The system of government under Islam is based upon the Quran and the Sunna or Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. There has always been a lot of discussion amongst Muslim scholars about the best way to implement these rules and principles.
The sovereignty of God, the message conveyed by all the prophets, is the foundation of the system. Legislation contained in the Quran becomes the basic law of the state. The government must make decisions on the basis of what God has revealed. In cases not covered by revelation, decisions based on Islamic principles are left to the Mujtahids, Islamic experts on legal interpretation. The Muslims can make laws or regulations dealing with such matters, but these do not have the same permanence as Quranic injunctions.
God said in the Quran that He was going to create a 'caliph' or representative upon the earth (2:30). Human beings are these caliphs. This means that all humanity is responsible for the establishment of the laws and principles revealed by God, not some superior class of priests or holy men. Thus Islamic government is not a theocracy. All human beings are equal, the only distinction made by God is in their degree of righteousness. Islam allows no distinction amongst people on the basis of tribe or race, ethnic group or amount of wealth. The Muslims are different from other people only in that they are conscious of the importance of submission to God's decrees.
The establishment of justice for all citizens of the state, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, is one of the major purposes of the Islamic system of government. It is the duty of every individual Muslim and of the Islamic government to strive for justice and to prevent and oppose evil. If injustice spreads in a community with none to denounce it, then that whole community and its government is considered to be transgressing the law of God. Where injustice is rife there cannot be peace. The Quran warns that nations in the past have been destroyed for such neglect.
Consultation has a high status in Islam. This is indicated by the name of surah or chapter forty-two, "Consultation". It is in this surah that those people who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation are linked to those who establish regular prayer and those who spend on helping others (42:38). The extent of the consultation to be carried out is not defined in detail. Some scholars argue that only those knowledgeable about Islam need be consulted. Others argue that this is an endorsement of mass consultation through general elections. The principle of consultation is however, quite clearly essential and how it is implemented will be related to the temper of the time or the location. Although non-Muslims were not involved in consultation in the early period of the birth of Islam, there is nothing to indicate they cannot be included in consultation on national affairs or affairs not dealing with the beliefs of the Muslims. However as the head of state must implement the Quran and Sunna, it is necessary that this position should be held by a Muslim.
Muslims believe that only when this system is established can there be justice and harmony in society.
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Biography: Bilal Cleland
Bilal Cleland is secretary of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) and President of the Independent Business and Industry Association of Australia which he represents on the Board of Governors of the International Business Forum. He is also President of the Muslim Welfare Board of Victoria.