Impartial rule of law should be the basis of good governance
Any religion we study - we find it a common that every one is talking about justice, truth and the right way, straight one. This article is focusing on the Islamic point of views, regarding the Impartial rule of law.
Good governance vs. religion
The very first community that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) established in Medina governed itself via a set of rules agreed upon by all three segments of society: the Muslims, the Jews, and the pagans. Modern-day scholars and lawyers marvel at the similarities between the Charter of Medina established under the Prophet's leadership in the seventh century and the Constitution of the United States of America adopted eleven centuries later. Both documents laid down democratic, pluralistic, and federal systems of governance. The Charter of Medina (Sahifat al Madinah) is known to be the first written constitution of the world.
One striking resemblance involves the clauses of liberty and impartiality in governance laid down in both documents. The documents gave full legal freedom in pursuance of one's own lifestyle and religion in these societies, without encroaching those of others. Both documents promoted peaceful coexistence, social order, and security aiming to uphold common rights, responsibilities and welfare. The impact of impartial rule on these two utterly dissimilar societies, existent in totally different historic periods, shows strong similarities. Both societies overcame a difficult past ridden by rivalries, conflicts, and instability. As a result, both became more integrated and stable.
Before the Prophet migrated to Medina circa 622 AD, long-standing internecine rivalries and blood feuds disrupted normal social life in the region. Implementation of the Charter and its subsequent rule by confederation- the quintessence of which involves impartial dealings under the leadership of the Prophet- helped to stop the bloodshed and to stabilize and integrate the multi-religious, multi-tribal community. In spite of scattered internal conflicts, treasons, and betrayals, the society eventually became extremely strong, and it withstood continuous outside threats of invasion as well as three major wars pushed upon it by a much superior outside military power.
In the case of the United States, the situation was not nearly as volatile to begin with, and was more different and gradualist in its approach. At the time of the founding of the United States in 1776, the reality remained far from what the Constitution called for with regards to equality and impartiality towards all citizens. Blacks were treated as slaves until 1865, and women were treated as non-citizens until voting rights were enacted in 1920. However, as time progressed, and as the nation became increasingly committed to the ideals of equality irrespective of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and other factors, it prospered and became stronger.
Although complex factors were involved in outcomes within both societies, the parallel progress demonstrates that there is a high degree of correlation between the level of impartiality achieved and the level of economic growth, political power, and the influence achieved. Whenever impartial rule is implemented within a diverse and/or divisive society, it stabilizes and integrates the society, pushes it towards constructive engagements and subsequent prosperity. For example, one of the most diverse countries- and the largest democracy- is India, which has been relatively successful in integrating some of the most difficult and conflict-ridden regions, thus becoming a world power in our time. In contrast, Pakistan succumbed to partial and non-democratic practices towards then East Pakistan.
As a Western correlate, Europe eventually realized the inherent power of confederacy to avoid wars and conflicts in a region, after a long and horribly bloody history. After World War II, Europe progressively integrated via a broader agenda of confederation, even in spite of the turmoil of the Cold War. The speed of European recovery after the wars, as well as its economic growth during the past several decades, demonstrates the insidious but profound power of impartial partnership. On the other hand, the six Republics of the Balkans could have integrated to help avoid horrendous bloodbath and ethnic cleansing, if brought together under an impartial rule of confederation presented by then President Marshall Tito in 1972. He attempted, but could not go far enough, to make the region an impartial confederacy, because that would imply relinquishing his own grip on power. He remained partial and autocratic until he died, and left behind a volatile country that later disintegrated.
It is my understanding that the real reason America became the superpower in our time occurred not because of its military might or wealth, as many think, but because of a progressive programme involving integration and consolidation of one of the most diverse peoples in the world via application of an impartial rule of law. However, the same nation, after becoming the "superpower" with the slogan "of the people, by the people and for the people" has, more recently, increasingly become a government "of the few, by the few and for the few." Its democracy and people have increasingly become victims of partiality towards elites, multi-national corporations, and the military-industrial complex.
Newly reformed Middle East and North African democracies are about to embark on an admirable endeavor of establishment of self-rule. They should take the warning that even one of the best constitutions and systems can be rendered dysfunctional by the colluding forces of wealth and power. In the lack of constant citizen vigilance and continuous participation with the process of governance, these negative forces always work relentlessly to subvert a government of the people. In order to establish a successful society, people must understand their own innate power and responsibility to maintain a republic.
Democracy is not just about fair elections or governmental checks and balances. Democracy is really about the higher ends- serving the interests and welfare of citizens, upholding rights to establish justice in a society, thus attaining peace as well as "breathing room" for economic progress. These are the standards on which the success of a government should be measured.
In well over 6,000 verses in the Quran revealed over a period of 23 years, the scripture avoided specification of a specific format of governance. It is implied that a social system should evolve with time and with changes in human society. However, the Quran lays down some timeless fundamental principles and guidelines based on this "true nature" that is changeless that must be complied with in order for a society- in any place or time- to become stable, peaceful, and successful. Governance then must comply with the core values of equality, liberty and dignity of all people laid down in the above injunctions of the Quran.
The Founders of America recognized the inherent power of natural law instituted in all humans. Their conclusion was that the universal law of humanity is not simply the dictate of human reason and will, but a much more powerful programme or design placed in humans and has a divine origin. They concluded that understanding of this "nature" can be derived from different faiths and the universal principles laid down in them. Any human system that deviates from this "nature" produces imbalance and disorder, and ultimately leads to dysfunction.
Paramount ideas among these include the equality, liberty, and dignity of all people. These are the fundamental and universal rights of a human being, and neither a society nor another individual can take them away. Therefore, the term "inalienable" was deliberately put in the articulation of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to protect these rights for all citizens, irrespective of race, color, creed, or gender. A majority cannot trample the rights of the minority.
It is interesting to note that Jefferson carried the Quran in his library, which later became the Library of Congress. That very copy of the Quran was used by the very first Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison, in his oath-taking ceremony. The Quran proclaims unequivocally that there is no compulsion in religion . If state machinery imposes coercion in religious injunctions, it violates Islam. There may be allowed special courts to uphold certain religious injunctions on those who are willing to take these services, but these laws must not be imposed on individuals who do not believe in them. Dr. Crane also pointed out that twentieth-century Muslims invented the concept of the Islamic state, that did not exist before and which goes against the spirit of Islam.
Ultimately, governance needs to remain neutral and impartial with respect to different religions and their followers to avoid conflicts and polarizations in a society. Islam, which promotes peace, justice and stability cannot prefer theocracy, autocracy, or monarchy- that thrives on partiality and division--to democracy. Religious fervor in social life, if it avoids extremism or coercion, can serve as a powerful complementary force side by side with impartial rule of law, and thus make the society equitable, strong, stable, and progressive, as Medina exemplified many centuries earlier. The unstoppable uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa are demonstrating the forces in the "true nature" of human beings- a massive response to years of injustice. It is extremely important to bring about an awareness of these powers that God has placed in humans in order to successfully fight against these wrongs.