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Islam puts great emphasis on justice, rights and rule of law: Religious scholars

Islam has laid down some guiding principles on justice, rights and responsibilities, equality and rule of law, which should become the basis of any political system that undertakes to govern an Islamic state. In that regard democracy appears very close to Islam. These thoughts were expressed by leading religious scholars in a seminar on “Democracy and constitution of Pakistan: viewpoints of clergy and religious scholars (II),” organized by Pak Institute for Peace Studies in Lahore on May 19, 2014. The first of this series of dialogues was held in Karachi on May 17, 2014.

Secretary General Wafaqul Madaris Al Arabia and Principal Jamia Khairul Madaris, Multan Qari Haneef Jalandhary said that authoritarianism, or kingship, and democracy are two distinct political systems. Islam has espoused a “system of mutual consultation” (nizam-e-shura or shuraiyyat), which is based on neither authoritarianism, nor such form of democracy that compromises God’s sovereignty. He said, as the Objectives Resolution, which guarantees the Sovereignty of God, has become part of its constitution.

Principal Jamia Naeemia, Lahore Dr Raghib Hussain Naeemi said Pakistan came into being through democratic process and struggle. He said in Islam the idea of political opposition is different from that in democracy; in former, opposition is bound to abide by and support the emir (the head of state) after he is elected. He underscored the need to study Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s political thoughts on democracy, state and ijtihad, a major source of Islamic law.

Secretary General Wafaqul Madaris Salfia Maulana Yasin Zafar said we can follow and establish any system of government provided its basic concepts are not contradictory to the principles provided by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and Shariah. If democracy and its implications are beneficial for our people then there should be no issue in adopting it. He said it is clearly written in Pakistan’s constitution that no laws can be formed which are contradictory to Islam.

Allama Ghulam Baqir Ghillon from Jamia Al Muntazir, Lahore stated that credible religious scholars from all Islamic sects had contributed towards formation of the 1973 Constitution, which has nothing that should be described as un-Islamic. The problems we face in Pakistan are due to the lack of the rule of law. “If the constitution and laws are implemented effectively and democratically, Pakistan’s people and state will move forward and prosper,” he argued.

Vice Principal Jamia Imdadia, Faisalabad Mufti Mohammad Zahid said democracy is a fluid concept and it has absorbed local influences wherever it is in practice across the globe. He said we should appreciate the benefits and freedoms, including freedom of speech, which we have due to democracy in Pakistan. In democracy, rulers are not free form criticism and accountability. He was of the view that democracy in Pakistan could help achieve the ideals of Islam if people have education and awareness.

Chief Administrator Dar e Ikhlas, Lahore Allama Shehzad Mujaddedi said Pakistani people’s perceptions of [the theoretical concept of] democracy are largely based on their experiences with the democratic system implemented in Pakistan and what it has delivered so far. Nonetheless, though Islam and democracy share some traits, we should critically examine things before adopting them. In Islam, sovereignty belongs to God and man is His vicegerent. At the same time Islam makes obligatory for its followers to obey the ruler until and unless he becomes transgressor and does an act of open disbelief. He said Islam does not allow establishing state within a state because it creates discord and anarchy.

Principal Idara Fikr-e-Jadeed Sahibzada Mohammad Amanat Rasool said in democracy people’s opinion is deemed sovereign in the formation of government but in Islam though people’s opinion has the same authority but it should not be in conflict with what has been espoused in precepts of Islam. He said Islam has given women the right to be part of political process.

 Tanzeem-e-Islami leader Professor Mirza Ayub Baig said democracy is a way of ruling or governing in the capitalist system. He stated that certain attributes of democracy are quite positive such as importance of public opinion, the people’s right to elect their ruler, and consultation etc., but democracy largely serves the interests of rich and capitalist classes. He argued that as far as Islam’s view of democracy is concerned we have to consider the fact that when Islamic state was established in Madina only a few thousand people lived in the city. Therefore opinions of few representative persons were perhaps deemed enough to elect an emir (the head of state) which is not possible in the modern day world. Pakistan has a population of 200 million people therefore people’s opinion should be sought to elect a ruler. As Islam has set out a basic principle of consultation for election of emir, voting for that purpose is thus not opposed to Islam.

Deputy Director Al Sharia Academy Gujranwala Allama Ammar Khan Nasir stated that Islam has provided guiding principles on the role of state and society. He said different ways can be adopted to reform or bring change in an Islamic society but we should resort to only peaceful ways and avoid violence. He said it is not wise to confront the Western civilization, which is quite dominant at the moment with its own political and economic systems, but efforts should be made to achieve objective of Islam while living within this system [of democracy.

Religious scholar and editor Urdu monthly Soo-e-Hijaz Maulana Khaleelur Rehman Qadri said that democracy is effectively delivering in those countries from where we have borrowed it. In Pakistan, nonetheless, democracy has become a sort of authoritarianism. Therefore before holding democracy accountable for all the problems facing Pakistan, we should first try to analyze if we have experienced true democracy here or not. “As far as objections on Pakistan’s constitution are concerned, I think they are more of sectarian nature than being Islamic,” he opined.

Deputy head of Tehreek Minhajul Quran Sadiq Qureshi said the state of Madina established by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) should be a role model before us where all groups and communities including Jews, Muslims and non-believers lived together. We find the concept of establishment of political parties in Islam but their manifestos/agendas should not be against Islam. He said while democracy gives sovereignty to people, in Islamic system sovereignty belongs to God.

Editor Urdu monthly Khilafat-e-Rashida Mohammad Younas Qasmi said democracy is an evolutionary journey towards the Islamic concept of ruling a state. Democracy does not deny the Islamic “system of mutual consultation” and allows common people to elect the shura (council) that eventually elects the emir(the head of state). The same concept of shura is named as parliament in democracy.

Leader of Tanzeemul Ikhawan Professor Hafiz Khalid said that in reality Muslims are the real source of the concept of democracy because it was the people who chose the Khulfa-e-Rashideen (the first four Caliphs after the Holy Prophet (PBUH)). However after that we moved towards kingship and monarchy. Democracy in Pakistan has become hostage to the capitalist and feudal classes.