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Prophet Muhammad (SAW) — 21: Implementing General Orders

Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals

Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi

Since Islam is a complete way of life, it wants the government of the Muslim community to implement its principles and carry out its orders. There is no rigidity in the Islamic system of government.

Islam simply lays down broad lines, which must be observed. Within these broad lines, any system that is acceptable to the Muslim community is appropriate. One of the principles that Islam lays down is consultative decision making in all spheres of life. Therefore, any system of government that is essentially consultative is acceptable from the Islamic point of view.

When orders are made and decisions taken, the question is: Who implements them? Let us take the case of an order that pertains to the social life of the community. If the order is clear and does not admit divergent interpretations, should individuals take it upon themselves to ensure its implementation? For example, Islam requires women to dress modestly and to cover all their bodies, with the exception of their faces and hands, when they go out. Suppose a woman goes out wearing clothes that clearly violate Islamic rules, can her neighbors force her to observe the Islamic dress code? The answer is that they may only give her advice in a way that does not alienate her from Islam. They can use no force or undue pressure. It is the government that has the authority to ensure that Islamic rules are observed. It may enact regulations that deal with such a contravention of Islamic law.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) made this very clear, and gave us a practical example. Abdullah ibn Umar reports that the Prophet asked him to bring him a knife. When he did, the Prophet made sure that it was sharpened. He gave the knife to Ibn Umar and told him to bring it with him the following morning. “On the morrow he went out with a group of his companions and walked through the streets of Madinah, where wine had just been imported from Syria. He took out the knife and cut off every wine container he saw. He then gave me the knife, and ordered those with us to go along with me and to help me. He commanded me to go through all markets and to cut off every wine container I find. I did so, leaving no single container.”

This apparently happened shortly after the drinking of intoxicant drinks was finally made strictly forbidden. The Prophet could have issued a general order that anyone who saw a container of wine should cut it off or break it. That would have led to much chaos. To prevent this, he started the action himself, in the presence of a group of his companions. He then ordered a certain person to complete the task, appointing helpers for him so that no one could question his authority.

Unfortunately, some Muslims who are keen to see Islam implemented try to take the Islamic law into their own hands. This is not acceptable from the Islamic point of view, as it will lead to much chaos and will leave the community divided. No individual or group can appoint themselves overseers to ensure the implementation of Islamic law. Its implementation is left to the Muslim government. If the government of a Muslim country does not implement Islam, it will be answerable to God for this omission. This does not give individuals the right to act on their own.

 

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