Islam is a progressive religion. If Islam’s teachings are followed, progress will be quick and effective. In fact, when one considers the teachings of Islam on various issues, one will observe that they conform to modern democratic principles. In effect, all the things that are considered good in a modern democracy are taught in Islam. Studying the Holy Qur’an and the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW), one will be astonished at how beautifully these have been taught and practised in Islam. Let us look at a few of these.
Firstly, the main idea of leadership in Islam is that it should serve the people. The ordinary people are the ones who matter and as such, the leadership should do everything possible to serve the people, protect their interest and ensure that they have all what they need for a better life. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is reported to have said, Sayyid-ul-Qawmi Khaadimuum (a leader of a people is their servant). This implies that once one is identified as a leader – whatever process was used – one becomes the servant of the people. The leader should work for the good of the people and make sure that he will be accessible to the people.
Islam also teaches that the state should ensure that there is law and order. There should be an efficient and independent judiciary which will arbitrate between people who have disputes amongst themselves. The judges are instructed to be absolutely impartial in their decisions. It is on record that people took their grievances against the leadership and were given the chance to be heard. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was firmly on this track and told the people that they should arbitrate with justice and the fear of Allah, the Almighty.
Islam enjoins honesty and truthfulness at all levels. Muslims are taught to always speak the truth even if it were against their own selves. Being honest and truthful is a very important in Islam. Similarly, in a country that aspires to be developed and progressive, the people must be honest and truthful. It is honesty and truthfulness that will do away with corruption which actually damages the economy of a country and destroys the character of the people. This is why Islam pays particular attention to honesty and truthfulness.
Islam teaches hard work. It abhors laziness and forbids begging. The Holy Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said ‘yadul ulya afdhalu mina yadis suflaa’ (the upper hand is always better than the lower hand). This implies that the one who always begs will constantly be under or below the one who gives him. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) also admonished his companions that even if one person should go to the bush fetch firewood and sell it to feed his family, it is better than begging.
Islam also teaches respect and honouring of women. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) taught us that for someone to get salvation, it is enough that you respect and treat your mother well. He said that women should always be given due regards and that they should be honored in every respect. He taught that whoever has a daughter and educates her well and does not prefer his sons to her will earn paradise. What a marvelous teaching! The world at this age could learn a lot form the teachings of this Great Prophet of Islam.
Islam also teaches the respect and honor of the rights of the individual. It teaches that no one should be compelled to accept any religion. Everyone should have the right to live in peace and tranquility. Islam stresses the sanctity of life and that no one should be killed by another. In fact, the Holy Qur’an teaches that whoever kills one man it is as if you have killed the whole of mankind and whoever spares one man it is as if you have spared the whole of mankind. This tells us how important it is not to take a life.
Another fundamental principle of government in Islam is consultation. It says that before a leader does anything or takes any major decision, he should consult with his people. Wa shaawir hum fil amr (consult them in important matters). This means that the leader should seek the advice of his followers before taking certain important steps. This enables the people to feel that they are important. It will also make them take ownership of any decision and that is how any project or proposal will succeed for, nothing can succeed without the input of the ordinary people in a country.
The behavior of a good and benevolent leader is also taught in Islam. The Holy Qur’an praises the approach of the Holy Prophet in his leadership style. (Fa bi ne’mati rabbika linta lahum law kunta fazzan ghaalizal qalbi lanfadhoo minhawlika) (It is by the Grace of your Lord that you are lenient and kind to them. If you were harsh and hard hearted, they would have dispersed from around you). In this verse, we are shown that a leader should be kind, lenient, accessible and just. Otherwise, the people will disperse and run away from his presence. As there is only a leader when there are people to be led, he will not do well if people are afraid of him and cannot interact with him.
Thus, we see that the teachings of Islam are very progressive and far ahead of their time. We must study and understand Islam well so that we can work accordingly for our country. This is what will bring us progress and prosperity.
In our next issue we will further look at other area of the Islamic teachings on governance. All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the universe!