June 29, 2010 Special Dispatch No. 3066

Views of Pakistani Religious Leader Dr. Israr Ahmed (1932-2010) Regarding the Structure of an Islamic Caliphate

June 29, 2010
Pakistan | Special Dispatch No. 3066

Dr. Israr Ahmed (1932-2010), the founder of Pakistan's leading religious organization Tanzeem-e-Islami, was a prominent Islamic scholar who campaigned for establishing an Islamic caliphate. Trained to be a medical practitioner, he began activism during his student days while associated with the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, but later developed differences because of its "involvement in electoral politics."[1] In April 1957, he left the Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and established his own religious organization, Tanzeem-e-Islami, in 1975.

Over the past few decades, he wrote more than 60 books, delivered television sermons, and founded several organizations such as Anjuman-e-Khuddamul Quran and Tehreek-e-Khilafat, acquiring devout followers in Pakistan, India, and in Saudi Arabia and the broader Middle East. During the past few years, he had been unwell, handing over the leadership of his organization in 2002 to Hafiz Akif Saeed as the acting Emir. While the Jamaat-e-Islami's influence is more in the area of day-to-day activism, Dr. Israr Ahmed's Tanzeem-e-Islami's influence is more in the spiritual, religious, and scholarly domains.

At a meeting in June 2010 held in Lahore to examine the teachings of Dr. Israr Ahmed, Akif Saeed, the new Emir of Tanzeem-e-Islami, stressing the message of his predecessor, diagnosed all problems of Pakistan as originating from the absence of caliphate in the country, and asserted: "The real cause of our woes is the delay in the enforcement of Shari'a [in Pakistan]. Peaceful protest and other tactics can help us in this regard... When the infidels can unite, why can't we? We have the Koran, on the basis of which we can come close to each other. Our belief in the oneness of Allah can make the Muslims one nation."[2]

According to a report in the Pakistani daily Dawn, "A critic of modern democracy and the electoral system, Dr. Israr [Ahmed] believed that the head of an Islamic state can reject majority decisions of an elected assembly. A familiar refrain in his writings is that the spiritual and intellectual center of the Muslim world has shifted from the Arab world to the subcontinent and that conditions are much more congenial for the establishment of [an] Islamic Caliphate in Pakistan than in other Muslim countries."[3] In 1982, he created a furor in Pakistan, claiming that women should be barred from all professions except medicine and teaching.[4]

The following article, which is translated and excerpted from Dr. Israr Ahmed's booklet in Urdu language, "Pakistan Mein Nizam-e-Khilafat: Kia, Kyon, Kaise?" (The System of Caliphate in Pakistan - What, Why, and How?), highlights his conception of how the constitutional structure of caliphate, or a modern Islamic state in Pakistan or elsewhere, has to be organized. The booklet has been published by the Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Quran, an organization of Tanzeem-e-Islami based in Lahore.

Title of Article: "Constitutional Sketch of Modern Islamic State or Caliphate"

"A huge part of Shari'a is about man's religious duties, which is thought in Islam to have a collective touch, yet at a constitutional and legal level it should be considered as personal to an individual. Then, a lot of do's and don'ts of Islam relate to human ethics and morals that are common heritage of human beings and world religions. Then, there are the rules of religion that pertain to collective human life. Family is the basic unit of human society, and matrimonial relations a starting point of human collectives. Furthermore, this part of human life was perfect from the very beginning and the issues and problems related to it were not to be affected by the evolution of civilizations; so the Koran described family laws in detail and explained even the minutest of it. In the same way as the psychology of men and women was to remain the same in its essence, so too the do's and don'ts of social life and orders regarding these were given in a lot of clarity and detail in the Koran. But the case of political, state-related, and economic life of human beings is quite opposite to it. In these areas, evolution was underway when the Koran was revealed and is still in progress. So right according to the logic and wisdom, the Koran established its basic principles and goals, yet orders were not issued in detail. Of these matters, we find a few particularities regarding economic life in the Koran, for example forbidding of interest, gambling, and bribery, condition of mutual consent in trade, and laws of inheritance, etc.; but it is a reality that about politics and state, Shari'a has only given the basic principles and has not obligated any form or structure."

Fundamental Characteristics of the Islamic State

"What would be the constitutional sketch of a modern ideal Islamic state? Or in other words, what shape would the Islamic system of Caliphate, state and politics take practically? Philosophical and ideological debates aside, what the author can positively say on the basis of his study and contemplation is that it will be the most democratic state of modern times, and will have only two fundamental differences with the secular democratic state based on [territorial] nationalism:

i) "Sovereignty of Allah

"The first and foremost basic difference is that sovereignty will belong to Allah. That will be expressed in the unconditional and complete supremacy of the Koran and the Sunnah over the system and the law. This supremacy will obviously be asserted in the constitution as the basis of the state's existence. So the state will be based not on the sovereignty of man but his servitude to god.

ii) "Islamic Citizenship

"The second major difference, that is also a logical deduction from the principle discussed above, is that full citizenship will not be awarded to all the people living within its geographical boundaries, but only to those among them who will announce their belief in Allah and Mohammad as his final prophet. Non-Muslims will be a protected minority whose life, wealth, and honor will be protected and who will enjoy guaranteed freedom in their beliefs, religious activities, family laws, and complete personal law. And their sacred places will be as safe as mosques are. But as law-making in an Islamic state or caliphate will be within the boundaries of the Koran and the Sunnah, and the purpose of the Caliphate will be the expansion and completion of the Prophet's mission, the non-Muslims will not be a part of law-making or of higher order policy or strategy development."

"What Does it Mean to Digress?"

"The principles mentioned above are not only complimentary but also are part and parcel of Islamic state or caliphhood. The Muslims who do not feel compatible with these should clearly say that they accept Islam only at the level of beliefs or morals, and consider it impractical, inappropriate, or unsuitable as a system of state or for governance at national level. First of these principles is a logical demand of Tauhid (belief in the oneness of God), which is the base and root of Islam. So to deny it is Kufr [being infidel] and to think of exceptions is adulteration. It has been told in the Koran that those who do not take decisions according to the Shari'a revealed by God are infidels and adulterators and also that who obey God and his prophet in some aspects of life and someone else in other aspects are in fact adulterators.

"As far as the second principle is concerned, it is an obligation for every Muslim, generally, to accept it because it is a logical result of the first principle and for Pakistani Muslims especially, as it is the root of Pakistan's existence. The Pakistan movement was run on the basis of religious nationalism, and it negated territorial nationalism. Digressing from this principle is the equivalent of destroying Pakistan and denying its being. That's why Indian journalists and intellectuals very subtly state that they have accepted Pakistan, not the two nation theory [i.e. the idea that Muslims cannot live with Hindus and hence the origin of Pakistan]."

"Nine Constitutional Points of a Modern Islamic State or Caliphhood"

"Maintaining these two principles of the Islamic system, the highest ideals of human rights and most modern institutions of state and governance can be attached with them and that's how we can benefit from the fruits of human civilizations' evolution. For example:"

"Collective Caliphhood"

"When the political consciousness of man was in childhood and the man knew kings; and an individual ruler's caliphate, or Imamate, was situated in an individual. So in the Koran, Prophet Daood was told that he was appointed as caliph of God on earth and that he should rule justly. And as the Koran tells us, Prophet Abraham was told that God is about to make him the leader of people. But when human consciousness developed, God made caliphhood and Imamate a public and collective institution. So, on the one hand, leadership of human beings was awarded to Muslims, and on the other, caliphhood was handed over to the Muslim population, who from among themselves can choose one to become a caliph. This is the reason that Hazrat Omar ibn Khattab [the 2nd caliph of Islam] arranged a congregation to warn people about the intentions of those who wanted to usurp the right of people when in his last days he was informed by Abdul Rehman Bin Oaf that some people are saying that they will make Mr. X the caliph after Hazrat Omar. He postponed the program, as he was traveling, and later arranged a congregation where he said that the allegiance paid to some emir without consulting other Muslims is no allegiance.

"So the system of consultation among Muslims was therefore based on the tribal grounds and the categorizations, on the basis of the Prophet's saying, present at that time. But there is no religious hindrance in expanding this consultative system to all the adult Muslim men and women living within the geographical boundaries of the state. The principle set by the Muslim jurisprudence experts that all Muslims are equal to each other is according to the spirit of times. And they way irreverent and pious sons of a person share his inheritance equally the Muslims will be considered equal as far as voting for electing consultative council or caliph is concerned.

"But according to the eternal guidance of the Koran, 'hand the responsibilities over to those who deserve,' it will be imperative to screen the character of the candidate for the election; so the responsibility of the nation goes to those who deserve. As far as age of the candidate and other relevant conditions are concerned, these matters will be decided by consultation among Muslims.

"In this debate ideologically the stance of the people, who believe in Imamate or caliphhood of a person who is flawless (or has divine guidance) even after the end of the prophethood on Prophet Mohammad, will be different. But as their majority Shi'ite (who believe in 12 Imams) believes that the Imam is not physically present, so practically they are facing the same situation as the Sunnis are; rather it is a fact that for the last many centuries only Shi'ites have kept the institution of Ijtihad alive. The same is the situation with the Bohri sect of Shi'ites; so, practically the only exception is regarding the followers of Agha Khan. Their Imam is present and alive; so if an Ismai'li state is created anywhere on earth, the election of a ruler is out of the question as the Imam or some representative nominated by him will rule; yet the followers of Agha Khan are a very small minority in Pakistan; so it is not an important problem."

"Three Organs of State"

"All of us know that the three organs of a modern state – legislature, executive, and judiciary – were not considered separate in the system of caliphate, but nothing bars a modern Islamic state from taking benefit of this evolution in civilization. So, on the one hand there will be a legislature to continue lawmaking as per the Koran and the Sunnah and to continue updating the Shari'a. But that will only have Muslims as members and that will only be elected by a Muslim population. On the other hand, there will be a judiciary to decide disputes among people, between people and the state, and to safeguard the rights of the people. Being the custodian of constitution, the judiciary will also decide if the law adopted by the assembly is in accordance with Shari'a. The third organ will be executive that will handle the day-to-day working of the state, will enforce law, maintain law and order, and will defend the country."

"Law Making or Ijtihad"

"This opinion of Allama Muhammad Iqbal [the founding poet of Pakistan] that Ijtihad will be done and law will be made through parliament is correct. But that does not mean that learned people outside the parliament will not be consulted; the real spirit is that the parliament will decide (from among the proposed drafts of law) what draft will be enacted as law and will be enforced. The decision of whether law is in accordance with the Shari'a or not is a technical and sensitive issue; so wisdom does not allow us to hand over to the parliament the qualification of members of which is the support of adult Muslims irrespective of the voters' knowledge of religion.

"The clause of the constitution [i.e. the present Pakistani constitution] that no law repugnant to the Koran and the Sunnah will be enacted can be implemented in three ways. One way is that it should only be the right of the parliament to make laws as the champions of democracy say; yet in that case the number of the people from which members of the parliament will be selected will be very few as they will be selected from the people who have sufficient knowledge of the Koran and the Sunnah [in order to make laws according to them]. This decrease in the base from which the members are to be selected is against the spirit of the times. The second way is that there should be an institution of religious scholars who will check the laws made by or drafts proposed to the parliament for them to be in accordance with the Koran and the Sunnah. That would be a theocracy that also is against the spirit of the times. So the only way possible is to leave law making to the parliament and let judiciary check if the laws are in accordance with the Koran and the Sunnah or whether they are against them.

"We can bear with the present dual system, that [in Pakistan] there are Shari'a courts and the Supreme Court separately, temporarily. And it is too bad that there are different rules and standards for appointment of judges in these courts. In future when there will be an ideal Islamic state, it is obvious that law colleges will be Shari'a schools and all the lawyers and judges will be the experts of Shari'a. So, there will be one judicial system and no duality."

"Political Parties"

"An important institution of the modern enlightened state is political parties, and freedom of association is also an established right, like freedom of thought and freedom of expression. In a modern Islamic state, citizens will enjoy this right with certain limits and certain extra freedoms. The parties will be barred from including in their programs anything that is against the Koran and the Sunnah, as the political parties will be running a system under some restrictions. Every member of the parliament will be free to express his views regarding everyday issues. One exception applies to the issues of fundamental nature. Another exception will be the case when the lawmaker's opinion will contradict his party program. In this case, it is a demand of logic and wisdom that he should resign."

"A Beautiful Combination of Limitations and Freedoms"

"The discussion can be summed and its crux can be stated in a few words by referring to a hadith that the example of the believer is of a horse tied to a peg. Extend this example and imagine a vast piece of land where there is a lot of space for the horse to roam but you don't want the horse to run away so you tie him to a peg through a rope of 100 meters length. So there will be a circle of 100 meters radius in which the horse will be free to move. But its movement to 101st meter will be banned.

"The beautiful combination of limitations and freedom can be explained through this example. The circle represents the Koran and the Sunnah going out of which is neither allowed to individuals nor to the society or state. But individuals, society and state are free within the circle. So, the democratic values can be propagated and enforced within this limit and the requirement of the Koran's principle of consultation for common issues can be met within the circle."

"Differences in Jurisprudence and Their Solution"

"A problem presented as a major hurdle in the way of enforcement of Shari'a is sectarian differences based on jurisprudence. The problem is not as grave as we think. Firstly, its high temperature is due to the stagnation and the professional jealousy among religious scholars, and both of the causes will be eliminated by the creation of an Islamic state. Secondly, the atheists blew it out of proportion. But we have no doubt that these difference are there and to end them is not only practically but also logically impossible. It is imperative to give them a suitable constitutional and legal form for an Islamic state.

"It will sound strange, but for better communication I am using this term and saying that a modern Islamic state or the system of caliphate will be semi-secular. It means that the way a secular state, at least ideologically, considers citizens equal to each other and provides them with complete personal freedom, the same way in a modern Islamic state all sects will be considered equal as far as their personal matters and family laws are concerned. All [Muslim] citizens will be allowed to believe, pray, and perform their rites and rituals of birth, death, marriage, and inheritance according to their sects, and as mentioned earlier this freedom will be enjoyed by the non-Muslims as well. The only problem in this case will be regarding family laws when there will be an inter-sect marriage. The simple and easy solution is that at the time of marriage, the sect according to which a marriage is to be performed will be decided. It means one of the partners will have to accept the sect of other partner only in family laws.

"We should not hesitate to take guidance from the West in these matters. So, there is no issue in getting the sects to register with their own high-level boards who will manage their mosques and advise government about their issues. The decision of matters regarding family laws can be handed over to them.

"As far as law of the land, and civil and criminal codes and administrative rules are concerned, there are two options. One is to consider the Koran and the Sunnah as the ultimate law while treating jurisprudence of various sects as precedence and a common heritage. The other is enforcing jurisprudence of the majority sect as public law as it is practiced in Iran. I think practically there will not be a major difference in both cases, as there will be an updating of Islamic law in a modern state through consultative assembly and the courts will decide the status of law by checking it against the Koran and the Sunnah. And if we consider the jurisprudence of the majority sect as law, the practical effect will be that only the ways of deducing laws, from the Koran and the Sunnah, accepted by the majority sect, will be used. In brief it is not difficult; the zeal is what we need, a determination to live as a Muslim and die as a Muslim and to lead our individual as well as collective life as Islam wants."

"Presidential or Parliamentary System"

"As far as the question of the structure and system of state is concerned that either it be federal or unitary, presidential or parliamentary, the Koran and the Sunnah have not given any specific command and it is completely upon the citizens of the state [to decide about it]. But it would not be inappropriate to say that the caliphate in early years of Islam was more near to a unitary presidential state. And it is almost important to point out that Pakistan and India consider the parliamentary system as the ultimate, not on the basis of some conscious decision but because the British who ruled us established and trained us in the system that they used in their country.

"If we think objectively, the presidential system is suitable for both Pakistan and India. But both the countries should be truly federations. India has already taken some steps by redrawing province while keeping cultural and linguistic facts in view. But Pakistan has to go through this phase. It is good to make small provinces with a population not more than 10 million and no big differences in number of people inhabiting in each province. Furthermore, spirit of times demands autonomy for these provinces and equal importance for all languages and cultures, other than Arabic that is the language of the Koran and the Sunnah... Its education will be made obligatory and soon it will be declared the national language."

"Participation of Women"

"As far as the participation of women in this plan is concerned, it is very clear that no women can ever be a caliph. Though it is not Haram (status of the acts that are strictly forbidden e.g. murder) but it has not been liked. As we have said earlier, they will vote as far as candidature is concerned; it is between these two limits. They can become a member of a consultative assembly yet in proper dress with faces in veils."

"Status of Non-Muslims"

"The principled stance has already been stated that they will not be allowed to vote or run for seats in elections of a law-making assembly, yet a common consultative assembly of all minorities or a separate board for every minority will be established through an election among them that will advise government about the issues related to them. This condition is in every way against the modern norms yet we have to bear with it if we have to make an ideal modern state."


[1], Pakistan, accessed June 17, 2010.

[2] Roznama Nawa-i-Waqt (Pakistan), June 7, 2010.

[3] Dawn (Pakistan), April 15, 2010.

[4] Dawn (Pakistan), April 15, 2010.

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