Islam and Political Power: Establishing Justice?

Question and answer details
Syed Muhammed Ziaul Haque
As-salamu alaikum. We know Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) prayed to Allah so that one of the two people named Umar should accept Islam. Did Islam enjoy more power and stability after Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) accepted Islam? Does it mean that nowadays to establish Islam in a society or country, Muslims or Islamic political parties should hold important state positions? Some political groups offer this prayer of our Prophet (peace be upon him) as a proof for their policy of accepting powerful state appointments or important government posts. Please explain, with references. Jazakum Allahu khayran.
Shahul Hameed

Salam Dear Sayed,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Either Umar or Amr

Islam started when just one man, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), began preaching it in Makkah. But soon after, followers, one by one, came to the Prophet to make a small, but strong-willed, community of believers.

While most of the Prophet's early followers were weak and poor, the forces that opposed them were very strong. And most certainly, the strength of a community depends chiefly on the courage of conviction and the determination of its members, as well as on the physical resources available to them and the powerful personalities supporting them.

We may remember how Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) strengthened the small group of believers by his influence and wealth. And two strong persons who were in opposition to the Prophet in the early days were Amr ibn Hisham (also known as Abu Jahl) and Umar ibn Al-Khattab.

In this context, the Prophet prayed to Almighty Allah to bring one of them to the fold of Islam:  

"O Allah, strengthen Islam with Abu Jahl ibn Hisham, or with Umar ibn Al-Khattab." And the following day, Umar ibn Al-Khattab went to the Prophet and accepted Islam (Ahmad).

We can see that the Prophet was very practical and far-sighted in the management of his mission. The public preaching of Islam began only after there were enough dedicated followers, and that was soon after Umar embraced Islam.

Power and Stability After Umar's Conversion

Undoubtedly, the small group of early Muslims felt stronger when Umar joined them. It is natural that the sincerity and determination of the followers are crucial to the success of any movement.

But at the same time, when we consider the case of Islam as directed by Allah himself, we should remember the Quranic verse that gives the meaning of:

{Their intention is to extinguish Allah's Light with their mouths: But Allah will complete (the revelation of) His Light, even though the Unbelievers may detest (it).} (As-Saff 61:8)

Islam, Muslims, and Politics

As a comprehensive system for human life in all its aspects and ramifications, Islam does not consider politics as out of bounds. Politics in Islam aims at the establishment and maintenance of a just sociopolitical order, where there is equity and fairness in the affairs of men.

Indeed, the very backbone of the whole act of divine creation itself is justice. The balance and the due proportion evident in the heavens and the earth is a manifestation of Allah's justice; which makes it necessary that we human beings should strive for justice:

{Glorify the name of your Guardian Most High [Allah], Who has created and further given order and due proportion; Who has ordained laws and granted guidance} (Al-Aala 87:1-3)

If we study the cause of the ruin of many civilizations, we find at the root the neglect of the principle of justice. Allah says what means,

{God commands the doing of good and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds and injustice and rebellion. He instructs you that you may receive admonition.} (An-Nahl 16:90)

Again, we read in the Quran:

{O you who believe, stand out firmly for Allah as witnesses to justice, and let not the hatred of a people cause you to swerve from justice; be just; that is the closest to piety.} (Al-Maidah 5:8)

From the Islamic viewpoint, the aim and purpose of the state is the establishment, maintenance, and development of those qualities that Allah wants to be in humanity. They are qualities like purity, beauty, goodness, virtue, justice, and equity.

The state has also to prevent all kinds of exploitation, injustice, and disorder. Besides, the principles of morality must be observed at all costs and in all walks of life. The state should base itself on justice, truth, and honesty.

It should never be prepared, under any circumstances, to tolerate fraud, falsehood, and injustice for the sake of political, administrative, or national expediency.

Islam imposes similar obligations on the state and the individual:

  • To fulfill all contracts and obligations.
  • To have uniform standards in dealings.
  • To remember obligations along with rights and not to forget the rights of others when expecting them to fulfill their obligations.
  • To use power and authority for the establishment of justice and not for the perpetration of injustice.
  • To look upon duty as a sacred obligation and to discharge it scrupulously.
  • To regard power as a trust from Allah to be used in the belief that one has to render an account of one's actions to Him in the hereafter.  

The first step towards the establishment of an Islamic country or state is taken when a majority of the people of that country, having wholeheartedly accepted Allah as their Lord, Islam as their way of life, and Muhammad as their prophet, choose to live by the Islamic Shariah.

As for individuals, they can use whatever good means at their disposal for the attainment of the objectives of the Islamic Shariah as far as they can.

Muslims can hold important positions in the state through lawful channels and as long as they are qualified for such positions. They cannot get such positions through illegal channels.

When they are in such positions, they must have a clear agenda. They must strive to establish peace in their respective societies. Through political participation, Muslims will be able to carry out the function of enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong.

I hope this answers your question.

Salam and please keep in touch.

Useful Links:

On Democracy and Better Politics for Muslims

Borderlines Between Religion and Politics

Improving the Politics of Muslim Countries

Justice for All, Not for a Few!