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The Muslim world is passing through a deep spiritual crisis. The classical interpretation of basic Islamic-concepts and values has more or less ceased to command the authentic assent of numerous intelligent and informed Muslim believers, and there is a sort of intellectual and spiritual vacuum in The Islamic world. Different ideas and ideologies are competing to fill in the vacuum in the Muslim world which comprises approximately one-fifth of the human family. Muslim countries have recently won political independence from western domination, but continue to be dependent on others, technologically or economically. They resist the idea of remaining camp followers and imitators of the western or Communist establishments. There is an inner demand for re-interpreting basic Islamic concepts, values and institutions to make them viable in the modern age. But an intellectually and spiritually satisfying Islamic vision has not yet crystallized for the vast majority. Expression such as 'Islamic democracy’, 'Islamic Socialism', 'Islamic Economics’, 'Quranic constitution', 'Sovereignty of Allah' are tenuous and are often, rather always, used in a manner, both simplistic and misleading.

The word 'democracy' has become a prestigious word (like 'truth', 'justice', or beauty'), and quite diverse political systems claim to be democratic. Many Muslims believe that Islam is the best form of democracy. The purpose of these lectures is (a) to make an accurate analysis of the concept of democracy, (b) critically to assess democracy, and its alternatives, (c) to ascertain how far, or in what sense, Islamic political thought and practice stand for democracy, and finally, (d) briefly to review the acceptability and prospects of democracy in the Islamic world today.                        


The Essence of Democracy: The word 'democracy' is derived from the Greek words 'demos' (people) and 'kratia' (rule), and its literal meaning is 'rule by the people at large'. To rule means exercising supreme power in deciding and managing public affairs, maintenance of law and order, security of the realm, fixation of the powers, functions and remuneration of different occupational classes within a hierarchical power structure over-arching plural associations within society as a whole, and finally, the legitimate authority to punish (including capital punishment) offenders of any law, regulation or executive order. This supreme power is termed 'sovereignty', and the person or persons possessing it the 'sovereign'. The smooth functioning of society, obviously, requires law and order, which in turn, requires an effective power structure. Otherwise, the group identity and unity of the society would disintegrate, and sub-groups would emerge, which may further disintegrate for a similar reason, leading more or less to a state of anarchy.

Historically, sovereignty almost always has been exercised over territories of various sizes by single individuals (kings or tribal chiefs), whether or not they had some advisory council of elders or dignitaries. However, every sovereign has always been subject to some form of constraint. The sovereign has always had to contend against those who, while fully accepting his authority as supreme have yet sought to demarcate its proper sphere, not on grounds of rivalry or jealousy, but purely on principle. They are the holy men and the wise and learned men who have ever demanded that the ruler be not merely strong but also good. They have further held that the criterion of good and evil is not the sweet will of the sovereign but some principles, either Divinely revealed to the holy, or discovered by the wise. In other words, while the sovereign wields the power of the sword, the latter wield the power of the spirit. This tension between the two dimensions of power ever irks, and at times, even threatens the sovereign. Indeed, some sovereigns have even aspired to combine the two dimensions of power, but in vain.1

Democracy and Islam By Jamal Khwaja

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