Does Islam allow Muslims in a Muslim-majority country to elect a non-Muslim as governor?

Question: I wrote to you to ask for your time, generosity and wisdom, as I'm greatly saddened by the situation in my country, that have turned my Muslim brothers and sisters against each other.

And the questions that have turned my Muslim brothers and sister against each other is, "Does Islam allows Muslim to vote for non-Muslim to be in the position of governor, in a Muslim majority country? "

Let me introduce myself, my name is Bara, I'm a student of International Relations major, and also an alumnus of Islamic Boarding School during my mid and high school year. And now I'm torn, my Muslim identity is in crisis with my identity as a political scholar. And I'm not alone, with many other Indonesians feel the same way.

In the capital city of Indonesia, there is currently an election going on. And for the first time during our country relatively young age of democracy, we are faced with a dilemma that we have never faced before. We have to choose between a governor candidate that is non-Muslim, that has hailed as one of the finest (but far from perfect) candidates, and one other Muslim candidate that has no proven record yet, but shows great potential to become a good leader.

This situation has never happened before, that a non-Muslim candidate can be a serious challenger for the governorship of Muslim majority country capital province. The stakes are high, and this will put a serious test upon our democratic system, to the greater point this will also answer a long-debated question on the compatibility of Islam with secular democracy.

Those Muslim in my country is split along three lines;

1. Those Muslim who feels that democracy is un-Islamic, this forbid on participating in it, so wouldn't vote on the matter

2. Those who believes that Al-Maidah 51, forbids Muslim to vote for non-Muslim, when there are Muslim alternatives, especially in Muslim majority country. And they also believe that there is no precedence of non-Muslim governor during the Caliph era.

3. And those who are in favor for the principle of 'greater good', of which always supersede any other principal when it comes to fiqh. Many other who will vote for the non-Muslim governor also believes that Al-Maidah 51 is only applicable when it comes to war, but not when it comes to democracy context, especially because the governor doesn't have an authority to intervene in the religious matter, unlike Caliph in Islamic History.

So how should I positioned myself in this matter? as a scholar of political science, my knowledge of political affairs tell me to go with the third group, as I believe that giving a position to those who are not proven to be an expert is a dzalim act, as it will harm public interest, including Muslims.

But my religion is Islam, and as a Muslim, I should follow the guidance of Al-Qur'an, which tell me (at least by interpretation of the second group) to not vote for a non-Muslim leader, under any circumstances. And doing so would put me as munafiq at best, and mushrik at worst.

Many of my peers and fellow Muslim also trapped in this dilemma, many parents are accused of not properly raised their children just because their children are supporting the non-Muslim candidate, and many of my friends are accused of being munafiq or even mushrik for showing their support to a non-Muslim candidate. Which turns brothers and sisters against each other.

As one of the most influential Islamic scholars in the world, I would like your wisdom and guidance upon this matter. On how I should decide on or bridge this dilemma. My understanding on Islamic fiqh and shariah is admittedly scarce and basic, thus I would love and be grateful if you could help me, or show me any text and fatwa or historical precedence on this matter that I could learn and study so I could make up my mind (preferably in English or Bahasa Indonesia, since I'm not fluent in Arabic).

Your help is greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much for spending time reading this letter

May Allah blessed you for your kindness, and may Allah grant you with a wisdom as He granted prophet Sulaiman a.s with it.

The answer to your question is that in Islam there is no absolute model for political rule. The Islamic form of government depends upon the circumstances. Government, according to Islam, will be decided by the circumstances. According to Islam, political form is not a part of belief. It is the prevailing situation that will determine the type of political form that has to be adopted. 

In Islamic history, the political form adopted after the Prophet was based on khilafat. This continued for up to 30 years. Khilafat is one of the forms of government among the many other forms. It is not an absolute form. After Ali ibnAbiTalib, there was a change in the form of government. After Ali, the dynastic model of governance was adopted. This model continued for a long period and all Muslim ulema accepted it. 

The model set by other prophets is also an Islamic model. This is because the Quran accepts all messengers as models (The Quran, 6:90). In this matter, there is an example in the life of Prophet Joseph. In Egypt, Prophet Joseph unconditionally accepted a non-Muslim king (malik). This model set by Prophet Joseph is called the best model in the Quran (12:3).

According to this principle, the democratic model is also an accepted model in Islam. This is supported by the following verse of the Quran: Amruhumshura baynahum. That is, 'Who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation.' (42:38)

According to these precedents (nadhair), if you people select a non-Muslim governor in Indonesia, it would be regarded as a right choice according to Islam. This would not be considered a wrong choice. 

In Islam, political form is not related to belief. Government does not have a set form as prayer has. Rather this matter is related to circumstances or practical wisdom. The demands of practical wisdom will decide the form of government to be adopted. And this form would be in accordance with Islam.