When it comes to the question of secular democracy, Islam has absolutely no problem with it. The problem arises when we try to fit secular democracy with the religion of the majority of Muslims who promote religion “outside” of what is written in the Qur’an. If all Muslims followed the secular path of the Qur’an, which formed the union of the secular and religious according to the knowledge and wisdom of God, there would be absolutely no problem explaining why secular democracy is completely compatible with Islam, and why the Shariah law and the concept of a democratic Islamic state are less flawed and more progressive than the most progressive democracy in the Western and non-Muslim world. The mistake, therefore, is to see Islam from the secular perspective of secularism or the religious path of extremism and fundamentalism “outside” of what is written in the Qur’an.
What is sad about this whole state of affair is that, every time we are confronted with a new situation, issue or event in Islam, with space and time, we have to explain what is written in the Qur’an and why is it different from the Islam that is followed by the majority of the Muslims “outside” of what is written in the Qur’an. This is ridiculous, unacceptable and unforgiveable if we consider the fact that the Qur’an is in existence for 1400 years and is the primary source of Muslim knowledge. The Qur’an is very harsh on those who say and do things “outside” of what is written in the Qur’an in the name of Islam. It doesn’t even spare the Prophet (PBUH) on this issue (69:43-47). Therefore, if there is any confusion in the Muslim world about secular democracy and the Shariah law, then it is largely due to the ignorance of what is written in the Qur’an.
There are many reasons why the Qur’an wants us to follow the word of God in the Qur’an and not anything “outside” of it. Some of these reasons are as follows:
1. It creates the union of the secular and religious with the wisdom and knowledge of God.
2. It acts as a solution to all the problems of our diversity.
3. It unites the ummah (Islamic society) by establishing the true knowledge of the Islamic deen (way of life).
4. It eliminates religious extremism and fundamentalism.
5. It defines the secular path of the Qur’an as opposed to the secular path of secularism.
In the Qur’an, the democratic process of Islam begins with the offer of Islam as a way of life (deen), which forms the union of the secular and religious according to the wisdom and knowledge of God, with a clear message that “there is no compulsion or coercion in the Islamic way of life” to take the offer. Those who take the offer will be rewarded with a promise of eternal life and those who don’t take the offer or do not abide by it sincerely will not be worthy of such a promise. In addition to this, the Qur’an strengthens its policy of secular democracy with the injunctions of shura (mutual consultation), ijma (consensus) of the majority and the secular methodology of ilm-ul-yaqin (certainty of knowledge by inference or reasoning), ayn-ul-yaqin (certainty of knowledge by seeing and observing) and haqq-ul-yaqin (absolute knowledge, like this is a pen, etc).
Now that the world is becoming a global village and the barriers that divide us in science, politics, religion, culture, etc, are breaking, the secular path of the Qur’an will once again come into contention, not because of religion, but because it has the potential to negotiate the good in all powers and forces of our lives, both from the right and the left, and reconcile them. For example, in South Africa, although we have personal law or familial courts in place for all religions, we ignore the rights of 90% of its population who are religious, concerning same sex marriages, prostitution, death penalty for serious crimes, etc. In Turkey, the ruling party also has a similar type of problem. Although, it enjoys the support of the majority in parliament concerning certain issues which concern the rights of the majority of its population, it cannot implement it, because certain minorities do not approve of it. In South Africa, the situation is worse than that. Although, according to the government’s statistics, alcoholism is a major cause for domestic violence, road accidents, etc, the majority in the parliament and in the population can’t do anything to ban the production, sales, advertizing and consumption of liquor for the same reason that protects the rights of the minorities in favor of the majority.
Therefore, forcing a secular government in a Muslim majority country, with a secular constitution, which is not based on the secular path of the Qur’an, will not only be a crime, but it will not work in the long term. It will come under constant attack from both, the left and the right, like it is happening in Turkey today. Therefore, the best bet in a Muslim majority country is to have a secular democracy with a Shariah constitution based on the secular path of the Qur’an. This will not only help to contain criticism from the left to a certain degree, but it will also help to contain the extremist and fundamentalist aggression from the right. For example, the government will be in charge of both secular and religious education, controlling not only religious extremism and fundamentalism but also closing the gap between the secular and religious, according to the secular path of the Qur’an and the Shariah constitution. In addition to this, the government’s position on the control of religion can be made strong by making the head of the government (President or Prime Minister) the Caliph of the nation. This will not affect minority rights of women in a Muslim majority country because the majority of the Muslim women understand the decree of the Qur’an on this issue. Besides, what difference did it make to the United States of America? It is the only super power today, yet it never had a woman President.
During the time of the Prophet (PBUH) and the four Caliphs, the Qur’an was their constitution. Today, we will still make the Qur’an our constitution, but in the form of a political document, like all written constitutions of all modern countries. This is because, over time and place, we have created so many different interpretations of the Qur’an that we have to be now very careful that we do not deviate once again. A written constitution with a preamble to this effect will help. Furthermore, it is necessary to provide more guidelines for the interpretation of the Qur’an. Just an Arabic/English dictionary and a secular approach to the study of the Qur’an are not enough. The world view teachings and practices of Tawhid (an Arabic word for unity and universality), which are the cardinal teachings and essence of Islam in the context of PEACE and SUBMISSION, will have to be taken into account. In simple form, these teachings include the unity of God, unity in the teachings of all the Books and Prophets of God, unity between the Word of God and the sayings and doings of the Prophets, unity between the Word of God and the Work of God in the signs and science of nature and in the history of religion, unity the between the world of God and the world of Caesar, and so on. In a more sophisticated form these teachings include the unity between the seen and unseen, secular and religious, individual and community, national and international, this world and the hereafter and so on.
Unfortunately, of all the teachings of Tawhid (unity and universality) that I have mentioned in the above paragraph, the greatest disagreement among the Muslims surrounds the teaching of the unity between the Word of God and the sayings and doings of the Prophets, which defines the Sunnah (the exact practice of the Qur’an). The majority of the Muslims feel that we show disrespect for the Prophet (PBUH) when we reject the Hadith or state that he was not permitted to say or do anything “outside” of what is written in the Qur’an (69:43-47). For example, the wudhu (ablution) in the Qur’an does not include the brushing of the teeth, the gargling of the mouth, etc. When we tell the Ahle Hadith not to make these things the Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH) and religion, they take offense. They think we seem to imply that the Prophet (PBUH) was a postman, whose job was to deliver the Qur’an, and have nothing more to do with us than that. This is not true. The Prophet (PBUH) had a very important part to play in our lives. For example, he taught us how to explore and expound all the teachings and practices of the Qur’an in all aspects of our lives without changing its meaning or message or without contradicting any other teachings of the Qur’an by the way of the rituals.
To explain this, let’s take for example the five daily salaah. According to the secular path of the Qur’an, it is not a prayer which Muslims perform for the sawaab (blessings) of the akhirah (hereafter). It is a pledge asking us to abide by the will of God in every aspect of our lives by the recitation of the Qur’an and by rukhu (bowing) and sujood (prostrating). Therefore, if we replicate it into two, three or four rakaats or call it fard for congregational salaah or sunnat and nafil for any other purpose, we would not be changing its meaning or message or contradicting any of the teachings of the Qur’an. For example, if we called our salaah Shafi, Hanifi, etc, we would be in contradiction of the Qur’an because this would divide our congregation of the different madhabs in the way in which they perform their salaah and the times in which they perform it except for magrib (sun set). Therefore, it was in this way that the Prophet (PBUH) was restricted not to say or do anything in any aspect of his life that contradicted the Qur’an. If he had authority to say and do anything “outside” of the Qur’an then he could have told us to recite the Qur’an in the fard salaah, Hadith in the sunnat salaah and the fables of our ancestors in the nafil salaah, but he did not. Similarly, he was not authorized to add the brushing of teeth, blowing of nose, etc, to wudhu. If he did he would have contradicted the tayammum form of wudhu in the teaching of Tawhid (unity and universality), which are the cardinal teachings and essence of Islam.
The Sunnah is a very important component of the Shariah and the understanding of the Qur’an with time and space. The majority of the Muslims have misunderstood it in the same way that the Jews and Christians have misunderstood it. If all Jews, Muslims and Christians practiced the exact words of God they would have by now realized that their message from God and their God is ONE. But unfortunately because they messed up with the concept of their Sunnah, not only their religions but also their Books and God have lost reputation with the secular world. Now only the Qur’an can restore the credibility of religion, God and His Books, because the Qur’an is the only Book of God that can explain without doubt what are the true words of God and what are not. There is a lot more to the Sunnah than I have explained in this article. If you wish to know more you will have to purchase my book, The Mathematics of Tawhid: Divine Solutions for Unity and Universality. Visit my website http://www.tawhidisolutions.com for this purpose.
Therefore, in final conclusion to this article, it is wrong for us to compare the success of secular democracy in the West with what is happening in the Muslim world, because these are two different parts of the world, where one part believes in the dichotomy of the secular and religious and the other doesn’t. This means that although the structures of their democracy are secular, their constitutions differ because one is void of religion and the other is not. Besides, Muslims believe that their deen (way of life) which is propagated by the Qur’an is “the standard deen (way of life)” because it also considers the spiritual side of life. Hence, they feel that the standard model, measure and symbol of secular democracy should come from the Muslim world and not from the West or non-Muslim world.