Islamic Understanding of Politics
Islam does not make a distinction between religion and politics. It considers the two as necessary for each other as well as complementary to each other. The Quran (28: 77) explicitly says: ‘do not forget your share of the world’. A hadith report, contained in the Sahih al-Bukhari, terms the world as the field of the Hereafter. In this way, religion and worldly affairs are necessarily interlinked in Islam.
Politics is a necessary part of worldly affairs. It relates to the regulation of life at the collective level. Hence, any ideology that relates to life cannot remain without reference to politics. This is a basic reality. But another aspect of this reality is that politics has its own particular sphere in its relationship with Islam. It is certainly part of the overall understanding of the deen of Islam, but it is not part of the basic or foundational understanding or conception of the deen. In other words, the deen is as complete without politics as it is with it.
The fact is that Islam is a pragmatic religion, and pragmatism is a basic condition for success in politics. That is why Islam cannot make it binding on its followers to engage in forms of actions that are generally not possible for them. The Quran (2: 286) clearly makes this point.
At the level of belief, politics is part of Islam. Unlike some other religions, Islam does not make a distinction between religion and politics. But at the practical level, it is not necessary for politics to be a part of Islam. That is why Islam is present across the world along with its religious and spiritual system, but, with just a few exceptions, nowhere is it present along with its political system. This definitely does not mean that Islam, in this form, is incomplete and faulty, as some radical ideologues allege. This is because it has never been at all possible—and nor can it be—that wherever Islam is found, it is found along with its political system, and that too with this system becoming dominant over other systems.