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A constitution typically reflects the peculiar identity of a given nation. Some countries make it obvious that they are secular states who are generally intolerant of religious or other prejudice. Others affirm their religious status while allowing ‘minor’ groups the freedom to practice their faith. Other religious states outrightly bar competing faiths. Each state has its own way of ensuring adherence to their respective solutions and this is where the oath of office comes in.

Most of this character and preferences can be adduced from the respective constitutions and the more specifically from the wording of the constitutional oaths. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia beholds their religious text, the Quran as their constitution. Article one of their law posits Islam as their official religion and the Quran as the constitution. There is no ambiguous wording around the foundation of law and the anchor of their belief.

The oath of office for the speaker reads in part that I swear to Allah Almighty to be loyal to my religion, then to my King and Country… to preserve its interests and laws, and to perform my duties with sincerity, integrity, loyalty and fairness”  (see Article 11).  The intention of the wording in the oath is the same for other rulers (emirs) in the kingdom. For instance, Article 6 partly reads “In the name of God Almighty, I swear… sincerity and fairness.”

The constant balance in the text of both these oaths is that the allegiance is to the deity first, Allah and then the religion and monarch in that order. The office holders understand allegiance is to their creator and the doctrine (religion) which is the foundation of the country and protector of the monarch. The sovereignty of the country is founded on the word of the deity as is believed.

The constitution of India follows a similar pattern in its wording of oaths, for instance Article 60 which administers the presidential oath reads    “I, A.B., do Swear in the name of God/Solemnly Affirm that I will faithfully execute the office of President …  and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of India.”  The text is the same for executive ministerial positions. Interestingly, the same constitution of India states that India is a secular socialist democratic republic, not at all religious in the same sense as Saudi Arabia, for example.

The multiple religious and spiritual groups in India are constitutionally guaranteed equality and non-discrimination. One has to admit that in a pious country like India, aligning the constitution to any single religion could have possibly been perceived as prejudice, almost automatically. What the law does instead is to permit the existence of the many religions on the security of constitutional protection.  

It is adventurous to compare any two countries especially when the social complexion and history is diverse. In any case, the comparison in the text between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and India end at the fact that they place the deity in the first line of their oaths. The psychology of office bearers, at best will be that god is supreme in their respective constitutions and service to the nation is essentially service to god (and/ or Allah for Saudi Arabia). The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a single religion state, an Islamic state without debate.

On the other hand, India is inclined to multiple religious groups, some major and others obscure. All agree to a deity, a god, and it became incumbent upon the constitution to create unifying text where the preservation of the country is supreme. In Zambia, the wording is such that allegiance of oath is to the constitution first ‘so help me God’. The caveat in this wording is that the constitution, in its preamble declares Zambia as a Christian nation, unambiguously.  

That declaration beholds the country to assume the identity of God in the Abrahamic sense, meaning that we acknowledge Christ as the living word, son of God and author of salvation. The declaration in its original text upholds the presidency, the executive and all arms of government – legislature and judiciary, and all country to an eternal contract with GOD. In its minimum, the constitution cites that the declaration shall not be prejudicial. In other words, God sets a standard for the nation to live by. When the oath declares allegiance to the constitution, the essential fact is that allegiance is made to ensure national duty reflects the identity of the deity, of God. This should be the promise. This is what the oath intends.


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