Islam provides complete guidance for all aspects of human life. Islamic law is not confined to civil and criminal matters, but also deals with administrative, socioeconomic, national, and international affairs.
view of life
In general terms, Islamic law is the knowledge, discipline, and science of humanity’s rights and obligations and of what is good and bad for humanity on the individual and collective levels. Thus the Islamic view of life consists of a set of rights and obligations by which Muslims are expected to live. Broadly speaking, Islamic law deals with our life in terms of our relationship with our Creator, ourselves (our rights upon ourselves), other people, and our natural environment (the rights of the resources that God has given to us for our benefit).
Each person is an instinctive worshipper; only the nature of the deity worshipped or the way worship is offered differ. God’s love abides in every person’s heart. By the nature of their being created, all creatures have to submit to their Creator. Thus all creatures, including humanity in its biological life, are muslim and have to obey the rules of creation. The Qur’an both establishes that God is the natural deity for our worship and explains the right way to worship Him. It stipulates the uniformity of worship just as it stresses God’s Unity, the unity of the worshipped, and the unity of worship.
There must be unity between our worship and our attitude toward life. The deity to whom we pray is the same one we address while studying, earning a living, and improving conditions on Earth; the same one we remember while eating, drinking, interacting with family members and all other individuals or societies, regardless of time or place: Say: “Lo, my worship and my service and behavior, my living and my dying are for God, Lord of the worlds” (6:162). Our constant reiteration of God’s Name in our hearts makes us recall His Commands and our individual and social responsibilities.
When this happens, something very significant occurs in our life: Our regular worship gives us an extraordinary spirit. For example, the prescribed daily prayers (salat) allow us to repeat and refresh our faith five times a day. The prayer times—dawn, noon, afternoon, evening, and night—correspond with the five periods of our life: childhood and youth, maturity, old age, death, and life after death until the Resurrection. The next day’s dawn signifies the Resurrection, so each day is a complete cycle of our life in parallel with that of the world.
While praying, Muslims dissociate themselves from their worldly engagements and even from the world, turning to God with all their being. Reciting the Qur’an elevates us to a state as if we were receiving it directly from the Lord of the worlds. We request Divine help to enable us to follow His Chosen Path, refresh our belief, remind ourselves that one day we will have to account for our deeds, unburden ourselves, and ask Him to help us throughout our lives.
Thus the daily prayers strengthen our faith, prepare us for a life of virtue and obedience to God, and refresh our belief, from which spring courage, sincerity, purposefulness, spiritual purity, and moral enrichment. The Qur’an states that: Daily prayers prevent a Muslim from committing vices of every kind (29:45), and the Prophet considers it the Muslims’ (spiritual) ascension to God’s holy presence.
Muslims are urged to perform their daily prayers in congregation, and must do so for the Friday noon congregational prayer. This creates a bond of love and mutual understanding, arouses a sense of collective unity, fosters a collective purpose, and inculcates a deep feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood. Prayers are a symbol of equality, for poor and rich, low and high, rulers and ruled, educated and uneducated, black and white all stand in rows and prostrate before their Lord. Furthermore, this gives a strong sense of collective discipline and obedience to the community’s leader. Prayers train Muslims in those virtues that engender the development of a rich individual and collective life.
Islam regards human beings as God’s vicegerents and cannot tolerate the degradation brought on by their submission to humiliation or oppression, for Islam is the real way to freedom and liberation. It invites people to struggle against oppression and tyranny for their freedom and dignity. By prostrating before God, Muslims declare that they bow to no other power. Islam forbids serfdom; promises universal freedom, independence in thought, action, property, and religion; and safeguards a person’s integrity, honor, and dignity.
Islam frees people from their lusts so that sensual pleasure does not tempt and corrupt them. Consuming intoxicants and engaging in sexual and moral permissiveness, gambling, nightclubs, mixed social activities, immoral movies, fornication, adultery, extramarital sex, pornography, overspending, conspicuous consumption, arrogance, greed, and so on are all humiliating factors that destroy a person’s honor and dignity. Colonialists and imperialists used such practices to enslave Muslims and many other peoples. Only the daily prayer and other forms of worship, such as alms-giving (zakat), inculcate the will to struggle against self-degradation.
cardinal reasons of social turmoil
There are two cardinal causes of social turmoil: the ideas of “let everyone work so I can eat,” and “I don’t care if others die of hunger so long as I am full.” Islam eliminates the first by banning all interest-based and usurious transactions, and the second through zakat, which serves as a bridge between a society’s various economic levels.
Zakat must be paid by every Muslim whose financial situation is above a specified minimum amount, and must be given only to gain God’s approval through serving people. God does not need or receive it, for He is above any need or desire. In His benign Mercy, He promises manifold rewards to those who pay it, provided that they do so only in His name. Those who pay it should not expect any worldly gain from the beneficiaries or an enhanced reputation as philanthropists, for:
Those who spend their wealth in God’s way (to help the poor) and then do not follow it with reproach and injury, their wage is with their Lord. No fear shall be on them, and they will not sorrow. Honorable words and forgiveness are better than alms followed by injury. God is All-Sufficient, All-Clement. (2:262-63)
Zakat is as basic to Islam as the five daily prayers and fasting. Its fundamental importance, in addition to its socioeconomic functions, lies in fostering the Islamic qualities of sacrifice and ridding Muslims of selfishness and avarice.
Muslim society gains immensely from zakat, for every well-to-do Muslim must help those who are less fortunate. Devout Muslims realize that their share in their wealth is very small when all factors are taken into account, such as God’s direct gifts of sun, rain, soil, and natural resources. Therefore they cannot use their wealth just for their own comfort and luxury, for others have just claims upon it: widows and orphans, the poor and sick, and those who for whatever reason cannot support themselves or become useful members of society. Islam regards it as a great injustice to fill one’s own stomach and coffers while others die of hunger or are unemployed, and strongly condemns such selfishness and greed. Muslims share their wealth with others, and help them stand on their own and become productive members of society.
Dr. Laura Vaglieri, a well-known Orientalist, writes that:
The spirit was liberated [through Islam] from prejudice, man’s will was set free from the ties which had kept it bound to the will of other men, or other so-called hidden powers, priests, false guardians of mysteries, brokers of salvation; all those who pretended to be mediators between God and man, and consequently believed that they had authority over other people’s wills, fell from their pedestals.
Because the Unity of God embraces all other unities, this religion was born with the unique feature of amalgamating the secular with the religious, the worldly with the other-worldly, and with a clear approach to socio-economic affairs and with a well-defined administrative system.
Man became the servant of God alone and towards other men he had only the obligations of one free man towards another. While hitherto men had suffered from the injustices of social differences, Islam proclaimed equality among human beings. Each Muslim was distinguished from other Muslims only by his greater fear of God, his good deeds, and his moral and intellectual
Islam’s most important principle is monotheism. This is not only a theological principle, but the actual cornerstone of Islamic epistemology and the fundamental principle of Islamic methodology and of all Islamic studies. In short, it states that authority, judgment, and power belong to God. This liberates humanity from domination, intermediation, and subjugation, and provides Muslims with a strong sense of independence.
When joined with the principle of amr bi al-ma‘ruf wa al-nahy ‘an al-munkar (enjoining good and forbidding evil), Muslims are provided with the legal, spiritual, social, theological, and ethical justification for erecting a Divine social order. Moreover, Islam condemns imperialism, dictatorship, colonialism, oppression, tyranny, power politics, authoritarianism, totalitarianism, theocracy, oligarchy, and monarchy.
basic articles of an Islamic Constitution
The foremost feature of Islamic administration is twofold: All people are God’s creatures and therefore no one enjoys any superiority coming from birth (race, family, and color, etc); and the government’s power is neither absolute nor designed to enslave them. Rather, its main objective is to establish and promote the virtues approved of by God and to prevent and suppress vice. This is why all rulers should display righteousness and respect for God in their character, words, and actions. Government employees, judges, and military officers should imbibe this spirit and infuse it into society.
The rule of law is indispensable to an Islamic social order. The Prophet was sent with the Book (the Qur’an, the Islamic community’s constitution) and the Balance (the Divine standard by which rulers must implement the Qur’an in order to rule the community according to absolute justice). No Muslim is above the law or can transgress its limits. The law is to be enforced without discrimination, and courts are to be free of outside pressure. History shows that most caliphs set the best examples by adhering to these principles. Even though they enjoyed greater power than past kings and present presidents and prime ministers, they adhered strictly to the law. Friendship and nepotism did not annul prescribed rules and regulations, and personal displeasure did not cause them to violate the legal code.
As justice and the rule of law are an Islamic constitution’s foremost articles, people are to obey the government so that anarchy and social disorder can be avoided. But disobedience is allowed, for the Prophet is reported to have said: “There is no obedience in sin.” This does not mean that people can revolt against the government, but that individual Muslims are responsible for their own felicity and salvation, for:
God does not change the state of a people unless they change themselves
(13:11). People make their own history and are responsible for their own individual and social conditions. Given this, advice and preaching should always come before revolt.
Another important article is the advisory system of government. Learned and pious people who possess sound judgment and expert knowledge, as well as enjoy the people’s confidence, must be located and clarify their opinions based on the dictates of their conscience. This advisory system is so important that God praises the first, exemplary Muslim community as a community whose affair is by counsel between them (42:38).
This becomes even more explicit when we realize that this first community was led by the Prophet, who never spoke out of caprice or on his own authority, but only spoke what was revealed to him by God (53:2-3), and that God considers consultation so important that He orders His Messenger to practice it with his Companions (3:159). Even after the Muslims’ reverse at the Battle of Uhud (625), due to some of the Companions’ disobedience to the Prophet, God told him to engage in consultation. The Prophet and his rightly-guided successors always consulted among themselves whenever necessary.
Consultation settles many affairs among Muslims. Judges who cannot decide cases use it to reach a verdict based on the Qur’an and the Sunna, thus making it similar to ijtihad and qiyas (analogy). Furthermore, any punishment of a secondary nature that is not explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an and the Sunna can be pronounced after consulting authoritative Muslim jurists.
Another basic principle is that the government should be formed with the people’s free consent—not through the use of force—only after they have been consulted. The people should entrust power to the best candidate after consulting among themselves, for this was how each true successor to the Prophet came to power. Although this system was replaced by a sultanate after Hasan ibn ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib resigned in 661, most Muslim rulers remained faithful and obeyed the Islamic constitutional system’s law and dictates. When rulers deviate from the Right Path, the people or their scholarly representatives should use consultation to bring about their abdication or reform.
The constitution also provides for the freedom of opinion. Promoting virtue and preventing vice is more than just a right for Muslims—it is their essential duty. Freedom of conscience and speech is the pivot that ensures the correct functioning of Islamic society and administration. The people are free to criticize even the most prominent Muslims when they go astray and to speak their minds on all matters.
The final article of an Islamic constitution to be discussed here is the public treasury, which is God’s property and a trust. Everything should be received through lawful sources and spent only for lawful purposes. Rulers have no more control of the public treasury than trustees have over the property of minor orphans in their custody: If he is rich, let him abstain altogether; if poor, let him consume it reasonably (4:6). Rulers must account for the public treasury’s income and expenditure, and Muslims have the right to demand a full account of these.
(*) Laura Vaglieri, Apologia dell Islamismo, 33-34.
1. Babilli, Mahmud. Islam’da Sura (Turkish trans.). Istanbul: n.d.
2. Dawson, Christopher. Batinin Olusumu (Turkish trans.). 1976.
3. Duverger, M. Batinin Iki Yuzu (Turkish trans.). 1977.
4. Gungoren, Ilhan. Buda ve Ogretisi. Istanbul: 1981.
5. Imam A. Yusuf. Kitab al-Kharaj (Turkish trans.). 1973.
6. Isim, M. Ali. Upanisadlar. Istanbul: 1976.
7. Izzeti, A. The Revolutionary Islam. 1980.
8. Maududi, Iqbal, A. K. Azad, and Dhakir H. Khan. Hussain: A Symbol and a Warning. Hayderabad: 1973.
9. Al-Mawardi, A. H. Al-Ahkamu’s-Sultaniye (Turkish trans.). 1976.
10. Al-Mawdudi, A. A. Towards Understanding Islam. 1970.
11. ———. Islam’da Hukumet (Turkish trans.). Ankara: n.d.
12. Nursi, Said. Sozler (The Words, 2 vols.). Istanbul: 1958.
13. Qutb, Sayid. Islam’da Sosyal Adalet (Turkish trans.). Istanbul: 1980.
14. ———. Fi Dhilal al-Qur’an (Turkish trans.). 1992.
15. Siddiqi, S. A. Islam Devletinde Mali Yapi (Turkish trans.). 1973.
16. Yavuz, Y. Vehbi. Islam’da Zekat Muoessesesi. Istanbul: 1983.