Friday, January 6, 2012

Election: a fundamental Quranic principle

Illustration by Tabassum Khalid.
Courtesy: Iqbal Academy Pakistan

This is the seventh part of Iqbal's paper 'Political Thought in Islam' (1908). Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 were presented earlier.
Such are, briefly, the main lines of Political Thought in Islam. It is clear that the fundamental principle laid down in the Quran is the principle of election; the details or rather the translation of this principle into a workable scheme of Government is left to be determined by other considerations. Unfortunately, however, the idea of election did not develop on strictly democratic lines, and the Muslim conquerors consequently failed to do anything for the political improvement of Asia. The form of election was certainly maintained in Baghdad and Spain, but no regular political institutions could grow to vitalise the people at large. It seems to me that there were principally two reasons for this want of political activity in Muslim countries:
  1. In the first place the idea of election was not at all suited to the genius of the Persians and the Mongols - the two principal races which accepted Islam as their religion. Dozy tells us that the Persians were even determined to worship the Caliph as a divinity, and on being told that worship belonged to God alone they attempted to rebel against the Caliph who would not be the centre of religious emotion.
  2. The life of early Muslims was a life of conquest. Their whole energy was devoted to political expansion which tends to concentrate political power in fewer hands, and thus serves as an unconscious handmaid of despotism. Democracy does not seem to be quite willing to get on with Empire - a lesson which the modern English Imperialist might well take to heart.
To be concluded next Friday

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