Muslims living in the West are confronted with problems not experienced historically. Questions regarding their roles, purposes and identities abound along with how to engage with society. Nothing has created so much heated debate as political participation in secular democratic systems and voting for non-Islamic political parties. This answer considers voting and political participation in the UK context along with the political forces and influences surrounding the process, critiquing the juristic arguments used to justify or prohibit such practices and concluding on ways for Muslims to effectively and legitimately engage with the political realities.
This section lists some of the prominent legal arguments and evidences used by the scholars in relation to voting:
Few scholars take exception to the notions of mass elections or subjecting rulers to accountability – some scholars of the Wahabite/Salafite tradition being the notable exception. All object to absolute sovereignty residing with "the people", believing sovereignty belongs to Allah and an interpretive and executive role for man. None dispute the prohibition of cooperating in sin and delegating someone to sin.
For those who forbid voting they commence with the above premises and argue Muslims could not support or be members of British political parties as their ideologies, values and policies conflict with Islam. Support of such parties to enter parliament through voting would be forbidden as it is neither permitted to cooperate, delegate nor represent someone in sin and that which leads to sin is sinful. They reject secondary principles as unjustified given the existence of primary texts on the matter. They instead advocate political engagement to convey Islam through permitted means: lobbying, demonstrations, conferences, speeches and media engagement. Some even permit Muslims to stand as independent candidates for elections (or via Islamic parties) and to enter parliament for the purposes of admonishing the rulers or calling the establishment to Islam whilst abstaining from legislating or undertaking oaths.
Scholars who legitimise voting utilise three distinct approaches:
The first two approaches do not recognise a problem with voting whilst the third acknowledges its evil nature but legitimises it. Differences also emerge on the Sharia ruling on voting varying from fard, mandub, mubah to waqf (and a number of other permutations). Concerns relating to non-Islamic political parties and collective legislation are generally circumvented through dislocating voting from its effects.
Briefly some of the different views regarding political participation are summarised below with no single position achieving a majority – despite some scholars claiming a near consensus on the issue.
The European Council for Research and Fatwa, Taha Jabir al-Alwani, Haitham al-Haddad, Salman Al-Awdah, Abduljalil Sajid, Ahmad Kutty, Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Shinqiti and Aurangzeb Khan are amongst those who argue political participation to be a duty:
"We call this participation a "duty" because we do not consider it merely a "right" that can be abandoned or a "permission" which can be ignored."
Ibrahim Mogra and Suhaib Hasan argue it is recommended:
"Looking at the situation of the Muslim community and their need to have their interests met, it becomes advisable for the Muslims to achieve this purpose through the available political system..."
Dr Jamal Badawi, Michael Mumisa, Muhammad ibn Adam, Ibrahim Desai, Sulayman Gani, Ibn Baz, Faisal al-Mawlawi, Ibn Uthaimin, Abu Eesa Niamatullah and al-Zuhaili argue its permissibility:
"…there is nothing wrong with Muslims casting their votes in favour of the less evil candidate."
Mohammed al-Salih al-Munajjid's nuanced approach refrains from a blanket permission, arguing it to be at times prohibited, permitted or even obligatory:
"This is a matter concerning which rulings may differ according to different circumstances in different times and places. There is no absolute ruling that covers all situations, both real and hypothetical. In some cases it is wrong to vote, such as when the matter will have no effect on the Muslims, or when the Muslims have no effect on the outcome of the vote. In this case voting or not voting is all the same. The same applies in cases where all the candidates are equally evil or where they all have the same attitude towards Muslims… It may be the case that the interests of Islam require Muslims to vote so as to ward off the greater evil and to reduce harmful effects, such as where two candidates may be non-Muslims but one of them is less hostile towards Muslims than the other, and Muslims' votes will have an impact on the outcome of the election..."
Of the scholars who oppose political participation, all forbid it with some deeming it to be even kufr due to encroachment of legislation which is the right of Allah(swt) alone.
Whilst Muhammad ibn Abdullaah al-Raymee states:
"At any rate, democracy and voting is not combined with the Islamic Shura that Allah has legislated, not in the fundamentals of the religion nor its subsidiary branches, neither in totality nor in part, not in meaning or in foundation."
Imran Nazar Hosein posed:
"They should declare the specific conditions in which it would be Halal for believers to vote in national elections. For example, can a believer vote for an idol-worshipping Hindu, or for an enemy of Islam, a liar, a drunkard, a thief, an adulterer, a moneylender, who owns shares in a bank or is a bank director etc.? Can he vote in elections on the basis of racial solidarity or on the basis of a trade: "We will vote for you on the condition that we get such and such from you." Can he vote for a political party that is committed to supporting the Zionist State of Israel in its continuing occupation of, and oppression in, the Holy Land and Masjid al-Aqsa? Can he vote for a political party that supports the legalization of the lending of money on interest, lottery, homosexuality and abortion?"
Abd al-Qadir Ibn Abd al-Aziz refuting the fatwa of Ibn Baz said:
"I say that this Fatwā is wrong, according to what we have quoted from Al- Ghazālī, that sins do not become permissible by the intention. Besides, the Kufr is the greatest of sins. So as joining the Parliament is Kufr, it will not become permissible by the intention. This is because (of the fact) that the Parliament is the means by which the democratic system is implemented. So knowing the verdict of participating in it or electing (a member) relies on knowing the verdict of democracy, the verdict of which is dependent on knowing its reality."
Kamal Abu Zahra, Taqi al-Din Nabhani, Abd al-Qadeem Zaloom and Ahmed Da'oor of Hizb ut-Tahrir argue:
"Politics is obligatory in Islam as the Prophets used to undertake such matters for their peoples, and post-prophethood, this is a duty on Muslims. Parliament however is a legislature that passes laws based on majority... voting means the voter is delegating authority to an MP to enter parliament and legislate on his behalf, contradicting something categorically forbidden.
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Considering the juristic arguments, what does one make of them? Few have documented any considered analysis of the reality of voting. Assumptions and assertions abound making opinions suspect from the outset. Having analysed the notion of voting, it is widely understood it provides the mandate to enter parliament and assume the role of legislator. In Britain there appear to be no overriding or necessitating causal factors, so voting does appear to be haram. To delegate non-Islamic political parties (or their members) powers to legislate is not condonable regardless of the resultant benefits, as the Sharia works on the basis of imperatives and not causal results. Modernists have historically argued for political participation in non-Islamic systems across the Muslim world to Islamicise the systems. The assumption being some Islamic laws exist and the rulers were Muslim. However this assumption is hardly arguable in Britain and it is difficult to see why the Prophetic example does not apply.
For those who pursue the voting route, the aims for most appear not to Islamicise the system or provide ideological solutions, but prevent adverse legislation or protect rights.
Despite its tenuous legal reasoning, could voting provide a solution to even these modest aims? Voting alone has yet to prove such a case. There is little analysis of what adverse policies and legislation is to be combated or can be combated let alone what rights are in danger and need to be preserved. Nearly two decades of terrorism legislation has eroded most civil rights with no advantage having been seen from voting whatsoever. Voting appears to be ephemeral and overrated. Muslim demographics and voting habits are not conducive to a first past the post electoral system – leaving tactical voting as the only viable approach. With half of all constituencies containing safe seats for the main parties, immune to tactical voting, voting can at best deliver a small number of party affiliated MPs in marginal seats. Marginal seats however provide opportunities for other groups to use tactical voting as well reducing the scope for Muslims. Furthermore, party affiliated MPs suffer from stringent selection processes that filter out "undesirables", party and colleague pressures to conform and onerous whip systems that deal with miscreants. Rebels tend to be MPs with histories and strong constituent support – not unknown MPs elected on the basis of party brand. Thus MPs tend to end up being influenced instead of influencing even to the point of corruption – as seen in the cases of Muslim MPs. The reality and benefits of voting presented to jurists is at best misleading.
The jurists who have provided permissions to "limit damage" by utilising principles to do what is necessary in matters forbidden, have not questioned the advocates of voting sufficiently, nor based their views on analytical research. Thus instead of limiting damage, the results to date have arguably increased damage rather than limiting it. Furthermore, they have inadvertently allowed their views to be used by all political persuasions for all forms of means and ends. From areas where political parties have been entrenched and Muslim votes will make no difference through to campaigns to enter the political system and subvert it all have taken the fataawa to support their actions. As one reader commented:
"So whereas you might be in a situation where you need to eat a bacon sarnie to survive, one should be warned that 1) eat only enough to survive and 2) do your best to find your way out of the situation so that you don't have to do it anymore. Because if you don't provide this warning label, an individual may say bismillaah, slaughter the pig, stick it on a roast and gorge himself silly..."
The Muslim community needs to understand their role in Britain and the West. The rise in Islamophobia driven by political and media figures is a rising existential danger. As a community that is fundamentally ideological in outlook, there is a need to communicate its views and values to society. To bring about substantive and real political change necessitates questioning the secular ideologies, institutions, policies, laws and processes of modern Britain. Problems of broken Britain, corrupt politicians and the credit crisis are reflective of fundamental problems with social, moral, economic and institutional structures and processes. Muslims need to consider the spectrum of available political action rather than being content with a vote every five years. Significant political events occur between elections which require responses. Muslims need to become ideological in their thinking, political in their actions and participate in society nationally and in a coordinated manner to have an impact. Socio-political change does not come about through one mode of action such as voting or one mode of thinking such as pragmatism – a constellation of legitimate, carefully considered strategies and activities need to be developed.
al-Aawa, On the Political System of the Islamic State
al-Nabhani, Shaksiyya Islamiyya
al-Ghazali, Islam and Political Dictatorship
al-Khalidi, Naqdh Al-Nizzam al-Democratyya (Criticism of the democratic system)
al-Qadri, The Islamic State
al-Qaradawi, Min Fiqh al-Dawla Fi al-Islam (On the fiqh of the Islamic state)
Muhammad al-Imaam, Tanweerudh-Dhulamaat bi Kashf Mafaasid wa Shubahaat al-Intikhabaat (Illuminating the Darkness in order to uncover the corruptions and doubts concerning Voting),
Not exactly. Why are you living in west at first place if you can't vote. Well you definitely have right to choose. Its about good vs bad. If you choose honestly the best person irrespective of other motives and affiliations i think purpose is served.
Whole pakistan was shocked with one after another attacks suicidal and other,then karachi airport captured. That was when military leader surrendered and started operation in wazirastan and all those bombings stoped( later replaced by genuine attacks in retaliation from wazirastan ppl)
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