The inadequate response to the recent fire in Grenfell tower highlighted the huge divide between politicians, officials and the people they are supposed to be responsible for. During this tragedy up to around 80 people, were burnt or suffocated to death in the now notorious inferno in North Kensington. Whole families perished in this indescribable event including young children and the elderly. What this event showed was not only the disdain of the political class towards the most needy and vulnerable in society, but that significant parts of the masses have lost all respect and confidence in those who have authority over them.
The Breakdown of Trust
The tragedy of Grenfell tower is not the only example of politicians letting down the public. There are numerous others of politicians and authority figures failing to help the victims of crimes and other misfortunes. For example, the families of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, where 96 football fans were crushed to death, were still fighting to get justice and accountability for the loss of their loved ones, 28 years after the actual event. The initial police and government reports on the disaster tried to cast blame onto the victims and the behaviour of football fans rather than those responsible for organising the event. After numerous hearings and appeals only this year, were those responsible for the disaster accounted and charged with a crime. In 1993, student Stephen Lawrence was murdered by a group of racist thugs in south London. This case highlighted systemic racism within the police force and a poor investigation which contributed to the murderers being able to avoid justice for over 24 years.
People in Western societies are realising that politicians, rather than serving the people who elected them, are far more interested in serving their own individual selfish personal interests. This was starkly highlightd during the MPs expenses scandal. During the scandal the private expenses of MPs were leaked to the press and the British public were outraged to find the people they had elected were in fact only taking care of their own individual affairs. The widespread misuse of allowances and expenses by British MPs led to a public outcry and a large number of resignations, sackings and even the prosecution and imprisonment of a number of previously serving MPs.
Sadly this type of abuse of trust is not an isolated case, rather it is an everyday occurrence. Serving MPs often find many imaginative ways of earning themselves lots of money during, and after, their tenure as public servants. A current example of this is the former Chancellor George Osborne, who has been nicknamed George ‘six jobs’ Osborne.
This type of open abuse of power and unashamed use of office for financial gain further builds a feeling of distrust amongst the general public towards their politicians and the system itself. While the common people are made to suffer through economic policies of austerity, they watch themselves becoming poorer as those they elected to serve them actually become much richer. In fact, many senior politicians end up many times richer after serving as MPs while their constituents remain economically worse off. It is therefore no surprise that politicians are seen as career driven, self serving figures, who have little concern for the people they are supposedly meant to be serving.
Trust in the Muslim World
No matter how terrible the abuses of power highlighted above, Western politicians pale into insignificance by the magnitude of corruption of rulers and officials in the Muslim world. At the same time, any trust or confidence in the colonial inspired systems that govern the Muslim lands have long gone.
It is hardly necessary to mention the names of the likes of Nawaz Sharif, Asif Ali Zardari, Bashar Al-Assad, Hosni Mubarak, the Saudi Royal family, the Gulf Royal families and the like, for accounts of swindling of millions, if not billions, of public money into the private coffers of these corrupt individuals.
The politics that Islam brought to the world 1400 years ago was in complete contrast to anything that had preceded it. Islam removed the idea of leaders as being rich self serving individuals to the rulers being servants of the people and brought a completely unique system of government to establish this idea.
Islam’s View of Politics
Politics in Islam differs fundamentally from all other political systems on the earth. Firstly it is based solely on the Islamic aqeedah (belief). Allah (سبحانه وتعالىصلى) has given us a complete code of life including a detailed stand-alone political system that needs no additions or deletions, which is the Khilafah ruling system. Allah ﷻ says:
وَنَزَّلۡنَا عَلَيۡكَ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ تِبۡيَـٰنً۬ا لِّكُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ وَهُدً۬ى وَرَحۡمَةً۬ وَبُشۡرَىٰ لِلۡمُسۡلِمِينَ
And We have sent down to you the Book (the Qur’an) as an exposition of everything, a guidance, a mercy, and glad tidings for those who have submitted themselves (to Allâh as Muslims). [An-Nahl: 89]
And Allah ﷻ says:
ٱلۡيَوۡمَ أَكۡمَلۡتُ لَكُمۡ دِينَكُمۡ وَأَتۡمَمۡتُ عَلَيۡكُمۡ نِعۡمَتِى وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ ٱلۡإِسۡلَـٰمَ دِينً۬اۚ
“Today I have perfected your Deen for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your Deen.” [Al-Maidah: 3]
Islam defined ‘politics’ as looking after the affairs of the people. The Arabic term is siyaasah, which is derived from the root Sasa, Yasoosu, Siyasatan. Which means to care for one’s affairs. Thus the fundamental role of a politician is to take care of the affairs of the people and certainly not to use office to achieve one’s own selfish interests. Thus, Islam made politics and public office a responsibility upon the individual executing it. Becoming a ruler was seen as a huge service and burden that was not to be sought after. In fact, most pious Muslims of the past preferred not take positions of responsibility unless they were the most capable ones to take up such positions. They were aware and feared the warning the blessed Messenger ﷺ, Abu Maryam al-Azdi narrated that the Messenger of Allah aid:
مَنْ وَلاَّهُ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ شَيْئًا مِنْ أَمْرِ الْمُسْلِمِينَ فَاحْتَجَبَ دُونَ حَاجَتِهِمْ وَخَلَّتِهِمْ وَفَقْرِهِمُ احْتَجَبَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ دُونَ حَاجَتِهِ وَخَلَّتِهِ وَفَقْرِهِ
“Whoever is put in charge of any of the affairs of the Muslims and remains aloof from them and pays no attention to their needs and poverty, Allah will remain aloof from him on the Day of Resurrection, and will pay no attention to his needs and poverty.” [Abu Dawood]
In this way, Islam places a lot of responsibility and accountability onto the shoulders of Muslim rulers. Those who understand this responsibility fear the accountability of their creator. The Messenger ﷺ said,
“Anyone who took charge of any Muslims and he died while he was deceiving them Allah will prevent him from entering paradise.” [Bukhari]
It is for this reason we hear of Umar bin Al-Khattab (رضي الله عنه) fearing a mule falling in a pothole in Iraq, because he would be responsible, as a ruler, for not having the road paved.
Islam forbade public officials from benefiting from their positions. Al-Bukhari and Muslim narrated on the authority of Abu Humaid Al-Sa’idi who said: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ appointed Ibn al-Utbiyya as ‘amil in charge of Sadaqah of Banu Salim. When he returned back to the Prophet ﷺ, he said: “This is for you and (this is a gift) that was presented to me.” So the Messenger of Allah said: “Why did you not remain in your father’s and mother’s home so that your gift comes to you if you said the truth.” The Prophet ﷺ was admonishing the sahabi (companion) and explaining he was only receiving the gift because of his position, therefore the gift was actually a bribe and so was forbidden.
Endearing Oneself to the People
It is only when all the principles and rules of Islam are followed can we expect to have rulers who are fearful of Allah ﷻ and rule with justice and fairness. And in doing so, build trust and respect amongst the people they govern.
It is reported that once a Roman emissary came to Medina to meet Khalifah Umar bin Al-Khattab (رضي الله عنه). On enquiring about the whereabouts of Umar he found him to be sleeping under a tree, without any guards or security. The emissary was shocked to find the ruler without extensive security and protection around him and remarked “O Umar! You ruled. You were just. Thus you were safe. And thus you slept.”
This incident illustrated how when a ruler is just and rules with fairness, justice and security will be established in society. Such a ruler would thus be loved and respected by his people and he would have no need to separate or protect himself from his people. Contrast this to today, where rulers, in the East and West, need to be protected from their people. Often travelling around in armoured cars, surrounded by legions of police and security.
Building Trust within the Khilafah
The political system of Islam, Khilafah, is based upon evidences from the Qur’an and the life of the Prophet ﷺ. However, it still needs to be implemented by human beings and as a result it is possible for human beings, including rulers and officials, to make mistakes and errors. Islam has therefore given strong mechanisms to keep the ruler in check and create a healthy bond between both ruler and ruled.
The Majlis Al-Ummah (Council of the Ummah) is an elected body that represents the citizens of the Islamic state, Muslim and non-Muslim. This body can make representations for the citizens to the Khalifah, to raise their issues and complaints. Furthermore, the Mahkamaat Al-Mudhalim (Court of Unjust acts) has the authority to investigate a Khalifah, if he is accused of a serious violation. This court even has the authority to remove the Khalifah if he has made a serious violation or no longer fulfils all the criteria required of a Khalifah.
Lastly, and probably the most powerful means of keeping the relationship between the people and the rulers in tact, is the Muslim Ummah itself, which is encouraged and obliged by Islam to account and keep their rulers in check. Allah ﷻ says:
وَلۡتَكُن مِّنكُمۡ أُمَّةٌ۬ يَدۡعُونَ إِلَى ٱلۡخَيۡرِ وَيَأۡمُرُونَ بِٱلۡمَعۡرُوفِ وَيَنۡهَوۡنَ عَنِ ٱلۡمُنكَرِۚ وَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡمُفۡلِحُونَ
“And let there arise amongst you a group, inviting to all that is good (Islam), commanding al-Marouf (good), and forbidding al-Munkar (evil); and those are the ones who are the successful.” [Al-Imran:104]
The Messenger of Allah said:
“The master of martyrs is Hamzah and a man who stood up to an unjust ruler, commanding him (to do good) and forbidding him (from evil) and was killed.” [Hakim]
These and many evidences like them command Muslims to enjoin the good and to forbid the evil, the most important aspect of which is accounting the ruler. This mentality, when present within the Ummah, will discourage any Muslim ruler to err or deviate from the rules of Islam. The reason this is so powerful a mechanism is because ultimately authority lies in the hands of the Ummah and a Khalifah is only given authority by the Ummah in order to discharge the rules of Islam.
By accounting those in authority, the Ummah reminds the ruler, that he is only in power by her wish and should he violate his position, this authority could potentially be removed. This strong mentality existed at the time of the Prophet ﷺ and the Khulafah.
When Umar (رضي الله عنه) was the Khalifah, he received some cloth and distributed it equally amongst the Muslims by giving them one piece each. When he was about to deliver the Friday Khutbah it was apparent that he was wearing two pieces of cloth. Immediately, Salman al-Farsi (رضي الله عنه) said, “By Allah, we will not hear you, because you prefer yourself to your people.” At this point Abdullah ibn Umar (رضي الله عنه) explained that he gave his father his cloth. Salman al-Farsi (رضي الله عنه) responded by saying: “Now we shall hear you.”
The world is witnessing an ever increasing divide between its rulers and the ruled. People in both East and West are feeling more and more let down by the people supposedly in positions to help and look after them. Politicians throughout the world are viewed with disdain and distrust. Capitalism and democracy have failed to deliver a system that delivers politicians who genuinely care and work for nothing but the betterment of their people. Rather, capitalism and democracy have consistently delivered corrupt individuals who are as self-serving as many of the tyrants and criminals ruling over much of the Muslim world. The world is in need of a new system that can produce and empower just leaders who have nothing but the best interests of their people at heart. The only system that can achieve such a thing is the system of Allah ﷻ which is the Islamic Khilafah. We as Muslims must realise we have been given the best system for mankind that can deliver peace, security and justice for the whole of mankind. We must as Muslims re-establish this system and carry it to the entire world.
كُنتُمۡ خَيۡرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخۡرِجَتۡ لِلنَّاسِ تَأۡمُرُونَ بِٱلۡمَعۡرُوفِ وَتَنۡهَوۡنَ عَنِ ٱلۡمُنڪَرِ وَتُؤۡمِنُونَ بِٱللَّهِۗ
You [true believers in Islamic Monotheism, and real followers of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his Sunnah] are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma’rûf (i.e. Islamic Monotheism and all that Islam has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islam has forbidden), and you believe in Allah. [Al Imran: 110]