Pre-Islamic Arabia was divided
into tribes continually at war with one another. Each tribe had
its own chief, its own god and its own poet, whose tribal
patriotism manifested itself chiefly in the glorification of the
virtues of his own tribe. Though these primitive social groups
recognised, to a certain extant, their kinship with one another,
yet it was mainly the authority of Muhammad and the cosmopolitan
character of his teaching which shattered the aristocratic ideals
of individual tribes, and welded the dwellers of tents into one
common ever-expanding nationality.
"The idea of hereditary monarchy ... was quite foreign to the Arab mind."
For our purposes, however, it is necessary to notice, in the
outset, the features of the Arabian system of tribal succession,
and the procedure followed by the members of the tribe on the
death of their chief. When the Chief or Shaikh of an Arab tribe died all the elders
of the tribe met together, and, sitting in a circle, discussed the
matter of succession. Any member of the tribe could hold the
chieftainship if he were unanimously elected by the elders and
heads of great families. The idea of hereditary monarchy, as Von
Kremer has pointed out, was quite foreign to the Arab mind; though
the principle of seniority which, since Ahmad I., has received
legal recognition in the constitution of modern Turkey, did
certainly influence the election. When the tribe was equally
divided between two leaders, the rival sections separated from each
other until one of the candidates relinquished his claims;
otherwise the sword was appealed to. The Chief thus elected could
be deposed by the tribe if his conduct necessitated deposition. With the expansion of the Arab conquest, and the consequent
enlargement of mental outlook, this primitive custom gradually
developed into a Political Theory carefully constructed, as we
shall see, by the constitutional lawyers of Islam through
reflective criticism on the revelations of political
True to this custom the Prophet of Arabia left no instructions
with regard to the matter of succession. There is a tradition that
the old Amir, son of Tufail, came to the Prophet and said,
"If I embrace Islam what would my rank be? Wilst thou give me the
command after thee?" "It does not belong to me," said
the Prophet, "to dispose of the command after me."
Abu Bakr — the Prophet's father-in-law and one of his chief
companions — therefore, in consequence of the danger of internal
disruption, was rather hurriedly and irregularly elected. He then
rose and addressed the people thus:
"Oh people! Now I am ruler over you, albeit not the best amongst
you. If I do well, support me; if ill, then set me right. Follow
the true wherein is faithfulness, eschew the false wherein is
treachery. The weaker amongst you shall be as the stronger with
me, until, that I shall have redressed his wrong; and the stronger
shall be as the weaker until, if the Lord will, I shall have taken
from him that which he hath wrested. Leave not off to fight in the
ways of the Lord; whosoever leaveth off, him verily shall the Lord
abase. Obey me as I obey the Lord and his Prophet, wherein I
disobey, obey me not."
"Omar ... is reported to have said, an election which is only a partial expression of the people's will is null and void. It was, therefore, early understood that Political Sovereignty de facto resides in the people."
Omar, however, afterwards held that the hurried election of Abu
Bakr, though very happy in its consequences and justified by the
need of the time, should not form a precedent in Islam; for, as he
is reported to have said (Dozy, I., p. 121), an election which is
only a partial expression of the people's will is null and void. It was, therefore, early understood that Political
Sovereignty de facto resides in the people; and that the
electorate, by their free act of unanimous choice embody it in a
determinate personality in which the collective will is, so to
speak, individualised, without investing this concrete seat of
power with any privilege in the eye of the law except legal
control over the individual wills of which it is an expression.
The idea of universal agreement is, in fact, the fundamental
principle of Muslim constitutional theory. "What the Muslim
community considers good," says the Prophet, "God also
considers good." It is probably on the authority of this
saying of the Prophet that Al-Ash'arī developed his political dogma
— "That error is impossible in the united deliberations of the
whole community." After the death of Abu Bakr, Omar, who acted
as Chief Judge during his predecessor's Caliphate, was universally
elected by the people. In 644 A.D. he was mortally wounded by a Persian slave, and
committed his trust, before he died, to seven electors — one of
them being his own son — to nominate his successor, with the
condition that their choice must be unanimous, and that none of
them must stand as a candidate for the Caliphate. It will be seen, from Omar's exclusion of his own son from the
candidature, how remote was the idea of hereditary monarchy from
the Arabian political consciousness. The choice of this council, however, fell upon one of the
councillors, Uthman, who was consequently nominated, and the
nomination afterwards confirmed by the people. The Caliphate of
Uthman is really the source of the three great religio-political
parties with their respective political theories which each party,
finding itself in power, attempted to realise in one or other of
the provinces of the Arab Empire.
Before, however, I proceed to describe these theories, I want
to draw your attention to the following two points:
That the Muslim Commonwealth is based on the absolute
equality of all Muslims in the eye of the law. There is no
privileged class, no priesthood, no caste system. In his later
days the Prophet once ascended the pulpit and said to the people:
"Muslims! If I have struck anyone of you, here is my back that
he may strike me. If anyone has been wronged by me, let him return
injury for injury. If I have taken anybody's goods, all that I
have is at his disposal."
A man arose and claimed a debt of three dirhams (about three
shillings). "I would much rather,"
said the Prophet, "have the shame in this world than in the
next." And he paid him on the spot.
"The law of Islam does not recognise the apparently natural differences of race, nor the historical differences of nationality. The political ideal of Islam consists in the creation of a people born of a free fusion of all races and nationalities."
The law of Islam does not recognise the apparently natural
differences of race, nor the historical differences of
nationality. The political ideal of Islam consists in the creation
of a people born of a free fusion of all races and nationalities.
Nationality with Islam is not the highest limit of political
development; for the general principles of the law of Islam rest on
human nature, not on the peculiarities of a particular people.
The inner cohesion of such a nation would consist not in ethnic or
geographic unity, not in the unity of language or social
tradition, but in the unity of the religious and political ideal;
or, in the psychological fact of "likemindedness" as St.
Paul would say. The membership of this nation, consequently, would
not be determined by birth, marriage, domicile or naturalisation.
It would be determined by a public declaration of
"likemindedness," and would terminate when the individual has
ceased to be likeminded with others. The ideal territory for such a nation would be the whole earth.
The Arabs, like the Greeks and the Romans, endeavoured to create
such a nation or the world-state by conquest, but failed to
actualise their ideal. The realisation of this ideal, however, is
not impossible; for the ideal nation does already exist in germ. The
life of modern political communities finds expression, to a great
extent, in common institutions, Law and Government; and the
various sociological circles, so to speak, are continually
expanding to touch one another. Further it is not incompatible with the sovereignty of
individual States; since its structure will be determined, not by
physical force, but by the spiritual force of a common ideal.
That according to the law of Islam there is no distinction
between the Church and the State. The State with us is not a
combination of religious and secular authority, but it is a unity
in which no such distinction exists. The Caliph is not necessarily
the high-priest of Islam; he is not the representative of God on
earth. He is fallible like other men, and is subject, like every
Muslim, to the impersonal authority of the same law. The Prophet
himself is not regarded as absolutely infallible by many Muslim
theologians (e.g., Abu Ishaq, Tabari).
In fact the idea of personal authority is quite contrary to the
spirit of Islam. The Prophet of Arabia succeeded in commanding the
absolute submission of an entire people; yet no man has
depreciated his own authority more than he. "I am," he
says, "a man like you; like you my forgiveness also depends on
the mercy of God."
Once in a moment of spiritual exaltation, he is reported to
have said to one of his companions, "Go and tell the people
— he who says — 'There is only one God' — will
enter paradise," studiously omitting the second half of the
Muslim creed — "And Muhammed is his Prophet." The ethical importance of this attitude is great. The whole
system of Islamic ethics is based on the idea of individuality;
anything which tends to repress the healthy development of
individuality is quite inconsistent with the spirit of Islamic Law
and Ethics. A Muslim is free to do anything he likes, provided he
does not violate the law. The general principles of this law are
believed to have been revealed; the details, in order to cover the
relatively secular cases, are left to the interpretation of
professional lawyers. It is, therefore, true to say that the entire fabric of Islamic
Law, actually administered, is really judge-made law, so that the
lawyer performs the legislative function in the Muslim
constitution. If, however, an absolutely new case arise which is
not provided for in the law of Islam, the will of the whole Muslim
community becomes a further source of law. But I do not know
whether a general council of the whole Muslim community was ever
held for this purpose.
I shall now describe the three great Political Theories to
which I have alluded above. I shall first take up the Sunni view.
I. ELECTIVE MONARCHY.
A. The Caliph and the People.
[ The Sunni View]
During the days of the early Caliphate things were extremely
simple. The Caliphs were like private individuals, sometimes doing
the work of an ordinary constable. In obedience to the Quranic
verse — "And consult them in all matters," — they always
consulted the more influential companions of the Prophet in
judicial and executive matters, but no formal ministers existed to assist the Caliph in his administrative work. It was not until the time of the House of Abbas that the
Caliphate became the subject of scientific treatment. In my
description of the Sunni view I shall mainly follow Al-Māwardy —
the earliest Muslim constitutional lawyer who flourished during
the reign of the Abbasi Caliph Al-Qādir.
Al-Māwardy divides the whole Muslim community into two classes:
(1) the electors, (2) the candidates for election. The qualifications absolutely necessary for a candidate are
thus enumerated by him:
- Spotless character.
- Freedom from physical and mental infirmity. The predecessor of the present Sultan of Turkey was deposed under this condition.
Necessary legal and theological knowledge in
order to be able to decide various cases. This is true in theory; in practice the power of the Caliph, especially in
later times, was divided.
- Insight necessary for a ruler.
- Courage to defend the empire.
- Relationship with the family of the Quraish. This
qualification is not regarded as indispensable by modern Sunni lawyers, on the ground
that the Prophet never nominated any person as his successor.
- Full age (Al-Ghāzalī). It was on this ground that the
Chief Judge refused to elect Al-Muqtadir.
- Male sex (Al-Baidawī). This is denied by the Khawarij
who hold that a woman can be elected as Caliph.
If the candidate satisfies these conditions, the
representatives of all influential families, doctors of law, high
officials of the State, and commanders of the army meet together
and nominate him to the Caliphate. The whole assembly then
proceeds to the mosque where the nomination is duly confirmed by
the people. In distant places representatives of the elected
Caliph are permitted to receive homage on behalf of the Caliph. In
the matter of election the people of the capital, however, have no
precedence over other people — though, in practice, they have a
certain amount of precedence, since they are naturally the first
to hear of the Caliph's death. After the election, the Caliph usually makes a speech, promising
to rule according to the law of Islam. Most of these speeches are
preserved. It will be seen that the principle of representation
is, to a certain extent, permitted in practical politics; in the
law of property, however, it is expressly denied. For instance, if
B. dies in the lifetime of his father A. and his
brother C., leaving issue, the whole property of A.
goes to C. The children of B. have no claim; they
cannot represent their father, or "stand in his shoes."
"The Caliph does not occupy any privileged position. ... He can be directly sued in an ordinary law court."
From a legal standpoint, the Caliph does not occupy any
privileged position. In theory, he is like other members of the
Commonwealth. He can be directly sued in an ordinary law court.
The second Caliph was once accused of appropriating a larger share
in the spoils of war, and he had to clear his conduct before the
people, by production of evidence according to the law of Islam.
In his judicial capacity he is open to the criticism of every
Muslim. Omar I. was severely reprimanded by an old woman who
pointed out to him that his interpretation of a certain Quranic
verse was absolutely wrong. The Caliph listened to her argument,
and decided the case according to her views.
The Caliph may indicate his successor who may be his son; but
the nomination is invalid until confirmed by the people. Out of
the fourteen Caliphs of the House of Umayya only four succeeded in
securing their sons as their successors. The Caliph cannot secure the election of his successor during
his own lifetime. Ibn Athir tells us that Abdul Malik — the Umayya
Caliph — endeavored to do so, but Ibn Musayyib, the great Mekkan
lawyer, strongly protested against the Caliph's behavior. The
Abbasi Caliph Hadi, however, succeeded in securing the election of
his son Ja'far, but after his death the majority declared for Harun.
In such a case, when the people declare for another Caliph, the one
previously elected must, on penalty of death, immediately renounce
his right in public.
If the Caliph does not rule according to the law of Islam, or
suffers from physical or mental infirmity, the Caliphate is
forfeited. Usually one influential Muslim stands up in the
mosque after the prayer, and speaks to the congregation giving
reasons for the proposed deposition. He declares deposition to be
in the interest of Islam, and ends his speech by throwing away his
finger-ring with the remark: "I reject the Caliph as I throw
away this ring." The people then signify their assent in
various ways, and the deposition is complete.
The question whether two or more rival Caliphates can exist
simultaneously is discussed by Muslim lawyers. Ibn Jama' holds that
only one Caliphate is possible. Ibn Khaldun holds that there is
nothing illegal in the co-existence of two or more Caliphates,
provided they are in different countries. Ibn Khaldun's view is
certainly contrary to the old Arabian idea, yet in so far as the
Muslim Commonwealth is governed by an impersonal authority, i.e.,
law, his position seems to me to be quite a tenable one. Moreover,
as a matter of fact, two rival Caliphates have existed in Islam
for a long time and still exist.
Just as a candidate for the Caliphate must have certain
qualifications, so, according to Al-Māwardy, the elector also must
be qualified. He must possess:
- Good reputation as an honest man.
- Necessary knowledge of State affairs.
- Necessary insight and judgment.
"In theory all Muslims, men and women, possess the right of election."
In theory all Muslims, men and women, possess the right of
election. There is no property qualification. In practice,
however, women and slaves did not exercise this right. Some of the
early lawyers seem to have recognized the danger of mass-elections,
as they endeavor to show that the right of election resides only
in the tribe of the Prophet. Whether the seclusion of women grew
up in order to make women incapable of exercising a right which in
theory could not be denied to them, I cannot say.
The elector has the right to demand the deposition of the
Caliph, or the dismissal of his officials if he can show that there
conduct is not in accordance with the law of Islam. He can, on the
subject, address the Muslim congregation in the mosque after the
prayer. The mosque, it must be remembered, is the Muslim Forum,
and the institution of daily prayer is closely connected with the
political life of Muslim communities. Apart from its spiritual and
social functions, the institution is meant to serve as a ready
means of constant criticism on the State. If, however, the elector
does not intend to address the congregation, he can issue a
judicial inquiry concerning the conduct of any State official, or
any other matter which affects the community as a whole. The
judicial inquiry as a rule, does not mention the name of any
individual. I quote an illustration in order to give an idea of
"In the name of God, most merciful and clement. What is the
opinion of the doctors of law, the guides of the people, on the
encouragement of the Zimmis, and on the assistance we can demand from
them, whether as clerks to the Amirs entrusted with the
administration of the country, or as collectors of taxes? ... Explain
the above by solid proofs, establish the orthodox belief by sound
arguments, and give your reasons. God will reward you."
Such judicial inquiries are issued by the State as well, and
when the lawyers give conflicting decisions, the majority
Forced election is quite illegal. Ibn Jama', an Egyptian lawyer, however, holds that forced election is legal in times of
political unrest. This opportunist view has no support in the law
of Islam; though, undoubtedly it is based on historical facts. Tartushi — a Spanish lawyer — would probably hold the same
view; for he says:
"Forty years of tyranny are better than one
hour of anarchy."
"The State, therefore, is a contractual organism, and implies rights and duties. ... The actual fact of election is a contract in consequence of which the Caliph has to do certain duties."
Let us now consider the relation between the elected and the
elector. Al-Māwardy defines this relation as "Aqd" — binding
together, contract. The State, therefore, is a
contractual organism, and implies rights and duties. He does not
mean, like Rousseau, to explain the origin of society by an
original social contract; he holds that the actual fact of
election is a contract in consequence of which the Caliph has to do
certain duties, e.g., to defend the religion, to enforce the law
of Islam, to levy customs and taxes according to the law of Islam,
to pay annual salaries and properly to direct the State treasury.
If he fulfils these conditions, the people have mainly two duties
in relation to him, e.g., to obey him, and to assist him in his
work. Apart from this contract, however, Muslim lawyers have also
enumerated certain cases in which obedience to the Caliph is not
necessary. The origin of the State then, according to Al-Māwardy, is not
force, but free consent of individuals who unite to form a
brotherhood, based upon legal equality, in order that each member
of the brotherhood may work out the potentialities of his
individuality under the law of Islam. Government, with him, is an
artificial arrangement, and is divine only in the sense that the
law of Islam — believed to have been revealed — demands peace and
B. Ministers and other Officials.
The Caliph, after his election, appoints the principal
officials of the State, or confirms those previously in office.
The following are the principal State officials with their duties
defined by the law:
1. The Wazir [Vizier]: The Prime Minister — either with limited or
The Wazir with unlimited powers must possess
the same qualifications as the Caliph, except that, according to
Al-Māwardy, he need not necessarily belong to the Quraish tribe.
He must be thoroughly educated especially in Mathematics, History,
and the Art of Speaking. He can perform all the functions of the
Caliph, except that he cannot nominate the Caliph's successor. He
can, without previous sanction of the Caliph, appoint officers of
the various departments of the State. The Wazir with limited
powers cannot do so. The dismissal of the Wazir with unlimited
powers means the dismissal of all officials appointed by him;
while the dismissal of the Wazir with limited powers does not lead to
the dismissal of the officials appointed by him.
More than one Wazir with unlimited powers cannot be appointed.
The governors of various provinces can appoint their own Wazirs.
A non-Muslim may be appointed Wazir with limited powers. The Shi'ah
dynasty of the Obaidies appointed a Jew to this position. An
Egyptian poet expresses their sentiments as follows:
"The Jews of our times have reached the goal of their ambition.
Theirs is all honor, theirs is all gold.
O people of Egypt, I
advise you to become Jews;
God himself has become a Jew!"
Next to the Wazir the most important executive
officers of the State were governors of various provinces. They
were appointed by the Caliph with limited or unlimited powers. The
governor with unlimited powers could appoint sub-governors to
adjoining smaller provinces. For instance the sub-governor of
Sicily was appointed by the Governor of Spain and that of Scind [Sindh] by
the Governor of Bassora [Basra]. This was really an attempt to create self-governing Muslim
colonies. The officer in charge was, so to speak, a miniature
Caliph of his province; he appointed his own Wazir, Chief Judge,
and other State officers. Where a special commander of the
provincial army was not appointed, the Governor, ex officio,
acted as the commander. This, however, was an error, since the governors became
gradually powerful and frequently asserted their independence. But
in his capacity of the commander, the governor had no right to
raise the salaries of his soldiers except in very special
circumstances. It was his duty to send all the money to the
central treasury after defraying the necessary State expenses. If
the provincial income fell short of the expenses, he could claim a
contribution from the central treasury. If he is appointed by the
Caliph, the death of the latter is not followed by his dismissal;
but if he is appointed by the Wazir, the death of the Wazir
means the dismissal of all governors appointed by him, provided
they are not newly confirmed in their respective posts.
The governor with limited powers was a purely executive
officer. He had nothing to do with judicial matters, and in
criminal matters too his authority was very much limited. Muslim lawyers, however, recognise a third kind of
governorship, i.e., by usurpation. But the usurper must fulfill
certain conditions before his claim is legally justified.
3. Commanders of armies.
Here too the distinction of limited
and unlimited powers is made, and the duties of commanders,
subordinate officers, and soldiers are clearly defined.
4. The Chief Judge.
The Chief Judge could be appointed by the
Caliph or the Wazir. According to 'Abu Hanifa, in some cases,
and according to Abu Jarir Tabary, a non-Muslim can be
appointed to administer the law of his co-religionists. The Chief Judge, as representative of the law of Islam,
can depose the Caliph — he can 'kill his own creator.' His death means
the dismissal of his staff; but the death of the sovereign is not
followed by the dismissal of the judges appointed by him. During an interregnum a judge can be elected by the people of a
town, but not during the sovereign's lifetime.
5. President of the Highest Court of Appeal and general control.
The object of this institution was to hear appeals and to exercise
a general supervision over all the departments of the State. Abdul
Malik — the Umayya Caliph and the founder of this court —
personally acted as the President, though more difficult cases he
transferred to Qazi Abu Idris. In later times the President was
appointed by the Caliph. During the reign of the Abbasi Caliph
al-Muqtadir, his mother was appointed President, and she used to
hear appeals, on Fridays, surrounded by judges, priests and other
notables. In one respect, the President of this Court differed from the
Chief Judge: He was not bound by the letter of the law like the
Qazi; his decisions were based on general principles of natural
justice, so that the President was something like the keeper of
the Caliph's conscience. He was assisted by a council of judges and lawyers whose duty
was to discuss every aspect of the case before the President
announced his decision. The importance of this institution may be judged from the fact
that it was among the few Muslim institutions which the Normans
retained after their conquest of Sicily in the 11th century.
II. THE SHI'AH VIEW.
"The Shi'ah view [that] the State is of divine origin and the ... Imam governs by divine right ... arose among an obscure Arabian sect known as Saba'ites."
According to the Shi'ah view the State is of divine origin, and
the Caliph or, as they call, Imam, governs by divine right. This view arose among an obscure Arabian sect known as
Saba'ites, whose founder, Abdullah ibn Saba, was a Jew of San'a in
Yemen. In the time of Uthman he became a convert to Islam, and
finally settled in Egypt where he preached his doctrine. This doctrine harmonized with the pre-Islamic habits of
political thought in Persia, and soon found a permanent home in
that country. The Imam, according to the Persians, is not elected
(the Shi'ahs of Oman, however, adopted the
elective principle and held that the Imam might be deposed) but appointed by God . He is
the re-incarnation of Universal Reason, he is endowed with all
perfections, his wisdom is superhuman and his decisions are
absolute and final.
The first Imam, Ali, was appointed by Muhammad; Ali's direct
descendants are his divinely ordained successors. The world is
never without a living Imam whether visible or invisible. The
12th Imam, according to the Shi'ahs, suddenly disappeared near
Kufa, but he will come again and fill the world with peace and
prosperity. In the meantime he communicates his will, from time to
time, through certain favored individuals — called Gates — who hold
mysterious intercourse with him. Now this doctrine of the absence of the Imam has a very
important political aspect which few students of Islam have fully
appreciated. Whether the Imam really disappeared or not, I do not
know; but it is obvious that the dogma is a clever way of
separating the Church and the State. The absent Imam, as I have pointed out above, is absolute
authority on all matters; the present executive authorities are,
therefore, only guardians of the estate which really belongs to the
Imam, who, as such, inherits the property of deceased intestates in
case they leave no heirs. It will therefore be seen that the authority of the Shah of
Persia is limited by the authority of the Mullas — the
representatives of the absent Imam. As a mere guardian of the
estate he is subject to the religious authority of the Mullas,
though, as the chief executive authority he is free to adopt any
measure for the good of the estate. It is not, therefore, surprising that the Mullas took an
active part in the recent constitutional reform in Persia.
III. THE KHAWARIJ — REPUBLICANISM.
I shall be very brief in my account of the Khawarij,
since the history of their opinion is yet to be worked out.
The first Muslims who were so called were the notorious 12,000
who revolted against Ali after they had fought under him at the
battle of Siffin. They were offended at his submitting the
decision of his right to the Caliphate to the arbitration of men
when, in their opinion, it ought to have been submitted to the law
of God — the Quran. "The nation," they said to Ali, "calls
us to the Book of God; you call us to the sword." Shahristani divides them into twenty-four sects, differing
slightly from one another in legal and constitutional opinion,
e.g., that the ignorance of the law is a valid excuse; that the
adulterer should not be stoned, for the Quran nowhere mentions
this punishment; that the hiding of one's religious opinions is
illegal; that the Caliph should not be called the commander of the
faithful; that there is nothing illegal in having two or more
Caliphs in one and the same time. In East Africa and Mazab — South
Algeria — they still maintain the simplicity of their republican
ideal. Broadly speaking, the Khawarij can be divided into three
- Those who hold that there must be an elected Caliph, but it
is not necessary that he should belong to a particular family or
tribe. A woman or even a slave could be elected as Caliph provided
he or she is a good Muslim ruler. Whenever they found themselves
in power, they purposely elected their Caliph from among the
socially lowest members of their community.
- Those who hold that there is no need of a Caliph — the
Muslim congregation can govern themselves.
- Those who do not believe in Government at all — the
anarchists of Islam. To them Caliph Ali is reported to have
said: "You do not believe in any Government, but there must be
some Government — good or bad."
"It is clear that the fundamental principle laid down in the Quran is the principle of election."
Such are, briefly, the main lines of Political Thought in
Islam. It is clear that the fundamental principle laid down in the
Quran is the principle of election; the details or rather the
translation of this principle into a workable scheme of Government
is left to be determined by other considerations. Unfortunately, however, the idea of election did not develop on
strictly democratic lines, and the Muslim conquerors consequently
failed to do anything for the political improvement of Asia. The
form of election was certainly maintained in Baghdad and Spain, but
no regular political institutions could grow to vitalise the
people at large. It seems to me that there were principally two reasons for this
want of political activity in Muslim countries:
- In the first place the idea of election was not at all
suited to the genius of the Persians and the Mongols — the two
principal races which accepted Islam as their religion. Dozy tells
us that the Persians were even determined to worship the Caliph as
a divinity, and on being told that worship belonged to God alone,
they attempted to rebel against the Caliph who would not be the
centre of their religious emotion.
- The life of early Muslims was a life of conquest. Their
whole energy was devoted to political expansion which tends to
concentrate political power in fewer hands, and thus serves as an
unconscious handmaid of despotism. Democracy does not seem to be
quite willing to get on with Empire — a lesson which the modern
English Imperialist might well take to heart.
In modern times — thanks to the influence of Western political
ideas — Muslim countries have exhibited signs of political life.
England has vitalised Egypt; Persia has received a constitution
from the Shah, and the gifted people of this country will, I hope, gradually work out their transformation if the flood of Western economic enterprise does not sweep away their political individuality. The Young Turkish Party too have been
struggling, scheming, and plotting to achieve their object. But it is absolutely necessary for these political reformers to
make a thorough study of Islamic constitutional principles, and
not to shock the natural suspicious conservatism of their people by appearing as prophets of a new culture. They would certainly impress them more if they could show that
their seemingly borrowed ideal of political freedom is really the
ideal of Islam, and is, as such, the rightful demand of free
S. M. IQBAL