The Holy Quran outlawed despotism and condemned the tyrants and their ways.
It directed the Prophet and his successors to depend upon consultation.
The Quran says what means: "And consult them in (important)
matters and; And whose affairs are decided by counsel among themselves".
The Quran also ruled that equality must be the guiding factor while administering
justice among the people regardless of class distinctions.
reading the Quran, a Muslim feels an urge to seek counsel through inspiration
derived from the Holy Book rather than by clear order, A Muslim should
refrain from oppression and despotism while in power. From the point of
view of a Muslim, the first step taken by the Creator in the process of
the creation of humanity was, according to present day terminology, a constitutional
action which was based on conviction rather than coercion. The Quran says
what means : "And when Allah said to the angels,
I am going to place a ruler in the earth, they said Will you place in it
such as make mischief in it and shed blood? And we celebrate praise and
extol Your holiness. He said : Surely I know what you know not. And He
taught Adam all the names. then presented them to the angels; He said :
Tell me the names of those if you are right. They said : Glory be to You
We have no know ledge but that which You has taught us. Surely You are the Knowing, the Wise. He said O Adam, inform them of their names. So
when he informed them of their names, He said : Did I not say to you that
I know what is unseen in the heavens and the earth? And I know what you
manifest and what you hide".
Regency on the earth was instituted through conviction and not coercion,
the promised viceroy would not have been worthy of this confidence of the
Creator unless the viceroy gained superiority over others by acquiring
learning unknown to them.
It is the inspiration gained through the Holy Book and the knowledge of
reality which give the Believer the feeling of seeking counsel and avoiding
despotic ways. It is the inspiration and the urge to search for more knowledge
which is more forcefully convincing than clear and open orders.
It should be clear that constitutional rule was known by the ancient Arabs
and is deep-rooted in Islamic state- craft. It is the principle which preceded
the development of peoples into groups by many centuries, but it was not
adopted by human societies until after one thousand years or more of the
revelation of the Muhammadan Mission. The ideal of consultation could be
achieved only when there is someone who has a right and has to demand it
or to be reminded of it, by someone else. It could also be achieved when
there is someone who ignores the right and has to be directed to respect
it. The owner of the right here is (the people) who get a realization of
it and later feel a need for it. The people later acquire means to translate
the principle into practical life. The completion of such a procedure was
not so easy and required a number of generations to materialize. When the
rights are restored to a certain group of people, consultation and counsel
become the rule by which the rulers and the ruled abide. Among nations
this rule takes a normal, course and is decided by need rather than selection
when these stages in the development of the idea were completed the government
with advisory body, or the constitutional government, became known as an
European system which was later to be copied by the East. It was not foreign
to the Easterners and needed no special pleasing or reaching.
It is true that Europe know the parliamentary system in its primitive form
many centuries before Christ. In Rome there was the Senate; in Athens,
Sparta and some of the Greek provinces there were similar assemblies. Latter,
other types of assemblies resembling modern representative councils were
established. They were nearer to the democratic system in which all the
classes take part.
This system was something peculiar in these countries. It was not supposed
to be rational nor did seek to serve the human right. The Latin people
and the Greeks did not follow this system because they admitted man's rights
of freedom or because they tried to apply rationalism to the affairs of
all cities and people. They adopted it because it suited the policy they
followed in dealing with the chiefs and others who vied against each other
to seize power. When popular government developed in Athens in the days
of Chilistine the Democrat the right of representation was allowed to everybody
who reached thirty years of age. The right was exercisable in various constituencies.
But this development did not represent a human belief worthy of adoption
by everybody. It was simply a local arrangement aiming at combating the
tyrants who contested with the democratic leaders on the basis of the influence
of their tribes or partisanships. This proved useful when any one of the
leaders decided to seek the cooperation of the masses by making them share
administration. In the same way, a leader could have sought the help of
the Persians just to seize power from the tribes and other partisans.
As far as faith and morals concerned, Arab civilization
preceded the West
in adopting a system of government based on consultation. But in the field
of practical administrative systems evolved by constitutional governments,
the West has gone ahead of Arab civilization.
Constitutional government could not have been established in the Near and
Middle East so easily had it not been based on the people's and the rulers'
belief in its merits. The Western nations wasted their early efforts in
forcing their despots to surrender their claim for Divine Right and the
right of heavenly sovereignty. The Europeans were obliged to cover only
half of the distance which was the longest and the hardest part of it in
the course of deciding about the principle, while the Arabs, the rules
and the ruled, know it already one thousand years before the establishment
of modern parliamentary life. This principle provides for seeking counsel,
unfettered loyalty to the ruler, the dedication of government energies
to the services of the citizens and the agreement of the leaders on different
The despot, either in the East or in the West, did not like anybody to
share rule with him, neither did he accept advice voluntarily. But the
difference was great between a ruler who could completely ignore the basis
of the parliamentary government and another who could not do so or dare
to announce publicly his dislike of the system without being accused of
violating the religion and disobeying Allah. It could be said that the
difference was great between one ruler who disregarded parliamentary government
while believing in Diving Right and the Heavenly Authority exercised by
him and another who was afraid of such a disregard lest he would, by announcing
his disregard, be violating Divine Right and the Heavenly Authority.
The Sultan and Eastern princes opposed constitutional government on ephemeral
excuses and not on sound grounds. Most of these excuses related to the
European policies and foreign relations which worked to hinder the establishment
of the parliamentary system in the East and which helped the sultans and
princes to express their opposition to the idea. The Ottoman Sultans believed
in seeking counsel the title (Mushir) or (advised) was supposed to be the
highest in the country. This was because the Sultan did not have the courage
to be the highest in the country. This was because the Sultan did not have
the courage to tell his nation frankly that he wanted to rule in a despotic
way. But he stood in the way of establishing the parliamentary system in
his country because some sections of his people belonged to different religions
and languages and collaborated with the European countries against him.
The Sultan's view was that such people would never be loyal to the state
if they were given the chance to hold responsible posts which would enable
them to know the secrets of the state's internal and external policies.
The conflicts between Russia and Great Britain in Irastood in the way
of stability and obstructed the continuous efforts made to establish representative
government there. It was easy for the two powers to get whatever they wanted
from the palace officials of the despot. They could not have hoped for
an easy time with a representative government controlled by the people
and obliged to give them a balance-sheet regarding its dealings with foreign
companies and foreigners' concessions.
When the British colonizers occupied Egypt at the end of the 19th Century
they found there a representative government with a past experience spread
over the era of Muhammad Ali the Great. It was natural for them to dismiss
the parliamentary government, because they could not control the Egyptian
administration totally while there was another force pulling against them
which was represented by the parliament. When the Egyptians asked for a
constitution they demanded independence too. The representative government
was synonymous to the national government, included in the program of
all Egyptian parties. It was clear that foreign colonialism was responsible
for the absence of the representative government demanded by Egyptian liberals.
According to this way of thought, parliamentary life as outlined by modern
condition was a European product transferred to the East by modern European civilization. Yet this system was well known to the Easterners, there was
no need to borrow it from the Westerners or to accept it unwillingly in
the manner of student being forced to learn a difficult lesson by his teacher.
As was stated before, the West's ambitions were greatly responsible for
frustrating the East's advance in this direction and this was clear in
the East's attempts to adopt a constitutional system. The East accepted
the European product because it already believed in freedom and consultative
bodies. The credit for these qualities goes to the Arab culture which flourished
after the advent of Islam. Even in the pre-Islamic period these qualities
were not considered strange.