"Democracy, people say, is “Government of the People, by the People.” At least that is how Abraham Lincoln defined it in his Gettysburg Address in 1963.
And that is a pretty good definition too. But is that all there is to democracy?
For too many people, democracy is a political theory or model.
But could it be more? The Qur’an tells us it is.
The Qur’an tells us that democracy is more – much, much more.
In fact, the Qur’an is nothing if not an elaborate manual of democracy.
That is why in Islam democracy is an entire way of life, and not just a political plank.
And that is what the Qur’an came into this world to teach us: How people should live their lives on earth in peace, amity and harmony.
Can you think of a better alternative? Brute force? Rabid tyranny? Endless mendacity? Eternal lying and deceiving?
Think for a moment of Thomas Jefferson’s oath: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility to all forms of tyranny over the mind of man.”
The Qur’an came to set our minds free. And to show us how people should conduct their business of living on earth through mutual talk, discussion, debate, respect, consultation, negotiation and give-and-take.
And how they – people that is – should do all that based on truth, justice, compassion, freedom and equality.
And based on something else, believe it or not, that the Qur’an refers to as “Non-Aggression.”
“And do not commit aggression,” says the Qur’an openly and bluntly.
And, also, based on something else, most people would not suspect even in their wildest dreams: total and unconditional renunciation of force and coercion in the persuasion process.
“There can be no coercion or force when it comes to dealing with people’s beliefs,” is how best I can paraphrase a passage in the Qur’an on that subject.
You want to hear the original words of the Qur’an? Here they are, and they are pretty clear and categorical. And so far as my limited knowledge goes, they are not duplicated anywhere else.
So here goes – the Qur’an: “Laa Ikraaha Fid-Deeni.”
So, democracy in Islam pertains not only to government and politics but to every single aspect of human life on earth – individual or collective; private, personal or public.
In sum, there is no better way to live life on earth than the divinely ordained way of democracy.
And its divinely mandated pillars of truth, honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability.
And that, in a word, is Islam.
That is because Islam is an interlocking system of rights – political rights; human rights; civil rights; economic rights; all kinds of rights including personal rights and animal rights.
That means in Islam, everything in existence has rights. And that is the core foundation of democracy: acknowledgment of pre-existing rights for all; enshrining them in governing documents such as constitutions and statutes; and commitment to honoring and delivering them in practice.
Does anybody know that you too have rights and claims on you? Hear the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, say it, which I paraphrase here: “And your body too has rights on you, as do your visitors, your family members…and others.”
“So,” says the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, “Aati kulla dhee haqqin haqqahu – give every right-holder their right.”
What a statement!
What a concept!
Do I need say more?
Except, maybe, to admonish my fellow-human beings:
“People! Let us hurry and catch up – with Islam; with the fuller and truer dimensions of democracy; and with all the rights some of even the best of us never thought we had.”
“Have we not already lost enough time?”
“Have we not frittered away enough energy?”
“Have we not squandered enough resources?”
“And have we not, by turning our back on the Qur’an, and on the true teachings of Islam, done enough damage to ourselves and to the world?”
“So, let us not let our Pandora’s Box of fears and prejudices hold us back any longer from discovering what is best in humanity's common heritage and opening our hearts and minds to it!”" (Dr. Pasha)