Purposeful vs. Tyrannical Democracy

The history of Democracy is taking new turns. For the first time, an aggressor used its might and the label of democracy to legitimize a puppet it imposed on Afghan nation.

At the same time two more “free” and “fair” elections will happen in 2005, in Iraq, under the auspices of the American occupation, and in Palestine, under the auspices of the Israeli occupation.

The emphasis everywhere is on holding elections, which are declared either rigged (Ukraine) or null and void if winners are presumed to be anti-Europe or Anti-Americans. Elections are glorified if they happen to give direct or indirect legitimacy to dictators like Musharraf and Mubarak.

Elections!! Is this what democracy entails, or it has been reduced only to holding elections? Are elections a magic bullet that legitimizes occupations in occupied lands, legalizes human right violations at home and abroad and allows concentration camps to keep thriving? Or democracy is reduced to a fig leaf of elections used for covering the lies behind consolidating a police state at home and invasions of sovereign states and butchery of more than 100,000 people abroad?

Although voices in the US are muted, and while there are not yet demonstrations, as on the streets of Kiev, demanding free, honest, and general elections in the US, many nevertheless sense a changing tone in public discourse. There is a new curiosity; at least, about what democracy might entail as many realize that elections are not the end.

The world’s oldest democracy today stands as a model of extremism and intolerance. It presents to the world a model of the most effective police state ever existed. Its two party dictatorship is universally recognized fact. With the help of its military might and the use of veto power at the UN, it has ignored international will, violated almost all international laws and norms of decency.

A look at American democracy forces one to ask: Is this the ultimately refined form of governance and way of life that the rest of the world has to adopt under the barrel of a gun?

By American standards, the answer to this question is yes. Bush mentioned the other day that democracy and war on terrorism come before liberation for Palestinians from the Israeli occupation. This is far insidious than what “democratic” America and “democratic” Israel have been doing to Palestinians for more than 50 years.

This demand is designed to precipitate civil war in Palestine. The US and Israel are perfectly aware that the democracy is mere window dressing and that what the US and Israel really want is a Palestinian authority that will declare war on all Palestinian resistance organizations, including those within the Fatah movement. Not only would such a course be political suicide for any PA government, it would plunge Palestinian society as a whole into a dark and endless tunnel of internecine warfare.

Then, what is true democracy and the most suitable form of human organization? What are the traits of a system that could address the ultimate needs of human organization? Who has the answer and keys to the best form of human governance?

Although many would disagree, but the fact remains that Islam is the solution and Islam has the answer. Unfortunately, we are passing through an unfortunate, darkest age of human history, where a majority of both Muslims and non-Muslims are scared to death of Islam. No one is ready to peel off the layers of disinformation and Islamophobic propaganda to understand the reality.

Most importantly, Muslims have miserably failed to be Muslims (individually) the way they are supposed to be, let alone presenting the finest form of governance based on the principles of Islam to the rest of the world.

Here are a few facts, which may show that democracy is not the end in itself as Bush and his allies would like us to believe. Democracy is a fraction of the means to human governance, human development, stable patterns of human interactions and, above all, the purpose of our existence.

Similarly, elections, fraudulent or otherwise, are in turn a fraction of democracy. Holding periodic elections are no guarantee to what human beings actually need for a civilized and peaceful existence. Let us see how.

Islam’s principles of universal brotherhood and doctrine of the equality of mankind are the main pillars for the social uplift of humanity. All great religions have preached the same doctrine but Islam has practically put this theory into actual practice in the past. Its value will be fully recognized; perhaps centuries hence, when international consciousness being awakened, racial prejudices may disappear and greater brotherhood of humanity come into existence at a great cost.

Miss. Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949), a Hindu poetess, speaking about this aspect of Islam wrote long ago: "It was the first religion that preached and practiced democracy; for in the mosque, when the minaret is sounded and the worshipers are gathered together, the democracy of Islam is embodied five times a day when the peasant and the king kneel side by side and proclaim, God alone is great." The great poetess of India continues, "I have been struck over and over again by this indivisible unity of Islam that makes a man instinctively a brother." [1]

This helps us draw one of the basic principles for democracy: equality. Interestingly, this is what the US hates the most. From refusal to signing Koyoto protocol, to opposing landmines treaty, to rejecting International Court of Justice and bullying at the UNSC with the help of Veto power, to bypassing the UN for invasion and occupations are a few examples of how this democracy wants to stand above everyone else. It shows the US hates equality and brotherhood.

Mahatma Gandhi realized this fact about bullies, who claim to be civilized and on a civilizing mission, long ago. In his inimitable style, he pointed out why such bullies are scared of Islam: "Some one has said that Europeans in South Africa dread the advent of Islam — Islam that civilized Spain, Islam that took the torch light to Morocco and preached to the world the Gospel of brotherhood. The Europeans of South Africa dread the Advent of Islam. They may claim equality with the white races. They may well dread it, if brotherhood is a sin. If it is equality of colored races then their dread is well founded."

General Musharraf, one of the chiefs of the Pharaoh of this age, tells us that Khilafah was just a period. In fact, it was more than that. You cannot bring back a period, but you can apply the principles from that period. Democracy is a fraction of the total system of Islam, which was implemented then.

Besides making people realize the ultimate objective of their existence, the prophet of Islam brought the reign of democracy in its best form. Democratic principles were effectively in place because of the overall context of individual, moral, social and spiritual development that took place at that time.

In this age where big corporations are the backbone of democracies; where quenching individual and collective thirst for material progress is an impossible proposition, and where presidents and prime ministers of leading democracies are immune to public prosecution, it is foolish to expect the finest principles of democracies will ever take roots.

Compare how the extremes of an immoral attitude (Clinton’s poking cigar and playing with private parts of a White House intern) and a criminal behavior (Bush’s invading a sovereign state on the basis of lies) are going unaccountable under modern democracy with the Caliph Ali (and the son in-law of the prophet), the Caliph Mansur, Abbas, the son of Caliph Mamun and many other caliphs and kings who had to appear before the judge as ordinary men in Islamic courts.

The words of the Qur’an -” the most honorable of you with God is MOST RIGHTEOUS AMONG you -” created such a mighty transformation that preferences due to ranks and race disappeared altogether. Whenever, the second Caliph of Islam, known to history as Umar the great, saw Bilal, a Negro slave, he immediately stood in reverence and welcomed him by "Here come our master; Here come our lord."

So far as political and economic affairs influence man’s conduct, Islam has laid down some very important principles to govern economic life. According to Prof. Massignon, it maintains the balance between exaggerated opposites and has always in view the building of character, which is the basis of civilization. This is secured by its law of inheritance, by an organized system of charity known as Zakat, and by regarding as illegal all anti-social practices in the economic field like monopoly, usury, securing of predetermined unearned income and increments, cornering markets, creating monopolies, creating an artificial scarcity of any commodity in order to force the prices to rise. Gambling is illegal. Contribution to schools, to places of worship, hospitals, digging of wells, opening of orphanages are highest acts of virtue. Orphanages have sprung for the first time, it is said, under the teaching of Islam.

Someone might argue, “But so is going on in modern, secular democracies as well.” Of course, charity might be going on, but where are the controls on illegal all anti-social practices in the economic field as mentioned above. Islam banned such practices and made the good principles part of the overall dynamics of individual life and governance by default. There you don’t have big corporation, elites, and other kind of extremists on your back to push you for controlling resources around the world under one or another pretext. There is no room for things, such as promoting hunger or dumping food in other countries to achieve strategic economic benefits for the powerful materialistic hands that rock the cradle of so-called democracy.

We have been listening sermons of enlightened moderation from the champions of democracy. Let us compare it with the period when Islam established a governance mechanism for a people lost in darkness of that age. If for instance, enlightenment consists in the purification of a nation, steeped in barbarism and immersed in absolute moral darkness, that dynamic message which has transformed, refined and uplifted an entire nation, sunk low as the Arabs were, and made them the torch-bearer of civilization and learning, has every claim to enlightenment.

If civility and tolerance lies in unifying the discordant elements of society by ties of brotherhood and charity, Islam has got every title to this distinction. If the virtue of democracy consists in reforming those warped in degrading and blind superstition and pernicious practices of every kind, Islam has wiped out superstitions and irrational fear from the hearts of millions.

If the so-called democracies are around for the last hundred years and the longer period of existence is the criteria for judgment, Islam demonstrated a model of rule of law, it was not a governance mechanism as such that inspite of all the hazards and ups and downs could at least survived in one or another form all these 14 centuries till the fall of Khilafah in Turkey less than 100 years ago.

Democratic leadership does not need security bubbles worth millions of dollars. It becomes a shame when the arrangement is for visiting an allied country (Bush in UK). Bush conquered Iraq, according to his latest reasons, for the Iraqis to help them establish an enlightened, decent and democratic government. If this is the case, this established democracy of the United States has done nothing wrong. Mohammed (PBUH) also conquered Mecca.

After the fall of Mecca, more than one million square miles of land lay at his feet, and he should have many enemies living around. But this lord of Arabia didn’t need any security bubble. He lived like a normal individual. He mended his own shoes and coarse woolen garments, milked the goats, swept the hearth, kindled the fire and attended the other menial offices of the family in public.

The reason is the motive. Unlike the US conquest of Iraq, the conquest of Mecca was for the stated objectives -” no more and no less. But democracy that is being imposed at the cost of 100,000 lives now (not to speak of 1.8 million staved to death by the UN sanctions), is not intended for serving the finest virtues and principles of democracy. The entire town of Medina where the Prophet of Islam lived grew wealthy in the later days of his life. Everywhere there was gold and silver in plenty and yet everyone could see in those days of prosperity many weeks would elapse without a fire being kindled in the hearth of the king of Arabia, His food being dates and water.

This new conception of Islam that religion should also devote itself to the betterment of this life rather than concern itself exclusively with super mundane affairs, led to a new orientation of moral values. Its abiding influence on the common relations of mankind in the affairs of every day life, its deep power over the masses, its regulation of their conception of rights and duty, its suitability and adaptability to the ignorant savage and the wise philosopher are characteristic features which democracy can learn from Islam. Fraction always benefits from the whole. Democracy is a fraction of the total, encompassing message of Islam.

Islam is an organic unity, whereby the stress on good actions is not at the expense of correctness of faith. While some religions praising faith at the expense of deeds, another exhausting various acts to the detriment of correct belief, Islam is based on correct faith and righteous actions. Means are important as the end and ends are as important as the means. Together they live and thrive.

Let us clearly understand the relation of governance with the teaching of Islam. Democracy has finally come to be ineffective and meaningless unless divorced from religion or married with secularism. Even Denial Pipes, one of the main opponents of Islam, admitted in a CBS interview that it is not compulsory for democracy to be secular. However, it is now confirmed from the constitution-development experiments in Afghanistan and Iraq that secularism has been made a pre-requisite for democracy.

That is the reason that not only democracy is meaningless but also Islam becomes meaningless where end is severed from means. In Islam, faith cannot be divorced from the action. There cannot be a full government in operation without any reference to faith. In Islam, right knowledge must be transferred into right action to produce the right results. You cannot leave Islam at home on the shelf and go on to run a government without the right knowledge.

How often the words came in the Qur’an — Those who believe and do good thing, they alone shall enter paradise. Again and again, not less than fifty times these words are repeated as if too much stress cannot be laid on them. One of the basic reason here is that those who believe cannot leave the Qur’an on the shelf despite its clear injunctions not to “cross the limits set by Allah.” If there is not even a reference to the Qur’an in the constitution ¾ as is the case of Afghan constitution under US occupation, and NY Times was pleased to report it ¾ how can one know what are the standards and where are the limits of Allah.

It is claimed there is no room for contemplation in Islam and an Islamic state would punish Contemplation. In fact, contemplation is encouraged but mere contemplation is not the goal. Those who believe and do nothing according to the limits and standards set by Islam cannot exist in Islam. Those who believe and do wrong are inconceivable. Divine law is the law of effort and not of ideals. Unlike the focus on material benefits, it chalks out for the men the path of eternal progress from knowledge to action and from action to satisfaction.

Lack of satisfaction is the root cause of all problems under so-called democracies. If the former colonialists were satisfied with their possessions, they would never have colonized others in the name of teaching them civility. Same is the story with the present day United States. If these “democratic” rulers were satisfied, economic and religious extremists would not have been pushing them into invasions and occupations. If the general public were satisfied and had peace of mind, warlords would not have seen a single vote from them.

But what is the correct faith from which right action spontaneously proceeds resulting in complete satisfaction from individual to the collective and governance levels. Here the central doctrine of Islam is the Unity of God. There is no God but God is the pivot from which hangs the whole teaching and practice of Islam. He is unique not only as regards his divine being but also as regards his divine attributes.

One has to see the fine relationship between individual behaviour and his acts as a public representative in the government to understand why governance in Islam has the most perfect form. In spite of free will, which every Muslim enjoys, to some extent, every man is born under certain circumstances and continues to live under certain circumstances beyond his control. With regard to this Allah says, I will certainly test you in prosperity as well in adversity, in health as well as in sickness, in heights as well as in depths. In adversity do not despair and resort to unlawful means. It is but a passing phase. In prosperity do not forget God. God-gifts are given only as trusts. You are always on trial, every moment on test.

This belief and faith create a condition of vigorous increasing effort, keeping one ever on the alert. Do not consider this temporal life on earth as the end of human existence. Democracy is not there for a majority to go against the limits set by the Qur’an and Sunnah, such as legalising homosexuality with 51% vote. There is a life after death and the rulers have to be accountable for the way they ruled their people. Life after death is only a connection link, a door that opens up hidden reality of life, which secular democrats cannot even think about.

A secular minded person hardly cares if every action in life, however insignificant, produces a lasting effect. Islam puts one a difficult ordeal. Physical pain is torture, you can bear somehow. Spiritual pain is hell, you will find it almost unbearable. This is why an equal number of Muslims find following Islam very difficult. It is not easy to be in the position of power in particular and fighting the tendencies of the spirit prone to evil, tempting to lead one into iniquities ways.

Bringing belief into practice or politics means reach the next stage when the self-accusing sprit in one’s conscience is awakened and the soul is anxious to attain moral excellence and revolt against disobedience. This is what leads to the final stage of the soul at rest, satisfied and contented with doing good deeds for the benefit of the humanity.

Imagine rulers, whose soul no more stumbles and why would it. They don’t sell or kill their fellow human beings for material gains or glory. The stage of struggle passes away for them. Truth is victorious and falsehood lays down its arms. All complexes, such as how Islam can or cannot be implemented; whether to be with or against the bullies, are then resolved by default. The house of such rulers is not divided against itself. They don’t need security bubble among their own people. The reason is simple. Their personality is integrated round the central core of submission to the will of God and complete surrender to the purpose in life. All hidden energies are then released. The soul then have peace. God will then address them:

"O thou soul that art at rest, and restest fully contented with thy Lord return to thy Lord. He pleased with thee and thou pleased with him; So enter among my servants and enter into my paradise."

This is the final goal for man; to become, on the, one hand, the master of the universe and on the other, to see that his soul finds rest in his Lord, that not only his Lord will be pleased with him but that he is also pleased with his Lord. Contentment, complete contentment, satisfaction, complete satisfaction, peace, complete peace.

That is why democracy is a fraction of this encompassing system and way of life. When the love and pleasure of God is one’s objective, sorrow and defeat do not overwhelm him and success does not find him in vain and exulting.

The “democracy” and “way of life” that the US struggles to impose on others can help a few like Challabi, Allawi, Karzai, and Musharraf extend their rule for a few years. At the most, it can help human being become the master of this planet. But their souls will not find peace and rest that shapes human society and gives it real peace. They will never be able to form just societies.

The whole strength of Islam, in individual as well as collective ways to governing life, lies in resigned submission to Him with a belief that we would do good deeds, no matter what. If anything bad happens to us, it is the result of our deeds. If not, whatsoever He does to us, the thing He sends to us, even if death and worse than death, shall be good, shall be best; we resign ourselves to God.

Such thinking turns a person into real human being. And being in that state of mind, when one rules, he would never lie and kill 100,000 people to occupy another land. He would never rig elections. He would never submit the “with us or against us” threat from a bully. He would never submit to an unjust power, just because of the fear of survival.

Islam unfolds the highest wisdom that the creator has revealed to human beings. The pre-requisite is that we keep out personal and ephemeral interests aside for the benefit of the humanity at large. Democracy, in the name of which the US has put survival of millions at stake, would neither work as a magic bullet to address all problems that human beings are facing today, nor would it work as a fig leaf for covering its champions’ crimes against humanity. Democracy is but just a fraction of the total requirements of the human beings. We need to set an environment in which this fraction could serve the bigger purpose and benefit the humanity.

Keeping the ultimate purpose of our existence out, democracy alone fails to serve even our basic needs in a just manner. Instead it backfires and starts serving the wealthiest, the most influential, the mighty and ultimately the most corrupt. It helps us see the rise of Hitler and Bush to power, but it fails to deliver what it promises. It becomes the worse form of tyranny, because the tyrants start referring to the mandate from the people.

Islam gives us the purpose and principles that put democracy on the right track in the overall context and way of life.


[1] Miss. Sarojini Naidu, Poetess, in Ideals of Islam. Known as nightingale of India, Sarojini Devi (1879-1949) was a distinguished Hindupoet, renowned freedom fighter and one of the great orators of her time. See: http://www.kamat.com/kalranga/freedom/naidu.htm