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Marc Anthony L.

Chua LPT
Prof. Belen L. Tangco, O.P Ph.D
Democracy theory and practice
Course Paper

Islam contributions towards the government and good governance in Islamic countries
The idea for this paper came from my presentation plural society in South East Asia the

Malaysian experience and since Malaysia is an Islamic country wherein majority of their

population is a practicing Muslim, so I decided to use that idea in writing this paper wherein

one of the defining line that separates different groups from one another is their culture and

religion and how does it affect their government processes.

Malaysia constitution stated that it is a federal representative democratic constitutional

monarchy wherein the king chosen among the different Sultanate is the head of state. We can

see that in any sense Malaysia does adhere to a democratic form of government if we are

going to base on the five criteria given by Robert Dahl: effective participation of the people in

government, voting equality, transparency of facts from the government, final control or the

decision of the legislative body must be final and lastly inclusion of adults (Heywood, 2007 )

we can say that there is a wide representation among the people because it is a multiparty state

despite some of the racist policies of the ruling party moreover in the legislative body the

people voted directly for the representative to the Dewan Rakyat or the hall of the people so

we can see the people involvement in selecting officials. In the sense of final control of the

legislative body, the prime minister nor the king has the right to disagree with the decisions

made by the legislative body. We can say that the criteria given by Dahl totally fit in the

Malaysian context.

This paper primarily aims to identify the influence of Islam towards the government and

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to good governance of Islamic countries and also this paper will show that religion and

politics can coexist peacefully and work towards the attainment of good governance as

compared to the argument that governance and religion must be separated.

Culture as defined by UNESCO in 2002 as the set of distinctive, spiritual and emotional

identity of a society or of a certain social group. It encompasses in addition to art and

literature, lifestyle way of living together, value system, traditions and religious beliefs. In

other words culture helps define who we are and shapes our perspective in life (Ballantine,

2011). Culture cannot be set aside when studying politics for culture have an impact towards

decision making, policy making and structure of the government, we can also say that culture

shapes the politics of a society.

Religion has a major impact in world events today. Religion have a set of beliefs and a

belief in a supreme being that guided the destiny of men, people adheres in religion hoping to

find answers behind human existence and to guide interpersonal relationship and behavior.

Due to the diversity of the human race, many religions developed throughout the age such as

Hinduism, Christianity, Jainism, Taoism, Islam and many more. These religions have a strong

influence towards the culture of the society where they developed, the people believes that

religions influences their everyday lives more so religions can also influence politics.

Though there are conflicts that arises due to religious differences we must not overlook

the positive impact of religions towards human civilization, after all religions ultimate goal is

peace and salvation so we can say that violence is not the solution to misunderstanding

between religious sects, instead these conflicting religious group should aim to promote peace

and resolve conflict by means of peaceful dialogue.

Ever since, good governance have been the primary concern of political scientist, because

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it concerns about the process of making and implementing decisions (Heywood, 2007 ). No

country can hope to develop without good governance, we can consider good governance as

the pre requisite for all country hoping to serve the welfare of the people efficiently.

Good governance is all about making good and efficient decision regarding the welfare of the

community as a whole. Moreover it also concerns the actions of the leaders of a certain

community, we need also to discuss the factors that affects the decision of the policy maker.

There is an argument that religion and public policy must not mixed because public

policy must be based on facts, they said that religion is based on faith and thus incompatible

with logic, I tend to disagree with this because if we are going to observe in Islamic countries

we can see that some of their policies are more or less based on religious scriptures and thus it

is wrong to say that public policy making and religion should not mix, religion can help make

decisions regarding policies for the community. In terms of making laws also, we all know

that laws must be in accordance with the customs of the community so that it can be easily

accepted and implemented.

We can say that the religion that left a visible impact towards governance is Islam, based

on historical evidences many civilization were influenced by Islam such as the Persian

Empire, Egyptian empire at its declining era, Ottoman Empire, Arab traders in Malaysia and

lastly the Mughal Empire in the Indian subcontinent and up to the present era the countries

formerly under these Empire are heavily influenced by Islam.

According to the latest world population estimate puts the number of Muslims on planet

Earth at about 2 Billion. Nearly 1.35 billion of Muslims live in Asia, this shows that Islam is

the major religion in continent (Bakar, 2007). This demographic alone shows that Islam is

highly visible in the Asian region and we must consider it as a force to reckoned when it

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comes to shaping Asias future particularly in the South East region of Asia because most of

the countries are Muslim.

In South East Asia, the presence of Muslim communities can be found as early as the 9 th

century the reason for this is trading relations with Middle eastern countries, not only products

were brought but also the religion Islam. The role of Islam in Asian countries cannot be

disregarded because of the fact that it also influences the political system not only the way of

life of the people, the form of government was also copied in which we called Sultanate, the

term Sultan in the Arabic language means authority, ruler and strength. In Islamic political

system, they believes that they are the representative of Allah, and as the representative of

Allah they have the moral obligation to rule justly so that the name of Allah will not be

besmirch, the people expecting that the ruler will rule in accordance to the will of God put

their trust on him. The influence of a certain religion in politics is not a phenomena that is

solely confined in Islamic countries, we can see that in other political system there is a

different religion influencing the government. But it will be impossible for any political

scientist to ignore the role of Islam in the public lives of Muslims. For the Muslim, religion

and governance are intertwined because for them Islam is a complete way of life which

encompasses everything in life such as how to run a business, how to behave inside the house,

how to conduct oneself within the society, how to govern the community and lastly how the

leader should act. The religion Islam encourages the formation of a just society and the leader

must make decisions in accordance with the principles of justice, equality and benevolence,

the mentioned qualities are the requirements for any Muslim when aspiring for public office.

In Islamic point of view good governance is a product of good character of the leader because

if the leader is good then all under him will be good also. If we are going to study history we

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can see that the success of the Ummayad caliphate, Abbasid caliphate and Fatimids in

governing their kingdom is because they were efficient in formulating policies based on

Quran and also with the help of God fearing administrators (Abbas M. , 2012). Moreover

we can see similarities with East Asian cultural idea that is based on Confucianism wherein

they believe that if a leader is a benevolent and just ruler then those under him will be good

also, Islamic concept of good governance and East Asian concept of good governance have

similarities wherein they tend to agree that a leader must be a good example for the people.

Among the Islamic countries Muslims believed that certain principles should govern the

ruler so that he will be able to function as a good leader within the Islamic community,

Muslims generally believes that politics and religion should go hand in hand because for them

Islam is a complete way of life which offers suggestions and insights regarding on how to

function within a society, how to behave among friends and lastly regarding good governance.

Islam and politics are intertwined and cannot be separated, the Quran stated that Muslim

should establish a government based on justice and equality so that the people can live

happily under a just and divine guidance from Allah.

The political system of Islam is based on four main principles namely: Sovereignty of

Allah, it means that the leader must accept Allah as the creator of the earth and on it, if a

leader of an Islamic country put this in his mind, he will enact laws regarding the preservation

of the environment because he knows that the environment is an integral creation of Allah and

he as an Amir being the representative of Allah must do everything under his power to take

care of it. Secondly knowing that Allah is creator of humans, he as a leader will strive hard to

protect the rights of the people under his care moreover he will aim to establish a just and

humane society wherein everybody will be treated fairly because it is the will of Allah. It is

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stated in the Quran that an Amir must always decide for the greater good of human beings.

Secondly the concept of Khilafah, In Arabic means representative of Allah on earth and

as such the Amir should do as what Allah commands him to do, though Allah created man to

have a free will of his own he do have a choice to either follow or disobey Allah. Being a

representative of Allah doesnt mean that person is superior as compared to his fellow human

beings, but being the representative of Allah, he have the sole duty to protect and serve the

people, being the representative of a certain divine being has been taken advantage of

throughout the age, under the pretense that they are the so called chosen by God to rule they

abuse their authority knowing that they will be untouchable.

For the Muslims this idea is wrong because of the fact that being the representative of

Allah as stated in the Quran saying: O you, who believe, be custodians of justice, even though

against yourselves or your parents or your relatives, whether a man is rich or poor (Quran,

An-Nisa, 4:135) if the Quran stated that every Muslims must be the upholder of justice then

what more if it said towards the representative of Allah. As the leader of an Islamic

community he should be well versed in Islamic laws, he should be just and pious and

committed to Islam, he should be competent and efficient in running the affairs of the Islamic

community. In terms of obedience, the people must give absolute obedience towards the

representative of Allah provided that the representative will comply to the Shariah and

establishes justice among the people in the community, if it so happens that the representative

of Allah failed to act like one, the people no longer have the obligation to obey him moreover

the people have the right to depose him and pledge their loyalty to a more worthy person

(Bill, 1999).

Being a khilafah in modern Islamic society is not an easy task as compared to his

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counterpart during the early years of Islam, the reason for this is the Kilafah will need to adapt

to modern challenges concerning the Islamic state, more so answers to modern problems

cannot be seen in the Quran.

The third principle as stated in the Islamic political system is the concept of Shura, which

in Arabic means consultation, it calls upon the wise, educated and just Muslim members of

the community to help the representative of Allah in the decision making process we can say

that Shura is composed of scholars and advisers of the Khilafa, the members of the Shura

were elected by the members of the society. The inclusion of the institution of Shura in the

political system means that it recognizes the limitation of the human intellect even if a person

is the representative of Allah, it is not stated that he knows everything regarding good

governance, the presence of Shura on his side will help him govern justly and efficiently

because of the fact that somebody else will reprimand the khilafa if ever there is something

wrong with his decisions. We can see that in Islamic political system, the ideas of others is

also being heard and weighted even the prophet Muhammad admits that he also needs advice

coming from others (Walker, 2008) because he himself knew the limitation of the human

intellect, we can see that Islam can be considered as a guide in relation to good governance,

because nowadays how can we achieve good governance without hearing the advice from the


The complexity of governance in our era is really a burden to be handled by a single

person only, again and again even with the help of experts not everything will go as planned

because there are some circumstances that is beyond our control. Shura can be considered as

vital in regards in national affairs in Islamic countries because not everything in regards to

national affairs is known by the Khalifa or the head of the state, he is bound to take counsel

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from the people coming from the different regions, this one word Shura contains the idea of

representative government of which the west is so proud of (Walker, 2008). The Khalifa and

the shura must coexist together because without the shura the khalifa despite being the

representative of Allah is bound to fail because there will be no advisers while on the other

hand without the Khalifa the shuras existence will be irrelevant.

The fourth concept in Islamic political system is the accountability of government, the

Khalifa is answerable to Allah and then to the people, the decisions of the Khalifa must be in

accordance with the law of Allah then it must be for the common welfare of the people, the

Khalifa must decide with the help of Shura. The fifth concept in the Islamic political system

is that the legislation must be in accordance with the Shariah, for they are considered as the

words of Allah and must be accepted, they cant modify or alter it and when they are creating

new laws it must be in the context of Shariah. The judiciary derives its authority directly

from the Shariah and they are answerable only to Allah, the judges are appointed yes but

after the appointment they must administer judgement impartially according to the Shariah

the rulers and the ruled are equal under the Shariah law. We can see that Islam stands for

equality despite the position of the person within the Islamic community.

These four said principles hopes to guide the Islamic community towards good


Though there will be times that the decisions for the common good might contradict the

teachings of Islam, yet there will be times that deviating from the Shariah will benefit the

majority of the people, no matter how hard the Khalifa will need to do things what he deems

best for the community as a whole. The purpose of governance in Islam is to nurture humane

and accountable leaders who would primarily focus on the wellbeing of ordinary people by

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establishing different institutions that will advance the welfare of the ordinary people for in

Islam they are considered as the foundation of the society (Abbas H. , 2013).

Aside from Quran and Shariah the Muslims can also cite history as their source of ideas

in relation to good governance because during 656 A.D there was a warrior named Hazrat Ali

he was known as the most learned person of his times and a great jurist, his greatest

contribution to the idea of good governance is his instruction to Malik al Ashtar when the

latter was appointed as the governor of Egypt, the letter that he sent to Malik al Ashtar is

considered by many Muslims as the ideal constitution for Islamic political system because it

involved detailed explanation regarding the duties of a leader (Raja, 2012). If we are going to

analyze the letter sent by Hazrat Ali we can see that it is a plan for efficient administration

based on the spirit of Islam, the emphasis is on the character of the administrators they should

also love their fellow citizen as they love their families. As stated earlier the Islamic political

system is based on the Quran and Shariah there is no place in this system the concept of

dictatorship or one man decision-making, the system is humane in nature which emphasizes

the moral fiber of the leader.

If we are going to analyze closely the reason why Muslims in Islamic countries favored

the influence of Islam towards politics is that they might be hoping that the fear towards Allah

might discourage the government officials to commit malpractices moreover the concept of

retribution in the afterlife might also help in discouraging the government officials in

committing a malpractice. In addition to that the concept of paradise waiting for those people

who worked for the benefit of mankind might help encourage officials to work hard among

the Muslims religion serves as an inspiration to do good and it also serves as a warning that

all evil things done will have retribution in the afterlife.

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In East Asian culture we can see that Confucian philosophy is ingrained in the

subconscious of the people it serves as their inspiration even unknowingly, when it comes to

good governance because in Confucianism there is the concept of honor, honor is not by

individual but by group and family. Government officials tend to avoid malpractices because

their family name is at stake, they will not easily risk their family name that is why they try to

be an efficient public servant as much as possible we can see that in Islamic countries religion

and governance are intertwined while on the other hand in East Asian countries moral

philosophy and governance are intertwined.

In my own understanding religion and governance should go hand in hand nowadays,

despite the fact that we are now in the modern era because there will be times that government

decisions will involve moral concerns, and that will be the time that religious authorities can

offer advice. Another argument is that religion will help maintain the moral integrity of the

community, because if we are going to observe the society nowadays we can see that people

are getting richer but unfortunately the values of the people are getting poor wherein they

dont have any respect towards other people, what I mean to say is being humane is overcome

by materialistic attitudes. Not everything can be measured by money, also we know that

family is the foundation of the country and religion can help strengthen than foundation by

providing guidance in the family. Religion also helps develop compassion and sense of

respect towards human life, if we are going to apply this within the government compassion

towards the poor can inspire the officials to work harder because of the fact that they are

doing it for the sake of the people and not for themselves only.

Peoples perception in Islamic countries regarding the influence of Islam towards politics

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If we are going to observe, we can see that in the selected Islamic countries despite the
fact that they can access information regarding the separation of the church and state as practiced
by western countries, they still cling to the idea that religion and politics should go hand in hand,
for them Islam helps promote good governance because there are verses in Quran that tells
people on how to govern justly.
Moreover religion helps promote a sense of duty towards the community because the
leaders believing that they are the representative of Allah on earth, they will do everything to
improve the lives of the people. When it comes to conflicts, religion can also be of help by
advising that violence is not always the solution in conflicts because shedding blood without any
valid reason will surely shorten the life of the state.
The Muslims believes that by mixing religion and politics they hope that it will promote
good governance more so they hope that the leaders will do their duties well out of obligation to
Allah. In the Islamic society we can observe that Islam surely promotes discipline among the
Peoples perception in Islamic countries regarding the influence of Quran in the legislative

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Among western countries, the media portrayal of Shariah law as barbaric can be
considered as wrong because of the fact that western countries and Islamic countries have a
different understanding of what is barbaric and what is not, to force something that is not in
accordance to the culture of another country is rude. More so, there are laws in the shariah that
westerners considered as injustice such as polygamy, the western community should first know
the reason behind why polygamy is allowed before they judge something according to their own
Among Islamic countries they viewed Quran as a guide towards the right path in life, for
them Quran helps them to decide things better and in accordance with the will of Allah, they
believe that Quran can help improve the laws that they are making to improve the community
and to promote good governance. For the Muslims Quran provides suggestions on how to live a
proper life so for them it should also be applied in governance.

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Many scholars believed including Samuel Huntington that Islamic countries are infertile

ground for any democratic practices to develop, and so they blamed Islamic culture as the

hindrance to the development.

The reason why democracy is not compatible to the Islamic countries is because

democracy is a product of western culture, we cannot force a product a certain culture to another

culture because it will result to conflicting perspective. We cannot simply blame the Islamic

culture to be the only source of problem here, let us not forget that during the 19th century and

until the early part of the 20th century, the so called champions of democracy were themselves

the exploiters and the imperialist in Middle Eastern countries and Asian countries, that is why

among Asian countries and Islamic countries they tends to reject western values, the historical

animosity between the west and east cannot be easily forgotten that is why Asian countries and

Islamic countries tends to reject democratic concepts coming from the west and they make their

own concept coming from their own cultural perspective.

Given the fact that in the west they separated religion and governance from each other

and they tend to ignore the suggestions coming from religious institutions that is why Middle

Eastern countries viewed the west as a decadent society, because among Islamic countries they

heed the advice coming from religious institution and also they tend to allow religious authorities

to help in governance, for me there is no problem with taking the advice coming from religious

authorities as long as it is logical and with value when it comes to governance. Among Asian

countries they viewed culture as a part of their life just like in Middle Eastern countries wherein

they viewed religion as an integral aspect of their life in which they cannot easily discard.

The only problem with religion is that there are so many interpretations coming from the

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people that is why there are some fundamentalist groups, religion that preaches violence is not a

religion at all, based on my understanding religion teaches peace and harmony among people not

violence only those people who misinterpreted it say that violence is allowed in religious


Based on my understanding, religion and politics is not a negative relationship but it can

help each other for the goal of good governance we can use the ideals of the religious institution

regarding right action and to make it happen in the government system, why are we going to

remove something if it can benefit the common good? We need to harness everything in our

culture including religion as long as it will help the government to reach its goal in maximizing

the welfare of the people.

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