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Shura and Democracy: Any Difference?

Question and answer details
Muhammad Ali Buchnak
2014/09/15
Respected scholars, as-salamu `alaykum. What is the difference between Shura and Democracy?
Yusuf Al-Qaradawi
Answer

Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

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Dear brother in Islam, we would like to thank you for the great confidence you place in us, and we implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His Sake.  

In response to the question you raised, we'd like to cite the following comprehensive fatwa issued by the eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi; it reads:

Islam wants this nation to consult with each other, and stand as a united body, so no enemy can penetrate it. This is not what democracy is for. Democracy is a system that can’t solve all societal problems. Democracy itself also can make whatever it wants as lawful, or prohibit anything it does not like. In comparison, the Shari`ah as a political system has limits. If we are to adopt democracy, we should adopt its best features. These are the issues of methods, guarantees, and manners of a democratic society. As a Muslim society we should adopt it in an Islamic context of a society that seeks to live with its Shari`ah laws. Our society should abide by what have been made lawful by Allah and also what have been made unlawful by Him. In comparison democracy with a slim majority can cancel all laws and rules. It can even eliminate itself with this type of margin. In fact, in some case democracy may become worse than dictatorship. What I am for is a genuine type of democracy, for a society driven by the laws of Shari`ah that is compatible with the values of freedom, human rights, justice, and equity.

I am against this type of distorted democracy that is adopted by many regimes in the Arab-Islamic world. I am really troubled by the four digit results of elections. Most rulers in the Arab world, as well as in the Islamic world are elected by 99.99% of the people. What kind of democracy is this? The people can never consent to anything with this margin. Furthermore, I want draw the attention to the issue of the spread of deviance in the democratic societies. We should take the “good”, and abandon the “bad”. For instance, many democratic countries have allowed types of sexual deviance to spread, and even legalized such behavior. Gays and Lesbians now can marry each other legally.

Our democracy is different. It is well connected to the laws of Shari`ah. Yes we adopt some of the principles of democracy, but it is incumbent upon us also to uphold our principles. We have pillars of our Shari`ah that we have to abide by. We want the people to be consulted and participate actively in politics as well as in the process of decision-making.

Shura has always been good for the Muslim society, and autocracy has always been evil since the beginning of mankind on this planet. History has told us about dictators such as pharaohs, the Nimord, and many, many examples. The Qur'an tells us about the story of Prophet Ibrahim [Abraham] (peace be upon him) and the Nimrod, the dictator who disputed the existence of Allah, and declared himself as a God. The Qur'an says: “Hast thou not turned thy vision to one who disputed with Abraham about his Lord, because Allah had granted him power? Abraham said: “my Lord is he who giveth life and death.” He said: “I give life and death.” Said Abraham: “but it is Allah that causeth the sun to rise from the East: do thou then cause him to rise from the West? Thus was he confounded who (in arrogance) rejected faith? Nor doth Allah give guidance to a people unjust.” (Al-Baqarah: 258) This dictator was so arrogant. To challenge the will of Allah, he asked two people who were passing by during his argument with Abraham to come to him. He ordered one of them to be executed on the spot, and told the other I pardoned you. He said to Abraham “see I gave one life, and I ordered one to death.” However, Abraham was smarter than the dictator and asked him, if he is really a God can he make the Sun rise from the West.

The same story repeats itself with the dictator of Egypt, the Pharaoh who declared himself as a God and refused to accept the message sent to him. Throughout history dictatorships, despotic regimes, and unjust regimes have been associated with the issue of corrupting earth. The Qur'an says, “(All) these transgressed beyond bounds in the lands, and heaped therein mischief (on mischief).” (Al-Fajr: 11-12) Allah also says about the Pharaohs of Egypt: “…and remember, we delivered you from the people of pharaoh: they set hard tasks and punishments, slaughtered your sons and let your womenfolk live; therein was tremendous trial from your lord.” (Al-Baqarah: 50) Islam has stood fast against these types of rulers and made it mandatory on the people to resist tyranny and injustices.

To conclude, Islam is not anti-democracy. What we want is a free society that lives within the rules and laws of the Shari`ah which is very compatible with the values of democracy, freedom, human rights, justice, development, and prosperity.

Allah Almighty knows best.


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