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Can A Non-Muslim Hold Positions of Power in An Islamic Government?

An anonymous visitor made some comments regarding my respond to the article published on Malaysiakini. The comments are about not trusting the non-Muslims and that they will inevitably stab the Muslims in the back. He/She also said that historically the Muslim governments of the past never appointed non-Muslims to top government posts.

OK, lets put it this way. As Muslims, we must have a belief in man’s desire for justice, be he a Muslim or a non-Muslim. We then present to all the Islamic political system which sees justice as it’s core objective and seek their support for its implementation. Some may support it whole-heartedly and become Muslims themselves. They should then become members of the same movement as propagators of the Islamic system which seeks the establishment of justice for all.

Others may support only the political system, believing in the need for a strong spiritual and moral role for any system to be just. They remain as non-Muslims while supporting the Islamic political leadership. This has happened numerous times in the history of the Islamic Caliphate.

There would be others still who would oppose it and in the present day, the opponents are made up of Muslims and non-Muslims. To these people, we must continuosly attempt to convince and persuade by strength of argument, of the ability of the Islamic political system to ensure justice.

This was what happened in the time of the Prophet (May peace be upon him). It is not true that we cannot trust the non-Muslims as a whole. There were times when even the Holy Prophet himself placed his life in the hands of non-Muslims, such as Abdul Mutallib and Abu Talib, his grandfather and uncle respectively, who were non-Muslim until their deaths. Same was the case on the Prophet’s return from Taif when he sought the protection of a non-Muslim family friend for the Prophet to re-enter Mecca safely. Again, when he migrated, the prophet used a guide who was a non-Muslim.

Similar was the case when a portion of the Muslims, escaping intense persecution, migrated to Abbyssinia and sought the protection of the Negus, a Christian King. The King was approached by the Meccans who requested the return of the fugitives but the Negus refused. Some say that the Negus became a Muslim in the end, while others said no.

Again, it is not true that in the long history of the Muslim empire, the non-Muslims were not given Ministerial posts in the Islamic government.

I append below extracts from Islamonline which highlights the tolerance of the Muslims towards non-Muslims. In fact it was said that the Muslims only grew in intolerance when they grew further from Islam. For the information of the readers, the word ‘Dhimmi’ means ‘contractee’ meaning a person with whom the Islamic state has a contract and an obligation to protect and defend. This word is used for non-Muslim citizens of the Islamic state. It originally included Christians and Jews referred to collectively as ‘people of the book’ but later was used to include other non-Muslim citizens, such as Zoroastrians, Hindus, Buddhists and others, who came under the rule of the Muslim Empire.
Adam Mitz, as al-Qaradawi sites, once said: “Islamic jurisprudence does not forbid Dhimmis from entering any field of labor they choose, and they were well-established in trades which yield large profits; excelling as bankers, landlords, and doctors. Moreover, they managed to organize themselves, such that the most prominent bankers in the Levant (Syrian and Palestine) were Jews, whilst the best physicians and writers were Christians, and the chief of the Christian population in Baghdad was the caliph’s personal doctor, as the caliph also gathered in his court the chiefs and heads of the Jewish population.

Islam did not prohibit Dhimmis from occupying state positions, since it perceived them as an integral part of the state fabric. Islam also did not encourage their isolation, and the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) were allowed to join all offices apart from those marked with a religious trait; for example, the imamate, leadership of the state and the army, judge of disputes between Muslims, administrator of the dispensing of charity and alms”.

“During the Abbasid era, Christians undertook the ministry more than once; for example, Nasr ibn Haroun in AH 369 and Eissa ibn Nastorus in AH 380. Mu`awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan had also appointed a Christian clerk named Sarjoun.

Perhaps Muslim tolerance in this regard was sometimes taken too far, where at some instances, the rights of Muslims themselves were undermined and some skeptics complained about the undeserved prestigious authority of Jews and Christians above them”.

Western historian Adam Mitz says in his book Islamic Civilization in the Fourth Hijri Century, “We find it very surprising the abundance of non-Muslim laborers and senior staff within the Muslim state; where Christians governed Muslims in Muslim provinces, and complaints against non-Muslims’ seniority in these provinces dates far back”.

Read the full article Non-Muslims in Muslim Societies: Contemporary Ijtihad by Mass`oud Sabri
With respect to the betrayal of the non-Muslim subjects, Anon rightly states that betrayal also occurred by the Muslim who he classified as ‘munafik’. I would venture to say that as there were Muslim (Munafik) who betrayed the Caliphate, there were also loyal non-Muslim subjects who supported it. In fact, the Christians of the Eastern Empire opted to stay in the Ottoman Empire rather than migrate to the Western Catholic Empire as there they would be forced to convert to Catholicism.

In the final analysis, the question of justice is paramount to most. If the Islamic political system can ensure this, then there is no reason to assume that the non-Muslim citizen would not be willing to give it his or her full support.

WalLahu 'Alam


a very comprehensive article i would say. :)
Anonymous said…
The moment the Islamist in Malaysia form the government they will point to the constitution. Then they will ask the non-Muslims what do you see in the constitution. Any dream of the non-Muslims playing a significant role in the Islamic government will end there.

Now, I am not defending UMNO but at least with UMNO due to their desire to make money they are willing to cooperate with the non-Muslims. In the case of the Islamist, as seen worldwide without exception, they will oppress and persecute the non-Muslims in order to drive out as many non-Muslims as possible so as to create their Islamic "heaven" on earth.
zorro tua said…
I was in London yesterday where I met someone who I could have swear looks like Idris Jusoh, the former MB of T'ganu in Regent Park Central Mosque. However, this is not the subject that I want to share with all of you here.

I am more interested in the brilliant piece of Khutbah given before the Friday prayer. The Imam touched on a very interesting point on how Muslim should not retain bad thoughts about the others, and to think positive towards one's intentions in whatever they do. He left us to ponder upon the fact that it is far better for us to think positive but yet we are wrong, rather than we are being suspicious about someone and we are right about it.

Think about it, if Malaysian still holds to this sort of resentment and not trusting others just because they might do ‘something’; then, we will never get anywhere. And this is exactly the state that UMNO/BN wants us to be in - divide and conquer method just like what the British did. Do not fall in their trap! Rise above raced-based politics and fight for the right for every Malaysian to live in harmony…
u-en said…
Maybe the issue isn't so much non-Muslim trust and faith in the Islamic political system: Representatives such as yourself and Dr Zul have shown quite clearly that such is no bar to the quest for greater (universal) social justice.

But the question of leadership poses a difficult question. Examples of the conduct of cohesive politics in the past and present seem more the result of individual efforts than the automatic result of a well-applied system: Caliphs then and political leaders today are individually more responsible for the wellbeing of their people than the system itself.

The system does not guarantee that "good" leaders will always rise to prominence--perhaps such is the nature of humanity that despite a perfect system, perfection is difficult to expect or encourage in human motivation. And as a consequence leaders have an even greater responsibility of ensuring the continuity of just values after they have left the scene (which often yields, however well-intentioned, nepotism).

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