Pitching Democracy and Secularism against Islam: A false paradigm

In 1991, a jihadist research work titled “The Bitter Harvest: The Muslim Brotherhood in 60 Years” was authored by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida’s chief ideologue. It was a sharp confutation of the Egyptian Islamist outfit Ikhwan-ul-Muslimin’s resolution to participate in electoral process and shun the path of violence to achieve its political objectives. An extract of this sizeable book under the title of “Sharia and Democracy” has been widely circulated among the jihadist militants across the world. In this part of his literary work, Zawahiri explained as to why he believed that anyone claiming to be both Muslim and a democratic at the same time, is actually an infidel [Kafir] or an apostate [Murtad].

Now, contrast Zawahiri’s outlook with Zakir Musa’s outcry. The chief commander of the Al-Qaida-affiliate in Kashmir, Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind, has gained enormous popularity, because of his Islamic caliphate propaganda using an ‘online ideology’ that is speedily gaining ground in the valley of Kashmir.

The jihadist rendition of Islamic caliphate vs. secular state by Ayman Zawahiri was clearly replicated in the outcry of Zakir Musa when he first appeared in the media limelight with this text of his speech:
“If we are fighting for secular state, then I think we cannot be martyrs. I know we have to first fight for freedom and push out Indian army which has occupied us. But, our intention should be that we have to achieve ‘Azadi’ to establish Islamic rule and not for secular state. If we are fighting for secular state then my blood won’t be spilled for that purpose.”
(Source: Kashmir Dispatch: kashmirdispatch.com/? p=149628)

Zawahiri highlighted several irreconcilable conflicts between the principles of Sharia and the premises of secular state quoting from both Qur’an and Hadith and distorting the actual meanings of their texts and other analogies. Thus, he tried to justify his untenable positions in such a cunning way that, to the theologically untrained Muslim youths, this book offered a justification for migration [Hijrah] from the non-Muslim countries to establish an Islamic state. In different territories, it was, by and large, the same tone and tenor that was reflected in the jihadist war-cry like that of the young militant in Kashmir, Zakir Musa, a former militant commander of Hizbul Mujahideen. In his video speech released in May 2017, he addressed the separatist leaders in Kashmir in these unequivocal and categorical words:

“What I said about hanging was not about All Parties Hurriyat Conference leaders but moderates who say after Azadi [freedom] we will establish a secular state. Because I know if we get freedom from India then we will have to fight those who support secular state…..I am hopeful Allah is with me, even if no one supports me. Rest, I stand on my statement. If the intention of Geelani and others is freedom for Islam and imposition of Shariah after freedom, then I am not against them……I have already said that we are fighting for ‘Azadi Baraye Islam’ [freedom for the sake of Islam]. My blood will spill for Islam and not for secular state.”

In another audio clip, Zakir Musa pitched the democratic principles of governance against the basic tenets of Islam and urged the Indian Muslims to boycott the elections and “be wary of the Congress and BJP, the Samajwadi Party and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Trinamul Congress or Bahujan Samaj Party, for all are only faces of tyranny”.

Thus, pitching democracy or secularism against Islam is the key jihadist narrative that has been flogged off by the false ideologues of Islam—from Zawahiri to Zakir. But on the contrary, there is substantial evidence in the Quran and Sunnah (the Prophetic traditions) to make it possible for us to adopt both democracy and secularism as compatible to Islamic principles. It is sufficient to quote these two verses of the Qur’an:
“Those who respond to their Lord and attend to their prayers; who conduct their affairs by mutual consultation and spend out of what We have provided for them” (42:38)

 “So by mercy of Allah, [O Prophet], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely upon Him. (3:159)”

These verses clearly exhort the Islamic principle of Shur’a (consultation) in dealing with the community affairs. In a secular democracy today, mutual consultation is a self-evident proposition. Based on this, even Muslim communities the world over are now inserting the Islamic Sharia rulings, courts and tribunals into the secular legal system and common law. Today, legal decisions based on cultural values at odds with democratic principles are accepted and incorporated into the laws of democratic countries which strengthen the religious freedom.

Significantly, in 2011, the world’s largest Sunni Islamic seminary, Al-Azhar Sharif issued an 11-clause declaration titled “document around the future of Egypt” which was read out on national television by the Al-Azhar Grand Shaikh Ahmad al-Tayyibb himself. The prominent Islamic jurists who participated in the drafting of the al-Azhar document explored the possibility of declaring a “secular” state as compatible to Islamic Shariah. After serious deliberations, the Al-Azhar ended up describing the future ideal state as “national” (al-Waṭaniyyah), “constitutional” (al-Dustūriyyah), “democratic” (al-Dimuqrāṭiyyah) and “modern” (al-Hadītha).

Thus, this declaration of the leading Al-Azhar Islamic scholars demanded the establishment of “a national, constitutional, democratic and modern state, founded on a constitution approved by the nation”. It also sought “the separation of powers, guarantees for human rights, the power to legislate given to the elected representatives of the people in accordance with the correct Islamic understanding.”

The Al-Azhar declaration premised that the principle of governance according to Shariah is merely defined by the convergence between the principles operating in governance and in the Islamic tradition. It clearly stated that there is no “religious state” in Islam, be it in its history, its legislation, or in its civilization. Islam has left to people “the administration of their society and the choice of the tools and of the institutions that realize their interests, with the condition that the comprehensive principles of the Islamic Shariah be the main source of legislation, and as long as those who follow other revealed religions may refer to their own religious principles (Shari’ah Dīniyyah) to deal with their affairs of personal status.”

Regular Columnist with Newageislam.com, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a classical Islamic scholar and English-Arabic-Urdu writer. He has graduated from a leading Islamic seminary of India, acquired Diploma in Qur’anic sciences and Certificate in Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies. Presently, he is pursuing his PhD in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

Courtesy: New Age Islam



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