Address to the people of Qatar by the Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, on 28 April 2003 - the eve of a referendum on the constitution.
In the name of God, the most compassionate, the most merciful.
Nations and peoples pass through important and crucial phases in their history. Today, we in Qatar witness a historical stage in the march of our beloved homeland towards progress and the building of the state and institutions.
Since my accession and shouldering the responsibilities and burdens of rule, my goal and aim has been to realise, what I have vowed to God and to you to do my best, the progress and advancement of our country, and to start with you a new era in which we work with all the strength and capabilities we have, to achieve our noble aim of building a prosperous and stable state based on religion and morals. Its pillars are science and knowledge and the foundation of its governance is justice and the Constitution.
As the Qatari citizen and his welfare are the focus of our attention and keen concern, we concentrated on education which is the principal means to bring up the individual who takes pride in his values, his homeland, and the heritage of his forefathers; who is capable of dealing with the requirements of his era; who participates in the advancement of its sciences, and deals flexibly and efficiently with issues facing it.
Thanks be to God, we have taken significant steps in this respect. With God’s benevolence and your support and effort, we have also achieved a lot of what we aspired to in other fields, especially in the field of economic development which is the pillar of all progress and welfare.
The glory, prosperity, security, safety of our homeland as well as its present and future are the joint responsibility of all of us. This necessarily requires creating a favourable environment characterised by responsible freedom of expression and adoption of the principle of popular participation in the process of decision making.
Hence, years ago, we embarked upon taking the necessary steps to achieve that. The Ministry of Information was abolished, censorship on publications was lifted, a law on the election of the Central Municipal Council was enacted and the council members were elected through direct secret ballot.
In continuation of this approach, we issued a decision to set up a committee of qualified fellow citizens with sound opinion and experience to draft a permanent Constitution for the country.
As you know, the committee has crowned our legislative efforts to establish the state of law and institutions. After three years of continuous work and commendable effort, with the help and support of God, the committee has completed the drafting of a permanent constitution for the state of Qatar, which lays down the foundations of the society, regulates the affairs of the state, embodies popular participation, establishes democratic institutions, consolidates the sense of belonging to the homeland, and underlines duties and guarantees rights and freedoms.
‘Shura’ has always been one of the basic vital factors constituting the nature of Arab and Muslim society and the kind of political, social and cultural relations which characterised that society and contributed throughout the ages to consolidating its fabric.
In fact, Shura was known to, and practised by the Arabs in pre-Islamic times, as was the case with ‘‘Dar Al Nadwa’’ or the meeting place - Mecca, which was a venue for dialogue, consultation and deliberation between the tribes and influential people and men of thought and poetry. It was not confined to praise and defamation, but dealt with all aspects of life and living conditions of the Arab. If an issue got complicated, tribal chiefs would meet, hold consultations and settle it.
This historic tradition lived on after the Arabs were blessed with Islam, especially during the era of the Prophet Mohammad (God’s Blessings and Peace Be Upon Him), and during the reign of the wise caliphs. Islam has laid ‘Shura’ down as a mandatory principle of rule and an indispensable basic element of good governance in managing and running the affairs of the nation. In fact, it is one of the most important principles on which the political system is based.
Hence, the commitment to ‘Shura’ and the stress on its proper application as a basis of rule and a guarantee of the relations between the ruler and the society is in fact a confirmation of the commitment to the principles of good governance which Islam advocated and taught us. By means of these principles, responsible popular participation in the decision-making process and the running of communities becomes a tangible reality on the path to building the modern state on the basis of the rule of law and the Constitution, institutions, and political and social justice; a state capable of dealing and interacting effectively with the world we live in, politically, economically, culturally, scientifically and civilisationally.
There is no doubt that there is a critical and urgent need in our Arab and Muslim ummah (nation) to practice these principles. Had popular participation, constitutional institutions, democracy and the principles of social justice been prevalent, the condition of the ummah would not have arrived at where they are now. Our states and societies would have been able to practice their influence in the international community with credibility and effectiveness, emanating from the citizen’s pride in belonging to his homeland and his aspiration for a better future in the planning and forming of which he participates.
In compliance with the Almighty God’s saying: ‘‘Counsel with them in the matter’’ and ‘‘theirs is counselling amongst themselves’’, and out of our belief in the importance of your opinion, and in pursuit of a better present and future for our homeland and citizens, and the future generations, we have issued a decree inviting you to a referendum on the draft constitution.
I urge you to vote on it tomorrow as you wish. It is by you and for you. So have your say. We, on our part, are content that it is in the interest of the stability of the country and the benefit of the homeland and the citizens, God willing.
We pray to God to bestow success upon us and guide us all to what holds the glory, the good and loftiness of our country.
May the peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon you.
Source: The Peninsula