For decades, the question of whether democracy and Islam are compatible has lingered. Numerous western and Islamic intellectuals have conducted extensive research and published their views on whether or not Islam is compatible with democracy. However, the situation remained unresolved for the time being. Numerous experts believe that democracy and Islam should have had close ties under the current international order. Without greater understanding between Christian and Muslim communities, it is widely considered that a sustainable and equitable world will be difficult to realize. Numerous intellectuals, including Muslim and Christian scholars, have argued that democracy and Islam must coexist in harmony. It would undoubtedly benefit both Muslims and westerners in their efforts to create a better world. Islam and democracy have no fundamental differences (Hadiz, 2018, pg. 571), as Islam promotes the formation of an equitable society, justice, equality, and individual liberty. On the other side, democracy also includes freedom of expression, justice, equality, and human rights. Here, people see a point of agreement between Islam and democracy.
Furthermore, some scholars believe that Islam permits private enterprise and property rights, which are necessary components of democracy and capitalism. According to some scholars, an Islamic political-economic system is a form of social democracy because it allows for private enterprise while maintaining egalitarianism. This paper will seek to analyze whether or not Islam is compatible with democracy.
Understanding Democracy and Islam
The term “democracy” conjures up a plethora of imagery. This form of government can be traced back to ancient Greece’s city-states. It can allude to the disorderly shouting contests at a town hall event or the sophisticated representational political systems seen in several Western states. On the other hand, Islam was established on the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century and has since evolved to become the world’s greatest religious doctrine (Said, Pongsibanne, and Shobariya, 2020). Muslims account for nearly one-fifth of the earth’s population. Islam is far from being a homogenous religion. The most visible division is between the minority Shi’a and the majority Sunni, although there are numerous more fragmentations.
Concise Analysis of Arguments
As Amaney Jamal notes in his essay Public, Actors, Participation, and Opinion, the majority of the Middle East has a solid comprehension of democracy and its objective. “Community members across the area, by majorities exceeding 75%, agree democracy is the best system of governance.” This aspect enables Jamal to claim that “although some may be surprised by the strong backing for democracy in a region with few democracy, additional facts demonstrate that Arab individuals have a healthy comprehension of the concept of democracy.” Democracy is a healthy notion in the Arab world Berger, 2019, pg. 317), and it is not alien to more contemporary republics like Turkey or Iran.
If democracy is so prevalent in the community, why hasn’t it become more democratic? The primary impediment stems from “the pervasive anxiety over whether Islamist movements can be harmonized with democratic norms.” It is mostly a concern based on western hypotheticals and fears since “a greater percentage of Arabs and other Muslims assert that Islam’s doctrines are essentially democratic.” Nonetheless, “many consider that Muslim individuals’ religious attachments and orientations contribute to a normative milieu unfriendly to democracy.” This belief is largely based on theological ideas instead of empirical analysis. Rather than considering components of Islamism and Sharia Law as intractable impediments to democracy, the potential for co-opting these cultural entities into the liberalization process must be examined. To analyze this possibility, a shift away from exploring the two organizations based on their theological claims must occur, and a greater emphasis must be given on their role in the community.
The notion that Islam is regressive and democracy is progressive are wrong. Indeed, democracy is a creation of the pre-Islamic Roman and Greek Empires (Fila, l2021). Greece and Rome’s empires disintegrated in the face of Islam’s superior political structure. Islamic civilization was instrumental in propelling human progress and advancement to unparalleled heights. Islam advanced science to new heights, which profited and developed Europe. The second fallacy is the belief that civilization in Europe began with the Romans and Greeks and ended with the Enlightenment. This handy rewrite of history omits over eight hundred years of Islamic dominance in Spain, which greatly affected Europe’s human and intellectual advancement. A third frequently advanced assertion is that democracy is ubiquitous and applicable in all cultures and places. In reality, steady democratic political structures have historically been constrained to Western Europe. Latin or South America, Russia, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union, the Arab region, Africa, and Asia have all failed to establish democracy (hence the significance of India to the West). Western Europe’s upsurge as civilization has nothing to do with democracy and a good deal with military imperialism and colonialism, most notably the decrease of the Islamic empire and looting of its riches. Neither has democracy resulted in a global improvement of the human condition. Beyond its frontiers, the West has been a murderous civilization, leaving the vast majority of humanity in a wretched situation.
Compatibility Between Islam and Democracy
The scholars who believe democracy and Islam are compatible places a premium on fundamental Islamic and democratic ideals such as transparency, consultation, accountability, popular will, and equality (Butt, 2020). This positive view of Islam’s compatibility with democracy draws a contrast between Islam’s essential beliefs and the historical baggage that has accumulated around them over the past. They claim that those who oppose democracy in the context of Islam are doing so based on historical baggage instead of the foundation of Islam. Nothing in Islam’s essential doctrines precludes the formation of democracy in Islamic culture. Additionally, many Islamic scholars believe that Islam does not provide a distinct system but instead provides universal principles that can be adopted into any system. It is up to the Muslims of that era to pick which system to embrace, but whichever structure they choose, they must adhere to Islam’s fundamental values. However, the holy Quran does not refer to any particular system; rather, it calls for equality, justice, and the wellbeing of the people.
Incompatibility Between Islam and Democracy
Scholars advocating for this approach place a greater emphasis on sovereignty, chronological interpretations of Islam, and the western democratic structure and its ideals. Like Egypt’s Sayyid Qutb and Pakistan’s Sayyid Abul A’La Maududi, numerous Western and Muslim scholars argue that democracy and Islam are irreconcilable (THEN, 2020). These scholars’ central argument concerns the notion of sovereignty. In a democratic state, sovereignty is retained by the citizens; however, in Islam, sovereignty is retained by Allah. The western researcher contends that the Muslim society as a whole is fundamentally opposed to the pluralism, individualism, liberalism, and secularism that characterize modern democracies (THEN, 2020). The majority of Muslim philosophers are concerned with the practical consequences of democracy in western societies.
Nowadays, the quest for pluralism is the ultimate purpose of democracy in west democratic republics. Once this principle is implemented, it creates a culture in which it is difficult to hold any viewpoint because it is the individual’s responsibility to have all beliefs. However, religion is prioritized over all other virtues in a Muslim community, as without faith, no Muslim exists. Islam continuously teaches Muslims to believe there Is a God; indeed, the fundamental tenet for becoming a Muslim is to recognize the six fundamental beliefs of Islam, which include believing in his holy Angels, the oneness of Allah, believing in holy books, believing in the day of judgment, believing in His messengers, and believing in an afterlife and a hereafter.
The paper examined democracy and Islam briefly and their incompatibility and compatibility with one another. According to the paper, the fundamental idea of democracy and Islam were identical during their respective emergence periods. They both share basic ideals yet have taken divergent paths throughout history. Islam developed in the Middle East and thrived primarily in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa, where it encountered its values, traditions, and cultures. On the other side, democracy arose in America and Europe due to their cultural and customary evolutions over time. Thus, the argument against the compatibility of democracy and Islam appears to be undermined because they either based their idea on historical baggage or fairly flexible concepts in both Islam and democracy. In the current climate, this challenge necessitates a quick and dependable resolution. Indeed, in the modern period, the compatibility of democracy and Islam is a requirement, not just for Muslims but also for non-Muslims. With the advancement of technology, the globe has become a global community, and people are interdependent.
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