It is assumed that the Islamic State is by definition a theocratic one. However, this is far from truth. Here we look at the two seemingly extremes of the Liberal (Secular) Democracy and the Theocracy, and discuss the viability of the Islamic Democracy and its characteristics.
The West emphatically believes in Secularism and keeps the Government from everything religious. Hence it undermines the religious norms and is not interested in looking into the religious solutions to the various solutions. Thus it is not suitable for the ardent followers of religion.
The liberal (secular) democratic model of the West deprives religious minorities of their legal independence and insists on subjugating all citizens to a single legal system thus reflecting the doctrinal and behavioural values of the ruling majorities.
The only way the Government can satisfy its religious citizens in general and the followers of Islām in particular is to give freedom to all to present their religious opinions to be incorporated in the affairs of the country, of course after discussion and deliberation.
It is a religious system ruled by the humans who hold authority on a particular religion and do not believe in democratic rules. Hence it is not desirable by any religious or non-religious society at present. The followers of Islām should not accept theocracy of even religious nature as it is against the basic principle of Islām. According to the ‘Throne verse’ (Surah 2: 255) instead of theocracy Islām advocates a quite practical theo-centricity that wields an effect throughout individual and social lives; from education, business, the legal order, science and arts to politics as the state theo-centricity concentrates on God. Human beings are not to theorise and speculate too much about God; certainly Islām also understands theology as scholarly reflection of God but, by comparison with Christianity, it is very much of secondary significance. Human beings are to honour, worship and obey God; in Islām religious law, which shows people the right way of obeying God in all things, is more important than theology.
Like Judaism and Christianity, Islām is a religion of faith. Human beings are to encounter God neither with detached rational arguments nor in striving for mystical unity, but in trusting faith (iman, ‘faith,’ is often used in the Qur'an in the same sense as Islam). Belief in One God is therefore:
The first and foremost obligation of every Muslim: the foundation and meaning of their existence as Muslims;
The unshakable foundation of the Muslim community and its legal order;
The spiritual bond of unity for all Islamic tribes and peoples;
The sole content of Muslim prayer, addressed to God and no one else; and
The premise of any Muslim theology; God is the only God, but outwardly (in the world) and inwardly (in his being).
UNIVERSAL AND/ OR ISLAMIC DEMOCRACY
Islām believes in the Democracy of universal nature. Hence it has two versions of democracy that is acceptable to the followers of Islām – Islamic Democracy and Universal Democracy.
Where the Muslims are in majority, they should advocate and work for Islamic Democracy, and where they are in minority in a plural society, they should campaign for and accept the Universal Democracy, which is modified version of Islamic Democracy for the whole country. In the present period after the downfall of Islamic civilisation and the domination of Western Civilisation, Islām has been degraded and has become the victim of prejudices and enmity.
Actually, global ethics presented at the moment by interfaith scholars and World Religious Parliament is the offshoot and modification of the basic principles of Islamic Democracy. Thus the Universal Democracy executes the global ethics for all citizens and allows all religious freedom to follow their religious directives.
CHARACTERISTICS OF ISLAMIC STATE
1. Laws to ensure moral autonomy to all the citizens of the state shall be looked after by the Islamic democratic state while the laws to ensure protection of non-Muslim citizens on the basis of fundamental human rights are to be dealt with respective society of the particular group.
2. The present Muslim jurists, like the previous ones in the early past, should recognise the rights of non-Muslims to self-determination. The non-Muslims were given full moral and legal autonomy in villages, towns and pockets with their population under their control in Islamic governments.
3. An Islamic democratic state is to be governed by the deen (similar to global ethical values) and not by any specific Shari’ah (religious code of conduct) of any particular religion.
4. In the Islamic democratic state juristic legislative bodies have to deal with the transactional and contractual relations (including religious matters) working directly with the society without the intervention of the state.
5. The Islamic democratic state does also implement the guarantees extended to religious minorities.
ISLAMIC FOUNDATION FOR GLOBAL ETHICS
Now let us discuss how the four elementary ethical obligations that occur in all the great religious and philosophical traditions are also grounded in the Quran. I shall keep to the core statements of the 1993 Declaration toward a Global Ethic, confirmed by ‘a call to our leading Institutions’ made at the 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Cape Town, South Africa, and finally the report Crossing the Divide.
Dialogue among civilisations of 2001:
Ø A culture of non-violence and respect for life:
‘Have respect for life’ – ‘You shall not kill’, torture, torment, violate! Respect for life, for all life, is deeply rooted in Islamic ethics. The Qur'an says that the killing of an innocent person is equivalent to killing the whole humankind and the Prophet’s concern for the animals and for nature emerges from the hadith.
Ø A culture of solidarity and a just economic order:
‘Deal honestly and fairly’ – ‘You shall not steal,’ exploit, bribe, corrupt. For the ethic of the Qur'an justice is so central that only a just person can be a right believer. ‘O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of anything lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious.’ An unjust social order cannot be an Islamic order. The Qur'an requires that the surpluses beyond actual need shall be distributed to the needy and poor. Mandatory almsgiving, the Zakat, is one of the five pillars of Islām.
Ø A culture of tolerance and a life of truthfulness:
‘Speak and act truthfully’: ‘You shall not lie, deceive, falsify, manipulate. The ethic of the Qur'an is essentially grounded in faithfulness to the truth. Truth (haqq) is one of the names of God and as central a value in Islām as justice. A just social order cannot be realised without truthfulness as fundamental postulate.
Ø A culture of equal rights and partnership between men and women: ‘Respect and love one another’. ‘Do not abuse sexually,’ do not deceive, humiliate, dishonour.
In principle, the Qur'an gives women and men the same status: ‘The rights of the wives (with regard to their husbands) are equal to the (husbands’) rights with regard to them, although men have precedence over them (in this respect).
The principle of humanity, the most elementary principle of the global ethic, the human dignity of each individual, appears in the basic statements of the Quran: God had chosen human beings before all other creatures, and appointed them his governors on earth. The golden rule of mutuality has been handed down in the Sunnah: “None of you is a believer as long as he does not wish for his brother what he wishes for himself.”
All this is so obviously not only the common heritage of the three Abrahamic religions but also as common values of eastern religions also.
Hence, Islamic Democracy can facilitate international dialogue for global peace and harmony between Islām and oriental religions. In the words renowned philosopher and historian Hans Küng:
“No peace among the nations without peace among the religions.
No peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions.
No dialogue between the religions without global ethical standards.
No survival of our globe without a global ethic, a world ethic, supported by both the religious and the non-religious.”
[The writer is Founder Chairman Markaz-e-Adab-o-Science Trust, Ranchi, Jharkhand)