International Affairs Middle East — 04 January 2012
An open letter to Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi

Idries de Vries

Sheikh Yusuf,

Your appearance at Tahrir Square on the 18th of February 2011 during the height of what has been named the “Arab Spring”, and the warm reception given to you at the time by the hundreds of thousands who had gathered there confirmed your status as one of the most influential contemporary scholars of Islam.

For the sharp observer, it also made clear that this “Arab Spring” has always been about more than just removal of tyrannical rulers. As an Islamic scholar, by name, for decades, you have been calling for a system change in Egypt – not just for the removal of a tyrant or change in regime. Therefore, the fact that the protest movement welcomed you to lead them in Jumu’ah Prayer signaled that they too stood for a system change.

As a consequence, ever since this day, your opinions on the issue of government and governance have been given more attention than probably ever before. The Muslim mind is not yet clear about what is to replace the oppressive and exploitative systems of Ben Ali, Mubarak, Abdullah Saleh, Ghaddafi, and the one soon to follow, Bashar Al Asad.  So, the Muslim world is asking you for your thoughts on this matter and is studying them. But, the West is also eagerly listening to you. It is fearful as to what the Muslims will end up choosing and recognizes the strength of your voice amongst the Muslim masses.

I am amongst those who listen closely to what you have to say on this matter, Sheikh Yusuf. And I thank Allah (subhane wa ta’ala) that you are trying to take this unique opportunity for real change in the Muslim World, and are working hard to explain in more detail your thoughts on the issue of government and governance. For, in a recent Q&A on the issue of the difference between Shura and Democracy[i], you have gone beyond your usual rhetoric of explaining why, according to you, Islam and democracy are not in conflict. In it, you explain what it is you want to use democracy for, or in other words, what you want to achieve by it:

Democracy itself also can make whatever it wants as lawful, or prohibit anything it does not like. In comparison, the Shari’ah as a political system has limits. If we are to adopt democracy, we should adopt its best features.

As a Muslim society we should adopt it in an Islamic context of a society that seeks to live with its Shari’ah laws. Our society should abide by what has been made lawful by Allah and also what has been made unlawful by Him.

What I am for is a genuine type of democracy, for a society driven by the laws of Shari’ah that is compatible with the values of freedom, human rights, justice, and equity.

Our democracy is different. It is well connected to the laws of Shari’ah. Yes we adopt some of the principles of democracy, but it is incumbent upon us also to uphold our principles. We have pillars of our Shari’ah that we have to abide by. We want the people to be consulted and participate actively in politics as well as in the process of decision-making.

To conclude, Islam is not anti-democracy. What we want is a free society that lives within the rules and laws of the Shari’ah which is very compatible with the values of democracy, freedom, human rights, justice, development, and prosperity.

Your case, clearly, is a call for democracy. At the same time, in conformity with the fundamental teaching of Islam that the law must come from Allah (subhane wa ta’ala), “Indeed, the command is only for Allah[ii] and “and He does not share His [authority to] command with anyone[iii], you also call for the implementation of Shari’ah in the Muslim world. The democracy you envision, therefore, is of a special form which does not exist in today’s world. It is a democracy limited by Shari’ah, which means this democracy will not legislate.

This position of yours brought many questions to my mind.

As is well known, the political system that is known as democracy is one of the fruits of the Enlightenment Era. When the European masses decided to replace theocracy with secularism, a need arose for a system to manage and organize the act of legislation. During theocracy, with authorization from the Church, the King had been the sole legislator. Secularism took away from the Church the authority to appoint and approve a legislator, hence, power from the King.  So, the question became, “Who would now legislate and how?” Democracy was the answer. The people would henceforth legislate amongst themselves, either directly through referenda or indirectly through elected representatives. Your proposal of a democracy limited by Shari’ah therefore removes from democracy its main task, its raison d’être, so to speak. And that left me wondering why you continue to use the word democracy when explaining your thoughts. One could argue, namely, that this is misleading. Because what you are calling for, a democracy limited by Shari’ah, has nothing to do with the political system known as democracy.

In fact, all that is left of a democracy without the authority to legislate is a method to appoint (a) ruler(s). So, this is the real meaning of your call for democracy limited by Shari’ah. But, given the recent political event in the West, the home of democracy, do we really want to make democracy our process to appoint (a) ruler(s)? The political event in the West I am of course referring to is the rise of the Occupy Movement or the 99% Movement. The main case of this movement, which has turned into a global phenomenon with a mass support base, is that consecutive democratically elected rulers have in their legislation favoured a tiny elite[iv]. In other words, in the countries that were the first to utilize the political system of democracy and by now have hundreds of years of experience with it, there is today a mass movement that complains about this political system!  It complains that democracy has not been able to get into office people who consider the well being of the entire or at least the majority of the population! So, it is quite strange that at this time, you are calling the Muslims to adopt democracy to elect (a) ruler(s).

Thirdly, I do not understand how you can acknowledge Islam has its own legislation, but fail to mention that Islam also has its own process for appointment of a ruler. When the Prophet (sallAllaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) died, did not the leaders of the Ummah at that time gather to elect a ruler? When Khalifah Abu Bakr (radiAllaah anhu) was close to death, did he not advise the Muslims to elect ‘Umar (radiAllaah anhu) as his successor, to which the Muslims agreed and effectuated? And when Khalifah ‘Umar (radiAllaah anhu) was close to death, did he not appoint a committee to elect a new Khalifah after him (eventual head of which ‘Abdurrahman bin ‘Auf (radiAllaah anhu consulted with the leaders of the Muslim tribes) before the final decision to elect ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan (radiAllaah anhu) as next Khalifah? And after him, did the Muslims of Madinah al Munawwarah, the capital of the Islamic State at the time, not gather to elect a new Khalifah, choosing ‘Ali bin Abu Talib (radiAllaah anhu)? So, if you are looking for a process to elect (a) ruler(s) to accompany the legislation extracted from Islam—the Shari’ah—why then not also extract from Islam the process to elect (a) ruler(s)? If you are convinced of the correctness and appropriateness of Islam’s legislation to the point that you do not want democracy to legislate, meaning you do not want the human mind to decide on matters of legislation, why then do you prefer a foreign process for the election of (a) ruler(s) over the Islamic process? Is this not contradictory?

My last question, Sheikh, is why—at this stage—are we even discussing the issue of electing a ruler? This question might sound strange to you, so please allow me to explain myself. Since the rule with Shari’ah was abolished, the entire Muslim world has done nothing but degenerate in all aspects—be it the political aspect where the Muslim world was forced to degenerate into tyranny, the economic aspect where the Muslim world was forced to degenerate into poverty, or the social aspect where the Muslim world is being forced to degenerate into lewdness. You and I know the fundamental reason for this, as do the Muslim masses today. It is the control over our affairs by the western imperialist nations such as Britain, France, and especially the United States. They wanted exploitation of the Muslims which first required control over the Muslims—removing Islam from the lives of the Muslims. So, instead of Islam, they gave us every system that the human mind has ever been able to think of, from free-market capitalism to social democratic capitalism to socialism on the road to communism, all with larger or smaller degrees of nationalism implanted within. This has brought us to the state we are in today, and we can do nothing but thank Allah (subhane wa ta’ala) for the reaction of the Muslim Ummah to this state of affairs, their rebellion against this state of affairs, and their sacrifice of blood and wealth to change this state of affairs. You and I also agree, as do the Muslim masses of today, that only the Shari’ah of Allah (subhane wa ta’ala) can really change this state of affairs. (And those that even today do not acknowledge this, despite the decades of failure of the systems of human invention, will probably never realize this.)  Given this, I sincerely doubt the Muslim masses would object to any ruler as long as he applies Shari’ah! Because, the benefit in ruling with Islam will far outweigh any shortcomings the ruler might be considered to have.

For all these reasons, Sheikh Yusuf, I suggest that for now we leave the debate about democracy – in whatever form – out of the Muslim world. Because, the most pressing issue at the moment, and upon this all Muslims agree, is that Shari’ah be implemented as soon as possible. This is what will give us the correct rights, freedoms, and duties through which we can quickly solve the most important problems the Muslims are facing in their lives today, such as the biting poverty, a main motivator for the uprising. This is a matter of such prime importance to us today that the question of who is good enough to lead should not concern us, as this would only distract from our foremost goal. Once we have re-established the ruling with Islam, then, when the mouths are fed and the oppressed have been liberated and the worship in the Muslim world is only for Allah, then we will have ample time to discuss the process to elect the second Khalifa of the second Islamic State (the first Islamic State being the one established by the Prophet (saw) himself).


Idries de Vries is an economist who writes on economics and geopolitics for various publications. As a management professional he has lived and worked in Europe, America and Asia.



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(18) Readers Comments

  1. Dear Idries,

    I think Qardawi makes a difference between two things that you do not: first of all he looks at the reality of contemporary Egyptian society and tries to come up with an Islamic model for it. Whereas, it seems, you look first at the Islamic sources and try to fit the reality in it: egyptian society that is. This however does not work. I’ll expand on this one later. Secondly, the mere fact that in history the first Muslims had a decision-making procedure in choosing their leaders does not exclude the fact that any other way of choosing their leaders nowadays is clear-cut forbidden in Islam.

    To expand on my first comment. Qardawi has written many books about contemporary Muslim society in this day and age and which Islamic system would best. He starts off analysing the world as it is nowadays, and not by reading into history books and trying to fit reality into that theory. That just doesn’t work. Times have changed, perceptions and therefore Islamic answers do as well. He seems to me to make a distinction between fundamental Islamic issues with are decisive, universal, can only be interpreted in one way and can never be changed. And other issues which are open for discussion, interpretation according to time and space. On such issue is the method of appointing rulers in Qardawis’ eyes, if I understand him well. Although in history there has indeed been a diffferent method, this does NOT necessarily exclude that nowadays another method might be used. For you it does, and you will point to the historical way of choosing their leaders as can be read in Islamic texts. For him this does not automatically mean it can only be done in this way, and when he looks at the current reality he shares the opinion that another method is more appropriate because reality has changed. And he is is right in that regard. Nowadays people from different segments of Egyptian society expect they can cast their vote to choose their leaders representing them, and when they feel the need to be able to vote them out. In this way Qardawi tries to bridge that gap, which in his opinion is indeed a new method but as long as it is not against the teachings of Islam it is ok. And that’s why he mentions that a democracy where representatives are chosen should be within the boundaries of the sharia. One such example is that he concludes that a civil government with members of parliament chosen by the people as representatives is perfectly compatible with Islam, because it is not against it. But all laws proposed and adopted should not contradict Islamic teachings, which is one important principle the Muslimbrotherhood wants to be adopted in the Egyptian constitution. So if there comes a time certain parties want homosexuals to be able to marry it would be rejected by the constitution because that is something clearly against sharia and something there has always been a consensus on among Islamic scholars from different schools of thought.

    Secondly, you mention the historic way of choosing leaders as the khalifas did in the early days of Islam. This is indeed right and Qardawi will never deny that I am sure. But as mentioned before it is not something that belongs to the unchangeable fundamentals of Islam according to him. Nowhere is in the Quran or ahadith a certain type of decision-making method stipulated which can only be interpreted in one certain way. Which as you probably know would have to be classified as dalil shar’i or have to belong to the qat’iyyat evidences.

    Last but not least I personally do not agree with your notion that democracy can only be secular. And Qardawi does not either as clearly stated in his books. Even in several Western states it is not secular at all. In Greece and the role of the Orthodox Church for example. That’s why it is one of the EU countries with almost no mosquees and Muslim immigrants are having problems to get official permission to build them. Google it. Democracy is not a belief or ideology perse, in Qardawi’s eyes and others scholars sharing his opinion it is merely a method to govern a state where different opinions are present about how the state and their policies should be (liberals, democrats, conservatives etc). This fact, which is the reality of Egypt and other Arab countries, makes it unrealistic to talk about one idea (that of hizb tahrir for example) as being able to convince all of society. You will not. All the other opinions and groups will not just cease and be convinced that your belief is best. Therefore, instead, it is much more practical looking at the reality to provide a method that tries to bring the different opinions together (in parliament for example) in trying to create consensus among society about the state and it’s policies. What Qardawi does by accepting from a practical point of view democracy is thereby being able to accept the reality as it is while trying to maintain that all policies accepted and introduced by chosen representatives can not be against the fundamentals of the sharia. He believes Egypt and many other Arab societies are religious enough to vote religious parties in parliament that will safeguard that this principle of “democracy not able to adopt laws against the basis of sharia” will be adopted in the constitution. Whereas he wants to maintain the fact that the general idea nowadays of deciding on who represents you in parliament (in decision making) is compatible with Islam. Because the fact is that people among many things in the Arab world want to exercise at least some influence on their representatives in order to be able to vote them out when they become corrupt or are just not able to deliver the kind of work as is expected by their voters.

  2. The problem with Qaradawi’s ideas, and those of the commentator above – is that it is the reality that dictates how you act. Instead of using Islam to affect the reality, the reality basically dictates what Islam is. And this is completely contrary to Islam, which change to fundamentally change darkness into light, and not find a way to submerge within it.

    the best quote from the article from Qaradawi says it all
    “Islam is not anti-democracy. What we want is a free society that lives within the rules and laws of the Shari’ah which is very compatible with the values of democracy, freedom, human rights, justice, development, and prosperity.”

    Why the apologetic stance?
    Have we not passed the stage of colonialism and the colonized mindset even after these revolutions?

    The most sad part of this – the world is crying out for alternatives
    And still some people are trying their best to fit in with the same failed ideas instead of presenting real change

  3. Dear RP,

    I agree with your analysis that “reality dictates how to act”. This is a fact in my opinion. However I disagree with your comment just after that, the reality “dictates what Islam” is. In any case and assessment in order to find Islamic answers we have to analyse first the reality as it is. After that we turn to Islam to find a suitable Islamic answer, because Islam should have answers to all problems. However it should be noted that in areas of ijtihad human scholars that formulate these answers are not divinely protected in falling short of offering a Islamic practical solution.

    Qardawi mentions in one of his books that Islam does not have a specified political system. It sets out principles to abide, classical scholars have written different books about in which should be understood in their time and age and as you know these principles are aimed for a certain purpose. If some laws harm the purpose of it it should be open to discussion to temporarily set it aside. Just as Umar ibn al-Khattab did concerning the cutting the hand of thiefs because in the empire there was a shortage of food and severe poverty was abundant. If I remember right. Back to Qardawi, he agrees that in the historic time of the khalifas there was an obvious method of decision-making of course as has come to us by tradition. But it seems to me that he argues it is not necessarily the only way from a shar’i point of view of how to govern. It is open for interpretation as long as it is within the boundaries of the shari’a. Just as he argues that a leader does not necessarily have to be called a khalifa in this time and age. He argues it was just a historical term used. The essence is not in the name, but his ruling with the acceptance of the people and mutual consult to be able to give citizens their rights and that they are able to convey their needs and wishes. Which should be able to be considered atleast in the decision-making process of the leader. This is why he agrees with a civil democratic state, where representatives are chosen in parliament and the leader is able in parliament to hear the needs and wishes of the broader society.

    The fact that you mention that “reality basically dictates what Islam” is would I think be disagreed with by Qardawi. Because some things are open for discussion, as long as the core is the same. That’s why I mentioned qat’iyyat and thawabit. Now personally I would like to mention that the tension between theory and practice is the core of the different views. Nevertheless I feel Qardawi’s vision is much more realistic in almost all Arab countries nowadays. Because although almost all of the population consider themselves Muslim I know that not all (to say the least) are orthodox in their understanding and a significant amount will not be convinced by the idea of restoring (or starting) a caliphate. If you want to set their permission aside and still go on it will become a dictatorship, and that has always (without any exception) many other bad consequences which lead to regression of a society. In my opinion was the big difference with the historical caliphate in early times that the underlying factor was acceptance of the caliph and it’s system by the big majority of different citizens. I should mention here that the role between government and “citizens” back in that time was much less complicated than it is now. Nation states did not exist and there was much more room for pluralism and minorities to follow their own religious laws, not a central government with one court for all, education for all citizens, not the problem media that is regulated by state law, public sphere as it is now within the boundaries of a fixed nation-state etc etc.

    Last but not least, you mention alternatives. Within an Islamic model as mentioned by Qardawi and especially regarding Egypt probably dominated by Islamic parties it is likely that they would also invest in research to change the financial sector to a more Islamic one and adapted to Islamic rules to abide by. If this is possible because the financial institutions are not centered in Cairo to say the last but in New York, London and consist of the IMF, FED etc that are all dealing with ribaa. My point is: these are area’s that are not necessarily forsaken if your vision of an Islamic state (of caliphate) is not established. That is an assumption as much as the notion that democracy is necessarily secular.

  4. The idea that Islam does not have a system of ruling is something that has only been stated by modernists. You do not find any such statement throughout centuries of normative, orthodox Islamic scholarship. There is a system of ruling in Islam, which is unique from other systems whether parliamentary democracy or presidential republican. Whether we call it Caliphate or Sultanate or any other word is not the issue, the substance is the point.

    There are certain central features of the Islamic system which are not up for discussion – that there should be one ruler, that the ruler is responsible to apply Islam in its entirety, that the people have the right to choose their ruler (but they do not have the right to choose the basis of law) who will apply Islam upon them. These fundamental blocks are found in all books of Islamic governance. Beyond that there are many details of the structure of ruling, including for example the position of governors, assistants, the leader of the Jihad etc. All of these are derived from the practise of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions after him, and so the claim that there is no fixed system of governance in Islam is inaccurate.

    These are some of the fundamental points that are missed by the modernists who are trying to make Islam “palatable” for the modern world (whatever that is) rather than seeking to change the reality to one which conforms with Islam. Which is what revolutions should surely be about?

    As mentioned by the article – calling a system which supposedly makes Islam the basis of legislation a “democracy” is a slight of hand to appear “acceptable”, or in other words an apologetic stance to pacify un/ anti Islamic elements whether domestic or foreign. The basis of Democracy is rule by the people, whereas basis of the Islamic State is rule by Islam. The reality is that “Islamic democracy” as pursued now by the modernist scholars is not Islamic at all, it merely gives a cover for Muslims to participate within secular/ non-Islamic governments under the guise of “gradual” change. When the Muslims then have the dominant position (see Egypt/ Tunisia now) they are completely at a loss of what to do, and appear not much different than the liberal/ secular movements.

  5. The idea that Islam has only ONE specific system which it is religiously obliged to be bound by in all time, age and circumstances when it comes down to governing the state and the relation between the state and its people also seems a very modern idea. Why? Because from the time of the Prophet (saws) untill early 1900 the whole world basically only consisted of empires where decision-making in laws was in the hands of a select few. The underlying factor however was that in this time and age the big majority of Muslims living in the Islamic empire, if not all, did not have any problems with it and they were ruled in this way by own consensus (ridha al ‘aam), or “silent majority”. It was not imposed top-down but instead accepted down-to-the-top. You would probably argue that we have to get back to that. But the fact is that in that day and age the whole world was basically ruled in the same way. Empires existed, where a select few decided in the decision making process (and definately not all “citizens” of that empire by votes) and “laws” were often based on either religion and its customs or tribal habits and norms. Even using the word “law” as it is understood nowadays in nation-states is way to static. Anyway, regarding the Islamic empires in previous ages it is important to take note that they were used to this type of decision-making in a world where it was the norm. So issues such as “civil society” or “democracy” the way it is meant now never existed or came up. That idea started with the invention of nation-states, which is a reality we can unfortunately not deny nowadays. If you would argue that the early Greeks already invented democracy before the invention of nation-states I already disagree. Their democracy was nowhere close to the one that we know in the West nowadays. The early Greeks decided first from top-down who was allowed to vote and not. Slaves, women, poor men etc were all not allowed to vote. With the invention of nation-states started a new period reality of a state governing all of it’s citizens in ALL spheres of life. Directly from top-down with one static common law or constitution for ALL citizens dealing with all aspects of life within the geographical boundaries of a nation-state. In previous times and age, also Islamic empires, “laws” were not related to exactly specified geographical boundaries applicable for all citizens. Laws were not that static in the sense that there was one single constitution for all citizens and dealing with all fundamental aspects of life. The relation between public and private sphere was much less static as it is nowadays in all nation-states basically. It was much more holistic, flexible and cosmopolitan. Therefore, Qaradawi and other like-minded scholars, argue that the essential underlying factor in previous Islamic empires was that although the system was different which is logical because it was a different world, compared to democracy nowadays they ruled with the “public consensus” of the Muslims. This same “consensus” that in his eyes was essential in previous times can now be reached and heard in parliament. Nowadays the reality of many Islamic-Arabic countries can not be compared with the past so looking at reality he argues (what I understand of him) this is the best possible method to try and uphold our religion on one side and on the other side governing with the consensus and agreement of the majority and leave room for differences of opinion about how society ideally should be. This is why he wants a “dawla madaniyya”, a strong parliamentarian democracy. He believes Egyptians (for example) are religious enough to get a strong representation of Muslim parties is and therefore by their vote and broader consensus safeguard religious principle such as mentioning in the new constitution that all laws can not contradict shari’a core values. Note the fact that he does not agree with you that Islam has one specific system which Muslims are religiously obliged to uphold in all times, ages and circumstances. He argues that because time and places change the system can as well, as long as certain fundamental principles are uphold. Other area’s might and are in his opinion open for reinterpretation.

    You would argue indeed that the basis of democracy is “rule by the people”, whereas an Islamic state is “rule by Islam”. Although the concept of Islamic STATE is very new (dawla), I would argue that you forget a way in between. Democracy as a method is perfectly able to decide by consensus of the people that they are ruled by Islamic laws, if thats what they want to. Democracy means merely that people are coming together, and decide together which laws come into existence. If the underlying consensus and agreement among them is that these laws have to be Islamic there is nobody that can stop them. This is why Qaradawi mentions a civil democracy, or parliamentarian. Because he argues that it has always been the case that Muslims were ruled by their broad agreement of the system. And thats why he believes a non-secular democracy where people cast their vote themselves can easily lead to Islamic laws being adopted, if they want to. If most of the people voting/deciding want to be governed (by a broad consensus) by Islamic law then that will be the case. Democracy is not necessarily secular and all Islamist parties in Arabic countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya are explicitly AGAINST secularism and secularism adopted in the constitution of their country. If you do not want them to even have a choice then you will have to force it down on them. Also a possibility but this always leads to oppression and much more problems in a nation-state.

    Last but not least I disagree with your last comment “When the Muslims then have the dominant position (see Egypt/ Tunisia now) they are completely at a loss of what to do, and appear not much different than the liberal/ secular movements.” There is first of all a huge difference between these Islamic parties and their secular counterparts. Especially in Tunisia. By voting these Islamic parties in their supporters and sympathizers assured that both countries will not adopt secularism in their constitution. Even if you dont agree with these parties you have to give them credit for it because if they would have banned elections secular parties would have won (the people would vote anyway just after the revolution) and adopt secularism in the constitution. Secondly the parties need time first of all and have priorities. And especially time is unfortunately something some brothers eager to implement the khalifa for example do not have. It is totally unrealistic to expect them to apply the hodoud for stealing for example. Which is a measure stick by some brothers to see if these parties “are really Islamic as they claim”. They all mentioned that they would first like to invest in recovering the economy, increasing (foreing) investment, improve social justice (Islamic principle of course) and battle corruption. After some time they might be able inchallah to continue their work what Qaradawi called as “gradual implementation”. Implementing the hadd of stealing in Egyptian society where 30% lives of 1 dollar a day in insane and against the spirit of the law. As mentioned before, both Islamic parties in Tunisia and Egypt made clear they want to invest in research in order to see whether Islamic banks and banking can be introduced. While hoping to eventually find opportunities and better solutions to change the sector all over PERHAPS.

  6. The concept that Islamic State is somehow new is very strange – go and read ibn Khuldun and several other historians and theorists of Islamic political theory. You will find that they refer to the “dawla islamiyya” (Islamic state) consistently.

    The claim that this is a modern invention is something that has been fabricated mainly in Western/ Western centric scholarship on Islam.

    As for the claim that Islam has one system of governance – this is derived from the primary sources of Islam and what is built upon them – the Quran and the Sunnah and consensus of the companions, and has been confirmed generation after generation up until today, with the exception of the modernists in the contemporary era, and the exception of the khawarij in the early era.

  7. Yes, the reality has changed. But the change is happened on the tools and technologies. The nature of human life, remain unchanged. That human are still blessed by God with the various instincts to interact, to love and hate, and desire to perform the worship to something greater than themself, that naturally exist together with the process of its creation as a human being, remain unchanged. The nature of interaction between man and woman, ruler and people, rich and poor, believers and unbelievers, had already been existed for centuries and unchanged.

    Therefore, the teachings of Islam would still be very relevant to solve human problems throughout the ages, because it objects to solve, namely the nature of human life, do not change.

    Thus, the process of looking for solutions to all problems, including the issue of what form of government most suitable for humans, in principle should not be changed from time to time. What are changed are the tools and technology to implement it. However, in principle, given the nature of human life was not changed, then no need to search for other base of thinking rather than what Prophet Muhammad was demonstrated once.

    With that base of thinking, mixing shariah and democracy is more likely as a defensive apologetic argument rather than Islamic argument. That argument built by Sheikh Qaradawi is not only futile but also deny the teachings of Islam. Futile, because democracy itself is becoming obsolete in its country of origin. To deny the teachings of Islam, because we didn’t see the Prophet Muhammad did mixing Islam teaching with foreign’s.

  8. To my brother RP:

    The concept of “dawla” by Ibn Khaldun (ra) who wrote his book as a historian was in it talking not talking about “dawla” the way you understand it. He mentions quite explicitly that it is “a dynasty”. This is because he observes sociological phenomena in society and notices that “‘asabiyya” (tribal or family affiliation) leads from the lowest point of society to tribes or families taking power by a dynastic type of rule, which me calls “dawla”.
    He mentions explicitly examples of such dynasty’s in his time and just before him and that they (dawla) often disappear after 40 or 50 years. According to him the strength of such a dynasty is actually in their grouping together and keeping hold on power based on blood-lines. He was nowhere talking about the “dawla islamiyya” that you mentioned as an Islamic state.

    The claim about statehood and “the Islamic state” is not merely a Western argument. There are more scholars that are for example hesitant about the assumption that modern-day nation-states just have be turned into an Islamic state and then it’s all fine and we have met our obligation. For reasons I mentioned earlier, and which starts with how one views the shari’a in its broadest terms. Or to be more specific, does one consider fiqh and the derived rulings in many (or all) cases as definite and something static or more holistic, vibrant and in often open to reflect if it suits reality and in achieving its objectives. I would like to mention that there is a difference between shari’a and fiqh as well that seems often neglected as well unfortunately.

    Regarding the consensus I would like to ask you if you could offer me a link. To be precise: a definite consensus (ijma’ sarih) on the obligation that Islam has only ONE speficic TYPE of government please. Jazak Allah in advance.


    Dear brother Fauzi,

    Dont get me wrong please. I am not starting from a secular or non-religious point of reasoning, neither is Qaradawi in my opinion and in his own understanding. He, and I, start from our religion. The thing is that we have a different understanding of it on issues related to politics moreover and shari’a, which is broad and vibrant. The answers Islam has are in it’s core always the same and the same goes for the core message of Islam for humanity. Islam is essentially about the good for humanity and serving our Creator instead of other things that take it’s place when it is not done such as our own ego or materialistic things. However Islam is not limited to our places of worship but comes also back in all other parts of our life. This is why there is a natural need to find answers for new realities that come up or changed during time. These are things we probably all understand as Muslims and also usuli principles, we just disagree on the conclusions we take from it. Again, I am not talking about the core and fundamentals of our religion. One such changing reality asking for new answers is according to Qaradawi contemporary Muslim countries and societies and especially related to politics and method of governance. I mentioned therefore in my previous replies how the reality of statehood has changed, and moreover the (much more direct) relation between citizens and their governors/government. Related to public sphere, education, one constitution for all, media, etc. Everything is directly governed from top-down by laws. In the past this has never been the case to the same extent as it is nowadays. But also and equally important is the fact that Muslim society has changed nowadays compared to the earlier days.

    You mention that democracy is becoming obsolete but I do not agree. I never said this and hope it doesnt seem like it. Democracy is a method of how to deal with DIFFERENT OPINIONS people have and do express first of all. This IS the reality as we can see nowadays in countries as Egypt, Tunisia or Libya where elections are held or will be held after they got rid of their dictators. Different opinions among society, to repeat that. Not everyone is convinced (to say the least) that the way of Hizb Tahrir (or making it a religious state perse) is the only legitimate way. And therefore you have to find a way to deal with the reality of different opinions people have and express quite obviously. Secondly, it is a METHOD (not obsolete ideology!) of trying to ensure that the one governing is doing that with consensus from these different parts (by way of their ideas and opinions) of society. These different ideas present among society will not disappear, neither will their expression of it now they got rid of their dictators. The only reasonable way to come to a consensus is by all giving the right to express their opinions by way of voting and get a government that governs with some type of broad consensus and legitimacy. So if the the consensus (through results of elections) is that shari’a law should be the only source of law this is easily possible when they vote their representatives in. And currently in Egypt with approximately 70 % that voted for Islamic parties it seems very plausible the constitution will have main references to Islam and shari’a. And Libya probably the same taking their religiously conservative society into consideration. What Qaradawi and other scholars that agree with him therefore argue is that a democracy CAN be compatible with Islam and shari’a, as long as it is not secular of course and by assuming it does not go against the shari’a and fundamentals of our religion. It’s perfectly possible that by considering all votes in a Muslim society upholding the shari’a is ensured. What democracy according to Qaradawi merely ensures as a method is to avoid that regimes or governments turn into dictatorships. Avoiding that by taking its legitimacy from citizens who vote their representatives in parliament and laws are therefore formulated with a broad consensus of society. If they together decide to uphold shari’a and basic Islamic principles there is nobody that can change that. The difference, as mentioned before, is probably that some brothers calling for implementation of Islam are impatient and disappointed when they see the Muslimbrotherhood not talking about implementing the Islamic hodoud. But the fact is that politics and changing society takes time, which some brothers do not seem to have. As I mentioned before as well, first they will have to ensure core Islamic values in the new constitution and next to that work hard to ensure justice in Egypt, battle corruption and increase social justice by increasing employment. It is totally useless to advocate the punishment for theft to be directly implemented in an Egyptian society where 30% lives of one dollar a day and more live in poverty.

  9. Dear all,

    You have inspired me to read books. That is all.

  10. It appears you are the one who is confused as to the meaning of what is intended by the term “state” – and have confined yourself to the Western restriction of nation state – another of the misconceptions often perpetuated by Western political theory is that the modern state (i.e. the nation state) is the only form of state, and hence in the past what existed were not “states” in the modern sense of the word but either feudal empires or other forms of personal rule.

    Regarding ibn Khuldun he is talking about the authority, in effect government – and he refers to that as the state, whether kingship or Khilafa. The claim that he means dynasty alone is false – please read ibn Khuldun in the Arabic – and you will find for example he says that Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) was the first to use the daywan (register) in the dawla islamiyya. And he refers to the State at the time of the separation of Andulus as the dawla islamiyya and several other examples.

    As for giving you online links for knowledge, I don’t think google or the internet should be our source of knowledge. I suggest you first read ibn Khuldun closely since you appear to have some familiarity with it – and revise what he says about the Khilafah and its obligatory nature. And what he says about its singular nature. And what he says about the basis of the rule. These 3 points alone are enough to show the Khilafah system as unique to any other system today or in the recent past if we include communism.

    In other words – the fact that the Islamic State is the obligatory unitary leadership of the Muslims charged with running their affairs according to Islam is already enough to differentiate it from any other form of government (democracy/ dictatorship/ theocracy/ etc.) and any other form of state today (ie. the Nation state).

    What Qaradawi et. al. call towards these days unfortunately conflicts with these basic essentials which are agreed upon throughout Islamic history by orthodox (and actually not so orthodox) scholarship.

  11. Modernists today try to cause much confusion by arguing Islamic groups have distorted islam by using post modern terminologies etc but in reality if we move away from semantics and get to the root of the issue, we say that there is a consensus on fundamental political issues in islam such as appointing a leader, ruling by islamic law, looking after the affairs of the people, organising external affairs on the basis of islam.

    therefore even if there is a semantical disagreement over whether ibn khaldun meant state or kingship (although dawla is mentioned in the arabic version) ibn khaldun agreed on the fundamental political issues stated.

    the colonised mindest is the significant problem with modernists viewing everything through a secular prism and judging everything according to this colonised framework.

  12. the MB in Egypt has continously distanced itself from implementing Islamic law and its political arm is secular as one gets, with it denying any islamic reference when questioned.

    It is unlikely that the MB will move for significant changes to the constitution given that it is well known that the military have made an deal with the MB, allowing it open space to operate in return for keeping the status quo and without rocking the boat. This is the situation in a post revolutionary middle east from tunisia to egypt and libya is likley to follow a similar pattern.

    The MB is facing much pressure, which has recently led its murshid to declare that the aim of the movement is the establishment of the islamic caliphate, given that this idea is wide spread now in Egypt with it regularly being mentioned and discussed.

  13. Masha’Allah. That letter was an excellent naseehah.

    From the above comments I noticed this statement, “reality dictates how to act”? which was touched upon from a different angle by Fauzi.

    This statement is actually a fundamental flaw in the thinking of many muslim activists since they do not: 1. Differentiate the matters of action and the manner of the action and 2. Assume actions from reality are permissible then, and only then, reference is made to Islam to see if it conflicts?

    We are not bound by the how (to act) from the reality nor does the reality dictate our actions. Actions are dictated by Shariah since it is governed by it. The reality does not give the hukm that an action is permissible, we must refer to shariah for its rule and not give it a rule of permissibility and then see if it conflicts with shariah? The reality is understood as it is (or how things are) and then reference is made to Islam for an action. Once an action is derived from Islam, then the matters of how (from the means & style) can be taken from reality, as the hukm of the how will be taken by the hukm of the action. Now if there exist texts that restricts the action or elaborates upon it, then priority must be given to the text, which in our case Islam has elaborated a method for revival.


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