Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Political Education in Islam


Principles of Political Education in Islamic Thought

Political education in Islam is derived from the precepts and values of Islam and from the rulings and objectives of Islamic Sharia. Indeed, education in Islam is not a separate entity from the comprehensive Islamic approach and from the essence of Islam, nor is it alien to the general philosophy that underlies its message and the bulk of its teachings. It is an authentic and integral part of an inter-woven and comprehensive set of instructive teachings that direct the individual, as well as the community to the right path in life.

The comprehensiveness of Islam and its all-encompassing scope make it a full-fledged and complete lifestyle where political education is required to be the main component of general education. The reason behind this is the impossible differentiation in Islam between political education and moral education, between the education of the individual and that of the community, for the Islamic way is one and the Islamic perception of man and community is a comprehensive one and goes beyond them to encompass the whole universe.

This principle of complementarity and cohesion of educational values in Islam has resulted in a concept of politics that is based on the eternal principles of Islam. Of these we can list the following as directly impacting on political theory in Islam :

- First : Islam is a religion and a way of life, of faith and action as well as morals and behaviour. Islam laid down rules and regulations for all fields of life and does not recognise the saying "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar" for this would go against a fundamental component of Islamic Sharia : that everything in this universe belongs to Allah, and that man and life itself belong to Allah.

- Second : Islam did not leave the world or society with no checks. It laid down constraints and rules to steer life into the right direction. It regulated social relations within the family, the immediate environment and the larger society. In this frame of mind, the Prophet (PBUH) established the rules of the first Muslim society and the first Islamic State. The Quran provided the general rules and the Prophet its tenets, inspired first from the divine revelations, then from life's experience and the wisdom of a burgeoning Muslim community. He held political, administrative, financial and legal authority as the founder and leader of the state, in addition to his being a prophet and the conveyor of a divine message. The first Islamic state was established in Medina and was a model that inspired Muslims for many centuries after that.

- Third : Islam presented a full and complete way of life. It did not stipulate detailed rules for a state's policy, or its social, economic and administrative regime. It rather presented general principles and Sharia guidelines that could help man achieve happiness and well-being in this life and in the hereafter. Islam guaranteed man's freedom of thought, planning and decision, managing his general affairs and, inspired by Islamic teachings, those of society and the state. The goal behind this was to facilitate the task of the human being and encourage his ijtihad (i.e. independent intellectual effort) and creativity in finding a system that would be more appropriate for his circumstances, capacities and resources, and interact with life's changes and those of the environment in which he evolves.

The Prophet (PBUH) was able to create one Ummah within one state. The foundations he laid down for this state became the constitutional rules of governing after his death, while his successors, the rightly-guided caliphs, instated political precepts that completed the Prophet's rules in governing the Ummah. With the accumulation of practical experience inspired from Islamic precepts emerged Islamic political theory.

- Fourth : The Islamic way of life is characterised by a flexibility to better suit the human instinct. Islam imposed neither a rigid law for managing social affairs, nor did it establish an inflexible edifice of the state or stipulate a dogmatic modus-operandi when setting up a regime or establishing a state. It rather set up what can be called a "general framework" of society, or a "general regime" of the state. These were based on the firm teachings of Islam revealed in the Holy Quran and the authentic tradition of the Prophet, such as justice, shura, equity in rights and obligations, while providing for ample freedom of individual action in the fulfilment of man's and society's objectives.

Thus the constitutional rules of governing in Islam are not rigid, contrary to governing rules in totalitarian regimes which close the door to the citizen's jurisprudence, and inhibit in him the consideration of his present and the aspiration to his future. Islamic political thought is live, dynamic and adaptable to progress even while remaining within the general framework of an Islamic regime.

Taking these principles into consideration, political theory in Islam which is founded on achieving justice in the Muslim society also takes on a human aspect, is flexible and open, and carries within it the capacity for self-renewal and for keeping pace with the development of life on earth.

The Muslim thinkers and scholars who dedicated themselves to develop and confirm political theory in Islam, have agreed to term this theory "Sharia legislative politics" referring to politics that guarantees the interests of people and country. They argued that legislative politics was, in fact, about public interest under any form. Certain Muslim ulema went as far as to recognise the theory of "revealed interests" and considered them another source of legislation in the sense that whenever public interests were recognised and served, it was a recognition of God's law. Public wellbeing is therefore essential from start to finish, and this is a human, realistic and open-minded perception of politics from the Islamic perspective.

Islamic affirmation of the theory of politics is present in a number of works by Arab and Muslim authors who preceded the movement of writing on the subject that later on swept through Europe. Some of these works are "Imamhood and Politics" by Ibn Qutaiba, "Royal Decrees" by Al Mawardi, "Royal Decrees" by Abi Yaala Al Firaa, "Charia Politics in Reform of Ruler and Ruled" by Ibn Qiam Al Jaouzia, "The Enlightenment of Kings" by Alt-Tartouchi, "The Refined Gold in Kings' Advising" by Al Ghazali, "The Honourable in Royal Literature" by Ibn Taqtaqi, and "The Finest Practices in Royal Customs" by Ibn Al Azraq(3). What Ibn Khaldun wrote in his "Introduction" on politics carries enough scientific accuracy, intellectual wisdom and enlightened vision to place Ibn Khaldun high among the pioneers of political, scientific and social thought in the whole world.

If Islamic political thought was marked by a wealth and abundance of writings, it also witnessed a divergence of schools of thoughts, trends and interpretations. Most of all, this marked the subject of the caliphate, the choice of a ruler and the inherent debates and differences that spring from such an issue. However, we are inclined to approach this issue from a different angle to the one usually adopted by researchers, Arab or orientalist. The divergence of opinions in political thought, resulting as it did in various political trends of Islamic thought, is in fact a sign of strength and healthiness of the Islamic edifice. It denotes the vivacity of the Muslim mind and the dynamism of Muslim society, thus refuting the impression kept of this society as rigid and incapable of intellectual development.

For the sake of further demonstrating the principles of governing and politics on which was erected the first Islamic State during the times of the Messenger (Peace be Upon Him), we would like to quote a few orientalists on the subject, including a group of objective German authors :

Dr V Ftizgerald(4) says :

"Islam is not only a religion. It is also a political system. Although there emerged towards the end of the twentieth century, some Muslim individuals who describe themselves as modern and who try to dissociate the two aspects, the whole edifice of Islam was built on the concept that both aspects were complementary and inseparable". Many of these writers have since renounced their opinions.

C.A.. Nallino(5) says :

"Muhammad founded at the same time a religion and a state. Their boundaries were the same throughout his life".

Dr Shacht(6) says :

"Islam is more than a religion. It also represents a set of legal and political theories. It is a culturally comprehensive system that encompasses both religion and state."

Professor Strothmann(7) says :

"Islam is a religious phenomenon : its founder was a prophet as well as a wise politician or statesman".

Mr D.B. McDonald(8) says :

"Here (in Medina) emerged the first Islamic state and were established the main principles of Islamic law".

Sir T Arnold(9) says :

"The prophet was at the same time the religious leader and the head of state".

While Illias Gibb(10) says :

"...Then it became clear that Islam was more than individual religious beliefs. It rather required the setting up of an independent society with its specific governing mode, its rules and its unique systems"(11).

These are the testimonials of a group of eminent western thinkers who thus confirmed that Islam was a religion and a state. Indeed, no state can exist without a political theory that translates into reality, without a constitutional substructure, and without a political education to raise younger generations.

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