SOURCE: “Islam and the Contemporary World” by                   G.W.Choudhury,  Visiting Scholar, Columbia University

      There is no separation between religion and politics in Islam. Now what are the guidelines or principles in Islam for organizing a political order? The political system of Islam is based on three principles: TAWHID (unity of God), RISALAT (prophethood), and KHILAFAT (vicegerency). TAWHID means that only God is the Creator, Sustainer, and Master of the universe and all that exists in it, organic and inorganic. The sovereignty of this kingdom is vested in Him. He also has the right to command or forbid, and His commandments are the law.

      The medium through which we receive the law of God is known as RISALAT. We have received two things from this source: The Quran, and the authoritative interpretation and exemplification of the Quran by the Prophet in his capacity as the representative of God. The Prophet [Muhammad peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] has also, in accordance with the intention of Quran, given a model for the Islamic way of life by himself implementing the law and providing necessary details where required. The combination of these two elements is called the SHARI’AH.

      KHILAFAT means “representation”. Man [i.e. human beings], according to Islam, is the representative of God on earth, His vicegerent. That is to say, by virtue of the powers delegated to him by God, he is required to exercise his God-given authority in this world within the limits prescribed by God.

      Every person in an Islamic political order enjoys the rights and powers of the caliphate of God, and in this respect all individuals are equal. No one can deprive anyone of his rights and powers. The agency for running the affairs of the state will be established in accordance with the will of individuals, and the authority of the state will only be an extension of the powers of the individuals delegated 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. Whoever gains their confidence will carry out the duties of the caliphate on their behalf, and when he loses that confidence he will have to relinqu-
ish his office. In this respect, the political system in Islam is as perfect a democracy as ever can be.

      Western democracy is based on the concept of popular sovereignty, an Islamic political order rests on the principle of POPULAR KHILAFAT. In western democracy the people are sovereign, but in Islam sovereignty is vested in God and the people are his caliphs or representatives. In the former the people make their own laws; in the latter they have to follow and obey the laws (Shari’ah) given by God through His Prophet. In one the government undertakes to fulfill the will of the people; in the other the government and the people alike have to do the will of God. Western democracy is a kind of absolute authority which exercises its powers in a free and uncontrolled manner, whereas Islamic democracy is subservient to the Divine Law and exercises its authority
HIM [for the benefit and welfare of the entire society].


      The Holy Quran clearly states that the aim and purpose of the Islamic state, built on the foundations of Tawhid, Risalat, and Khilafat is the establishment, maintenance and development of those virtues by which the Creator of the universe wishes human life to be enriched, and the prevention and eradication of those evils which are abhorrent to God. THE STATE IN ISLAM IS NOT INTENDED ONLY FOR POLITICAL ADMINISTRATION NOR FOR THE FULFILMENT THROUGH IT OF THE COLLECTIVE WILL OF ANY PARTICULAR SET OF PEOPLE. Rather, Islam places a high ideal before the state for the achievement of which it must use all the means at its disposal. The aim is to encourage the qualities of purity, beauty, goodness, virtue, success and prosperity which God wants to flourish in the life of His people, and to suppress all kinds of exploitation and injustice. As well as placing before us this high ideal, Islam clearly states the desired virtues and the undesirable evils. The Islamic state can thus plan its welfare programmes in every age and in any environment.

      THE CONSTANT DEMAND MADE BY ISLAM IS THAT THE PRINCIPLES OF MORALITY MUST BE OBSERVED AT ALL COSTS AND IN ALL WALKS OF LIFE. Hence, it lays down an unalterable requirement for the state to base its politics on justice, truth, and honesty. It is not prepared, under any circumstances, to tolerate fraud, falsehood and injustice for the sake of political, administrative or national expediency. Whether it be relations between the rulers and the ruled within the state, or relations of the state with other states, precedence must always be given to truth, honesty and justice. It imposes obligations on the state similar to those it imposes on the individual: to fulfill all contracts
and obligations; to have consistent standards in all dealings; to remember obligations as well as rights and not to forget the rights of others when expecting them to fulfill their obligations; to use power and authority for the establishment of justice and not for perpetration of injustice; to look on duty as a sacred obligation; and to regard power as a trust from God to be used in the belief that one has to render an account of one’s actions to Him in the Hereafter.


      Islam has laid down universal fundamental rights for humanity as a whole, which are to be observed and respected in all circumstances, irrespective of whether a person lives in or outside the territory of the Islamic state and whether he is at peace or war with the state. For example, human blood is sacred and may not be spilled without justification; it is not permissible to oppress women, children, old people, the sick or the wounded; a woman’s honour and chastity must be respected in all circumstances, the naked clothed, the wounded or diseased treated medically, and the hungry must be fed.

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


      The responsibility for the administration of the government in an Islamic state is entrusted to an Amir (leader), who may be likened to the President or Prime Minister of a western democratic state. All adult men and women who accept the fundamentals of the constitution are entitled to vote in the election for the leader.

      The basic qualifications for the election of an Amir are that he should command the confidence of the largest number of people in respect to knowledge and grasp of the spirit of Islam; he should possess the Islamic attribute of the fear of God, he should be endowed with the quality of statesmanship. In short, he should be both able and virtuous.

      A SHURA (consultative council), elected by the people, will assist and guide the Amir. It is obligatory to the Amir to administer the country with the advice of his Shura. The Amir can retain office only as long as he enjoys the confidence of the people, and must resign when he loses this confidence.

Every citizen has the right to criticize the Amir and his government, and all reasonable means for the expression of public opinion should be available.

      Legislation in an Islamic state should be within the limits prescribed by the Shari’ah. The injunctions of God and His Prophet are to be accepted and obeyed and no legislative body can alter or modify them or make any new laws which are contrary to their spirit. Great scope would still be available for legislation on questions not covered by any specific injunctions of Shari’ah, and the legislature is free to legislate in regard to these matters.

It derives its authority directly from the Shari’ah and is answerable to God. The judges will obviously be appointed by the Government but, once appointed will have to administer justice impartially ACCORDING TO THE LAW OF GOD. All the organs and the functionaries of the Government should come within their jurisdiction: even the highest executive authority of the government will be 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 DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF POSITION, POWER, OR PRIVILEGE. Islam stands for equality and scrupulously adheres to this principle in the social, economic and political
realms alike.

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