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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Islamic State 7: Duties of Citizens

All rights imply corresponding duties. By the same token the rights and the corresponding duties attach equal importance. This is an established ethical principle which has to be observed in political and collective life just as it is taken for granted in private moral ideals. It would, therefore, not be possible, for example, to enjoy a right and refuse to fulfil the corresponding duty. It would equally be unjust to enjoy a greater right and avoid the corresponding duty or to refuse to accept any duty altogether; enjoying rights, avoiding obligations. Some one may go farther, putting the benefactor under obligation not to speak of paying back the debt. In the sphere of family life such characters are considered, base and bastardly. In the collective and communal life they are considered traitors and enemies of the nation. Case of Islam and the Islamic System is more serious. Here the matter is not limited to rights of individuals and the community. Rather one has to consider the liking and disliking of God as well; besides the usual mundane considerations the all important consideration of the Afterlife has to be paid heed to. If an individual enjoys rights by virtue of being citizen of the Islamic State and ignores the corresponding obligations and fails to discharge them in a befitting manner, he betrays not only his nation and the country but also God and his Messenger. He not only deserves punishment in this world but also incurs wrath of God. God will definitely put him in everlasting infliction of the Afterlife.
A look at the rights of citizens discussed in the preceding pages reveals that the Islamic State awards great rights to its citizens. It guarantees protection of life and wealth, provides with personal freedom and assures legal protection to the assets of the citizens so that their personal growth and development is not hindered by any external force and so that potentials of the individuals develop. The Islamic state provides a very vast ground for the growth of mental and intellectual aspects of the personality. It does not impose any restriction on these opportunities for its citizens nor does it tolerate that any other force curbs them. It legislates laws which encompass all, the rulers and the ruled, the destitute and the opulent. It establishes a society where race and descent, vocation and status do not become mark of discrimination. The most commoners among the citizens as well those of highest social and political significance are awarded a right to the state’s financial resources. It guarantees the needy, without any provider and helper, provision of all their basic needs. It makes sure that the door to justice is open to all and that too free of cost. All the citizens and their children have access to free education. If a national of the Islamic State dies without paying off his debts and without leaving behind enough assets in inheritance to pay off the debt the state pays his debt on his behalf. The state guarantees that nobody is burdened with unbearable responsibilities. The national law does not subject the citizens to do something that entails disobedience to God and his Messenger. It awards the citizens inalienable rights to petition, criticism and complaints against the state authorities. All these rights are either crucial to one’s existence or promote one’s well being and work for the betterment and completion of life conditions. Equally important is the point that all of these rights can only be guaranteed and ensured by the state. No individual effort can provide people with such security rights. Family, clan and tribe provide much of life security and fulfil many conditions for smooth life of an individual yet all these too owe their provision to the existence of the state. All great rights awarded to the citizens of the Islamic state imply corresponding duties. Such duties would be equal in heaviness to the rights awarded. Just as the citizens are free to demand that there rights are fulfilled the state has the authority to demand from the citizens to fulfil their duties.
Now we turn to discuss the duties of citizens in the Islamic State.


The most pressing duty of the citizens of the Islamic State is sam‘-o-ṭā‘ah(to submit to commands of the constituted authorities and obey them). Sam‘ implies acknowledging the legality of the command from such authorities and ṭā‘ahmeans to follow them accordingly. In other words, a citizen is subjected not only to accept the orders received from the authorities, with heart and mind, but also to obey them unconditionally. Mostly the states command unconditional obedience to the laws and the state authorities to the exclusion of accepting them intellectually. The Islamic State, on the contrary, demands accepting the laws and obeying them. This unusual demand of the Islamic State follows from the fact that the state is a tool through which the will of God is implemented in the land. Therefore, the Almighty has rendered obeying the Messengers a necessary condition for proper following of the Almighty himself and quite analogously held obedience to the constituted authorities a precondition of the obedience to the Messenger. The obedience observed before the authorities, therefore, is qualified by the same conditions related with the obedience to the Messenger. The most important of these qualifications is that the obedience commanded by the Messenger and the rulers should be founded on firm conviction in what they command. The heart should lead the limps in carrying out the commands of the Messengers. Though the state will not judge the inner state of the individual in any matter, for it has no access to the realm of inner inclinations and thoughts of individuals, yet, God will not accept the obedience of the believers to their rulers unless rendered with conviction just as He would not accept their worship like the ṣalāh etc. unless offered with true intent. Showing off in worship of God is a sin. It is unwarranted hypocrisy in obedience to the rulers.
Obedience to the Messengers and analogously to the rulers is mandatory in the religion of God in all circumstances, at ease or in straits. It cannot be abandoned even if one’s personal interests are at stake, one’s business is put in jeopardy and all pleasures and comforts of one’s life seem to go. In all such crucial circumstances one has to offer one’s services to the state to the best of one’s worth. The following tradition has been attributed to ‘Ubādah b. Ṣāmit:

We pledged hearkening to and obeying to the Prophet in all circumstances, ease and straits, and comfort and difficulty. (Muslim, No: 1709)

The Islamic law has, however, detailed the possible situations where a citizen is exempted from obedience. Failure to follow the Prophet’s commands incurs recompense. Similarly failing to obey the rulers, except in the exempted circumstances, renders one accountable in the sight of God. Islam holds that if a believer secedes from the collectivity and dies in that state he does not die the death of a Muslim. Rather he is considered to have died in ignorance, on a non-Islamic creed.
The sharī‘ahallows the Muslims to refuse to obey the rulers in two situations. One is allowed to show partial disobedience when the authorities, in the state established on the principles of Islam, oblige people to do something that negates and contradict the commands of God and his Messenger. In such situations a citizen is supposed to remain loyal to the state. He is however obliged to refuse to carry on such orders as are in defiance of the express directives of Islam. To obey God and his Messenger is evidently more important for a believer than to obey the rulers. Therefore, it is not lawful for any government to infringe upon the rights of God and force the subjects into violating them. The Prophet Muhammad said:

To listen to and to obey the rulers is incumbent (upon the believers) unless they (the rulers) command something in defiance of God’s commands. The rulers may not be listened to and may not be obeyed if they command a transgression. (Bukhārī, No: 2796)

This obligation may be held in abeyance when the foundation principles of the state are completely distorted and are directed by unbelief rather than belief. The obligation of establishing the religion—the basic rationale of the state—is no more pursued. The sharī‘ah has, for such situations, rendered that the citizens may defy the rulers in all matters. In other words they are no more obliged to remain loyal to the state and are free to struggle for a change in the system of government in any way possible.[1]


The second most important duty of a citizen is to sympathize with the state and the state officials. This duty is a direct corollary of their obligation to remain loyal to the Almighty and his Messengers. In other words, if a citizen bears ill will for the state he is not, in fact, a well wisher of the Almighty and his Messenger. One aspect of this duty is that one does not knowingly engage in acts which go against the interest of the state and the nation. One may not harm the national assets nor should one let others commit such an act. A citizen has to avoid committing any destructive act and should never extend help to those out to do so. If he is entrusted some national duty he must fulfil it to the best of his ability with complete honesty. He may never remain content with improper discharge of the duty or work merely for the sake of getting paid. If he has some worthy idea or proposal for the promotion and well being of the collective good he must put it forward to the concerned authorities regardless of the matter they appreciate it or not. If he is consulted in matters of national import he must again put all his intellectual abilities to form an opinion and share it with the authority in good faith. He may only suggest what he believes is right and in accord with wishes of God and his Messenger. He should not hesitate to offer this service even if his popularity is at stake, his personal interests are endangered, or he fears to grow insignificant in the eyes of the government and the public.
Another aspect of this duty to the state and its officials is that a citizen puts all his efforts to stop the state authorities from deviating from the path set by the Almighty Allāh and his Messenger. If he notices that a vice is rampant in the society he is obliged to remove it. He must, to this end, use his authority in his jurisdiction and apply legal force. He should not show lenience, weakness or expediency in this matter. A commoner, who has no such power, is obliged to use his tongue and pen in this holy war without fear for his life. Expediency and fear of losing repute should not deter him from raising voice against the evil. If, however, he is not bestowed with ability to write or speak for the purpose he must at least detest the evil in his heart. This is the lowest form of expression of one’s faith. A least amount of belief in one’s heart does not leave one remain content with the situation and tolerate the evil.
Showing indifference to the collective vices in the Islamic State is a complete negation of faith and is morally suicidal. Divine law governing such situations renders those who indulge in such collective evil and promote it and those who show indifference to the state of affair and tolerate it equally accountable. (Q 8:35) The incident of the people of the garden mentioned in Sūrah al-Qalam (68) explains that even those who raise voice against the evil but as a mild criticism also share the misfortune resulting from the evil. When they do not dare to put effective opposition to the evil and renounce it openly they work as a part of the system which is the basis of such evil. Such negligence is often a result of one’s yearnings to protect their personal interest. The Islamic sharī‘ah does not demand from the citizens of the Islamic State to merely criticize the evil modestly. On the contrary it forces them to show complete seclusion from the evil and to express their acquittal openly. The Prophet Muhammad has explained this collective responsibility of the believers in a parable. He said that when travellers on board a boat see that a man is putting a hole in a part of it they are obliged to stop him immediately. If they fail to do so they will all perish. Similarly in collective life if some people are out to create disruption and innovate erroneous ways in stead of following the directives of God and his Messengers all the other citizens must come forward and stop them. If such an effort to create disorder is not curbed and the seceders are successful in their hideous plans, all will have to bear the outcome. That is why the sharī‘ah has obliged all the citizens to guard their collective life along with their personal duties. Since the wellbeing of individuals depends largely on the wellbeing of the collectivity, the duty to correct the collective affairs is more demanding than working for personal wellbeing. On the same token the former act earns one more reward than any other work of piety. ‘Umar referred to this duty to show sympathy with the state and the officials in the following statement attributed to him.

Help me against my personal faults through exhorting me on the right and forbidding the wrong and through offering counsel regarding this duty of managing your affairs God has entrusted on me.[2]

This is the duty which when performed with regards to a government deviating from the guidance of God is considered the best form of jihād.

The best form of jihādis to express what is right before a tyrant ruler. (Abū Dāwūd, No: 4344)


Third duty imposed on every citizen of the Islamic State is to cooperate with the state authorities. Muslims have been obliged to extend help to every entity working in loyalty to God for guarding the sharī‘ah of God and maintaining its rule. The Islamic State is the only tool through which these goals are achieved effectively. The Qur’ān says:

Cooperate with each other in the works of piety and God-consciousness and do not help others in acts of sin and transgression.(Q 5:2)

In absence of the Islamic State collective life of believers cannot be set on the path of piety and God-consciousness. Nor is it possible to maintain piety in the lives of individuals. This makes it imperative for all honest citizens of the Islamic State to lend help to the workers of the Islamic State, the most effective tool of spreading piety and God-consciousness. When they are required to lend some service to the state they may not hold their personal interests dear to that of the state and refuse to lend their services. They may not also, at the hour of need, avoid employing all their abilities and using all their intellectual and material resources for the wellbeing of the state. When at some point during this caliphate, ‘Umar noticed that people were reluctant to offer their services to the state, he gathered all the people and reminded them their responsibility to help him. He asked them that if they did not help him carry out his responsibilities then who else would. This speech of the Caliph affected them greatly and all of them vowed to dedicate their lives with all their heart in order to help him.[3]


The fourth duty of a citizen of the Islamic State is to sacrifice his wealth and life for the state to the best of his ability. The minimum contribution from the citizens has been defined by the sharī‘ah. Muslims are obliged to pay the zakāh to the state. Besides this, if, the state calls for monitory contribution from its citizens for defence or collective development, all the financially stable people are obliged to respond positively to its call and generously contribute towards such national plans. Every cent a Muslim citizen spends in such works will be paid back by God on the Last Day.
For example, if, God forbid, the very existence of the state is threatened and very great financial resources are required to address the problem then all the loyal citizens are supposed to give away whatever they can save after meeting the basic requirements of life. The Qur’ānic directive commanding such circumstances is as follows:

They ask you about charity. Tell them to (give away) all that is above their basic needs. (Q 2:219)


All able citizens are obliged to remain ready to offer their services for the security of the state and to help it in struggle for this purpose. A strong desire to participate in the struggle for the supremacy of the word of God is mark of one’s faith. Conversely, the absence of such a feeling for the religion is characteristic of hypocrisy. To run for one’s life and show cowardice at times when the existence of the Islamic State is threatened would necessarily mean death of one’s faith. In times of peace the only requirement of the sharī‘ah is to provide help and support for the stability and defence of the state. In times of war, however, when the state calls for a general mobilization, a believer is required to offer his services to the state authorities. He should give his life and resources on their disposal so that they are free to utilize them the way they deem fit.


[1] These issues have been elaborated upon in the chapter iṭā‘ah key ḥudūd (Conditions and Boundaries of Obedience to the Authorities) which, it is hoped, suffices for detail of the matters alluded to here.
[2] Haykal, al-Fārūq ‘Umar, 1: 94.
[3] Abū Yūsuf, Kitāb al-Kharāj, 114. In ‘Umar’s rule, people shirk from taking responsibilities and acquiring positions. The authorities are seen humbly seeking their help. In the present day, those entrusted with such tasks become inflated. The positions are nothing less than keys to all the treasures of the world. The only cause of difference between these two behaviours lies in that we have developed different ideas and beliefs regarding the positions. During the time the Caliph ‘Umar ruled, the positions were considered a trust of God. People would take responsibilities with an understanding that they attached great accountability. They believed that they were to discharge their responsibilities on a minimal pay. This made the positions rather unattractive and distasteful instead of appealing. Only such individuals would agree to offer their services who were conscious of duty and who were aware of the fact that it is a form of worship which is to be rewarded on the Last Day. Contrarily, in our days, these positions have now attached power, despotism, grandeur, wealth and comfort. People no longer fear accountability; neither by the nation in this world nor by God on the Last Day. What can now stop people from yearning for the positions?