Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Voting and Participation within un-Islamic Systems - Refuting Spurious Assertions

Islam orders the Muslims to implement the rules and laws laid down by Allah (swt), and that the sovereignty belongs to Allah (swt) alone. This is known by necessity in Islam, as Allah (swt) has told us:

وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ فَأُوْلَـئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ
Whosoever rules by other than what Allah hath revealed: such are disbelievers. (Q.5:44)

However, electing candidates for and even participating within kufr systems is justified today through a number of spurious arguments which have either no or an extremely weak basis in Islamic jurisprudence.  Some of these common arguments are listed below with brief responses:

1.  The Prophet Yusuf (as) participated in a non-Islamic system, as a minister:
Even if such an assertion were true (and there is nothing to substantiate such a claim), according to the majority of Usul scholars, the Shari`ah of those before the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), is not considered to be a Shari`ah for us now.[1] This is (and Allah knows best) the strongest opinion and amongst the proof for that being the words “To each among you We have prescribed a law and a clear way” (5:41). Those who do consider it to be a legal source and evidence, only accept it under the condition that it has not been abrogated by anything in Islam, which cannot be claimed in this case (as proven simply by the ayah mentioned above).

2. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) participated in the Fujjar wars, defending the Quraysh against outside aggression:
Any actions from the Prophet that occurred before the onset of Prophethood are not considered to be evidence for the Shari`ah, so to use this as justification has no basis in jurisprudence.

3. But what about his participation in Hilf al-Fudul, since he said if he had the chance to witness it again in Islam he would, and so we can participate in the Western systems:
Hilf-al-fudul was an agreement between Arab tribes that they would help those who suffered injustice, and not to aid the oppressor against the oppressed. Such an agreement is consistent with Islam, but cannot be compared to sitting within an un-Islamic system where the laws that are legislated run contrary to Islam in both root and branch. In other words, this is an inappropriate analogy, and does not fulfil any condition to use as Islamic evidence.

4. The Prophet (saw) took protection from disbelievers, such as his uncle Abu Talib:
This is actually a proof against compromise and participation, since this protection was given to him (saw) without compromising Islam. The protection was given to him without condition and despite the fact that he (saw) was in a severe, open and fierce ideological conflict with the Quraysh. When Abu Talib asked him to give up his call due to the threats delivered by a delegation from the Quraysh that otherwise there would be open war between the two sides until one destroyed the other, the Prophet (saw) gave the famous reply that even if the sun were placed in his right hand, and the moon in his left, he would not give up the call to Islam until either Allah made it victorious or he was destroyed while doing so.

5. The companions were sent to live in Abyssynia, and they prayed for the victory of the Negashi over his opponents:
Making du’a to Allah for the victory of one group over another has no relevance to the material action of taking part in an election process to empower candidates running on a basis that means that they will legislate laws contrary to Islam, within a system that is un-Islamic.
In addition, this is supported that they sufficed with du’a, and they simply sent al-Zubayr bin al-`Awwam to monitor the battle without participating in it, in order to know the outcome.

6. Maslaha – It is in our interests to vote – and Islam  is all about securing the interests and repelling the harm:
The benefit (maslaha) is what is defined by the Shari’ah, and its achievement can only be through valid Islamic means.[2] The idea that we can define our own maslaha (benefits) and weigh them accordingly is nothing short of making our desires the basis of our actions, and is forbidden Islamically as well as being a misunderstanding of the classical use of the principle.[3]

7. Voting for certain candidates to prevent others from coming in, is the lesser of two evil:
The principle “lesser of two evils” is a sub-principle of the principle “Harm is to be lifted”[4] and is only applicable when the Shari’ah has defined the two evils, and defined which is the lesser of the two, such as the example given by al-Zayla`i and quoted by Ibn Nujaym in Ashbah wa’l-Naza’ir: “An example is that of a man who has a wound where if he were to prostrate in the Prayer the blood will flow from the wound but if he did not, then it would not flow. In this case, he must sit and pray indicating his act of bowing and prostrating because to leave the act of prostration is less evil (ahwan) than praying in a state of impurity. Is it not the case that leaving the prostration is permitted in certain conditions where one can choose not to do it like in the case of offering optional prayers while on a riding animal whereas being in a state of impurity and praying is not permitted at all…”[5] Another example Ibn Nujaym quotes is: “Likewise is the case of an elderly person who is unable to recite the Qur’an in the prayer while standing but is able to do so in a sitting posture. If this is so, he prays in a sitting posture because it is permitted to either sit or not to sit in optional prayers whereas it is not permitted to abandon the recitation in the Prayer in any circumstances…”[6]
Here, the mind is not used to outweigh the lesser of the two evils or to decide what action to take but the text and its indications. Other examples include the difficult situation of a mother giving birth and where both are in danger of losing their lives, who then ought to be saved. Thus, the examples are connected with inevitable evils and not in cases where options to avoid the evil exist.

Therefore, it is wholly inapplicable to apply the principle of the “lesser of the two evils” as a default premise because it forbidden to commit a haram in origin and the principle is invalidated whenever a third option exists that does not require one to commit an evil.  In the case of voting for mainstream political parties, no coercion, compulsion or necessity exists. The third option is a permitted one which is to abstain and warn others from doing it. It is also not possible to tell which is the “lesser” or “greater” evil in a given situation especially when voting for these major political parties and it inevitably becomes a case of voting for who brings personal benefit. For example, in these elections none of the major parties in Britain are against the war in Afghanistan, while the xenophobic BNP is. So which is the lesser evil – increased prejudice against Muslims in the UK, or the killing of Muslims in Afghanistan? Whoever you vote for – you share responsibility in their actions since you actively empowered them.

Some claim that by not voting you have an impact upon the result and therefore you are intrinsically involved in the action. Such a claim is demonstrably false, since its parallel would be the claim that the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) should have participated in the ruling in Mecca, a position he was capable of given his position and stature amongst his people, since if he didn’t participate others would in his place and impose harsher laws upon him.

8.      Are elections, as a way of choosing a leader, haram?
No, elections are simply a mechanism of choosing a leader or representative.[7] Therefore – voting would be permissible in instances such as the following:
  • To select the Khalifah in the Islamic State – comparable to the actions of `Abd al-Rahman bin `Awf, who when appointed to take the opinion of the Muslims as to who should be the Khalifah after `Umar bin al-Khattab said “I did not leave a man nor a woman except that I took their opinion” – which indicates he took into account their opinion as to who they wanted to support for the position by contacting them individually.[8]
  • To elect candidates who would form the consultative body which would represent the views of their constituents within the Islamic State – such as the command of the Prophet to the tribes of al-Aws and al-Khazraj, “Select from amongst you twelve chiefs, who will be responsible for their people, including themselves”.[9]

In conclusion, all the arguments brought forward to justify voting for candidates and/ or participating within kufr systems have no basis from Islamic jurisprudence, and are attempts to make the evidence fit the rule sought.

And with Allah is all success.



[1] Sh. `Ata’ ibn Khalil, Taysir al-Wusul ila ’l-Usul, p.109.
[2] For an analysis of the principle of maslaha, see `Ata’ Ibn Khalil, Taysir al-Wusul, pp.111-113.
[3] See al-Shatibi, al-Muwafaqat, 1:349 and Ibn Taymiyya, al-Majmu` al-Fatawa, 19:99-100 for the rejection of the mind determining the maslaha and outweighing it.
[4] al-Nabhani, al-Shaksiyyah al-Islamiyyah, 3:457-462.
[5] Ibn Nujaym, al-Ashbah wa ’l-Naza’ir, 1:286.
[6] Ibn Nujaym, al-Ashbah wa ’l-Naza’ir, 1:286.
[7] al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyya, pp.5-8.
[8] al-Nabhani, Nizam al-Hukm fi’l-Islam, pp.69-85.
[9] al-Nabhani, Nizam al-Hukm fi’l-Islam, pp.214-237.

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