An Islamic state refers to a type of government primarily governed by Islamic religious law. Islamic religious law typically refers to the Sharia law that deals with diverse aspects of societal issues. The First Islamic State under Muhammad (622-632) was based on Sharia law.
Topics addressed under Sharia law under secular governance include politics, crime, and economics. The law also addresses issues of personal nature, such as diet, hygiene, sex, prayer, moral behaviors, as well as fasting. Different cultures, though, interpret the law differently, but are all governed by it as the supreme law. To many Muslims, the law appears to be the strictest and was believed to have originated from God and to be observed by all. Several governments, from early days, have been established and based on Islamic religious laws, thereby becoming officially Islamic states, starting with Caliphate. A caliphate is an Arabic term that means succession. It refers to an Islamic state governed or led by a supreme religious leader referred to as a caliph. A caliph can also be a supreme political leader. According to Islam, a caliph refers to Muhammad’s successor and other Islamic prophets. Historically, Muslim empires, that underwent succession following Islamic laws and practices, are usually known as caliphates. A caliphate thus represents a theocratic sovereign state ruled by a single Muhammad successor-caliph- and governed by the Islamic law as the supreme law of the land. Successors of Muhammad, who mostly included immediate disciples as well as their family members, led the caliphates to continue with the religious systems he had introduced. The caliphate was thus the first government system established by Muhammad in 622, governed by the constitution of Medina.
Most of Muhammad’s teachings and messages initially gained popularity and mostly received by slaves and poor populations, while many other people opposed his doctrines, in Mecca. Muhammad thus continued with his teachings in a bid to gain more devotees to follow his doctrines as the fundamental concepts of Islam. This made many people to dislike him and some even plotted to kill him. Consequently, Muhammad fled Mecca to Medina fearing for his dear life, establishing his capital there and become the commander of his believers. This epic journey is from Mecca to Medina is referred to as Hegira which is ‘flight’ in Arabic, which also serves as the beginning of the Muslim calendar. At Medina, Muhammad received a warm reception and had many followers. It is at this place that he built his first mosque, also known as an Islamic temple, and began his work of separating Christianity and Judaism from Islam Muhammad also changed the direction, which he had directed his followers to pray while facing. Initially, his followers had prayed while facing Jerusalem. After moving to Medina, he asked his followers to pray while facing Mecca.
While at Medina, Muhammad continued to give his followers revelations believed to be from Allah. The revelations that he continued to give to his followers, formed the ideas that consequently formed the fundamentals of a poetic text that later became the Koran. The Koran contains all the fundamental Islamic ideas and doctrines. As the supreme ruler of Medina, Muhammad modeled the Constitution of Medina, which formed the basis of all Islamic governance. The Constitution represented the Islamic political unity of Umma (Muslim nation). The constitution did though not represent some religious Muslim communities, such as Shia and Kharijites. The constitution subsequently became the governing law adhered to by Muhammad’s successors and his followers.
The Constitution of Medina
Towards the end Muhammad’s life, he was invited by a delegation from Medina that consisted of representatives of the twelve most important Median clans to act as the chief neutral arbitrator. Previously, nearly one hundred years before 622, there had been fighting in Medina that mainly involved its Jewish and pagan inhabitants. The many battles and wars between the differing communities led to major bloodsheds and disagreements which neither group wanted to take responsibility. Therefore, it reached a time when the communities decided that the ‘eye for an eye’ doctrine was only breeding more harm than good. To bring this enmity and fighting to an end, they believed that only an outsider with no tribal affiliations or conceptions would act as a neutral arbitrator to restore peace and sanity to them. Additionally, this arbitrator was to be a man with authority and one who could act as a neutral judge for dispute resolutions. Therefore, they settled for Muhammad who possessed all the qualities of the man they needed. After his institution as the chief arbitrator, Muhammad began work drafting the constitution of Medina, establishing it as a kind of federation, or alliance, among all the Medina communities as well as Muslim emigrants from Mecca. The Constitution f medina encompassed and defined the duties and rights of all its citizens. It also encompassed a detailed description regarding the relationship issues of the different tribes, inclusive of all emigrant Muslims and other existent communities in Medina, such as the Jews. The constitution therefore, constituted a formal agreement between Muhammad and all the major communities of Medina, Jews, Muslims, Christians, and pagans. Consequently, this constitution formed the fundamental basis of the first Islamic state (Must cite). Doctrines of this constitution helped to bring peace and an end to bitter tribal rivalry between the previously fighting communities of Medina, creating a one united Islam community- Umma.
The Constitution of Medina established religious freedoms, role of Medina as a sacred place (haram), security concerns (including women insecurity issues), and a tax remittance system for supporting communities during conflicts. It also enshrined the requirements for creating political alliances, individual protection mechanisms, and a judicial system for conflicts resolution. Additionally, the constitution described stipulations for paying blood money- a remittance between families or communities because of killing an individual.
After establishing a stable constitution and a string of followers, Muhammad plotted the journey back to Mecca, to reclaim his rightful place as the chosen messenger of Allah. Muhammad fought several battles against Mecca communities from his capital in Medina. Literature indicates that by 629, he had returned to Mecca with an army of nearly one thousand five hundred Islam converts. Muhammad entered the city of Mecca, his birth city, without any bloodshed and was unopposed in his entourage, making him the supreme Islam leader of the city. While in Mecca, he influenced the teaching of Muslim doctrines according to the revelations of Allah. During his expeditions and teaching tours, Muhammad forcefully converted many Arabs from the Peninsula to his Islamic faith and taught them his doctrines, the fundamentals of Islam religion. Additionally, he built a small empire at the Arabian Peninsula to act as his coordinating base. This allowed him to engage in Islam conversion activities of many devotees thereby enlarging the spread of his new religion to other Arab lands.
At one time, while meditating alone at Mount Hira, near Mecca, Muhammad received a revelation that he believed came from God. He therefore believed that God called him to be the teacher and prophet of the new faith, which means submission. Muhammad’s new faith encompassed aspects of Christianity and Judaism. His new religion also respected their holy books, religious leaders, and prophets (such as Moses, Abraham, and Jesus). Muhammad even referred to Abraham as Khalil, meaning God’s friend and identified him as an ancient Islam patriarch. Islam’s heritage is traced through Ishmael, Abraham’s son. Islam has grown to become one of the world’s most recognized and practiced religions, spreading across many regions of North Africa, the Near East, Spain, and the Middle East. Most of these regions have also embraced the Sharia Islamic law as the governing law of the land, following in the steps of the early Islam states.
Unfortunately, Muhammad did not leave behind a successor when he died. Consequently, this led to a leadership struggle after his death. The struggle played a major role in the division of Muhammad’s new Islam faith that has continued to the present day. The major division resulted in the creation of the Sunnis and Shites, although the Islam faith remains an important world religion with many followers.
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