04 Nov


Abul Hasan Ali bin Muhammad bin Habibal- Mawardi is the first writer on political theory in the history of Islam. Except Ibn-e-Khaldoon, all the jurists, theologist and political philosophers who have followed him, down to our own days, have hardly made any improvement upon his thoughts. He was born in 974 AD and died in 1058 AD. Al-Mawardi was regarded as one of the versatile and most learned jurists of his age, and his opinions laid emphasis in the world of law and jurisprudence. He belonged to the orthodox Shafe'ite school of jurisprudence and still we find traces of the pure rationalism. Like other Muslims he received the traditional education, and he wrote on many topics besides law, like, a Commentary on the Quran, a treatise on prophecy and several works on Ethics. As far his legal writings, it is note worthy that "Government and administration, at all levels, were his principal concerns.

"Al-Mawardi started his career as a professor of law and jurisprudence at Basra and Baghdad, and later on he was appointed as Qazi-ul-Quzat of Baghdad by a Qaim, Abbasid Caliph and he was also conferred an honorific title of Aqdal Quat or the Supreme Justice. But he declined to accept this offer of appointment because he said there were far abler people who deserved the title much more than himself. It is related that he did not publish any of his works in his lifetime. When a friend asked why he kept his books back. he replied that it was because he felt that his motives in writing them were not as pure as he should have wished and that he did not know whether Allah the Almighty had accepted these literary offerings or not.

Al-Mawardi has left a great and valuable treasure of knowledge and philosophy. His books are the following:

  1. Al-Ahkam at-Sultaniyah (Ordinances of Government)
  2. Nasihat-ul-Muluk (Advice to Kings)
  3. Qawanin-ul-Wazarat (Laws of the Ministry)
  4. Tahsilun Nazar fi Tahsil-uz-Zafar (Control of Sight for Facilitating Victory)


Al-Mawardi was the founder of the science of politics in the Islamic World. He was not very original in what he did. His greatness lies in the fact that he received political opinions and traditions of the past and transformed them into a logical system. For 400 years the Muslims were engaged in conquest and empire building, but they could not evolve any concrete pattern of government or administration. Al-Mawardi's achievement is that he gave definition to what was unshapely and undefined. Moreover, he assembled his ideas in writing; therefore his book Al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyah became a standard work of reference on political and administrative practices. 

In spite of the untenable position in which al-Mawardi had to work, one cannot fail to admire his effort to work out a political system essentially based on the fundamental thought and early political practice of Islam. Al-Mawardi's remarkable contribution is that he has given a detailed account of the administrative machinery of government. He portrayed not only what exists but also what ought to exist. This idealistic touch made his work popular with every regime and every generation that came after him.



Al-Mawardi says, " the appointment of a wazir  does not mean  that the Imam or Caliph should give up all connections with the administration of the state, but the real significance of his appointment consists of the fact that in the province of politics it is better to have a co adjust or rather than one sole person at the helm of affairs," And when the Prophet Moses (A.S.) could make his brother Haroon (A.S.) his wazir in order that his hands should be strengthened, then surely in the administration of the state it is allowable for the Imam to have a wazir beside him. A-Mawardi says that Wazarat is of two kinds:

The Wazarat of Delegation :

The wazir of Delegation is the person in whom the Imam has the fullest confidence and to whom the powers of administration of the realm are delegated. The difference between the wazir and the Imam himself is that the Wazir of Delegation is not empowered to appoint anyone as his successor and the Imam, the highest authority can dismiss the officers appointed by him.

The Wazarat of Execution :

The Wazir of Execution is similar to the Secretary to the government in modern times. Al-Mawardi says that the main function of the vizier is to get the decrees of the Imam executed and he should be the main official channel of information for him. Mawardi opines that seven qualities are required for a person aspiring to this office and these are honesty, confidence, absence of greed, good relationship with the people, intelligence and the wisdom of grasping the truth of things, absence of luxury and amorousness, and lastly, diplomacy and experience. Al-Mawardi said, "It is not necessary that the holder of the office should be a follower of Islam and a non-Muslim dhimmi can also be appointed a Wazir of Execution."

For the efficient functioning of the administration, the government should be divided into various departments dealing with the business of government such as revenue, army and other high offices of State. The State administration as a whole was called Diwan. Al-Mawardi enumerated four chief offices of government are under:

  1. The Army Board.
  2. The Board of Provincial Boundaries.
  3. The Treasury.
  4. The Board of Appointment and Dismissal of Officers

Views on Central Government :

Al-Mawardi being an orthodox Shafie'ite, gave an account of legal rationalism in his writings. Very rationally he makes full endeavors to demonstrate the necessity of the Imamate he proves it not only by referring the Islamic law but lays down a general proposition that it is in the nature of man or rather those among men who are superior to others in intellect that they should hand over their affairs to one who can keep them from being tyrannized over by other and should have the power of adjudging between them in case of mutual quarrels. Al-Mawardi relies solely upon the Quran without reference to any other source of law. Thus, when he tries to demonstrate that the Imam should not indulge in luxurious living and he reminds the readers of the order which God gave to the Prophet David (A.S.) when He appointed him His Caliph: "O David, We have appointed thee Our Caliph on earth; so judge a right between man and man, and follow not desires that might lead thee away from the path of thy Lord."

He at the time of discussing different categories of taxes, argues entirely on the basis of the Quran, and quotes a verse to prove that the Zakat should be distributed "among the poor and the needy, and those who collect them and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of God and for the way farer." (Quran ix; 60)

Along with the verses of the Quran he argues from the order of the Prophet (P.B.U.H) as related in the Traditions when he wishes to prove that the Caliph has the right to appoint his own successor, he argues from the battle of Mutah and says, "The Prophet (P.B.U.H.) appointed his own successor, he argues from the battle of Mautah and says, " The Prophet (P.B.U.H) appointed his manumitted  slave, Hazrat Zaid bin Harithah, to take his place at the head of the Muslim army and at the time ordered that in case of his death he should be replaced by Hazrat Jafar bin Ali Talib, after him Hazrat Abdullah bin Rawahah and in case he is also killed, the mantle of command should fall on the shoulders of whomever the soldiers might choose." Mawardi was of the view that "it was possible for the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) to make these nominations; it should be possible in case of khilafat as well."


Al-Mawardi says that Allah Almighty laid down laws in order that issues might be satisfactorily settled and the principles of right, truth and goodness may be widely known. He has also entrusted the control of His creatures to various governments so that order and peace in the world may be maintained. Al-Mawardi describes that the real objective of the state is the rule of justice and truth and to bring tranquility and peace to its inhabitants. He further describes that the real motive of the Imamate is following the straight path and strengthening the political bonds. He is also of the view that Imamate is not only an institution sanctified by tradition and history but can be proved to be necessary according to pure  reason; for wise men entrust their affairs to a leader able to keep them from being molested and to adjudge between them in case of mutual quarrels and squabbles.


  • The institution of Imamate is necessary as a requirement of the shariah and not as a requirement of reason. The appointment of an Imam by the consensus of the Muslim community is obligatory.
  • The Imamate is instituted by means of election. The electoral college shall consist of persons with the special qualifications:

(a) Justice with all the conditions pertaining to it

(b) Knowledge of religion and of the interests and policy of the      nation

(c) Wisdom

The candidates of Imamate should also fulfil certain conditions:

(a) Justice 

(b) Learning

(c) Integrity of physical senses

(d) Integrity of physical organs


(f) Bravery

(g) Qurayshite descent

  • The election principle of the Imamate quoted above is obviously against the Shi'ite claim of bequeathal or divine nomination. Al-Mawardi omits the case when a debauch and licentious person is elected as Imam.
  • The right of franchise is not enjoyed only by the people in the capital. The Caliph, however, traditionally elected in the capital because the death of the previous Caliph is first known there, and political considerations require the immediate appointment of a new Caliph, and because most of the people possessing the necessary qualifications for the Imamate generally reside there.
  •  The Imam is appointed in one of the two ways:

(i) He may be elected by the electoral college.

(ii) He may be nominated by the ruling Imam.

  • Al-Mawardi says that the election of a less qualified person in the presence of a more qualified person is perfectly legal provided the former fulfils all the conditions of the Imamate. It was this principle under which most of the feeble and incapable Caliphs took refuge. It was also directed against the Shias, who believe that an inferior person cannot have precedent over a superior one.
  • Al-Mawardi says that if there is only one suitable candidate for the Imamate, he automatically becomes the Imam, and no election is required. Other jurists and scholars are of the opinion that election must be held if there is only one candidate for it, for otherwise the Imam cannot acquires legal status.
  • Al-Ashari says that two Imams at a time are possible if their territories are far-flang and widely separated by an ocean, which hinders easy communication between the two.


  1. The ruling Imam can nominate his successor. Al-Mawardi holds that there is complete consensus on this point in the Muslim community. The Muslims without any tinge of resentment or cause of rivalry accepted Umer as the next Caliph not on the suggestion of Abu Bakr but in obedience to his order as Caliph. Similarly, when Umar appointed a Majlis-e-Shura to elect for appointment as his successor, it was an order from the Imam and there was no choice for the Muslims to show disagreement to the Caliph's orders.
  2. The Imam can easily nominate any suitable person as his successor, provided he does not happen to be his father or son. Al-Mawardi fairly discusses the different opinions of the jurists whether or not the Caliph is entitled to designate one of his sons or relations as his successor and whether he acts legally in doing so. This difference of opinion reflects different attitudes to the institution of the Caliphate. and to its nature. Those who recognize the absolute authority of the Caliph as head of the Muslim nation naturally concede him the right, in his capacity as ruler, to appoint a successor. Those who do not recognize the authority as absolute, justify their opposition by declaring that family considerations must not weigh with the Caliph, who is bound by law to choose one who fulfils the conditions laid down for the holder of the office of the Imam.
  3. Al-Mawardi is of the view that the nomination of a person as heir apparent becomes effective only when he declares his consent to it. The Imam cannot withdraw the nomination until there occurs in this heir-apparent some important change which legally invalidates hint. So also an Imam cannot be deposed until a similar change occurs in him.
  4. The Imam can appoint the electoral college as well as the persons who may contest for the Imamate. This opinion of Al-Mawardi is based upon the election of Usman which was by a limited Shura appointed by Umer.
  5. The Imam can nominate two or more heirs-apparent to succeed him one after the other. The argument has been derived from the battle of Mutah, in which the Prophet (P.B.U.H) appointed Zayd bin Harithah as the commander of Islamic forces and said if he fell fighting he was to be succeeded by Abdullah bin Rawahah. If Ibn-e-Rawahah also fell in the field then the Muslims could choose any one from among themselves as their commander. Apparently, the citation of this incident in support of a fundamental issue like that of the Caliphate is but a fake reasoning. 

This practice of appointing two or more heirs-apparent proved to be the greatest political evil in Muslim polity. This practice during the reign of Abbasids engendered palace intrigues and induced destructive internecine wars and dynastic feuds.


According to Al-Mawardi, Imam should perform following 10 principle duties:

  1. To safeguard and defence of the established principles of religion as understood and propounded by the consensus of ancient authorities. If anyone innovates an opinion or becomes a sceptic, the Imam should convince him of the real truth and correct him with proper arguments and make him obey the injunctions and prohibitions of the shariah, so that the people at large may be saved from the evil effects of such heresies.
  2. The dispensation of justice and disposal of all litigations in accordance with the shariah. He should curb the strong from showing harshness to the weak, and encourage the weak to take his due in the teeth of opposition of the strong. 
  3. The maintenance of law and order in the country, to make it possible for the people to lead a peaceful life, and proceed to their economic activities freely and travel in the land without fear.
  4. The enforcement of criminal code of the Holy Quran to ensure that the people do not outrage the prohibitions of God, and that the fundamental rights of men are not violated.
  5. The defence of the frontiers against foreign invasions to guarantee the security of life and property of Muslims and non-Muslims both in the Islamic State.
  6. The organization and prosecution of religious wars against those who oppose the call or Islam or refuse to enter the protection of the Islamic State as non-Muslims.
  7. The imposition and collection of kharaj and zakat taxes in accordance with the laws of the shariah and the interpretation of the jurists without resorting to extortion or pressure.
  8. The sanction of allowances and stipends from the state treasury to those who are needy, sick and poor and cannot afford to get their wards educated.
  9. The appointment of honest and sincere men to the principal offices of the state, and to the treasury to secure sound and effective administration and to safeguard the finances of the state.
  10. The Imam should personally look into and apprise himself of the affairs of his dominions so that he himself directs the national policy and protect the interests of the people. He must look into the foreign policy very carefully and sagaciously, so that relations with other neighbouring states must be cordial.
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