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Monday, November 3, 2008

Perspective: Muslim Americans Disobey Allah When They Don't Vote

The following is an email sent by Imam Faheem Shuaibe (emphasis and highlights are of my own):

Date: Sunday, November 2, 2008, 1:38 AM

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

In his blog yesterday a Sheikh said, "Democracy is an un-Islamic system and we as Muslims should have nothing to do with it."

I am not an apologists for whatever is being passed off as "Democracy" in America today. Never the less the semblance still offers opportunities and obligations to American Muslims who live in and intend continue to live in this country and one of them is to "VOTE".

One definition of Democracy is as follows; "government by the people ; especially : rule of the majority b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections."

It is more correct to say that the current system in America known as "Democracy" is a Non-Islamic system that shares some values with Al-Islam.

For Muslims to have a "government by the people" without reference to the supremacy of Allah and His Prophet (pbuh) is not the Islamic Ideal for government. But the Islamic Ideal for government does include respect and responsibility on the part of people for the government.

As Allah says in the Qur'an--
4: 58. Allah doth command you to render back your trusts (AMAANAA-T: Governmental duties) to those to whom they are due; and when ye judge between man and man that ye judge with justice: verily how excellent is the teaching which He giveth you! for Allah is He who heareth and seeth all things."

In this verse Allah is "commanding" us to use our judgment and decide who we want to give the governmental responsibilities to. This is what the system of electoral politics gives us an opportunity to do. So rendering our decision as to who should bear the governmental responsibility is a part of obedience to Allah and to willfully not do so is a "sin of omission".

Furthermore Allah says--
42: 38. Those who hearken to their Lord and establish regular prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation (Shuraa Baynahum); who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance;

What is Shuraa Baynahum? Is it not an obligation upon Muslims, in matters unregulated explicitly by Allah and the Prophet (pbuh) to decide what is the best course? Is there not voting involved?

So even though "Democracy" or the current system is not an Islamic system, Al-Islam embraces some of the values of Democracy. And two of them are (1)Deliberations amongst the people to (2) decide who should be given the governmental duties.

And on the issue of the lesser of two evils (which also applies equally to the better of two good things) - This was the Sunnah of the Prophet and, when properly understood, this is also the Qur'an and it cannot be simply dismissed by an unsupported opinion such as the one expressed by the Sheikh. Namely, "there is no benefit in either candidate whatsoever."

Yet the Sheikh spoke of Aqeedah. Doesn't Aqeedah include the beliefs of Al-Islam? One of those beliefs is the "Qadr" which is stated as "The measure of potential benefit and potential harm is with Allah, the Most High?" The truth is that nothing is Absolute except Allah. For everything else there is a measure of potential benefit and a measure of potential harm. So based on our Islamic beliefs (Aqeedah) there is some potential benefit and some potential harm in both of the candidates but "only Allah knows how much".

So if that belief (Qadr) is true then the potential benefit of one will outweigh the potential benefit of the other. Also the potential harm in one will outweigh the potential harm in the other. So, in accordance with the verse of the Trust (4:58) we have an obligation to discover which is more beneficial or more harmful than the other. Only then can we comply with the Qur'an and the Sunnah in the matter ordered in verse 148 of the 2nd Chapter
Which states, "To each is a goal to which Allah turns him; then strive together toward all that is good. (Fa stabiquu khayrat: Strive for what is most useful under the circumstances)

Therefore, contrary to what the Sheikh implied with his threat - "you will have to answer (real meaning "be punished") for your vote on the Judgment Day",. Allah has commanded all Muslims (North East West and South) to seek what is best under their circumstance (socially, culturally, economically, politically, etc.). Again this also means that to do so is a part of obedience to Allah because he has "command it" (2: 148) and to not do so is a "sin of omission".

Once we have exerted ourselves to the best of our abilities to discern - under our circumstances - which is better (more Khayr) than the other and which one is worse (more sharr) then we practice the Sunnah by choosing the khayr. (i.e. "the lesser of two evils" or "the better of the two" )

Voting for American Muslims is crucial because by definition, "The Law is the embodiment of the interest of the people in the form of legislation". Legislators write laws to embody the interests of the people they represent. Pessimism aside, if American Muslims don't demonstrate electoral power then they will have no leverage to have their interests enacted, defended or represented in America.

Clearly, it is not in the best interest of American Muslim not to vote because (like it or not as defective as the system is) elections will decide who will have the (Amaanaa-t ) "governmental duties" and those persons will write laws that will effect the lives of American Muslim Families whether they voted or not. Failing to do so not only will Muslims be disobeying Allah (4: 58; 2: 148) they will have no one to blame but themselves when legislators pay no regard to their interests in their legislation.

The claim that the Sheikh makes that, "Participation in any form of western democracy will lead to the erosion of the aqeedah of wala and bara (loyalty to Allah and disavowal of the enemies of Allah) and the loss of one's religion" is false on the face of it. Many converts/reverts to Islam in America were able to do so because of the "first amendment" protections. The first of them being "Freedom of Religion". If those who thought otherwise at the founding of this nation had prevailed there would only have been Catholicism or only Protestantism practiced in American and Muslims would never have been allowed to teach non-Muslims Al-Islam and many who are Muslims today may not be. So it is a false and unsupportable claim that "participation in the "Democratic" system could cause a Muslim to lose their religion". Furthermore, Al-Islam (by this I mean the religious practice not just by birth as in statistically Muslim countries) is growing faster
in "the West" than in any other hemisphere. And it is because of "democratic freedoms".

So any American Muslim that has interests to be protected in this country should become a full participant in moving America towards the ideals of Al-Islam by utilizing all legitimate means and methods to do so. And one of them is to "VOTE".

Allah knows best

faheem shuaibe


Anonymous said...

As-Salaamu `Alaykum,

I agree with the sentiment that the Imam is conveying; however, 42:38 is making reference to trusts not related to government but specifically with family relations. It's clear in the ayah as well as what proceeds.

He's stretching a bit in his commentary; that's not needed to make the point.

I would also be very careful in saying that not voting is disobeying, which means that a sin is being committed by not voting just as I would do not agree with saying that voting is haraam.

thelegacymaker said...

Wa alaikum assalaam,

Shukran for your comments! Like you I agree with the general perspective of the Imam, and his choice of words like "disobeying" is strong. However, in reference to the ayah 42:38, I do see the reference to "Trusts" but I think that ties with government as well.

I follow the logic that this ayah and those preceding it make reference simply to the attributes of those who deserve that which is with Allah (see Furthermore, it highlights Shuraa Baynahum, which exceeds the boundaries of family relations.

Imam Mohammed (Rahim Allahu Alaihi) gives excellent tafsir on this concept ...please see Imam Mohammed's commentary at the bottom of this post:

Frankly, I don't see how this ayah could NOT tie in with government when you look at the fundamental definition of the word. Now its ties to how America defines and organizes government, deserves further discussion.

Anonymous said...

Here is a couple of mp3 lectures from Shaykh Suhaib Webb.

Anonymous said...

As-Salaamu `Alaykum,

Yes, it can be applied to what you've stated but it is specifically referencing family in this case, which was my main point.

Again, my main point of bringing this up is the usage of the word "disobey" in the discourse using this particular ayah as part of that argument. To "disobey" means committing a sin or transgression with knowledge of a command, which would make it haraam not to vote.

That is not the way that haraam is legislated. At best, it would be makruh not to vote.


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