Some researchers have taken the ruling system in Islam as a Trojan horse and started to deduce from certain historical practices the nonexistence of human rights in Islam and the abolishment of all legal and jurisprudential heritage in the Islamic history as if Muslims over their history lived in a forest where no right or system. Here we are going to make a comparison between democracy and shura.
These terms are supposed to be known for all at least. We all know democracy as a political system where people participate directly or through their representatives in practicing the power of authority.
The reference of Democracy
The reference of democracy is purely human and refers to the Roman-Greek system of rights; particularly the Greek laws, the most important stage of which seems to be the reform of the constitution of Athena in 508-507 BC- and shortly before at the hands of Solon- when the Athens brought up a new political system and a new ruling body for Athena. This Roman-Greek heritage remained latent for not a short time to be developed later at the hands of the philosophers and the men of law in Europe like, John Adams, Frederic, Sales, Rousseau, and Montesquieu and others.
Shura is an Islamic ruling system. It represents a deep search to come up with a pleasing solution. Shura is a principle and a system to which the gracious Quran and the Prophetic Sunnah called. It is mentioned in the Quran in three contexts:
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was ordered to observe Shura “And take counsel with them concerning the [community’s] affairs” [3:159], which means asking for others’ opinion and not being arbitrary. The “affairs” stands for the affairs of life including politics and ruling systems.
The second context is in the description of the noble consolidating society that pleases Almighty Allah who said “Those who furthermore answer [the call of] their Lord and [duly] establish the Prayer and [conduct] their affairs by consultation among themselves and spend [charitably] out of what We have provided them.” [42:38] These are four characteristics: answering the call of Allah and observing the Prayer in addition to two other characteristics related to dealing with people; namely, shura and spending charitably out to the needy.
The third context is about the family life as it deals with the responsibilities of the parents to raise up their infant; particularly if they want to determine the period of nursing. He exalted is He, said “But if both [parents] desire to wean [the child] by their mutual consent and consultation, then there is no blame on either of them.” [2:233]
Thus two of these contexts are concerned with the ruling system and politics and the third is concerned with family affairs. Hence, we perceive that shura is a comprehensive system that covers all fields of life.
So, we can distinguish the most important two kinds of shura: shura in fiqh (Islamic law) as mentioned in the texts and shura in the ruling system and politics. The principle of shuraabides by the most important principle of the shari`ah, which is the independence of the shari`ah from the ruling regime and the rulers. The application of this fundamental principle requires that the practice of shura within the scope of fiqh should serve an exchange of opinions and an independent scientific discussion that is separated from the practice of shurain the field of ruling and politics. Consequently, the political upheavals that could cause dysfunction of shura with regard to choosing rulers and holding them accountable do not necessarily result in the dysfunction of shura in the field of shari`ah and fiqh; that is, in the field of ijtihad and consensus. This is what has protected fiqh over the history of Islam from the impacts of deviations of the ruling systems from abiding by shura in the choice of the rulers, and therefore, this deviation did not result in the dysfunction of shura in the field of fiqh which has stood independent, lofty, and unaffected by the rulers’ deviations.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) praised shura and practiced it in life affairs. His companions were aware of that and sometimes they offered their opinions after some regular reservations such as saying “Is this [attitude] based on revelation or on personal opinion?” If he told them that this was based on personal opinion, they would give their opinions; and in many cases the situation changed and he abandoned his own opinion.
But the Quran left to the ummah (Muslim nation) the details and outlines of this universal principle according to their renewing interests and developing needs.
The first test for the awareness of this ummah and its ability to apply the principle of shurawas after the death of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), for he did not appoint a successor after him. He explicitly assigned a deputy with regard to leading people in Prayer, but He left the appointment of the caliph and the head of the state to the nation. His companions were divided into two groups: the group of al-Ansar (the Helpers), who were the original inhabitants of Median, and the group of al-Muhagereen (the Émigrés), the people of Mecca,. They convened in the house of the leader of al-Ansar and exchanged opinions and arguments.
Then alliance was paid by the public at the mosque and in other places that Islam reached such as Mecca.
Muhammad Asad, an Austrian Muslim, claimed that this was the first democratic experience. It may not be democratic in the Western sense, but it was at any rate a great human experience. Such noble, half-Bedouin people, who were strong fighters, convened without arms to discuss without any use of insulting words or threats to agree on selecting one of them. The one they selected said in his first public speech after assuming presidency, “I have been elected to be in authority over you, though I am not the best among you. Obey me as long as I obey Allah. However, if I disobey Him, no obedience will be due to me upon you.” Moreover, the fact that Sa`d ibn Ubadah, the head of al-Anasar, refrained from paying alliance, though his son paid it, and none said a word or objected to him indicates that something big has changed in the life of the Arabs. The age of shura has started.
Al-Mawirdy has determined the functions of the head of the state in ten points; some of them are religious responsibilities, such as watching over good practices of the obligations of the religion including Prayer, Fasting, and Hajj-pilgrimage; and some are secular functions, such as collecting money, protecting the borders of the state against any external or internal aggression and ensuring internal security through the application of the shari`ah to protect souls and properties and ending disputes through the appointment of judges.
All these procedures aim eventually to protect fundamental human rights. The right of obedience is opposed by the duty of establishing justice and fairness. This is indicated by the pledge of alliance, which is the best way to elect the highest authority in a state or kingdom. The pledge of alliance is like a contract between two parties: the ruler on the one side and the subjects on the other side. Abu Bakr, the first caliph expressed this nature of the contract when he said, “I am but an employee for Muslims.”
But there is a third dimension, which is the religious dimension and the ethical bond of the pledge of alliance which puts responsibility on both parties with regard to its role and demands sincerity and honesty. The ruler has to do sincerely all his duties in full with justice and fairness and to appoint competent persons in the positions of commissioned and executive ministries, as called by al-Mawirdy. The sincerity of the subjects is manifested through helping the ruler in his tasks and giving him counsel and advice within the frame ofshura, which is a system that complements the system of the pledge of alliance. It is an inevitable Islamic obligation that requires guiding and straightening up the rulers according to the statement of the second caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) who said to the subjects, “If you see any crookedness in me, straighten me up.”
But the nature of shura differs from public criticism and open condemnation which may turn into an armed dispute. It is a quite search for the correct opinion with fair means and with public interest as the ultimate goal. If well employed, the system of shura can correct the course of the state.
This third dimension in the system of the pledge of alliance and shura distinguishes it certainly from the social contract as seen by Jan Jack Rousseau owing to its religious source as well as its other consequences. But the system of the pledge of alliance was applied by the companions (may Allah be pleased with them) first in the form of direct pledge of alliance given after a nomination from the preceding ruler to a person known as a crown prince and then in the form of appointing a shura council to select someone from among them. This indicates that this system responds to the needs of time and place to achieve benefits, keep away evils, terminate turmoil, and block the reasons of war before its eruption. Nevertheless, the rights and duties in Islam are sure and confirmed.
The most important support of human rights in the shari`ah is the independence of judiciary. The judge refers to nothing but the shari`ah and his conscience points out this independence. This is indicated by the message sent by `Umar, the commander of the believers (may Allah be pleased with him), to Mu`awiyah, his governor over Syria and Palestine, where he said, “You have no authority over `Ubadah ibn al-Samit”, who was the judge of Palestine. Here `Umar, thus, puts an end to the interference of governors in the judiciary affairs.
It is well known that the fourth caliph Ali, commander of the believers (may Allah be pleased with him) stood with a Jew before his judge Shurayh who judged in favor of the Jewish man over the caliph.
Even the Islamic state was judged against by its court in the famous case of Samarkand. The Muslim army seized the town; but its people raised objection concerning not respecting the legal procedures on the part of Muslims. An Islamic court was held after verifying the case and it judged that the Muslim army had to withdraw.
During the Abbasid time the caliph kept himself away from appointing judges and appointed only the judge of the judges, who had to be the greatest jurist known for knowledge and piety and who was entrusted to appoint and dismiss judges. The caliph had no longer any business in this regard.
Before his death Abu Bakr made a will to appoint `Umar as his successor and people gave him the pledge of alliance. `Umar, the commander of the believers, assigned six of the senior companions, whose authority were beyond dispute and who were publically acceptable due to their early conversion to Islam, strive for the cause of Allah, and sincerity, to elect a caliph and commanded them to remain convening until they appoint a caliph. They remained three days and some of them did not sleep. They kept consulting and seeking counsel from people until they agreed upon `Uthman ibn `Affan. According to an authentic narration, leaders of the soldiers who came from Syria, Iraq, Persia, and Egypt to meet the caliph gave him the pledge of alliance. For the first time the leaders of soldiers were mentioned explicitly in the shuraaffairs.
Thus shura was applied in the most serious issue, namely, the sovereign power. But it was practiced also in many of the issues, as the caliph had counselors for every affair. But sometimes he sought the opinion of the public. `Umar informed people with his intention to set a maximum limit for the dowry paid for women, whereupon a woman quoted in response the Quranic verse that says, “And you have given the first of them [as much as] a [heap of] gold in dowry.” `Umar then submissively said: A woman spoke the truth and `Umar spoke wrong.
Let us admit that during the period of the guided caliphs shura concerning serious issues of the state was the task of prominent persons and influential people from among the Emigrants and the Helpers. But it was a pioneering experience in the old heritage of humanity. But the flexibility of the experience and the various forms it took made it developable beyond ready-made forms. The principle affirmed strongly, as clarified by `Umar in his last speech, was that “No one shall be given the pledge of alliance without people consent lest he may be killed along with those who follow him”, as reported in Sheeh al-Bukhary.
This simply means that people’s consent is a must, because contravening this leads to turmoil and fighting.
This is likely what the democracy of the majority aims at. It cannot please all the people, but it keeps people away from wars. This is the best that representative democracy provides. It is based on the system of two poles, as Olivient Duhamel said in his book les democraties. The basic law of the democracy of the ruling majority is the system of two poles or two parties. The voter has, in most cases, to vote for a whole list even if he sympathizes only with some of the allied persons. If he insists to vote for one individual in the list, his voice will be invalid.
It could be said that such polarization may prevent from choosing an actual person. But the point of the process is not to express a personal opinion but to translate the voices of the individuals into a final result with the aim of coming out with a ruling majority.
Anyway, in return for this defect in the bipolar partisan system a great merit appears. Competition between the two camps does not lead to the escalation of the dispute into the eruption of a civil war between the Right and the Left. It rather helps alleviating the disputes and finding a peaceful solution for them.
Shura meets with democracy in the point of looking for a peaceful solution. The system ofshura pours into one stream, which is Islamic justice that is able to secure for man such a good end that democracy is thought to be looking for. Democracy is but a stage in human invention but may not be the last one.
Someone may ask: How was shura practiced and how it should be practiced?
This is quite a legitimate question. I mentioned before that the reference of this paper is Islam. Islam is an ideal that should be reached; and the closer we come to it the better justice will be achieved and the happier man will become.
This system is not rigid or stiff but developable and can benefit from human experiences that respect invariables and authoritative references and assess priorities together with social and security necessities.
In the early period of Islam there was the system of headmen and foremen, as found in the accounts of the prophetic biography. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) commanded people to choose those who would speak in their name, as in the case of the pledge of alliance given the headmen of the Helpers in Mecca –known as Bay`at al-`Aqabah. Similarly, in the case of the battle of Hunayn he (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Let your foremen inform me”, because he did not know the attitude and content of the people with regard to his suggestion and so he ordered that they should choose those who would convey their opinion concerning the prisoners of the war with Hawazen. This account is inSaheeh al-Bukhary.
The system of headmen and foremen is quite resemblant to the system of representative elections. An example of this is the case of the pledge of alliance paid for the third caliph `Uthman ibn `Affan (may Allah be pleased with him). Ibn Katheer reports, “`Umar ibn al-Khattab appointed six persons to consult over the affair. They were: `Uthman ibn `Affan, `Ali ibn Abu Talib, Talhah ibn `Ubaydullah, al-Zubayr ibn al-`Awwam, Sa`d ibn Abu Waqqas, `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Awf (may Allah be pleased with them). He refrained from specifying one of them and said ‘I would not shoulder your responsibility in my life and in my death. If Allah desires well, He will unify you to agree on the best of them as He unified you to agree on the best among you after your Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).’
After finishing with `Umar, al-Miqdad ibn al-Aswad gathered them in the house of al-Miswar ibn Makhramah. It was said that this was in the chamber of `Aishah and was said also that this was in the state treasury and was said that this was in the house of Fatimah bint Qays, sister of al-Dahhak ibn Qays. But the first is more likely. Allah knows best.
They sat together and Abu Talhah stood to keep others away. `Amr ibn al-`As and al-Mughirah ibn Shu`bah sat behind the door, but Sa`d ibn Abu Waqqas pebbled and dismissed them saying “Have you come to say ‘We attended the shura council!’”
It is reported that the people of shura council delegated `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Awf to do his best to appoint the best of them. It is said that he asked as far as he can and none, neither from the people of shura nor others, but gave preference to `Uthman ibn `Affan. Even when he said to Ali: If I would not appoint you, who would you suggest, O Ali?” He said, “`Uthman”. And when he said to `Uthman, “If I would not appoint you, who would you suggest?” He said, “Ali ibn Abu Talib.”
This was apparently before confining the matter to three from among them and then `Abd al-Rahman withdrew to see the best of them for Islam and appointed, after doing his utmost, the best of the two men.
Then `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Awf (may Allah be pleased with him) consulted people about them and met with headmen and soldiers as individuals and as groups, privately and publically. He even reached out women in their concealments and children in their schools and asked caravans and Bedouin who came to Medina during the three-day period. He found no two persons differing over giving preference to `Uthman ibn `Affan- with the exception of reports that `Ammar and al-Miqdad recommended Ali ibn Abu Talib. Nevertheless, they paid the pledge of alliance with other people as will be mentioned.
Assuming this responsibility for three days, `Abd al-Rahman did not sleep much and kept praying, supplicating, asking Allah to guide him to the best, and asking people of opinion as well as others. He found none giving preference to other than `Uthman ibn `Affan (may Allah be pleased with him).
On the eve of the fourth day of the death of `Umar ibn Khattab, he came to the house of his nephew, al-Meswar ibn Makhramah, and said: Are you sleeping, Meswar? By Allah, I have not slept much since three days. Go and summon Ali and `Uthman. Al-Meswar said: Which one should I start with? He said: Anyone you like. He said: I went to Ali and said: Answer my uncle. He said: Did he command you to summon anybody else with me? I said: Yes. He said: Who? I said: `Uthamn ibn `Affan. He said: Which one he mentioned first? I said: He gave no command in this regard but rather said ‘Summon anyone of them you like first.’ So I came to you. He said: Thus he came out with me. When we passed by the house of `Uthman ibn `Affan, Ali sat until I entered. I found him praying witer Prayer along with Fajr Prayer. I summoned him and he said to me the same as Ali said to me and then he came out. Then I enter with both of them upon my uncle who was praying. When he finished, he faced Ali and `Uthman and said: Let me take pledge from each one of you that if I appoint him he will observe justice and if I do not appoint him, he will hear and obey. Then he got out with them to the mosque wearing the turban that the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) gave to him and held a sword. He sent to prominent figures from among the Émigré and the Helpers and it was called “Come to congregational Prayer!” Thus the Mosque was so filled with rows of people that `Uthman found no place to sit in except at the rear of the people as he was a bashful man (may Allah be pleased with him). Then `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Awf ascended the pulpit of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) and stood on the same step the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) stood on and he kept standing for a long time muttering a long supplication unheard by people. Then he said: O people, I asked you privately and publically, in pairs and individually and I found none of you give preference to other than any of these two men either Ali or `Uthman. Stand up and came here `Ali: Ali stood up below the pulpit. `Abd al-Rahman took his hand and said: Will you give me pledge [to stick to] the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and to the deeds of Abu Bakr and `Umar? He said: No, but to do my best and utmost in this regard. Thus he released his hand and said: Stood up `Uthman. He took his hand and said: Will you give me pledge [to stick to] the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the deeds of Abu Bakr and `Umar? He said: Yes. Then he raised his head to the ceiling of the mosque while his hand was in the hands of `Uthman and said: O Allah, listen and bear witness. O Allah, listen and bear witness. O Allah, listen and bear witness. O Allah, I have rendered the trust of this affair from around my neck to the neck of `Uthman. Thus, people so crowded to give pledge of alliance to `Uthaman that they overwhelmed him below the pulpit. He said: Then `Abd al-Rahman sat at the place where the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to sit and made `Uthaman sit below him on the third step. People came to give the pledge of alliance to him and Ali ibn Abu Talib was the first to give the pledge. It was said also that he gave it later.”
This story bears many lessons and deserves analysis. It shows how the companions of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) devised ways and means at that time to know the opinions of people and to reach consent with regard to the choice of the ruler. It also shows the importance of choosing the most competent and the most agreeable. It also manifests the religious and spiritual aspect of the pledge of alliance as `Abd al-Rahman supplicated to Allah and asked Him to bear witness to the process.
These elements distinguish the Islamic shura from other systems, though it meets with some other systems in the denial of despotism and repression.
Over the Islamic history after the first generation other models of shura were found. I shall give one example; namely, the reign of Jahour in Andalusia known as “the governing body” early in the fifth century. Professor Muhammad Abdullah `Anan said, “Jahour was the head of a special kind of government. He did not rule solely or managed and decided the affairs autocratically. Rather, he gathered around him the elite leaders and headmen and he spoke in their name or in the name of the body. He referred the issues to them and the decisions were issued in their names. When he was asked for money or any other affair, he would say, “I have no authority to give or withhold. Only the body has this authority and I am their secretary.” If something of significance comes up or he intended to manage a serious issue, he would summon and consult them. If a letter was directed to him, he would not look into it unless it was in the name of the ministers. Thus Jahour spoke and decided every affair in the name of the body not in his own name. Along with this, Jahour took another brilliant procedure. He did not change his ministerial position and did not move from his house to the palaces of the caliphs. He only arranged door attendants and retinues just as the situation during the caliphate was. He kept himself in authority until a suitable person would come to render authority to him. He arranged men to receive the sultanic wealth and he was the supervisor over them. He did not assume any title or take procedure to manifest his sovereignty or surround himself with any manifestation of splendor and magnificence. He rather maintained his previous condition of seclusion, modesty, contentment, and easygoingness treating all with clemency and good manners. He amended judiciary and worked to observe justice between people. He abolished all sorts of lavishness and extravagance and alleviated taxes. He preserved public funds; particularly the sultanic wealth which he entrusted to trustworthy men over whom he himself was the supervisor. He acted to encourage financial transactions and trade. He distributed money among them as debts they used and got only the profit. They had to keep them and from time to time they would be held accountable for them. The result of these procedures was that welfare took the place of depression, markets thrived, prices became better, houses were profitable, and resources grew.”
Shura and democracy differ in the following points:
First, the reference of shura:
The reference of shura is divine, but the application is human. This means that it is man who chooses the ruler through the process of paying the pledge of alliance and shura and it is up to him to set the systems that guarantee the success of the process.
These systems may be affected by time and place and by the public interest that constitutes the basis of the shari`ah, according to the words of Ibn al-Qaiyyim. Nevertheless, a distinguished characteristic of the Islamic system is the belief that everything belongs to Allah, for He is the Creator of this universe but He did not leave people after their creation. He rather gave them commands and prohibitions. This relation between creation and systemization is pointed out by the verse, “Most surely, to Him belongs all the creation and all the command. Blessed be God, Lord of [All] the Worlds.” [7:54] Allah is High and the Most High, these are of His attributes and names, but He, nevertheless, is near to His creation. He is nearer to them than the jugular vein. Man is but a successor in this earth, “Now, behold! Your Lord said to the angels: I am placing upon the earth a [human] successor [to steward it].” [2:30] Man is a successor and none is the sole ruler.
This dualism between the absolute sovereignty of the Creator with regard to the command, which stands for the fundamentals and invariables of the legislation and the determination of the truth and falsehood, and the possibility- or rather the injunction – that man should use his mind and thought to reach the public interest may be the reason for some to refrain from describing the Islamic system as democratic or theocratic or aristocratic; because none of these systems applies to it.
The symmetry of this duality constitutes the cornerstone in the Islamic system and this is what keeps it away from theocracy which is a divine delegation of authority to the ruler. This is more clarified by the words of `Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second caliph, when his scriber wrote in a message he ordered him to write “This is what Allah has shown to `Umar”, whereupon `Umar reproached him saying “Write: ‘This is what `Umar views.’” This is because such description is only restricted to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). `Umar intended to bear the responsibility of his opinion, be it right or wrong.
Therefore, the censorship is three-folded to ensure proper application of man’s proper application of his succession in the earth “Therefore, say [to them]: Do works [of righteousness]! For God will assuredly see your work, and so will His Messenger and the believers.” [9:105]
The watchfulness of Allah effects religious scruple and that of the messenger of Allah leads to following his shari`ah as explained by the scholars. Therefore, the Moroccan scholar al-Yusy said to Sultan Mawlay al-Rasheed, “Scholars judge over ruler.”
As for the supervision of the believers, the pledge of alliance is given by them and so is the consultation. Thus the nation is the source of governance in a sense.
Nevertheless, the pledge of alliance is considered a religious bond between the ruler and the subjects. Obedience to the ruler depends on the application of the shari`ah. The people ofshura are guarded by stipulating their piety and righteousness. Thus the ethical and religious side has a share in addition to the secular side. This is an important and subtle characteristic in the Islamic system that caused some researchers to claim mistakenly that one of the early Muslim caliphs was secular; but this was not as he thought. The nature of the Islamic system gives people a big role not only in the application of rulings but also in their deduction and even their establishment according to a set of evidences known as istihsan (juristic preference) and masalih mursalah (unrestricted public interests) with full respect to the invariable objectives of the Islamic shari`ah.
Thus, when dealing with democracy, a Muslim may feel unfamiliar with its reference, though some may view this as a terminological issue.
Second: the polls
Resorting to polls as a basis of democracy to take a decision without establishing a background and an impenetrable ceiling constantly brings about a resentful group, namely, is the minority which could be about half of the voters. This makes the majority less inclining to reconciliation and balancing between interests. If there is no established tradition with the individuals that the opinion of the majority, which is not on their side, is correct and that they should sacrifice their interests on the basis of other considerations of interest such as considering this as the best possible or the best ever,if this is not established in minds and practice, democracy will turn to be a source of constant dispute and disorder. Belonging to a party could be the only way for an individual to have some freedom or to practice a serious political activity and contribute through the party leader or the sectarian class that dominates the party. Accordingly, the independent individual who does not go with partisanship and its techniques will be considered isolated and ineffective no matter how high his opinions or thought may be or he will be treated as a second-class citizen. It is noted that the slogan of democracy opens a wide door for partisanship and for the evils of partisan bigotry and thus the existence of too many parties has become a danger for the stability of the western liberal democracy which has been torn by uncontrolled whims. On the contrary, excessive domination of one party is the worst evil that plagues public, communist, or military democracy and leads to despotic collective dictatorship exercised by a party that monopolizes the political activity and prevents anyone who does not belong to it from practicing his political rights on equal footing with the members of the party.
On the contrary, the principle of shura opens a wider door for thinkers and intellectuals to contribute with their opinions as individuals regardless of their partisan orientation and thus they contribute in the cultural, social, political, or economic activity more than under democracy that is based on the majority and multi-party system that opens the door for partisan extremity which misuses the principle of the supremacy of the majority. Therefore, the abolishment of parties has become the slogan of revolutions and de coup. Hence, some of the advocates of shura oppose the partisan systems.
The voter falls under kinds of deception; particularly through modern media that has possessed massive ability and high potency to exercise influence the public opinion and to introduce the bad as the best and the ugly as the most beautiful.
Therefore, it has not become a characteristic of the third world to elect a person with the majority of votes and then after a while he becomes accused of corruption and other charges. This indicates that the choice was influenced by propaganda in addition to the influence of other unfair means and this makes public interests a victim of individual interests or personal whims.
Consultation or shura, in our view, is not a goal in itself. In Islam it is only a means to achieve justice and to execute the objectives and principles of the shari`ah. It is one of the branches the shari`ah.
Thus, we are keen to distinguish shura from democracy. The status quo attests to that the most boastful countries in terms of democracy are the most aggressive and corrupt countries in the world. They persist in exploiting and isolating weak countries, and this takes place with very democratic decision they take after free consultation that pleases their whims, interests, and greed without any commitment to a divine, ethical, or human principle if this principle will prevent them from achieving their desires and greed.
Democracy should not be a new religion. This is what Hubert Vedrine, French foreign minister, said in a meeting with more than 100 countries in Francovia. He said, “The West inclines to consider democracy as new religion and calls people to embrace”; and Madeleine Albright, former American Foreign minister, replied, “Democracy is not a religion but a faith and conviction.”
This should not be perceived as a decisive refusal of democracy or denial of an important, peaceful, political development that Europe produced in its milieu and that set massive efforts free.
Likewise, countries that went far away from their religious legacy and inherited the governance through de coups may be more worthy of practicing democracy on the basis of the rule of balancing between benefits and corrupts.
Democracy should even be generalized in the international relations as stated in the Charter of the United Nations that speaks of equality between big and small countries and not to confiscate the opinions of the latter countries. But speaking in the name of the international community has become synonymous to the free world. “The United States of America and its Western allies use the international body and its subsequent international institutions, such as the Monetary Fund and the International Bank, to achieve their interests.”
Al-Shawy views that the essence of shura is to hold dialogue and reach conviction. As for democracy, the center of it is the power of the majority, which it uses to practice absolute authority and thus doors open wide to compete and struggle to gain this power or absolute authority. It may also use it against those who compete with or oppose it and hence violate human rights.
He says, “The concept of shura that the Quran enjoins as an Islamic rule to the system of the nation and the society means the freedom which the creed and the high ideals of the society guard. Consequently, legal guarantees for individual freedoms, social justice, political equality are principles derived from the divine shari`ah not from the decisions of the majority- whether in a constitutional form or in a positive law form. It is not under the mercy of the authority of the majority that enacts new constitutions and positive laws and changes them from time to time. They are established principle imposed by our shari`ah. Thus the shura enjoined by the Quran is a positive advanced step, because it provides our social and political systems with established creedal and ethical elements that protect them against the changes of the regimes and the whims of the power of the majority or the minority and against deviation, development, and change that have afflicted the imported democratic principles that match with the unsettled changing European philosophies that are applied in systems that adopt secularism and deny divine shari`ah under the pretext of its being rigid and unchanging and that it limits the authority of the majority in the name of which they demolish everything that prevents them from reaching their desires and changing goals.”