Governance in Islam
IN public administration all the key public functionaries
ought to be people of high calibre, just and energetic and must possess
qualities of head and heart. In the words of fourth rightly guided
Caliph Hazrat Ali (RA) they should have the qualities of refinement,
experience, alertness, power of comprehending problems, secrecy, freedom
from greed and lust.
A careful analysis of principles of administration and qualities of an
administrator from Islamic point of view would show that man’s personal
character is the key to good governance.
Perhaps the most exhaustive work on Islamic ethics of administration and
qualities of an administrator is by a Pakistani specialist on public
administration Shaukat Ali. His book “Administrative Ethics in a Muslim
State” offers a comprehensive survey of instructions in the Holy Qur’an
and “Traditions” on the subject.
The other monumental work on Islamic system of administration is by Dr.
Mohammad Al Burray of Medina University. The book is titled
“Administrative Development: An Islamic perspective.
The following advice to the Governor (Wali) Mali Alk-Ashtar contained in
a letter of Hazrat Ali (RA) gives in a nutshell the qualities of an
administrator. He should be an ideal for his staff and fellow citizens
and choose the most qualified yet pious, honest, truthful and
God-fearing men for his administrative structure.
He should be impartial and dispense justice with equity and should be
very careful about the back biters, sycophants, corrupt and scandal
mongers. He should constantly remain in contact with his staff consult
them and should not issue authoritative and arbitrary orders.
He should strike against corruption, injustice and evil usages of
authority against citizens and take responsibility for any defect in his
subordinates and staff. He should not reserve for himself or his
relatives any common property in which others have share and stake.
If studied carefully, this letter of Hazrat Ali (RA) (text available in
Nahjul Balagha) is a blueprint for efficient administration. It is based
on the golden principles of Islam. The emphasis is on the character of
They should continuously watch that justice, social equity and honesty
prevail in the society and conduct themselves as servants of the people
and trustees of state and of those below them in command as well as the
public in general. They should love their fellow citizen as they love
themselves and their families and not behave like rulers.
A long letter written during the rule of the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mamun is
another best available source on the principles of administration in
Written by Tahir Ibn Al-Husayn, Al-Mamun’s general, to his son Abdullah
Ibn Tahir. This letter is summarized in Ibn-e-Khaldun’s “Muqqaddamah”.
According to Ibn-e-Khaldun, Tahir in this letter to his son gave him
advice concerning all religious and ethical matters.
He urged him to strive for virtue and good qualities in a manner so
exemplary that no king or commander can do without. The general theme of
this letter is duties and responsibilities of the administrative leaders
In the letter principles of administration abound and deal with
accountability and punishment, moderation in administration, avoidance
of falsehoods, consultation with specialists, on employment policy,
supervision and foresight, punctuality, redressal of grievances and
complaints, care for subordinates and the people of the State generally,
a time schedule for officials, and policies governing revenue and
Since Islamic system is democratic in nature and is based on Shariah and
the Sunnah, there is no place in this system for dictatorial leadership,
authoritarian attitude and one man decision-making. This is the
principle which forms a constant current in Islamic system of
administration. The system is human in nature, content and application.
When Hazrat Omar (RA) would appoint a governor, he would invariably
advise the incumbent
“Not to make reception halls so that you are accessible to every one,
not to eat refined flour as it is not available to all citizens of the
Ummah, not to wear thin cloth because this would make you easy going and
not to ride a Turkish horse because this would make you haughty”.
There is absolutely no doubt that principles of administration in Islam
are by far the most scientific and comprehensive set of principles for
effective and efficient administration. Instructions of Hazrat Omar (RA)
and Hazrat Ali (RA) noted earlier provide a complete frame for Islamic
Islamic system of justice includes social justice, which means that the
Government must manage to meet and fulfil the needs and requirements of
all citizens because they have rightful share in State resources and are
bonafide citizens of the country.
This includes provision of job, means of subsistence and economic
justice. This further implies that it is the responsibility of the State
to provide food, shelter and clothing to all the citizens of the State.
Economic justice is aimed at equitable distribution of means of living
and check concentration of wealth in a few hands.
That is why the rightly guided second Caliph Hazrat Umar (RA) refused to
allot lands to the Muslim soldiers and commanders in areas conquered by
Muslims in Iran, Iraq and Syria.
Only justice can create discipline in life of the people. Also essential
is administrative justice, which means that all State functionaries are
also subject to accountability and do not consider and treat people as
“slaves” or “personal servants”.
They should not insult the people in any manner. They should be honest
and efficiently administer public affairs. It should be ensured that the
concentration of wealth in one class or in a few hands does not occur.
According to Ibn-e-Khaldun, a successful and viable administrative set
up is that in which people’s participation is ensured. If the governed
feel that they share the administrative process, the society would be
What Ibne Khaldun observed is reflected in modern theory of New Public
Administration(NPA) that administration should be such as make people
feel that they are equal partners in the process of planning,
administration and implementation. Thus public participation is an
essential part of Islamic model of administration.
During the caliphate of first four rightly guided Caliphs and the rule
of Umayyads and partly during Abbasid rule and under Fatimids in Egypt,
public administration was a great success because of its efficiency and
[The writer is former Director General Radio Pakistan]