I. The Family: First Level of Social Organization
Human association has had a long history which three institutions had struggled to dominate. The first is the family, which has blood and heredity for bases. The characteristics it engenders in humans are innate and immutable. Indeed, they are constitutive of the relationship. Certainly family-living engenders in humans other characteristics which are acquired through association. These, however, are not necessary. Members born to one family may successfully be brought up as members of another; but the innate characteristics remain unchanged. The family was declared by God an intrinsic order of creation. “O Humankind, revere your Lord Who created you of a single soul and created of it its spouse…It is of God’s providing that He created of yourselves spouses in whom to find quiescence, and established between you love and compassion…that He generated from you and your spouses your children and grandchildren.” 1 Parents, their children and grandchildren, and the love and compassion relation between them, constitute an immutable pattern of God in creation. This is the family in its nuclear and extended forms spanning three generations. Islam not only acknowledges it but has girded it with law. Unlike any other social system, the law of Islam articulated the relations of all members of the extended family in order to insure proper functioning of all of them. Marriage and divorce, legitimacy and dependency, earnings and support, inheritance, and the members’ mutual rights and duties have been detailed by the shari’ah. Matters which are not dealt with by any law, hardly ever considered by custom, or spoken of in public (e.g., the sex relations between the spouses) – let alone the more common affairs of everyday living – have also been defined by Islamic law in terms of rights obligations. Justice and equity are as much involved here as in any other human transaction. Delinquency may be established with precision, and dealt with effectively. On top of all the laws, stands the divine commandment that mutual love and compassion, kindness and gentleness, and what is usually normative (al ma’ruf – Qur’an 2:180, 228, etc.) should govern all intra-family relations.
The extent of the extended family is three generations inclusive of all members. Although Islamic law left open the possibility to include members of other generations as need and the particulars of the case dictate, it assumed that those are included who can effectively eat from one kitchen and live in one estate. It assumed that through their shared living, which is possible for three generations but extremely difficult for more, the feelings of love, compassion and ma’ruf proper to the relation could be effectively maintained. The extended family is therefore the area where immutable factors constitute the sufficient reason for human association and where promoting these factors and using them as criteria of desirability or ethicality is legitimate and indeed commendable. It is not ethically improper to love one’s spouse, one’s children, one’s brothers and sisters, one’s grandparents and grandchildren, one’s uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces because they are the relatives. To love them for their wisdom or piety or achievement is worthy but additional. Indeed, it is not ethically improper to define the effective association to promote their welfare, to the exclusion of all other humans is ethically desirable.
II. The Tribe or Nation: Second Level of Social Organization
The second institution to dominate human association is the ethnic community or unit; and its pursuit is ethnocentrism.
A. The Ethnocentric Claim
Ethnocentrism is the view that man is definable in terms of the ethnic entity to which he belongs; that the good of the ethnic entity is the ultimate criterion of good and evil; and that humans ought to be guided in their conduct on earth by ethnic realities and values as principles. The ethnic entity is the tribe or nation. Its existence is necessary and justifiable by virtue of the biological, geographic, psychic, historical and political facts on which it rests.
1. The Biological Base
The biological basis consists of qualities which physical anthropologists study – the color of the skin, the shape of facial and skull bones, the form of eyes, nose and mouth, bodily build, and other innate physical characteristics inseparable from the person. These, every humans gets neither by decision nor achievement. They are simply given by God at birth. Whether they are of this or that variety is neither the work nor the decision of the creature, but of the Creator. It is He Who determines them for all humans. But they belong to the first level of social organization, viz., the family. They are not true of all members of the tribe or nation, though they are necessarily of them outside the family. However, the farther one moves from the family, the more diffuse these characteristics become and the less predictable. Only racists would claim such innate characteristics to belong necessarily to all members of the group – the tribe or nation – which they call “the race”. But their claim is false.
2. The Geographical Base
Humans, it is affirmed, live not no-where, but somewhere, within a definable territory. The tribe/nation lives on a land endowed with its own topography, location, aridity or fertility, its flora and fauna, its mountains and forests, its rivers and deserts, its lakes and seas. Tribes or nations differ from one another territorially. Their lands are separated from each other by physical boundaries (rivers, mountains and seas) or by imaginary political lines created by man (barbed wire fences, walls, etc.).
True as this may be, human belonging to a territory is not necessary. Human history has known many massive migrations of peoples from one territory to another. Modern technology, transportation and communication are making it more and more possible for humans to change territories at will. There is no necessary to one’s continuing to live in the village, city or province of one’s birth. The fact that a person was born, or resides, in a given territory does not define him; nor does it determine his worth as a human. The enlandisement of man is a debasement of him; for it defines or evaluates the person in terms of an accident of birth or history; and commits the reductionist fallacy by doing so in terms of that which must needs be evaluated rather than provide the criterion of evaluation. Just as humans are not definable, and far less subject of evaluation, by what they eat or put on, they are no more so by the real estate the occupy or the street address they occupy. It is far more becoming to define humans by the highest principles they acknowledge and by which they order their lives – namely, by their ideology or religion.
3. The Psychological Base
The tribe/nations is equally claimed to rest on a common psyche shared by all the members. This consists of psychic qualities such as language and dialect, habits of mind and perception, taste and sense of beauty, customs and mores, sense of humor and levels of concern and responsiveness. These shared characteristics, it is claimed, constitute “national character,” a “national ego or psyche,” distinguishing one tribe/nation from another and justifying its distinction from all others. The essence and value of a person are functions of his instantiation of national character, of his concretization of the national ego
Language, dialect, and customs, as well as the sense of humor and beauty, may well be shared by members of a tribe/nation. Their sharing, however, is not innate, but acquired. It is the result of many years of acculturation and socialization, of formation by the group, which may succeed in making the person an instance of the homogeneous group, and may not succeed. “National character” therefore is not so much as a reality as it is a generalization. It is a hypothesis based upon a percentage, a certain frequency of occurrence. It is not necessary. Moreover, it is not an intrinsic good, but an instrumental one, deriving its value from the deeds of morality to which it prepares the individual, if at all. It is neither universal nor necessary. Moreover, its presence proves no more than its instantiation in the person, leaving that person’s moral worth or unworth utterly untouched, a perfect “specimen” of its embodiment maybe compared to a bow ready for the arrow. But nobody mistakes the bow for the hunter, or confuses their different values.
4. The Historical Base
The experiences which befall humans accumulate, and confirm one another. Eventually, they build up a tradition. Tradition constitutes a fiduciary framework which affects the members of a tribe/nation, and determines their perception of their past, present and future as well as their conduct. It generates in them a feeling of continuity with previous generations, of belonging to one another’s contemporaries, and a capacity to bear events and forge a future continuous with the past. Tradition is essential for the tribe or nation and indeed, constitutive. It not only distinguishes the nations from one another, but indicates their individual and comparative worth. It may well then provide the criterion of worth and unworth for persons inasmuch as their belonging to this or that tradition makes them members of this or that tribe or nation and predetermines their conduct.
History, and the tradition it builds, are perhaps the most important elements justifying the tribe or nation. Certainly, history is one of the factors which cause the group to emerge as a separate entity by its disciplining, instructing and homogenizing effect. But it is not the only agent. Nor does it determine conduct with necessity. A critical view of one’s history and tradition is not only possible, but necessary for any significant human advance. Otherwise, life becomes too repetitious to be interesting. Moreover, great revolutions would be inconceivable; and so would massive conversion to a new faith. Where history is the criterion the present and future can be only a replica or taqlid. Where history and tradition are material to be judged by the tribe’s or nation’s absolute and a priori principles, the present and future can become the occasion for its transformation into something different and worthier, new and greater. Even a total abnegation of history cannot be ruled out merely on the ground that it is history. For it may will be desirable – nay, ethically necessary – to turn one’s back to history and turn a new page, as those who turned to Islam or Christianity did during the last twenty centuries, or those who turned their backs to the “old world” and sailed for the “new” did in the last four. In all these cases, far from justifying anything, history and its tradition were the materials crying for justification which they never obtained from within themselves.
5. The Political Base
Finally, it is claimed that a tribe/nation rests ultimately on the will of its people to be a tribe or nation, autonomous and separate from all others. Their identification of themselves as different and their desire to perpetuate and institutionalize this differentiation constitute the necessary accreditation. This general will is equally the source and base of sovereignty which is the power of the group to determine its present and future in accordance with the consensus of its members, and to impose such determination in case of absence of such consensus.
Like the psychological base, the general will and sovereignty are instruments, not ends. Their values are preparatory only, and hence derivative from those of the ends to which they lead and which they are manipulated to serve. By themselves, they do not justify anything, not even their own existence. For that can be as much a cause of ultimate good as ultimate evil.
B. The Islamic Position
1. Descriptive vs. Normative
It follows from the foregoing that all the elements on which the tribe or nation is based are not necessary, though they may be universal. They could be otherwise than they are. To alter them is indeed possible, not only in childhood where alteration would be most effective and permanent; but also in adulthood where deliberate decision, resoluteness and perseverance could change them just as perfectly. A person’s membership in the tribe or nation does entitle him to love, honor, assistance and protection by fellow tribesmen on the basis that charity begins at home or, as Islamic jurisprudence has formulated it, “the nearer is more entitled to your good deed (al ma’ruf) than the farther.” But this principle is not absolute. It is limited by the nature of the content of the claim. By virtue of belonging to the tribe, for instance, the tribesman is no more entitled to one’s charity than the distant neighbor whose need for that charity is greater; nor for one’s protection if the distant neighbor stands in greater need for that protection. However, the near neighbor is indeed entitled to a minimum-survival, safety of body and property, freedom from disease, and education. He is entitled to these necessities of existence with priority. But he is entitled to one more than these necessities until the distant neighbor has achieved same. In no case does the need of the near neighbor entitle him to pursue these necessities at the cost of any other human, near to distant. That would be theft. Colonialism is precisely that; viz., to exploit coercively for the benefit of one’s fellow tribesmen the resources of the distant neighbor, or other tribesmen. If done without coercion, it is trade which may bring advantage or disadvantage to one or both partners. But with coercion, it becomes criminal, worthy of forced restoration of the robbed wealth as well as grave punishment.
Being a realistic religion bent upon the promotion of human welfare, Islam did not deny that humans are born into their tribes and/or nations; or that they become socialized into them by historical accident. This much of the claim of the advocates of particularism or ethnocentrism is not denied. Had Islam denied it, it would have had to wage an impossible battle against the hundreds of ethnic group it had penetrated, a war in which it or the other party would have had to be annihilated. In fact, Islam never waged such a war. It tolerated the existence of ethnic characteristics as God-given as long as they remained in place. Once they interfered with the purposes of the shari’ah, then they were curbed by the very people they characterized, as those people developed the higher loyalty to Islam and its vision. Language is the most important element of ethnicity. Its relation to Islam is a true index of Islam’s position toward ethnicity as a whole. It is a commonplace fact that the native languages of the Muslim World not only survived, but were developed and became richer through the advent of Islam. Indeed Islam lifted many of those languages from the primitive level, to that of ordered structure, literacy, and endowment with a great legacy of literature. The legacies which developed in Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Malay, Hausa, and Sawahili are of world significance as well as inconceivable without the influence of Islam.
2. The Positive Good of the Tribe or Nation
Human acculturation and socialization through the tribe or nation of one’s birth was ordained by the Creator. However, the purpose of the wider association differs. “O Humankind,” the Qur’an affirms, “We have created you all of a single pair, and we have constituted you into tribes and nations that you may know one another. The nobler among you is the more righteous” (Qur’an 49:13). The purpose of belonging to this or that tribe or nation is identification. That this man is English and that one is Japanese, that one is black and the other is white, that one speaks Persian and the other Arabia, that one resides in Moscow and the other in Chicago -– all these are aids in identifying the person. They do not tell us anything about the person’s worth as a human. That is why God explicitly added to His Qur’anic declaration the conclusion that the criterion of comparative worth among humans is righteousness. This addition is meant to deny that belonging to this or that tribe or nation constitutes any criterion of worth.
Under a variant interpretation, the word lita’arafu (that you may know/identify one another) of the Qur’anic verse quoted earlier maybe taken to mean “that you may cooperate with one another in doing al ma’ruf or the good deed.” In this case, ethnicity becomes a good which serves as a base for al ma’ruf. Undoubtedly, the development of an ethnic language and its endowment with a literary tradition is ma’ruf, a commendable achievement. The same maybe said of other elements of ethnicity; music, dress, food, architecture, village or urban planning, social custom.
All these positive aspects of ethnicity Islam acknowledges under the “ummah,” as theoretical category, and all their values are subsumed under the “ummah” as axiological category. This particular meaning of the ummah (the ummah in this or that region of the world) contrasts with the universal ummah which is the first object of the world-state of Islam. To each, Islam and its law have assigned its proper place. The nearest Western term which covers the regional ummah is patriotism. Patriotism is the love, compassion and responsibility one feels toward his neighbors, his fellow tribesmen, his region of the globe. Islam appreciates these feelings. Indeed, it provides laws for the actualization of these objectives. Service to tribe or nation, it holds, defence of the regional ummah when aggressed upon from within (gangsterism, rebellion, breakup of public order) or from without (invasion, subversion) are duties under Islamic law. Their neglect or violation is punishable in this world and the next. Thus Islam outdoes Western patriotism by making the ethnic group’s service and defense a civic as ell religious duty. Islam doubles the motivation for compliance with patriotic requirements, by adding the punishment and reward of the other world to those of this world.
3. Patriotism vs. Ethnocentrism/Nationalism
Patriotism however, is radically different from nationalism, or ethnocentrism. The latter go far beyond patriotism as we have defined it. First, nationalism or ethnocentrism assumes the existence of characteristics in the group which biology knows to exist only in the family among people related in blood through a very few generations. This is the blunder of racism, which asserts the presence of biological qualities in the group to justify the separatism of its members from, and their superiority over, humanity. The “master race” and the “chosen people” theories with which this century made us all too familiar, are examples of biology-based racism, the one defining membership in terms of descendence from mother, the other in terms of descendence from mother and father as well as eyes and hair color and cephalic index.
Second, ethnocentrism/nationalism considers all acquired group characteristics as necessary as the innate family characteristics, and treats them as such. For it does not differentiate between the necessities of biology and history. Its vision is so committed to the group that it read into group history an absolutely necessary march which could not have been but as it was and is. Through mythologization, it creates gods out of the group’s past and prostrates itself in worship at their feet. The accidents of history are fused with biological qualities assumed to exist in the group to form a mystical block with which the group is identified and its destiny charted.
Thirdly, nationalism/ethnocentrism assigns to the hypostasized biological-historical characteristics of the group universal value. In its axiological hierarchy, the values of other groups find only inferior, secondary position. The very existence of other groups is assigned instrumental status and value in relation to those of the nationalist/ethnocentrist group. The nationalist good is the highest. It must be pursued uberhaupt; i.e., it must be the ultimate and of all other pursuits, and as such, all other pursuits are to become subservient to it. This is the axiological foundation which justified in the eye of the nationalist/ethnocentrist, his violation of all other groups, which indeed regards such violation not only permissible where it is instrumental to the nationalist good, but even obligatory when the two run in opposite directions. The nationalist/ethnocentrist group is egotistic, preferring its own good to that of humanity.
Promotive as it is of patriotism, Islam has no countenance for nationalist/ ethnocentrism. It condemns it for its falsity, its pretense, and its truncated, reductionist axiology. Islam regards it as violating the most basic intuitions and values of humanity, as well as the highest commandments of God. Indeed, Islam regards nationalist/ethnocentrism as a threat to divine transcendence. For under nationalist/ethnocentrism, humans are not the equal creatures of God who compete for merit with Him. They are unequal creatures and their inequality is not a consequence of their effort, but a function of their creatureliness. Furthermore, as preferred or chosen creatures, possessing higher values in their beings (i.e., ontologically), they stand to God in different relation that other creatures do. A god that suffers himself to stand in such different relations to his human creatures is not the transcendent God of Islam, but a prejudiced weakling, dominated by an irrational, arbitrary passion for his preferred stock. No wonder that nationalist/ethnocentrism conceives of Him as “the God of Promise,” i.e., as straightjacketed by his own promise given to his chosen, to which he is bound regardless of the chosen’s conduct. The God of Islam is indeed the “God of the Covenant.” But the covenant of God is an open covenant which all humankind are invited to enter. It is a free, open, two-way highway in which man serves God in loyalty to Him and God disburses His rewards according to personal merit. Nationalist/ethnocentrism reduces the God of the covenant to the God of the Promise and thus ruins His transcendence.
4. Nationalism/Ethnocentrism in History
Nationalist/ethnocentrism dominated life in Arabia before Islam, and was called “asabiyyat al jahiliyah.” It raised the tribe above humanity, focussed all poetry and feeling upon the tribe’s glory, and demanded exertion of all effort in pursuit of the tribe’s welfare. In the process, it justify raiding of the other tribe, robbery of its wealth, and slaughter of its innocent members for no crime but the fact to their belonging to another tribe. In order to eradicate this evil, Islam abolished the tribe as form of human association, and built the ummah on trans-tribal, humanity-wide foundations. It was to an Arab audience that the Prophet Muhammad (SAAS) addressed the following admonitions on his last pilgrimage to Makkah, and hence the holiest occasion: “Listen to me well, O People, God created you all descendants of Adam, and Adam he created of earth. No Arab has any priority over a non-Arab, no white over a black and no non-Arab over an Arab, or black over a white – except in righteousness.”
Later in Islamic history (first century of the Abbasi caliphate, from about 150/ 775), the same evil showed its head again, this time under the name “shu’biyyah” (factionalism). But the ummah combated it successfully and eradicated it.2 In modern times, it has risen again among Muslims in the aftermath of colonialism under the name “qawmiyyah” or nationalism. Fortunately, qawmiyyah has not penetrated to the Muslim masses, who remain aware of but one identity – the Islamic – from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Qawmiyyah was adopted by a Westernized upper crust of Muslim society which had been trained by the colonialists to hold the reins of power after their departure and to perpetuate the fragmentation of the world-ummah into mutually conflicting factions. Like the shu’ubiyyah of early Muslim history, modern qawmiyyah is devoid of thought, but it is far more dangerous. It seeks to attach itself to Islamic civilization to which it has yet contributed nothing. As shu’ubiyyah was the camouflage of zandaqah (pretense of Islam shown by non-Muslims), qawmiyyah is the pretence of anti-Arab or anti-Islamic forces in the Muslim world seeking the division of the ummah into ethnic/linguistic/geographic units which Islam never recognized. Qawmiyyah is the committed enemy of the universal brotherhood of Islam, of world-unity under the aegis of Islam. Undoubtedly, the opposition of qawmiyyah to the world—ummah will be the “battle of the century”3.
Nationalism/ethnocentrism is built upon a relativist axiology. The scale of values as well as the higher values in the hierarchy are regarded as normative only for the group. The others may be its objects, or instruments, never its ultimate purpose which must be the group itself. That is why the God of nationalism/ethnocentrism may reach humankind, not in love or compassion but in revenge and vindication for the ethnic group. Equally, just as ethnocentric religion is hardly ever missionary, seeking deliberately to contain itself within the group and absolving humankind from equal obligation under the commandments of God, nationalism seeks to shut itself from humanity by setting for itself a temple, or holy ground, out of a piece of real estate it cuts off from the earth, and girds itself against humankind by restrictive citizenship and immigration laws. Little does nationalism/ ethnocentrism know that any sub-group within the group has more title to separatism and exclusivism than the group itself of which it is part. For the more restrictive and smaller the sub-group, the more accurate its description of itself, and the stronger the ‘asabiyyah (cohesive bond) among its members. Little does nationalism/ethnocentrism realize that by its own logic, it dooms itself to infinite fragmentation into ever smaller sub-groups, a fate it escapes only by contradicting itself, by denying its own logic. But, founding itself upon feeling, it takes refuge in the arbitrary judgment of ineffable experience. Little does it realize how perilously close it stands to the dogmatism of the Catholic Church, opposition to which gave nationalism ethnocentrism its birth certificate.
The nation-state is a phenomenon of European history. It arose as an expression of nationalism/ethnocentrism. Its origins are to be found in the Reformation. Having a bused the peoples under its care, the Roman Catholic Church became the object of resentment by many. Its justification of its tyranny and abuse by declaring its practices consistent with its ideal of the universal oikumene (community) make the ideal itself hateful along with the practices. Thus, rebellion against the Church of Rome was at once rebellion against “aliens” who exploited the people, extorted their wealth and spent it on the beautification of alien lands (Italy). Rallying around the prince and against the Church of Rome was “national liberation” from that yoke. Thus the nationalist movements of Europe began.
Later, when seventeenth century rationalism and the Enlightenment, in their combat of the dogmatism of the Roman Catholic Church, projected against the old ideal of the universal community but as the necessary consequence of rationalism, the mind of Europe was revulsed. In its second rebellion against universalism (whether religious, rationalist or secular) Europe flung itself violently toward ethnocentrism. The new movement was known as romanticism. It developed an epistemology of feeling and experience on which to base its religion (Schleiermacher), and ethic (Fichte, Nietzsche); and it relegated rationalism and empiricism to the sciences of nature alone. Group self-assertion became the order of the day in Europe. Inter-group conflict was mitigated only by the rivalry of European nations to invade and colonize Africa, Asia, Oceania and Latin America. Even so, wars between the European nations never ceased with one ethnic group claiming superiority over its neighbors, its colonies and the whole world. The Muslim world received the brunt of Europe’s colonialist expansion. The terrible mess in which the whole world finds itself today is the direct consequence of European nationalism/ethnocentrism. Indeed the world is groaning from it. Its contagion however is spreading to the Third World, just as the colonialists had planned in the hope of keeping its peoples divided against themselves.
III. The Universal Brotherhood under the Law: The World-Ummah
The third institution to dominate human association is the universal community. It was first established in history in the Akkadian, and later in the Babylonian, state in Mesopotamia. Although these states never extended beyond the Tigris-Euphrates valley and/or geographic Syria, they were thought by their rules and citizens to cover “the four directions of the world.” Every Arab migration into Mesopotamia and/or the Fertile Crescent (Akkadian, Amorite, Aramean) tended to repudiate the city states in favor of one which included the whole region which was the extent of their knowledge of the world. The peoples of the most distant areas were regarded as de jure citizens of the Semitic universal state, as witness the code of Hammurabi; whereas the Egyptians, the Greek and the Romans never looked upon the citizen of the distant lands except as strange aliens and subject people to be colonized.
The ideal of the universal community was equally taught by Jesus, son of Mary, as the antidote to Jewish ethnocentrism. The same teaching was promoted by his followers who took the new religion outside of the Jewish community and proselytized the world. The ideal remained active in the Roman Catholic Church for almost a millenium and a half; but its history has been made turbulent by two factors militating against it. The first was the commonplace human failure to live by the high ideal. The second, unique to Christianity, was her condemnation of all political life as fallen, necessarily sinful and salvation.
Islam was the ideal’s greatest affirmation; and the Islamic State, its greatest embodiment. Islam offers the universal community as base of human association, instead of the nation, people or ethnic group. This is not the ummah of the Muslims, or Muslims community, which is only a segment of the constituency of the Islamic State. In the first written constitution, which was given by the Prophet to the New Islamic State in Madinah, the ummah of Muslims was one community, and the ummah of Jews was another. Later, the ummah(s) of Christians, Zoroastrians, Hindus and Buddhists joined the Islamic State. The Islamic State itself was an ummah of a different order, an expanding world-ummah designed eventually to include humanity as its citizens. The communities which constitute the world-ummah were to co-exist in peace. Each ummah is to order the lives of its members according to its own religion. It is to have its own institutions and its own laws, as well as the power to activate the former and implement the latter. The Islamic State guarantees these prerogatives in its shari’ah, or God-given law and constitution. Within the world-ummah, everyone should be free to convince and be convinced of the truth. The divine commandment, “No coercion in religion” (Qur’an 2:256) is to govern the relations of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
The world-ummah of Islam was a radical and new political ideal then, as it is today; for the need for it continues persistently. It is a pluralistic universal society in which all humans are members by virtue of their religious affiliation. Its pluralism is based not on courtesies or arrangements and treaties which can be denied or revoked at the whim of politicians, but on laws which no earthly authority can change or revoke. Moreover, it is not a pluralism in the matters which do not count, such as one finds today in London or New York. It is a pluralism of law – an idea of which the West has not yet even conceived. Beside the shari’ah, whose laws govern the lives of Muslim citizens and are administered in Muslim courts, the Islamic State has the Torahic, Christian, Zorastrian, Hindu and Buddhist laws which govern the lives of their adherents and are administered by Rabbinic, Christian, Zoroastrian, Hindu and Buddhist courts. Where the jurisdiction of these courts overlaps, as when the cases presented to them involve adherents of many faiths, the courts reconcile their verdicts together for the good of the adherents and the world-ummah of which they are the constituents. Only in matters of war and peace affecting the world-ummah as a whole is the Islamic State exclusively the judge.
The Islamic State is hence a world-state, with an army on the ready to repel aggression as well as to prevent war between one ummah and another. It is a pax islamica in which a person is identified according to what he cherishes best, his religion, ideology and law, not his tribal membership. It is a United Nations with teeth so as to preserve the peace, and with respect and concern for the spiritual identify of the members. It is the expression of Islamic humanism.
The raison d’etre of the ummah – with its government and institutions – is not merely to curb the evil tendencies of man. To restrict the origin and purpose of political organization to the task of protecting the individual from the bellum omnium contra omnes, the presupposition of liberal political thinking in the West, debases the state and truncates it. Even if true, such prejudgments against it reduce the state’s value to that of a preliminary condition. Underlying this thinking is the doctrinal position of Christian dogma, namely, that man is fallen, essentially vitiated by “original sin”, and hence hopelessly embroiled in a predicament from which he can never extricate himself. Such a view is the presupposition of Christian soteriology. It has no place in Islam where man is held to be innocent, created in the best of forms, higher than the angels, and commissioned (mukallaf) with a task of cosmic significance, namely, to do God’s will on earth, to realize the absolute in this space and time. To this end, God has made the whole of creation subservient to man, and created him capable of free action. The causal system of creation which is sustained and ordered by God was broken open only for human action to intervene and effectively to change the course of events and transform creation into the pattern God has commanded and revealed. This is the meaning of man’s khilafah, or vicegerency of God; of his carrying the amanah, or divine trust in space-time.
Evidently, if man is to pursue this end and actualize it, he needs the state. Being an ethic of works rather than an ethic of faith or intention, the ethic of Islam requires and presupposes the ordered society. For only three will man be able to fulfill the commandments of God. These, being all social, or ummatic in character, society, its institutions and the whole web of societal relation in which man stands are necessary. The state is not merely a policeman; though it does fulfill this function when and where necessary. Rather, the state is the focus of ummatic activity. It is the leader and mover which mobilizes and organizes human energies; which leads the ordered energies of the ummah effectively toward the goal. That history has known some men bent upon mischief, some rulers who have fallen to corruption and tyranny, constitute no attack upon the state and no argument against its desirability and legitimacy. The onward march of humanity toward the khilafah-goal is the only legitimate criterion of worth. It justifies the state and all its institutions. But it also lays the greatest burden of responsibility upon it –- the responsibility of fulfilling or not fulfilling the diving imperative, as well as that of Ultimate Judgment where every person, ruler or ruled, will get exactly what he or she has earned, blest or unblest.
From Chapter 7: “The Nation State And Social Order In The Perspective of Islam” in Isma’il Raji al Faruqi (ed.), “Trialogue of the Abrahamic Faiths”, Amana Publications, 4th edition (1995)