The coming of Islam in India during the Medieval period led to the establishment of the Muslim political authority. The basis of Islamic political thought was the teaching of Prophet Muhammad and belief in the Quran, which considers the Shariat as the final authority.
During the Medieval period in India, two texts mentioned important ideas regarding sovereign authority which are as follows –
- Fatwa-i-Jahandari and
In Fatwa-i-Jahandari, Khwaja Ziauddin Barani described the king as the representative of God on earth and the source of all powers and functions of the state.
According to Barani, a good state should work for the welfare of both religion and the state. He suggested that a king should be guided by wise men, and the kingship should be based on two pillars – administration and conquest. He believed that the enforcement of the Shariat and dispensing of justice are essential functions of a sovereign.
Barani mentioned four sources of law – the Quran, the Ijma, Qiyas, and the Hadish – and also suggested that Zawabit or state law is an important source of law in administering the state.
In Abul Fazl’s Ain-i-Akbari, the trend of political ideas during the Mughal rule in India was explained. Abul Fazl believed that a true king should be concerned about people’s well-being and ruled for the common welfare, guided by the law of God.
He advocated a strong centralized monarchical government and the distribution of works among various departments. He also believed that the king should judge and interpret holy law and be guided by the principles of universal good and fulfill his royal duty. This was a significant shift compared to earlier political thinking.
Common Features of Important Ideas Regarding Sovereign Authority During Medieval Period
i) The Authority of the State is Derived from God
This was a fundamental concept in Muslim political thought, and it held that the authority of the state and its rulers was ultimately derived from God. The king was seen as the representative of God on earth and was expected to rule justly and fairly, in accordance with Islamic law.
ii) The Shariat is the final authority
The Shariat, which refers to Islamic law derived from the Quran and the Hadith, was considered the final authority in matters of governance. The purpose of the state was to serve the Shariat, and the enforcement of Islamic law was seen as an essential function of the sovereign.
iii) Dispensing justice is an essential function of the sovereign
In addition to enforcing Islamic law, the sovereign was also expected to dispense justice fairly and impartially. This involved hearing cases, settling disputes, and punishing wrongdoers in accordance with Islamic law.
iv) The king’s duty is to work for the welfare of the people
The king was seen as the father of his people, and his duty was to work for their welfare and well-being. This included ensuring that they were protected from harm, had access to basic necessities like food and shelter, and were treated fairly and justly.
v) Strong centralized government
There was a strong emphasis on a centralized government, with power concentrated in the hands of the sovereign. This was seen as essential for maintaining order and ensuring that Islamic law was enforced effectively.
vi) Guidance from wise men
The sovereign was expected to seek guidance from wise men, particularly scholars and theologians who were knowledgeable about Islamic law and governance. This was seen as essential for ensuring that the sovereign made wise and just decisions.