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Islam on good governance


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NO nation can dream of development without good governance. It is an essential prerequisite for all state and non-state organisations to abide by the principles of good governance in order to move forward and attain the goal of public welfare.

At the state level, it is considered important and connected with a nation’s overall development and its sustainability. People cannot make progress unless they follow the principles of good governance. Good governance is a culture that makes people act responsibly, thoughtfully and conscientiously.

They behave with restraint and avoid abuse of power. People in authority act within the parameters of the law and take upon themselves the country’s concerns and hardships. They remain impersonal in the discharge of their duties and imperturbable in front of critics. They respect popular will but never go beyond their tether.

Unfortunately, during the course of Muslim history we have hardly seen any worthwhile examples of good governance. The majority of Muslim lands remained under dynastic rule; most rulers were despots, self-serving and a law unto themselves.

Their princes used to fight for the throne and their infighting often led outsiders to invade. They were least concerned about the welfare of their subjects. Common people had very limited access to the corridors of power.

However, we have a shining example when the Holy Prophet (PBUH) became head of the state of Madina and exemplified good governance. He created a bond of brotherhood among the Muslim citizens, concluded agreements with non-Muslims and remained concerned about their welfare. He upheld the Islamic value system in which justice remains central. He declared that all humans are the offspring of Adam and that there is no difference between Arab and non-Arab (Ajam).

Islam is a religion which guides us in all aspects of human life. Our value system originates mainly from the Holy Quran and our progress is forever dependent on its application. We find a number of Quranic injunctions considered to contain the essentials of good governance.

First is the concept of amanah (trust). Allah says that to Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on earth.

Every human being is a trustee on earth. All his possessions, including health, wealth, livelihood, power and status belong to Allah. One who performs his or her duties honestly and diligently is upholding his amanah.

Allah enjoins believers to “…Betray not Allah and His Messenger, nor betray knowingly your amanah [things entrusted to you and all the duties which Allah has ordained for you]” (8:27). In the light of this concept, no one in authority is absolute; one has to remain answerable to his conscience.

Another important principle of good governance is that the ruler must be sincere and of impeccable character. He must consider himself not a ruler but a servant. Similarly, he should be mindful of his every act, that it should not harm his subjects. Those who transgress their limits are the most disgraceful, and the Quran refers to them as zalimoon.

Merit is also one of the important principles of good governance, whereby all appointments in state and non-state organisations are made on the basis of competence. Every human is born with certain inherent competencies and those who actualise their competencies with hard work, integrity and honesty get a premium.

Nature rewards them for being active and hardworking. The Quran says “And that man can have nothing but what he does” (53:39). In meritocratic societies people upgrade themselves professionally and grow economically due to their performance, competence and ability.

Islam encourages Muslims to acquire knowledge and occupy the best position in their societies. We read the life story of Hazrat Yousuf who was in captivity but was called to head the food ministry because of his high degree of competence and knowledge. He was thus able to prevent the impending famine.

Here knowledge became fundamental in governance. Many Western societies are ahead of us because of knowledge and it is the demand of the present time that our parliament and all lawmaking and law-enforcing bodies be occupied by knowledgeable people.

Similarly, the concept of taqwa is also closely linked to good governance. It is an all-inclusive concept which says that every believer should be mindful of Allah’s omnipresence and be aware of accountability. We live in the constant presence of Allah. No act goes unrecorded and no one escapes the accountability of his or her doings. If a public servant develops such a sense of Allah’s presence in his mind and heart, it would result in peace and well-being in society.

The absence of taqwa in any society often leads towards unethical practices. For example, our present-day society is in the grip of widespread corruption. This is the result of poor governance over the years.

When a politician submits a fake degree to stand in elections, when a police party kills a person in a fake encounter, when a businessman evades taxes, when a builder uses outdated material, when a teacher skimps on class work in order to sell his time privately and when a doctor recommends a drug to gain commission from a pharmaceutical firm then the concept of taqwa is grossly violated. The foundations of society are undermined and the nation’s future is ruined.

Many think they will escape judgement but the Quran says “And We have fastened every man’s deeds to his neck and on the Day of Resurrection We shall bring out for him a book which he will find wide open” (17:13).

The writer is an educationist.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (19) Closed

Genius Dec 14, 2012 10:00am
Very good article. It is absolutely clear that good governance will never happen. Not until people at large will give up their bad habits and embrace and practise good habits. Good habits that make a person Muslim. Every Muslim knows that each and everyone of them is responsible collectively to create and maintain the Authority of Allah. Muslims do not have Rulers. Everyone who is paid for their services by the people is a public servant. Khaleefah means a Deputy or a Representative. Khaleefah is not a Ruler but a representative of the people. Everything good will happen only and only when people will show by their deeds to be Muslims and consequently come together regularly to organise self help, co-operation in making sure that Allah's Laws are the order of the day and also to keep an eye on the conduct of public sevants. If people will not come together to organise their co-operatives to establish the Authority of Allah, they will certainly be ruled by tyrants as the history of so-called Muslims show and highlighted by the learned author above. So everything is in the hands of the people at large. As someone said they are waiting for Allah to change their conditions and Allah is waiting for them to change their bad habits.
Gerry D'Cunha Dec 14, 2012 10:02am
where is good governance in any muslim countries?
HASEEB Dec 14, 2012 09:15am
The true and significant fact is: If the politicians and all others who are involved in nepotism and other illegal stunts are afraid of the Day of Judgement then Pakistan will be better place to live in like Heaven.
abu-uzhur Dec 15, 2012 02:25am
Aren't you aware of the great welfare state created by Mahmud Ghaznavi ?
Mukesh Dec 14, 2012 06:35pm
Too far from ground realities! Pure theory!
mazharuddin Dec 14, 2012 07:13am
Seems writer did not study history of Islam, properly. From the period of First Caliph Abu Baker to Umayyad Caliph Hisham, we can see good governance as well as achievements. Unfortunately history in Pakistan has been manipulated due to sectarian strife. See Hujjaj's letter to Muhammad Ben Qasim, advising him to fulfill your promise and even your slave grant peace to any one that should be respected. Business and commerce should not be disturbed, any deprived rajah ask you for his estate, show his obedience, do not disappoint him, and if anyone says he believe in God and accept your rule Beware nothing should harm him he should be respected. Within no time all the region came in the fold of Islam and that is till yet the Border of Islam. Further claims are baseless and false can't prove with evidence and reason. Islam did not spread through beggar priests and soofis. During first century Hijra all clans of arabs including Alavis, Hashemis, Abbasis, Umayyads, other Quraishis Ansaris took part in crusades and propagation of Islam, reached to the Borders of Kashghar etc. where Jalal Bukharis ancestors and others reached? They all were monotheistic and honest muslims.
Aj Dec 14, 2012 06:15pm
None has one because none follow the true sharia. Governance is bad due to rulers of Muslim countries ,it has nothing to do with ISLAM
Aj Dec 14, 2012 06:13pm
Practice has been given by the example of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH)
abbastoronto Dec 14, 2012 03:53pm
Much of Islamic experience of the last 14 centuries is pretty well useless as Islam was trying to adapt itself desperately to societies with socio-economics more backward than what Islam had come for - the global border-less trading society. The Kaliphate and the Monarchies were a step backward because of needless expansionist tendencies in Islam. Our Prophet had come to conquer hearts, not lands, and so with Islamic conquests Islam became a regressive force in history, impeding progress.
Adil Jadoon Dec 14, 2012 03:24pm
Are we going to wait for the politicians to realize their mortality or shall we take them to account at every opportunity?
Levaranti Beria Dec 14, 2012 04:50am
Good governance requires payment of taxes. One has to asume that most of the MP's and rich folks of Pakistan are not good enough Muslims.
ahmed41 Dec 14, 2012 06:11am
This is the THEORY ~~~~~~~~~~~~where is the practice, Sir ?
abbastoronto Dec 14, 2012 04:21pm
There are many models of governance in the world, but two have been the most popular since antiquity ? Democracy, and the Republic. Democracy is the rule of the few led by the most moneyed, the Demos, the 5% males over the 95% rest (women, plebs, helots, slaves). It stands for Law and Order, Laws made by the powerful. The Republic is the rule of the Public, a government of the people, for the people, by the people, led by the most learned. Both Athens and Mecca were ruled by the Demos. Where Socrates, the reformer of the West was mauled by his Demos, Mohammed AS, remains the first and only one in history to have trumped his Demos, the combined force of Big Business Umayyads, Bankers Banu Abbas, trade monopolist infidels, and Judahists and found the Secular Medinan Republic. Its constitution was the secular Covenant of Medina, that respected the rights of all irrespective of race, origin, social status. The system Mohammed AS preached and then implemented in Medina was: - Universality of God and man - Individual Rights and Justice - Emancipation of women from Housework and Childrearing - Knowledge based Free Enterprise - Meritocracy - Peace - Free Trade Alas, within 25 years of his passing away all these gains had been lost with the inception of the theocratic Kaliphate and its morphing into Monarchy. Maudoodi has written a marvelous text on it. The Demos was back in power. It has not changed since.
Ali Dec 14, 2012 02:07pm
Assalamu alaikum JazakAllah khayran (May Allah reward you) for this wonderful article. I really needed this reminder to myself. Allah allowed you to use many of the verses and basic concepts in an integrated manner, mashAllah.
Ali Dec 14, 2012 02:09pm
If a nation teaches itself and the next generation about these basic concepts, if a nation really believes in Allah, His Messenger, and the Last Day, and if the nation is constant and perserveres, then you will see the RESULTS of the practice, inshAllah -- which is the rise of fit rulers suitable for that nation.
farmerdr Dec 14, 2012 11:24am
Before we can get good governance we have to have (a) rulers whom the governed accept as having legitimacy to rule them (b) rulers who care for the governed and respond to their needs, and most importantly (c) immediate and universal application of justice irrespective of status.
MSAlvi Dec 14, 2012 01:15pm
The article is a long list of familiar islamic values. If it was presented to people the first time, it would make a good speech. But it already has been repeated countless number of times. The only thing of consequence is what we do. Make practical laws and enforce them strictly. Making speeches and writing books will not help anything. That is a big difference between Muslims and the West - Muslims talk about islamic fundamentals, the West deals with life as a practical matter.
Sandip Dec 14, 2012 01:10pm
Seriously why should Ruler be reading religious books instead of rulling by the law and ensuring doing his duty for which he/she has been elected for?
studentessaysanddissertations Dec 14, 2012 01:58pm
The moment I read 'the Holy Prophet (PBUH)' I know that all objectivity and most sanity have been negated. Not everything was fine in the lifetime of Muhammad, and subsequent attempts to put this theory of good governance into practice have left the Islamic world in greater and greater trouble. Muslim countries are at the bottom of every heap. Please don't pretend, like the Salafis, that all we have to do is go back to the glorious days of Muhammad and the salaf: you've had over 1400 years to show it works, and it's worse now than it was at the beginning.