By Javed Ahmed Ghamidi
November 22, 2013
Man, by nature, is a being who lives by setting up a government for himself. The first manifestation of this instinct took place when, in ancient times, people decided that they would select the chiefs of their tribes. After that, when these chiefs were able to establish their hegemony by conquering other tribes, they became the owners of conquered lands. This gradually took the shape of ancestral kingdoms governed by kings. In later periods, these kings, in their capacity as great conquerors, laid the foundations of empires consisting of several countries. This brought into existence governments, which included the Sassanid and the Roman empires. These empires have now become extinct but many kingdoms are still among us and have taken the place of constitutional monarchies. Except for some countries, this is the case everywhere. Among these exceptions is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It still exists in its original glory and majesty. The laws of such kingdoms are enacted by the king and his nobles.
The Saudi government was established with the reformist movement of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Thus, on the very first day of its inception, it decided that the law of the land would be the Islamic Sharia. A great majority of Sunni scholars do not regard kingdoms to be governments, which is against Sharia but they more or less agree to the interpretation of Sharia made by the Saudi government. This is because they think that it is an Islamic government and, on this basis, they show allegiance to it.
The ideology of Islamic revolution, which has sprung up in recent times, can be summarised as follows: it is only the disciplined minority of the righteous (Salihin) that has the right to rule; if godless people are rulers, then they are in fact embezzlers. It is the responsibility of the righteous to launch an effort to take back what belongs to them. Among the Shias, this ideology already existed under the concepts of ‘government of the infallibles’ (Ma’sumin) and ‘guardianship of the jurist’ (wilayat-i Faqih).
Consequently, Sunni and Shia scholars have instituted religious parties in various places to achieve this very objective of bringing about an Islamic revolution. Moreover, the intellectual class is expanding its efforts in various countries to realise this objective by trying to bring into existence a disciplined minority of the righteous. In some places, these efforts have been successful. For example, in Iran, religious scholars, under the leadership of Imam Khumini, were able to take the reins of political authority into their own hands. They have been ruling Iran with full power for a quarter of a century. Another example is Afghanistan where, through the support and help of the Pakistani government, the students of religious scholars were able to set up a government that succumbed to 9/11 and is now trying to revive itself by waging war against the NATO forces.
The question arises: what does Islam want? A deep deliberation on the Quran and Hadith shows that the real addressee of Islam is the individual. It wants to rule the heart and mind of a person. Thus, it makes it mandatory upon him to submit his whole self to the sovereignty of God. Just as the God of Islam is the Lord and worshipped deity of people, He is also their King. Hence, it is necessary that, besides worshipping Him, obedience also be shown to Him and, if He has prescribed some law or principle in some matter, then people must totally surrender to it. No doubt, Islam also addresses society but only when the individuals of a society accept its rule over themselves. At that time, no effort or struggle is needed to achieve the supremacy of Islam at the collective level; Islam automatically manifests itself through social, cultural and political mannerisms and attitudes of the people. Thus, if in the Sharia of God, there is any directive related to society, they are prepared to implement it without any hesitation.
This is an Islamic government. When it comes into existence in this way, it becomes a manifestation of God’s mercy on earth; however, if it does not come into existence, even then one should not be worried because the objective of Islam is not the formation of an Islamic government but the attainment of Tazkiyah (self-purification). Its call is to the kingdom of God, which people will attain on the Day of Judgment as a result of attaining this Tazkiyah. Islam calls upon people to save themselves from Hell and enter this eternal kingdom of God. It does not call upon people to establish an Islamic government. However, people who are anxious for this — and which in Quranic terms may be called Ukhra Tuhibbunaha (the second thing which you desire, (61:13)) — have seen for themselves the experimentation that has taken place in this regard in the last one and a half centuries.
In my opinion, they should now accept the reality that an Islamic government is neither established through a royal decree nor through the autocratic rule of religious scholars and nor by a self-appointed army of divine soldiers. This is not an objective but should emanate from the inner conviction of people on Islam and the Islamic Sharia. If this happens, then the government that is established as a result can be called an Islamic government in every sense of the word. If the objective is to set up such a government, then instead of wasting one’s time in frivolous political stratagems, and instead of killing oneself and killing innocent people in the name of jihad, all force should be directed towards two things.
First of all, through reminding and exhortation, knowledge and reasoning, education and instruction, efforts should be made to establish the rule of this government on the hearts of the people. This effort should continue until the ruling elite of the Muslims has as strong a conviction in Islam and Islamic Sharia as the one possessed by those who takes up the task of calling people towards Islam.
Secondly, at every level, democracy and democratic values should be promoted so that if people are prepared to fulfill the requirements of their religion related to the political and economic spheres, no form of despotism can cause any hindrance for them. Launching a struggle against despotic forces is, in fact, a struggle against Fitnah (temptation) and Fitnah, according to the Quran, is a greater sin than murder. Hence, the institution of monarchy and dictatorship deserve to be sent packing from the stage of this world forever.
Javed Ahmed Ghamidi is a religious scholar and president of Al-Mawrid, a foundation for Islamic Research and Education