Establishing an Islamic Government: A Note on Realism

An Islamic state cannot be superimposed. It is a product of a people’s beliefs and practices; something akin to a culture. A culture is produced by a people. It appears automatically in a society, and a nation, whose members hold in common certain opinions, follow a certain faith (or faiths), share certain ideas, aims and objectives, hopes and fears, writes SYED IQBAL ZAHEER.


ontemporary Muslims, especially the youth, are deeply concerned about the corruptions, wrongs, injustices in their countries, and, specifically, the destruction of their lands and peoples by the enemies of Islam and Muslims, all over the globe. They are led to believe that the only solution is to establish Islamic governments, which can protect them from external enemies and do justice to all citizens by removing political, economic, and social inequalities, and, in addition, establish law and order. Finally, though not truly finally, the Islamization of the state should lead the nation to the kind of material development that the West has achieved. Indeed, one wonders whether the incessant call for Islamization of state is for political or religious regions.

We have as often written on this topic, as often we have been asked, and have tried to explain various aspects of the problem, the objective, the aspiration and the ambition. In this particular article, we shall attempt at exploring the practical ways that might have to be taken in this regard.

To start with, a survey needs to be conducted to discover the percentage of people offering five daily prayers, the percentage offering Zakah, number of women who practice Hijab (even if not Niqab), and the percentage that takes interest-based loans from the financial institutions or individuals. If the great majority (about 70%) do prayers, offer Zakah, wear Hijab, and, let us say 95% do not borrow interest-bearing loans, then the situation promises that if an Islamic government is established, it will not be sabotaged by its own people, at the very start.

We say at the very start because, the financial test is yet to come. That is, the above conditions might be met, but the next step of survey must also pass the test, namely, the willingness of the masses to lead a frugal life, whereby, the masses demand for no more than necessities of life, say, at least for next ten years, and the moneyed class supports the measures that would be taken to spread the wealth and end its concentration in a few hands.

The masses and the elites must be made to realize that setting up an Islamic system of government makes these demands on them. Material benefits of the new system cannot be promised, neither in the short term nor long. At the start, willingness to a lower standard of life on the part of all classes will have to be assured for long-term benefits to appear. And, the masses need to understand that such long-term benefits could be non-material.

In the next step, a survey must be conducted to determine the level of Shari`ah enforcement that would be acceptable to the masses. For example, are they willing to the enforcement of hudud (capital punishments), absolute prohibition of wine, drugs, gambling, night clubs etc. (meaning closing down all such businesses)?

If the masses are willing to close down all such businesses, then the rich classes must be ready to pool money at the start of the affair, to make sure that funds are available as loans for those who will lose business, to start new ventures.

With the approval obtained, the method of formation of the government (whether by vote or Mushawarah, and the tenure, etc.) must be worked out. In other words, a theoretical model must be placed on the table by the experts in administration, policies, bureaucracy, finance, law, internal security, defense, and so forth. The non-experts, no matter how pious or religiously learned, must be kept out of any such team. The experts, attempting to plan a model, may not be of very high learning.

In the next step, a try-out of the theoretical model must be attempted at a lower level (say at the Corporation level), before the effort to establish an Islamic system of government at the state level. This will help uncover the problems that are not visible to the planners at the table.

Of course, while that goes on, official cadre to run the state must be trained whose efficiency and integrity must be assured. Religiousness, as pointed out above, is not an important factor. Enough it would be that they are not Fasiq. In other words, a high-level of piety is, although desirable, not essential. It would be enough if they are true to the pillars of Islam, and commit no wrong against Islam. In contrast, both efficiency and integrity are of extreme importance. By integrity, we mean commitment to Islam and Muslims, honesty in all their private and public affairs, and abstinence from every kind of prohibition announced by the Shari`ah. That assured, a less than perfect set of determined men and women in the administration would suffice.

The ambition of establishing the Madinan model, somewhere in the far future, must be preceded by the establishment of the model at the individual and societal level, and not necessarily at the political level. This is because a model government can be postponed, but governance itself, of whatever quality, cannot be postponed without inviting anarchy. In other words, the quality of government comes only after some sort of governance is established.

This leads to the conflict between the Islamic need, desire and dream of the politically conscious, and the elements that hold power in Muslim societies. That is the reason why, a consensus has to be first established, regarding introduction of the Shari`ah and ushering of an Islamic rule.

In the next step (or, perhaps, we should say, in parallel) the group given to taking charge of running the Islamic state must create a fund to offset the losses in taxes, meet with the operational costs for a few years, and be able to offer loans to business that were closed (such as, wine industry) to establish alternative businesses, or to such as were relying on banks to run their business.

A scheme to employ the unemployed, grants to the aged and disabled must be in place and funds available. Until this is achieved there can be no talk of the imposition of the hudud.

But, no less important, funds for the military and defense related industries and research centers must be available in the treasury.

Raising funds will take the best time and efforts by those working to establish an Islamic state, seeing that when they come to power, they might have to reduce all kinds of taxes, in order to please the public, which will mean emptying the exchequer.

The above is theory. In practice, it might not be easy to achieve as planned for several reasons but we do not wish to discuss those difficulties here. Yet, it might be pointed out that those who talk about it most, realize the complications least, with no, or little, idea of what an Islamic state is (apart from an idealistic and idyllic view of it), nor do they have any idea of what a secular state is (except that it is one which is open to criticism, and, somehow, anti-Islamic) – and how it runs.

In sum, it should be understood that Islamization of a state is actually Islamization of a people. If the majority of a people are Islamized, the Islamic state will gradually grow into a reality, without any specific efforts directed toward it. An Islamic state cannot be superimposed. It is a product of a people’s beliefs and practices; something akin to a culture. A culture is produced by a people. It appears automatically in a society, and a nation, whose members hold in common certain opinions, follow a certain faith (or faiths), share certain ideas, aims and objectives, hopes and fears. The majority share at least one language to exchange ideas, hold on to certain ethical values, are faithful to their own nation or society, and feel proud of belonging to that society or state.

Mujaddid Alf Thani did not claim to establish Hukumat-e-Ilahiyyah (an Islamic government). He did not write books on how to establish an Islamic state, or what it would look like when established, or, the steps and the revolutionary spirit required, and so on. He did not criticize, analyze, those who did, or did not do, it in the past. In fact, he hardly wrote books. But through his 600 letters soaked in sincerity, written to individuals, of all calling, pauper to princes, he pleaded for Qur’an and Sunnah a place in the heart. When the princes and paupers, gave an ear, and a little place in their hearts, Allah, the Shaakir (the Appreciator) set His forces to work, resulting in the Revival of Islam (which does not mean there would not have been other forces at work).

Efforts to establish an Islamic government remains a sublime task. Knowledge and submission are the necessary and absolute elements. A people submitted but ignorant, are disqualified; and a people knowledgeable but dormant are dismissible.

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