Essential Featuresof the Islamic Political System

by

Abul Ala Maududi


>>

The political system of Islam is based on threeprinciples: Tawhid (unity of Allah), Risalat (Prophethood) and Khilafat (vicegerency).It is difficult to appreciate the different aspects of Islamic polity without fullyunderstanding these three principles.


Tawhid means that only Allah is the Creator, Sustainer and Master of the universeand of all that exists in it, organic or inorganic. The sovereignty of this kingdomis vested only in Him. He alone has the right to command or forbid. Worship andobedience are due to Him alone, no one and nothing else shares it in any way. Life,in all its forms, our physical organs and faculties, the apparent control whichwe have over nearly everything in our lives and the things themselves, none of themhas been created or acquired by us in our own right. They have been bestowed onus entirely by Allah. Hence, it is not for us to decide the aim and purpose of ourexistence or to set the limits of our authority; nor is anyone else entitled tomake these decisions for us. This right rests only with Allah, who has created us,endowed us with mental and physical faculties, and provided material things forour use.Tawhid means that only Allah is the Creator, Sustainer and Master of theuniverse and of all that exists in it, organic or inorganic. The sovereignty ofthis kingdom is vested only in Him. He alone has the right to command or forbid.Worship and obedience are due to Him alone, no one and nothing else shares it inany way. Life, in all its forms, our physical organs and faculties, the apparentcontrol which we have over nearly everything in our lives and the things themselves,none of them has been created or acquired by us in our own right. They have beenbestowed on us entirely by Allah. Hence, it is not for us to decide the aim andpurpose of our existence or to set the limits of our authority; nor is anyone elseentitled to make these decisions for us. This right rests only with Allah, who hascreated us, endowed us with mental and physical faculties, and provided materialthings for our use.Tawhid means that only Allah is the Creator, Sustainer and Masterof the universe and of all that exists in it, organic or inorganic. The sovereigntyof this kingdom is vested only in Him. He alone has the right to command or forbid.Worship and obedience are due to Him alone, no one and nothing else shares it inany way. Life, in all its forms, our physical organs and faculties, the apparentcontrol which we have over nearly everything in our lives and the things themselves,none of them has been created or acquired by us in our own right. They have beenbestowed on us entirely by Allah. Hence, it is not for us to decide the aim andpurpose of our existence or to set the limits of our authority; nor is anyone elseentitled to make these decisions for us. This right rests only with Allah, who hascreated us, endowed us with mental and physical faculties, and provided materialthings for our use.


This principle of the unity of Allah totally negatesthe concept of the legal and political independence of human beings, individuallyor collectively. No individual, family, class or race can set themselves above Allah.Allah alone is the Ruler and His commandments are the Law.
The medium through which we receive the law ofAllah is known as Risalat. We have received two things from this source: the Bookin which Allah has set out His law, and the authoritative interpretation and exemplificationof the Book by the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him through word and deed,in his capacity as the representative of Allah. The Prophet, blessings and peacebe on him, has also, in accordance with the intention of the Divine Book, givenus a model for the Islamic way of life by himself implementing the law and providingnecessary details where required. The combination of these two elements is calledthe Shari‘ah.


Now consider Khilafat. According to the Arabiclexicon, it means ‘representation’. Man, according to Islam, is the representativeof Allah on earth, His vicegerent. That is to say, by virtue of the powers delegatedto him by Allah, he is required to exercise his Allah-given authority in this worldwithin the limits prescribed by Allah.


Take, for example, the case of an estate whichsomeone has been appointed to administer on your behalf. You will see that fourconditions are invariably met. First, the real ownership of the estate remains vestedin you and not in the administrator; second, he administers your property only inaccordance with your instructions; third, he exercises his authority within thelimits prescribed by you; and fourth, in the administration of the trust he executesyour will and not his own. These four conditions are so inherent in the conceptof ‘representation’ that if any representative fails to observe them he will rightlybe blamed for breaking the covenant which was implied in the concept of ‘representation’.This is exactly what Islam means when it affirms that man is the vicegerent of Allahon earth. Hence, these four conditions are also involved in the concept of Khilafat.
A state that is established in accordance withthis political theory will in fact be a human caliphate under the sovereignty ofAllah and will do Allah’s will by working within the limits prescribed by Him andin accordance with His instructions and injunctions.
> >
Democracyin Islam


The above explanation of the term Khilafat alsomakes it abundantly clear that no individual or dynasty or class can be Khilafah,but that the authority of caliphate is bestowed on any community which accepts theprinciples of Tawhid and Risalat. In such a society, each individual shares theAllah-given caliphate. This is the point where democracy begins in Islam.


Every person in an Islamic society enjoys the rightsand powers of the caliphate of Allah and in this respect all individuals are equal.No one can deprive anyone of his rights and powers. The agency for running the affairsof the state will be established in accordance with the will of these individuals,and the authority of the state will only be an extension of the powers of the individualdelegated to it. Their opinion will be decisive in the formation of the Government,which will be run with their advice and in accordance with their wishes. Whoevergains their confidence will carry out the duties of the caliphate on their behalf;and when he loses this confidence he will have to relinquish his office. In thisrespect the political system in Islam is as perfect a democracy as ever can be.


What distinguishes Islamic democracy from Westerndemocracy is that while the latter is based on the concept of popular sovereigntythe former rests on the principle of popular Khilafat. In Western democracy thepeople are sovereign, in Islam sovereignty is vested in Allah and the people areHis caliphs or representatives. In the former the people make their own laws; inthe latter they have to follow and obey the laws (Shari‘ah) given by Allah throughHis Prophet. In one the Government undertakes to fulfil the will of the people;in the other Government and the people alike have to do the will of Allah. Westerndemocracy is a kind of absolute authority which exercises its powers in a free anduncontrolled manner, whereas Islamic democracy is subservient to the Divine Lawand exercises its authority in accordance with the injunctions of Allah and withinthe limits prescribed by Him.


Purpose of the Islamic State


The Holy Qur’an clearly states that the aim andpurpose of this state, built on the foundation of Tawhid, Risalat and Khilafat,is the establishment, maintenance and development of those virtues which the Creatorof the universe wishes human life to be enriched by, and the prevention and eradicationof those evils which are abhorrent to Allah. The state in Islam is not intendedfor political administration only nor for the fulfillment through it of the collectivewill of any particular set of people. Rather, Islam places a high ideal before thestate for the achievement of which it must use all the means at its disposal. Theaim is to encourage the qualities of purity, beauty, goodness, virtue, success andprosperity which Allah wants to flourish in the life of His people and to suppressall kinds of exploitation and injustice. As well as placing before us this highideal, Islam clearly states the desired virtues and the undesirable evils. The Islamicstate can thus plan its welfare programmes in every age and in any environment.


The constant demand made by Islam is that the principlesof morality must be observed at all costs and in all walks of life. Hence, it laysdown an unalterable requirement for the state to base its politics on justice, truthand honesty. It is not prepared, under any circumstances, to tolerate fraud, falsehoodand injustice for the sake of political, administrative or national expediency.Whether it be relations between the rulers and the ruled within the state, or relationsof the state with other states, precedence must always be given to truth, honestyand justice. It imposes obligations on the state similar to those it imposes onthe individual: to fulfil all contracts and obligations; to have consistent standardsin all dealings; to remember obligations as well as rights and not to forget therights of others when expecting them to fulfil their obligations; to use power andauthority for the establishment for justice and not for the perpetration of injustice;to look on duty as a sacred obligation; and to regard power as a trust from Allahto be used in the belief that one has to render an account of one’s actions to Himin the Hereafter.

Fundamental Rights


Although an Islamic state may be set up anywhereon earth, Islam does not seek to restrict human rights or privileges to the geographicallimits of its own state. Islam has laid down universal fundamental rights for humanityas a whole, which are to be observed and respected in all circumstances irrespectiveof whether a person lives on the territory of the Islamic state or outside it andwhether he is at peace with the state or at war. For example, human blood is sacredand may not be spilled without justification; it is not permissible to oppress women,children, old people, the sick or the wounded; woman’s honour and chastity mustbe respected in all circumstances; and the hungry must be fed, the naked clothed,and the wounded or diseased treated medically.


These, and a few other provisions, have been laiddown by Islam as fundamental rights for every man by virtue of his status as a humanbeing, to be enjoyed under the constitution of an Islamic state.


The rights of citizenship in Islam, however, arenot confined to persons born within the limits of its state but are granted to everyMuslim irrespective of his place of birth. A Muslim ipso facto becomes the citizenof an Islamic state as soon as he sets foot on its territory with the intentionof living there; he thus enjoys equal rights of citizenship with those who are itscitizens by birth. Citizenship must therefore be common to all the citizens of allthe Islamic states that exist in the world; a Muslim will not need a passport forentry or exit from any of them. And every Muslim must be regarded as eligible forpositions of the highest responsibility in an Islamic state without distinctionof race, colour or class.
Islam has also laid down certain rights for non-Muslimswho may be living within the boundaries of an Islamic state, and these rights mustnecessarily form part of the Islamic constitution. According to Islamic terminologysuch non-Muslims are called dhimmis(the covenanted), implying that the Islamic statehas entered into a covenant with them and guaranteed their rights.


The life, property and honour of a dhimmi is tobe respected and protected in exactly the same way as that of a Muslim citizen.There is no difference between Muslim and non-Muslim citizens in respect of civilor criminal law; and the Islamic state shall not interfere with the personal lawof non-Muslims. They will have full freedom of conscience and belief and will beentitled to perform their religious rites and ceremonies. As well as being ableto practise their religion, they are entitled to criticise Islam. However the rightsgiven in this respect are not unlimited: the civil law of the country has to befully respected and all criticism has to be made within its framework.


These rights are irrevocable and non-Muslims canonly be deprived of them if they renounce the convenant which grants them citizenship.However much a non-Muslim state may oppress its Muslim citizens, it is not permissiblefor an Islamic state to retaliate against its non-Muslim subjects. This injunctionholds good even if all the Muslims outside the boundaries of an Islamic state aremassacred.


Executive and Legislature


The responsibility for the administration of theGovernment in an Islamic state is entrusted to an Amir (leader) who may be likenedto the President or the Prime Minister in a Western democratic state. All adultmen and women who accept the fundamentals of the constitution are entitled to votein the election for the leader.


The basic qualifications for the election of anAmir are that he should command the confidence of the largest number of people inrespect of his knowledge and grasp of the spirit of Islam; he should possess theIslamic attribute of fear of Allah; he should be endowed with the quality of statesmanship.In short, he should be both able and virtuous.


A Shura (consultative council), elected by thepeople, will assist and guide the Amir. It is obligatory for the Amir to administerthe country with the advice of his Shura. The Amir can retain office only so longas he enjoys the confidence of the people, and must resign when he loses this confidence.Every citizen has the right to criticise the Amir and his Government, and all responsiblemeans for the expression of public opinion should be available.


Legislation in an Islamic state should be withinthe limits prescribed by the Shari‘ah. The injunctions of Allah and His Prophetare to be accepted and obeyed and no legislative body can alter or modify them ormake any new laws which are contrary to their spirit. The duty of ascertaining thereal intent of those commandments which are open to more than one interpretationshould devolve on people possessing a specialised knowledge of the law of Shari‘ah.Hence, such matters may have to be referred to a sub-committee of the Shã r~ comprisingmen learned in Islamic law. Great scope would still be available for legislationon questions not covered by any specific injunctions of the Shari‘ah, and the advisorycouncil or legislature is free to legislate in regard to these matters.


In Islam the judiciary is not placed under thecontrol of the executive. It derives its authority directly from the Shari‘ah andis answerable to Allah. The judges will obviously be appointed by the Governmentbut, once appointed, will have to administer justice impartially according to thelaw of Allah. All the organs and functionaries of the Government should come withintheir jurisdiction: even the highest executive authority of the Government willbe liable to be called upon to appear in a court of law as a plaintiff or defendant.Rulers and ruled are subject to the same law and there can be no discriminationon the basis of position, power or privilege. Islam stands for equality and scrupulouslyadheres to this principle in the social, economic and political realms alike.