Daily Trust

#EndSARS: Tam­ing law­less en­force­ment of the law

- Crime · Terrorism · Middle East News · Justice · Law · Brunei Darussalam · Medina · Iraq

Al-Mawardi, the me­dieval Mus­lim the­olo­gian and ju­rist, iden­ti­fied six el­e­ments or ne­ces­si­ties with­out which life on earth would be worse than that in the jun­gle. Re­mem­ber, life in the jun­gle is pred­i­cated upon one prin­ci­ple and one prin­ci­ple only - eat or be eaten. Thus, ac­cord­ing to al-Mar­wadi in Adab al-Din wa al-Dunya, the first ne­ces­sity for the good life that man seeks and de­sires on a daily ba­sis are the fol­low­ing- author­ity of faith that is hinged on eter­nal di­vine guid­ance, es­tab­lish­ment of the author­ity of a Sul­tan or the pres­i­dent or a sov­er­eign whose phi­los­o­phy is jus­tice and, for our pur­pose here, se­cu­rity of life and prop­er­ties. Mus­lim jurists are all in agree­ment that wher­ever jus­tice be­comes a rar­ity, brig­andage and thug­gery be­comes the or­der of the day; when­ever pil­lars of safety and se­cu­rity are unhinged, life on earth be­comes sim­ply im­pos­si­ble.

But the irony of hu­man life is such that the ten­dency to en­gage in evil and to com­mit crime par­takes of the un­know­able credo of homo sapi­ens. In other words, even in climes and times of pros­per­ity and com­fort, the temp­ta­tion to com­mit in­frac­tions, to lust af­ter what be­longs to oth­ers, to steal, to kill, to maim and to in­fract di­vine or­di­nances is usu­ally ir­re­sistible. Do you not al­ways won­der that even when no­tices are given that CloseCir­cuit Tele­vi­sion (CCTV) cam­eras are on in shop­ping malls and other pub­lic places, some still en­gage in shopliftin­g and petty theft. Should you won­der at all that de­spite our aware­ness that an­gels have been ap­pointed to watch over our ac­tions here on earth, hu­mans still con­duct them­selves as if the Almighty does not or rather can­not see them. Hu­man his­tory ex­em­pli­fies that un­canny fact that the most taste­ful of all fruits is that which is for­bid­den.

Thus, when pub­lic ag­i­ta­tions against the Spe­cial An­tiRob­bery Squad (SARS) broke out dur­ing the last one week, I seized the mo­ment to re­view what our her­itage has to of­fer in re­gard to polic­ing hu­man so­ci­eties. Ideas about the po­lice sys­tem had long been found in Is­lamic an­nals since the time of the Prophet (s.a.w). The sec­ond Caliph, Umar bn al-Khat­tab, was the chief po­lice of­fi­cer of the Caliphate dur­ing his reign. He was in the habit of pa­trolling the city of Mad­i­nah at night as a way of look­ing af­ter the wel­fare of the cit­i­zenry.

In the early Is­lamic pe­riod, the po­lice unit was af­fil­i­ated to the ju­di­ciary, with the main ob­jec­tive of im­ple­ment­ing penal­ties usu­ally is­sued by the judge. Later, it be­came in­de­pen­dent from the ju­di­ciary and the chief of po­lice, known as Sahib al-Shur­tah, was in charge of ex­am­in­ing of­fences. Un­der the Umayyad rulers, the po­lice sys­tem wit­nessed rad­i­cal changes and im­prove­ment. Mu`awiyah bn Abi Su­fyan re­cruited more po­lice mem­bers and de­vel­oped its sys­tem.

He in­tro­duced what came to be known as ‘body­guards’ ap­par­ently in re­sponse to the as­sas­si­na­tion of Caliphs Uth­man bn Af­fan and Ali bn Abi Talib. Thus un­der him, the po­lice be­came a tool for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the caliph’s or­ders. Some­times, the po­si­tion of the chief of po­lice (Sahib al-Shur­tah) was so sen­si­tive that some princes and viceroys held it.

But more rel­e­vant here how­ever are the qual­i­ties ex­pected of po­lice of­fi­cers in Is­lamic an­nals. Un­der the Umayyads, strict cri­te­ria were set for membership of the po­lice force. Ziyad ibn Abih said: “A chief of po­lice must be firm in author­ity and watch­ful. A chief of guard must be bold, chaste, and hon­est.” When al-Ha­j­jaj bn Yusuf al-Thaqafi, the viceroy of Iraq and Hi­jaz wanted to fill the po­si­tion of the com­man­der of the po­lice force. he con­sulted with the no­ta­bles and the elite among peo­ple, who in turn asked him: “What men do you want?” He said: “I want a man, who sits for a long time (tol­er­ant), hon­est, free of dis­hon­esty, keen on the least of right, and does not ac­cept any in­ter­ces­sion from any one no mat­ter how no­ble he is”. It was said to him: “It is `Ab­dul-Rah­man ibn Obayd al-Tamimy.” So al-Ha­j­jaj is­sued in­struc­tions that al-Tamimy be brought to his pres­ence. How­ever, when the lat­ter heard what the gov­er­nor wanted him to do, he said: “I can’t ac­cept it un­less you pre­vent your chil­dren and en­tourage from in­ter­fer­ing in my work.”

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