The current deliberations over the Iraqi constitution have once again raised the specter of Islam in the country’s future. Some argue that Islam should be made the primary source of legislation. Others most notably the Kurds prefer Islam to given the status of rites and ritual and oppose Islam’s role in public life.
Previously, under the mandate of Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) a compromise between the two sides was reached. It states Islam is the official religion and "a source of legislation," but also says the government may not enact a law "that contradicts those fixed principles of Islam that are the subject of consensus."
There are also disagreements over the naming of Iraq. Some leaders have proposed changing the country’s official name to the "Islamic Republic of Iraq," a move opposed by Iraq’s secularists.
Whether Islam becomes the sole source of legislation for Iraq or the country is renamed Islamic Republic of Iraq the basic question still remains- what constitutes an Islamic state?
Two dominant views pervade Muslim and non-Muslim thinking on the subject. The first view endorses the perception that if the majority of the inhabitants of a particular country are Muslims than the country is classified as an Islamic state. This is a gross misrepresentation of reality. A clear majority in the US believes in Christianity but no one holds the view that America is governed by the bible and is therefore a Christian state.
More common but equally perverse is the second view. This view asserts that if some references are made to Islam in the constitution then the country can be called an Islamic state. Proponents of this opinion often cite examples from the constitutions of Muslim countries to lend credence to their arguments. For instance, Article II of the 1980 Egyptian constitution states that Islam is the religion of the state and "Islamic jurisprudence is the principal source of legislation." The 1992 Basic Law of Saudi Arabia states that the nation’s constitution consists of the Quran and the Sunnah (the actions and sayings of the prophet Muhammad (saw)). Article IV of the Iranian constitution states that "all civil, penal, financial, economic, administrative, cultural, military, political, and other laws and regulations must be based on Islamic criteria." And Article 227(1) of the Pakistani constitution reads, "All existing laws shall be brought in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah … and no law shall be enacted which is repugnant to such injunctions."
If any casual observer, irrespective of their religious orientation was to scrutinize the basic law of these countries they would very quickly realize that Islam has no relationship whatsoever with such constitutions. For instance to become a leader of Saudi Arabia, Iran or Pakistan one has be a Saudi, Iranian or Pakistani. This contravenes Islamic teaching, as Islam abhors nationalism and insists that those contesting for leadership have to be Muslim before they can be considered suitable.
In Islam, there are the two basic tenets, which defines the Islamic state above all else-sovereignty belongs to God and authority is with the people. Sovereignty to God means that God is the sole lawgiver and Islam must govern the temporal lives of Muslims and non-Muslims residing in the Islamic State. In the case of Muslims, their personal lives are to be governed by Islam and the state has no jurisdiction over the private affairs of its citizens.
There are four main sources of Islamic law. Quran, Sunnah, Ijma Sahaba (Consensus of the prophet’s companions) and Qiyas (Analogy based on divine reasons). The basic law of the state is derived from these sources only. Any other source be it customs, traditions, environment, history or man himself is considered invalid. All laws related to economic matters, social relationships, educational affairs, foreign policy and the like are derived from the aforementioned sources.
Likewise authority in Islam lies with the citizens of the Islamic state. Islam has clearly mandated that the people have the exclusive right to elect, account and dismiss the ruler if he openly implements non-Islamic laws. These rights are delegated to the ruler via the bayah, which in essence is a binding contract between the ruler and his subjects
The usurping of authority by the ruler or his refusal to grant these rights is considered a flagrant violation of Islam. In the past there have been some occasions where the ruler has assumed the bayah by force and the ummah has remained silent. The misuse of the bayah did not transform the Islamic state into a dictatorship or a theocracy as suggested by some historians. This is similar to misappropriation of votes in the 2000 US presidential race. The fact that the people did not challenge the outcome meant that the system of ruling in America continues to be democratic.
Therefore the Islamic state is a unique state, unlike any other state in the world today. This state is commonly known amongst the Muslims as the Khilafah and is often referred by non-Muslims as the Caliphate.
The Caliphate is not a theocracy where God’s chosen representative implements God’s law upon the subjects. Nor is it a dictatorship or a monarchy where authority and law-making reside exclusively with the dictator or monarch. It shares some resemblance with democracy in that the people to elect and account the ruler exercise authority. But differs greatly from the democratic state, which bestows the power of law making to parliament or congress as opposed to God.
Despite these glaring differences, the West still continues describe the Caliphate as a dictatorship, theocracy and a monarchy. Some Western leaders have even gone at great lengths to portray the Caliphate as a totalitarian state. This claim borders on insincerity to say the least. In actual fact the label of totalitarianism is more applicable to Western states. If the passing of the PATRIOT ACT in the US and the endorsement of anti-terrorism legislation in Britain is not a hallmark of totalitarian states then what is? In contrast, Islam forbids spying on its citizens and all those found guilty of a crime have to be tried before a court of law before they can be punished.
As long as the West continues to place itself at the centre of nation building like in Afghanistan and Iraq, fake Islamic states will be born to join a long list of pseudo Islamic states. Such states do little to mollify the Islamic sentiments of the ummah. Instead they prolong the misery of the ummah and subject her to endless campaigns of foreign interference and exploitation. To avoid such pain and suffering the ummah must pull all of her resources together and work towards a single project, which is the re-establishment of the Caliphate. Didn’t the Caliphate end the suffering of the Iraqis when the Mongols ransacked Baghdad in 1258?