Constitutionalism and Democracy: An Islamic Perspective
The long history of Islamic scholarship on caliphate, shari’ah-oriented policy (siyasah shar'iyyah) and system of government (nizam al-hukm) has yielded a rich legacy which is, nevertheless, beset with uncertainties in conjunction with modern developments on government and constitutional law. Uncertainties have persisted over the basic concept and definition of an Islamic polity and the existence or otherwise of a valid precedent and model for an Islamic state. This is partially caused by a tendency in modern writings to apply the nation-state ideas of eighteenth-century Europe to the events of early Islam some twelve centuries earlier and doubtful parallels that have been attempted to be drawn between them. This article attempts first to identify the causes of the problem and then proceeds with an overview of the evidence in the Qur’an and Sunnah and contributions of a cross-section of schools and scholars on the subject. This is followed by a general characterisation of an Islamic system of rule under five sub-headings, the first of which describing Islamic government whether Islamic state, and Iran in particular, is a theocracy, whether Islam stands for a qualified democracy, and whether it also upholds separation of powers. The last section discusses freedom of religion and religious pluralism in an Islamic polity followed by a conclusion and recommendations.