The Concept Of Good Governance In Modern World And Governance By Caliphs Of Islam – Part II

 The Concept Of Good Governance In Modern World And Governance By Caliphs Of Islam – Part II

Good Governance and Human Rights

Only good governance can ensure protection of Human Rights, otherwise in the case of absence of governance or good governance, Fundamental and Human Rights will be difficult to protect. For example by virtue of Article 25A of Constitution of Pakistan, education has become a Fundamental Rights of every citizen and State is under obligation to provide it. Article 10A provides fair trial and due process of law to every citizen. It is a pivotal responsibility of the State to establish efficient legal system where Fundamental Rights are safeguarded and protected.

Different Uses/Kinds of Governance

  1. Public Governance
  2. Private Governance
  3. Global Governance
  4. The Governance Analytical Framework
  5. Non-Profit Governance
  6. Corporate Governance
  7. Project Governance
  8. Environmental Governance
  9. Internet Governance
  10. Information Technology Governance
  11. Regulatory Governance
  12. Participatory Governance
  13. Multilevel Governance
  14. Meta-Governance
  15. Collaborative Governance

Islam and Good Governance

Islamic law or Sharia does not provide any static principles of governance but the main object of governance in Islam is to provide maximum basic necessities of life to its citizens. In Islam government or Caliphate is responsible for taking care of its citizens, to provide guidance for life hereafter  or for provisions of basic necessities of daily life. After Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) all the rightly guided Caliphates took special care of their citizens but Hazrat Umar Farooq and Hazrat Ali (RA) excelled out all of them in taking measures to ensure good governance. They established new departments and chalked out plan to meet the challenges faced in everyday life. Professor Anwar Syed while discussing Faith and Politics in his book highlighted the importance of administration by Islamic Caliphate that has been neglected by the scholars. He wrote:

While recent scholarship has made considerable advance in the study of Muslim political thought, Muslim ideas on public administration have not received the same attention. I find that the subject can be very engaging and its study rewarding.

The higher bureaucracy in Pakistan used to claim, with a good deal of pride, that it had inherited the British civil servant’s tradition of superb competence, probity, dedication to duty, and candor. Actually, it retained only his disposition to arrogance towards the natives and let go of his more desirable qualities. On the other hand, it is fashionable among our intellectuals to dismiss our colonial legacy as being unworthy of a free people. They would have us look for decent values and constructive ways in our own native tradition. Had they examined our nativity with care, they might have discovered that it is rather barren in the areas of organizational management and the arts of association. But it so happens that we have another source of guidance, our Islamic heritage which we can consult it.[1]

Hazrat Umar (RA)[2]

Hazrat Umar Farooq (RA) has been an important figure in the history of Islam. Before embracing Islam, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had made supplication to Almighty Allah that grant hidayat to one of Umars and Hazrat Umar bin Khattab was lucky to embrace Islam. His services to Islam are numerous; these range from being a conqueror to establishing a systematic governance system for the welfare of the people regardless of their religion. There is no iota of doubt that first Caliph of Islam Hazrat Abu Bakar Siddique (RA) had done a great deal of work for Islam and for the peoples, he adopted a very simple life. But Hazrat Umar Farooq (RA) established the departments so that delivery of services to the masses could be ensured systematically. Following are some his services done during his caliphate system:

The Caliphate as a System: Though, Hazrat Abu Bakar Siddique (RA) introduced caliphate but Hazrat Umar through an established institutionalized government system achieved tremendously in running government and providing good governance for the welfare of the peoples. His Consultative Body process was very close to the democratic form of government where all matters relating to national and international importance were decided through comprehensive consultation called Shoora. The basis of real democratic system is that all persons were given full freedom to express their concerns openly and boldly, the power of rulers should be in control. The caliphate of Hazrat Umar (RA) was full of these traits. Some excerpts are reproduced hereunder from his speech:

My rights from your wealth is only equal to the right of that person who looks after the property of an orphan. If I am rich, I would not charge anything from your money. If I am a needy person, I will take only that much to make both ends meet. Gentlemen! You had many claims upon me and you have the right to check me. One of it is that the taxes collected from abroad should not be spent unnecessarily and the riches collected aft the victory in the holy wars is spent righteously. I owe it as my duty that I should try to increase your allowances and secure the boundaries of the country from the invasion of the enemy, and it is also my duty that I should not lead you, with my decisions, in which any risk of insecurity is involved.[3]

Accountability: Accountability is the main instrument in ensuring the good governance without it good governance cannot be achieved. Hazrat Umar (RA) took special care in this regard. He used to take an oath from the officers at the time of their appointment not to indulge themselves in lavish spending and he also kept record of property so that later it could be matched with their sources of income etc; in case anything was found to be excessive or beyond their known and declared property, the excessive part used to be forfeited and deposited it to the Bait-ul-Maal (public treasury). He always urged peoples and officers of the caliphate to adopt simplicity in their life, even he did not like that people remain awake late at night and disliked wasting their time because he believed that time is very precious.

Bait-ul-Maal: Hazrat Umar (RA) established Bait ul Maal (Public Treasury) so that distribution of money could be ensured systematically and peoples’ needs are met timely without any hindrance. In Hijra 15, he felt the importance of public treasury and he convened a Shoora meeting so that this issue could be placed before them so that their approval could also be sought. After their approval, he established public treasury not only in center but also at district level. The sole purpose of such step was to ensure service delivery to the masses in efficient manner so that needs of the people could be fulfilled. He also maintained Booking Keeping System to maintain the accounts treasury and he also invented Calendar of Hijra year during 16 AH and completed this deficiency as well.

Justice: Impartial justice system is one of the glaring example of the caliphate of Hazrat Umar (RA) he introduced an impartial justice system wherein every person was equal before law, there was no concept of rich or poor, noble or not-noble, white or black, Muslim or non-Muslim. Once Abdullah bin Umer had beaten a person, who complained to Hazrat Umar (RA). Abdullah bin Umer was paid in the same coin. The justice system was so transparent and clear that a noble person from, Jabla bin Eham from Syria, slapped a poor person in Kaaba, he was forced to face the punishment, he became apostate and returned to his country, but Hazrat Umar (RA) did not spare him. Justice system of Hazrat Umar (Ra) was not restricted to only Muslims but non-Muslims were also dispensed with the justice. It was the reason that Jerusalem’s people welcomed Hazrat Umar at the time of conquer.

Equality: The concept of equality, if someone wanted to learn, can do from the noble conduct of Hazrat Umar (RA). He never allowed any of the governors to make any distinction. Everyone was equal before him, once he said that “when Allah (SAW) had created you free man, how peoples can make you slave”.

Hazrat Ali (RA) and Concept of Governance:

Hazrat Ali (RA) had written many letters to Governors, Higher Officer Tax Collectors for the sole purpose of observing good governance and providing relief to the citizens. In his letter to the Tax Collectors, Hazrat Ali (RA) ordered them to ensure Justice and avoid injustice to the masses. To understand the comprehensive message of Hazrat Ali, the said letter is reproduced hereunder:

A letter from the creature of Allah, Ali bin AbiTaalib (a) to the collectors of taxes and revenues. One who does not care for his salvation, will never think of providing for his life after death with good deeds and, therefore, he will not be able to escape the punishment. Be it known to you that the responsibilities laid down upon you are a few but the Divine reward reserved for you is very high. Allah has forbidden you from tyranny and injustice; and even if there had not been any fear of punishment for these inequities, the mere reward of being just, kind and human would have been such that there could not have been any excuse for not trying to achieve it.

Treat the tax-payers with equity and justice and think over their wishes with patience and kindness because you are the treasurer of the subjects, representative of the people and the officer on behalf of higher authority. Do not force anybody to forsake his requirements and to do without his necessities (so that he may pay the taxes). In collection of taxes and revenues do not sell their winter and summer clothing, their slaves or such of their animals as are of service to them, do not resort to whipping, do not touch their property, be they Muslims or non-Muslims, but if you find there armaments or weapons or horses of the non-Muslims for which there is a danger and a possibility of these being used in war against the State, you may confiscate them. Such things as are dangerous to the safety of the country should not be left in the possession of unreliable persons so that they should not prove harmful and injurious to the Muslim State and its people.

Be kind to the people, treat the army well, do not grudge to do your best in helping the subjects and in guarding the religion. These two duties are obligations laid down upon you by Allah because, in return to the Blessings and Bounties which He has granted us, He wants you and me to be thankful to Him as much as we can, and to help His cause to the best of our ability. You must remember that even our strength and capabilities are His Blessings granted to us.[4]

Letter to Malik Ashtar: In his famous and lengthiest letter to Malik Ashtar at the time of appointing him Governor of Egypt. He had given direction for governance, distribution of works amongst the staff, their duties and rules of administration of rulers, the question of priorities and of Rights and obligations, administration of justice, dealing with the secretaries and staff, departmental coordination with each other for smooth functions. He also provided guidance to curb corruption and oppression amongst the officer, control over markets and imports and to curb hoardings, excessing profiteering and black-marketing. In his letter he also explained different classes of the society and guided the government on how to treat the lowest class and how they should be looked after so that their lives could be improved. He also suggested that the homes for handicapped, crippled, disabled and old-aged persons be constructed. The famous Arab MasihAntaki who died in 20th century said that this letter is far better than the codes that  were handed down by Hazrat Moses and Hammorabi, because this letter provides guidelines in a detailed manner.  He further kept on saying that the claims of Muslims want to introduce Divine administration of the people, for the people and by the people and it wants that a ruler should rule for the happiness of the ruled and no religion before Islam tried to achieve the end, Ali should be congratulated for having introduced these principles of governance during his rule and for having written them down for the posterity.[5]


The concept of Good Governance may be a new idea for this modern democracy but in Islamic world hundreds of thousands examples are available that rightly guided caliphs of Islam from Hazrat Abdul Bakr to Hazrat Ali (RA) and then Hazrat Umar bin Aziz, they did everything for ensuring the good governance that ultimately benefited the welfare of the masses. They established departments to provide facilities to the masses, they established accountability system so that corruption could be checked at every level but before seeking accountability from others, these rightly guided caliphs demonstrated highest example of their simplicity. Pakistan, particularly, and Muslim Ummah generally is facing problems in producing competent and efficient leaders, and despite ready availability natural resources we could not make progress with the pace, that we should have made. This is only because incompetent and corrupt leaders do not allow to flourish competency and clean leadership to work. The rightly guided caliphs were God fearing people and they did not need anything worldly; they believed that they are answerable of all their deeds before Allah on the day Judgement. That is why today in some of Scandinavian countries Umar laws are still applicable where welfare of the people are given more importance. We are very unfortunate people, we have comprehensive experienced system of governance which in the past provided every kind of basic facility to the masses regardless of the gender and creed and enjoyed their life in the world and also prepared for the lives hereafter. As rightly said by Professor Anwar Syed that good governance cannot be achieved until a good political system where leaders are answerable comes in power.[6]



This paper on the Concept of Good Governance consists  of two parts. Part I is also available in the Commentary section of the website.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization with which he might be associated.


[1]Syed, Anwar, “Faith and Politics: Issues and Relations of Pakistan” at Page 209

[2]Nadvi, Shah Moinduddin, “The Ideal of Caliphs of Islam” at page 22.

[3]Kitab ul Khiraj, at page 67

[4]Peak of Eloquence, NahjulBalagha, Sermons, Letters and Sayings of Imam Ali IbneAbi Talib. Islamic Seminary Publication, translation rendered by Askari Jafri, 15th Ed 2009

[5]Peak of Eloquence, at page 622.

[6]Syed, Anwar, “Faith and Politics: Issues and Relations of Pakistan”

Muhammad Imran

Author: Muhammad Imran

The writer holds a degree in LL. B (Punjab University) and M. Phil (Islamic Studies) and is an LL. M Candidate at University of Lahore. He has avid interest in Constitutional Law and is currently working at the Shaikh Ahmad Hassan School of Law (SAHSOL), Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).