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 Are Islam and democracy compatible?

Are Islam and democracy compatible with each other? How is it possible that these two ideas can be one? Read the article to find out!

Are Islam and democracy compatible

Are Islam and democracy compatible? How can they survive under one roof? There is a case which is called Islamic Democracy. What does it mean? Is it provided that Islam and Democracy not compatible? Islamic democracy is defined as the ruling of Islamic principles under the democratic framework. Islamic democracy might provide three basic features, like:

  • Leaders of Islam must be elected by the people
  • They all should be subjected to Sharia
  • All subjects should practice “shura”. It can be named a special form of consultation that was practised long before by Prophet Muhammad.

There are only a few Islamic Democracies in the world that can show all three features: Afghanistan, Malaysia and Iran. Other developed Islam countries, like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar can be examples of countries that do not adhere all three principles of Islamic Democracy.  Nevertheless, even Islamic Democracies which adhere all three features can have problems with a question “Islam and democracy, are they compatible”. The expression of Islamic Democracy can vary from one country to another country as Sharia interpretation can also be different in some countries. Therefore, they have different problems with understanding the sharia interpretations.

READ ALSO: Does Islam believe in life after death?

 The first concepts of liberalism and the main idea that Islam and Democracy are compatible can be presented in the Islamic Medieval World. The very first Islamic State that provided some features of democracy is called The Rashidun Caliphate. From this period it can be seen that Islamic World could follow the basics of democracy in the medieval countries. It was quite possible that Muslims could choose their leaders and representatives to rule. Nevertheless, the democracy in the Islamic world came to the half with Sunni-Shia split. That was the beginning of the idea that Islam and democracy are not compatible in the one small world.

Sunni viewpoint on the democracy

Sunni viewpoint on the democracy

The Rashidun Caliphate and Caliphates were not democratic republics in the modern point of view. It was rather a decision-making power with trusted companions of Muhammad connected with representatives of different tribes. Most of these representatives were elected within tribes. In the modern sense of view in connection with the Islam and democracy are they compatible question it`s easy to compare that election with today`s elections of prime ministers in many countries. The early Islamic Caliphate had the Caliph as a head of the state. This position was a notion to Muhammad`s political authority successor. This successor was elected by the representatives of the people or by the people itself. Ali as Caliph, Uthman, Umar bin Alkhattab and Abu Bakr were chosen according to the elections. With the coming of the Golden Age for the Caliphates, the democratic mechanism of participation had much less influence. The leaders of the Caliphates just have a desire to speak with people about international affairs. It was necessary to have a voice of the people for any Caliph if he decides to work his affairs. Therefore, public consultations with people were necessary.

The legislative power of Caliph was limited by the scholarly class. These people were called Ulama; they were treated as guardians of the law. Therefore, the law might come only from the law scholars. It prevented Caliph from any dictation or interpretation from the side of the Caliph. All the laws were provided to have Ijma (consensus) and Ummah (community) factors. If a scholar had a desire to become a law scholar, he had to obtain the doctorate. Nevertheless, the very first classical Islamic law could function as a constitutional law. It might give you the answer to the question “Are Islam and democracy compatible?”.

 first classical Islamic law

The religious pluralism could also exist in the Classic law state. There were different religious in Islamic State, like Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism. They all were accommodated with Islamic legal framework. It was noticed in the Ottoman Millet system and the early Caliphate.

Nevertheless, Legal scholars of Islamic world can argue with the question “Islam and democracy are they compatible?”. One of the first viewpoints is presented by L. Ali Khan. He provided a severe critique of secularism and liberal democracy. He managed to present a fusion state, where religious factor and the state factor are fused.  There should be no contradictions with God`s rule. The contradictions can only occur in the human beings. They shouldn`t take action in the case which is only belonged to God. The Sunnah says that Muslims can perfectly feel self-rule and spirituality.

He even provided the information that the democratic system can be only occurred in some countries of West. It`s dictated by the cultural and social system types.

Still, these theories can find counter-arguments with Ahmad Moussalli. He provided the idea that the Quran can provide the path rather to democracy, than to despotism. It means that Islam and democracy can be perfectly compatible with each other. He provided some quotes from the Quran, where the Quran mentioned electing leaders and representatives from the people.

Ahmad Moussalli also provided the information that the Government is not necessarily incompatible with Islam. The religious authorities can be not the same people as the representatives of God. He also provided the ideas that Despotic Islamic Governments used the Quran as a justification for their regiments. Therefore, they managed to create despotic states with religious leaders who did not follow the ideas of the Quran. They do not follow the ideas of the majority of the society.

Debates also occur with the interpretations of Islamic traditions. These traditions can be treated as fixed principles. They have some resemblance with democratic changes in the society. There are many problems in the Quran for the interpretation of the changes in the state. Another quite sensitive issue might be connected with choosing the leaders and the place of the Monarch in the Islamic State. How should people react if the ideas of the monarch disagree with the ideas of imams? Which side should Muslims choose? Nevertheless, it can be treated as the answer to the question “are Islam and democracy compatible?”

Shia viewpoint

Shia viewpoint

Shia provides another information connected to the understanding of the deeds of Muhammad. The Prophet named his successors. It was his cousin and son-in-law Ali. Therefore, all three “Rightly Guided” Caliph are presented to be usurpers. Even so, they were elected, the election was not accepted by the Shia. The largest Shia group which is known was recognised as the Twelvers branch. They believe in Twelve Imams, the last of this Imam should be still alive and Shia is waiting for his reappearance.

Since the revolution in the largest Shia country – Iran – the ideas of the Twelvers has been dominated. The founder and the leader of the revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini presented his ideas to the absence of the Hidden Imam. Khomeini provided the idea that Muslims can not only right but also the obligation to create an Islamic State. Khomeini managed to divide Ahkam or Islamic commandments into the three branches:

  • The state commandments
  • The primary commandments
  • The secondary commandments

These commandments are related to the Congress, elections, taxation, labour law, bank, insurance, social security, constitutions and other parts of the community. Some of these codes can be provided not strictly from the Quran or the Sunnah, but they shouldn`t be in the conflict with one or two.

conflict with one or two

Later it was some need for more flexibility for the democracy. Khomeini managed to modify some earlier positions connected to Islam. He also performed the idea that Sharia rule could be only subordinated to Islam. The divine government is interpreted as the one ruling by the jurists. The Government is presented to be the absolute governance given by the Prophet of God. The Government is the primary ordinance of Islam where it`s presented over all others secondary ordinances.

The last point was made by the Khomeini in December 1987. He issued a fatwa as an act to support the Islamic Government attempt to pass the labour law protection bill. He provided the statement that the Islamic State has an absolute right to enact the state commandments. The Islamic state can take the precedence over all secondary ordinances. This includes prayer, fasting and pilgrimage. He also provided basic needs and laws for creating an Islamic State with parts of democracy. Nevertheless, if Iran can be named Islam Country, it`s hard to see why it should be called democratic country. Are Islam and Democracy compatible? There is still no clear answer.

Philosophy point to the question “Are Islam and Democracy compatible with each other?”

Philosophy point to the question “Are Islam and Democracy compatible with each other?”

Al-Farabi was one of the earliest Islamic State theorists who can provide his ideas for the ideal Islamic state. He used Plato`s The Republic to create his version for the Islamic Ideal Country. Nevertheless, there are some differences in the Ideal Country. Plato provided the idea that the country should be ruled by the Philosopher King, where Al-Farabi showed that the best ruler for the country is the Prophet. Al-Farabi also provided the information that the best city-state was Medina when it was controlled by Muhammad. The Prophet was in direct communication with God whose laws were provided to Muhammad. Al-Farabi provided his idea that in the absence of the prophet – the best ruling system for the country state is Democracy. He argued the idea that the Rashidun Caliphate Republican state was democracy needed for Muslims. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that this imperfect state emerged out of the Democracy rule. It means that the further usurpation of power and creating Monarch states were derived from the initial democracy state for the Islamic country.

One thousand years later, the modern philosopher of Islam, Muhammad Iqbal provided his thoughts about the early Islamic Caliphate could be perfectly compatible with democracy. He provided his point of view towards the creation of the elected legislative assemblies. By his words, it should have been the return of original Islam. Nevertheless, the rapid growth of the organised democratic society was stopped by the monarchist rule of Umayyad Caliphate. It provided Islam as a great Empire, but the ideals of Islam in democracy were replaced with ideals of monarchs. Muslins started losing the very essence of their democratic beliefs – their fate.

Another Muslim scholar

Another Muslim scholar viewed democracy as a perfect idea for the Islam. Muhammad Asad tried to answer the question: “Are Islam and democracy compatible?”. He provided some notes in his book” The Principles of State and Government in Islam”. He tried to elevate the concept of liberty that was natural for the Muslims at the early stage of Islam Country. He also recognised principles of freedom for all human beings as it helps them to develop the best qualities. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned that Muslims are in a direct subordinate state to God and The Prophet. The Quran should impose real power for the Islamic State as it goes from the will of God and people.

Abu A`la Maududi is an Islamist writer and politician provided his ideas for the Islamic Democracy. He also suggested that this type of the democracy might eventually rule the world. It can be provided as the antithesis to the Western model of Democracy. He also suggested that this type of democracy should be called “the democracy”. What is the difference between theocracy and theodemocracy. In theocracy everything goes from God will, while in theodemocracy is based entirely on the Muslim community which embraced thee laws of Sharia.

Why are Islam and democracy are not compatible?

Why are Islam and democracy are not compatible?

According to Brian Whitaker, Islam and Democracy can`t be compatible for four reasons:

  • The Imperial legacy rule over countries of Islam. It`s presented in the significant minorities within the state. The differences between minorities can be fairly suppressed in the fair of the unity of the nation. Nevertheless, their democracy and their choices dictated not by the democracy preferences, but by the idea of the nation, religion and ethnicity. Therefore, it creates not political countries within the country, but minorities that rule over the country.
  • Crude oil helps authoritarian regimes to control the country. People can`t get enough freedoms due to the minority of the politician elite that provides the required regiment for the country. Therefore, the democracy raises doubt as the crude oil prices can dictate the conditions to the overall population of the countries.
  • Arab-Israeli conflict – it has lasted for many years, and Arabs do not have any desire to give the land to Israel. Therefore, the conflict between Islam and Judaism in the Middle East will continue to disrupt the idea of an Islamic democracy. Moreover, there are no sights that the conflict will not be escalated.
  • The repression for the secularistic rule. It provided the next step for Islam countries which can be called the radical Islam. It`s a part of Islam that represents the only theocracy. It means no liberal ideas towards people. Moreover, the government should be elected by God or by the Prophet. Nevertheless, these people have a tendency to provide no mercy to the opposition. One of the most recent “countries” showed with ideas off radical Islam is called ISIS. They represent a major threat to the democracy efforts in the region. Unfortunately, they are not tolerating to another side of view connected to the definition of the Surah. Therefore, are Islam and Democracy compatible – there is no certain answer to this question.

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