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The Making of State of San Theodoros

by Major Abdul Latif Mohamed RMAF For Comparative Politics MidTerm Exam


State of San Theodoros shall not fall into the trap that the rest of the ex-British colonies has been fallen into. The problem that has the same characteristics of all ex-British colonies with pre-dominant Muslim population is that they have a democratic state, but the population is boiling with anger and resentment towards the government. The government claimed to be democratic but actively suppressing any views that expose their corruption and manipulating state’s machinery to remained in power in the wake of unpopularity. In many Muslim countries, independence from British colonization does not mean so significant since it is viewed as continuation of British idea using indigenous puppet.  They are denied the chance to apply their own culture and religion that they live and die for, in the interpretation of state building after independence. Hence the population in silence believe that their government is not legitimate, social unrest erupted when draconian rule is not imposed, consequently government has to allocated a large amount of expenditure to maintain a loyal police force and subsequently extricating unjust taxes from the population.

Basing on this view of the fate of ex-British colonies that tried to duplicate their master, I will suggest to the state elites of San Theodoros of how to achieve legitimacy and state effectiveness by applying the Islamic concept which is inline with various authors perceptions that were learnt in NS3023, which can be applied to the reality of San Theodoros as the scenario which has been briefed to me. Central to the problem that the state elites will be facing is the development of a legitimate government, achieving effectiveness in running the state and tying the economic development with state consolidation.

 The first task that the state elite have to tackle is the problem of legitimacy.



Legitimacy is the property of a rule making institution which exerts a pull toward compliance on the population because the population believe that the authority is appropriate[1].  It is important for the new state of San Theodoros to be legitimate since externally it will be accepted by other states in the international arena which can be of help for development and ensuring security. Internally, a legitimate government will be more stable since it creates disincentive for elements within the state to challenge the present authority.  This in turn will ensure the longevity of the state institution and hence the longevity of the government itself.  Consequently a poor state like San Theodoros does not have to spend much money on police officers if element of resentments towards government are disabled. Ease of succession which is the nature of a legitimate government will ensure such state like San Theodoros will not fall into the category of failed states.[2]

In the case of San Theodoros legitimacy ought to be achieved through the modern means[3] since with this means, the position of authority is determined by the rule bound process which is in line with the Islamic concept of leadership. Taking into consideration that the population of San Theodoros is predominately Muslim society, then Islam should govern the way of life of this society. As I have defined legitimacy as willingness of the people to support the government where rules are upheld and people respect the rules. The only way to get the Muslim population to respect the rules and support the authority as appropriate is when the rule of Islam is upheld in accordance with Al-Qur’an, As-Sunnah[4], Ijma’[5] and Qiyas[6]. Al-Qur’an has clearly stated that the matters which govern the Muslim affairs which include the ascension of a leader shall be based on consultation and consensus. “And those who answer the Call of their Lord (Allah), and perform the prayer, and who conduct their affairs by shura (mutual consultation), and who spend of what We have bestowed on them” (Al-Qur’an 42:38). Drawing from the four references stated before, the Islamic scholars had formulated the written rules of how the leader shall acts and the structure of organization around the leader. In Islam, when a leader has been elected through the shura process then immediately the people will declare their allegiance (bay’ah) to him as long as he follows the teaching of Islam. Thus we have established that by using the Islamic jurisdiction the problem of legitimacy can be addressed within the Muslim society of San Theodoros. Failure to implement Islamic teachings in the formation of central government will breeds dissatisfaction within the Muslim community and cause a destabilization factor of the government in the long run.

But there remain the unanswered question on the status of non-Muslim and the tribal chiefs. As for the non-Muslim, which are referred as the “dzimmi”[7], the Prophet had warned clearly that “those who disturb the dzimmi, implies that they are disturbing me”. As for the tribal chiefs they must be brought into the consultation process in order to gain their support. The concept of tribalism or “asabiyah” is not endorsed by Islam[8] and historically it is the by-product of the rulers of the sultanates in order to preserve their rule which is deviant from Islamic teachings. At the initial stages of the formulation of the government, in order to minimize bloodshed and resentment, the government of San Theodoros shall accept the fact that the tribal elders shall be respected and with time the education process shall addressed this delicate matters within the framework of Islam which will eventually wither down the sense of tribalism as what the Prophet had successfully carried out in the state of Madinah[9].


State Effectiveness.

According to Max Weber, state is an agency or institution with monopoly on the legitimate use of force in a given territorial area[10]. For a state to be effective, it has to demilitarize the internal competitors and establishes a system of regular taxation to support the standing army. Furthermore, a system of administration has to be developed to oversee the taxation. The formulation of this bureaucracy shall not be excessive and a system shall be developed which allows the population to have representation in exchange for the right of the government to tax. This will enhance the compliance from the population to pay their taxes when they see that it will eventually benefit them. In short state can be effective if it does not overburden the population, it maintain an army large enough to protect well enough and not spending the income more than the population can afford to pay[11].

The main barriers to establishing state effectiveness in the case of San Theodoros are the tribal structures of the society which historically are in conflict with each other, the tribal chiefs which might lead the revolts against the government and the threatening neighbors. Limited natural resources and poor economy which are mainly based on agricultural will also posed a significant barrier for state effectiveness which must be taken into account if the state of San Theodoros tried to leap-frog into advance state development.

Charles Tilly might suggest that San Theodoros should use coercion[12] in dampening down the challenge (if exist) from the tribal elders. This coercion might range from arrestment and jail or fight them to death. He might suggest that government of  San Theodoros shall favor one tribe and fighting the others[13].   But I might suggest that in dealing with internal competitors a good diplomacy shall be carried out so that the tribal chiefs’ influences on their tribal can be converted into state effectiveness by making them part of the representative council. The government should take over their functions in supporting the schools and delivering social services to the village. In driving the economy the tax collection shall not overburden the population.  The purpose of tax is for the government to use in developing the country, running the administration and maintaining a standing army. For the poor country like San Theodoros, fix percentage of tax shall be levied on the population which met certain standard criteria[14].  In this case, application of tax, based on Islamic principle of zakat[15] will enhance the compliance from the Muslim population to pay their due.  

In order to prevent corruption within the government machinery, an office of ombudsman shall be established so that the people can voice their concern over any matter seen or charge as wrong doing of government or the public authorities. This will plant into the population the sense of belonging towards the government.

Charles Tilly asserts that function of state as war making is to neutralize or eliminate their rivals outside the territory and this can be in the form of blockades, war, treaties and genocide[16]. As to deal with the threatening neighbors, state of San Theodoros shall make use of the standing army not only to defend its border but also as a deterrent measures from transgression of its neighbors. “And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war (tanks, planes, missiles, artillery) to threaten the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides whom, you may not know, but whom Allah does know.”(al-Qur’an 8:60)[17]. This may entail a large amount of expenditure, and this is what has been contends by Charles Tilly that in return for the taxes that had been extricate from the population, it is the state responsibility to provide the protection for them[18].

Economic Development and State Consolidation.

In trying to transform the economy, application of Rostow theory with some modification will better suited the reality in San Theodoros. Domestically, the political shift has already been discussed. Government can initiate cultural shift by educating the population including sending the brilliant ones to study abroad and bringing back the essential knowledge about the required technology to develop the economy. Among the important areas to be studied are the knowledge on modernizing the farming sectors for better yield of produce and the knowledge of developing better trade mechanism and factory management in order to prepare the country for industrialization.  Internally education syllabus shall be developed to reunite the people understanding about Islam and taming the sense of tribalism. With this respect, “Islam looks on education as a continuous process and as a life time project, the prophet said in this regard ‘ask over (and over) for education from the time you born till your death’”[19].  Correspondingly, for the poor country like San Theodoros creating human capital through education is more important than creating financial wealth. “Life-time learning is a key to developing and maintaining the human capital vital in a technological and service-oriented economy that so richly rewards both knowledge and education.”[20] People in San Theodoros shall look over towards education in order to shift (not totally) the agricultural economy into partially technological and service-oriented economy. The variation of economies within San Theodoros will create prosperity and development and consequently easing the state consolidation.

Government of San Theodoros might encourages foreign investment  so that it can generate development but shall be abstaining from relying on foreign loan since with a low initial income it will not be able to repay back and might cause the state to lost its external autonomy and being tied to the spells of the creditor.  In order to foster economic growth, development of rural network shall be address by the government at the earnest. As what has been contends by a rural infrastructure engineer, “A functional road network is the lifeblood of the rural economy and social development and will give access to social infrastructure, markets, income-generating opportunities, and social services.”[21]



In essence, the bleak feature of San Theodoros can be tackled in a simple way that does not require excessive external references. People can go back to their lives understanding the dignity of their religion is upheld. There is a future and hope to get education for all ages, and government are taking care to help making their farm better and their children will not necessarily be farmers. They can travel easily from one place to another to conduct their business and daily affairs. There is a channel to voice their concern if they see anything wrong with the authority. Good transparency via implementation of Ombudsman office might attract foreign investors which understand that their investment will be safe from corruption.  Finally, legitimacy of the government centered in Tapiocapolis will not be contended.


(Microsoft word count including footnotes and end notes: 2499 words.)

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1.      Abdullah Yusuf Ali, “The translation of the Qur’an”, Asir Media Istanbul, 2002.

2.      Ziblatt, “Lecture Notes on Comparative Politics”, January-February 2003.

3.      Tamimi, “Reflection on Islamic Political Thought, Past and Present”, Institut Catala de la Mediterrania, Barcelona, 2001, assessed electronically on February 20th, 2003.

4.      Lars Frers, “Ibn Khaldun and Comte – Discontinuity or Progress”, 1999, assessed electronically on February 20th, 2003.

5.      Max Weber, “Politics as a Vocation” in Gerth and Mills.

6.      Charles Tilly, “War Making and State Making as Organized Crime” in Skockpol (eds) Bringing the State Back In, Cambridge University Press, 1985.

7.      Mohammad R. Taheri, “The Basic Principles of Islamic Economy and Their effects on Accounting Standards-Setting”, Shahid Chamran University, Iran, assessed electronically on February 23rd, 2003.

8.      W.W. Rostow, “The Take-Off” The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto, Cambridge University Press, 1960.

9.      Samer Majzoub, “The Importance of the Role of Education in Islam”, Seminar given at Concordia university, 2001, assessed electronically on February 25th, 2003.

10.  C.Eugene Steuerle et al, “The Government We deserve”, The Urban Institute Press, 1998.






[1] Ziblatt lecture notes on January 28, 03.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Islamic scholars share the opinion that “shura” as practiced by Prophet and his rightly guided successors perfectly compatible with democracy which is “a method of preventing those who govern from permanently appropriating power for their own end.” (Tamimi, p10).

[4] Sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad.

[5] Unanimous verdict accepted by religious scholars

[6] Verdict given by a  scholar who considered the case similar in comparison with a case judged by the Prophet.

[7] Non-muslim which live under the Islamic government. They enjoyed equal rights and protection as ordinary citizens as long as they supported the government.

[8] Prophet had addressed this issue in his sayings “Not among us who practise asabiyah, not among us who preach for asabiyah and not among us who died for asabiyah.”Adhering to asabiyah (which come from an Arabic root referring to paternal kinsmen) had been identified by Ibn Khaldun as the source of failure and eventually the break-up of Islamic empire.  The Sultans initially manipulate asabiyah to maintain their dynasty but eventually this resulted in corruption and fall of Islamic empire.

[9] Madinah is the first Islamic state establish by the Prophet with written constitution and territorial boundary in 622 C.E. (Tamimi, p.2)

[10] Politics As a Vocation, (Weber p.1)

[11] Ziblatt lecture notes on February 03, 03.

[12] War Making and State Making as Organize Crime (Charles Tilly, p.181)

[13] Ibid, “the state extends its favors partially to one class or another, state making actually reduces the protection given some classess.”

[14] Those with surplus agricultural yield or any other of income. Those who are miserably poor should be excluded.

[15] Zakat “is a special tax which levied upon the Muslim members of the state only and is paid by them as a religious duty…The importance of zakat can be judged by the fact that it has been included among the pillars of Islam, second only to prayers.” (Taheri, p6). Type of properties  subjected to zakat varies with regard to condition of time and place but the rate is fixed at 2.5%. The dzimmi are taxed accordingly.

[16] Tilly p. 181 and student presentation on Tilly (fourth slide).

[17] The verse continues with “And whatever you shall spend in the cause of Allah shall be repaid unto you, and you shall not be treated unjustly. But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it, and (put your) trust in Allah. Verily He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower. (8:61)

[18] Tilly pp. 182-183

[19] Samer Majzoub, “The importance of the role of education in Islam”, p.1

[20] C. Eugene Steuerle et al, “The Government We Deserve”, The Urban Institute Press, 1998, p.8

[21] Alain Goffeau, Asean Development Bank (ADB) Rural Infrastructure Engineer.