The political system of Islam is based on the three principles of Tawheed (Oneness of Allah), risalah (prophethood) and khilafah (humans’ moral responsibility).
Tawheed means that Allah (God) alone is the One and Only Creator, Sustainer and Master of the universe. He alone has the right to command or forbid. Worship and obedience are due to Him alone.
Hence, it is not for us to set the ethical and moral codes or invent our frames of reference, though every nation, group or individual is entitled to contextualize Allah’s commandments and guidance that were revealed in succeeding religious messages within their own time and space; hence religious devotion is a dynamic and not a static condition. This principle of the Oneness of Allah does not contradict the concept of the legal and political sovereignty of the political community; hence the different models of Islamic democratic governance through Islamic history.
The risalah is the message of the prophets. Islam is the last revealed religion and the Qur’an is the last testament. Muslims believe in the previous messengers and their messages and their original and authentic Holy Books. The Qur’an lays down the broad principles on which human life should be based universally, as it is the last revealed message from Allah, and Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah, established a model system of Islamic life in accordance with these principles. The combination of these two elements — Tawheed and risalah — is called the Shari ‘ah (Law).
Khilafah means representation. Humans — both men and women — according to Islam, are the representatives of Allah on earth, His vicegerents.
To illustrate what the previous notions mean, let us take the example of an estate of yours which someone else has been appointed to administer. There are four conditions in this relation: First, the real ownership of the estate remains vested in you and not in the administrator; second, he administers your property directly in accordance with your instructions; third, he exercises his authority within the limits prescribed by you; and fourth, in the administration of the trust he executes your will and fulfills your intentions and not his own. Any representative who does not fulfill these four conditions will be abusing his authority and breaking the covenant which was implied in the concept of delegation.
This is exactly what Islam means when it affirms that man is the representative (khalifah) of Allah on earth. Hence, these four conditions are also involved in the concept of khalifah. The state that is established in accordance with this political theory will, in fact, be a caliphate under the sovereignty of Allah. It should rule with the power of the people in accordance with the principles of justice and welfare. Such a society carries the responsibility of the khilafah as a whole, and each one of its individuals shares in it.
Hence the form of Islamic government might be called theo-democracy, a combination fully different from the Western historical experience of the relation between church and state.