Abduljalil Sajid considers how principles of democracy as a government form embody ideals most in line with Muslim belief, though not explicitedly stated in the Qu´ran. Sajid identifies the three most central ideals to islamic belief: pursuing justice, establishing a non-autocratic governance, and institutionalising compassion. Therefore, adherance to a government most in line with these principles, in Imam Sajidi‘s opinion, subscribes to faith in democracy.
Abduljalil Sajidi is a leading British Muslim of Pakistani origin, with an extensive list of involvement in Muslim organizations, currently serving as Chairman of the MCRRH (UK), and Imam of the BIM, among many others. His special interests include Freedom, Human Rights, Social Justice, and Inter-faith dialogue.
ALTHOUGH MUSLIM JURISTS DEBATED POLITICAL systems, the Qur’an itself did not specify a particular form of government. But it did identify a set of social and political values that are central to a Muslim polity.
Three values are of particular importance: 1) pursuing justice through social cooperation and mutual assistance (The Holy Qur’an 49:13; 11:119); 2) establishing a non-autocratic, consultative method of governance; and 3) institutionalising mercy and compassion in social interactions (The Holy Qur’an 6:12, 54; 21:107; 27:77; 29:51; 45.20). So, all else equal, Muslims today ought to endorse the form of government that is most effective in helping them promote these values.
THE CASE FOR DEMOCRACY
Several considerations suggest that democracy –and especially a constitutional democracy that protects basic individual rights– is that form.
My central argument (others will emerge later) is that democracy –by assigning equal rights of speech, association, and suffrage to all– offers the greatest potential for promoting justice and protecting human dignity, without making God responsible for human injustice or the degradation of human beings by one another.
FUNDAMENTS OF THE QUR’AN
A fundamental Qur’anic idea is that God vested all of humanity with a kind of divinity by making all human beings the viceroys of God on this earth: Remember, when your Lord said to the angels: I have to place a vicegerent on earth, they said: Will you place one there who will create disorder and shed blood, while we intone Your litanies and sanctify Your name? And God said: I know what you do not know (The Holy Qur’an 2:30).
In particular, human beings are responsible, as God’s vicegerents, for making the world more just. By assigning equal political rights to all adults, democracy expresses that special status of human beings in God’s creation and enables them to discharge that responsibility.
THE PURSUIT OF JUSTICE
Of course God’s vicegerent does not share God’s perfection of judgment and will. A constitutional democracy, then, acknowledges the errors of judgment, temptations, and vices associated with human fallibility by enshrining some basic moral standards in a constitutional document, moral standards that express the dignity of individuals. To be sure, democracy does not ensure justice. But it does establish a basis for pursuing justice and thus for fulfilling a fundamental responsibility assigned by God to each of us.
SIX BASIC IDEAS
In my opinion democracy draws on six basic ideas: 1) Human beings are God’s vicegerents on earth; 2) this vicegerency is the basis of individual responsibility; 3) individual responsibility and vicegerency provide the basis for human rights and equality; 4) human beings in general, and specifically, have a fundamental obligation to foster justice (and more generally to command right and forbid wrong), and to preserve and promote God’s law?; 5) divine law must be distinguished from fallible human interpretations; and 6) the state should not pretend to embody divine sovereignty and majesty.
JUSTICE IN DEMOCRACY AND ISLAM
The affinity of Islam and democracy lies in the concept of justice, democracy is a system of government that offers the greatest potential for promoting justice and protecting human dignity.
Because Islam is widely acknowledged to be concerned with justice, justice is the key moral value by which the moral systems of democracy and Islam should interact.