Quran’s Concept Of Governance (Dr. Manzoor-ul-Haque)


Philip Babcock Gove, the lexicologist of ‘Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language defines governance as ‘the act or process of governing (P. 982).’ He further elaborates the verb govern as ‘to have decisive influence’,to exercise authority’, ‘to control and direct the making and administration of policy in’, ‘to implement and carry into effect policy decisions’ (P. 982).’ It means Governance is, hypothetically, the highest social institute which comes into effect to implement, enact and regulate, the rules and regulations of the State for the social human matters in the society. Three peculiar traits of governance have come to dominate during this age. These are:

(a)    The governance has nothing to do with the matters pertaining to religion and ethics.

(b)    The governance is comprehensive and composite, encompasses the entire life of the individual members of the society and is never accountable to anyone for its functions and decisions.

(c)    It engrails its power from the geographical boundaries for its nationalism.

The protagonists of item (a) of this concept of governance brag and vaunt that the State does not interfere in private and religious matters of its members. If some one penetrates deep into the matter, it would become clear that the State itself does never account for any code of ethics. And that the concept of State is founded on the Machiavellian doctrine, which pronounces three aspects:

(i)                  The State ought to be free of the bonds of ethics;

(ii)                Its ultimate goal is to preserve its own benefit;

(iii)               Every mean that leads to the accomplishment of this purpose is not only justified but is also applauded with syncopation.

In this way ‘expediency’ and ‘gain idee fixe’ become its motto theme. It does not consider itself to be liable to any code of ethics so it does not hold any individual accountable to any such mores and cores. All that is to be done is to see that the individual obeys its laws and for the rest of his/her matters, he/she is free to do anything.

So far is its second characteristic i.e., item (b)  – that it is a comprehensive and composite state – that it is all-powerful in its matters, it does not accept the authority of any one other than itself and does make no difference between autocracy and democracy. As the order of the autocrat is the last word, so is the decision of the 51% of the population – not accountable to anyone else.

Now the third characteristic of the State i.e., item (c), is that of its concept of nationalism. The stark fact is that nationalism is a vague term. It has not been defined comprehensively. All it orchestrates is that the people living within the geographic boundaries of any country under the governance of one State are the people of one nation. The interest of the nation dominates over all other interests. Preserving the interest of the nation becomes the greatest good, and the one who scarifies one’s life for the interest of the nation is thought to be a martyr.

Kalema: The Foundation of the Concept of Ideology

These are, in brief, the salient features of the modern system of governance. But from the Qura’n’s point of view, this all is basically wrong. The Qura’n develops its foundation on the concept of ideology, which is the other name of Deen (system of life) and Eeman (conviction). The State developed on this concept is called the Quranic State, which encompasses two groups of people: (i) the group whose members believe in the Qura’nic concept of Ideology and (ii) the group whose members do not believe in this Ideology. The members of the first group run the administration of this State and also look after the human rights of the second group so that the members of this group are not deprived of any human right.

The concept of Ideology makes it clear that the System of Governance is not all-powerful; it operates only within the limitations of the Ideology. It cannot function beyond these sanctions. These are permanent and the system is not empowered to cross them, neither  longitudinal, nor latitudinal.

This concept of Ideology basically transforms the idea of nationalism as false and farce. Now the foundation of the nationalism rests on boundary walls of the ideology and never on the geographical boundaries on which the country is founded, and never on color, creed, language or caste of its people. Thus, living in the same country without believing in its ideology, do not make them the members of that nation, and on the contrary, not living in that country, but believing in this ideology makes them the members of that nation. Beyond any shadow of doubt it can be said that it is based on:

Laa Elaa ha – Illa Ullaho – Muhammad-urr-Rasool Ullah

This is nothing but Kalema, the theory of life, or the concept of life. In the present day terminology, it is called Ideology. This Ideology encompasses three integral components:

(i)                  Laa Elaa ha; it means there is no authory in the universe to which the human may obey and act upon. If you reflect upon it, you’ll find how much elevation  and exaltedness has this ideology showered on the humans! It has provided that much freedom to the humans, which no one could even think of. Hobbs has said: Getting his order obeyed is the integral part of the human nature. The Qura’n has said: The human can get the things of nature obey him but no human has the authority to get his/her order obeyed by another human. Influenced by this very concept of the Qura’n, Bergson   -a renowned French philosopher,  has said: The concept of governance ought to be on the things andnot on the humans. The Qura’n has very explicitly elaborated this concept when it said:

No human has authority unto whom Allah had given the Book, and Nabuwwah that he should afterwards start saying unto the mankind: obey my orders (3: 79).

Just reflect over it: even the Nabi has been told: he enjoys no authority to get the mankind obey his orders.

It is here that you’ll say: it is nothing, but chaos in the society. If the human does not follow the orders of anyone, how will the society perpetuate and sustain its existence and identity?

(ii)        By keeping the human freedom resuscitating, the second integral part of Kalema has weeded out this element of chaos. It said: “Illa ullaho” i.e., but there is one Self to whose Laws, the obedience is indispensable. And this Self is the Self of Allah. It is suitable to quote Iqbal, who says: Obedience to the Laws of Allah is none else but the obedience to human’s own “ideal nature”. Like the humans, Allah too has a Personality. And the only difference is that Allah’s Personality is the most perfect, whereas the human develops his/her personality by manifesting those most perfect attributes of Allah’s Personality into the fiber of his/her own self. Wherever is the concept of personality, it will enjoy the same prerogatives. This all means that obeisance to Allah’s Laws is the obedience to the exigencies of human’s own “ideal nature”. These exigencies of “ideal nature” of the human are called the Permanent Values. These, according to the concept of the Qura’n, are the other name of the Allah’s attributes. Hence the obedience to the Laws of Allah means leading life in accordance with these Permanent Values. That is why the Qura’n enjoins: wa laa kin koonoo rabbaa niyyeena (3: 79). “And you ought to be Rabbaani, the ones who make others nourish. This renege, i.e., Laa Elaa ha as the first step – and then this affirmation, i.e., Illa ullaho as the second step – accomplishes the Qura’nic Ideology.

Up till now, the discourse has remained abstract in nature. It has not made it clear as to how the Laws of Allah would be acted upon. And that where the Laws of Allah are.

(iii)       Its answer lies in the third integral part of Kalema: Muhammad-urr-Rasool ullahe. These laws have been revealed to Muhammad (pbuh), the Messenger of Allah for the humans. And its detail has been given in the 79th verse of Surah Aal Imran, when it was said:

That it will be by virtue of this Book which you constantly read and the imprints thereof become deep rooted on the tender feelings of your heart. (3: 79)

Hence the Qura’nic Governance means the establishment of human society that regulates according to the Qura’nic Laws. This was the same phenomenon which the Qura’n revealed to the Messenger (pbuh) when it categorically enjoined upon him: So govern them, judge between them by that which Allah had revealed i. e. the Qura’n (5: 48), it means establish governance in line with the Qura’nic diction. The Qura’n has made this injunction the very criterion on the basis of which the concepts of Kufr i.e. the Denial and that of theEemaan i.e., the Conviction are judged. And the Qura’n has made it explicit when said: Whoso govern not by which Allah had revealed: such are Kaafir, i. e. they are the reneges of the Qura’nic Ideology. (5: 48)  It means the Qura’n forbids human to arrogate to him/her self the right to rule over other human; and yet it does not advocate a lawless, anarchical society. What it does is to lay down the principle that Allah alone has the right to rule over them (12: 40), and none has the right to share in it (18: 26). Controlling power of governance belongs to Allah alone.

Change and Permanence: A Crucial Question in the System of Governance

Now the crucial question is: What is the pragmatic form of this concept? For its answer, just consider the phenomenon of the human life. There are some urges of life that do not transform into any change. These unchanging urges of life are fundamental and basic and operate as the ab initio. These are termed as permanent values. But there are other exigencies of life, which go on changing with time, place and circumstances. In another way it can be said that the permanent values or the basic principles remain constant, resuscitating on their own position but the bye-laws framed to suit the changing exigencies of life go on changing with the demand of time and space. It is this which operated as one of the fundamental factors making this System of Governance unique among the various States of the world – whatever is their form of Government. It is its principle of law-making.

The Qura’n has provided guidance for these two, constant and changing, aspects of life. It said: ‘We have given thee guidance for both the code of the Basic Principles and that of the oft-repeated eventualities of life, (15: 87). These permanent and unchanging principles are those sanctions which provide the boundary lines with which the humans exercise their freedom of choice and will. And for this purpose they devise the bye-laws to suit the genesis with mutual consultation. For this purpose, the Messenger (pbuh) was told first of all,

And consult with your associates, companions upon the conduct of affairs of governance (3: 158).

And after the Messenger (pbuh) it was told about the Muslims in the Qura’n:

The affairs of their governance will be settled with mutual consultation (42: 38).

With this natural mix of permanence and change, this System of Governance will continue its process of evolution for the guidance of the humanity. The Qura’n has given the basic principle of mutual consultation and has not dealt with its bye-laws. The implementing agency of this mutual consultation will go on changing the bye-laws as the requirements of the changing circumstances demand. But the consultation will never fall prey to the unrestrained misdirection, to the chaos of democratic system in vogue to day, because none will be authorized to cross the boundary walls the Qura’n has set permanently. If the judgements of the counsel break these boundaries, the governance will never remain Qura’nic in nature.

To be very specific, we can elaborate this concept of law-making on these lines. The laws, directives, principles and values given by the Qura’n are complete, final, eternal and  immutable. None, not even the entire Ummah has the authority to add to, subtract from or make any alteration therein. But it does not prescribe details thereof with the exception of a very few laws, it demarcates the boundary lines of what is lawful and what is unlawful. These lines no one has the right to transgress: not even the entire community. Within these lines, – the permanent values – the System of Governance is free to frame such bye-laws as the needs and exigencies of the time require. These bye-laws are, of course, subject to change and may be revised or even abrogated by the Ummah by mutual consultation (42: 38), leaving the boundary lines untouched. This is the place where an Islamic System of Governance differs from that of the system of democracy of the west. According to western democracy, the people have unbridled power to frame any laws, whereas, the consultative machinery (whatever be its form) of the Ummah can frame bye-laws, sub-laws, subsidiary laws only within the boundary lines framed by the Qura’n.

Objectives of System of Governance

The main objective of this System of Governance is to provide the individual with full scope of self-development, which means nourishment of his/her physical body as well as development of his/her personality. Its basic principles are that the individual is the focus of values and the system exists to enable the individual to develop and express him/her self to the full extent of his/her capacity. One of its spikes will be the system of education. It lays primary stress on personal growth. A System of Governance based on these principles will be composed of free individuals, each enriching his/her life by working for the enrichment of all life, and each moving onward by helping others to do the same but within the boundaries the Qura’n has prescribed.

You have visualized so far, that the governance in consonance with the Qura’n is not an end in itself; it is a mean towards the achievement of higher objectives as an end. In other words, according to the Qura’n’s concept, the governance is the collective system in which the facets, the attributes of Allah (swt), materialize concretely in the human affairs. Philosophically we call it objectivization of permanent values. And since these permanent values are the reflection of “ideal nature” of the human, the governance is the collective system/order, through which the latent potentialities of the individual members get developed. In the language of philosophy we call this process as actualization of realizable human potentialities. This is the very concept of the governance, which the Qura’n burgeons with the verse of Al-Hamdo Lillahe Rabb el Aalameen (1: 1). And looking to the resulting consequences of its pragmatic form the spontaneous remarks that emerge are: this is the worthwhile, the worth-appreciating system, which cultivates the nourishment of the entire humanity in resonance with what the Qura’n enjoins. For this noble purpose of nourishment, the humans, according to the Qura’n, are expected to enter into a contract between this Qura’nic System of Governance and the individuals of this State. The binding of this contract is that the individuals of this State hand over their acquired or intuitive earnings, their lives and wealth, to the System of Governance, and as a reward thereof this System grants them Al-Jannah, the Heaven (9: 111) – the state of perfect self-fulfillment. Like any mundane contract, this covenant comprises:

  1. The buyer  -Allah
  2. The seller  -the believer
  3. The goods sold  -the life and the possessions of the believer
  4. The price  – Al-Jannah

And the detail of Al-Jannah as a state of life has been given in the entire Qura’n. This state of life includes the attainment of all the pleasant entities of this life and the development of the latent potentialities of the human self due to which the human becomes able to pass the next higher plane of life. In this Heaven, providing the basic necessities of life becomes the prime duty of the System of Governance. That is why the Qura’n makes it very clear when it says: “It is (vouchsafed) unto thee that thou hungerest not therein, nor art naked, and thou thirst not therein, nor art exposed to the sun’s heat (20: 118-119). And along with that it was also conveyed that they will have no fear or grief of any kind. It will, therefore, be the prime responsibility of this Qura’nic System of Governance that it provides the basic necessities of life: articles of subsistence, clothing, housing facilities, education, protection and security to the entire humanity.

Summarizing this concept we can say that according to the Qura’n, it is incumbent upon this System of Governance to provide for the basic necessities of each and all members comprising it, and make suitable arrangements for the development, nourishment of their human potentialities. In this way the System of Governance that is established in the name of Allah is bound to proclaim:

We shall provide for you and your children (6: 152).

It is distinctly clear from this that no system of governance could discharge this responsibility unless, and until it has the various means of production under its control and the necessary resources at its disposal. It may be reiterated, and should in no case be lost sight of, that this System of Governance takes under its control means of production with a view to discharge its huge responsibility of providing necessities of life for all the members of the society. If it fails to do so, it shall have no right to touch these resources.

Accomplishment of an Underlying Principle

The underlying principle for the growth and development of human personality is expressed as:

an individual should work hard, earn and produce as much as possible, keep what is basically and essentially necessary for his/her own upkeep, and hand over the rest to the System of the Governance for meeting out the necessities of others in need.

For this purpose the Qura’n ordained: And they ask thee as to what should they give (for the benefit of others) – Say: “whatever is surplus to your own requirements” (2: 219). And in this accomplishment their attitude should be such as to declare: We desire from you neither reward nor thanks (76: 9).

A Fundament Question of Motivated Incentive

Here a fundamental question arises:

What is the incentive motivated by which an individual should work, and continue to work, up to his/her full capacity; retain for him/her self only to the extend that fulfils his/her necessities; and make over the rest to the society, for meeting out the necessities of others in need?

And still further why to obey this verse:

They prefer others before themselves although there be indigence among them (59: 9).

The motives the Qura’n provides are unique in nature. It emphasizes:

Human body develops by what the individual concerned takes, while his/her personality develops by what he/she gives.

This constitutes the basic motive for the establishment of the System of Governance. And along with it, this should never be lost sight of that this System demands persons devoted to the cause purported for the accomplishment of this System.

An Example to Elaborate The Concept of Governance

The following example will make this process clear:

The responsibility of the Nabi, to whom Divine Guidance was revealed, was not only to communicate his revelation, but also to establish a system of governance encompassing socio-politico-economic order in the light of the Guidance. Our Rasool, Muhammad (pbuh) established this system, guarantying thereby complete equality of all human beings (17: 70). The pursuit of individual interests was replaced by the ideal of good of the humanity at large. Oppression and exploitation were uprooted; and justice and equity prevailed. The dependence of human upon human and the subjugation of one over another were brought to an end. Every individual was assured the proper satisfaction of his/her needs. S/he, thereby, led a full life of satisfaction, peace and harmony. S/he did not owe obedience to any person or power, or authority except the Divine Laws enshrined in the Qura’n. Briefly, that system completely put an end to the rule of human over human, in any form, and with it the evil of capitalism. This system was called Deen in the Qura’nic terminology.

This System of Governance prevailed during the time of Muhammad (pbuh) and for sometime thereafter, when the forces of exploitation began to raise their ugly heads again. They scored their first success with the establishment of kingship – Mulookiyyat – sustained by capitalism. To ensure their survival and consolidation, these forces availed themselves of the co-operation of man who appeared in the robes of piety and spoke in the name of Allah. They posed as the interpreters of Allah’s will and thus distorted principles, injunctions, values and tenets of Deen which no longer remained a living force in the society and were reduced to soul-less beliefs, lifeless dogmas and formal, mere, rituals divorced from reason, and realities of life. They framed rules and laws to suit the purpose of monarchy, and sought to keep the common human entangled in the labyrinth of these dogmas and rituals, and the exploiters – religious as well as temporal – were left free to maintain their stranglehold upon the defrauded masses. This was the metamorphosis of Deen into Mazhab, which word – by the way – does not occur anywhere in the Qura’n. The Qura’n, the Book of Allah, though remained intact but was never allowed to play any part in the practical life of the Muslims.


So the final analysis of the things is to be kept in mind for the System of Governance is “Human body develops by what the individual concerned takes, while his/her personality develops by what he/she gives”. And for this purpose one is required to work hard, earn and produce as much as possible, keep what is basically and essentially necessary for his/her own upkeep, and hand over the rest to the System of the Governance for meeting out the necessities of others in need. And this entails a System of Education to develop such persons.

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