The Religion Of Islam vol.1

  • bookcover

  • The Religion Of Islam vol.1

  • XIII

    The Political System of Islam

    When the Prophet settled at Medina, he established a commonwealth based not upon the old basis of consanguinity, but upon Religion, with the Prophet himself as the chief magistrate. The spirit of blood–revenge derived from the fiery and sensitive temper of the Arabs which was responsible for the long protracted blood feuds between clan and clan, waned away, and in its place there grew up in each member of the new commonwealth a genuine, earnest desire to see the peace and unity of the community maintained. The sense of tribal pride and superiority lost much of its keenness; the bond of consanguinity was greatly relaxed. They were taught to reverence the new institution, planted through the Prophet, by God Himself, and to sink their tribal dissensions in the common weal of the brotherhood of faith. “O men, verily, we have created you of one male and one female; and we have divided you into peoples and tribes, that ye might have knowledge one of another. Truly, the most worthy of honour in the sight of God is he who feareth Him most. Verily, God is knowing and Congnisant.”[1]

    Equality of rights was thus the distinguishing feature of the Islamite commonwealth. A convert from a humbler clan enjoyed the same rights and privileges as one who belonged to the noblest Koreish. Even a slave was admitted as a brother from the very moment of his conversion, and the highest dignitary in the state thought it no dishonour, to partake of his repast with him. Nor in the place of worship were suffered artificial differences between man and man; the high and the low, the prince and the peasant, the rich merchant of Mecca and the roaming bedouin of the desert, stood shoulder to shoulder in the presence of their common Deity. This equality and fraternity was, and is even today, though much weakened, the key-note of Islam and the secret of its power as a world-religion.[2] This leveling principle, underlying the tenets of the new faith, proved a veritable blessing to the Arabs in particular. Tribes and races, hitherto at war with one another, were, in the embracing fold of Islam, welded into one nation, imbued with common ideas, common aims and aspirations, and devoted to a common cause. Conflicting interests were harmonised from a loyal desire to advance the public good. The Holy Koran laid down certain principal laws, intended to govern their new relations as members of the state, to extinguish the fire of the old tribal jealousy, and to affect a union of hearts unknown before. The laws soon succeeded in bringing order out of chaos and confusion and made civic life possible for the first time in Arabia, “O believers.” So run the fine verses of the Koran, “If any wicked man come to you with news, make a thorough inquiry, lest through ignorance ye harm a people and have to repent on the morrow of what ye have done; and know that an apostle of God is among you. Should he submit to you in most matters ye would certainly fall into difficulty. But God hath endeared the faith to you, and hath given it favour in your hearts, and hath made unbelief and wicked-ness and disobedience hateful to you. Such are they who pursue a right path, a bounty from God and a grace: and God is knowing and Wise. If two bodies of the believers are at war, then make ye peace between them with fairness and do justice: God loveth those who are just. Those who believe are brethren; wherefore make peace between your brethren; and fear God, that ye may obtain mercy. O believers, let not a people laugh another people to scorn who haply may be better than themselves; neither let women laugh women to scorn who haply may be better than themselves. Neither defame one another, nor call one another by bad names. Wickedness is such a bad quality to adopt, after becoming true believers, and whose who repent not (of this) are wrongdoers. O believers, avoid frequent suspicions; verily some suspicions are a crime, and pry not into others’ secrets, neither let the one of you traduce another in his absence. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Surely you would loathe it. And fear ye God, for God is ready to forgive, and He is Merciful. O men, verily We have made you of one male, and one female, and We have made you peoples and tribes that ye might know one another. Truly, the most worthy of the honour before God is he who feareth Him most. Verily God is knowing, and Cognisant.[3]

    Such were the principles, on which the political system of Islam was grounded. It was thoroughly democratic in character. “It recognised individual and public liberty, secured the person and property of the subjects, and fostered the growth of all civic virtues. It communicated all the privileges of the conquering class to those of the conquered who conformed to its religion, and all the protection of citizenship to those who did not. It put an end to old customs that were of immoral and criminal character. It abolished the inhuman custom of burying the infant daughters alive, and took effective measures for the suppression of the slave-traffic, it prohibited adultery and incestuous relationship; and on the other hand, inculcated purity of heart, cleanliness of body, and sobriety of life.”[4]


    ([1]) Koran, ch. 49 :13

    ([2]) T. W. Arnold, ‘The Preaching of Islam’.

    ([3]) Koran, ch. 49 : 6-13.

    ([4]) Bosworth Smith, ‘Mohamed and Mohammedanism’ 

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