Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Islam and Democracy

What is Democracy?

What is the term “Islamic Democracy” meant for?

Is there any perception of democracy in Islam?

Does Islam believe in democracy?

These are some burning questions being discussed not only in the minds of non Muslims but also in the minds of Muslim youth today.
First of all I must say that I personally don’t believe in the term “Islamic Democracy”. When we use this term it appears in our minds that Democracy is a different and a separate idea from Islam.

With due apology I must say we are mistaken. Democracy is not a separate or superior ideology from Islam. In fact democracy is very much there in Islam. When we analyse what democracy is We come to the conclusion that it is nothing but the sense of Responsibility and Accountability. The absolute system of governing, which Islam presents totally based upon three golden fundamentals i.e. Consultation, Responsibility and Accountability.

There is no concept of dictatorship, popism (mullaiyat) and totalitarianism in Islam. Islam doesn’t believe in any kind of Monarchy and Oligarchy. The political system of Islam totally depends upon Shooraiat (consultation). The significance of consultation in governance proves by this that a complete surah in Quran is named “Al-shoorah” (consultation). It is ordered in the 38th verse of this surah that you must consult with each other in dealing the problems and matters of people.
This verse is the base and essence of the Islamic political and governing system. The period of Sahabah was a practical commentary of this verse. Hazrat Abu Bakar didn’t decide many major problems of politics, or cases, without consultation. As stated in the “Musnad-e-Darmi”, “whenever a person placed his dispute for decision before him, first he looked into the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Mpbh and then, he consulted all the Muslims.

He had established a Majlis consisting of prominent sahabah and they were consulted regularly. This was the initial shape of that Majlis-e-shoorah, which Hazrat Umar, in his period of Caliphate had made perfect, disciplined and extensive. That Majlis had its two houses like modern democratic system.

During caliphate of Hazrat Umar abundant conquest and expansion of the Islamic state created many problems that the establishment of another consultation body was needed. Therefore, he established the upper house of Majlis-e-shoorah in which only Muhajireen participated.
Thus, Allama Balazari, a great Muslim scholar, stated in his book “Fatooh al Buldan”, “A consultation body had been formed in the Masjid-e-Nabwi, in which Hazrat Umar discussed those problems and issues which he had received from different parts of the Islamic state”.
If we analyse the political situation of Muslims in the era of Khulfa-e-Rashideen a scene of peoples’ government appears before our eyes, whose leader was a politically elected Ameer. He had limited sovereignty and powers. His special powers were confined within the parameters of administrative matters e.g. supervision of police, administration of Armed forces, matters relating to foreign policy and distribution of financial resources ets. But he couldn’t violate the authentic prevalent rules and regulations.

Courts were completely independent and free to give its verdict on any matter that was presented before them even if it was against state or khalifah. The government couldn’t interfere in their decisions.

As far as Khalifa is concerned, he had no right and power to forgive or condone those who were prosecuted and convicted by the courts. There was complete supremacy and rule oflaw. They were all equal in the eyes of law whether they were rich or poor, ruler or labourer. Nothing was hidden from anyone regarding matters or policies relating to Government and state.
Khalifa used to tell participants in Jummah prayer in mosque about important issues. Every citizen could enquire about any thing. Democracy was ruling in its best shape. Khalifa was held responsible and was subject to answer to his people. History is full of different examples that how Khalifa consulted Majlis-e-Shoorah on different issues and how sahabah reacted, criticised and gave their opinions.

The main and primary objective of a truly democratic government is to protect the rights of an individual and to give an opportunity to every one to express his or her opinion.
There are limited powers for a ruler and every citizen has a right to criticise his way of life, actions and policies. We can find and observe these qualities comprehensively in Khilafat-e-Rashidah.

Difference of opinions and freedom of expression is the beauty of democracy and we can see this beauty in the era of khulfa-e-Rashideen. Look at what Hazrat Abu-Bakar (RA) said in his inaugural speech, “O’people! I have been appointed as a ruler upon you instead of the fact that I am not the best among you. If I perform well, you should help and guide me. If I do wrong, you must keep me on track. Truth is a trust and lie is a distrust and dishonesty. InshaAllah your weakest and most vulnerable person will be a stronger near me unless and until I make him get his/her right back. And your strongest person will be a weakest unless I compel him to give you your right back. The nation who forgets Jihad, Allah disgraces it and the nation that spreads wrong doing (badkari) in it, Allah spreads difficulties and miseries in it. If I obey Allah and His Prophet (PBUH), you should obey me but when I disobey Allah and His Prophet (PBUH), you are not bound to follow me. May Allah bless you.”

Hazrat Umar (RA) declared his position regarding the powers of Khalifa in these words, “I have such right in your possessions and wealth as a patronage has a right in an orphan’s wealth. If I will be wealthy, then I will take nothing and if I will be deserving and needy then I will take that much according to my needs. O’people! You have many rights towards me, for which you should ask me and impeach me. One is this that state’s income and Maal-e-Ghaneemat has not to be consumed and spend without any justification. Second is this that I should increase your earning and to secure your borders and the third is that you should be protected from dangers.”
This was not the exhibition of charming thoughts to attract the people but he severely and strongly acted upon this. The facts certify this with letter and spirit. Once his daughter, ummul momneen Hazrat Hafsa (RA) came to him and demanded her share as a “Zwil Qurba” (closest relative) from Maal-e-Ghaneemat. Hazrat Umar (RA) replied, “no doubt! You have this right in my personal possessions and wealth but this is a wealth of general public. I am sorry that you tried to deceive your father.”

Once he himself became sick. He was suggested to take honey. There was honey in the Bait-ul-Maal (exchequer) but he refused to take it without public consent. He came to Masjid-e-Nabawi and requested to people “If you are agreed and allow me then I shall take a bit of honey.” What is this? Is there any other sense of responsibility beyond it?
Hazrat Umar (RA) had given such type of general freedom of criticism and expression to the people on his actions and orders that an ordinary person didn’t hesitate or reluctant to criticise or object on khalifa itself.

Once a person said to Hazrat Umar (RA) many times: “O’Umar, be afraid of Allah”. A person amongst the audience tried to stop that person. Hazrat Umar (RA) said, “No, let him say. If those people will not say anything to me then what is the use of those?
Once he was addressing a crowd in Masjid-e-Nabawi and he tried to advise and instruct women that they should keep the amount of dower low. Suddenly a woman stood up and asked him in a loud voice “Who are you to bind us? You should be afraid of Allah”. Her objection was quite right therefore Hazrat Umar (RA) immediately realised and uttered these words “thanks Allah that a woman of Madina knows better than Umar”. In fact this was the atmosphere and spirit of freedom and equality that made his Khilafat successful to such an extent that the world admitted and confessed that If Umar (RA) had lived for ten more years then there would have been only one religion on earth - that is Islam.

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