The broad lines of Islam’s theoretical and practical approach to politics and governance
The first preliminary aspect we would like to emphasize is that this is an age of decadence. As such, it cannot teach (and yet it does arrogantly pretend to teach) the earlier generations, who truly had and enacted Islam, what the pristine Dīn of Allah is.
Therefore, given that a) emulation of the Salaf is the cornerstone of our path as Ahl as-Sunnah, and that b) only misguided nations groping in darkness can still believe in the thesis of humankind’s continuous progress to the higher and the better (serial killers?), whenever our past luminaries differ with the present-day scholars of the ummah, preference shall be granted by us in principle to the former: What we strongly believe in is that the closer to the source, the safer, the more accurate, and the more comprehensive the understanding and implementation of Islam was.
[It has to be clarified without delay that this three-part article on this site of ours is not meant to provide a ruling on the current sordid political situation that prevails in the nation-states which the ummah has been politically fragmented into: From Tunisia to Syria, from Bahrain to Pakistan, from Turkmenistan to Indonesia. That political split is in itself an innovation which Islam, when it had a voice and was feared by the kuffār, did not envisage for itself, let alone experience.
It is not for us to take sides between wrongs and deviations, or act as mouthpieces for any such encampment as opposed to another.
Likewise, this introductory effort is not the apposite context for examining the thorny issue of what type of ruler is entitled to obedience, and under which circumstances he can be lawfully countered or deposed.
The last article which the first two sections build up to, in fact, will relate to how you and I, as Muslims living isolated lives in any particular area of the globe, can legally organize themselves in Emirates at the grassroots level, and how we can ascend the ladder of self-empowerment thenceforth. We are interested in activating practical alternatives, not in armchair criticisms or analytical pastimes].
What is of significance, rather, is that, as one navigates through the waters of Islamic politics, its theory and its practice, he encounters the same dilemma which faces him when he traverses the expanses of fiqh, tafsīr, etc.
The dilemma can be synthesized as follows: Does he take by what centuries of luminous
classical scholarship from the traditional madhhabs has espoused and forcefully clung onto, or does he take by what modern doctors and professors are stating nowadays as they redesign our traditional Islamic fields of inquiry?
Here we definitely descend into the arena and make a choice as The Islamic Community, that is, as the website we have launched.
We have made our departure point utterly clear from the start: The truth is almost inevitably found with the classical scholars. They knew the Dīn. They acted it out. It was a living tradition with them.
Modern doctors and professors’ approach is inductive. They ask themselves: “How can I justify “Islamically”, based on the sources (beginning with the interpretation of the Book and the Sunnah), whatever is prevalent in the present-age, be it usury and banking, democracy, universal taxation, revolutions and demonstrations, capillary state control systems”, and so on?
We shall reserve the full exploration of the subject, however, to the second stage of this three-pronged writing.
Secondly, as the great Grenadine star of beneficial knowledge, Imām ash-Shātibī, emphasized, ours is an Arabic sharī`ah. Accordingly, we cannot loosely refer to such terms as “politics”, “kingship”, “State”, “democracy”, etc, without ascertaining what the words given us by Allah, His Messenger, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam, our jurists, experts in the varied Islamic disciplines, etc, are which describes those phenomena and kindred ones; nay, without ascertaining whether such concepts ever had a word for them in Arabic, just as “bank” in contemporary standard Arabic = bank shows that it is not a word the Arabic language, and thus Islam, knew or used until modern times.
The first question we need to tackle is: Muslims have spread all over the world, including many regions where they live under secular kuffār’s rule. Could they thus not go on with life as it is, confining Islam to private morality and a cluster of ‘ibādāt, and forgetting about any attempt to govern themselves and extend their “Islamic life” to the public sphere?
Let us engage in hard self-evaluation as Muslims: The main project of life has become for most of us anything but the hoisting of the banner of Islamic leadership.
One of the pinnacles of Islamic civilization was undoubtedly Spain under Muslims’ rule.
One of the pinnacles of such a country’s achievement in the arena of acute and profound analysis of political phenomena is Ibn al-Azraq’s Badā’i` as-Silk fī Tabā’i` al-Mulk (= “The Wondrously Original Thread concerning the Innate Features of Sovereignty”). Interestingly, the word mulk in Arabic means sovereignty, kingdom, kingship, regal power, etc. We shall come back to the unacceptable modernist stereotype, identical to the view of the bloodthirsty French Jacobins, that the Islamic community cannot be ruled by a king.
Plunging into the very first “introductory premise” to his large-sized, two-volume work on the said topic, Ibn al-Azraq (d. 896 AH) stated the following:
“Human society, which is what populates the planet, is an inescapable necessity. Because it is such an invariable obligation for the human race, the sages have said: ‘Man is a civic creature by inborn temperament.’ In other words, humans cannot do without gathering together in a social aggregate, which is what the wise men define as a civic unit, in order for the very existence of man to be safeguarded and for the perpetuation of his species to be ensured on the face of the earth. He cannot possibly live in isolation, and yet attain the intermediate causes enabling him to earn his livelihood or ready that by which his self-defense can be actualized”.
Never mind us as Muslims, therefore. We cannot be humans and fail to come together as a social entity of which we are distinct yet interrelated members.
Ibn al-Azraq then goes on to define human society as being differentiated between urban settlements and nomadic groupings, as being grounded on affiliation to homogeneous clans, on such affiliation being attributable to a common lineage, and on leadership over homogeneous clans (ahl al-‘asabiyyah) having to be necessarily confined to the individuals making up any such clan.
Naturally, with stronger force, leadership over the social aggregate of humans who have consciously chosen to be Muslims, the Islamic community, must be reserved only for those who are part and parcel of it: The mu’minūn.
The Shāfi`ī master of political sciences, the Iraqi al-Māwardī, stresses in his celebrated work Al-Ahkām as-Sultāniyyah that Imamate of political leadership by Muslims over Muslims is obligatory, and that it should be classified as fard kifāyah, that is, one that is sufficiently established if a group of the ummah attends to the fulfillment of such a duty. It is thus equated by him to seeking knowledge, which some members of our Islamic nation must do at any given time for the sake of the whole, and to jihād or armed warfare aimed at visibly raising Allah’s Word the highest.
The Hanbalī judge Abū Ya`lā al-Farrā’ made exactly the same point in his own text bearing the identical title as al-Māwardī’s.
Indeed, it is such an important matter that the selection of a successor to the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam, engrossed the best community ever produced for mankind away from the immediate burial of the apex of creation, the one but for whom no one of us would have been originated into existence, may Allah send on him the prayer of blessing and mercy (= salāt) and the salutation of peace (salām).
My late teacher, Shaykh Muhammad ash-Shādhilī an-Nayfar, may Allah have mercy on him, who was, together with the noble Shaykh al-Ihkwah, the precious pearl of traditional knowledge of fiqh and hadīth in North Africa, supervised the superb edition, published in pre-civil war Libya, of Ibn Ridwān’s Ash-Shuhub al-Lāmi`ah fī as-Siyāsah an-Nāfi`ah (“The Scintillating Flames on Beneficial Politics”). Ibn Ridwān headed from Malaga in south-east Spain. He prefaces his work by a list of quotations from the cream of his predecessors, selected across all the canonical madhhabs: Al-Māwardī, Ibn Salām, Ibn Qutaybah, Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih, and others.
Ibn Salām: “One of the matters which string together the good of this world and the good of the Next is the khilāfah, by which the Dīn is able to stand erect, and by which the wholesome condition of the Muslims is secured. It is by the khilāfah that obedience to the Lord of all the worlds is completed”.
Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih: “The Sultan is the bridle by which matters in general, and the organized structure enabling people’s rights to be recognized and enforced in particular, are reined in, and he is the supporting prop of the behavioural boundaries and prescribed penalties (hudūd) which have been laid down by Allah. He is the pole around which both the Dīn and this world revolve. He is Allah’s protecting sanctuary in His lands, and His shade which He stretches over His slaves. It is by the Sultan that those who have been deprived of their rights find fortification, and the unjustly oppressed individuals are successfully granted relief. It is again by him that the despotic slaves of Allah are curbed, and the fearful ones among them are accorded safety”.
Ibn Salām again: “Know that the Dīn cannot stand upright without the Law, and that the Law cannot be safeguarded save through the Sultan. As a result, if the Dīn is not guarded by the Sultan and reinforced by the Imams of knowledge, it cannot be safe from its judgments being tampered with, altered, distorted and falsified”.
We can witness the full force of the actualization of such warning in our own times.
Finally, let us hear the tragically slain poet-Caliph of the Abbasids, Ibn al-Mu`tazz: “The Dīn is strengthened by the king (al-malik), and the king is gifted endurance by the Dīn. The permanence of kingdom is accomplished by means of the open manifestation of the Dīn, just as the open manifestation of the Dīn is brought about by means of the king”.
No great Muslim from the past has ever differed on this point.
- Man is a social creature as per the invariable nature in which Allah has fashioned him
- The basis of a social aggregate is affiliation to a common clan. The overall interaction of such clans makes up the social polity of Muslims
- Muslims cannot be governed by a force extraneous to the rightful members of such polity. Muslims have to govern themselves
- Such self-rule has been defined by our scholars from all the accepted madhhabs, and across the centuries, as an inescapable requirement of Islam, and as a fard kifāyah in Allah’s immutable Law = One part of the ummah must fulfill such obligation on behalf of its entirety
- Without self-governance by the Muslims, the Dīn is turned crooked, it cannot stand erect, it is unwholesome, incomplete, weak and debilitated, caved in and obscure, distorted and transmogrified, an unbridled and untamable beast, and a defeated skeleton
We have garnered from the foregoing that our prominent guides referred to a Caliph, or Sultan, or king, in short, to a single ruler, as the potent underpinning structure by whom the Dīn was erected, protected and consolidated.
The Prophets, peace be upon them, ruled by themselves; so did the rightly-guided Caliphs, the Kings, Sultans, Emirs, etc, after them.
There was never a rule by a committee, or a joint leadership by two or more individuals such as alternate consuls or an impersonal cabinet.
In the defining hours after the death of the best of creation, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam, the idea was tabled of political rule being shared by the Emigrants and the Helpers, a representative of either group governing the affairs of the Islamic community for 6 months in turn. It was tabled and rejected.
Though we said we were not going to deal here with the issue of present-day rulers in fragmented Muslim nation-states, it has been the uninterrupted practice of the ummah, from the rightly-guided Caliphs and the noble Umayyad masters Mu`āwiyah and ‘Umar b. ‘Abdi’l-‘Azīz to the Ottoman Sultans, through the Abbasids, the Ayyubids in Greater Syria, the Almohads and the Nasrid dynasty in Spain, the Adārisah and Marinids in Morocco or the Aghlabids in Tunisia, the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt or the Moghuls in India, that the Islamic society would be headed by a single political master from the date of his appointment until the moment of his death (save in those rare cases where he elects to renounce office and resign). The Islamic correctness of such method has not suddenly changed now, and the issue of how many years or decades a political chief has been governing an Islamic community is irrelevant per se to the question of whether he is entitled in the sharī`ah to keep on exercising his power until he meets his Lord.
We have also seen that kingship has been deemed by Muslims, for centuries, to be an acceptable form of leadership over the Islamic polity. Whereas the word dīmuqrātiyyah is clearly not Arabic, and thus democracy is not Islamic already as a term, millions of pages have been authored by our bastions of knowledge on how to advice and exhort “kings and sultans”, even though we all accept that Caliphate is the best exemplification of salutary Islamic rule.
The Mālikī at-Turtūshī, known for his rigour and strictness in matters of the Dīn, wrote his famous manual, quoted and reproduced by all those who came after him, on Islamic politics, Sirāj al-Mulūk (“The Guiding Lamp for Kings”).
The Hanafī Abū Zayd Ahmad b. Sahl al-Balkhī, the most likely person to have penned a treatise once erroneously ascribed to al-Māwardī, titled his reference work in this field Nasīhah al-Mulūk (“The Sincere Advice to the Kings”).
The Shāfi`ī al-Ghazālī bequeathed to us At-Tibr al-Masbūk fī Nasīhah al-Mulūk (“The Ore of Sincere Counseling of Kings”), which he personally dedicated to the then Sultan Muhammad b. Malik Shāh. The fact he was not a “Caliph” did not detract from the Islamic legitimacy of his rule in the eyes of the Proof of Islam, Imam al-Ghazālī.
The Nishapur wonder of wonders, Abū Mansūr ath-Tha`ālibī, regaled us with Ādāb al-Mulūk (“The Etiquettes Demanded from Kings”).
The examples in this regard are in truth countless.
How does one validly establish political authority by such a single leader in Islam?
Elections were never held and mass balloting was never resorted to, though Allah could have pointed the Muslims to such realities, and their concepts were capable of being easily identified, developed and explored by their intellects.
The fact they never turned to them as a possibility to earnestly entertain, alone demonstrates their incongruity with Allah’s immutable fitrah of sound governance.
Even after the Muslims, who were in constant contact with the Western world, because of war, trade, ambassadorial exchanges, cultural cross-pollination and so forth, came to know of the systems of parliamentarian, democratic, republican rules and whatever was akin to them, which had spread in the Abode of Kufr, they did not spontaneously adopt them or even contemplate their adoption, and rather chose to preserve the Sultanate form of revered Ottoman rule.
It was only after colonial brutality foisted Western seculars’ ideas upon their ravaged and rifted socio-political fabrics, and the vanquished and enervated Muslims began to ape their dominant masters, as the nations conquered by victors are wont to do as per Ibn Khaldūn’s famous analysis, it was only at that point that attempts to “Islamicize” such political structures, i.e. “rationalize their concordance with the Dīn of truth”, suddenly mushroomed.
Abū Bakr, may Allah be thoroughly pleased with him, appointed his successor ‘Umar, the son of al-Khattāb.
‘Umar, may Allah be fully pleased with him, nominated a narrow group of the influential leaders of binding and loosening as the tool by which to select the ruler stepping in after his own death.
No one among the prominent personalities from that best community refuted the lawfulness and healthiness of such twin selection methodologies.
In Al-Ahkām as-Sultāniyyah, al-Māwardī enumerates the two root-ways by which a political Imamate is validly constituted in the Law:
a) By the choice of the new ruler on the part of the people of binding and loosening, i.e. the elite of Muslims commonly regarded, by a naturally functioning Islamic society, as being their chiefs and legitimate spokespersons;
b) By nomination on the part of the previous ruler.
There is thus no space for universal suffrage.
Al-Māwardī then proceeds to discuss the different views of the leaders of knowledge as to the minimum number of people required to constitute what could be juristically termed an adequate “electorate” or “quorum” of persons of binding and loosening, whenever that is the route traversed by the ummah in appointing the new Imam.
After discarding the view that all the Muslims should grant their assent to the new ruler, as the requirement of such universal support has been conclusively invalidated by the events leading to the appointment of Abū Bakr, when he was installed as Caliph by the people in attendance at the assembly deliberating on the matter of the successor to the Messenger, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam, without waiting at all for those who were away from such meeting, he mentioned the following possibilities, each one corroborated by cogent legal-historical proof:
i) 5 such men; ii) 6, for one of them to be favoured by the choice of the other 5, this being the view which according to al-Māwardī enjoyed the widest support among the learned people; iii) 3: iv) 1, as evidenced by Ibn ‘Abbās’ stretching his hand in allegiance to ‘Alī, may Allah be well pleased with both of them, so that the rest of the ummah could follow him in that respect.
Many tiny variants on this aspect have been detailed in centuries of literature on the subject.
It is not for us to encumber the users of this website with an academic particularization of such scholarly differences.
The essence is clear: It is the ruler who passes on the responsibility to his successor, or, alternatively, that is a task which is vested solely in the chieftains of the ummah, being an elite group of naturally identified and empowered towers of insight, sagaciousness, influence and congenital leadership qualities from among the People of the Qiblah.
As our second article shall explicate in full, the now idolized un-Islamic method of democratic elections is a baneful plague which pollutes and poisons human society in multiple respects and at every possible level.
The versatile Shāfi`ī luminary Badrud-Dīn b. Jamā`ah, in Tahrīr al-Ahkām fī Tadbīr Ahl al-Islām (“The Precise Determination of Judgments relating to the Management of the Affairs of the Adherents to Islam”), quoted ‘Alī, may Allah the Exalted be pleased with him, as stating that a just ruler was better than copious rainfall, since people follow the Dīn of their ruler. They are shaped by his Dīn. If he acts by equity, fairness cleaves firmly to the generality of his subjects, rights are protected throughout society and oppression disappears, heaven lets loose its generous gifts of goodness (rain, fertility, prosperity) on the members of such a polity, the earth lets its treasured plants sprout forth in luxuriant abundance, acts of beneficence become diffuse all over, and fruitful trade expands.
This is the unchangeable pattern of Allah in creation, so much so that, as Badrud-Dīn b. Jamā`ah goes on to quote, it has been asserted that no rank higher than that of a just ruler exists, save for a Prophet sent by Allah to deliver His Message or an angel brought close to His Presence. Ahmad b. Hanbal, may Allah show mercy to him, said: ‘Had I been granted just one supplication the Divine fulfillment of which was guaranteed to my person, I would have supplicated in favour of the Sultan, since the wholesomeness of the land and its inhabitants depends on the wholesomeness of his person and his policies, and the opposite is true as well.’
The just ruler is thus the head of the body consisting in a just and orderly Islamic society.
Badrud-Dīn b. Jamā`ah divides Imamate into two categories:
1) Selected or volitional, and 2) enforced or coercive.
The first pre-requisite of the former type of Imamate is Islam. The leader must be a Muslim. We cannot allow kuffār to govern us, as we underlined here above.
The elected Imam must fulfill certain requirements: He must be a male, endowed with bravery, of sound mind, knowledgeable, with his bodily limbs and sensory organs all intact, etc. As we are not idealists, if he meets those criteria, he is not to be ousted violently merely because an even better candidate might happen to exist. That is the near-unanimous approach followed by Ahl as-Sunnah. It is a wise approach steeped in existential equilibrium. One cannot endlessly quarrel about who is better between two suitable candidates. Universal agreement is near-impossible to achieve on such a subjective value judgment, and in the meantime strife tears apart the believers who debate on the merits of their respective favoured choices for the post.
If, then, an oath of allegiance has been sworn to such a Muslim, i.e. one complying with those requirements or approximating them the most, and no other properly constituted leader had previously been installed, the Imamate of this person would be established.
What is owed to him? He is owed obedience in every thing that does not entail disobedience of Allah and of His Messenger, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam.
Allah has in fact said: «O you who have īmān! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in command over you» [Sūrah an-Nisā’: 59]. Allah thus made obedience to such leaders subordinate to the primary obedience demanded of a Muslim, a fact He wondrously reinforced by not premising the command to follow those in charge over the Muslims by the Arabic imperative meaning obey, which He exclusively reserved for Himself and for His chosen Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam. We are not Nazis who (allegedly) placed reliance on the argument that they were enjoined to carry out inhumane orders.
Let us assume that a man has passed away, and that his surviving spouse has become entitled to a share of his inheritance, by Allah’s immutably established fixed lots of intestate succession; and let us assume that the Sultan instructs you, as the liquidator of the deceased estate, not to hand over that share to his widow, but to utilize it for some purpose, even a “noble” Islamic cause of financing a mosque or a madrasah, which is a goal the Sultan has unilaterally demarcated. Your obeying such a Sultan in that case cannot be countenanced by Islam. You are duty bound by the Law to “disobey” Him, as he is asking you to contravene the Law of Allah. In fact, by saying “no” to him you are truly “obeying” him, as you are subordinating obedience to him to what Allah has subordinated it to.
Badrud-Dīn b. Jamā`ah’s next step is to synthesize the three pathways by which the emergence of Imamate can materialize.
The two routes one can pursue to select a ruler are for him the ones we have already set out above:
- Public allegiance by the people of binding and loosening, i.e., as defined by such a scholar in his said text, the local Emirs and the learned people, the chieftains and the prominent members of the society, to wit, its notables, specifically those among them who have the capacity to attend at the meeting-place where the Imam to be selected happens to be, which is what took place at the time of constituting Abū Bakr as the first Caliph of Islam. As Badrud-Dīn b. Jamā`ah comments, in conformity with the best and most consistently held view within the broad camp of Ahl as-Sunnah, no specific number of people of binding and loosening is demanded., and the validity in the Law of such a man’s supervened establishment of his person as the ruler is not dependent on allegiance being given by the Muslims spread out in all the various regions and main centers within the Abode of Islam. Rather, whenever news of the investiture by the people of binding and loosening has reached their knowledge, the Muslims inhabiting the different Islamic lands are obliged to obey such new ruler, so long as he meets the basic requirements for the post. I quoted the very words used by the polymath Badrud-Dīn b. Jamā`ah, who is venerated by all and sundry within the perimeter of Ahl as-Sunnah = There is no democracy in Islam. The important thing is not to cast a vote, to demand that “I also need to participate, I am an equal to everyone else”, but to have a qualified leader installed and being capable, under his political protection, to go about our business of worshipping Allah.
- Appointment by the previous ruler, directly or through the intermediary of an elite consultative group of eminent personalities, as when Sayyidunā ‘Uthmān was chosen. The ruler thus appointed must, of course, be an eligible candidate in terms of the basis requirements for the job.
The third and last legitimate possibility, Badrud-Dīn b. Jamā`ah (and with him a plenitude of scholars from Ahl as-Sunnah whenever Islam was a powerful experienced reality) goes on to conclude, is that, if there is no Imam and, by his sheer strength, a person qualified to fill that post imposes himself, his Imamate is legally brought into being. Modern Muslim minds contaminated by decades of modernist propaganda will reject that idea, while at the same time they acquiesce in the fact that an unelected financial elite should rule every aspect of their societal life, in so doing aided and abetted by vassal “fiscal” (= tax-collecting) states. These power elites, though preaching a ludicrous philosophy of “power to the people”, entrust dictatorial powers of final decisions to a single man or a cluster of men, who ride roughshod over the “will” of the allegedly empowered people whom they allegedly represent, whether on the issue of the abolition of nuclear proliferation in the West or the restoration of the death penalty in South Africa or entry in the European Community in Turkey.
We have already stated that Islam is the Dīn of realistic fitrah, and we have already highlighted the crucial importance assigned in the Law to having a vigorous leadership.
If a former slave like Baybars rose to power, established himself as the ruler, and allowed us in this age to worship Allah, declare ourselves Muslims and discuss these issues over the magical web of the Net, by defeating the Christian hordes in the Battle of ‘Ayn Jālūt, our classical jurists rejoiced and proclaimed, ‘That is legal and wonderful!’.
Our mentally reshaped and conditioned Muslim brothers stand up nowadays and remonstrate, ‘That is against the tenets of Islam. There has been no prior election or selection.’
Of course, by the time they might finish squabbling with each other, there would be no battlefield, no battle, and no victory for Allah’s party.
As Allah has forbidden the mu’min to bring about his own suicidal destruction, our percipient scholars such as Badrud-Dīn b. Jamā`ah said: Though there has been no prior appointment or bay`ah by selection of the suitable candidate, the Imamate of such a person has been established, the bay`ah is deemed to have been concluded, and obedience to him by the other Muslims has become obligatory, so that the dispersed members of the ummah might unite under one banner, and they might politically speak in unison. As Badrud-Dīn b. Jamā`ah explains, even the fact that such a self-establishing Imam might be ignorant or morally split-up, i.e. that he might act in certain respects as a fāsiq, does not invalidate his Imamate according to the sounder of the two juristic opinions on the issue.
You do not choose the greater evil of anarchy and disruption, and the emasculation of the Islamic community by voiding it of a political head.
The same ruling applies if another, even more powerful leader, emerges and dislodges the one who had established himself by force as the ruler. As the sagacious ‘Abdullāh b. ‘Umar, who was the leader of the Muslims in fiqh in his age, stated during the days of fighting in the stony area of al-Madīnah, as quoted by Badrud-Dīn b. Jamā`ah at the end of his juristic conspectus: ‘We are with the one who has the upper hand.’
Let us dust off any mental cobwebs:
These giants of pristine Islam did not unflinchingly adhere to the median way of realism (as distinct from cynical “realpolitik”) coupled with essential justice, because they were backward and had not yet been “enlightened” by the political thinking of the last three to four centuries;
They did not so because they believed in the Machiavellian idea that the end justifies the means, whichever such means and whichever that end;
They did not do so because of their apology of brute force, let alone their endorsement of tyranny;
They did not so due to the fact that they had not properly read the Book and the Sunnah through the magical lenses of “progressive humanism”.
They did so because they acutely felt the imperative of an organized Islamic society which had been unified and muscled by an effective existing leadership, so long as such leadership met the basic criteria for steering Muslims’ affairs within the boundaries of Allah’s Dīn.
They did so because they wanted Allah’s Dīn to be the uppermost force.
For them, though not for us, that was an essential project in life. It was because such project was implemented, and they assisted in its implementation, that they could soar to great heights spiritually. It was because of it that their ‘ibādāt could acquire true meaning and concretely change their lives and those of their family members, and effectively attract manifold new souls to the Dīn of truth.
Badrud-Dīn b. Jamā`ah then expressly reinforces the juristic ruling that there can be no two Imams, whether in the same country or in more than one: So much for nation-states, and the proliferation of Muslim presidents, Emirs, leaders of revolutions, etc.
- At the highest degree, Islamic societies have always been in our illustrious and successful past, and cannot but be, led by a single ruler
- Such ruler is in power, unless a momentous change in his status (such as reverting to kufr) occurs, from the day he is installed until the one when he passes away. There is no fixed or indefinite temporal limitation to his political authority
- Caliphate is the ideal form such single-leader rule assumes, but kingship and sultanate have been accepted by the summits of true knowledge and correct action within the ummah, across barriers of time and space, as being fully compatible with Islam
- Antagonizing rulers simply because their style of leadership is kingship or sultanate is a demonic rebellion which justifies the attraction of two ignominiously branding evils: Crushing down such un-Islamic posture in this world, and earning disgrace in the Hereafter
- To hold otherwise is to assert, bewilderingly, that better Muslims than us got it horribly wrong for more than a millennium, before this age of devolution finally “led the ummah out of the tunnel of darkening ignorance into the light of correct discernment of truths”
- Islamic leadership is established by succession from one ruler to the next, or by selection confined to a natural elite of people equipped to knot and unclasp the core matters of the ummah
- It is also possible for it to be brought into being by a powerful eligible candidate seizing power in a state of political void and protecting the Islamic society thereby
- There is in Islam no rule by impersonal institutions, and no rule established by a vote cast by all and sundry, the ignorant fellow and the natural chieftain alike
- There cannot be multiple rulers
- The ruler is owed obedience whenever doing so does not lead you to disobey the Lord
What is the brief of a political leader in Islam?
Is it to manage the outward affairs of the society of Muslims, or is he also the ultimate voice in juristic debates and in matters which concern the realm of inward truths, the spiritual Path (tarīqah) and the Reality (Haqīqah)?
Undoubtedly, a Nabī or a walī gathers all such functions in one person.
That, however, did not stop our Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam, from assigning a multitude of political, administrative and other tasks to his Companions; even more relevantly to us, it was the practice of the generation he, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam, directly taught and moulded, when the choicest among them exercised power, as was the case with ‘Umar b. al-Khattāb, to entrust the settlement of disputes to judges called upon to independently determine disputes, and to grant the most percipient legal minds in their midst free and ample room to reason out issues, and pronounce themselves on them. That explains why a rich assortment of rulings on the same masā’il have been transmitted from a number of foremost Companions.
As the borders of the Caliphate expanded, the different roles became more sharply defined.
Ibn Khaldūn maintained that the three fundamental layers of society comprised:
1) The ruling elite, who needed a particular kind of mentorship and training, in order to prepare them for the responsibility they had to discharge, namely, looking after the common good, the public welfare, so that the Muslims could be set free to worship Allah at their best within a just ordering of societal affairs;
2) The noblemen, who comprised the advisors to the rulers, the tribal chiefs, the scholars of the outward, the Sufi masters, etc;
3) The merchants.
Each one had his sphere, each one had his contributory mission to fulfill towards the extolment of Allah’s Word, and each one knew his watering place.
In the said work, Nasīhah al-Mulūk (“The Sincere Advice to the Kings”), al-Balkhī debuted by justifying to his readers why kings would need advice in the first place.
He laid out a catalogue of such reasons. The fourth one which he mentioned in that context was the fact that kings (engrossed as they were in the most cumbersome duty of piloting the affairs of the larger society) were, of all people, the most distant ones from the ‘ulamā’, and the most unlikely people to attend the gatherings of scholars, admonishing exhorters to goodness, jurists, and the devotees of relinquishment of worldly superfluities.
The leaders, therefore, were quite detached from the sires of knowledge and their likes.
Fabulous books, by as-Suyūtī, Ahmad Bābā at-Tinbuktī, etc, have been written on the obligation resting on the Imams of knowledge to steer well clear of the Imams of political authority.
The political masters, therefore, do not usurp the role of the leaders in knowledge, though the rulers have traditionally looked up to the sincere, even stern advices, guidance, exhortations and admonitions from both the qualified jurists and the capable Sufis.
The sires of knowledge do not usurp the role of the political authorities.
Imām Abū Hanīfah, Malik b. Anas, Imām ash-Shāfi`ī and Ahmad b. Hanbal did not seek to rule the affairs of the ummah. They stayed away from the leaders and were not claimants of political mastery. They did not urge the Muslims to go against the rulers simply because the latter were not 100% just or did not fare well when their moral degrees were compared to those of such Imams.
There is no such thing as scholars being in charge of managing the politics of the Islamic community.
The leaders respected the scholars precisely because the latter did not mix with them in their palaces and entourages, so that they could fearlessly and uncompromisingly speak the truth whenever that was required, even during face-to-face meetings with the potent rulers.
They did not frequent the Sultans’ parties or sit in the boards of directors of “Islamic” financial institutions. They did not depend for their livelihood on the control of academic institutions such as universities, lavishing salaries and accolades on them and asking them in return “to tread a certain way” in their researches and pronouncements [Treading a certain way is, after all, exactly what the Arabic word madhhab means].
Among the devotees of knowledge, the rulers chose judges and official Muftis, and, in later times, institutions like that of Shaykh al-Islām or the Head of the Prophetic descendants were formalized by such as the Abbasid, Buwayid, and Ottoman governors.
At the point when they were appointed to discharge such functions, those men of knowledge would become part of assisting in running the political affairs of the ummah, which incidentally explains why many a scholar declined appointment to the judiciary, even to the extent of going into hiding to resist political overtures.
Judiciary is in fact a formal political-administrative office (wilāyah), and as such under the rulers’ supervision.
Still, judges did not use their status among the Muslims, as revered people of knowledge and righteousness, to stage a revolt against the political heads and take over the reins of power themselves.
As for the other members of the elite of fuqahā’ and ‘ulamā’, who were not judges, official Muftis and their likes, they bravely and sincerely executed their mission of enlightening their fellow Muslims in a context of total independence from the rulers.
True devotees of knowledge are disinterested in this dunyā: «Only those of His slaves with knowledge have fear of Allah» [Sūrah Fātir: 28].
The greatest of the Followers, Sa`īd b. al-Musayyib (far greater that Uways al-Qaranī, in spite of “esoteric” claims to the contrary), who intentionally sat in the Prophetic Mosque in al-Madīnāh where ‘Umar b. al-Khattāb used to sit, avoided any interaction with the rulers, but endorsed their right to rule.
The Muslims have never been ruled by committees of ‘ulamā’.
Even more unacceptable is rule by the masters of the inward.
The Ghawth, such as Mawlānā ‘Abdu’l-Qādir al-Jīlānī’, was the pivotal axis of the inner dimension. The aqtāb, the abdāl, the nuqabā’ etc were under him, the way governors and heads of governmental departments were subordinates of the political Imam. The Ghawth did not interfere with political rule. He did not nominate, choose or depose the political heads, and did not antagonize them either. He was disengaged from the world of politics. He purely advised the rulers, and asked Allah to bless them with noble traits and fair dealings.
Let alone would arbitrary disposal of political functions be admissible of a lesser-degree Sufi.
According to the great gnostic from Fez in Morocco, ‘Alī al-Jamal, the kingdom of the outward is propped up by the Friends of Allah; and the Friends of Allah’s devotion to Him alone is secured by the protective shield provided by the king of the outward.
As Allah, may He be Exalted, has said: «He has let loose the two seas, converging together, with a barrier between them, so they do not break through each other» [Sūrah ar-Rahmān: 19-20]. More precisely, they do not encroach upon each other.
One is the salty sea of the Law, which the scholars define and the ruler enforce, while the other is the sweet ocean of the Reality, the expanse of the Sufis, of ihsān. Between them there is an isthmus, a barzakh as the said āyah declares.
When Spain was falling into the greedy hands of the Christians, it was saved for several centuries by nomadic tribes heading from West Africa. They were known either as the “veiled men” or the Murābitūn (the Moravids as the Orientalists call them). They were spiritually forged by a Sufi master, Shaykh ‘Abdullāh b.Yāsīn. He appointed an Emir for his followers, once they were sufficiently purified. He did not wear two hats. He did not set himself up as the Emir, or else his task and the task of those capable of governing his adepts and their progeny would have become mutually confused and defiled.
When, some time later, the Moravids defeated the Christians in the famous battle held at the locality of Zallāqah in Spain, they joined political control of al-Andalus to that of the Maghrib. One of the greatest Sufis in their age, Ibn al-‘Arīf, was slanderously denounced to their then Marrakesh-based Commander of the Believers as organizing rebellions against his rule. He was forcibly “shipped” to such Moroccan city, where the Murābit ruler cleared him of any accusation.
Of course, had a shaykh used his influence to promote himself (or a nominee of his) as the new leader, the political head would have been authorized and in fact obligated by the Law to crush such a fitnah. The Sufi master would have in fact attempted to smash the barrier which Allah has forever set up between the two seas.
This is a particularly key matter to understand in today’s age, since the last Caliphate is lost even to our memory, and the disempowered Muslims are seeking certainty in following those people from whom they taste the effusion of some kind of perfection. Spiritual guides are the most likely people to fulfill that role for them.
Balanced judgment is therefore dispersed amid a sea of extremes.
How much we are then in need of the illumining torch of our predecessors’ fine understanding of the Dīn of truth.
One such inexpugnable fortress of resplendent light is Shaykh Ahmad Zarrūq, nicknamed the “inspector of the jurists and the Sufis”, as he excelled in both sciences of the outward and the inward.
In the Foundation number 39 of his masterwork Qawā`id at-Tasawwuf (“The Foundations of Sufism”), he said:
“Knowledge (‘ilm) is built on searching investigation and precise ascertainment of the true position, whereas a spiritual state (hāl) is grounded on conceding its validity and on endorsing its truthfulness.
If the master of gnosis (= the Sufi) verbalizes something in the field of knowledge, his statement has to be probingly scrutinized by resort to the yardstick of the root source of such utterance, as found in the Qur’ān or the Sunnah as well as in the reports that have been transmitted from our Predecessors (as‐Salaf), given that knowledge is gauged by its root source.
If, instead, such gnostic speaks out of his contingent spiritual state (hāl), one has to concede to him his tasting of realities, in the light of the fact that one does not attain understanding of such direct spiritual tasting of unseen matters save by the like of it. Such state is thus gauged by its mere existence, and reliance on knowledge of such state depends on the trustworthy integrity of the one who possesses it”.
Let us stop here, because this is a matter of the greatest importance.
Say for instance that a spiritual murshid, a Sufi master who moulds your inward and, like a doctor, sees to the curative treatment of the maladies afflicting your self, instructs you to engage in a certain spiritual exercise, such as reading a regular formula of dhikr or addressing your spouse in terms of a prescribed etiquette.
The leaders of Ahl as-Sunnah concur on the fact that he has to be obeyed on that aspect.
If he says something out of his contingent spiritual state, what pervades his heart and tongue at the moment, including moments of spiritual ecstasy, you must concede the fact that it is acceptable and conforms to correctness, and that he has knowledge of the state out of which he pours out his statement. That is subject of course to the proviso that you know him to be a person of high spiritual caliber and that what he states does not evidently contradict the truths of Islam which every Muslim person is aware of.
For instance, because of his contingent state, he might truthfully elect not to move a jug of water from the scorching heat to the shade of a tree nearby, because his tasting of gnosis at that moment, and thus the state that has descended upon him, view that as an infringement of his own courteous etiquette with Allah.
If, by contrast, he says something out of knowledge, it is agreed by our luminaries of Ahl as-Sunnah that one cannot concede that what he is uttering is correct, let alone impose it as true on other murīds or propagate it to the rest of the Muslims as if it were the final say in the matter, the one which everyone ought to adhere to.
His pronouncement must be investigated. It must be scrutinized in the light of the Qur’ān, the Sunnah, and the other recognized sources for attaining knowledge in outer matters.
An illustration: Your Sufi master says that in his view three pronouncements of divorce folded in one should be legally viewed as counting for one.
Must the murīd go by his statement and stop at his declared position?
Clearly not: The shaykh is not speaking out of his spiritual state. He is speaking out of a knowledge based on legal sources which all devotees of the outward have access to. His juristic view is to be critically examined as that of every one else.
The same is true if he mentions that he trusts those scholars who contend that the “Islamic” banks’ murābahah, which is simply the financing of a commodity by installments, is lawful or, as it is bizarrely put these days, sharī`ah-compliant.
He can diagnose what is plaguing your self, and instruct you on what you must do to avoid certain whisperings of the Shaytān, etc. You have to follow him on that without reservations.
He cannot however tell you, e.g., that zakāt on visible assets, such as surplus gold coins, has to be forcibly taken by a ruler from the well-to-do merchants.
As all our jurists have emphasized, for instance al-Māwardī in Al-Ahkām as-Sultāniyyah (of which, fortunately, a brilliant English edition translated by Asadullah Yates exists), after mentioning that taxable assets fall into two categories, outwardly apparent wealth and hidden wealth, the latter including such as gold, silver and trade goods, “the officer vested with the task of collecting the assets that are taxed in the Law has no [the underlining is mine] legal right to interfere with the determination and discharge of the zakāt on non-visible assets. The owners of such assets have a greater entitlement to take out the zakāt on them. If they willingly hand over the zakāt on such assets to the collector dispatched to them by the ruler, the latter must accept it from such owners, and he then assists their owners in distributing the levied amounts [first and foremost to their relatives and other individuals identified by the taxed owners of such surplus wealth]. The collector only has the discretion to determine the extent of the zakāt on visible property [such as cattle or grains]. He commands the owners thereof to hand it over to him”.
As a brilliant Norwich-based contemporary jurist explained to me, the basis for such differentiation in the fiqh is in order to avoid creating a police state ruled by a “Muslim” tax authority which terrorizes people by breaking into houses and searching for non-apparent assets under their mattresses.
By the way, collection and distribution of zakāt is, and has always been, the terrain of the political leaders of the ummah. Such two-fold function is extraneous to the circle of the ‘ulamā’, who cannot, according to the Law, be in charge of it, and who have indeed never attempted in the past to control the funds yielded by that tax. All they can and should do is to enlighten their fellow Muslims, from the rulers down, on how best to discharge such pillar of Islam, by clarifying the most suitable legal judgments applicable to it, etc.
The said twin function is even more extrinsic to the Sufis, who at the most can teach their disciples how to perfect the purification of their wealth by the zakāt of the outward through further purification of their niyyah, their intention, their sincerity, and their inward connection with Allah when implementing such obligation of the Law.
In Foundation number 61, Zarrūq has this to say:
“The knowledge of every thing is only taken from the masters of such a science [Indeed, one would not trust his murshid to design a plan for his house or build it if he did not have specific expertise in such a profession]. A Sufi is not relied upon when it comes to fiqh, unless his assiduous devotion to fiqh is known concerning him specifically, nor is a faqīh relied upon in Sufism, unless his truthful actualization of Sufism is recognized in his respect. Likewise, a muhaddith is relied upon neither with regard to fiqh nor with regard to Sufism, unless his expertise in those two sciences is renowned.
It is thus incumbent to take the fiqh from the fuqahā’ as far as the murīd of Sufism is concerned.
Any such murīd only reverts to the people of the tarīqah or spiritual path in what concerns the wholesomeness of his inward in relation to what the fiqh (as taken by him from the fuqahā) prescribes to him, as well as the wholesomeness of his inward that is de-linked from what the fiqh ordains for him. Due to the aforesaid, Shaykh Abū Muhammad al-Marjānī, may Allah be pleased with him, used to instruct his disciples to approach the fuqahā’ on the masā’il of the fiqh, even though he was knowledgeable in that science, so understand”.
Political rule to the rulers, the fiqh to the fuqahā’, and Sufism to the Sufis.
Let us imagine that the leader, by his ijtihād, his trained independent reasoning in legal issues, has resolved on imparting the order that, in the present age, Muslims living in the West are temporarily disallowed from marrying Jewish or Christian women, due to the plentiful grievous harms associated with such unions and their offspring at this stage; or that he has vetoed plastic surgery other than one carried out for an empirically demonstrable genuine health-related reason, which is to be ascertained by the issuing of a certificate on the part of the officer he has put in charge of all such matters.
What is the say reserved on that aspect to the head of your spiritual tarīqah or his representative?
According to centuries of uninterrupted Ahl as-Sunnah’s scholarship, no say whatsoever. Simply put, the issue lies totally outside his jurisdiction.
As Shaykh Zarrūq reminded us in Qawā`id at-Tasawwuf, every Sufi is a follower of the People of the Veranda, the Ahl as-Suffah loved by the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam, since they were the first exemplars of their path. It is well-known that they had no involvement in the politics of the outward. Indeed, Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī was explicitly distanced from the political arena by the Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-sallam.
Even the Czechs found at their expense that philosophy and sound political management do not necessarily coincide!
As for the faqīh, he cannot instigate people looking up to him to violate such instruction. As it is a matter of outward judgment, however, he is entitled to address the ruler and his subjects, viva voce, in writing, by technological means, etc, as to his view on the subject, including, politely, a contrary view expressed on advisory grounds.
- Islam always had a dynamic balance between outward and inward, leaders of politics and leaders of knowledge
- Each group has a space and a mandate
- The political leaders must rule over the social nexus of the Muslims. ‘Ulamā’ or fuqahā’ do not rule. At the most, they assist the leaders in activating the Law by giving official pronouncements in debated issues (fatwas) if authorized to do so, or settling cases between litigants in courts or similar forums
- Sufis are totally detached from the political arena
- Muslims must obey the political leaders, take the fiqh from the jurists, and resort to the Sufis to purify their inward
- The Sufis do not usurp the prerogatives of the jurists to lead the Muslims in the field of outward judgments of the Law
- Those who do so by using their influence over murīds and followers have set about destroying the natural barrier which Allah has forever elevated between the Law (Sharī`ah) and the Reality (Haqīqah)
It is on the said basis that Islam has been governed for centuries and centuries.
Our scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah have detailed the broad lines of political administration.
A nice short treatise on that was produced by the Algerian savant al-Wansharīsī. As late as 1809, Shaykh ‘Uthmān Dan Fodio structured his triumphant Sokoto Caliphate in West Africa along similar lines:
The Higher Imamate; The Wazirate; The Judiciary; The Treasury; the Army; the Inspectorate of Sound Practices and Good Mores; The Allotment of lands, concessions to mine deposits of mineral wealth, stipends and grants to public servants, etc.
As the Abode of Islam expands and life becomes more intricate, new departments are designed and set up. The Dīn is flexible.
A later scholar from Ottoman times, Muhammad b. ‘Īsā b. Kannān (1074-1153 AH), described a more elaborate network of Islamic governance in his work Hadā’iq al-Yasmīn fī Dhikr Qawānīn al-Khulafā’ wa as-Salātīn (“The Jasmine Gardens on the Mention of the Essential Rules Applying to Caliphs and Sultans”). He came from the Sālihiyyah district in Damascus. Incidentally, his father was the master of one of the Sufi paths (turuq) in the said redolent capital of Greater Syria, so Ibn Kannān was well aware of the diverse briefs conferred on the leaders of the outward and the inward realms, and the exigency of avoiding their contours to be blurred.
We are not Shī`ah who believe in an “infallible” spiritual-cum-political head.
Allah has said: «In this way We have made you a middlemost community» [Sūrah al-Baqarah: 143].
We neither demolish and belittle political authorities, as is the prevailing habit in modern democracies, nor turn them into divinities, as countless civilizations among the bygone nations had done.
They are granted their due, and what is due from them is demanded or if possible exacted from them.
Let us turn our attention again to āyah 59 of Sūrah an-Nisā’: «O you who have īmān! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in command over you».
In his marvelous elucidation of Allah’s Book, the Shaykh of the Qur’ānic commentators, Abū ‘Abdillāh Muhammad al-Qurtubī, tellingly a descendant of the Madinan Helpers, had this to say on one mas’alah connected with this āyah in his magisterial Al-Jāmi` li-Ahkām al-Qur’ān:
“Sahl b. ‘Abdillāh at-Tustarī [one of the greatest Sufis from the earlier generations] said: ‘Obey the Sultan in seven matters: 1. The minting of gold and silver coins; 2. The demarcation of weights and measures; 3. The enforcement of legal judgments; 4. The administration of the hajj, 5. the Jum`ah prayer, 6. and the two ‘Īds, and 7. the waging of jihād.’ Sahl also said: ‘If the Sultan forbids a knowledgeable person from issuing fatwas to people, he is not entitled to issue any fatwa [Let alone, then, can a Sufi shaykh do so!]. If he issues fatwas contrary to such interdiction, he is a sinfully disobedient person. That is the correct position even if the leader happens to be an unjust Emir.’ Ibn Khuwayz Mindād [a noble usūlī and mufassir] said: ‘As regards obedience to the Sultan, it is incumbent in respect of whatever entails obedience to Allah, but is not obligatory in respect of what entails disobedience to Allah. Because of the foregoing, we have stressed the following: When it comes to the political leaders of our age [which was an age of decadence and corruption among the ruling circles in the Iraq where such scholar lived and operated], obeying them is impermissible, and so is lending them assistance or publicly extolling their status. Nevertheless, it is compulsory to set out along them whenever they organize military expeditions, abide by judicial decisions issued under their auspices, and honour whoever they have appointed as Imams of the collective prayer or as monitors of societal compliance with good and eradication of evil, and give effect thereto to the extent that it accords with the sharī`ah. If they lead us in prayer while being sinful individuals (fasaqah) in the sense of carrying out peccant wrongdoings recognized as such in Islam, praying behind them is allowed. By contrast, if they are people who introduce and follow innovations in matters of the Dīn (mubtadi`ah), praying behind them does not suffice you in discharging the obligation to perform the salāt, unless their violent reprisal is feared and one then legitimately prays behind them as a self-protecting stratagem (taqiyyah), though in the latter case you should then repeat any such prayer when you are back in the safety of your private residences’”.
Look at the fine balance or mīzān of our true scholars from the classical age when Islam was authentically alive and acted-out: You shun obedience to them if they call you to falsehood. You act as a single integrated structure behind them if they engage in good deeds, such as protecting the frontiers, making the streets safe, granting redress to the weak, peopling Allah’s impregnable sanctuaries of Makkah and al-Madīnah, etc.
We cyclically end with an aspect we have adumbrated right at the start of this article.
It will prove, Allah willing, an excellent portal to our second article in this three-tier contribution: Dismantling the fallacy of democracy as being the preferable system of governance for mankind, let alone for Muslims.
Is “State” a term which authentic Islamic knew?
If we take up the books churned up by Muslim academics in the last 50 years, we realize that they have used the word “Dawlah” for “State”, and “Dawlah Islāmiyyah” for “Islamic State”. For the first time in our history, therefore, we came to now about the “Dawlah Nabawiyyah”, the “Dawlah Umawiyyah” (“Umayyad State”), the “Dawlah ‘Abbāsiyyah” (“Abbasid State”), and so on and so forth.
As for the Companions, the Followers, the Followers of the Followers, the Imams of the madhhabs, the jurists, the mufassirūn, the muhaddithūn, the mutakallimūn (= the experts in the science of ‘aqīdah), the historians, the Sufis, the philosophers, the litterateurs, the linguists, they never used that term for 1300 years and more.
They spoke of Imamate, Caliphate, Sultanate, Kingship, or Emirate.
Modern writers who tell us that “monarchy” is un-Islamic have no qualms about writing books on the “State” or dawlah in Islam, though the Salaf and the Khalaf alike would have looked at them bewildered, unable to understand what they were trying to mean by using such a word.
They knew of a similar one in the Qur’ān, dūlah.
In āyah 7 of Sūrah al-Hashr, Allah, glory to Him, in fact says: «[S]o that it does not become something which merely revolves (dūlah) between the rich among you».
The State is static. It is a massive, cumbersome structure that occupies the whole ground in a firmly entrenched manner, is hard to push away, gobbles up resources around it, and concentrates them in the hands of a tiny group of affluent beneficiaries.
Dūlah is the opposite: It is to take something that might be horded in motionlessness and monopolized, and cause it to circulate, energetically, among many.
One of Allah’s signs on earth in the field of Arabic linguistics was Ahmad b. Fāris.
His fascinating etymological dictionary, Mu`jam Maqāyīs al-Lughah, represents a green pasture for those who love to graze in the lands of eloquent Arabic.
Under the entry dāl-wāw-lām, he says: “The combination of the trilateral root dāl-wāw-lām has two root meanings in Arabic. One of them indicates the shifting of a thing from one place to another, while the other indicates weakness and flaccidity”.
Hopefully, debilitating frailty and slackness devoid of any vigour is something we would not associate with the historical instances of our political dominion in the past.
As for the first such source meaning of the said combination of three Arabic letters, Ahmad b. Fāris mentioned that some linguists considered dawlah and dūlah to be synonyms, while others maintained that dūlah specifically related to wealth, wealth moving from some hands to other hands, and that dawlah referred to war in particular, since the typical essence of military confrontations was that the balance of power would shift from one side to another in the course of it.
Ahmad b. Fāris died in 395 AH and knew nothing about the equation dawlah = State, as there was no State in Islam [Arabic language academies chose that word, presumably, since political power is something that over time is transferred from one group of people to another, and thus rotates between them].
The topmost African lexicographer Ibn Manzūr (d. 711 AH), in Lisān al-‘Arab, tells us that dawlah and dūlah signify the final outcome of ownership of wealth or a war, that is, who ultimately gets to own an asset of wealth or triumph at the end of a war. He then listed all the important words derived from the root dāl-wāw-lām, and nothing vaguely associated with “State” is mentioned in his exhaustively detailed list.
It is the same with all our classical writers of dictionaries or lexical works on technical terms in Islam.
The Online Etymology Dictionary sheds light on the term “State”:
“[P]olitical organization of a country, supreme civil power, government," 1530s, from state (n.1); this sense grew out of the meaning "condition of a country" with regard to government, prosperity, etc. (late 13c.), from L. phrases such as status rei publicæ "condition of the republic." Often in phrase church and state, which is attested from 1580s. The sense of "semi-independent political entity under a federal authority" (as in the United States of America) is from 1856; the British North American colonies occasionally were called states as far back as 1630s. The states has been short for "the United States of America" since 1777; hence stateside (1944), World War II U.S. military slang. State rights in U.S. political sense is attested from 1798; form states rights is first recorded 1858.
Therefore, it is only some 1000 years after the advent of Islam that even the English kuffār began to use “State” in the sense we have come to know it.
In a similar fashion, the first operating bank emerged in the town of Siena in Tuscany, Italy, and dates from 1472, its functioning and that of its institutional “scions” was well-known to Muslim role-players in politics, as overwhelmingly demonstrated by a wealth of documentary material, and yet the Muslims refused to introduce it in their Dīn and bestow a name on it.
- Ours is an Arabic sharī`ah
- The term State does not exist in Arabic, exactly as the words bank and democracy are foreign to the language of the Qur’ān and the Sunnah
- It was unknown by our powerful predecessors
- It is thus an un-Islamic innovation from outside the Dīn, which apologetic and self-defeating modernist Muslims have adopted of late
- The use of such a term is illegitimate. Imamate, Caliphate, Sultanate etc, are all legitimate Islamic definitions which we should studiously restore to our everyday vocabulary
• ARTICLE 2 - DEMOCRACY: What it is, and how Islam views it
• ARTICLE 3- Carving out the path to practically reviving the sunnah of Islamic leadership in every locality peopled by Muslims nowadays