KEYWORDS:Democracy, Liberalism, Liberal Democracy, Islam, Islamic Democracy, Equality.
Todaythe term ‘democracy’ has been used as common tradition almost everywhere in thewhole world and contemporary social life. But what it exactly means is a matterof continuous controversy, confusion and misconceptions. As a student ofphilosophy, I have been interested in understanding critically the variousaspects of democracy ever since the days of my undergraduate studies, becausethe socialist party claims that they are highly critics of capitalist model ofdemocracy and congress and other nationalist parties rejected the socialistmodel of democracy. Bothblamed each other of being anti-democratic or less democratic. Similarly, whenwe see the international politics, notice the socialist countries attackedwestern liberal democracies and the western European and North Americanpoliticians accused Soviet Union and its allies of being dictatorial regimes.When we look into India we found such a cultural diversity and pluralism in thesociety. India is the largest democratic country in the world and it is thebest example of liberal democracy. Inthe Islamic democracy, there has been much discussion of both inside andoutside the Islamic world about the Islamic past and those factors present inthe Muslim that are favourable and adverse to the development of liberaldemocracy.
From a political perspective, Islam seems to offer that liberaldemocracy work in a society inspired by Islamic beliefs and principles andshaped by Islamic experience and tradition. Most of the Muslim thinkers givethe same view about Islamic democracy. For Islamic fundamentalists, democracyis unimportance; they even not often use this word or even misuse this word.However, they are willing to demand and exploit the opportunities that aself-proclaimed democratic system by its own logic is bound to offer them. Theymake no secret of their disrespect for democratic political procedures andtheir intention to govern by Islamic rules if they gain power. The main purposeof my paper is about democracy in the Islamic world: Is Democracy andLiberalism can basically compatible with Islam, or is some measure of respectfor law, the most that can be expected from autocratic government? Philosophersand thinkers have tried hard to formulate some normative system in order topromote at least human wellbeing. For this function, philosophers and thinkerevolved the notion of ‘Democracy’ as system of governance in ancient Greece,witnessing the birth of Athens as a City State sometime in the year 508-507 BCE. Athens, the City State, witnessed a changefrom autocratic to democratic rule.
In decision making citizens were involved directly,who were allowed to speak and vote in the framing laws of the City-State. Inorder to maintain impartiality the governmental and judicial officials wereselected randomly. Athens even till today is considered to be the ideal ofdemocracy, a form of direct participating where every citizen had equal rightto participate in decision making of the City State.
The word democracy isderived from the two Greek words “demos” which means people and “kratos” whichmeans the rule. Etymologically the term ‘democracy’ refers to the system ofgovernance where people or ‘demos’ are selecting their rulers and participatedirectly or indirectly, when it adopts a process of ruling through itsrepresentatives. The reverse of Athens gave rise to a Strangesilence in the history of democratic thought that ends with the earlyrenaissance. This period overlaps significantly with the medieval period whichmarks the period between the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth centuryand the beginning of the renaissance in the fourteenth century (Rein and Brodie50). However,it may be remarked here in passing that Athenian democracy appears to be allinclusive at the level of ‘citizenship’ but the definition of ‘citizen’excluded women, slaves, foreigner’s, non-land owners. The first democracyappeared in Sparta in the years 700 BCE in representative forms, whichAristotle found ‘childish’. This form of democracy appeared again in the formof Roman republic, term used to refer to the Roman system of governance, underthe influence of Christian theological principle that all men are born equal.In medieval England, in 1215 AD, the barons of England compelled King John tosign the ‘Magna Carta’.
Sincemodern democracy matured in the twentieth century providing for representativeswho are expected to frame law, scrutinise and keep vigil on acts of governmentpolicy. The representative democracy is inspired by the roman democracy. Incourse of time, democracy in practice started to show its fault as a system.
Tocqueville decried it as tyranny of the majority. John Stuart Mill followedTocqueville’s line of argument in his essay ‘On Liberty’. Mill’s argument,however, were to take priority and projected. This was importance sincedemocracy is a promise for equal liberty to all. As an advocate of liberaldemocratic theory and Lockean political philosophy, John Stuart Mill, a 19thcentury English utilitarian philosopher, advocated for a government in whichthat government allows maximum liberty for the individual, that every citizen’s will have a right tofreedom of speech, right to freedom of equality, right to freedom of libertyand expression.
However, for Mill,Theliberty of the individual must be thus far limited; one must not makehimself/herself a nuisance to other people; but must refrain from molestingothers in what concerns them (Mill 53).Thisis the key term of Mill’s principle. For Mill this is the key role ofgovernments is to protect the individual’s freedom from direct harm to others, discrimination,torture, slavery, arbitrary arrest, etc. while simultaneously protecting one’s individualfreedom to fair employment, the basic physical needs, education, the right tovote, and the right to protection against unemployment. Also, more importantly,Mill argues that in a liberal democratic society in whichIfa person’s action or conduct does not directly harm others, society has noright to prohibit such action and behaviour and, the person should be free fromgovernment interference (Rein and Brodie 38). Therefore,Liberal democracy traces to the Europe in eighteenth century, also known as the’Age of Enlightenment’.
Liberal Democracy is a form of government in whichpeople choose their representatives through election under the principle ofliberalism. Liberalism define by fair, free, and election between politicalparties. The rule of law in everyday life as part of an open society, and theequal protection of human rights, civil rights, civil liberties and politicalfreedom for all persons.
After, a long period, liberal democracy became the biggestpolitical system in the world. The liberal democratic system defines the democraticcharacter of the state in which main purpose is the separation of powers, anindependent judiciary, and a system of checks and balances between branches ofgovernment.Therefore,liberal democracy is a representative and participatory form of government andin which a government ruled a country. It is one of the forms of democracy inwhich the citizens of the country have total freedom and equality. In a liberaldemocracy, the legislature, executive and the judiciary are kept separate toavoid power resting in one place. There are many features which make up liberaldemocracy, these are, elections they must be free and fair in which peoplechoose their representatives through voting, there must be a choice of politicalparties, with different views or opinions and policies.
A secret ballot must beheld in voting because the voter feel pressured or hesitate casting a vote fora political party whom they do not want. The government and Parliamentrepresentatives must be elected by and accountable to the voters. Thus,liberal democracy are closely linked to the civil liberties are equalopportunities, and in liberal democracy, there must be no discrimination. Theremust be no racism, sexism, ageism or discrimination of the disabled or unfairtreatment of an old people. One more feature in liberal democracy, which is afair justice system, anyone accused of a crime must be offered legalrepresentation because accuse does not any claim that they were wrongly chargedof a crime because they couldn’t have enough money to have a lawyer torepresent their case properly.
There must be a trial by panel of judges so thatthe person accused is tried by his own people. Everyone should be innocentuntil being proven guilty; this is so that the chance of an innocent personbeing imprisoned is minimal. A liberal democracy must have a limited governmentthat is open and accountable to the public; the government can keep secrets butonly the ones that are a matter of national defence. The public must have theright to scrutinise and check the government if they want.
There must also be afree press and media, which must not be under government or any politicalparty’s control, citizens and media must be able to criticise the governmentand all the major political parties must receive neutral TV coverage. Theconstitution this is a set of rules and guidelines, which would outline andlimit the powers of the government.Therefore,when we look into the Islamic democracy, we find the key features of Islamic government fromvarious Islamic sources such as Quran and the Prophetic preference (Sunnah), theseare Constitution, Consent, and Consultation. Islamic democracy has certainlybecome a main issue of today’s world politics. While these principles need tobe explained and expressed in the specific socio-cultural context of differentMuslim societies, it is important to understand that they are indispensable.
The constitution of Madina, which Prophet Muhammad adopted, provides a veryimportant occasion for the development of Islamic political theory. AfterProphet Muhammad shifted from Mecca to Madina in 622 CE, he established thefirst Islamic state. For ten years, Prophet Muhammad was not only the leader ofthe emerging Muslim community in Arab, but also the political head of the stateof Madina. As the leader of Madina, Prophet Muhammad influenced over Muslims aswell as non-Muslims. The legitimacy of his sovereignty over Madina was based onhis status as the Prophet of Islam, as well as on the basis of the constitutionof Madina.Firstly,the constitution of Madina can be read as both a social contract and aconstitution.
A social contract, a model developed by English philosophersThomas Hobbes and John Locke, is an imaginary agreement between people in thestate of nature that leads to the establishment of a community or a State. Inthe state of nature people are free and are not obliged to follow any rules orlaws. They are essentially sovereign individuals. However, through the socialcontract they surrender their individual sovereignty to a collective one andcreate a community or a State. The second idea that the constitution of Madinais the document that preserves the conditions of the social contract upon whichany society is founded. The compact of Madina clearly served a constitutionalfunction, since it was the constitutive document for the first Islamic state.
Secondly,an important principle of the Constitution of Madina was that Prophet Muhammadgoverned the city-state of Madina by virtue of the consent of its citizens. Hewas invited to govern, and his authority to govern was enshrined in the social contract.The constitution of Madina established the importance of consent andcooperation for governance. The process of ‘bayah’, or thepromising of allegiance, was an important institution that sought to formalisethe consent of the governed. In those days, when a ruler failed to gain theconsent of the ruled through a formal and direct process of promising ofallegiance, the ruler’s authority was not fully legitimised. Just as ProphetMuhammad had done, the early Caliphs of Islam, too, practiced the processof ‘bayah’ after basic forms of electoral colleges hadnominated the Caliph, in order to legitimise the authority of the Caliph. Onedoes not need to give one’s imagination too far to recognise that in politiesthat have millions rather than hundreds of citizens, the process of nominationfollowed by elections can serve as a necessary modernisation of the processof ‘bayah’.Thirdly,the third key principle of Islamic governance is consultation, or Shura inArabic.
This is a very widely known concept, and many Islamic scholars haveadvanced the Islamic concept of Shura as evidence for Islam’sdemocratic identifications. Indeed, many scholars actually equate democracywith Shura. The Prophet himselfleft behind a very important tradition that emphasised the importance ofcollective and democratic decision making. Consultative governance, therefore,is the preferred form of governance in Islam, and any Muslim who chooses tostay true to his faith sources cannot but prefer a democratic structure overall others to realise the justice and wellbeing promised in Islamic sources.
Islamicdemocracy refers to the political philosophy that tries to apply Islamicstandards to open arrangements inside a system. The foundation of this culturehas to do with how widely Islam is consolidated into the constitutional rule ofthe state. Around Muslims, we had our own particular idea of rule of thepeople.
We were not without the idea of a rule of the people for the people,and in sharp history of Islam, and this guideline or thought was fundamental toMuslim political thought and law. The Rule of the Caliphs was a representationof what is the job of the rulers towards the ruled. The Caliph is thereforeGod’s representative on earth. For certain Muslims the Caliph became a kind ofdivine avatar or even a divinity on earth. The second theory about the sourceof power follows the theory of a delegation of responsibilities coming from thepeople, from the Umma to the Caliph.Thus,almost all aspects of Muslim government have an intensely personal character.In principle, at least, there is no state, but only a ruler; no court, but onlya judge. There is not even a city with defined powers, limits, and functions,but only an assembly of neighbourhoods, mostly defined by family, tribal,ethnic, or religious criteria, and governed by officials, usually military,appointed by the sovereign.
Therefore, in the Islamic Democracy, the expressionof Sharia implied the rule of law. In Islam, there are two rights, the first isthe right of Allah, and the other is of the people, the latter are sacred tothe point that it is said that God might overlook transgressions against Hisrights yet even He won’t excuse violations of privileges of humans. In Islam,no rule is despotic, nor the universal one now. This is the separating line inIslamic notion of political rule. No law can deny the rights of any persons. Since,Islamic democracy that apply the Islamic Principles to public policy throughthe democratic framework, in which leaders must be elected by the people,subject to Sharia and committed to practicing ‘Shura’, a special form of discussionpracticed by Prophet Muhammad, which can find various Islamic hadith.
The earlyIslamic philosopher, Al-Farabi, he compared the ideal Islamic state to Plato’s’The Republic’. Modern Islamic philosopher, Muhammad Iqbal, also says that ‘Islamis the gems of an economic and democratic organisation of society’. Muslimscholar and thinker Muhammad Asad says that “Democracy is perfectly compatiblewith Islam”. In his book “The Principles of State and Government in Islam”, hesays, that…viewedfrom this historical perspective, “democracy” as conceived in the modern Westis infinitely nearer to the Islamic than to ancient Greek concept of liberty;for Islam maintains that all human beings are socially equal and must,therefore, be given the same opportunities for development and self-expression.On the other hand, Islam makes in incumbent upon Muslims to subordinate theirdecisions to the guidance of the divine law revealed in the Qur’an andexemplified by the Prophet: an obligation which imposes definite limits on thecommunity’s right to legislate and denies to the ‘will of the people’ thatattribute of sovereignty which forms so integral a part of the Western conceptof Democracy (Asad 20).Thedemocratic world contains many different forms of government republics andmonarchies, presidential and parliamentary regimes, secular states andestablished churches, and a wide range of electoral systems but all of themshare certain basic assumptions and practices that mark the distinction betweendemocratic and undemocratic governments.
CONCLUSION: Therefore,my perception is that Islam is a practical religion which does not allow thetyranny or any type of discrimination between the minority and the majority inthe society. In a country where many citizens most tangible experience ofdemocracy is the exchange of small amounts of cash and treats during electionseason and where there is a general perception of increasing corruption sincethe arrival of multiparty democracy, this is a position that holds power.Presently, in a democratic system, the representatives are elected throughvotes and the candidates offer themselves for their election using all kinds ofsources for winning election while none of the rightful Caliphs offered himselffor election. Each was selected by a majority of the people, after the proposalof their names by other people. Neither did they display any desire nor made anattempt to win their elections.
But almost all aspects of Muslimgovernments have an intensely personal character. In principle, there is nostate, but only a ruler; no court but only a judge. Thus,I conclude that, that Islam is a practical religion which does not allowtyranny in the society. Islam is a religion which was not satisfied withteaching the ideal of fraternity and equality to its complete. Islam did not hangto a theoretical and isolated education of its doctrine. On the contrary, Islamtrained its believers to make use of them Islamic principals in their everyday life;it educated and exercised them to strictly observe them in their activities. Itproposed to them rights based on fraternity and equality, it proved them theserights within real circumstances and established the consequences of theirvalidity.
They have acquired an active perception of fraternity and anintensely lived feeling of equality. Therefore, we can affirm that Islam is notin greater proportion contradictory to democratic principles than Christianity.Islam can be perfectly combined with a secular state and this is probably thebest institutional guarantee, developed to the present day, of tolerance and ofindividual and collective rights. There is much in Islamic sources and Islamictradition that is favourable to making democracy for delivering the products ofIslamic governance, such as social justice, economic welfare, and religiousfreedoms. I am committed that Islam is not a barrier to, but instead afacilitator of, democracy, justice, and tolerance in the Muslim world.
Democracy is inherent to Islamic values and Islamic historical experience.