Islam and Democracy
RELIGIOUS VIEWPOINT: A democratic system of rule is on the whole acceptable to Islam.
Muslim scholars have differed in their assessment of democracy and constitutionalism from the viewpoint of Islamic principles. The view has gained ground, however, that a democratic system of rule is on the whole acceptable to Islam. This acceptance is because democracy is about fundamental rights and liberties, the rule of law, a representative and participatory government, separation of powers and equality before the law. Rights and liberties are a manifestation of human dignity which must be protected against the coercive power of the state. A constitution is also an instrument of limitation, organisation and division of power among the various organs of state.
Broadly, Islam approves of most of these concepts and takes affirmative positions on the protection and realisation of people’s welfare and maslahah, a consultative government committed to accountability (muhasabah) and justice. Islam advocates a limited government, which is committed to the advancement of the goals and purposes (maqasid) of Shariah. Islam and democracy both seek to realise people’s welfare and basic rights of life, personal security, privacy and ownership. The Shariah recognises these, as also the rights to education and employment, and the individual’s entitlement to the essentials of life.