Classic Islam Skeptical About Separation Of Power

Nyancho, thanks for the robust theological defense proffered in terms of women and men’s equality with reference to Islamic doctrines.

However, I must take exception to the criticism levelled against the doctrine of separation of powers. Indeed, classic Islam and Middle Eastern culture have always been skeptical about the idea of separation of powers from the outset, hence to date democracy as it is known in other parts of the world has as a rule proved illusive in that part of the world. In this culture the caliph (ruler) must both be judge and law-maker, and therein lies enormous risks in terms of abuse of power. This is tantamount to giving judicial powers to Yahya Jammeh during his tenure as president. What a scenario!

Herein lies the rationale for laws dealing with separation of powers in all democratic constitutions of the globe – including our beloved country’s. The authors of our independence constitution were needless to say very well aware of the dangers involved in concentrating judicial and legislative powers in the executive.

Hence, it is my wish that both Senegal and The Gambia shall at no time sacrifice their modern democratic constitutions in favour of the Middle-Eastern cultural norms in this respect. Should we fail to maintain our decades old tradition of separation of powers the whole Sene-gambia region would some day be the bastion of fanatical (religious) dictatorships – just like the Middle-East of today. The latter’s subjects have by the way been knocking on the door of the European Union in their millions lately in search of inter alias the benefits of that part of the world’s long-established separation of power rules, not to mention democracy.

On the matter of the unfavourable laws against women’s emancipation in Europe over the centuries, do remember that women in the Arab world at that time did not fare any better: Arab culture has always been macho since the pre-Islamic days. Accordingly, that argument in this context is not water-tight either. Besides, Europeans have since learnt from those mistakes such that the women of this part of the world can be said to be a thousand times more enlightened, progressive and liberated than their Middle-Eastern counter-parts who are comparatively very backward culturally. It was vice versa in the middle ages. In short, cultures stagnate if they refuse to adapt to changing times and circumstances, and this is worth remembering.

No, we can’t do without separation of powers if at all we are serious in preserving and developing our newly won freedom from over two decades of dictatorship.

Saikou Manneh 



  1. Sir
    what do you mean women of west were more enlightened and your definition of enlightenment. Perhaps it based on your world view of what is freedom and advancement? Is it material, technological or moral or spiritual

    • Saikou M. D. Manneh

      Dear Mr Darboe,

      Thanks for your philosophical questions. Even though time and space do not permit me to dwell on the topics here, I will do my best to answer them.

      Enlightenment is both the name of a movement of European thinkers/philosophers and a philosophy which commenced in the middle of the seventeenth century and lasted up to the outbreak of the French Revolution in the eighteenth century. Prominent amongst its proponents were renown philosophers like Rousseau, Diderot and Voltaire.

      The term enlightenment stems from the term enlighten: I.e. shedding light on something – making it clear, in other words.The Movement emerged in the wake of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, and its primary motivation was as it were was: “The shedding of the light of science and reason on the world with a view to questioning traditional ideas and ways of doing things”.

      Available global statistics have consistently shown that it is not least these liberating ideas that women of the western world have immersed themselves in and used for their own liberation in contrast to their African, Middle-Eastern, Latin American and to a large extent their Asian counterparts. As Mr Sanneh mentioned in his article, there have always been similar theories of liberation in Islamic doctrine. However due largely to their lower levels of enlightenment vis-a-vis their European sisters, African and Middle-Eastern women have hitherto not been able to take advantage of the available theology/philosophy of liberation in this regard.

      I am sure Mr Darboe would agree with me that science is applicable universally, regardless of culture. Hence, the principles propounded by enlightened theories are similarly universally applicable.

      Having the courage to question the sustainability of conventional ways of doing things, and recognizing the “innate dignity of each and every individual” on the surface of earth (irrespective of individual or cultural differences) are amongst the theories responsible for the tremendous human progress we have been witnessing on the planet over the past 400 or so years. Not to mention the advent of theories like: The separation of powers, rule of law and freedom of worship and speech – to name but a few.

      In short, the long term benefits of enlightenment ideas are wide-ranging. They are inter alias economic, legal, democratic, theological/spiritual and material.

      I hope Mr Darboe’s questions have thereby been correctly answered.

  2. Manneh Nyancho thanks for opening up these counter arguements. I will do a more detailed rejoinder in the coming days God willing. Meanwhile, its clear you are confusing Islamic civilization with Arab culture, the latter is as good or bad as any other racial culture/tradition.

    In addition, despot Jammeh would never even smell the seat of power in a khilapha system much more assuming it. Fear of Allah and righteousness are the most radical criteria for selection; none of which are anywhere eminent in such a diabolical creation of a human. Therefore your fear in that regard should be assuaged as the khilapha system puts fundamental importance on the quality of the ruler and not relegated to the mercy of the so called majority i.e democracy. The presidency of the likes of Jammeh and Trump are perfect examples of how flawed democracy is.

    Again I subscribe to Lamin Darboe’s question above as to what your definition of advancement, enlightenment and backward are?