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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Islamic State 14: Responsibilities of the State Officials and their Characteristics



Generally the government offices are considered the easiest way of achieving fame and earning fortunes. They are often taken as the right of the nationals. This is why people try to get themselves appointed on such posts. They adopt every ignoble mean of achieving that end including competition and rivalry, brokering, scheming, favouritism, bribing and forgery, all of which are then considered allowable in this struggle. Every one jumps at public offices considering it their birth right. Since these public offices are considered very paying, which produce fame and fortune, people stake whatever financial, religious and moral possession they have in order to get themselves appointed. They believe that if they won this stake they would not only be able to redeem the losses suffered in the entire past life, but will also obtain the keys to future success.
Contrary to popular belief, public offices are not a right of the citizens in Islam. It is an obligation. In a true Islamic state and in a true Islamic environment, these responsibilities are not coveted; they are avoided. Only the unbelievers in the last accountability in the Afterlife find attraction in the public offices, for they fail to read the responsibilities attached to them. Such people always try to take advantage of all the blessings of God in this worldly life. Similarly, in this case, they do not bother about the nuisance of the last accountability. Undisturbed by the vain talk of the Afterlife, they cannot help plundering and merrymaking. They take these posts as their personal right and misuse them knowingly. True Muslims, on the contrary, believe that every man is a herdsman who will be held accountable for the plight of his herd; every woman will be questioned about her spouse and children; every master about his slave; every ruler about his subject; every family man about his family, wives and children. Believing in the above doctrine, a believer cannot wish to take graver responsibilities such as a qāḍī of a town, a governor of a state, or a ruler of a country. Only those who do not have the slightest idea of the responsibility attached with the public offices can dare to willingly take them. Only those who consider themselves free of all other responsibilities in this worldly life can welcome them. A true Muslim, aware of his responsibilities, cannot even think of taking these burdens not to speak of striving hard to take up these responsibilities, adopting political tactics, offering bribes and seeking favouritism. Thus a true Muslims tries his best to refrain from putting himself under such burdens. However, if he is forced by others to accept such responsibilities, he considers it a test from God and makes sure that he fulfils his duties and emerges successful on the Last Day. The Prophet explained this fact to Abū Dhar Ghaffārī when the latter requested him to allow him serve in some important position:

Abū Dhar Ghaffārī narrated: I requested the Prophet to appoint me for some important position. The Prophet tapped on my shoulders and replied: “Abū Dharr, this is a heavy trust. You are too weak for it. On the Last Day, this trust will cause humility and defeat except for the one who takes it up honestly, and fulfils the related duties.” (Muslim, No: 1825)


In Islam positions are a trust for their upholders from God. There is no concept of positions as a trust in ordinary mundane states. If there is such a concept that too is often blurred and considers the positions a national trust not divine. As a result, in the states where national feelings hold or the people in charge fear accountability, this trust is ostensibly honoured. However, in states where both of the above mentioned forces are absent, the authorities feel free to commit unfaithfulness and adopt dishonesty with impunity. Their conscience no longer rebukes them on dishonesty. Islam has, by making the positions a trust from God, put twofold surveillance over the officials. Nation can fail to observe a person in authority committing dishonesty but nothing can escape the observation of the all knowing God. He knows who commits dishonesty and unfaithfulness and observes the depth of sincerity in the actions of those who seemingly observe faithfulness. He is thus able to hold into account those who observe the limits ostensibly and commit showing off and deceit. All such acts will, therefore, be punished according to the intention of the doers. It is only because of this double surveillance that the posts craved for in the ignorant societies become a burden to avoid in the Islamic state. In the former systems people, driven by the love for such posts, invest all their belongings to get themselves appointed and a blind and fierce competition starts. Contrarily, in the Islamic system, it is difficult to find people ready to offer the services. In the present day we see that some administrative posts are filled through competitive examinations like PAS and PSC. It is usually very expensive to participate in these examinations. In spite of the cost involved with such competitive examinations, the number of candidates is always huge. As a result, it is not the merit which decides the appointments but the amount of bribe supplied. Contrarily, in the true Islamic system, people suitable for such posts are searched through the whole country and when any is found, he does not accept the post. The authorities sometimes humbly request able citizens to help them discharge national duties. I intend to cite some of the traditions which show that the positions, the most cherished wealth for the worshippers of the world, are the most insignificant things for the people living in a true Islamic system. Abū Hurayrah narrates that the Prophet said:

The one who is made a judge to decide disputes among the people is actually slaughtered without a knife. (Abū Dāwūd, No: 4607, Tirmidhī, No: 1325, Ibn Mājah, No: 2308, Musnad Aḥmad, N0: 7145)

Ibn Mas‘ūd narrates that the Prophet of God said:

The one who judges disputes among the people will be held into account on the Last Day. An angel will hold him by his hair on the back of his head. Then the angel will raise his head towards the heavens. If God allows the angel he will throw the person in an abyss of forty years of depth. (Ibn Mājah, No: 2311)

Abū Hurayrah narrates that the Prophet of God said:

Vow to the rulers. Vow to the chiefs. Vow to those entrusted with trusts. On the Last Day many people will wish if their heads had been tied to the Pleiades and they were suspended between the heavens and the earth instead of being appointed at some responsible post. (Musnad Aḥmad, No: 8612)

Abū Amāmah narrates that the Prophet of God said:

The one who is appointed leader over ten or more people will come before God on the Last Day with his hands tied to his neck. Either his good deeds will get him released or his sins will destroy him. The worldly rule is condemnation in the start, remorse in the middle, and finally damnation on the Last Day. (Musnad Aḥmad, No: 22354)

Abū Hurayrah narrates that the Prophet of God said:

A time will come when you will covet rule and authority whereas this will bring you humility on the Last Day. How an excellent feeding mother it is and how bad ablactating one!”[1] (Bukhārī, No: 6729)

All these warnings, no doubt, pertain to those who disregard the responsibilities after assuming the offices. As regards those who fulfil their responsibilities perfectly they are going to be rewarded abundantly. The following prophetic tradition leads to this conclusion:

The just (among the rulers and leaders) will sit at the right hand of the Almighty Allah on the minarets of light. Those who do justice in their decisions, with their family and in all the sphere of their authority, indeed have hand of God on their back. (Muslim, No: 1827)

None would dare to accept that he is slaughtered without a knife in spite of the fact a great reward is attached to the faithful discharge of the duties.


The above mentioned concept attached with seeking authority necessarily translates into the fact that those who seek authority and try hard for this objective are condemned as dishonest people. Merely applying for a post disqualifies the seeker. A person who offers himself for such a great trial must fall in one of the following two psychological states. a) He is either ignorant of the responsibility he is taking up or b) his intention is not pure and greed has taken over him. In the first case such a person will certainly fail to avoid the trial and will be eluded into committing injustice and taking advantage of his position. Whenever he will face a trial, he will prove an easy prey. In the second case, the individual seeking the post is already harbouring evil intention and is definitely unjust and dishonest. Entrusting such a personal a responsibility means appointing a thief as a guardian. This is why, in Islam, seeking a position is a very valid ground for ineligibility of the candidate.

Abū Mūsā narrates that he met the Prophet along with two other men. One of them said that they had hoping to be appointed on some state office. The other also expressed a similar wish. The Prophet of God replied: “We believe that the worst kind of a dishonest man is the one who seeks positions.” (Abū Mūsā Ash‘arī) said that the Prophet never took help from any of them till his death. (Abū Dāwūd, No: 2930)



We have seen that the offices are a trust from God and a trial. This means that God helps only those among the rulers and state officials who do not campaign for these posts. They accept this duty only when the others burden them with it. He, however, will not help those who offer their services. Instead of avoiding such responsibilities, they campaign to be appointed and apply for them. It is a universal law of God that he helps people when He himself puts them through a trial. He leads them to success if they endeavour to faithfully discharge their duties. However, if someone offers himself to be burdened with such responsibilities and puts himself in trials God leaves him on his state. He does not help him and remains aloof from the whole issue to see that how the coveter deals with the burden which he so desirously took up.

‘Abd al-Raḥmān b. Samurah narrates that the Prophet of God said: “O ‘Abd al-Raḥmān, do not pursue positions. If you are given one without seeking it then God will help you discharge the duties. If you seek and acquire a position you will be left over to the responsibility you have taken over. (Bukhārī, No: 6248)

Anas narrates that the Prophet of God said:

Whoever seeks to be appointed a qāḍī he is handed over to his desires and whoever is forced into accepting this position, he is guided by an angel who descends for this purpose. (Tirmidhī, No: 1323, Ibn Mājah, No: 2309, Musnad Aḥmad, No: 12205)


The above mentioned facts make the pious servants of God avoid willingly taking responsibilities and assuming political and administrative positions. If, however, they are burdened with such responsibilities, in spite of themselves, they spend their life in fulfilling the duties imposed on them. They are never able to enjoy food and drinks nor can they have peaceful sleep. No more do they find pleasure of living with their family and children nor do they have time to enjoy the company of friends. All sorts of pleasures of life, they previously enjoyed, are lost upon them. How could such people celebrate such burdensome posts? How could they indulge in buying comforts and grandeurs for their children and relatives while, totally lost in serving the nation, they even lose the opportunity to serve them out of their personal income? Each and every second of their life is then devoted to the service of the nation and the religion. Their family and other relatives become alien to them. They are found awake the rest of the people are sound asleep. They are distressed while others take rest. They are lost under the burden of the entire community, while others are busy in buying their dear ones comforts. They are no more aware of peace of night nor do they experience cheerfulness of day. We will now give a glimpse of the feelings of such pious servants of God from our history as were fully aware of the responsibilities attached with these positions and who always targeted discharging duties entrusted to them by the nation and the Almighty with religious concern and perfect honesty. It will help us know how painfully such people spent nights on the beds of authority which the seekers of the world enjoy tremendously.
While appointing ‘Umar as caliph, Abū Bakr advised him as follows:

I give you an advice. If you keep it in mind, you will never cherish anything more than the inevitable death. If, however, you will forget this fact, nothing will be more dreadful to you than death while you can never escape it. You have to fulfil some rights of the Almighty which He will not accept from you if you (delayed them to) the next day. You have upon you certain rights of the Almighty to be fulfilled during the day which he will not accept from you if you discharged them during the (next) night. He will not accept your optional service unless you have already discharged your obligations. Light scales are of only those whose scales will be light on the Last Day for they follow evil in this worldly life, evil which is light and weightless. A scale filled with evil is worthy to be considered light. Heavy scale is only of those who follow truth in this worldly life, truth which is weightier. A scale adorned with truth is worthy of being considered heavier. If you keep this advice of mine in your mind, none among the absent things will become dearer to you than death, the inevitable. If you will forget this advice of mine, nothing among the absent things will look dreadful to you than death which you cannot escape. [2]

Asmā’ bint ‘Amīs (wife of Abū Bakr ) narrates that Abū Bakr also gave another advice to his successor which follows:

Considering the gravity of the responsibility I am leaving behind, I have chosen you as my successor. You have bore the company of the Messenger of God. You have observed how he preferred us over himself and our children over his children. We would gift his children and family from his gifts. You have bore my company too. You have seen how strictly I followed my predecessor. By God, I never went to sleep carefree so that I could have good dreams neither did I ever indulge in daydreaming so that I could go astray. I strictly followed the straight path and never deviated from it. The first thing I warn you of is that every nafs has a longing. When this is fulfilled it leads to another. Beware of the people among the companions of the Prophet who have nursed all kinds of desires, whose minds fly in high airs and each and every one among them seeks personal elevation. One of them is going to take one wrong step that will cast them all into a great distress. Beware! You should not be that man. Keep well in mind that as long as you fear God, these people will fear you; as long as you keep on the straight path, these people will remain straightened up for you.[3]

The way the onerousness of this responsibility was felt by ‘Umar can be gleaned from the following statement of ‘Abd Allāh b. ‘Abbās:

I presented myself before ‘Umar when he was injured. I said: Chief of the believers, accept the good news of Paradise. You embraced the faith when people rejected it. You fought alongside the Prophet when people abandoned him. When the Prophet departed this world he was pleased with you. Not even two men disagreed on your appointment as caliph. Now, at last, you are dying the death of a martyr. To all these things the caliph responded: “Repeat whatever you have just said.” I obeyed him. After hearing all what I said he responded: “By God, besides whom there is no god, if all the treasures of the world come into my possession I would gladly give away them in ransom for saving myself the dread of the day which is going to reveal itself.[4]

Every event in the life of the caliph bears witnesses to that he discharged the responsibilities with great concern. We cannot reproduce here, for fear of lengthiness, all the available historical data in this regard. We will, however, mention some incidents happening during the famous drought of ‘ām al- ramādah (Year of Ramādah drought, 17the and 18th year AH). This drought provides us with an opportunity to discern the basic responsibility of the head of the Islamic State. We can also learn how seriously ‘Umar took such responsibilities. I take the relevant reports about the incidents from al-Fārūq ‘Umar by the famous Egyptian scholar Muhammad Ḥusayn Haykal. I am satisfied over the reliability of the author’s source.

During the year of the drought of al- ramādah people saw that whitish red colour of ‘Umar turned into black. This was because he had totally forbidden himself things like milk and ghee etc in order to sympathize with those afflicted by the drought. He would often starve. This went to the extent that people, observing the plight of the caliph, remarked that if God forbid, the drought did not end, the caliph would perish feeling for the subjects.[5]

During the drought, the caliph abandoned taking his meals in his home. He would get food prepared for the people outside and eat with them.[6]

When the toll of the drought grew severer, ‘Umar was once presented with a loaf minced in ghee. He made a hungry Bedouin share his meal. The Bedouin started gathering the pieces of ghee to the corner of the plate. Having observed this ‘Umar said: “Perhaps you have not tasted ghee for long.” He replied: “Yes, O Chief of the Believers, I have neither tasted ghee nor oil for this long (determining a specific time period). I have even not seen someone eating them.” At hearing this, ‘Umar was so much moved that he swore he would not eat meat or ghee till the end of the drought. He kept this promise faithfully.[7]

Such steadfastly did ‘Umar kept his promise that once he noticed that some ghee and milk came in the market for sale. his servant bought it for forty dirham and informed the caliph. The caliph told him that he had made a very costly dealing. Then the caliph advised his slave to give away all he had bought. He said he would not eat something that expensive. He kept standing for sometimes with his head bowed. Then he said: “How will I judge the plight of the subject if I do not go through what they are experiencing.[8]

The hardships ‘Umar and his family bore during that period can be gleaned from various incidents recorded by Ibn Sa‘d in his Ṭabaqāt. We mention some relevant reports below:

Once ‘Umar was presented with meat cooked in ghee. He refused to eat it saying that either was a distinct complete food and that there was no need to take that trouble (of cooking one in another).[9]
Once he asked someone to give him some drinking water. The man by chance happened to have honey with him which he offered (instead of water). ‘Umar returned to him the honey and said: “I do not want to add it to the matters about which I will be questioned on the Last Day.[10]
Once he saw one of his children carrying a piece of watermelon in his hands. The caliph pursued him saying: “Son of the Chief of the Believers, you are enjoying watermelons and the ummahof Muhammad is starving in the drought.” The child ran into the house weeping. ‘Umar was satisfied only once he was told that the watermelon was bought for a handful of date seeds.[11]
Once ‘Umar saw an old woman trying to cook something mixing the flour and ghee rationed to her. She was, however, not able to cook something proper. The Caliph saw this and joined her in her struggle. While telling her how to cook he remarked: “This way instead of what were you doing.”[12]
Abū Hurayrah narrates that he noticed that ‘Umar was carrying a pot of ghee and a sack of flour. Then he (the Caliph) saw some poor folks and cooked it and offered it to them.[13]
During the nine months of severe drought he would enter his residence after leading people in the ‘Ishā’ (night) Prayer and would continue beseeching God. He would cry and plead to God that the ummah was not destroyed in his hand. his prayers were not heard and God did not send down a drop of rain. At this he wrote to his governors to take their subject with them on a specific day and pray to the Almighty to lift the drought. He himself went out with his people. At this time he put on the cloak of the Prophet. When they reached the prayer station all cried before God and prayed to him. ‘Umar cried so much that his beard got soaked. ‘Abbās b Abd al-Muṭṭalib was standing at his side. ‘Umar took ‘Abbās’s hand in his own and raised it to the heavens and beseeched: “God, we are presenting the uncle of your Messenger as an intercessor before you. ‘Abbās too cried a lot while praying. Thus God accepted their pleadings.[14]

‘Umar endeavoured to fulfil his duties such relentlessly and selflessly that history does not find his equal in this regard with the only exception of the Prophet and the Caliph Abū Bakr. Even after all this hard work he did not feel satisfied for a moment. He would often say: “I have enjoyed the company of the Prophet. He was pleased with me when he died. I also took company of Abū Bakr who too was happy with me when he departed this world. I have no worries other than the responsibilities of this leadership.” He always remained tensed, resting neither during the day nor night. When a few men pointed out to him that this kind of worry would wear him away he responded: “What can I do? If I take rest during night, I am ruined. If I take rest during day, the people are ruined.” He never demanded that all these relentless and wearisome efforts be paid back to him in any manner. This will be discussed later in detail. He was even not expecting any reward for this on the Last Day. He would often wish if he could be saved on equal terms. That would, to him, mean the real gain. What to say of reward! During the last Ḥajj he offered in his life he spread his cloak on the earth to lie on. Then he raised his hands towards the heavens and prayed in a very earnest manner.

O God. I have turned senile. My bones have thinned. My power has dropped off. My subjects have multiplied. Take me to You while I am neither incapable nor blameful.[15]

The sense of responsibility ‘Umar showed is well depicted in the following incident. He was on his deathbed, lying in the lap of ‘Abd Allāh b ‘Umar. When he felt that his hour had approached, he told his son to put his face on the earth. When ‘Abd Allāh b ‘Umar put his head on the earth, he straightened up his feet and said: “My mother and I are ruined if God does not forgive me.” With these words he breathed his last.[16]
‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Azīz was the only Umayyad ruler who was fully aware of the spirit of the Islamic teachings. When he was burdened with the responsibility of heading the government, it changed his life completely and shook him severely. The scale of difference between his previous lifestyle as a common man and the later one after he assumed the chair of Khilāfah is clear to all the students of the Islamic history. What follows is an incident from the time of his rule which will help us have a glimpse of this difference between ‘Umar the commoner and ‘Umar the ruler.

One of the shaykhs of Madīnah says: “I saw ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Azīz in Madīnah. He wore the excellent dress, used the finest perfumes and walked with an air of pride. Later on, I saw him again after he had assumed the chair of Khilāfah. I noticed that he walked like a monk. If someone holds that manner of walking is an unchangeable natural trait he should consider the experience of ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Azīz which rejects such a notion.”[17]

Muhammad b. Ka‘b Qarzī narrates:

When ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Azīz assumed the chair of khilāfah he called upon me. I was in Madīnah. I was greatly surprised to see him. My eyes got fixed at his face out of sheer shock. Noticing the surprise on my face, he asked what the matter was. “You would never gaze me that way before!” he said. I responded: “I am surprised at you present condition.” “On which condition”, he asked. I responded: “At the dullness prevailing over your face, at the weakness of your body, at the outgrowing of your hair.” He said: “What will be the extent of your surprise when, after some days, you will see me being laid in the grave while my nostrils will be bleeding and secreting puss? Then you would be utterly confounded.”[18]

When ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Azīz assumed the chair of Khilāfah he continued considering and pondering over the pains and worries this great responsibly would accompany for two months. Then he became engaged in looking after the public affairs and compensating for the injustices previously done to the people. Such was his occupation in this objective that he seemed to have forgotten himself till he wore himself out and left this world in that state. After he died, a few scholars and jurists came to his wife to offer condolence. While discussing the misfortune that had befallen the Muslims in the form of the death of the caliph, they expressed their desire to learn the state of the caliph from his wife for they thought one’s wife best knows the circumstances of the husband. She said to them: “The caliph would not surpass any of you in offering Prayers and fasting. However, I never saw a more God-conscious man. He had fully devoted his heart and mind for the service of his people. All day he would remain busy in fulfilling the duties of caliphate and if he could not finish the business at hand he would keep working during the night. One day he finished his daily work before evening. Then he asked for the lamp which would be burnt on his personal expense. He offered two raka'ah Prayer and sat down with his hand supporting his chin, tears running down his cheeks until the time of fajar(morning) came. He then intended to fast during the day. I asked him: “O Chief of the believers, did something extraordinary happen last night? Why do I see this state of yours?” He said: “Yes, do you know I have been made responsible for this nation, of the blacks and the whites among them. With reference to this responsibility, I considered all those travellers, the poor, and the wronged captives and the like, who are living a worried life of poverty in far flung areas of the country. I thought God is going to hold me in account for their present condition. The Prophet will argue their case with me. My fear was that neither will my excuses work before God nor will I be able to counter the case of the Prophet. This thought greatly perturbed me. [The wife of the caliph continued:] “By God, one moment ‘Umar (her husband) would look happy as is any individual enjoying the company of his family. Suddenly he would remember a command of the Almighty Allah and would instantly change to the state of a dove which falls in water, struggling in severe pain. He would then utter cries. I would then pull off the cover from him seeing him in this state. He would say: ‘Would that I would be separated from this responsibility of the caliphate by a distance of east to west.'” [19]

The advices of Qāḍī Abū Yūsuf to the caliph of his time Hārūn al-Rashīd regarding the responsibilities of the caliphate would also be helpful in grasping this point. We will learn that what has been expressed above is not the product of individual’s inclinations and natural disposition of these pious caliphs. On the contrary, this is a demand of the religious and legal rulings of the sharī‘ah. If someone departs from this approach towards this responsibility, he not goes against not only the examples of good natured purely religious people but also the attitude required by the religion. He defies the injunctions of the sharī‘ah. This will also help us understand how bravely and fearlessly did our pious ancestors advise the despots and how courageously did they advocate justice. Qāḍī Abū Yūsuf has addressed the caliph Hārūn al-Rashīd in the following words:

O Chief of the believers, God has burdened you with a huge responsibility which attaches great reward. God has made you the caliph of this ummah. Therefore, you should serve the people given in your care day and night. You are being tested and tried through your subjects. Keep it in your mind well that the one who does not base his abode on the foundations of God-consciousness, God will shake the building he erects from its foundations and will topple it upon him. Do not ignore the responsibility God has burdened you with and do not defy the commands of God. Real power is obtained by practicing the commands of God.[20]

He observes:

Do not meet you Lord such that you are considered one of those who abandon the way marked by God Almighty. This I say because the Lord Who will hold retribution on the Day of Judgment will consider nothing but the deeds of the people. He will not consider their social status and political position in this world. God has already warned you of this. Therefore, remain conscious. Keep well in mind that God has not rendered you beyond retribution. He will, therefore, not leave you walk free.[21]


[1]The implication is that at the start power and authority is very pleasing and delicious while it sends to a very dreadful end considering the responsibilities attached to it.
[2] Abū Yūsuf, Kitāb al-Kharāj, 11.
[3] Ibid., 11-2.
[4] Ibid., 13.
[5] Haykal, al-Fārūq ‘Umar, 1: 267.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid., 266.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibn Sa‘d, al-Ṭabaqāt al-Kubrā, 3:319.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid., 3:315.
[12] Ibid., 3:314.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid., 3:319-21.
[15] The author has not provided the source. I could only find the following version of the narrative in Muwaṭṭā of Imām Mālik, No: 1506:
God, I have turned senile. My power has dropped off. My subjects have multiplied. Take me up to You while I am neither lost nor unrestrained. (translator)
[16] Haykal, al-Fārūq ‘Umar, 2: 288.
[17] Abū Yūsuf, Kitāb al-Kharāj, 17.
[18] Ibid., 16.
[19] Ibid., 16-7.
[20] Abū Yūsuf, Kitāb al-Kharāj, 3.
[21] Ibid., 4.