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Islam and Politics ( 21 May 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Refutation of Taliban’s Obscurantist Ideas on Islamic Democracy and Caliphate

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

May 22, 2013

The Taliban have been carrying on their tirade against democracy which is the form of government in many Muslim, Christian and Hindu-dominated countries. They claim to be striving to establish a caliphate based on the model of the caliphate of the righty guided caliphs.  Their preferred method of striving is the use of force including the completely un-Islamic and inhuman act of massacres of Muslims through suicide bombings. Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and some other Muslim-majority countries have democratic forms of government. But the Taliban insist that the governments of Muslim-majority countries based on democracy are un-Islamic. The Taliban has gone a step further by declaring the government of Pakistan a government of Kafirs. In their view the Pakistani government is based on democracy, though the constitution of Pakistan is based on Islamic principles and the country is called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Their stand is entirely based on ignorance and a wrong interpretation of Islamic Shariah.

Thankfully the overwhelming majority of Pakistani people have rejected this Talibani notion in the recent elections. They have braved massacres, suicide bombings of election rallies and the constantly overhanging threat to their lives to attend political rallies as well as going out in large numbers, larger numbers than before, to vote.

In their mouthpiece magazine, Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad, the Taliban continually publish articles eulogising the virtues and merits of caliphate (Khilafat) and criticising and demonising the philosophy of democracy calling it an atheistic form of government, a brainchild of the Jews, an offshoot of the American imperialism etc.

According to their belief, only Khilafat is the form of government which has been endorsed by the Quran and Hadith, though the Quran has not specified any form of government for Islamic countries. Many Islamic scholars and researchers of the Quran and Islam have not found an outline of the form of government meant for a Muslim country in the Quran. The Quran only has put forth the ideals and code of conduct an Islamic state should act under. The word Khalifa in the Quran has been interpreted by them as the ruler of the Islamic state and therefore the Taliban and other hard-line Islamic Ulema are of the firm belief that only Khilafah on the lines of the caliphate of the four rightly guided caliphs can be called a true Islamic government and all other forms of government are un-Islamic and therefore are governments based on Kufr.

Earlier, they had carried a series on democracy presenting their interpretation of democracy and quoting many Ulema of repute on the topic. All the Ulema were unanimous on the fact that democracy is a government based on Kufr and is a brain child of the Jews and an instrument of the imperialist forces to establish their hegemony over the Islamic world.

We had given a point by point refutation to their arguments against democracy and had established with the help of the views of modern Islamic scholars, philosophers and thinkers that Islam and democracy were compatible with each other and had quoted scholars like Iqbal, Khurshid Ahmad and Md Asad proving that though many of them did not like the idea of western democracy, they had envisaged the idea of Islamic democracy. Iqbal supported ‘social democracy’ for his dream state of Pakistan; Maulana Maududi was in favour of a theo-democracy while Md Asad opined that the presidential form of democracy in vogue in the US based on the principles and guidelines mentioned in the Quran and Hadith would be an ideal Islamic government.

Since the ignoramuses driving the terrorist forces like Taliban, Al Qaida, Boko Haram, Al Shabab etc believing in bloodshed and anarchy refuse to listen to any voice of Ijtihad and rationality, they have come out with another article in Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad, May 2013 issue titled ‘Islamic democracy’ in which they have harped on the same ideas and arguments against democracy quoting the Ulema on the topic and putting forth farfetched and unconvincing arguments to prove that the term Islamic democracy is a misnomer and therefore unacceptable.

We are producing again a point by point refutation to their arguments, this time, against Islamic democracy and reproducing the ideas and views of modern Islamic thinkers, scholars and philosophers on the compatibility of Islam and democracy.

First we take up the article titled, ‘Views of Islamic scholars on Democracy’ which mostly consists of the views of the Ulema of Islam.

As is the practice, quotations from the Quran are given to create the impression that the verse quoted relates to the topic being discussed though in reality it has nothing to do with the topic. Similarly the writer of this write up quotes the following verse which is not meant to explain a form of government, i.e. democracy, but suggests that those practising idol worship or shirk will only lead people to shirk and that’s why they should not listen to their arguments.

 “If you obey most of those on earth they would mislead you far from Allah's way. They follow naught but an opinion, and they do but guess.”(Al An ‘am: 116)

And then Allama Allosi’s commentary on it.

In Tafseer Roohul Ma’ani vol 4, p 141, Allama Allosi says:

“It is like getting misled and misleading others too and the evil thoughts are corruptive forces that originate due to ignorance and conjuring up lies about God. They follow shirk and deviance.”

As can be made out from Allama Allosi’s commentary, the verse discusses shirk and evil practiced by the people of Jahiliya and not a form of government.

To strengthen his point, the writer quotes an incomplete verse of the Quran to suit his purpose:

“but most of the people do not know.” (Al A’raf: 187)

The complete verse is as follows:

“They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the Hour: when is its arrival? Say, "Its knowledge is only with my Lord. None will reveal its time except Him. It lays heavily upon the heavens and the earth. It will not come upon you except unexpectedly." They ask you as if you are familiar with it. Say, "Its knowledge is only with Allah, but most of the people do not know."

It is clear from the verse above that it is about the time of Day of Judgment which no one except God knows. But the verse was quoted in context of the discussion on democracy which was irrelevant.

In their earlier article, they had said that democracy was a creation of the Jews and the Americans. We had removed their misconception and ignorance about the origin of the philosophy of democracy saying that democracy had originated not in Israel and America but in the 5th century Greece and later it was adopted and developed by the Europeans. Perhaps that’s why they have not repeated the quotations in which democracy was attributed to the Jews and Americans.

Because of their misconception, the Islamic scholars associated democracy with atheism and shirk not studying the philosophy and the structure of democracy that was based on the principles and ideals of Islam. They depended on a one dimensional interpretation of the term. That’s why modern Islamic thinkers and philosophers saw virtues in it and considered Islamic democracy best suited for the Islamic countries.

Here are views of some of the Islamic thinkers on democracy and its compatibility with Islam:

Md Iqbal

“Let the Muslim of to-day appreciate his position, reconstruct his social life in the light of ultimate principles, and evolve, out of the hitherto partially revealed purpose of Islam, that spiritual democracy which is the ultimate aim of Islam.”(The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam)

It is clear here that Iqbal was in favour of a federal democracy for an autonomous Muslim dominated state within India which currently Pakistan is. Therefore, if Iqbal had been alive today, he would definitely have approved of the federal form of government in Pakistan which the likes of Maulana Muawiyah claim are anti-Islamic.

In his letter written to Jinnah, Iqbal had preferred social democracy for the proposed Muslim dominated autonomous state in India because he believed that the British or European democracy would not be able to address the cultural and religious issues of the Muslims. That’s why he demanded a separate state for the Muslims where the reign of the government would be in the hands of the Muslims and the government would be based on Islamic Shariah. But the narrow-minded Jihadis like Maulana Muawiyah will be disappointed to know that Iqbal wanted social democracy for such a government based on Islamic Shariah and not Khilafat. In his letter he says:

“Jawaharlal’s atheistic socialism can never be popular among the Muslims. Therefore, the question is how to solve the issue of poverty among the Muslims and the future of the League depends on to what extent it finds a solution to this problem. If the League does not offer any hope in this regard, I am afraid the Muslim masses will remain alienated with the League as ever. Fortunately, the problem can be solved by the implementation of the Islamic laws…. But until an independent Muslim state or states are created in this country, the implementation of the Islamic Shariah is not possible.” (Translated from Urdu) 4

It becomes clear that Iqbal stressed the implementation of Islamic Shariah in Islamic countries but he wanted the Islamic government based on social democracy and not on Khilafat. In the same letter he makes his stance clear enough:

“The idea of accepting social democracy in Islam in an appropriate form and according to the Shariah is nothing new or revolutionary but is like reverting to the core purity of Islam.” (Iqbal's Letter to Jinnah dated May 28, 1937) 5

Maulana Maududi

“If I were permitted to coin a new term, I would describe the system of government as a ‘Theo-democracy,’ that is to say a divine democratic government, because under it the Muslims have been given a limited popular sovereignty under the paramountcy [suzerainty] of God.”

Khurshid Ahmad

“The Islamic political order is based on the concept of Tawhid and seeks its flowering in the form of popular Vicegerency (Khilafah) operating through a mechanism of Shura, supported by the principals of equality and human-kind, rule of law, protection of human rights including those of minorities, accountability of the rulers, transparency of political processes and an overriding concern for justice in all its dimensions: legal, political, social, economic and international.

He further says:

[t]here is no contradiction between Islam and the essence of democracy. …Islam and true democratization are two sides of the same coin. As such, democratic processes and Islam would go hand in hand. … [D]emocratisation is bound to be a stepping stone of Islamisation. The fulfillment of Islamic aspirations would become possible only through the promotion of democratic processes.

Fathullah Gullen says:

The main aim of Islam and its unchangeable dimensions affect its rules governing the changeable aspects of our lives. Islam does not propose a certain unchangeable form of government or attempt to shape it. Instead, Islam establishes fundamental principles that orient a government's general character, leaving it to the people to choose the type and form of government according to time and circumstances. If we approach the matter in this light and compare Islam with today's modern liberal democracy, we will better understand the position of Islam and democracy with respect to each other.

He further says:

Democracy has developed over time. Just as it has gone through many different stages in the past, it will continue to evolve and to improve in the future. Along the way, it will be shaped into a more humane and just system, one based on righteousness and reality. If human beings are considered as a whole, without disregarding the spiritual dimension of their existence and their spiritual needs, and without forgetting that human life is not limited to this mortal life and that all people have a great craving for eternity, democracy could reach its peak of perfection and bring even more happiness to humanity. Islamic principles of equality, tolerance, and justice can help it do just that. (A Comparative Approach to Islam and Democracy)

Md Asad

“In view of all this, it would mean that a presidential system of government somewhat akin to that practised in the United States, would correspond more closely to the requirements of an Islamic polity than a ‘parliamentary’ government in which the executive powers are shared by a cabinet jointly and severally responsible to the legislature.”

Egyptian Theologian Ali Abderrazik

“The institution that Muslims have agreed on calling “Caliphate” is in fact completely strange to their religion, in the same way as the honours, the strength, the attractions and intimidations by which it is surrounded.15 This is the reason why there is no religious concept that unchangeably hinders Muslims of competing with the other nations in all social and political sciences. Nothing forbids them to destroy a system out of use which has thrown them back and slept them under its fist. Nothing stays in their way to construct their state and their system of government on the foundation of the latest creations of human mind and on the base of systems who’s stability has been proven, those which the experience of the nations has named as among the best.”

From the quotations of the eminent Islamic scholars, it becomes very clear that democracy is not a symbol of atheism nor is it incompatible with Islam. On the contrary, Islamic scholars have advocated a democratic variance of western democracy which will be based on the values of justice, equality, social security, equal representation in the affairs of the government and accountability which find resonance in Islam. Therefore, the views of the ignoramuses with half baked knowledge of democracy and Islamic principles in Taliban do not hold water in comparison with the analytical view of the renowned thinkers of the Islamic world like Md Iqbal, Abderrazik, Md Asad, Khurshid Ahmad, Maualana Maududi and Fathullah Gullen, to name a few.

To them a government qualifies to be called an Islamic government only if it orders the amputation of a thief’s hand, whatever the circumstances leading to the theft may be. So, the Talibani writer quotes one Maulana Kayani on the virtues of Khilafat:

“Does the court of any democratic country order the amputation of the thief’s hand if its assembly has not formed the law? After all, who has given the authority to the assembly to review the law revealed by God? The assembly may approve or reject the law. Giving this authority to the assembly is Shirk. If you accepted the law after the approval of the assembly, it has no importance. Do you pay allegiance to God or assembly?”

The Maulana ignores the fact that once Hadhrat Umar withheld the punishment for stealing during a drought because the drought situation would force people to steal. So, in their eyes even Hadhrat Umar would also be at fault. The Islamic caliphate, according to them, should cut off the hands of the thief without considering the compulsions behind the act. This is their understanding of Islamic Shariah and the system of caliphate.

The writer says,

“The loss and damage Kufr incurred was at the hands of caliphate, whether it was caliphate of the four caliphs, or the caliphate of Banu Umaiyyah or the Ottoman caliphate. It was the caliphate that conquered Bethlehem; it was the caliphate that destroyed Europe. Democracy has done nothing except surrendering the areas conquered by the caliphate. The period during which Islam progressed and spread was of the caliphate and not democracy.”

One wonders why the so called caliphates of the Middle East could not recover Bethlehem from the clutches of Israel and why all the modern day caliphates faced a humiliating defeat at the hands of Israel.

The second article titled ‘Islamic democracy ‘also deals with Islamic democracy and tries to prove that the idea of Islamic democracy is an absurd one and a misnomer. It reiterates the stand that Islam and democracy are two diametrically opposite ideas and so the formation of the term Islamic democracy by merging the two is a ridiculous proposition.

If it is so, then many scientific, legal and economic terms formed according to the needs of the fast changing global village will stand rejected. Thus terms like Political Science (Politics and Science), Genetic Engineering (Genetics and Engineering) and dozens of such formulations will also not be acceptable to them because they live in the primitive world of 1400 years ago and do not want to adapt to the developed world to keep pace with, rather to lead the world. Anything that is different in form or essence from the original concept is unacceptable to them.

The form of government ideal for a Muslim country was dealt in scholarly detail by the first passport holder citizen of Pakistan Md Asad who was entrusted by Jinnah to draft the first constitution of Pakistan on the basis of Shariah. Through his keen research of the Quran and Sunnah, he had presented his idea of the Islamic government in his book, ‘Principles of State and Government in Islam’.

Negating the belief of the Taliban that only Khilafat is the ideal and prescribed form of government of an Islamic country, he said:

“With reference to the problem before us, one may safely say that there is not only one form of the Islamic state, but many; and it is for the Muslims of every period to discover the form most suitable to their needs – on the condition are in full agreement with the explicit, unequivocal Shara’i laws relating to communal life.”

Therefore, he points out that an Islamic government can be based on any form of government which follows the injunctions of the Quran and Sunnah. According to his research, the Presidential form of government in use in the US was closer to the structure of caliphate with a strong head and a council of ministers to help him in the discharge of his duties. Thus he writes:

“In view of all this, it would mean that a presidential system of government somewhat akin to that practised in the United States, would correspond more closely to the requirements of an Islamic polity than a ‘parliamentary’ government in which the executive powers are shared by  a cabinet jointly and severally responsible to the legislature. In other words, it is the amir alone to whom all administrative powers and functions should be entrusted and it is he alone who should be responsible to the Majlis – and through it, to the people – for the policies of the government. As a matter of fact, the very term Wazir (popularly translated as minister) which the prophet used in connection with problems of government denotes a person who helps the head of the state to bear his burdens: in short, an administrative assistant. Thus, for example, the Prophet said:

“If God means well with the Amir, He provides him a trustworthy assistant (Wazir) to remind him whenever he forgets and to help him whenever he remembers. And if God does not mean it well with him, He provides for him an evil assistant, who does not remind him whenever he forgets and does not help him whenever he remembers”

The Talibani writer quotes the view of Mufti Rasheed Ahmad to stress that there should be no opposition in a Islamic government which will conform to the temperament of the Taliban where the writ of only Mullah Umar will run without any opposition. Mufti Rasheed Ahmad writes in Ahsan ul Fatawa vol 6 p 24-256:

“There is no concept of Western Democracy as it deems the presence of various groups (ruling party and opposition) whereas the Quran negates this concept.”

But Md Asad quotes a Hadith that says that differences of opinion are a blessing for the Ummah and therefore infers that there will be opposition groups or parties in an Islamic government to keep a watch on the policy and actions of the ruler. He writes:

“This diversity of views is only natural, for all human reasoning is a highly subjective process  and can never be fully dissociated from the thinker’s temperamental leanings, habits, social background, and past experiences: in brief, from all the manifold influences which act together in the shaping of what we describe as a ‘human personality.’ However, true progress is not possible without such a variety of opinions, for it is only through the friction of variously constituted intellectuals and through the stimulating effect they have on one another that social problems are gradually clarified and thus brought within the range of solution. It is this that the Prophet (pbuh) had in mind when he said:

“The differences of opinion among the learned within my community are (a sign of) God’s grace)”.

The Taliban also advocate the establishment of the Islamic caliphate by violent means and by the removal of democratic governments through violence and suicide bombings. But Md Asad quotes Hadiths that invalidates this view and declares rebellion against a popularly elected government un-Islamic. He lays down the rules for removing a government that violates the principles of the Quran and Sunnah. He writes:

“From the context of all the traditions relating to this point, four principles are self-evident: 1) So long as the Amir represents the legally established government, all citizens owe him their allegiance, however much one or another of them may dislike his person and, on occasion, even his administrative act; 2) if the government issues laws or regulations which involve the commission of a sin in the strict Shara’i sense, the duty of obedience ceases to be operative with regard to these laws or regulations; 3) if the  government sets itself openly and deliberately against the Nass ordinance of the Quran, it may be deemed to have become guilty of infidelity, whereupon authority should be withdrawn from it; and 4) this withdrawal of authority must never be brought about by armed rebellion on the part of a minority within the community—for the Prophet has warned:

“He who raises arms against us, ceases to be one of us.”(Ceases to belong to the Muslim community)

And, “He who unsheathes his sword against us ceases to be one of us”

It is therefore evident that the Muslims have been authorised by the Prophet to disobey the orders of the government which are contrary to the Shariah and to depose the government if its behaviour amounts to flagrant infidelity. However, in consonance with the principle of communal unity insisted upon so frequently by Quran and Sunnah, it cannot possibly be left to the discretion of individual citizens to decide at what point obedience to the Amir ceases to be a religious and civic duty: decisions of this kind can be taken only by the community as a whole or by its properly appointed representatives. One might suppose that the proper authority in such an event would be the Majlis as Shura; but against this stands our finding that conflicts of opinion between the Majlis and the Amir might lead to insoluble deadlock unless recourse is taken to impartial arbitration, that is, to be supreme tribunal. In the preceding chapter I have mentioned that it would be the duty of this tribunal to invalidate any law or administrative regulation which contravenes the Shariah. Similarly, it would fall within the purview of the tribunal to order the holding of a popular referendum on the question of the Amir’s deposition from office if an impeachment is preferred against him to the effect that he governs in deliberate opposition to Islamic law. If, by means of such a referendum, the majority of the community pronounce themselves against the Amir, he must be regarded having been legally deposed, whereupon the people’s pledge of allegiance to him ceases to be effective.

Thus the citizen’s duty to watch over the activities of the government, and their right to ciritcise it and, in the last resort, to depose it, should on no account be confused with a (non-existent) right to rebellion by an individual or a group of individuals. It is only by an open verdict of the majority within the community that an established Muslim government may be removed from power – by peaceful means if possible, and by force if necessary.”

Thus in light of the above views of Md Asad based on the Quran and Sunnah render the existence of the Taliban illegal and in contravention of the Shariah as they have been trying to overthrow legally elected governments through the use of rebellion without resorting to the proper procedures to remove the un-Islamic governments and establish a caliphate that does not conform to the modern needs and requirements of the modern world. The caliphate they want to establish will only take the Muslim Ummah back in the race of progress and development. It’s only on the models laid down by our modern day Ulema and thinkers that true Islamic governments can be formed in Muslim societies. The so-called caliphate to be established by the terrorist forces will only drive a wedge between communities on the basis of sect, caste and religion and will lead to human rights violations and worse, violation of Islamic Shariah as is observed in territories illegally controlled by them.

In the end, it would suffice to quote Md Asad once again on the role of the first caliphs in establishing a just government and the need to practise Ijtihad in the formation of governments.

“The rightly guided caliphate was a most glorious beginning of Islamic statecraft, never excelled, or even continued, in all the centuries that followed it: but it was, for all that, a beginning only. From the moment of Abu Bakr’s accession to the moment of Ali’s death, the Islamic Commonwealth was, from the structural point of view, in a permanent state of change, organically growing and developing with each successive conquest and with each new administrative experience.....

To stop at that first splendid experiment and to contemplate, thirteen centuries after the Rightly-guided caliphs, the organisation of an Islamic state in exactly the same forms, with exactly the same institutions in which their state was manifested would not be an act of piety: it would be, rather, a betrayal of the Companions’ creative endeavour. They were pioneers and pathfinders, and if we truly wish to emulate them, we must take up their unfinished work and continue it in the same creative spirit.”