Man, by nature, is a being who lives by setting up a government for himself. The first manifestation of this instinct took place when in ancient times people decided that they would select chiefs of their tribes. After that, when these chiefs were able to establish their hegemony by conquering other tribes, they became the owners of the conquered lands and this gradually took the shape of ancestral kingdoms governed by kings. In later periods, these kings, in their capacity as great conquerors, laid the foundations of empires consisting of several countries. This brought into existence governments which included the Sassanid and the Roman empires. These empires have now become extinct but many kingdoms are still extant and have taken the place of constitutional monarchies. Except for some countries, this is the case every where. Among these exceptions is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It still exists with its real glory and majesty. The laws of such kingdoms are enacted by the king and his nobles. The Saudi government was established with the reformist movement of Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab (d. 1792 AD). Thus on the very first day of its inception it decided that the law of the land would be the Islamic shari'ah. A great majority of Sunni scholars does not regard kingdoms to be governments which are against the shari'ah and also more or less agree to the interpretation of the shari'ah made by the Saudi government. This is because they think that it is an Islamic government and on this basis they show allegiance to it.
The ideology of an Islamic revolution that has sprung up in recent times can be summarized as follows: it is only the disciplined minority of the righteous (salihin) which has the right to rule; if godless people are rulers, then they are in fact embezzlers; it is the responsibility of the righteous to launch an effort to take back what belongs to them. Among the Shiites, this ideology already existed under the concepts of "government of the infallibles (ma'sumin)" and "guardianship of the jurist" (wilayat-i faqih). Consequently, Sunni and Shiite scholars have instituted religious parties at various places to achieve this very objective of bringing about an Islamic revolution. Moreover, the intellectual class is expending its efforts in various countries to realize this objective by trying to bring into existence a disciplined minority of the righteous. At some places, these efforts have been successful. For example, in Iran where religious scholars, under the leadership of Imam Khumini (d. 1989), were able to take the reins of political authority in their hands. They have been ruling Iran with full power since a quarter of a century. Another example is Afghanistan where, through the support and help of the Pakistani government, the students of religious scholars were able to set up a government which unfortunately succumbed to the incident of 9/11 and is now trying to revive itself by waging war against the NATO forces.
The question which arises in this context is: what does Islam want? A deep deliberation on the Qur'an and Hadith shows that the real addressee of Islam is the individual. It wants to rule the heart and mind of a person. Thus it makes it mandatory upon him to submit his whole self to the sovereignty of God. Just as the God of Islam is the Lord and worshipped deity of people, He is also their king. Hence it is necessary that besides worshipping Him, obedience also be shown to Him and if He has prescribed some law or principle in some matter, then people must totally surrender to it. No doubt, Islam also addresses the society but only when the individuals of a society accept its rule over themselves. At that time, no effort or struggle is needed to achieve the supremacy of Islam at the collective level; Islam automatically manifests itself through the social, cultural and political mannerisms and attitudes of people. Thus if in the shari'ah of God, there is any directive related to the society, they are prepared to implement it without any hesitation.
This is an Islamic government. When it comes into existence in this way, it becomes a manifestation of God's mercy on earth; however, if it does not come into existence, even then one should not be worried because the objective of Islam is not the formation of an Islamic government but the attainment of tazkiyah (self-purification). Its call is to the kingdom of God which people will attain on the Day of Judgement as a result of attaining this tazkiyah. Islam calls upon people to save themselves from Hell and enter this eternal kingdom of God. It does not call upon people to establish an Islamic government. However, people who are anxious for this – and which in Qur'anic terms may be called ukhra tuhibbunaha (the second thing which you desire, (61:13)) – have seen for themselves the experimentation which has taken place in this regard in the last one and a half century. In my opinion, they should now accept the reality that an Islamic government is neither established through a royal decree nor through the autocratic rule of religious scholars nor by a self-appointed army of divine soldiers. This is not an objective but emanates or should emanate from the inner conviction of people on Islam and the Islamic shari'ah. If this happens, then the government which is established as a result can be called an Islamic government in every sense of the word. If the objective is to set up such a government, then instead of wasting one's time in frivolous political stratagems and instead of killing oneself and killing innocent people in the name of jihad, all force should be directed towards two things.
Firstly, through reminding and exhortation, knowledge and reasoning, education and instruction, efforts should be made to establish the rule of this government on the hearts of people. This effort should continue until the ruling elite of the Muslims have as strong a conviction in Islam and Islamic shari'ah as the one possessed by those who take up the task of calling people towards Islam.
Secondly, at every level democracy and democratic values should be promoted so that if people get prepared to fulfil the requirements of their religion related to the political and economic spheres, no form of despotism causes any hindrance to them. Launching a struggle against despotic forces is in fact a struggle against fitnah and fitnah according to the Qur'an is a greater sin than murder. Hence, the institution of monarchy and dictatorship deserve to be sent packing from the stage of this world forever.
(Translated by Dr Shehzad Saleem)