Discourse on Islamic Political Thought is a humble effort in that direction, its investigation being limited to the emergence of Islamic political thought (al-siyasah al-shar’iyyah) as a separate discipline in Islamic studies, an Islamic state in multiethnic societies, what type of system of government of an Islamic state could be called, the concept of political authority in Islam, legal sources of political representation in Islam, the basis of political representation in Islam, the majority principle (al-hukm al-aghlabiyyah) as decision-making procedures in Islam, the legitimacy of political authority in Islam, and al-shura as a mechanism for political representation in classical Islam.
The theory of state or government has ever been the most controversial issue in Islamic history. The reason for this controversy is due to its absence of detail in the Quran. The Holy book which regarded as the first source of rules in Islam only provides some fundamental principles pertaining to the political and constitutional affairs of Muslims. In other words, we can say that shariah refrains from providing detailed regulations for all changing requirements of our social existence. The need for continuous temporal legislation is, therefore, self-evident. In an Islamic state, this legislation would relate to many problems of administration not touched upon by the shariah. It is up to the community to evolve the relevant detailed legislation through an exercise of independent reasoning (ijtihad) in consonance with the spirit of Islamic law in the best interests of the nation. In matters affecting the communal side of our life, no legislative reasoning or decision can be left to the discretion of individuals, but they must be based on a definite consensus (ijma’) of the whole community.
According to the shariah, Islamic government must be based on popular consent and consultation. However, the ideal of an Islamic state, fully predicted upon the guidance of the shariah was actually realized only during the forty years of the time of Prophet Muhammad and the four Caliphs who followed him from the Islamic era, 622-661 AD. This ideal was undermined when Muʿāwiya ibn Abī Sufyān seized power by force in 661 AD. His seizure of power by force terminated, for all practical purposes, the idea of government by consent and consultation as commanded by the Quran. Muslims never have been able to restore the ideal of government by genuine consultation since the accession of Muʿāwiya to power.
The discrepancy between the constitutional ideas of the shariah, and the historical practices of most Muslim governments, since the end of the classical Caliphate, has caused a legal and moral dilemma for Muslims throughout history. How could the legitimacy of governments, which in most cases neither come to power nor to rule by genuine consultation, be reconciled with the command of the shariah stipulating government by consent and consultation?
These practices have been cited by concerned Muslims as a violation of the shariah. The acceleration of the colonial period exacerbated this dilemma. The secularization process won’t even further to undermine Muslim’s daily legal and moral life. The growing distance between the life commanded by the shariah and the actual daily life which is against Islam and the identity of its followers.
Historically, the reaction to this gradual estrangement from the teachings of Islam has ranged from reconciliation and resignation to total rejection. But the demand for the return to a life based upon the shari’ah has been consistently strong enough to be considered as an important source of tension in the Muslim community. In fact, this demand has been a leading cause of instability in Muslim societies.
Although the re-establishment of an Islamic government is regarded as the primary step towards improved Islamic life. However, the shariah does not prescribe a detailed governmental system applicable under all historical circumstances. Instead, the shariah provides only a broad constitutional framework that consists of divine precepts that are meant to be adapted to changing times. This orientation of the shariah requires that the demand to re-establish an Islamic constitutional ideal to be the needs of the time.
On this, however, Muslim scholars, have failed miserably. Their ceaseless demand to reestablish an Islamic constitution suffers historically from the lack of a meaningful program of action in the form of serious scholarly efforts to adapt the constitutional principles of the shariah to changing circumstances. Instead, the vast majority of Muslim reformers simply state the constitutional precepts of the shariah and call for their reintroduction to Muslim constitutional life. They do not show that this could be done practically. This shortcoming has reduced the practical significance of those demands and minimized their historical achievements.
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