver a lecture or teach, educate and instruct his students according to his own views in any of these mosques.

8. In the general elections, the mode of proportional representation should be adopted so that instead of an individual, a party presents itself to take charge of the affairs of state, and as a result of which the parties, on the basis of the trust and support bestowed on them by the public, are able to nominate their pious and competent members for the parliament.

9. In the parliament, the tradition should be established that instead of the party members voting only for their own party, they should vote for what they consider as right, abide by it and, in fact, take pride in it. Also, no one should be allowed to forcibly convince them against something which they consider as correct.

10. After the general elections, the process of transfer of power to the newly elected representatives should be delayed by at least six months. During this interim period, all members of the parliament should undergo training in political affairs in an academy specifically instituted for this purpose -- just as in the present set up, those selected for the civil services are given training in administrative affairs for a certain period before they actually take charge of their duties.

11. The present set up of the Executive and the Judiciary should be extracted from its roots, and in its place a new system be implanted. Under this system, the whole country should be divided into small administrative units where all the problems of the general public should be dealt. The present gradations in the government should be finished, and these administrative units should be first directly linked with the provinces and then to the centre.

12. For prompt action against any excesses committed by the administration, an ombudsman invested with appropriate powers should be appointed.

13. If the citizens of an Islamic State refrain from every prohibited belief and deed, establish regular prayers and pay zakāh, it is their right that:

Their lives should be safeguarded at all costs and they should not be compelled to put their lives in danger even for a very noble cause.

Their rightfully owned wealth and property should be protected.

No tax should be imposed on them.

Their honour and integrity should be given protection.

Even in extraordinary circumstances, their personal freedom should not be curtailed totally or partially, until after an open court hearing, a court pronounces a verdict after they have been given a chance to plead.

They should not be forced to adopt any particular thought, opinion, view, occupation, dress or attitude.

The only restriction imposed on them in forming an opinion and presenting it to others is that while doing so they must not hurt others and remain within the norms of decency and morality.

No responsibility should be imposed on them against their wishes.

Every citizen rich or poor, high or low, strong or weak, ruler or ruled should be considered equal in the eyes of the law and no discrimination in this regard should be tolerated.

The state must grant each citizen the same social status irrespective of his colour, creed and rank which are given importance only in ‘uncivilised’ societies.

The doors of the ūl-al-amar must always remain open without any restriction to the general public so that at any time and place they are able to reach them to present their grievances and petitions, and are also able to criticise them and to freely call them to account.

They should be provided unbiased justice in all circumstances.

14. Similarly, dealings with non-Muslim citizens who are Mu‘āhids, that is those who have come under an Islamic State on account of a treaty with it, should be according to the terms of the treaty concluded with them. The state should abide by these terms in all circumstances and should never violate them in the slightest way.


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