A Reflection on Democracy in Relation to Islam
Part Two
By. Dr. Amir Parviz Parsa

In the first half of this article (See previous article), some verses were quoted from the Holy Quran which clearly defined not only the context of democracy in Islam, but also demonstrated that democratic values can even be adhered to for matters relating even to the life in the Hereafter, and not just this world.

In this section we continue our thoughts on the same subject. Points number one through eleventh were mentioned before; hence we start by point twelfth in here. It is highly recommended that if you have not read Part I of this article, read that first and then continue with this segment.

Twelfth: Democracy is defined as “Government by the people, of the people, and for the people.” In some Western countries, there is a distinction to be made between “democracy”, and “democratic behavior” (not dictatorial conduct) in collective decision making.

Many countries, including Islamic Countries lack collective processes of decision making through consultations, but this has nothing to do with the institution of Islam as such. Rather, it is due to aspirations of Islamic leaders in various countries which might be due to their selfishness, arrogance, egotism, and/or tribal preferences. For example, despite the fact that rulers of Saudi Arabia have done great measures for their nation, they still ban their ladies from driving. Other Islamic countries, such as Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Moracco, and Syria, among others, allow ladies to drive without preconceived vicious consequences. Does this have anything to do really with Islam? Or is it used to criticize Islam just because it happens within an Islamic nation? You be the Judge of this.

Thirteenth: A distinction has to be made between what we are supposed to do as Muslims and what we are actually doing. Our failure to abide by consultations in the affairs of the nation, as required by the Holy Quran is OUR FAULT, not that of the institution of Islam .

Fourteenth: To blame Muslim countries for lacking democratic institutions is tantamount to blaming the whole Christianity of the United States for what Timothy Mc Weigh did by destroying the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. This has nothing to do with the sacred instructions of Christianity and everything to do with the way we raise our children.

During the riots of Los Angeles in the Rodney King incident, it was shown that those who looted the department stores during the riots had not had good solid education in their homes, schools, and religious institutions.

If Saudi Arabia allows a few thousand princes and princesses to be the real dominant owners of their economy, this has nothing to do with Islam. Under another group of rulers, they might act quite differently, while in both cases, they can be legitimately considered Islamic countries!

Fifteenth: Ali, (the son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, pbuh) says in one of his sermons (Sermon 186, Nahajul Balaaghah):

Beware of the Day in which there is no kinship to help, no excuse, and no intercession

Furthermore, the martyrdom of Husain, his son, in the Shi’a school of thought, is an eternal and everlasting inspirational phenomenon showing that one could sacrifice even his life and the lives of close family members to allow Islam to last, to defend sacred values. This is also to resist the oppression and aggression of Yazid. This is the greatest sacrifice one can ever make for the sake of his beliefs, no bondage for people other than to Allah (swt), and securing the real freedom of individuals from any servitude.

Sixteenth: Consider the following three quotes on the standing of the current three political candidates; something the voters would really like to distinguish before they vote. Time magazine of May 26th, 2008 reports on page 42 the following:

“Hillary Clinton: The middle class is the backbone of our economy, the key to real growth.
Barack Obama: Our economy is the strongest when opportunity is spread as widely as possible.
John McCain: We need reforms that promote growth and opportunity.”
Do you really see any real difference in the welfare of the people in these positions?

Seventeenth: Prophet Muhammad says in a Qudsi Hadith, No. 17 of 40 Qudsi Hadith, on behalf of Allah:

“O My servants, I have forbidden oppression for Myself and have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another….”

What better guidance do you expect for running the affairs of a nation or society, other than what is quoted. And is it Islam’s fault that some corrupt rulers of so-called Islamic countries do not abide by this order of the Prophet?

Eighteenth: Professor Seyyed Husein Nasr, a leading Islamic Scholar/philosopher, asserts that modern educational institutions contain within themselves the seeds of profound conflicts as far as the philosophies and theories of education are concerned.[A Young Muslim’s Guide to the Modern World, Chapter 12, page 214.]

He continues to assert that “These educational institutions remain in a state of constant tension with religious institutions and even with the earlier humanism which sought to view human beings as a whole in need of the development of both their mental and spiritual aspects.”

Professor Nasr properly reminds us that we seem to be neglecting the fact that “traditional institutions of learning have their own philosophy of learning based upon the unity of knowledge, the servitude of man to God, the centrality of the Divine Revelations and all other principles which characterize the Islamic worldview”.

Even though they are all Muslim countries, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria (all colonized by England), copied British models; whereas North Africa (having been colonized by France) copied French models, and Indonesia (colonized by the Dutch) copied the Dutch models.

Shall we consider human beings as a whole in need of the development of both their mental and spiritual aspects? Modern Western disciplines, while uprooting the Islamic countries spiritually and intellectually, “alienate them from their own traditional background and simply add another potent element contributing to disorder and chaos within Islamic society itself” [Ibid, p.216]. Had Professor Nasr not gotten his Ph.D. from Harvard University, and had he not been so highly respected in the World, the writer of this article would have had a hard time believing him; yet, Nasr is referring to a fundamental fact that is lacking within the educational systems of the Western countries:
A harmony that is needed between propagation of national ideals and philosophies, new secularism, utilitarianism, public welfare, economic goals, material progress, and a desperately needed balance between knowledge and spiritual values. Each country must decide for itself based on its own background and religious values, rather than imposition by the West, (which in itself is caught to a large extent in the throes of the tension between religion and secular humanism).

By default, knowledge has become separated from both spirituality and morality in the West. For us as Muslims, the question is: Shall we blindly imitate the West, while we ourselves have superior moral values? The reality is that, at times, the West mistakenly thinks of its own institutions as being the best and wishes imposing them on the cultural values of the East, without ever wanting to admit that at least for the East, their own values are considered to be superior values.

Nineteenth: According to Scott McClellan, in his book: What happened,pp.63-64;
“Narrowly tailored partisan and other special interest groups influence Congress to shape policies for the benefit of their members, not necessarily the citizenry as a whole. Continuous fund raising … binds powerful interest groups and wealthy donors to parties and politicians in a way that often shuts out the needs of the average American.”

Twentieth: McClellan further asserts that budgets are drawn up not solely with the pressing needs of the public at the forefront but rather to reward political loyalists, punish enemies, and win votes in contested districts and states when November rolls around” Also we all know now that “top presidential advisers come to view their job as protecting the president above all else. They create a wall of protection around the Oval Office .”

Twenty-First: To quote Scott McClellan once more, and for the final time, “The tearing down of Bert lance, Jimmy Carter’s budget Director, was in part republicans’ revenge for Watergate. The defeat of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork through negative attacks and leaks was a big win for Democrats. Republicans came back with a fury during the Clinton years.” The cycle shows no sign of stopping. The record is one that no honest mind can be really proud of it. Clinton’s political machine became notoriously famous for its aggressive pushback tactics,… politics-as-war with negative ad campaigns has become the norm of behavior in the so-called democracies of the West. Reading of Scott mcClellan’s Book ”What happened” opens up our eyes on what the nature of the so-called democracy of the U.S. really is.

Summary and Conclusion:
Various verses of the Holy Quran and some Hadith were presented which prove, beyond a shadow of doubt, that “Mutual Consultation” and “Seeking of Advice” of others in the management of affairs of a nation are quite desirable. A distinction was made between: “Democracy” on the one hand, and “Democratic Behavior” on the other hand. While a majority, almost all, of Islamic countries are being spoiled by corrupt rulers, the West and especially the U.S. support those very corrupt authorities at times by their foreign policy, so long as their own interests warrant it; yet they criticize Islamic countries for not having democracies or even asserting that democracy cannot flourish within their Islamic frameworks! This is really absurd and nothing but eccentricity in their own hidden behavior/interests/agenda. While Islamic countries are definitely in need of much improvements in their “democratic behavior”, it cannot be asserted that their religion is incompatible with the institution of democracy or democratic behaviors as a whole. Islam itsel, just like Christianity, is pure, excellent, and beautiful, the beauty of which cannot be easily understood until people are well-versed in it. It is our behavior and adherence to Islamic Institutions/guidance that needs definite modification and is far from being desirable, not Islam itself. It is the behavior and understanding of the rulers of Islamic countries particularly that requires pondering and change, not Islam itself. Unless we realize the difference between notions of democracy and democratic behavior well, we are likely to make the same theoretical mistakes we have done for years.