The Principles of Governing in Islam
From the speech of Abu Bakr al Siddiq
Sheikh ‘Abd al Hamid Ibn Badis
[Chapter 9 of Prof. Charles Kurzman, Modernist Islam, a Sourcebook, Oxford University Press, 2002]
‘Abd al- Hamid Ibn Badis (Algeria, 1889-1940) was an Islamic reformer, nationalist leader, and founder of the Association of Algerian Scholars. Ibn Badis was born in Constantine to aprominent Berber family and received religious education. In 1908 he joined the Zaytuna Mosque in Tunis, where he was e xposed to the reformist ideas of Sayyid Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Sheikh Muhammad Abduh. After graduation, Ibn Badis returned to Algeria in 1913 to devote his career to Islamic reform, education, and nationalism. In response to the alienating policies of the French and theFrancophile tendencies of the Algerian “évolués” (assimilationists), Ibn Badis formulated a program that asserted the Arab and Islamic identity of Algerians, stressed Arabic and Islamic education, and prepared Algerians for independence from the French. In addition, he proposed a modernist interpretation of the Qur’an that attributed the decline of Islamic society to mystical practices 1 , intellectualstagnation, disunity, and political despotism. Ibn Badis articulated his views in several books and in his newspapers al Muntaqid (The Critic) and al-Shihab (The Meteor). In 1931 he established the Association of Algerian Scholars to promote Algerian identity and Islamic reform and to combat the Sufis orders and the assimilationists. The Association opened hundreds of free Arabic and Qur’anicschools, advocated cultural and social reform, and combated practices that it viewed as corrupt. The article presented here reflects Ibn Badis’s non conventional response to the abolition of the Ottoman c aliphate 2 , which he held responsible for the repression and injustice of Muslim societies. “When Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (may God be pleased with him) was sworn in as a caliph (in the year 632) heascended the pulpit and addressed the people with a speech that included the principles of governance. These principles have only recently been achieved by some nations, albeit with inconsistency.
Sheikh ‘Abdel Hamid’s concerns were not the mystical practices as such, but the deviations witnessed among most Algerian people and the well spread innovations threatening the true Unicity (Tawhid) bygiving a special status and extra powers to people seen as intercessors and eventual saviors. It is essential to underline as well that the French colonial power, for obvious reasons encouraged superstition among the colonized. 2 Suggesting that Sheikh Ibn Badis did not ma ke any particular objection to the abolition of the caliphate is going too far in the speculation process of many writers onIslamic history. On the other hand arguing that the following text support or reflect a “non conventional response to the abolition of Ottoman Caliphate” is a challenge to the circumspect reader, who will certainly judge by himself if the statement made by Prof. Kurzman is sustainable.
This is the text of Abu Bakr’s speech: O people! I was entrusted as your ruler, although I am not better thanany one of you. Support me as long as you see me following the right path, and correct me when you see me going astray. Obey me as long as I observe God in your affairs. If I disobey Him, you owe me no obedience. The weak among you are powerful (in my eyes) until I take away from them what is due to others. I say that and seek God’s forgiveness for myself and for you.
The first Principle
Noone has the right to assume any of the affairs of the Umma (Muslim community without their consent. It is the people that have the right to delegate authority to the leaders and depose them. No one can rule without the consent of the people. Rule cannot be bequeathed nor be based on personal considerations. This principle is derived from Abu Bakr’s statement “I was entrusted as your ruler”. In...
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