Voting: Is it permissible for a Muslims living in a Non-Muslim country to participate in elections?

Question:

Is it permissible for a Muslims living in a Non-Muslim country to participate in elections?

Answer:

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The religion of Islam is a complete and perfect way of life. It does not only pertain to acts of worship, rather it addresses all other aspects of human life, whether it be politically, socially or economically related. As Muslims, we are obliged to adhere at all times to the injunctions of the sacred Shariah and govern our lives in accordance to its divine laws and legislations.

Unfortunately, we live in a country that rules and governs through the system of democracy. Democracy is a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. The basis of democracy is judgment of the people for the people i.e. the people are the ones who legislate. This is a direct contradiction of the fundamental principles of Islam since legislative authority is given to someone other than Allah ﷻ. Judgement and legislation is an authority exclusive to Allah ﷻ.Allah ﷻ mentions in the Holy Quran:   ان الحكم الا لله   

The judgment is for none but Allah {6:57}

 Allah ﷻ also mentions:  ولا يشرك في حكمه أحدا

He makes none to share in His Decision and His Rule. {18:26}

Voting in a country which is not governed by the Laws of the Sacred Shariah, is an issue of great contention amongst the Islamic Scholars. The correct opinion however, is that voting in such a country is permissible with conditions. The Fiqh Council of the Islamic World League, has examined the issue of Participation of Muslims in elections with non-Muslims in non-Muslim countries. After thorough research and discussion on the matter, the Council determined the following:

1. Whether Muslims should participate in elections and politics of a country will be regarded as a religious issue. It should be decided based on what will achieve the maximum benefit for the Muslims. This ruling may differ from time to time, and place to place.

2. It is permissible for a Muslim citizen in a non-Muslim country to participate in elections if clear benefits are achieved by doing so, such as presenting the correct image of Islam to the people, defending Muslims’ interests, protecting their rights, putting them in positions of influence, and cooperating with friendly moderates in achieving justice.

Guidelines to be observed

a) The Muslim who participates must do so with the intention of achieving benefits for the general Muslim population, and protecting them from harm and injustice. 

b) There must be a reason to reasonably expect that participation in the political process will have positive effects for the Muslims in the country in question, such as strengthening their influence, protecting their interests, and allowing their concerns to reach those in charge. 

c) Participation in these elections should not lead to neglecting religious duties.[1]

Therefore, if it is anticipated that by participating in elections, this can result in the minimization of corruption, mischief, hostility against Muslims, oppression and injustice which is prevalent in the country, then he should participate with that intention. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

من رأى منكم منكرًا فليغيره بيده ، فإن لم يستطع فبلسانه، فإن لم يستطع فبقلبه وذلك أضعف الإيمان

Messenger of Allah said: “Whoever amongst you sees an evil, he must change it with his hand; if he is unable to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is unable to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest form of Faith. {Muslim}

The Holy Prophet ﷺ also said:    إِنَّ مِنْ أَعْظَمِ الْجِهَادِ كَلِمَةَ عَدْلٍ عِنْدَ سُلْطَانٍ جَائِرٍ

The best form of Jihad is upholding the truth before a despotic ruler {At-Tirmidhi}

Therefore if one believes that by voting for or against a particular Political Party the aforementioned evils can be lessened then he should vote.

If the general Muslim population declines to vote and refuses to participate in elections or take any political or governmental post and offices, it will definitely have a negative impact on the welfare and wellbeing of the Muslims, especially in Muslim minority countries.

Misconceptions and Clarifications

Misconception

1. Voting is democracy and Democracy is a system that is contrary to Islam. Thus if a Muslim votes he is supporting democracy.

Clarification

Voting is a formal indication of ones choice between two or more candidates or parties through the ballot system. This is not considered democracy, rather it is only a symbol and part of the democratic system. Thus voting in itself does not contradict the teachings of Islam.

Furthermore, participation in elections does not mean that one is supporting democracy, the reason being that, if the Muslims refuse to vote the government will still be a democratic one. If however, they choose to vote for a particular party benefits can be gained. The Shariah is predicated on the benefits of human-beings which also includes the prevention and elimination of harm. Its laws are designed to ensure these benefits. Imam Ash-Shatibi mentions in his Muwafaqaat: The goals and objectives of the laws of Shariah is to safeguard the interests and well-being of individuals, (Muslims in particular) both in this world and the hereafter.[2] Therefore, if there is a possibility of minimizing the evil and corruption in a country or at least curbing its spread and bringing benefit to its people through voting for a particular Party, then it should definitely be encouraged.

Misconception

2. Voting and supporting a democratic government goes against the doctrine of Al-Wala’ wal-Bara (loyalty and disavowal for the sake of Allah ﷻ) i.e. total loyalty to that which is in accordance to Islam and disavowal of everything that is not. Thus violation of the principle of Al-wala wal bara is an act which constitutes Kufr.

Clarification

There are different types of loyalty; the violation of religious loyalty which is based on creed and belief may take a person out the fold of Islam. As for loyalty relating to worldly affairs, whether socially, economically, financially or politically related, it is not only permissible but encouraged in Islam regardless of differences in religion. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ participated in the Al-Fudul Alliance (حلف الفضول) before Prophethood. One of its objectives was to restore the rights of the oppressed person regardless of his origin. After Prophethood he ﷺ mentioned the incident and remarked:

ولو دعيت به في الإسلام لأجبت

If I am invited to join a similar (alliance) in Islam, I will surely join it.

This is because Islam aims at combatting and eradicating evils such as injustice and oppression at all levels. When the Holy Prophet migrated to Makkah there were Jews and Arabs living there, he considered them part and parcel of Madina. The Holy Prophet formed a treaty with the Jews and Arabs of Madina. The object of this treaty was the general welfare of the citizens of Madina.

In summary, regarding the issue of Al-Walaa wal Bara, it is evident from the Shariah that it is permissible to have some level of cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslim in worldly related affairs especially where benefits can be obtained.

Misconception

3. This is a Non-Islamic State and Muslims should not be involved in political and governmental affairs.

 Clarification

This is a statement of a person who is ignorant to the laws of Islam. As stated above, Islam is a complete and comprehensive religion. It encompasses every aspect of human life and without doubt, the political aspect is a major part. We are all citizens of this country and Islam stresses the importance of showing patriotism to the society and country one lives in. We are obligated to protect our country and combat the ills and evils prevalent therein.

Misconception

4.Instead of supporting a non-Muslim government we should work towards establishing an Islamic State which will govern its citizens by the laws of Shariah.

Clarification

The ultimate goal is to establish an Islamic government. However being a minority sect, with our limitations and restrictions, this does not seem to be immediately achievable. We can however participate in the elections with the intention of reducing the evil and corruption and seeking benefit for the Muslim population.[3]

Who should I vote for?

Just to reiterate, we are not voting to support a system which governs according to something other than that which Allah ﷻ has revealed, rather to lessen the evil and corruption, so that goodness may overcome evil and justice may prevail. It is not a sign of affiliation to the disbelievers, nor is it a support for “democracy”.

Before voting one must weigh the pros and cons to determine which party he should vote for. Two principles should be considered when voting for a party:

1) That party which has a lesser degree of evil.[4]

2) That party which seeks the interest and well-being of the Muslim population.[5]

Both of which can be determined by looking at the past performance of Parties and at their manifesto. In a case where one is faced with the dilemma of choosing a party which may benefit the people economically etc., but at the same time promotes evils such as homosexuality, acts of indecency and immorality, propagating corrupted beliefs and ideologies and discrimination against Muslims, in such a case the following principle should be applied:

درء المفسدةمقدم على جلب المصلحة [6]

 Warding off corruptions and evils takes precedence over deriving benefits.

Therefore, preference should be given to that Party which seeks to combat evil and corruption over that party whose aim is just to raise the standard of living and worldly benefits. In other words we should vote against that Party whose evil is of a greater degree.

NB: The greatest evil a government can engage in, is the oppression and discrimination against Muslims. A person should only vote for that party who he thinks will benefit the Muslims of that country, see to their needs and well-being. This should be of first priority, worldly benefits should not take precedence.

NB: Through the Grace and Mercy of Allah ,ﷻ as Muslims in this country, we are fortunate to practice our religion freely to a great extent, despite being a minority sect. Therefore, when voting one should select that Party he thinks will contribute positively to the Muslim population.

Important reminder

The aforementioned refers to voting because of the need that exist. As for participating in political campaigns and rallies, it is totally prohibited in Islam. The reason is quite obvious as it involves acts which violate the teachings of Islam, such as intermingling, music, dancing, alcohol and other forms of evil. Moreover, it clearly shows ones support for the disbelievers and their unjust system.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is permissible for Muslims to vote with the intention of seeking to minimise evil and corruption and to benefit the Muslims in that country, not out of love for democracy. If however one decides to refrain from voting as he is unsure of which party is of the lesser evil or he simply chooses to abstain from voting as he thinks it is better for his religion, then he is allowed to do so.

And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best

Mufti Kaleem Muhammad

Darul Iftaa, Jaamia Madinatul Uloom (Trinidad & Tobago)

www.fatwa-tt.com /www.jaamia.net


[1] فإن مجلس المجمع الفقهي الإسلامي في دورته التاسعة عشرة المنعقدة بمقر رابطة العالم الإسلامي بمكة المكرمة في الفترة من 22ـ27 شوال 1428هـ التي يوافقها3ـ8 نوفمبر2007م قد نظر في موضوع : ” مشاركة المسلم في الانتخابات مع غير المسلمين في البلاد غيّر الإسلامية” وهو من الموضوعات التي جرى تأجيل البت فيها في الدورة السادسة عشرة المنعقدة في الفترة من 21ـ26 شوال 1422هـ لاستكمال النظر فيها

وبعد الاستماع إلى ما عرض من أبحاث، وما جرى حولها من مناقشات، ومداولات، قرر المجلس ما يلي

1. مشاركة المسلم في الانتخابات مع غير المسلمين في البلاد غير الإسلامية من مسائل السياسة الشرعية التي يتقرر الحكم فيها في ضوء الموازنة بين المصالح والمفاسد، والفتوى فيها تختلف باختلاف الأزمنة والأمكنة والأحوال

2. يجوز للمسلم الذي يتمتع بحقوق المواطنة في بلد غير مسلم المشاركة في الانتخابات النيابية ونحوها لغلبة ما تعود به مشاركته من المصالح الراجحة مثل تقديم الصورة الصحيحة عن الإسلام، والدفاع عن قضايا المسلمين في بلده، وتحصيل مكتسبات الأقليات الدينية والدنيوية، وتعزيز دورهم في مواقع التأثير، والتعاون مع أهل الاعتدال والإنصاف لتحقيق التعاون القائم على الحق والعدل، وذلك وفق الضوابط الآتية

أولاً: أن يقصد المشارك من المسلمين بمشاركته الإسهام في تحصيل مصالح المسلمين، ودرء المفاسد والأضرار عنهم

ثانياً: أن يغلب على ظن المشاركين من المسلمين أن مشاركتهم تفضي إلى آثار إيجابية، تعود بالفائدة على المسلمين في هذه البلاد؛ من تعزيز مركزهم، وإيصال مطالبهم إلى أصحاب القرار، ومديري دفة الحكم، والحفاظ على مصالحهم الدينية والدنيوية

ثالثاً: ألا يترتب على مشاركة المسلم في هذه الانتخابات ما يؤدي إلى تفريطه في دينه

[2] الموافقات (2/ 9)

 أَنَّ وَضْعَ الشَّرَائِعِ إِنَّمَا هُوَ لِمَصَالِحِ الْعِبَادِ فِي الْعَاجِلِ وَالْآجِلِ مَعًا

[3] ذكر الشيْخُ ـ رَحِمَهُ اللهُ ـ في تفسيره تحت قولِهِ تعالى: (وَلَوْلاَ رَهْطُكَ لَرَجَمْنَاكَ) ما يُسْتَفادُ مِنْ قصّة شعيب مع قومه مِنْ فوائد
قال : ومنها أن الله يدفع عن المؤمنين بأسباب كثيرة قد يعلمون بعضها وقد لا يعلمون شيئا منها وربما دفع عنهم بسبب قبيلتهم أو أهل وطنهم الكفار كما دفع الله عن شعيب رجم قومه بسبب رهطه وأن هذه الروابط التي يحصل بها الدفع عن الإسلام والمسلمين لا بأس بالسعي فيها بل ربما تعين ذلك لأن الإصلاح مطلوب على حسب القدرة والإمكان , فعلى هذا لو ساعد المسلمون الذين تحت ولاية الكفار وعملوا على جعل الولاية جمهورية يتمكن فيها الأفراد والشعوب من حقوقهم الدينية والدنيوية لكان أولى من استسلامهم لدولة تقضي على حقوقهم الدينية والدنيوية وتحرص على إبادتها وجعلهم عمَلَةً وخَدَمًا لهم , نعم إن أمكن أن تكون الدولة للمسلمين وهم الحكام فهو المتعين ولكن لعدم إمكان هذه المرتبة فالمرتبة التي فيها دفع ووقاية للدين والدنيا مقدمة والله أعلم.(تفسير السعدى:1/388)

[4] [ (المادة 28) إذا تعارض مفسدتان روعي أعظمهما ضررا بارتكاب أخفهما]

(المادة 28)

إذا تعارض مفسدتان روعي أعظمهما ضررا بارتكاب أخفهما.

لأن الضرورات تبيح المحظورات، كما وضحنا في المادة 21، فإذا وجد محظورات وكان من الواجب أو من الضروري ارتكاب أحد الضررين فيلزم ارتكاب أخفهما وأهونهما (درر الحكام في شرح مجلة الأحكام)

[5] رعاية المصلحة والحكمة في تشريع نبي الرحمة (صلى الله عليه وسلم) (ص: 207)

قيام الشَّرِيعَة على أساس مصَالح الْعباد:

الشَّرِيعَة الإسلامية مَبْنِيَّة على تَحْقِيق مصَالح الْعباد فِي المعاش والمعاد، سَوَاء مَا أمرتْ بِهِ من فَرَائض ومندوبات أَو مَا نهتْ عَنهُ من مُحرمَات ومكروهات فَهِيَ فِي كل ذَلِك تهدف إِلَى تَحْقِيق مَقَاصِد ومصالح وَحكم، يَقُول الإِمَام ابْن الْقيم2 رَحمَه الله تَعَالَى: ” … فَإِن الشَّرِيعَة مبناها وأساسها على الحكم ومصالح الْعباد، فِي المعاش والمعاد، وَهِي عدل كلهَا، وَرَحْمَة كلهَا، ومصالح كلهَا، وَحِكْمَة كلهَ

[6] [ (المادة 30) درء المفاسد أولى من جلب المنافع]

(المادة 30)

درء المفاسد أولى من جلب المنافع

أي: إذا تعارضت مفسدة ومصلحة يقدم دفع المفسدة على جلب المصلحة، فإذا أراد شخص مباشرة عمل ينتج منفعة له، ولكنه من الجهة الأخرى يستلزم ضررا مساويا لتلك المنفعة أو أكبر منها يلحق بالآخرين، فيجب أن يقلع عن إجراء ذلك العمل درءا للمفسدة المقدم دفعها على جلب المنفعة؛ لأن الشرع اعتنى بالمنهيات أكثر من اعتنائه بالمأمور بها (درر الحكام في شرح مجلة الأحكام) ص 41

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