In an Islamic society political sovereignty belongs only to God

The belief that God is the sole Legislator flows directly from the Muslim confession of faith, la ilaha illa ‘Llah, which can be interpreted as meaning that ‘there is no legislator but the Legislator’. The message embodied in the Qur’an – and the laws derived from it and from the Sunnah of the Prophet – bind the community together; no exterior pressure is required to make this binding effective.

True sovereignty resides neither in the ruler nor in government nor in a statistical majority; it belongs to God, but is in a certain sense delegated to His ‘rightly-guided’ community; and the Law, precisely because it is a ‘reminder’ of the laws inherent in our own created nature, should not in principle require the apparatus of the state, officials and policemen, to make it effective. Whatever place the contemporary Westerner may give to religion in his personal and social life, this is still only ‘a place’; it is seen as one element in the total structure of human life, but it is not itself that totality. For Islam, on the other hand, the social order is a part of the religion and cannot be separated from it. The function of the ruler (or ‘government’ as such) within this system is strictly limited. Islamic society is theocentric rather than theocratic. Were it the latter, there would be a need for a semi-divine ruler, the representative of God on earth and the interpreter of His will; but in the context of a theocentric society the ruler occupies a peripheral rather than a central role.

Despite certain idealistic theories arising from nostalgia for the time of the Rashidun, the first four caliphs, the Muslims have on the whole taken a very pragmatic view of the ruler’s function. He is not expected to be a saint or a sage or even a good man in the usual sense of the term, and his private vices may be overlooked so long as they are kept private. What is required of him is that he should have a strong right arm with which to defend the community against its enemies, and to maintain the Law.

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Categories: Gai Eaton, Islam, Politics, Quran

28 replies

  1. Exactly. For any readers interested in the intersection between Islam, and politics, please see http://www.divergingthoughtsblog.wordpress.com
    Thank you.

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  2. Paul, I suggest you read Patricia Crone’s book, Govt and Islam: six centuries of medieval Islamic political thought. You will learn more from this book than any crap churned out by Hizbut Tharir.

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  3. The problem, Paul, is that the quran doesn’t specify or elaborate on any kind of law, either social, political, legislative, or even religious.

    Most Islamic laws derive from books written way, way, way after the quran was supposedly revealed, by men who had no first-hand acquaintance with mohammed, nor the people around him. So, even if the quran turns out to be the word of a god, it doesn’t help us much.

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    • Ignorant bullcrap as always, Kev.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Classic hit and run quip by Abu – lots of emotion, no substance.

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    • Hot and run quip? Yeah, fine. But that doesn’t negate that most of what you said is factually incorrect.

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    • Kev, you are a person that believes that Moses was a murderer and rapist. So everything you say is inconsistent anyway.

      Islamic laws are not derived from books that were written later. It is based on the tradition of the Prophet and his companions. It does not matter when these books are written but where the information in them comes from. Before the writing of books started there was oral transmission.
      But the fundamental issues can be taken from the Qur’an.

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    • Rider

      Oral transminssion is notoriously unreliable – the opportunities for biased transmitters and recorders to change the meanings, details, and even the significance of stories is too great.

      The hadith are mostly written a very, very long time after the events they describe, and thus have very little historical credibility. Likely, they are man-made.

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    • Whatever you say about reliability is worthless since you are a Christian. We know what you believe to be reliable.

      You make claims about these issues without deeper knowledge. You don’t know anything about hadith and Islamic early history. You talk directly out of your a*s and this is extremely annoying. I would like if Paul could simply kick you out.

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    • Rider

      Point taken.

      I’m wrong because you are a raging bigot.

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    • Abu Talhah

      “Hot and run quip? Yeah, fine. But that doesn’t negate that most of what you said is factually incorrect.”

      None of what I said is factually incorrect.

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    • The early Muslim community practised the law. This is attested not just in Muslim but also contemporary non-Muslim sources.

      It is not just oral transmission but written as you can learn from studying any basic work on the history of Hadith collection. Moreover, when it comes to legal practices it is not just oral or written transmission but transmission through practised tradition.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Fawaz

      The problem here is that you are making a circular argument. How do we know that early muslims followed the law as described in the hadith? Well, the hadith and other traditions tell us that this was the case!!!

      Circular.

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    • @Kev,

      It is not circular reasoning. There are non-Muslim sources that attest to the fact that Muslims practised laws taught to them by the Prophet. The Armenian chronicler Sebeos and the Mesopatamian theologian John Bar Penkaye speak of the law that Muslims practised. These writers wrote in the mid to late 600s. A few decades after the Muslim conquests.

      Secondly,the main aspects of Islamic law are agreed upon among the different political factions. Ummayads,Zubayrids,proto-Shi’ites, Zaidis, Abbasids etc all agreed in principle to the need of adhering to Islamic law and they concurred on the main points. These factions had a common source of law that preceded their conflicts with each other. Otherwise, none of these groups would simply have accepted some law made by the other group.

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  4. Paul

    If allah is the ultimate legislator then overlooking the private vices of rulers must be un-islamic. Surely you can’t be saying that allah would permit rulers to transgress his laws?

    What kind of god is that?

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    • In Christianity the ruler is a mercy from God. Whatever he says has to be accepted except it goes clearly against Christianity.

      Similar to this the authority of a ruler is respected in Islam. The ruler upholds the needed order even though he may do injustices sometimes. This is only valid for a Muslim ruler. Assad is not a Muslim ruler. Secular rulers in general are not Muslims.

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    • Rider

      Unsurprisingly, you completely missed the point.

      Allah’s rep on earth must be righteous – if he isn’t, then you worship a god that turns a blind eye to human sin and transgression.

      In other words, Paul is suggesting that allah permits hypocrisy in his law, thus, allah is a hypocrite.

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    • I didn’t really understand the point. I think it was simply a pointless straw man which is why I don’t bother not understanding it.

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    • Rider

      I know you didn’t understand the point.

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    • @Kev,

      The ruler is not Allah’s rep on earth in the sense that you may have understood. In a sense all humanity are tasked to do God’s will. So we are all (in a sense) delegated to do his work. The ruler has greater responsibilities than the non-ruler. But each will be questioned before God for their own actions.

      What brother Paul was saying is if there is a ruler who is an all-round decent and pious guy but is totally incompetent, such a ruler would not be preferred. On the other hand if there was a competent ruler who fulfilled the rights of the people and his duties to God as a ruler, this person would be preferred even if he has private sins. We are not idealistic about individual piety of rulers. If the ruler is just and competent vis-a-vis the population, then his private sins are between him and God. This is not only true about the ruler but also other individuals.

      We are all accountable to God for actions both public and private. The ruler is accountable to the people for those actions that concern their affairs. He is not accountable to anyone but God when it comes to his private affairs(unless these matters concern others).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Fawaz

      I think you did a much better job of explaining Paul’s point.

      However, what you are describing is not a scenario in which “God is the sole Legislator”. What you are talking about is contrary to the point that Paul is making and which you seem to support because it is still the people who are deciding on who rules them, and you are saying that they cn effectively disobey god’s rules if no one knows about it.

      You can’t have a “just” ruler, if they commit sins – and in islam, sins and crimes are often synonymous – but are not punished in the same way everyone else is. Having a ruler who holds himself to different rules to his subjects is an implicitly unjust ruler.

      This is why I say “hypocrisy.” You suggest that a ruler who doesn’t get caught doing whatever sins he is committing is still allah’s representative on earth. In other words, one need only pretend to abide by muslim ethics and that’s okay with allah.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I am not sure what you mean by the ruler being Allah’s representative on earth.

      There is no divine right to rule concept or divinization of rulers etc in Islam. If a ruler violates the law he is just like anybody else.

      The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The people before you were destroyed because they used to inflict the legal punishments on the poor and forgive the rich…”[Sahih al-Bukhari] In this Hadith, we have a maxim that is against favouritism or treating anyone as being above the law.

      As for being just while committing sins in private, I think we need to distinguish here between one’s duties towards God and one’s duties towards the creatures. Let’s say there was businessman who was just in all his business dealings but committed some sins in private, the rights of his customers have not been violated. However, he is responsible for his own actions before God. If a businessman cheats his customers, then he is responsible before both God and man.

      As for the sins which are legal crimes. This is usually only for Muslims and the conditions for convicting someone are extremely stringent anyway. I think there is an article on this site by Dr. Jonathan Brown that explains this in greater detail.

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  5. “As for the sins which are legal crimes. This is usually only for Muslims and the conditions for convicting someone are extremely stringent anyway. I think there is an article on this site by Dr. Jonathan Brown that explains this in greater detail.”

    paul, where is this article?

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