The Arab Spring and the red lines of Islamic governance
As political Islam emerges from the ruins of dictators, what are Islam’s non-negotiable ‘red lines’ of governance.
If 2011 was the year of uprising, excitement and radical change in the Middle East then 2012 may well be the year of celebration, consolidation and the Ummah taking control of her destiny. For the vacuum left by the departing dictators must now be filled, and vying for the position are a variety of candidates ranging from ‘secularist’ to so-called ‘islamists’. As most of the candidates will inevitably claim to represent Islam in some form or another, it is important to be able to accurately determine Islam’s non-negotiable ‘red lines’ in order to ensure the uprisings – from Tunisia to Egypt – are not dragged away from an Islamic awakening.
The following key points therefore serve as important criteria to judge all candidates claiming to represent Islam:
Sovereignty is not in the hands of people, but for the Shari’ah alone
A common truism in the west is that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is true whether that power is held by one individual or a group. For anyone to hold the right to legislate will always and inevitably lead to oppression and corruption, which characterise both dictatorships and democracies in the world today. This is because those holding power are certainly going to be influenced, either by those seeking to bend the system in their favour, by their own experiences which will always be limited and biased, or by public opinion which is by its nature erratic and shallow.
Islam recognises this innate weakness in people and removes the power to legislate entirely from the hands of Man, thus ensuring that no matter who is in charge the system is insulated from becoming institutionally corrupt.
إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّه
“The rule is for none but Allah” (An-Anam:56)
The Islamic constitution, unlike the constitution of a Democratic state, is derived from fixed sources. The relationship between ruler and ruled are clearly delineated, as is the remit of the rulers authority and the process by which he can be accounted by his people. This transparency is alien to the western democratic model where rulers can raise taxes, cut services and even wage war and the people have little or no power to prevent them. Under an Islamic system, people are fully aware of the origins of the law, and that it cannot be changed at a whim. The system cannot be distorted or corrupted by powerful individuals, as is the norm under the Democratic model where political lobbying is an institutionalised and legitimate part of the system.
Authority to elect a ruler is for the people alone
Much is made of the openness of politics in western democracy, but the truth is it is an incredibly closed and elitist system. Whilst people are made to feel as though they are in control, in reality their ability to choose their leaders are limited to say the least. The process is dominated by political parties, who are funded by wealthy corporations, groups and individuals in exchange for favourable policies. This system ensures that the voice of the average person will never have any true representation. ‘Power to the people’ in truth is no more than ‘the illusion of power to the people’.
Islam establishes the people’s right to choose as founding principle. No one can monopolise the process to leave people disenfranchised, nor can a ruler be forced upon the people against their will.
A ruler (Khalifah) is therefore elected through popular mandate, a legally binding contract between him and the people to rule and be ruled by the established law and constitution of Islam. Should he step outside the remit of this contract, his removal becomes possible.
“Whoever takes off his hand from an obedience, he will meet Allah on the Resurrection Day without having any proof to show for himself; and whoever dies while having no Bay’ah on his neck he dies the death of the days of ignorance (jahiliyyah) [Narrated by Muslim]
The Khalifah is not a King or dictator who imposes his authority on the people through coercion or force, his right to rule must be given willingly by the Muslims. Nor is he like the President or Prime Minister of a democratic state who is like the puppet in the hands of the powerful elite, changing legislation to suit their interests. A key condition of his candidacy is that he is not unduly influenced or controlled by any outside force.
Unity of the Ummah
Islam calls for the reunification of the Muslim lands. In recent history the the world is shifted away from the nation state towards globalisation which has interlinked the world. In Europe the European Union was an attempt to integrate the continent. The Khilafah state does not recognise the nation states that exist today in the Muslim territories and throughout the world. Islam rejects all notions of nationalism, which is alien to Islam yet a central factor in the development of Western nations. Islam forbids having more than one ruler and thus more than one Islamic state.
Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri reported from the Messenger of Allah (swt) that he said:
“When an oath of Bay’ah has been taken for two Khulafaa’, kill the latter of them. [Narrated by Muslim]