The Political Framework Of Islam
By Abul A'la Mawdudi
Translated by Prof Khurshid Ahmad
Democracy in Islam
The Purpose of the Islamic State
The political system of Islam is based on the three principles of
towhid (Oneness of Allah), risala (Prophethood) and Khilifa (Caliphate).
Towhid means that one Allah alone is the Creator, Sustainer and Master
of the universe and of all that exists in it - organic or inorganic.
He alone has the right to command or forbid. Worship and obedience are
due to Him alone. No aspect of life in all its multifarious forms -
our own organs and faculties, the apparent control which we have over
physical objects or the objects themselves - has been created or a acquired
by us in our own right. They are the bountiful provisions of Allah and
have been bestowed on us by Him alone.
Hence, it is not for us to decide the aim and purpose of our existence
or to set the limits of our worldly authority; nor does anyone else
have the right to make these decisions for us. This right rests only
with Allah. This principle of the Oneness of Allah makes meaningless
the concept of the legal and political sovereignty of human beings.
No individual, family, class or race can set themselves above Allah.
Allah alone is the Ruler and His commandments constitute the law of
Risala is the medium through which we receive the law of Allah. We have
received two things from this source: the Qur’an, the book in which
Allah has expounded His law, and the authoritative interpretation and
exemplification of that Book by the Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah
and peace be upon him), through word and deed, in his capacity as the
representative of Allah. The Qur’an laid down the broad principles on
which human life should be based and the Prophet of Allah, in accordance
with these principles, established a model system of Islamic life. The
combination of these two elements is called the shari’a (law).
Khilifa means "representation". Man, according to Islam, is the representative
of Allah on earth, His vice-gerent; that is to say, by virtue of the
powers delegated to him by Allah, and within the limits prescribed,
he is required to exercise Divine authority.
To illustrate what this means, let us take the case of an estate of
yours which someone else has been appointed to administer on your behalf.
Four conditions invariably obtain: First, the real ownership of the
estate remains vested in you and not in the administrator; secondly,
he administers your property directly in accordance with your instructions;
thirdly, he exercises is authority within the limits prescribed by you;
and fourthly, in the administration of the trust he executes your will
and fulfils your intentions and not his own. Any representative who
does not fulfil these four conditions will be abusing his authority
and breaking the covenant which was implied in the concept of "representation".
This is exactly what Islam means when it affirms that man is the representative
(khalifa) of Allah on earth. Hence, these four conditions are also involved
in the concept of Khalifa. The state that is established in accordance
with this political theory will in fact be a caliphate under the sovereignty
Democracy In Islam
The above explanation of the term Khilafa also makes it clear that no
individual or dynasty or class can be Khalifa: the authority of Khilafa
is bestowed on the whole of any community which is ready to fulfil the
conditions of representation after subscribing to the principles of
towhid and Risala. Such a society carries the responsibility of the
Khilafa as a whole and each one of its individuals shares in it.
This is the point where democracy begins in Islam. Every individual
in an Islamic society enjoys the rights and powers of the caliphate
of Allah and in this respect all individuals are equal. No-one may deprive
anyone else of his rights and powers. The agency for running the affairs
of the state will be formed by agreement with these individuals, and
the authority of the state will only be an extension of the powers of
the individuals delegated to it. Their opinion will be decisive in the
formation of the government, which will be run with their advice and
in accordance with their wishes.
Whoever gains their confidence will undertake the duties and obligations
of the caliphate on their behalf; and when he loses this confidence
he will have to step down. In this respect the political system of Islam
is as perfect a dorm of democracy as there can be.
What distinguishes Islamic democracy from Western democracy, therefor,
is that the latter is based on the concept of popular sovereignty, while
the former rests on the principle of popular Khilafa. In Western democracy,
the people are sovereign; in Islam sovereignty is vested in Allah and
the people are His caliphs or representatives. In the former the people
make their own; in the latter they have to follow and obey the laws
(shari’a) given by Allah through His Prophet. In one the government
undertakes to fulfil the will of the people; in the other the government
and the people have to fulfil the will of Allah.
The Purpose Of The Islamic State
We are now in a position to examine more closely the type of state which
is built on the foundations of tawhid, Risala and Khilafa.
The Holy Qur’an clearly states that the aim and purpose of this state
is the establishment, maintenance and development of those virtues which
the Creator wishes human life to be enriched by and the prevention and
eradication of those evils in human life which He finds abhorrent. The
Islamic state is intended neither solely as an instrument of political
administration nor for the fulfillment of the collective will of any
particular set of people; rather, Islam places a high ideal before the
state for the achievement of which it must use all the means at its
This ideal is that the qualities of purity, beauty, goodness, virtue,
success and prosperity which Allah wants to flourish in the life of
His people should be engendered and developed and that all kinds of
exploitation, injustice and disorder which, in the sight of Allah, are
ruinous for the world and detrimental to the life of His creatures,
should be suppressed and prevented. Islam gives us a clear outline of
its moral system by stating positively the desired virtues and the undesired
evils. Keeping this outline in view, the Islamic state can plan its
welfare programme in every age and in any environment.
The constant demand made by Islam is that the principles of morality
must be observed at all costs and in all walks of life. Hence, it lays
down as an unalterable policy that the state should base its policies
on justice, truth and honesty. It is not prepared, under any circumstances,
to tolerate fraud, falsehood and injustice for the sake of political,
administrative or national expediency. Whether it be relations between
the rulers and the ruled within the state, or the relations of the state
with other states, precedence must always be given to truth, honesty
Islam imposes similar obligations on the state and the individual: to
fulfil all contracts and obligations; to have uniform standards in dealings;
to remember obligations along with rights and not to forget the rights
of others when expecting them to fulfil their obligations; to use power
and authority for the establishment of justice and not for the perpetration
of injustice; to look upon duty as a sacred obligation and to fulfil
it scrupulously; and to regard power as a trust from Allah to be used
in the belief that one has to render an account of one's actions to
Him in the life Hereafter.
Although an Islamic state may be set up anywhere on earth, Islam does
not seek to restrict human rights or privileges to the boundaries of
such a state. Islam has laid down universal fundamental rights for humanity
which are to be observed and respected in all circumstances. For example,
human blood is sacred and may not be spilled without strong justification;
it is not permissible to oppress women, children, old people, the sick
or the wounded; women's honour and chastity must be respected; the hungry
must be fed, the naked clothed and the wounded or diseased treated medically
irrespective of whether they belong to the Islamic community or are
from amongst its enemies. These, and other provisions have been laid
down by Islam as fundamental rights for every man by virtue of his status
as a human being.
Nor, in Islam, are the rights of citizenship confined to people born
in a particular state. A Muslim ipso facto becomes the citizen of an
Islamic state as soon as he sets food on its territory with the intention
of living there and thus enjoys equal rights along with those who acquire
its citizenship by birth. And every Muslim is to be regarded as eligible
for positions of the highest responsibility in an Islamic state without
distinction of race, colour or class.
Islam has also laid down certain rights for non-Muslims who may be living
within the boundaries of an Islamic state and these rights necessarily
form part of the Islamic constitution. In Islamic terminology, such
non-Muslims are called dhimmis (the covenanted), implying that the Islamic
state has entered into a covenant with them and guaranteed their protection.
The life, property and honour of a dhimmis is to be respected and protected
in exactly the same way as that of a Muslim citizen. Nor is there difference
between a Muslim and a non-Muslim citizen in respect of civil or criminal
The Islamic state may not interfere with the personal rights of non-Muslims,
who have full freedom of conscience and belief and are at liberty to
perform their religious rites and ceremonies in their own way. Not only
may they propagate their religion, they are even entitled to criticize
Islam within the limits laid down by law and decency.
These rights are irrevocable. Non-Muslims cannot be deprived of them
unless they renounce the covenant which grants them citizenship. However
much a non-Muslim state may oppress its Muslim citizens it is not permissible
for an Islamic state to retaliate against its non-Muslim subjects; even
if all the Muslims outside the boundaries of an Islamic state are massacred,
that state may not unjustly shed the blood of a single non-Muslim citizen
living within its boundaries.
Executive And Legislature
The responsibility for the administration of the government in an Islamic
state is entrusted to an amir (leader) who may be compared to the president
or the prime minister in a Western democratic state. All adult men and
women who subscribe to the fundamentals of the constitution are entitled
to vote for the election of the amir.
The basic qualifications for an amir are that he should command the
confidence of the majority in respect of his knowledge and grasp of
the spirit of Islam, that he should possess the Islamic quality of fear
of Allah and that he should be endowed with qualities of statesmanship.
In short, he should have both virtue and ability.
A shoora(advisory council) is also elected by the people to assist and
guide the amir. It is incumbent on the amir to administer his country
with the advice of this shooraThe amir may retain office only so long
as he enjoys the confidence of the people and must relinquish it when
he loses that confidence. Every citizen has the right to criticize the
amir and his government and all reasonable means for the ventilation
of public opinion must be available.
Legislation in an Islamic state is to be carried out within the limits
prescribed by the law of the shari’a. The injunctions of Allah and His
Prophet are to be accepted and obeyed and no legislative body may alter
or modify them or make any law contrary to them. Those commandments
which are liable to two or more interpretations are referred to a sub-committee
of the advisory council comprising men learned in Islamic law. Great
scope remains for legislation on questions not covered by specific injunctions
of the shari’a and the advisory council or legislature is free to legislate
in regard to these matters.
In Islam the judiciary is not places under the control of the executive.
It derives its authority directly from the shari’a and is answerable
to Allah. The judges are appointed by the government but once a judge
occupies the bench he has to administer justice impartially according
to the law of Allah; the organs and functionaries of the government
are not outside his legal jurisdiction, so that even the highest executive
authority of the government is liable to be called upon to appear in
a court of law as a plaintiff or defendant. Rulers and ruled are subject
to the same law and there can be no discrimination on the basis of position,
power or privilege, Islam stands for equality and scrupulously adheres
to this principle in social, economic and political realms alike.