Islam, Faith and Power

Given the recent radicalization of secularists on a global scale, it is hardly surprising to find prominently featured articles, belittling the concept of power in Islam, in leading dailies of a Muslim country called Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

The bottom line of circuitous arguments in such write ups is that there is “no concrete evidence either in the Qur’an or in Sunnah that the Prophet (PBUH) ever made conscious efforts to acquire political power.”

While the individuals involved in such campaigns may or may not in themselves amount for much, it is the discourse they engender that has implications. Their attempt to take secularism from the present extreme to yet another extreme only brings people closer to understanding the real message of Islam.

Ethics, power or both?

It is only such an understanding that helps one realize how a people from the most backward and depraved society went on to defeat two super powers of the age in a short period of time. They would not have achieved such a feat had they believed the Qur’an as nothing more than just a moral guide.

The secularists are not taking the message of the Qur’an beyond its face value. It proves nothing to argue that all Makkan surahs (chapters) of the Qur’an talk generally of creation, day of judgement, good deeds, and of destruction of universe. All these concepts are stepping stones for achieving the higher purpose of human existence, achieving which is impossible with considering the Qur’an just a moral guide.

Devoiding Islam from the concept of power and authority fails us in understanding Qur’anic verses such as: “Allah has promised to those of you who believe and do good that He will most certainly make them rulers in the earth as He made rulers those before them, and that He will most certainly establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them..” (24.55). When Allah makes them rulers, as He promised, would they be without political power and authority? More importantly, does Allah give a people rule without their genuine hankering for establishing a way of life as prescribed by Allah, and without their striving to gain the rule?

As far as the lack of power structure in Islam is concerned, verses 4:59 and 4:83 refer to it, which we may be ignoring at our peril. Moreover, the concept of authority is not something new. Even Prophet Yusuf asked Allah: “…Place me (in authority) over the treasures of the land…” (12:55) and “thus did We give to Yusuf power in the land — he had mastery in it wherever he liked…” (12:56).

The concept of power entails different types of powers, including military and political. It is not a new prerequisite for establishing the Deen. The Qur’an clearly instructs to punish those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land “except those who repent before you have them in your power…” (5:34). The point to ponder is: How would Muslims get the enemies of Allah in their power if they do not have power? Can they do so only through using the Qur’an as a moral guide without striving to have political and military power?

It is abundantly clear that Muslims can never overcome the enemies of Allah simply by using the Qur’an as a manual for living an ethical life alone. It is either that the enemies of Allah do not exist any more or no distinction remains between the friends and foes of Allah.

The secularist confusion deepens with the assumption that the “original intention” of the Qur’anic revelation is “more moralistic than legalistic.” Islam is not a matter of Qur’anic percentages. A greater portion of the Qur’an talking about moral issues does not mean to ignore its legal aspects. The Qur’an clearly says: “And We have revealed to you the Book with the truth…We appoint a law and a way” (05:48). The secular assertions in this regard not only ignores the message of the Qur’an (03:03; 33:36; 5:33, 38; 24:2; 24:4, 2:178; and 17:33), but also leads the seculars further astray into believing that the Prophet (PBUH) did not migrate to Madina with any intention to found any power structure.

If the Prophet (PBUH) went to Madina to escape persecution, there was no need for him to initiate wars after reaching there. Why did he not peacefully show the right path to people? There were eight strategically planned expeditions of surveillance against Makkans before the first battle of Badr. Here the secularists miss the crux of the message: the goal was to establish the right, rather than showing merely the right path. Establishing from roots always needs power and takes sacrifices.

Just as the self-appointed spokesmen for the Americans are proud of their civilization — Thomas Friedman hardly finishes a write up in New York Times without asserting superiority of the American values and way of life — Makkans too were proud of their values and lifestyle. In such a situation, the Prophet’s mission to spread the word of Allah and establish a new way of life was not possible without having power and authority.

Prophet Muhammad sent 300 letters, including to leaders of the then super powers, and also dispatched military missions during his life time. Were such actions and the subsequent fall of the super powers possible without having a power base? If we do not see the modern institutions of governance established during the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), it does not mean that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did not purposely acquire power and establish a power structure that could bring anyone at war with Allah to his knees.

Unfortunately, the concept of the friends and foes of Allah has become effectively dead in modern day world. The standard these days is: who is with or against the US — the sovereign, the mighty, the superior most?

Volunteerism in Jihad

The disappearance of distinction between friends and foes of Allah is the direct result of yet another secular misconception. According to secularists: “Everything was voluntary. Even when war-like situations arose the Prophet had to appeal for donations and voluntary contributions from Muslims. Contributions were often in the form of camels, horses or weapons like swords.”[1]

We must not forget that only accepting Islam is voluntary. Volunteerism ends with surrendering oneself to Allah. Going to or financing war was a matter of free will for a short period of time. Later on, it was made obligatory. Allah did not like the Prophet’s (PBUH) granting exemptions to some individuals from joining Jihad (9:38-55). Even their contributions were not accepted (9:53). It is also clear from the Qur’anic verse 2:216 that war was not voluntary? Allah clearly says: “Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you…”

Does the aforementioned secular argument not contradict the Qur’an that says:

“The (true) believers are those only who believe in Allah and His messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah. Such are the sincere” (49:15). Or “Lo! Allah loveth them who battle for His cause in ranks, as if they were a solid structure” (61: 4).

And imagine with such assumption of volunteerism, how the secularists now deny the so transparent Qur’anic injunctions — “Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others beside them whom ye know not. Allah knoweth them. Whatsoever ye spend in the way of Allah it will be repaid to you in full, and ye will not be wrong” (8:60). Armies are not needed for preaching a religion or enforcing the Qur’an as a moral guide. Armed forces are a strategic component of the over all power structure of Islam. When the secularists can deny and misinterpret these injunctions, one may expect anything from them.

Need for an Islamic State

Asghar Ali, chairman of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai believes, the Qur’anic verses regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc “were often revealed in response to either some questions from the Muslim men and women or in response to developing situations,” which the later day Muslims codified in the form of Shari’ah laws and “Muslims follow as obligatory whether there is Islamic state or not.” He concludes: “Thus it is not necessary to have an Islamic state for enforcing Shari’ah laws.”[2]

The question that exposes this inanity is: How can a state follow both secular and Shari’ah laws to the full extent in a state?

The secularists skip over the period of the Prophet (PBUH) and the Khilafat e Rashida to avoid seeing ‘the power of Islam’ after the conquest of Makka. As far as the civil wars during the Omwi and Abbasi rule are concerned, those can’t be taken as an excuse for not having an Islamic state. Of course, ‘Islamic state,’ being a recent term, does not exist in the Qur’an and Sunnah as such. The term ‘religion’ (Madhhab) also do not exist there which is most commonly used for Islam. Actually an Islamic state is to be a state in which no legislation is done repugnant to the Qur’an/Sunnah.

It is easy to declare that Islamic laws were revealed merely to create a just society rather than evolve any state structure. It is, however, very difficult to explain how would Muslims practice some injunctions of the Qur’an, such as avoiding Riba, in a secular state which is to the core structured in a way to promote un-Islamic systems and way of life. There are Qur’anic injunctions which can never be followed in a secular state. Mostly importantly, the basic duty of Muslims to establish Islam as a Deen can never be fulfilled through mixing faith and Godless freedom.

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It is important to note in the light of Verse 12:76 that the Qur’an differentiates between Deenil malik (law of the king) and the law of Allah. Muslims are not supposed to live by Deen il malik. Instead, whosoever seek as Deen other than the Deen of Allah (Wamaen yabtaghi ghayra al-islami Deenan), “it will not be accepted from him, and he will be a loser in the Hereafter” (3:85). What else does a secular state follow other than the prohibited laws of men: Deen il malik.

It is really surprising to see that secularist Muslims are bent upon embracing theories, values and practices that are in total contradiction to the Qur’an. The circuitous secular arguments cannot absolve Muslim from the clear responsibility of establishing the Deen (3:85, 5:3, 2:208, 42:13) and the struggle to make it prevail over all other Deen (48:28, 9:33 and 61:9). Then Allah says: “Faint not nor grieve, for ye will overcome them if ye are (indeed) believers.” (3:139). It shows that for establishing Islam, Muslims have to “overcome,” which is not possible without having the power of faith and associated military and political powers.

Despite rejecting the core message, the secularists agree that “Muslims have to follow these laws whether there is any Islamic state or not.” When they have to, let us know how is it possible in a secularist state where one is not allowed to wear a head scarf. It is a confused mix of stating on the one hand that Islamic state is not a must, but advocating on the other that Muslims have to follows the laws of Islam.

The secularists further argue that “Shari’ah laws, since they are divine are followed voluntarily and no state is required to enforce them.”[3] So, divine should be followed voluntarily and man-made to be enforced with the state power. What a joke it is. Laws, divine or otherwise, always need enforcement. They are never accepted voluntary as they entail the element of exacting justice and the culprit and oppressor always try to avoid punishment. Someone from among the secularist shall answer how a Muslim thief, for instance, will go ahead and voluntarily cut his hand according to Shari’ah law in a secular state?


The concept of Power and State in Islam

The whole confusion stems from deliberately concealing the concept of power in Islam. Those who are looking for modern terminologies, such as system and state, may never find these in the Qur’an as such. For men of understanding it is sufficient to analyze how Qur’an has been using the word al-Deen to explain both the concept of power and authority in Islam, as well as explaining the prescribed way of life for Muslims.

The literal meanings of Deen are to: obey, become obedient, become abased and submissive and serve. All this, however, is impossible without the presence of some authority to be obeyed. There are other meanings of Deen as well, such as “a particular law”, “a statute” “an ordinance”, “requital”, “recompense”, “judgement”, “reckoning”, etc. So, the primary significance of the term din can be reduced to four: a) indebtedness b) submissiveness c) judicious power d) natural inclination or tendency. But when the preposition “la”, i.e. Arabic letter “laam” is used with Deen, it means articularly, “obedience.”

For example, lahu al-Deen (10:22, 16:52, 29:6531:32, 39:2, 39:11, 40:14, 40:65, and 98:5) specifically means that obedience [Al-Deen] is only to Allah, not to any worldly authority or law. Obedience to worldly authority is allowed only when that authority is responsible for ensuring obedience to Allah (4:59, 4:83).

To see how we cannot escape living one or another Deen in any part of the world, and that the word Deen is linked to living a way of life and the overall set up of a society, we need to understand the verb dana which derives from Deen and conveys the meaning of being indebted. In the state in which one finds oneself in debt to a Dain (creditor), it follows that one subjects oneself to obeying to laws and ordinances governing debts, and also, in a way, to the creditor, designated as a Dain.

One in debt is always under obligation, or dayn. Being under obligation naturally involves judgment (daynunah) and conviction (idana) as the case may be. All these significations, including their contraries inherent in dana, are practicable only in organized societies involved in commercial life in towns and cities, denoted by mudun or madain. A town or city (madinah) has a judge, ruler, or governor (dayyan), certain power structure and systems. Submission to this set up and feeling indebted and bound to obey the relevant laws, etc. makes one live according to the specific Deen of that city or state.

According to the Holy Qur’an, man cannot escape being in the state of living a Deen . Hence the term Deen is also used to denote to ways of life other than Islam. However, what makes Islam different is that the submission according to the Islam is sincere and total submission to Allah’s will and this is enacted willingly as absolute obedience to the law revealed by Him.

“Do they seek other than the Deen of Allah? while all creatures in the heave and on the earth have, willing or unwilling, submitted to His Will, and to Him shall they all be returned. “ (3:83)

Establishing Islam is (Fard-e-aen)

The words aqeemoo alddeena (42:13) clearly indicate Iqaamat-e-Deen, i.e. the setting up or establishment of a way of life which is impossible without the formal power structure and systems. Ask the defenders of Western civilization such as Daniel Pipes, Thomas Friedman and Bush and Blair to find out what they actually mean by defending their “way of life” or “life style.” The instant answer would be the Western politico-socio-economic system. That is what the Qur’an means when it commands for establishing the way of life as prescribed by Allah. It can never be limited to just personal ethics or spirituality.

In the Qur’anic sense, Al-Deen is not of Bush or some secular institute. It is of Allah (10:22, 16:52, 29:6531:32, 39:2, 39:11, 40:14, 40:65, 98:5), so “…establish Al-Deen…” is actually establish the Deen of Allah, which means “establish obedience of Allah” and live according to the prescribed way of life. If the West cannot live its way of life, for instance say under the Taliban’s or Saudi rule, how are Muslims expected to live the way of Allah under a secular rule?

Establishing the Deen is actually establishing an order, a state that guarantees living a life under a complete politico-socio-economic order. Verse 3:19 says that Al-Deen as approved by Allah is Islam. The primary meanings of Islam are: submission and obedience to Allah not any pact designed by Bush and company; humility, submissiveness and conformance to the Laws of Allah, not the standards of rights and accountability set by advocates of cultural-uniformity sitting in the UN. Islam means taking upon oneself what Allah has ordained and His Messenger practically demonstrated and conveyed to the mankind, not what pleases the globalists.

The crux is that the Al-Hukm [the command] is for none other than Allah. “Verily Al-Hukm belong to none but Allah and He has commanded that you should serve none except Him; this is Al-Deen-e-Qayyam [the right Deen ]” (12:40). The word Hakoomat (government, governance) is derived from the word Al-Hukm in the Qur’an, used in the context of Deen .

To go further, consider verses 1:4 and 82:18-19, where Al-Deen is used with the word “Maalik” and “Tamlik.” The root of these words is dominion, sovereignty, authority, kingship, rule and ownership. The Qur’an stresses that sovereignty belong to Allah alone (40:12, 82:19-19 ). Yaum-ul-Deen is the time, day, era, age, and zamaana when none have the sovereignty, authority or dominion except Allah.

A holistic approach to the words Deen , Islam, Iqaamat-e-Deen, Al-Hukm, Mulk and their meanings lead us to the conclusion that Deen is not just about some rituals but it is about obedience of Allah, submission to the Laws of Allah, and establishment of the sovereignty, kingship and the rule of Allah throughout the world.

If unable to establish at global scale, Muslims are obliged, at the very least, to struggle for the establishment of an Islamic state/Deen where they are in majority but still living under an order based on principle and ways that are in total contradiction to the Qur’an and Sunnah.

All those, Muslims or non-Muslims, who are denying Muslims to live by Islam are making a serious blunder. Islamic State’s coming into being would not hurt them, but hating it and holding it from becoming will have serious consequences of what the values and systems they have embraced so dearly.


[1]. Asghar Ali Engineer, “The concept of power in Islam, Dawn Feb 7, 2004

[2]. Ibid. Asghar Ali Engineer, “The concept of power in Islam, Dawn Feb 7, 2004

[3]. Ibid. Asghar Ali Engineer.


By Abid Ullah Jan


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