In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Grande Strategy

Chapter Six New Medina Islamic Meritocracy

Islamic Meritocracy

Let us start by building the foundations of a new political paradigm. Noting that while the dominant view of Islamic scholars is that we are not to discuss the differences of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), we set this ruling aside to fully understand and develop a political model of an Islamic state.

When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) passed away, he did not leave with a written constitution for the state of Medina. Thereafter, a split evolved as to whom and by what mechanism a successor was to be chosen. Rifts and disagreements developed even among the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him). These rifts continued to widen thereafter. Many questions remained unanswered. Should the Islamic state have remained in the hands of his closest relatives? If in fact, a new leader was to be elected, by what method was this to be achieved? How long should the Khalifah’s (leader's) term be? If Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) didn't give out clear guidelines, then is Islam really complete?

These are important questions, and the last one is blasphemous. And Allah knows best. To be brief, what the Prophet (peace be upon him) meant when he said that our religion was complete and that Islam was a complete way of life, is perhaps not that all possible actions and issues have been cataloged like an encyclopedia or a computer program. Rather, that all the principles needed to address every action has been given. Applications of those principles are also given in the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Just as a student when he is working on his arithmetic looks at the relevant formula, and then if he has further trouble, looks at an example on how the formula is used, Islam gives us the principles and then an example on how it is to be applied. Our answer will not be the same every time we have a new problem. Rather, we will look at the "formula" (Islamic principles) and fashion our answer on the same pattern as the "example" (the life of the Prophet, peace be upon him).

This represents a break from the present hard line approach as well as the secular approach. The hard line approach takes the position where every problem has to come up with the same solution as the example and the ulema determine an encyclopedic list of “correct” actions.  The secular approach rejects the formula itself and takes one out of the western textbook. The contingency approach on the other hand that this book adopts is one of the central cornerstones of our model.

To be fair, there is some flexibility in the hard line approach through limited ijtihad, ijma and qayyas. But these have been highly limited particularly since Imam Al Juwaini, the teacher of Imam Ghazali and by some account, Imam Ghazali himself and several others who came after him all supported the idea of the termination of ijtihad. Taha Jabir Al-Alwani notes that by the sixth century Hijri, Muslims had been conditioned not only to accept the freezing of ijtihad but the banning of it altogether and its replacement with taqlid (blind imitation), in gross violation of the verse:

They have taken as lords beside Allah their rabbis and their monks and the Messiah son of Mary, when they were bidden to worship only One Allah. There is no Allah save Him. Be He Glorified from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him)! (9:31, Al-Quran)

And the explanation of the verse by the Prophet (peace be upon him) “They didn't worship them but (the worship was in the sense) whatever they made halal for them, they considered it halal, whatever they made haram for them, they considered it haraam.”

(Tirmidhi Book of Tafseer-Surah Taubah, declared Hasan by Imam Tirmidhi, Tauheed ul Muslimeen pg. 272)

Similarly, to be fair to the Secularists / Progressives / Modernists, many of them attempt to stay within the Islamic framework by taking the most ambiguous rulings or the most lenient interpretations possible to fit their agenda. However, the point remains that both sides can broadly be categorized within the classifications prescribed despite what they claim.

The Quran and Sunnah give us the principles that can guide every facet of life. What Islam does not provide is a fixed economic, social and political system. This world is a test for Man, and while Islam guides us, it still gives us many challenges. Allah knows best, but perhaps this too is a form of intellectual challenge for Muslims to negotiate. And perhaps Muslims of each age would find different solutions to these as the circumstances around them change.

Taking a step back, in the classical view of the world that we “inherited” from the Greeks, perfect and encyclopedic solutions of the world can exist but the modern world’s theory (and the original Islamic point of view) was not of a static, unchanging world, but an expanding and changing universe. Allama Iqbal notes and explains this in great detail in Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam while responding to the allegations of Spengler. I reproduce a small section from the same to illustrate and effectively explain this point, vital to understand for both the Seculars and the Conservatives:

“It now remains to eradicate a grave misunderstanding created by Spengler’s widely read book, The Decline of the West. His two chapters devoted to the problem of Arabian culture constitute a most important contribution to the cultural history of Asia. They are, however, based on a complete misconception of the nature of Islam as a religious movement, and of the cultural activity which it initiated. Spengler’s main thesis is that each culture is a specific organism, having no point of contact with cultures that historically precede or follow it. Indeed, according to him, each culture has its own peculiar way of looking at things which is entirely inaccessible to men belonging to a different culture. In his anxiety to prove this thesis he marshals an overwhelming array of facts and interpretations to show that the spirit of European culture is through and through anti-classical. And this anti-classical spirit of European culture is entirely due to the specific genius of Europe, and not to any inspiration she may have received from the culture of Islam which, according to Spengler, is thoroughly “Magian” in spirit and character.

“Spengler’s view of the spirit of modern culture is, in my opinion, perfectly correct. I have, however, tried to show in these lectures that the anti-classical spirit of the modern world has really arisen out of the revolt of Islam against Greek thought. It is obvious that such a view cannot be acceptable to Spengler; for, if it is possible to show that the anti-classical spirit of modern culture is due to the inspiration which it received from the culture immediately preceding it, the whole argument of Spengler regarding the complete mutual independence of cultural growths would collapse. I am afraid Spengler’s anxiety to establish this thesis has completely perverted his vision of Islam as a cultural movement.

“By the expression “Magian culture” Spengler means the common culture associated with what he calls “Magian group of religions”, i.e. Judaism, ancient Chaldean religion, early Christianity, Zoroas-trianism, and Islam. That a Magian crust has grown over Islam, I do not deny. Indeed my main purpose in these lectures has been to secure a vision of the spirit of Islam as emancipated from its Magian overlayings which, in my opinion, have misled Spengler. His ignorance of Muslim thought on the problem of time, as well as of the way in which the “I”, as a free centre of experience, has found expression in the religious experience of Islam, is simply appalling. Instead of seeking light from the history of Muslim thought and experience, he prefers to base his judgement on vulgar beliefs as to the beginning and end of time. Just imagine a man of overwhelming learning finding support for the supposed fatalism of Islam in such Eastern expressions and proverbs as the “vault of time”, and “everything has a time!” However, on the origin and growth of the concept of time in Islam, and on the human ego as a free power, I have said enough in these lectures. It is obvious that a full examination of Spengler’s view of Islam, and of the culture that grew out of it, will require a whole volume. In addition to what I have said before, I shall offer here one more observation of a general nature. Spengler says:

“The kernel of the prophetic teaching is already Magian. There is one God– be He called Yahweh, Ahuramazda, or Marduk-Baal– who is the principle of good, and all other deities are either impotent or evil. To this doctrine there attached itself the hope of a Messiah, very clear in Isaiah, but also bursting out everywhere during the next centuries, under pressure of an inner necessity. It is the basic idea of Magian religion, for it contains implicitly the conception of the world-historical struggle between Good and Evil, with the power of Evil prevailing in the middle period, and the Good finally triumphant on the Day of Judgement.”

"If this view of the prophetic teaching is meant to apply to Islam it is obviously a misrepresentation. The point to note is that the Magians admitted the existence of false gods; only they did not turn to worship them. Islam denies the very existence of false gods. In this connexion Spengler fails to appreciate the cultural value of the idea of the finality of prophethood in Islam. No doubt, one important feature of Magian culture is a perpetual attitude of expectation, a constant looking forward to the coming of Zoroaster’s unborn sons, the Messiah, or the Paraclete of the fourth gospel. I have already indicated the direction in which the student of Islam should seek the cultural meaning of the doctrine of finality in Islam. It may further be regarded as a psychological cure for the Magian attitude of constant expectation which tends to give a false view of history. Ibn Khaldūn, seeing the spirit of his own view of history, has fully criticized and, I believe, finally demolished the alleged revelational basis in Islam of an idea similar, at least in its psychological effects, to the original Magian idea which had reappeared in Islam under the pressure of Magian thought.”

This critical mistake is where this author believes Al Ghazali let us down in his implicit acceptance of the former worldview, despite his otherwise brilliant attack on the philosophers. The philosophers, learning from the Greeks, had precisely the same static worldview, oscillating but essentially static. But if their greatest critique could not see this blatant error, who would? 

In this changing world, Muslims of every age need to find solutions to the problem-world around them, rather than copy-pasting the answers from the past. Muslims of our Age and time must rise up to the challenge, while understanding that these solutions can only be imperfect. They can also be of great value nonetheless, for these solutions would be built on those eternal truths and guidelines that Allah, in His Infinite Grace, has provided us, and that represents a miracle in itself as only the Creator could provide eternal principles in an expanding and evolving universe.


Meritocracy as an idea implies that the basis of government is based on the merit of the candidate. The concept of meritocracy is not new, but was talked about as far back as Plato, whose work Republic illustrated his ideas of what meritocracy meant to him. While we earlier rejected the classical static worldview, we share the idea of meritocracy. Leadership as a concept in Islam resides in the merit of the candidate[1]. An Islamic state is meant to be run on the principles of merit; the most able candidate should rule the country.

Democracy makes the assumption that all men are equal in their capacity to judge the most able candidate. However, while all men are equal, they are not equal in their knowledge and wisdom, either in Islam or in common experience, and therefore, Islam and democracy are fundamentally different from each other[2]. While there may be many possible solutions to build a political model based on merit, we look to create a balance between the quantity factor of universal participation and quality valuation of participants.

All men have some right to a say in government, yet our principles suggest this has to be weighed according to the wisdom and knowledge distributed in the populace. One of the earliest Western thinkers, Socrates, openly considered democracy as a flawed concept; that it required the wisdom of its leaders to be based on the opinions of all citizens held in equal weight[3]. Today however, democracy has become a sacred cow that the world must worship. We as Muslims need do no such thing; we do not need to hold on to foreign concepts to gain legitimacy. Our discussions need not be burdened by this modern, near-pantheistic religion.

The Islamic state of Medina was also run on the basis of merit under the Khalifa-e-Rashidun and where consultation took place between the learned, pious, wise and capable rather than on a one-man-one-vote basis.

Dissecting Democracy

Taking a fresh look at the present political landscape, in the following pages some of the possibilities of a new system are fleshed out. Today, the overarching dominance of democracy makes political systems one dimensional. Instead, we look to break open the paradigm and look at the mechanism inside. We propose a multi-dimensional approach to the political mechanism. Once we open the straightjacket of democracy, we find that many of the mechanisms that are given as fixed can be made variable. Some of these mechanisms include:

1.      One vote per voter
2.      Batch process elections
3.      Rule by majority within a first past the post voting mechanism
4.      Checks and Balances
Let us look at each of these factors in turn.

Multiple Votes per Voter

Given that in our system, all men are not considered equal in their knowledge and wisdom and thus are not entitled to equality of vote; one vote per voter can be considered a redundant concept. Changing this variable, we find a range of new possibilities of weighted voting. Virtually any value we consider of worth can be worked into the system to be a merit. For instance, education level, age, marital status and religious knowledge can be made factors of merit.

Continuous Flow Process

In Operations Research terminology, voting systems today are essentially batch processes[4]. A batch of votes is selected and counted, gaining the elected representatives a term until the next batch comes about. Today, this system presents many problems including the fact that while voters can influence their representatives once every election cycle, interest groups can influence them 365 days a year. This, in reality, can often lead to de facto disenfranchisement. Thus, the American Congress can give multiple standing ovations to Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu and send Israel billions of dollars in aid, while American soldiers die fighting enraged Muslims and millions of Americans remain homeless, some living in tent cities not dissimilar to the lower end of the Third World.

Instead, one alternative may be to look at elections as a continuous flow process. Here, instead of working in a batch, the process works continuously, with voting taking place piece by piece, with a few districts at a time, to cover a country, if necessary, over the same period as a batch process would. 

The electorate would be able to influence and indicate approval continuously while greatly simplifying the logistics process. This also means that vote administration can be handled by a much smaller organization, a considerably important consideration in the Third World where elections represent a major economic cost and logistics challenge. Since our Islamic state will be located in the Third World, this issue is particularly relevant to our discussion.

Governments would also not constantly be changing as marginally, one (or a few) voting districts would not be enough to topple a government typically unless the majority was marginal. The system could also be fine-tuned by increasing or decreasing the number of elections in a given period of time.

Preferential Voting

Preferential voting systems are increasingly popular and are most well-known in Australia.[5] A preferential voting system over a first-past-the-post system can ensure that politics does not become polarized in a two-party duopoly. It would also allow the voting system is more efficient in indicating voter approval and produces a more accurate allocation of candidates. There are a variety of methods to express a preferential voting system. The choice of such a system is only limited by mathematics and the capability of computing systems.

One example is of a preferential list of candidates ranked by each voter.  For instance, if the candidate who was a voter’s first choice is not among the two most popular candidates calculated by the voting system, his choice is automatically moved to the next candidate on the voter’s list until he is voting for a relevant candidate and his vote is not wasted.

Thus, we may have a voting system where a citizen has one vote by default but progressively has more votes depending on a merit system. Voting takes place in a continuous flow electoral process with preferential voting for candidates.

Expanded Separation of Power

The best example and arguably the most successful check and balance mechanism among political systems have thus far been the United States’ constitution. The US constitution works on the principles of division of power with a separate Judiciary, Executive and Legislature. If we seek to build a better system we can increase the separation of power to include incrementally more divisions. For instance, we may include a constitutionally separate central bank, central statistics and central audit, along with the judiciary, legislature and executive.

Utilizing such an approach, we arrive at a six pillar division of power in comparison to the three pillars in the US Constitution. The figures indicate the difference graphically.

A separate government audit arm can ensure that government does not overstep its boundaries, that checks and balances are not ignored, that government corruption is effectively punished and that the government budget execution tallies. The discussion shall return later to the importance of some of these added arms of the government in more detail.

The Masjid as Central

The masjid must be returned to its role as the central and basic administrative and political unit. The representative of the people leads the prayers and is available directly to them for interaction. This will bring real accountability and government to the community and will allow everyone the chance to participate in the decision making process. Thus, our system in a sense is a hybrid indirect-direct participatory form of government.

Further, this may also dissuade un-Islamic characters from seeking office as the task of leading the prayers may prove enough as an overbearing task and as an exposé of their claim to act as a barrier to their office.

Returning to the original system were women pray at the back row, children in the middle and men in the front will allow women to be enfranchised into the political and social system within our model, insh'Allah (more on gender related issues later).

[1]See Zafar Bangash, “The Concepts of Leader and Leadership in Islam,” 2000, for a further discussion on why Islam and democracy are not compatible.
[2] Ibid.
[3] See Isidor Stone, “The Trial of Socrates,” 1998.
[4] See for instance, Shim & Siegel, “Operations Management”, 1999, for a primer on batch processes and continuous flow processes.
[5] See Benjamin Reilly, “The Global Spread of Preferential Voting:Australian Institutional Imperialism?” 2004, Australian Journal of Political Science , 39 (2), 253-266
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