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Wise sayings about the ruler from Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih

This is an excerpt from Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih’s book Al-‘Iqd al-Farid (The Unique Necklace).

Ruling power is the rein of all things. It organizes rights, maintains punishments, and is the hub around which religious and secular matters turn. It is God’s protection of His country, and His shadow stretching over His servants. Through it, their wives are secure, their oppressed are given justice, their oppressors are deterred, and their frightened are safe.

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The Power of Public Opinion

This is an excerpt from Ayatollah Khomeini’s book Velayat-e Faqeeh (Governance of the Jurist).

Enjoining the good and forbidding the evil has been made a duty primarily for the sake of accomplishing these high aims. We have restricted it, however, to a narrow category of affairs where harm is suffered chiefly by the individual who is guilty of a sin by deed or by omission. We have the idea firmly in our heads that the instances of evil we are called upon to combat (munkarāt) are only the things we encounter or hear about in everyday life. For example, if someone plays music while we are riding on the bus, or the owner of a coffee house does something wrong, or someone eats in the middle of the bazaar during Ramadān, we regard all these things as instances of evil we must denounce. Meanwhile, we remain totally oblivious to far greater evils. Those who are destroying the welfare of Islam and trampling on the rights of the weak – it is they whom we must force to desist from evil.

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Uthman bin Affan’s bay’a: Binding the Caliph to a constitution

The bay’a is a contract and so it’s permitted to add additional conditions to the contract, as long as these conditions do not contradict the sharia. If the khaleefah agrees to these conditions then he cannot break them without agreement from those who contracted the bay’a to him from the Ahlul hali wal-aqd (people’s electoral representatives) on behalf of the ummah. Allah (Most High) says,يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ أَوْفُوا۟ بِٱلْعُقُودِ “O you who believe, fulfil your contracts.”[1]

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“Let there be an ummah among you who calls to good”: Is the ‘مِن’ partitive or explanatory?

In Surah Ali ‘Imran verse 104 Allah (ta’ala) says,

وَلْتَكُن مِّنكُمْ أُمَّةٌۭ يَدْعُونَ إِلَى ٱلْخَيْرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِٱلْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ ٱلْمُنكَرِ ۚ وَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْمُفْلِحُونَ

“Let there be a group (ummah) among you who call ˹others˺ to goodness, encourage what is good, and forbid what is evil—it is they who will be successful.”[1]

In this translation by Dr. Mustafa Khattab, أُمَّةٌ (ummah) is translated as group, so the command is to establish a group or groups[2] who perform the three duties of calling to good (al-khair), enjoining good (al-ma’ruf) and forbidding evil (al-munkar).

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What is the meaning of the verse: “Those who do not rule by what Allah has sent down, such people are disbelievers”?

There are many verses in the Holy Qur’an which oblige Muslims to judge and rule by the sharia. Three of these verses contain commands which are identical except for their endings, which is why the mufasireen (interpreters of the Qur’an) linked them together. Allah (ta’ala) says in Surah al-Ma’ida verses 44, 45 and 47,

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Does حُكْم (hukm) mean judging or ruling or both?

The term حُكْم (hukm) and its derivatives appear more than 250 times[1] in the Qur’an. Allah (Most High) says,

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَن تُؤَدُّوا۟ ٱلْأَمَـٰنَـٰتِ إِلَىٰٓ أَهْلِهَا وَإِذَا حَكَمْتُم بَيْنَ ٱلنَّاسِ أَن تَحْكُمُوا۟ بِٱلْعَدْلِ

Allah commands you to return to their owners the things you hold on trust and, when you judge between people, to judge with justice.[2]

يَـٰدَاوُۥدُ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَـٰكَ خَلِيفَةًۭ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ فَٱحْكُم بَيْنَ ٱلنَّاسِ بِٱلْحَقِّ وَلَا تَتَّبِعِ ٱلْهَوَىٰ فَيُضِلَّكَ عَن سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ

Oh Dawud! We have made you a khaleefah on the earth, so judge between people with truth and do not follow your own desires, letting them misguide you from the Way of Allah.[3]

وَمَنْ لَمْ يَحْكُمْ بِمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ

“Those who do not judge by what Allah has sent down, such people are disbelievers (kafirun).”[4]

In most English translations as you can see, hukm is translated as judgement because the Arabic dictionary definition of hukm includes القَضاء (al-qadaa’) which means to issue a decree or judge.

In Lisan al-Arab (1290CE):

 والحُكْمُ: العِلْمُ وَالْفِقْهُ وَالْقَضَاءُ بِالْعَدْلِ، وَهُوَ مَصْدَرُ حَكَمَ يَحْكُمُ… قضى: القَضاء: الْحُكْم

 “Al-Hukm: knowledge; Jurisprudence; judging justly; its roots are Hakama, Yahkumu… Qada (executed): Execution, Ruling”

In Al-Qamus Al-Muheet (1410CE):

 الحُكْمُ، بالضم: القَضاءُ

Al-Hukmu with a damma: execution”.

In Mukhtar As-Sihah (1268CE):

“الْحُكْمُ” الْقَضَاءُ وَقَدْ “حَكَمَ” بَيْنَهُمْ يَحْكُمُ بِالضَّمِّ “حُكْمًا” وَ”حَكَمَ” لَهُ وَحَكَمَ عَلَيْهِ…

Al-Hukm: Execution; and he had “ruled” between them; he rules with a damma “rule” and “he ruled” for it and he ruled over it…

This has led some modernists to cast aspersions on Islamic governance (al-hakamiyah) by claiming that hukm does not relate to ruling and authority but only judiciary (al-qadaa’). Abdelilah Belkeziz says, “There is a second result obtaining from the assertion of al-hakamiyah [governing] in the view of its critics, and that is a distortion of the Quranic meaning of the term hukm (rule) from which the utterance of ‘al-hakamiyah’ was derived according to the assumption that it is indicative of, or signifying, the political order or political authority. The situation is that most of the Quranic uses of the term ‘al-hukm’ signify adjudication (al-qada’) and resolution of disputes, or imply al-hikmah (wisdom) and rectitude of opinion; and furthermore, there is no connection for it to the khilafah or the political order. Thus, when Quranic verses describe Allah as al-Hakim (the ruler), it is not in the connotation of the king or holder of political authority, but rather in the connotation of the one who judges and distinguishes between people about that in which they differ in regard to his command. It is this meaning which is transmitted explicitly and without ambiguity in the Quran: ‘If you judge (wa in hakamta) [between people], then judge justly’.[5] For this reason, all that which those asserting al-hakamiyah call into evidence on the basis of derivations from the Quranic concept of ‘al-hukm’ is invalid in the view of those who take issue with it.”[6]

Although nowadays hukm is clearly used in relation to ruling and authority, is this meaning a new customary term (اِصْطِلاح) which was introduced by later generations of Muslims, or was it known in the time of the Prophet ﷺ and sahaba when the Qur’an was revealed? If this meaning of ruling and governing was not used by the Arabs when the Qur’an was revealed, then the ayaat of the Qur’an containing the word hukm and its derivates cannot be applied to ruling and authority. This principle applies to all Arabic words used in the Qur’an and hadeeth. These meanings MUST have been known to the Arabs at the time of revelation i.e. the Prophet ﷺ and sahaba. For someone centuries later to bring a new meaning to an Arabic word, and then use this meaning in ijtihad (extracting law) or in ‘aqeeda is not permissible and is rejected.

As an example, the Ahmadiyya re-interpret the clear-cut ayah which refers to the Prophet ﷺ as the final seal of the Prophets خَاتَمَ ٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ to mean the best of the Prophets. Allah (Most High) says,

مَّا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَآ أَحَدٍۢ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ وَلَـٰكِن رَّسُولَ ٱللَّهِ وَخَاتَمَ ٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ ۗ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ عَلِيمًۭا

“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but the Messenger of Allah and the Final Seal of the Prophets.”

The Ahmadiyya say, “the phrase Khatamun Nabiyyin idiomatically means the Best of the prophets,” which is not correct, because خاتم (khaatam) did not have a metaphorical meaning of ‘best’ at the time of revelation.

If we apply this concept to the term حُكْم (hukm), then its meaning of ruling, would need to have been known during the time of the Prophet ﷺ and sahaba, for this meaning to be applied to any Qur’anic ayaat or hadeeth. Let us see if this is the case, by examining حُكْم in depth, and how it was used by the Arabs at the time of revelation.

The definition of حُكْم (hukm)

The origin of the verbal noun حُكْم (hukm)[7] as used by the Arabs is the ‘bit’ of a horse.[8] A ‘bit’ is a piece of metal or synthetic material that fits in a horse’s mouth and aids in the communication between the horse and rider. It’s part of the bridle and allows the rider to connect with the horse via the reins. Al-Qurtubi says,

(الْحَكِيمُ) الْمَانِعُ مِنَ الْفَسَادِ، وَمِنْهُ سُمِّيَتْ حِكْمَةُ اللِّجَامِ، لِأَنَّهَا تَمْنَعُ الْفَرَسَ مِنَ الْجَرْيِ وَالذَّهَابِ فِي غَيْرِ قَصْدٍ

“(Al-Hakeem) is the one who prevents corruption, and from which it is called the “hikmah (حِكْمَة) of the bridle” (bit), because it prevents the horse from running and going unintentionally.”[9]

There are many words derived from حُكْم such as حِكْمَة (wisdom), حَكِيم (ruler), حاكِم (judge) and حُكُومَة (government), but all can be linked back to this origin of a ‘bit’ which is about controlling and guiding.

حُكْم (hukm) and قَضاء (qadaa’) are synonyms

The reason these two words are similar in meaning (synonyms) is because both حُكْم (ruling) and قَضاء (judging) are issuing decrees or judgements upon problems and disputes. Abu Hilal al-Askari (d. 1010CE), in his book ‘al-Furūq fī l-lugha’ and adapted by Prof Dr Mohammad Akram Chaudhary in the book ‘Thesaurus of Assumed Synonyms in Arabic’ says:

Hukm: حكم implies prohibition from a dispute; one says: أَحْكَمْتُهُ to mean: I prohibited him; and a poet says:

أبني حنيفة أحكموا سفهاءكم إنّى أخاف عليكم أن أغضبا

“O sons of Hanifah, restrain your foolish ones! I am afraid that I may become angry with you”.

It is also said that حكم is the settling of a matter by passing judgement in accordance with-the requirements of the intellect and the shar’. The expression: حكم بالباطل means “He has put the باطل (falsehood) in the place of the حق (truth)”. And حكم is used where قضاء cannot be used; e.g. one says: حكم هذا كحكم هذا (The ruling of this, is the ruling of this) i.e. the two things have similar causes, etc and أحكام of things can be of two kinds: those which refer back to an origin and those which do not, in that they are the first examples of their kind.

Qadaa’: قضاء implies the complete settling of a matter. One says: قضاه when someone completes something and stops working on it. Allah says, ثُمَّ قَضَىٰٓ أَجَلًۭا “Then He decreed a term”[10] i.e. He made a decision concerning it; وَقَضَيْنَآ إِلَىٰ بَنِىٓ إِسْرَٰٓءِيلَ “And We had decreed against the children of Israel”[11], i.e. We have warned them about it; قَضَيْنَا عَلَيْهِ ٱلْمَوْتَ “We decreed death for him”[12], i.e. We decided his death; and فَقَضَىٰهُنَّ سَبْعَ سَمَـٰوَاتٍۢ فِى يَوْمَيْنِ “So He ordained them seven heavens in two periods”[13], i.e. completed them.[14]

The hadith narrators also used the terms hukm and qadaa’ interchangeably in relation to judiciary, which is acceptable in sharia and does not change the meaning of the command or prohibition. Al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 110H/728CE) is reported to have said, “If we only narrated to you what we could repeat word for word, we would only narrate two hadiths. But if what we narrate generally communicates what the hadith prohibits or allows then there is no problem.”[15]

In a letter from the sahabi Abi Bakrah to his son Ubaidullah ibn Abi Bakrah, who took up the post of Qadi in Sijistan, he quotes the Messenger of Allah ﷺ as saying:

‏لاَ يَحْكُمُ الْحَاكِمُ بَيْنَ اثْنَيْنِ وَهُوَ غَضْبَانُ ‏‏

“The judge should not judge between two people while he is angry.”[16]

The verb used in this hadith narrated by Tirmidhi is يَحْكُمُ (judges).

In another version of the same hadith, this time narrated by Bukhari, it uses the verb يَقْضِي (judges) with a nun thaqeelah attached for additional emphasis. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said,

‏ لاَ يَقْضِيَنَّ حَكَمٌ بَيْنَ اثْنَيْنِ وَهْوَ غَضْبَانُ

“A judge should not judge between two people while he is angry.”[17]

The reason for the difference in wording is in the isnad (chain of narrators). In the Tirmidhi chain it is: Qutaiba – Abu ‘Awaanah – Abdul-Malik bin ‘Umair – Abdul-Rahman bin Abi Bakrah, whereas in the Bukhari chain it is: Adam – Shu’aib – Abdul-Malik bin ‘Umair – Abdul-Rahman bin Abi Bakrah. The difference must have been introduced by either Qutaiba, Abu ‘Awaanah, Adam or Shu’aib.

Hukm in this hadith means judiciary and not ruling because of the qareenah (indication) in the hadith “judge between two people”, and also the context which is advice to a Qadi.

What is the difference between judging and ruling?

The executive branch of government (ruling) executes laws on people, whereas the judicial branch passes a judgement on a dispute and has no power of execution.

The reason judging and ruling are closely linked is because both are executing rules. A judge (qadi) however, can only issue a judgment on a dispute and has no power of enforcement. Their authority is only in a court of law, and obedience is limited to the court case. They settle disputes between people and so without a plaintiff bringing a case, they have no power to proceed and investigate and resolve problems. The ruler on the other hand does have power of enforcement as he is head of the executive branch, and can issue laws for all his subjects which they must obey anywhere within the state. These differences within the context of an Islamic state can be summarised as[18]:

1Needs a claimant, witness or a violation of sharia.Needs no claimant or violation of sharia. He can adopt laws and policies for the state as he deems fit.
2No power to execute the rules. The executive via the police and justice department will do this.Has the power of execution.
3Not obligatory to obey the judge, only his judgement.Obedience to the ruler is obligatory.  
4Authority only in the judicial court or in area of hisba e.g. marketplaceAuthority anywhere within the state.

In early times the kings and rulers were both judges and rulers

This difference between ruling and judging is subtle because in early times the kings, rulers and tribal chiefs would perform both حُكْم (hukm) and قَضاء (qadaa’), issuing decrees relating to disputes between people, and decrees affecting all their subjects. This can be seen in the TV series Ertuğrul where Gümüştekin Bey takes off his Bey hat, and puts on a turban before sitting as a judge.

Taqiuddin an-Nabhani says, “He (the judge) has absolutely no authority of execution, except if he is appointed as judge and ruler. Then, he will execute the rules in his capacity as a ruler and pass judgement in his capacity as a judge. Thus, the reality of the judiciary is different to the reality of ruling.”[19]

The distinction we see in later times between the executive (ruling) and judicial branches of government simply wasn’t there among the Arab tribes including Quraysh at the time of revelation. The tribal leader performed both ruling and judicial duties. As an example, Abu Jahl bin Hisham who was one of the leaders of Quraysh, was given the title Abū al-Ḥakam (أبو الحكم)[20], as he was considered a man of deep wisdom, cunning and understanding by the elders of Quraysh for which they trusted his opinion and relied on him as an elite member of their ruling assembly – Dār an-Nadwa.

In the early years of the Islamic State in Madinah, the Prophet ﷺ as head of state combined both executive and judicial functions. Sayed Khatab says, “According to al-Maraghi, ‘The Prophet was a leader and a judge by virtue of his divine appointment. Hence he possessed complete judicial power.’”[21] Later when the state expanded to new regions, the Prophet ﷺ appointed separate judges for them, so he ﷺ appointed Ali bin Abi Talib and Mu’aadh ibn Jabal as judges to Yemen.[22] Under Umar ibn Al-Khattab the judiciary expanded greatly as the infrastructure of the state was put in place.

An extract from the book History of the Islamic State’s Institutions – Volume 1

Therefore, the use of the term hukm among the Arabs would contain the meaning of judging and ruling, because as mentioned the separation between the two which occurred later wasn’t there in early times.

Let us now look at how the mufasireen interpreted the word hukm in the Qur’an.

King Dawud and King Sulayman (as) both judged and ruled

Some prophets of Bani Israil were also rulers. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “The prophets ruled over the children of Israel, whenever a prophet died another prophet succeeded him, but there will be no prophet after me.”[23] Dawud (as) and his son Sulayman (as) were both great kings who ruled by the sharia of their times, and they performed hukm which meant ruling and judging. Allah (Most High) says,

‏وَدَاوُۥدَ وَسُلَيْمَـٰنَ إِذْ يَحْكُمَانِ فِى ٱلْحَرْثِ إِذْ نَفَشَتْ فِيهِ غَنَمُ ٱلْقَوْمِ وَكُنَّا لِحُكْمِهِمْ شَـٰهِدِينَ

فَفَهَّمْنَـٰهَا سُلَيْمَـٰنَ ۚ وَكُلًّا ءَاتَيْنَا حُكْمًۭا وَعِلْمًۭا

And remember Dawud and Sulayman, when they gave judgement regarding the field into which sheep strayed by night and grazed. We witnessed their judgement and made Sulayman understand the case [better], though We gave sound judgement and knowledge to both of them.[24]

This ayah and the term hukm are related to judiciary.

Allah (Most High) also says,

يَـٰدَاوُۥدُ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَـٰكَ خَلِيفَةًۭ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ فَٱحْكُم بَيْنَ ٱلنَّاسِ بِٱلْحَقِّ وَلَا تَتَّبِعِ ٱلْهَوَىٰ فَيُضِلَّكَ عَن سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ

Oh Dawud! We have made you a khaleefah on the earth, so judge between people with truth and do not follow your own desires, letting them misguide you from the Way of Allah.[25]

The term khaleefah in this ayah is explicitly linked to the term hukm and so the meaning here will include both ruling and judiciary. Imam Ar-Razi in his Tafseer says one of the meanings of this ayah is:

إنّا جَعَلْناكَ مالِكًا لِلنّاسِ ونافِذَ الحُكْمِ فِيهِم

“We have made you a ruler (malik) over people and an enforcer of judgment (hukm) among them.”[26]

A contemporary interpretation of this ayah is from Sayed Khatab who says, “The word hukm here is a verb that commands the leader to ‘Judge’ and to ‘Rule’ with justice. These Qur’anic texts indicate that the term hukm has both governmental and legal connotations. Thus, the word hukm is to rule and to judge according to the law. This implies that, if the judge is also the ruler or governor, he is commanded to rule and to judge on the basis of the law. This was the case with the Prophet; he was the judge and the ruler. If the ruler is not the judge (the two positions are separate), the Qur’an commands both the ruler and the judge to observe their duties on the basis of the law. This means that, whether the term hukm is to judge or to rule, the law stands sovereign over the rulers and the judges.”[27]

When you rule, rule with justice

Allah (Most High) says,

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَن تُؤَدُّوا۟ ٱلْأَمَـٰنَـٰتِ إِلَىٰٓ أَهْلِهَا وَإِذَا حَكَمْتُم بَيْنَ ٱلنَّاسِ أَن تَحْكُمُوا۟ بِٱلْعَدْلِ

“Allah commands you to return to their owners the things you hold on trust and, when you rule between people, to rule with justice.” (An-Nisaa, 58)

Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra) said in reference to this ayah:

حقٌّ على الإمام أن يحكم بما أنزل الله، وأن يؤدِّيَ الأمانة، وإذا فعل ذلك، فحقّ على الناس أن يسمعوا، وأن يُطيعوا، وأن يجيبوا إذا دُعوا

“It is the right of the imam to rule by what Allah has revealed, and to fulfill the trust, and if he does that, then it is the right of people to listen, to obey, and to respond when called upon.”[28]

Shahr said,

نزلت في الأمراء خاصة

“It (this verse) was revealed specifically about the rulers (Ameers).”[29]

Imam Al-Tabari adopts the following position:

قال أبو جعفر: وأولى هذه الأقوال بالصواب في ذلك عندي، قولُ من قال: هو خطاب من الله ولاةَ أمور المسلمين بأداء الأمانة إلى من وَلُوا أمره في فيئهم وحقوقهم، وما ائتمنوا عليه من أمورهم، بالعدل بينهم في القضية، والقَسْم بينهم بالسوية. يدل على ذلك ما وَعظ به الرعية في: ﴿أَطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُوا الرَّسُولَ وَأُولِي الأمْرِ مِنْكُمْ﴾ ، فأمرهم بطاعتهم، وأوصى الرّاعي بالرعية، وأوصى الرعية بالطاعة، كما:-

Abu Jaafar (Tabari) said: The most correct of these sayings in this regard, according to me, is the saying of those who said: It is an address from Allah to the rulers of the affairs of the Muslims to fulfill the trust to those whom they have entrusted with their affairs, their rights, and what they have been entrusted with of their affairs, with justice between them in the legal case, and the division among them equally. This is evidenced by what He preached to the subjects in: “Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you”, so He commanded them to obey them, and enjoined the guardian (to look after) the citizens and enjoined the citizens with obedience (to the guardian).”[30]

A contemporary interpretation of this ayah is from Ayatollah Khomeini who says, “Those addressed here are the people who hold the reigns of affairs in their hands and conduct the business of government – not judges, for the judge exercises only a juridical function, not a governmental one. The judge is a ruler only in a limited sense; the decrees that he issues are exclusively judicial, not executive. Indeed, in forms of government that have emerged in recent centuries, the judges represent one of the three branches of power, the other two being the executive (consisting of the council of ministers) and the legislative or planning body (the assembly or parliament). More generally, the judiciary is one of the branches of government and it fulfils one of the tasks of government. We must therefore conclude that the phrase “when you rule between people” relates to all the affairs of government, and includes both judges and those belonging to the other branches of power.”[31]

How do we know which meaning to use for hukm?

It is well-known that the majority of Arabic words have more than one meaning, and are referred to as mushtarak (homonyms).[32] “Specifying the Mushtarak to one of its meanings requires a Qareenah (indication) that specifies that meaning, and if no Qareenah is found…then it is obligatory to understand it according to all of its meanings.”[33]

With regards to the word حُكْم (hukm), since there is no Qareenah to restrict it to judiciary in the majority of the ayaat of Qur’an, then the meaning will apply equally to both a judge (haakim) in a court of law issuing a hukm (judgement), and a ruler (hakeem)[34] executing a hukm (law) on the people. There are exceptions to this, which is why we refer to the experts in the Qur’an and Arabic language who are the mufasireen. In the hadith the correct usage will be evident from the context as we saw in the letter from the sahabi Abi Bakrah to his son Ubaidullah ibn Abi Bakrah, who took up the post of Qadi in Sijistan. The hadith “The judge should not judge between two people while he is angry,”[35] therefore clearly applies to a Qadi in a court of law.


In summary, the term حُكْم (hukm) means both judging and ruling, and this was its meaning among the Arabs at the time of revelation. The Qur’an itself used hukm to mean ruling and the sahaba interpreted hukm in the Qur’an to mean ruling, as is evident by the saying of Abi ibn Abi Talib mentioned previously.

This difference between ruling and judging is subtle because in early times the kings, rulers and tribal chiefs would perform both حُكْم (hukm) and قَضاء (qadaa’), issuing decrees relating to disputes between people, and decrees affecting all their subjects, and this was the case among the Arab tribes including Quraysh. The separation between the two branches of government which occurred in more modern times simply wasn’t there in the early times.

The modernist attempts to distort the Quranic meanings of Arabic words, in order to say that the Muslim ummah is not obliged to rule by Islam, so we can adopt a secular, democratic, civil state are fundamentally flawed. These modernist arguments first emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century in British occupied Egypt, and we are seeing a revival of them nowadays with attempts by the west to reform Islam.

The best safeguard against these attempts is to follow what the Prophet ﷺ ordered us, “I have left two matters with you. As long as you hold to them, you will not go astray. They are the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet.”[36] Following this command means learning the Arabic language, so we can access the Qur’an and classical Tafseer books directly without relying on translations or interpretations which may fall outside the acceptable parameters of Quranic Arabic.


[1] Sayed Khatab, ‘The Power of Sovereignty: The political and ideological philosophy of Sayyid Qutb,’ Routledge, 2009, p.17

[2] Holy Quran Surah An-Nisaa, ayah 58

[3] Holy Quran Surah Saad, ayah 26

[4] Holy Quran Surah al-Ma’ida, ayah 44

[5] Holy Qur’an, Surah al-Ma’ida, ayah 42

[6] Abdelilah Belkeziz, ‘The State in Contemporary Islamic Thought: A  Historical Survey of the Major Muslim Political Thinkers of the Modern Era,’ I.B.Tauris Publishers, 2009, p.249

[7] The grammarians differed on the original roots of every derived Arabic word. Some said they are derived from the masdar (verbal noun) as is mentioned here. Others said they are derived from the verb (three-letter roots).

[8] Muhammad Hassan Hassan Jabal, ‘The etymological dictionary of the words of the Holy Qur’an,’

[9] Imam Qurtubi, Al-Jami’ li Ahkam al-Qur’an,

[10] Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-An’aam, ayah 2

[11] Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-‘Israa’, ayah 4

[12] Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Sabaa, ayah 14

[13] Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-Fussilat, ayah 12

[14] Mohammad Akram Chaudhary, (1985) al-Furūq fī al-lughah by Abū Hilāl al-ʻAskarī : a thesaurus for distinctions of meaning between assumed synonyms in Arabic. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow, p.294,

[15] Jonathan Brown, ‘Did the Prophet Say It or Not? The Literal, Historical, and Effective Truth of Hadîths in Early Sunnism, University of Washington, p.274

[16] Jami’ at-Tirmidhi 1334,

[17] Sahih al-Bukhari 7158,

[18] Taqiuddin an-Nabhani, ‘Social System in Islam,’ Al-Khilafah Publications, 3rd Edition, 1990, p.92

[19] Ibid

[20] Ibn Kathir, ‘Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya,’ Vol.2, Garnet Publishing, p.152

[21] Sayed Khatab, Op.cit., p.17

[22] Dr Ali Muhammad As-Sallaabee, ‘The Noble Life of the Prophet ﷺ,’ p.1935; Mishkat al-Masabih 3738,

[23] Sahih Muslim 1842a,  ; sahih Bukhari 3455,

[24] Holy Quran Surah Al-Anbiyya, ayaat 78-79

[25] Holy Quran Surah Saad, ayah 26

[26] Imam Ar-Razi, Tafsir Al-Kabir,

[27] Sayed Khatab, Op.cit., p.17

[28] Imam Al-Tabari, Jami’ Al-Bayan,

[29] Ibid

[30] Ibid

[31] Imam Khomeini, ‘Governance of the Jurist,’ translation of Velayat-e-Faqeeh, Iran Chamber Society, p.52

[32] Mushtarak is being used here in a general sense rather than Al-Mushtarak, so includes all the different types of Arabic meanings such as metaphorical (majaz) and technical (istilahi). Abdul-Qadeem Zallum and Ata Bin Khalil Abu Al-Rashtah refer to the word hukm as a technical term (istilah). Sheikh Ata says, “the term Hukm is not a homonym (mushtarak) in the definitions Qadaa’ (execution) and Sultaan (Authority), but is a linguistic reality (haqeeqah lughawiyah) when it holds the meaning of Qadaa, and is a specified common reality (haqeeqah ‘urfiyah khassah) i.e. istilah in the meanings of Ruling and Authority.”, 20/6/2012, Since the istilahi term was known and in widespread use at the time of revelation, the word hukm in the Qur’an and Sunnah means judging and ruling so the commands will apply to both. This is similiar to the word wazeer which in its linguistic (lughawiyah) meaning is help and assistance, but in its istilahi meaning it means assisting the ruler i.e. a minister. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever among you is appointed to a position of authority – if Allah wills good for him – He will give him a righteous wazir who will remind him if he forgets and help him if he remembers.”

[33] Muhammad Hussein Abdullah, ‘Al-Waadih Fee Usool ul-Fiqh,’ 1995, First Translated English Edition 2016, p.505

[34] A judge is referred to as a حاكم (haakim), but a ruler is referred to as a حكيم (hakeem) because of the frequent rules he executes. حكيم is on the pattern (wazn) of فعيل which is used for exaggeration (mubalagha). This is similar to the attribute of Allah – الرَحِيم (ar-raheem)

[35] Jami’ at-Tirmidhi 1334,

[36] Imam Malik, Muwatta 1623,

Can women be judges in Islam?

There is no dispute among the classical scholars that it’s prohibited for a woman to hold a ruling position such as the Khaleefah or a waali (governor), although she can hold any other non-ruling governmental position, and be an active member of the Majlis ul-Ummah (House of Representatives). This is based on the hadith narrated by Abi Bakra, that when the Messenger of Allah ﷺ was informed that the Persians had crowned the daughter of Chosroes as their ruler, he ﷺ said,

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