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FEATURED ARTICLE: The Basics of the Political System in Islam (part 1 of 2): Islam a Total Way of Life



The West makes a natural mistake in their understanding of
Islamic tradition, assuming that religion means the same for Muslims as it has
meant for most other religious adherents ever since the industrial revolution,
and for some societies, even before that; that is: a section of life reserved
for certain matters, and separate from other sections of life.  This is not the
Islamic world view.  It never has been in the past, and modern attempts of
making it so are seen as an aberration.

Islam: A Total Way of Life

Islam is a “total way of life.”  It has provided
guidance in every sphere of life, from individual cleanliness, rules of trade,
to the structure and politics of the society. Islam can never be separated from
social, political, or economic life, since religion provides moral guidance for
every action that a person takes.  The primary act of faith is to strive to
implement God’s will in both private and public life.  Muslims see that they, themselves,
as well as the world around them, must be in total submission to God and his
Will.  Moreover, they know that this concept of His rule must be established on
earth in order to create a just society.  Like Jews and Christians before them,
Muslims have been called into a covenant relationship with God, making them a
community of believers who must serve as an example to other nations by
creating a moral social order.  God tells the Muslim global nation:

“You are the best community raised for mankind,
enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong…” (Quran 3:110)

Throughout history, being a Muslim has meant not only
belonging to a religious community of fellow believers but also living under
the Islamic Law.  For Islamic Law is believed to be an extension of God’s absolute

God is the Only Sovereign

God is the absolute sovereign in Islam, and is therefore
the only Lord of heaven and earth.  Just as He is the Lord of the physical
universe, to the true Muslim believers, God is the Lawgiver for every area of
human life.  Just as He is the Master of the physical world, God is the Ruler
of the affairs of men in Islamic doctrine.  Thus God is the supreme Lawgiver[1],
the Absolute Judge, and the Legislator Who distinguishes right from wrong.  Just
like the physical world inevitably submits to its Lord by following the ‘natural’
laws of the universe, human beings must submit to the moral and religious
teaching of their Lord, the One Who sets right apart from wrong for them.  In
other words, God alone has the authority to make laws, determine acts of
worship, decide morals, and set standards of human interaction and behavior.  This
is because,

“His is the Creation and Command.” (Quran 7:54)

The Separation of Institutional Religion the State

As we have mentioned, in Islam God is acknowledged the
sole sovereign of human affairs, so there has never been a distinction between religious
and state authority.  In Christendom, the distinction between the two authorities
are said to be based upon records in the New Testament of Jesus, asking his
followers to render unto Caesar what was his and unto God what was His.  Therefore
throughout Christian history until the present times, there have always been
two authorities: ‘God and Caesar’, or ‘the church and state.’  Each had its own
laws and jurisdictions, each its own structure and hierarchy.  In the pre-westernized
Islamic world there were never two powers, and the question of separation never
arose.  The distinction so deeply rooted in Christendom between church and
state has never existed in Islam.

The Vision of an Islamic State

The vision of an Islamic state and the purpose of its political
authority is to implement the divine law.  Thus, the ideal Islamic state is a
community governed by the Law revealed by God.  This does not entail that such
a state is necessarily a theocracy under direct rule of the learned men of
religion, nor is it an autocracy that vests absolute power in the ruler.  The function
of the Islamic state is to provide security and order so that Muslims can carry
out both their religious and worldly duties.  The Caliph[2]
 is the guardian of faith and the community.  His role is not so much checked
by the ulama (religious scholars), but enhanced by them because they
provide him religious and legal counsel.  He also appoints judges who resolve
disputes in accordance with Islamic Law.  There is a certain level of
flexibility in regards to the system of governance and its establishment in
Islam, however, religion must be implemented fully into state and society.


[1] God’s existence proven by the existence of a
supreme Lawgiver is called the ‘ethical’ argument by Western theologians.

[2] The word
Caliph is the English term for Khaleefah, or successor, for the Caliph succeeds
Prophet Muhammad as political leader of the Muslims and implementation of
Divine Law in society.


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