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The Political Law of Islam
Political Issues
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)

In the recent past, a lot has been said about the Islamic political law as enunciated in the Qur’ān and Sunnah. Since our view about some of its clauses is different from the general one, we present here our interpretation of the law.

Basic Principle

The basic principle upon which Islam has based its political law is that in the affairs of state God and his Prophet (sws) is the final authority. The head of an Islamic State or the members of its parliament have no right whatsoever to have a ruling in matters decreed by the Book of God or the Sunnah of the Prophet (sws). Their commandments can only be obeyed after obeying God and his Prophet (sws), and if they do not overrule or exceed the limits adjudicated by these authorities. Therefore, in an Islamic State no law can be enacted contrary to the Qur’ān and Sunnah or one which does not take into consideration the guidance provided by them. The believers indeed have a right to disagree with those in authority, but they can have no disagreement with God and His Prophet (sws). In fact, if such a situation arises even with those in authority, the decision must be made in the light of the Qur’ān and Sunnah. The Qur’ān says:

“Obey God and the Prophet and those of you who are in authority, and if you disagree among yourselves in any matter, refer it to God and the Prophet, if you are believers in Allah and the Last Day. This is better and more seemly as regards the consequences.” (4:59) If at any time the people charged with authority deny this principle then according to the Qur’ān this is outright kufr1, which can only be perpetrated by a zālim2 or a fāsiqh3. The Qur’ān says:

“And those who do not decide according to the law revealed by God are Kāfirs.” (5:44)

In this situation, the believers have a right to disobey their rulers and if possible, to strive for their removal from the position of authority they hold4. Ubādah-Ibn-Sāmit has reported the following tradition of the Prophet (sws):

“The Prophet of God said: You can only refuse their submission if you witness outright kufr in any matter from them, in which you have a clear evidence from God.” (Muslim : Kitāb-ul-Amāra)

It is, therefore, clear that this is a basic principle and if a state does not adhere to it, it cannot be called an Islamic State in any sense of the word. It follows from this that it is necessary for the believers to establish an institution in their state to which they can turn to ascertain the injunctions of God and His Prophet (sws) in all the collective affairs of life and to resolve any disagreement which may arise in this regard.

The Objectives of a State

A state founded on the above principle will, according to this law, have the objectives of establishing the system of prayers and zakat and to patronize and further whatever God and His Prophet (sws) regard as virtuous and to forbid whatever they regard as evil. The Qur’ān says:

“[These believers are those who], if We grant them authority in this land, will establish regular prayers and pay zakat and enjoin what is virtuous and forbid what is evil.” (22:41)

The fact that, like any other state, an Islamic State has the responsibility to strive for the welfare and prosperity of its people, to maintain peace and defend its frontiers is understood. What is being actually stressed is that the above verse spells out what may be regarded as the primary and distinctive objectives for which an Islamic State is created. It should in no way neglect these foremost obligations and should, in fact, direct all its efforts to achieve them. This will enable all the believers to hold steadfast to Islamic teachings and be in a position to duly bear witness to the religion of truth upon other nations of the world, which according to the Qur’ān is the main objective behind the creation of the Muslim Ummah:

“You are the best Ummah that has been raised up for mankind [to bear witness to the religion of truth upon them]. You enjoin what is virtuous and forbid what is evil and really believe in God.” (3:110)

It is for this objective for which the believers have been directed to establish their collective system in a manner in which all rights and duties can be fulfilled in an appropriate way, and all judgements between people should be passed with justice. According to the Qur’ān:

“God commands you to hand back trusts to their rightful owners and to always pass judgement upon men with fairness. Verily this is from God an excellent admonition. For God is He who hears and sees all things.” (4:58)

The System of Government

The system of government of an Islamic State is based upon the Qur’ānic verse:

“Their affairs of state are run by their mutual consultation.” (42:38)

The extensive meaning this short verse encompasses and the guidance obtained from it about the political set up envisaged by Islam need a detailed discussion which follows.

Diversity in the Word Amr

The word ÿamr has many meanings in Arabic. Anyone who has a linguistic appreciation knows that for all such words the implied meaning is determined from the context in which they are used. Before we ascertain its implied meaning in the above verse, we shall examine its various connotations in Arabic.

In Yazīd Ibn Al-Jaham Al-Halāli’s following couplet it means `to urge’ or `to advise’:

Laqad ‘amarat bilbukhli ‘ummu mohammadī
Fa qultu laha: huththī `alal bukhli ‘ahmadā 

(“Ummi-Mohammad urged me to be stingy, so I said to her: if you must urge someone to be stingy then let it be your son Ahmad.”)

Amar-Ibn-Dhubai`ah-Al-Raqqāshī uses it in exactly the same way we use `matters’ for our general affairs of life:

‘alā liyaqul mā shā’a ‘innamā
Yulāmul fata fīmastatā`a minal ‘amrī

(“Let anyone say what he likes, for a young man can only be reproached in matters which are under his control.”)

In Abu-Sakhar-Al-Huzalī’s following couplet, it denotes `commandments and authority’:

‘amā wallazī ‘abkā wa adh haka wallazī
‘amāta wa ‘ahyā wallazi amruhul ‘amrū

(“Listen! By Him Who made us weep and laugh, Who gave death and life and Whose commandments are the real commandments.”)

Safiyya-Binti-Abdul-Muttalib uses it in a way in which together with `commandments and authority’ it connotes `affairs of state’:

‘alā man mublighun `anna Qurayshan
Fafīmal ‘amru fīnā wal īmārū

(“Hark ! who will deliver our message to the Quraysh that as they do not accept our social position, so they should tell us that why are the affairs of state in our hands and why are we considered worthy of consultation?”)

In the Qur’ān also, it has been used in all these meanings and in all instances the meaning it actually implies is determined by the context. It is quite evident that in this verse it has been used in the meaning of `collective affairs’. The depth in its meaning of `commandment’ has, in fact, incorporated this meaning in it. When the word commandment becomes related to people then it prescribes certain limits for itself and establishes certain rules and regulations. In such cases, it implies both the decrees which pertain to political authority and the collective affairs of a society. A little deliberation shows that the English word `system’ conveys the same meaning.

Since the Qur’ān has not specified it by any adjective, so all sub-systems which are part of the political system must be considered included in its connotation. In fact, all affairs of state like the municipal affairs, national and provincial affairs, political and social injunctions, rules of legislation, delegation and revocation of powers, dismissal and appointment of officials, interpretation of Islam for the collective affairs of life---all will come under the principle laid down in this verse. In other words, no area or department under an Islamic Government can be beyond the jurisdiction of this principle.

The Principle of Consultation

The word shūrā is a nomen verbum (masdar) of the category fu`alā and means `to consult’. Due to the fact that it occurs as an inchoative (khabr) in the given verse and is also qualified by the word bainahum, the meaning of the verse is not the same as of shāwirhum fil amr. Fa izā `azamta fa tawakkal`alalāh, which is often quoted as its parallel. To convey the same meaning as this verse, the words should, perhaps, have been something like this: wa fil amri hum yushāwarūn ie, `And in the affairs [of state] they are consulted’. In this case, it would have been necessary that in the whole society the rulers and the ruled be distinct. The ruler in such a case would be divinely appointed or nominated by an innocent Imām or be someone who had seized power by force. Whatever the way he reached the position of head of state, he would have only been obligated to consult people in matters of national interest before forming his own opinion. Nonetheless, he would not be bound to accept a consensus or a majority opinion. Acceptance or rejection of an opinion would rest on his own discretion. He would have all the right to accept a minority opinion and reject a majority one.

However, the style and pattern of the verse amruhum shūrā bainahum demands that even the head of an Islamic State be appointed through consultation; the system itself be based on consultation; everyone should have an equal right in consultation; whatever done through consultation should only be undone through consultation; everyone part of the system should have a say in its affairs, and without a consensus, a majority opinion should decide any disagreement which many arise.

The difference in the meanings of the two verses can be appreciated if the following example is kept in mind. If it is said: `the ownership of this house shall be decided after consulting these ten brothers’ then it means that only the ten brothers have the authority to make the decision and the opinion of anyone of them can not prevail over the others. If all of them do not agree in the matter, a majority opinion would be decisive. But, if the above sentence is changed a little to `In deciding the ownership of this house, these ten brothers shall be consulted’ then it only means that someone else has the final say. It will be his opinion which will finally be executed. The only thing he must do is to consult the ten brothers before forming his own opinion. Obviously, he cannot be forced to accept a consensus or a majority opinion of the brothers.

Since, in our consideration the collective affairs of the Muslim are based on the Qur’ānic injunction: amruhum shūrā bainahum, the election of their ruler as well as their representatives must take place through consultation. Also, after assuming a position of authority they will have no right to overrule a consensus or a majority opinion of the Muslims in all the collective affairs. However, the Prophet (sws) was an exception to this rule. He was divinely appointed and there was no possibility of human error in his judgements which he made directly under the guidance of the Almighty. Therefore, where he has been directed to consult others in Sūrah Aali ‘Imrān, it has been clearly stated that whatever opinion he forms after consultation, he should strictly adhere to it and rely totally on the Almighty:

“Keep consulting in the affairs of state; then when you take a decision, put thy trust in Allah.” (3:159)

The above directive of the Qur’ān is in accordance with human nature and in harmony with all norms of common sense. No Muslim can be free of faults and shortcomings. He can be the most distinguished as far as piety and knowledge are concerned; he can be the most suitable for the position of authority he holds and can even consider himself so. With these abilities also, he cannot attain the position of Khilāfat without the general opinion of the Muslims. Also, his assumption of this position after being elected through a majority mandate does not necessitate at all that he cannot err or has the prerogative to overrule a consensus or a majority opinion of the authorized people. The Prophet (sws) had this prerogative because he, being divinely guided, could not err. Even so, not one example can be cited from history in which he had ignored a majority opinion in favour of his own.

A Muslim ruler is, indeed, only one individual and everyone will acknowledge that the opinion of a group of people has more chances of being correct than that of a single person. A God-fearing Muslim ruler should regard his own opinion in the way Imām Shafi used to: `We consider our opinion as correct but concede the possibility of an error, and the consider the opinion of others as incorrect but concede the possibility of correctness in it’.

Moreover, if the people consulted know that even their consensus and majority opinion have all the chances of being rejected, they would not agree to offer their opinion in the first place. Even if forced to do so, they would never take serious interest in it. While delineating on this psychological aspect, Qadhi Abu Bakr Jassās writes in his “Ahkām-ul-Qur’ān”:

“It is not proper to consider that this directive of consultation is merely to please and honour the Companions of the Prophet nor is proper to think that it has been given so that the Ummah should follow the Prophet in this regard in such matters. On the other hand if the Companions knew that their opinion would neither be followed nor held in any regard after they had used all their intellectual abilities to form it, this would not have pleased or honoured them; instead they would have been totally discouraged, considering that their opinions are neither [good enough] to be acceptable nor [fit enough] to be followed. Therefore, such an interpretation of this directive of consultation is baseless and cannot be accepted. Furthermore, how can this aspect of the interpretation that this directive was merely given to teach the Prophet’s way to the Ummah be regarded as correct when the person who says this himself knows that the Ummah is aware of the fact that giving such an opinion was neither of any use nor was it followed in a particular matter.” (Vol 2, Pg 41)

Conditions of Consultation

The addition of bainahum has incorporated a condition in the sentence: only those people will have the right to give their opinions who are the antecedents of the pronoun hum (they) in bainahum. The Qur’ān has not just said `Their affairs of state are based on consultation’. It has added the condition that the affairs of state shall be based on their mutual consultation. Therefore, in an Islamic State, it is quite evident that only the believers will have the right to give an opinion in state affairs. According to the Qur’ān, a person shall only be considered as a believer if he fulfils the following conditions:

“Hence, if they repent [from all un-Islamic beliefs] and establish regular prayers and pay Zakat, they are your brethren in religion.” (9:11)

In the above verse, three conditions have been clearly stated:

1) They should refrain from adopting a rebellious attitude against the Islamic Order, stop indulging in polytheism, profess faith in the tenets of Islam and accept the supremacy of the Islamic law.

2) They should offer prayers according to the way prescribed by the Prophet (sws).

3) They should pay Zakat to the public treasury (bait-ul-māl).

According to the Qur’ān, whoever fulfils these three conditions shall be granted complete citizenship in an Islamic State. He can be included among the consulters and the consulted. As far as his rights and duties in a state are concerned, there will be no difference between him and a person who had accepted faith in the early stages. The Qur’ān has used the word fa ikhwānukum fid dīn (they are your brothers in religion) to convey this meaning. From the word Ad-dīn, the Islamic collective system is implied and by the words fa ikhwānukum, those who have accepted faith in the crucial early stages have been addressed and told that those who fulfil these conditions are equal to them and will have the same collective rights.

The Prophet (sws) has explained thus the Qur’ānic directives in this regard, as reported by Abdullah Ibni ‘Umar:

“I have been ordained to wage war with these people until they testify to the oneness of Allah and the prophethood of Muhammad, establish regular prayers and pay zakat. If they accept these conditions their lives and wealth shall be given protection except if they are deprived from this protection on the grounds of some offense they may commit. As far as their inner account is concerned, it rests with Allah.” (Muslim: Kitāb-ul-Imān).

A similar statement is attributed to the Caliph Abu Bakr, when he was launching an attack against those who were desisting to pay zakat:

“After the death of the Prophet of Allah, Abu Bakr became Khalīfa and a group among the Arabs rejected faith [and he decided to fight with them]. Hadhrat ‘Umar objected: How can you fight with these people when the Prophet of Allah had said: `I have been ordained to wage war5 with these people until they testify to the oneness of God and my prophethood, so whoever will declare this he shall safeguard his life and wealth from me except for some right of the Almighty. As far as his inner accountability is concerned it rests with God.’, Abu Bakr replied: By God! I shall definitely wage war with those who differentiate between prayers and zakat, because zakat is God’s right in wealth. By God! even if they refuse me a young goat which they used to give to the Prophet, I shall fight with them on their refusal.” (Bukhārī , Kitāb-uz-Zakāt)

The following words are also attributed to Hadhrat Abu Bakr:

1. “The Prophet waged war on three conditions: on testification to Lā ilāha illalāh, on the establishment of regular prayers and on the payment of zakat and the Almighty has said: `Therefore, if they repent establish regular prayers and pay zakat, spare their lives’. By God I shall neither ask for more nor less.” (“Ahkām-ul-Qur’ān”, Jassās, Vol 3, Pg 82).

It is clear from these directives that all those people will have a right to offer their opinion in the affairs of state who fulfil the above three conditions. A state’s affairs shall be instituted and run in accordance with their consultation. The Almighty has granted them this right and no head of state or political institution can deprive them of it.


According to the Qur’ānic injunction amruhum shūrā bainahum, the manner in which the Muslim public shall participate in the state’s affairs is based on the following two principles, as prescribed by the Prophet (sws):

(1) Muslims shall be consulted in the affairs of state through their leaders in whom they profess confidence. To quote the “Sahīh” of Bukhārī :

“When the Muslims at the Prophet’s behest consented to free the prisoners of Hawāzin, the Prophet said: I could not know which of you has shown his consent and which of you has not. Therefore, go back, and send your leaders that they may inform us.” (Kitāb-ul-Ahkām)

During the time of the Prophet (sws), the tribal chiefs held this position of trust. The people of the tribes of Aus, Khazraj and Quraysh professed confidence in every sense of the word in their respective leaders. Indeed, these leaders were not elected to this position nor was an election needed in the social conditions which existed at that time. It was, in fact, because of their social status, intellect and experience that their people turned to them in all the political and collective affairs. Before the advent of Islam, it was their tribes’ complete faith in them which conferred this position on them and this state continued even after they accepted Islam. However, before accepting Islam, someone could say that they had seized power by force and that he was not in a position to show his mistrust in them, but after accepting faith everyone from among the Muslim public could express infront of the Prophet (sws) his lack of confidence in them. If they did so, no one from among the leaders could remain on their positions.

During the Khilāfat-i-Rāshidah also the position of trust commanded by the leaders continued.

While narrating the proceedings of a shūrā during the time of Hadhrat ‘Umar’s rule, Qadhi Abu Yusaf says:

“The people said: you should now seek formal consultation. At this he consulted the early Muhājirīns and three existed a difference in their opinions. Abdur Rehman Ibn Auf maintained that the land should be rightfully distributed among them, while Hadhrat Usman, Ali, Talha and Hadhrat Ibni ‘Umar, were in agreement with Hadhrat ‘Umar’s view. Then he called ten people from the Ansār: five from the Aus and five from the Khazraj.” (“Kitāb-ul-Kharāj”, Fasal fil Fai wal Kharāj)

(2) Among the various groups present in an Islamic State, only that group shall assume its political authority which enjoys the confidence of the majority of the Muslims. This principle has been derived from the Prophet’s decision in which he expressed how the transfer of political power should take place after him. Mua`wiyyah reports in Bukhārī :

“I heard the Prophet saying: Our political authority shall remain with the Quraysh. In this matter, whoever opposes them as long as they follow Islam, Allah shall cast him face down in Hell .” (Kitāb-ul-Ahkām)

To quote “Tabrāni”:

“In this matter bring forward the Quraysh and do not try to supersede them.” (`An Asānīdi Mukhtalifah)

The Prophet (sws) stated thus the reason for the decision he had declared:

“People in this matter follow the Quraysh. The believers of Arabia are the followers of their believers and the disbelievers of Arabia are the followers of their disbelievers.” (Muslim, Kitāb-ul-Imārah)

Thus, the Prophet (sws) made it very clear that since the majority of the Arabian Muslims profess confidence in the Quraysh, therefore, in the light of the Qur’ānic Directive: amruhum shūrā bainahum, they are solely entitled to take charge as the rulers of Arabia, and that the Quraysh shall be passed on the political authority not because of any racial superiority but only by virtue of this position.

Those who have studied the history of the Arabs know that before the advent of the Prophet (sws), the Quraysh were at the helm of the state’s affairs and their leaders were considered as the leaders of the Arabs. After the battles of Badr and Uhud, though several of their leaders had been killed, yet in the capacity of a party they enjoyed the confidence of all the Arabs. All their prominent people who had accepted faith were present in Medina and many of them had distinguished themselves in the service of Islam. It were these people who were there called the Muhājirīn and after the general acceptance of faith by the Arabs had assumed the place of Utbah Ibn Rabī`ah, Shaibah Ibn Rabī`ah, Abul Bukhtarī Ibn Hishām, Naufal Ibn Khuwailid, Hārith Ibn Amir Ibn Naufal, Tu`aimah Ibn Adī Ibn Naufal, Nazar Ibn Al-Hārith, Zam`ah Ibn Al-Aswad, Abu Jahal Ibn Hishām, Umayyah Ibn Khalf, Munabbih Ibn Hajjjāj, Suhail Ibn Amr and Amr Ibn Abdiwud. Now Abdur Rehman Ibn Auf, Sa`ad Ibn Abi Waqqās, Abu Ubaidah Ibn Al-Jarrah, Zubair Ibn Al-Awām, Talha Ibn Ubaidullah, Ali, Uthman, ‘Umar and Abu Bakr held the same position of general trust and confidence as the leaders of the Quraysh did before the advent of Islam.

Due to these reasons, the fact, that the Quraysh enjoyed the confidence of the general Muslims of Arabia and no other group which could challenge their position existed in Arabia, was an undisputable reality, which did not require the confirmation of a general election.

There is no doubt that as far as Medina was concerned, the Ansār under Sa`ad Ibn Abādh and Sād Ibn Muāz the respective leaders of Aus and Khazraj, had more influence among the local population. They were no less than the Muhājirīn as regards the services they had done for the cause of Islam. They had offered their unconditional support and help to the Muhājirīn when the latter had migrated to Medina. Together with them, they had fought gallantly in the battles of Badr, Uhud, Ahzāb and Hunain. The relationship of brotherhood and fraternity they had established with them was an exceptional one. Particularly, the way they had offered them monetary assistance---just to please the Almighty of course---bears no parallel in history. If the Islamic State had been confined only to Medina, it can be said with certainty that after the Prophet (sws), they would have assumed political authority. But after the conquest of Mecca, when a large number of Arabs of other territories accepted Islam, the political scene change drastically. The extent of confidence commanded by the Muhahirīn of Quraysh out-proportioned that of the Ansār.

However, there was still a chance that under the perfectly natural emotions of tribal affiliation and the spirit of outdoing each other in serving Islam, the Ansār might have come out and challenged the Quraysh. Particularly, the fact that they commanded more influence locally in Medina might have caused them to put an undue trust in their strength. If such a situation, God forbid, arose the Munāfiqīn (hypocrites) would have certainly tried to benefit from it, and keeping in view the social conditions which prevailed at that time only a war could have settled their dissension.

Therefore, the Prophet (sws) sensing that this untoward situation might arise, decided once and for all the fate of this matter in his own life in the presence of Sād Ibn Ubādah, the leader of the Ansār. He is said to have said: `After me the leadership (imāmat) shall be transferred to the Quraysh.’

In the Saqīfah of Bani Sā`ida, when the leaders of the Ansār were delivering stirring speeches to prove their entitlement to the leadership of the Arabs, Hadhrat Abu Bakr reminded them of the Prophet’s above mentioned decision in the following words:

“O Sād! You know very well that the Prophet (sws) had said in your presence that the Quraysh shall be given the khilāfat because the noble among the Arabs follow their nobles and the their unrighteous follow their unrighteous. Sād replied: What you say is correct, we are your advisers and you are our rulers.” (“Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hambal”)

After this verification by Sād Ibn Ubādah, it became clear to those present that they had strayed from the right course in the heat of the discussion and that the right course was only to elect their ruler from the group which had the majority in the public; that whoever would be elected would be the Khalīfah of the Muslims and it would be obligatory to obey him; that this course had been outlined by the Prophet (sws) himself and they should not in any case adopt a different one.

The Khilāfat-i-Rāshidah was also founded on the basis of this decision declared by the Prophet (sws). When the leaders of the Ansār submitted to it, Hadhrat ‘Umar proclaimed the Khilāfat of Hadhrat Abu Bakr being sure of the fact that the leaders of the Quraysh shall not differ with him and would, in fact, endorse his step, considering the delicacy of the situation which had arisen in the Saqīfah. Later, he himself stated this reason for his step and warned the people that no one should dare present it as a violation of the Qur’ānic principle: amrahum shūrā bainahum:

“No one among you should have the misconception that the oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr took place suddenly. No doubt, the oath was pledged in the this way, but the Almighty protected the Muslims from its evil consequences [which may have arisen] and remember! there is none among you like Abu Bakr, whose greatness cannot be surpassed. Now if a person pledges an oath of allegiance to someone, without the opinion of the believers, no one should pledge allegiance to him as well as to whom he [himself] pledged allegiance because by this both of them shall present themselves for execution.” (Bukhārī , Kitāb-ul-Hudūd)

At the time of the death of Abu Bakr also, the general confidence enjoyed by the Muhājirīn of the Quraysh persisted. Since no other tribe of the Arabs including the Ansār had challenged this position, they continued to hold their position of authority, and there was no need to turn to the general public in this regard. Therefore, the leaders of the MuHajjirīn of the Quraysh nominated Hadhrat ‘Umar as the new Amīr-ul-Mominīn, and both the Ansār and the Muhājirīn---the two big tribes of the Muslims---accepted the appointment. Consequently, without any difference of opinion, Hadhrat ‘Umar, in direct accordance with the Islamic constitution, assumed the position of Khilāfat. Ibni Sād reports:

“When ill-health overtook Abu Bakr and the time of his death approached, he summoned Hadhrat Abdur Rehman Ibn Auf and said: `Tell me about ‘Umar Ibn Khattāb’. Abdur Rehman replied: `You are asking me about something of which you know better’. Abu Bakr said: `Although [this is correct yet I want your opinion]’. Abdur Rehman answered: `By God! he is even better than the opinion you hold about him’. Then he [Abu Bakr] called Uthman Ibn Affān and asked him: `Tell me about ‘Umar Ibn Khattāb’. Hadhrat Uthman replied: `You know him better than us’. Abu Bakr said: `Still! O Abu Abdullah! [I want your opinion]’. [At this] Hadhrat Uthman answered: `Indeed, in my opinion his inner self is better than his outer and no one among us can parallel him’.” (At-Tabaqāt-ul-Kubrā, Vol 3, Pg 199)

Ibni Sa’ad mentions that Abu Bakr besides these two consulted all the big leaders of the Ansār and the Muhājirīn:

“And he, besides these two, consulted Abul Awar Saeed Ibn Zaid and Asīd Ibn Al-Hudhair as well as other big leaders of the Ansār and the Muhājirīn, so Asīd said: `Indeed after you O Abu Bakr! I consider him the best. His inside is better than his outside. No one is more suited to bear the burden of this Khilāfat’.” (“At-Tabaqāt-ul-Kubrā”, Vol 3, Pg 199)

After this Ibni Sād reports that some people differed from Abu Bakr’s opinion but he satisfied them. He then called Hadhrat Uthman and said:

“Write: In the name of Allah the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful. This is the will of Abu Bakr Ibn Abī Quhāfah which he made at the end of his worldly life, when he is about to leave it and at the beginning of his next life when he is about to enter it, at a time when disbelievers accept faith, the defiant express belief and liars speak the truth. I make ‘Umar Ibn Khattāb your Khalīfah. Therefore, listen and obey him.” (“At-Tabaqāt-ul-Kubrā”, Vol 3, Pg 200)

This letter was sealed. According to Hadhrat Abu Bakr’s directive, ‘Umar Ibn Khattāb and Asīd Ibn Saeed accompanied Hadhrat Uthman while he took the letter out to the people and said:

“Will you pledge allegiance to the person in whose favour a will has been made in this letter. The people said: Yes.” (“At-Tabaqāt-ul-Kubrā”, Vol 3, Pg 200)

Ibni Sād reports:

“All accepted and agreed to pledge allegiance to Hadhrat ‘Umar. Then Abu Bakr called ‘Umar in solitude and gave him whatever advice he wanted to.” (“At-Tabaqāt-ul-Kubrā”, Vol 3, Pg 200)

When Hadhrat ‘Umar was severely wounded and his death looked imminent, the political situation was still unchanged. The Muhājirīn of the Quraysh still enjoyed the majority mandate of the Muslims. Therefore, according to the Islamic constitution only an election of a leader by the majority group was required. The people who held responsible positions asked Hadhrat ‘Umar, as reported by Ibni Sād:

“Will you not leave a will for us? Will you not appoint a Khalīfah for us? (“At-Tabaqāt-ul-Kubrā”, Vol 3, Pg 343)

Hadhrat ‘Umar, however, adopted another way: Instead of appointing a Khalīfah by consulting the shūrā members, as done by Hadhrat Abu Bakr, he entrusted the matter to six big leaders:

“I have deliberated on the matter of Imāmat-i-Āmah (Khilāfat) and have reached the conclusion that there is no difference among the people in this affair as far as it is one of you. If there is any difference, it is within you6. Therefore, this matter is entrusted to the six of you---Abdur Rehman, Uthman, Ali, Zubair, Talha and Sād.” (“At-Tabaqāt-ul-Kubrā”, Vol 3, Pg 344)

He further said:

“Rise, and make anyone amongst yourselves as the Amīr.” (“At-Tabaqāt-ul-Kubrā”, Vol 3, Pg 344)

However, since there was a chance that some miscreants might create disorder or that these six might prolong matters, Hadhrat ‘Umar appointed Ansār as the custodians over the six because, being a minority group, they were not a party to the whole affair7. Ibni Sād narrates through Ans Ibn Malik:

 “‘Umar Ibn Khattāb just before his death summoned Abu Talha Ansāri. When he arrived Hadhrat ‘Umar said: `Abu Talha take fifty men from your tribe Ansār and go ye to these people of the shūrā. I reckon they will be present at the house of someone amongst themselves. Stand at their door with your comrades and let no one go inside and do not give them more than three days for electing a leader’.” (“At-Tabaqāt-ul-Kubrā”, Vol 3, Pg 364)

Ibni Sād reports that when all of them had assembled, Abdul Rehman Ibn Auf opined that three of them should withdraw themselves in favour of three others. Consequently, Zubair withdrew in favour of Ali, and Talha and Sa`ad withdrew in favour of Uthman and Abdur Rehman Ibn Auf respectively. Then he asked Uthman and Ali to give him the right to decide, if he withdraws: When both agreed, he said to Ali:

“You have the honour of being among the earliest who accepted Islam as well as being a relation of the Prophet of Allah. By God! If you are entrusted with Khilāfat promise that you will rule with justice and if Uthman is made the Khalīfah, you shall listen and obey him.” (“At-Tabaqāt-ul-Kubrā”, Vol 3, Pg 339)

After Hadhrat Ali agreed, he turned to Hadhrat Uthman and repeated what he had said; When both showed their approval, he said:

“O Uthman! extend your hand! When he did so, Hadhrat Ali and others pledged their oath of allegiance.” (At-Tabaqāt-ul-Kubrā”, Vol 3, Pg 339)

There can be two opinions about the Khilāfat of Hadhrat Ali. This difference however, is not about any basic principle, but in the fact that whether the Muhājirīn of the Quraysh elected their leader with freedom or were they forced to do so. This discussion is irrelevant to our topic. Therefore, even if it is left out the fact remains that throughout the period of the Rightly Guided Caliphate, power remained with those who commanded the majority support of the Muslims ie, the Muhājirīn of the Quraysh and that their prominent leaders elected the Amīr. This also is a reality that all the four Caliphs were elected basically by the same principle. They were elected from the leaders of the majority group and all the leaders of the other groups were also consulted in this election. The only difference is that when they agreed on Hadhrat ‘Umar, Hadhrat Abu Bakr himself enforced this decision and Hadhrat ‘Umar, when he found that their difference was about six big leaders, entrusted the responsibility of electing one from among the six on the six person themselves. From this discussion it is evident that:

(1) In an Islamic state the existence of political parties is perfectly legal and, in fact, they are an important constituent of its political system.

(2) If today elections are held to ascertain which party enjoys the general support then it will be totally in accordance with Islam.

(3) The president of an Islamic State should not be elected directly by the general masses, instead his election should take place in the parliament through their representatives.

The Qualities of the Ūl-ul-Amr

According to the Qur’ān, the person who is elected as the head of state from the ūl-ul-amr should have a commanding and an awe-inspiring personality and should be the most distinguished among them not in wealth and affluence but in integrity, wisdom and intellect. These qualities have, therefore, been cited by the Qur’ān as the real reason behind the nomination of Tālūt (Saul) for the supreme leadership of the Banī Israel:

“Indeed, Allah has chosen him to rule over you and has gifted him abundantly with knowledge and physique.” (2:247)

It is evident from this that such elements are not suitable to head an Islamic State who lack intellect, wisdom and masculine attributes; who instead of being venturesome and enterprising are passive and receptive by nature, and who instead of influencing others are more liable to be influenced8

The reason for this is that the ruler of an Islamic State is not one who only heads them, he also leads the believers in Prayers, Hajj and Jihād. Moreover, he is like a father to his nation, and a model and a guide for them. He is the voice of their conscience, a representative of their ideology, a symbol of their cognizance---someone in whom their sense of honour is personified. It is vital, therefore, that he be someone who instead of delicacy has the ability to take the initiative and who instead of resignation and tenderness possess resolution and tenacity. Whether he be addressing the parliament, the Juma congregation or his soldiers in a battle, it is his authoritative yet majestic, dominating yet gracious and awe-inspiring yet benevolent personality which commands the love and respect of all. It is this towering stature of a Muslim ruler because of which the feeble feel secure, the old feel revitalized and the young are inspired to daring deeds.

It should be clear that the word `knowledge’ stated in the verse not only encompasses a deep understanding of political and administrative matters but also the ability to deal soundly with them. Furthermore, a natural outcome of such `knowledge’ is a God-fearing attitude. The Qur’ān says:

“Only those among God’s servants fear Him who have knowledge.” (35:28)

An aspect of this God-fearing attitude is that a person should consider a governmental post as a responsibility and should in no way have any greed for it. The Prophet (sws) has explained this in the following way:

“By God we shall not grant any person a post in this system who asks for it and has greed for it.” (Muslim, Kitāb-ul-Imārah)

“In our consideration, the most dishonest among you is the one who asks for a post.” (Abu Daud, Kitāb-ul-Kharāj-wal-Imārah)

Once, the Prophet (sws) counselled a Companion in the following words:

“Abdur Rahman! Do not seek a post. If it is granted to you because of your desire your shall [find yourself] being handed over to it and if it is granted to you without your desire, the Almighty shall help you.” (Muslim, Kitāb-ul-Imārah)

It is evident that the other government personnel should also have these qualities. The Prophet (sws) has said:

“When people having the best character are your rulers and your rich are generous and your system is based on consultation, the surface of the earth is better for you than its core and when people having the worst character are your rulers and your rich are stingy and your affairs are entrusted to women, the core of the earth is better for you than its surface.” (Tirmazī, Abwāb-ul-Fitan)

From the above qualities of the ūl-ul-amr, it is clear that an Islamic Political System by nature is an aristocracy which is based on the piety, wisdom and political acumen of the people who constitute it. Therefore, it is necessary that a person who is devoid of these abilities should not become a part of it.

Norms for Leadership

After assuming an office in the government the Prophet (sws) has decreed that all the officials of the government must necessarily follow three principles:

Firstly, the standard of living of the head of an Islamic State and his administrators shall not exceed that of a common citizen.

Secondly, their doors shall always remain open to hear the grievances and problems of the general public.

Thirdly, the Friday prayers must be led by the head of state in the federal capital and by his administrators in other cities.

These principles are based on established historical facts. During the Prophet’s time and the period of the Rightly Guided Caliphs these principles were strongly adhered to. Today also, they must necessarily be followed by our leaders and administrators. Moreover, it should be kept in consideration that it is because of these norms of leadership that, in the words of the Prophet (sws) an Islamic State is called `Khilāfat alā Minhājin Nabuwwah’ and in the words of the Prophet Jesus (sws), it is called the `Kingdom of God’ and whenever it is established on earth, people receive the blessings of the Almighty from the heavens above and the earth below.

Rights and Duties of A Citizen

An important issue pertaining to the relationship between a state and an individual is the rights and duties of a citizen. People generally believe that their history began in 1215 with the imposition of the Magna Carta in England and after progressing through the stages of Thomas Paine’s “The Rights of Man”, Rosseau’s “The Concept of a Social Contract”, and “The Manifesto of Human Rights” of the French Revolution reached its pinnacle in “The Universal Charter of Human Rights” of the United Nations; But, the truth of the matter is that centuries ago the Qur’ān had enunciated them in just two sentences in its own miraculous style, making all this human endeavour appear mediocre if not very ordinary in front of it. Furthermore, human intellect after discovering its far reaching implications is compelled to acknowledge that it can neither imagine something better nor add anything to it. The Qur’ān says:

“If they repent [from all un-Islamic beliefs], establish regular prayers, and pay zakat, leave them alone.” (9:5) 

“If they repent [from all un-Islamic beliefs], establish regular prayers, and pay zakat, they are your brethren in religion.” (9:11)

Both these verses of Sūrah Taubah have the same context. The Qur’ān says that it should be proclaimed in the congregation of Hajj that those who fulfil the conditions stated in these verses ie, repentance, establishing of regular prayers and paying of zakat are the brethren of the believers and that their lives should be spared.

A little deliberation on these verses reveals their similarity of words except their respective endings. The first verse which ends with a negative note directs the believers to spare those who fulfil these three conditions, while the second one which closes on a positive note directs the believers to consider them as their brethren in religion. Moreover, two fixed and positive conditions have been coordinated with a comprehensive term fa in tābū, which implies the giving up of all prohibited things. 

If these aspects of the verse are kept in consideration, five things become very evident:

Firstly, people who fulfil these conditions, irrespective of their status in the Hereafter, shall be considered as Muslims in the eyes of the law and the state, and they shall be entitled to all the rights which as Muslims they should have in an Islamic State.

Secondly, after fulfilling these conditions the mutual relationship between the rulers and the ruled is necessarily that of brotherhood. They are like brothers and, therefore, possess the same legal rights. There is no question of any discrimination between them in Islam.

Thirdly, due to this relationship of brotherhood, all responsibilities which reason and intellect endorse are imposed on the rulers and the ruled.

Fourthly, in these verses the Qur’ān instead of saying: `if they accept faith’ (fa in āmanū) has said: `if they repent’ (fa in tābū) which, in fact, means `to refrain from what is prohibited’ and has coordinated it with two positive requirements of Islam: prayers and zakat; a corollary of this is that fa in tābū should denote its literal meaning ie, `to refrain from what is prohibited’ and imply repentance from every faith and deed which is prohibited in Islam.

Fifthly, irrespective of the duties and obligations imposed on a person as far as the accountability in the Hereafter is concerned, an Islamic State can only legally ask its citizens and force them to fulfil the three requirements mentioned in these verses. Nothing can be added or taken away from this list. The Almighty Himself has fixed them once and for all; therefore, no rule or regulation, and no state or parliament can tamper with the life, wealth, honour, and freedom of expression of the Muslims. Consequently, the Caliph Abu Bakr, when he has launching an attack against those who were desisting to pay zakat, stated in unequivocal terms:

“The Almighty has said: `Therefore, if they repent establish regular prayers and pay zaqat, spare their lives’. By God I shall neither ask for more nor less.” (“Ahkām-ul-Qur’ān”, Jassās, Vol 3, Pg 82).

If these aspects of the verse are kept in consideration, it is clear that indeed an Islamic State has the authority to force its Muslim citizens to refrain from everything which is prohibited and to punish them if they do not comply because they have been considered as Muslims only after they have accepted to refrain from all prohibited things under the words `fa in tābū’, but, positively, an Islamic State has no authority to require anything of the Muslims except salāt and zakāt. It certainly has the right to legislate about the prohibited things in Islam and punish people if they violate them: for example, laws can be enacted against theft, adultery, murder and things which come under Shirk and Kufr; similarly, it can forcibly stop everything which endangers the life, wealth and property of the people, but except for salāt and zakāt, it cannot positively demand anything from the believers. It cannot force a Muslim to keep fasts nor can it compel him to perform Hajj if he has the financial position to do so; nor can it pass a law for compulsory military recruitment for the purpose of Jihād. In short, as far as legislation against prohibited things is concerned, it has all the authority to do so, but except for salāt and zakāt, it can only urge and exhort, educate and indoctrinate people to fulfil the other positive requirements of Islam. Its jurisdiction ends here in this regard.

It is clear from the foregoing discussion that in these two verses the Almighty has comprehensively stated a manifesto of human rights. It is impossible to mention all the rights of a Muslim citizen which as a result of this manifesto he possesses; however, we shall attempt to state some of the important ones.

Rights of Muslim Citizens

If the citizens of an Islamic State refrain from what is prohibited, establish regular prayers and pay zakat, then according to the words `leave them alone’ of verse five of Sūrah Taubah quoted above, it is their right that:

Their lives should be safeguarded at all costs and they should not be compelled to put their lives in danger even for a very noble cause.

Their rightfully owned wealth and property should be protected.

No tax should be imposed on them.

Their honour and integrity should be given protection.

Even in extraordinary circumstances their personal freedom should not be curtailed totally or partially, until after an open court hearing, a court pronounces a verdict after they have been given a chance to plead.

They should not be forced to adopt any particular thought, opinion, view, occupation, dress or attitude.

No restriction should be imposed on them as regards forming an opinion is concerned as well as its presentation wherever and whenever they like.

No responsibility should be imposed on them against their wishes.

Similarly, according to the words `they are your brethren in religion’ of verse eleven of Sūrah Taubah quoted above, it is their right that:

Every citizen rich or poor, high or low, strong or weak, ruler or ruled should be considered equal in the eyes of the law and no discrimination in this regard should be tolerated.

The state must grant each citizen the same social status irrespective of his colour, creed and rank which are given importance only in `uncivilized’ societies.

The state must provide food, clothing, shelter, education, health facilities and all such basic necessities to every needy citizen.

The doors of the ūl-ul-amr must always remain open without any restriction on the general public so that at any time and place they are able to reach them to present their grievances and petitions, and are also able to criticize them and to freely call them to account.

They should be provided unbiased justice in all circumstances.

These are the rights of a citizen. Parallel to these, according to the same words `they are your brethren in religion’ of verse eleven of Sūrah Taubah, there are some duties also which are imposed on the Muslim citizens of an Islamic State.

Duties of Muslim Citizens

Their first duty is obedience to the state. In the Islamic Political Law, it is termed as sam’u tā’t. After pledging this covenant with the state, they should remain loyal and sincere to those in authority as long as they follow Islam, just as a brother is loyal and sincere to a brother. They should not intentionally do something which is harmful in any way to the state and should honestly serve the state; if it at anytime they are consulted, they should say only what they consider as correct.

Their second duty is that they should always keep a watchful eye on the state and its machinery that they should not deviate from the path prescribed by Allah and His Prophet (sws). Whenever they see the ūl-ul-amr doing something ungainly or deviating from the right path, they should try to stop them so that their brothers are shielded from the wrath of Allah in this world and in the Hereafter.

Their third duty is that they should co-operate with the state and its machinery just as a brother co-operates with his brother. The ultimate form of this co-operation is that they should put their life and wealth at stake when it appeals for their help in such situations as an enemy invasion or efforts to achieve the supremacy of Islam.

These are the implications of the above two verses of Sūrah Taubah. The Prophet (sws) has also explained them on a number of occasions in the following words:

“I have been ordained to wage war9 with these people until they testify to the oneness of Allah and the Prophethood of Mohammad10, establish regular prayers and pay zakat. If they accept these conditions their lives shall be given protection except if they are deprived of this protection on the grounds of some offense they may commit11. As far as their account is concerned, it rests with Allah.” (Muslim, Kitāb-ul-Imān)

In the sermon of the Last Hajj, the Prophet (sws) has rephrased this in the following words:

“Indeed, your life, honour and wealth are as sacred and inviolable as this day12 of yours, this city of yours13 of yours in this month14 of yours.” (Muslim, Kitāb-al-Hajj)

“People! Listen! An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab over an Arab. And a white is not superior to a black and a black to a white. Only piety should be the basis of superiority for a person.” (“Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hambal”, Vol 5, Pg 411)

“People before you were destroyed because they punished the weak and acquitted the strong. By the Lord! in whose hands is my life, even if Fātimah [my daughter] had committed this crime, I would have cut her hand off.” (Bukhārī , Kitāb-ul-Hudūd)

“A ruler who closes his doors on the poor and the needy, [should know that] the Almighty shall close the doors of the heavens on his needs, indigence and poverty.” (Tirmazī, Kitāb-ul-Ahkām)

“Anyone who left behind responsibilities [not yet fulfilled], I [as the head of state] shall fulfil them and the heirs of a per son shall receive the wealth he has left behind. However, I am the heir of the person who has no heirs. I shall pay Dīyat on his behalf and receive his inheritance.” (Abu Daud, Kitāb-ul-Farāidh)

 “It is your duty to listen and obey your rulers15 whether you are in a difficulty or at ease, whether willingly or unwillingly and even when you do not receive what is your right.” (Muslim, Kitāb-ul-Imārah).

“The Almighty has approved three things for you and disapproved three. The three things he has approved are: you should worship Him without associating others with Him and hold fast to the cable of Allah and show nus-h and sincerity to your ūl-ul-amr.” (“Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hambal”, Vol 2, Pg 327)

“Not many days will pass when those people will rule over you in whose hands will be your livlihood. Whenever they will say anything to you, it will be a lie and whatever they will do, it will be against the right path. They will not be happy with you until you praise their evil deeds and affirm their lies. At that time you should say what is right until they tolerate it, and if they exceed from this, then whoever is executed on this basis, he is a martyr.” (“Kanz-ul-Ummāl”, Vol 6, Pg 296)

“The greatest Jihād is to say what is just in front of a cruel ruler.” (Abu Daud, Kitāb-ul-Malāhim)

Rights of Non-Muslims

In the foregoing discussion, we have delineated the rights and duties of Muslim citizens of an Islamic State. As far as non Muslim citizens are concerned, they are of only two categories regarding their citizenship in a state: (i) Mu`āhids ie, those have come under an Islamic State on account of a treaty with it, (ii) Zimmīs ie, those who have come under an Islamic State on account of being subdued in a battle.

All dealings with the Mu`āhids should be according to the terms of the peace treaty concluded with them. Muslims have been binded by Islam to abide by these terms in all circumstances and to never violate them in the slightest way. Such violations according to Islam are totally forbidden and, in fact, amount to a grave transgression. The Qur’ān says:

“Keep [your] covenants; because indeed on the Day of Judgement you will be held accountable for them.” (17:34)

The Prophet is said to have said:

“Beware! I myself shall invoke the justice of the Almighty on the Day of Judgement against the person who oppresses and persecutes a Mu`āhad, or reduces his rights, or burdens him [with responsibilities] he cannot bear, or takes something from him against his will.” (Abu Daud: Kitāb-ul-Jihād)

As Zimmīs, after accepting the supremacy of an Islamic State by paying Jizyā, they shall have all the rights which they should have according to all norms of justice and fairness. In this regard, the Qur’ān has explicitly stated the principle that Muslims while dealing with their enemies must not exceed the limits of justice, not to speak of the Zimmīs who have accepted the authority of an Islamic State:

“And let not the enmity of a people turn you away from justice. Deal justly; this is nearer to piety.” (5:8)

Therefore, according to this principle, after a treaty is concluded with the Zimmīs, it is their right that:

Their life, wealth and honour should be protected by the state such that no one whosoever is able to lay hands on them.

The Jizyā imposed on them should be according to their financial conditions and it should necessarily be taken into consideration that the amount imposed should be in their reach.

Jizyā should only be imposed on individuals who can take part in a war. Children, women, the handicapped, the insane, the darvesh and the monks among them who have given up the pleasures of the world, the old and the sick who cannot earn their living should in all circumstances be exempted from this tax.

The needy and poor among them should be provided the basic necessities of life.

Their personal matters and religious rituals should be exempted from the law of the state and no interference should be made in their faith and religion.

Their places of worship should be left intact.

They should be allowed to present their religion to others in a polite manner.

In short, except for participating in the state affairs, they should be given all the rights which are sanctioned by the norms of justice and fairness for people in a civilized society, and in this regard all dealings should be done in a befitting manner---because Allah likes people who adopt this attitude.











1. Rejection of truth after it has become clear.

2. One who does injustice to his soul by rejecting the truth after it has become clear to him.

3. One who intentionally disobeys Divine Decrees.

4. If such a struggle takes the shape of an armed conflict which in Islamic terminology is called Khurūj then the two other conditions which have been stated in the Shariah should also necessarily be fulfilled:

Firstly, the government should be a despotic one, which neither came into existence through the opinion of the people nor is it possible to change it through their opinion.

Secondly, the person who leads this uprising should have a clear cut majority of the nation at his back and they are willing to accept him as their future ruler in favour of the existing one.

5. No one should have a misconception from the words qitāl (war) in the traditions quoted. The opponents in this case were the Bani Ismael, the nation towards whom the Prophet (sws) was assigned. For them the law was either to accept faith or face destruction. Citizenship meant the fulfilment of the three conditions stated in verse eleven of Sūrah Tauba quoted above. Therefore, the Companions of the Prophet waged war against them if they declined to fulfil even one of them.

6. ie, since the people only look upon you for Khilāfat; therefore, if you agree to accept anyone among you as Khalīfah, they shall not differ with your decision.

7. Hadhrat ‘Umar had said: Call the leaders of the Ansār to you, but they have no share in your imārat.” (“Al-Imāmah Wassiyāsah”, Ibni Qutaiba, Pg 28)

8. Therefore, the authenticity of the hadīth `That nation shall never prosper which entrusts its affairs to a woman’ (Bukhārī , Kitāb-ul-Fitan) can, though, be questioned on the bases that before the battle of Jamal no one had knowledge of a hadīth which relates to a highly important affair, only one Companion of the Prophet (sws) Abu Bakra has reported it and he too made no mention of it until Ummul-Mominīn Hadhrat Ayesha and Hadhrat Ali were confronted in a battle, and it also seems that the hadīth was concocted under Shi`ite propaganda to prove wrong Hadhrat Ayesha’s move against Hadhrat Ali, yet there is no doubt that what has been stated in the hadīth is based on this principle.

9. We have already indicated where this hadīth has been quoted earlier the reason and circumstances for such a war.

10. The Prophet (sws) has actually stated in these words the outcome of repentance from every faith and deed against Islam.

11. For example, if they are be executed if they kill someone or if dīyat is extracted from them .

12. ie, the day of sacrifice.

13. ie, the city of Mecca.

14. ie, the month of ZulHajj.

15. ie, in matters in which, according to the Qur’ān, they have the right to give a directive.

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