The Flaws of Democracy-An Islamic Perspective
And whosoever does not judge by that which Allâh has revealed, such are the Zhâlimûn (polytheists and wrong-doers). [Holy Quran Mâidah: 45]
Democracy is a commonly known word all over the world. Most of the political movements in the world have made it their goal to establish this system in their respective countries. Democracy is the most popular and accepted political system in the modern world.
Yet, there exists some difference of opinion among the Islamic scholars on democracy. Democracy and human rights have occupied very important position in the political agenda of many of the Islamic parties. However, some of the parties and people do not accept it, due to various reasons. A careful and deep analysis on this issue is needed. Following is a discussion on the flaws of democracy and some solutions.
Sovereignty / Supreme Authority belongs to the People
“And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the disbelievers” (Holy Quran 5: 44)
Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people. Democracy is a man-made system, meaning rule by the people for the people. Thus it is contrary to Islam, because rule is for Allah, the Most High, the Almighty, and it is not permissible to give legislative rights to any human being, no matter who he is.
Theoretically speaking, Islam speaks of sovereignty of Allah, while western democracy advocates that sovereignty belongs to people. So also legislating the lawful and unlawful is a sole right of Allah, it is not for anyone to compete with Allah in this regard. Therefore whoever accepts a law other than Law of Allah has associated partner with Allah (Shirk).
“Have you seen those (hypocrites) who claim that they believe in that which has been sent down to you, and that which was sent down before you, and they wish to go for judgment (in their disputes) to the Tâghût (false judges, etc.) while they have been ordered to reject them. But Satan wishes to lead them far astray.” (Holy Quran Nisâ: 60)
Hukm ul Jahiliyyah (Judgment of Ignorance)
Then is it the judgment of [the time of] ignorance they desire? But who is better than Allah in judgment for a people who are certain [in faith]. (Holy Quran 5: 50)
Therefore the rules of Ignorance are ‘thoughts, whims and principles laid down by men with no Shariah backing as the people of Jâhiliyyah period used to do upon misguidance and ignorance; rules which they set up for themselves out of their views and desires as the Tartars did from their ‘Politics of the Monarchy’ which they got from their King, Genghis Khan, who formulated Al-Yasaaq for them. This Yasaaq was a book that contained a set of rules from diverse sources – Jewish, Christian and Muslim.
There were other laws he formulated for them by himself out from his personal views and desires. So many of the ‘developed’ and ‘glorious’ past generations were destroyed because they did not worship only Allah as also indicated in their failure to apply Allah’s rules of their time . Allah refers to all laws apart from His laws as rules of Jâhiliyyah.
Those Divine Narrations show that those who follow man-made laws which are laid down upon the tongues of those who possess them and which oppose what Allah has legislated upon the tongues of His Messengers. Now if laws that are not laid down by Allah are referred to as Hukm Al-Jâhiliyyah, does democracy fall within?
Constitution is Supreme
And whosoever does not judge by what Allâh has revealed (then) such (people) are the Fâsiqûn (the rebellious) to Allâh. (Holy Quran Mâidah: 46) To adopt democracy is to make oneself subservient to a book-the Constitution. This book, the Constitution (and NOT the Holy Quran & Sunnah) is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout. Even if the provisions of the constitution are against the teachings of the Holy Quran or Sunnah, they will have to be followed.
Majority is right (Mob Rule)
And if you obey most of those upon the earth, they will mislead you from the way of Allah. (Holy Quran 6: 116)
In democracy legislative authority is given to someone other than Allah, may He be exalted; rather it is given to the people and their deputies, and what matters is not their consensus but the majority. Thus what the majority agree upon becomes laws that are binding on the nation, even if it is contrary to common sense, religious teaching or reason.
The concept of majority rule in democracy is a sheer pandemonium in governance. Five people are sitting in a room. Three are men. One of them proposes a new law making it legal to for a man to rape a woman (under certain circumstances of course). The three men vote yea. What happens next is “democracy” in action.
And most of mankind will not believe even if you desire it eagerly.
(Holy Quran Yûsuf: 103)
The purport of the Verses above is that the people will remain on their wrongdoing even at utmost effort to take them out of misguidance. Shaikh As-Sa’dee said ‘The Verse indicates that there is no justification in saying that the truth is what the majority holds to and the claim that those who tread a path will be regarded as being upon falsehood if they are not many. What is daily observed proves otherwise; the people of truth are always very minor but great in the Sight of Allah in worth and rewards. What is however imperative is that truth and falsehood should be judged from how they are reached.’
Democracy depends on quantity and NOT quality
Events in Lebanon have shown the folly of democracy. When the anti-Syrian forces held huge street demonstrations against the pro-Syrian Lebanese government, the pro-Syrian Prime Minister resigned. When the pro-Syrian crowds demonstrating in the streets a week later were much larger than the anti-Syrian crowds, the Prime Minister was reappointed. There’s no reason or logic to it, just numbers.
All people are Equal & Same
“Say, Are those who know equal to those who do not know?” (Holy Quran 39:9)
The idea that is central to democracy is that all people are equal and are the same. That is not true. Anyone with common sense knows it is not true. The insane idea of one man, one vote is ludicrous. Why should the decision regarding the direction society is going to take be equally decided by someone who works hard, is altruistic, and is a good person, and someone who lives off of others, is abusing his family, and doesn’t contribute anything to society?
This does not make sense. How can opinion of a doctor, engineer, lawyer or other educated technocrats be equal? More importantly, how can an opinion of a technocrat with sound knowledge of Islam & Islamic politics be same as one who is ignorant of the teachings of Islam or more worse a secular person?
Nation becomes divided
“And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allâh (i.e. this Qur’ân), and be not divided among yourselves” (Holy Quran 3: 103)
Islam forbids disunity; it says the Muslims are a single brotherhood. Thus it is not permissible for Muslims to divide themselves into groups and parties (even in the name of the religion) with diverse ideologies as democracy is known to embody. ‘There is no doubt that democracy will break the unity of the Muslims; you may find a son and his father in the same house with hostility between them. Even the women are not safe, so also are the neighbors to one another… ‘
The enmity becomes entrenched, Satan takes over and everyone becomes an enemy to the other…’ If one may ask what kind of brotherhood is in Muslims fighting one another because they belong to different groups, political or otherwise? What interest are they fighting for? Is that what Islam commands? This point is also being stressed by Gen Hameed Gul in various talk shows these days. Read the following blog for more on this: https://drnaumanshad.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/a-nation-divided/
Democracy is NOT Shura
This is a wrong concept that has developed.
- Shura has to do with new matters that arise or with matters that are not explained in detail in the texts of the Qur’an or Sunnah. With regard to the “rule of the people”, the people may discuss what is well-established in religion, which may lead to refusing to acknowledge the prohibitions on that which is forbidden, and to forbidding that which Allah has permitted or made obligatory.
- So the sale of alcohol is permitted according to these laws, as are fornication/adultery and riba (usury), but these laws put pressures on Islamic organizations and the activities of those who call people to Allah. This is diametrically opposed to Shariah, so what does this have to do with shura?
- The majlis ash-shura (consultative committee) is to be formed of people who have a deep knowledge of fiqh, Islam and Shariah, understanding, and have a high level of piety and good character. So no one who is of bad character or foolish, or is a disbeliever, secular or atheist, is to be consulted or involved in the shura process. As for the democratic councils of representatives, they pay no attention to any of the conditions mentioned above. The representative may be a disbeliever, or of bad character or foolish. What does this have to do with shura as prescribed in Islam?
- Shura is not binding upon the ruler; the ruler may give precedence to the view of one member of the council that is supported by proof, and prefer his view over that of the other council members, whereas in the case of representative democracy, the agreement of the majority becomes legally binding upon the people.
Wrong Meaning & Use of Freedom
These are the limits ordained by Allah, so do not transgress them. And whoever transgresses the limits ordained by Allah, then such are the wrongdoers. (Holy Quran 2: 229) This means that the laws that Allah has legislated are His set limits, so do not transgress them. An authentic Hadith states: “Allah has set some limits, so do not transgress them; and commanded some commands, so do not ignore them; and made some things unlawful, so do not commit them. He has also left some matters (without rulings) as a mercy with you, not because He has forgotten them, so do not ask about them.” Many people think that the word democracy means freedom! But this is incorrect because freedom is one of the by-products of democracy.
What we mean by freedom here is freedom of belief, freedom of decadence, and freedom of expression, and these also have many negative impacts on Muslim societies, because matters have gone so far that aspersions are cast upon the Messengers and the messages, and upon the Qur’an and the Sunnah, on the grounds of freedom of opinion; and wanton display and uncovering are tolerated, and indecent images and movies are propagated on the grounds of freedom.
Many such things are happening, of which there is a long list, all of which are playing a part in the corruption of the ummah, morally and spiritually. Why shouldn’t our religion restrict our freedom, as their freedom is restricted by things that they cannot deny? Undoubtedly what is taught by Islam is that which is in people’s best interests.
If a woman is forbidden to make a wanton display, or if the people are forbidden to drink alcohol and eat pork, and so on, all of that is in their best interests, physically and mentally, and for their general welfare. But they refused to restrict their freedom if the injunction comes from religion, but they say “we hear and we obey” if it comes from human beings like them or from a (man-made) law.
Nominating Oneself for Elections
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) stated “Do not ask for leadership position because if you were entrusted a leadership position after you have asked for it, you will be left alone with it (that is, Allah will not assist you) but if you are given without asking for it, you will be helped over it.’ (Bukhari) He also stated that ‘You (my Ummah) shall verily crave for leadership positions, and it is going to be a regret on the Day of Resurrection.’ (Bukhari)
Democracy encourages craving for leadership position. This is another evil that goes with democracy. Every person in democracy seeks a way of having an access to power, directly or indirectly. Political parties front candidates that seek to become rulers after elections; this is the aim of every political party. Love for the leadership position is forbidden in the religion of Islam because the post of leadership is not what should be quested for.
“It is the craving for leadership positions that is the cause of conflict among the people such that a lot of blood has been spilled while many properties are usurped (unjustly) and women raped. Corruption has become widespread on the surface of the earth (due to it). Regrets usually follow killing the person in power (who might have come to power by craving too); it may be that he is removed or he dies.” –Muslim Scholar
Criteria for Candidates
Most of the time there is no criteria for nomination of candidates. Candidates may be the most corrupt, thieves, loan defaulters, and even murderers and rapists. There is no check and balance, so much so that almost every candidate has these qualities, leaving people no choice except to chose ‘the lesser evil’. Despite introduction of articles of 62 & 63 in constitution of Pakistan, regarding criteria for candidates, they never get implemented.
Influence of the Media
“And so judge (Oh Muhammad PBUH ) among them by what Allah has revealed and follow not their vain desires, but beware of them lest they turn you (Oh Muhammad PBUH) far away from some of that which Allah has sent down to you. And if they turn away, then know that Allah’s Will is to punish them for some sins of theirs. And truly, most of men are Faasiqoon (rebellious and disobedient to Allah).”
In today’s society, those who control the media control the democracy. Most people don’t have the time or inclination to question what they read in the papers or what is fed to them through the television. If their thoughts go beyond beer and sports/bread and circuses, they are rare, indeed.
It is the media which raises position of a political party so high from out of nowhere, that it wins the elections or comes close to winning elections, by promoting it through true/false propaganda. This is all done to serve ulterior purposes of an ‘unknown power’ in return for material gains. People of Pakistan may well know many such examples.
False Promises & Lies
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) stated: “There are four (characteristics), whoever has them is a hypocrite, and whoever has one of the four has a characteristic of hypocrisy unless he gives it up: when he speaks, he lies; when he makes a promise he breaks it; what he makes a pledge he betrays it; and when he disputes he resorts to foul language.” (Sahih Bukhari)
Before elections most political parties make false promises which they seldom fulfill after winning the elections. They become just false party slogans like the famous ‘Roti, Kapra & Makaan’ (bread, clothes & house) slogan made by Pakistan People’s Party in Pakistan. These false promises and false hopes are made just to win the elections.
Compromise on Religious Teachings
They chose idols besides Allah in the hope of receiving help from them. (Surah Ya Sin, 36:74) They have sought honor from other gods instead of Allah! (Surah Maryam, 19:81) It has often been seen that religious parties make compromises to win elections or for political gains in this democratic system.
How can an Islamic organization compromise religious principles and translate them into public policy? Who are they trying to please, Allah or the people? Often this very action takes them many steps backward as people accuse them of hypocrisy. An example is of religious parties supporting Ms Fatima Jinnah for leader of the country when they well knew it is not allowed for a woman is not allowed to lead a nation (see ahead)
Illegal interference with the process of an election is the most common complaint of losing candidates and parties and there is no denying that it does not occur. Candidates and their parties often use every means possible to win elections and even systematic rigging takes place. This is all just to win and get elected to power, which as mentioned above, should never be the aim of a true Muslim.
Money Required for being a Candidate
Another flaw of these elections is that only rich and influential people can come into power as a large amount of money is required to run in the elections. On top of that, party leadership often demands a large sum of money from the candidates to run in the elections for their party. This means poor but more deserving people rarely get a chance to get elected and become a part of the legislative assembly, which is a very big flaw in this democratic system. So much for ‘democratic freedom’ when even a poor intellectual technocrat cannot even be elected due to his monetary position!
Verily, spendthrifts are brothers of Shayatîn (devils), and Shaitân (Satan) is ever ungrateful to his Lord. [Holy Quran: Al-Isrâ: 27] Often huge extravagant amount of money is spent on elections and most of it goes to waste. Costs of canvassing and electoral stage shows are extreme. Banners, posters, play cards printed in excess lie scattered on the roads after the election speeches.
Party may win elections even after securing less than 50% of total electoral Seats or Electoral Votes
Let’s take an example: Party A wins 40% of electoral seats Party B wins 25% of electoral seats Party C wins 20 % of electoral seats Miscellaneous Parties & Independent Candidates win 15% of electoral seats Hence Party A will form the government by making alliance with the miscellaneous parties and Independent candidates, although it has won less than half of the total electoral seats & votes. Sometimes it happens that the party obtaining 2nd position in terms of electoral seats may have got more number of electoral votes than the party that got the most electoral votes.
An example from real life is of the 2011 elections in Egypt: In the first round of presidential elections Mr. Morsi won 25% of votes cast. Voter turnout was only 46% of registered voters. So, in reality Morsi got approval from only 11.5 % of the total registered voters (forget about total registered and unregistered voters). In the second round of presidential elections Mr. Morsi won 51.7% of votes cast. Voter turnout was only 52% of registered voters. So, in reality Mr. Morsi got approval from about only 27 % of the total registered voters (forget about total registered and unregistered voters). Thus, one can see one of the major reasons why Mr. Morsi had difficulty in running his government and his people. Often less than 50% of registered voters turn out to vote. This causes elections to become farcical & lead to other flaws discussed below.
Criminal Alliances/Alliances of Convenience
“O you who believe! If you obey those who disbelieve, they will send you back on your heels, and you will turn back (from Faith) as losers.” [Al-An’âm: 149] Very often political parties make awkward alliances or alliances of convenience to form a government. The most disheartening example in this case is of religious parties making alliances with secular or other parties just for the sake of winning electoral seats.
And then they make alliances after elections with these parties in order to form government and to have a share in the running of the government. Their intentions may be good but ultimately they will be partly responsible for all the wrongs being done by the government.
And rightly so these religious parties are blamed by the general public and criticized by their own parties for making such alliances. Even when a group of Muslims claims they are going into democracy in the name of Islam and thereby forming an Islamic party, their success in their political endeavor is always hinged on some alliances they form with other political parties in the field.
Often, it might be difficult for a party that has a seeming Islamic orientation from displaying all its Islam without 20 some concessions, like making the presidential running mate a Christian or whatsoever in order to appeal to the majority of the electorate among whom are many non-Muslims.
Parties with Muslims orientation often ‘disguise’ or compromise to defuse any criticism that might come from other political parties which might accuse the ‘Islamic party’ of wanting to turn the polity to that of Shariah. Sometimes two corrupt parties make a natural alliance to enhance their corruption and so that no one can put any hindrance or raise their voice to their corruption and malpractices. Or they may agree to take turns in forming a government and making friendly oppositions. So much for good democracy!
Bribery & Blackmailing
“And eat up not one another’s property unjustly, nor give bribery to the rulers that you may knowingly eat up a part of the property of others sinfully.” (Holy Quran 2: 188) And yet another flaw in this democratic system is that candidates are brought by a party by offering them huge sums of money. This is often termed horse-trading in some countries and the candidate that has been bribed is often called a ‘Lota’ for switching allegiances after accepting the bribe. Sometimes candidates are blackmailed into joining a party in return for hiding their previous corruption & malpractices. An example is of NAB introduced by Gen Musharraf in Pakistan.
Winning Party becomes the Monarchy/Tyrant
Another great flaw in democracy is that after the elections, the winning party after forming elections becomes a Monarchy especially if it has formed a strong government by making alliances of convenience described above. So much so that one can hardly differentiate between it and a Kingdomship. Lord Acton: “The one prevailing evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.
Criminals Can become Leader through Democracy
World has seen this occur when Gujrat Mass Murderer Mr. Modi became Prime Minister of world’s largest democracy to the dislike and dismay of even most Indians!
World has seen this occur when one of the most corrupt person on Earth became the President of Pakistan through democracy
World has seen this occur when a traitor Mr. Musharraf became President of Pakistan through his democracy
And there are so many many other examples throughout the world of such criminals becoming leaders through democracy
Woman may become Leaders
Through democracy a woman can become the Prime Minister of a Muslim country. ‘They will not be successful, a people who entrust their affair to a woman.’ (Bukhari) Al-Khattâbi said: There is in the hadith that a woman cannot assume a post of leadership (over men) nor become a judge (Fat hul bari)
Blackmailing: Democracy is in danger!
Whenever a party government is threatened of removal due to its corruption & bad governance it starts screaming that there is a threat to democracy. They say that the worst democracy is better than the best monarchy or best Martial law! The effect of this call therefore is that many hitherto strict followers of religion are fast dropping their strict adherence and becoming democrats willingly and unwillingly all in the name of salvaging the Muslims from their supposed predicament.
In some countries like Pakistan, often the people have no choice when voting due to the Jagirdaar system in which they are forced to vote for their tribal leaders or face terrible consequences. Many parties in desperate attempts to win elections & get government, accommodate people from other parties who may have completely different thoughts, different policies or who might even be corrupt. The Muslims who think they can use democracy as a short cut to achieve Shariah are only fooling themselves. We all saw what happened in Egypt where more than half of the people did not even want Shariah (discussed above). USA & its allies often invade Muslim countries in the pretext of bringing Democracy to their lands!
Other Famous Quotes on Evils of Democracy
Views of Allama Iqbal (RA):
Fisher Ames: “A democracy is a volcano, which conceals the fiery materials of its own destruction. These will produce an eruption, and carry desolation in their way.”
John Jay: “Pure democracy, like pure rum, easily produces intoxication, and with it a thousand mad pranks and fooleries.”
George Washington: “It is one of the evils of democratical governments that the people, not always seeing and frequently misled, must often feel before they can act.”
Alexander Hamilton: “If we incline too much to democracy, we shall soon shoot into a monarchy.”
Michael Newton: Everyone thinks of democracy as the ideal. People like democracy because it supposedly gives everyone a voice. This is not successful government. Successful government is about intelligent management of the country while maintaining fairness through rule of law.
James Madison: “Where a majority are united by a common sentiment, and have an opportunity, the rights of the minor party become insecure.”
James Madison: “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”
L. Mencken: “Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule – and both commonly succeed, and are right.”
Thomas Sowell: “Compassion is the use of public funds to buy votes.”
Thomas Jefferson: “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”
Winston Churchill: “Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those others that have been.”
John Simon: “Democracy encourages the majority to decide things about which the majority is ignorant.”
George Bernard Shaw: “Democracy is a form of government that substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few.”
Walter Lippmann: “No amount of charters, direct primaries, or short ballots will make a democracy out of an illiterate people.”
Israeli politician Rabbi Elazar Menachem Shach promoted Judaic law to be the natural governance for Jews and condemned democracy, he claimed that “Democracy as a machinery of lies, false notions, pursuit of narrow interests and deceit – as opposed to the Torah regime, which is based on seeking the ultimate truth” He claimed that the parliamentary system subordinates the national interest, or common good, to private interests of a parliament’s representatives where only short-sighted interests of individuals prevail.
If an orthodox Jew has these views on democracy than what can we comment about orthodox conservative Muslims! Anonymous: “Therefore Democracy is therefore an atheist political system that defines a specific view for a political life built on separating the religion from the state”
Eminent Scholars against Democracy & Elections
Dr. Zakir Naik
Sheikh Imran Hosein
Late Dr. Israr Ahmad
Late Maulana Maududi: It is reported by many people that Maulana Maududi finally accepted near the end of his life that Elections were NOT the solution.
Some Muslim Scholars like Yousaf Al Qarzawi of Muslim Brotherhood, Maulana Maududi of Jamaati Islami and others have put forward a solution for one of the major evils of democracy. They have suggested of introducing a clause in the constitution to the effect that no law will be passed contrary to the injunctions of the Quran and Sunnah. This clause will act as guarantee against the fear of some people that anti Islamic law may be passed under the cover of democracy.
Same happened with Mr. Morsi and Nawaz Sharif as shown here:
Such a clause is present in the Constitution of Pakistan (article 2) but it is not strictly implemented and not strictly checked by the Supreme Court. Thus many laws still do get passed through the legislative assemblies which are against the laws of Islam e.g. immunity given to the President, Governors etc under article 248. For full implementation of this article, the Anglo-Saxon judicial system will have to be corrected.
The Best solution or alternate is Khilafah which is discussed in the next blog:
And Allah knows best!