بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والصلاة والسلام على نبيه الكريم
وعلى آله واصحابه اجمعين
Previously, I discussed one troubling aspect of modern democracy, namely, the system of elections and campaigns for the vote. These days it is quite tragic to observe several so-called Islamic preachers, especially those who attach themselves to the orthodox, Sunni stream, defending the system of modern democracy with all its intrinsic features such as regular, periodic elections, the multiplicity of political parties and their campaigning for the vote of the public. According to this catastrophic narrative, Islam itself advocates a democratic form of government. But I intend to wryly challenge this narrative by pointing out that there is no precedent for some of the fundamental components of modern democracy in the way in which the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) and his rightly-guided successors governed. Of course, here the example of the rightly-guided successors is more relevant, since the example of the Prophet’s government can be said to be in a singular, special category of itself, especially in light of our doctrine of khatm an-Nubuwwa, the finality of prophethood. From the orthodox, Sunni perspective, the Prophet’s successors succeeded him in the administrative sense, otherwise they were not prophets themselves and consequently could never wield prophetic, divine authority. This of course is in stark contrast to the doctrine of the Imamiyya Shi’a, who consider their twelve Imams after the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) as not only infallible, divinely-appointed authorities like the Prophet, but in fact superior to all the other prophets before him, including great prophets like Abraham, Moses and Jesus. For this reason, the orthodox Sunni community has historically and presently been more susceptible to the fitna of modern democracy. From this orthodox, mainstream and Sunni perspective, it is generally agreed that Islam does not prescribe any particular form of government, though it does lay down some essential guidelines and rules. The governance of the Prophet himself and his immediate successors (Abi Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali radi Allahu anhum) is considered the ideal or perfect example of government. As already mentioned, the Prophet’s (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) governance has to be put in a special category precisely because of him being a prophet. Still, it is somewhat of an unresolved matter on separating the different capacities and roles of the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam). His role of administrative leader in Medina can be said to be separate, at least to some extent, from his primary role of Prophet. Without going too deep into this controversy here, the point I would like to make is that whether or not the Prophet’s role of administrative leader in Medina was divinely-guided and part and parcel of his prophetic office, it is nevertheless held as an ideal in terms of its justice and compliance with the teachings and principles of Islam. Only a heretic could say that the Prophet’s (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) example of governance in Medina is not ideal and should not be considered a model for Muslims today, or that there are other examples of governance, especially from the disbelieving nations of Europe and America, which are superior. This modernist heresy has been co-opted by the so-called “Islamic democrats”, who have put forward a false narrative to deceive the people that the government of the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) and his immediate successors (radi Allahu anhum) was fundamentally democratic in the sense that term is understood in the modern political language. These “Islamic democrats” often cite the Ayah in which Allah describes the praiseworthy:
وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَىٰ بَيْنَهُمْ
their affairs are conducted among them by consultation
The “Islamic democrats”, either out of ignorance or disingenuously claim that Islam’s praise of a consultative form of government is synonymous with modern democracy with its inherent notion of universal suffrage, regular elections after every four or five years, and party factionalism. There is indeed a fine line which delineates consultation from majoritarian democracy. The word shura literally means: “consultation; consulting; advising” (Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage p.502). The verb consult in no ways means that the one who is consulting is obliged to act upon the counsel or advice of the one with whom he consulted, in stark contrast to democracy.
Now from the Islamic perspective, the fundamental problem with democracy is definitive declaration that ultimate sovereignty rests with the people themselves. According to the principle of democracy, a state or government derives its legitimacy from the people themselves. There are no permanent values or articles of any democratic state, including those enshrined in its constitution, which cannot be amended if the majority of the people who constitute the citizenry of a state favor it. In a modern democracy, the people don’t merely vote in to power the executive, but more problematically, they vote to power “legislators” to a body such as a parliament whose function is to legislate. The doctrine of Islam is that Allah Most High is ar-Rabb (the Sovereign; the Lord) al-Malik (the Master) and al-Hakam (the Ruler). Legislation for humankind is the sole prerogative of Allah Most High, Who makes His will manifest with regard to legislation through the medium of angels, prophets and divine revelation. To legislate any law or regulation that contravenes or is not compliant with the divinely-revealed Shari’a, and to consider that legislation as superior or above the law of the Shari’a, is not only an act of kufr, it is also a kind of shirk (idolatry).
Some of the so-called “Islamic democrats” have understood and even acknowledged this fundamental incompatibility of Islam with modern democracy, so they have attempted to tailor a variant of modern democracy that is more suitable for Muslim countries and compliant with the Islamic concept of hakamiyya. Mawdudi and his Jama’ati Islami in Pakistan proclaimed that the constitution ratified for that state in 1973 (ironically during the populist and leftist government of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto), was a purely Islamic constitution, compliant with the doctrine of hakamiyya, because in its very preamble is stated: “Whereas sovereignty over the entire Universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone, and the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust”. Another so-called “Islamic republic”, namely, Iran, also has in its constitution a similar statement: “one God (“There is no god but God”), the exclusive attribution of sovereignty and the legislation of law to Him, and the necessity of surrender to His commands.” In the case of Pakistan, while the preamble of its constitution does declare the universal sovereignty and ultimate authority of Allah Most High, the reality is that this statement is restricted to being only theoretical, because the rest of the constitution and the legal system of Pakistan, based on English common law, enshrines other principles which manifestly contradict the preamble. Furthermore, the Pakistani constitution enshrines other provisions for defining and interpreting the divine laws prescribed by Allah which are opposed to the pure and fundamentalist Islamic methodology, thereby rendering that preamble meaningless on this count as well. Practically speaking, it is observed that in Pakistan none of the statutory hudud laws legislated by Allah are enforced, such as the stoning of adulterers or the cutting of hands of thieves or even the flogging of drunkards. The usury-based banking system is allowed to operate brazenly and with impunity in the so-called “Islamic Republic”, despite the divine proclamation to those of the believing community who refuse to give up what remains of the system of usury:
فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُوا فَأْذَنُوا بِحَرْبٍ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ
And if you do not, then be informed of a war from Allah and His Apostle
The sure way of ascertaining the sincerity of faith of anyone who claims to be a believing Muslim is not to be distracted by his long prayers and so-called “personal piety”, but to observe his financial dealings. How many so-called “Muslim bankers” are to be observed offering impressive personal devotions to God while simultaneously eating the forbidden wealth of the exploited through the satanic system of interest-based commercial banking. The Pakistani state has no right to define itself as “Islamic” in anyway whatsoever so long as it tolerates something which is so offensive to Allah Most High and His beloved Prophet that He has declared nothing short of war against those who continue to indulge in it. The reader should pay due attention to this point, because the sin of interest-based transactions and financial dealings is much more severe than adultery or intoxication. In the Hadith literature, we come across such severe statements from the Prophet of Islam (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) in condemnation of riba, for example:
دِرْهَمٌ رِبًا يَأْكُلُهُ الرَّجُلُ وَهُوَ يَعْلَمُ , أَشَدُّ مِنْ سِتَّةٍ وَثَلَاثِينَ زَنْيَةً
“A dirham which a man consumes as riba knowingly is worse before Allah than thirty-six acts of adultery”
الرِّبَا اثْنَانِ وَسَبْعُونَ بَابًا ، أَدْنَاهَا مِثْلُ إِتْيَانِ الرَّجُلِ أُمَّهُ
“There are seventy-two types of riba, the least of which is like a man committing incest with his mother”
(Mu’jam al-Awsat lil-Tabarani)
Returning to the subject of democracy, it is quite apparent that this system, in its modern manifestation, was introduced into the Muslim world through European colonialism. Otherwise, it has no precedent in Islamic history, and as I have argued, certainly not from the khilafat al-rashida or the rightly-guided succession to the Prophet, the ideal period of thirty years. “Islamic democrats” may argue that during that period, the Prophet’s successors, especially sayyidina Abi Bakr al-Siddiq (radi Allahu anhu), were “democratically elected”. It is certainly true that sayyidina Abi Bakr was elected to the office of khalifa, but election, especially for our purpose, is not synonymous with democracy. Furthermore, the election of Abi Bakr al-Siddiq was not through universal suffrage. The senior elders of the community from among the Muhajirin and Ansar had gathered at the Saqifa of Bani Sa’ida, where after a brief debate and discussion, almost unanimously pledged their allegiance, one by one, to Abi Bakr (radi Allahu anhum). The rest of the senior and prominent men of the community, from among the Sahaba, who were not present at the Saqifa, gave their oath of allegiance to sayyidina Abi Bakr subsequently. But this was hardly a democratic exercise, as evident by the immediate and numerous revolts of the various Bedouin tribes outside of the Hijaz, leading to the Hurub al-Ridda (“apostasy wars”). Those tribes revolted on the basis that they refused to recognize the khilafa of sayyidina Abi Bakr. Nor did the Sahaba feel it necessary to take into consideration the view of those tribes, let alone each and every individual man, woman and child of Arabia. Rather, the rebels, apostates and false prophets were put down by force and the authority of the institution of Khilafa established in Arabia through the divine help of Allah Most High and by means of the sword. The concept of universal suffrage, so fundamental to modern democracy, is altogether alien to Islam and even opposed to Islamic principles and teachings. According to the principle of universal suffrage, even people of other religions are entitled to vote and participate in the decision making process of the government, and even the so-called “Islamic democrats” cannot be so blind as to not see that there is no precedent for that in the khilafat al-rashida.
Finally, I would like to discuss the reality of regular elections from an Islamic perspective. It should be noted that while the Prophet’s successors were elected through a process of consultation among the senior members of the community, they were elected for life. When a group of disgruntled rebels rose up against the Prophet’s third successor, sayyidina Uthman (radi Allahu anhu) demanding that he resign from the office of khalifa the response was given from a Hadith of the Prophet, in which the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) told him:
يَا عُثْمَانُ إِنَّهُ لَعَلَّ اللَّهَ يُقَمِّصُكَ قَمِيصًا , فَإِنْ أَرَادُوكَ عَلَى خَلْعِهِ فَلَا تَخْلَعْهُ لَهُمْ
“O Uthman! Indeed, Allah may give you a gown, so if they wish you take it off do not take it off for them.”
The Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) was of course referring to the qamis or gown of khilafa, which once worn cannot be taken off for life. And indeed, sayyidina Uthman embraced martyrdom at the hands of those rebels rather than give in to their demands and threats for him to resign from his sacred office.