State, Nationalism, Ruler, Peace and War in Islam

via Dr.T.S Girishkumar published on April 18, 2006

Islam and democracy doesn’t seem to go well with one another. Wherever there is an Islamic state, it is hardly democracy, and when they try out democracy, it doesn’t last much. My neighbor state of Pakistan is a classic case of Islamic experiments with democracy, they become democrats for some time, then they go for Army dictatorship, then again for some miraculous reasons they become democrats, then again for the Army and so on and so forth it goes on. The people of Pakistan are indeed Indians, and this is the case with the separated Indians who are under Muslim rule, and on the other hand, India, which is much larger and diverse with all kinds of varieties of people, is the largest and most successful democracy in the world. When I am being given duties to conduct elections on the 22nd of April this year, I volunteered to perform my duty freely, without accepting remunerations. This is because of the reason that I consider democracy as the best form of government. In spite of some corrupt politicians, nepotists, and nitwit lots, democracy is still worthy of all these and perhaps more. Thus, it becomes my moral obligation to perform an election duty free for my nation, the largest democracy in the world. But then, with separated Indians in Pakistan, democracy doesn’t work very well.


Let us try to find out what Quran says in this regard. It seems that sovereignty as defined by the prophet of Islam; the Khalifa is a perfected concept of democratic equality. Ruler has to be the result of the whole nation’s will, unity, suffrage and election. The sovereign is a Khalifa, which literally means neither more, nor less than a representative. His authority consists in his being represented, making him powerless beyond the will of whom he represents. The ruler should guarantee happiness and prosperity of mankind. The Quran says: “Thus by mercy of Allah, (Oh Muhammad) that you gently deal with them, and had you been stern and hard hearted, they would have dispersed from around you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult with them upon the conduct of affairs” (The Family Imran  3 :159). A ruler must cultivate high moral standard, he must govern by consent of the people, and follow the policy of benevolence. The head of the government ought not to be hereditary, he must not be rich in wealth, but he must be rich in health, strength, knowledge, and must be of sound body and mind. To quote Quran: “ Their prophet said to them: God hath appointed Tabut (Saul) as King over you; they said: how can he exercise authority over us when we are more deserving than the kingdom than his, since he has not been given wealth enough? He said: lo Allah hath chosen him above you and hath gifted him abundantly with knowledge and stature. Allah bestoweth sovereignty on whom he will. Allah is all embracing, all knowing” (The Cow  2 : 247). For a ruler, serving mankind, or his subjects becomes his spiritual achievement. To quote Quran: “And it was said unto him. Oh David! Lo! We have set thee as viceroy on the earth; therefore, judge aright between mankind and follow not desire that it beguile thee from the way of God” (Sad   38 : 26). The administration must be just, it should not consider love, sympathy, fear, favor, pity. Compassion etc. in administering justice. Everything must be based on true evidence as well. Quran says: “And do not conceal evidence” (The Cow 2 : 283), “Let not the hatred of any people incite you to deal unjustly with them” (The Table Spread 5 : 8), “Be maintainers of justice though it be against your own self or against your parents or against your near relations, whether he (any party) be rich or poor” (Niza The Woman 4 : 135), “Do not mischief on the earth after it has been set in order, but call on him with fear and longing (in your hearts) for the mercy of God is always near to those who do good” (The Heights 7 : 56) 


Of course, though Quran says all such things, the Muslims the world over doesn’t seem to be reading them. Taliban and Mulla Omar probably need some good lessons in Quran it seems. Sultanates, Sheikdoms and Emirates etc. may also need such lessons in Quran. Even with such Quranic verses, the Muslim world remains incorrigible.


They do have a policy of war too. Quran calls upon the Muslims to preach and propagate Islam and to defend themselves in case of attack or oppression. This could easily be interpreted as imposing Islam by sword. Look at what the Quran has to say: “And fight in the way of Allah, with those who fight with you and do not transgress the limits; drive them out from where they drove you out; for persecution is severe than slaughter and faith them until there is no more taumult or oppression and their prevail justice and faith in God. But if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression” (The Cow  2 : 190, 191, 192, 193). I leave this to the wisdom of my readers to interpret; this to my mind could work as a double-edged sword. 


Their nation concept becomes the most dangerous one. To quote Maulana Mohammad Ali: “We are not nationalists, but super nationalists and I as a Muslim say that God made man and Devil made nation. Nationalism divides, our religion binds” (Plenary Conference between British and Indian leaders at London, 1930). They conceive of nation as the Muslim Umma, or community all over the world. This alienates Muslim population from each nation, and they lack in patriotism, and could easily become anti-nationals. The Muslims wishes to call themselves super-nationalists, like the Marxists who wants to be inter-nationalists. In both cases, they turn out to be against the nation, and anti-nationals given small instigations, and there is no real dearth of such “small” instigations from the Islamic as well as Communist world the world over. And this becomes the cauldron from where international terrorism could spring forth.


What ever is stated or said in the Quran, how it all is getting interpreted becomes the point. There are Talibans, Al-Quaidas, and many such jihadi groups spread through out the world, who are powered either by fanatics or by nations like Pakistan who nourishes nefarious ends. Theirs becomes more of a power game coupled with Islamic fundamentalism. To this end, they misinterpret and mutilate their own so-called holy texts, the Quran, the Hadith and so on. Are they doing justice to their Religion, their concept of God, and Spirituality?


(Dr. TS Girishkumar, Reader, School of Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala, India. [email protected]                             [email protected])

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