Democracy started as an experiment over 2000 years ago in Athens. Today unsubstantiated proclamations such as ‘democracies never go to war’ and ‘all problems can only be resolved through democratic means‘ have made democracy the default universal system of governance with dictatorship being presented as the evil alternative to Democracy.
Whilst the Greek philosophers laid down the original blueprint for democracy it was the renaissance in Europe in the 17th century that brought democracy into the mainstream. Modernist thinkers and philosophers contested the view of the world according to the established Church against that of reason and logic. A bitter conflict eventually led to the removal of the Church as a source of governance and authority. Secularism become established as the Aqeeda (foundation) of democracy, legislative sovereignty of man over ‘Heavenly laws’. Over time democracies, without much thought, came to be viewed as the best, even the only model of governance and accountability. It is viewed as such because not only can the people vote out a government after 4/5 years if they don’t like them, Democracies have also instilled numerous checks and balances throughout the various apparatus of government so that it is primarily accountable to the people, with the motto of Democracy being, ‘Rule of the people, by the people, for the people’.
The manipulation of legislation by lobbyists in the US, the MPs expenses scandals in the UK, the banks’ bail-out, unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a widespread opinion of politics being dominated by self-serving politicians has today exposed the fallacy of such accountable governance in the cradles of modern civilisations, showing that they are primarily accountable to big business rather than the people.
Whilst Islam is diametrically opposed to the sovereignty of man over God’s laws, Islam has however, built in and established rigorous measures of accountability.
The rule of law in Islam is built upon the Qur’an and Sunnah (method of the Prophet). When the Muslim ruler, Khaleefah is appointed, it is therefore a contract based upon the implementation of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Any deviation from this will result in the failure of the contractual conditions and warrants the the raising of a judicial case against the Khaleefah, which can even eventually lead to his removal.
Holding the Khaleefah accountable is central to Islamic politics and a number of styles and means have been outlined by the Islamic evidences – three of these are:
Mahkamat ul mudhalim (Court of Unjust Acts)- This is an independent high court presided over by the most eminent and qualified judges (qudaa’ al muzalim). It has the power to remove any official of state regardless of their role or rank, including, most importantly, the Khaleefah if he persists in pursuing a path that lies outside of the terms of his Bay’ah. Ordinary citizens who have a complaint against the state can register it with the Court.pa lottery
Political Parties – In addition to the institutionalised mechanisms of accountability, Islam also ordered the establishment of political parties. Political parties in the Khilafah are established primarily to account the Khaleefah and his government. Their task is to safeguard the thoughts of Islam in society and to ensure the government does not deviate from the implementation of Islam. The right of the Khilafah’s citizens to establish political parties is established from the Qur’an itself.
Majlis al-Ummah or Ummah’s Council - Islam has recommended consultation (Shoorah), as a result in the early part of Islamic history an Ummah’s council (an elected consultative body) become enshrined as the model to account the ruler and government officials. The Majlis al-Ummah or Ummah’s Council:
- is an elected council whose members can be Muslim, non-Muslim, men or women
- acts as a counterbalance to the executive powers of the Khaleefah.
- members can voice political opinions freely without fear of imprisonment or rebuke.
With every democratic failure political apathy is growing in the west. General elections are seeing fewer people voting (apart from this years General Election due to it being turned into an ‘X Factor’ election via the TV debates) especially young people and growing individualism among society is leading people to ignore the problems facing their communities and wider society.
Islam not only obliged political parties with the task of enjoining Ma’aruf (Good) and forbidding Munkar (Evil) but also individuals.
The Prophet (saw) said: “By Him in whose hand is my soul, you must enjoin the Ma’aruf and forbid the Munkar, otherwise Allah will be about to send His punishment upon you. And then if you pray to Him (to ask Him), he would not answer you.” (Musnad Ahmad on the authority of Huzayfah).
Islam described the importance of accounting the tyrant ruler even if it led to death. The Prophet (saw) said: “The master of martyrs is Hamza bin Abdul-Muttalib and a man who stood up to an oppressive ruler where he ordered him and forbade him so he (the ruler) killed him” (Sunan Abu Dawud).
Therefore the rule of Khilafah is neither democratic nor dictatorship. Nevertheless Islam has rigorous accounting mechanisms to ensure the divine rules are applied, justice is upheld and the affairs of the people are looked after.