Democracy and Islam
Political Issues
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

I think that there is no democracy in Islam. Islam is a complete way of life: its system and laws are given by Allah. How can we have the right to choose between man-made laws and God-revealed laws? However, I have seen people speaking of Islamic Democracy. Isn’t this a contradiction in terms?


There are two basic aspects of democracy:

1. The process of electing representatives of the people to run the country.

2. The scope of legislation done in the parliament of a country by the elected representatives.

The first aspect is in complete harmony with the political law of Islam as mentioned in the Qur’ān:

The affairs of state of the believers are run by their mutual consultation. (42:38)

Keeping in view linguistic considerations, it is evident that a consensus or majority opinion of the Muslims can in no way be overruled. The Qur’ān has not said: ‘The believers are consulted in their affairs’; it has, on the contrary, declared: ‘Their affairs of state are run by their mutual consultation’. The style and pattern of the verse demands that an Islamic government should be established through the consultation of the believers, continue to exist on this basis and should cease to exist without it. It should conduct its affairs, in all cases, on the basis of a consensus or majority opinion of the believers.

As far as the second aspect is concerned, Islam imposes a broad restriction on it. The scope of legislation must never exceed the directives of the Qur’ān and Sunnah. According to the Qur’ān, Allah God and his Prophet (sws) are the final authority in the affairs of state. The head of an Islamic State or the members of its parliament have no right whatsoever to have a ruling in matters decreed by the Book of God or the Sunnah of the Prophet (sws). Their legislation and commandments can only be obeyed after obeying God and his Prophet (sws), and if they do not overrule or exceed the limits adjudicated by these authorities. Therefore, in an Islamic State no law can be enacted contrary to the Qur’ān and Sunnah or one which does not take into consideration the guidance provided by them. The believers indeed have a right to disagree with those in authority, but they can have no disagreement with God and His Prophet (sws). In fact, if such a situation arises even with those in authority, the decision must be made in the light of the Qur’ān and Sunnah. The Qur’ān says:

Obey God and the Prophet and those of you who are in authority, and if you disagree among yourselves in any matter, refer it to God and the Prophet, if you are believers in Allah and the Last Day. This is better and more seemly as regards the consequences. (4:59)

Therefore, it can be said that with this qualification, the political system of Islam resembles democracy in its essence.

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