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A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Democracy and Shura

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dark-wolf-226x300The slogan ”Islamic democracy” has been coined and attributed to Umar ibnul Khattab (ra), the second Khaleefah, and even to Muhammad (saw). It is said that consultation, or ”Shura,” is a fundamental aspect of Islamic governance, and that it is, in reality, democratic. However, those who describe democracy as being Shura, have dressed the proverbial ”wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Once some light has been cast onto the reality of Shura and democracy, the wolf will be unmasked. Firstly, let us look at the similarities.

Similarities between Shura and Democracy

Democracy entails ruling by the majority opinion. This is in terms of legislation through the parliament and the execution of ruling through a government, which acts (in theory at least) for the majority.

Shura is the verbal noun of the verb ‘’shawara,” or consulted. It means seeking an opinion from the one who is consulted. The Khaleefah or any lawful authority can undertake the Shura. Allah (swt) said to His Prophet (saw) in the Qur’an:

”And do consult them in the matter…” [ Ale-Imran: 159].

Abu Hurairah (ra) said, ”I have not seen anyone more willing to consult others then the Messenger of Allah (saw) in the consultation of his companions.”

Both Shura and democracy involve seeking an opinion from people. This is the only similarity.

Can we now say that democracy is Shura ? Could we even say that democracy is Islamic? The answer to both these questions is no. If the wolf has four legs just like the sheep, then are they the same? If the wolf is a warm-blooded mammal like the sheep, should they be kept together? Again, the answer is no! The wolf pup goes to its own mother for milk. Now imagine a newborn lamb that also drinks milk. Would it be wise to view any source of milk as its loving mother? The wolf and the sheep are proof that a similarity between any two things does not prove that these two things are the same.

To say that democracy is Shura, or that it is not Shura, requires a comprehensive understanding of both realities. Then we can see if they are indeed the same. We will see, in fact, that they differ in some fundamental issues. The differences are of such a nature that for the Muslims to drink from the milk of democracy would entail deviation from Islam.

In democracy, the majority opinion is always binding. However, in reality, opinions are of three types. Islam’s verdict on Shura is different for each of these three types of opinion.

1) Shura is never considered in matters of legislation.

2) The expert opinion is taken, regardless of the majority or minority, in matters where an intellectual judgement is required about some subject.

3) The majority opinion is taken for matters of action only.

Let us examine the first point:

1) Shura is never considered in matters of legislation.

The opinions of people hold no value in the matters of halal and haram because it is Allah (swt) who has decided these matters for us in the Book and the Sunnah. Allah (swt) warned about deviation from His Book:

”Therefore fear not men but fear me and sell not my verses for a miserable price. And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the disbelievers” [ Al-Ma’idah: 44].

The ruler is specifically warned not to follow people’s opinions in matters of revelation:

”Rule between them by that which Allah has revealed to you, and do not follow their vain desires” [ Al-Ma’idah: 49].

Democracy is built upon following man’s vain desires, without any restriction from the Creator. Democracy gives man the right to decide that sodomy is a crime, or that it is a respectable activity that our children should be encouraged to respect and practice. Democracy, therefore, is not simply a Western name for the Islamic principle of Shura!

The Prophet (saw) clearly refused to consider the people sovereign. On one occasion, the noble Sahabah were concerned about the treaty of Hudaybiyah, before Allah’s (swt) word on the matter had been clarified to them. They expressed their opinions very strongly to the Prophet (saw), because they thought that this treaty would humiliate the Muslims. Nevertheless, he (saw) rejected the opinions of all the Sahabah in order to sign the treaty of Hudaybiyah in obedience to the command of Allah (swt).

Sometimes the Khaleefah may not be certain what Allah’s (swt) rule is on a matter, and Ijtihad may be required. In such a situation, the Khaleefah may consult people of knowledge. This type of consultation is considered next.

2) The expert opinion is taken, regardless of the majority or minority, in matters where an intellectual judgement is required about some subject.

Umar b. Al-Khattab (ra) consulted the Muslims regarding the newly conquered lands of Iraq, whether they should be divided amongst the Muslims as booty, or left in the hands of its people subject to payment of Kharaj. Bilal (ra), Abdur Rahman (ra) and Az-Zubayr (ra) thought that the land should be divided in the same way that the Prophet (saw) divided the land of Khaybar as booty. Umar, however, made Ijtihad upon some ayat in Surah al Hashr to deduce that the land should be Kharaji land. Once Umar heard the views and was convinced with his own Ijtihad in preference to that of the majority, he rejected all other opinions and followed his own expert understanding of the text. During Umar’s Khilafah, he consulted the Sahabah on many issues related to understanding the rules of Islam for new situations, and he adopted the strongest opinion and never the majority opinion. The general consensus of the Sahabah upon this makes it clear that the Khaleefah can consult until he finds the strongest opinion. It is the Khaleefah who decides which is correct and no one else.

The Prophet (saw) followed the opinion of a single expert, Habab bin Munthir (ra), over the selection of the place of the Battle of Badr. It was narrated in the Seerah of Ibnu Hisham that, ”when he (saw) camped at the near side of the water of Badr, Al-Habab b. Al-Munthir was not happy with this place. He said to the Messenger (saw), ‘O Messenger of Allah! Did Allah make you camp in this place where we can’t depart from it, or is it the opinion of war and strategy?’ He (saw) said, ‘It is rather the opinion of war and strategy.’ Al Habab b. al-Munthir said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, this is not the (right) place. Move the people till we come to the side of the water near to the people (enemy), we camp there..’ The Messenger (saw) said, ‘You gave the right opinion.”’ Here, the Prophet (saw) followed the opinion of a single expert without asking for the majority view.

When a correct judgement on a subject, whether technical or Shari’ah, is required it is the correct opinion and not the majority that is followed. Only one man, the Khaleefah, has the right to decide which is correct. The ayah of consultation continues:

”…When you decided (azamta), put your trust in Allah” [ Al-‘Imran: 159].

This indicates that the final decision is with ruler and not with the people. This is because the verb ”to decide” used in the text is ”azamta” which means you (singular) decided. If the decision had been for the people then the verb would have been in the form ”azamtum” meaning you (plural). Again, it is seen that Shura and democracy are not the same.

3) The majority opinion is taken for matters of action only.

There are many choices the Khaleefah can make between actions that are Mubah (permissible). To invest in schools or hospitals, to appoint this man or that man, to build a motorway through cornfields on the east side of a town or to build it through pastureland to the west, are some examples. It is natural for people to differ when faced with a simple choice between two actions. A technical study would not come up with a judgement that leads to only one right course of action. In such a case, a choice needs to be made which will be subjective to each person. The Khaleefah can consult the people, and this is recommended but not obligatory according to Islam. The Prophet (saw) decided many matters like this himself, but he also consulted the people such as in the consultation before the Battle of Uhud. The Mushrikeen came to attack the Muslims that day, and the Prophet (saw) and the more prominent Sahabah wanted to fight from inside the city of Madina. However, the majority of the people wanted to go outside to fight the enemy. The Prophet (saw) led the army out from Madinah into the battle in accordance with the wishes of the majority.

Conclusion

In the democratic system of ruling, man has the absolute right to do as he pleases. This is decided by the majority opinion. Democracy is Kufr because that would be to place man above his Creator! Shura ”consultation” is not an absolute right of the people. The Khaleefah can consult with the people only in permissible matters (”Mubaah”). We have seen that the majority is accepted only if the matter is one of action and not some specialist subject. If an opinion, such as a strategy of war is needed, then the experts in this field are consulted, even if only one. This is because the ”correct” opinion is sought, and the majority opinion has no worth here.

The difference between democracy and Shura is like the difference between water and fire. We should remember the words of the Prophet (saw) narrated by Muslim and Bukhari about the final hour, ”When Dajjal will appear he will have water and fire with him. The thing which the people may consider as water will actually be fire; and the thing which the people may consider as fire, will be the cool and sweet water.”

May Allah (swt) protect us from the fire.

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The Real Outcome of the Recent Pak-US Official Visits

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Obama & Zardari

US vice President, Joseph Biden recent visit to Pakistan was a matter of great concern for the entire nation, media and our US-led government, which is strongly believed to be acting like a puppet in US hands after its failure to resolve the issue of military insurgency and continuous drone attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan. It was a shrewd and tactful move on the part of the USA as the trust deficit between Pak-US relations continues to increase after the Indo-US nuclear deal, Obama’s visit to India and his endorsing India to become a permanent member of Security Council. Infact all these policies point directly towards its deep-rooted strategic interests and inclination towards India. The simple logic or reason behind all this is America’s fear of China and security threat from Pakistan. In the upcoming years it is not likely to be Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s Pakistan who can possibly become a safe haven for the terrorists and its previous Pro Taliban policy still haunts the Americans. USA alleges Pakistan’s ISI being supportive to these extremist elements and considers its nuclear arsenals being unsafe. Out of this fear, Biden has announced in his few days back visit to Afghanistan that USA forces would continue to stay and expected gradual withdrawal, starting this summer of US troops, can be postponed if Afghanistan wants, in order to prevent civil war and to fully eliminate the terrorists from its land.

America’s security depends greatly on Pakistan so it is bound to establish good ties with Pakistan and this surprise visit was another goodwill gesture out of courtesy and more likely out of its own self interest. In his visit, Joe Biden tried to clarify the misconceptions that prevail in Pakistan about US intentions and actions. He appreciated Pakistan’s fight against terrorism and reiterated US support to democracy in Pakistan and its stability. Biden assured that the new US administration would support Pakistan’s efforts to counter terrorism, religious radicalism and to meet its developmental needs and capacity building. He also expressed his condolence over assassination of Governor Salman Taseer. He assured Pakistan that no US boot will tread on Pakistani soil and there will be no violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,”

Our President Asif Ali Zardari recently also visited USA to attend the memorial services of Pak-Afghan envoy Richard Holbrook. There was no ceremonial welcome, no state banquet, and no joint presser, not even an opening statement on his arrival. No one is really quite sure what Zardari had hoped to accomplish, by meeting the US President and the state secretary Hillary Clinton as the two countries are battling an enormous trust deficit despite public protestations of cooperation in combating terrorism. The two leaders renewed pledges of cooperation over the aspects of the US-Pakistan strategic partnership, including mutual commitment to economic reform, support for good governance, democracy and joint efforts against terrorism. The discussion focused on shared efforts to fight terrorism, resolve the issue of blasphemy law and to promote regional stability, specifically on the importance of cooperating towards a peaceful and stable outcome in Afghanistan. However, Washington is not ready to pay any heed over the Kashmir issue and the real outcome of these two visits seems quite bleak for Pakistan, giving us neither new hopes for betterment nor any positive prospects for the future.

The years of US policies toward Pakistan based on financial allurements and conventional weaponry have done little to induce any change. Despite all these assurances, Pakistani nation is now skeptical of US motives having bad experiences in the past like drone strikes on Pakistani border areas, failure of Kerry Lugar bill and inadequate US material and financial aid for the war on terror and in crucial times of floods. These two visits are another deceptive picture by USA to allure Pakistan towards itself, after foreseeing Pakistan’s growing diplomatic and economic cooperation with China in December. No matter how much USA assures Pakistan of its staunch support, the atmosphere of misperceptions and doubts continue to hail around the country and America can never win the hearts and minds of Pakistani people through its fake assurances, callous policies and political/ military tactics as the two sides have a long way to go to overcome their significant differences. As it is well said that assurance cannot be bought but achieved only through mutual trust, cooperation and it requires time and experience.

AYMEN IJAZ
ISLAMABAD

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Pakistan

THE SILENT MAJORITY

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by Arslan Khalid

A couple of days ago Pakistan saw The Governor of its largest province murdered in broad daylight by his own security personal. The murderer has claimed it to be in reaction to governors’ statements against blasphemy law. Irrespective of the political turmoil it may have created, the society is divided into two groups over this issue. 5% people claiming it to be a justified act while 5% considers governor as a martyr .

Silent Majority

Now where does majority 90% stand on this issue? Well they are once again busy doing their usual thing which is “to keep silent”.
Maulana Roomi once said that Nations die when they fail to differentiate between the right and wrong .It would have been very convenient to accept that our nation had died many years ago but the fact is that this silent majority of our nation has still got the ability to differentiate between right and wrong only if they can come out of their self created prison .Their major concern is just to pass there solitary lives in captivity without being disturbed. They have become immune to oppression and injustice. They have allowed a minority to rule over them and to represent them as a nation whether this minority be extremists or liberal fascists.
In Islam we are blessed with an eternal gift. A blessing that no other religion is offering which is a clear guideline to pass our lives. The whole message of Almighty is there in Quran and then elaborated clearly by Hadiths and the Holy life of The Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him).Unlike other religions where u follow a church or a synagogue to understand it, we Muslims can lead good,pious lives by studying Quran and Hadiths ourselves. So role of a Molvi becomes very well defined . His job should just be spreading the message of namaz,zakat and basic principles of Islam. If some Mullah tries to spread the message against the spirit of Islam which is peace why cant the majority sitting in mosque take a stand and ask him afterwards that he shouldn’t indulge himself in that domain. The little contribution on our part can save somebody from getting wrong meaning of Islam by that Mullah. However as followers, people need to understand that Islam is a religion and not a fashion that needs change with time. There is no radical or moderate Islam .The radicalization is a whole different phenomenon and has more to do with political and social issues than religious ones.
It will take long to explain causes for the radicalization and intolerance that we witness in our society so I would rather stick to my topic about the silent people out there who sometimes gather courage and decides to speak up but limit their voice to facebook or twitter only. alas!! Almost all my friends living abroad on watching governors’ murder news, updated their status on face book showing immense disappointment and remorse. Unfortunately none of them ever update their status when everyday drone attacks are killing innocent people in our tribal region .In an estimate 42% people who died in last yrs drone attack were just a collateral damage and the missile never differentiated between a child, a woman or a 70 yr old man. Last month people affected by drones from South and North Waziristan protested in Islamabad. Prominent human rights associations that claim to be champions of human rights in Pakistan and get dollars for their NGOs in return for their services never turned up for them. Nobody even bothered that a 8 year old child waiting for mercy after having lost his parents in drone attack is an ideal target to get exploited by terrorists.
Even American and British people adopted Iraqi orphans after Iraq war but our silent class has gone so selfish that they couldn’t help one of their own. Living their lives in fear and avoiding trouble, not foreseeing that few yrs from now this very child’s activity can give them some irreplaceable loss.
We always blame an individual for some act but never bothered that this was bound to happen. Give me one explanation why should we only blame an individual and never considered our silence responsible for the act. Why do we expect peace when we are so far from the concept of Islam? Why do we expect logical decisions from people when there is no effort of educating people on real issues? How can we expect a better future for us when we haven’t learnt anything from history? Why do we even think of being sovereign when we know we are being ruled by corrupt puppets of super powers and do nothing to remove them? We want people to be keep deep sentiments for the country but want to restrain their sentiments when somebody shows mala fide intentions towards the religion? How can we expect a great Muslim scholar to come out of some madarasa when we ourselves have generalized all madarasas as terrorist training centers and have labeled all students there as terrorists? Why do we hope for some genuine National heroes when we are busy making disputed people of past as heroes and martyrs? Why do people mention about Rule of Law and States authority to implement some law when the people running the state are the biggest thugs and frauds? why do we even mention about making better laws when the law makers are themselves the biggest law breakers? How can we wish for a revolution that can change the fate of this nation but aren’t willing to sacrifice for it? Aren’t these questions enough to tell that where we demand others to be clear in their heads we ourselves are confused? Last but not least why am I expecting answers to these questions when I know that these questions were addressed to ‘The Silent Majority’ of this nation which hopefully will one day wake up from the deep slumber they are presently in.

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Your Opinion Poll Regarding Salman Taseer’s Killing [VOTE]

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”]Salman Taseer killed by his own security guard “Mumtaz Qadri” in reaction to Taseer’s statement terming the blasphemy law as a black law.  He fired 27 bullets into Salman Taseer’s body. 500 religious Scholars alone from Karachi urged Muslims to boycott the funeral ceremony.

The statement which has been endorsed by senior Barelvi leaders such as Professor Saeed Shah Kazmi, Allama Syed Riaz Hussain Shah, Syed Shah Turabul Haq Qadri and Hajji Mohammad Tayyab calls the assassin Mumtaz Hussain Qadri ‘Ashiqe Rasool Ghaziye Mulk (Lover of the Prophet, Commander of the Country)’.

“We pay rich tributes and salute the bravery, valour and faith of Mumtaz Qadri,” the statement said, adding that the ministers, politicians, ‘so-called’ intellectuals and anchor persons should learn lessons from the governor’s death. The scholars said that those who insult the Holy Prophet (pbuh), even if they did not intend to, were liable for death.

Hajji Mohammad Tayyab, who is also the secretary general of the Sunni Ittehad Council, told The Express Tribune that scholars had “repeatedly urged the president, prime minister and Governor Taseer himself that if their knowledge about the blasphemy law are limited, they should consult them and avoid debating over the issue as it would inflame the people and then anything could happen.”

Shah Turabul Haq Qadri’s son Siraj, also a senior member of the JASP, endorsed the statement and said it was now binding on every Muslim.

Jamiat Ulemae Pakistan (JUP) central executive committee member Maulana Shabbir went as far as saying that in his opinion Salmaan Taseer was ‘Wajubul Qatil’ (must be killed according to divine law). “He had called the divine law of God, a black law and tried to protect a condemned blasphemer,” he said.

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Mumtaz Qadri have done the Right action or Wrong ?


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