There is great discussion over the compatibility of Islam and democracy.
In order to evaluate this association it is vital that an in depth examination of the aspects that abide by and contradict this notion of compatibility in terms of the Islam message, law, and the way in which these aspects utilized in modern Islamic.CompatibilityThroughout the Islamic messages and laws, the main principles of democracy are evident. For this reason many scholars strongly believe that there is a direct coalition between Islam and democracy. This is evident when examining the concepts of social rights and equality, economics, divine sovereignty and shura law.Social Rights and ObligationsCaliphate, as it is often referred to, is essentially the principle of Islamic financial theory, which explains a living wage must be distributed to every citizen without discrimination of race, religion, caste of creed (Khatab and Bouma 2007). In addition, Islam explains that there is to be no exploiting, no exploited class or slums and millionaires.
Inheritance and the operation of the taxation system, due to the property laws in conjunction with prohibition of bank interests and division of wealth, led to the establishment of a more rational system. The teaching of wealth management in Islam is based on humanitarian ethics as the Qur'an explains that the road to salvation is not achieved through the accumulation of wealth (Khatab and Bouma 2007). If indeed wealth was to flow into the hands of a few, then social dislocation would occur. Therefore in order to avoid discrimination of wealth and property, it has been prohibited to accumulate wealth (Khatab and Bouma 2007). This is put into sharp focus after examining the Qur'an which states, "Woe to those who amass riches and sedulously hoard them, thinking that their wealth will render them immortal..
..they shall be flung to the destroying flame....
it will close upon them from every side, in towering columns" (Qur'an 104:2-9) These notions are egalitarian and demonstrate a meshing between Islam and democracyThe law of zakat (tax) is a practical measure aimed at sharing the wealth within society and eliminating social classes and tensions. Under the law, every person is obligated to give up 2.5% of their income to benefit the poor (Khatab and Bouma 2007). According to the Qur'an the payment of zakat is not designed to reduce the wealth of individuals, but to attract the blessing of God and ultimately increase wealth. This is expressed in the following quote from the Islamic doctrine, "Of their wealth take alms, that so thou mightest purify and sanctify them " (Qur'an 9:103). The sharing of wealth, which in other religious is a moral obligation becomes in Islam a definite law.
The zakat can therefore be seen as a method of raising equality through the fair distribution of wealth.Islamic Law presents a high sense of social responsibility, which advocates a close relationship with one's neighbors (Khatab and Bouma 2007). The notion of assisting family, kindred and neighbours is in order to participate in the welfare of those around. This is further examined by al-Ghazali in his Ilhya 'Ulum al Din' which was quoted from a tradition transmitted by Abduallah ibn 'Amr ibn al- as the Prophet Muhammed once said to his companions, "Do you know what the right due to a neighbour is? You should extent to him your assistance if he seeks your help and your support whenever he needs it...
. (Khatab and Bouma 2007)."The Qur'an considers woman as an independent entity and fully responsible for themselves (Cifti 2010). Islam conveys that men and woman should gain adequate knowledge and education use it suitably to aid fellow human beings.
A prime example of this equality is when Hafsa, the Prophet's wife, taught her illiterate husband how to read and write (Cifti 2010). In addition, Muhammed has always had females around him to assist him in spreading his teachings. The first believer of his message was his wife Khadija and after his death, the Prophet's second wife Aisha was a major spreader of his message (Cifti 2010). Islam states that woman's consent for marriage is essential (Cifti 2010).
In addition, women have the ability to maintain their maiden anme and essentially preserve themselves as a separate financial entity. If the marriage was to fail, women have the right to divorce their husband if she stipulates that right within the marriage contract (Cifti 2010). The Qur'an continuously advocates that men have a responsibility to be kind to women. This is partly down to Islam holding mothers in the highest regard. Therefore the doctrine often remind men that if they were to take advantage of the physical weaknesses of woman then they would be forced to answer to the wrath of God.
Respect for woman is an act that is considered as mandatory in order to be considered a democracy.EconomicsIslam states that property belongs to God with the holders considered to be trustees. Therefore, the owner must endeavor to utilize the land in a selfless manner. While legal ownership of land is protected by law, owner's have a greater social orientation (Khatab and Bouma 2007).
The point of land ownership is to have any value without the right of unregulated control and benefit (Khatab and Bouma 2007). The right control is heavily based on proper judgment, appropriate running and satisfactory management of wealth and property. The Qur'an states, "But do not give to fools their property that God has assigned to you manage; provide for them and cloth them of it" (Qur'an 4:5) This statement suggests that if a landowner was to utilize their land improperly, then they may indeed lose their right to retain the property. It seems as though Islam has a strong focus on a suitable economic and environmental management. This is particularly evident in the quote from the Qur'an, "Do you not see that God has subjected to your use all things in the heavens and on earth and has made His flow to you in exceeding measure, both seen and unseen?" (Qur'an 31:20)Divine SovereigntyThe concept of divine sovereignty is considered to be the somewhat of a paradoxical equal with the more favored popular sovereignty. There are two major reasons why divine sovereignty is compatible with democracy.
Firstly, the word of God cannot be altered and secondly the role of government remains valid (Perry 2003). The Islamic concept of God, who enacted the role of creator and ruler, and lawmaker, has allowed people living after the revelation to govern themselves under the law. Islam essentially forbids anyone to present them self as a new messenger of God (Perry 2003). This therefore disallows individuals from arbitrarily discarding existing laws for self gain. Sayyid Abul A'la Maududi discusses the human legislation in an Islamic state as governing bodies would hold an important role in interpreting, drawing analogies, and inferring other rules from the Shari'ah, along with dealing with issues within the Shari'ah which the supreme law giver has left for individuals to judge and make a decision upon (Perry 2003).Maududi's concept of 'theo-democracy' is basically a governing system which, "the Muslims have been given a limited popular sovereignty under the suzerainty of God" (Perry 2003).
However this does not provide the ability to enact any law, which is a heavy part of popular sovereignty. In addition Maududi argues over the existence of limited popular sovereignty (Perry 2003). While this is quite questionable, he continues on to specify that in Islam the correct term is khilafah (vicegerency), with "every believer [being] a Caliph of God in his individual capacity" (Perry 2003). Thus it is governed by the people however, "within the limits prescribed by the Divine Code.
" In addition there are many decisions that exceed the scope of Islam, which includes such matters as diplomatic ties and economic issues. Therefore it makes a democratic government extremely pertinent (Perry 2003).ShuraThe Islamic doctrine, The Qur'an, fails to mention the direct equivalent of democracy. Having said that, Muhammed Faour explains that the Qur'an discusses the concept of shura, or a mutual consultation, which all Muslim Scholars advocate as a principle despite deep disagreement over its meaning and methods of interpretation (Faour 1992). Faour highlights a particular verse within the Qur'an where the Lord command the Prophet Muhammed to pardon advisors and consult again advisors whose previous advice had led to defeat in battle.
This particular verse demonstrates a high degree of consultation rather than obligating Muhammed to accept it (Faour 1992). Once the Prophet has made his decision, he can place his trust within God and implement his verdict. Another verse which Faour sites as strong evidence of the compatibility between the religion and democracy depicts the characteristics of a good Muslim (Faour 1992). In essence the doctrine states that good believers solve their issues through mutual consultation (Faour 1992).
Faour states that it, "can be interpreted to justify the election of a representative body, as in the case of western democracies....
..but it is also consistent with the traditional tribal practices of consultation among heads of clans" (Faour 1992). The broad meaning of shura and range of opinions over the values and political issues in relation to democracy, it is obvious that a variety of deductions can be reached on the topic of the compatibility of Islamic theories (Faour 1992).
This is emphasized in Faour's assertion that there are, "many fatwas (judgmental opinions) which exist hat allow a wide range of political system to invoke Islam in legitimation of their authority." The Prophet Muhammed often discuss the process of consultation beginning at the family level and continuing to the uppermost level of national and international issues. In issues where Allah has not disclosed directives, then the Prophet had the compulsion to consult which is clearly stated within the Qur'an, "..
.(O Muhammad)...consult with them (followers) upon the conduct of affairs.
.. "(Qur'an 3:159)IncompatibilityThe incompatibility of Islam and democracy is primarily centered on the practicality nature of the religion with this egalitarian system. This is apparent once a closer evaluation is made of the shura law, freedom of speech, the Shari'a law and issues of divine sovereignty.
ShuraA major disparity is evident between shura and democracy which somewhat inhibits coexistence of democracy and Islam. The shura law only comes into prominence within the Islamic world once issues are not resolved within the Qur'an and the Sunnah (Shavit 2010). This is highlighted from the following quote from the Qur'an, "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: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path" (Qur'an 33:36). For example, even though Islam contains a process of consultation, the religion is unable to legalize homosexuality. Therefore shura doesn't provide basic democratic rights such as freedom of speech.Freedom of Speech and EqualityThe concept of freedom of speech and equality is put into sharp focus after examining the death of Salman Rushdie (Plattner and Brumberg 2003).
The novelist was sentenced to death by the Islamist Iranian regime for his damming comments against Islam in 1989 (Plattner and Brumberg 2003). While freedom of speech is permitted, it only extends as far as the Islamic law (Plattner and Brumberg 2003). Therefore comments that are aimed at Islam are forbidden, which is in drastic contrast to democracy. In addition, Mayer disputes that a number of governments in the Middle East utilize Islamic law as a reason for not acceding to international human rights norms (Plattner and Brumberg 2003). This is often the case even if it causes the government to override or violate the norms of Islamic law.
The Shari'a LawThe Shari'a law (the path to the watering hole), a code for living, has the ability to be distorted due to its malleable nature (Plattner and Brumberg 2003). Ann Mayer explains that a number of Islamic fundamentalists have molded the messages within the Shari'a law in order to reorganize society, "because of its divine origins, it can serve as a panacea for political, economic and social ills (Mayer 1992)." It is evident that shari'a has now become simplified and politicized. The religion's elaborate jurisprudence along with its complex rules have been viciously undercut by fundamentalists for self gain. Mayer continues to write, "In many areas, what reinstating the shari'a might involve in practice is often left vagie by the proponents of Islamisation when they are seeking popular support. This vagueness is also politically useful, sine it allows Muslims who favor Islamisation in the abstract to read into shari'a the content they would like them to have.
.Governments that adopt programs of Islamisation naturally propose ideological formulations that serve to consolidate their power while opposition groups appeal to ideological conceptions of Islamic requirements that justify campaigns to unseat those in power (Mayer 1992).SovereigntyAbul Ala Maududi, an Islamic scholar, argues that the Western notion of democracy based on popular sovereignty is at polar opposites from Islam (Maududi 1976). Islamist such as Yusif al-Qaradawi suggest that democracy and popular sovereignty is a secondary concept to the message of God (Abdo 2000). Democratic elections are often impossible to conduct and religious law debases the development of legislature bodies (Khan 2001). In addition a fundamental issue with divine sovereignty is that it does not permit changes to legislature, or Islamic law, as the Qur'an states that no man is permitted to spread the message of God (Khan 2001).
ConclusionA compelling argument is clear for both believers of the compatibility and incompatibility of Islam and democracy. On one hand followers of their union site particular statements within Islamic doctrines while on the other hand, those against the pairing notes the impractical nature and the way in which Islam has been used in a negative manner (). Having said that it is clear that democracy and Islam are compatible in the sense that sacred texts such as the Qur'an encourages the basic principles of democracy. If these concepts were to be put into place without the treachery fundamentalist, Islam and democracy can have the potential to coexist within a society.