Islam is inherently Democratic

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  • 27 augustus 2009
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Islam is inherently Democratic

There's an impression that Muslims suffer disproportionately from the rule of dictators, unelected presidents, kings and various other strongmen. A careful analysis by Frederic L. Pryor of Swarthmore College ("Are Muslim Countries Less Democratic?") concludes that “In all but the poorest countries, Islam is associated with fewer political rights”. The fact that majority-Muslim countries are less democratic makes it tempting to conclude that the religion of Islam, their common factor, is itself incompatible with democracy. I disagree with this conclusion. Koran, the central religious text of Islam, is one such reference which proves that Islam is compatible with democracy. In this paper I will give three arguments, which prove that Islam is indeed inherently democratic. My arguments will be based on quranic versions about women right, freedom of speech and aggression. These topics are one of the major necessities of a democratic system, but before that, I would like to give a brief explanation about the reliability of Quran itself. (It is hoped that by the conclusion of this paper, the reader will see Islam in a new light, not as a form of religious dogma, but as a guide to making choices based on intelligence and reason).

** not clear According to the majority of educated Muslims, the Quran is the only evidence that proves Islam. Infact, it is the last and the purest book according to the religion of Islam. However, a lot of Muslims also tend to believe in Hadith of Muhammad, the last prophet according to Islam. The hadith are the records of oral traditions of Muhammad's sayings and actions that were recorded by ancient Muslim scholars. Hadiths are developed over a millennium, it presumes autocratic rulers and submissive subjects, emphasizes God's will over popular sovereignty, and encourages violent jihad to expand Islam's borders. Further, it anti-democratically privileges Muslims over non-Muslims, males over females, and free persons over slaves. For Muslims to build fully functioning democracies, they basically must reject hadithes. Because the Qur'an has less technical support for its authenticity, muslims use Hadiths to interpret Quran which then lead them to wrong direction. Furthermore, Quran itself has banned to bringing changes in its scriptures, that is why the Quran that exists today is the copy of the original version. Therefore, Quran is the only reliable source left for Muslims.

When Islam was established in Arabia, the rest of the world consisted of communities with religious laws. The major religions were Christianity and Judaism. People suffered from strict rules of those religions. Take for instance, Judaism law for women right on Divorce. Tora, Jews holy book, states that women have no right to claim divorce and dissolve the marriage when she is unhappy, whereas a man has the full right to divorce his wife any time, for any reason, even if it is about a spoiled dish. A citation about the role of women in Tora, “Woman is the origin of sin, and it is through her that we all die” (Ecclesiasticus 25:25). Christianity, on the other hand, abhors divorce altogether by saying, "But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery" (Matthew 5:32). This is however unrealistic. When a couple realizes that their married life is beyond repair, a ban on divorce will not do them any good. Islam occupies the middle ground between Christianity and Judaism with respect to divorce. Fist of all, marriage in Islam is a sanctified bond that should not be broken except for compelling reasons. However, it does give the right to the women to end the marriage. The reason for divorce is not limited. Lets first look to the role of the women in Quran: "Live with them (your wives) on a footing of kindness and equity. If you dislike them it may be that you dislike something in which Allah has placed a great deal of good" (4:19) and “Their Lord responded to them: "I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female - you are all equal to one another”” [3:195]. Secondly, Islam regarding to divorce: Once the interim is fulfilled, you may reconcile with them equitably, or go through with the separation equitably. You shall have two equitable witnesses witness the divorce before GOD. This is to enlighten those who believe in GOD and the Last Day. Anyone who reverences GOD, He will create an exit for him [65:2]. It was these rights that enticed Jewish women who lived in the early Islamic societies of the seventh century C.E. to seek to obtain bills of divorce from their Jewish husbands in Muslim courts. Islam offers Muslims first to save their marriage. If all measures are failed, Islam allows the partners to separate peacefully and amicably. If it doesn’t appear in some Islamic countries, it is probably due to wrong interpretation, or analphabetic or their culture. So, actually Islam does give the full right to the women as for the men for their decisions, which is an important sign of democracy.
Freedom of speech and expression, especially about political and other public issues, is the lifeblood of any democracy. Lets see first what Quran states about equality of races; “Say, "We believe in GOD, and in what was sent down to us, and in what was sent down to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs; and in what was given to Moses and Jesus, and all the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them. To Him alone we are submitters." [2:136]. Quran repeatedly explains that it is the human factor which divides us from uniting. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms, without distinction of any kind. The next citation states, "This is the truth from your Lord," then whoever wills let him believe, and whoever wills let him disbelieve....”[18:29]. Here we see how each individual must be ensured of the right to his own beliefs and way of life that includes the right of freedom of opinion and expression that encourages democracy.
One of the arguments that opponents use regard to Islam is that “Islam is responsible for terrorism”. Since the September 11 incident in 2001, the media has been constantly portraying Islam of being synonymous with terrorism. Nevertheless, The Quran mandates the absolute freedom of religion in a society. It does not allow Muslims to fight except for self-defence and to enforce peace. It does not allow restrictions on those who disagree on religious matters. It urges the Muslims to treat such people kindly and equitably. The religion of Islam forbids the killing of innocent people, irrespective of the cause - religious, political or social beliefs by stating “You may fight in the cause of GOD against those who attack you, but do not AGGRESS. GOD does not love the AGGRESSORS. [2:190.], and “You shall not kill - GOD has made life sacred - except in the course of justice. These are His commandments to you" [Quran 6:151]. Regrettably, many terrorists groups have used the name Islam to promote their cause and this gave many non-Muslims a chance to asperse Islam and label the Muslims as terrorists. Deliberately ignored on the other hand, are terrorists who happen to be Christians or Jews. Terrorism as an act of violence has been committed by people from all religious and political backgrounds. Terrorists who happened to be Christians ( e.g. in Bosnia, England, Ireland, Germany, Spain...etc.) and those who happened to be Jewish (e.g. in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon) used their religious beliefs to claim legitimacy for the violence and terrorism they commit. So, how can we conclude that Islam is the cause of terror in the world. Quran clearly forbids killing and aggression and encourages democracy.
To conclude, let’s think again whether Islam should be considered compatible with democracy. Quran is the book of Islam that provides rules for Muslim. So, lets see whether Quran support democracy. Quran states: Women are equal to men, they have the right to chose their partners and the right to divorce when the dislike them. This leads to freedom of speech which is supported by The Quran. Furthermore, Quran is clearly against aggression and killing. These are clear signs of a democratic system. If it is lacking in some parts of the world, accidentally in some Muslim countries, it is simply because of lack of education there or the culture of that particular country, but not because of religion of Islam. And finally I would like to end with a quote of Louis Farrakhan, “I think that rather than condemning Islam, Islam needs to be studied by those who are sincere.”

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