TheReligionofPeace.com
Guide to Understanding Islam

 

 

What does the
Religion of Peace
Teach About...

Democracy

 
 

Question
:

Is Islam compatible with democracy?


Summary Answer
:

Islamic law is absolutely incompatible with democracy.  It is a theocratic system with Allah alone at its head.  Allah's law is interpreted by a ruling body of clerics.  There is no room for a secular political system in which all people are treated as equals.


The Qur'an:

Qur'an (33:36) - "It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision."

Qur'an (45:21) - "What! Do those who seek after evil ways think that We shall hold them equal with those who believe and do righteous deeds,- that equal will be their life and their death? Ill is the judgment that they make."  Unbelievers are not equal to Muslims.  This is dutifully reflected in Islamic law.

Qur'an (5:44) - "Whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed is among the disbelievers" This is one reason why terrorists openly fight for an Islamic state against democracy and secularism.

Qur'an (39:9) - "Are those who know equal to those who know not?" 

Qur'an (4:141) - "...And never will Allah grant to the unbelievers a way (to triumphs) over the believers."  This is at odds with democracy, which allows anyone to serve in a position of power over others regardless of religious belief.

Qur'an (63:8) - "...might (power) belongeth to Allah and to His messenger and to the believers;"  ie. not to anyone else.

Qur'an (5:49) - "So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires, but beware of them lest they seduce thee from some part of that which Allah hath revealed unto thee"  Allah's Qur'an takes priority over the desires of the people.  A democratic nation is by nature one that is not governed by Islamic law, meaning that a Muslim citizen would have divided loyalty.  It's clear from this verse which side he must choose.

Qur'an (4:123) - "Not your desires, nor those of the People of the Book (can prevail): whoever works evil, will be requited accordingly. Nor will he find, besides Allah, any protector or helper." 

Qur'an (4:59) - "O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority from among you..."  Obedience is strictly limited to a government drawn from believers, not from the broader community.  This verse has also been used to justify submission to autocratic rule, however oppressive it may by.  As an Arab tradition put is: "tyranny is better than anarchy."

Qur'an (9:3) - "...Allah and his messenger are free from obligation to the unbelievers..."  Muhammad used this "revelation" to dissolve a standing treaty and chase non-Muslims from their homes if they wouldn't accept Islam.  This practice would be incompatible with democratic rule, in which everyone is considered equal.

 


From the Hadith:

 

Muslim (19:4294) - "When you meet your enemies who are polytheists [Christians...], invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them ... If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them"  Non-Muslims are intended to be subordinate to Muslims.

 

Bukhari (88:219) - "Never will succeed such a nation as makes a woman their ruler."

 

Bukhari (89:251) - Allah's Apostle said, "Whoever obeys me, obeys Allah, and whoever disobeys me, disobeys Allah, and whoever obeys the ruler I appoint, obeys me, and whoever disobeys him, disobeys me."  The ruler referred to here is the Caliph, who is appointed by Allah, not by popular election.  Democratic rule has no legitimacy against the will of the Caliph who, as we see by chain of reference, has the authority of Allah.

 


Additional Notes:

To quote the 20th century cleric, Sayyid Qutb, "It is Allah and not man who rules.  Allah is the source of all authority, including legitimate political authority.  Virtue, not freedom, is the highest value.  Therefore, Allah's law, not man's, should govern the society."

Islamic law is based on the Qur'an and the Sunnah, which are set and fixed.  There is no need for addition or correction.  Neither is there any room for the law of fallible man (particularly non-Muslims).  Nor should it take the place of Allah's perfect law, which tells a man everything he needs to know about daily life (down to which hand he should "hold it in" while urinating).

If Allah is not the authority then anything less is a secular dictatorship, including rule by the Muslim people.  As an American-Muslim jurist complained in a recent fatwa, "democracy gives free reign to the authority of the Ummah, and puts no ceiling on it."

Also, the law of one person, one vote is essential to democracy, but heretical to Islam.  According to the Qur'an, the testimony of a woman is worth only half that of a man, and Jews and Christians are never to have equal standing with Muslims under the law (and certainly never in a position of authority over Muslims).  Atheists are to be killed outright.

Reform-minded Muslims prefer to ignore all of this and instead point to Qur'an (42:38), where the phrase "[Muslims] who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation" is used as evidence that Islam is compatible with democracy.  Also recruited to this end is an oft-repeated hadith that has Muhammad saying, "My community will never agree on an error."  On this is based the much ballyhooed concept of "ijma" or consensus among Muslims for determining matters of Islamic law.

But ijma, has always been controversial and rarely practiced within Islam.  Some interpret it to mean "consensus of the scholars" - having nothing to do with the opinion of the community at large.  Even when its legitimacy is recognized, ijma is accepted only as a secondary (or tertiary) form of authority, behind the fiqh councils.  Also, it bears pointing out that ijma and consultation are applicable only within the Muslim community (and probably limited to the "consensus" of males).

American scholar Jamal Badawi says that it is the duty of Muslims to bring about Islamic rule: "The Qur’an is full of direct and indirect, implicit and many times explicit indications that show that the establishment of the Islamic order is a requirement on Muslims whenever possible."  He also scoffs at secularism: “If a Muslim believes that there is any human being who has the right to make laws other than Allah then obviously this is total divergence from the path of Islam. Or any person who believes that secularism is superior to the law of Allah, he's violating the basic Quranic tenets" 

Muhammad ruled on Allah's authority and did not submit his decisions to the will of the people.  Neither is there any tradition of democracy in the 1400 year history of Islam in the Middle East and Persia.  If the entire world became Muslim overnight, it is highly doubtful that democracy would last, since it would be applicable only to the most mundane of matters not already decided by Islamic law.

As another cleric, Sufi Muhammad, recently put it, "True Islam permits neither elections, nor democracy."

See also Can a Muslim be loyal to a non-Muslim government?

 

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