Democracy is not opposed to Islam: Refuting the Radical Islamist View

Maulana Ghulam Ghaus
According to radical Islamists, democracy is antithetical to Islam. But on a keen study of Islamic principles of governance and the principles of democracy as we find today are very much identical in essence.

True Democracy in its targeted goal is compatible with the rights already prescribed in Islamic laws 1400 years ago. Therefore, democracy has attracted common masses even in the Arab countries. In their view, it is synonymous with freedom. Islam has allocated the basic human rights including freedom of expression, equality, justice, integrity and mutual consultation etc. In other words, these Islamic principles assumed the term of democracy in the nation states today.

The principles of democracy are reflected in the Islamic concepts. Islam is more inclusive than even
democracy in the distribution of rights and privileges, regardless of religion, caste, race, culture,
economic status etc. Since human being has been endowed with intellectual capacity, therefore he
gets deep insight into good and evil and therefore has gradually developed the democratic.
Many political scientists and philosophers including John Austin and Rousseau favoured Islamic concepts of Shura’a (mutual consultation). They defined democracy just for the welfare of the society. Their democratic concepts, though are not the same, but more or less reflect the Quranic message.

Muslim scholars have considered the concept of Shura (mutual consultation) much identical to the principles of western parliamentary democracy. According to them, Islamic Shura is based on three precepts. First, all individuals dwelling in a society deserve equal human and civil rights. Second, the public issues are best judged by majority. Thirdly, the values like justice, equality and human dignity, which represent Islam’s moral core are best actualized, in personal as well as in public life, under Shura governance.

The Quranic verses support some form of democracy, or at least disapprove of despotism. These
precepts include Shura (mutual consultation), Ijma (consensus), Al-Hurriyya (freedom) and Al-
Huquooq Al-Shar’yya (legitimate rights). Shura includes electing leaders to represent and govern
on behalf of the community (Aal `Imran 3:159, Ash-Shura 42:38). Therefore, democracy (a
government by the people) is not incompatible with Islam, while it has also been argued that rule by
a religious authority is not the same as rule by a representative of Allah Almighty. However, this viewpoint is disputed by more traditional Muslims.

Ahamad Moussalli, the professor of political science at American University of Beirut, argues that
despotic Islamic governments have run against the Qur’anic concepts for their own political and personal ends: "For instance, Shura, a doctrine that demands the participation of society in dealing with the affairs of its government, became in reality a doctrine that was manipulated by political and religious elites to secure their economic, social and political interests at the expense of other segments of society.

Shura is necessity of human at all levels; social, economic, political and individual relations. The prophet Muhammad pbuh said “when anyone consults his brother he must do that”.

Shura in the political system of Islam is one of the laws of governance in Islam. Allah says: "(Believers are those) who run their affairs by consultation among themselves." (42:38) also "And let there among you be a group of people who invite to all that is good, who enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong." (3:104) The political system in Islam is a Shura system that rejects all forms of autocratic rule and all chaotic, demagoguery and political systems. To explain it further, it may be said that all rulings pertaining to the individual and collective life of Muslims are divided into two categories: the primary and the secondary rulings.

The primary rulings comprise of all Islamic duties and obligations inferred by fully qualified jurists from the four sources; the holy Qur’an, the Sunnah, the Consensus (Ijtihad), and Reason (Qayas. These fixed rulings are not put forward for consultation, for example rulings related to the acts of worship (like ritual prayer, fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca) and rulings regarding the commercial dealings, punishments (Hudud), compensation (Diyah, blood money or indemnity for bodily injury), and besides, others pertain to the process of trial, testimony and litigation etc..

Like men, women are also endowed with these rights and can participate in consultation. Islam has
distributed practical characteristics for both males and females. Islam grants them uncountable rights of political participation in the political spheres in terms of opinion. The holy verse describes it وأمرهم شورى بينهم) it is neither confined to men without women. Hadrat umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “Islam has given equal rights to both women and men in order to get education, culture.”

The most common difference between democracy and Islam is that of legislation. In democracy elected legislature makes laws from time to time, whereas in Islam the source of legislation is the holy Quran and the Hadith. All the laws in Islam are miraculously fit for all ages and eras. Since there is flexibility in Islam, therefore, laws if needed in modern times are also formulated through Consensus (Ijmae-Al- Ummat) and reason (Qayas). The sovereignty of God is the foundation of the system. Legislation contained in the Qur’an becomes the basic law of the state. See the verses of the holy Quran in Ahzab 33:36, Maidah 5:48, and Nisa 4:65.

The right to choose a ruler is entrusted to the nation through the people of the solution and contract.
Governance in Islam is a contract by mutual consent between the citizens and the ruler. That ruler must be bound to adopt well-derived Islamic laws and should be well aware of legitimacy and illegitimacy (Halal and Haram) of actions. With sincerity, he must engage with Islamic laws through the standpoint of a class of people and nations having intelligence and experience. This class represents the nation in all its sectors and takes care of the ruler in order to settle his steps and help him make important decisions and trends. Consequently, it is obligatory for the people to obey the ruler. The ruler, however, must not be obeyed if he breaks the rules. Quran says: "O, you who believe! Obey God and obey the Messenger and those from among you who are incharge of your affairs; and if you differ over any matter, refer it to God and the Messenger, if you do believe in God and the last day." (4:59).

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