Islamic democracy

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Islamic democracy is a political ideology that seeks to apply Islamic principles to public policy within a democratic framework. Islamic political theory specifies three basic features of an Islamic democracy: leaders must be elected by the people, subject to sharia, and committed to practicing "shura", which is Arabic for "consultation". The expression of Islamic democracy is different in different Muslim majority countries, as sharia interpretations vary from country to country, and the use of sharia is more comprehensive in countries in which sharia forms the basis for state laws.

Islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God, and that Muhammad is the messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion with over 1.8 billion followers or 24% of the world's population, most commonly known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 50 countries. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, unique and has guided humankind through prophets, revealed scriptures and natural signs. The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, viewed by Muslims as the verbatim word of God, and the teachings and normative example of Muhammad.

Public policy is the principled guide to action taken by the administrative executive branches of the state with regard to a class of issues, in a manner consistent with law and institutional customs.

Democracy system of government in which citizens vote directly in or elect representatives to form a governing body, sometimes called "rule of the majority"

Democracy is a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting. In a direct democracy, the citizens as a whole form a governing body and vote directly on each issue. In a representative democracy the citizens elect representatives from among themselves. These representatives meet to form a governing body, such as a legislature. In a constitutional democracy the powers of the majority are exercised within the framework of a representative democracy, but the constitution limits the majority and protects the minority, usually through the enjoyment by all of certain individual rights, e.g. freedom of speech, or freedom of association. "Rule of the majority" is sometimes referred to as democracy. Democracy is a system of processing conflicts in which outcomes depend on what participants do, but no single force controls what occurs and its outcomes.


The concepts of liberalism and democratic participation were already present in the medieval Islamic world. [1] [2] The Rashidun Caliphate is perceived by its proponents as an early example of a democratic state and it is claimed that the development of democracy in the Islamic world eventually came to a halt following to the Sunni–Shia split. [3]

Islamic Golden Age A period in Islamic history between the 8th and 14th centuries

The Islamic Golden Age was a period of cultural, economic and scientific flourishing in the history of Islam, traditionally dated from the 8th century to the 14th century. This period is traditionally understood to have begun during the reign of the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid with the inauguration of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, where scholars from various parts of the world with different cultural backgrounds were mandated to gather and translate all of the world's classical knowledge into the Arabic language. This period is traditionally said to have ended with the collapse of the Abbasid caliphate due to Mongol invasions and the Siege of Baghdad in 1258 AD. A few contemporary scholars place the end of the Islamic Golden Age as late as the end of 15th to 16th centuries.

Rashidun Caliphate first of the four major caliphates established after the death of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad

The Rashidun Caliphate was the first of the four major caliphates established after the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It was ruled by the first four successive caliphs (successors) of Muhammad after his death in 632 CE. These caliphs are collectively known in Sunni Islam as the Rashidun, or "Rightly Guided" caliphs. This term is not used in Shia Islam as Shia Muslims do not consider the rule of the first three caliphs as legitimate.

Shia–Sunni relations Wikimedia list article

Shia and Sunni Islam are the two major denominations of Islam. They chose sides following the death of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in AD 632. A dispute over succession to Islamic prophet Muhammad as a caliph of the Islamic community spread across various parts of the world, which led to the Battle of Jamal and Battle of Siffin. The dispute intensified greatly after the Battle of Karbala, in which Hussein ibn Ali and his household were killed by the ruling Umayyad Caliph Yazid I, and the outcry for revenge divided the early Islamic community.

Sunni viewpoint

Deliberations of the Caliphates, most notably the Rashidun Caliphate, were not democratic in the modern sense rather, decision-making power lay with a council of notable and trusted companions of Muhammad and representatives of different tribes (most of them selected or elected within their tribes). It can be viewed similar to how the prime minister is chosen in many nations. [4]

Caliphate Islamic form of government

A caliphate is an Islamic state under the leadership of an Islamic steward with the title of caliph, a person considered a religious successor to the Islamic prophet Muhammad and a leader of the entire ummah (community). Historically, the caliphates were polities based in Islam which developed into multi-ethnic trans-national empires. During the medieval period, three major caliphates succeeded each other: the Rashidun Caliphate (632–661), the Umayyad Caliphate (661–750) and the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258). In the fourth major caliphate, the Ottoman Caliphate, the rulers of the Ottoman Empire claimed caliphal authority from 1517. During the history of Islam, a few other Muslim states, almost all hereditary monarchies, have claimed to be caliphates.

Muhammad Prophet and founder of Islam

Muhammad was the founder of Islam. According to Islamic doctrine, he was a prophet, sent to present and confirm the monotheistic teachings preached previously by Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. He is viewed as the final prophet of God in all the main branches of Islam, though some modern denominations diverge from this belief. Muhammad united Arabia into a single Muslim polity, with the Quran as well as his teachings and practices forming the basis of Islamic religious belief.

In the early Islamic Caliphate, the head of state, the Caliph, had a position based on the notion of a successor to Muhammad's political authority, who, according to Sunnis, was ideally elected by the people or their representatives, [5] as was the case for the election of Abu Bakr, Umar bin Alkhattab, Uthman, and Ali as Caliph. After the Rashidun Caliphs, later Caliphates during the Islamic Golden Age had a much lesser degree of democratic participation, but since "no one was superior to anyone else except on the basis of piety and virtue" in Islam, and following the example of Muhammad, later Islamic rulers often held public consultations with the people in their affairs. [6]

Succession to Muhammad Overview and history of the succession to Muhammad, the original split between Shias and Sunnis

The succession to Muhammad is the central issue that split the Muslim community into several divisions in the first century of Muslim history, thus forming the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam.

Sunni Islam denomination of Islam

Sunni Islam is the largest denomination of Islam, followed by more than 80% of the world's Muslims. Its name comes from the word sunnah, referring to the behaviour of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims arose from a disagreement over the succession to Muhammad and subsequently acquired broader political significance, as well as theological and juridical dimensions.

Abu Bakr First Muslim Caliph and a companion of Muhammad

Abdallah bin Abi Quhafah, popularly known as Abu Bakr, was a companion and—through his daughter Aisha—a father-in-law of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

The legislative power of the Caliph (or later, the Sultan) was always restricted by the scholarly class, the ulama , a group regarded as the guardians of the law. Since the law came from the legal scholars, this prevented the Caliph from dictating legal results. Laws were decided based on the ijma (consensus) of the Ummah (community), which was most often represented by the legal scholars. [7] In order to qualify as a legal scholar, it was required that they obtain a doctorate known as the ijazat attadris wa 'l-ifttd ("license to teach and issue legal opinions") from a madrasa . [8] In many ways, classical Islamic law functioned like a constitutional law. [7]

Sultan noble title with several historical meanings

Sultan is a position with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", derived from the verbal noun سلطة sulṭah, meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who claimed almost full sovereignty in practical terms, albeit without claiming the overall caliphate, or to refer to a powerful governor of a province within the caliphate. The adjective form of the word is "sultanic", and the dynasty and lands ruled by a sultan are referred to as a sultanate.

Ulama class of Muslim legal scholars

In Sunni Islam, the ulama, are the guardians, transmitters and interpreters of religious knowledge, of Islamic doctrine and law.

Ijmāʿ is an Arabic term referring to the consensus or agreement of Islamic scholars on a point of Islamic law. Various schools of thought within Islamic jurisprudence may define this consensus to be that of the first generation of Muslims only; or the consensus of the first three generations of Muslims; or the consensus of the jurists and scholars of the Muslim world, or scholarly consensus; or the consensus of all the Muslim world, both scholars and laymen. Sunni Muslims regard ijmā' as the third fundamental source of Sharia law, after the Qur'an, and the Sunnah. The opposite of ijma is called ikhtilaf.

Democratic religious pluralism also existed in classical Islamic law, as the religious laws and courts of other religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism, were usually accommodated within the Islamic legal framework, as seen in the early Caliphate, Al-Andalus, Islamic India, and the Ottoman Millet system. [9] [10] [ page needed ]

Religious pluralism attitude or policy regarding the diversity of religious belief systems co-existing in society

Religious pluralism is an attitude or policy regarding the diversity of religious belief systems co-existing in society. It can indicate one or more of the following:

Religious law refers to ethical and moral codes taught by religious traditions. Examples include Christian canon law, Islamic sharia, Jewish halakha, and Hindu law.

al-Andalus name with which historiograficamente is known to the territories of the Iberian Peninsula under Muslim rule between 711 and 1492

Al-Andalus, also known as Muslim Spain, Muslim Iberia, or Islamic Iberia, was a medieval Muslim territory and cultural domain that in its early period occupied most of Iberia, today's Portugal and Spain. At its greatest geographical extent, it occupied the northwest of the Iberian peninsula and a part of present day southern France Septimania and for nearly a century extended its control from Fraxinet over the Alpine passes which connect Italy with the remainder of Western Europe. The name more generally describes the parts of the peninsula governed by Muslims at various times between 711 and 1492, though the boundaries changed constantly as the Christian Reconquista progressed, eventually shrinking to the south around modern-day Andalusia and then to the Emirate of Granada.

Legal scholar L. Ali Khan argues that Islam is fully compatible with democracy. In his book, A Theory of Universal Democracy, Khan provides a critique of liberal democracy and secularism. He presents the concept of "fusion state" in which religion and state are fused. There are no contradictions in God's universe, says Khan. Contradictions represent the limited knowledge that human beings have. According to the Quran and the Sunnah, Muslims are fully capable of preserving spirituality and self-rule. [11]

Furthermore, counter arguments to these points assert that this attitude presuppose democracy as a static system which only embraces a particular type of social and cultural system, namely that of the post-Christian West. [ citation needed ]See: constitutional theocracy .

Muslim democrats, including Ahmad Moussalli (professor of political science at the American University of Beirut), argue that concepts in the Quran point towards some form of democracy, or at least away from despotism. These concepts include shura (consultation), ijma (consensus), al-hurriyya (freedom), al-huqquq al-shar'iyya (legitimate rights). For example, shura (Al Imran – Quran 3:159, Ash-Shura – Quran 42:38) may include electing leaders to represent and govern on the community’s behalf. Government by the people is not therefore necessarily incompatible with the rule of Islam, whilst it has also been argued that rule by a religious authority is not the same as rule by a representative of God. This viewpoint, however, is disputed by more traditional Muslims. Moussalli argues that despotic Islamic governments have abused the Quranic concepts for their own ends: "For instance, shura, a doctrine that demands the participation of society in running the affairs of its government, became in reality a doctrine that was manipulated by political and religious elites to secure their economic, social and political interests at the expense of other segments of society," (In Progressive Muslims 2003).

Much debate occurs on the subject of which Islamic traditions are fixed principles, and which are subject to democratic change, or other forms of modification in view of changing circumstances. Some Muslims allude to an "Islamic" style of democracy which would recognize such distinctions. [12] Another sensitive issue involves the status of monarchs and other leaders, the degree of loyalty which Muslims owe such people, and what to do in case of a conflicting loyalties (e.g., if a monarch disagrees with an imam).

Shia viewpoint

According to the Shia understanding, Muhammad named as his successor (as leader, with Muhammad being the final prophet), his son-in-law and cousin Ali. Therefore, the first three of the four elected "Rightly Guided" Caliphs recognized by Sunnis (Ali being the fourth), are considered usurpers, notwithstanding their having been "elected" through some sort of conciliar deliberation (which the Shia do not accept as a representative of the Muslim society of that time). The largest Shia grouping—the Twelvers branch—recognizes a series of Twelve Imams, the last of which (Muhammad al-Mahdi, the Hidden Imam) is still alive and the Shia are waiting for his reappearance.

Since the revolution in Iran, the largest Shia country, Twelver Shia political thought has been dominated by that of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and leader of the revolution. Khomeini argued that in the absence of the Hidden Imam and other divinely-appointed figures (in whom ultimate political authority rests), Muslims have not only the right, but also the obligation to establish an "Islamic state". [13] To that end they must turn to scholars of Islamic law (fiqh) who are qualified to interpret the Quran and the writings of the imams. Khomeini distinguishes between Conventional Fiqh and Dynamic Fiqh, which he believes to also be necessary.

Khomeini divided the Islamic commandments or Ahkam into three branches:

This list includes all commandments which relate to public affairs, such as constitutions, social security, insurance, bank, labour law, taxation, elections, congress, etc. Some of these codes may not strictly or implicitly pointed out in the Quran and generally in the Sunnah, but should not violate any of the two, unless there is a collision of rules in which the more important one is given preference (an apparent, but not inherent, violation of a rule).[ citation needed ]

Once in power and recognizing the need for more flexibility, Khomeini modified some earlier positions, insisted the ruling jurist need not be one of the most learned, that Sharia rule was subordinate to interests of Islam (Maslaha—"expedient interests" or "public welfare" [14] ), and the "divine government" as interpreted by the ruling jurists, who could overrule Sharia if necessary to serve those interests. The Islamic "government, which is a branch of the absolute governance of the Prophet of God, is among the primary ordinances of Islam, and has precedence over all 'secondary' ordinances."

The last point was made in December 1987, when Khomieni issued a fatwa in support of the Islamic government's attempt to pass a labor protection bill not in accordance with sharia. [15] [16] He ruled that in the Islamic state, governmental ordinances were primary ordinances, [17] and that the Islamic state has absolute right (Persian : ولايت مطلقه) to enact state commandments, taking precedence over "all secondary ordinances such as prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage".

Were the powers of government to lie only within the framework of secondary divine decrees, the designation of the divine government and absolute deputed guardianship (wilayat-i mutlaqa-yi mufawwada) to the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him and his progeny) would have been in practice entirely without meaning and content. ... I must point out, the government which is a branch of the absolute governance of the Prophet of God is among the primary ordinances of Islam, and has precedence over all secondary ordinances such as prayer (salat), fasting (sawm), and pilgrimage (hajj).

Other deviations from strict sharia law have been noted in the largest Shia-majority state:

... the financial system has barely been Islamized; Christians, for example, are not subject to a poll tax and pay according to the common scheme. Insurance is maintained (even though chance, the very basis for insurance should theoretically be excluded from all contracts). The contracts signed with foreigners all accept the matter of interest. [18]

Philosophical viewpoint

The early Islamic philosopher, Al-Farabi (c. 872–950), in one of his most notable works Al-Madina al-Fadila, theorized an ideal Islamic state which he compared to Plato's The Republic . [19] Al-Farabi departed from the Platonic view in that he regarded the ideal state to be ruled by the prophet, instead of the philosopher king envisaged by Plato. Al-Farabi argued that the ideal state was the city-state of Medina when it was governed by Muhammad, as its head of state, as he was in direct communion with God whose law was revealed to him. In the absence of the prophet, Al-Farabi considered democracy as the closest to the ideal state, regarding the republican order of the Rashidun Caliphate as an example within early Muslim history. However, he also maintained that it was from democracy that imperfect states emerged, noting how the republican order of the early Islamic Caliphate of the Rashidun caliphs was later replaced by a form of government resembling a monarchy under the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. [20]

A thousand years later, the modern Islamic philosopher, Muhammad Iqbal, also viewed the early Islamic Caliphate as being compatible with democracy. He "welcomed the formation of popularly elected legislative assemblies" in the Muslim world as a "return to the original purity of Islam." He argued that Islam had the "gems of an economic and democratic organization of society", but that this growth was stunted by the monarchist rule of Umayyad Caliphate, which established the Caliphate as a great Islamic empire but led to political Islamic ideals being "repaganized" and the early Muslims losing sight of the "most important potentialities of their faith." [21]

Another Muslim scholar and thinker, Muhammad Asad, viewed democracy as perfectly compatible with Islam. In his book The Principles of State and Government in Islam , he notes:

Viewed from this historical perspective, 'democracy' as conceived in the modern West is infinitely nearer to the Islamic than to the ancient Greek concept of liberty; for Islam maintains that all human beings are socially equal and must, therefore, be given the same opportunities for development and self-expression. On the other hand, Islam makes it incumbent upon Muslims to subordinate their decisions to the guidance of the Divine Law revealed in the Qur'ãn and exemplified by the Prophet: an obligation which imposes definite limits on the community's right to legislate and denies to the 'will of the people' that attribute of sovereignty which forms so integral a part of the Western concept of democracy. [22]

Islamist writer and politician Abul A'la Maududi, conceived of an "Islamic state" that would be an "Islamic democracy" and would eventually "rule the earth". [23] The antithesis of secular Western democracy, it would follow an all-embracing Sharia law, but would be a "theodemocracy", not a theocracy, because its rule would be based on the entire Muslim community (pious Muslims who followed sharia), not the ulema (Islamic scholars). [24] Maududi's vision has been criticized (by Youssef M. Choueiri) as an

ideological state in which legislators do not legislate, citizens only vote to reaffirm the permanent applicability of God's laws, women rarely venture outside their homes lest social discipline be disrupted, and non-Muslims are tolerated as foreign elements required to express their loyalty by means of paying a financial levy. [25] [26]

Islamic democracy in practice


There are several ideas on the relationship between Islam in the Middle East and democracy. Waltz writes that transformations to democracy seemed on the whole to pass by the Islamic Middle East at a time when such transformations were a central theme in other parts of the world, although she does note that, of late, the increasing number of elections being held in the region indicates some form of adoption of democratic traditions. [27]

Following the Arab Spring, professor Olivier Roy of the European University Institute in an article in Foreign Policy has described political Islam as "increasingly interdependent" with democracy, such that "neither can now survive without the other". [28]

Orientalist scholars offer another viewpoint on the relationship between Islam and democratisation in the Middle East. They argue that the compatibility is simply not there between secular democracy and Arab-Islamic culture in the Middle East which has a strong history of undemocratic beliefs and authoritarian power structures. [29] Kedourie, a well known Orientalist scholar, said for example: "to hold simultaneously ideas which are not easily reconcilable argues, then, a deep confusion in the Arab public mind, at least about the meaning of democracy. The confusion is, however, understandable since the idea of democracy is quite alien to the mind-set of Islam." [30] A view similar to this that understands Islam and democracy to be incompatible because of seemingly irreconcilable differences between Sharia and democratic ideals is also held by some Islamists.

However, within Islam there are ideas held by some that believe Islam and democracy in some form are indeed compatible due to the existence of the concept of shura (meaning consultation) in the Quran. Views such as this have been expressed by various thinkers and political activists in the Middle East. [31] They continue to be the subject of controversy, e.g. at the second Dubai Debates, which debated the question "Can Arab and Islamic values be reconciled with democracy?" [32]

Brian Whitaker's 'four major obstacles'

Writing on The Guardian website, [33] Brian Whitaker, the paper's Middle East editor, argued that there were four major obstacles to democracy in the region: 'the imperial legacy', 'oil wealth', 'the Arab–Israeli conflict' and 'militant or "backward-looking" Islam'.

The imperial legacy includes the borders of the modern states themselves and the existence of significant minorities within the states. Acknowledgment of these differences is frequently suppressed usually in the cause of "national unity" and sometimes to obscure the fact that minority elite is controlling the country. Brian Whitaker argues that this leads to the formation of political parties on ethnic, religious or regional divisions, rather than over policy differences. Voting therefore becomes an assertion of one's identity rather than a real choice.

The problem with oil and the wealth it generates is that the states' rulers have the wealth to remain in power, as they can pay off or repress most potential opponents. Brian Whitaker argues that as there is no need for taxation there is less pressure for representation. Furthermore, Western governments require a stable source of oil and are therefore more prone to maintain the status quo, rather than push for reforms which may lead to periods of instability. This can be linked into political economy explanations for the occurrence of authoritarian regimes and lack of democracy in the Middle East, particularly the prevalence of rentier states in the Middle East. [34] A consequence of the lack of taxation that Whitaker talks of in such rentier economies is an inactive civil society. As civil society is seen to be an integral part of democracy it raises doubts over the feasibility of democracy developing in the Middle East in such situations. [29]

Whitaker's third point is that the ArabIsraeli conflict serves as a unifying factor for the countries of the Arab League, and also serves as an excuse for repression by Middle Eastern governments. For example, in March 2004 Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanon's leading Shia cleric, is reported as saying "We have emergency laws, we have control by the security agencies, we have stagnation of opposition parties, we have the appropriation of political rights – all this in the name of the Arab-Israeli conflict". The West, especially the US, is also seen as a supporter of Israel, and so it and its institutions, including democracy, are seen by many Muslims as suspect. Khaled Abou El Fadl, a lecturer in Islamic law at the University of California comments "modernity, despite its much scientific advancement, reached Muslims packaged in the ugliness of disempowerment and alienation."

This repression by secularistic Arab rulers has led to the growth of radical Islamic movement groups, as they believe that the institution of an Islamic theocracy will lead to a more just society. Unfortunately, these groups tend to be very intolerant of alternative views, including the ideas of democracy. Many Muslims who argue that Islam and democracy are compatible live in the West, and are therefore seen as "contaminated" by non-Islamic ideas. [33]



Early in the history of the state of Pakistan (March 12, 1949), a parliamentary resolution (the Objectives Resolution) was adopted stating the objectives on which the future constitution of the country was to be based. It contained the basic principles of both Islam and Western Democracy, in accordance with the vision of the founders of the Pakistan Movement (Muhammad Iqbal, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan). [69] It proclaimed:

Sovereignty belongs to Allah alone but He has delegated it to the State of Pakistan through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him as a sacred trust.

  • The State shall exercise its powers and authority through the elected representatives of the people.
  • The principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed.
  • Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings of Islam as set out in the Quran and Sunnah.
  • Provision shall be made for the religious minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures.

This resolution was included in the 1956 constitution as preamble and in 1985 [70] it was inserted in the constitution itself as Article 2 and Schedule item 53 [71] (but with the word "freely" in Provision shall be made for the religious minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures, removed. [72] ). The resolution was inserted again in the constitution in 2010, [73] with the word "freely" reinstated. [72]

However, Islamisation has proceeded slowly in Pakistan, and Islamists and Islamic parties and activists have expressed frustration that sharia law has not yet been fully implemented.



The idea and concept of Islamic democracy has been accepted by many Iranian clerics, scholars and intellectuals. [74] [75] [76] [77] [78] The most notable of those who have accepted the theory of Islamic democracy is probably Iran's Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who mentions Islamic democracy as "Mardomsalarie Dini" in his speeches.

There are also other Iranian scholars who oppose or at least criticise the concept of Islamic democracy. Among the most popular of them are Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi [79] who have written: "If not referring to the people votes would result in accusations of tyranny then it is allowed to accept people vote as a secondary commandment." [80] Also Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi has more or less the same viewpoint.


Some Iranians, including Mohammad Khatami, categorize the Islamic republic of Iran as a kind of religious democracy. [81] They maintain that Ayatollah Khomeini held the same view as well and that's why he strongly chose "Jomhoorie Eslami" (Islamic Republic) over "Hokoomate Eslami" (Islamic State).

Others maintain that not only is the Islamic Republic of Iran undemocratic (see Politics of Iran) but that Khomeini himself opposed the principle of democracy in his book Hokumat-e Islami: Wilayat al-Faqih , where he denied the need for any legislative body saying, "no one has the right to legislate ... except ... the Divine Legislator", and during the Islamic Revolution, when he told Iranians, "Do not use this term, 'democratic.' That is the Western style." [82] Although it is in contrast with his commandment to Mehdi Bazargan. It is a subject of lively debate among pro-Islamic Iranian intelligentsia. Also they maintain that Iran's sharia courts, the Islamic Revolutionary Court, blasphemy laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Mutaween (religious police) violate the principles of democratic governance. [83] However, it should be understood that when a democracy is accepted to be Islamic by people, the law of Islam becomes the democratically ratified law of that country. Iranians have ratified the constitution in which the principle rules are explicitly mentioned as the rules of Islam to which other rules should conform.Ayatollah khomeini fervently believed that principles of democracy can't provide the targeted justice of Islam in the Sharia and Islamic thoughts.(Mohaghegh.Behnam 2014) This contrast of view between the two Iranian head leaders of this Islamic country, as above mentioned about Khatami's and Khomeini's views have provisionally been being a case of disaffiliation of nearly half a country in most probable political coincidence, so the people cognizant of this heterogeneous political belief shall not be affiliated by newly formed views of democratic principles.(Mohaghegh, Behnam 2014)

Indices of democracy in Muslim countries

There are several non-governmental organizations that publish and maintain indices of freedom in the world, according to their own various definitions of the term, and rank countries as being free, partly free, or unfree using various measures of freedom, including political rights, economic rights, freedom of the press and civil liberties.

The following lists Muslim-majority countries and shows the scores given by two frequently used indices: Freedom in the World (2018) [84] by the US-based Freedom House and the 2018 Democracy Index [85] by the Economist Intelligence Unit. These indices are frequently used in Western media, but have attracted some criticism and may not reflect recent changes.

Key:* – Electoral democracies – Disputed territory (according to Freedom House)
LocationDemocracy Index ScoreDemocracy Index RankDemocracy Index CategoryFreedom in the World StatusType of governmentReligion and State
Afghanistan 2.55149 Authoritarian regime Not free Unitary presidential Islamic republic State religion
Albania 5.9877 Hybrid regime Partly free Parliamentary system Secular state
Algeria 3.56128 Authoritarian regime Not free Unitary parliamentary constitutional republic State religion
Azerbaijan 2.65148 Authoritarian regime Not free Presidential system Secular state
Bahrain 2.71146 Authoritarian regime Not free Constitutional monarchy State religion
*Bangladesh 5.4392 Hybrid regime Partly free Parliamentary republic State religion
Brunei Authoritarian regime Not free Absolute monarchy State religion
Burkina Faso 4.75103 Hybrid regime Partly free Semi-presidential system Secular state
Chad 1.50165 Authoritarian regime Not free Presidential system Secular state
*Comoros 3.71123 Authoritarian regime Partly free Presidential system, Federal republic State religion
Djibouti 2.76145 Authoritarian regime Not free Semi-presidential system Secular state
Egypt 3.36130 Authoritarian regime Not free Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic State religion
Guinea 3.14137 Authoritarian regime Partly free Presidential system Secular state
*Indonesia 6.3968Flawed democracyPartly free Presidential system Secular state
Iran 2.45150 Authoritarian regime Not free Unitary presidential constitutional republic subject to a Supreme Leader State religion
Iraq 4.09112 Hybrid regime Not free Parliamentary republic State religion
Jordan 3.87117 Authoritarian regime Partly free Constitutional monarchy State religion
Kazakhstan 3.06141 Authoritarian regime Not free Presidential system Secular state
Kosovo -Partly free Secular state
Kuwait 3.85119 Authoritarian regime Partly free Constitutional monarchy State religion
Kyrgyzstan 5.1195 Hybrid regime Partly free Parliamentary republic Secular state
Lebanon 4.72104 Hybrid regime Partly free Confessionalist Parliamentary republic Secular state
*Libya 2.32154 Authoritarian regime Not free Provisional government State religion
*Malaysia 6.5459Flawed democracyPartly free Constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy State religion
*Maldives Partly free State religion
Mali 5.6486 Hybrid regime Partly free Semi-presidential system Secular state
Mauritania 3.82121 Authoritarian regime Not free Islamic republic, Semi-presidential system Islamic state
Morocco 4.87101 Hybrid regime Partly free Constitutional monarchy State religion
*Niger 3.76122 Authoritarian regime Partly free Semi-presidential system Secular state
Nigeria 4.44109 Hybrid regime Partly free Federalism, presidential system Secular state, Islamic state (only in the northern Nigerian states)
Northern Cyprus (Cyprus)Free Partly Free - Controlled By Turkish Forces
Oman 3.04143 Authoritarian regime Not free Absolute monarchy State religion
*Pakistan 4.26110 Hybrid regime Partly free Federalism, parliamentary republic Islamic state
Palestine (occupied by Israel)4.46108 Hybrid regime Not free Semi-presidential system Secular state (in West Bank), de facto Islamic state (in Gaza Strip)
Qatar 3.19133 Authoritarian regime Not free Absolute monarchy State religion
Saudi Arabia 1.93159 Authoritarian regime Not freeIslamic absolute monarchy Islamic state
*Senegal 6.1574Flawed democracyFree Semi-presidential system Secular state
*Sierra Leone 4.66105 Hybrid regime Partly free Presidential system Secular state
Somalia Not free Federalism, Semi-presidential system State religion
Somaliland (Somalia)Partly free
Sudan 2.15155 Authoritarian regime Not free Federalism, presidential system Secular state (de jure), Islamic state (de facto)
Syria 1.43166 Authoritarian regime Not free Semi-presidential system Secular state
Tajikistan 1.93159 Authoritarian regime Not free Presidential system Secular state
The Gambia 4.06113 Hybrid regime Partly free Presidential system Secular state
*Tunisia 6.3269 Flawed democracy Free Semi-presidential system State religion
Turkey 4.88100 Hybrid regime Not free Presidential system Secular state [86] [87]
Turkmenistan 1.72162 Authoritarian regime Not free Presidential system, one-party state Secular state
United Arab Emirates 2.69147 Authoritarian regime Not free Federalism, Constitutional monarchy State religion
Uzbekistan 1.95158 Authoritarian regime Not free Presidential system Secular state
Western Sahara (controlled by Morocco)Not free
Yemen 2.07156 Authoritarian regime Not free Provisional government Islamic state

Islamic democratic parties and organizations

This is a list of parties and organizations which aim for the implementation of Sharia or an Islamic State, or subscribe to Muslim identity politics, or in some other way fulfil the definitions of political Islam, activist Islam, or Islamism laid out in this article; or have been widely described as such by others.

Country or scopeMovement/s
Flag of Bahrain.svg  Bahrain
Flag of Bangladesh.svg  Bangladesh Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami [89] [90]
Flag of Egypt.svg  Egypt
Flag of Finland.svg  Finland Finnish Islamic Party
Flag of India.svg  India
Flag of Indonesia.svg  Indonesia
Flag of Iran.svg  Iran
Flag of Iraq.svg  Iraq
Flag of Jordan.svg  Jordan Islamic Action Front [94]
Flag of Kuwait.svg  Kuwait Hadas
Flag of Lebanon.svg  Lebanon
Flag of Libya.svg  Libya
Flag of Malaysia.svg  Malaysia United Malays National Organisation [104] [105]

Malaysian United Indigenous Party

Flag of Maldives.svg  Maldives
Flag of Morocco.svg  Morocco Justice and Development Party [106] [107]
Flag of Pakistan.svg  Pakistan
Flag of Palestine.svg  Palestine
Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines
Flag of Rwanda.svg  Rwanda Islamic Democratic Party
Flag of Sudan.svg  Sudan National Umma Party Sudan
Flag of Somalia.svg  Somalia Peace and Development Party
Flag of Syria.svg  Syria Muslim Brotherhood of Syria [112] [113] [114]
Flag of Tajikistan.svg  Tajikistan Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan [115]
Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey
Flag of Yemen.svg  Yemen

See also

Related Research Articles

Islamism set of ideologies holding that Islam should guide social and political as well as personal life

Islamism is a concept whose meaning has been debated in both public and academic contexts. The term can refer to diverse forms of social and political activism advocating that public and political life should be guided by Islamic principles or more specifically to movements which call for full implementation of sharia. It is commonly used interchangeably with the terms political Islam or Islamic fundamentalism. In academic usage, the term Islamism does not specify what vision of "Islamic order" or sharia are being advocated, or how their advocates intend to bring them about. In Western mass media it tends to refer to groups whose aim is to establish a sharia-based Islamic state, often with implication of violent tactics and human rights violations, and has acquired connotations of political extremism. In the Muslim world, the term has positive connotations among its proponents.

Muslim Brotherhood Transnational Sunni Islamist organization

The Society of the Muslim Brothers, better known as the Muslim Brotherhood, is a transnational Sunni Islamist organization founded in Egypt by Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna in 1928. The organization gained supporters throughout the Arab world and influenced other Islamist groups such as Hamas with its "model of political activism combined with Islamic charity work", and in 2012 sponsored the elected political party in Egypt after the January Revolution in 2011. However, it faced periodic government crackdowns for alleged terrorist activities, and as of 2015 is considered a terrorist organization by the governments of Bahrain, Egypt, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Islamic republic Theocratic republic based on Islamic law

An Islamic republic is the name given to several states that are officially ruled by Islamic laws, including the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Mauritania. Pakistan first adopted the title under the constitution of 1956. Mauritania adopted it on 28 November 1958. Iran adopted it after the 1979 Iranian Revolution that overthrew the Pahlavi dynasty. Afghanistan adopted it in 2004 after the fall of the Taliban government. Despite having similar names the countries differ greatly in their governments and laws.

Political aspects of Islam

Political aspects of Islam are derived from the Qur'an, the Sunnah, Muslim history, and elements of political movements outside Islam.

Pan-Islamism political movement advocating the unity of Muslims under one Islamic state – often a caliphate – or an international organization with Islamic principles

Pan-Islamism is a political ideology advocating the unity of Muslims under one Islamic country or state – often a caliphate – or an international organization with Islamic principles. As a form of internationalism and anti-nationalism, Pan-Islamism differentiates itself from pan-nationalistic ideologies, for example Pan-Arabism, by seeing the ummah as the focus of allegiance and mobilization, excluding ethnicity and race as primary unifying factors. It portrays Islam as being anti-racist and against anything that divides the human race based on ethnicity.

Muslim Brotherhood of Syria political party

The Muslim Brotherhood of Syria, formerly the Islamic Socialist Front, has been described as "a branch" of the Sunni Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and as "very loosely affiliated" to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. In its most recent April 2012 manifesto, it "pledges to respect individual rights", to promote pluralism and democracy and does not even "mention the word Islam".

Islamization term

Islamization, Islamicization or Islamification is the process of a society's shift towards Islam, such as found in Sudan, Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia, or Algeria. In contemporary usage, it may refer to the perceived imposition of an Islamist social and political system on a society with an indigenously different social and political background.

This article summarizes the different branches and schools in Islam. The best known split, into Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, and Kharijites, was mainly political at first but eventually acquired theological and juridical dimensions. There are three traditional types of schools in Islam: schools of jurisprudence, Sufi orders and schools of theology. The article also summarizes major denominations and movements that have arisen in the modern era.

Islamic state type of government in which the primary basis for government is sharia (Islamic law)

An Islamic state is a type of government primarily based on the application of shari'a, dispensation of justice, maintenance of law and order. From the early years of Islam, numerous governments have been founded as "Islamic".

Islamic revival any of various movements in Islam

Islamic revival refers to a revival of the Islamic religion.

Rached Ghannouchi Tunisian politician

Rached Ghannouchi, also spelled Rachid al-Ghannouchi or Rached el-Ghannouchi, is a Tunisian politician and thinker, co-founder of the Ennahdha Party and serving as its "intellectual leader". He was born Rashad Khriji.

Political thought and legacy of Ruhollah Khomeini

Khomeinism is the founding ideology of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Impact of the religious and political ideas of the leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini include replacing Iran's millennia-old monarchy with theocracy. Khomeini declared Islamic jurists the true holders of not only religious authority but political authority, who must be obeyed as "an expression of obedience to God", and whose rule has "precedence over all secondary ordinances [in Islam] such as prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage."

Criticism of Islamism

The ideas and practices of the leaders, preachers, and movements of the Islamic revival movement known as Islamism, have been criticized by Muslims and non-Muslims. Among those authors and scholars who have criticized Islamism, or some element of it, include Maajid Nawaz, Reza Aslan, Abdelwahab Meddeb, Muhammad Sa'id al-'Ashmawi, Khaled Abu al-Fadl, Gilles Kepel, Matthias Küntzel, Joseph E. B. Lumbard, and Olivier Roy.

Islam and secularism

The definition and application of secularism, especially the place of religion in society, varies among Muslim countries as it does among western countries. Secularism is often used to describe the separation of public life and civil/government matters from religious teachings and commandments, or simply the separation of religion and politics. Secularism in Muslim countries is often contrasted with Islamism, and secularists tend to seek to promote secular political and social values as opposed to Islamic ones. Among western scholars and Muslim intellectuals, there are some debates over secularism which include the understanding of political and religious authorities in the Islamic world and the means and degree of application of sharia in legal system of the state.

Islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God (Allah) and that Muhammad is a messenger of God.

Al-Islah (Yemen) political party

The Yemeni Congregation for Reform, frequently called al-Islah, is a Yemeni Islamist party founded in 1990 by Abdullah ibn Husayn al-Ahmar, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, Mohammed al-Yadumi and Yahya Rassam. The first article of Islah basic law defines it as "a popular political organization that seeks reform of all aspects of life on the basis of Islamic principles and teachings".

Ennahda Movement Tunisian political party

The Ennahdha Party, also known as Renaissance Party or simply Ennahdha, is a Muslim democratic political party in Tunisia. Founded as "The Movement of Islamic Tendency" in 1981, Ennahdha was inspired by the Iranian revolution, and Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, but has also been called "the mildest and most democratic Islamist party in history". Rached Ghannouchi was the movement's founder and remains its president.

Islamist uprising in Syria

The Islamist uprising in Syria comprised a series of revolts and armed insurgencies by Sunni Islamists, mainly members of the Muslim Brotherhood from 1976 until 1982. The uprising was aimed against the authority of the secular Ba'ath Party-controlled government of Syria, in what has been called a "long campaign of terror". During the violent events Islamists attacked both civilians and off-duty military personnel, and civilians were also killed in retaliatory strike by security forces. The uprising reached its climax in the 1982 Hama massacre.

Secularism in Tunisia is an ideological and political movement aiming at defining the relationship between religion and state and the place of religion in society during an ongoing modernization. The Tunisian Constitution of 2014 affirmed Tunisia as a civil state founded on citizenship. It also declared Islam as Tunisia's religion. The following religious festivals are recognized as national holidays: the Islamic New Year, the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Adha.


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