ISLAM & DEMOCRACY

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In the name of Allāh,
the Beneficent, the Merciful.
Peace and Blessings of Allāh on Mohammad.
DEDICATED TO
Allāh–the Glorious and the High,
Lord of the worlds
AND TO
Mohammad–who brought the world
to our feet and eternity to our arms.
*

ISLAM & DEMOCRACY

There is no absolute freedom!

There is often the wild talk that Islam and democracy are not compatible.

In Islam there is only one law for the king and the commoner. The Prophet Mohammad did not choose a successor to himself.  After his death Abu Bakr was elected as Caliph. Abu Bakr, though he had sons capable of the position, selected ‘Umar to succeed him. But ‘Umar’s appointment was final only after consultation and confirmation with the other Companions. Muhammad Ali has noted that “legislation was not placed in the hands of the king. First of all the Qur’an, then the Prophet’s precept or practice, then the will of the people, such was the machinery that framed the law; and the law, not the king, was the supreme authority. In subordinating kingship to the law of the land and the law of the land to the will of the people, Abu Bakr laid the foundations of a truly democratic government as also of liberty and equality in the truest sense of these words.”

But, as Muhammad Ali adds:

“To the misfortune of the community of Islam, how-ever, this golden rule of government was abandoned after the reign of ‘Ali, the fourth Caliph.  Kingship again became private property, as also did the public treasury.  Democracy gave way to despotism, and thus began the disintegration and decay of the power of Islam.” (The Early Caliphate, p. 52)

The freedom and equality espoused by Islam is unrivalled in the annals of history, ancient and modern.  Muhammad Ali has pointed out in his The Early Caliphate:

“Bilal, ‘Ammar, and others who were, originally slaves but were among the first to embrace Islam, were shown preference over the great chiefs of the Quraish.…All distinctions of heredity were abolished and society was ordered on the Qur’anic principle: “The most honourable among you is the one who has the greatest regard for his duty.”

“The weak and disabled were granted allowances from the public treasury, and in this there was no discrimination between Muslim and non-Muslim. The system of old-age pensions now prevailing in many countries in Europe was first introduced by ‘Umar.  For wayfarers, large caravansarais were erected in all big centres. Children without guardians were brought up at the expense of the state.”

“There was no restriction whatever on freedom of opinion or on the expression of that opinion. Governors were made accessible to the public to the extent that they were forbidden to have guards at their doors lest there should be the least hitch for the aggrieved to approach the highest authority at any time…The position of the Caliph himself, in this wonderful democracy, was no higher than that of a commoner. He was considered the servant of the people, not the king, and as such he was open to criticism…This unrestricted freedom, in itself the highest virtue, served in the hands of mischief-mongers as the most deadly weapon to undermine the power of Islam.” (pp. 121, 122, 136, 137, 143).

Without doubt, “equality and freedom of opinion were the two most important rights that Islam conferred on every individual,” as noted by Muhammad Ali. (The Early Caliphate p. 143).

Islam is democracy, socialism, and dictatorship, all delicately balanced together. While Islam has forbidden usury, it does not prohibit the pursuit of wealth through lawful avenues, and encourages its use in charity. Islam is:

   –democracy:  in that it allows one freedom of religion–(Qur’an 2:256; 6:105-109; 9:107-108; 10:88-100; 18:29; 42:15; 50:45; 76:3; 109:1-6); freedom of movement, thought, and expression [though freedom of expression even in modern advanced societies would seem to have its limit when it advocates anarchy, and when it proves slanderous]–(4:140; 6:68, 108; 29:52); the pursuit of knowledge, and the acquisition of wealth and property–(2:274-275, 276-282; 35:12; 53:48; 62:10); to choose only those worthy of power and to exercise justice–(4:58); to govern by consultation/counsel.–(3:158; 4:58; 42:38.  (Here’s democracy for you; and 1400 years ago, while Europe was yet running around with flint tools and torches) Muhammad Ali notes to 42:38: “In this, Islam has laid the basis of Government by parliaments, and the idea found a clear practical expression in the early days of the Caliphate, when the Khalifah had to refer every important affair to counsel. It is strange indeed that Government by parliament is now looked upon by Europeans as an institution which is quite foreign to Islam and unsuited for the Muslim people” This must be “Europeans” arrogance or ignorance of Islam; or both).

 (It is to be noted that Islamic democracy is unlike the fallible secular democracy. In secular democracy there are opposition parties, the laws are man-made; and laws usually are determined by the will of the majority –e.g. capital punishment; abortion.  In Islam, since the laws are infallible Divine injunctions, and are not based on the will of the majority, there is no need for an opposition. In the cases where secondary laws are required, owing to the progress of society, the legislation of such laws are not governed by the dictates of the majority, but are based on the principles of the Qur’an, and are formulated through consultation. Thus under Islamic democracy there is no marginalization of any sector of society: one cannot prove his judgment/belief superior to the teaching of the Qur’an).

   –socialism: in that it is the duty of the State to utilize its income from the people (their Zakat/compulsory charity)–(Qur’an 9:60) to generate wealth for the welfare of its population and to care for the poor as well as the orphans.

   –dictatorship: whereas in secular dictatorship all power is held by a single person or a small party. In Islam, leadership is chosen by the people and the people are governed, not by the dictates of the leadership, but by the Qur’an and Sunnah. Islam is dictatorship in that the Leader (Caliph) rules for life, so long as he does so within the framework of Islam. No one (except crooks, maybe) would want to replace a just ruler.

As Shari’ah is based on the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah –sayings and actions of the Prophet Mohammad– and as the Sunnah is based on the teachings of the Qur’an, and as there is no discrimination in the Qur’an whatever in Shari’ah that is the opinion of the Jurist(s) that discriminates is to be removed.

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