The Evolution of Islamic Sharia Politics Featured


At the onset of the twentieth century, the field of Islamic Sharia politics stayed in its original form, as formulated by the early theorists who laid the foundations of Islamic political theory. Its studies remained scattered, and the chapter on the caliphate—its most important aspect—was included within the realm of 'Ilm al-kalam (Islamic theology) rather than jurisprudence to refute the beliefs of sects and schools of thought that held deviant beliefs about it. This was only due to the reluctance of jurists to classify it, either out of fear of facing the tyranny of autocratic authority or out of adherence to caution and restraint, so as not to lead the expansion of Islamic Sharia politics to further injustices. Whatever the reasons, this led to an almost complete disconnection between Islamic political theory and reality.

However, there were new factors that compelled scholars to reconsider Islamic Sharia politics and resume the suspended classification process. In the Ottoman Empire, the political organizations adopted from Europe represented a real challenge, and it was upon the scholars to demonstrate the competence of Islamic political theory in comparison to its Western counterpart. Then, after the fall of the caliphate, they had to prove it did not meet the conditions of validity and that the emergence of nation-states did not contradict Islam.

In Egypt, there have been growing claims to separate politics from religion since the 1920s, and the consolidation of the Egyptian state provided an incentive for scholars to revive Islamic Sharia politics and introduce significant modifications and developments to make it consistent with the times.

In light of these factors, the classification movement in Islamic Sharia politics was resumed. A few works can be mentioned that emerged during the early period in both countries. In the Ottoman Empire, the book “Al-Siyasah al-Shar'iyyah fi Huquq al-Ra'i wa Sa'adat al-Ra'iyah” by its author Abdullah Jamal al-Dien Afandi was published, initially in Ottoman Turkish, then translated into Arabic in 1900. Additionally, “Al-Khilafah wa Sultat al-Ummah” by Abdul Ghani Al- Sinni was issued in late 1923.

In Egypt, there is the book “Al-Siyasah al-Shar'iyyah Aw Nizam al-Dawlah al-Islamiyyah” by Abdel Wahab Khalaf, published in 1930. Another book is “Muzakarat fi al-Siyasah al-Shar'iyyah,” compiled by Sheikh Muhammad Rizq al-Zalbani, a professor at the Faculty of Sharia, and published in 1953.

Reforming the Caliphate to Overcoming It

The central idea around which Jamal Afandi's book revolves is that the adoption by the Ottoman state of Western organizations does not contradict Sharia for two reasons: first, expanding political rulings is permissible based on the jurisprudential principles that allow for differences in rulings according to changing times, and it is permissible to act according to the greater good. Second, since these organizations do not contradict the fundamental Sharia principles, Europeans transferred from the people of Andalusia “Islamic legal rulings as principles, and they elaborated them in a manner that suited and benefited them... until they developed a science of human rights that took most of its principles from Islamic Sharia rulings and principles, thus resembling Islamic freedom.”

Despite this arbitrary association between European organizations and Islam, there remained two questions that Abdul Rahman Afandi needed to answer: First, explaining the decline, or, in other words, why did Islamic countries become continuously weak and experience significant decline, despite the fact that Sharia politics ensures the good governance of kingdoms? He attributed this to internal factors such as disunity among Muslims and the prevalence of a culture of dependency among them, as well as external factors such as the aggression of European countries against Islamic countries.

The second question relates to the methods of reform and the necessary measures to reform Islamic governments, assuming that the way to do this is to strengthen the unity of religion among the people subject to the Islamic Caliphate and to revive independent Islamic states such as the Ottoman Empire and Iran by reforming their internal affairs according to the guidance of the Prophet's Sharia. This can only be achieved by “drafting a comprehensive journal on the principles of Sharia politics, reviewing reputable books, and applying conditions and matters according to the requirements of time and place.”

Afandi's conclusions differ from those of Al-Sinni in his book “Al-Khilafah wa Sultat al-Ummah,” which was published about a quarter of a century later. Al-Sinni argued that the caliphate is “a subsidiary and jurisprudential issue, unrelated to belief,” but rather a worldly and political issue more than a religious one. Therefore, there are no details concerning it, as the Quran or the prophetic Hadiths do not explicitly mention the method of appointing a caliph, the conditions of the caliphate, or whether the Islamic Ummah in different times and conditions must appoint a caliph or not. This implies the non-necessity of establishing the caliphate and the possibility of legitimate acceptance of modern nation-states.

The Integration of the Nation-State into the Structure of Sharia Politics

As to Abdul Wahab Khalaf's book, it was published by the Salafi Press in Cairo in 1930. It outlines the reasons that prompted him to focus on Sharia politics and document them. In 1923, he was assigned to teach a new subject at the School of Sharia Law, namely Sharia politics, which emerged in response to King Fuad's interest in the issue of the Islamic caliphate. Khalaf states, “We began teaching this emerging science with only its curriculum in hand, which comprises several studies on various topics. Therefore, it was necessary to create a unit to organize these subjects, to understand the framework that defines Sharia politics, to distinguish the research subject within it, and to determine its ultimate goal.”

Based on that, Khalaf was described as the first to formulate modern formulations of Islamic Sharia politics, and this description is not without merit. He redefined Islamic political concepts, particularly Sharia politics, and mapped out the topics falling under them. He studied sensitive issues and reinterpreted them in a new way, such as the relationship between the land of Islam and the land of war, the relationship between the Islamic state and foreign states, and the status of dhimmis in the modern Islamic state. He ventured into unprecedented interpretations when he considered that obligating them to wear a special dress was not from Islam. He also discussed the issue of freedom of belief, arguing that Islam recognized this freedom and left it to each individual to believe according to his own understanding.

However, these interpretations did not touch upon the issue of the caliphate, as he remained a believer in its obligation according to Sharia and defended its existence based on three arguments: the consensus of the companions on appointing a caliph after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), that what is obligatory, such as protecting the borders and establishing the boundaries, can only be done through it, and that it serves to repel harm and bring benefits.

However, he was keen to remove any religious sanctity from this position and from those who hold it. “The general guardianship of the caliph and its inclusion in religious affairs does not make the caliph a religious figure or derive his authority from hidden power, but he is just an individual among the Muslims in whom they trust his competence to safeguard religion and worldly affairs.”

Although Sheikh Khalaf attempted to remove the exaggerated sanctity surrounding the caliphate and to redefine the relationship between citizens and the caliph, he did not reach the point of suggesting a modern formulation for it, as Sunhuri did, nor did he completely exclude it. He did not speak of “constitutional Sharia government” as Sheikh Rizq al-Zalbani did in the mid-twentieth century when he taught the subject of Sharia politics to Al-Azhar students without mentioning the caliphate, justifying this exclusion by stating that “Sharia politics is based on promoting interests, so it necessarily does not adhere to a specific path or limit itself to fixed boundaries, but it must change whenever the interests change according to times or places.” This reveals the extent of the evolution that has occurred in the science of Sharia politics in the past few decades.Top of Form


Read the Article in Arabic

Last modified on Sunday, 21 April 2024 14:26