Democracy and Islam
When Pontius Pilate, the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea (Israel), AD 26–36, appears to have been reluctant to allow the crucifixion of Jesus, finding no fault with him, he decided to throw the decision over to the people. It was the custom of the Roman governor to release one prisoner at Passover. Accounts in the gospels say that Pilate brought out Barabbas, identified by Matthew as a 'notorious prisoner' and by Mark as a 'murderer', and told the crowd to choose between releasing Barabbas or Jesus as per the custom, in the hopes of getting them to request the release of Jesus. However, the crowd demanded the release of Barabbas and said of Jesus, “Crucify him!” In Matthew, Pilate responds, “Why? What evil has he done?” The crowd continued shouting, “Crucify him!”, “Crucify him!”
If democracy means ‘throwing the question over to the people’, the lesson learnt here is never give the people a right choice and a wrong one; they will vote for the wrong one! Let alone what is actually happening in all modern so-called democratic states is; both or all the choices they are to choose from are essentially bad. That is the problem in democracy that Islam recognizes.
The custom of having taken the ‘bayat’, practiced by the Prophet and after him by the on-coming Khulaffa, was a democratic process, wherein the masses were expected to come to the announced or newly elect Khaliffa and take the bayat of submission on the hand of the new Amir ul Momeneen. The bayat was taken from women too and those who could not travel sent their approval through delegates. But the main election was made within the institution of Medina, wherein candidates of the highest character and wisdom had been cultured and wherein the electorate could be deemed as honest, wise, decisive and above all God-fearing. The populace faced a kind of a referendum, but not a vote between a right choice and a wrong one.
The ideal situation in today’s modern time would have been that when a people had democratically (using choice) made the choice of keeping Islam as their religion, at a stark time when history was going to ration its quotas for the next centuries, when millions had been stirred into the streets, chanting their choice, ‘Islam’, in their slogans; that this miraculous uprising of the people should have been taken as the final, most expressive vote of the people; a vote so precious that it needed only to be enhanced and safeguarded, not redrawn; for it is unnatural for human society to break the status quo and rise up to a revolution every 5 years.
What was required was that the elite/educated part of this people should have assured the investment of public money in the culturing of an institution wherein knowledge, wisdom, character and God-fearing would have been the traits to be practiced, tested and graduated. The institutionalization of Islamic character and foresight should have been our prime objective; an institution that would be able to choose its pupil with purely democratic equality and its faculty with pure merit. And when the right few, worthy of leadership had been found among them, the candidates should have been presented to the people for mass consensus.
One would say that we already have such institutions; in fact the country is teeming with Madrassas and Jammaats that declare to be the flag-bearers of the true Deen. But to our misdoings, we find that most of these institutions are focused on charity collection and its dispensation at the most and have failed to give the nation a culture wherein the people could find choices of excellence as per anything near the Medina model, wherein the people could put their trust and vote.
The democracy we do get is a vote for the status-co; the choice between one vice or another, the choice between putting our trust on this liar or that. It is said that democracy will give its fruit if you give it its due course of time; that successive elections will culture the sense of right and wrong in the masses and they will eventually vote the right man out. This is a lie, as any number of successive elections do not guarantee that the ‘right man’ will stand for election; when all this time has added to the tactical power, the buying power and the manipulation of outcomes of the status-co, that controls the power in the first place. This is also a lie because the choices that the people are going to get every time, is a dish-out between the people who are in the game of plundering the wealth of their people in the bulks and their foreign mentors who are essentially anti-Islam.
So does Islam go along with democracy; yes Islam showed humanity the right way to vote, when there was no good example of such a process anywhere in practice. But what Islam made sure was to cut the status-co of powerful, dynastic chieftains out of the list of the electable. Wars were fought for that, thought was revolutionized for that and character was institutionalized for that. But if you sever the Islamic body of democratic-choice from the head and place the vilest choices on the top of that body, Islam does not go along with that kind of voting; that is what Islam came to finish in the first place; the status quo.
The nation has to awaken to this colossal new-age challenge, which calls them to re-radicalize every 5 years, and to fight a multi-dimensional war, in which we float the powers in the open market of all black and white contenders and try to re-gain our rights from internal, self-imposed adversaries. Why is the fate of 200million people vouchsafed in the hands of bounty-hunters through such a flawed system based on an impractical ideal; is an enigma impending on our conscience for solution. But the good thing in it is that it has created an opportunity of constant battle, within the people of a state, a battle for resources and power, but one that will be played with paper and ink not sword and blood. Only the dilemma is that human nature is too naïve to inquire, scrutinize and battle in such short intervals and that also in an environment which persuades him more towards submission then battle; that tends more towards numbing him down than raising him up in alarm.
This numbing-down is precisely the reason why 200million will allow an assembly of less than 350, constantly exploit them, and the way to do it is ‘kill their conscience with their own vote’. In the end the winners will be the ones who are the most shrewd and cunning; who are most bold in blatantly presenting their false promises; who can maneuver the rigging-process; who can horse-trade; who are capable of the biggest treasons and nepotism and frauds. All this we will keep enduring for one sacred word ‘Democracy’, because this beautiful word has mesmerized us to the extent that we would not dare against this idol of our minds, instead we will sacrifice all that is ours to save this ‘holy cow’ from derailing.