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Introduction to the Political Law of Islam
Political Issues
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

Since the past two centuries, a lot has been said and written about the political philosophy of Islam. Particularly, after the dismemberment of the institution of Khilāfat in the first quarter of this century, which signalled the end of the great Ottoman Empire in Turkey, Muslim scholarship had set about to frame and formulate the political set-up envisaged by Islam. Since our view about some of its issues is different from the general, we shall briefly present here our observations and inferences.

The first major issue which has remained a hot subject of debate is the Islamic form of government. In our consideration, the form of government envisaged by the Qur’ān and Sunnah is an aristocracy based on the piety and intellect, political acumen and administrative skill of the people who constitute it. It is neither a monarchy nor a democracy, and nor is it a dictatorship. No doubt, as directed by the Qur’ān, it comes into existence on the basis of a public mandate and continues to exist as long as it commands the support of the majority, but the final authority in the affairs of state are the Qur’ān and Sunnah and not the masses; similarly, the people who are elected should possess certain qualities of head and heart; they must come up to certain standards which have been set by Allah and His Prophet (sws).

The second issue concerns the conditions of citizenship after fulfilling which a Muslim can participate in the affairs of state by giving his opinion whenever it is required. The Qur’ān explicitly states that once a person has repented from all un-Islamic beliefs, established regular prayers and paid zakat, he shall be granted citizenship of an Islamic State. As far as non-Muslims are concerned, the Qur’ān does not give them a right to participate in the affairs of an ideological state which comes into existence on the basis of Islam. However, if at some point the state requires their services they can be called upon to do so.

The third issue pertains to the interpretation of the Prophet's hadīth `al āimmatu min Quraysh' (ie, the Quraysh shall [succeed me as the] rulers). In the light of this hadith, there is a consensus among our scholars that the ruler of an Islamic State must belong to the Quraysh. In our opinion, this hadīth must be understood in the light of the Qur’ānic directive amruhum shūrā bainahum (ie, their affairs of state are run by their mutual consultation). An obvious corollory of this verse is that in case of a difference in opinion in any matter, the opinion of the majority shall prevail. Therefore, in the election of a Muslim ruler also, the person who commands the support of the majority shall stand elected. Consequently, in our opinion, the Prophet (sws) has only applied this principle on the circumstances which prevailed in Arabia in his times and has stated the result in the above mentioned hadith. It is evident that after the conquest of Mecca, the Quraysh held the support of the majority; consequently, they were considered eligible for this position of authority. In the election of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs too, this principle was adhered to. Today also only that person shall be elected as ruler who enjoys the support of the majority. It is evident that the hadīth stated above is only an application of the Qur’ānic principle amruhum shūrā bainahum in the period of the Prophet (sws) and as such is no eternal directive.

The fourth issue relates to the field and extent of legislation which can be done by the parliament of an Islamic State. According to the Qur’ān, besides two positive demands---prayers and zakat---there is only one basis of legislation: only those laws can be enacted that enforce what has been prohibited in Islam. For example, laws can be enacted against theft, adultery, murder and things which endanger the life, wealth and property of the people, but except for prayers and zakat, an Islamic State cannot positively demand anything from the believers. It cannot force a Muslim to keep fasts nor can it compel him to perform Hajj if he has the financial position to do so; nor can it pass a law for compulsory military recruitment for the purpose of Jihād.

The fifth issue concerns the `Doctrine of Vicegerency of Man'. Since the past century, this doctrine has come to occupy a special significance in Muslim political thought. According to this doctrine, every man has been delegated some powers by the Almighty and as such he is His deputy on earth. We are afraid that the doctrine has no basis at all in the Qur’ān. The verse1 most often quoted in its support is the one which goes against it the most. Linguistically, it is not possible to adopt the meaning which is attributed to it. Grammatical principles dictate that the word Khalīfah which actually occurs as a common noun in the verse, should have either been defined by the article alif lām or by a determining noun (mudhāf 'ilaih) if this meaning were to be attributed to it2.

Finally, we would like to point out the three forgotten features of the rulers of an Islamic State which actually endow it with the dazzle and brilliance of the midday sun, and which in the words of the Prophet Jesus (sws) make it `The Kingdom of God' on earth:

Firstly, the standard of living of the head of an Islamic State and his administrators shall not exceed that of a common citizen.

Secondly, their doors shall always remain open to hear the grievances and problems of the general public.

Thirdly, the Friday prayers must be led by the head of state in the federal capital and by his administrators in other cities.


The above inferences are actually based on a research article written in Urdu by my mentor, Mr Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. In the following pages, I have rendered his article in English so that our readers can fully analyze and judge the arguments which have led to these inferences.








1. "I am going to make a khalīfah on earth." (2:30)

2. For a more detailed discussion see "Renaissance", Nov 91, Pgs 3-5.

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