Islam, a true religion of peace and humanity, unfortunately is now being considered a root cause behind undemocratic practices prevailing in Islamic states. The major reason behind such misconception is misunderstanding and absolutely wrong analysis of Islamic political values. While discussing the topic of Islam and democracy people often take extreme positions; some present Islamic political system as an antithesis of democracy, while others emphasize that both Islam and democracy are two different terms implying same thing as John Esposito and John Voll argued in their recent book 'Islam and Democracy' that both are compatible with each other. But the real picture is different from both viewpoints. Therefore before taking sides of either group one must have complete understanding of some important concepts regarding the place of democracy in Islam.
The Concept of Sovereignty in Islam
The basis of Islamic political system is an absolute belief in the sovereignty of Allah, the real law giver. No one, even a prophet can order others in his own right. The Prophet himself is subjected to Allah's commands. As Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, "I do not follow anything except what is revealed to me". For man Islam uses the term "Vicegerency" (Khilafat) instead of "sovereignty". Anyone selected as vicegerent uses the power as the trust from Allah and is answerable before Him for every action he takes under these powers.
Decision Making Process in Islamic Polity
In Islam 'Shura' is the only decision making and implementing body. The role of Shura is often compared with the role of parliament in modern democracy but the main deference between two is the concept of real law giver. In Islam only Allah Almighty is the real law giver to Whom the authority of legislation vests. Man has no authority to modify the prescribed limits and cannot resort to independent legislation. He has to take all decision within the prescribed framework according to rules of Allah not by the choice of people. Such limitations are placed just to prevent exploitation of man in the name of majority vote and to evolve a well balanced system of social justice under which political powers can be used to eradicate elements causing insecurities and uncertainties among people.
Principle of Equality in Islam
Islam presents an egalitarian social structure according to which all human beings are equal before Allah; no one is superior to another on the account of his social status, family background, caste or profession. The only criterion of superiority is personal aptitude and noble character. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) asserted this reality on many occasions. Some of those assertions are given here:
"No one is superior to another except in point of faith and piety. All men are descended from Adam and Adam was made of clay. "
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