The Western World follows a modern system of government, in the form of democracy. To clarify, democracy was started by the ancient Greeks, but it is nevertheless modern because it is the main system adopted in contemporary times. Most of the countries in today’s world follow democracy as a system of government, including the largest Muslim population country, Indonesia.
Currently in the modern world there are lot of perspectives on the relationship of Islam and democracy among Islamic scholars, political scholars, the general Muslim public, and Western authors. Some Islamic thinkers have rejected the notion of democracy as a foreign idea and incompatible with Islam. Others have argued that traditional Islamic notions such as Shura (consultation), Maslaha (public interest), and Adl (justice) and representative government institutions are similar to Western democracy, but reflect Islamic rather than Western liberal values based on pluralism and freedom of thought. A number of different attitudes regarding democracy are also represented among the general Muslim public, some want democracy and some Islamic system. And when they talk about the Islamic system, they mean the caliphate (Khilafat).
Islam is not only about worship but a daily life, a complete guide in all aspects. For a political system, it gives a guide by saying, whatever the mode of government of an Islamic state is, the sovereignty belongs to God Almighty, and the authority should be delegated to the state through its people under the rules set by God Almighty. The ruler of the state is representative, elected by people, and to serve them according to the laws of Almighty. The State in Islam is obliged to administer justice and provide security and protection to all the citizens including non-Muslims. It imposes sanctions to all the crimes and punish the criminals that affects the safety and integrity of society such as Killing, terrorism, theft, rape, and defamation.
We must understand that Islam does not give us any system of government. Islam only gives us a system of faith and ethics. Whenever it talks about the social life of humans it just gives us a principle or law of Allah Almighty. People themselves implement that principle in the society and make a system. And when that principle is implemented in any society, social conditions, cultural requirements, cultural traditions, nation, country, what kind of people live, it all will affect the making of a system.
God has created this universe on the principle that human beings have been given the right to choose which religion they wish to follow or not. The Quran has made it clear that this world is based on the principles of freedom of thought, freedom of belief and freedom of opinion. People will make their own decisions. So, it is either the people who will decide who should govern them, which is a logical and sensible thing; or God, our Creator, who will decide.
When the Quran guides us in the matter of what system would be right for Muslims, it says;
(The affairs of the Muslims are run or based on their mutual consultation) (42:38)
This means that the system of governance will come into existence by the opinion of the people. The Quran makes it clear that human beings have been given the freedom to make their decisions. Not any particular person, no family, no force, has the right to decide who will have the government but the people. And that is what happens in democracy. The Holy Quran had made this declaration, when the idea of democracy was quite vague. It is the people who decide and should decide what system of governance they want and who should be their ruler. What is against the teachings of the Quran in these things?
When we implement a principle in a society, we need to consider the features and customs of that society. Arabs had a tribal system. The rulers after the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H) had not assumed their positions through any kind of force or kingship. People from the smallest tribes were chosen as rulers as people believe on them. The people elected their rulers without using swords or guns. The entire process was done in a democratic way. It was a tribal society and a rule was applied and implemented according to the requirement of those circumstances. When we talk of political leaders and the whole political system today, they achieved their leadership from the mandate given by people. You can hold elections today after the industrial revolution, but 200 years ago it was not possible. In a tribal system, they adopted the best possible method of electing a ruler. It was people who had put their trust in it and elected them the rulers. None of them was appointed, not even by the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H).
As far as any defects in a democratic system are concerned or the things that are contradictory to Islam so, remember that there are two different things; one is principle and the other thing is implementation. When they are applied, mistakes do happen in the process of devising systems for the application of principles. That is why no system will be perfectly developed by human beings. In the same way, there have been developed political systems that are good but that does not mean that these are free from any defect. Even in the West, there is no single application of the principle of democracy.
Unfortunately, Muslims have not built any system on the principle given by Islam about the collective affairs of the Muslims. In the modern world, we have a system that is based on the same principle that is mentioned in the Quran. So, what is wrong in adopting that system when it is not contradicting to Islam. No doubt, many shapes of democracy in the modern world are against the Islamic values, but we also have many models of democracy, as well, in the world. There are different models of democracy in Germany, Britain, the USA, and France, where the application has been quite different.
By seriously analyzing these facts with respect to democracy, we can abandon the things that are contradictory with Islam, but the concept and the principle will remain the same. No force or a certain community have the right to have a government forcefully imposed. Only the people have the right to decide what type of government the want, and we must not differentiate of the people’s status with regard to superiority or inferiority, because we should not have any model for the differentiation. We cannot make human claims based on the worth of a person, because God has created them all equal and given them equal rights to decide who will rule over them. As such, democracy has been accepted in its spirit in Islam.