Concept of Sovereignty in Islam

The word sovereignty is derived from the Latin word ‘Superanus’ which means the supremacy of one over the other. According to Islam, sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Allah and Allah alone. The Quran explicitly describes God as Al-Malik meaning sovereign and Al-Malik-ul-Mulk the eternal possessor of sovereignty.  However in western thought, sovereignty belongs to a person or a group of people but for that existence of a state is mandatory. This concept of sovereignty is not validated in an Islamic society. Whatever is between land and sky belongs to and under the authority of Allah alone. Human beings are sent as khalifa to earth and among them there is a leader who acts as the custodian of rights of powers offered by Allah on him. Therefore he cannot do anything according to his will and go beyond the limits imposed by Allah. Quran says:

“To Allah belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth.” (42: 48)
“It is He who gives life and death and he has power over all things.” (42: 48)
“He is the first and the last the Evident and the Immanent” (47: 3)

From the above ayas it is clear that the concept of sovereignty is universal, absolute, indivisible and inalienable. Allah the sovereign is the primary law-giver. He delegates his authority for administering justice and peace to His agents such as the Islamic state and the khalifa. They only enjoy marginal autonomy necessary to implement and enforce the laws of their sovereign. The attributes of Allah’s sovereignty are also visible in his names for e.g. Al-Wahab (The granter), Al-Ahad (Only One), Al-Qadian (The Eternal) and so on.

The constitution of Pakistan is based on the concept of sovereignty. It states that:

“Whereas sovereignty over the entire universe belongs Almighty Allah, and the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by Him as a sacred trust.”

But this concept is entirely different from the western. According to the western concept sovereignty belongs to the state and sovereign is some determinate human being with unlimited powers. Willoughby says “If a human superior not in the habit of obedience to a like superior receive habitual obedience from the bulk of a given society.”

Islamic theory of sovereignty is radically different from the western theories of sovereignty. It is derived from the Quran and Sunnah, which are its basic sources. Islam teaches that the sovereignty belongs to Allah alone and no human being can be the lord of other human beings.


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