QUESTION: What is Constitutionalism?

ANSWER: I will not expound the Constitutionalism about which some officials, through their actions and unfamiliar practices, have given you a wrong impression and which you have come to know through the present confusion caused by the present, political terror. I will instead expound to you the Constitutionalism based on the Shari‘a.

Constitutionalism is the manifestation of the verses, Take counsel with them in the affairs (of public concern) (3:159), and Their affairs are by consultation among themselves (42:38). This is the consultation which the Shari‘a orders. The life of this luminous body is right instead of force or might. Its heart is knowledge; its tongue, love. Its reason is law, not the will of a single individual.

Constitutionalism is the rule of the people. You too will be rulers! Constitutionalism is the cause of the happiness of all peoples. You too will attain happiness! Constitutionalism awakens enthusiasm and elevated feelings. You too must awake from sleep! Constitutionalism saves humanity from bestiality. You too will be perfect humans! Constitutionalism will open the locked “good fortune” of the Muslim world and Asia. Glad tidings to you! It will be a means for our state to live forever. Our state will subsist by the subsistence of the people. Do not despair!

Constitutionalism will change the despotic, unquestionable opinion of a single individual, which, under the influence of whims and fancies, can be turned in any direction like a thin wire, into the rule of public opinion, which is like an unshakeable iron post or a shining diamond sword. You too should trust it as you trust Noah’s Ark. It elevates everyone to the position of sultan; you too should try to be a sultan through the love of freedom. It secures human free will, which is the foundation of humanity, and frees humans. You too should not consent to being an inanimate object. It binds hundreds of millions of Muslims to one another like the members of a tribe. You too should preserve this bond.

The luminous representation of a Constitutionalist government is this: All of you are leaders and all of you are responsible for those whom you lead.

Force was dominant during the reign of despotism. Whoever has the sharpest sword and the hardest heart would rise. But the source, the spirit, the power, the authority, and the leadership under Constitutionalism are reason, knowledge, skills, law, and public opinion. Whoever has the sharpest reason and the most enlightened heart will rise. Since knowledge increases and strengthens, and force diminishes as they grow older, the medieval governments based on force are doomed to decline and collapse, while the contemporary governments will last, as they are founded upon knowledge.

Constitutionalism is afraid of the bears of savagery, the dragon of ignorance, and the wolves of hostility. Despair comes from impotence, and is an obstacle to every development. The spirit of struggle is firmness and steadfastness against all obstacles, however strong they are. Save yourselves from idleness. In order for Constitutionalism to come to you, lay a track of knowledge and merits so that when you board the train of perfections – civilization – and encourage the seeds of progress to board it, Constitutionalism will be able to overcome all obstacles and greet you.

The consensus of the Muslim community is a certain proof in the Shari‘a. Thus, public opinion is a foundational principle of the Shari‘a. The tendency of people is worthy of respect and consideration in the sight of the Shari‘a.

Constitutionalism means the rule of the people. That is, the rule belongs to the parliament, which is the embodiment of public opinion. The government is only a servant. It obeys the parliament. If you have complaints about the government, you should complain about yourselves, for there is no other way to preserve your rights.

For example, if there is a change in a fountain, the water of which flows into many canals, this change will appear in all the canals. If there is a large pool into which all the canals flow, then the pool is dependent on the fountain. Even if the pool changes completely, it will not affect the fountain. The government is the pool and the people are the fountain. So, in order to be able to be the fountain, we must reinforce Constitutionalism, be aware of our rights as people, and be equipped with knowledge and merits.

(From Munazarat [“Discussions”])

Bediuzzaman Said Nursi