An-Nisa · Juz 5 · Qur'an Tafseer

Government Offices in the Light of Surah an-Nisa Ayah 58

Equity and Justice Guarantee World Peace

In a nutshell, it can be said that the first sentence of ayah 58 carries the command to fulfill trust obligations, while equity and justice have been enjoined in the second. Between the two, the fulfillment of trust obligations has been given precedence. Perhaps, the reason for this may be that the establishment of a system that guarantees equity and justice all over a country is just not possible without it. It means that those who hold power in a country must, first of all, fulfill their trust obligations, a bounden duty which has to be discharged correctly and properly. Consequently, they must appoint only those to the offices of the government who prove to be the best of the lot in terms of their ability to perform the required job and in terms of their trustworthiness and honesty. In this matter, no backdoors should be opened by acting on the basis of friendship, relationships, connections, recommendations and bribes. If this is not done, the result will be that gangs of the undeserving, and the incapable, or hosts of usurpers and tyrants will take over all offices and entrench themselves. When this happens, those at the highest level of power and authority cannot, even if they genuinely wish to usher an era of equity and justice in the country, do anything about it. The whole thing will just become impossible because these very officials of the government are supposed to be the functionaries of the government through which it acts. When these officials turn pilferers of the trust or are flatly incapable of performing the duty entrusted to them, how can equity and justice be installed in a system?

Specially worth-remembering in this ayah is that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has, by equating offices of the government with the trust obligations, made it clear at the very outset that amanah or whatever is held in trust should be handed over, properly and duly, to the person who is its rightful owner. It is not permissible to dole out what is held in trust to some beggar or someone needy just out of pity or mercy; or, it is also not correct to give out something held in trust just to fulfill the right of some relative or friend. This is about amanah as it relates to common trust holdings. Not too different from this are trust obligations seen in broader perspective. Similar are the offices of the government on which hinges a whole roster of things that have to be done in the best interests of the masses of men and women created by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. These too are trusts. They too have to be returned. But, they must be handed over to those who are its rightful, deserving recipients, those who have the ability to do what is required of them, have the qualification, the capability, and are clearly the best of those suitable and available for this office, and the finally, are clearly superior to those in line in terms of their honesty and trustworthiness. If this office is given to anyone else other than these, this will be deemed as a contravention of the Divine instruction, that is, the trust obligations will not have been fulfilled as is their due.  

Giving Offices of Government on the Basis of Regional or Provincial Considerations is an Error of Principle

Furthermore, this sentence of the Qur’an has removed the common error which has been adopted as a rule of law in many countries and constitutions of the world whereby the offices of the government have been declared as the right of the people of a country. Because of this error of principle, laws had to be enacted to guarantee the distribution of government offices on the basis of the ratio of the population. As such, every province or state of a country has fixed quotas. A person from another province or state cannot be appointed on the quota of one province, no matter how deserving and trustworthy he may be and no matter how undeserving and evil-doing the man from the latter may be.

The Qur’an has openly proclaimed that these offices are not rights to be claimed by somebody. Instead, they are trusts which can be given only to those who deserve it. They may belong to one province or the other, one zone or the other. However, there is nothing wrong in preferring to appoint a person belonging to the area where the government has to have an office. Actually, there may be many beneficial considerations behind it, but, the condition is that the essential ability and trustworthiness of the incumbent must be checked and found satisfactory before such an appointment.

[Taken from Maaruf-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani]

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