Some Notes on Political Islam

The history of Islam provides authentic records of how the chief rulers and Caliphs were questioned, advised and corrected by common people, men and women alike. The principle of mutual consultation is so fundamental in Islam that one has to speak up his mind for the best interest of society. In politics, or in any other field for that matter, consultative methods are not only a democratic formula of government, but a religious injunction and a moral duty enjoined upon both the rulers and the ruled. The objective is to ensure that the Law of God is observed, and that the rights of the people are honored and their obligations fulfilled. To prevent the rise of politicians of opportunist platforms, the Prophet, speaking on the authority of God, said that whoever speaks must say the right things; or else he had better keep silent. The seeking of counsel on the part of the ruler and rendering it on the part of the public is a religious ordinance, an article of faith, as Prophet Muhammad himself, although wise and unselfish, was not above the maxim or an exception to the rule. God instructs him: “It is by the mercy of God that you dealt gently with them (your people). Were you severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from you. So pass over their faults, and ask for (God’s) forgiveness for them; and consult them in affairs (of moment). Then, when you have taken a decision, put your trust (in Him).” (3:159)

The political life of Islam is unique in its structure, function, and purpose. It is neither pragmatic nor instrumentalistic. It is not theocracy whereby a certain class of people assumes divine rights, hereditary or otherwise, and above other citizens beyond accountability. Nor is it a proletariat whereby some rebellious workingmen capture power one way or the other. It is not even democracy in its popular sense. It is something different from all that. The political life of Islam is guided by Divine instructions anchored solidly on sound spiritual and moral foundations.

Islam’s political contract is not concluded between the administration and the people alone. It is between these combined on one side and God on the other, and unless the human sides fulfill their obligations to the Divine, it is not morally valid and binding. Chosen by their people to administer the words of God, the administrators are entitled to support from the people in as much as they observe the very words of God. If the administration swerves from the Path of God or disobeys His Law, it has no right to the support of the people. Conversely, should the people fail to render support to their good administrators, their act would be deemed an irresponsible offense against the administration and against God Himself. The Qur’an says: “O you who believe! Obey God, and obey the Messenger (of God) and those charged with authority among you. If you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to God and His Messenger, if you do believe in God and the Last Day. That is best, and most suitable for final determination.” (4:59)

Sovereignty in Islam does not therefore belong to the ruler nor even to the people themselves. It belongs to God alone. The Qur’an states: “Authority, power and sovereignty belong to none but God,” and “Blessed be He in Whose hands is dominion, and He over all things has power.” (67:1)  The ruler, any ruler, is only an acting executive chosen to serve them according to the Law of God. and the people as a whole exercise it by trust from Him to enforce His law and enact His will. This is the foundation of the Islamic State consistent with the general outlook on the universe of which God is the Creator and in which He is the Sole Sovereign.

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