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By popular understanding Democracy means the government of the people for the people and by the people,therefore in a democratic government the MPs make the laws but Allah said He does not allow anyone to share with Him in His rule:

.....and He makes none to share in His Decision and His Rule." (Al-Kahf 18:26)

but in a democracy, the MPs are the law givers and legislators

Democracy means that majority have the say but Allah warned us against it

And if you obey most of those on earth, they will mislead you far away from Allāh's Path. They follow nothing but conjectures, and they do nothing but lie. (Al-An'am 6:116)

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closed as primarily opinion-based by goldPseudo Jan 28 at 20:14

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Since Allah is almighty and allpowerfull, any person the people democraticly choose as ruler is a manifestation of the will of Allah. –  Harold Sep 3 '14 at 3:01

4 Answers 4

I think, there are three aspects of Democracy, which have different rulings from Islamic point of view:

1) Election process: Democracy is mostly defined as the election process, where the rulers and representatives are elected by counting votes of common people. As I have said, this is the definitive attribute of Democracy. Islam does not have any direct rule, which must be followed to elect rulers. There were different processes used in the history of Islam to elect rulers. So, electing rulers by counting votes of common people is not against Islam, if there is no other hidden things, which is against Islam. But giving more weight to vote of the Islamic scholars(Alims), and making consensus is more preferable to many scholars rather than simple vote counting system Democracy follows.

2) Constitution and Law: In current democratic culture, generally it is stated in the constitution that people of the country is the sovereign owner of the country and they are the authority of law. A parliament is situated by the representatives of the people, who can make any new law and change an existing one if voted by majority. Applying the term "sovereign owner" to someone other than Allah Taala is considered as the grave sin of Shirk. Again the authority to make any change of law with majority vote goes against the Sharia, the Islamic law. But if the term "sovereign owner" is replaced by something which is in accordance with Islam, and it is also constituted that no laws will be made against Sharia- Quran and Sunnah, then it will become permissible. There should be a board of Islamic jurists to ensure that the laws are not contrary to Sharia.

3) Philosophy: There are some other philosophical principles, which emerged from the current common democratic culture practiced in different countries. The most common two of them are- Secularism and Nationalism. Secularism or separating religion and state is, by nature, incompatible with Islam. Because Islam has instructions for every sector of human interaction, including governing state. So, secularism is to be avoided. And Islam promotes global brotherhood among Muslims, discouraging nationalism. So to make Democracy go in accordance with Islam, these incompatibilities should also be removed.

So, I think Democracy can become compatible with Islam. But then it would not be same as the current form of Democracy we are used to.

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Yes, if the definition of democracy is to be taken as "law for the people by the people", because that means that people are ultimately sovereign and have the right to make laws, over and above the right of God, even if their laws do not contradict those that God (the True Sovereign) set down in Shariah for everyone's universal benefit. This is a useful link to clarify it.

By the way, you should know that the system that Shariah recommends in place of democracy is far more humane and much better for the protection of human rights than democracy. When people make the laws, there is no guarantee of the protection of the weak or the betterment of society, because the human intellect is too little and self-interest too big to ensure that state policies truly are beneficial to all residents. But God is not a human, and He makes laws that ensure everyone's protection, especially the weak members of society that are so easily trampled in a democracy.

Democracy talks about the rule of the "majority", even if it's at the expense of the needs of minorities. However under Shariah, every individual group matters, even if the minority consists of one person - they can get an agreement for their own rights.

In democracy - things like secular state law prevails, and everyone is forced to follow it whether they like it or not, while under Shariah, every religious group has its own autonomy and its own courts according to its own religious law.

Just a couple of examples. So don't assume that democracy's not being correct in Islam means that Islam does not embrace different human traditions or human rights. If you study the Shariah properly you'll be amazed at how much more expansive and inclusive and humane it is than the stone-hearted, cold-blooded rigidity that is democracy and secularism.

Democracy is a failed system - democratic countries are hardly crime-free or truly happy - in fact they are very far from it, and the greatest "exporter" of democracy (the U.S.) has the highest crime rates in the world (apart from exporting democracy by "force", tyrannically blowing countries up to "impose" its own ideas of democracy on them, setting up puppet governments that agree with its foreign policies, and tearing down other soverign governments when their democratically elected leaders happen to be in disagreement with U.S. foreign policy). There's a book called "Democracy: the God that failed", and it wasn't written by a Muslim.

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but does it come under shirk? –  Islam Feb 3 '13 at 7:29
Did you see the Youtube video I linked to? It's only about 10 minutes. Please see it. The answer is quite clear, both logically as well as with reference to the Quran where Allah clearly uses the work "shirk" for the act of taking the law of anyone besides Allah as the supreme law. To be even clearer, you could view the full talks by Imran Hossein & Abdurraheem G. from which this video has taken extracts. The use of consultation and majority consensus under the Shariah-abiding caliphate is applied only among those who are knowledgeable of Islam and who hold Allah's law as supreme, not laymen. –  user961627 Feb 3 '13 at 8:09
Democracy in most secular countries relates to the election of the leaders, not the policies. In most countries there is no issue in a democracy protecting the rights of minorities. At the same time, we see lots of problems in Islamic states failing to protect minorities. –  Marc Gravell Feb 3 '13 at 12:30
@Ataraxia My favourite quote: Democracy by the wolf for the sheep of the tycoons –  Islam Aug 5 '13 at 2:46
@Ataxaria - you seem also to have not read my post at all. Please note the two examples of Shariah policy that I mentioned, which are clearly superior to democracy's narrow mindedness. There are plenty more of course, but that would require a course on Shariah, taught by classical Islamic scholars, not Robert Spencer or other politically-motivated liars. –  user961627 Aug 5 '13 at 12:34

It's one thing to claim that an institute is governed by law that is shara3a/flowed from/motivated by Allah SWT and another to say that a law implements what is ordained by Allah SWT.

The fruits tell from which tree it came from. (14:24-26)

In democracy, the mutable laws(amr) come and go from the people . but there is the immutable law and that is the urge to understand and respect nature and the facts of life (the ayaat that are immutable facts of life). In Islam, we are in peace with these facts of life's(ayaat), as it comes from the Prime Creator (30:22), we abide by them.

People can claim that they're the prophet's of the Prime Creator, but who knows who's telling the truth? So one can not kill the other just because of the claim to the "un-claimable". What if he was a genuine prophet? One thing I believe in is that genuine prophet would never enforce something that would take away freedom of expression. It's the inherent way of life of being in peace. The limit of freedom would be the laws of nature, the ayaat of Allah SWT, the Al-Kitab, Alif Lam Meem, (2:1-2).

So claiming to be confirming to what the prophets did is one thing, concretely doing it is totally a different subject.

Who would we believe, the prophet with his claim on Quran or the people behind a7adeeth about the prophet? Those who believe in the prophet would believe in the Quran, and the message it holds and that is peace with the law of nature/ayaat and the freedom of expressing oneself in the line of the laws of nature.

4:59 is about that, it is about opening up to the laws of nature through a legitimacy by the prophet (the immutable). Next comes the decree to abide the people of the laws (those who makes the amr/non-divine law). And this is done through shoora(42:38) that is the non-divine law may be converged through consensus by the people, amr-uhoom shoora. and those amr could change, and that is democracy.

believing in a7adeeth is not considered to be legitimate because it's never came out of the mouth of the prophet, rather it came out of the narrators. but when it is legitimized and became sacred and non immutable then they mutated the quran by way of naskh and mansookh and thrown the book of Allah SWT behind their backs, then it's a problem. especially when people who abide by the law of nature came to them and say that your beliefs is not in accordance to the law of nature, but because they didn't want to listen then they killed him or cast him away. and they became the losers.


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In short:

Pure Democracy (setting election for setting up the rules and the rulers) is wrong according to Islam, the rulers should always be determined by Allah and the rules must also be the rules of Allah, however, democracy (election) is not wrong by itself if it doesn't contradict the above conditions. For example the ruler can be appointed by Allah but himself select his helpers through an election among some distinguished persons, or etc.

If the ruler is not determined by Allah, then the system will be Taqut, a rebel against Allah, and Allah knows best.

If the rules are not the rules of Allah, then the system (both ruler and the people that admit it) are disbelievers, wrongdoers and defiantly disobedients.

"Is democracy a kind of shirk?" it is a sin and any sin done intentionally itself is a kind of Shirk, not necessarily the major Shirk but anyway it is accepting an authority and eligibility beside Allah, so the answer to this question is yes in my opinion. It can even be a major Shirk as well. At least the Muslims undergoing such rulerships is a great sin.

In Length

1. Any Secular government together with those accepting its authority are disbelievers, wrongdoers and defiantly disobedients

Any secular government is forbidden according to Islam and it can include Democratic governments as well:

... فَلَا تَخْشَوُا النَّاسَ وَاخْشَوْنِ وَلَا تَشْتَرُوا بِآيَاتِي ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا ۚ وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ

... So do not fear the people but fear Me, and do not exchange My verses for a small price. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed - then it is those who are the disbelievers. [5:44]

... وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ

... And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed - then it is those who are the wrongdoers. [5:45]

... وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ

... And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed - then it is those who are the defiantly disobedient. [5:47]

These verses clearly reject the idea that the rules can be determined in a series of referendum over the entire population or in a series of elections hold among the legislators in a parliament or Senate in the sense of the democracy.

2. Not only the rules must be the rules of Allah but also the ruler must also be appointed by Allah, ie not being secular is never sufficient

Indeed, according to Islam both the ruler and the rules must be determined only by Allah, and if it is not the case then the government will be an instance of the Taqut (طاغوت coming from طغیان, rebelling against Allah):

أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّـهَ لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۗ وَمَا لَكُم مِّن دُونِ اللَّـهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلَا نَصِيرٍ

Do you not know that Allah's is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and that besides Allah you have no guardian or helper? [2:107]

note to these two points in the above mentioned verse: (1) Allah is the Owner of everything, and being Owner is superior to being King / (2) indeed Wali (ولی) which is translated above as guardian is deeper and vaster than being only a guardian, it means someone who is اولی to someone in the sense of the verse [33:6]:

النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَىٰ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ ...

The Prophet has more authority over the believers than themselves ...

and friendship and being guardians have been extracted from this notion actually.

Then note that the owner can give the rulership of His own Kingdom to anyone who He wish, and only the owner of the Kingdom can do this:

وَقَالَ لَهُمْ نَبِيُّهُمْ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ قَدْ بَعَثَ لَكُمْ طَالُوتَ مَلِكًا ۚ قَالُوا أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لَهُ الْمُلْكُ عَلَيْنَا وَنَحْنُ أَحَقُّ بِالْمُلْكِ مِنْهُ وَلَمْ يُؤْتَ سَعَةً مِّنَ الْمَالِ ۚ قَالَ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ اصْطَفَاهُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَزَادَهُ بَسْطَةً فِي الْعِلْمِ وَالْجِسْمِ ۖ وَاللَّـهُ يُؤْتِي مُلْكَهُ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ

And their prophet said to them: Surely Allah has raised Talut to be a king over you. They said: How can he hold kingship over us while we have a greater right to kingship than he, and he has not been granted an abundance of wealth? He said: Surely Allah has chosen him in preference to you, and He has increased him abundantly in knowledge and physique, and Allah grants His kingdom to whom He pleases, and Allah is Amplegiving, Knowing. [2:247]

and also note the following verse:

أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِي حَاجَّ إِبْرَاهِيمَ فِي رَبِّهِ أَنْ آتَاهُ اللَّـهُ الْمُلْكَ إِذْ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ رَبِّيَ الَّذِي يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ قَالَ أَنَا أُحْيِي وَأُمِيتُ ۖ قَالَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَأْتِي بِالشَّمْسِ مِنَ الْمَشْرِقِ فَأْتِ بِهَا مِنَ الْمَغْرِبِ فَبُهِتَ الَّذِي كَفَرَ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ

Have you not considered him (Namrud) who disputed with Ibrahim about his Lord, because Allah had given him the kingdom? When Ibrahim said: My Lord is He who gives life and causes to die, he said: I give life and cause death. Ibrahim said: So surely Allah causes the sun to rise from the east, then make it rise from the west; thus he who disbelieved was confounded; and Allah does not guide aright the unjust people. [2:258]

according to Hadeeth the debate between Ibrahim --peace be upon him-- and Namrud was taken place after Ibrahim --peace be upon him-- was thrown inside the huge fire set by Namrud. Note that Namrud failed in his claim of being the God and the ultimate ruler of everything, he recognized the power of Allah and found his kingdom very weak in comparison to the kingdom of Allah. The appearance of the verse states that Allah has given Namrud the Kingdom, and most of the interpretations that I saw also state such, although all only accept that this giving was a blessing like any other blessing that God may give to anyone, and people like Namrud corrupted this blessing and abused it. This is not wrong as anyway nothing happens unless is caused by the Will of Allah, and all the cruel kings throughout the history may be considered like Namrud in this regard. But another Hadeeth from Imam Sadiq --peace be upon him-- put the matter differently, when he was asked about the interpretation of the verse [3:26]:

قُلِ اللَّـهُمَّ مَالِكَ الْمُلْكِ تُؤْتِي الْمُلْكَ مَن تَشَاءُ وَتَنزِعُ الْمُلْكَ مِمَّن تَشَاءُ وَتُعِزُّ مَن تَشَاءُ وَتُذِلُّ مَن تَشَاءُ ۖ بِيَدِكَ الْخَيْرُ ۖ إِنَّكَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

Say: O Allah, Master of the Kingdom! Thou givest the kingdom to whomsoever Thou pleasest and takest away the kingdom from whomsoever Thou pleasest, and Thou exaltest whom Thou pleasest and abasest whom Thou pleasest in Thine hand is the good; surety, Thou hast power over all things.

if it is not true that Allah has given the Kingdom to the Omayyad family (بنی امیة)? Imam answered: "قال ليس حيث تذهب، إن الله عز و جل آتانا الملك و أخذته بنو امية، بمنزلة الرجل يكون له الثوب فيأخذه الآخر، فليس هو للذي أخذه" which means: "you have misunderstood the real meaning of the verse, verily Allah has given to us the Kingdom but the Omayyd family have overtaken it from us, like a man who has a cloth and some other one overtakes it, the cloth will not belong to the one who has overtaken it" [you can find the hadeeth here: البرهان في تفسير القرآن، ج‏1، ص: 606], that is the Kingdom of Allah in all those cases throughout the history have been usurped and hijacked by the wrong rulers which will then be Taqut, those who have rebelled against Allah the Owner (مالک) and the King (مَلِک). After this Hadeeth, now one can easily interpret the verse [2:258] either as Namrud has been given a blessing but he abused it or seemingly more accurately as Namrud being jealous about the kingdom of Allah to which Ibrahim --peace be upon him-- was a true successor (خلیفة), that is, the authority and power being in the service of Ibrahim and not him.

Therefore Allah is the only true Ruler (e.g. إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّـهِ ۚ أَمَرَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ and ... إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَحْكُمُ مَا يُرِيدُ), and the only one who is eligible to appoint a Caliph for Him on His Earth (e.g. فَهَزَمُوهُم بِإِذْنِ اللَّـهِ وَقَتَلَ دَاوُودُ جَالُوتَ وَآتَاهُ اللَّـهُ الْمُلْكَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَعَلَّمَهُ مِمَّا يَشَاءُ ... and ... إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً ...). This clearly rejects the idea that a ruler can be determined in an election in the sake of pure democracy.

3. So is democracy completely against the spirit of Islam?

No! The pure democracy is what is definitely wrong as it dictates the rule as the cumulative idea of the population and Islam clearly states:

وَإِن تُطِعْ أَكْثَرَ مَن فِي الْأَرْضِ يُضِلُّوكَ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ ۚ إِن يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنَّ وَإِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا يَخْرُصُونَ

Wert thou to follow the common run of those on earth, they will lead thee away from the way of Allah. They follow nothing but conjecture: they do nothing but lie. [6:116]

وَكَذَٰلِكَ أَنزَلْنَاهُ حُكْمًا عَرَبِيًّا ۚ وَلَئِنِ اتَّبَعْتَ أَهْوَاءَهُم بَعْدَ مَا جَاءَكَ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ مَا لَكَ مِنَ اللَّـهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلَا وَاقٍ

Thus have We revealed it to be a judgment of authority in Arabic. Wert thou to follow their (vain) desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee, then wouldst thou find neither protector nor defender against Allah. [13:37]

and أَكْثَرَ مَن فِي الْأَرْضِ in [6:116] means the majority of people living on Earth, at least "half+1" and this is almost the very pure democracy. However, democracy can still survive to some extent in an Islamic system. Not everything in Islam is obligatory or forbidden, there are many situations that a community wants to select among two ISlamically allowed choices, here Democracy can find its role again, although it should always be bounded. So what appears from this discussion is that democracy has a limit in Islam and this has been already questioned elsewhere. The only thing that I can suggest you to read is the theory behind choosing the system of government of Iran as Islamic Republic (الجمهوریة الإسلامیة). You can check for yourself why it is not an instance of Taqut!

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَن يَرْتَدَّ مِنكُمْ عَن دِينِهِ فَسَوْفَ يَأْتِي اللَّـهُ بِقَوْمٍ يُحِبُّهُمْ وَيُحِبُّونَهُ أَذِلَّةٍ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَعِزَّةٍ عَلَى الْكَافِرِينَ يُجَاهِدُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّـهِ وَ*لَا يَخَافُونَ لَوْمَةَ لَائِمٍ* ۚ ذَٰلِكَ فَضْلُ اللَّـهِ يُؤْتِيهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ

O ye who believe! if any from among you turn back from his Faith, soon will Allah produce a people whom He will love as they will love Him,- lowly with the believers, mighty against the rejecters, fighting in the way of Allah, and never afraid of the reproaches of such as find fault. That is the grace of Allah, which He will bestow on whom He pleaseth. And Allah encompasseth all, and He knoweth all things. [5:54]

This was my personal understanding of the issue and I'm not a scholar. Allah knows best.

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I understand your answer is of the shia view, but it doesn't answer the Question. The question isn't asking if secular governments are haram or who the ruler should be or if democracy is against Islam. It is asking whether or not democracy is shirk. Also I should mention your answer is quite long, and the middle/second part of it is unnecessary. –  Mujahid مجاهد Feb 2 '13 at 22:17
@AlUmmat, the answer was updated to also include an abstract, only those who like to read more can go through the explanations provided / the second part seems to me as necessary since determining the ruler is also a cornerstone of Democracy, you don't agree? –  owari Feb 3 '13 at 8:08

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