Democracy is Islamic. According to the Quran, believers are those who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation. (42:38) According to a hadith: As you (society) are, so would your rulers be. (Shuab al-Iman, Hadith No. 7006) These are the premises of democracy. Democracy is the people’s government, for the people, and by the people. Unlike in a dictatorship or monarchy, in a democracy, society dictates the events.

Islam and secularism are fully compatible. As per the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, secularism is a policy of non-interference in religious matters. In a secular government, every religious community has the right to follow its faith. It was demonstrated even by the Prophet Muhammad when he drafted the Madinah Charter, according to which different religious groups were allowed to have their law. The Quran (5:43 and 5:44) and the life of the Prophet Muhammad make it clear that secularism and the teachings of Islam are alike. Groups that claim otherwise are entirely mistaken in promoting unIslamic ideas of religious superiority. The Quran says, ‘Lakum deenukum waliyadeen’, which means, ‘to each, his religion’. It is the fundamental principle of secularism in our nation.



People generally believe that religion and secularism are quite opposed to each other—religion is anti-secularism and secularism is anti-religion. However, a deeper study shows that this kind of thinking is completely unfounded. Instead, secularism is a great blessing for religion. One can understand this fact simply by applying the well-known saying: “It is in comparison that we understand”.

History tells us that during previous centuries, religion was always under attack; it is a recent phenomenon that religious people enjoy freedom. In previous centuries, religious people were like a deprived class, but now religion is flourishing everywhere in the world. What is the reason for this change?

It is due to modern secularism. Secularism is the dominant thinking of the modern age. And it is due to this secularism that religion is finding greater acceptance in modern society.

The fact is that the previous age was an age of persecution—persecution of political opponents; persecution of women; persecution of slaves; and, of course, religion was included in this list of persecution. Then, after the advent of modern science, secular thinking emerged; gradually it became the dominant thinking of the present world. If the previous age was an age of persecution, the present age is an age of secularism.

Secularism has brought a great intellectual revolution. Secularism is a kind of compromise that is based on practical realities. Secularism is not a religion; it is simply a practical adjustment between different groups of society.

According to the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, secularism is a policy of non-interference in religious matters. A secular scheme in political administration implies that all common issues, like infrastructure, irrigation, city planning, etc., will be managed by the state; and all other ‘non-political fields’, are open to one and all. Religious people may enjoy complete freedom in fields such as moral reform, spirituality, and education—especially informal education.

This secular scheme is highly appreciable and practiced happily by many religious people. The administration of a multicultural and multireligious society is a great responsibility. It is good that all these responsibilities are given to secular departments; so one is free to avail the opportunities present in modern times in other fields.

Source: Spirit of Islam July 2013

The principle of secular democracy is exactly in accordance with the teachings of Islam. There is a verse in the Quran describing those who know this principle as those “who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation.” (42:38)

A tradition of the Prophet explains it further: “As you will be, so will be your rulers.” (Sunan Al Baihaqi Vol. 6, p. 22; Mishkat Al Masabih, No. 3717) This verse and this tradition tell us that the principle of Islam is to accept the opinion of the majority in worldly matters common to all. This principle can be called practical settlement. This practical settlement can be arrived at with declaration or without declaration.

The Prophet of Islam started his mission in Makkah without interfering with the tribal Parliament known as Dar-an-Nadwa’. Neither did he challenge the presence of the 360 idols placed in the Kabah, etc. It was in the nature of an undeclared settlement. After the migration, he entered into a proper written agreement with the Quraysh on the occasion of Hudaybiyyah. In this agreement, it was mentioned in writing that neither party would commit any aggression, directly or indirectly, against the other. It was, in effect a declared settlement.

Secular democracy is neither an absolute theory nor an eternal system. It is only a practical settlement that is made according to the situation. Its basic purpose is to provide opportunities by maintaining peace in social life. By avoiding confrontation, such a process should be set in as it may facilitate the journey to the desired goal. Secular democracy is in keeping with Islamic teachings in spirit. Holding secular democracy against Islam is extremism, and there is no place for extremism in Islam.

Source: The True Face of Islam

What is democracy? Democracy is defined as a majority rule. But this definition is not enough to understand democracy. You will have to add these words: Majority rule in secular affairs.

The fact is that democracy is not an absolute theory, rather it is only a practical solution. Democracy is a practical system for a society that comprises people of different religious traditions. In a democratic set -up government institutions can be formed peacefully wherein all religious groups are given full opportunities to observe their religious obligations.

To understand democracy we have to add the element of secularism with it. In present times the democratic system has been based on the principle of secular democracy. Secularism does not provide any philosophy of life in the absolute sense.

Secularism, in actual fact, pertains to worldly affairs. For instance, the establishment of peace, city planning, infrastructure, etc. Secular democracy means that the administration of common worldly matters should be referred to as the democratic process, but, so far as the matter of the observation of religious duties is concerned, people should be given equal rights and full freedom.

This division does not mean reducing the sphere of religion, it rather means giving a starting point to religious people. In a secular democratic system, a religious group finds the opportunity to adopt the principle of “beginning from the possible” and start its peaceful struggle. That is, to achieve whatever is achievable today and for the rest, it may prepare the minds of the people and thus may keep increasing gradually and peacefully its sphere of influence.

Source: The True Face of Islam

The answer is in the negative. Islam itself is a system of democracy, not only in political matters but also in other social matters. There is a clear direction in the Quran in this regard. The Quran has this to say—Affairs of the believers are decided by mutual consultation. (42:38)

It means that in every social issue, Muslims must follow the method of mutual consultation. If they reach a consensus, then it is good; otherwise, the matter will be decided by the majority. Democracy is another name for the rule of the majority, and the same principle is accepted in Islam.

The Prophet of Islam used to adopt this principle in every matter. He used to gather people whenever he was faced with a problem. He asked them to give their opinions, and the matter was settled only after discussion with his companions. The prophet used to say, ashiruu ‌‘alaya 'ayuha alnnas (O people, give me your opinion). It is on record that sometimes the Prophet accepted the opinion of the majority, even though it was against his personal opinion. One such example is found at the time of the battle of Uhud in 2 A.H. During this battle the Prophet felt that they should stay back in Madinah and defend themselves, whereas his companions were of the opinion that they should go on to the outskirts. The prophet agreed with the opinion of the majority. This was also the method of his four caliphs.

The Prophet of Islam said: “As you are, so will be your rulers.” (Shu'ab al-Iman by Al-Bayhaqi, Hadith no. 7006)

It means that the government will be formed by the people’s opinion. That is, the democratic process will determine who will be the ruler of the nation. The government cannot be formed by an individual; it is subject to the opinion of the majority. The well-known dictum of democracy: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people” is also accepted by Islam. Therefore, Islam is a system of democracy; not only politically, but also socially.

Source: Spirit of Islam February 2013


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