The Khilafah is a political system from the ideology of Islam that enshrines: the rule of law, representative government, accountability by the people through an independent judiciary and the principle of representative consultation. It is government built upon a concept of citizenship regardless of ethnicity, gender or creed and is totally opposed to the oppression of any religious or ethnic grouping.
While this system differs from western liberal democracy in a number of ways, there are some surface similarities. It must, however, be realised that though Muslims in Iraq sometimes use the term democracy it is the Islamic concept of the rule of law, the right of the people to appoint their own leader and open accountable government that they aspire to. This has hitherto been denied them by the western backed quisling regimes that hitherto have taken away all their political rights and whipped their backs. Egypt, for example, has just gone through elections to its consultative upper house of parliament with 80% of the seats going to the ruling party. The darker side of Egypt's façade of democracy is commented upon by Mona Makram-Ebeid, a prominent Egyptian politician and human-rights activist “They [the government] always manage to get a hold of Islamist leaders and put them in jail, then release them when the elections are over”. Egypt's president Mubarak has won a majority in each of the three elections held since his appointment twenty three years ago – what helped him was that nobody dared to stand against him.
The Middle East's experience of democracy to date is of a deceptive formality of elections, which serve only to rubber stamp dictatorial rule. Failure to realise this will lead to frustration, later, when the Muslims of Iraq appear ungrateful to the west for removing Saddam Hussain and offering in his place western style liberal secular democracy.
The Rule of Law
The arbitrary rule by the whim of self-appointed presidents and kings that has plagued Iraq and the whole Middle East is anathema to the principle of the rule of law within Islam's political system. The application of the law is in the hands of an independent judiciary that has a special section called the ‘court of unjust acts' whose task is to investigate impropriety on the part of members of the executive against the people. As for individual wrongdoing – the khalifah is subject to the same laws and penalties as the rest of the people because he is not considered a sovereign over his subjects. The same cannot be said for the Queen of England – she is, constitutionally speaking, the law itself making it a logical impossibility for her to be subject and sovereign at the same time. The publication of former US President Bill Clinton's autobiography should remind everyone of the events that demonstrate how some men can be above the law in western government - with or without a monarchy. We prefer that all the people, including the khalifah, be subject to the law.
The finer application of the concept of representation in government is a matter of considerable debate in western political philosophy. The first political use of the concept is commonly referred back to the seventeenth century as referring to: “one (legal) person acting on behalf of a group of people, as in the first and still the most influential discussion in political theory, chapter 16 of Hobbes's Leviathan.”The conceptual basis of the khalifah is also considered one of representation, though the logic by which the concept arises is different to the path taken by Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes's representative derives authority from an assumed human state of nature to become an absolute sovereign who predates law. The khalifah is considered a representative of the people in the sense of implementing pre-existing societal rules that were addressed to the society as a collective whole, but require embodiment in an authority tasked with implementation of these rules on behalf of the society.
The khalifah is appointed to his position according to the will of the people. The process is called baya in Arabic and can assume many styles including voting by ticking a card, text messaging or email. The consultative assembly (called majlis al-shura in Arabic) is the arm of state that will oversee the process whenever the position of khalifah becomes vacant.
Accountable Open Government
Linked closely to the concept that the khalifah is a representative of the people in adopting and implementing divine rules over the society is the concept of accountability. It is a right of the people to question or criticise the decisions of the ruler because he is a servant of the people ruling on their behalf. The widely quoted saying of the second khalifah, Umar ibn al-Khatab, with which he began his rule encapsulates his perception of ruling as securing the rights of all people without distinction: “by Allah, he that is weakest among you shall be in my sight the strongest, until I have vindicated for him his rights; but him that is strongest will I treat as the weakest, until he complies.” The Khilafah system does not permit corporate interests to hijack government at the expense of the interests of the people that it is meant to serve.