Following notes on Islamic Political System have been taken from The Political Thought of Islam by Maulana Abu’ Ala Mawdoodi
The political system of Islam is based on three principles: Tawhid (unity of God), Risalat (prophethood) and Khilafat (vicegerency).
Tawhid means that only God is the Creator, Sustainer and Master of the universe and of all that exists in it – organic or inorganic. The sovereignty of this kingdom is vested only in Him. He alone has the right to command or forbid. Worship and obedience are due to Him alone, no one and nothing else share it in any way.
The medium through which we receive the law of God is known as Risalat. We have received two things from this source: the Book in which God has set out His law, and the authoritative interpretation and exemplification of the Book by the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, through word and deed, in his capacity as the representative of God. The combination of Quran and Sunnah elements is called the Shari’ah. The Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, has also, in accordance with the intention of the Divine Book, given us a model for the Islamic way of life by himself implementing the law and providing necessary details where required.
Now consider Khilafat. According to the Arabic lexicon, it means ‘representation’. Man, according to Islam, is the representative of God on earth, His vicegerent. That is to say, by virtue of the powers delegated to him by God, he is required to exercise his God-given authority in this world within the limits prescribed by God.
Take, for example, the case of an estate that someone has been appointed to administer on your behalf. You will see that the four conditions are invariably met. First, the real owner of the estate remains vested in you and not in the administrator; second, he administers your property only in accordance with your instructions; third, he exercises his authority within the limits prescribed by you; and fourth, in the administration of the trust he executes your will and not his own.
This is exactly what Islam means when it affirms that man is the vicegerent of God on earth. Hence, these four conditions are also involved in the concept of Khilafat.
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Democracy in Islam:
Every person in an Islamic society enjoys the rights and powers of the caliphate of God and in this respect all individuals are equal. No one can deprive anyone of his rights and powers. The agency for running the affairs of the state will be established in accordance with the will of these individuals, and the authority of the state will only be an extension of the powers of the individual 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 carry out the duties of the caliphate on their behalf, and when he loses this confidence he will have to relinquish his office. In this respect, the political system in Islam is as perfect a democracy as ever can be.
Difference between Islamic Democracy and Western Democracy:
In Western democracy the people are sovereign, in Islam sovereignty is vested in God and the people are His caliphs or representatives.
In Western democracy the people make their own laws; in the latter, they have to follow and obey the laws (Shari’ah) given by God through His Prophet.
In one the Government undertakes to fulfill the will of the people; in the other, the Government and the people alike have to do the will of God.
Western democracy is a kind of absolute authority that exercises its powers in a free and uncontrolled manner, whereas Islamic democracy is subservient to the Divine Law and exercises its authority in accordance with the injunctions of God and within the limits prescribed by Him.
Purpose of the Islamic State:
The Holy Qur’an clearly states that the aim and purpose of this state, built on the foundation of Tawhid, Risalat, and Khilafat, is the establishment, maintenance, and development of those virtues which the Creator of the universe wishes human life to be enriched by, and the prevention and eradication of those evils which are abhorrent to God.
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 an unalterable requirement for the state to base its politics 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 relations of the state with other states, precedence must always be given to truth, honesty and justice.
It imposes obligations on the state similar to those it imposes on the individual: to fulfill all contracts and obligations; to use power and authority for the establishment of justice and not for the perpetuation of injustice; to look on duty as a sacred obligation, and to regard power as a trust from God to be used in the belief that one has to render an account of one’s actions to Him in the Hereafter.
Fundamental Rights of Non-Muslims:
According to 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 rights.
The life, property, and honor of a dhimmi are to be respected and protected in exactly the same way as that of a Muslim citizen.
There is no difference between Muslim and non-Muslim citizens in respect of civil or criminal law, and the Islamic state shall not interfere with the personal law of non-Muslims.
They will have full freedom of conscience and belief and will be entitled to perform their religious rites and ceremonies. As well as being able to practice their religion, they are entitled to criticize Islam.
Executive and Legislature:
The responsibility for the administration of the Government in an Islamic state is entrusted to an Amir (leader) who may be likened to the President or the Prime Minister in a Western democratic state.
All adult men and women who accept the fundamentals of the constitution are entitled to vote in the election for the leader.
The basic qualifications for the election of an Amir are that he should command the confidence of the largest number of people in respect of his knowledge and grasp of the spirit of Islam; he should possess the Islamic attribute of fear of God; he should be endowed with the quality of statesmanship. In short, he should be both able and virtuous.
A Shura (consultative council), elected by the people, will assist and guide the Amir. It is obligatory for the Amir to administer the country with the advice of his Shura.
The Amir can retain office only so long as he enjoys the confidence of the people, and must resign when he loses this confidence.
Every citizen has the right to criticize the Amir and his Government, and all reasonable means for the expression of public opinion should be available.
Legislation in an Islamic state should be within the limits prescribed by the Shari’ah. The injunctions of God and His Prophet are to be accepted and obeyed and no legislative body can alter or modify them or make any new laws that are contrary to their spirit. The great scope would still be available for legislation on questions not covered by any specific injunctions of the Shari’ah, and the advisory council or legislature is free to legislate in regard to these matters.
Judiciary in Islamic State:
In Islam, the judiciary is not placed under the control of the executive. It derives its authority directly from the Shari’ah and is answerable to God.
The judges will obviously be appointed by the Government but, once appointed, will have to administer justice impartially according to the law of God.
All the organs and functionaries of the Government should come within their jurisdiction: even the highest executive authority of the Government will be 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 the social, economic and political realms alike.