In the system of politics, government and constitution, following concepts have been highlighted by the Qur’an:

Sovereignty belongs to God

            The word Sovereignty is derived from the Latin word ‘Supernus’ which means supreme. Although the political scientists do not agree on one definition of sovereignty yet they recognize it as the supreme political power in a state which is absolute, permanent, exclusive, indivisible, all-comprehensive and subject to none. Despite its importance, there is also no unanimity of opinion about the locus of sovereignty. According to some Roman Jurists of old, the emperor was sovereign; according to British jurists, Parliament is sovereign being representative of people; according to socialists, sovereignty lies in proletariat class; but many modern political scientists place sovereignty in the whole people.

            Islam has solved this controversial issue of sovereignty very amicably. Islam does not place sovereignty in a king or parliament, in an individual or people, in bourgeois class or proletariat, but in God who is Absolute Sovereign being Lord of the whole universe. According to Islam, Allah alone is Sovereign and Absolute Ruler of the whole universe. He is the Creator, the Sustainer, the Cherisher, the Nourisher, the Regulator, the Perfector, the Law-Giver, the Supreme Judge, the Supreme Lord and the Most powerful. Sovereignty in all its dimensions is for Allah only. Power of command and rule in the heavens and the earth, in state or society, indeed in the whole of universe belongs to Him and Him alone. The totality of power and authority in all aspects is God’s right and none is His partner in this right.

            The Islamic concept of sovereignty, as propounded by the Qur’an, is a fundamental principle of Islamic political system. From sovereignty of God, the Qur’an means that Allah must be recognized as the Sovereign, the Ruler, the Judge and the Law-Giver in the moral, social, cultural, economical and political life. In other words, the Divine Law or the Qur’anic Law is supreme.

            Some of the verses of the Qur’an which highlight Islamic concept of sovereignty of God are:

·        Knowest thou not that it is Allah unto Whom belongeth the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth; and ye have not, beside Allah, any friend or helper?   (2:Al-Baqarah:107)

·        Say: O Allah! Owner of sovereignty! Thou givest sovereignty unto whom Thou wilt, and Thou withdrawest sovereignty from whom Thou wilt. Thou exaltest whom Thou wilt and Thou abasest whom Thou wilt. In Thy hand is the good. Lo! Thou art to do all things.   (3:Al-Imran:26)

·        Unto Allah belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. Allah is Able to do all things.   (3:Al-Imran:189)

·        Blessed is He in Whose hand is the Sovereignty, and He is Able to do all things.   (67:Al-Mulk:1)  

Man is viceroy on earth

            The Holy Qur’an says: “And when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am about to place a viceroy in the earth, they said: Wilt Thou place therein one who will do harm therein and will shed blood, while we, we hymn Thy praise and sanctify Thee? He said: Surely I know that which ye know not.”   (2:30)

            From this verse of the Holy Qur’an it is abundantly clear that the position of man on earth is not that of a sovereign but it is that of a Caliph. Allah has appointed man as caliph on earth. Caliph generally means one who succeeds after the other. In this sense man cannot be called as caliph of Allah because God is ever-living and man cannot succeed Him. Caliph also means a deputy, a delegate, a viceroy or a vicegerent. Since man is the holder of delegated powers, he is caliph in the sense of a deputy or viceroy.

            Allah appointed Adam a caliph or vicegerent on earth. Adam being the caliph, the notion of vicegerency is applicable to every human being of whom Adam is the father. The descendants of Adam as a whole are therefore caliphs or vicegerents on earth. Thus the vicegerency or viceroyalty is not vested in one individual or family or tribe or race, but in the whole Muslim community in an Islamic state. It means Islamic concept of vicegerency is that of ‘collective’ or ‘popular’ vicegerency. Islamic concept of ‘popular vicegerency’ has led to the establishment of perfect equality of all citizens in an Islamic state. A society in which every member of community is a caliph of Allah and equal participant in caliphal responsibilities, can hardly afford any discriminations based on race, colour, wealth, place of birth, language, class or social status. No individual in an Islamic state feels any disability on account of any prejudice based on birth or social position. He is equal to any other member of the community and enjoys equal opportunities for progress. The criterion of superiority in the Islamic social order is personal merit and pious conduct. The revealed book of Islam says: “O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female. And have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! The noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware”. (Al-Qur’an 49:13). The Prophet of Islam repeatedly and explicitly asserted this point on every occasion and especially on the occasion of his Farewell pilgrimage when he declared: “No one is superior to another except on the basis of pious conduct. All human beings descended from Adam and Adam was made of clay. “Therefore, in an Islamic state, all the members of Muslim Ummah (community) have equal socio-political rights. They can equally participate in governmental matters because every one is caliph of God having equal constitutional rights. Everyone has the right to vote, the right to contest elections, right to seek for public or representative office and right to become even head of state. No inherent privilege or vested right on the basis of any discrimination or prejudice is available to anyone under an Islamic constitution. All the citizens are granted basic human rights including the right of freedom of expression.

Supremacy of the Qur’an and the Sunnah

            The Holy Qur’an enjoins upon the believers to obey God and His messenger. It says: “And obey Allah and the messenger, that ye may find mercy” (3:Al-Imran:132) “O ye who believe! Obey Allah and obey the messenger, and render not your actions vain”.   (47:Muhammad:33)

            The Holy Qur’an also enjoins upon the Muslims to refer their disputes regarding any matter for decision to God and His messenger i.e. to the Qur’an and the Sunnah. It says: O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the messenger and those of you who are in authority; and if ye have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to Allah and the messenger if ye are (in truth) believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more seemly in the end.   (4:An-Nisa:59)

            The Qur’an further commands the believers to accept decision of Allah and His apostle as final and binding. It pronounces: “But nay, by the Lord, they will not believe (in truth) until they make thee judge of what is in dispute between them and find within themselves no dislike of that which thou decidest, and submit with full submission”. (4:An-Nisa:65) “And it becometh not a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His messenger have decided an affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair; and whoso is rebellious to Allah and His messenger, he verily goeth astray in error manifest”.   (33:Al-Ahzab:36)

The above mentioned injunctions of the Qur’an establish beyond any doubt that in an Islamic system supremacy of the Law of Allah and of the Prophet is ensured. This means that the legislature has no right to make laws, the executive has no right to issue orders and the law courts have no right to decide cases in contravention of the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Where a matter has been decided by the Holy Qur’an or Sunnah of the Prophet, that decision must be complied with. The Muslims have no authority to differ with that judgement. That is final for them and they have no right of appeal against it. In case of their disputes and differences, the Muslims are required to refer them to God and His apostle (Qur’an and Hadith) and if they find decision in Qur’an or in Hadith, they are bound to accept it.

The Qur’an is the written constitution of the Islamic State. It is the word of God and is the fundamental law for all believers. It is a source of law in all fields of human life and provides the essential guidance about religion, morality and mundane affairs. In an Islamic State, no constitution, manifesto, law, ordinance, rule, regulation or decree can be issued by any authority which is in contradiction to any express provision of Quranic law.

Principle of Consultation (Shura)

            Foundation of Islamic political system is governance by consultation. The institution of consultation is so important in the body-politic of Islam that one of the Chapters of the Holy Book of Islam, al-Qur’an, has been named “Shura”. Following verses of the Qur’an and traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) provide sanction for this institution:

·        It was by the mercy of Allah that thou wast lenient with them (O Muhammad), for if thou hadst been stern and fierce of heart they would have dispersed from round about thee. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult with them upon the conduct of affairs. And when thou art resolved, then put thy trust in Allah. Lo! Allah loveth those who put their trust (in Him).   (3:Al-Imran:159)

·        And those who answer the call of their Lord and establish worship, and whose affairs are a matter of counsel and who spend of what We have bestowed on them.   (42:Ash-Shura:38)

·        Ali asked the messenger of Allah: O Messenger of Allah! What should we do if, after your demise, we are confronted with a problem about which we neither find anything in the Qur’an, nor have anything from you? He said, “Get together the obedient people (to Allah and His law) from amongst my followers and place the matter before them for consultation. Do not take decisions on the basis of any single person.” (Alusi quoted in ‘Concept of the Islamic State by Encyclopedia of Seerah’)

·        Ali reported that the messenger of Allah said: “The man who gives counsel to his brother knowing well that it is not right does most surely betray his trust.” (Abu Daud quoted in ‘Concept of Islamic State by Encyclopedia of Seerah’)

·        It is reported on the authority of Ali-bin-Abu Talib that when the Messenger of Allah was asked to explain the implications of the word ‘azm’ which occurs in verse 159 of al-Imran referred to above, he said: It means taking counsel with knowledgeable people and, thereupon, following them therein.”   (Ibn Kathir quoted by Muhammad Asad)

·        Umar-bin-al-Khattab declared: There can be no khliafat except by consultation.

·        The Prophet is reported to have said to his two illustrious companions, Abu Bakr and Umar: “If you two agree on a point, I shall not differ with you.”   (Ahmad, Ibn Khathir)

Acting upon the command of Allah contained in verse 159 of Chapter 3 of the Holy Qur’an, the Prophet of Islam always consulted his companions on all important issues regarding which he did not receive any guidance through revelation. For example on the occasion of the Battle of Badr, the Prophet (PBUH) selected a certain place for his army which was not suitable in the view of his companions. When he was asked whether his decision was according to revelation or according to his own opinion, the Prophet replied that it was his own opinion. Then, he was advised by the experienced persons like Al-Hubab Ibn Mundhir to change his decision in favour of a more suitable place which the Prophet readily did. On the occasion of Battle of Uhud, the Prophet wanted to defend the attack of Quraish while staying in Madinah, but majority of his companions, particularly the youth among them wanted to come in the open and fight against the enemy. He accepted the opinion of majority and came out of Madinah for the battle which was fought at Uhud. In the Battle of the Allies (Ahzab), the Prophet accepted the advice of Salman the Persian and defended Madinah with the help of a trench which was dug around the city. These are few examples of the consultation of the Prophet with his companions. He used to hold such consultative deliberations with his companions and tribal chiefs or representatives not only on the issues of war and peace but also on other socio-economic issues of importance arising before the government.

The Prophet did not nominate his successor. After his demise in 632 A.D., the companions elected their senior and most pious colleague, Abu Bakr, as Caliph. Election took place in an open place with mutual consultation and was confirmed with general Bai’at (allegiance) of the Muslim community. Three other righteous caliphs, Umar, Usman and Ali were also elected by the people with mutual consultation although each time the election was held in a different way.

During the reign of the pious caliphs, the institution of consultation was gradually formalized and the concept of standing advisory council (Shura) emerged. The caliph used to consult his advisory council on every important issue confronting the Islamic state.

It is unfortunate that after the death of Ali, the fourth and the last righteous caliph, the republic was transformed into absolute monarchy and institution of consultation also lost its importance.

Concept of Islamic Democracy

            The doctrines of sovereignty of God and vicegerency of man coupled with the principle of consultation give to the Islamic political system a form of perfect democracy. The doctrine of sovereignty of Allah ensures the supremacy of divine law in an Islamic state. No ruler or legislature can issue an order or ordinance or can frame a law which is repugnant to any injunction of the Qur’an and Sunnah. The ruler is required to obey Islamic law as much as an ordinary citizen of the Islamic state. He is neither, in his official capacity, above law, nor he can violate the religious and moral code of Islam in his personal and private life. Therefore, the possibility of a ruler becoming a despot, a tyrant or a power-hungry man indulging in unlawful acts, is ruled out.

            The doctrine of vicegerency of man is another strong blow to a ruler who tries to harbor any dictatorial tendencies. The doctrine of vicegerency of man makes every human being vicegerent or deputy of Allah. According to it, vicegerency or caliphate is not vested in any individual, family, tribe, class or race. Rather everyone is caliph and an equal participant in the caliphal functions as a deputy of God. In an Islamic society where the idea of popular vicegerency prevails, there is no room for the dictatorship of any person or group of persons. The position of a person who is selected or elected to conduct the affairs of the government is no more than this: That all the citizens of the Islamic State who are, technically speaking, caliphs of Allah, have delegated their caliphate to him, as a matter of administrative convenience, to act and administer Divine law for the common benefit of all. He is answerable to Allah for his acts on the one hand and on the other hand he is responsible to his fellow citizens who have trusted him by delegating their rights of Caliphate in his favour. Thus, in no way, he can assume the position of an absolute ruler. If he does so, then he would be a usurper and the citizens of the Islamic State would be within their right to depose him.   (Syed Abul’ Ala Maududi)

            The principle of consultation helps the smooth running of democracy as envisaged by Islam. According to this principle, the citizens of an Islamic state are required to conduct their mutual and collective affairs by consultation. Al-Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, while discussing the good qualities of the believers, especially mentions their attribute of mutual consultation. The Holy Qur’an says: “... They conduct their affairs by mutual consultation.…” (42:38). This description of the Qur’an is not merely a statement of fact, but has been regarded by many jurists as an obligatory injunction. The command regarding mutual counsel embraces in its fold all collective affairs from family matters to socio-economic and political issues. It also applies to the selection (or election in the modern sense) of the head of state or the ruler and to the conduct of government affairs by the ruler.  Thus, the ruler of an Islamic State is appointed by mutual consultation and he conducts the affairs of the state in consultation with people or the representatives of the people. The principle of government by consent and counsel is so important in Islamic political system that even the Prophet of Islam, who was not likely to make any mistake being directly guided by revelation, was required as head of Islamic state, to consult his followers in the conduct of mutual affairs. The Qur’an addresses the Prophet on this issue and says: “….. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult with them upon the conduct of affairs. And when thou art resolved, then put thy trust in Allah…..” (3:159). This ordinance of the Qur’an, although addressed in the first instance to the Prophet, is binding on all Muslims and for all times.

            The Prophet did not leave any instructions regarding the selection of his successor. The silence of the Prophet on this issue was not without wisdom. The principle of mutual consultation helped the companions after the death of the Prophet in selection of the most pious and the most capable person (Abu Bakr) as successor of Muhammad, (PBUH). His selection or election, though originally made by few leading persons was ratified by all the Muslim Ummah through Bai’at (oath of allegiance) of the caliph.

            Thus, the system of government established by the successors of the Prophet in the Islamic State of Madinah was not that of monarchy or despotic kingship. It was a republic and is known in the history of Islam as a pious or righteous caliphate. The system of the election of the caliph followed by oath of affirmation (Bai’at) of the whole Muslim community continued during reign of the four right guided caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar, Usman and Ali). The caliph was not an autocrat or dictator as he was bound to decide and conduct the affairs of the state in consultation with the Consultative Council (Shura) and was accountable for his actions to the people. Full freedom of criticizing the government and opposing the caliph in various policies of his government was available. Since the social justice of Islam formed the basis of economic system and effective measures were taken for fair and equitable distribution of wealth, the foundations of Islamic welfare state were properly laid down. Therefore, the right-guided caliphate can be considered rightfully, without any fear of contradiction, as a republic with consultative democracy as its form of government and welfare of the people as its policy. No doubt, this republic still remains a model for the followers of Islam even today.


Dictatorship rejected

            Dictatorship is a form of government in which a person or group possesses absolute power without any effective constitutional checks. The term ‘dictatorship’ is derived from the Latin title dictator, designating a magistrate who is given extra-ordinary powers for a limited period to steer the state in an emergency. But in modern times the meaning of the term has changed. In modern usage, dictator is an absolute ruler possessing extra-constitutional powers without any limitation of period, while a national emergency may or may not exist. A dictator behaves in an authoritarian manner and uses his powers most oppressively. Absolutism, despotism, authoritarianism, autocracy, tyranny, totalitarianism, etc. are some of the terms which are either used as synonymous with dictatorship or used to describe various features of dictatorship.

            Islam not only rejects dictatorial, despotic and totalitarian system of rule but also severely condemns those who establish such rule and reduce the human beings from their dignified status of caliphs of God to the hapless condition of serfs and slaves. The rule of Pharaoh of Egypt who was tyrant and despot has been severely condemned by the Holy Qur’an in its following verses:

-        But none trusted Moses, save some scions of his people, (and they were) in fear of Pharaoh and their chiefs, that they would persecute them. Lo! Pharaoh was verily a tyrant in the land, and lo! He verily was of the wanton.   (Yunus 10:83)

-        Lo! Pharaoh exalted himself in the earth and made its people castes. A tribe among them he oppressed, killing their sons and sparing their women. Lo! He was of those who work corruption.   (Al-Qasas 28:4)

It is because the rule of the Pharaohs and despots is based on cruelty, oppression, autocracy and injustice. Such despotic and arrogant rulers have no place in an Islamic system and, according to a saying of the Prophet, to utter a word of truth in the presence of such rulers is a great jihad. Thus those who struggle against such rulers to save the people from their oppression would be great warriors (Mujahideen) in the path of God and they would be blessed with immense rewards.

As mentioned earlier, the teachings of Islam regarding sovereignty of Allah, vicegerency of man and mutual consultation in conduct of collective affairs establish a true representative and democratic form of government. Hence tyrannical and absolute rule is implicitly excluded by these teachings.

In a true Islamic society, there is no room for tyrannical rule, dictatorship or despotism. Since the ruler or the head of state is one of the caliphs of Allah (i.e. one of the members of Muslim community) and is the representative of other caliphs (other members of the Ummah), he is one of them. He therefore, cannot be a dictator or despot because he has no power to deprive the other citizens (who have surrendered their right to caliphate in favour of him) of their politico-legal rights. In the words of Maulana Abul’Ala Maududi: “The position of a man who is selected to conduct the affairs of the state is no more than this: That all Muslims (or technically speaking, all caliphs of God) delegate their caliphate to him for administrative purposes.” It is perhaps on account of this fact that a Muslim ruler is required to conduct governmental affairs in consultation with the people. The Qur’an addresses the Prophet of Islam and says: “….. And consult with them upon the conduct of affairs …..” (3:159). No doubt the citizens of an Islamic state have been directed by the Qur’an and Sunnah to obey their ruler, but this obedience is available to him only if he behaves in accordance with the Islamic injunctions.

Concept of nation

Concept of nationhood or nationality in Islam is based upon religion. A common religion is the basis of nationality among the Muslims and Islam is that religion. The Qur’an says: “Thus, We have appointed you a middle nation, that ye may be witness against mankind. And that the messenger may be a witness against you ……” (2:143). At another place, the revealed book of Islam calls the Muslims the best community of the world that has been raised for the guidance of mankind. It says: “ye are the best community that has been raised up for mankind. Ye enjoin right conduct and forbid wrong; and ye believe in Allah ……”   (3:110).

Among the other people, basis of nationality is blood or race, language, colour, or place of birth. These notions provide a very weak basis as they make the problem of assimilation of foreigners very difficult rather impossible. For example if society were to group itself solely on the basis of blood relationship, naturalization would be out of question for ever. The same would be true if the basis were the colour of the skin which cannot be concealed. Language as a factor of social unity requires long years for a veritable assimilation. Place of birth is even less perceptible in a stranger; and ever since man has crossed the horizon of city-states, not much importance is attached to this factor. However, one would remark that in all these various conceptions of social unity, the basis is a mere accident of nature, and belongs mere to the animal instinct than to the rationality of man. Thus, if nationality is based on the identity of language, race, colour or place of birth, it will make the problem of aliens or strangers exist perpetually and such a nationality will be to narrow, ever to be able to embrace the inhabitants of the entire world; and if the aliens are not assimilated there will always be risk of conflicts and war. It is common knowledge that Islam has rejected all these notions of nationality, and selected only the identity of ideas – a thing which depends upon the choice of man and not upon accidents and hazards of birth – as the basic tie of society and the factor of union. Naturalization and assimilation in such a society is not only easy and accessible to all human races in their entirety, but is also closer to reason and more practicable, showing how to live one’s life in peace and tranquility.

Concept of a State

Although the political thinkers do not agree on a unanimous definition of state, yet the state is generally considered to posses four elements, namely; population, territory, government and sovereignty.

The Qur’an and the Sunnah, the two primary sources of Islamic law and constitution do not define state. But the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) did practically establish the first Islamic state at Madinah in the year 1 A.H. (622 A.D.) under his leadership. The state of Madinah possessed all the elements of state as defined today such as population, territory, government and sovereignty from external control. However, this simple statement of fact may not satisfy the curiosity of a reader unless we explain the Islamic concept of state in a bit detail.

According to Islamic concept, a state inhabited predominantly or even intirely by Muslims may not necessarily conform to the definition of an Islamic state. It may, no doubt, be a Muslim state but it would not be an Islamic state unless it is based on the ideology of Islam. Islam conceives state as an instrument to enforce the law of Islam and, thus, to establish kingdom of God on earth. Sovereignty in the Islamic State belongs to Allah, the Supreme Lord of the universe, besides Whom there is no god and Who Alone is to be worshipped. Consequently, Divine Law is supreme law in this state while no other law can be made or practiced in violation of the injunctions of the Qur’an (the revealed book of God) and the Sunnah (the sayings and the traditions of the Prophet of Islam). This state is to be run and administered, predominantly, by the Muslims who testify that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad (PBUH) is the messenger of Allah and who also believe in and practice the tenets of Islam. The Muslims citizens of this state lead their lives in accordance with the teachings of Islam while the non-Muslim minorities living in this state are allowed all the human rights and civil liberties, like their Muslims compatriots, including full freedom of religion. Religious and moral code of Islam is implemented in this state while socio-economic and political system of Islam provides the basis of state economy and state constitution.

Islamic state, in its true prespective, is a Qur’anic state. It is not like communist or totalitarian states which restrict or suppress individual liberties and have established the worst type of totalitarian rules. It is neither like a capitalist state which believes in total freedom for the individual to do anything or commit any exploitation at the cost of public interest. The Islamic state believes in moderation and occupies rather moderate or middle position between the two extremes. It combines the best of every system while avoiding their evils.  

The political system of Islamic state is based on justice, fairness, equality and the Islamic ideal of democracy. The concept of sovereignty of Allah and vicegerency of man forms the core of this system. In an Islamic state, al the people, collectively, are responsible to conduct their governmental affaris under Divine law. The head of an Islamic state is neither a despot nor an absolute ruler but a servant of the people who conducts public affairs in consultation with the people or the representatives of the people. Thus, an Islamic state is distinguishable from the secular democratic states of the modern world who divorce religion from politics and place sovereignty in the people. Islamic state is also not a theocracy wherein a priestly class exercises unbridled power and rules in the name of Deity. Islam does not create any priestly class neither it encourages sacerdotalism in any form. Islamic state is not, thus, ruled by any particular religious class but by the whole Muslim community.  

The aims and objectives of the Islamic State include: to create an ideal Islamic society, as conceived in the Qur’an and Sunnah, based on brotherhood, equality and tolerance; to enforce Islamic consultative democracy as form of its government and to achieve the goal of social justice through equitable distribution of wealth.

The Holy Qur’an sums up the aims of an Islamic state in one of its verses. It says: Those who, if We give them power in this land, establish worship and pay the poor-due and enjoin kindness and forbid inequity…… (22:41)

Islamic state is a welfare state

The idea of welfare state has become very popular in recent times so much so that every state now likes to call itself welfare state. Although welfare as a purpose of government is not an invention of this century, yet the term ‘welfare state’ came into wide-spread use only after the Second World War.

The term ‘welfare state’ has not been clearly and exactly defined with the result that welfare programes almost differ from country to country and place to place. However, generally understood meanings of this term are that it is state in which the government assumes responsibility for minimum standards of living for every citizen. But the welfare state bases on the materialistic philosophy of the west gives emphasis on the material welfare of the people to the neglect of spiritual and moral one.  

Islam, as universal religion for humanity, believes in the well-being of mankind in this world as well as in the next world. The Qur’an, in one of its very popular prayers, teaches its believers to ask God: “Lord! Give unto us in the world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good ……” (2:201). The primary objective of an Islamic state is, therefore, to establish an ideal society wherein the welfare of the individual in this world (which is material and economic prosperity) and the welfare of the individual in the Hereafter (which is spiritual and religious betterment) is ensured by the state. So the Islamic state not only establishes the system of Allah’s worship (i.e., Salat or Prayer) but also establishes system of Zakat which is collected from the rich and distributed among the poor. Thus, both the spiritual and material well-being of the individuals is aimed at by the Islamic state. In other words, the Islamic state is a welfare stare which performs a number of functions, in addition to the traditional functions of a state, for the socio-economic welfare of its citizens in this world and for their religio-spiritual welfare in the Hereafter. Its functions aimed at material welfare of its people include provision of basic necessities of life for all, ensuring of a comprehensive social security system and establishment of social justice, whereas its functions for the spiritual well-being of its people include establishment of Islamic system of life for the Muslims and full religious freedom for the non-Muslims.

In the light of the teachings of Islam, the right-guided caliphs established welfare state of Islam at Madinah. During the caliphate of Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) an ideal welfare state of Islam existed wherein the basic needs of the poor and the destitute were properly looked after and stipends and pensions were given to orphans, widows and needy persons.

Ruler of the Islamic State

1- The Qualifications of the ruler of Islamic state, who is traditionally called caliph or sultan or imam or amirul-mumineen, as prescribed by the Muslim jurists in the light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah are briefly described as under:

i). He should be a Muslim as the Qur’an says: O you who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger and those of you (i.e. the Muslims) who are in authority ……(4:59). He should not only believe in fundamental articles of Islam and in all Islamic teachings, but also practice them as a devout Muslim. Since he is not only a temporal head but also a religious head and is obliged to lead the Muslims in congregational prayers, he should possess all the virtues of character and qualities of head and heart which are required to make a good imam (leader).

ii). He should be a citizen of the Islamic state as the Qur’an says:….. And those who have declared their belief in Islam but have not left their homes (and migrated to Islamic state to become its residents and citizens), you have no duty to protect them till they leave their homes….. (8:72). From this Quranic injunction it is clear that a person living in another land is not entitled to even protection of the Islamic state because of not being its citizen, what to speak of becoming its ruler.

iii). He should be sane, adult, man of sound physical as well as mental health. The Qur’an (4:5-6) forbids the guardians of the property of the orphans to hand over the property to them till they reach adult age and attain sound judgement. When the minors and the persons lacking sound judgement cannot be handed over their own property, then how the minors and the insanes can be selected for the post of the head of Islamic state which carries big responsibilities? Similarly the Qur’an mentions abundant wisdom and stature (physical health) as qualifications of Saul for eligibility to the post of king of Isreal (2:247). So the ruler of Islamic state is also required to possess these qualifications.

iv). The head of Islamic state should be a pious Muslim with excellent character, as in Islamic state and society the positions of dignity and nobility are not assigned on the basis of sex, race, colour,tribe, wealth, language, etc, but on the basis of piety and excellent conduct.

v). He should be a trustworthy person as power (and government) in Islam is a great trust and it can be assigned to a responsible person capable of holding the trust. The Qur’an says: Verily Allah commands you to make over trusts to those who are trustworthy ……. (4:58).

vi). Another condition for the post of the ruler is that he should not be greedy for it, he should not seek it even by fair means what to say of foul and unfair means. The Prophet of Islam discouraged his companions to seek for positions of responsibility in the Islamic state, as such posts will become a cause of regret on the Day of Judgement. Once he told Abu Bakr when the latter asked him about appointments of persons to posts of trust: They are for those who donot aspire for them and not for those who are greedy after them. They are for those who run away from them and not for those who scramble for them; they are for those to whom they are offered (without asking) and not for those who claim them as their right. The Prophet once discouraged Abu Dharr when the latter asked him to make him a governor saying: I see that you are weak and I wish for you what I wish for myself. Donot accept rule over two people and do not become guardian of an orphan’s property   (Muslim).

2- The appointment of the head of state is a very important question. Islam favours election instead of designation through nomination or hereditary principle. To understand Islamic view point, let us have a look at the injunctions of the Qur’an and the early history of Islam.

            The Qur’an, while discussing the good qualities of Muslims, especially mentions their attribute of mutual consultation when it says: They conduct their affairs by mutual consultation …… (42:38). The selection and appointment of the head of state is of course the most important public affair of the citizens of the state, and thus it is needless to say that it should be conducted by mutual counsel. Again the Qur’an tells us that Allah appointed Adam as caliph on earth which means that all the children of Adam are equal inheritors of this honour. But the problem is that if all the children of Adam are caliphs then how the functions of the caliphate would be performed? Of course some person should be assigned the responsibility to do it on behalf of all, and the best way is to select such person by mutual counsel. This view is approved by the early history of Islam.

            The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) migrated to Madinah in the year 622. A.D. and established Islamic state making that city capital of it. He did not appoint himself as the head of that state, rather the Mahajreen (the emigrants), the Ansar (the natives of Madinah) and the Jewish tribes of Madinah, who were the three parties to the Charter of Madinah, reposed their confidence in him electing him to the post. The Prophet died in the year 632 A.D. without nominating his successor thus leaving this important matter to the discretion of the community. The Muslims of Madinah used their discretion most judiciously and wisely and elected Abu Bakr as the caliph or head on the basis of his seniority in Islam, excellent conduct, merits and wisdom. Abu Bakr, before his death, nominated Umar as his successor after having lengthy discussions with the companions (of the Prophet) and with their approval. When Umar was mortally wounded, he discussed the matter with the people and appointed an electoral college consisting of six leading companions of the Prophet to select the next caliph. The choice of electoral body was Usman. The caliph Usman died without nominating any successor and the Muslims of Madinah elected Ali as the caliph. It is interesting to note that each time the appointment of the caliph was followed by general allegiance of Muslim community (called Bai’at) although the selection or election of the caliph to the post was made only by the few elders of the Muslims community of the city of Madinah.

            Today the method of direct election of the head of Islamic state by all citizens on the basis of adult franchise can be adopted or he should be elected by the electoral college comprising the elected representatives of the people.

3- The ruler should be obeyed. The Qur’an says: O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those of you who are in authority…..(4:59). Thus the Qur’an makes obedience to the rulers second only to the obedience to Allah and His messenger (Muhammad). The Prophet of Islam is reported to have said: Whoso obeys me, obeys Allah; and whoso disobeys me, disobeys Allah; and whoso obeys a ruler obeys me; and whoso disobeys a ruler, disobeys me…… (Bukhari and Muslim). He is also reported to have said. If a slave who has been mutilated is made your commander and leads you in accordance with Allah’s Book, listen to him and obey.

            Thus the followers of Islam are obliged to obey their rulers and stand united with them through thick and thin. However, there are limits to this obedience: Firstly that the rulers should be from among the Muslims and secondly that they should not be transgressors and disobedient to God and God’s messenger. If the rulers transgress the limits of God and openly disobey rather ridicule the injunctions of Islam, they need not be obeyed. The Qur’an and the Prophet have prohibited the Muslims to obey those rulers who transgress the limits and are rebellious to God. Following are the verses and the Traditions.

1).  And obey not the command of the prodigal who spread corruption in the land ….. (26:151-152).

2).  So submit patiently to your Lord’s command and obey not of them any guilty one or disbeliever (76:24).

3).  Ali reported that the messenger of Allah said: There is no obedience in transgression. Verily obedience is in good deeds (Bukhari, Muslim).

4).  Nawas-bin-Samwan reported that the Holy Prophet said: There is no obedience to the created in disobedience to the creator (Shari Sunnat).

5).  Abu Bakr, when he was made the first caliph of the Islamic state, explained this point. He said; “If I am right, help me. If I am wrong, correct me. Obey me so long as I follow the commandments of Allah and the Prophet (PBUH), but turn away from me when I deviate.”


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