Major Principles of Islamic Governance

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Allah Taala is Sovereign. Islamic political system is based on its specific worldview that is essential to know in any understanding of Islam. The Qur'an tells us that Allah Taala is the Creator and Lord of the whole universe including humankind and all that is associated with them. He is overpowering and is irresistibly dominant over all His creation. He knows all and governs all. He is ever-living and ever-lasting and all His creation, willingly or unwillingly, is obedient to Him. Whatever He wills gets done. It is His power that is established and none can interfere in it in anyway. Thus it is Allah Taala who possesses all the powers and attributes of sovereignty and none else whatever possesses any of these. Therefore, the sovereignty of the entire universe only belongs to Allah Taala alone and none other than Him has a share in it.

Similarly, sovereignty over all of humankind rightfully belongs to Allah Taala and no human or nonhuman power could control or decide any of the human affairs. The only difference between humans and others of Allah Taala's creation is as follows. While in all of the universe and even in the autonomous part of human's own body His sovereignty is established automatically, it is the part that is granted autonomy by Allah Taala where it is not forcibly established. It is rather established by inviting humankind to willingly submit themselves according to the course established by Him in the revealed scriptures. The Qur'an is very explicit on this:

Is it not His to create and to govern? (Al Araf, 7:54).

The Command is for none but Allah. He has commanded you not to surrender to anyone save Him. This is the Right Way of life, but most men understand not (Yusuf, 12:40).

We have sent you the Book in Truth that you (O Prophet) might judge between men, as guided by Allah (Al Nisa, 4:105).

If any fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah has revealed, they are (no better than) unbelievers, .. the wrongdoers .. those who rebel (Al Maidah, 5:44-47).

Popular Vicegerency

The position of humankind is that of Allah's vicegerent (khalifah), or Allah Taala's representative on earth. The nature of this vicegerency (khilafah) described in the Qur'an is as follows. Whatever capacities and abilities humans possess, they are bestowed upon them by Allah Taala. Allah Taala bestowed these gifts on humans so that using them and the will granted them by Allah Taala, they follow and establish His will in their lives as His representatives and not as autonomous entities.

This khilafah has been entrusted on all those who accept Allah Taala as their Lord and Sovereign. The concept is one of popular vicegerency, shared by all believers alike. This vicegerency also means that limited authority has been delegated to those who run the affairs of believers. Moreover, the authority is bestowed not on any chosen person, family, tribe, ethnicity, race or group of people but on all believers, men and women. The Qur'an states:

Allah has promised to those among you who believe and work righteous deeds that He will assuredly make them succeed (those who rule) and grant them vicegerency in the land just as He made those before them succeed others (Al Nur, 24:55).

Therefore, the two cardinal principles of governance as laid down by the Qur'an are: first, sovereignty belongs to Allah Taala and second, the popular vicegerency belongs to all believers. Thus legitimacy in the Islamic political order comes first and foremost from accepting Allah Taala as the Sovereign and His Law, i.e. Shariah as the Supreme Law. Second, that the society must be governed by and in accordance with the will of the people. The people or the Ummah are the actual repository of khilafah and those in authority must have the confidence and support of the Muslim population. In this context, Shariah provides a broad framework within which the people under the umbrella of Divine Guidance participate in developing a civil society and its institutions including various organs of the state.

Shura or Common Consultation

The whole system of Islamic State from its inception to the selection of the head of the state and all those in positions power as well as its dealings must be conducted by shura, whether it is carried out directly or indirectly through selected or elected representatives. The Qur'an states: "Their affairs are decided by consultations between them" (Al Shura, 42:38). Even the Prophet (s) although he was the recipient of direct guidance from the Supreme Allah, was commanded: "Consult them in affairs (of moment)" (Al Imran, 3:159). Following this advice and lead, Khalifah Omar (r) admonished: "There is no khilafah without consultation." (Please refer to Kanz al ammal, vol. 5, and Hadith number 2354).

Thus the practice of shura was the mechanism followed at all levels in the selection of political leadership by Muhammad (s) and his followers. It was the Islamic community that selected the first four rightly guided khulafa, although the method of selection and the process of approval differed. The essential principle was consent and confidence of the community and the accountability of those selected before the community. Even afterwards when the heredity rule crept in that violated this community right, a facade of bayaa, or community's acceptance of rulers was still maintained.

Sayyid Mawdudi (r) in his renowned treatise Khilafat wa Malookiat has described that in selecting or electing persons to positions of power the following four criteria must be given due consideration in the light of Qur'anic injunctions. 1. It should be only delegated to those who acknowledge the principles, on which the system of khilafah is based, because it cannot be entrusted to persons who oppose it. 2. It should not be entrusted to tyrants and those who are disobedient to Allah Taala or known sinners but to God-conscious, considerate and righteous believers. 3. It should not be given to the foolish and ignorant but to the knowledgeable, wise and those who understand the state affairs and are capable of running it, mentally and physically. 4. It should be entrusted to the honest such as are worthy of these responsibilities.

Dispensation of Equitable Justice

Islamic Law based on the Qur'an and Sunnah is equally accessible to all and equally applicable on members of the society from the lowest to the highest, without any distinction or discrimination. The Prophet (s) was asked to declare that: "I have been commanded to maintain justice between you" (Al Shura, 42:15). The Prophet (s) admonished: "The nations before you were destroyed because they would punish the lower class criminals according to the law but would let go those from the higher class." Then laying further emphasis, he continued: "I swear by the Authority in whose control is Mohammad's life, if Mohammad's daughter is guilty of stealing, I would cut her hand off" (narrated by Bukhari, Kitab al Hudud, Chapter 11-12). These quotations show an overriding concern for justice in all its dimensions: legal, political, social, economic and international. Also, all the personal, civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights of an individual are guaranteed under Islamic law. All people have equal rights and each and everyone is equally responsible before the law. It is the obligation of the rulers to ensure that each member of the society particularly the weak, is given his due rights.

Furthermore, the rulers are not provided with any arbitrary power. Esposito and Voll in their book, Islam and Democracy write: " In the long standing concept of 'oriental despotism,' there is no sense of a separation of powers or structures limiting the power of the ruler. However, such unlimited power was not available to leaders in classical Muslim societies and this situation is visible both in Islamic law of political structures and in actual historical experience."

In fact, the entire corpus of the Islamic law has been developed by the Islamic Ummah through a rational, popular process in which the learned and the concerned took part by debate and open discussion. It evolved outside the corridors of political power and once established, the ruler was as much subject to it as was the commoner. Esposito and Voll acknowledge: "It was the consensus of those scholars and not the commands and rules of the Caliphs, that provided the basis for formal law. No ruler was recognized as being above the law, and all rulers would be judged by that law."

Al-Amr bil Maruf wa Nahi an al-Munkar

The above term literally means commanding what is right and forbidding what is wrong and encompasses a whole gambit of duties and responsibilities. The Qur'an makes it the mission of the believers: "You are the best of Peoples evolved for humankind, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong and believing in Allah" (Aal Imran, 3:110). It means that every individual of the society has the right, nay the duty, to tell the truth and stand for it, to further all that is good and virtuous and do his utmost to remove the wrongs and vices wherever he finds them.

The Prophet (s) tells us: "Whoever among you sees a vice (or wrong), he should change it with his hands; if he is not able to do that, then he should check it with his tongue; and if he cannot do that, then he should consider it bad in his heart (and wish for its removal) and this is the sign of weakest in faith" (recorded in Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Daud and Ibn Majah). Another famous hadith says; "The best Jihad is to say what is just (or truth) in the face of a tyrant" (Abu Daud, Tirmidhi, Nisai and Ibn Majah). Still another one says; "When people see a tyrant and do not hold his hands, it is not far that Allah Taala sends a common punishment on them" (Abu Daud and Tirmidhi), thus categorically emphasizing its importance.

Therefore, al-amr bil maruf wa nahi an al-munkar entails the freedom of expression and criticism, transparency and accountability and respect for human rights and abiding by the contractual obligations in respect of all people and minorities in particular. It was because of this mission of the Ummah that institutions of nasiha (advice), shura (consultation), ikhtilaf (disagreement and difference of opinion), al-amr bil maruf (commanding right and virtue), al-nahi an al-munkar (forbidding wrong and vice) and hisbah (public accountability and ombudsmanship) were established systems of the Islamic rule and continued to play their important role in various ways at all times of the Islamic history.

Concluding Remarks

The Western ideology places a great emphasis on the institution of democracy. Yet it is not an unmixed blessing and has seeds of its destruction from within. Democracy as developed in the West is based on the concept of popular sovereignty. There is no relevance to the eternal religious guidance and absolute moral values in matters of governance. As it evolved, it developed a variety of forms of self-government and political processes to determine the will of the people for running the affairs of the state. Although it has succeeded in developing several mechanisms for popular participation, but because of the absence of firm moral moorings, its standards of right and wrong have been subjected to the whims of the people. Consequently, it has resulted in decriminalization of major evil practices and moral sins exposing the human society to the tyrannies of moral relativism, the idiosyncrasies of majority rule, racial and class-based tensions, economic exploitation and erosion of all basics essential for the sustenance of human society. Emphasizing quantity and counting of hands, it has replaced quality and eternal standards of right, truth and justice. In the U.S. it has become a facade behind which the capitalist class and the special interest groups continue to rule and dominate its society. In a number of other countries including most of the Muslim world, narrow tribal-cum-class politics along with the dominance of a political elite placed and backed by the Western powers have led to the establishment of one party dictatorships in the name of democracy.

Reflecting on this situation, the well-known Islamic intellectual and activist Khurshid Ahmad writing in The Muslim World (volume 90, numbers 1-2, 2000) has the following to say. "Islam and the Muslim Umma (sic) brook no sympathy for arbitrary and authoritarian rule. Whatever arbitrary power reigns is more a product of colonialization and Westernization, and not of Muslim ideals, history or contemporary aspirations. They regard the Western secular version of democracy alien to their principles, values and traditions. But they have their own concept and rich tradition of democracy and people's participation that ensures just rule, consultative processes at all levels, respect for rights and dissent, the independence of judiciary and politico-cultural pluralism. There is no contradiction between Islam and this essence of democracy."

It is worth concluding this article with Ahmad's conclusion, as follows. "In the contemporary post-colonial history of the Muslim world, despotism and secularism or socialism have gone together, while Islamic resurgence and people's freedoms and popular participation are complementary. Despite freedom from the colonial yoke, the Muslim Umma (sic) is still struggling for its right - its democratic right - to freely develop its polity, society and economy in light of its own ideas, values and aspirations. It refuses to live under the dictate of concepts and models in conflict with its faith, opposed to its values, distasteful to its history and repugnant to its traditions. If democracy means rights of a people to self-determination and self-fulfillment, that is what Islam and Muslim people have been striving for, nothing more and nothing less."

Siraj Islam Mufti, Ph.D. is a researcher and a free-lance journalist.


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Older Comments:
EHSAN_BUTT58 said:
There is also a very comprehensive book "The Islamic State" by Amin Ahsan Islahi
2015-12-25

YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
Actually, I think that the 'islamic concept of globalization' offered within an earlier comment - as an alternative to other forms of globalization - sounded to me to be offering something basically along the lines of restoring the Khalifah. I apologize if that was not the case and hope this comment is somehow helpful. Praise be to Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) that those of us who live in various Western countries do not necessarily (out of caution perhaps) have to appear quite so apologetic when expressing ideas (concerning goverance) that Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) has willed for us to have.

I would be inclined to agree with the concern expressed - in the earlier comment - that 'once muslims [have] confined themselves within their own individual national bounderies, muslims will be defeated [(sooner or later)] in... [a] global war.' This is one of the reasons I would like to see the Islamic states developing their own industrial capacity - as well as functioning at a higher level of political and economic independence from non-Islamic states (in the absence of various global emergencies of one kind or another).

Also I would respectfully ask that my Islamic brethren bear in mind that - depending on which side of the current global conflict they might be on - I might perhaps be on the other side - at least for the present time - according to the will of Allah. Jazak Allah khair.

Assalamu alaikum wa barakatuhu.

--Yahya Bergum
2003-09-05

SHUJA FROM TORONTO, CANADA said:
To: Abdul Shahid Mohammad Shah:

You are an apologist. Islam is not alternate or alternative. Islam is the only way. Neither Islam is an alternate way nor does it accepts any other alternate way. Shuja
2003-09-04

YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
Salam. My impression is that Islam does not require me to give up my so-called "free will" but rather to submit to Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala). Acts of submission to Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) might be done out of my own "free will" (if Allah wills me to do so), out of some sort of necessity I might be facing or in response to compulsion exerted on me by various (fallible) human authorities to whom I find myself subjected (as Allah wills). I have come to mistrust those who would "partner themselves" with the Lord of the worlds (who takes not partners). Praise be to Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala).

The following Ayat might (or might not) support my position on this subject:

(A'uzoo billahi minash-shaitanir-rajeem. Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem.)

[Yusuf Ali] 16:79 Do they not look at the birds, held poised in the midst of (the air and) the sky? Nothing holds them up but (the power of) Allah. Verily in this are signs for those who believe.

[Yusuf Ali] 16:82 But if they turn away, thy duty is only to preach the clear Message.

[Yusuf Ali] 19:97 So have We made the (Qur'an) easy in thine own tongue, that with it thou mayest give Glad Tidings to the righteous, and warnings to people given to contention.

[Yusuf Ali] 20:113 Thus have We sent this down - an arabic Qur'an - and explained therein in detail some of the warnings, in order that they may fear Allah, or that it may cause their remembrance (of Him).

Admittedly:

(A'uzoo billahi minash-shaitanir-rajeem. Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem.)

[Saheeh International] 20:132 Enjoin prayer on your family [and people], and be steadfast therein. We ask you not for provision; We provide for you, and the [best] outcome is for [those of] righteousness.

May Allah increase all in understanding who ask Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) for understanding according to the will of Allah. Ameen.

Assalamu alaikum.

--Yahya Bergum
2003-09-04

ABDUL FROM ENGLAND said:
Salam,

I noticed in the article 'Major Principles in Islamic Governance' that Muslim Umma are waiting for the right to participate in a Democracy.

Brothers, Democracy is in total contradiction with Islam. Democracy is an enemy to the soverignty of Allah (swt). Democracy is a means that cannot be used to bring Islam to the people because Democracy in origin is forbidden.

Consultation (shura) can only be used for permissible actions. The soverignty being for none but Allah means that the rules are established upon the people whether the majority or minority want it or not. There can be no diputes or discomfort on the rules of Allah (swt), democracy is exactly that, it allows the people to challenge and disagree with the divine rules.

Democracy is a Deen for the kafir, its root is Freedom which again contradicts Islam. The biggest enemy to the Shari'ah is freedom (Hawa). Desire, is today a God of the 21st Century, it calls the people to live as they like, just look at Ameria and the world, and look at what social and economic freedom has done. Islam is contrary to that, Islam means to give up your free will.

So, how can Islam come near Democarcy when it is Shirk and a direct enemy to Islam and Muslims, can Shirk and Islam Co-exist together? Democracy will bring no good at all, it is a shame that so called Muslims today want to mix Islam with western values and ideals, Islam is pure, and will always remain pure.

These are only a few sincere Muslims today, who stick to the Sunnah, they obey the messenger in its entirety and take the Sahabas as there contemporary role models. Mentioned in many Hadiths, they are 'Ahlus-Sunnah Wal Jammah'.

I hope that i have explained enough to make you understand. May Allah (swt) give us both tawfiq to understand with the knowledge of Islam that will benfit us in the Akhira.

Abdul
Wasalam
2003-09-03

ABDUL SHAHID MOHD SHAH FROM MALAYSIA said:
The current debate among muslims is on the issue of globalization.Islam provides the alternative. It is not new but more than 1400 years old. Muslims should not have doubt in offering the islamic concept of globalization as a solution to many degrading political, economical and social values. Once muslims confined themselves within their own individual national bounderies, muslims will be defeated in this global war.
2003-09-03

YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
I am guessing that it would not be essential for an "Islamic republic" to have a constitution formally based upon Islamic doctrine. What would seem essential is that the constitution charges the nation's highest court with enforcing a conformance, to Islamic code, of the laws created by the people's chosen representatives - laws written with intentions of enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil. Within such a form of government, non-Muslims would hopefully not, by design, be left without a voice in their own government. Never the less, their elected (and perhaps even well paid, praise Allah) representatives would probably be well versed in matters pertaining to Islam - regardless of their personal religious declarations. Insha'Allah.

Also, it might make a certain amount of sense to replace "provinces" with states - the point being that people might be better served by "states rights" at an otherwise provincial level. In this way the need for complex legislative compromises might be alleviated - for example, within legislation that a Kurdish group wanted but which might otherwise require (potentially unrelated) amendments to be considered acceptable to Shiite and/or Arab interests in some other province.

(A'uzoo billahi minash-shaitanir-rajeem. Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem.)

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.

--Yahya Bergum
2003-09-03

KARL FROM GERMANY said:
According to this article the only Islamic State in the world is Chechnya.
2003-09-02

JORDAN C. CHAMBERS FROM AMERICA said:
As-salamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi was barakatu,
Before I embraced Islam, i like most of the world, knew nothign about what Islam is and so forth. Having become more interested after reading Qur'an I began to dig around into more books. After many months I discovered that the internet was full of Islamic information, that there is a ton of useful and well needed information about Islam that I had no idea about previously. Although this somewhat aggrivated me, I was nonetheless pleased with all the information I could and can easily access anytime of the day. I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the help, knowledge, and general "easiness" of this website. May Allah bless you.
Salam,
Jordan
2003-09-01

SHUJA FROM LOS ANGELES, US said:
To Opinion:

Education cannot be achieved without secured borders, secured borders cannot be possible unless you have strong Khalifa with the brave people ready to sacrifice their lives to protect the borders of the Muslim nation. A group of companions called the people of Sufha, whose duty is to receive the maximum ilm from prophet (saw), however, when the threat of war looms over Madina, the same people stopped taking ilm and fought and 70 of them took shahadah. My point is that sir, you can talk of education, economy, scientific development, social development and spiritual development for hours, but without national security, all will become nonsense and worthless. Chengez Khan has completely destroyed the libraries of Baghdad per se. The universities of Baghdad could not handle the Chengezi onslaught. In the same way, Pakistan is a nuclear power, but has completely surrendered to America. What university had Omer or Abu Bakr gone too? The people like Ibn Sina will prosper and develop the society when the people like Omar and Abu Bakr lay a secured foundation of equality, justice and national security. Shuja
2003-09-01

PETER DAVIES FROM CANADA said:
I found this artical very enlightening. I am not Islamic, I am a Christian. Can I have permission to reprint at least the concluding remarks in our church magazine? I think it will help us understand the Islamic point of view.
Regards
2003-08-31

YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
May God bless the souls who have been harmed in Iraq. Thank you very much. - President G.W. Bush (August 19, 2003)
2003-08-31

YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
If George W. Bush takes shahada - would that make him leader of the Muslim world? If President Bush continues to wage war in the name of Allah, at some point his reversion (to Islam) would seem to be his administration's best hope for enabling neo-conservatives to realize their big vision. Regardless - it is Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) who is the best of planners.

I apologize for the political comment to a religious article. However, the religiously minded would be my intended audience in such a cause.

A'uzoo Billahi Minash Shaitaan nir Rajeem.

Assalamu alaikum.

--Yahya Bergum
2003-08-30

OPINION FROM US said:
Great article. May Allah reward the author. To Shuja, the first step to improving the situation of the Ummah, is to educate people.
2003-08-29

AYESHA FROM CANADA said:
An enlightening article which confirms in the hearts of believers that the ultimate goal of mankind must be recognition of the power and supremacy of Allah Talaa and obedience to his Will alone. Nothing else comes before or after. The writer makes reference to the despotic regimes in Muslim countries. It will be of great interest to read an article explaining (to Muslims and non-Muslims) the concept of Monarchy as demonstrated in Muslim countries today. Does Islam support the concept of Monarchy?
I read about the life and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and he did not ever claim nor practise mornachy. How is it that Muslim rulers today pronounce themselves monarchs of all ilks and kinds? It is without doubt an alien concept in Islam and should be exposed for its falsehood.
People need to be educated that they have to adhere only to the Commands of Allah Taala and the teachings of the Prophet (SAW).
2003-08-29

YAHYA BERGUM FROM USA said:
(A'uzoo Billahi Minash Shaitaan nir Rajeem.) Jazak Allah khair. Jazak Allahu khair!

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu. Ameen.
2003-08-29

SAEED KHAN FROM USA said:
This is an awesome article.It explains our religion perfectly.Let us all use the good advice here.I congratulate the author for his efforts.
2003-08-29

SHUJA FROM TORONTO, CANADA said:
Contemporary slot of Muslims are the dictators from the core. Educated Muslims have no idea of the political values and establishing of Khilafat asap. Without the consultative body and the refined and transparent procedure of election or nomination of Khalifa or the right representative, every effort would be meaningless and will go in vain in uplifting of Muslims from the current situation.

Recently, in one of the big Islamic schools in North America, one of the members of the education committee got himself elected to the position of Principal with the help of other members. They don't give hoot to your logic, the legal parameters and arguments against this self-nomination. These idiots and criminals should be thrown into the ocean. The transformation of Khilafat into tyranny was the greatest blow to the Muslims and the world at large. According Maududi, had Khilafat lasted for another 150 years, probably, the Kufr would have vanished from the face of the earth. Immediately after the demise of Khilafat, the Muslim tyrants stopped the expansion and spreading the message of Islam, out of fear that the Jizya income would decrease or diminish to run their thrones.

As I have mentioned in my earlier comments too, unless we establish fair and honest governance, the current situation would not change. And unfortunately for us, the more waiting period we have, the bigger sacrifice will be required. I don't believe that until we are prepared to give our lives and finances, nothing will bring the change. Muslims should be ready to give millions of people in sacrifice. I cannot imagine unless we are prepared to sacrifice about 100 million people, the junta of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations, Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan could not be removed.

Muslims are the most careless and reckless people as far as our political approach are concerned. Shuja
2003-08-29

MUZ FROM MALAYSIA said:
Assalamualikum,

Really great article! Thanks
2003-08-29