The rise and fall of nations is different from the rise and fall of civilisations. Nations can be raided, redrawn or re-imagined exogenously but civilisations cannot be killed from the outside, they only commit suicide. The core of every civilisation is its spiritual principles; when they die, the civilisation dies. In Islamic civilisation, the manifestation of our spiritual principles happened in the Prophet’s (SAW) Madina. Besides many other important principles, there were five very important guiding principles upon which the state of Madina was built. These principles are unity, justice and rule of law leading to meritocracy, a strong moral and ethical foundation, inclusion of all humans in progress and prosperity, and finally, the quest for knowledge. To help revive the spirit of the covenant of Madina, the National Rahmatul Lil ‘Alamin Authority (NRA) has been formed.
The first principle which laid the foundation for Riyasat-i-Madina was unity. The idea of unity (Tawhid) comes from the Quran and in a sense, the entire religion is based on that. From unity of God to unity of mankind, it is the most fundamental principle of Islam. Remember that our Prophet, who was mercy for all mankind, unified people of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds into a single community. Besides Muslims, there were Christians, Jews, Sabeans and other groups who were all woven into a unitary communal whole under the state of Madina.
The second founding principle was the rule of law, which resulted in justice and meritocracy. The Prophet (SAW) made it clear that no one was above the law. He said that nations perish when two sets of laws exist, one for the rich and another for the poor:
“O people, those who came before you were destroyed because if a person of high status committed theft among them, they would spare him, but if a person of lower status committed theft, they would apply the punishment upon him. By Allah, if Fatima the daughter of Muhammad were to steal, I would have cut off her hand.”
[Sahih Muslim 1688]
If one looks at the world today, one can easily witness that most successful states also have the most robust application of the rule of law. Besides several Western nations, one witnesses those East Asian economies that have recently prospered, strictly practicing this principle. Japan, China, and South Korea are good examples. Whereas those nations where the rule of law was subverted, seem to be sinking into poverty and chaos. In many countries of the Muslim world, despite the prevalence of tremendous resources, there is less progress, which is attributable to the lack of the rule of law. Another good example is South Asia. In today’s India, the apartheid rule of law has immediately brought about poverty and countless insurgencies that threaten the union of their country. In Pakistan, not adhering to the rule of law has led to siphoning off of billions of US dollars which has imposed collective poverty on our public. The pattern of politics and development in many countries of Africa and Latin America suggest the same. The so-called banana republics are the way they are because of lack of rule of law. This cause and effect relationship between the rule of law and socio-political harmony cannot be emphasised enough.
The third founding principle of Riyasat-i-Madina was of an ethical and moral transformation of the people—the concept of Amr-bil-maroof-wa-nahi-an-al-munkar (doing good, forbidding evil). The Holy Quran declares it as the defining mission for the Ummah:
You are the best community that has been raised for mankind. You enjoin good and forbid evil and you believe in Allah. [Aal-e-Imran, 3:110].
Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil is a collective duty that leads to the moral transformation of a society. Nobody would dispute this principle, but there are elements in our society that are of the opinion that the ethical development of people should be left to the people, the state should remain neutral about good and evil as conceived by religion.
This approach is quite outmoded and problematic because it handcuffs the state from performing its ethical and moral duties and allows adversaries of the country to come in with handfuls of money and subvert our values using our own educational systems and channels of information. NRA will endeavour to engage in amr bil maaroof by teaching seerat-al-nabi (SAW) to our youth in schools and universities in the hope to raise the level of ethics and morals in our society.
The fourth founding principle was inclusive development through the creation of a welfare state, where society takes care of its poor and vulnerable and everyone is a stakeholder in the development of society and state. The State of Madina was the first recorded welfare state of mankind where the state took responsibility for its weak. Since we must emulate the example of our blessed Prophet (SAW), our citizens should learn to be strict with themselves and generous with others.
Keep in mind, however, that in recent times the idea of a welfare state has been coloured by the Western European experience. Indeed, the West created impressive welfare systems from the 1950s to 2010s, of which the most impressive were the Scandinavian ones. However, most of the Western welfare states were not sustainable environmentally because these were very high consumption societies that produced enormous waste.
If the whole of the non-West were to copy these welfare states, then our pattern of production, consumption and waste would resemble theirs, and by some estimates it would require six more planet earths to act as sinks that would absorb our waste. Such a welfare state is neither possible nor desirable. Since Islam is the middle path, only moderate prosperity and consumption would be ideal, just enough to fulfil our basic needs with dignity and honour, with universal health care and education.
And finally, a knowledge-based society that doesn’t confound literacy with knowledge. Literacy may lead to illuminative knowledge that may guide us to good behaviour, but some of the highest crime zones of the world also have very high literacy rates. One must not lose sight of an important historical fact that nearly all scholars of early and medieval Islam had deep roots in spirituality.
Hence literacy alone may not be sufficient for a happy society. Knowledge with spiritual transformation from cradle to the grave is important. All sources that impact human behaviour should disseminate knowledge which produces self-control, self-discipline, patience, forbearance, tolerance and a spirit of service and volunteerism.
Lastly, in the light of our ideals, we have embarked on the road to the welfare state with some great initiatives. Despite tight financial means, we allocated an unprecedented amount of money to our initiatives such as the Ehsaas Programme which was launched back in 2019. The Ehsaas Programme is a social safety and poverty alleviation programme necessary for vulnerable groups in society.
This was one of our key initiatives towards building a state that cares about the welfare of our citizens. By far, one of the greatest programmes in the history of Pakistan was the Sehat Sahulat Programme which offers our citizens universal health coverage. This is not just to protect vulnerable households from sinking into poverty, who often borrow money for medical treatment, but it also leads to a network of private sector hospitals all over the country, thus benefitting both the public as well as the private sector in the field of health.
The Punjab government alone has allocated Rs400 billion rupees for this. The Sehat Sahulat Programme is an important milestone towards our social welfare reforms. It makes sure that certain low-income groups in Pakistan may have access to their entitled medical healthcare quickly and honourably without accruing many financial obligations.
In the wake of the global economic hardship brought about in the post-COVID era, we have not neglected the fast transforming educational arena. Our Ehsaas scholarship programme will ensure that talented students within the underprivileged and poor strata of society would get a chance to pursue decent education that would augment their chances of getting better livelihoods. This programme, combined with all our other scholarships, amounts to six million scholarships worth Rs47 billion. This too, is unprecedented in the educational history of Pakistan.
In conclusion, I will reiterate that the most urgent of all challenges facing our country right now is the struggle to promulgate the rule of law. Over the last 75 years of Pakistan’s history, our country has suffered from elite capture, where powerful and crooked politicians, cartels and mafias have become accustomed to being above the law in order to protect their privileges gained through a corrupt system. While protecting their privileges they have corrupted state institutions, especially those institutions of the state that are responsible for upholding the rule of law. Such individuals, cartels and mafias are parasites who are not loyal to our country and defeating them is absolutely necessary in order to unleash the real potential of Pakistan.