By Prof. Mohammed Rafi

Individual, citizen, community, country, society, nation, state and sovereignty are concepts that have evolved through ages to establish the relationship between people, places and authority. These concepts have changed along with the social conditions and mental development of human beings. The Islamic concept in this regard is valid for all people and places. Its eternal value is based on the principles that act as guideline to facilitate the evolutionary process of man’s development and progress. It gives eminence to those who adopt its principles. They can adopt this progressive system of life that embraces all that is good, promotes the well being of humanity and avoids that which is evil and harmful to humanity at large. Furthermore, the Divinely inspired system of life is fully sustainable and durable.

Man, by nature, is born free and desperately wants to do as he pleases. This may be possible if he leads his life on a solitary basis. This selfish attitude cannot contribute anything in a system of social life where other individuals, with their own desires, have rights too. According to Nietzsche if a human child, soon after birth, is left in a jungle without any human supervision and is brought up by animals, he will remain animalistic in his behaviour for the rest of his life. He will never attain the posture and status of humanity though he would look like any other human. He can only actualize and develop his potential in a social setup with other human  beings. Even today the most dreaded punishment is solitary confinement although it may be in very luxurious surroundings. The fear of the grave is another reflection of a solitary confinement. Islam has always stood for collective social life and values—a society in which there is harmony, peace and justice. These conditions enable a man to think beyond his physical existence and thus prepare for the next form of life in the hereafter. Hajj, Salaat, Zakaat, Jihad etc are all meant to help the society and ultimately the state. Individuals become a community only when their hearts unite. In a community of equals, one who contributes the most excels. It is a team effort in which the goal is a point which is in sight of them all, something which they collectively cherish and wish to achieve.

Prior to the demarcation of boundaries on the face of the earth, self-preservation was the main goal of life. With the passage of time this urge has extended and has covered the safety and security of ‘land of birth’ or country. For deciding the mutual disputes among individuals and for defending the country, the need of a collective full-fledged system and authority became a necessity. This led to the concept of governance and the ultimate idea of authority. Plato gave the idea of state and the establishment of governance in a country. In the Classical Age, country meant a track of land and its defence meant the safety and security of its inhabitants, and was to be achieved through the system of rulership. With this concept arose the problem of the mutual relationship between the state and the individual. The most important question related to the ultimate end of such a system—the individual or the state? Hegel considered the state to be an organic unity with its own aspirations, passions and goals and no moral obligations.. The only duty of the state was to preserve itself and the individual had to be subservient to it.. This concept has attained the stature of religion in modern times. The state is referred to as if it is a living being. Alllam Iqbal considered this concept of state as the biggest deity of the modern day. Muhammad (SAW) brought the Divine Message that demolished all man made idols and ideals. The Quran lays down principles for implementing the Divine programme in a country for others to follow. Islam spread through its universal progressive message and evident results. This system was not permitted to be implemented through coercion, intolerance and extremism.

The Quran considers man as the real end of the existence of a country, state or even the entire universe. Everything has been created for man’s benefit. ‘Whosoever is there on this earth, God has created for you. Not only in the earth but whatsoever is there in the earth and the heavenly bodies’ (45:13). The Quran has not used the term state, but the idea of country and governance is there. The Quranic concept of sovereignty is also different from all other systems and isms. It is a fact that the authority of some men over others has always been in vogue. The Quran considers this concept as humiliating to humanity and thus unacceptable. Sovereignty belongs to Allah and not to any individual or group. This leads to another misunderstood system in which a handful of religious leaders assume sovereignty in the name of religion. Quran negates theocracy. The sovereign is absolute, but unseen. God does not come down on the earth to guide us. His message is delivered by His messengers. That is why the Quran points out that obeying the Messenger is obeying God. The Divine rules practically mean following His laws. No one has the authority to make any changes in the Divine Code, not even the Messengers.’ Judge the matters of these people according to the Book of Allah’(5:48) declare openly that it is not for me to make any changes therein according to my wishes’(10:15). The Messengers were the first to submit to the Divine code. In such a system there would neither be a ruler nor any ruled. We must remember that Muhammad (SAW) never called himself a ruler, king or monarch, although  he had authority over a million square miles After him the system remained operative through the Caliphs and obedience to them meant obedience to the Divine Code. In an Islamic system of governance the scales of justice have to be established in light of the Divine laws. A person who, when, violating the law thinks that   no one is watching or thinks that he can bribe his way out or use influence to sway judgment and escape punishment, does  not believe in God. An Islamic government can only be established to implement the Divine laws and under such a government no criminal can escape punishment. No bribe or mediation will help; no influence influence influence or pressure can be used to persuade the law in anyone’s favour. One who goes against the law must suffer the consequences and the one who respects the law is honoured and protected. Obedience to the Divine Laws is not a thing belonging to the individual plane in the sense that one might, of his own, consult the Quran, interpret it for himself and act according to his individual interpretation. The obedience has to be disciplined and ordered under an organized system called state in the present day and controlled by a central authority.

Barring a few exceptions, the Quran enunciates generally fundamental principles without touching subsidiary laws. Allama Iqbal pointed out’ My conviction is that whoever undertakes a critical appreciation of modern jurisprudence in the light of the Quran and establishes the inviolability of its principles, will be the arch revivalist in Islam a. It is a pity that contemporary doctors of Islamic humanity should be either completely ignorant of modern trends or else be steeped in rank orthodoxy’ (Iqbalnama).

When monarchy creeped into the Muslims, the Divine system no longer remained operative. The relationship of the state and the individual changed .The rulers became autocratic and the citizens had no choice except to obey them. The Muslim rulers of the Abbassi period changed the basic principles of Quran to their advantage with the help of religious oligarchy. Gradually the Muslim domination of the world came tumbling down. Even today the Muslims are confused as to the true Islamic system. This is because the role model today is the Islam of the kings and not the pristine Quranic values. .Islam does not authorize kingship, monarchy or autocratic rule. Today Islam is followed as a religion of restrictions, while the purpose of God-imposed rules is to further broaden and develop the human personality. This can only be achieved in a society where there is total protection of life, property and honour and where there is no anxiety or lack of shelter and food. Above all such a society should be just and fair. One of the purposes of the permanent Divine values is to lift the burden under which  humanity suffers and groans (7:157). In such a system, the people establish the system of Salaat and Zakaat. In our system Zakkat means to dole out a meagre amount at the end of the year. This is not the goal presented by the Quran which says, that the responsibility of the Islamic system is ‘Eeta-e-Zakaat’ and not giving or taking Zakaat.The term Zakkat means to grow, develop, bloom and blossom, it means to provide the means of development to people. Muhammad (SAW) once said ‘God’s responsibility of protecting a community ceases when even a single person goes to bed hungry’. The second Caliph Omar said,’ If a dog dies of hunger by the river Tigris I swear by God with whom my life rests, that Omar will be held responsible’.

In an Islamic system there are no fears of external or internal dangers. There is a solid foundation for realizing the human potential.. Muhammad (SAW) was asked to make arrangements to educate people in such a way that they may be able to understand the bases of law on one hand and to enable them to understand the mysteries of the universe on the other .In this system the human potentialities are not only nourished but are utilized for the good of all. It inculcates purity of character and beauty in conduct. The Quran addresses the Muslims and says,’ You are the integrated nation (Ummah) equipped for the well being of mankind. You are raised for the good of all humanity’ (3:109).

The basis of an individual’s  position in society is the Quranic principle,’ Verily We have honored every human being’(17:70). The protection of this honour is the end of an Islamic society. If the system does not honour the respect, prestige and life of the individual, it is corrupt cannot escape the wrath of God. The Quran refers to such a system and says,’ These people are deprived of Allah’s blessings and support of the Divine Forces and the righteous persons’ (3:87).

In an Islamic state no man has the right to exploit another man or to use him as means of furthering his personal interests. Moreover, tolerance, kindness, forbearance, mutual respect and justice are the pillars of the state. Above all no man is permitted to compel others to obey him.

In obeying the Divine Laws we obey God and ultimately enjoy the fruits of living in such a system. If the Islamic world succeeds in re-establishing the universal democracy of Islam by recasting Islamic jurisprudence on the basis of the Quranic principles, the leadership of the world will be theirs. If, however, they fail to discharge this vital duty, the other nations will regard their failure as the failure of Islam and on the evidence of that failure would declare that Islam was successful only in a particular period of time and thereafter exhausted its dynamism and is no longer capable of keeping pace with the growing needs of the changing world.




  1. March 12, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I am really enlightened to read the article. The writer has cleared many a concept about the success of Islamic system of government and the concept of state, or country. I think it is worth reading for all Muslim students.

  2. 2 abhinav
    August 12, 2011 at 10:09 am

    i am a hindu with many muslim friends and no negative bias towards islam. i really feel that muslims should try to understand and also help us to understand islam inna broader manner. as a few uneducated people who are guiding the so-called islamic or the so-called jihadi agenda and creating a wrong picture of islam. issues like multi-culturalism,secularism ( whenever come to light ) most of the times involve muslim people which further tarnishes their image; for this to stop not only muslim youths but also all youths from our country ( india) should take steps.

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