‘When there are three on a journey they should appoint one
of them their commander.’
This tradition of the Holy Prophet spotlights the importance that Islam attaches
to organized activity in human life. A religion that induces administrative
order in a group of three persons cannot fail to appreciate the need for
regulating human behaviour on a wider scale. In fact, Islam is by nature
administration-oriented, as is borne out by its rituals like daily
congregational prayers and the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. All kinds of
practices in Islam receive their sanction from certain fundamental
value-principles. Confining ourselves to administration, we can identify four
A. Ideological Orientation.
B. Primacy of Humanistic Ends.
C. Moral Accountability.
D. Supremacy of Law.
We shall take them up in that order. After we have
examined their theoretics in this section, we shall be concerned in the next
with their practical implications.
A. Ideological Orientation
Leiserson and Marx have defined ideologies as ‘systems of
social interpretation’ competing for men’s ‘attention as the most satisfactory
method of explaining the facts of a complex world.’
Islam is an ideology in this sense. It interprets the facts of the world with
reference to its three cardinal beliefs: the Oneness of God, the (Final)
Prophethood of Muhammad (sws), and the Hereafter. The essence of Islam is
bearing obedience to the One God’s commandments as contained in the Holy Qur’ān
and illustrated by the Prophet’s life, with a view to upgrading the quality of
life on the earthly planet and achieving salvation in the world to come. When
this essence gets into the veins of people and they are motivated to mould their
individual and collective lives in accordance with Islam, we have an ideology in
An administration is part of the larger societal
structure. Like its parent discipline, political science, public administration
in Islam is based on the triad of convictions stated above. From them,
therefore, it must take its spirit, sanction, and strength, and to them must its
form, goals, and character conform. This is what Islam demands generally of
administration. There are several specific demands of which only a few will be
discussed in the next section.
B. Primacy of Humanistic Ends
The triumph of mechanistic science in the West was
celebrated with a death-bell for the human soul. Frederick Taylor complacently
christened his theory “Scientific Management”. Since then public administration
has changed greatly in outlook and method. The human relation school has left an
indelible mark on it and today man is believed to be a distinct and important
variable in any organizational set-up.
Islam has approached the human aspect of administration in
its characteristic way. It regards man as a thinking and feeling entity,
declares him to be the supreme creation and sets him the highest possible task,
that of achieving moral perfection. This primacy of humanism, in the context of
administration, rejects the exclusively materialistic value-scales and
objectives of Western societies. Of its practical consequences we shall be
talking in Section II. Suffice to say here that the Islamic concept of human
relations has a clear adge over its Western counterpart for two main reasons.
One, Islam addressed itself to the question long before the West ever did and
supplied a solution whose practicability was proved beyond doubt. Two, Western
human relationing may not be so human after all, for it is as much a grudging
concession to the intractable human nature as a positive recognition of man’s
greater intrinsic worth. That is why it has become in the West a saleable art
or commodity and is being traded in on the same commercial principle of quid pro
quo as any other. In Islam, on the contrary, it is not an opportunistic device
for stepping up the profit margin but a necessary ingredient of the creed
itself; it is an inviolable behavioural tenet, it is a moral imperative.
C. Moral Accountability
Like other systems, Islam provides legal checks and social
strictures in order to make administrative accountability possible. What makes
it unique, however, is its emphasis on accountability in the Hereafter. This
stress is ethical in nature and Islam inculcates the sense of responsibility in
its adherents by equipping them with what Reinhold Neibuhr describes as ‘the
passion of moral good will’
and what Marshall Dimock calls ‘a sense of mission’.
With its teachings it strengthens man from within so that he feels
impelled---and not compelled---to do the right and proper thing.
The idea of moral accountability is rooted in the concept
of the Hereafter. The omniscient and omnipotent God will, at an appointed time,
cause the Day of Reckoning to come
when He will justly reward men for their good and bad deeds and send them either
to paradise or to Hell. None will be exempted from the questioning of that awful
Day, not even the prophets.
Accountability is to be individual,
Thus dereliction of duty is not only a crime in law, it is also a sin in
religion. Anybody who is put in a position of trust will have a heavy job
accounting for his doings. This is particularly true of rulers and
D. Supremacy of Law
Supremacy of law in Islam should not be mixed up with the
English rule of Law. The latter is usually contrasted with the French Droit
Administrat if (Administrative Law), but in one sense these two are alike. That
is, although Rule of Law and Administrative Law stand for two different kinds of
legal spirit, yet neither of them points up the presence of any definite body of
law. But the Islamic doctrine, besides upholding the cause of law, also implies
the existence of a definite and identifiable corpus juris---the Shariah. Hence
supremacy of law is perhaps better called supremacy of the law.
The Shariah being something recognizable and its supremacy
having been conceded, it brings, on being applied, its own tinge to
administrative situations. A test example is the relationship that Islam
establishes between politics and administration. In the Qur’ān we find three
guiding principles, those of the delegated authority of man,
permission of dissent,
and settlement of dispute according to the dictates of Allah and His Prophets.
All three follow logically from the idea of Allah’s sovereignty.
How they work out in administrative practice will be seen in the following
We shall now consider the practical implications of the
A. Ideological Orientation
1. Commitment. An ideological state or administration can
be run only by ideologically committed persons. The Qur’ān clearly lays down
that only Muslim rulers are to be obeyed
and that non-Muslims are not to be entrusted with positions of authority
This means that the ideological consideration is extremely important in matters
of appointment and that mere technical knowledge or administrative skill would
not qualify just any man for just any position.
2. Generalism. Chester I. Barnard says somewhere: ‘The
higher the position in the line of authority, the more general the abilities
required.’ In a restricted sense Islam prefers generalists to specialists,
particularly at the higher, policy-making levels of the administrative
hierarchy. Generalism in Islam, however, does not imply distrust of expert
knowledge or professional skill. The term makes due allowance for specialist
technical know-how and signifies an awareness of the superior national and
ideological objectives and a capacity to translate that consciousness into
3. Position of Non-Muslims. The non-Muslim citizens of an
Islamic state will enjoy the same civil rights as Muslims but not the same
political rights. They shall not, therefore, be appointed to posts carrying
political power or considerable decision-making authority. They can, however,
get high-grade posts of experts or professional provided their role is more or
To all non-key positions they shall have an equal right and may compete with
Muslims for them.
B. Primacy of Humanistic Ends
1. In case there is a real conflict between organizational
and humanistic objectives, the former will have to be sacrificed for the sake of
2. The terms and conditions of administrators and
employees must be such as to provide them with means and opportunities of decent
living. This includes reasonable wages and salaries, proper working atmosphere,
and literally everything which contributes to the welfare of the members of an
3. All those practices which tend to detract from man’s
humanity and which injure his dignity and honour will have to be cut out.
4. The legislature of the country will have the right to
make, for one or more organizations, laws and regulations guaranteeing the
satisfaction of the basic needs of all the members of an organization. This
practice will be informally reinforced by the idea of ‘ihsan’ or ‘fadhl’
which exhorts entrepreneurs and administrators to do ‘the extra bit’ for the
workers or employees.
5. Organizations will be expected to create conditions
under which the members can grow individually and become better human beings.
This will imply developing in them, through lecture, literature, and actual
example, traits like self-esteem, dutifulness, probity, and cooperativeness.
C. Moral Accountability
Legal accountability in an Islamic state is ensured
through administrative measures, social accountability through popular opinion
and pressure, and moral accountability through a fortified conscience.
Administrative integrity is the product largely of early
influences, especially those of home and school, of proper training before
administrative jobs are taken up, and, to repeat Dimock’s phrase, of a ‘a sense
of mission’. It is necessary, therefore, to impart the teachings of Islam to the
young people at educational institutions and to fix in the minds of prospective
administrators the importance of observing the Islamic injunctions. Training
programmes at administrative colleges and academies should lay pronounced stress
on a purposeful study of the Islamic religion, culture, and history, the idea
throughout being to understand the dynamics and calls of the Islamic ideology as
applied to administrative phenomena. It is only when they are convinced of the
profound significance of the ethico-ideological considerations that the
administrators will rise above themselves and serve their country devotedly and
D. Supremacy of Law
1. Compliance. Persons in authority must be obeyed,
irrespective of whether one likes them
and their orders
or not. Wilful defiance of superiors is irresponsible and irreligious behaviour.
2. Discretion. But since accountability is individual and
untransferable, every person must exercise discretion before he answers the
helm. Compliance may, rather must, be refused when the orders are morally
unjustifiable, evidently wrong, and involve disobedience to God.
There is a famous tradition: ‘The most excellent jihad is when one speaks a true
word in the presence of a tyrannical ruler.’
3. Courts and Tribunals. Permission of dissent
necessitates the existence of an institution with powers of arbitration or
adjudication between the political and administrative authorities. Ordinary
courts can serve the purpose here, but, if necessary, special administrative
tribunals can also be established. Such tribunals must, in the interest of
justice and fair play, be completely free from any kind of executive pressure.