State and its Elements, How the West and Islam see sovereignty?

Define state and its elements. Explain how the West and Islam see sovereignty.


Definitions of State:

Different scholars have defined “State” differently. Definitions of the few are described below. Aristotle defined it as ” a community of families and villages having for its end a perfect and self-sufficing life, by which we mean a happy and honourable life”.

Holland defines the State as “a numerous assemblage of human beings, generally- occupying a certain territory, amongst whom the will of the majority or of an ascertainable class or persons is by the strength of such a majority or class made to prevail against any of their number who oppose it”.

Bluntschli holds: “the state is the politically organized people of a definite territory”. Woodrow Wilson defines it simply as “people organized for law within a definite territory”.

Maclver defines the state as “an association which, acting through law as promulgated by a government, endowed to this end with a coercive power, maintains within a community territorially demarcated the universal external conditions of social order”.

Harold J Laski defines the state as “a territorial society divided into government and subjects claiming within its allotted physical area, supremacy over all other institutions”.

Garner says: “The state as concept of political science and public law is a community of persons, more or less numerous permanently occupying a definite portion of territory, independent of external counter, and possessing an organised government to which the great body of inhabitants render habitual obedience.

Karl Marx, defines state as “the political organisation of the ruling class which uses its power for the purpose of suppressing the resistance of its class enemies. The state arose as a result of the division of society into antagonistic classes, and therefore for the purpose of curbing the exploited majority in the interest of the exploiting minority. It shall exist so long as there is the need for class domination and shall then wither away”.

Frederick Angels holds as “The state is a particular power of suppression”. He further says that the modern state is nothing more than a committee for the administration of the consolidated affairs of the bourgeois class as a whole. The apparatus of state power – the army, the police, the judiciary etc. is in the hands of one class to suppress another class or classes”.

Elements of the State:


There is no concept of a state without population. Plato believed that an ideal state should have a population of 5040 persons. Aristotle was of the view that it should be between ten thousand to one lakh persons. He however, laid down a general principle that it should be large enough to be self-sufficing and small enough to be well governed. There are small and very large population states.

–                   Territoiy

There must be a land where the people of the country can live in. Territory of the state means soil, rivers, lakes, mountains, subsoil and its natural resources.

–                  Government

State can only exist when there is a government. The state plans and acts through the government. It is the government that administers the state, keeps law and order, formulates the policy of the state, and organises the common purposes of the people dwelling within its territory.

–                  Sovereignty

Sovereignty is the basis of the state. Sovereignty means supreme power of the


Sovereignty in Western Point of View:

Sovereignty means the supremacy of the will of the state. It is indivisible, inalienable, universal, permanent and exclusive. Sovereign also means “above” or “one who is superior to others”. Aristotle believes Sovereign as a ‘supreme power’ of the state. According to Ibn Khaldun. sovereignty is the basis of the state. In the sixteenth century, the French political thinker. Jean Rodin gave it new meanings. Properly understood. Bodin argued, “sovereignty” refers to the source of the state’s authority, regardless of its form of government. Sovereignty may be vested in a king or in some elite group or even in the corporate citizenry of the society over time. Whatever the form of sovereignty, Bodin explained, it is distinguished by three attributes: it is absolute, perpetual, and indivisible. Bodin’s primary concern was to strengthen the authority of the French monarchy, which some argued was constrained to honour certain long-establish traditions and principles enshrined in the common law and in France’s medieval institutions. But if the king was limited by the common law or by tradition, Bodin observed, the king was not sovereign. And. as the Sovereign power could not be divided among various institutions, or formally limited by past experience; it followed that the king could do whatever he pleased. Sovereignty was absolute, perpetual, and indivisible.

Hugo Grotius an international jurist defined sovereignty that all the states are equal and independent with supreme jurisdiction within their boundaries. Later, the monistic theories of sovereignty were expounded by several thinkers. Hobbes gave us its absolutist or legal theory. Locke gave us the theory of political sovereignty and Rousseau the theory of popular sovereignty. Austin further developed and perfected the idea of legalor juristic sovereignty.

The Concept of Sovereignty in Islam

According to the Western concepts, sovereignty may be vested in a determinate human superior, a body of persons or various groups of the entire community.

Muslim scholars also accept this definition of sovereignty but they differ from the Western scholars as to the locus of sovereignty. They hold that sovereignty belongs t. Almighty God alone because the attributes of sovereignty are to be found in God alone This contention may be proved from the Following Qur’anic verses:

Unto Him belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. (Surah Al-Furquan: 2

Blessed is He in Whose hand is the sovereignty and he is able to do all the things

{Surah Al-Mulk: 1 Glory to be Him in Whose hand is the dominion of all the things.

(Surah Yasin: 83 (Surah Al-Sqjdah: 5 (Surah Yusuf: 40) (Surah Ar-Ra’d: 41

The ordinances from heaven to earth. The decision rests with none but Allah.

None can postpone the command of Allah.

Though sovereignty belongs to God yet this power is to be exercised by the Muslim Ummah as trust for God. The Qur’an calls the Muslims as the best Ummah raised for mankind ordering good things and forbidding indecency. They are the vicegerents of God and have to run their day to day business through mutual consultation In small communities getting together becomes difficult for them. Hence they elect thei’ representatives to act on their behalf. The representatives have to execute the will of God on behalf of the Muslim Ummah. Hence they are responsible no only to God but to the Muslim Ummah as well.

The main difference between the Western concept of sovereignty and the Islamic concept of sovereignty is that according to the western concept human superior or representatives of the people make laws for the people whereas in Islam people or thei- representatives are not the source of law. Muslims have to submit to the Divine Law Islamic government cannot issue directives which are repugnant to Qur’an and Sunna. Ir the West the main objective of the state is to please the people by the end of the Islamic state is the pleasure of God.

In the end it is to be observed that sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to God. As after the demise of the prophet, direct divine guidance has ceased, so Muslim- have to run their day to day affairs through mutual counsel and in light of the injunctions of the Qur’an and Sunna. Hence they as vicegerents of Allah, exercise power as trust for Allah in order to seek. His pleasure and the pleasure of His creatures.

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