Is Democracy in Contradiction with Islam? (4)


Advancing democracy in the sphere of management

Three meanings of democracy have been mentioned, all of which are related to political philosophy, but some writers who portray themselves as “intellectuals” claim that in essence the concept of democracy has nothing to do with political philosophy for it is related to the domain of management. The simple reply to these individuals is that a survey will make it clear that there is no book of political philosophy in which democracy is not touched.

If the concept of democracy is not related to political philosophy, why is it extensively discussed in all political philosophy books? The secret behind this claim is that recently, liberal thinkers and writers of the West have presented a new definition of democracy to keep it out of the political vocabulary and insert it in other realms of social sciences.

They have asserted that democracy is meant to limit the power of the ruler and foster compromise among opposing groups and encourage conciliation among parties and groups, and it is not only related to administration but also applicable to management. For example, if there is a difference of opinion among managers of a company or among their subordinates, they must arrive at a consensus because persistence of this difference of opinion will not be beneficial for the company. So, in order to advance the interest of the company, they have to consult one another and finally arrive at an agreement, or uphold the majority decision. They call this the ‘democratic’ method.

Democracy is now a way of removing differences within an organization. Given this definition, democracy in its general sense is taken out of political philosophy and introduced in the sphere of management. Governance and administration is actually also a managerial task on a grand scale, but it has a specific domain and in order to expand the concept of democracy, they assert that whenever there is conflict between two groups a reconciliation in the above manner will be based on democracy. The explanation for this is that in the conflict between two groups, one group may dominate the other by force and impose its view. Certainly, this approach is undemocratic. But if they agree and finally uphold the majority opinion, that means putting democracy into practice.

We do not oppose the coinage or expansion of a scientific term, but it must not be forgotten that this concept is originally related to the realm of politics and extended to other domains. In social sciences, there are many similar concepts which were initially used in one field and after extending their meanings, applied in various contexts in other fields. For instance, the concept of “strategy” is used commonly in all fields. Basically, this term means “leading an army” [sawq al-jayshi], used in military science, and “strategist” is the one who is in charge of planning and commanding the war. The area where an army encamps or stays or where an attack will commence is called “strategic area”.

Later on, this concept was gradually adopted by other sciences and is now used, in political discussions as “strategic policies”. Even in training and education and different types of management, “strategic issues” are tackled. For instance, we have provisions of the constitution that are “strategic” in nature such as the article that emphasizes the necessity of adapting laws of the country to Islam. Yet, it is astonishing that sometimes some elements talk about the Constitution as if it is above the Qur’an and divine revelation. At times, they also oppose it as if it is of no value to them at all.

Wherever the Constitution deals with honoring the will of people, they do not allow even the verses of the Qur’an to state anything against it; the Prophet (s), infallible Imams (‘a) and the Imam of the Time(‘a) have also no right to oppose it! But the provision of the Constitution which stipulates that all existing laws in the country must be compatible with Islam is forgotten and to oppose it is declared lawful. They say, “The basis is the people’s vote!”

Is it not enshrined in the same constitution that laws to be enacted in the country must be compatible with Islam? So, if something is haram according to Islam, how can you afford to declare it lawful by citing the Constitution? Considering this constitution emphasizes the observance of Islam, how is it that it is free to insult sanctities and essential laws of Islam by invoking freedom of the press? The press is free within the framework of law, and not beyond it. When Islamic law regards it obligatory to honor religious sanctities and not to slight laws of Islam and mock God and the Prophet (s) as it will be tantamount to apostasy, law on freedom of the press cannot declare such a thing lawful. The Constitution is originally codified to expound the concept of an Islamic Republic.

Form of democracy acceptable to Islam

The second meaning of democracy has been accepted with certain conditions and qualifications. No legislative authority has the right to oppose the definite laws of Islam which is how we accept democracy. Meanwhile, concerning democracy as a method of solving differences, it must be said that as long as Islamic values are sufficient to solve differences, they shall take precedence, but in case of differences where Islamic laws have no specific way of solving them and there is also no competent arbiter, the majority view shall be preferred.

For example, a number of people form a committee within the framework of law to decide an important matter and all believe in Islam and observe Islamic values, but do not arrive at a consensus on the issue as the majority has a certain opinion while the minority has another opinion and there is no basis to prefer one view over the other—the majority view will take precedence, and opposing majority view shall be considered an undue preference.

As such, whenever we have no preferable option, we can obtain a sound opinion from the majority view which will be credible and preferred. If through the majority view of ignoramuses, we can not obtain a sound opinion, preferring that opinion will be rationally reproachable and incorrect. This method is credible to a certain extent, but it is not correct to abuse it by placing the majority of people against a minority of experts. For example, let us assume that for sketching a military plan there are ten military experts and one thousand common people who are unfamiliar with military issues.

If attention is given to the view of common people who are unfamiliar with military issues while the view of experts is rejected, this act is unreasonable. Every intelligent person says that the view of the experts takes precedence over the view of non-experts. Thus, democracy as a means of solving differences with certain limits and conditions is credible, but as the basis of giving preference to every majority over every minority it is not credible

   Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by

Is Democracy in Contradiction with Islam? (3)


Secular democracy and its philosophical underpinning

The new concept of democracy as being necessarily secular is advanced by statesmen in Western countries in which no trace of religion must be seen in any government institution. Religion can neither interfere in legislation nor law enforcers rule in the name of religion. This is why young women in Islamic hijab are banned from entering public schools because the entrance of a person with a religious symbol means that the state supports him or her. Indisputably, this new concept is totally anti-religious. Instead of the label “democracy” used for it, it is appropriate to call it “anti-religion dictatorship” because it does not allow individuals to practice their religious beliefs and affairs in society and prohibits the practice of religious obligations in government institutions.

This method and approach, devoid of any philosophical foundation, has been advanced by the anti-religious politicians with the aim of thwarting the spread of religions, Islam in particular, in Western countries. Under the pretext of advocating democracy in countries affiliated to them including some Muslim countries, they are trying their best to adopt this approach. An example of this can be witnessed in Algeria and Turkey.

In order to prevent this approach from acquiring the image of true dictatorship and be promoted in the frame of a moderate and peaceful democracy, a philosophical underpinning has been considered to mitigate tension with religious elements.

The so-called philosophical justification is as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that all human beings are one, and so to speak, have no class distinction. Permission to observe religious rites in government institutions would be a kind of privilege accorded to religionists, whereas, all human beings must be treated as equals!

But this question remains unanswered: Why do they allow other social groups to do whatever they want and behave and wear attires in whatever fashion they like but deny the religionists the prerogative to wear special attire or cover their hair (the hijab). This is actually a denial of freedom and negation of the rights of some citizens.

Fallacy in the philosophical foundation of secular system

This is how they justify what they are doing, but there is a profound fallacy in it for all citizens to be equal in citizenship is not a corollary of the equality of all human beings in humanity. The equality of all human beings in humanity is an issue which Islam has upheld before and more than the rest. As God says,

﴿يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ…﴾

“O mankind! Indeed We created you from a male and a female, and made you nations and tribes that you may identify one another. Indeed the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most God-wary among you…1

The Qur’an categorically negates distinction and superiority between human beings, presenting them as children of the same parents, siblings without any distinction and superiority. This issue has never been mentioned in any other heavenly scriptures in such an eloquent manner. As Muslims, we also believe that all human beings are equal in humanity and humanness has no first or second class. As Sa’di say:

بنی آدم اعضای يک ديگرند که در آفرينش زيک گوهرند

The children of Adam who are of one essence in creation are parts of one another.

However, this does not mean that all human beings in all countries equally enjoy the legal rights of a citizen. As a principle in international law, it has been accepted throughout the world that citizenship has its peculiar conditions, rights and merits. A person might migrate from his country of origin and live for many years in another country which might benefit a lot from his services but he would not be granted citizenship in that country because of particular laws and rules.

Even if it is granted it might be a second class citizenship which does not accrue all the privileges of a native. This fact exists everywhere in the world. We do not have first and second class human beings but we may have first and second class citizens, and this is something which is also accepted in Islam.

We must be vigilant and aware that Western states present their dictatorship as “democracy” in order to realize their wicked motives. We should not be deceived by them. Advancing the new theory about democracy is actually a kind of dictatorship that deprives the Muslims of practicing their religious obligations in those countries.

This is while the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has stipulated that religion is free and all people are free in performing their religious obligations. No condition is made in the Declaration that religious symbols and practices should not be observed in government institutions, but whenever they want, the politicians interpret the law in their favor and talk about war in the name of peace and violation of the rights of others as protection of human rights. Every day we witness their oppressive and deceitful acts on a global level.

   Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by


  1. Surah al-Hujurat 49:13.

Is Democracy in Contradiction with Islam? (2)


Hegemonic system’s exploitation of new concept of democracy

According to the new interpretation offered and implemented by imperialist states to advance their interests and objectives, democracy is synonymous with a secular regime—a regime which never allows religion to interfere in its sociopolitical affairs. Even if the people themselves say, “We profess this religion and want to practice our religious rites in public institutions,” that will of the people is considered inconsistent with democracy.

It is for this reason that when an election was held in Algeria in which an Islamist party won and on the basis of the principles of democracy and laws of the country, it wanted to form a government and implement Islamic laws, the oppositionists, who felt that the said party was about to rule and establish an Islamic government in future, staged a coup d’état and after declaring the election null and void, apprehended and imprisoned the leaders of the party and abolished the party and declared it illegal. After many years, the party is still not permitted to operate. This is in spite of the fact that this Muslim country obtained independence from a colonial government by sacrificing millions of people for the preservation of its Islamic identity. Nowadays, it is in a miserable state. As we read in newspapers, everyday tens of people are brutally murdered in that country.

The unelected ruling clique is still more acceptable to the arrogant and imperialist countries than the rightfully elected government of the people. This is due to fear that another country would be established in the name of Islam. “If people accept Islam and elect an Islamic government through their vote, that is not ‘democratic’ because the people have an inclination toward religion,” it is argued. So, in the new interpretation of democracy, religion should in no way interfere in the sociopolitical affairs of people even to the extent that schoolgirls must not wear a headscarf. The same democracy can also be observed in Turkey.

The agents of imperialism in Muslim countries are inculcating the notion that all Muslim countries must be administered through this democratic method. That is, no more room would be left for religion in the national administrative affairs including legislation and implementation. Through cultural onslaught and penetration of universities, even in countries with strong and deep-rooted Islamic inclination they are trying to undermine the spirit of religious fervor and propagate democracy in this sense. By doing so, they imagine that after a few decades when the revolutionary generation will be replaced by the youth who do not know the principles of the Revolution, they will make the new concept of democracy prevail.

There are, thus, three interpretations and concepts of democracy:
(1) direct involvement of people in administrative affairs practiced in one of the Greek cities;
(2) involvement of people in government through election of their representatives, existing today in many countries including ours; and
(3) all dimensions of government, including legislation and implementation, separated from religion.

That is, to be democratic means to be secular.

Islam’s ideal form of democracy

As to which of these administrative forms is acceptable to Islam, we have said earlier that if democracy in legislation means that whatever is approved by the majority of people—that is, 50% plus 1—is a credible, official and binding law even if it were against the text of the Qur’an, then Islam does not accept such democracy in legislation. Islam that has its own explicit laws in various administrative affairs, judiciary, economics, management, and related to other organs of the country does not allow a law against the explicit text and fixed decree of the Qur’an to be recognized officially. To officially recognize such a law is tantamount to rejection of Islam.

What needs further explanation and which I promised to discuss is the executive dimension of democracy, the role of the people in electing those who want to enact the laws within the framework of Islamic foundations, viz. the deputies in the Islamic Consultative Assembly. In cases where Islam has not enacted fixed and permanent laws, there is the need to enact new laws for new issues and needs, Islam has authorized the legitimate government apparatus to enact necessary laws for this domain while observing the general principles and standards of Islam and not contradicting the framework of Islamic laws, labeled by the late Shahid (Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir) Sadr as “free zone” [mantaqah al-firagh]. The driving and traffic laws stipulate the side to move—right or left—and the speed of a vehicle. Evidently, the Qur’an and traditions have no text in this regard.

The people’s role in determining the legislators and executives that enact and implement temporary laws can be materialized by observing Islamic standards. In other words, democracy and the vital role and participation of people are practiced in our country observing limits and conditions set by Islam by electing those who qualify. Electoral candidates must be Muslims committed to Islamic laws and observe Islamic standards in enacting laws and rules. In addition to the conditions set for deputies in the Islamic Consultative Assembly, with the exception of a few deputies of religious minority groups, the rest of the representatives must be Muslims committed to observe Islamic laws.

Lest there were negligence and shortcomings and Islamic laws were not observed in enacting laws, a number of experts constituting the so-called Council of Guardians are duty-bound to conform the ratified bills of the Majlis to the Constitution and religious standards and then validate them. In the case of their nonconformity, the said bills are returned to the Majlis for review. This is the type of legislative and executive mechanism accepted in our country and no one opposes it.

Similarly, executives with the President at top must observe Islamic laws and standards. First of all, the President must possess the conditions, qualities and merits mentioned in the Constitution which are taken from Islamic laws, and in taking charge of the government he must be, so to speak, authorized by God, the Exalted in the sense that after garnering the majority vote and endorsement of the people, he must be designated by the wali al-faqih. In this case, his government shall be legitimate and credible. This is something which is implemented in our country.

With the aim of understanding the role of the people and the domain of their involvement in the Islamic system, let me cite an example. Let us assume that we were living during the caliphate of the Commander of the Faithful(‘a) and in our own city we knew of a righteous person who deserved to be the city ruler and we endorsed him to the Imam (‘a). After receiving the endorsement, the Imam (‘a) possibly designated him as the new ruler. Now, if the majority of people had such endorsement, the Imam(‘a) would highly regard their view and designate the said person as governor of one of the regions under his jurisdiction.

So, the role of the people in the government structure and administrative decision-making, in terms of theory and legitimacy, is that people decide who is the most meritorious in enacting or enforcing the law and then cast their vote in his favor. The vote of the people is equivalent to a recommendation to the leadership. In reality, it is a pact they forge with the wali al-faqih that if he designates the recommended person to the presidency, they will obey him. It is on this basis that during the time of the eminent Imam (‘a), when the majority of people elected a person to the presidency, he would say, “I do hereby designate him, who is endorsed by the people, to be the President.” That is, “the vote of the people is like an endorsement for me to accept him.”

This is the theory of the Islamic government which has no contradiction whatsoever with the second meaning of democracy. It is functioning in our country since the Revolution and no (theoretical) problem has ever emerged. Yet, if democracy means that religion should have no role in the affairs of society and none of the religious symbols be seen in the government institutions, such a thing is incompatible with Islam!

Democracy in its third sense, as interpreted by the Global Arrogance that wants to impose it on others is absolutely opposed to Islam, for it means the negation of Islam. However, democracy in its second sense has been accepted by observing the conditions set by Islam for rulers, legislators, implementers, and judges. That is why the people should seriously elect individuals who deserve to legislate and implement laws, and thus, prove their cooperation and support for the Islamic state and regard themselves as participating in the affairs of the country. This form of democracy is accepted in Islam and practiced in our country. If there are violations in some cases, they are also committed elsewhere, and one should be vigilant lest they are repeated.

   Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by

Is Democracy in Contradiction with Islam? (1)


 Meaning of democracy and its functional shifts

At the outset, I deem it necessary to explain the term “democracy”. The literal translation of “democracy” is “government of the people” or “populism”. It means that the people themselves are involved in administration, legislation, implementation of law and the political affairs of society, and no one else is involved in enacting and implementing law. This is the meaning of the word “democracy”.

Democracy throughout history has been expressed in many forms. In the beginning, as far as history indicates, approximately five centuries before the birth of the Holy Messiah (‘a), in Athens, the capital of Greece, this theory was advanced and put into action for some time in such a manner that all people, with the exception of slaves and minors below the age of 20 used to be directly involved in their sociopolitical affairs. Of course, it was not compulsory and the people were free to engage or not in such an important activity.

At that time, the people used to live in big cities and express their opinion about the issues and concerns of their city. Debates and discussions used to take place on the basis of which, decisions would be taken and put into practice. This form of government in which no specific person or group was in charge of the administration but the people themselves was called democracy or government of the people. This form of democracy was implemented for some time in Athens, the capital of Greece. Apart from the fact that philosophers and thinkers strongly campaigned against this method, describing it disparagingly and branding it as “the government of the ignorant”, it also faced numerous problems in practice. As such, it did not last long.

Such a method is impractical for big countries and populous cities because it is impossible for all the people to constantly get involved in social affairs. This method may temporarily be implemented in small cities, but in cities with a population of millions, all the people cannot decide the daily affairs of their city? This method was rejected until after the Renaissance another form of democracy was presented in which the people would elect their own representatives to take charge of the administrative affairs and the latter would rule on behalf of the former because direct involvement of the people was unfeasible. Since then, this theory earned many advocates and was gradually implemented in some countries until finally, during the 19th century this method of governance was accepted by almost all countries of Europe and other continents, and governments were established on this basis.

In our country also, this form of democracy is implemented. Practically, in all government organs and institutions the people get involved by participating in various elections and selecting of their own representatives, such as participation in presidential elections and elections of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, and selection of deputies by people to enact and approve bills, and also local council elections and the rest provided for in the Constitution. So, according to the second form of democracy which has distinct features in every political system, the people get involved in their sociopolitical affairs by means of their vote and selection of the legislators and implementers.

Meaning of democracy today

Nowadays, democracy has earned a more specific meaning and a regime in which religion has no role to play is regarded as “democrat”. Of course, this form of democracy does not negate religion but hinders it from getting involved in sociopolitical affairs. It does not allow the law enforcers, while implementing the law, to talk about religion, and no executive order or circular to be issued on the basis of religious decrees and values. In reality, this form of democracy is anchored in the secular system which totally separates religion from sociopolitical issues.

Of course, sometimes, the legislators and executives themselves may be religious individuals, go to church every week and make a vow to the church. They may possibly be members of religious groups and engage in specifically religious activities in a private national or local capacity beyond the official government jurisdiction. But, in government and administrative affairs, legislation or judiciary, in managing the country or implementing laws, nowhere must religion have any role or function.

It can be heard in a country like France—which is known as the bastion of freedom and democracy—that any girl wearing the Islamic modest dress [hijab] is proscribed from entering a school or university, because alienating religion is regarded as one of the features of democracy.

They say “Our system is secular and no symbol of religion should be seen in public institutions. Wearing a headscarf is a sign professing a religion and it must be disallowed in government institutions such as public schools. If a school is affiliated to the church or is private, there is no problem even if everybody wears a headscarf. However, in public schools and universities under the supervision of the government which give official diplomas, as well as in public offices and ministries, no symbol of religion must be seen.” This is a new interpretation of religion on the basis of which religious symbols and values are deemed in conflict with democracy.

According to the traditional interpretation and second form of democracy which means government of the people, if certain people are religious and want to practice their religious rites in offices, they should not be opposed because this practice is consistent with the desire of the people and based on the law enacted and implemented by the people themselves. Democracy demands that wherever they are, including schools, offices and ministries, the people must be free in their manner of dressing.

If the absolute majority of people are supporters of a religion and based on their religious inclination, want to choose a certain garment or want to perform their religious rituals, no one should hinder them. Once a law is passed by the will and desire of the people which makes performance of prayer in offices, ministries and universities mandatory, this is not in conflict with democracy because the people enact the law and they themselves implement it. According to the new interpretation of democracy, however, religious inclination of the people should not be manifested in sociopolitical matters.

Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by

Are Politics and Religion Separated from Each Other? (4)


Relationship between Religion and Government

In view of the different forms of government existing in the world, especially the so-called Islamic governments formed during the Islamic period, it cannot be said that Islam has neither a positive nor negative view on the forms of government. If we try to compare the corrupt and oppressive government of Mu‘awiyah1 and Yazid2 with the just government of the Commander of the Faithful (‘a), can we claim that the religion of Islam treats the two equally and does not make any distinction between the government of ‘Ali (‘a) and that of Mu‘awiyah?!

Can it be said that everybody is free to choose any form and system of government he likes, and religion cannot interfere; that the performance of neither the government of ‘Ali (‘a) nor that of Mu‘awiyah has any effect on the ultimate fate of man because the form of government is related to politics and this world and has nothing to do with religion?! Could any reasonable person accept such a contention? Can it be said that the two types of government are equal in the sight of religion and that religion neither recommends nor discourages any of them?

The fact of the matter is that involvement in sociopolitical affairs is among the most evident areas in which religion must get involved. Religion has to explain the appropriate structure of government. Religion has to explain that the ruler has to think about the deprived and the downtrodden as well as about the consolidation of the pillars of his rule from the very beginning of his assumption of office.

Thus, the station of sociopolitical issues in religion, especially in Islam, is clear and eminent. One cannot consider them outside the jurisdiction of religion and believe that they have no effect in the felicity and wretchedness of people. Assuming that the hereafter, the Reckoning, the book of account, reward and punishment really exist, can it be said that the behavior of Mu‘awiyah, Yazid and the like has no effect on them?! Of course, even if some of our Sunni brothers have not yet resolved the issue of Mu‘awiyah’s uprightness, there are many tyrants and oppressors who have blackened the pages of history.

Can it be said that these tyrannical rulers are ideologically on the same footing as the just rulers? Today, are those who are butchering and bombing innocent women and children equal to those who are totally in the service of the deprived and the oppressed, and will live together in paradise? Which religion or nation supports this view? How then can sociopolitical issues be considered as outside the realm of religion? If religion were supposed to give its opinion about reward and punishment, halal and haram, positive and negative values, then sociopolitical issues are the most important issues about which religion must give its opinion.

Based on what has been stated, the scheme on the basis of which religious issues are separate from that of the world and religious issues are just related to God and the hereafter and are outside the realm of worldly affairs, is totally erroneous and inadmissible, and in no way consistent with Islam. The worldview presented by Islam and the life to which it invites us are repugnant to this way of thinking. This is not to mention the fact that those who are uttering such words essentially believe in neither God nor the Day of Resurrection. They are doing so with the aim of expelling religion from the scene. But we have nothing to do with their personal conviction.

Our only point is that separating mundane affairs and temporal issues from the jurisdiction of religion will lead to the denial of Islam and has no other outcome. As we have said, every action contributes to our felicity or wretchedness, as the case may be. So, we have to acknowledge that religion can give its opinion on all matters in our lives and state their ideological value. As the Prophet (s) said:

مَا مِنْ شَىءٍ يقرّبكم إلىٰ الْجَنَّة وَ يباعدكم عَنِ النَّار إلاَّ وَقَدْ أمرتكم به و مَا مِنْ شَىءٍ يقرّبكم مِنَ النَّار وَ يباعدكم من الْجَنَّة إلاَّ وَقَدْ نَهَيْتَكُم عَنْهُ.

“There is nothing that would draw you toward paradise and keep you away from hell except that I commanded you and there is nothing that would draw you toward hell and keep you away from paradise except that I prohibited you.”3

In the Islamic perspective, felicity without paradise has no meaning and wretchedness without being thrown into hellfire simply does not exist:

﴿فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ شَقُواْ فَفِي النَّارِ… وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ سُعِدُواْ فَفِي الْجَنَّةِ﴾

“As for the wretched, they shall be in the FireAnd as for the happy, they shall be in Paradise.”4

Universality of Religion

In view of the statement of the Prophet (s), the other assumption is refuted, and to say that it is true that religion can state the value of actions and say what is halal and haram but it was the Prophet (s) himself who stated the values of some actions while some were delegated to the people, i.e., he stated whatever was related to his own time, delegating the rest to the people to identify what is halal and what is haram according to the circumstances of their time.

This statement means that the Prophet (s) did not state all that would give us felicity. This is what he said: “There is nothing that will ensure your felicity except that I have stated it.” Of course, this statement does not mean that he has stated all the minute details. He has rather stated the general rulings, so that, in all times after him, those who have authority can deduce from them specific laws; what is halal and haram according to the evidence, and present them as primary and secondary rulings or government decrees.

Undoubtedly, to identify the specific laws and evidence, which is called religious edict [fatwa’], is in accordance with the general principles mentioned in the Qur’an, the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (s) and sayings of the infallible Imams (‘a).

   Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by


  1. Mu‘awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan was the first caliph of the Umayyad dynasty (40 AH/662 CE), which ruled the Muslim world after the martyrdom of the Commander of the Faithful, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib and the five-month rule of the second Imam, Hasan ibn ‘Ali (‘a). As the founder of the Umayyad dynasty, Mu‘awiyah revived hereditary monarchy and aristocracy in sharp contrast and opposition to the rudimentary precepts of Islam. [Trans.]
  2. Yazid ibn Mu‘awiyah (26-62 AH) succeeded his father to occupy the office of the caliphate in the year 60 AH. He was a young man devoid of knowledge and virtues and was well known for his debauchery and other vices. Yazid ruled for three and a half years. During his first year he killed Imam al-Husayn (‘a) and his votaries at Karbala’ and made the latter’s surviving kith and kin captives. In his second year as Caliph, he ransacked Medina (the seat of the Prophet’s rule and his burial site), and in his third year of rule he invaded Mecca. [Trans.]
  3. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, p. 96.
  4. Surah Hud 11:106, 108.

Are Politics and Religion Separated from Each Other? (3)


Close-knit connection between this world and the hereafter

The fact of the matter is that our life is divided into this world and the hereafter. That is, we have a period of life which commences at our birth and ends at our death. Then, the second part of our life begins on entering purgatory [‘alam al-barzakh] and facing resurrection.1 This division of life does not necessarily mean that our actions and behavior in this world shall be divided into two and viewed from two perspectives. At any rate, we are in the world of action. Religion is revealed to guide our actions in the world, through a series of commandments and ordinances.

Thus, the religious commandments are not only for after death. It is not correct to say that a portion of our fifty or sixty year-long lives is related to the hereafter while another portion is related to this world. Rather, we have nothing in this world which is not related to the hereafter. All our actions in this world automatically assume an otherworldly form. That is, our actions here may be beneficial or harmful for us in the hereafter. Since our actions affect our otherworldly lives, the religious and Islamic view is that life in the hereafter is settled in this very world:

أَلْيَوْمَ عَمَلٌ وَ لاَ حِسَابَ وَ غداً حِسَابٌ وَ لاَ عَمَلَ.

“Today is the time for action and not for reckoning while tomorrow is the time for reckoning and not for action,”2

أَلدُّنْيَا مَزْرَعَةُ ٱلأَْخِرَةِ.

“This world is the sowing ground for the hereafter.”3

So, we will reap in the hereafter the fruit and product of whatever we sow in this world. It is not correct to say that our worldly life is alien to our otherworldly life; that a part of our actions are related to the life in this world while another part is related to the hereafter; and that we have two distinct spheres of life for this world and the hereafter. Instead, all our actions in this world such as breathing, blinking, walking, sitting, rising, looking, social intercourse, speaking, listening, eating, marital relationship, and government-people relationship can be such that ensure our felicity in the hereafter, or bring harm to us. It is true that the style of cooking and consumption of food are related to this world but the same act of eating can send us to paradise, or throw us into hellfire:

﴿إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَأْكُلُونَ أَمْوَالَ الْيَتَامَى ظُلْمًا إِنَّمَا يَأْكُلُونَ فِي بُطُونِهِمْ نَارًا وَسَيَصْلَوْنَ سَعِيرًا﴾

“Indeed those who consume the property of orphans wrongfully only ingest fire into their bellies, and soon they will enter the Blaze.”4

Anyone who fills his stomach with the property of orphans eats food and enjoys doing so, but the food he eats will become chastisement of the hell for him. Similarly, if a person eats food for the sake of worshipping God, the same act of eating will have a spiritual reward. The same word that a person utters for the sake of pleasing God will be a tree growing in paradise for him. The Holy Prophet (s) said to his companions: “For anyone who recites tasbihat al-arba‘ah5 God gives him a tree that grows in paradise.” Some said: “So, we shall have many trees in paradise because we recite this dhikr [remembrance of God] frequently.” He said, “Yes, provided that you do not kindle fire to consume them.”

Thus, once our actions are done for the sake of pleasing God, they will bring about eternal felicity and rewards, and if they are done against the order of God, they will be the cause of perdition and chastisement in hell. It is not correct to say that our lives have two distinct divisions; one of which is related to the hereafter and is spent in the mosque, church, synagogue, and temple, while another part is related to this world and to ourselves and has nothing to do with the hereafter.

As we have said, this erroneous thinking was prevalent for the past centuries in the West among the followers of certain religions and occupied the minds of many in spite of the fact that neither Islam nor any other revealed religion ever endorsed such a notion. The contention of true religion is that man is created in order to secure his own felicity or perdition, and that his eternal felicity or perdition, as the case may be, lies in his behavior in this world. If his behavior is consistent with the command of God, he will attain eternal bliss, and, if otherwise, he will incur everlasting damnation.

The “minimalist” view on the question of expectation from religion is the result of a fallacy they committed. They imagined that expecting the maximum from religion meant they would have to seek all the information about everything from religion, including the style of cooking food and building a house, which information religion could not provide, so they said that they should not expect the maximum from religion. This is fallacious because the above issue does not have only two options. It has a third option which is the correct one, and that is, we do not expect that religion to say something about everything, including the manner of eating food, wearing clothes and building a house. No one has such a claim. However, since religion has left many issues to the realm of non-religious sciences, the same issues actually belong to the jurisdiction of religion. In this way, they acquire ideological value.

Ideological baptism of actions in this world

Once we consider the life in this world as linked to the life in the hereafter and believe that the totality of man’s actions and behavior plays a role in his perfection or downfall, it will acquire ideological value and we will give religion the right to judge each action. In simpler terms, religion informs us about the lawfulness or unlawfulness of our actions and not the manner of performing them.

Religion says that eating certain foods is unlawful [haram] and sinful. For example, eating pork and drinking wine are haram, but to say something about the manner of making wine and breeding pig is none of the business of religion. The reason behind religious permissions and prohibitions is their positive or negative effects in the otherworldly life of man, and it states the moral value of every action.

In other words, the path of man toward perfection begins from a point toward infinity. That which is useful for our perfection and provides the ground for the spiritual advancement of man is proportionate to the degree of wajib, mustahabb [recommended] or at least mubah [permissible] acts performed. The performance of haram and, to a lower degree, makruh [abominable] acts will keep him away from his true perfection and God. So, religion does not say what food to eat or how to cook it and how to build a house.

However, it says that you should not build a house on usurped land or you should not build a house in such a way that it overlooks the house of another and invades his privacy. It also says that you should build your house with halal income and not out of money earned through usury [riba’]. In reality, religion mentions the ideological manner of building a house. It also invites us to consume foods that are effective in our human and spiritual growth and avoid unlawful foods, alcoholic beverages, and narcotic drugs, which are unhealthy for us:

﴿يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالأَنصَابُ وَالأَزْلاَمُ رِجْسٌ مِنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ ٭ إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَن يُوقِعَ بَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَاء فِي الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ وَيَصُدَّكُمْ عَن ذِكْرِ اللّهِ…﴾

“O you who have faith! Indeed wine, gambling, idols and the divining arrows are abominations of Satan’s doing, so avoid them, so that you may be felicitous. Indeed Satan seeks to cast enmity and hatred among you through wine and gambling, and to hinder you from the remembrance of Allah.6

Hence, the permission and prohibition of religion is meant to expound the ideological value of all actions. To sum up apart from the worldly outcome of actions, religion also speaks about every action’s contribution to the doer’s admission to paradise or entrance to hell.

Radiant capability of intellect in discerning value of actions

The ideological value of action from the perspective of permissibility or prohibition is sometimes so clear and unambiguous that the human intellect can discern it well and there is no longer need for religion to state its ruling about it. In fact, the intellect alone can identify the decree of God. As such, concerning “rational independence” [mustaqillat al-‘aqliyyah], the fuqaha have said that in some cases the intellect can independently give a judgment and know the goodness [husn] or badness [qubh] of actions. Through the use of the intellect, we discern that the will of God is in the performance or abandonment of an act; we discern that God is pleased or displeased with a certain act.

Our intellect understands that taking out a slice of bread from the mouth of an orphan is an abhorrent act. In this regard, there is no need to state the religious ruling of law, though sometimes, in addition to the discernment of the intellect, the Qur’an and ahadith have also mentioned the religious rulings which actually confirm the judgment of the intellect. In most cases, nonetheless, the intellect does not possess the capability to understand that a certain action (depending on its being positive or negative, and how valuable) is obligatory [wajib], prohibited [haram], recommended [mustahabb], abominable [makruh], or permissible [mubah]. It is at this point that religion has to state the type and degree of impact of a certain act on our ultimate perfection.

Jurisdiction of Religion

Once we observe the commandments of religion, we will realize that the jurisdiction of religion is not restricted to personal matters. It rather deals with social issues such as those related to family, marriage, divorce, and commerce, and states the scope of halal and haram and their ideological values. By stating the ideological value of those things, religion actually explains their orientation—which form will lead toward God and which will incline toward Satan. This is something which science is incapable of dealing with.

Science mentions the amount and kind of elements needed to form different things and enumerates the physical and chemical properties, but it does not state how to use things in order to secure the real success of man. In this case, religion has to judge. Therefore, just as our personal action affects our felicity or wretchedness, our action in sociopolitical affairs has greater effect.

Meanwhile, in connection with the main axis of our discussion, which is social administration, can it be said that the mode of managing society has no relation with the ultimate success or failure of man and that the people in society are free to choose whatever form and method of administering their society, and religion has nothing to do with it? Who does not know that observance of justice in society gives success to man and that justice has a very strong positive value?

In this context, even if there is no pertinent Qur’anic verse or hadith, our intellect will discern that the observance of justice contributes toward the perfection, advancement and exaltation of man. When people do not regard their intellect as sufficient to discern ideological issues in these contexts, they have to resort to the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Of course, we believe that the intellect can understand many of the ideological issues in sociopolitical affairs. This does not mean, however, that whatever the intellect understands is outside the realm of religion.

We have mentioned earlier the “discoverer” of the will of God, which expresses the divine will and wisdom and conveys to us what is pleasing to God. It makes no difference how we discover this thing. What matters is that we discovered the divine legislative will.

Sometimes, this discovery is through the agency of the Qur’an and the Sunnah while, at other times, through the intellect, for these three are the proofs and discoverers of divine decrees and religious laws. As such, the intellect [‘aql] is considered as a source of divine law. The fuqaha regard the intellect as among the proofs in proving religious decrees and settling religious issues.

So, there is no demarcation between the intellect and religious law [shar‘]—some matters belong to the intellect while some others belong to religious law. Rather, the intellect is a light which, owing to its luminosity, can also discover the will and pleasure of God, and whatever can be discovered by the intellect in this regard is a religious matter.

   Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by


  1. Of course, another part of life prior to the life in this world can also be considered and that is the life in the womb.
  2. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 32, p. 354.
  3. Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, p. 225.
  4. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:10.
  5. Tasbihat al-arba‘ah: literally, the four tasbihs; it refers to the recital of “Subhan Allahi wa’l-hamdulillahi wa la ilaha illallahu Allahu akbar” [Glory be to Allah; praise be to Allah; there is no god but Allah; Allah is greater]. [Trans.]
  6. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:90-91.

Are Politics and Religion Separated from Each Other? (2)


Universality of Islam and station of Islamic ruler

Apart from clearly explaining major political issues, the rule of statecraft, enactment of laws, their adaptation to particular cases, and their implementation, the Qur’an also clearly explains secondary and minor issues such as mentioning the months of the year, for example:

﴿إِنَّ عِدَّةَ الشُّهُورِ عِندَ اللّهِ اثْنَا عَشَرَ شَهْرًا فِي كِتَابِ اللّهِ يَوْمَ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَات وَالأَرْضَ مِنْهَا أَرْبَعَةٌ حُرُمٌ ذَلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ…﴾

“Indeed the number of the months with Allah is twelve months in Allah’s Book, the day when He created the heavens and the earth. Of these, four are sacred. That is the upright religion…”1

In the above verse, the division of the year into twelve months has been mentioned as an intrinsic and fixed affair in harmony with the system of creation. Mentioning such affairs in religion has been regarded as a symbol of its firmness, correctness and reliability. Regarding the sighting of the crescent moon, the Qur’an also says:

﴿يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الأَهِلَّةِ قُلْ هِيَ مَوَاقِيتُ لِلنَّاسِ وَالْحَجِّ…﴾

“They question you concerning the new moons. Say, ‘They are timekeeping signs for the people and [for the sake of] Hajj’…”2

Social and devotional laws are in harmony with the system of creation. In addition, many legal laws have connected the beginning of the lunar month of Ramadhan, commencement of the Hajj season and other devotional laws with the sighting of the new moon. These are because the Qur’an basically presents religion as concordant with the nature [fitrah] and system of creation:

﴿فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا فِطْرَةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا لاَ تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ…﴾

“So set your heart on the religion as a people of pure faith, the origination of Allah according to which He originated mankind. There is no altering Allah’s creation…”3

Once the divine and religious laws are divinely codified, they are unchangeable. There are also changeable laws that depend on particular circumstances of time and space. To identify and deal with these laws has been delegated to the duly competent jurist who has acquired his legitimacy and authority from God. In the Qur’an this privilege and designation has been considered for the Messenger of Allah (s).

According to the Shi‘ah creed, the pure Imams (‘a) who have also been indicated in the Qur’an, have the same designation, which has been passed on to the wali al-faqih, which issue will be tackled at its appropriate time. Of course, a religion may exist in the world which is concordant with the above notion and outlook, but it is not within the scope of our discussion. We are talking about a religion which is even expected to state and determine the months of the year. In the area of transactions and financial relations among people, it clearly states that if a person gives a loan to another, he must ask for a receipt from him and give the loan in the presence of two witnesses.

If it is not possible to get a receipt and find witnesses, he has to take a retained pledge or mortgage a valuable thing in lieu of the loan.4 We believe that such a religion has a program concerning politics and statecraft besides meeting the material and spiritual needs of people.

During the previous session, while rejecting that religion is only concerned with organizing the relationship between man and God, we said that religion, in its true sense, means the divine manifestation of human life. Such religion encompasses not only a portion of human life and behavior such as worship and the performance of devotional rites, but it embraces the totality of human life and the entire aspect of his existence.

He is created to organize his life in such a way that he attains eternal felicity by conforming all aspects of his life to the Divine will and commands. Thus, direct worship of God and conventional devotion are only a part of our religious duties. Our other mental and behavioral aspects of life must be in line with the will of God and they must somehow assume a form of worship [‘ibadah] so that the sublime and lofty goal of human creation can be realized:

﴿وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ﴾

“I did not create the jinn and humans except that they may worship Me.”5

The purport of the verse is that the perfection of man is only possible under the aegis of worship and devotion to God. Therefore, all his movements and pauses must be within this framework. Even his breathing must be according to this program. If the life of a person acquires this divine baptism and color, and is attuned with this program, it means that he is truly religious. On the contrary, if he totally refuses to worship God, he is certainly irreligious and an infidel. Between these two frontiers, viz. the frontier of true religiosity and the frontier of infidelity, there are those, a portion of whose lives is not in conformity with the will of God and are, therefore, not truly worshipping God.

The religion of this group is surely defective. In view of the variety of religious deficiencies, it must be acknowledged that those who are truly religious and observe the divine laws in all facets of their lives, and those who observe only a portion of the laws are not on equal footing. Also, religiosity and faith has basically different levels and can grow and be perfect. As the Qur’an says:

﴿وَالَّذِينَ اهْتَدَوْا زَادَهُمْ هُدىً وَآتَاهُمْ تَقْواهُمْ﴾

“As for those who are [rightly] guided, He enhances their guidance, and invests them with their God-wariness.”6

Elsewhere, it says:

﴿إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِرَ اللّهُ وَجِلَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَ إِذَا تُلِيَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُهُ زَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَانًا﴾

“The faithful are only those whose hearts tremble [with awe] when Allah is mentioned, and when His signs are recited to them, they (Allah’s signs) increase their faith.7

Yes, there are those, whose faith is constantly moving toward perfection and they reach the highest level of faith and come closer to the station of the awliya’ [saints] of Allah, and even be included among the awliya’ of Allah. On the contrary, there are those who are moving backward from the station of religiosity. By listening and paying attention to the doubts spread by the foreigners and their admirers in the cultural domain of society, many abandon the religion they learned from their father, mother and teacher. This is because paying attention to the doubts will lead willy-nilly to misguidance of those who do not possess the ability to assess and study matters. In this regard, the Qur’an says:

﴿وَقَدْ نَزَّلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الكِتَابِ إِذَا سَمِعْتُمْ آيَاتِ اللّهِ يُكَْفَرُ بِهَا وَيُسْتَهْزَأُ بِهَا فَلاَ تَقْعُدُوا مَعَهُمْ حَتَّى يَخُوضُواْ فِي حَدِيثٍ غَيْرِهِ إِنَّكُمْ إِذاً مِثْلُهُمْ﴾

“Certainly He has sent down to you in the Book that when you hear Allah’s signs being disbelieved and derided, do not sit with them until they engage in some other discourse, or else you [too] will be like them.”8

Man has to first increase his learning as well as intellectual and rational foundation and empower himself with experience, analysis and response. He may then listen to doubt and skepticism. But the person who does not have the power to deal with the doubts should not place himself in the danger of misguidance by listening to doubts. Islam does not say that you should not enter the arena of wrestling. It says that you should wrestle with an opponent of equal weight and if you want to wrestle with a heavyweight opponent, you should first increase your weight and extend your training. Islam does not say that you should not listen to others’ words and misgivings.

It rather says that the attention paid to them should commensurate with the extent of your experience, analysis and discernment. First of all, one has to acquire divine gnosis [ma‘rifah] and learn the art of responding to doubts. Thereafter, one should discuss religion with others and listen to their statements so that they do not disarm you and impose their opinion on you.

Separation of religion and politics an extra-religious outlook

In propounding the separation of religion and politics, they say that they have consulted the Qur’an and are examining it through extra-religious lens. Before examining the sources of Islam and considering what the Qur’an says about politics, they pose this question: In essence, what is man’s need for religion? In what issues does he need religion to guide him? Regarding this matter, they have considered two hypotheses. The first hypothesis is that in everything and in all aspects of life man is in need of religion. Things such as the way of preparing and consuming food, the way of acquiring and building a house, the way of contracting marriage, and forming a society and government are all the same.

They ask: Should religion solve all these problems and man no longer engages in scientific research? Should we have maximum expectation from religion and consult it for all information? Whenever we want to buy clothes, we need to see what Islam says about it. Whenever we want to eat food, we have to check which food Islam suggests. Whenever we want to consult a doctor, we need to know what Islam advises. Also, we have to find out what religion says about forming a government. Their other hypothesis is that religion has limited jurisdiction and we should have minimum expectation from it. Obviously, religion has an opinion in all matters needed by man, but no religion ever claims that it provides for all the needs of man.

After finding out that religion does not teach us the methods of cooking, curing diseases, engineering, and building airplanes and ships, the distinction between the issues dealt by and not dealt by religion must be examined, and in which areas and spheres religion has been involved. They arrive at the conclusion that religion is concerned only with affairs related to the hereafter and has nothing to do with worldly affairs, and that we should have the least expectation from religion. From religion we should only search for the path of eternal salvation and the means and ways that will make us enter paradise and save us from hell. We should learn from religion how to pray, how to fast, how to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, and other matters related to the hereafter.

They assume that they have solved the issue concerning the relationship between religion and politics by demarcating them and separating the jurisdiction of religion from that of politics. It has been stated that politics belongs to mundane affairs while religion is only related to the hereafter. Neither should religion interfere in the domain of politics nor should politics interfere in the domain of religion. Only knowledge and human accomplishments should interfere in politics which deals with the jurisdiction of this world and science. Fields such as physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, psychology, and sociology belong to the domain of science. Religion has nothing to do with them. Religion is only involved in matters pertaining to the hereafter.

The origin of this issue can be traced back to many centuries in the West. When there was conflict and dispute between the ecclesiastical authorities and the men of science and politics it led to wars and clashes between them, and finally to an unwritten peace. They agreed amongst themselves that religion should deal solely with otherworldly affairs and the relationship between man and God; the sole jurisdiction of mundane affairs i.e. political, social and academic, should be left to statesmen and scientists.

This happened in the West. Those who are impressed with the West suggest that such a division of labor also be done in our Islamic country. Religion should only be in the hands of religious scholars and interfere in otherworldly affairs only. Religion and the religious scholars should not meddle in worldly affairs. Politics should, therefore, be entrusted to the political scientists and statesmen, and not to the fuqaha and ‘ulama’. In this regard, many speeches are being delivered and lots of articles being written. In proving their theory, they leave no stone unturned in inculcating this notion in the minds of our youth, which the religion and politics are apart.

Unfortunately, some of those who are engaged in cultural affairs are unconsciously influenced by this notion and other cultural waves of the West. It is gradually being accepted that religion is the opposite of politics. Religion solves a part of human problems but worldly problems have nothing to do with religion. Erroneous and deviant ideas of our writers, orators and cultural figures pose serious threats to our religious culture.

   Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by


  1. Surah at-Tawbah (or, Bara‘ah) 9:36.
  2. Surah al-Baqarah 2:189.
  3. Surah ar-Rum 30:30.
  4. See Surah al-Baqarah 2:282-283. [Trans.]
  5. Surah adh-Dhariyat 51:56.
  6. Surah Muhammad 47:17.
  7. Surah al-Anfal 8:2.
  8. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:140.

Are Politics and Religion Separated from Each Other? (1)


Definition of politics and the three powers in Islam

In order to make clear whether or not the Qur’an talks about politics, we present an unequivocal definition of politics. Politics means the method of administering or organizing the society in such a manner that its interests and desires are realized. In simpler terms, politics means the rule of statecraft. What we mean by politics is not ‘real politic’, the concept with negative connotations, which is linked with chicanery, trickery, scam, and deception.

In the sphere of politics and statecraft, since the time of Montesquieu1 the administrative body has been seen to be composed of three powers, viz. the legislative, executive and judicial. The function of the legislative body is the enactment of laws and decrees for the administration of society and formulation of rules of behavior for the people under different circumstances, in such a manner that justice is implemented, order prevails in society, and the rights of individual is not trampled upon. In general, society moves toward reform. The function of the executive body, the cabinet, is the implementation of laws and regulations enacted by the legislative body. The function of the judicial body is to adapt general laws and cases to particular and special cases and adjudicate and pass judgment on the disputes and differences among people.

Considering the above classification and functions mentioned for each of the powers, the opinion of Islam and the Qur’an about the station and legitimacy of the three powers must be examined. Do the Qur’an and Islam have specific orders and laws in these domains? It must, however, be noted that by “laws” we mean social laws and decrees, (not personal laws) whose existence in religion no one doubts.

The social laws include civil, penal, commercial, political and international laws. Once we take a glance at the Qur’an, we discover that all kinds of laws in the world for the administration of society, and the management of international relations can be found therein. Apart from the fact that civil laws; decrees on marriage and divorce; laws on trade, transactions, mortgage, loan and the like can be found in the Qur’an (which proves that issues on statecraft, like enactment and presentation of laws for the administration of society are taken into account in Islam), a special right for the Prophet (s) has been stipulated in the Qur’an to enact laws and decrees on particular cases based on circumstances of time and space, and the faithful are duty-bound to act upon the laws issued by the Messenger of Allah (s):

﴿وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلاَ مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَن يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ﴾

“A faithful man or woman may not, when Allah and His Apostle have decided on a matter, have any option in their matter.2

In this noble verse, the faithful have been deprived of the option to violate the decision of God and His Prophet (s).

Thus, apart from the orders of God and fixed divine laws, laws enacted by the Prophet (s) are also binding on all those living within the jurisdiction of the Islamic government. No one has the right to question these laws because whoever opposes them does not regard the Prophet as an emissary of God. We have no business with such a person. He who believes in the Prophet’s (s) right of legislation being delegated to him by God, but disputes about a truth, we will argue with him according to verses of the Qur’an.

Therefore, the Qur’an does not say, “An unbelieving man or woman may not…” but rather “A faithful man or woman may not…”As such, just as every ‘faithful’ living under the Islamic government acknowledges the apostleship of the Prophet (s) and regards the laws of God as necessary to follow, he should equally regard the orders of the Prophet (s) as necessary to follow. The necessity to follow God and His wilayah over all the faithful is established by such noble verses as:

﴿النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَى بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ…﴾

“The Prophet is closer to the faithful than their own souls…”3

According to the Qur’an, therefore, both the highest level of implementation of law and the right of legislation have been delegated to the Messenger of Allah (s). Whether or not such a right and station is also established for anyone other than the Messenger of Allah must be dealt with elsewhere. Presently, our concern is whether Islam has an opinion about politics or not.

Judicial laws in the Qur’an

Meanwhile, concerning the issue of judging after adapting general divine laws to cases where there is a dispute and discord among people, God says:

﴿فَلاَ وَرَبِّكَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ حَتَّىَ يُحَكِّمُوكَ فِيمَا شَجَرَ بَيْنَهُمْ ثُمَّ لاَ يَجِدُواْ فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَرَجًا مِمَّا قَضَيْتَ وَيُسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيمًا﴾

“But no, by your Lord! They will not believe until they make you a judge in their disputes, then do not find within their hearts any dissent to your verdict and submit in full submission.”4

In the above verse, not only is the right of adjudication confirmed for the Messenger of Allah (s), but the acceptance of and acting upon his adjudication and verdict has been regarded as a requisite of faith. This point is accompanied by a very emphatic oath—“In their disputes the people must definitely make you the judge and arbiter, and after you pass a judgment they should not nurse any dissent and dissatisfaction in their hearts but should accept the judgment with full submission and obedience. Otherwise, they will not be truly faithful.

The true faithful is one who, if the Islamic court issues a decree against him, accepts it with open arms, realizing the possibility that his right is violated because the judge passes the verdict on the basis of external means of rendering justice, which the Messenger of Allah (s) explained thus: “Verily, I judge among you on the basis of proof and testimony.”5 The testimony of a witness who is outwardly just is accepted although he might have lied in his testimony or committed an error therein. If everyone does not act upon the verdict of the judge, no progress can be made and the system will collapse.

What can be deduced from the Qur’an on penal matters, such as blood-money [diyah], qisas,6 ta‘zirat,7 and the like, testify that Islam is highly involved in politics, administrative affairs and society. Islam has gone to the extent of taking into account hudud8 for criminals and corruptors in certain cases and of authorizing the judge to implement them even if there is no specific complainant. In such cases divine limits and rights have been violated and sometimes punishments are difficult to endure and accept. For example, the Qur’an says that in an Islamic society if an illegitimate relationship between a man and a woman is proved before the judge through the statements of four witnesses, both of them must receive a hundred lashes, and the Qur’an particularly admonishes the judge not to be influenced by emotion and have pity on them:

﴿ٱلزَّانِيَةُ وَالزَّانِي فَاجْلِدُوا كُلَّ وَاحِدٍ مِنْهُمَا مِئَةَ جَلْدَةٍ وَلاَ تَأْخُذْكُم بِهِمَا رَأْفَةٌ فِي دِينِ اللَّهِ…﴾

“As for the fornicatress and the fornicator, strike each of them a hundred lashes, and let not pity for them overcome you in Allah’s law…”9

Undoubtedly, by implementing such a punishment the person will be disgraced, but society will acquire immunity. Regarding theft the Qur’an says:

﴿وَالسَّارِقُ وَالسَّارِقَةُ فَاقْطَعُواْ أَيْدِيَهُمَا جَزَاءً بِمَا كَسَبَا نَكَالاً مِنَ اللّهِ وَاللّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ﴾

“As for the thief, man and woman, cut off their hands as a requital for what they have earned. [That is] an exemplary punishment from Allah and Allah is All-mighty, All-wise.”10

We conclude that the Noble Qur’an mentions adjudication, enactment of rules and regulations to preserve social order and secure the interests of society, and implement the hudud and ta‘zirat11 rights of the Messenger of Allah (s). For a fair-minded person there will remain no doubt about Islam’s involvement in sociopolitical issues if he refers to the Qur’an as well as the authentic traditions of the Prophet (s) and the infallible Imams (‘a). Those who stubbornly deny these truths have chosen to do so no matter what the proof.

   Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi Written by

Mansoor L. Limba Translated by


  1. Charles Louis de Secondat Baron de la Brede et de Montesquieu (1689-1755): French writer and jurist, who explored in depth in his The Spirit of the Laws (1748; trans. 1750) the modern idea of the separation of powers as well as the checks and balances to guarantee individual rights and freedoms. Albeit not using the term “separation”, Montesquieu outlined a three-way division of powers in England among the Parliament, the king, and the courts, though such a division did not in fact exist at the time. [Trans.]
  2. Surah al-Ahzab 33:36.
  3. Surah al-Ahzab 33:6.
  4. Surah an-Nisa’ 4:65.
  5. Wasa’il ash-Shi‘ah, vol. 27, p. 232.
  6. Qisas (literally means retribution or retaliation) in the Islamic jurisprudence is to be executed against a criminal who committed such crime as murder, amputation of a body limb, or laceration and beating according to legal decree when the victim or his guardians seek retribution in lieu of receiving a fine or blood money. [Trans.]
  7. In Islamic jurisprudence ta‘zirat applies to punishments the limit of which is entirely up to the judge and competent jurist. [Trans.]
  8. Hudud (literally means boundaries or limits) in the Islamic law is generally applied to penal law for punishments prescribed for particular crimes whose extent is determined by law. [Trans.]
  9. Surah an-Nur 24:2.
  10. Surah al-Ma’idah 5:38.
  11. In Islamic jurisprudence ta‘zirat applies to punishments for crimes not specified by the sacred law the limit of which is entirely up to the judge and competent jurist. [Trans.]

What is the Relationship of Politics and Ethics in Imam Khomeini’s view? (4)


Oneness of ethics and politics in Islam

The Imām believes that if man is left to himself he will fall under the sway of his carnal desires and material needs and any type of educational and political system, even the correct one, will be incapable of nourishing his spiritual dimensions, whereas the foundation of everything is spiritual and by reforming and nourishing this dimension in man, all other problems will be solved.

In his opinion, the enigma of today’s world is a moral one and if it is not solved, the world will head downhill toward destruction. “The things that are threatening the world are not arms, bayonets, missiles, and the like… What is leading these people and these countries to perdition and decadence is the degenerations among the heads of countries and in the actions of the governments, which is emerging from the moral decadence.”[1]

According to the Imām, “The school of thought of Islam is not a materialist school; it is a material-spiritual school… Islam has come for the edification of man. The mission of Islam and the goal of all the prophets (‘a) is this—to nurture man.”[2]

Therefore, the source of every political approach should be ethics. Attention to spirituality is inevitable because “the foundation is spiritualities.”[3] Basically, without ethics, politics is incapable of guiding the people and securing their true interests and if we assume that there is a person who implements a correct policy… this policy is just one dimension of the politics which had been for the prophets (‘a), the saints [awliyā’], and now for the  scholars [‘ulamā’] of Islam. Man is not one-dimensional.

The society too is not one-dimensional. Man is not a mere animal whose affairs only concern food and eating. If there were both satanic policies and correct policies, they would guide and lead the community in one dimension and that is the animal dimension and material-social dimension. Such is of politics which in Islam is fixed for the prophets (‘a) and for the saints. They want to guide the nation, the nations, the society, and the individuals, and to pave the way for all the conceivable interests of man and the society.[4]

This point is the kernel of Imām Khomeinī’s moral-political thought. As such, we are not dealing with two independent types of knowledge and realms. Politics is the extension of ethics while ethics is the underpinning of politics. By reflecting on the above-mentioned pivots, this point becomes very clear. Since its goal is the growth of man’s material and spiritual dimensions and as these dimensions are supposed to be nourished concordantly and harmoniously, Islam has enacted laws for mankind.

These laws, although concern the individual, while some others concern the society, and some have educational aspects while some others have political ones, all are in pursuit of a single goal. So, these laws ought to have various features. First of all, they should cover all the dimensions and aspects of man’s existence. The other is that they should be comprehensive in scope. Finally, they should not be defective. Instead, they should complement one another. In reality, such are the laws of Islam.

From the viewpoint of the Imām, “Islam has rules and regulations covering the entire life of man, from the day he is born up to the moment he enters his grave.”[5] Similarly, these laws are comprehensive and versatile. “Islam is everything for this man; that is, it has facts from nature to beyond nature to the celestial world; Islam has a thesis; Islam has a program.”[6] And finally, all the laws of Islam have a single framework.

The religion of Islam is not only a devotional religion… Neither is it a mere political sect and religion. It is both devotional and political. Its politics is identical with its devotion. Its devotion is indistinguishable from its politics. That is, its very devotional aspect has also a political facet.[7]

The Imām even goes to the extent of explicitly considering religious ethics and politics as one. Anchored to the notion of unity of the two, he emphatically says:

Islam’s ethical precepts are also political. That precept in the Qur’an that all believers are brothers is an ethical precept, a social precept, and a political precept as well. If the believers of the different schools of thought existing in Islam, and who are faithful to God and the Prophet of Islam (s), be as brothers to one another, just as one has love for his own brother, and that all segments have love for one another, apart from being a great Islamic morality with far-reaching moral effects, it is a great social precept with great social effects.[8]

To sum up, the core of the Imām’s view and the quintessence of his thought on ethics and politics is the unity of the two, and its being obvious and needless of argumentation. Now that ethics and politics are interwoven, and that lying, oppression, injustice, mischief, etc., both in the individual and social spheres are bad, the Islamic ruler should try to always abide by the principles of ethics and not overstep its limits. Although this task is difficult, it is possible. The only way of preserving political authority and guaranteeing the real interests of the Islamic system in the long term is to abide by the principles of ethics and keep aloof from any form of deception at all costs. Not a single Muslim statesman can overlook this principle. The last statement of the Imām on the preservation of political authority and his emphasis on ethics should always be our motto:

Through Islamic behaviour; preservation of the movement; advancement of the movement; paying heed to the fact that God, the Sublime and Exalted, approves of us; and Islamic conduct and morality, you can preserve this power which has taken you to victory.”[9]

In conclusion, not only politics could, but should be, ethical. Through these moral standards, politics should be cultivated since the basis and essence of the Islamic teachings is such. History bears witness to the prominence of this tenet. If this tenet has failed elsewhere, it cannot be concluded that it will always fail and that it is an impossible venture.

Nowadays, most of the political thinkers have arrived at the conclusion that it is only through ethical politics that the chance for survival exists. Even Machiavelli, who would stress so strongly on the independence of politics from ethics, believed that this immorality is more dependent on the type of government, not on the principle of politics. He used to say that the possibility of ethical politics is more in the republican form of government than in absolute and dictatorial governments.

Then, in order to substantiate his view he used to narrate an interesting story. While discussing the drawing up of a contract, he poses this question: “Which pact of alliance is more reliable—alliance with a republican government or with an absolute monarchy?” Then, he stresses the fact that there are various reasons for violation of contracts, one of which is the state’s expedience.

But even in this case, republican governments remain faithful to their contracts and promises for a longer period of time than the monarchies do. There are abundant instances wherein a very minute gain has induced a monarch to violate a treaty while profuse interests have failed to compel a republican government to infringe an accord.

Themistocles said before the national assembly of Athens, “I have a suggestion, which entails a great gain for Athens… The assembly appointed Aristides to hear his suggestion on the basis of his recommendation and decide. Themistocles said to Aristides, “All the warships of Greek cities which have trust in their pacts of alliance with Athens, have all collected in a certain place where they could all be easily destroyed, and by destroying them, the Athenians could gain control over the whole of Greece. After listening to this suggestion made to the assembly, Aristides said, “The suggestion of Themistocles is extraordinarily beneficial and extraordinary contrary to dignity. The assembly voted against the suggestion.[10]

Thus, immorality and informality is not a political necessity; it is, rather, a function of the form of rule and government, its goals and officials.

Written by Sayyid Hasan Islami

Translated by Mansoor L. Limba


 [1] Ibid., vol. 16, p. 161.

 [2] Ibid., vol. 5, p. 531.

 [3] Ibid., vol. 5, p. 533.

 [4] Ibid., vol. 13, pp. 431-432.

 [5] Ibid., vol. 1, p. 271.

 [6] Ibid., vol. 4, p. 9.

 [7]Ibid., vol. 4, p. 447.

 [8] Ibid., vol. 13, pp. 130-131.

 [9] Ibid., vol. 13, p. 142.

 [10] Goftārhā [Discourses].

What is the Relationship of Politics and Ethics in Imam Khomeini’s view? (3)


Politics as indispensable for the realization of Islam

Imām lived at a time when, owing to the influence of extensive propaganda of the antagonists, and the ineffectual actions of the protagonists, serious doubts on Islam and its functioning has arisen in people’s minds. One of these doubts concerned the relationship between Islam and politics, and the duty of the religious scholars vis-à-vis politics.

The outcome of these doubts was the preponderance of the notion of separation of religion and politics, which the Imām used to attack severely, viewing it as an offshoot of the imperialist designs. At various places, he used to speak of the role of Islam in politics and also about the duty of all Muslims to be involved in politics and that the two were inseparable.

On various occasions he would point to the episode of Pākravān, the Head of the State Organization for Security and Information (SAVAK) of the Shāh’s regime, and his (Pākravān’s) views on the nature of politics and on the clergy keeping away from this chicanery [pedar-sūkhtegīh][1] saying that it was an imperialist design which a number of religious people believed.[2] And ‘politically-minded’ clergyman [ākhūnd-e siyāsī] in our religious culture was more a fault-finding [term], and even a term of vilification. “Once they find a fault with a particular cleric [ākhūnd], they say that he is a politically-inclined clergyman.”[3]

This is while if we do not take the social precepts of Islam into account, nothing will be left of this pure religion except a spiritless skeleton. The principal part of Islam is concerned with its social aspect; giving effect to this depends on having power and being the ruler. As such, Islam cannot be regarded as merely a personal religion and the private matter of an individual. This notion that politics can be separated from religion is either the outcome of the misconception of the principle of religion, or the effect of the propaganda of the ill-wishers. If man is a social and political being, and if we accept that Islam is all-embracing and has a plan for every dimension of man, the logical implication of these premises is that religion is not separate from politics. So, all this talk about religion and politics being separate is suspicious.

This slogan of the separation of religion from politics and the demand that Islamic scholars should not intervene in social and political affairs have been formulated and propagated by the imperialists; it is only the irreligious who repeat them. Were religion and politics separate in the time of the Prophet (s)? Did there exist, on one side, a group of clerics, and opposite it, a group of politicians and leaders?

Were religion and politics separate in the time of the caliphs—even if they were not legitimate—or in the time of the Commander of the Faithful (‘a)? Did two separate authorities exist? These slogans and claims have been advanced by the imperialists and their political agents in order to prevent religion from ordering the affairs of this world and shaping Muslim society.[4]

According to the Imām, [Islam] is a school of thought which, contrary to non-monotheist schools of thought, has function and jurisdiction in all aspects of the individual and society, material and spiritual, culture and politics, military and economy. It has not neglected any point including the most trivial one, which has a role in the nourishment of man and the society as well as in the material and spiritual advancement.[5]

With such an approach, basically, one who speaks about the separation of the two categories has indeed not understood the function and nature of neither of the two. “The meaning of ‘What have we to do with politics?’ is that we should totally put Islam aside; Islam ought to be set aside; Islam must be buried in our chambers; Islam must be buried in our books.”[6]

In the view of the Imām, “Basically, the foundation of Islam is in politics.”[7] “The Messenger of God (s) has laid the edifice of politics in piety.”[8] “From the time of the Messenger of God (s) up to the period when there was not yet any deviation, politics and piety were in tandem.”[9]

These topics have been repeated time and again, and are more understandable and acceptable particularly in light of the definition of politics that he gives. As stated in the previous discussion, in his view, “Politics is meant to guide the society and take it forward. It should take into account all the interests of the society; it should consider all the dimensions of man and society and lead them to whatever is to their good, the good of the nation and of the individuals. This is specific to the prophets (‘a).”[10]

With this perspective, all the decrees and laws of Islam have a political facet and “The religion of Islam is a political religion; it is a religion in which everything is politics, including its acts of devotion and worship.”[11] In this view too, “The moral precepts of Islam are political as well.”[12]

Written by Sayyid Hasan Islami

Translated by Mansoor L. Limba


[1] For example, see Sahīfeh-ye Imām, vol. 1, p. 269; vol. 8, p. 185; vol. 9, p. 177; vol. 10, p. 124; vol. 13, p. 431.

 [2] Ibid., vol. 5, p. 40.

 [3] Ibid., vol. 3, p. 227.

 [4] Wilāyat-e Faqīh, p. 16.

 Imām Khomeinī, Islamic Government: Governance of the Jurist, trans. Hamīd Algar (Tehran: The Institute for Compilation and Publication of Imām Khomeinī’s Works, Autumn 2002), p. 16. Electronic version of the whole book is downloadable at the Institute’s Translation Unit Website, [Trans.]

 [5] Sahīfeh-ye Imām, vol. 21, pp. 402-403.

 [6] Ibid., vol. 3, p. 338.

 [7] Ibid., vol. 18, p. 72.

 [8] Ibid., vol. 17, p. 204.

 [9] Loc. cit.

 [10] Ibid., vol. 13, p. 432.

 [11] Ibid., vol. 10, p. 15.

 [12] Ibid., vol. 13, p. 130.