Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Relation of Islam to Democracy

Dr. Khalifa Abdul Hakim

I do not expect that the view of religion (or Islam in particular) as presented in this book would be universally accepted. However, I  may substantiate it by the authority of the Qur'an and the Sunnah [the Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, p.b.u.h.]. My like-minded co-religionists would hold it to be true, but whoever cares to differ may interpret the same verses differently or quote others to contradict my interpretation. 

The subject of the relation of Islam to democracy would present further difficulties, because democracy seems to have become as undefinable as religion or love. From the beginning of democracy, in any part of the world, up to the present times, (when it almost seems to have taken the place of religion as an ideal or a way of life) opinions about its nature and value have been divergent and contradictory. 

The broadest definition of democracy is that given by Abraham Lincoln, that "it is a government of the people, by the people and for the people," which Daniel Webster put in other words as the people's government made for the people, made by the people and answerable to the people. 

As I have said already, democracy has now in many ways taken the place of religion. It is inevitable, therefore, that like religion it should become vague and assume different shapes among different nations, due to [a] difference of temperament and history. The Western democracies collectively have assumed the dignified title of the "free world." Democracy, through its long and chequered history, has assumed many forms and shall in all probability assume many more forms in the future. The word Jamhur'iyat derived from Jamhur, meaning 'the people,' is a twentieth-century translation which is now adopted in many Muslim languages.

According to the Islamic faith, sovereignty belongs to God and not to the people either as a whole or as a majority. As God is the Creator and the Law-giver of the universe, so all authority in human affairs ultimately vests [is vested] in God. Whoever rules among the Ummah [community] rules only by delegated authority. 

It should be kept in mind that in this book we are dealing with Islam and not with the types of States and societies in which Muslims have lived through these [last] fourteen centuries.
Islam, as taught in the Qur'an, and preached and practised by the Prophet; and a short time afterwards by those on whom his mantel [shadow?] fell, very soon lost its idealism by what may be called a counterrevolution. 

It became diluted with Arab imperialism which spoilt a good deal of its original egalitarian ideology. When wealth undreamt of by the dwellers of the desert poured in, it accumulated in the hands of a minority [and] all the economic ills and moral weaknesses followed in its wake.

From Mu'awiyah onwards, who converted the democratic republic of Islam into a hereditary monarchy, the self-styled successors of the Prophet, assuming the dignified title of Khalifahs, combined in themselves the powers a Caesar and a Pope. The whole wealth of an extensive realm became their private purse. Among the people only a nostalgic memory was left of the type of State and society which was brought into being by the implementation of Islam for about three decades. 

They called this shortlived experiment Khilafat Rashidah, the rightly-guided Caliphate, implying thereby that the rulers that followed were misguided. 

The glory of Harun al-Rashid, the magnificence of Sulaiman the Magnificent, and the splendour of Shah Jahan who sat in the jewelled Peacock Throne, costing half the revenue of his entire kingdom, was not the glory of Islam or the furtherance of its ideology but quite the opposite of it. 

Theistic religion offers the highest kind of idealism, which alone can guarantee the spiritual advance of man, making him approximate more and more to the image of God and realise that nature which is rooted in the Divine. In an ideal Islamic State there could be no kings, no feudal lords and no capitalists with a plethora of wealth. It will be a society of good middle-class people who are the backbone of every healthy society. 

Read full chapter:

Read Book:

The Prophet and His Message
Dr. Khalifa Abdul Hakim,
Published by the Institute of Islamic Culture,
2 Club Road, Lahore, Pakistan ©1987 

Short Biography of Dr. Khalifa Abdul Hakim

Dr. Khalifa Abdul Hakim, an eminent Pakistani scholar, was a philosopher, art critic, writer and poet par excellence. He penned hundreds of books in Urdu, English and Persian and translated many an epic from Persian. He was Director of Education, Pakistan at the time of his death in 1957. He was also Director, Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore.

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