Chapter 14 POLITICAL SYSTEM Islam: A challenge to religion by G A parwez



  1. Primitive Age

Anthropology does not support the view that man ever lived a solitary life like the tiger or the lion. He was weak and defenceless against the powerful beasts that roamed about him. He could survive only through some form of group life. A band of men could survive under conditions in which a single individual had no chance, so early men naturally lived in groups. Some form of social organisation is necessary for group life. Men can co-operate with each other only at the cost of their egoistic impulses. The dictates of group life invade individual liberty. The first social ties came from blood relationship. The groups were almost overgrown families. The authority exercised by the father passed into the hands of the patriarch, the head of the tribe. Custom regulated the conduct of the members of this group. Primitive man believed that the customs of his tribe were unchangeable and inviolable. Patriarchal authority and rigid customs protected the social order and were an effective check to all kinds of anti-social activities in which individuals might be tempted to engage. However, a new authority emerged in the group – this was the priest. His supremacy was founded on his expert knowledge of the religious ritual, and of correct behaviour in the temple and on solemn occasions. Ritual had gradually become very complex and the patriarch had to place it in the charge of a professional man. Superstition, a factor to be reckoned with in primitive life, lent powerful support to the authority of the priest. In a changing world no form of social organisation can be permanent. The tribal organisation dissolved giving place to a purely political organisation. The Raja or King supplanted the patriarch. He was usually a man who had organised a military force which had enabled him to extend his dominion over several tribes. The political system that arose was composed of different tribes. A consequence of this change was that the hold of tribal customs on man was considerably weakened, People saw their fellow citizen observing different customs, and hence any particular custom could no longer be regarded as sacred and inviolable. The social order had now to be maintained by physical force. If the king was powerful he usually succeeded in this task and held the straggling group together. He usually relied on officials whom he had personally appointed. The new social order, however, could not be as stable as the tribal order which was based on blood-ties and time-honoured customs. Men could not be held in check for long by mere brute force. Risings and rebellions often shook the king’s authority. In this predicament he sought for an ally and such an ally was close at hand.  The priest also had vested  interests which he was not willing to relinquish. Any social or political upheaval would endanger the vested interests of both the king and the priest. The result was that the king and the priest made common cause, and each gave the other mutual support. The king bolstered the power of the priests in the religious domain and took steps to protect the interests of the sacerdotal order. The grateful priest cloaked the king with sanctity and awe. The obedience of the people was now enforced both by force and superstition.

  2. Struggles Between the Rulers and the Subjects

There is something in man which chafes at external compulsion. In the heart of man the flame of freedom may sometimes flicker, but is never, extinguished. The patience of man is not inexhaustible, and subjected to the double tyranny of priest and king, he became more and more discontented. He longed for intellectual as well as political freedom. It was not long before he rose against the hold of the priest and the authority of the king. History has recorded the long drawn-out and sanguinary struggle of the masses to regain their freedom and overthrow both spiritual and political yokes. The participants in this struggle could be identified as:

  1. The rulers, temporal and spiritual, who strove hard for the status quo.
  2. Ambitious elements who tried to carve a slice of their own.
  3. Common people who tried again and again to throw off their oppressing weights.
  4. A few men of reflective type of mind who set themselves to the more difficult task of devising a political system which would reconcile authority with individual freedom. They wanted to protect the social order as, above all, they feared political chaos; but they also wanted the individual to enjoy the freedom which is his birth right.

Full of interest is the history of man’s attempts to devise a socio-political system which would concede man’s basic human rights and at the same time would place social order on a secure basis. One such attempt was made by the Christian priests. They evolved a system which is known as Theocracy. It did not go very well, mainly because of the fanatical and oppressive demands it made on human liberties. It was a tyranny sanctioned by religion. It was done in the name of Christianity, although Christianity claimed to stand only for the ”spiritual” freedom of man. In the words of Viscount Samuel:

It (Christianity) has supported the doctrine of the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ and must bear responsibility for all the evil consequences of that doctrine in the history of Europe.(1)

  3. Might is Right

The doctrine that might is right also had its advocates. It was defended by specious arguments. It was said that a social order which had not the support of the powerful, could not last long. Throughout human history, those who had power had ruled over the weak. To make the mighty and the weak equal is to fly in the face of nature, argued the opponents of Right. Reasonable men have always found this doctrine of Might revolting and humiliating.

 4. Theory of Contract

The doctrine of the Divine Might of Kings was challenged by some great thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and others developed a rival theory to account for the rise of kingship and to justify the king’s claim to the obedience of his subjects. The theory of social contract is based on a myth. It is supposed that, at first, there was no restraint placed on man’s action. Law and order did not exist and men had no conception of rights and duties. The law of the jungle prevailed and every man fought for his own interest. This condition of lawlessness soon became intolerable. The sense of insecurity became too painful. Even the strong man was assailed by the fear that a stronger one might come any time and deprive him of his possessions. Men eventually came together and agreed to pay any price for social security. They agreed to relinquish their freedom and put themselves under the absolute authority of a king. The king’s duty was to enforce the laws and see that no injustice was done to any of his subjects. The king’s right to rule had, therefore, its source in the consent of the people. That consent might be withdrawn if the king failed to discharge the duty assigned to him. Kingship, thus, came to be regarded as a man-made institution. Popular will had made him the king and popular will might dethrone him.

The theory of social contract was not, however, based on a conscious historical fact. Nevertheless, it was ingenious in its own way. It divested kingship of its celestial power and made the general will of the people the ultimate source of authority. The way was thus paved for the advent of democracy.

With the rise of democracy, the problem of sovereignty came to the fore. To whom does sovereignty belong? Different answers were given but they all agree in vesting it in the people. Rousseau maintained that sovereignty belonged to people as a whole. Locke held that it belonged to the majority of the people. Karl Marx vests it in those who control the means of production. Capitalism vests sovereignty in the capitalist class while Socialism vests it in the labouring class.

  5. Democracy

Democracy is now generally regarded as the best form of government. It developed chiefly in the West, but people in Asia and Africa also regard it as the last word in political wisdom. Let us examine its claims carefully and see how far the praise showered upon it is justified. Democracy has been defined as the government of the people, by the people, for the people. It is chiefly the second factor in this definition that calls for comment here. It means that in a democratic state there is no distinction between the rulers and the ruled. The people are supposed to rule themselves. They cannot do so directly, so they elect their representatives. These representatives, in turn, select the ministers who actually run the government. The laws and policies of the state and the principal measures adopted by the government do indeed reflect the will of the people, not of the whole people but of the majority of them.

This in brief is democracy. There is no doubt that this is the best system man has been able so far to evolve for himself. The basic concept on which it rests, namely, that nobody has a right to rule over another, is ideal. But the point is whether it has achieved, or is capable of achieving the aim it has laid before it, The West has been the cradle of democracy, so we may ask what the thinkers there have to say about it.

  6. Democracy’s Failure

In his book The Crisis of Civilisation Professor Alfred Cobban of London University, discussing the causes of the decline of Western civilisation, says:

Considering politics in terms of actual facts and not of abstract theories, it must be acknowledged that the identification of ruler and the ruled, assumed in the theory of the sovereignty of people, is a practical impossibility. The government is one set of people and the governed another. Once society has developed beyond the smallest and the most primitive communities, they never have been and never can be the same. The pretence that they are can only lead to the worst excesses of power in the state (p. 68).

Professor A.C. Ewing of Cambridge University has discussed democracy in his book The Individual, the State and World Government. The following quotation from the book shows the trend of his thought:

Had Rousseau written now, and not, as he did, prior to any experience of democracy in the modern world, he could not have been so optimistic (p.116).

A similar view has been expressed by another thinker, Rene Guenon, in his book The Crisis of the Modern World. The relevant passage, though long, deserves to be quoted in full:

If the word ‘democracy’ is defined as the government of the people by themselves, it expresses an absolute impossibility and cannot even have a mere de facto existence in our time any more than in any other. It is contradictory to say that the same persons can be, at the same time, rulers and ruled, because, to use the Aristotelian phraseology, the same being cannot be ‘in act’ and ‘in potency’ at the same time and in the same circle of relations. The relationship of the ruler and ruled necessitates the joint presence of two terms; there could be no ruled if there were not also rulers, even though those be illegitimate and have no other title to power than their own pretensions; but the great ability of those who are in control in the modern world lies in making the people believe that they are governing themselves, and the people are the more inclined to believe this as they are flattered by it and as they are in any case,          incapable of sufficient reflection to see its impossibility. It was to create this illusion that ‘universal suffrage’ was invented. The law is supposed to be made by the opinion of the majority but what is overlooked is that this opinion is something that can very easily be guided and modified; it is always possible by means of suitable suggestions to arouse in it currents moving in this or that direction as desired.(2)

All these writers have taken pains to show that the belief that in democracy sovereignty or the absolute and unrestricted right of law-making belongs to the people, has no basis in fact. It has been supposed that the law enacted by the majority vote of the representatives of the people embodies the unanimous decision of all the citizens of the state and that, therefore, it is based on justice. This assumption is the chief cause of the decline of democracy in the present day. This view has been supported by Mencken, as the passage given below shows:

Under all such failures there is a greater one: the failure of man, the most social of all the higher animals and by far the most intelligent, to provide himself with anything even remotely describable as good government. He has made many attempts in that direction, some of them very ingenious and others sublimely heroic, but they have always come to grief in the execution. The reason is surely not occult; it is to be found in the abysmal difference between what government is in theory and what it is in fact. In theory it is simply a device for supplying a variable series of common needs, and the men constituting it (as all ranks of them are so fond of saying) are only public servants; but in fact its main purpose is not service at all but exploitation.(3)

He proceeds on:

Of all the varieties of government it is probably democracy that has fared worse at the hands of these brethren. Knowing very well, as a cardinal article of their art, how little people in general are moved by rational ideas and how much by mere hullabaloo, they make common cause with every pressure group that comes along, and are thus maintained in office by an endless series of public enemies.(4)

Arnold J. Toynbee writes (in his recent book, The Present Day Experiment in Western Civilisation, 1962):

Democratic parliamentary government is a less efficient and, therefore, a more wasteful regime than oligarchic parliamentary government, and even a parliamentary oligarchy is inefficient and extravagant by   comparison   with   a   well-managed   authoritarian regime (p. 35).

  7. UNO’s Questionnaire

In 1947, UNESCO, the cultural organ of the U.N., set up a research committee to study and report on the working of the democratic system in different countries. The Committee invited some great scholars to contribute articles to the proposed volume on democracy. All shades of opinion were represented in the volume which was published under the title Democracy in a World of Tensions. “What is the meaning of democracy?” was the first question that they were asked. Most of the scholars admitted that the word was vague and its precise sense had not been determined. A few went so far as to call it “one of the most ambiguous words in current usage” (p.460).

The next question asked was, “Is the majority vote always correct, and a protest against it is a protest against democracy”? The answer was:

It does not, however, imply that the judgment of the majority is inerrant; and it, therefore, allows freedom to minorities to agitate and vote for the reversal of previous majority decisions (p. 504).

While pointing out its defects we must be fair and recognise the merits of the democratic system at the same time. The democratic form of government would pass muster in any comparison with kingship, despotism and theocracy.* It is a bold advance on the earlier forms. By asserting equality of all men, by requiring the state to advance the interests of the people and by enlarging the area of individual freedom, it has rendered remarkable service to humanity. The criticism levelled against it really applies not to democracy in general, but to its typical form developed in the West.

This form of democracy is based on secularism and, therefore, suffers from a fatal weakness. It is built on the shifting sands of changing human interests and beliefs. Because it is not grounded in permanent values, it is at the mercy of every gust of wind. Secular democracy is in fact a reaction to theocracy which, directly or indirectly, had disturbed the very basis of peace and freedom in Europe. Theological disputes continually threatened internal peace. Secularism tried to solve the problem by excluding morality and religion from the purview of government and making them matters of private concern of the individual. The unfortunate result was that man in his political life was left with no stable frame of reference and no objective standard to guide him. Political decisions could be made not on the basis of any established principle, but under the influence of passing national mood. “To err is human” was proved to be too true. Men often judged wrongly and acted wrongly, both collectively and as individuals. The supposition that people as a whole can never go wrong received little support in actual practice. Collective wisdom has been as imperfect and fallible as individual wisdom. The governments that evolved reflected the individual failings. According to Lord Snell:

Governments are always composed of men who share the general imperfections of mankind, with the result that they can never be more noble or more enlightened than are the human beings who administer their laws and shape their policy.(5)

Aldous Huxley makes the same point in his book, Science, Liberty and Peace  when he says:

There has never been a time when too much power did not corrupt its possessors, and there is absolutely no reason to suppose that in this respect, the future behaviour of human beings will be in any way different from their behaviour in the past and at the present time (p. 41).

Objective standards based on permanent values take a long-term view. Without them man cannot look very far beyond his immediate selfish interests which may not, in the long run, be to his own best advantage. His legislative efforts, all by himself, ultimately may not only prove detrimental to himself but may also alienate him from his surrounding groups.

Social groupings have inevitably led to the division of mankind. Each group promotes friendship between its members and incites them to take hostile attitude towards other groups to maintain its own interests. Feuds between tribes used to be bitter and recurrent. Tribes were later supplanted by national states. Hostility to the    out-group is as characteristic of nations as it was of tribes. Every nation has feeling of ill-will and hatred towards its neighbour. The slightest provocation sends them flying at each other’s throats. Prof. Cobban’s remarks on this point should be noted:

Nationalism is a feeling which is born out of hatred and lives on enmity. Nations become aware of themselves by their conflicts with other nations and their feelings of hostility do not cease with the completion of national unity. No sooner has a nation asserted its own right to self-determination than it sets about oppressing other nations that make the same claim. For all these reasons it may be concluded that nationalism is a very dangerous foundation for a state.(6)

Frederick Hertz, the historian of nationalism, writes as follows in his book Nationality in History and Politics:

History shows that for the greater part the quarrels between several nations had scarcely any other occasion than that these nations were different combinations of people and called by different names. To an Englishman, the name of a Frenchman, Spaniard, or an Italian raises, of course, ideas of hatred and contempt. Yet the simple name of man, applied properly, never fails to work a salutary effect (p. 328).

In his book, New Hopes for a Changing World, Bertrand Russell has expressed the view that in the present age, the thing which stands in the way of social contacts extending beyond the limits of the nation and which, therefore, poses the most serious threat to the human race, is the cult of nationalism. We note with surprise that while Russell condemns nationalism in general, he speaks highly of the nationalism of his own people.

There is, however, a fundamental difference between the tribes of the past and the nations of the present day. Nationalism does not merely indicate a form of political grouping; it has developed into a cult which arouses in the individual passionate devotion to his nation and violent antipathy to other nations. It is odd that the West, which has practically turned its back to religion as not suitable for rational men, should have espoused the pseudo-religious cult of nationalism. Aldous Huxley’s comment on this is worth noting:

Nationalism leads to moral ruin, because it denies universality, denies the existence of a single God, denies the value of the human being as a human being; and because at the same time, it affirms exclusiveness, encourages vanity, pride and self-satisfaction, stimulates hatred and proclaims the necessity and rightness of war.(7)

The same writer makes the following remarks at another place:

Twentieth century political thinking is incredibly primitive. The nation is personified as a living being, with passions, desires, susceptibilities. The National Person is superhuman in size and energy, but completely sub-human in morality. Ordinarily, decent behaviour cannot be expected of the National Person, who is thought of as incapable of patience, forbearance, forgiveness and even of common sense and enlightened self-interest. Men, who in private life behave as reasonable and moral beings, become transformed as soon as they are acting as representatives of a National Person, into the likeness of their stupid, hysterical and insanely touchy tribal divinity. This being so, there is little to be hoped for at the present time, from general international conference.(8)

A thought-provoking passage by Adam de Hegedus is quoted below:

At the bottom of these two wars, there was the same anarchic division of the world into sovereign independent nation states, which by their very nature, are forced to compete and conflict with each other and are unable to create a mutually healthy economic organization. The worst feature of this situation is not so much the recurrence of war as the absence of peace.(9)

  8. Patriotism

Nationalism has implanted in the mind of man the belief that patriotism is the noblest and highest virtue. The slogan of the patriots is: “My country, right or wrong” Rumelin, Chancellor of Tubingen University, wrote (in 1875) that:

The state is autarchic. Self regard is its appointed duty; the maintenance and development of its own power and well-being. Egoism – if you call this egoism – is the supreme principle of all politics. The State can only have regard to the interest of any other State so far as this can be identified with its own interests. Self devotion is the principle for the individual; self assertion for the State. The maintenance of the State justifies every sacrifice, and is superior to every moral rule.(10)

Rumelin is brutally frank, but Lord Grey has expressed the same sentiment in milder language:

I am a great lover of morality, public and private; but the intercourse of nations cannot be strictly regulated by that rule.(11)

While Burke was denouncing the Revolution, Walpole wrote:

No great country was ever saved by good men, because good men will not go to the lengths that may be necessary.(12)

Prof. C.E.M. Joad makes the following observations:

The practical effect of idealist theory in its bearing upon the relations between States is, therefore, to create a double standard of morality. There is one system of morals for the individual and another for the State so that men who, in private life, are humane, honest and trust-worthy, believe that, when they have dealings on the State’s behalf with the representatives of other States, they are justified in behaving in ways of which as private individuals, they would be heartily ashamed.(13)

Cavour has given this view in a nutshell:

If we did for ourselves what we do for our country, what rascals we should be.(14)

The general acceptance by the West of the creed of nationalism has had three unfortunate results:

  1. Humanity has divided into a number of Nation States with conflicting interests:
  2. A powerful nation was tempted to exploit the weaker nations on the pretext of safeguarding its interests.
  3. The absence of moral restraint turned the world, as Wakeman has rightly observed, “into an arena of beasts, with only one principle in view, that is, might is right.”(15)

It is in fact the Machiavellian spirit which had dominated the Western mind in the modern age. The Western rulers have taken to heart Machiavelli’s cynical advice in his Prince:

A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must, therefore, be a fox to recognise traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this. Therefore, a prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by so doing it would be against his interest and when the reasons which made him bind himself no longer exist.(16)

After mentioning a few good qualities of conduct he says:

It is not, therefore, necessary for a prince to have all the above named (good) qualities, but it is very necessary to seem to have them. I would even be abold to say that to possess them and always to observe them is dangerous, but to appear to possess them is useful. Thus it is well to seem merciful, faithful, humane, sincere, religious and also to be so; but you must have the mind so disposed that when it is needful to be otherwise you may be able to change to the opposite qualities. And it must be understood that a prince, and especially a new prince, cannot observe all those things which are considered good in men, being often obliged, in order to maintain the State, to act against faith, against charity, against humanity, and against religion. And, therefore, he must have a mind disposed to adapt itself according to the wind, and as the variations of fortune dictate, and as I said before, not deviate from what is good, if possible, but be able to do evil if constrained.(17)

No apology is needed for quoting at such length from the book as it is well known that the Prince has been the Bible of Western politicians and rulers ever since it was written. It was the constant companion of Charles V, his son and his courtiers. Thomas Cromwell brought a copy from Italy and kept it under his pillow when he went to bed. Catherine de Medici, the daughter of the prince to whom the book was dedicated, brought it to France and her political views were deeply influenced by it. Her son, Henry III, always carried it in his pocket. When he was murdered, it was found on his person. The same was the case with Henry IV. Several Popes and kings admired it and approved of its political philosophy. Frederick II, who invariably acted on its principles in his dealings with other rulers, wrote in his Political Testament as follows:

The great matter is to conceal one’s designs and to cover up one’s character …… Policy consists rather in profiting by favourable conjunctures than in preparing them in advance. This is why I counsel you not to make treaties depending on uncertain events, and to keep your hands free. For then you can make your decision according to time and place, and the conditions of your affairs, in a word, according as your interest requires of you.(18)

Politicians who follow Machiavelli believe that moral rules are not binding on them. They reject moral considerations as irrelevant to political affairs. Even in the present age there are many enthusiastic followers of Machiavelli. John F. Kennedy (in his book, Profiles In Courage, 1963) quotes Frank Kant, saying:

Probably the most important single accomplishment for the political ambitious is the fine art of seeming to say something without doing so …… The important thing is not to be on the right side of the current issue but on the popular side ….. regardless of your own conviction or of the facts. The business of getting the votes is a severely practical one into which matters of morality, of right and wrong, would not be allowed to intrude (p. 8).

Kennedy continues:

But this is no real problem, someone will say. Always do what is right, regardless of whether it is popular. Ignore the pressure, the temptation, the false compromises. That is an easy answer – but it is easy only for those who do not bear the responsibilities of elected office (p. 11).

Machiavelli’s views cannot , therefore, be dismissed as obsolete.

  9.Western Thinkers

No social group is free from inner conflicts. The main source of all conflicts is the clash of interest among the members of the same group or between different groups. No political system has, so far, been devised that eliminates internal conflict. Democracy is no exception. It has even intensified internal stresses and in the international sphere has given an impetus to power politics. Nevertheless, modern thinkers have not lost faith in democracy and believe that its defects are not irremediable. Let us see what remedies they have suggested.

Democracy is based on two fundamental suppositions. The first supposition is that sovereignty is vested in the people and the second is that decisions arrived at by majority vote are always right. Prof. Cobban’s remarks on the basis of democracy are worthy of careful consideration:

The traditional justification for the sovereignty of the people is that the government must be founded on either force or consent, and that since force cannot make right, rightful government must be based on consent. But this is neither logical nor is it true. The fact that a million people consent to an act which is wrong, does not make it any the less wrong. If words have any meaning, the rightfulness of any government’s authority depends on its objects and on the way in which it is exercised. A will ought to prevail only if it is a good will; but this is dependent not upon whose will it is but upon its content.(19)

 10. Moral Standard

Prof. Cobban has proposed “Moral values” as the standard for judging right and wrong, instead of the majority vote. Locke calls it an “immutable” or “natural law.” We quote from Mabbott:

There is an immutable law governing the just relations between man and man, independently of any society or state to which they may belong. This natural law would serve like natural rights as a limitation on the absolute rule of governments, however constituted and whatever other ends they may pursue.(20)

  11. Locke’s Mistake

Locke put his trust in Natural Law, to guide aright. He argued that people followed the Natural Law as long as they lived naturally and were without culture and civilisation. At this time reason was their guide, and not sentiment. Later on, they were guided by sentiment and ceased to live in accordance with the Natural Law. The revival and enforcement of Natural Law was what society needed now. But when we ask how this Natural Law can be discovered, Locke refers  us to the “will of the majority.” Here he seems to be arguing in a circle. The decision of the majority is right if it conforms to the Natural Law, and the Natural Law is manifested only in the will of the majority. Natural Law cannot, therefore, serve as an objective standard for judging the actions of a nation. When Locke sees a government acting unjustly he cries out “a government has no right to thrust its will on the people; it must conform to the immutable law of nature.” However, when he is asked to specify the source of the Natural Law, he can think of nothing better than the will of the majority. This looks like “seeking protection from rain by standing under the roof gutter.” The result was just the reverse of what he thought. His idea was to free mankind from the shackles of ever- changing man-made laws but his theory of Natural Law culminated in the modern Secular State. No doubt, in the first instance, “the Schoolmen joined [this theory of] natural law to Christian theology by giving it a basis in Divine Will and thereby implanted it firmly in medieval political thought.”(21) Subsequently, however, “the task accomplished by the early modernizers of natural law theory in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and especially Hugo Grotius and Samuel Pufendorf, was almost the reverse.” By extracting God from natural law they made it the foundation of the modern, secular, constitutional State. They constructed a theory of natural law that would “carry conviction in an age in which theological controversy was gradually losing the power to do so,” thereby making the ‘existence of God perfectly superfluous’ to the doctrine.”(22)

  12. Higher Law

The general trend amongst modern thinkers in the West now is that it is wrong to accept the majority decision as right in all circumstances. We need an objective standard for judging human actions. For Locke it was Natural Law. Cobban calls it the moral standard. The Italian patriot, Mazzini, however, puts it in a more definite shape when he says that the principle of universal suffrage was a good thing inasmuch as it provides a lawful method for a people for guarding against forces of destruction and continuing their own government. However, in a people who have no common beliefs, all that democracy can do is to safeguard the interests of the majority and keep the minority subdued. We can, he adds, be subject to God or to man, one man or more than one. If there be no superior authority over man, what is there to save us from the subjugation of powerful individuals? Unless we have some sacred and immutable law, which is not man-made, we can have no standard for discriminating between right and wrong. A government based on laws other than God’s Will, he continues, produces the same result whether it be a despotic or a revolutionary one. Without God, whosoever be in authority will be a despot. Unless a government conforms to God’s Law, it has no right to govern. The purpose of government is to enforce God’s Will: if a government fails in its purpose, then it is your right and duty to try for and bring about a change.(23)

The idea of a “higher law” is not newly born. “The Ancient Greeks – among them Sophocles, Heraclitus, Plato, and Aristotle – contributed much to the emergence and development of the concept of a divinely-inspired, universal, immutable, and eternal natural law. They wrote, for instance, that ‘all human laws are sustained by the one divine law.’ Plato’s theory of human law as an imperfect replica of an ideal form that exists only in the world of Ideas is another expression of much the same view. But for Plato, and Greeks in general, the law of nature was ‘no more than a basis of comparison – an intellectual standard’ and ‘did not serve as a means for concrete juridical decisions.”(24) As stated by Corwin, “Aristotle is led to identify the rational with the general in human laws. Putting the question in his Politics whether the rule of law or the rule of an individual is preferable, he answers his own inquiry in no uncertain terms. ‘To invest the law then with authority is, it seems, to invest God and reason only; to invest a man is to introduce a beast as desire is something bestial, and even the best of men in authority are liable to be corrupted by passion. We may conclude then that the law is reason without passion and it is, therefore, preferable to any individual.’”(25)

It remained, however, for the Stoics in Greece after 300 B.C., and later in Rome, to erect on this philosophical base an authentic natural law theory. Bracton, a judge of the King’s Bench in the reign of Henry III, prepared a monumental work based on the study of Roman law. We find the following passage in his treatise which explains the view-point of the Romans in respect of law. It says:

“The king himself ought not to be subject to man, but subject to God and to the law, for the law makes the king. Let the king then attribute to the law what the law attributes to him, namely, dominion and power, for there is no king where the will and not the law has dominated.”(26)

The point has, however, been stated very lucidly by Cicero, the great Roman jurist and orator, in a passage in the Republic which runs as follows:

There is in fact a true law – namely right reason – which is in accordance with nature, applies to all men, and is unchangeable and eternal. By its commands, this law summons men to the performance of their duties; by its prohibitions it restrains them from doing wrong … To invalidate this law by human legislation is never morally right, nor is it permissible ever to restrict its operation, and to annul it is impossible. Neither the Senate nor the people can absolve us from obligation to obey this law, and it requires no Sextus Aleius to expound or interpret it. It will not lay down one rule at Rome and another at Athens, nor will it be one rule today and another tomorrow. But there will be one law, eternal and unchangeable, binding at all times upon all people; and there will be, as it were, one common master and ruler of men, namely God, who is the author of this law, its interpreter and its sponsor. The man who will not obey it will abandon his better self, and, in denying the true nature of a man, will thereby suffer the severest of penalties, though he has escaped all the other consequences which men call punishment.(27)

  13. Modern Man in Search of Light

After centuries of unsuccessful experiments with man-made laws, modern man is still in search of the kind of laws which Cicero had so vehemently yearned for. The problem is where to find such laws – they are eternal, unchangeable, immutable, inviolable-applicable to all and at all times. The source would have to be supra-human, i.e., the laws given by God Himself. The West had naturally to seek the help of religion to ascertain such laws. They tried Christianity, but there was no response. Christianity has no laws to give, and it is all other-worldly. In the words of Joad:

Christianity places man’s true life not in this world but in the next. While the next world is wholly good this world is conceived to be, at least to some extent, evil; while the next life is eternal, life on earth is transitory. For man’s life hereafter, this, his present existence, is to be regarded as a preparation and a training; and its excellence consists in the thoroughness and efficiency with which the training is carried out. Nothing on the earth is wholly and absolutely good, and such goods as earthly life contains are good only as a means to greater goods which are promised hereafter.(28)

The Spanish scholar, Dr. Falta de Gracia, writes:

The notion of justice is as entirely foreign to the spirit of Christianity as is that of intellectual honesty. It lies wholly outside the field of its ethical vision.(29)

Prof. A.N. Whitehead writes:

As society is now constituted, a literal adherence to the moral precepts scattered throughout the Gospels would mean sudden death.(30)

Dorsey, the historian of civilisation, has asserted that today millions of people feel that Christianity is the religion of the defeated. They accept the religion but admit solemnly its defeatist spirit. Nothing is satisfactory in life, they argue. “Desire for satisfaction is wrong and satisfaction of wrong desires is sin” is a slogan which makes a true and healthy life impossible. It destroys humanity.(31) The German humanist, Gerhard Szczesny, sees Christianity as a desert people’s creed, basically incompatible in its dualistic world-view with philosophy and science, and a brake on their progress for two thousand years.(32)

  14. Declaration of Human Rights

The same is the case with other religions, both in the East and the West. It is in fact futile to seek in religion the laws of God for standard of absolute right and wrong. Religion itself is man-made. In these circumstances, the modern man, a frustrated, helpless and pitiable soul, had perforce to seek objective standards outside the field of religion. He turned for help to the United Nations Organisation. The U.N.O., appointed a Commission to state and define the fundamental rights of man. On the basis of the recommendations of the Commission, the U.N.O., published, in 1948, its famous Declaration of Human Rights. This document listed the basic fundamental human rights. The U.N.O., asked its member states to guarantee them  to all  their subjects  and to regard  them as sacred and inviolable. The Declaration was hailed as the biggest achievement of the modern age. It was hoped that governments all over the world would, in future, desist from encroaching on these rights of man. This hope, unfortunately, has not been fulfilled. UNESCO, an organ of the U.N.O., had circulated a questionnaire on the draft of the proposed Declaration. The answers to the questionnaire have been published with an introduction by Jacques Maritain. His view is that “Rights, being human, should have some limits imposed on them and be regarded as liable to amendment and change” (p.15).  John Lewis, the editor of the Modern Quarterly, London, is equally outspoken in his criticism of the Declaration. He writes that it is mere fiction that “Human Rights” are absolute, or are inherent in human nature and came into being before man began living in organized society (p. 54). Gerard, a professor in the University of Chicago, writes that the Declaration is an attempt to determine the proper relationship between man and society and the “Rights” cannot be viewed as unalterable for all times to come (p. 207-209).

15. Search for Permanent Values

Such criticism has considerably dampened our enthusiasm for the Declaration. The conviction that man possesses certain inalienable rights does not seem to be justified. If men possessed a common philosophy of life, they might be expected to respect the “rights” which that philosophy supports. In the absence of such a philosophy, there is no guarantee that the rights affirmed by one school of thought would be accepted by other schools of thought. The first condition to be fulfilled is an agreed system of values. Prof. Joad makes this clear:

I suggested that the good life for the individual consists in the pursuit of certain absolute values. If I am right, if, that is to say, it is by the pursuit of values that a man develops his personality, we may add that the object of the State is to establish those conditions in which the individual can pursue absolute values and to encourage him in their pursuit. We are thus enabled to establish a principle of progress in society, which is also a standard of measurement whereby to assess the relative worths of different societies.(33)

Our first task, therefore, is to determine the nature of absolute values. We will then see that it is the duty of the state to provide conditions in which men can freely pursue them. Human Rights will then be brought into a significant relationship to the pursuit of values and will not be regarded as arbitrary. This task has not yet been undertaken. Let us see if Islam can help on this.


  1. Viscount Samuel, Belief and Action, p. 39.
  2. Quoted by A.C. Ewing, in The Individual. The State and World Government, pp. 106-109.
  3. H.L. Mencken, The Treatise on Right and Wrong.  p. 234-235.
  4. Ibid., p. 235.
  5. Lord Snell, The New World, p. 17.
  6. Alfred Cobban, op. cit., p. 166.
  7. Aldous Huxley, Science, Liberty and Peace, p. 34.
  8. Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means, p. 40.
  9. Adam de Hegedus, The State of the World, p. 11
  10. Quoted by R. H. Murray, in The Individual and The State, p. 216.
  11. Quoted by L.S. Stebbing, in Ideals and Illusions, p. 13.
  12. Ibid., p. 14.

C. E. M. Joad, Guide to the Philosophy of Morals and Politics, pp. 729-30.

  1. Cavour, Foreign Affairs, July 1952.
  2. Quoted by Spalding, in Civilisation in East and West.
  3. N. Machiavelli, The Prince and The Discourses, p. 64.
  4. Ibid., p. 65.
  5. R.H. Murray, op. cit., pp. 209-12.
  6. Alfred Cobban, op. cit., p. 76.
  7. J.D. Mabbott, The State and the Citizen, p. 23.
  8. Constitutions And Constitutionalism, edited by William G. Andrews,
  9.             17.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Quoted by Griffith, in Interpreters of Man, p. 46.
  12. W.G. Andrews, op. cit., p. 15.
  13. Edward S. Corwin, The “Higher Law” of American Constitutional Law,
  14. 8.
  15. Ibid., p. 27.
  16. W.G. Andrews, op. cit., p. 16.
  17. C.E.M. Joad, op. cit., p. 127.
  18. Quoted by Robert Briffault, in The Making of Humanity, p. 333.
  19. A.N. Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas, p. 18.
  20. George A. Dorsey, Civilisation, p. 446.
  21. Gerhard Szczesny, The Future of Unbelief, translated by Edward
  22. Garside. p. 105.
  23. C.E.M. Joad, op. cit., p. 806.




  1. Islamic View of Humanity

In an earlier chapter, we have given an exposition of the Islamic view of human personality. We have seen that essential worth of man lies in his self and not in his physical body. As far as the self is concerned all men are equal, however much they may differ in respects of caste, creed or race. This view gives full recognition to the dignity of man as man. The Qur’an has expressed this view in lucid and unambiguous language:

Verily, We have honoured every human being (17:70).

As human beings, all men are equal; every one possesses that precious jewel, the human self. This is the basic principle of the Islamic order of society.

It necessarily follows, therefore, that personality is an end in itself. No man has the right to exploit another man or to use him as a means in furthering his personal interests.* If society were organised on this basis, there would be neither rulers nor subjects. This is the second principle on which society in Islam is based. No man is permitted to compel others to obey him. God alone is to be obeyed through the Laws revealed by Him.

It is not right for man that God should give him the Book of Law, power to judge and (even) Nubuwwah, and he should say to his fellow beings to obey his orders rather than those of God. He should rather say: Be ye faithful servants of god by virtue of your constant teaching of the Book and your constant study of it (3:78).

The Qur’an forbids man to arrogate to himself the right to judge and rule over other men; and yet it does not advocate a lawless

anarchical society. What it does is to lay down the principle that all men are equal, and that God alone has the right to rule over them (12:40) and none has the right to any share in it (18:26). These principles make the frame work of the Islamic society.

God, however, is the Absolute, the transcendental Reality. How can we obey Him if we cannot contact Him? The answer is, by observing His Laws as given in the Qur’an. This is why the Rasool was asked to declare:

Shall I seek other than Allah for Judge, when He it is Who hath revealed unto you this Book fully explained (6:115).

The social part of the Divine Revelation provides us with laws  intended to guide the course of social evolution. Islam has developed a political organisation based on eternal principles of the Qur’an. Since these principles have their source not in the human intellect but in Divine Wisdom, men, when they obey them, are obeying God and not any mortal man or group of men. In the Islamic society all men are equal in the eyes of the law. It is a community of free and equal persons, owing allegiance to God and obeying His laws.

Here is another angle. We have seen that man has two selves, the real self and the physical self or body. The relationship between the two selves is close and intimate. But while the body is incessantly changing, permanence characterises the real self. The real self remains unchanged while the body changes. Since Islam is concerned with the entire person, it seeks to reconcile the two facts. Iqbal has clarified this point:

The ultimate spiritual basis of all life, as conceived by Islam, is eternal and reveals itself in variety and change. A society based on such a conception of Reality, must reconcile in its life, the categories of permanence and change. It must possess eternal principles to regulate its collective life; for the eternal gives us a foothold in the world of perpetual change. But eternal principles, when they are understood to exclude all possibilities of change which, according to the Qur’an, is one of the greatest signs of God, tend to immobilise what is essentially mobile in its nature.(1)

The law laid down in the Qur’an, though immutable, is dynamic in nature to cater both permanence and change:

Perfected is the Word of thy Rabb in truth and justice. There is naught that can change His words (6:116).

What this unalterable and eternal Law does is, it demarcates the boundary line of what is lawful-”limits” in the terminology of the Qur’an-which no one has the right to transgress. Within the boundary line, however, we are free to frame such supplementary laws as the needs of the time require. These supplementary laws are, of course, subject to change and are to be enacted and revised by the representatives of the people “by mutual consultations” (42:38). Within the limits set by the Qur’anic laws, Islam upholds free and unfettered democratic activity. The Qur’an even leaves man free to devise his own consultative machinery. The form which consultations are to take will depend on the convenience of the people.

As regards the eternal and unalterable Law which sets a limit to the legislative activity of the Islamic democracy, the community, the Ummah, is fully committed to it. It cannot break from its moorings. No one can claim the right to deviate from the laws laid down in the Qur’an for the guidance of the conduct of the Islamic State. No human being, or group of men, is infallible. We cannot rule out the possibility that majority, and even unanimous decisions, may be wrong. Such wrong decisions may not, however, do much harm if they leave the basis of the society untouched. If, however, the legislature is empowered to change the basis of society, its wrong decisions will have disastrous results for the body politic. Social stability will be assured only if the legislature exercises its powers within the framework of permanent fundamental principles laid down by Qur’an. If this framework is rejected, it will cease to be an Islamic society. Within this permanent framework, change is not only permissible but advisable. The conditions of life are always changing, and the constitution of the state and machinery of the government too, must, from time to time, be revised and brought up-to-date. It is obvious that in such a system permanence and change are reconciled. The Islamic society is both stable and progressive. It rests on the firm foundation of eternal principles but men are free to raise whatever superstructure they like on that foundation. To do good to others is an unalterable moral principle, but the way in which we can do good to others will depend on the particular circumstances of the time. The first cannot be left to the people, but the second should be decided by them. We must bear in mind that progress is a change that brings the system nearer to perfection. It is change which, while preserving the values achieved, adds to them and raises them to a higher level.

  2. Universal Humanity

The Qur’an affirms the unity of mankind and disapproves of any attempt to divide mankind into superior and inferior groups on the basis of colour, race, caste or creed. It tells us that “mankind is but one community” (2:213). Moreover, this unity is not regarded as springing from similarity of body structure but as having its source in the heart. Says the Qur’an: “Your creation and your raising up are only as the creation and raising of a single self” (31:28). The first and foremost task of an Islamic society is to preserve and enhance this unity. Shortsighted men, however, are tempted to adopt ways of living that tend to weaken it:

The transgressors break the covenant of God, after the establishment thereof, and cut asunder what God has commanded to be joined (2:27).

The Qur’an is eminently practical in its approach to life. It does not merely hold up an ideal which we are asked to admire and gaze upon. It shows the way in which the ideal can be realised in actual life. The unity of mankind which is real but invisible is to be made manifest through the effort of man. The first step in the unification of mankind was taken by Abraham (PBUH). Before him, each tribe worshipped its own tribal god and believed in the tribal unity symbolised by its totem. Abraham (PBUH) first built the House which was dedicated to the God of all and symbolised the unity of mankind. It was the first common platform for men:

Lo! The first House built for Mankind was that at Mecca (3:95).

This House, the Ka’bah, was the visible symbol of peace and security for all men:

And whosoever enters it, is safe (3:96).

The Ka’bah is not invested with any sanctity. It derives its importance from what it symbolises. The flag is the symbol of national unity; the sceptre is the symbol of kingly power. The Ka’bah is the symbol of the real unity of all mankind. Symbols are termed sha’air-ullah in the Qur’an. The Ka’bah symbolises the unity of mankind as well as the universal political organisation which is adumbrated in the Qur’an: “We made the House at Mecca a resort for mankind and a place of security” (2:125). In other words, it is to serve as the focus for all men dispersed over the surface of the earth.

The Ka’bah is intended to serve as the centre of the universal social order which the Qur’an outlines. This order is marked by both the absence of sharr and the living presence of khair. The first aspect is stressed when the Qur’an asserts that those who join the order will ever remain free from fear and will enjoy security. The second aspect is emphasised in this verse:

God has made Ka’bah a foothold for mankind to stand upon (5:97).

It means that through this social order, mankind will learn to stand independently and rise to higher levels. It is to serve as the starting point for the continued development of man. This point is elaborated in the chapter, Hajj in the Qur’an. Mecca is declared to be an open city, Admission into it and citizenship in it cannot be denied to any man. Says the Qur’an:

“We have appointed al-Masjid al-Haraam (in Mecca) as a place of security for mankind together, the dweller therein and the outsider” (22:25).

Abraham (PBUH) was enjoined to “proclaim unto mankind the Hajj” (22:27), so that all those who believe in the unity of mankind may gather together and make that unity a visible fact. This is what Hajj means. It will enable them to concentrate on their common interests and will widen the area of agreement, “that they may witness things that are of benefit to them” (22:28). Everybody is welcome to Mecca, the Home of all men:

And a visit to this House is a duty unto Allah for mankind, for him who can find a way hither (3:96).

It is the duty of every man, then, to visit the House of Allah if he has the means and the will to do so. He alone will benefit by it and not Allah, since “Allah is independent of all creatures” (3:96).

The invitation to the House of Allah is extended to all men. By participating in this universal gathering, men become aware of their common interests, aims and ideals. It is not a “religious gathering” People who go there are expected to deliberate on all the problems that confront mankind and seek their solution in such a way that the path of progress is opened to man. It is incumbent on all who participate in this gathering of men dedicated to the service of man, to put away all narrow interests and think only of the good of humanity. The purpose of the Hajj can be fulfilled only when there is single-minded devotion to God and His creatures. Injustice, cruelty and parochial interests are detestable actions of sharr in any case, but these should be particularly abhorrent to men who visit Mecca, the symbol of real unity of mankind and its social, cultural and political centre. All men who believe in the unity of God, and hence the unity of mankind, have the right to enter Mecca and contribute their mite to the furtherance of the cause of humanity and to the implementation of the Divine programme for man. Mushrikeen are not to be admitted to Mecca as they deny the unity of Law and, by implication, the unity of mankind. Hence the declaration on the day of the Hajj-e-Akbar, forbidding mushrikeen to enter the Ka’bah (9:3; 28). Mushrikeen, according to the Qur’an, are not only those who worship idols but also those who pursue unhuman ends. Those who cherish such motives cannot be loyal to God.

  3. International Humanity

Islamic society is based on the equality of all men. Islam lays emphasis on the factors that unite mankind. As already stated, it disapproves of all divisions of mankind on the basis of colour, race, creed, language or territory. Such division cuts at the very root of unity. This is why the Qur’an addresses the believers as constituting “the best community that hath been raised for the benefit of mankind” (3:109). In the second chapter of the Qur’an, the Ka’bah is declared to be the centre of the social life of Islam as well as the symbol of its ideals. In the same chapter we are reminded of our duties to mankind in these words:

And thus have We made you an international people that you may keep an eye on what mankind does (2:143).

The Muslim community, the Ummah, is thus entrusted with the task of leading mankind to its goal. It is enjoined to evolve a universal society on the basis of the absolute values affirmed in the Qur’an. The steady moral and material progress of mankind as one family is thus assured. The institution of Hajj gathers men from all parts of the world in one place, Mecca. This truly international gathering provides a fine opportunity for devising a suitable programme for the unification of mankind in accordance with the principles laid down in the Qur’an. All those who have the good of humanity at heart can join hands to build up a society in which every individual has full scope for developing his potentialities. Abraham (PBUH), the builder of the Ka’bah, was the first to summon mankind to this task. The Qur’an rightly says of him that he was “appointed as a leader of mankind” (2:124).

  4. Freedom, Justice and Beauty

The need for the Qur’anic order arises from the fact that in the absence of a universal way of life, mankind must remain divided into mutually hostile groups. Under such conditions, there can be no enduring peace, no permanent security for the individual and no prosperity and happiness in the world. The Qur’an, for this reason, constantly draws attention to the unity of mankind, although conflict cannot be eliminated immediately:

Had it not been for Allah’s repelling some men by means of others, cloisters and churches and oratories and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft mentioned, would assuredly have been pulled down. Verily, Allah helpeth one who helpeth Him (22:40).

The urgent need for a political organisation which would embrace all humanity cannot be denied. The existing political systems only divide mankind into warring camps. Each group has devised a system which serves its own interests and gives support to its own ambitions. Each of the political ideologies is suited only to its authors but fails to serve others. The supremacy of a single group, racial, cultural or occupational is either implied or expressly affirmed in these ideologies. Nazism and Fascism defend the right of the stronger race to exploit the weaker one. Communism theoretically asserts the supremacy of the workers but practically places political power in the hands of the party. Democracy inculcates belief in the cultural superiority of the people of one state, and seeks to make them prosperous even at the expense of peoples of other states. The Qur’an alone offers an ideology which can appeal to all men. Human equality and human worth are its cornerstones. Its goal is the uplift and unification of all mankind. It counters all attempts to break up mankind into groups. It dismisses the physical differences among men as of no consequence and treats as important what is basic in them and, therefore, common to all men. This is why the Qur’an speaks of God as the Rabb of all mankind (1:1); of the Rasool as “the fount of Rahmah to all men” (21:107), and of its message as ”a reminder for the whole world” (6:91).

  5. Adl and Ihsaan

We can now proceed to consider the principles of adl and ihsaan that form the basis of the social order of Islam. Muslims are commanded never to deviate from the path of Adl and ihsaan the Qur’an says: “Verily Allah enjoins adl and ihsaan” (16:91). By ‘adl is meant giving each man his due, and ihsaan means actively contributing to make good the deficiency of others to enable them to develop their personality without hindrance. The term adl is not used in the strictly legal sense of justice. It is taken in the widest sense possible and assures to man not only his legal rights but fair and equitable treatment in all aspects of social life. Two principles have been laid down by the Qur’an for the guidance of man. Firstly that no one shall carry another’s burden (53:38), and secondly that everyone will be entitled to get according to his efforts (53:39). It means that in the Islamic Order, man is punished or rewarded for his own deeds and is held responsible for his voluntary acts. Nobody is to be deprived of the fruit of his labour, nor is he to appropriate to himself what somebody else has earned. If these principles are sincerely believed in and conscientiously acted upon, there will be an end to all exploitation and injustice.

Again, the Qur’an enjoins us to be strictly just in our dealings with even our enemies. In this matter we have no right to discriminate between friend and foe. The Qur’an is explicit on this point:

O ye who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity, and let not enmity of any people seduce you that ye deal not justly. Deal justly; that is nearer to your duty. Observe your duty to Allah (5:8).

We should always act justly, even when regard for justice is detrimental to our own interests:

O ye who believe! Be ye staunch in justice; witnesses for Allah, even though it be against your own selves, or your parents, or your kindred, whether (the case be of) a rich man or a poor man, for Allah is nearer unto both (than ye are). So follow not passion lest ye lapse (from truth), nor ye distort truth or turn aside, verily God is well informed of what ye do (4:135).

Devotion to justice means much more than being just ourselves. We should also see to it that justice prevails everywhere. It is the duty of the Muslims to fight against injustice wherever and in whatever form it raises its head. Here the question naturally arises: how are we to fight against injustice? The answer is that as far as it is possible, we should fight injustice by peaceful means, such as persuasion and rational argument. Only when all these efforts fail, are we justified in resorting to force. At this point we face the question of war and its causes.

  6. War and Ideological Differences

Can war be abolished, and if so how? Is war ever justified and if so when? The Qur’an’s attitude to these questions is eminently realistic. While denouncing war as an evil, the Qur’an concedes that it may be necessary as long as “it does not lay down its weapons” (47:4). If the peaceful people of a country are attacked by an aggressive ruthless enemy, the only honourable course of action for them is to fight in self-defence. The physical force of the enemy must be overcome by a combination of physical and moral forces. When successful resistance has put the enemy into a reasonable frame of mind, the way will be open for a peaceful solution of the dispute. Islam permits the use of force for the purpose of self-defence, for the protection of places of worship of all religions, for the eradication of injustice, cruelty and tyranny, and lastly, for preventing a war, more frightful and on a larger scale.*

Islam’s attitude to the question of the abolition of war is cautious and realistic. Abolition of war should be our goal but we should realise that it can be attained only gradually. The Qur’an offers concrete proposals which, if carried out, will lead to the exclusion of war from the world. Firstly, men should be persuaded to accept the view that as rational beings, it befits them to settle all their disputes and compose all their differences in a peaceful and rational manner. Secondly, steps should be taken to eliminate the causes which lead to war. The main causes for war are ideological differences. War often breaks out because a powerful nation tries to impose its religious beliefs or political ideology on other nations.

The Qur’an forbids compulsion in any form in matters of belief. Man should be free to choose his own way of life; it should not be forced on him. The Qur’an emphatically says: “There is no compulsion in the matter of deen”(2:256). Man is free in the sphere of deen. Freedom and compulsion do not and cannot go together. No one has the right to force Islam on others. A Muslim equally cannot be compelled to remain within the fold of Islam. It is for the individual to reject or accept it as he likes:

Say: (it is) the truth from the Rabb of you all. Then, whosoever will, let him believe and whosoever will, let him reject (18:29).

It is not only physical compulsion that is forbidden, but all irrational methods of winning adherents to Islam. It is wrong to induce people to embrace Islam through suggestion, false propaganda or promise of monetary gain or political power; whoever accepts Islam should do so freely, rationally and of his own accord. The Qur’an, therefore, repeatedly assured the men of the time that the Rasool did not rely on miracles but only on the intrinsic value of his message. He consistently refused to take advantage of the credulity of the people:

And if thy Rabb willed, all who are in the world would have believed together. What? Wilt thou (O Muhammad) then compel so that they may believe (10:99)?

The Qur’an treats all humanity as a single family (2:213), and is, therefore, opposed to the division of mankind into groups. The only division it recognises is one based on ideology. The first group is composed of those who believe in the absolute values set forth in the Qur’an. The other group consists of those who deny and reject the absolute values. This is the only basis of division. The believers and unbelievers naturally fall apart into separate groups. The believers are united in God and are dedicated to the pursuit of permanent values. The unbelievers lack faith in God and absolute values, and consequently faith in their own high destiny.

The Qur’an, however, does not treat those who do not subscribe to the ideals of Islam as “untouchables.” Their rights are regarded as sacred. The Muslims are enjoined to protect the rights of the non-Muslims with the same zeal that they show in safeguarding the interests of the Muslims. It is noteworthy that the Islamic Social Order seeks to provide the non-Muslims with all the means they need for development. It is as much concerned with the welfare and wellbeing of the non-Muslims as it is with that of the Muslims. They (the Muslims) say:

We feed you for the sake of Allah (i.e., as a duty which Allah has laid on us). We wish for no reward nor thanks from you (76:9).

An allegation is often made to the effect that discrimination is made by an Islamic State between Muslims and non-Muslims living within its domain by requiring the latter to pay a special tax, called Jizyah. This is utterly wrong and based on a grave misunderstanding of the correct position. When the first Islamic State was established by Muhammad (PBUH), some smaller non-Muslim states were, as a result of their rebellious attitude, subjugated, but, instead of occupying their territory, they were granted full autonomy and were assured of complete protection against outside aggression, As a token of their allegiance to the Islamic State, and in return for the military protection afforded to them, they paid a nominal tribute called Jizyah. This word occurs in the Qur’an only once (in 9:29) and, according to Lane’s Lexicon, means “a compensation for the protection afforded.” There are cases on record in history in which the Islamic State returned the amount of Jizyah when it was unable to afford protection to the non-Muslim state concerned.

Islam endeavoured to promote mutual understanding and co-operation between Muslims and non-Muslims. Its aim was to build a classless, unified society based on permanent values. Says the Qur’an:

Help one another in birr and taqwa and help not one another in ithm and ‘udwan (5:2).

The Islamic State, therefore, strongly advocates international co-operation in all undertakings that are likely to promote the welfare of mankind.

7. Sectarianism

Because of its preoccupation with the unity of mankind, the Qur’an is naturally opposed to sectarianism in deen and factionalism in politics. Sects and factions breed strife and dissension in the Ummah. According to the Qur’an, sectarianism is a form of shirk:

And be not of Mushrikeen, i.e., of those who split up their deen and    become schismatics, each sect rejoicing in whatever they have. (30:31-32).

The Nabi is advised to have no truck with those who divide Muslims into sects:

Lo! as for those who sunder their deen and become schismatics, no concern at all thou hast with them (6:160).

We are further warned:

And be ye not as those who separated and disputed after clear proofs had come unto them. For such there is an awful doom (3:105; 11:118).

There is little justification for political parties. Each party’s ostensible claim to defend political freedom is in fact an excuse for capturing political power and use it for its own benefit. There is no room for such political parties in an Ummah which is dedicated to the ideals of establishing the Divine Order of justice and of welding the different factions of man into a single progressive society which would permit every individual to live a creative life, developing all his potentialities and latent powers, This is the life worthy of man. As the Our’an says:

That is the right way of life (30:30).

Western nationalism has proved to be a fertile source of war and conflict. Under it and its offshoot, colonialism, millions of men in Asia and Africa have suffered the humiliation of subjugation and the misery of exploitation. Nationalism is the main obstacle in the way of unification of mankind. How is the virus of nationalism to be checked ? Let us see what Murray thinks of nationalism:

The religion of nationalism is diabolical. Whether it possesses Germans, Russians, Japanese, Americans or Englishmen, it appears as the supreme exaltation of the Selfhood – the religion of Satan, the Prince of this world. To it today all large-scale religions arc sub-servient. Christianity in all its forms – except that professed by the small minority which repudiates Nationalism – is submerged in the satanic religion of Nationalism. Therefore, religion on the grand scale can provide no escape from our misery. As veritable and universal religion, commanding an allegiance that overrides the claims of Nationalism, it does not exist. In its tacit and unholy combination with Nationalism, it sanctifies the chief cause of our misery. If religion is essential for our salvation …. it must, first, be a religion which compels from the person an allegiance which completely overrides the claims of Nationalism; and secondly it must be a religion which enlarges and strengthens man’s capacity to act as an individual.(2)

The sort of “religion” Mr. Murray yearns for does exist. One has only to have a close look at Islam. Western thinkers disillusioned with Christianity, turn to internationalism as an effective antidote to the poison of nationalism. For a short time, it was believed that the League of Nations would usher in an era of peace and friendship between the nations of the world. It was seen as the first step towards the establishment of a world order. The League failed, and the world was again convulsed by another war. At the end of the Second World War, statesmen of the West, in a desperate bid to avert another war, established the U.N.O. Will the U.N.O., succeed where the League failed?  Emery Reves is rather pessimistic about it:

We have played long enough with the toy of inter-nationalism. The problem we are facing is not a problem between nationalisms. It is a problem of a crisis in human society, caused by nationalism, and which consequently nationalism or internationalism can never solve.(3)

What is needed is universalism. A creed and a movement for creating a system of values which transcends the nation-state structure. Reves goes on to say:

To put it bluntly, the meaning of the crisis of the twentieth century is that this planet must to some degree be brought under unified control. Our task, our duty, is to attempt to institute this unified control in a democratic way, by first proclaiming its principles and to achieve it by persuasion and with the least possible bloodshed. If we fail to accomplish this, we can be certain that the iron law of history will compel us to wage more and more wars with more and more powerful weapons against more and more powerful groups, until unified control is finally attained through conquest.(4)

The political organisation proposed by Reves, as the only solution to the problem which confronts the world, is not dissimilar to the Islamic Social Order described above. We quote from another political thinker, F. Hertz, whose views will be found to be of great interest:

It is now generally recognised that a mere machinery of international organisation cannot work if the right spirit is lacking. But how can this spirit be created or strengthened. The proclamation of general principles obviously is not enough. Neither is it sufficient to lay down that nations must be educated towards that spirit, if a practicable plan and an adequate number of qualified educators are not available. The habit of treating such questions in an unrealistic and perfunctory way is bound to lead to failure, disillusionment and cynicism. Education towards world citizenship, moreover is not merely a matter for the schools, It is connected with all the great issues of political and economic life and could only be solved if the political nations of the world would adopt detailed plans based on identical principles.(5)

Prof. Cobban has expressed the same view:

The solution to which we are apparently forced is the creation of a World state.(6)

Laski appealed for the establishment of “a universal social order which shall be composed of members hailing from the four corners of the earth.”(7)

W.A. Gould is thinking on the same lines as the following quotation shows:

That our primary concern should be for ‘home and country’ is natural and proper but we cannot escape the implications of membership in world society.(8)


So far there has been little enough evidence of a generally felt sense of international unity embracing all mankind. It is too early yet to hope for this;  but that particular groups of individuals in various countries have it in a very practical degree, is the guarantee that in due time the active experience of world co-operation may be more widely shared.(9)

The more deeply modern thinkers probe into the situation the more convinced they become of the fact that the ultimate salvation of mankind lies in moulding the entire humanity into one single community. Warren Wagar has recently published an informative book the very title of which, The City of Man, suggests the theme he discusses. He has quoted extensively contemporary historians, scientists, theologians, thinkers, statesmen etc., of international fame prophesying the establishment of a world order before long. The chapter World Government  in his book opens with the remarks:

If it is the “ultimate question” before mankind, world government is also the most thoroughly explored aspect of the nascent world civilization in recent books on world problems. Predicting or proposing a world constitution was for several years during and after the Second World War a major national pastime of especially the English-speaking intelligentsia. In the late 1940’s the world government movement fathered about seventy organized groups around the world which enrolled hundreds of thousands of members. Nearly one quarter of the members of the American Congress and the British Parliament gave continuing support for years to resolutions favouring, in principle, a world federal government. Herbert J. Muller, at the close of his best-selling book The Uses of the Past, published in 1952, could reach “the commonplace conclusion” that man’s best hope lay in “some kind of world federation on a democratic basis.” H. Stuart Hughes in his Essay for Our Times spoke of “the solid and now familiar conviction that every nation must transfer the essentials of its sovereignty to a world authority.” For Norman Cousins, world government was simply “coming”.  It was inevitable. No arguments for it or against it can change that fact”. Prominent elder statesmen, scientists as famous as Albert Einstein, philosophers as famous as Bertrand Russell, churchmen, civic leaders, school children: the chorus grew until it seemed, for a brief deceptive moment, irresistible (p. 32).

Gunnar Myrdal writes in Beyond the Welfare State:

Clearly, the complete realisation of our ideals would create a world without boundaries and without national discrimination, a world where all men are free to move around as they wish and to pursue on equal terms their own happiness. Politically, the implication would be a world state, democratically ruled by the will of all peoples. Somewhere in the religious compartment of our souls we all harbour  . . . . this vision of a world in perfect integration (p. 163).

Pitirim Sorokin is of the opinion that “as part of a vast ensemble of social and cultural changes necessary for the elimination of war, some sort of world government is indispensable.”(10) Hugh Miller of the University of California writes:

Civilisation must recover the kinship of that association which originally established man on Earth, and which was then temporarily dispersed into clan and tribe and race … Civilisation is mankind made kin again, and kind. (The next step in man’s evolution must be) a world society embracing mankind in which all the traditional cultures are woven into the great society of the future.(11)

Teilhard de Chardin – “a mystic, a theist, a Jesuit, a scientist, an evolutionary humanist and a prophet of world order” – says:

There is only one way which leads upwards; the one which through greater organisation, leads to greater synthesis and unity. (The human consciousness must expand beyond) the broadening, but still far too restricted, circles of family, country and race. The Age of Nations is past. The task before us now, if we would not perish, is to shake off our ancient prejudices, and to build the Earth.(12)

Arnold Toynbee, the great historian, also visualises a world order “in which the whole of mankind will be able to live together in harmony, as members of a single all-inclusive family.”(13)

He elaborates this point in his small, yet very elucidating book, The Present Day Experiment in Western Civilisation, (1962), saying:

If we avoid committing mass-suicide, there is no reason why we should not eventually be able to have a world-state with a democratic parliamentary constitution. But if we are to avoid mass-suicide, we must have our world-state quickly, and this probably means that we must have it in a non-democratic constitutional form to begin with. Parliamentary government – and, a fortiori, democratic parliamentary government – is practicable only in a community whose members have a number of things in common-common political principles deriving from a common outlook that derives, in turn, from a common way of life. The different races, nations, civilisations, and religions of the present-day world are still far indeed from having even approached this degree of homogeneity and solidarity (p. 67).

And this is exactly what the Qur’an emphasised fourteen hundred years ago when it said:

Mankind is but one single community (2:213; 10:19).

The social order laid down by the Qur’an is the practical means to integrate mankind into one harmonious community. Such is the religion which Erich Fromm looks forward to appear within the next few hundred years,

a religion which corresponds to the development of the human race; the most important feature of such a religion would be its universalistic character, corresponding to the unification of mankind which is taking place in this epoch; it would embrace the humanistic teachings common to all great religions of the East and the West.

….. It will be the first fully human religion in history.(14)

According to Wagar:

A rational, ethical, practical faith, in harmony with science and enabling man at last to live in harmony with himself and the cosmos.(15)

The world need not wait for hundred years for such a “religion” to appear: it is already there preserved in the words of the Qur’an. The difficulty is that it has not been presented to the world in its true colour. And for this, we confess, the blame lies on us – the custodians of that Book.


  1. M. Iqbal, Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, p.147.
  2. J. M. Murray, Adam And Eve, p. 66.
  3. Emery Reves, The Anatomy of Peace, p. 164.
  4. Ibid. p. 233.
  5. F. Hertz, Nationality in History and Politics, p. 413.
  6. Alfred Cobban, op. cit., p. 225.
  7. Harold Laski, Human Rights, p. 91.
  8. W. A. Gould, Man, Nature and Time, p. 281.
  9. Ibid. p. 284.
  10. Pitirim Sorokin, The Reconstruction of Humanity, p. 18.
  11. Hugh Miller. The Community of Man, pp. 131; 140.
  12. Teilhard de Chardin, Building of the Earth, pp. 13; 16; 30.
  13. Arnold Toynbee. A Study of History, Vol. XII. p. 279.
  14. Erich Fromm. The Sane Society, p. 352.
  15. Warren Wagar, The City of Man, p. 168.

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