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Tuesday March 4, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Tuesday March 4, 2014 MYT 7:14:39 AM
by enizahura abdul aziz
POLITICS as a science is broadly defined as the art of power struggle. Political scientist Harold Lasswell defines politics as concerning the determination by official governmental decision-making and action of who gets what, when and how in a political society.
Thus, the essence of politics surrounds the elements of power and the authoritative nature of the power to make decisions that have impacts on the lives of the common people in the society.
The higher intents of Syariah or maqasid al-Syariah are principles, answers and wisdom behind rulings and laws in Islam. The fundamental rule to be observed is that the intention behind a ruling must be directed towards the fulfilment of something good and the avoidance of something harmful.
This includes solving current issues in aspects of economics, social and politics where maqasid al-Syariah should be the guiding principle because it aptly facilitates the needs of human being.
Different from the secular understanding of the western notion of politics where it should remain separate from religion, in Islam, politics remains within the realms of the religion.
This reflects the exact feature of the religion as a way of life that encompasses all areas of human interaction including his/her interaction with Allah the Almighty and his/her interaction with fellow human beings.
In Islamic worldview, the framework of maqasid al-Syariah (the intentions of the Syariah) should be the best guidance for political leaders to make decisions and formulate policies with the aim to protect the welfare of the people.
Muslim scholars have largely agreed that the broad objectives or the higher intents of Syariah are to promote the overall welfare of mankind and prevent harm and evil. Allah the Almighty says in the holy Quran:
“[And they are] those who, if We give them authority in the land, establish prayer and give zakah and enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to Allah belongs the outcome of [all] matters.” (Al-Haj, verse 41)
Thus, politics in Islam must also meet the objectives or the intentions of Syariah which include the preservation of religion, life, mind, offspring and property.
In analysing the correlation between Islam and politics, Allal Al-Fassi explains:
“The general higher objective of Islamic law is to populate and civilise the earth and preserve the order of peaceful coexistence therein; to ensure the earth’s ongoing well-being and usefulness through the piety of those who have been placed there as God’s vicegerents; to ensure that people conduct themselves justly, with moral probity and with integrity in thought and action, and that they reform that which needs reform on earth, tap its resources, and plan for the good of all.”
For example, preservation of the religion is not just limited to upholding the laws and rules of the religion; it must also include preserving the faith and positive image of the religion.
It is the responsibility of Muslim leaders to ensure that Islam is protected from being ridiculed and remains respected. Muslim political leaders, especially, need to translate the purpose of the Syariah, which is all about wisdom, justice, mercy and goodness in the policies, actions and decision-making process.
Ibnu Taymiyyah explains this further;
“The compulsory maqasid (objectives) for a leader is to ensure goodness of religion to mankind. If religion is missing, they will become those who are at loss and the worldly gains that they have obtained will not bring any benefit to them.”
Preservation of the mind is not just restricted to prohibition of consuming intoxicants that are harmful to the mind and also body; it must include the cultivation of positive knowledge-seeking culture that will benefit the nation in a long run.
The Government’s effort and programmes aiming at lessening the “brain drain” phenomenon among professionals and intellectuals, for example, is a commendable effort that can be seen as a positive approach to realise the country’s development vision and mission.
It is also the responsibility of the Government and political leaders to mould the minds of the people through a dynamic and sustainable education system. The education system must be able to produce not just individuals who will fill in the demands of the labour market, but who are also creative and innovative with high level of moral integrity.
This is in line with Jasser Auda’s systems approach in discussing maqasid al-Syariah, where he includes in this framework not just the preservation of religion, mind, life, offspring and wealth but also the promotion of the five main elements.
The principle of maqasid should be the ultimate guidance for Muslim leaders, which includes making political decisions and utilising the power entrusted to them by the people through the democratic process.
It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that the people receive the benefits from its actions and decisions.
All in all, it can be said the success of any form of political leadership especially depends on the ability of the leaders to govern well. For Muslim leaders, this aspect of good governance needs to be guided by the framework of Tawhid on Oneness of God and the roles of human beings as His vicegerents.
This is further supplemented by the principles of maqasid al-Syariah with the aim that the whole political process works upon the premise of maximising the good or benefits and preventing or minimising harm for the people.
The problems of governance that arise in most nations today are the repercussions of poor management of public resources and failure in policy implementation by leaders who lack commitment, integrity and the relevant knowledge.
If politics is all about power, then those entrusted with it need to have a clear understanding of how it should be utilised, for whose benefit and what is hoped from them. Only then a more balanced definition of politics can serve justice for all.
> Enizahura Abdul Aziz is Senior Research Officer with Ikim’s Centre for the Study of Syariah, Law and Politics. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
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