The situation which has been created today for Islam and Muslims in the whole world by certain extremist organizations is an evil consequence of the ideology taught in our religious seminaries, and also propagated day and night by Islamic movements and religious political parties. The true understanding of Islam, in contrast to this, has been presented by this writer in his treatise Mizan.1 This understanding actually constitutes a counter narrative. It has been repeatedly pointed out by this writer that when in a Muslim society anarchy is created on the basis of religion, the remedy to this situation is not advocacy of secularism. On the contrary, the solution lies in presenting a counter narrative to the existing narrative on religion. Its details can be looked up in the aforementioned treatise. However, the part of it which relates to Islam and the state is summarized below.
1. The message of Islam is primarily addressed to an individual. It wants to rule the hearts and minds of people. The directives it has given to the society are also addressed to individuals who are fulfilling their responsibilities as the rulers of Muslims. Hence, it is baseless to think that a state also has a religion and there is a need to Islamize it through an Objectives Resolution and that it must be constitutionally bound to not make any law repugnant to the Qur’an and Sunnah. People who presented this view and were successful in having it implemented actually laid the foundations of a permanent division in the nation states of these times: it gave the message to the non-Muslims that they are in fact second rate citizens who at best occupy the status of a protected minority and that if they want to demand anything from the real owners of the state must do this in this capacity of theirs.
2. It can be the dream of every person that countries in which Muslims are in majority should unite under a single rule and we can also strive to achieve this goal but this is no directive of the Islamic shari‘ah which today Muslims are guilty of disregarding. Certainly not! Neither is khilafah a religious term nor its establishment at the global level a directive of Islam. After the first century hijrah, when celebrated jurists of the Muslims were among them, two separate Muslim kingdoms, the Abbasid kingdom in Baghdad and the Umayyad kingdom in Spain had been established and remained established for many centuries. However, none of these jurists regarded this state of affairs to be against the Islamic shari‘ah. The reason is that there is not a single directive found on this issue in the Qur’an and the Hadith. On the contrary, what everyone, including this writer, does say is that if at any place a state is established, rebelling against it is a heinous crime. Such is the horrific nature of this crime that the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said that a person who does so dies the death of jahiliyyah.2
3. The basis of nationhood in Islam is not Islam itself, as is generally understood. At no place in the Qur’an and Hadith has it been said that Muslims must become one nation. On the contrary, what the Qur’an has said is: (٤٩: ١٠) اِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُوْنَ اِخْوَةٌ (All Muslims are brothers to one another, (49:10)). Thus the relationship between Muslims is not based on nationhood; it is rather based on brotherhood. While being divided into several nations, countries and states they are brothers in faith. Hence, what can be demanded from them is that they should keep themselves aware of the circumstances of their brothers, help them in their troubles and tribulations, support those who are oppressed among them, give them preference in economic and social ties and in no circumstances close their doors on them. However, what cannot be demanded from them is that they give up their nation states and national identities and become one nation and one state. Just as they can create separate nation states, in the same way if they have the freedom to follow their religion, they can live in the capacity of citizens of non-Muslim states and adopt their nationality. None of this is forbidden by the Qur’an and Sunnah.
4. If some Muslims of the world declare themselves as Muslims and, in fact, insist on this and adopt a belief or deed which is not approved by one or more scholars or the rest of the Muslims, then this deed or belief of theirs can be regarded as incorrect and even a deviation and departure from Islam, yet these people cannot be regarded as non-Muslims or disbelievers (kuffar) because these people adduce their views from the Qur’an and Hadith. For the ruling of God on such beliefs and deeds, we must wait for the Day of Judgement. Their proponents in this world in accordance with their own acknowledgement are Muslims, must be regarded as Muslims and must be dealt with in the same way as a Muslim is dealt with. It is the right of the scholars to point out their mistake, to invite them to accept what is correct, to regard what they find as constituting polytheism and disbelief in their ideology and also inform people about all this. However, no one has the right to declare them as non-Muslims or to ostracize them from the Muslim community because only God can give this right to someone, and everyone who has knowledge of the Qur’an and Hadith knows that God has not given this right to anyone.
5. Polytheism, disbelief and apostasy are indeed grave crimes; however, no human being can punish another human being for these crimes. This is the right of God alone. In the Hereafter too, He will punish them for these crimes and in this world it is He Who does so if He intends. The matter of the Hereafter is not under discussion here. In this world, this punishment takes place in the following manner: when the Almighty decides to reward and punish people in this world on the basis of their deeds, He sends His messenger towards them. This messenger conclusively communicates the truth to these people such that they are left with no excuse before God to deny it. After that the verdict of God is passed and people who even after the conclusive communication of the truth insist on disbelief and polytheism are punished in this world. This is an established practice of God which the Qur’an describes in the following words: وَلِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَّسُولٌ فَإِذَا جَاء رَسُولُهُمْ قُضِيَ بَيْنَهُم بِالْقِسْطِ وَهُمْ لاَ يُظْلَمُونَ (٤٧:١٠) (And for each community, there is a messenger. Then when their messenger comes, their fate is decided with full justice and they are not wronged, (10:47)). Its nature is the same as of the sacrifice of Ishmael (sws) and the incident of Khidr. It is not related to us human beings. Just as we cannot drill a hole in the boat of a poor person to help him and cannot kill a disobedient boy nor embark upon slaughtering any of our sons on the basis of a dream as Abraham (sws) did, similarly, we cannot undertake this task except if a revelation comes from God or if He directly gives an order. Everyone knows that the door to this has permanently been closed.
6. No doubt jihad is a directive of Islam. The Qur’an requires of its followers that if they have the strength, they should wage war against oppression and injustice. The primary reason of this directive is to curb persecution which is the use of oppression and coercion to make people give up their religion. Those having insight know that Muslims are not given this directive of jihad in their individual capacity; they are addressed in their collective capacity regarding this directive. They are not individually addressed in the verses of jihad which occur in the Qur’an. Thus in this matter only the collectivity has the right to launch any such armed offensive. No individual or group of Muslims has the right to take this decision on their behalf. It is for this reason that the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: “A Muslim ruler is a shield; war can only waged under him.”3
7. The directive of jihad given by Islam is war for the cause of God; therefore, it cannot be waged while disregarding moral restrictions. Ethics and morality supersede everything in all circumstances and even in matters of war and armed offensives, the Almighty has not allowed Muslims to deviate from moral principles. Hence, it is absolutely certain that jihad can only be waged against combatants. It is the law of Islam that if a person attacks through his tongue, then this attack shall be countered through the tongue and if he financially supports the warriors, then he will be stopped from this support; however, unless a person picks up arms to wage war, his life cannot be taken. So much so, if right in the battle field an enemy throws down arms and surrenders, he shall be taken a prisoner; he cannot be executed after this. The words of the verse which mention the directive of jihad are: وَقَاتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ الَّذِينَ يُقَاتِلُونَكُمْ وَلَا تَعْتَدُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُعْتَدِينَ (٢: ١٩٠) (And fight in the way of God with those who fight against you and do not transgress bounds [in this fighting]. Indeed, God does not like the transgressors, (2:190)). The Prophet (sws) forbade the killing of women and children during war.4 The reason for this is that if they had embarked upon jihad with the army, it was not in the capacity of combatants. At best, they could boost the morale of the combatants and urge them through the tongue to fight.
8. Centuries before the thinkers of the present age, the Qur’an had declared: اَمْرُهُم شُوْرٰی بَينَهُمْ (٤٢: ٣٨) (the affairs of the Muslims are run on the basis of their mutual consultation, (42:38)). This clearly meant that an Islamic government would be established through their consultation, everyone would have equal rights in this consultation, whatever done through consultation could only be undone through consultation and every individual would become part of the consultative process. Moreover, if a decision could be reached through a consensus or total agreement, then the opinion of the majority would be accepted as the decision.
This is precisely what democracy is. Thus dictatorship is not acceptable in any case whether it is of a dynasty or a of a group or of a national institution and not even of religious scholars in the interpretation of issues related to religion and shari‘ah. These scholars indeed have the right to present their views and express their opinions; however, their view can only become a law for the people to follow when the majority of the elected representatives accept it. In modern states, the institution of the parliament has been constituted for this very purpose. It holds and should hold the final authority in the system of a state. People do have a right to criticize the decisions of the parliament and point out their mistakes; however, no one has the right to disobey them or rebel against them. Neither scholars nor the judiciary is above the parliament. The principle of اَمْرُهُم شُوْرٰی بَينَهُمْ (42: 38) binds every individual and every institution to practically submit to the decisions of the parliament even though they may differ with them.
It is only this way which is justifiable in setting up the rule of Islam and running it. If any other way is adopted to set up this rule, then it will be illegal even though the forehead of its ruler may glisten with the signs of prostration or even if he is bestowed the title of amir al-mu’minin.
9. If at some place a Muslim government exists, it is generally asked to implement the shari‘ah. This expression is misleading because it gives the impression that Islam has given the right to a government to forcibly implement all the directives of the shari‘ah on people. The fact is that the Qur’an and Hadith do not give this authority to any government. The Islamic shari‘ah contains two categories of directives. The first category comprises directives which are given to individuals and the second category comprises directives which are given to a Muslim society. The first category relates to directives which are between an individual and God. In these directives, a person is not responsible to any government; on the contrary, he is responsible to God. Hence, no government, for example, can force a person to fast or go for hajj or ‘umrah or to circumcise himself or to keep his moustaches trimmed or in the case of a woman to cover her chest, refrain from displaying her ornaments or to wear a scarf when going out. In such matters, a government has no authority beyond urging and educating people except if there is a chance of rights being usurped or excesses being committed against the life, wealth and honour of people. The Qur’an has explicitly said that among the positive directives of religion, a state can only forcibly demand from them to offer the prayer and pay zakah. The Qur’an (9:5) says that after this, it is incumbent upon the state to leave them alone and not try to enforce anything on them. As for the second category of directives, they are only given to a government because it is a government which represents a society in collective affairs. If religious scholars demand from those in authority to obey them, then they certainly will be justified. In fact, it is their duty in their capacity as scholars to make such a demand. It should be clear that this demand is the demand to follow the shari‘ah. Implementation of the shari‘ah is not the right name for this demand. This second category comprises the following directives:
i. Muslims will not be subjects of their rulers but equal citizens. No discrimination shall be made between them in the state system and the laws of the state. Their life, wealth and honour shall hold sanctity – so much so that without their consent the state shall not impose any tax on them other than zakah. If a dispute arises in their personal affairs like marriage, divorce, distribution of inheritance and other similar matters, then it shall be decided in accordance with the Islamic shari‘ah. They shall be provided with all the essential facilities for their daily prayers, the fasts of Ramadan and hajj and ‘umrah. They will not be forced by the law to submit to any directive which reflects a positive injunction of Islam except the prayer and the zakah. They will be governed with justice and fairness on the principle of اَمْرُهُم شُوْرٰی بَينَهُمْ (٤٢: ٣٨) (the affairs of the Muslims are run on the basis of their mutual consultation, (42:38)). Their public wealth and assets shall be reserved for the collective needs of the society and shall not be given in private ownership; in fact, they shall be developed and looked after in such a way that the needs of people who are not able to financially support themselves are fulfilled from their income. If they pass away, they shall be enshrouded and prepared for burial according to Muslim rites; their funeral prayer shall be offered and they shall be buried in the graveyard of the Muslims the way Muslims are buried.
ii. It shall be the responsibility of the government to organize the Friday and the ‘id prayers. These prayers shall be held only at places which are specified by the state. Their pulpits shall be reserved for the rulers. They themselves will lead and deliver the sermon of these prayers or some representative of theirs will fulfill this responsibility on their behalf. Within the confines of the state, no one will have the authority to organize these prayers independently.
iii. Law enforcing departments shall be primarily reserved for amar bi al-ma‘ruf and nahi ‘an al-munkar (enjoining good and forbidding evil). Thus the most pious of people will be selected as workers of these departments. They will urge people to do good and forbid them all what mankind has always regarded as evil. However, they will only use the force of law when a person is guilty of usurping rights or goes after the life, wealth and honour of people.
iv. The state shall always adhere to justice (qa’im bi al-qist) with regard to its enemies as well. It will speak the truth, bear witness to it and will not take any step contrary to justice and fairness.
v. If the state enters into agreement with someone within its jurisdiction or with some foreign entity, then as long as the agreement exists it shall be honoured both in letter and in spirit with full honesty and sincerity.
vi. The death penalty will be given in two cases only: murder and spreading anarchy in the land. If a Muslim is guilty of murder, theft, fornication, falsely accusing someone of fornication (qadhf) or spreading anarchy and disorder in the land and a court is fully satisfied that he does not deserve any leniency arising from his personal, familial and social circumstances, then those punishments shall be meted out to him which the Almighty has prescribed in His Book for those who have whole-heartedly accepted the call of Islam.
vii. Dissemination of Islam to all parts of this world shall be organized at the state level. If any power of the world tries to hinder this effort or persecutes Muslims, then the state, according to its capacity, will try to remove this hindrance and stop this persecution even if it has to use force for it.5
10. These are the directives of the shari‘ah which relate to the state and have been given with the warning that those who do not accept the verdict of the Book of God after acknowledging it will be regarded as wrongdoers (zalim), defiant (fasiq) and disbelievers (kafir) on the Day of Judgement.6 However, if the rulers of the Muslims, in spite of this warning are guilty of some error in this regard or become rebellious, then the only responsibility of religious scholars is to warn them of its consequences in this world and the Hereafter. With wisdom and kindly exhortation, they should call them to mend their ways, face their questions, dispel their doubts and logically reason with them as to why God has given them His shari‘ah. They should explain to them its relevance in the collective sphere of life. They should also elucidate to them the basis of its directives and the difficulty which a person of the modern era faces in understanding it. They should adopt styles and ways to explain and clarify it so that its underlying wisdom and objective becomes evident to them and their hearts and minds are able to adopt it with full satisfaction and they become prepared to follow it. The Qur’an has stated that the real status of religious scholars is to invite people to the truth and warn them about any deviation from it. God does not want them to force people to follow Islam or to organize their followers in groups that ask people at gun point to follow the shari‘ah.
(Translated by Dr Shehzad Saleem)
1. English title: Islam: A Comprehensive Introduction.
2. Bukhari, nos. 7053-7054.
3. Bukhari, no. 2957.
4. Bukhari, no. 3015; Muslim, no. 1744.
5. In order to see the details of these seven requirements in the sources of Islam, my book Mizan can be consulted.
6. Qur’an, 5:44-47.