Islamic Laws

Meaning of Islamic nature of laws

By: Ayatullah Professor Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi
In explaining the meaning of the Islamic nature of laws and orders, it is important to pay attention to the process of enacting common laws. For example, in codifying and approving bylaws and orders the cabinet or executive power must act within the perimeter determined for it by the Islamic Consultative Assembly and not go beyond it. In other words, the extent of the executive power’s prerogatives has been stipulated by the Constitution and the Majlis’s statutory laws, and the executive orders should be within this framework.
These orders should manifest the generalities reflected in the Constitution and the laws ratified by the Majlis. Thus, initially, generalities are described in the Constitution and statutory laws whose meanings the cabinet or the concerned authority in certain cases has to interpret within the framework of executive orders. The cabinet cannot act unconditionally on its own without any frame of reference. In fact, its executive orders must be within the framework of the Constitution and laws ratified by the Majlis.
The laws ratified by the Majlis, in turn, must be approved and endorsed by the Council of Guardians. That is, the Majlis must also act within the framework of the Constitution and in this way, its ratified laws will be considered credible, enjoying executive guarantee. Therefore, the credibility of executive orders and their being binding depend on their conformity with the Majlis’s statutory laws and the credibility of statutory laws means that they are within the framework of the conditional law of the country.
The credibility of the Constitution of the Islamic system is based on its consistency with the legislative will of God the Exalted. As such, the entire laws and decrees have a linear relationship and they are credible, provided that this hierarchy is observed in such a manner that it ends up in Islam and the legislative will of God. It is not in the sense that all the executive orders, circulars and statutory laws can be explicitly found in the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
Since God delegated certain prerogatives to the Holy Prophet (s) to promulgate specific laws and decrees in certain cases, these laws and decrees are credible and binding because they are based on the permission and will of God. It is obligatory to obey and act upon them on account of the decree of God on the necessity of obeying and following him. Under the aegis of this decree of God, the laws and orders promulgated by the Messenger of Allah (s) are credible and, at the same time, it is obligatory on others to obey and act upon them; otherwise, merely to obey the orders of the Messenger of Allah (s) without divine sanction is not obligatory.
So, the laws which God, the Exalted, has directly enacted and explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an occupy the foremost degree and are intrinsically credible. The laws enacted by the Holy Prophet (s) in certain cases by God’s leave occupy the next degree and their credibility is equal to that of God’s command. Similarly, the credibility of the laws which the infallible Imam (‘a) enacts and the orders he gives emanate from the decree of God because God and the Prophet (s) consider it obligatory to obey the Imam.
Now, assuming that we were living in an Islamic territory under the reign of the Commander of the Faithful (‘a), we would have considered it incumbent upon us to obey him. If the Imam (‘a) appointed a person like Malik al-Ashtar as the governor in our region saying, “Act upon his orders and do not defy them, for whoever obeys him actually obeys me,” the mere orders of Malik al-Ashtar would not be binding for the people because he was like other people, but obedience to him would have been obligatory and his orders binding because he was designated as governor by the infallible Imam (‘a) who, in turn, had been designated by God through the Prophet (s), and to obey him would be wajib.
However, laws and orders issued by a governor, designated by an infallible Imam, are considered laws of a third degree. As an analogy, the governor is like an appointed official whom the Islamic Consultative Assembly has granted powers on the basis of which he has authority to issue circulars and instructions, and on account of those delegated powers, his orders are binding. Similarly, the Majlis has acquired its credibility from the Constitution and its statutory laws acquire credibility under the auspices of the Constitution.
The credibility of the constitution in other countries emanates from the will of the people. But we believe in a higher station and reference with respect to the Constitution. We believe that the credibility of the constitution should emanate from the will of God, and the Prophet (s), an infallible Imam (‘a) or any person like Malik al-Ashtar, designated by one of the infallible Imams (‘a), has to endorse it. Therefore, the credibility of law should emanate from the words of God, the Prophet (s), an infallible Imam (‘a), and then any person designated by an infallible Imam. This is the logic and theory of Islam.
In the time of occultation [ghaybah] of the infallible Imam, since the wali al-faqih has been chosen through a general designation by the infallible Imam, his wilayah is endorsed by the Imam and acquired credibility, thus, his approval is the source of credibility of the constitution; otherwise, the constitution by itself is questionable. It is debatable as to where its credibility emanates from and who has the right to amend it. On what basis does a minority that has not voted for a certain law abide by it? And there are many other questions. However, when we say that this law has been declared credible by one formally designated by the infallible Imam, there is no room for any more questions.
Process of legislation in the Islamic government
It is clear in the theory of Islamic government that the original credibility of law comes from God, and the words of anyone, like the Prophet (s), who is credited by God, become binding. In turn, the words of anyone who is designated by the Prophet (s), or the Commander of the Faithful (‘a), are equally binding. Similarly, the laws and decrees issued by anyone who is designated by the infallible Imam (‘a) through a general or specific appointment shall be Islamic and sacred because they have been approved by God.
Of course, as we have said, in the Islamic government this approval may take different intervals. The credibility of approval of the wali al-faqih emanates from the approval of and endorsement by the infallible Imam (‘a) and the credibility of decrees and approval of the infallible Imam, in turn, emanates from the approval of and endorsement by the Prophet (s). Finally, credibility of the Prophet’s approval is confirmed through an explicit text [nass] of the Qur’an where God says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا أَطِيعُوا اللّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُوْلِي الأَمْرِ مِنكُمْ…

“O you who have faith! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those vested with authority among you…”[61][83]
and in another verse:
النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَى بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ…

“The Prophet is closer to the faithful than their own souls….”[62][84]
Thus, the aforementioned link has a perfectly logical foundation for the members of an Islamic society and those who believe in the truthfulness of God, the Prophet (s) and the infallible Imams (‘a). As we have expounded earlier, we have to talk on the basis of our audience’s convictions and beliefs and through their language. For this reason, if a person does not believe in God and in the truthfulness of the Messenger of Allah (s), or is doubtful of the infallible Imam (‘a), we need to discuss this issue in a different way.
Initially, we have to deal with the fundamental and essential principles of Islam, and then after proving them, tackle other subjects, including political and administrative issues, on the basis of those principles. Of course, this form of legislation, or the other usual forms can also be examined on the basis of their value for the benefit of society.
Legal status delegated in the Islamic government
In the Islamic political theory, besides the fact that all principles of law must be enacted by God, all laws and orders be approved by Him, the Messenger of Allah (s), an infallible Imam, or his general or specific successor, the implementer of the law also has to be designated by God to acquire credibility through this system of guardianship. (The judicial organ also has an executive function; it must be regarded a righteous reference authority in cases of disputes and differences and check the law prior to its implementation. Therefore, an independent and special status has been given to it.)
At the time when the Prophet (s) or an infallible Imam was present, he had to personally hold the reigns of government or designate someone to implement the law; for example, Hadrat ‘Ali (‘a) appointed Malik al-Ashtar as the governor of Egypt in order to implement the law there. However, in this period of ghaybah when the people have no access to the infallible Imam (‘a), the responsibility of implementing the law lies on the shoulders of the one who has been appointed by the infallible Imam through a general designation, and this will lead us to the theory of wilayah al-faqih about which we will discuss later, God willing.
It should now be clear that in Islamic political theory and administrative structure, just as the law should be linked to God, the implementer of the law should also be linked to God and be appointed by God either through a general or specific designation.
The judicial organ should be equally linked to God and the judge should be appointed by God either through direct, or indirect and general designation. In either case, if the judge has no link whatsoever to God, his decree shall have no credit at all. The Holy Qur’an has pointed out God’s direct designation of Hadrat Dawud (David) (‘a) to judge among men:
يَا دَاوُودُ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَاكَ خَلِيفَةً فِي الْأَرْضِ فَاحْكُم بَيْنَ النَّاسِ بِالْحَقِّ…

“O David! Indeed We have made you a vicegerent on the earth. So judge between the people with justice….”[63][85]
And regarding the Prophet of Islam (s), it says:
إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ لِتَحْكُمَ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ بِمَا أَرَاكَ اللّهُ

“Indeed We have sent down to you the Book with the truth, so that you may judge between the people by what Allah has shown you.” [64][86]
It also states:
فَلاَ وَرَبِّكَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ حَتَّىَ يُحَكِّمُوكَ فِيمَا شَجَرَ بَيْنَهُمْ…

“But no, by your Lord! They will not believe until they make you a judge in their disputes.”[65][87]
In sum, in the Islamic political theory, sovereignty, legislation and the administration of society in all its dimensions and aspects must emanate from the legislative will of God.

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