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Understand Islam

What is the Concept of Islamic State/Country?

An Islamic state is a type of government primarily based on the application of Islamic laws (sharia), dispensation of justice, maintenance of law and order. From the early years of Islam, numerous governments have been founded as “Islamic”.

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However, the term “Islamic state” has taken on a more specific connotation since the 20th century. Like the earlier notion of the caliphate, the modern Islamic state is rooted in Islamic law. It is modeled after the rule of Muhammad.

However, unlike caliph-led governments, a modern Islamic state can incorporate modern political institutions such as elections, parliamentary rule, judicial review, and popular sovereignty.

Today, many Muslim countries have incorporated Islamic law, wholly or in part, into their legal systems. Certain Muslim states have declared Islam to be their state religion in their constitutions, but do not apply Islamic law in their courts.

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The Essence of Islamic Governments:

The essence or guiding principles of an Islamic government or Islamic state, is the concept of mutual consultation (Al-Shura) which should consist of:

– Meeting or consultation, that follows the teachings of Islam.

– Consultation following the guidelines of the Quran and Sunnah.

– There is a leader elected among them to lead the meeting.

– All members are given fair opportunity to voice out their opinions.

– The issue should be of public interest.

– The voices of the majority are accepted, provided it does not violate the teachings of the Quran or Sunnah.

Prophet Muhammad himself respected the decision of the Shura members.

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Early Islamic Governments:

The first Islamic State was the political entity established by Prophet Muhammad in Medina in 622 CE, under the Constitution of Medina. It represented the political unity of the Muslim Ummah (nation). It was subsequently transformed into the caliphate by Muhammad’s disciples, who were known as the ‘Rightly Guided’ Caliphs (632–661 CE).

The Modern Islamic State:

The Islamic state was perceived as a “third way” between the rival political systems of democracy and socialism. Islamic leaders envisioned the ideal Islamic state as combining the democratic principles of electoral politics with the socialist principles of concern for the poor.

Pan-Islamism is a form of religious nationalism within political Islam which advocates the unification of the Muslim world under a single Islamic state, often described as a caliphate or ummah.

Characteristics of Islamic State:

The forms and structures of state are bound to vary from place to place and time to time. The Qur’an greatly emphasizes the nature of society. While the state is contingent the society based on values like justice, equality, compassion, and human dignity is a necessity in Islam.

An Islamic state should have following characteristics:

1. It should be non-discriminatory on basis of race, color, language, and nationality (30:22)

2. It should guarantee equal status to men and women (33:35; 2:228)

3. It should guarantee equal rights to all religious groups and accept plurality of religion as legitimate (5:48)

4. It should be democratic in nature whose basic premise will be human dignity (17:70)

Only those states which fulfill these criteria can be construed to be Islamic in nature. Thus, an Islamic state is the very epitome of modern democratic pluralistic state.

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Footnote:

‘Islamic country’ and ‘Muslim country’ are not same. Islamic country is the one which has its rules and regulations in accordance with the principles of Sharia (Laws according to Qur’an and Sunnah), whereas a Muslim country could be acknowledged as one in terms of the abundance of Muslim population. Thus, all Muslim countries need not be Islamic.

For those who would like to know more about Islam:

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