Islam and Rule of the People – IJun 25th, 2012 | By Saad Lakhani | Category: Featured, Latest, Pakistan, Religion, Social, World
Is there anything wrong with the idea that people should have the right to rule? Many people argue that there actually is something unacceptable and Islam does not permit such a thing; a blasphemy, maybe. To say that the people have the right to rule, they argue, is to give away a right reserved for God alone as sovereignty belongs to God, no one should be allowed to be partner in it.
Seemingly, this does tend to make sense. More so, in times as ours when people have come to detest democracy in general after witnessing decades of jiyala politics in Pakistan, and hence express their frustration in various forms, including religious ones.
I, for one, cannot comprehend the absolutist condemnation of democracy. One may debate that politics in our country has degenerated to a very humiliating level (to which one can point out many other reasons besides ‘democracy’). But an outright condemnation to the point that one uses religion to oppose it brings many complications as the image of a religion – that is democratic to the core – is put at stake.
I believe that the argument above is based on certain confusions and mishandlings of conceptions in the Islamic tradition.
First of all, it is beyond doubt that God alone is sovereign. This concept emanates from the creed of Tawhid-the oneness of Allah. This is undeniable and incontestable on all levels. But when we are talking about this world we have to be more explicit and clear in what we imply.
While we may recognize God’s supremacy in this world and the next, we never mean that humans don’t have worldly authority. To say that they don’t would be to deny both free will, everything we see all day and common sense, for the sake of it. It is people who already rule themselves; whether in the form of a singular individual, an institution, class, race, parliament and so on. If human rule is to be denied in its worldly sense then the only plausible form of government would be an anarchic one. Sadly maybe, neither God nor His angels come down on earth and take control of governments. It’s a human decision to make; with or without taking God into consideration.
The question that arises then is, in what form does an Islamic state manifest itself?
Islam has provided a socio-political framework and universal principles that guide us in this regard as well. While Islam recognizes the Divine authority, it fails to recognize a divinely class, and hence closes the doors of theocracy. In this sense, the Islamic ideal is not a religious state. Nobody represents God’s will on earth. Instead, God provides the legitimacy to people to rule on his behalf under the framework of His divine guidelines. He did this by making universal man (all humankind) His vicegerent on earth.
The Islamic principle of governance establishes itself on the basis of shoora (consultation) and Khalifat. Derived from these two principles, we can safely say that while western democracy champions popular sovereignty, Islam recognizes popular vicegerency. While there seems to be common ground on the functional level, conceptually both are worlds apart. It’s somewhat like praying in front of a rock; if your idea of the rock is that it is an idol worth worship then the same action – that would otherwise be completely appropriate – becomes a sin.
The Islamic ideal requires that the Muslim community be taken into confidence not only in the selection of the rulers but also in the decisions of the rulers. The welcoming attitude towards criticism by the Khulfa e Rashideen (the Pious Caliphs) is well established. The attitude of Hazrat Ali (RA) and Hazrat Usman (RA), for example, towards the rebels is without any precedent in history. At a moment, Hazrat Ali (RA) even refused to take action against a rebel who openly declared that he will murder the respected caliph. In both these cases, the caliphs in question had to bear many troubles to uphold such cherished ideals.
On an occasion, Hazrat Umer (RA) spoke unambiguously about the selection of the Muslim ruler. While explaining to people that the selection of Hazrat Abu Bakr (RA) was not to be taken as a precedent because it was only adopted out of circumstantial necessity, he went on to say that “If someone gives pledge (bay’et) of allegiance to another (to become a Caliph) without consulting the Muslim community, then the one he has selected should not be granted allegiance, lest both of them should be killed.” * Obviously, the strict connotation at the end refers to carrying out a crime against both the state and the community. The same treatment would today be reserved for someone who breaks the constitution to usurp power.
Reference“ *Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 82, Number 817”