By Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef (Shahbaz Nadwi), New Age Islam
The ideal concept of state in Islamic perspective was perfectly represented by the rightly guided caliphate (الخلافة الراشدة), wherein the final say in every matter was given in accordance with the commandments of Allah, the Almighty and Shura (consultative body), an Islamic term that could be applied to parliamentary system now. All human freedoms such as freedom of belief and creed, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of electing representatives etc. were completely ensured and protected. People were free to go or settle wherever they wanted to. They were free to do whatever they wished to, provided that they did not violate the parameters led down by the Sharia. Rights of religious minorities, rights of women, rights of children and rights of all citizens of the state were safe, intact and preserved. There was nothing like royal family, dynasty, privileged group or special class in the Islamic state. All were equal before the law. Maintaining law and order was the first and foremost priority of the state machinery. Establishment was held accountable for its entire doings before the caliph or governor appointed by him. And the caliph was responsible to the public for whatever he did or decided.
A brief appraisal of the Islamic rule in that golden age shows that the main characteristics of it were as follows (1):
1-Islamic state does carry a certain perspective regarding humankind, God and the universe, but it is entirely pluralistic and inclusive in its nature and is based on the concept of an inclusive human society called Ummah, which includes all members of the global human society and citizens of all the territories irrespective of their faith and creed as clearly enshrined in the covenant of Medina known as “Misaq-e-Madina”. The Ummah, says Raji El-Faruqi, therefore, is truly an open society par excellence. (2)
11-Islaimc state was based on a religious polity, yet it was, as we mentioned above, accommodative to all religious communities. ''The Ummah is an open society. Any human being is welcome to enter it by either of the two ways: the aforementioned confession of faith or the covenant of peace”. (3)
111-One of its core values was to ensure tolerance and preservation of all basic freedoms and rights to the citizens. It gave religious freedom in its true sense of the term, as it believed in the principle: There is no coercion in religion. (256لاإكراه في الدين (البقره :)
1V: Madina covenant teaches us to evolve a common ground for everyone to determine equal duties as well as common legal framework to resolve issues regarding civil goals and objectives.
V: The society governed by such rules and morality, was obliged to respect all minority groups and provide all civil amenities and rights to them, in addition to complete safety, peace and protection.
V1: There was equality among individuals; the society was egalitarian, ethical and God-conscious, with firm religious belief in human goodwill and welfare of all the citizens.
V11: Every individual was given equal opportunity to nurture his/her talents and to do his/ her level best in the particular field of his or her choice. No bias or prejudice was allowed therein.
V111: There was no dichotomy of religion, cast, sex and class. ''Evidently, Islam does not regard religious conviction as requisite for membership in the Ummah. The Ummah, it holds, is a societal ideal large enough to include the Muslims as well as the non-Muslims. As societal ideal, the Ummah is committed to ensure peace and security to all and promote inter-religious, inter-tribal and inter-national cooperation and solidarity. (4)
What was the great change in this polity after the ending of guided caliphate?
After the fall of the rightly guided caliphate, initially caused by a political clash among Arabs themselves and then widened with growing mix up of conquered cultures with the winning side, and with intermingling between Arabs and other nations: Persians, Jews and Romans, there came a rapid change in all walks of life. There were, therefore, tribal, ethnical and national intrigues, internal clashes and divides, clandestine and tremendous revolts toppling the governments, large-scale bloodshed, and power grabbing and all such unwarranted incidents. These horrific ironies caused havoc in the world of Islam. Moreover, to the horror of public, the situation became so chaotic and injurious to the health of the Islamic Ummah (nation) that it changed the course of time forever. The political arena was rapidly influenced by this tragedy more than anything else.
After the caliphate transformed into the inherited monarchies and kingdoms, there began a new political culture, totally align to Islamic faith, ideals , goals , objectives and higher values set by the prophet and his true successors; the rightly guided caliphs. Then, a permanent system of monarchy emerged in the region. When a Sultan or king (caliph) died, he would soon be replaced by his son, without taking public pulse or fulfilling any other democratic criteria, and without any hesitation in shedding blood of the opponents, even of relatives, if they opposed their dynasty. Ulema, scholars, and intellectuals had been compelled to do compromises or surrender to the usurpers of power. There emerged a ruling class like that of what was the tradition in other nations, such as in Rome and Persia. Baitulmal or treasury of the state was no longer in the domain of public. Common masses were deprived of the basic right to elect or reject their representatives e.g. their rulers. Wars and battles were often fought by the rulers, kings and monarchs in the name of Islam, just in the pursuit of their vested interests. Yes, there have been some fine examples of rulers among the long chain of despots, dictators, autocratic kings and monarchs. It is not a merely belaboring and sweeping statement, but the true and undeniable Islamic history. Indeed, the un-Islamic system of monarchy introduced by the Arabs was the main cause of the decline of the Ummah. (5)
1- See *Syed Amir Ali, The spirit of Islam, Chatto & Windus London 1974
*Syed Hussein Nasr, the Ideals and Realities of Islam Suhail Academy Lahore Pakistan 1994
2-See: Ismail Raji. Islam Movement for World Order P: 10 available on net.)
3-Ibid p: 6
4-Ibid P: 14
5- المقدمة لابن خلدون الفصل الثالث والاربعون ص 144 بيت الأفكارالدولية عمان الاردن
And Umer Chapra: Muslim Civilization: The Causes of Decline and the Need for Reform The Islamic Foundation (March 1, 2010)
Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef is a journalist, writer, translator and director of Foundation for Islamic Studies, New Delhi