A model for an authentic Islamic state

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A model for an authentic Islamic state
Rachid, Mohamad
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Islam and state ( lcsh )
Islam and state ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
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Includes bibliographical references.
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Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, Political Science.
General Note:
Department of Political Science
Statement of Responsibility:
by Mohamad Rachid.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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Full Text
Mohamad Rachid
B.S., University of Colorado, 1985
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Political Science

This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Mohamad Rachid
has been approved for the
Department of
Political Science

Rachid, Mohamad (M.A., Political Science)
A Model for an Authentic Islamic Stat
Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Lucy Ware
This thesis delineates the principal concepts and institutions
of an authentic Islamic state. The thesis rests on the premise
that Islam affords a viable political system. The principles
of tawhid (oneness of God), shura (mutual consultation), and
baia are studied. Based on those principles, the institutions
of the caliphate (the Executive) and the ahl al-hal wa al-aqd,
or decision-makers, (the Legislative) are described. Some of
the issues that are addressed include: elections, voting, the
role of women in politics, the status of religious minorities
in an Islamic order, Islam and democracy, and political
multiplicity. The primary conclusion of this thesis is that an
authentic Islamic state is not theocratic, dictatorial, or
monarchic. An authentic Islamic state is theo-democratic; i.e.
democratic within the boundaries of Islamic law.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the
candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication.
Lucy Ware

Mohamad Rachid
B.S., University of Colorado, 1985
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Political Science

1. INTRODUCTION..............................1
Thesis Statement ........................1
Historical Background....................2
How to Revive the Ummah................3
Islamists7 Resurgence..................6
The Role of Islam....................7
Failure of Imported Paradigms.......11
Other Factors.......................15
Justifications for the Project..........17
Formidable Task.......................24
Other Notes...........................26
Summary of Chapters.....................28
What is the Shariah.....................34
The Gradual Application of the
Why an Islamic State?...................42
Shura in the Quran...................50
Shura in the Sunna...................51
Shura Is binding.....................53

Shura Is Not Binding..................56
Contemporary Views on Shura...........60
The Scope of Shura....................62
4. AL-BAIA (FEALTY).........................65
Selection of Decision-Makers..........67
Who Are the Decision-Makers.........68
The Characteristics of Decision-
Makers .............................69
An-All-Male Shura Body?...........69
Ghazali's Views...............76
An-All-Muslim Representative
Electing the Decision-Makers..........83
The Choosing of a Caliph..............87
The Duties of the Caliph............88
Qualifications of the Caliph........89
The Quriashite Condition..........90
Ibn-Khaldun's Views...........91
Term Limits....................... 92
5. CONCLUSION...............................95
The Nature of an Authentic
Islamic State...........................95
Islam and Democracy...................97
Islam Is Democratic.................98
Islam Is Not Democratic.............98
A Multiparty System?...................101

The Banning of All political
Parties............................ 101
The Champions of a Multiparty
Non-Muslims in the Islamic
Dhimma's Rights......................109
Dhimma/s Obligations.................Ill
Final Conclusion.......................113
BIBLIOGRAPHY............................... 117

This thesis is going to tackle a very contentious subject,
Islamic politics. The difficulty of addressing such an issue
flows from the fact that its audience is dichotomous;
Muslims and Westerners, each of which has very different
approach to studying social sciences. Each approach is
interlocked within a world view that is based upon
particular assumptions and goals. While the Islamic
political discourse rests heavily on the divine revelations
of the Quran and the traditions of Prophet Mohammad, not to
the exclusion of reason, its Western counterpart depends,
almost entirely, on a secular and human experience.
The implications of these two methodologies are
paramount. For a Muslim, it usually suffices (or it should
suffice) to cite a verse from the Quran or a saying of the
Prophet to make a convincing argument. This is based on the
belief that the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet
(Sunna) are logical and reasonable. For a Westerner,
empirical evidence and logic are the most important factors
in making a point. Thus, while the Quran and the Sunna are
the absolute and constant reference point for the Muslim
mind, the reference point for the Western mind is usually
relative and changing. This point will be pursued further in
the second chapter when I address the question of the
Islamic law and its applicability nowadays.

It is critical for non-Muslims to know that in any
Islamic dialogue, the strongest argument is the one
bolstered by the Quran and/or the Sunna. In advocating one's
position, it is highly recommended that one find a
Scriptural base. If not, the position should not contradict
the Scripture. This is very crucial to bear in mind so that
the reader would understand why many references are made to
the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet.
With this tremendous burden of trying to communicate
with two different audiences, the author presents what he
conceives as authentic features of Islamic politics. The
theoretical principles of political Islam will be studied,
and, then their applications in modern times will be
Probably I would be asking the Western reader too much
if I expected her/him to adopt this enterprise whole-
heartedly. That is not the aim of this project anyway. The
genuine goal of this thesis is to introduce non-Muslims to
Islamic political discourse and to show them that other
viable world views do exist beside the omnipotent secular
theories, especially liberal democratic ones, and that the
Islamic theory is very relevant to the Muslim populations.
It is proper at the commencement of this project to
remind the Western readers that they have been, consciously
or unconsciously, influenced by Orientalism when they have
evaluated the Muslim world. Orientalism basically refers to

a large body of literature that has been produced by the
West about Muslims prior to and during the colonialist era
and its legacies persist today. Edward W. Said (1978)
suggests that Orientalism connotes several things: It is "a
style of thought based upon an ontological and
epistemological distinction made between 'the Orient' and
(most of the time) 'the Occident'." (p.2); and, it is "a
Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having
authority over the Orient" (p.3). And thus, Orientalism is a
political vehicle, masked with the mantle of scientific and
intellectual scholarship, to dominate the Muslim world.
Against that Orientalist background and influence which
the Western reader has been subjected to for a long stretch
of time, the author attempts to present an Islamic
understanding of the Islamic world. The Western reader is,
therefore, immensely encouraged to open her/his mind (and
heart) to a language and a way of thinking that may seem
completely alien to them. This language and way of thinking,
however, are widely held by a great number of Muslims.
The reader may notice that there are numerous aspects
in Islamic politics which can be conceived of as being
democratic but are not referred to as such. The reader may
not be incorrect in drawing those conclusions. However,
she/he is advised to see the brief comparison that is going
to be held between Islam and democracy in the fifth chapter.
And finally a few words about Muslims. Today, there are

about one billion Muslims scattered all over the world; that
is about nineteen per cent of the world population. They
compose the majority in forty-five countries, which are
mainly located in the Middle East, Asia, and North Africa.
In the United States, around six million people embrace the
Islamic faith and thus form the third largest religious

In this chapter, a historical background about the Islamic
nation and state(s) is going to be provided to give the
reader a context through which he/she can understand the
present Islamic revival and call for the establishment of an
authentic Islamic state. Additionally, the goals of and
justifications for this thesis are going to be discussed.
And finally, the content of the succeeding chapters will be
summarized. But first comes the thesis statement.
Thesis Statement
This paper is about the basic principles and institutions of
an Islamic state. Today there is an unprecedented aspiration
by Muslim peoples all over the world to implement the
Islamic Shariah (law). This desire is very evident in North
Africa, the Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and the
Middle East. A genuine Islamic state has been absent from
the world, however, for almost two centuries (even though
the caliphate was not officially eradicated until 1924).
Thus, it is proper to ask the following two questions: what
would constitute an authentic Islamic state? And what kind
of institutions would such an Islamic state have? This
thesis endeavors to provide some answers to these questions.
It is essential to emphasize that the underlying premise for
this thesis is that Islam affords a viable alternative to

all secular systems that exist in the world today. Put
differently, liberal democracy and other Western-initiated
ideologies and systems are not the only feasible solutions
to the social predicament of the human race.
Historical Background
It is vital to understand the historic events which have
brought about this new wave of "Islamism" (I am going to use
the terms 'Islamist' and 'Islamism' which are being employed
by the Islamic movements instead of the terms
'fundamentalist' and 'fundamentalism' that are popularized
by the West. The use of the former terms should not imply
that Islamists are a monolithic group. In fact, today there
are many forms and interpretations of Islamism). The
majority of Muslims all over the world were very frustrated
when Kemal Ataturk abolished the caliphate system in 1924
and established a secular state in its place in Turkey
(Kailani, 1987). Muslims' frustration sprang from the fact
that an Islamic state had consistently existed since Prophet
Mohammad built the first Islamic state in the seventh
century. Some of these states might have not lived up to the
normative example that was set by the Prophet and the four
Rightly-Guided Caliphs who succeeded him. Nevertheless, no
government in the Islamic world had ever advocated the
abandonment of the Shariah (Islamic law) and adoption of a
Western-oriented constitution as Ataturk did.

How to Revive the Ummah
The abolition of the caliphate system was the straw which
broke the camel's back; Muslims watched helplessly while
their final unifying element was being dismantled. Muslims'
vulnerability became so apparent that it could not be
ignored any longer. Intellectuals and scholars fervently
searched for the reasons beneath Muslims' decline and
stagnation. Three main views shaped the discussion at the
time (Hussein, 1981). The first view argued that Muslims
were in decline because they were adhering to Islam. Islam
might have been good for the seventh or eighth century, but
it definitely could not accommodate the twentieth century
demands. Islam, therefore, ought to be renounced. Muslims
should follow the example of Europe and adopt the whole of
its civilization in order to advance and progress. The
proponents of this perspective were mostly Christians and
Western-educated Muslims.
The second group asserted that Muslims were weak and
backward because they were not faithful enough to their
religion. If Muslims were to advance, this argument claimed,
they should apply their religion to the whole of their life
and reject everything that came from Europe including
science and technology. Europe was viewed as inherently
evil. Thus, whatever Europe did or enunciated was evil too.
This school was mainly represented by traditional ulama
(religious scholars) whose education was primarily

The final group contended, like the second group, that
Muslims were in trouble because they deviated from their
religion. The revival of Muslims depended on their returning
to their roots and principles. Unlike the first group which
advocated the complete adoption of Western civilization and
the second school which rejected Western views and ways
entirely, they argued that Muslims ought to evaluate the
Western civilization and adopt what conformed to their
religion and refuse the rest. That meant, basically, that
Muslims should take science and technology and reject the
social and cultural values. The representatives of this
point of view were mostly intellectuals who had acquired
religious as well as secular education.
The first perspective prevailed. Its success didn't
rest as much on the validity and force of its argument as on
the support that it received from the colonial and imperial
powers. In many respects, secularization was thrust on the
Muslim people.
Muslims were, for the first time in thirteen centuries,
to try non-Islamic, if not anti-Islamic, ideologies and
ideas to solve their internal and external problems.
Socialism, communism, liberalism, nationalism, and/or
Western democracies governed the Muslim world for the next
five decades. However, Muslims were not better off under
these Western ideologies which were supposed to save and

vitalize them.
Decline endured. The Muslim world suffered on the
political, economic, social, and spiritual fronts. On the
political front, Muslim countries were ruled by dictatorial
regimes. These regimes were, most of the time, safeguarded
by the European and American governments. On the economic
front, they were very dependent on the West not only in
regard to heavy industries but also to feed their
populations. On the social front, the society was
disintegrating and the traditional institutions, such as the
family, were weakening. On the spiritual front, Islam was
deliberately cast aside by the secular governments in favor
of materialism, whether communist or capitalist. The
secularists' promise of progress and prosperity was not
fulfilled. The "Europeanization" or "Westernization" of the
Muslim society did not bring with it any progress or respect
for Muslims.
In fact, Western ideologies were just another form of
colonialism: educational/cultural colonialism which would
keep Muslims under the hegemony of the imperialist powers.
The espousal of foreign ideologies didn't deliver Muslims
from their predicaments. The Arab-Israeli conflict was to
bring into the open, and in a very unequivocal manner,
Muslims' vulnerability and inferiority.
The shattering and humiliating defeats of the Arabs in
1948 and 1967 clearly crystallized the weaknesses of Arabs

and Muslims (Piscatori, 1986). Four big Arab countries were
crushed and subdued by a small, newly-established state in
1948. The Arabs called that war ual-nakba" (the disaster).
The same play was repeated in 1967. Muslims compared their
present "disasters" to their past victories and knew that
there was something fundamentally wrong with them. Islam was
not the cause for their underdevelopment, mediocrity, and
worthlessness, otherwise why didn't they develop and advance
when they renounced it? Islam had nothing to do with the
1948 and 1967 disasters. It was the new, imported ideologies
that failed them. Accordingly, Islamic sentiment was on the
It might be argued that Muslims (or Arabs) were
defeated because of over-reliance on God, and thus because
of Islam. This argument can be easily invalidated on the
ground that Islam is a dynamic religion that can only be
actualized through active self-exertion. Change (or victory)
can only be brought about through people's taking charge of
their lives, the Quran asserts (8:58; 13:12). Victory will
not descend on people while they sitting idle.
Islamists' Resurgence
The 1967 military defeat brought with it political victory
for the Islamists. The nationalist and socialist banners,
under which the Arabic armies were fighting, proved
unsuitable for Muslims and lost ground. The Islamist
argument, on the other hand, gained a lot of credence and

Two chief reasons explain the Islamists' resurgence: first,
the resiliency of Islam itself; and, second, the failure of
the imported paradigms in developing the Muslim countries.
The role of Islam. It is essential to recognize the
role which Islam has played in the lives of Muslims in order
to fathom some of the fervor by which some Islamists are
driven in their call for a return to the principles of
Islam. Prophet Mohammad was sent to divided, humiliated, and
war-torn tribes in the desert of Saudi Arabia. Under the
umbrella of Islam, all of these tribes united to form a
strong, civilized, and, most vitally, honorable and
respected nation which contributed immensely to human
civilization. "No one in those years would have dreamed that
within a century these nomads would conquer half of
Byzantine Asia, all of Persia and Egypt, most of North
Africa, and be on their way to Spain" (Durant, 1950:155).
Philip Hitti (1970), an historian, reported that, in
the sixth century (just before the coming of Islam),
hostilities between Arab tribes generally arose from
disputes over cattle and pasture-lands, and some of them
lasted for decades. Harb al-Basus (war of al-Basus) and the
Day of Dahis and al-Ghabra' are very famous events in Arabic
history and literature. The former conflict arose over "a
she-camel, the property of an old woman of Bakr named Basus,

which had been wounded by a Taghlib chief" (Hitti, 1970:89)
and it continued for forty years. The latter transpired
because of "the unfair conduct of the Dhubyanites in a race
between a horse called Dahis belonging to the chieftain of
Abs and a mare named al-Ghabra' owned by the sheik of
Dhubyan" (Hitti, 1970:90). The conflict lasted for decades
too. The Arabs were eventually engulfed and exhausted by
their internal wars and battles.
The extent of Arabs' humiliation and insignificance is
further illustrated in the following encounter between the
King of Persia and a Muslim soldier. Ibn Kathir (1985:(7)41)
reports that when Muslims conquered Persia in the seventh
century, the Persian King said to the Muslim messenger, "I
don't know any nation on earth that has been plagued with
[economic] hardship, a limited number of inhabitants, and an
extreme animosity [among yourselves]... [we never paid
attention to you], we employed some villagers so that we
didn't have to worry about you. Persia didn't [have any
desire to]invade you and you were incapable of fighting us.
Therefore, if your number has increased, don't be deceived
[as to think to invade us], if your hardship is unbearable,
then we will provide for you, and we will honor your leaders
and clothe them, and we will appoint a merciful king over
you." Arabs' neighbors had little or no respect for them.
Such were the conditions and environment to which
Prophet Mohammad came. The Prophet transformed the Arabs

from a peripheral actor into an active and energetic
participant in the construction of civilization. Islam gave
the Arabs a noble mission and direction in life. Will Durant
(1950:341) described Islam's impact on the world very
For five centuries, from 700 to 1200, Islam led the
world in power, order, and extent of government, in
refinement of manners, in standards of living, in
humane legislation and religious toleration, in
literature, scholarship, science, medicine, and
The second Rightly-Guided Caliph, Omar, admonished Muslims
when they were conquering other countries: "You are a
nation that became honorable because of Islam, therefore, if
you sought honor elsewhere (or by other means) then Allah
would humiliate you" (Ibn Kathir, 1985:(7)60). This saying
sticks in the minds of the vast majority of Muslims. The
subsequent history has proven Omar to be correct. Every time
Muslims deviated from their religion, they were miserably
humiliated and confounded.
The state of Muslims in the last and current centuries
has been reminiscent of their condition at the advent of
Islam. And that gives the call to return to Islam a lot of
gravity. It is an invitation to Muslims to dust off two
centuries of apathy, marginalism, and passiveness. It is a
call for energetic activism in the building of their own
lives and that of the human race.

An equally crucial aspect of Islam is its resiliency
and survivability. Islam has been challenged throughout its
long history and has constantly been able to outlive its
adversaries. To the Believers, this is not surprising
because Allah, in the Quran, promised to preserve the Quran
in its originality. Thus if the Quran is maintained, then
Islam itself is maintained.
Other notions related to Islam's perpetuation include
the processes of tajdid (renewal) and islah (reform). John
0. Voll (1983:33) accurately describes these processes in
Islamic history. He cites a saying of Prophet Mohammad that
"God will send to this ummah (the Muslim community) at the
head of each century those who will renew its faith for it."
Thus, the current revival is not a reaction to the West (or
to bad economic conditions), as some observers in the West
would like to think, "but is rather part of an ongoing
process of revival (tajdid) and reform (islah) which
reflects a continuing tradition in Islamic history"
(Esposito, 1983:14) as many Islamists assert.
Sayyid Qutb (as quoted in Haddad, 1982:162), an
Islamist thinker, affords the following inference from
If it were ordained for the Muslim world
to die, it would have died during the
long centuries it had passed through,
while chained and in a state of
exhaustion and inaction after it had
carried the burden of the civilizing of

humanity for a long time...[And] it
would have died during the period of
softening and exhaustion while
imperialism was young and
strong...However it did not
die...rather, it arose alive like a
powerful giant breaking its chains and
putting aside its weight and challenging
the aging imperialism.
The "Islam is the solution" slogan, which is repeatedly
cited by Islamists, is, then, based on the critical and
pivotal role which Islam has played in the lives of Muslims
throughout their history. When Muslims were down, Islam was
their rallying point. Today, the Islamists assert, is no
different; Islam is still Muslims' hope in a better present
and future. No other ideology or system could save them.
Failure of imported paradigms. The second reason for
the resurgence of Islam is that imported secular
constitutions and ideologies remained alien to most Muslims.
If Muslims ever consented to trying communism, socialism,
liberal democracy, or even nationalism, it was because they
were led, by Orientalists and Westernized Muslims, to
believe that one or more of these were the only way to
progress. Many decades later, Muslim peoples are still
technologically underdeveloped and live on the margin of
The collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and
Eastern Europe furthered Muslims' belief that these man-
made ideologies were not for them. Therefore, if they were

to solve their problems, they had to look elsewhere. Fauzi
Najjar (1992:63), in his assessment of Islam's revival in
Egypt, found that Western values "have been seen as the
cause of the rapid deterioration of the quality of Islamic
life and the decline of the Muslim world as a whole. Hence,
a 'return to Islam' appeared to be the only feasible
solution." This is a widely held belief in the Islamic
world; the West is concerned only with enhancing its own
interests and hegemony over the Muslim populations.
Had the West succeeded in rejuvenating and reviving the
Islamic world, the clamor to "return to Islam" would have
had tougher time finding an audience.
Some may argue that secular foreign-inspired ideologies
had never been given a fair chance to succeed in the Muslim
countries (Hunter, 1988) Therefore, it is unjust to lay
blame on them for the appalling conditions of the Muslim
world. This contention has some validity. However, the West
is primarily to blame for the failure of its ideologies in
the Islamic land. The West, for instance, has been
incredibly ambivalent about the democratization of the
Islamic world. A very telling example is the recent events
in Algeria (1991-1992). The Algerian Islamists won the
majority of seats in the free parliamentary elections.
Alarmed by the result of the elections, the army overthrew
the government, canceled the elections, and outlawed the
Islamist party (which is known as the FIS). The U.S.A. stood

silent, while the Europeans rewarded the junta by expediting
monetary aid to stabilize the economy (The Christian Science
Monitor. 3/3/92).
When similar events took place in Peru and Haiti, the
U.S.A. denounced the Peruvian government and cut off its
economic assistance until democracy was restored. In the
case of Haiti, the U.S. exerted efforts to reinstate the
ousted president, and it condemned the military junta (The
Christian Science Monitor. 1/28/92).
The Muslim peoples witnessed a stark double standard of
the Western countries. But as a British expert on the Middle
East observed "dictatorship is... abnormal...if applied to
Europeans, [but] for Arabs and Moslem peoples, [it is] the
only workable alternative to traditional monarchy or to
direct colonial rule by external powers" (New York Times.
4/21/91) Consequently, Muslims are justified if they
doubted and mistrusted Western-oriented thoughts. The aim of
these Western-oriented doctrines has been construed as to
perpetuate the status quo.
Under the status quo the masses have been utterly
excluded from participating in determining their fate.
Dictatorial regimes have been overtly and covertly supported
and protected by Western democracies. Iran exemplifies this
Western policy. In 1953 Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi was
hauled back into Iran aboard a CIA plane after the
democratically-elected government of Muhammad Musaddeq was

overthrown with the help of the CIA. Therefore, it is not
totally unfair to assume that the West is accountable for
the failure of its paradigms in the Islamic world.
There is another point which testifies to the growing
influence of the Islamists and declining clout of the
secularists: the courtship by many political leaders in the
Islamic world of ideas such as the "application of the
Islamic Shariah." Leaders like the late Anwar al-Sadat,
Hosni Mubarak, King Hussein, Jaafer Numeiri (the deposed
dictator of the Sudan), and the late Zia al-Haq of Pakistan
all have made changes to accommodate the resurgence of
Islamic sentiment among the masses. Many scholars and
intellectuals have also followed suit and jumped on the
bandwagon to sustain their credibility in the Islamic world.
These leaders and scholars might not have believed in
applying the Shariah, but the mere reality that they paid
lip service to such projects is sufficient to show the
magnitude of the rising Islamic sentiment among the Muslim
peoples. Whether political expediency is the reason behind
the employment of Islamic slogans or not, Islamic precepts
are becoming popular.
Is it possible that Sadat or Zia, and other leaders,
used Islam and "Islamization" as a method to gain popular
support for their authoritarian rule? It is very possible
(Piscatori, 1986). However, such attempts were not tried by
earlier rulers such as Nasser of Egypt. Islam was almost

totally ignored. The point here is that Islamic sentiment is
on the rise, and leaders and dictators have had to court
this emotion in order to preserve their regimes. The real
test for the masses is to see if they can discriminate
between the sincere leaders who are genuinely pursuing
"Islamization" and others who are just employing it to
bolster their authoritarianism.
In conclusion, Western systems failed to rescue the
Muslim populations and afford them workable solutions.
Consequently, the indigenous secularists lost a lot of
ground to their counterparts, the Islamists. Whether these
Western-oriented systems had a fair chance to ^succeed in the
Islamic world or not is another matter. The end, and
crucial, result is that they did not succeed.
Other factors may have contributed to the Islamic
revival in different ways. Factors such as "an identity
crisis precipitated by a sense of complete impotence and
loss of self-respect"; "the new-found sense of pride and
power which resulted from military (Arab-Israeli war) and
economic (oil embargo) success in 1973" (Esposito, 1983);
the defeat of Arabs in the 1967 war with Israel (Piscatori,
1986); and/or the straining of social and political fabric
in the process of development and modernization in the
Muslim world (Piscatori, 1986). All of these are
complementary to the main root causes which were mentioned

above: the resiliency and inner strength of Islam itself and
the failure of other systems to revive the Muslim ummah.
The Iranian Revolution of 1979 could also be seen as a
result of the root causes as well as a precipitating element
for revival in other areas in the world of Islam.
Regardless of the bad publicity which accompanied that
revolution, especially in the West, and regardless of how
one evaluates that event (I, myself, have many reservations
about it) the Iranian Revolution encouraged Muslims all over
the world to revolt against their oppressors. The Shah was
deemed untouchable and unremovable; he had the best secret
service in the area and the unwavering support of the West;
yet the unarmed masses of Iran were able to oust him. In a
phrase, the Islamic Revolution in Iran had a twofold effect.
It gave the Muslim masses hope; they could rise up against
imperialists and their proxies and win, and it dealt
secularism a great blow.
In short, the history of the Muslim countries in
general, and in the 20th century in particular, discloses
that the "islamization" of the Islamic world is not a
passing fad. It mirrors a long tradition of revival and
reform that is endemic to Islam and Muslims. Islam's
resiliency and internal strength, coupled with the failure
of imported systems are to be credited for the current wave.
It may be inevitable that the West is going to be affected

by this new Islamism; we live in a small world, whatever one
community, no matter how small it is, does is bound to
influence others to varying degrees. It is paramount,
however, for people in the West to understand that this
Islamic revival is not directed against them per se; its
primary objective is the resurrection and rejuvenation of
the Muslim world itself; its chief subject is Muslims
themselves, and not Westerners. I am going to venture to
suggest that the West could even benefit from the
Islamization of the Islamic world; during their heyday (when
they adhered to Islam), Muslims contributed immensely to the
advancement of mankind; at other times (when they swerved
from Islam), their contribution has been minimal or
Justifications for the Project
The subject of this thesis is very important for a host of
reasons. First, Islamic revival and resurgence make the
building of Islamic states almost inescapable; it is only a
matter of time before these states are a reality. Hopefully
my effort will be helpful in describing the general
principles of a genuine Islamic state and prescribing the
needed institutions to effect those principles.
Second, Islam is a religion and a system which
encompasses all aspects of life and is suitable for all
times. Islam is not just a religion in the Western sense of

the word (i.e. a personal relation between God and the
individual). Islam has economic, political, social,
psychological, aesthetic, ethical, and spiritual dimensions.
Accordingly, the separation between state and religion is
fundamentally superficial and antithetical to Islam.
Third, while many works and studies have been done on
the subject of Islamic politics, much more research is
needed. Islamic politics did not develop as other
disciplines did under Islam. The stagnation of the ummah has
only worsened the situation. For centuries of Islamic
history, very few studies tackled the subject of politics.
Three books represent the principal source on politics for
contemporary Muslim scientists: al-Ahkam al-Sultanivah (the
Ordinances of Government) by Imam al-Mawardi (d. 1058); al-
Sivasah al-Sharivva (the Shariah Policy) by Ibn Taimiyya (d.
1328); and al-Muaaddemah (An Introduction to History) by Ibn
Khaldun (d. 1406). A number of other works exist, but they
don't differ considerably from these three volumes. During
the 20th century many Muslim scholars have dealt with
political questions; however, their answers are very
general. According to Dr. AbdulHamid A. AbuSulayman (1989),
Rector of International Islamic University in Malaysia, most
of these studies were descriptive; they described the Caliph
and his qualifications, Shura (mutual consultation), Baia
(fealty), and other general issues. They failed to prescribe
the concrete steps and institutions to actualize Islamic

The deficiency of most past political studies, however,
may be attributed to two reasons. First, the Quran and Sunna
don't delineate an exact political system for Muslims to
copy. They only describe the general outlines of that
system; thus, the Islamic state may take more than one
shape. Second, the exclusion of Islam from the political
arena thwarts Islamists' efforts to make use of the process
of "trial and error" through which they can perfect the
needed procedures and institutions which will constitute the
normative Islamic state. It is safe to conclude, then, that
an exemplary Islamic state will require some time before it
is brought into being.
Today, though, there are many attempts on the part of
Muslim scholars to break out of that cycle and produce
literature that deals with essential questions about the
institutions that are requisite to an Islamic state and the
method to arrive at them. Muhammad El-Awa (1980:117)
undertook such a venture in his book On the Political
System of the Islamic State. He questioned whether certain
"pronouncements of the [past] Muslim jurists...[were] rules
which were suitable during their time...[or] constituted a
statement of rules of Islamic law binding on Muslims
throughout the ages." In his opinion, many of these
pronouncements, and even some of the institutions that
existed in the past, are not obligatory for today's Muslims;

they were more historical events than rules that ought not
be violated.
Muhammad Asad, the European Muslim who contributed to
the writing of the Pakistani constitution when Pakistan was
founded in mid 1940's, concurs. The Prophet's companions
were great individuals from whom Muslims throughout ages
should learn self-sacrificing and submission to Allah.
Copying the sahaba (companions of the Prophet), however,
does not mean that the succeeding Muslims are obliged to
imitate the institutions which the Companions founded to
implement Islam. "...[T]he political apparatus which they
created was the fruit of [their] ijtihad (independent
reasoning)... and reflected the demands of their day" (Asad,
Despite such endeavors, Muslim political scientists
still have a tremendous task ahead of them; they have to
specify and define "Islamic political theory" and the
institutions that are necessary to materialize such a theory
in the modern age. In addition, the vast majority of books
that address Islamic politics are written in the Arabic
language. There is a real need for books in English so that
people in the West have broader access to the Islamic
discourse. This thesis is a contribution to such a mammoth
Fourth, the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism
has brought to the fore the friction between Islam and

capitalism. Many scholars in the West, such as Brzezinski
(1991), are crediting the U.S. for the fall of communism and
claiming victory for capitalism. Muslim intellectuals, in
contrast, are seizing on the opportunity and introducing
Islam as a viable alternative not just to communism but also
to capitalism. Capitalism and communism, Muslim scholars
argue, mistreat the human being and place too much stress on
economics and the physical aspects of life. Both systems are
very materialistic. In this regard, the difference between
communism and capitalism is minimal. Dr. Alwani (1990a:266),
a leading Muslim scholar and president of the International
Institute of Islamic Thought, expects that capitalism is
going to have the same fate as its sister, communism. The
main reason is its failure to present "a realistic and
satisfactory interpretation of history, an overall
conception of life, man, and the universe, and a proper
understanding of the issue of time." The Quran possesses
such a comprehensive theory whereby, as Dr. Alwani
(1990A:267) concludes, "the Quran is the answer."
The hope is that this friction between Islam and
capitalism will not be transformed into a full-scale
confrontation. There are some scholars in the West who are
viewing Islam as a real threat to Western culture and
interests and would like to see any efforts to establish
Islamic states undermined. Such sentiment is expressed by
William S. Lind (1991), Judith Miller (1992, 1993), Daniel

Pipes (1990), and Bernard Lewis (1991). Others do not see
capitalism, or democracy, as necessarily incompatible with
Islam. They focus more on the many aspects held in common
between Islam and democracy (such as their representative
nature) and call for cooperation, communication, and, at
least, mutual understanding. John Esposito (1992), James
Piscatori (1986), Esposito and Piscatori (1991), and Y.
Haddad (1982) are proponents of this direction.
It is worth mentioning here that serious attempts are
underway in the West to give more weight to spirituality
when evaluating the needs and motivations of the human
being. The Greens Movement and the World Order Models
Project (WOMP) are representative of that direction (see
Falk, 1983).
Fifth, it is of paramount importance to recognize, and
emphasize, that Islam presents a fair, just, comprehensive,
and, most notably, viable theory/system to the human race.
Allah makes plain in the Quran that the grand purpose of
Islam is to provide justice: "We sent aforetime our apostles
with Clear Signs and sent down with them the Book and the
Balance (of Right and Wrong), that men may stand forth in
justice" (57:25), "God commands justice" (26:90), and "God
commands you to render back your Trusts to those to whom
they are due; and when you judge between people, that you
judge with justice" (4:58).
The viability of Islam springs from the validity and

applicability of its rules and principles. And most Muslims
believe that the passage of time has by no means diminished
or invalidated Islam's ability to perform in the modern age.
Islam's viability will be further discussed when I examine
the Islamic Shariah in the second chapter.
On my part, this thesis is not meant to convince the
West to adopt Islam as its own ideology (even though this is
a pleasant thought!), but rather to demonstrate that Islam
is viable and relevant to Muslims. It provides an
alternative and comprehensive system to all secular systems
and doctrines which prevail in the world today. If the West
really believes in democracy (majority rule) and self-
determination, then it should let the Muslim peoples decide
for themselves what system to heed and observe. The West may
impede the establishment of an Islamic state for a period of
time, but it cannot prevent Muslims from realizing their
aspirations forever.
The other personal goal of this work is to familiarize
Western readers with Islamic politics. Islam is still
enigmatic to most people in the West. In our ever-shrinking
world, it is vitally constructive that people look beyond
the headlines in order to fathom Islam and its culture. This
thesis, I hope, will contribute positively to that end.

To sum up, Muslims' awakening and aspiration to
establish a normative Islamic state that corresponds more
positively and genuinely with Islamic teachings as they were
revealed in the Quran and the traditions of Prophet
Mohammad; Islam's eternity and suitability to all times and
places and its all-encompassing nature which does not
differentiate between state and religion; the relative
newness and infancy of Islamic political thought in today's
world and the intrinsic need to develop further and refine
this new discipline; the vacancy caused by the downfall of
communism which prompted capitalists to boast about the
superiority and infallibility of their system as the only
system which is viable and feasible for everybody; and the
desire to accustom and educate the West about Islamic
politics and way of thinking, all of these factors combine
to make this thesis timely and indispensable.
Formidable Task
There are many limitations and challenges with which any
researcher has to contend when undertaking such an
enterprise as the one I am undertaking. First, the relative
newness of the discipline of Islamic political thought
forces the political scientist, by default, to use Western
political perspectives and experience as authoritative
sources. The problem is that the Western political
perspective reflects values "which, when applied by the

Muslim scholar, actually impede understanding of the Islamic
political system (Alwani, 1990a). The most salient among
those values is the fact that Islam is a religion. For
Westerners, religion hinders progress. That was the European
experience during the Middle Ages. The advancement and
prosperity that Europe achieved could only have been
possible because religion was cast aside. Any talk of an
active role for religion, to the European mind, means
turning back the clock and going back to those Dark Ages.
Furthermore, religion is based on revelations and, thus, the
role of reason and empirical knowledge is marginalized, if
not utterly obliterated. These concerns, it is important to
realize, pertain to European culture and not to Islam. This
point will be further discussed in the second chapter.
Second, the existence and pervasiveness of totalitarian
and authoritarian regimes and the absence of any prototype
Islamic state in the Islamic world render fanciful and
utopian, if not obsolete, any discussion of the ideal
Islamic state. The dictatorships which rule the majority of
the Islamic countries suggest, especially to Western
observers, that Islam itself is dictatorial. The Muslim
political scientist is not only burdened with the task of
proving that these dictatorships are contrary to Islam;
he/she is also handicapped because no real Islamic state
exists to demonstrate to people that such a state is not
only desirable but also possible. The justification,

nonetheless, resides in the fact that theory is needed to
lead (or justify) human efforts. Accordingly, theorizing for
a futuristic Islamic state is not sophism but rather an
inducement to realize such a state.
Finally, and most importantly, the totality and unity
of Islam present a real challenge for the political
scientist to isolate politics from the other aspects of
Islam. Islamic tenets are so interdependent and intertwined
that any attempt to divide and separate them will
necessarily result in a not very sound and coherent whole.
Therefore, if such a process is undertaken, the broader
framework of Islam should always be kept in mind (See El-
Yacoubi, 1983).
Despite these obstacles, Islamic political theory has
to be addressed and explored. It has to be addressed for the
sake of hundreds of millions of Muslims who are yearning to
live in an Islamic society and be governed by the Islamic
law. It has to be addressed because the human race could
greatly benefit from it too.
Other Notes
The vast majority of my references are written in the Arabic
language which I am translating into English myself. To
limit the scope of this project my references reflect the
Sunni's viewpoint rather than the Shiite's or any other sect
that claims to belong to Islam. The diversity of opinions

which exists among the Sunni Muslim intellectuals will
ensure a lively and rich debate. I just would like to remind
the reader that 80% of Muslims in the world are Sunni. This
thesis, then, will be limited to the shape and principles of
a Sunni Muslim state. I might add that the Sunni and Shiite
agree on most of the basic principles of Islamic politics.
The fuqaha (jurists) and the imam have more power under the
Shiite than under the Sunni creed.
This project represents an Islamic perspective on a
futuristic Islamic state. In no way does the author claim
that this is the Islamic perspective. This is also not a
study of comparative political theory. By that I mean that
this research is not going to draw a comparison between the
Islamic political theory and other political theories, such
as liberalism, for instance. Yet some comments about other
systems may inescapably appear.
Most, if not all, of the stereotypical charges and biases
against Muslims which are usually levelled by ethnocentric
Western writers are going to be overlooked. Many Muslim
scholars believe that such defaming campaigns are waged to
distract Muslims from tackling real and genuine subjects;
they are meant to keep Muslims on the defense all the time.
It is much more beneficial for Muslim intellectuals to busy
themselves with producing positive, complete, and

comprehensive theories of politics in Islam than to answer
unfounded or racist charges. There are, one has to concede,
some serious Western scholars who raise legitimate questions
about Islam and its theories, and such questions should be
responded to by Muslim specialists.
Summary of the Chapters
Chapter two will address questions and concepts which are
important in order to have a complete and comprehensive view
of Islamic politics: Al-tawhid (oneness of God); Why an
Islamic state? What is the Shariah?; and the gradual
application of the Shariah are some of the issues that
prepare the reader for the subsequent discussions. Al-
tawhid, for instance, is actually the quintessence of not
only Islamic politics but also the whole of Islam; it is the
axial doctrine of Islam. Without understanding it, Islamic
thought is incomprehensible.
Chapter three will deal with al-shura (mutual
consultation), the chief canon of Islamic politics. Its
applications and implications have a profound impact on all
aspects of the political process in Islam. Al-shura is the
axiom on which political parties, political participation,
and elections are justified. In many ways, shura is the
identity of the Islamic order and governance.
Chapter four will inquire into al-baia (fealty,
allegiance), which constitutes the second cornerstone of

Islamic politics. Baia is a contract through which the
Muslim ummah renders obediance to the caliph in
considerations of the caliph's pledge to rule the Muslim
ummah in accordance with the Shariah. When al-baia was truly
exercised, the Islamic nation was at its zenith. Conversely,
the abuse of and deviation from the principle of baia are
responsible, to a great degree, for the degeneration of
political Islam. When allegiance was extracted from people
and not given by them, the political elites became
increasingly isolated from and did not represent the masses
anymore. Baia exemplifies people's concrete participation in
public affairs.
Chapter five is the concluding chapter. I will tackle
some of the thorny issues which confront Muslims today and
suggest some answers. Among the examined issues will be: the
nature of the Islamic state; whether the Islamic state
allows for a multi-party system; and finally the status of
non-Muslims. An authentic Islamic state, I conclude, is not
dictatorial, dynastic, monarchic, racial, nationalistic,
theocratic, or democratic; an authentic Islamic state is
theo-democratic, that is to say it is democratic within the
confines of the Quran and Sunna.

In this chapter, I am going to examine four important topics
which contribute enormously to the understanding of the call
to establish an Islamic state. First, al-tawhid (oneness of
God) will be discussed. Al-tawhid is the essence of Islam.
Its implications bear on all aspects of life including
politics. Second, I address the reasons which prompt Muslims
to advocate the establishment of an Islamic state. Third, I
explain the constituents of the Shariah. The vitality of
this subject is self-evident since the Shariah is presumably
the constitution of the Islamic state. And fourth, I venture
into the field of applying the Shariah in modern times. I
suggest that the application and implementation of the
Shariah ought to be gradual in order to secure positive
The most important principle in Islam is al-tawhid (oneness
of God). God is one; no other gods and nothing else should
be valued in his place. For a person to embrace Islam he/she
has to believe in tawhid. It is the first among five pillars
that Islam was built on. Tawhid has limitless ramifications
and impact on Muslims' life. We are concerned here with the
political implications of it. Allah (God) is the creator,

sustainer, and master of this universe and everything in it
including man. Allah alone is the "owner" of everything he
created. "He to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and
the earth, no son has He begotten, nor has He a partner in
His dominion: it is He who created all thing, and ordered
them in due proportion" (the Quran, 25:2). Consequently,
Allah, alone, is the Sovereign, the Legislator, and the
Governor of this universe. He alone has the right to command
or forbid. The principle of tawhid negates the autonomy of
the human being or, at least, makes it conditional. People
are sovereign as far as they adhere to Allah's law (Shariah)
and do not violate it.
Allah, as the Sovereign and Ruler of this universe, has
created man and chosen him to be His Caliph (viceregent) on
this earth to establish His order. The word caliphate is
derived from the Arabic word Khalifah which connote the
following meanings: "come after"; "come instead of";
"successors"; "heirs"; "deputies" (Lewis, 1988:44); and
"representative." Since man is viceregent of Allah, then man
ought to follow the orders and teachings of Allah and not
make up his own. This meaning is clarified in the Quran
(38:26) when Allah made David Khalifah:
0 David! We did indeed make thee a viceregent on
earth: so judge thou between people in truth (and
justice), Nor follow thou the lusts (of thy
heart), for they will mislead thee from the Path
of Allah: for those who wander astray from the
Path of Allah, is a penalty grievous. For that
they forget the Day of account.

The specific purpose of man's existence, as vicegerent,
is to worship Allah. Thus, the meaning of worship is not
limited to mere religious rituals; it is extended to include
all human activities. This grand all-encompassing
interpretation of ibada (worship) seems to be foreign even
to some Muslims. The Westernizational process of the Muslim
world bears a lot of blame for confining the meaning of
worship to certain and limited rituals. It is very clear
from the Quran that the sole role of man on this earth is to
worship God: "I have only created Jinns and humankind, that
they may worship (serve) Me" (Quran, 51:56). Political,
economic, societal, and spiritual activities are all
intrinsic parts of this worship.
In relation to the Islamic state, according to Muhammad
Iqbal (d. 1938), the Muslim philosopher and thinker who was
among the pioneers who called for the establishment of an
Islamic state at the beginning of the twentieth century,
tavrhid yields two propositions: "the supremacy of God's law
(the Shariah), and the absolute equality of its members"
(Esposito, 1983:179). The latter proposition comes about
because Allah is the creator of all humanity, and he doesn't
favor any race, color, or nationality above others. Iqbal's
"absolute equality" proposition is not really absolute.
Women, for instance, cannot hold the caliphate office. Non-
Muslims are also excluded from the caliphate office and
other crucial positions. These issues will be discussed

further in the fourth and fifth chapters.
This very idea of tawhid, S. Qutb (1980) asserts,
enunciates and declares the emancipation of man; man is not
enslaved to other man who would tell him what is right and
what is wrong; what is lawful and what is unlawful; man will
only submit to God and not other people's whims and desires.
Accordingly, if rulers deviate from the Islamic law, people
have an obligation to, first, not obey them (and their
orders) and, second, remove them from office if they refuse
to adhere to the Shariah. This also becomes clearer when the
principle of Jbaia is addressed in the fourth chapter.
In addition, justice and fairness of the Islamic law
flow from tawhid. No one is favored or disfavored because of
their innate characteristics: i.e. race, color, sex, and
nationality. Even religion, which is looked upon as
extrinsic (meaning that people have the right of choosing
their beliefs), is not a basis for discrimination as far as
law is concerned. I will further examine this point when I
discuss the status of non-Muslims in the Muslim society.
Briefly, tawhid is the most salient concept in Islam.
Its consequences embrace all aspects of life including
politics. In politics, tawhid requires that hakimiyyah
(sovereignty, governance) be given only to Allah. And the
human being as vicegerent is only to obey what Allah has
laid down for him. This aspect of the Islamic theory becomes
much more evident when I discuss the principles of shura

(consultation) and baia (fealty) later on. The concept of
tawhid is plainly manifested in the Islamic Shariah.
What Is the Shariah?
The Shariah is the Islamic law (or constitution) which
consists of two parts: first, the Quran and the Sunna, and,
second, the fiqh. The Quran consists of Allah's exact words
which he revealed to His Prophet Mohammad over a period of
23 years. The Sunna is comprised of the ahadith (sayings)
and actions of Prophet Mohammad. The Sunna is considered an
explanation of the Quran; in the Quran there are many
injunctions and commands that are not detailed, such as
prayer, hajj (pilgrimage), and legal punishments, Prophet
Mohammad explained and interpreted such injunctions and
orders. Thus, the Quran and the Sunna are essentially
inseparable. Together, they set the general rules that no
Muslim is supposed to ignore and/or transgress. The Quran
and the Sunna are principally concerned with matters
relating to right and wrong or good and evil, hence they are
not changeable or amendable.
Muslims' reverence of the Quran stems from their belief
that it is the exact word of God and Mohammad's miracle. If
Moses had the stick as his miracle, and Jesus was able to
resurrect the dead, the Quran (literally means reading;
discourse; recitation) was Mohammad's ever-lasting miracle.
The Arabs were renowned for their linguistic abilities, and

love and adoration of literature, the Quran offered them the
best written literature in the Arabic language and it
challenged them to come up with anything tantamount to it.
They failed. Very few people throughout the fourteen
centuries of Islamic history questioned the Quran's
authenticity. Their questioning and doubts were responded to
and refuted by other Muslims.
If the Quran is the exact word of God, the traditions
of the Prophet are the exemplification and embodiment of the
Quran. The Quran includes many general rules, the Prophet
explained and detailed those rules to the people.
Consequently, the Prophetic era has been, and still is, the
ideal which every Muslim aspires to emulate.
The unchangeability of the Quran and Sunna prompted
some people to argue that Islam is rigid and can't
accommodate the ever-changing world. Thus, the application
of Shariah is not possible, even if desirable. They, the
opponents of the Shariah, intentionally or unintentionally
associate the application of the Shariah with returning to
the seventh century life style. They, thereby, ignore the
fact that Islam contributed enormously to the progress and
advancement of human civilization over a period of many
centuries and they consider everything changing and
changeable. Mohammad Qutb (1991) disputes this argument.
While some aspects of the human being and the universe
change, he asserts, there are other aspects which don't

change. The human being might have been living in caves and
huts and now is living in houses and palaces; he might have
used his feet and animals as means of transportation and now
is using cars and planes; he might have been living in small
communities and now is living in big societies. All of these
are outer aspects of man. The question, however, is: did his
basic instincts change? Not very much, Qutb answers. Man
still loves life, survival, money, and control, among other
things. (On a less formal level the sayings "history repeats
itself" and "the more things change, the more they stay the
same" didn't come from a vacuum).
The eternal unit of the Shariah focuses mainly on the
constant constituents of the human being. That is a main
reason why the Shariah was able to survive for centuries.
Two major elements of the Shariah are strictly not subject
to modification: legal punishments and ibadat (religious
duties). Stealing, alcohol consumption, adultery, rape, and
killing were wrong fourteen centuries ago and are still
wrong today. Committing any of these offenses is punishable
by law. Religious duties and rituals are also non-alterable.
Prayer, hajj, zakat (alms-tax), and fasting should be
performed today the same way they were performed in the
seventh century. The passage of time ought not affect them
because they are centered on the unchangeable relation
between God and man. God is still the Creator and Sustainer
of this universe and man is still created and sustained by

Furthermore, Muslims, M. Qutb (1991) adds, believe that
God is all-knowing. When He revealed His last message to His
last Prophet, He knew that it was going to furnish and
provide answers for futuristic happenings and actualities.
Put another way, Allah, in His all-encompassing knowledge,
knew what the future held and accounted for it.
The second component of the Islamic law (the Shariah)
is fiqh (jurisprudence). Fiqh is law developed from man's
application of the first component, the Quran and the Sunna.
Mujtahids (people who exercise ijtihad) are usually the ones
who derive fiqh through ijtihad (independent thinking and
analysis). Mujtahids, in their attempt to delineate the law,
take into consideration, in addition to the Quran and Sunna,
the following measures: Ijma' (consensus of opinion of the
learned scholars); Qiyas (analogy); Istihsan (equity or
juristic preference); Masaleh Mursalah (public interests);
Urf (custom); and Istidlal (legal reasoning or inference)
(Zakaria, 1988:309). It must be clear that the injunctions
of the Quran and Sunna have precedence over the other
factors; if a verse in the Quran or a saying of the Prophet
collides with Ijma' or Qiyas, for instance, then the Quran
and Sunna prevail. Fiqh varies with time and place; fiqh is
what gives Islam its dynamism.
The Muslim reformers or renewalists usually insist that
"the door of Ijtihad" should remain open so that Muslims

could accommodate new situations. The basis beneath "opening
the door of Ijtihad" is that the Quran and Sunna are the
only binding sources upon Muslims. The fiqh is changeable,
and it should be left to the jurists of different times and
places to draw their own conclusions and laws from the Quran
and Sunna. I agree with that assessment. Insofar as the new
fiqh doesn't breach the rules of the Quran and Sunna, which
are eternal, the ulama (learned scholars) ought be given the
freedom to develop laws which are suitable to their milieu.
This point is emphasized here because some scholars
mistakenly consider the fiqh of earlier Muslims, especially
that of the two or three generations who came after the
Prophet, binding on all Muslims all the time. As the Muslim
thinker Asad put it: "with the passage of time [the earlier
ijtihads] have, in the view of many Muslims, become
indivisible part of the Shariah [Quran and Sunna] (Asad,
1957:33). This, of course, is not a call to discard the
works of those great previous jurists. The import of their
fiqh, however, depends on its relevancy to the situation
under consideration.
In the final analysis, the Shariah, consists of two
divisions: the Quran and the Sunna, and the fiqh. The first
component is usually concerned with the general direction
which Muslims should pursue and achieve, thus it establishes
what is right and what is wrong. That part is not to be

revised and adjusted; it reflects the purpose of the human
being on this earth, which is to worship Allah through the
application of His Shariah. The second component of the
Islamic law is fiqh. Fiqh is modifiable and adjustable so as
to accommodate and adapt to new situations in concert with
the general rules of the Quran and Sunna. Accordingly, the
resulting Islamic laws are (or at least ought to be) very
timely and flexible; they are never dated. The
implementation of the Islamic Shariah in today's Islamic
countries is possible only after the present societies are
reformed, the following discussion explains why.
The Gradual Application of the Shariah
The so-called Muslim societies and states have veered so
much from Islam and its teachings that the authenticity of
their Islamism is in question. Recognition of this fact is
very crucial for Muslims who are calling for "the
application of the Shariah." Islam, as many Muslim
intellectuals assert (Qaradawi, no date), cannot be readily
applied to such societies. These societies must undergo many
changes before the Shariah is applicable to them. The Quran
was revealed to the Prophet over a period of 23 years. That
says something about Islam's application; there are certain
conditions which have to prevail before specific rules and
regulations are enforced. The contention here is that if the
Shariah were to be implemented, it ought to be implemented

gradually, lest it backfire.
There is another essential reason why the Shariah
should be achieved gradually; the application of Islam is
not limited to applying the legal aspect of it, i.e. legal
punishments. Legal Islam is very small portion of Islam;
there are only ten verses in the Quran which relate to legal
punishments (Qaradawi, n.d.:86). Applying the Shariah is
much, much bigger than applying its judicial aspect. Islam
is a complete way of life, as was indicated earlier, and
building a good, merciful, compassionate, moral, humane, and
ethical person is much more vital to Islam than cutting
hands off or stoning adulterers. Islam builds people first
and educates them so that the committing of offenses is at
It might be argued that the so-called Islamic societies
are indeed Islamic and therefore no gradual transition is
required. While this argument is not totally invalid, it is
greatly slanted and skewed. The mere suggestion that we need
to apply the Islamic law implies that Muslim societies are
not adhering to Islam in its essential nature. Thus, an
overhaul of the current societies is in order before they
can be called Islamic. That does not mean that they are
totally un-Islamic. The contention is rather that Muslims
have swerved so much from Islam as to require reform and
renewal so that their true "Islamicness" is restored.

In addition, and due to decades of stagnation and
taqlid (imitation of past generations), the existing
jurisprudence, which was mainly developed centuries ago,
needs a lot of modifications to meet today's demands. The
best way to achieve that is through gradual and incremental
implementation of the Islamic law.
Even for people who envision the application of the
Islamic law as primarily the application of its hudud (legal
punishments), here is a revealing example. The second
Caliph, Omar, suspended the punishment for stealing during
u'am al-ju,n (the year of famine) on the ground that people
might steal out of a genuine need to survive (they would die
if they didn't steal to eat, the preservation of the human
being is above the implementation of the hudud). If we
extend and expand this rule, we arrive at the conclusion
that an Islamic society should be brought into being before
the Shariah is applicable. In other words, the establishment
of the Islamic society precedes the establishment of the
Islamic state.
In a few words, today's Muslim societies ought to be
reformed and renewed so that they are more receptive to the
Islamic law. Islamic law is applied by the people on
themselves before it is applied by the government on them.
Unlike secular laws which are almost completely dependent on
the government for enforcement, the Islamic law relies
heavily on people's conscience and spirituality in its

application. Raising people's conscience takes time. That is
why gradual implementation is imperative.
The Islamic Shariah was revealed to be implemented and
actualized, thus the constructing of an Islamic state which
applies the Shariah is essential. The following discussion
includes more reasons for the building of an Islamic state.
Why an Islamic State?
Some people may wonder why Muslims are insistent on
constructing a state which relies extensively, or even
exclusively, on Islamic law when their religious freedom is
guaranteed under a secular constitution. This issue
obviously comes out of a Western secularized interpretation
of religion as primarily a personal and private matter. As
such, it does not necessarily extend beyond conscience.
Islam is different; it is a religion of action and action is
public and societal (Faruqi, 1982). There are other reasons
why Muslims aspire to building an Islamic state.
According to Maududi (Esposito, 1983), the Islamic
state follows from the nature of the universal order. All of
nature conform to the divine law that Allah has set forth.
Even the human being in his involuntary aspects (such as his
physiological existence) conforms to Allah's rules.
Therefore, if man observes the Shariah in his voluntary
aspects, then he will be in complete harmony with nature and
other creatures. It is the natural thing to do. This

represents the first justification for founding an Islamic
Second, in the Islamic faith, Allah Created man for
only one purpose, which is to worship Him. If this is the
case, then society ought to be based on the rules set forth
by Him and which are included in the Shariah. A Muslim
cannot live up to his religious responsibilities fully
unless the society is a Muslim one. Here is an example.
Muslims have to perform many religious duties at an exact
time, such as Friday prayer which takes place at about noon
and breaking fasting which occurs at sunset. If Muslims live
in a non-Islamic community, it is very difficult for them to
execute these religious rituals. A Muslim society would
facilitate the performance of these rituals. In reality,
this is one of the major problems that face Muslims who live
in the U.S. or Europe. At noon on Fridays, the vast majority
of people are working, and it is not always easy for them to
arrange their time so that they will be able to comply with
a pillar of their faith. There are also many holidays that
Muslims miss because they are living in non-Muslim
communities. The Shariah is, by no means, limited to these
religious actions. The Shariah, as a constitution, has rules
and regimes which pertain to and regulate legal punishments,
international relations, ethics, faith, war, peace,
treaties, etc. Only a state can apply and comply with these

Third, the Quran plainly commands Muslims to rule
according to Allah's laws. "If any do fail to judge by (the
light of) what Allah has revealed, they are (no better than)
Unbelievers ...wrongdoers" (5:44-5); "Do they then seek
after a judgment of (the Days of) Ignorance? But who, for a
people whose faith is assured, can give better judgment than
Allah?" (5:50). Since a good Muslim ought to obey the Quran,
then the construction of the Islamic state becomes sacred
and holy.
Fourth, Prophet Mohammad is the example which all
Muslims try to emulate. He built the first Islamic state in
the seventh century. It is incumbent upon all Muslims to
follow suit. There are some Westernized Muslims who cast
some doubt about the Prophet's state. Their arguments,
however, are very unconvincing. Ali Abdul Razeq (1988) wrote
a book in 1925, just after the caliphate institution was
eradicated, in which he claimed that Islam is only a
religion and that it has nothing to do with politics. Many
Muslim scholars refuted Razeq's claims over the years.
Abdullah Nafeesy (1982) provides a brief and clear reasoning
against Razeq summarized as follows.
Muslims agree that hakimiyya (sovereignty) belongs to
Allah. Allah chose Mohammad to represent that sovereignty on
earth and made it plain in the Quran that "he who obeys the
Messenger, obeys Allah" (4:80); "it is not fitting for a
Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by

Allah and His Messenger, to have any option about their
decision. If anyone disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is
indeed on a clearly wrong path" (33:36). The complete
realization of Allah's sovereignty will not take place
unless His Shariah is applied and implemented. The Prophet
was the first one to apply the Shariah. In addition, if the
Prophet was a mere social or religious reformer, he wouldn't
have fought in twenty-seven ghazwas (battles) against
unbelievers who conspired to destroy the newly-founded
Islamic order. In other words, if the establishment and
preservation of the Islamic order was not crucial, the
Prophet would have not gone to war to preserve it.
In essence, the Prophet's state was a complete state in
the modern sense. It had a specified territory, a
population, a government, and sovereignty. (Also see
Nafeesy, 1982:25-29). As a matter of fact, that state had
Dustur al-Madinah (constitution of the Madinah) which Dr.
Muhammad El-Awa (1980:21) considers "the first document in
history to provide for the principle which allows others to
accede to a treaty after it is signed." Dr. Turabi
(1982:8), the charismatic Sudanese leader, concurs: Dustur
al-Madina was "the first constitutional document in
humanity's history."
Muhammad Asad (1957) argues against a secular state and
for an Islamic one. Asad asserts that ethical slogans such
as "love people" or "be honest" or "put your trust in God"

don't suffice because their interpretation could differ
greatly from one person to the next and from one nation to
another. What is needed, Asad attests, is a host of well-
defined laws that will organize the entirety of the human
life and order its aspects: spiritual and material,
individual and collective, and economic and political. The
Shariah does that. Secular states are unsatisfactory because
they possess no constant conception (or scale) to
differentiate between good and evil, justice and oppression.
The only scale which these states have is "the national
interest" which differs vastly among states and peoples. For
the capitalist, human civilization is fundamentally
imperiled by communism. Conversely, the communist sees
capitalism as the menace which is threatening the world.
Thus, the whole world is confused and insecure. Only the
Shariah offers "absolute ethical principles" thus
eliminating confusion and insecurity which prevail in the
world today.
And finally, the historical events which led Europeans
to separate religion from state should not cause Muslims to
follow suit. Europeans revolted against unfair practices
that had been done in the name of religion by the Catholic
Church in the Middle Ages (M. Qutb, 1988). Such practices do
not exist in the history of Islam mainly because Islam does
not recognize clergymen. Besides, Christianity does not have
specific laws which pertain to all aspects of life as Islam

does (S. Qutb, 1983). Jesus' message was predominately
moral, while Mohammad's message was moral and temporal. As a
result, Christianity is less codified than Islam.
In addition, what the Europeans did was to replace a
divine religion with a secular one because eventually all
social orders constitute some kind of religion. And it is
questionable (and debatable) whether the human being is
better off under these secular creeds than under divine
faiths, particularly Islam.
The Islamic state, then, is a corollary to adherence to
Islam. It corresponds to the Islamic belief that Allah
created this universe and dictated its precepts; it permits
Muslims to practice their religion to its fullest; and it is
the example set by the Prophet that Muslims should copy. I
might add here that Muslims are not unique in their quest to
establish a religion-based state. Israel, as I mentioned
earlier, is based on religion; any Jew in the world has the
right to emigrate to Israel and acquire its citizenship
(this is known as the Law of Return). And, despite the claim
of separation between state and church, it is widely
accepted that the U.S.A. is grounded on Judeo-Christian
traditions and values. Christmas is an official holiday in
the U.S., it is mainly Christians who celebrate Christmas.
Muslims, Jews, and many others don't celebrate the occasion.
Basically, Muslims are saying that we want to live in
accordance with our religion in our own countries, just as

many other peoples do.
In conclusion, the Islamic principle of tawhid gives
God the right to regulate and order the life of the human
race. God did that through the revelation of the Shariah.
The implementation of the Shariah requires the creation of a
state. To abide by the Shariah, the state ought to adhere to
certain political principles. Those principles are al-shura
and al-baia, and they are going to be examined in the next
two chapters.

Al-shura is a very important and essential characteristic of
the Islamic society and Islamic politics. Politically, it
symbolizes people's authority and participation in the
decision-making process. All decisions concerning the ummah
must be made after consulting the ummah. Through the
principle of shura, people wield real political power. The
shura principle is often cited to illustrate the democratic
nature of Islam, an issue which is going to be discussed in
some details in the fifth chapter of the thesis.
Shura is one of the most studied and commented-on issue
which pertains to the Islamic state. All Muslim scholars and
jurists agree on the centrality of shura in conducting the
affairs of the Muslim community. They, however, are divided
into two groups on the guestion of whether the result of
shura is binding on the caliph (president, leader) or not.
The majority of them insist that the result of shura is
obligatory and binding upon the Muslim governor. Others
argue that the caliph is not obliged to follow the opinion
of shura; the caliph listens to his advisors and then makes
his own decision regardless of the opinion of the majority.
I find that the argument that makes shura mandatory has more
gravity and weight than its counterpart. In addition to
examining these two traditional opposing perspectives on
shura, I am going to discuss some contemporary views on the

subject. And finally, the scope of shura will be studied. I
will start, however, by exploring shura in the Quran and
Shura in the Quran
The word shura is mentioned twice in the Quran. "And those
who answer the call of their Lord and establish prayer and
conduct their affairs by counsel, and who spend of what we
have bestowed upon them" (Quran, 42:38);
It is part of the mercy of Allah that thou deal
gently with them. Were thou severe or harsh-
hearted, they would have broken away from about
thee: so pass over (their faults), and ask for
(Allah's) forgiveness for them; and consult with
them on matters. Then, when thou hast taken a
decision, put thy trust in Allah. For Allah loves
those who put their trust (in Him) (Quran, 3:159).
These two verses are at the core of the discussion
between the group that says that shura is obligatory and the
one that asserts that shura is only recommended. Each party,
moreover, bolsters its position by citing certain historical
events. I shall come back to the historical instances, but
first I am going to examine the aforementioned verses.
The first verse was revealed to the Prophet in Mecca
while he was nurturing and building his followers. It
represents a characterization of the desired Islamic ummah
(nation; community) and its traits. Shura is a central
attribute in that characterization. The second verse was
revealed to the Prophet Muhammad after the Battle of Uhud.

The Prophet consulted with his companions on how to respond
to the enemy's imminent threat and took the opinion of the
majority (which was opposite to his own). The Muslims lost
that battle; the adopted opinion was partly to blame. But,
nevertheless, Allah still commanded the Prophet to conduct
shura (Sayyid Qutb, 1982).
In short, the Quran lists shura as a central trait of
good Muslims and urges the Prophet to consult with the
Companions on matters that concern them.
Shura in the Sunna
The Prophet embodied the Quranic injunctions on shura in his
sayings and his practice. There are numerous ahadith
(sayings of the Prophet) in which the Prophet emphasized the
essentiality of shura in the lives of Muslims. One hadith
(saying) is indicative: Khatib al-Baghdadi quoted Caliph Ali
as having said to the Prophet: "Oh Messenger of Allah what
should we do if, after your demise, we are confronted with a
problem about which we neither find anything in the Quran
nor have anything from you?" He replied: "Get together the
obedient (to God and His law) people from amongst my
followers and place the matter before them for consultation.
Do not make decisions on the basis of the opinion of any
single person" (El-Yacoubi, 1983:354). Ali reported that the
Prophet was asked what is the azm (decision; resoluteness),
which is mentioned in the Quranic verse "and consult with

them on matters. Then, when thou hast taken a decision, put
thy trust in God," the Prophet replied: "To consult the
experts and follow their advice" (Nafeesy, 1982:77). In a
third saying, the Prophet was reported to have said:
"Whenever people practiced shura, they would come out with
the best opinion for themselves" (Nafeesy, 1982:77).
Prophet Mohammad practiced what he preached. He
consulted his companions most of the time and followed their
recommendation in almost all non-religious matters. When it
came to religious rituals and duties or to revealed orders,
the Prophet didn't ask his companions for their opinion or
advice; he would be obeying divine direction which he
himself had no choice but to adhere to. Islamic history
tells how the Prophet consulted with the people before,
during, and after the battles of Badr, Uhud, and the
Parties, to name some. He frequently adopted opinions other
than his own when they were convincing or had the majority.
The Quran and the Sunna, then, very clearly call upon
Muslims to practice shura in conducting their affairs. In
political terms, the principle of public participation was
established through the many verses of the Quran and the
Sunna that have been cited above. The question which the
Muslim jurists and intellectuals have debated throughout the
centuries has been whether the resultant of shura is binding
or not on the Prophet and his successors and caliphs. As it
might be expected, this question came about because

different interpretations of the Quranic verses and some
practices of the Prophet and other caliphs which suggested
that the shura-resultant was not observed. The Prophet and
many caliphs seemed to ignore the counsel of the majority
sometimes. What follows is a close examination of some of
these controversial situations and ideas.
Shura Is binding
The proponents of mandatory shura argue that it is clear
from the Quran and Sunna that shura and its result are
binding. First, the Quran, in unequivocal terms, directs the
Prophet to "consult" with the people. As I indicated
earlier, that verse was revealed to Mohammad in the
aftermath of Muslim's first humiliating defeat in which the
Prophet himself was injured. Regardless of the disastrous
outcome of shura at that time, Allah instructed His Prophet
to consult with the Companions. If consultation were not
obligatory, this argument reasons, that occasion would have
been the most opportune time to abandon it. But shura was
not deserted. (S. Qutb, 1982). Furthermore, the Islamic
ummah was in the early stages of its existence, and it was
surrounded by enemies from all directions; the Prophet would
have been justified in forsaking shura, for a while, to
protect Muslims and their interests. The Quran didn't allow
such justification. Shura is profoundly important for the
preservation of the Muslim community, in the long run, and

ought not be neglected despite the short-term calamities
which it might have ensued (S. Qutb, 1982).
The other verse of the Quran describes what the Islamic
ummah should look like. Shura is very central in that
description. Shura was mentioned in the verse between two
other characteristics of Muslims which also happen to be
among the five pillars of Islam: the prayer and the spending
of what Allah has bestowed. The mentioning of shura between
these two other fundamentals of Islam was not inadvertent,
the mandatory-shura exponents contend. If shura was not
obligatory, it would have not been inserted between salah
(prayer) and charity. Prayer and charitable donations, I may
remind the reader, are religious duties which are incumbent
upon all Muslims.
Furthermore, the Prophet, mandatory-shura advocates
assert, practiced shura and encouraged Muslims to follow
suit. It is very unambiguous from the Prophet's sayings,
which were cited earlier, that shura is highly recommended.
In his actions, Prophet Muhammad consulted Muslims before,
during, and after the battles of Badr, Uhud, and al-Ahzab
(the Parties), to name a few examples. Abu Huraira, a close
companion of the Prophet, was reported to have said that "I
have never seen anyone else who seeks consultation of his
companions more than the Prophet of Allah, peace be upon
him" (Amara, 1985:42). Thus, shura according to the Quran
and Sunna is binding.

This argument is furthered and enhanced by the practice
of the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs who represent a
continuation to the normative Islamic state which was
founded by the Prophet. Muhammad Amara (1985:48), a
contemporary Egyptian Muslim thinker, found that if shura
was vital during the life of the Prophet, who was guided and
supported by divine revelation, it became more crucial after
his death. "The philosophy of shura was followed ... by the
[Rightly-Guided] government in all areas of political
affairs and decision-making...." If Abu Bakr, the first
Caliph after the Prophet, for example, was faced with a new
situation and couldn't find any applicable directives in the
Quran and Sunna to the matter under consideration, he would
confer with the leaders of the Muslim community and comply
with their conclusion (Amara, 1985).
Omar, the second Rightly-Guided Caliph, followed in the
foot steps of the Prophet and Abu Bakr. Omar, who is famous
in the Islamic history for being fair and just, was reported
to have said: "He whoever gave fealty (baia) to an emir
without consulting other Muslims, then his fealty has no
bearing..." (Amara, 1985:52). Shura, then, is obligatory in
the opinion of Omar. The third and fourth Caliphs of Islam
followed the example of the Prophet, Abu Bakr and Omar.

Shura Is Not Binding
The jurists in this camp include very famous Muslim scholars
and theorists, too. Imam al-Shafii', who is the founder of
one of four major schools in Islamic jurisprudence, contends
that shura is only recommended. As for the verse in which
the Prophet was commanded to "consult" with Muslims, Shafii'
says that the context indicates that the Prophet conferred
with Muslims "to make them feel good" but was not obliged to
act upon their conclusion. This understanding of the verse
is made more credible, for the proponents of this argument,
by the second half of the verse: "...Then, when thou hast
taken a decision, put your trust in God." They construed
that part of the verse as giving the Prophet the option to
follow or neglect the opinion of shura members. However, I
have already made the reference to the Prophet's saying in
which he explained this verse as meaning to consult with
experts and follow their recommendation. If this were the
case, however, and the leaders of the Muslim community, or
what is known as Ahl al-Hal wa al-Aqd (people who loose and
tie), knew that they were consulted only to make them feel
good and their effort might be shelved, then, that wouldn't
make them "feel good."
As for the verse which describes the characteristics of
the Muslim community, this camp's advocates assert that the
verse does not constitute the obligatory nature of shura.
The Quranic verse merely lists the desired attributes of

Muslims; it is recommended that Muslims be consultive in
conducting their affairs. This interpretation is not very
strong, though. For, as was stated earlier, shura was listed
between prayer and money-spending for the sake of God. And
every Muslim knows that these two duties are not only
recommended; they are basic imperatives of the religion of
Islam. In fact, there is a saying of the Prophet in which
the practice of prayer constitutes the difference between
the believer and disbeliever. And Abu Bakr, the first caliph
of Islam, fought those who refused to pay zakat (alms-tax).
His reasoning was that there is no difference, in
obligation, between performing salat (prayer) and paying
zakat (shortly, I shall explore this example further). Thus,
this argument loses a lot of its force and validity.
Among other examples which were utilized by the jurists
who view shura as a recommendation only are the following.
The Prophet signed a treaty with the enemy at al-Hudaibiya,
without taking into consideration the opinions of the
Companions. Al-Hudaibiya was not a religious issue, where
the Prophet usually didn't consult anybody. Al-Hudaibiya
was, to optional-shura defenders, a clear political issue in
which the Prophet abandoned not only the outcome of shura,
but also shura itself. The proponents of mandatory-shura
respond to that argumentation by contending that the Prophet
was guided by Allah to do so. They strengthen their
contention by referring to the context of that happening.

For when Omar exhibited his opposition to the Prophets'
action, the Prophet responded by saying that "I am the
servant and Messenger of Allah, I will not disobey His
order, and He will not misguide me" (Fadlala, 1984:65)
Hence, the unambiguous implication is that Mohammad was
adhering to the directive of Allah. Shura was not
The Prophet, in addition to his controversial conduct
at al-Hudaibiya, appointed Usama Ibn Zaid as the commander
of a Muslim army to fight some tribes that had breached an
agreement with the Prophet and helped the enemy of Muslims.
Many leaders of the Muslim community, who were seen as
better fit to lead the army, were enlisted in that army, and
they were to obey the commands of an eighteen-year-old
Usama. The Prophet didn't listen to the advice of his
companions who suggested that Usama be replaced. I have not
found any mandatory-shura advocates who could satisfactorily
justify the Prophet's behavior. This is one obvious instance
where shura was not adhered to.
There are other situations in which the first two
caliphs of Islam, Abu Bakr and Omar, acted in a fashion
which raised some questions about the "shural" (consultive)
nature of their epoch. For instance, after the death of the
Prophet, some Arab tribes refused to pay zakat (alms-tax).
Abu Bakr, the newly-elected leader of the Muslim state,

decided to fight them and force them to pay zakat. Omar, Abu
Bakr's closest advisor, disagreed with the caliph. Both had
cited certain sayings of the Prophet to bolster their
opinion. The optional-shura defenders contend that Abu Bakr
ignored the shura and forced his opinion upon other Muslims.
On the other hand, their opponents argue that Abu Bakr's
evidence was stronger than that of Omar. Furthermore, Omar
acknowledged later "that Abu Bakr was right" (Abu Fares,
1986:99). Consequently, Abu Bakr didn't force his views on
others but rather convinced them. Some consider that Abu
Bakr's evidence (which was a saying of the Prophet) takes
the matter out of the shura range. (When there is a clear
Quranic or Prophetic text on the subject under deliberation,
they take precedence over shura.)
Another questionable event took place during the
caliphate of Omar. The wife of Hercules had given a necklace
to Omar's wife, Urn Kalthum (Um Kalthum had already given
Hercules's wife an Arabian present which she purchased from
her own money). Omar consulted Muslims on whether his wife
could keep the gift or whether she ought to return it to the
treasury department (Omar thought that the gift belonged to
all Muslims, and his rationalization was that the gift was
carried to his wife through the government's mail service
and that is why it should be retained by the treasury). The
majority ruled that Um Kalthum should keep the present. Omar
talked to his wife and convinced her to give the gift back

to the government treasury and she did. "It is better if
people said that Omar was unfair to his wife for the sake of
public interest than that he was unfair to Muslims' interest
for the sake of his wife," Omar had reasoned with his wife
(Abu Fares, 1986:115). Actually, Omar accepted the shura
result; had he not accepted it, he would have taken the gift
from his wife without her permission and returned it to the
treasury. He just didn't feel appropriate to use the
government's mail system for personal gain. It is a
testimony to Omar's veracity and integrity.
The examples which were cited by the optional-shura
advocates from the practices of Abu Bakr and Omar to
illustrate that shura was not binding are, at least,
inconclusive; closer examination of them may even support
the mandatory shura defenders.
Contemporary Views on Shura
The great majority of contemporary scholars and jurists are
of the opinion that shura is binding. Muhammad Abdu (as
quoted in El-Awa, 1980:97), the Egyptian jurist who called
on Muslims to practice ijtihad (independent thinking and
reasoning) at the end of the 19th century, sums up the
argument as follows: "[T]he majority is normally less
exposed to misjudgment than the individual. And the danger
to the ummah led by a single man is more likely and more
serious." Similar views are expressed by Muhammad Asad

(1957); Sayyid Qutb (1982); Yusef Qaradawi (no date), a
well-known scholar from Egypt; Abdullah Nafeesy (1982), a
political scientist from Kuwait; Fazlur Rahman (1986),
Professor of Islamic Thought at the University of Chicago;
and Fathi Osman (1986) the editor-in-chief of Arabia: the
Islamic World Review.
Qaradawi (n.d.:79), for instance, maintains that the
result of shura ought to be obligatory because "our nation
has had enough of the tyrants and despots." Nafeesy
(1982:160) expresses similar views: "there is no place for a
tyrant in the Islamic state." And finally, Fazlur Rahman
(1986:96) affirms that the Quranic verse 'their common
affairs ought to be decided by mutual consultation'
"constitutes an egalitarian and effective community or a
brotherhood of equals...." No one individual or an elite has
the right to make decisions on behalf of the ummah without
consulting with it.
The only prominent contemporary scholar, that I am
aware of, who supports optional-shura is Maududi (1969:59).
His persuasion is not unconditional, though. He asserts that
"the emir (caliph) has the right to choose between the
minority or majority opinion, and he could also overrule all
the shura people in favor of his own." It is incumbent upon
the Muslim masses, however, to monitor his actions very
closely to make certain that he is not violating the Shariah
and following his own desires. In that case, they have the

right to remove him from office.
The Scope of Shura
In general, then, especially in the present time, the
overwhelming number of scholars are of the opinion that the
caliph has to abide by shura and its results. Then what is
the scope of shura?
The scope of shura encompasses all affairs of the
Muslim community; however, two conditions must be observed.
First, shura is not applicable to affairs about which
injunctions exist in the Quran or in the Sunna (both of
which constitute binding legislation) except when the
purpose is to interpret the injunctions or enforce them.
Second, decisions reached by shura ought not contradict a
legislative injunction in the Quran or in the Sunna.
Beyond these two prerequisites the ummah could make,
through consultation, all of its decisions. Put differently,
the shura's scope is actually unlimited as far as it adheres
to the spirit and letter of the constitution. That is not
unrealistic stipulation considering that all nations enact
laws that conform with their constitutions.
In light of the preceding argument, a shura body (a
consultive or legislative body) should exist to advise the
caliph and legislate for the ummah. The legislative body
will have two main assignments: first, to define the best
way to execute the clear rules that are present in the Quran

and Sunna; and second, to enact laws and rules, where no
clear injunctions exist, in accordance with the general
rules that are set by the Quran and Sunna.
Shura is the cornerstone of Islamic politics. The Quran
calls for it. The Prophet practiced it throughout his life
and encouraged Muslims to follow his example. And finally
scholars unanimously have agreed on its vitality. They,
however, have some disagreement on whether it is binding or
not. A great number of them believes that it is obligatory
and their assertion is bolstered by text (Quran and Sunna)
and reasoned analysis. All scholars are also in accord that
the result of shura must not contradict the Shariah.
There are some instances where shura was not binding.
However, many of these instances could logically be
explained. They were not as "clear-cut" examples of the
unbinding nature of shura as the optional-shura proponents
would like to argue with exception of Usama's appointment. A
believer, however, might justify that event by saying that
the Prophet was guided by God and he knew things that no
other human being knew. For a non-believer that was a good
example where shura was blatantly neglected. Nonetheless,
the very limited number of cases which are cited and
referred to by the optional-shura proponents make their case
untenable. On the other extreme, the mandatory-shura

champions have plenty of cases to bolster their argument.
The application of shura is most pivotal in choosing
the caliph, and Ahl al-Hal wa al-Aqd (decision-makers).
However since baia (oath of allegiance) is also an integral
part of the selection process, this issue will be discussed
in the next chapter which is going to examine the second
pillar of Islamic politics, baia.

As we have seen in the previous chapter, shura is the
quintessence of Islamic politics. The most important aspect
of applying mutual consultation is in the process of
choosing the caliph and other representatives of the people
(the consultive body). And that is when baia comes into
play. This chapter endeavors to address how the caliph and
the so-called ahl al-hal wa al-aqd (leaders of the
community; decision-makers) ought to be selected according
to the principles of Islam.
Baia is viewed by many scholars to be akin to the
social contract theory of John Locke and Jean-Jaques
Rousseau. However, if in the contract theory it was assumed
that a contract was signed in the distant past between the
leaders of the society and the people, baia represents an
actual, not hypothetical, contract which is drawn up between
the ruled and the rulers. At least that was the case in the
early days of Islam. The leading personalities in the ummah
convened to debate and decide who should be the caliph. This
step could very well be interpreted as a nomination process.
The named caliph, then, sat in the mosque where the masses
gave the public baia. The latter step is seen as the voting
process. The terms of the contract were very much
established by the first caliph. Upon his nomination, Abu
Bakr delivered a short speech: "I have been appointed as

your ruler, and I am not the best of you. If you find me
following the right way, support me. If not, correct me.
Obey me as long as I obey Allah; if I disobey Him, my
obedience is not binding upon you" (Osman, 1986:54).
This brief statement epitomizes Jbaia. Bala is a
contract in which the caliph's chief responsibility is to
follow the teachings of Islam. He is appointed, watched, and
corrected (and removed from office, if need be) by the
people. As such, the appointment of the caliph is a
prerogative of the ummah and the caliph "does not enjoy any
metaphysical or theocratic privilege, and the contract can
be dissolved when he loses the essential qualifications for
his position" (Osman, 1986:53). This point represents a
major difference between the sunni and shiite Muslims. The
latter consider the imam (caliph) divine, and so is the
nomination process, while the former refutes the divinity of
the imam and the process of nomination. Thus, while the
caliphate is open to all eligible Muslims under the sunni
belief, the imamate is limited only to those who prove to be
descendants of the Prophet (mainly through the Prophet's
daughter, Fatima, and her husband Ali, who was also the
Prophet's cousin and confidant, since the Prophet himself
didn't have any sons) under the shiite creed.
If Jbaia is a contract, then it has to have two parties.
The first party is the caliph. The second is the people. But
how are the people being represented? I indicated earlier

that ahl al-hal wa al-aqd represented the people in the
nomination stage, after which the public gave their
allegiance to the leader. The questions then are how ahl al-
hal wa al-aqd (whom I am going to call decision-makers) were
selected and how the caliph, in the second step, was chosen?
These are the two main questions which this chapter
Selection of Decision-Makers
Decision-makers' main responsibilities are: first, to select
(or nominate) the caliph; second, to aid the caliph in
running the country, through their counseling; third, to
watch the caliph and other officials and hold them
accountable; and fourth, to impeach (and remove) the caliph
if he failed to fulfill his office (Abu Fares, 1986). In
today's terms, decision-makers are the legislative body of
the Islamic state.
In the early stages of the Islamic state, decision-
makers were easily recognized. The believers' number was
small, and decision-makers were primarily the ones who were
closest to the Prophet. During the time of the rightly-
guided caliphs, the first generation of Muslims was trusted
by the ummah to lead; decision-makers were still
representative of the people. The Umayyads, and other
monarchic dynasties, did not follow in the footsteps of the
Prophet and his immediate successors.

Under the Umayyads and Abbasids the formal procedures
continued, but the spirit was transgressed. The caliph would
be nominated and then he would accept the general allegiance
(voting). The nomination process, however, was not
consultive anymore. The incumbent ruler would usually
nominate his son to the post after consultation with the
elders of the ruling family (the public were excluded from
consultation). Nevertheless, the term ahl al-hal wa al-aqd
survived, and jurists labored hard to define it; Who are the
decision-makers? What are their basic characteristics? And
how are they to be chosen?
Who Are the Decision-Makers
The most critical characteristic of decision-makers is that
they be obeyed and esteemed by the people. In tribal
societies, where Islam first came into existence, tribes'
leaders fulfilled this requirement. As urbanization
developed, and tribalism diminished, local rulers,
administrative and judicial authorities, scholars, and
military chiefs took the place of chieftains. Currently,
decision-makers could very well be mujtahids (people who
exercise religious and independent analysis), social
scientists, heads of famous families, and experienced people
in public affairs (Osman, 1986). Ultimately, however,
decision-makers ought to be representative of and followed
by the masses and not just be people without any base or

The Characteristics of Decision-Makers
In setting the qualifications of decision-makers, it is
vital to keep in mind that the Islamic state is an
ideological state; whoever adopts Islam as their religion,
should have the opportunity to serve in that government. The
primary objectives of any Islamic regime are: to implement
the Islamic law; protect its population; and achieve justice
among its citizens.
In response to the above premise, contemporary jurists,
such as Maududi (1969), have argued that the following
criteria be fulfilled: A decision-maker ought to be Muslim;
male; wise; adult; and resident in the Islamic state.
Whereas the last three conditions are agreed upon by almost
all jurists, the first two conditions are an object for
disagreement. Since the second condition is more
controversial, I shall discuss it first.
An-all-male shura body? In recognition of the
sensitivity of the subject under consideration, I am going
to briefly report some fundamental ideas in Islam's outlook
on men and women.
First, there is no doubt that God has made women and
men equal in their religious, ethical, and civil rights, and
duties and responsibilities: "Whether male or female,
whoever [in faith] does a good deed for the sake of Allah

will be granted a good life and rewarded in proportion to
the best of what they used to do" (the Quran, 16:97); "The
believers, men and women, are protectors of one another:
they enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil..." (the
Quran, 9:71). Hence, men and women bear the same
responsibility before Allah, and they will be rewarded (or
punished) according to what they do and not to who they are.
(Also see the verses 3:195, 60:12, 5:38, 24:2). The Quranic
verse 4:34, which makes men protectors and maintainers of
women and thus may indicate inequality in the mind of some
people, refers to domestic relations only; man is the head
of the household. And the justification for this ostensible
inequality is that "because God has given the one more
[strength] than the other, and because they support them
from their means" (4:34), as the rest of the verse reads.
Another point to refute the inequality contention, which is
advocated by some, is that if this verse is interpreted to
mean inequality, it contradicts the many verses which were
cited above and which unambiguously constitute equality
(Faruqi, 1982).
Second, while equal, men and women are created for
different but complementary functions. The functions of
motherhood and of home-care, and those of fatherhood,
livelihood-earning and overall responsibility require
different physical, psychic and emotional constitutions in
men and women. Islam blesses this differentiation as

essential for self-fulfillment of both sexes (Faruqi, 1982).
This role differentiation does not mean that each sex is
locked up in a specific sphere, and that the two spheres
don't overlap. On the contrary, the common area between the
two spheres composes the largest portion of each sphere.
Third, God did not intend the Muslim woman to insulate
herself from society. Women's participation in government,
in public life, and in war is established in the Quranic
verses 60:12, 9:71-72, and 3:195 respectively. Such
participation, needless to say, must be carried out in
complete harmony with the moral standards which have been
set by Allah for both men and women.
Having established these fundamentals, I am going to
examine the all-male-decision-makers argument which has been
promoted by Maududi and others.
Maududi (1969) and Abu Fares (1986), base their
contention of the decision-maker being male on a verse in
the Quran which makes men protectors and maintainers of
women (4:34) and on a saying of the Prophet: "A people would
not be successful if they chose a woman as their leader"
(Maududi, 1969:297; Abu Fares, 1986:120). If the man is
supposed to be the head of the household, as the Quranic
verse says, then it is much more reasonable that he be the
decision-maker and leader of the nation and not the woman.
In other words, "if the woman is not capable of
administering a family that is composed of a few

individuals...then she would be less capable of
administering the affairs of [a people]" (Abu Fares,
In response to that argumentation, some scholars, such
as Ghazali (1989), who favors expanded roles for women in
the building of society and state, assert that the Quranic
verse relates to family matters and not to public life, as
was mentioned above. As for the Prophetic saying, its
implication is exclusively related to the caliph's post and
not to other ministerial jobs such as a counselor or a
decision-maker. Other evidence exists to cast doubt on, and
even reverse, Maududi and Abu Fares's conclusion. Here are
some examples.
During the al-Hudaibiya negotiations, the Prophet
consulted his wife, Urn Salama, and followed her valued
advice. Had she had no knowledge of public life, or had the
Prophet not wanted to include women in the decision-making
process, Urn Salama would not have been asked to give counsel
to the Prophet.
Other sayings of the Prophet reinforce Muslims'
responsibility, irrespective of their sex, to fulfil the
Islamic laws. These sayings are very much known to all
Muslims: "Religion is [giving] counsel. We [the companions]
said to whom 0! Prophet of Allah? He said: To Allah, his
book, his Prophet, and to the leaders of the Muslim
community and to all Muslims;" "The best type of jihad

(self-exertion) is for one to say a truthful word to an
oppressive [or unjust] leader" (Nawawi, 1980:77,81). It is
incumbent, then, upon all Muslims, regardless of their
gender, to involve themselves in public issues so that they
are better able to contribute constructively to their
The most unequivocal evidence to dispute the all-male
decision-makers consultive body, however, comes also from
the Quran. Allah says: "The Believers, men and women, are
protectors of one another: they enjoin what is just and
forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practice
regular charity, and obey God and His Apostle. On them will
God pour His mercy..." (9:71). How could women be
responsible for actualizing such deeds if they are excluded
from the decision-making process? Women in Islam are as
accountable for implementing the Shariah as men. To be able
to carry out such responsibility, they have to be included
in all affairs of the Muslim society within the confines of
the Shariah.
Hence, the evidence which has been advanced by Maududi
and others to exclude women from taking part in the
decision-making process is discredited by the Quran and the
traditions of the Prophet themselves. Furthermore, women's
input is essential in matters which relate to women and
children. When Omar, the second caliph, decided to limit the
dowry of women, a woman confronted him and refuted his

reasoning. The point is not to accuse men of bad intention
and conspiracy against women but rather to acknowledge that
men may not be as sensitive and understanding of women's
concerns as women themselves. Consultation and participation
of women must, by no means, be limited to "women's issues".
The consultation of the Prophet with Urn Salama was utterly
public. Besides, "women's issues" may be very broad and
indeed include the overwhelming number of issues facing the
society. What affects men is necessarily going to affect
women since those men are either sons, fathers, brothers, or
husbands of women.
This conclusion, however, need not be construed as a
call for women to abandon their role in constructing a
strong and sound society by raising their children and
educating them; this role is really invaluable and should
not be deserted or neglected. Family-building requires a
great amount of intelligence, skill, energy, and devotion.
It is a serious mistake to underrate the job that women do
inside their homes for the sake of society. And since Islam
is a religion of balance and moderation, political
participation and family-responsibilities ought to be
balanced so that women don't ignore their families in favor
of political activities or vice versa.
Women's exclusion from the decision-making process,
which seems endemic to many Muslim societies, is really a
great deviation from Islam and its teachings. In legal

terms, women's exclusion is unconstitutional. It is
erroneously attributed to Islam. It is based on tradition
rather than on religion. Beyond the occupation of the
caliphate office, women are really encouraged to play a more
active role in society.
Some may wonder about the reasons for excluding women
from the caliphate office. The existence of the hadith which
was cited earlier, which limits the office of the caliphate
to Muslim men, is sufficient to the Muslim believer.
However, other reasons maybe cited to explain this
injunction. For instance, the caliph's job includes the
leading of congregational prayers, a religious task that is
also limited to men only; women are, generally speaking,
more emotional than men, and the leadership of a people
requires the leader to be less emotional (in the U.S.,
Edmund Muskie's bid for president was undermined when he
cried in public); the caliph is also the commander-in-chief,
as such he should lead his country in war, when necessary,
etc. While these justifications may be cited by some people,
and they may convince others, I, myself, am not completely
convinced by them. They can be very easily disputed. At this
point, to accept the Prophetic saying as is should make much
more sense to the Muslim than citing lame excuses to justify
this practice to non-believers. The other alternative is to
work harder on finding better explanations than the ones
that have been mentioned above. This point exemplifies the

difference between a divine religion/system and a secular
one. In the former case, revelations, as immutable
injunctions, take precedence over Man's reasoning because
Man's knowledge is limited while Allah's knowledge is all-
encompassing. I may add here that the injunctions that do
not have explicit and ready reasoning, in Islam, are
exceedingly fewer than the directives with clear
j ustif ications.
If women could become members of the decision-making
assembly, it is a forgone conclusion that they have the
right to vote. For anyone who has doubts about this right,
she/he could go back to the Prophet's tradition and see how
he, personally, took baia from women.
Ghazali's views. Ghazali (1989:44-58), an Egyptian
scholar and a graduate of the al-Azhar University, has a
liberal opinion in regard to women's role in politics. An
assessment of his views may enrich this discussion. Ghazali
contends that the Prophetic saying, which was cited above,
was referring to a specific incident when the Kingdom of
Persia was under the rule of an imprudent and corrupt woman
who led her nation into destruction. At the same time,
Ghazali affords the examples of Golda Meir of Israel, Indira
Gandhi of India, and Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain who
led their nations into victory and prosperity. For Ghazali,
sex need not be an issue; Muslims should elect the best

persons for the job regardless of their sex. Ghazali is the
only famous Muslim scholar, that I am aware of, who offered
this kind of interpretation of the Prophetic saying.
Ghazali's unorthodox opinion was immediately responded to
(and even attacked) by the more conservative scholars.
Ghazali's claim that the hadith refers to a specific event,
and thus may not be generalized, may be rejected on the
basis that almost all of the Quran and sayings of the
Prophet were revealed to rectify, approve, or disapprove of
particular happenings. That is why jurists say that the
special or exclusive occasion which prompted the revelation
of a verse should not make it inapplicable to other
situations, unless it was stated as such. If one extends
Ghazali's assertion, then most, if not the whole, of the
Quran and Sunna become obsolete, a proposition that Ghazali
himself refuses. It is a basic tenet of Islam that Allah and
his Prophet were legislating for Muslims until the end of
time, hence they accounted for the unseen and futuristic
realities; that is their miracle.
Ghazali's critics, moreover, accuse him of caving in to
the pressure of the Western culture. Women in the West are
calling for political participation and involvement in
public life, and Ghazali wants the Muslim woman to follow
that example, which is alien to the Islamic culture. Women's
abandonment of their traditional task of raising and
nurturing children has had disastrous consequences on the

entire society, and not only on the family. Ghazali's
opponents emphasize that the work which women do at home is
indispensable and should remain their primary, and only,
responsibility. The existence of the examples of Meir and
the like, furthermore, does not negate the validity of the
Prophetic saying (Odah, 1989). Those examples are the
exception to the rule; every rule has exceptions. Besides,
the critics ask, is it just incidental that throughout
history women have been excluded from the higher leadership
Doesn't that indicate that men are stronger and better fit
for the job (Odah, 1989)? (Not necessarily!)
Ghazali's position stems from his outrage at and
disappointment with Muslims who do not separate their local
traditions from their religion, especially when they convey
the message of Islam to non-Muslims. In many cases
traditions have become a sacred, indivisible part of the
religion. This propensity and practice harm Islam, Ghazali
writes. I think that he is correct to a large extent.
Furthermore, Muslims have to examine their lives (and
history) critically. They have to distinguish between the
principles of Islam, which are permanent, and the ijtihads
and interpretations of preceding Muslim generations, which
are impermanent. Muslims are obliged to apply and implement
the former only (through their contemporary ijtihads). As
for the latter, they study it as a human effort by their
predecessors at the application of Islam, which may or may

not be applicable today.
An-all-Muslim representative body? There is almost a
consensus among jurists and scholars that members of the
shura body (consultive body) be good and practicing Muslims.
This argument rests on the fact that an Islamic state is an
ideological state and decision-makers' main responsibility
is to implement the Shariah. It is not unreasonable to make
it a prerequisite that a decision-maker believe in the
Shariah and work whole-heartedly for its realization. To do
so, a person ought to be Muslim. It is even unfair to non-
Muslims that they be asked to realize a doctrine in which
they do not believe (Asad, 1957). Practically speaking, all
ideological states, whether based on religion or secularism,
appoint or choose representatives who believe in the system
they are governing (Asad, 1957).
In addition, executing the Islamic law is a religious
duty. (The inseparability of politics from other aspects of
Islam, which I indicated to in the introduction, is
evidenced here.) Islam respects non-Muslims and does not
coerce them into performing its religious injunctions and
obligations. This permissiveness flows from the grand
Islamic rule which says that there ought not be compulsion
in religion (Quran, 2:256). People have complete freedom to
embrace any faith or creed they are convinced of.
This provision is, obviously, a discriminatory measure

on the basis of religion. But it is a justified (or
reasonable) discrimination. In order to explain the
justification of this discrimination, it is important to
consider the Islamic concept of equality. All people in the
Islamic view are equal. No discrimination on the basis of
race, ethnicity, nationality, social status, color, or
gender is accepted or permitted. The only measure on which
people are evaluated is their taqwa (piety; fear of God).
The Quran (49:13) says: "0 mankind! We created you from a
single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into
nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the
most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the
most righteous (pious) of you." And the Prophet says: "0
people! Your God is one, an Arab is not better than a non-
Arab, and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab. A black
person is not better than a red person and a red person is
not better than a black person. Except in taqwa" (Abu Fares,
Then how can the exclusion of non-Muslims from the
decision-making process be explained? Hamid Enayat (1982)
took on the issue; the answer to that question is that no
egalitarian school of political thought provides for
absolute equality, unless it is hopelessly utopian or has no
intention of realizing political power. All political
systems in the world, including the democratic ones, impose
particular "implicit or explicit discriminations in favour

of those who pay allegiance to a set of ideals...forming the
subject of a presumed consensus, whether it be 'the American
way of life' or 'scientific socialism'..." (Enayat,
1982:128). Furthermore, the real question which decides if a
system is dedicated to genuine equality is whether the
limitations are permanent and unremovable, such as the
belonging to a race or caste, or temporary and accidental,
such as the belonging to a party. The indisputable fact is
that Islam's limitations are temporary and removable; non-
Muslims constantly have the choice to embrace Islam, and
thereby defeat their political exclusion (Enayat, 1982).
At any rate, Islam affords non-Muslims who live under
its auspices a wide range of freedoms and opportunities
which might not be available to minorities under other
systems. I will discuss the status of non-Muslims under an
Islamic order later on. I should also mention that some
modern scholars argue that non-Muslims may demand "separate
electorates or representation in the form of a fixed quota
of seats in the assembly" (Iqbal, 1986:48). In addition,
there are some issues that are wholly non-religious and non-
Muslims ought to be given the chance to participate in the
debate. More details on the status of non-Muslims will be
given later.
To summarize, a decision-maker ought to be a virtuous
Muslim who is wise, mature, and resident in the Islamic

state. While some scholars argue that a decision-maker must
be male too, an ample evidence in the Quran and the
traditions of the Prophet exists to disprove this
conclusion. As for non-Muslims, most jurists argue in favor
of excluding them from the decision-making process on the
basis that the overriding task of decision-makers is the
implementation of the Islamic law. A few thinkers endorse
the inclusion of non-Muslims in making decisions on the
ground that not all issues which face decision-makers are
religious, and that non-Muslims must be able to represent
their people's concerns. The issue is apparently unsettled,
and it certainly deserves further investigation especially
when the non-Muslims compose a large portion of the
In the final analysis, the people, as the source of
political power, actually have the right to determine the
exact and desired qualifications of decision-makers at any
point in time. And in considering the complexities of life
today, it is not necessary, for example, that all decision-
makers be scholars in Islamic law. Other specialists must be
included such as engineers, technicians,
manufacturers...etc. A committee of Islamic jurists is
necessary to review all resolutions and policies and ensure
their compliance with the Shariah.

Electing the Decision-Makers
Now that we know the qualifications of decision-makers, how
are they to be chosen? Most ulama agree that elections are
the best available tool to choose ahl al-hal wa al-aqd.
.'i .
Others contend that Western-like elections are un-Islamic. I
I t
will examine the latter position first.
' \\
Western^democratic elections disturb many Muslim
i >1
scholars because of the slander, accusations, and counter-
accusations which accompany the election campaigns.
Candidates are willing to do anything under their disposal
in order to bfe elected; they lie about themselves and their
opponents, they tarnish and smear each others, and they do a
lot of boasting about their own abilities. All of these
actions are almost taboos m the Islamic religion and
culture. People should not brag about and glorify
' ;l
themselves. Muslims ought to be humble and down to earth,
and never talk about themselves. An indication of this
mentality could be easily discerned from Abu Bakr's speech,
which I citedi|earlier: "I have been appointed as your ruler,
and I am not the best of you." Muslims chose him because
they were convinced that he was the best of them. Abu Bakr
. ;j
himself would,!never say that. Thus, a good number of
scholars argue that the announcement of one's candidacy
i ii
itself is un-Islamic; they have support from the traditions
of the Prophet.
, jj
The Prophet once said to a person who sought to become

emir (mayor) of a municipality: "By God, we do not give this
job to anyone who asked for it..." (Asad, 1957:91). In
another hadith, the Prophet said to a companion: "Do not
seek governorship; if you were given it after seeking it,
then [responsibility] would be left to you [without any
assistance from God], but if you were given it without
seeking it, then you would be helped [by God]" (Asad,
1957:91). These two sayings of the Prophet, plus some
Quranic verses which admonish Muslims not to gloat about
themselves, represent the theoretical basis for scholars who
forbid candidacy and see it as an inappropriate behavior for
Muslims. (It is interesting to mention here that Plato, in
the Republic, argues that it is better if rulers rule
reluctantly and out of a sense of duty.)
On a different level, this group asserts that the one-
person one-vote rule which is followed in general elections
is improper. This rule tends to equate the opinion of a
scholar with that of an ordinary or, to put it more bluntly,
an ignorant wrongdoer who may care less about the implement-
ation of the Shariah. Consequently, the wrong people may end
up in the shura body. The consequences could be calamitous.
Additionally, the majority-rule proposition is illusive and
un-Islamic; being a majority is no guaranty of being right.
Consequently, they refuse to adopt that rule.
Based on the above rationalization, the anti-election
solution is that the head of state appoints the people who

are going to advise him (Ahmad, 1986). By doing so, however,
the caliph would have almost unrestricted power; most likely
he would name people who have the same, or similar,
philosophy as his own, and who agree with him nearly all the
time; they owe him because he chose them. Genuine
consultation, which is the prime purpose of the existence of
decision-makers, would be forfeited. The ummah would be
flagrantly excluded from the decision-making process.
Muhammad Asad (1957) analyzed the majority-rule
argument. On the surface of it, the contention that the
majority is not a guaranty for making the correct decision
cannot be disputed. The human mind is fallible, men may not
follow the promptings of right and equity, and human history
is filled with instances in which the majority made wrong
and foolish decisions. Nonetheless, and within a legislative
body, no other feasible option exists. If the majority is
subject to error, so is the minority. And the question
becomes who is to decide who is right and who is wrong. Some
may argue that it should be left to the caliph. But the
caliph is equally subject to being mistaken as the majority.
And if some propose that the caliph is supposed to be wise,
prudent, righteous, and knowledgeable, the response is that
so are decision-makers. In the final analysis, the reasoning
which rejects the majority rule doesn't hold. And as a last
point, for the Believers, there is a saying in which the
Prophet exhorts Muslims to "follow the largest group,"

(Asad, 1957:97) which strongly suggests that the majority is
less susceptible to (but not absolved from) failure than the
minority. The human being is fallible, and whenever he/she
is involved, error is present. One can only strive to reduce
the degree of fallibility, and majority rule seems to be a
sensible means to reduce the faults of Man.
Another procedure to curtail the adverse effects of the
human imperfection and faults of majority rule is to create
a Bill of Quranic Rights, similar to the Bill of Rights of
the U.S. constitution, where the civil rights of all
individuals are spelled out, protected, and guaranteed.
On the other end, while bothered by the practices of
Western democracies' election campaigns, the majority of
scholars find no alternative to elections. Some
modifications must be added, nevertheless. As for announcing
one's candidacy for an office, they refer to a story in the
Quran (12:55) in which Prophet Joseph told the King of Egypt
that Joseph had the qualifications to become the treasurer.
They deduced from that story that it is permissible that
people declare their adequacy for a job if they were in an
environment in which they were unknown.
Also, how is it possible in today's giant and complex
societies to identify people with special talents and
endowments if they don't come foreword and disclose those
talents and endowments? The Islamic society may waste a lot
of needed help if people are not allowed to pronounce their

qualifications and capabilities.
To allay, and probably eliminate, any immoral and
unethical practices, strict procedures could be enacted to
outlaw smear campaigns. In addition, a neutral
(nonpartisan) committee could be formulated to probe
candidates' programs and proposals and give its
recommendation on the validity and constitutionality of such
programs and proposals (Sawi, 1992) so as to eradicate
spurious plans and make candidates much more guarded in
their pronouncements and propositions.
In conclusion, it appears that the second argument is a
much more realistic means to accommodate today's exigencies.
If administered properly, the excesses and faults of Western
democracies' elections would hopefully be abated and
The Choosing of a Caliph
The caliph represents the executive authority in the Islamic
state. And just like choosing the decision-makers, there is
no definite textual evidence concerning the method for
selecting the caliph. The Quran sets the general rules of
politics and does not include any verses in regard to the
caliph's appointment. And the Prophet died without
designating a successor. Therefore, the companions practiced
ijtihad and came up with a process which involved two
stages: nomination and confirmation. While jurists agree

that the caliph may be nominated by one person, as was the
case in nominating Abu Bakr and Omar (the first two caliphs
of Islam), they differ as to what constitutes confirmation
(Safi, 1991). Some jurists insist that the public has to
give baia to the caliph. Others assert that the legitimacy
of a caliph is established when decision-makers agree upon
him; public baia was not obligatory in validating the
authority of the caliph.
The former view limits the decision-makers' job to the
nomination process only, and since people are the ultimate
source of legitimacy, then they have to show their support
for the nominated caliph by giving him public allegiance
(that is, voting for him). The latter idea rests on the fact
that decision-makers were elected by the people to make
decisions on their behalf; selecting a caliph is a very
serious decision that ought to be handled by decision-makers
because of their wisdom, knowledge and expertise. And the
caliph derives his legitimacy from the authoritative decree
of the decision-makers.
It seems to me that either technique is acceptable
insofar as ahl al-hal wa al-aqd were representing the
people, and the caliph, whether elected by decision-makers
or by the public, has a base of support.
The Duties of the Caliph
As the Executive in the Islamic state, the caliph has a wide

range of rights and responsibilities. Mainly though, he is
responsible for implementing the Shariah and protecting the
citizens and their welfare. In today's terms, the caliph has
the powers of a president in a presidential, rather than
parliamentary, system. Thus, the caliph is the Head of
State, the Commander-in-Chief, and the Prime Minister. He is
the major player in the field of foreign policy; he can wage
wars and conclude pacts and treaties with other countries.
He may appoint people to assist him in executing the law
(like secretaries or ministers), and they are responsible
before him. The caliph and his aides are accountable to
decision-makers, in particular, and to the people, in
general (A. Odah, 1978). In addition, the caliph gives
sermons and leads Muslims in the Friday prayers. As for his
rights, in addition to his salary, the ummah should follow
his lead. The primary condition upon him is that he stays
within the confine of the Shariah; as Abu Bakr said "obey me
as long as I obeyed Allah."
Qualifications of the Caliph
The caliph, as the chief decision-maker, has to possess all
the qualities that decision-makers possess. In addition to
that, the caliph has to be healthy, have no disabilities, be
knowledgeable in Islamic law, and be a descendant of the
tribe of Quraish. While the first three conditions are not
illogical, the last one has been controversial, and it