Abulhasan al-Mawardi and his model of the Muslim state

History 03 Sep 2020 Contributor
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Abulhasan al-Mawardi (972-1058) was an Islamic scholar, jurist and theorist of the state, chief qadi of Khorasan (a historical region that consisted of Eastern Iran, Afghanistan and southern Turkmenistan) and Baghdad, diplomat of the Baghdad caliphs al-Qadir and al-Qaim. Abulhasan al-Mawardi witnessed the historical processes that allowed him to form his doctrine of the ideal state.

Like his colleague, the Florentine diplomat Niccolo Machiavelli, who lived four centuries later, al-Mawardi believed that the main condition for the prosperity of the state was the figure of its ruler. The state model developed by al-Mawardi was applied in the Ottoman Empire.

Scenario of 11th Century

The end of the 10th-beginning of the 11th century CE was a turning point in the development of the Abbasid Caliphate. The power of the Iranian Shiite dynasty of the Buyids, who had turned the Baghdad caliphs into nominal, spiritual leaders of the Muslim world, and themselves possessed real power, was being replaced by the power of the Seljuk Turks, who came to Baghdad as defenders of the Caliph al-Qaim, and as a result became the new rulers of the Caliphate, putting an end to Arab and Persian influence and opening a new era of Turkization of the Caliphate, which ended with the rule of the Ottoman Turks and the creation of the Ottoman Empire.

Al-Mawardi, who served as a diplomat in negotiations with the Buyids, could observe all the weakness of the Baghdad caliphs, who could not resist the separatist tendencies of the outskirts, the isolated emirates and sultanates, and the arbitrariness and chaos which reigned everywhere. All this prompted him to write his main work entitled “Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyya” (الأحكام السلطانية) (“The Ordinance of the State”).

Abulhasan al-Mawardi and his state structure

Al-Mawardi was familiar with the ideas about the structure of the state of his predecessor, the famous philosopher and theorist of social happiness Al-Farabi. Al-Farabi, like Thomas More many centuries later, wrote in his “Treatise on the views of the inhabitants of a virtuous city” that a happy life is based on the desire for goodness and high spirituality of all residents, headed by a philosopher ruler. Al-Mawardi rightly considered such a model to be utopian. He himself proposed a different model. The head of state is a practical politician who acts in the interests of the majority. The sovereign is both a spiritual and secular leader. He ensures the protection of the interests of citizens, their security and inviolability, in turn, the citizens do not violate the laws, the basis of which is laid down in Sharia.

Idea of Morality

Al-Mawardi believed that moral education is effected not only in the sphere of the Muslim faith. Morality is also brought up in the political sphere, by following the moral civil laws. At the same time, the morality of the laws can only be achieved by transferring the morality of Islam as a religion into the public sphere. And again, the key role in this process is played by the sovereign, the spiritual and secular head of his citizens. This formula was the implementation of the instruction of Allah, written in the Holy Quran: “And let there be arising from you a nation inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful.” [Quran, 3: 104]

The figure of the Caliph as a bearer of statehood, combining spiritual and secular leadership and striving to achieve the maximum good, was a powerful ideological weapon of the Muslim world, which played the pivotal role in the defeat of the crusaders and subsequently was instrumental in creating the greatest Muslim Empire, the Ottoman Sultanate, which had a huge impact on the fate of the whole world. Al-Mawardi’s doctrine helped the Caliphate overcome decline and revive. His ideas have not lost their relevance in our time.