The First International Islamic Governance Symposium
The Evolution of the Muslim State
IIGS Concept Paper, Institute of Policy Studies, UBD – The ‘state’ is one of the oldest forms of human socio-political organisation, assumed in many guises. But behind the numerous political cultural veils reveal a prosaic conceptual face: control of a specified physical space, a people’s sense of belonging to that demarcated area often defined by certain criteria for membership, together with some form of socio-political organisation ordering its activities, and the ability of society to sustain the functions of the ‘state’ via economic means, legitimate or otherwise. These conceptual traits are all familiar contours on the faces of the earliest depictions of the ‘state’; among the Greek polities, in the Mohenjo-Daro of the Indus Valley, the Roman empire, the celestial Chinese kingdoms, the Malay Negara, the Prophetic Madīnian Polity, as well as, the more recent Westphalian ‘state’. Despite the familiarities, these different manifestations of the ‘state’, derived from the common principal elements constructing them, has been changing ever since. The principal elements have persisted, but the ‘state’, in terms of its lived expressions, has often transformed parallel to the complexities of the society it seeks to organise and in response to the changing, and often rising, societal expectations. The same can be observed of the Muslim ‘state’, as it evolved from the nascent Prophetic Madīnian Polity to the vast empire it once was, stretching from India to the shores of the African Atlantic, to its eventual collapse in 1924, and splintering Muslim communities around the world into numerous independent states.
Many Muslim societies have since then grown more complex due to a rapidly expanding population, rising educational standards, with access to technological advancements and information offered by globalisation and the internet, and the accompanying array of new economic opportunities. Citizen expectations, both of the political kind as well as the economic, has as a result, risen. Numerous new notions and institutions were introduced into many Muslim states to meet those rising expectations, which in turn only served to further complicate their socio-organisational fabric. The Muslim organisational challenge is also made more complex by extraneous problems, such as global warming, transnational violent movements, issues of food security, and cybercrime. These intricate challenges place unprecedented pressure on the state – its resources and governance. For many Muslim states, the added challenges create the need for a system of governance that can ensure the state, society, and all its institutions, are geared towards achieving the objectives of the state and society, while balancing their Islamic religious obligations. It is in consideration of these factors just mentioned that this Symposium seeks to deliberate on the evolution of the socio-political condition of the Muslim ‘state’, and how those transformations have affected Muslim societies.
The Symposium’s discussions revolving around the theme “The Evolution of the Muslim State”, shall proceed along four (4) sub-themes:
The state of the State
What is the condition of Muslim states today? And what does the future hold for them? This sub-theme discusses how Muslim societies developed their own conception of ‘state’, with its own indigenous system of rule, derived from their unique socio-political experience, which are essentially part of their own survival and developmental mechanisms. What, then, are the challenges these states face, how have they fared? What were the enablers and opportunities that facilitated their successes?
The changing and rising expectations of the public have placed much pressure on Muslim governments to meet those societal demands. Meeting those rising expectations, however, also demand more sophisticated solutions and services, which in turn require an increasingly higher level of organisational skills. Governments have had to reconfigure themselves in terms of training, continuous re-training to enhance skillsets, while maintaining positive attitudes and integrity. Additional pressures are placed on leadership expectations, organisational restructuring, requiring better management of organisational change. With the advent of global challenges and rising citizen expectations, the evolution of the Muslim state is inevitable.
Culture and the State
When Muslim societies developed their own conception of the ‘state’, with its own indigenous system of rule, derived from their unique socio-political experience, and as part of their own survival and developmental mechanisms, those conceptions were shaped by the cultural context within which the activities of governance lie. The organisation of the state, its functions and expectations are all defined by the socio-political and religious episodes that a society experienced. This sub-theme discusses the centrality of culture in the transformative processes, its impact, and the role of culture in defining a people’s political outlook and inclinations, and how it faces the challenges of new participants in state affairs.
As the activities of the State become increasingly complex, the number of actors correspondingly increases. This increase causes the space for socio-political and organisational participation to expand. Society’s rising expectations are also reflected in the participation of numerous ‘non-traditional’ actors thus changing, and in some ways challenging, the nature of organisational and societal roles and relations. The domain of governance is no longer exclusive to the functions of government, but now increasingly so to include the private sector, non-governmental organisations, universities, the youth, and the international community.
The concept of Islamic Governance is structured upon four principal components: (1) the tauhīdic, (2) the juristic, (3) its Qur’ānic values, and (4) the cultural context within which the activities of governance lies. The first component, that is the tauhīdic, drives the entire system of governance and creates the basis for religiosity. It is the tauhīdic component, or more specifically the Islamic belief system or ‘Aqīdah, that defines a society’s entire social, political, economic, and organisational scheme as a spiritual endeavour geared towards achieving success both in temporal terms as well as for in the Hereafter. Thus, for the subscribers of the Islamic ‘Aqīdah, the meaning of success, and its achievement, is not merely motivated by material performance indicators but simultaneously to meet an intrinsic spiritual need. Indeed, the fulfilment of both spiritual and material needs required for healthy and safe living, intellectual growth, economic balance, and social satisfactions are all religious obligations demanded by Islam, one that is defined by the Maqāsid of the Sharī’ah. Ultimately, the Maqāsid form the strategic objectives of an Islamic system of governance that seeks to create a Qur’ānic society, one that is conducive for the worship of Allah.
** Available upon request
Nassef Manabilang Aibong*
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